Writing Practice – 3/18/2018 – Concerning Happiness

Prompt: How far would you go to achieve your happiness?

I admit- this may be limiting me. But I won’t push past the boundaries of another’s satisfaction or happiness in life to achieve my own. If it requires me to leave a wake of destruction in my path to achieve that “happiness”, then I have the wrong idea of happiness or the wrong idea of the ideal.

I should not have to go to such great lengths, either. I should be able to find happiness wherever I am, whenever I am, without needing to search and seek and journey. I should be able to get to a level of happiness by my everyday interactions – by the things I am doing for myself, for my children, for my community, for my nation, for my world.

I should not need to look far. I am and should find happiness in the alarm clock – in the running shoes. In the dirty dishes, that transform themselves under my great care and safe tutelage into sparkling clean ones.

I should find happiness in a well-folded shirt. In an empty e-mail inbox. In a to-do list completely crossed off. In watching my son hit a double. In reading a story my daughter has written. In throwing crusts of bread, in throwing the whole piece out for the squirrels and the chipmunks and the sparrows and chickadees.

I should find happiness in the pen – in using it dry from my words on the push. I should find happiness win a well-covered page. I should find happiness in a well-read book. In a philosophical insight. In a historical lesson I can only now understand.

I should find happiness in ladybugs – in empty wine glasses – in watermelon rinds and runny noses on a winter’s morning. I should find happiness in a lit candle, burning to fend off to ward off to beat away the darkness of night.

I should find happiness in a hug from my mother. In a smile from my brother. In the touch of my lover. In the morning wind, in the stinging rain, in a subway car too full for me to squeeze in. I should find happiness in an evening newscast, and in laying my head on the pillow at night.

And – I should – So I Do.

Writing Practice – 3/14/2018 – Describe revelry

Describe revelry…

It is laughter and dancing. It is shouting with excitement. It is hand-clapping, and hand-slapping, and hand-waving, and hand-wringing. It is dancing in the streets, arms and shoulders and knees and ankles keeping a disjointed, “I-don’t-care-because-there-are-more-important-elements-to-enjoy-than-rhythm” unfocused pattern.

It is eyes sparkling with joy. It is kisses on cheeks, kisses on lips, kisses blown to the crowd, kisses caught by the crowd and returned, a hundredfold, a thousand times, an simplification far greater than any microphone and speaker set the finest money could buy.

It is a celebration with a complete stranger, hugs and camaraderie together at once, a moment, a moment which stretches for minutes, an hour, a moment which becomes an era, a moment that transforms the timeline into “Before” and “After”.

It is a transition, it is a celebration, it is a new way of seeing the world, through not only my own eyes but the compounding effect of a myriad like-minded persons, pooling our experiences together in this one instance to become something more than ourselves, something greater than ourselves, something richer and fuller than the aggregation of individualities.

It is a transsubstantiation, a making of something old out of something new. The old, being togetherness. And the new, the individuals coming together in the experiencing.

It is an overwhelm. It is a superposition. It is a phase change, a sublimation from one state to another. It is a world of difference, encompassed in the minimality of space; it is a universe of symbiosis metamorphosing into one. From the many, to the unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of experience. Unity of vision. Unity of life.

Writing practice – 3/10/18 – Fresh air

Write about fresh air…

It comes with the changing season – winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to autumn, autumn to winter. Freshness is not the smell, or the sound. It is the taste – the taste of newness on the tongue – the taste of renewal, of restoration. Of the passage of time.

You open your mouth to breathe in the newness, the evolution of the air around, and you experience a different sensation than just the day before. Where once was cold, now is growth. Where once was oppressive heat, now is crisp autumn of life. Where once was moderation now comes cold, darkness, bitterness. Where once was a way of life, now is a way of simple sustenance – just making it – just getting by – just being.

To see “fresh” as a quality of the measure of the quality of the air, a hard, scientific measurement of particulates or infectants or smogginess, is to replace the reality of the experience. That is to minimize the way of understanding all that surrounds.

That is a smallening approach. “Air is fresh if the halbenberg index is at 3.0 or less.” Yeah, but is 2.999 not fresh? Is 3.0001 not fresh? How do you measure, with one sensor or a million? Take the average, the lowest or highest, or some percentile? Do you take readings in the morning? Evening? Continuously? Why the simplification of some things that should be complex? How about we recognize that there are a myriad, an uncountable number, of ways to consider this world, and if we are the ones who ruin our enjoyment because of gamification, if we are the ones ruining ourselves and our ways of looking at this world because we are so dependent on someone else to tell us what is a good or what is a bad thing, then we have lost.

We must return to trusting ourselves. We must return to being ourselves. We must recognize that there are more than one perspective in this world, and what is right, good, clean, or fresh for me may not be right, good, clean, or fresh for you. We have numbed ourselves. Our experiencing muscles have atrophied – and so have our decision-making muscles.

We have outsourced all such choosing to others – “Well, it was recommended in my feed, so I’ll try it.” We have absconded abandoned we have abdicated our responsibility to be in charge of our own living, and that has made us weak, simple, joyless, vulnerable, and, ultimately, doomed. We must retake our authority over our lives. We must again decide to decide for ourselves.

