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On admiration and remorse.

Published July 29, 2014 by mandileighbean

I’m having trouble finishing the margarita my mother made me.

I still haven’t closed on the house I am eager to buy, but I have not lost hope. If I could be patient, which is admittedly a virtue I most certainly lack, then I could see the process through. I long to stamp my feet and pout like a petulant child until I get my way, which is silly for any number of reasons, but mostly because it would not work.

An independent company specializing in literary marketing contacted me via my author page on Facebook. The pricing seems rather steep, so I am going to do some more research. I hope to find similar companies and what services they offer for what prices. I need to market my book if I hope to get anywhere. I was banking on an agent to do that, but that search has been difficult and disappointing. Again, I truly need patience. I find some solace in reminding myself that I am not the only twenty-something (soon to be closer to thirty than not) who has an imagined pendulum swinging above her head, wanting to have so many things before an invented age for reasons she cannot articulate. Such is life.

The novel is coming along, but at a painfully slow rate … unless that is impatience, striking again.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #16: “A con man starts to admire the achievements of the man he is impersonating.”

barfly

 

Larry sat at the end of the bar that was farthest from the door. The place was dark and cool, and Larry found sitting as far away from the entrance as possible, what with its sporadic bursts of garish sunlight and random gusts of stifling summer heat, kept the establishment as poorly lit and properly air conditioned as most patrons preferred. However, the bar was lacking in patrons at this particular moment, and Larry attributed the absence of alcoholics in varying stages of addiction to the time. Truth be told, it was rather early to be enjoying liquor – at least in public – well before the social norm of five o’clock. But Larry didn’t really give a shit because Larry had endured one hell of a day. He downed the shot of whiskey before him, shuddered, and ordered another.

Technically, Larry was unemployed, but that didn’t mean he didn’t make a living. To the casual passerby, Larry seemed to be a legitimate businessman of sorts. He had the right kind of shiny shoes that looked terribly expensive even though they weren’t. Larry’s pants were meticulously iron and pressed, and kept painstakingly neat so that they were much more impressive than the tags would have the observer believe. Larry’s shirt was plain, just an average button-down with a muted sort of pattern made from a heavy kind of fabric. It was uncomfortable and caused Larry to sweat no matter the temperature. So while each element of Larry’s outfit was subpar, the sum of its parts was enough to impress but not intimidate. Larry looked official yet inconsequential; he was forgettable and that was the point. In Larry’s particular line of work, it was best to blend in, to claim a sort of camouflage among the general public. Larry was an identity thief, and he was damn good at it.

Larry hadn’t worked “on the books” in quite some time. When he was strapped for cash, or forced to lay low, he always managed to pick up odd jobs. With his seemingly limitless set of skills, good looks, winning personality, and luck, he had been living comfortably, even leisurely, for years. Larry had managed to be so comfortable because he shunned guilt and lived by the rules of apathy. He never thought about the people he impersonated and stole from, and only imagined them as fictional roles. Larry was a nice guy – a good guy, even – so there was no possible way he ruined lives, engineered poverty, or tore families apart. Honestly, how could the actions of one lazy, simple man such as Larry, drag someone kicking and screaming back to that proverbial square one, forcing him to start all over and begin again, work twice as hard only to get back to where he was? Larry was not so destructive, not such a monster. He was just a thief and besides, there was more to life than money and possessions, right? Everyone loved to preach about a life of substance. Sometimes, especially when drunk, Larry could convince himself he was actually aiding those he robbed blind, forcing them to experience the spiritual truth that life goes on regardless of what one had in the bank. Unfortunately for Larry, he wasn’t as inebriated as he needed to be and he had realized only a few hours earlier that he was miserable little shit, a parasitic being who had nothing to offer anyone and would die alone; he would leave this world without anyone to noticing, let alone mourning.

Larry had never been one for enduring an existential crisis of any kind. He assumed he lacked the emotional intelligence for such self-engineered disaster and misery because, given the choice, Larry would do just about anything other than sit and think. He was only participating in the activity now because of Ryan Schmuacher, the identity he was currently employing. Larry had only chosen to become Ryan because of his impressive credit score and substantial amount of money in the bank. He would use both assets to obtain a credit card, replenish the wardrobe, and then take a trip (standard operating procedure at the end of a job because it was best to cut and run before anyone got wise enough to start looking). Larry used a very special, and very illegal, type of software to hack into websites that promised free credit scores for such valuable information and he always followed that internet search up with another one – simply entering the name into a search engine and perusing through whatever materialized on the screen. He had done this a thousand times and never had such a search given him such pause, such hesitation, such … remorse.

Ryan Schumacher had been born into a less than wealthy family in some small, Southern town that become the picturesque setting for dumb oil paintings featuring snow covered barns that sold like hot cakes during the holiday season. His parents had sacrificed everything to help Ryan afford medical school, where he excelled. He specialized in pediatric oncology – kid cancer. He forwent the bar scene, the hookup culture, the flashy cars and exotic trips, to try and save the lives of little dudes and dudettes who were truly innocent victims, who had done absolutely nothing to force their own bodies to betray them, cutting themselves down before their prime. It was a truly selfless vocation, something to admire, and the picture of Dr. Schumacher with a two-year-old boy, smiling despite the chemotherapy treatments and all its devastating side effects, had impacted Larry. He hadn’t been able to erase the vision from his mind, hadn’t been able to lift a single penny from Dr. Schumacher’s account. Larry took everything from everyone to benefit himself and it knocked him on his ass to finally and truly realize that there were people on the planet that gave everything to everyone to benefit everyone.

