Writing Practice – 4/16/2019

chaos

Chaos abounds in the darkness. In the light, even if there is motion, or disorganization, or interaction, or conflict, these are all seen, are all understood, are all mapped inside our consciousness and prepared for, planned for, contemplated by those lovely lumps of brains atop our spinal cord, and we have no fear. We do not stress. We do not wonder. Seeing is believing? No, seeing is truth, and acceptability, and regularity, and pattern, even if it is wild, incoherent, and random-ish.

But in the dark, in the absence of light, in the places where you sense with infrared and ultraviolet in the realm of navigating the world through our other nine senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, balance, time, ESP), these are still not enough for us, for humans, to feel as if we have control of the situation. For is that not what chaos really is, but lack of control? We may not have authority over the teeming mass of wandering hordes out for destruction, yet if we see them we fear them much, much less than when they come under cover of darkness.

No other sense, no other attribute, contributes as much to our fear as our lack of vision. Were we to see but not hear, their terror in us would, paradoxically, be lessened, for that is one which, by its absence, reduces th threat. We don’t believe silent things can hurt us. For, what do we fear more, the snake’s rattle or the owl’s quiet wingbeats? precisely.

We fear those things which are loud, and unseen, and so adding a chorus of clanging boots and rattling armor to the darkest night is a combination fit to turn even the most self-professed brave soul into a withering baby. This combination takes away the one sense which adds assurance, sight, and adds another element which increases terror in its own right, sound.

The others – smell, taste, touch, we are too undeveloped in yet to have a way to know whether these will increase or decrease our fear. At long distance, that is. In the immediate presence, if you can smell the putrid, rotting flesh of the zombie horde, you may as well give up, because if they’re close enough for you to smell, they’ll be on top of you soon enough. And at the same time, touch, taste, require a physical intimacy which beggars belief of fear. So, then, this fear of the unknown, this fear of change, of the “other” out there, is heightened, and is birthed out of, chaos, disorder, unreality, irrationality, and the way the world works is far, far beyond our own mortal capacity to understand. WE have limited scope of using our brains, and we have devoted much of that to sensing in the visible spectrum. When a creepy-crawling comes approaching outside of that spectrum, then is when our distrust kicks in, our fear of chaos (destruction, impermanence, intransigence, ending, power, power to finalize, power to transform, power to erode) takes over, and we turn away as soon as possible, as strongly as possible, and we seek out that alternative, of places of light, and order, and permanence, and connectivity.

***

Commentary: So, this isn’t a great essay. It doesn’t hold any special revelations. I didn’t find any unique turns of phrase. I didn’t really “lose control” at the end. I felt like I sort of stopped a couple of times along the way, and just sort of plodded through it all. I could go back and edit, to make it flow better, to make it more impactful. It doesn’t even really end well. So why do I post it? Why do I let you see it? Why do I expose my soft underbelly of semi-incompetence?

Trust me, it’s not to fish for compliments. If that were so, I’d be ultra-negative on myself and expect someone, anyone, any reader, to correct me and tell me it’s fine, it’s great, it’s still inspiring. No, I don’t do this to garner sympathy or comments or feel-good-ness.

I post this in its mediocrity as it is because that’s what writing is about.

Writing is about doing the writing. Writing is about doing it even when it doesn’t feel great, even when it’s kind of boring at the end and you’re like, “yeah, nobody’s ever going to read that.” And you know what? They’re probably not. But you do it anyway. Because that’s how you get through the really low periods to the points where it’s great, where your pen is just banging, where you’re in the flow and you’ve got it all good and things just couldn’t get any better. Those things don’t just happen because you decided to show up once or twice or even ten times. Those things come when you’ve put in the work, when you’ve been steady and faithful to the muse, and when hit happens… damn. There’s nothing like it. So that’s why you write the crap pieces, the drudgery, the stuff about chaos and leadership and boring descriptions of shoes and conversations. So that you’re there and ready to strike when called. If you’re skipping out, you’re missing out.