We must relinquish the relative ears and comfort of allowing others to decide our lives, and once again take hold of the authoritative reigns of ourselves. We must drive beyond the simplicities of creature comforts, we must push against the bonds holding us back and we must be free, must live, must smell and taste and see for ourselves that the air is good, is clear, is fresh once again.

Short Story: Divine Intervention

I wrote this one probably fifteen years ago as well. I liked it then, especially the one-liners and the word play on “intervention”. Nobody else really did. I only submitted it a couple of times, though, so not a whole lot of rejection made possible. Regardless:


Divine Intervention

Before the door was even open, I could hear three or maybe four voices behind it, talking together.  It sounded like one was eating something.  That better not be my sausage! I thought.  I fumbled the key in the lock, and opened the door to find five figures spread all around my small two-room apartment.  “Ernie!” they all shouted.  “Good to see you!”

Taken aback, I had to frown.  I recognized most of them, of course, all but the one sulking on the rocking chair.  His dark hair fell into his eyes often.  He brushed it back just as quickly as he could, but never made more progress.  His pouchy stomach showed through a toga.  Only Diana stood to welcome me.  Eros stayed on the couch, and Atlas continued chewing something that looked like my Swiss cheese as he leaned against the hallway.  Good, it’s not my sausage.  He nodded.  I nodded back.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s an intervention, Ernie.”  Diana spoke quietly, with a note of feeling.

“A what?”

“An intervention.”  Eros sounded sarcastic.  “Oh, they’ll be all the rage in about sixty years, you know, for alcoholics, gamble-holics, whatever you need to get someone off of, just stick a few friends in a room and talk them out of it.”  Then he frowned.  “Like it’s going to work.”

“Of course it’ll work,” said the man, maybe even a boy, in the rocking chair.  “It has to.  She promised!”  He pointed at Juno, sitting on my couch.  I would have bet she was giving it fleas.  Her robe was dirty, and her hair, stringy and blowing around her face.

She shook her head at him.  “Dear brother, when will you ever learn?  All that power has gone to your head.”

He pouted.  “Has not,” as a bolt of lightning came from the ceiling and struck the floor in front of her.  The boy looked a little embarrassed.  Juno frowned; she was disappointed.

Diana tapped my shoulder to get my attention again.  “Listen, Ernie, we don’t like what’s going on.  Now, we all understand that you want to be a writer, and that’s fine, but just for now, I think it might be time to give us a little rest.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“She means,” said Eros, as another lightning bolt struck my couch next to Juno, who looked absolutely disgusted this time, “that we’re tired of being subject to your beck and call.  We’ve all got our own jobs to do.  We don’t need yours, too.”

I fingered the burnt cushion.  I would have to get a new one.  This close to Juno, she smelled a little.  Eros didn’t look so hot, either.  He was rather covered with pimples, and had absolutely no chest hairs.  I wondered how the women stood him.

“We’re here because we care,” Diana said.  I took a good look at her.  For the goddess of the hunt and of nature, she seemed so comfortable inside here.  She was a natural city girl.  Her hands were perfectly manicured.  Every hair was in its place.  She was even wearing makeup!  No way this was all real.

Another lightning bolt struck the couch, this time close enough to make Juno jump.  “Cut it out, Zeus!  It’s not funny!”  The little boy giggled with laughter, rocking back and forth, smiling for the first time.

“So, what, you’re all mad at me?”

“Not exactly mad,” Eros said.  “It’s more like we’re disappointed.  And we’re tired of being made to do things we don’t want to do.”

I shook my head.  “I don’t get it.  You’re gods and goddesses.  You’re supposed to do that stuff.  I read all the mythology books.”

Diana sighed.  She cupped my cheek in her hand.  I suddenly felt an attraction that hadn’t been there in years.  I looked down, and she did, too.  Her eyes widened, and then she smiled.  “Mythology?  Honey, those boys didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.”  She glanced down again.  “Neither do you.  I mean, come on, have you even read what you’ve written about us lately?”

I shrugged my shoulders, as I heard another lightning bolt strike near Juno.  This time, everyone shouted in unison, “Cut it out, Zeus!”  That little bugger was starting to piss me off.  I couldn’t wait for the rest of them to leave, and I’d find out just what was under Diana’s cloak.  Ooh, baby…

Eros tapped me on the shoulder.  “Hey, I’m off duty.”  He was acting like he could read my mind.  “No touchy-feelies.”  He pointed towards my …ahem.  My face wasn’t the only thing to droop.  “Anyway, we’re very concerned with how you’ve bought into the stereotypes of us gods.  We’re regular guys, just like you, Ernie.  We just want to do what we gotta do, then take a nap.”  He yawned, as if to highlight his point.  “I mean, do you have any idea how hard it is to seduce a woman?  And in that last story, you had me making it with one a night for a week!  Man, I was so tired after that I slept-”

zap – “ZEUS!” – “Sorry!”

“-like Atlas over there when he gets off his shift.”

