Poetry

No One, P.O. Box: Somewhere

The box’s flag was now put down

so I rushed to get the mail,

I did not expect anything

since that’s all that came, no fail.

It was too soon and still I thought

there might be something in there

for I had mailed a letter to

No One

P.O. Box: Somewhere

To my surprise there was a note

there in that box most empty,

a letter–no return address–

with angry words aplenty.

“Do not reply, you callous fool,

rip this up like you agreed.

You will know it when you’re here

so don’t ruin it for me.”

That’s all he wrote within the note

but the story won’t end there,

I’ll write to future me again:

No One

P.O. Box: Somewhere

Occasional Prose · Stuff

A Spiel About Characters and Stories (but the switchyard operator in my mind just threw up his hands and took an early weekend)

If the title didn’t give it away, this is just me airing out some thoughts. Don’t expect a lot of clarity.

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Sometimes I ask indirect questions in order to get more direct answers. It is more of a last resort than anything else but it does serve a purpose. I’ve had an embarrassing amount of free time this week for a multitude of reasons and it has got me back into writing my other stories. And, of course, whenever I get back into that I hop on a metaphorical rollercoaster that has no safety bar.

I made a bit of progress on one short story over a month ago but when I working on it, I got some not-so-great phone calls two nights in a row. I’m not superstitious at all but that sinking feeling in my gut still remains when I look at the draft.

The other story? If you’ve followed this site for a while, then you know it’s that dog and cat story. I am at a constant crossroad with it. It is my oldest story (and yes, there is a story) but there remains another problem: it’s that dog and cat story. I’m of the mindset that a story should say something. It has always been more about conflicting personalities working off of each other, as well a satirical look at small-town America, but I often wonder if I’m pairing my characters with the right stories. And that has been fresh on my mind too, especially with all the free-time I’ve had this week. I want the characters to have their moment in the spotlight but there are a lot of characters.

I asked an indirect question on an Instagram story earlier and admittedly, I was fishing for a certain response. It was also a bit of a broad question but I will ask all of you here too (even though I’m showing my cards):

What is the best, or your favorite, series? It can be from any medium.

I’ve enjoyed the few answers I’ve received. The method to my madness was/is this: what do all of these series have in common? Some of them share characters, some share themes, others share locales. I wanted to see how many had large casts of characters. The only one that did was Star Wars and when it comes to characters, the galaxy far, far away seems like an outlier. Many series do have a large quantity of characters and pull it off nicely. Others do not. Star Wars seems at its best when it is focused on a smaller groups of characters. Compare each successive trilogy: the original had only a few and they were able to delve into the common mythologies shared by many cultures, the prequels had a few more characters and sometimes had to take a back seat to the story, and the sequels had new characters bursting from its seams that had to fight for relevance in their own films. Star Wars has shown promise on television by breaking up the many arcs but it is also another medium.

I wouldn’t call the five Chronicles of Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander my absolute favorite but my goodness, there is something to be learned and admired in his approach. The Book of Three introduced Taran the pig-keeper and he was insufferable. The story was good but the main character was not. But the books only focused on a handful of characters and with each one, they were able to be fleshed out. I almost dreaded the fourth book because it was solely about Taran and yet he had grown substantially as a character by that point. You felt for him. The ending of The High King is gloriously executed. Had I started with that book like I intended, I would not have had the same appreciation and respect that I have for it now. Those books are guides for character progression, plain and simple. But should you have to read or see something else to appreciate something? I think The High King could stand on its own while many stories today exist solely to set up another.

So: a few characters or a lot of characters? How many stories? Should there even be more than one story? Should there be any story written at all? I’ve asked myself these questions many times and I can see pros and cons for each.

C. E. called earlier this evening and we had a good chat. None of this came up, of course, but he indirectly helped settle my mind for now. We talked for a little bit about an old hangout we went to. Many, if not most nights for a few years we went there to have a drink, usually at the same table. Everyone there knew us. That was seven or eight years ago. A lot has changed. But I went back there without him three or four years ago. I didn’t recognize a soul in there. It was renovated. Oddly enough though–and for the record, it had nothing to do with us–that spot we frequented had a table set up with no chairs and a light above it. It’s a funny thought to think that it might have been considered sacred because of us. It’s a funny thought to think that all of these complete strangers had no idea why that particular table had to be set aside as a memorial and yet they did so without a second thought. It’s a funny thought to think that at one point, two friends sat there, never reserved it, but a new group of people keep it there in reserve anyway.

It’s funny because there’s a story behind it. Every person in there had a story. Every one of you has a story. Life is full of characters.

And so, though my mind is settled for now, I will have to ask myself directly or indirectly once again:

How many characters need their story written?

Occasional Prose

Coram non judice (a short story)

Author’s note: I don’t know if this story needs a warning with it or not. Most of you probably have a higher tolerance for “horror” than I do. That said, it goes briefly into that territory. You can use your own judgment about reading it (or tell me how tame it was in the comments.)

______________________________________________________________

“I am told your name is Lucius.”

“I can’t see,” Lucius replied in a panic.

“Hmm. That is to be expected,” the voice reasoned aloud. “I do not suppose it is a darkness?”

“It’s, it’s bright. Why can’t I see?”

“Hmm,” the other replied, ignoring the question. “That is to be expected. I do not suppose you are in much pain?”

The man named Lucius felt pain all over his body but did not know where to begin describing it.