Writing Practice – 4/10/2019

Describe a moonlit night

Quiet. Only the sounds of trees growing, stretching their wide-reached arms towards the heavens comes to my ears. No noise, no overwhelm of shouts, no conflicting temptations of birds chirping or dogs barking or children shouting distract me from the peace of this moment.

I sit upon a bench, ten steps from the edge of a small pond. The ground here slopes down steeply to the edge. Were I to drop a ball, it would bounce, once, then roll steadily into the water, plashing in and tinkling echoes back to those same trees which are stretching their branches skyward.

There is no other person to see me. I am alone, but not alone. I am surrounded by the resting birds, the sleeping snakes, the badgers and rabbits and voles and burrowing mice and the worms underground who rest in their circadian rhythms, rest when I am supposed to rest, they still when I am supposed to still, they sleep when I am supposed to sleep. But I do not sleep. I sit on the bench, on the four oak slats digging in to the backs of my thighs, and I tell the world my sorrows.

I pour out my heart, my troubles, my frustrations to the waiting scene, bathed in the light of the just-past-full moon. Two days ago it was a perfect, brilliant disk in the sky; it lived up to all expectations of justice, and beauty, and power. Today the edge has been worn away slightly, as if a relentless river has torn unevenly into at the side, creating a bit of a ragged edge, and a lack of symmetry I feel acutely resonant in this moment.

I am unbalanced. I am out of touch with something, yet I know not what. I bring space, I bring opportunity, I release my convictions to the world through my speaking, my vocalizations, my manifestation of the problem, and yet they remain. Far from a cleansing process, this has become a reinforcing action. Instead of using, instead of seeing, instead of experiencing a cleanse of the stress intended to come with the verbalization of these problems, the opposite has occurred. I am no more at peace than before I began. On the contrary, expressing myself has brought into greater relief the need I have, the hole in my heart and in my soul’s experience. I live incomplete, yet so close as to imagine a wholeness I can not yet experience. Like the moon, above me, I am growing smaller, if I do not recognize my problems and my failings, and I shall soon shrink to nothing. I must, therefore, take advantage of the opportunity afforded by this little moment of self-reflectional wisdom, and choose to alter the course of my trajectory. I must redeem my path, I must move from waning to waxing, I must transform, metamorphose, recreate, regenerate, myself from something shrinking, disappearing, destroying itself in a self-cannibalistic overture into something growing, filling, generative, experience. I must be opposite the moon, and must transform. I must Live.

Writing Practice – 3/30/2019

How do I get rid of my hiccups?

Easy ways (easy as in historically don’t cost a lot) – hold your breath, drink a glass of water, have someone else scare you. Not only are they easy, they’re usually not effective.

Non-traditional ways – I could either eliminate the hiccups, or I could try to eliminate myself noticing them. So – maybe I cut out my eardrums. Then I don’t hear myself hiccuping, and it’s not a problem any more.

Maybe instead, I stop hiccuping every three or four seconds, and I train myself to just do this constantly. Breathe in – hiccup – breathe out – breathe in – hiccup – breathe out. Forever. Then I don’t “have the hiccups”, then I’m just a different person. And since I don’t have the hiccups anymore, it’s not a big deal.

Or, I could hypnotize myself not to notice them. “Hey, you’ve got the hiccups!” Really? I never noticed.

Those I would call “moderate” solutions. Now, for the hard ones.

Let’s go right to the source. the problem is something within my body, so to eliminate the hiccups I can download (upload?) my mind to a computer and eliminate the need for a physical body anyway. Some scientists predict that it’s like 20% likely that all of this is already a simulation anyway, so we’d just be accessing a process that’s already in place. Maybe not so difficult after all.

But probably my most extreme method, yet one much more practical than the computer, because it’s already available, is I should just cut out my vocal cords. One quick snip of my throat – I bet I could get a cheap, yet qualified, doctor to do that for me down in Cancun, or maybe over in Delhi. I have had experiences in both of those places that tell me, sure, they probably know what they’re doing. And at this cheap a price, it’s practically stealing!

So – what will it be? Option A – hold your breath? Option B – hypnosis? Or option C- drastic surgery?

Let’s see – I’m leaning towards option C, for a couple of reasons.