Atlas shrugged.  “Whatever.”  He seemed bored.

“But you’re Eros.  Aren’t you supposed to do all that?”

“Man, no!  It’s like the garbage man picking up someone else’s trash all day, then having to go home and take out his own.  Or the dentist – you think he’s pulling his wife’s teeth over the dinner table, telling his kids how to floss correctly?  Same with me.  I gotta work my butt off making people like each other, so there’s enough of all of you to keep this gods-forsaken race until the next century, and then you write stuff like ‘Eros smote her with his intense good looks and stunning charm.  Her heart strained against the chains of her body, yearning to be with him.  He took her, then and there, and they made the music of the spheres for hours upon end.’  Ugh, gag me with a spoon.”

Ah, I remembered that line.  From “For the Love of the Lover”.  I actually thought that one was pretty good.  None of the editors did, though.  “Too over the top?”  I asked.

Juno stood, brushing some dirt off her robe.  No longer stately, she seemed simply another dumpy woman who’d forgotten to bathe that day.  “Not just over the top, Ernie.  Way out of line.  I’m sorry, but I can’t go around messing in mortals’ lives any longer.  I’ve got to watch over my brother over there,” she dodged another zinger, raised a threatening hand to slap him, “and that’s starting to become a full-time job.”  He stuck out his tongue at her.  “You never would have thought he’d be made ruler of Olympus.  And if I ever catch who taught him how to throw lightning…”

I turned back to Diana.  Oh, sweet Diana.  Eros tapped me on the shoulder again, with a stern warning look.  I asked again, “So what’s this about an intervention?”

“Right.  We need you to stop writing about us.  It’s just not going to work any longer.”

“What do you mean?  I’m trying to be a writer.  This is how they tell me it’s done – write some stories, then a novel, then live off the royalties once everyone in the country buys a copy of your book.”  Everyone laughed at that one, all except Atlas, who had his face wrapped around my loaf of sourdough.  “What about Atlas?  I’ve never written about him.”  I pointed at the man’s rear end sticking out of my icebox.  “Why’d you bring him along?”

Juno dismissed the question with a wave of her hand.  “Oh, he’s just the muscle.”  I must have looked confused.  “In case you tried to run.”

“But he’s not real.  You think he could stop me?”  A swift backhand from the man himself told me I was out of line.  As I staggered up off the floor, I had only one thing to say.  “Dammit!  That hurt!”

Okay, I had to admit I wasn’t going to run.  But what should I do?

“Write what you know,” said Diana.

Pshoosh!  I raspberried my lips at her.  “I’ve heard that before.  What do you mean?  I know mythology, and I’m writing it, but you seem to think I need something else.”

“Think, Ernie,” Juno had come up behind me and was now resting a hand on my shoulder.  “What have you done in your life?”

I paused a moment.  “Well, I was in the war.”  Zeus laughed and sent a bolt flying between our ears.  I ducked quickly enough to avoid it, but I could have sworn he did it on purpose.  “Okay, I was an ambulance driver.”

“And?  Not what you did, but what you saw…felt.  What you wanted.

“Well, there was this one nurse…”  My zipper somehow caught Diana’s attention again.  I blushed.  “Okay, more than one.  But who wants to read about that?”

“Enough people will,” said Juno.  “They want something real.  They want to know that the sun also rises in Paris, or Italy, or India.  They don’t just want what you hope.  They need something tangible.”

“You think it’ll work?”  Atlas had finally emerged from my small kitchen, still looking bored.  He dodged a shot from Zeus and took off, probably to smack the immortal tar out of the kid.  I could barely talk over the noise they were making.  “You think I’ll be able to be a writer?”

“Of course,” said Diana.  Oh, sweet Diana.  Her deep eyelashes, her dark hair, her stupid bodyguard Eros standing there so ugly-faced and making it hard for me to get to know her.  Oh, well.  “If there’s one thing gods know, it’s people.”

“So what’s the suggestion?  I need something to get me started.”  I took a pen from the table and sat down with a pad.

“Well, for one, you really need to move out of this place.”

“That might take some time.”

“Ernie, you ain’t got time.  You gotta go now, or you’re never going to leave.”

I could see her point.  I bent over to jot a quick note to my landlady.  Heading out.  Please forward mail to address specified next letter.  Will notify within fortnight.  Back never, sell my things, keep half and send me the rest.  Yours, E. Hemingway.

By the time I was done, everyone had disappeared, all but Atlas, back again in my pantry, finishing off a box of saltine crackers.  I startled him with a tap on the shoulder.  “Hey, where’d everybody go?”

“I don’t know about them,” I said, grabbing a notebook and a backpack, “but I’m headed to Paris.  Want to come?”  He shrugged again, slugged me on the arm hard enough to knock me over again, and simply evaporated.  Took like five minutes, too.  I was totally bored the whole time.  I checked the icebox for my sausage, but no luck. I gave Atlas the evil eye for it, but he just shrugged again.  I wished he’d hurry up, and when he was finally gone, I left, not bothering to lock the door.

And their intervention?  You tell me if it worked.