The voice, ever nonchalant, asked more questions. “Do you feel your arms and legs?”

“Y-yes.”

“That is good. They have been horribly mangled.”

“What? What happened–“

“About your arms, though. I will be needing that jacket when you die.”

“When I die? What–“

The voice continued. “Unfortunately, it seems to have melted to your skin. Tsk. I will take the coat, I do not want the skin. I do believe I will leave that in the cacti.”

“Cacti?”

“It appears that any move you make will just bring you more pain.”

“Why does it feel like there’s something on my chest?”

“Because there is something on your chest, Lucius. Rather, someone I suppose. If you would just open your eyes I am sure all would become clear.”

Lucius did not know if he wanted to do that or not. If what the voice said was true, he might go into a state of shock upon seeing the damage done to his body. The heat that had bonded his skin and coat together was obviously bright as it was hot since his eyes were hard to open too. He might regret it but it might have ended up like a band-aid being ripped off. With much effort, he forced his eyes open.

The sight that greeted him was different than he expected. A pair of bloodshot yellow eyes sized him up and looked deep into his very own. It was no human. If anything, it looked like a bird close up. That must have been the someone on his chest. The bird was heavy and looked like he might feast on his eyes if he made the wrong move. He closed his eyes again and attempted to sit up but sure enough, the cacti and his mangled body worked together in the worst of manners. “Open your eyes, Lucius,” the voice bid calmly. “Do not be a coward.”

“There’s a hungry bird on me!” Lucius cried out.

“Open your eyes.”

He opened his eyes and saw that the bird was still staring into his gaze. He could see a little better now and could make out what kind of bird it was. He lifted his own voice a little higher to speak to the other one. “It appears to be a buzzard!”

“A vulture, more like,” the voice said, coming from the bird’s beak. “I never did understand that nomenclature.”

Lucius closed his eyes again. Hot tears tears painfully streamed from them. After a moment, he worked up the stamina to ask, “Am I dreaming or delusional?”

“I suspect or is the operative word. Also, you are a bloody coward.”

“You’re not talking to me. This is a trick of some sort.”

“Yes, most brilliant one. That accounts for all the pain.”

“What happened to me?”

“That depends, oh wise one. Are you talking to me or with me?” The bird’s eyes and voice spoke different languages.

“Shut up!” Lucius yelled at the cost of piercing pain shooting through him.

“Regardless,” the bird said. “I will be needing that jacket when you die. Do you suppose that might be soon?”

“Who says I’m not already dead? This is hell for all I know!”

“You would beg for this place if you knew hell.”

“Then what? Where? Why?” Lucius struggled to get each word out. “Is it a dream?”

“You would beg for a nightmare if you knew it be a dream.” He paused for a moment and then Lucius felt something new. Another creature was nearby, slithering, rattling. It slid up his arm and then across his neck. It made its way up to his ear and it flicked its tongue against it. “You would feel pain in a dream, but even that would end. You would feel nothing but pain in hell, but that would never end. Here, Lucius, you can only feel the world around you. What would you call that? Where would that be? Why? You ask the questions you think you want to know, but I think you already know the answers.” Then he clicked his tongue.

The snake snapped at Lucius’ neck and its fangs plunged deep. The venom worked straight away and his neck and throat grew tight. He could breathe less and less between that and the weight on his chest. His body convulsed and he was stabbed by the cacti, drawn closer to whatever was providing the light and heat. The snake, upset by the movement, struck at him more.

The vulture mostly sat still as Lucius fought against the elements. He reached down with his beak to pull at the jacket but it would not budge. He ripped at it but it would only stick tighter to his skin. “This is quite tiresome.”

Lucius opened his eyes, now bulging out from choking. The snake seemed to have given up and left the two. There were bits of cactus in his mangled and now blackening body. Burn marks were visible where his skin was exposed. The jacket had shrunk and seemed to be a part of his skin now. “It is so warm,” the bird opined. “Why are you torturing yourself?”

He jumped down off of Lucius’ chest. His voice did not give any hint of victory or defeat. He waddled away from the burned and broken body.

Lucius did not see the bird look back at him. He did not see the hefty thing take flight. It was growing dark. His eyes could stay open only for short periods of time. His own vision grew dark. He could only hear sirens, then several voices.

“Probably rattlesnake, knowing these parts. Get the IV ready!”

“What are you doing over here?”

“The kid is a little shaken up but he’ll be alright.”

“There’s some cuts on this one too. Get that stretcher closer.”

“Shame about that car.”

“Where are the kid’s parents?”

“Over there. Police or Fire had ’em all together.”

“Hey y’all, it was a rattler. Looks like he got his head bashed in too.”

“We need to hurry up, guys,” a stern voice chided them all, obviously annoyed at the chatter. “He needs surgery and that damned buzzard over there really stinks.”

Occasional Prose

The One I Can’t (Seem to) Write

You’ve seen some of the stuff I’ve put on this site, for better or worse. I write for fun, mostly, and so if anyone does not like it I usually do not lose any sleep over it. But I started drawing story books when I was six years old. In 1997 there was a little movie that came out called Titanic. This post is not about that movie (though on a separate note, if they took Jack and Rose out of it and deleted the scene of First Officer Murdoch shooting himself–which was disputed–it was a pretty great film). I digress. Though when I tell you the significance the Titanic itself had on my young imagination, maybe a film critique would not be the worst thing imaginable. Continue reading “The One I Can’t (Seem to) Write”