One, I know it will work. It’s kind of hard to hiccup, with this little mouth / throat flap spamming all over when you no longer have a flap. Impossible, really.

Second, it’s permanent. If I go the “hold my breath” route, what’s to stop my body from sabotaging me again next week? Or even in an hour or two?

Finally, I like how it’s an overkill situation. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, isn’t that the advice? Same thing applies here – go all out, make sure it happens, leave no witnesses, tell whatever story you want to afterwards.

Deal!

Extremely Bad Advice – Losing A Limb, Gaining A Life

Okay, I’m stealing this one from Reddit. Apparently these people don’t know I’m available, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time with piddling “it’ll get better, just wait” pablum.

Hi Reddit, So as the title says, my Step-Dad, whom I’m very close to, had an accident at home on the weekend. We have all been left quite traumatised by the events. He was cutting thru mortar to remove limestone blocks, and the blade got stuck and kicked back, into his lower arm.

It severed his artery and he was bleeding out. My mum was at home but couldn’t hear him yelling (very big house). He shoved his other fist into his wound and walked to their door. He couldn’t take his hand out to open door or bang on door, so he banged on it with his head. When that failed he walked down to the driveway because, as he explained, he was bleeding out and all he could think was he was going to die alone and didn’t say goodbye to anyone.

He lay on the driveway yelling for help and luckily a neighbour drove past and saw him. Other people came and got my mum. There was a nurse there too, thank God. Ambulance was called and my mum called me, screaming to get my step-sisters and I to him because he was losing too much blood. I was with 1 of my sisters at the time and 6 of our kids. The kids (between 5 and 10 years of age) saw the fallout of that, us crying and panicking etc. They seem to be ok.

He got to hospital where they gave him ketamine to knock him out. Surgery followed to reattach his arm and nerves etc and he is currently undergoing more surgery right now. They say he lost so much muscle, he may never regain feeling. He can move his fingers though. He is a very physical man, a builder by trade, and is always building and fixing things. This will destroy him. He is 63 years old and now needs years of rehab.

My mum and Step-Dad have enough savings to survive for a few years. My mum works too. It was his left arm affected and he is right-handed, small mercies. We are all deeply affected by nearly losing him. He does so much for everyone and the thought that he nearly died alone is awful. My mum has major guilt about not hearing him. I know we are blessed he is still with us, but the trauma in that moment is still lingering.

What can we do now to make his life/their lives easier?

**

Okay, sounds like a bad situation. First part of my answer is, don’t listen to my advice. It’s extremely bad. Nobody should listen to this advice. Got that, those of you reading at home? Don’t listen to this advice! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Second part, of three, is that you’re going to have to put some money out of your pocket for a few months. At least until your dad gets moderate use of his hand back. Let me explain.

Judging by your use of the word “mum” and misspelling of “neighbor” as “neighbour”, I conclude that you are located somewhere in England. This means your procedures and operations and therapy will be covered by the National Health Service. I have two thoughts on that.

One, you will get what you need, but not all of what you need. Oh, you’ll get the surgeries and the physical therapy and the emotional counseling and all that, but that’s only half the picture. My other mind tells me that since your father is now hideously deformed, much is going to change between him and your mum. Due to not only the physical change, but her feeling like she must be “delicate” with him while he recovers, and that she feels she must care for him during his convalescence, she will no longer find him sexually attractive. Instead, she will see him as a “project”, a work to be completed, and she will therefore pull away physically out of fear of hurting him, as well as due to the time constraints and the stress.

At the same time, he will begin to feel like less of a man, less of a provider, hell, less of a human being, because he can no longer do the things he had previously done. This will drain his libido and lead to a downward spiral in which he does not improve because he doesn’t see any benefit to it, and because his wife, your mum, is acting aloof and “strange” to him.

This cycle will continue to build, albeit beneath the surface, because nobody wants to admit their true feelings about the situation, until it blows up into a destructive case of anger and, paradoxically, depression, driving your mum into the arms of Trevor down the street, because at least he listens! When the truth comes out, the downfall continues: your step-dad feels even more humiliated, incompetent, impotent, deformed, and unworthy.

His depression deepens and eventually their split becomes permanent, and he’s on the dole while your mum and Trevor are snogging nightly, bemoaning the fact that if they’d just admitted their feelings years ago, they could be on the beaches in the south of France these days, taking it easy. Meanwhile your step-dad spirals downward into a whiskey-fueled haze combined with a fanatical obsession over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s neckties. Now, nobody wants that; but you can avoid it by the following actions, and here’s where the money comes in, because the NHS doesn’t cover “emotional support concubines”:

Once a week, you hire a hooker to hit on your step-dad. [You’re in England, so, small mercies, this isn’t so frowned upon as here in the U.S. Good for you guys.] Prepare her, and pay her to be ready for, giving your father a handjob, though encourage her to allow him to stop her whenever he wishes. This will make him feel attractive, make him feel worthy, and, if he goes through with it, give him the sexual satisfaction neither he nor your mum is prepared to provide during his recovery. He’s busy thinking about staying alive, not about getting off, and she’s thinking about keeping him alive, not about getting him off. But this way, he still feels like a man, and he has options: accept the hooker’s advances and get his rocks off (lessening the stress), or reject her and have a great story to tell your mum in order to solidify their relationship.

This will probably need to last about eighteen months. After that time, his therapy will be done, and they’ll have figured out their “new normal”, which will likely include some kind of cosplay, generally around the “Captain Hook” theme. They’ll be good to go, although you won’t want to ask them for any stories after their anniversary nights out on the town. Good news is you can stop the hooker. Or you can give her my number and pre-pay for a little long-distance “talk therapy”, if you get my drift. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I mentioned that there were three parts to my answer. That was the second. The third is this, and while you may think that part 2 was bad, just wait.

I advise you to convince your step-dad to amputate his arm, preferably as quickly as possible. The physical and mental trauma and struggle he’ll have to go through over the next handful of years to overcome his disfigurement and disablement is just not going to be worth it. Prosthetics are fantastic these days! He’ll actually be vastly more functional in a dramatically shorter time frame if he replaces, rather than “saving”, his arm and rehab from there. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull the old switcheroo as he self-deludes more and more into the idea that he’ll be better off with half his original hand.

But, in reality, his “healing” will be a much, much longer process if he has to view daily reminders of how much he’s lost, and how insufficient his “recovery” will ever be.

Now, how do you convince him to do it? Well, you probably won’t. Which is where you’ll have to take matters into your own hand. Literally. Go back out to his driveway and find that angle-grinder or whatever it was, and finish the job. Use a torniquet (I bet that’s how you’d spell it) tied off at the elbow so he doesn’t bleed out, but just throw that leftover hunk to the stray dogs in the street and apply to the NHS for a prosthetic. The trauma will be over much quicker, and your step-dad will, in the end, thank you once he realizes you’ve actually shortened his grieving period and given him a far superior solution to having something that looks like, and is about as useful as, beef jerky dangling from his elbow.

Cheers!

Writing Practice – 3/18/2019

Last night I dreamed…

Last night I dreamed I was sleeping (yes, sleeping) with my girlfriend on a couch, and she was in her bra and panties. I know because I was trying not to walk her, even though I was slipping my hand inside her bra, to hold her boob. I like to hold that. But she did wake up. I think I didn’t want to wake her up because I had this feeling that she didn’t know she was where she was, or didn’t know I was there, or something.

Anyway, after she realizes I’m there, we have a little bit of time to snuggle, then we hear sounds. Turns out the place we were sleeping in was like the back room of a dentist’s office, or a medical office, or something. People started moving around and opening doors and getting papers ready, so we decided to leave. I was worried about her being exposed but she had a full suit of clothes on. I did too.

We went out and ran into some kind of professional group. I ran into someone who knows me, and he covered for me by saying, loudly, “Sorry to miss you at our golf game this morning!” I guess I had been caught not going. I believe lying there with someone else was more important than anything else, so I guess that’s why I tried to stick around. *

But it wasn’t really a golf game I’d missed, it was planning for an assasination attempt on the Canadian Prime Minister. We were supposed to be pretending it was a simulation, because I’d been hired by the Canadian government to help them brainstorm possible assasination attempts, so they could prepare for them and create contingency plans.

That said, I had also been hired by the Japanese to take out the Canadian Prime Minister, or had turned spy, or something. I’m not even Canadian, or Japanese, so I’m not sure why either of them would have showed up.

So we continue fake / real assasination plans, and as we went along, I had a briefcase of Canadian bills, hundreds, which amounted to something like a million Canadian dollars. I was planning to switch briefcases, not for an empty one, or even one with other money. I was going to put my old underwear in, a la The Big Lebowski.

So my underwear was all dirty, so I needed to wash some. While washing my underwear I got a call from the operations expert in Japan. But now he’s actually in New Zealand. He tells me we can’t go forward, at least not with him paying me, so they’ll have to back out. I say, that’s okay, I’ll sell the story to The Guardian.

I decided to go there on my own. I grab my bicycle and start to bike across the ocean to London, where The Guardian’s headquarters are. I see some whales and seals and dolphins way out in the ocean. They’re friendly.

I get rained on, but the rain is not water, it’s Ocean Spray, the Cranberry Mist juice, or whatever.

I change my clothes once I get to the other side. Don’t want to show up to my wedding smelling like cranberries and whale backwash, do I? Turns out, it’s not my wedding, but my best friend from elementary school, whom I haven’t seen in 30 years. I ‘m there to stop his wedding, because she’s not good enough for him. But on my way to the church I get distracted by a pub that’s showing the Rugby World Cup.

I go in to have a pint, and end up staying three hours. When I come out it’s dark and the fireworks are going off – they’re celebrating July 4th as well. I’m a little confused. They tell me that they celebrate American Independence because they’re actually glad to be rid of us. I start to prepare a defense then get interrupted by Kermit the frog’s live stage adaptation of The Vagina Monologues.

Weird, right?

***

* Note – Everything up to this point was real. I really had that dream. After is just stuff I made up, to see how weird of a world I could make.

Writing Practice – 3/12/2019

Outside Magazine “Terror in the Wild” edition, page 52

My father’s e-mail didn’t make much sense…

He sometimes gets in these kids of moods, where he will, for weeks at a time, rant about an Atlantis cover-up, or the Moon landing being real, or the fact that those ancient civilizations that left us all their writings in the pyramids really weren’t from another planet. Each time, I dismiss him as a bit of a nut, but every once in a while he’s got a little ring of truth to it.

“I’ve got the key,” he wrote, and that was it. No Hello, no good bye, and no explanation of what kind of key it might be or how it could be used.

So I wondered, is this something I need to understand? Is it a way for me to be a part of the bigger elements of this world? Or was it just a hoax of his?

I considered, briefly, that it might even be my brother spoofing him. Ted’s done that before, pretended to be someone he’s not through e-mail, to try and get me to go to the Appalachian trail with my long-distance girlfriend, or to get me to think I’ve won the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, but this seemed too simple for him. He liked grander, broader schemes, and this one didn’t look like that. I believed it was Dad, then, and decided to reply.

“Oh, yeah? Key to what?”

Even though it had been a couple of hours between when I sent my message and when he’d first sent his, he replied almost immediately. He must have been at his desk, “working”, or whatever he liked to call all this research he did. Old books, old magazines, ancient journals and maps. My father’s basement looked like someone had emptied the Chicago Public Library archive into his room without bothering to organize anything, or even stack anything on shelves. I pictured him, sitting there, hunched over his ancient iMac, green screen and all, typing away at me. Six hundred miles away, lounging in my bed, laptop open on my lap, a stark contrast in experiences almost as strong as the contrasts of our environments and personalities.

“The key to the future,” he wrote. That too was all, in that message. I wanted to call. I wanted to talk, directly, because I could see where this was headed. Fifty messages, back and forth, over the next two hours, would just infuriate me at the man’s lack of focus, at his undisciplined approach to the world. I’d be sitting here, racking my brain trying to understand, to comprehend, to figure out if what he was saying was, or even might be real, or whether he’d finally lost it and we could safely deposit him at Shady Acres to a nice, relaxing retirement. It would do me no good to call, though. He’d disabled his phones months ago, in the belief that the radiation from the handset was making him sterile! Ha! As if he could, or would want to, get someone pregnant again at seventy-five. Why would he do that? And if he wanted to, who would sleep with him? All those are beside the point, but useful in illustrating that my father was not always altogether “there,” and so I would need to play along. Play his game of back-and-forth email tag, teasing meaning out of him one or two sentences at a time, wondering, questioning, probing, when all I really wanted to do was go have a run, and a nap.

I replied, “The future of what?”

“Of Humanity,” he replied. “It’s not looking good for us.”

“When has it ever?” Okay, a little snark, but when you’re frustrated at the imposition, you can be allowed some.

“Well, it was all good up until 53 years ago.” Then that message stopped. Before I could reply, another came in. “When you were born.”

Oh.

Shit.

He knew.

Writing Practice – 3/8/2019

Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, p. 877

She went off on a walking holiday in Wales.

She took sensible shoes, a small rucksack, and enough money to satisfy her longings for adventure.

As it turned out, she would need much more of all three by the time her holiday ended.

The first to give out was her rucksack. Over twenty years old, she’d first received it as a gift from her own mum, at the age of twelve, when mother saw her spending more and more time out of doors, sitting on the benches beside the paths in the Gardens across the Park. She’d graciously dipped into her own accounts to provide “this wonderful bag,” as she’d called it. “A real treasure trove.” It was leather, about a foot wide, a foot deep, and a foot across. It had a folding flap and leather straps and brass buckles and two shoulder straps, and she’d carried it with her almost daily since then. She’d never imagined it would wear completely out, but, eventually, the cover flap started to come apart at its seam, and the buckles showed that they were becoming worn, loose, crooked, and jangly. The bottom, which had gotten worn through in several places and patched, looked more like Junky the Clown’s patchwork suit than a leather bag. The patches pulled apart at their seams, they couldn’t hold anything smaller than a grape without needing some kind of layer to line the bottom first, and it frankly had a bit of an odor, collected over years of use by shoes, sweatshirts, old books, hand-sweat, environmental dirt, grease, road grit, and the occasional bit of pigeon shit it found itself dumped back down upon.

The bag finally gave out in Kensington, two days walk along the road to Ghent. She’d spent the morning leisurely, having tea at the B&B before she set off, moving slowly as the morning grew gradually lighter, and as she reached the end of the town she’d slept comfortably in, she hitched the pack higher, as she did, and prepared to step forth.

But with that excessive motion, that rough-and-ready jerking motion, the butt-end of the bag simply couldn’t hold any longer, and dumped itself upon their backs of her calves and feet, showering the road with her extra trousers, small bits of makeup, a half a dozen trinkets picked up here and there reminding her of her various adventures, a love not she’d received years ago and never replied to, two guide books depicting the road ahead, and one explained the best places to get wine in Croatia, half a package of crisps, two lipsticks, and the extra sweater she often carried in adventures like this. Margaret stopped and stared, somewhat taken aback. At that moment, she had exactly no idea what to do next.

And that was a first. Truly, she had never not known what to do before. Even as a three-year-old, she could remember knowing precisely how to play a game with her older brother. At ten, she’d told her parents that they needed to send her to boarding school, for her sake, as her neighbors were also going to send their little one off, and she shouldn’t be left behind with all of the riff-raff and bad influences. And at twenty, she’d bent he one to initiate her relationship, and three years later the marriage, to Kelvin, and three years after that she’d been the one to begin the divorce proceedings.

So for the first time, out of all the wonderful, incredible, fantastic, believable and unbelievable experiences she’d had in her life, Margaret was, simply, unable to decide what to do.

The inaction paralyzed her, and that paralysis created further indecision, which cycled up and up and further on and on, until she startled herself out of her semi-comatose state, notice her watch, and saw that at least an hour had passed with her simply standing on the side of the road.

An hour? My! What might have happened?

Well –

If I tell you, I’d ruin the surprise, eh? Better to show you…