Larry drained the second shot of whiskey, shuddered, and ordered another. He missed the bartender’s apprehensive gaze because he covered his miserable face with trembling, selfish hands and pondered his life. What had it all been for? What difference had he made? Was it too late?

remorse

On permanent solutions to temporary problems.

Published March 18, 2014 by mandileighbean

It has been quite some time since I updated this blog, and it has been quite some time since I offered up any type of creative writing. I plan to rectify both errors in this entry, but be forewarned: this prompt is quite sad and lacks any optimism. Perhaps it’s because today is Monday.

Enjoy.

depressedman

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #13: “Lucky you, I’m free tonight. One show only, though, okay?”

“Don’t let it come apart. Don’t want to see you come apart.”
– “Caught by the River,” Doves

It was only about 90 minutes into a random and mundane Tuesday morning when Walter took his usual seat on a worn, overstuffed barstool. It was another 90 minutes before the lights would come on and then melancholy tones of “last call” replaced the colored lights, conversation, and pounding, thumping bass. For Walter, that’d be plenty of time to see his girl, tell her all the things he wanted – needed – her to know, and then blow his brains out in his dilapidated car in the parking lot. Walter had this all figured out and planned for the last month or so, ever since things went far south at work and management began to demand his head on a plate, and ever since his daughter slammed down her receiver in Houston, Texas and neither party had bothered to reclaim the connection. Audrey, his only daughter and only child, had been more than a little upset that Walter had canceled his visit. It had been just over a year since they had last seen each other and both had been eagerly anticipating the reunion until the new, ominous situation at work caused Walter to horde money, like squirrels do nuts. Rationally, calmly, he tried to explain to Audrey that he simply had to cut costs and expenses and logically, the expenditure of a road trip almost halfway across the country, which was certainly not necessary, would be the first to go.
Audrey quickly became furious and inconsolable. Feeling hurt and wanting only to wound others, she ruthlessly asked her father why he didn’t cut out the booze or the smokes or the porn. She vehemently exclaimed that she could not understand why her father was so determined to push away the only people who gave two shits about him, the only family he had. Walter ordered Audrey to shut up and calm down, implored her to listen the way only a father thinks he can when speaking with his daughter, and that had been enough for Audrey. She hung up and that was it, all she wrote. Walter had thrown the entire phone across the room before dumping himself into the battered recliner in the sparse living room. Nearly all the lights were off – extinguished to save money on the electricity bill – and only the mindless, bluish, electric glow of the television illuminated anything. In this dismal, depressing space, he thoughtlessly rubbed the back of his hand across his ragged, dry mouth and simply inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, and exhaled. Later, when his brain surmounted the blind fury that had so completely clouded and confounded it, Walter knew he would be better off dead. Walter knew with 100% certainty that many others would be better off with Walter dead as well. All that was left was to do the thing.
The next day, Walter had risen with the sun. He had walked the seven miles to the nearest convenience store and purchased a carton of cigarettes. He lit one and smoked it down to the filter. Walter repeated this several times before he made it to the liquor store and purchased a case of cheap beer. He lugged the case and the carton back home, loaded it into his car that was essentially held together with rubber bands and chewing gum, and drove to the nearest strip joint. There he sat, listening to the greatest hits of the 80s, 90s and today that were only barely audible above the static, until night came. He smoked and drank and drank and smoked until night gave away to the wee hours of the early morning, and then he stumbled inside the strip club.
He had been going to that particular establishment once a week since 2002, once his divorce was finalized and his bitch ex-wife took Audrey and her handsome, wealthy, and chivalrous new husband to Texas. Every Tuesday night for over a decade, he had sat upon a stool to wait until the place emptied and he could talk to his girl. She had some sort of awful, degrading stripper moniker, but he would never call her that. She listened to him, held him, stroked him, and smiled like he was the only guy she’d ever want to see ever in the history of guys. It was fleeting and he had to pay for it, but it was all he had and that was that. He owed her honest gratitude, and an explanation for his upcoming absence. So on a random Tuesday morning, he was ready when she came up behind him and carelessly slung her arms around his neck. “Lucky for you, I’m free tonight. One show only, though, okay?”
He smiled sadly. She said the same thing every time. He turned and nodded. She took his meaty hands and led him to the back, to a private room with heavy, velvet drapes. She pushed him down onto a cheap, red leather sofa and straddled him, and it was like it had always been, except Walter began to cry. It was the last night of his life, and the knowledge of that decision had changed nothing. The world did not stand still; he was just as insignificant as he had always feared. The tears poured down Walter’s wasted, gray face and his body shook with sobs, and he was a little boy. The girl moved to sit beside him and she asked him what was wrong and rubbed his back. Her concern seemed genuine, but Walter was ashamed. He had never intended to cry in front of a woman, especially some half-naked girl he could barely afford, and so he could not tell her that it was all he had. Suddenly, he stood up and marched from the room. He had rapidly decided ending one’s life should be like removing a band aid – quick and painless, best to get it over with and not drag it out.
But the girl’s genuine concern was intuitive as well. She hurried to the dressing room and threw on some sheer robe that didn’t really cover anything but did enough to give the impression of modesty. She hurried to the bar in the center of the establishment, where her burly manager was counting out the first of many tills, and asked him to call an ambulance. She had to take some precious time to explain that she was all right, and so were the other girls, and that nobody was actually injured, but she feared a regular might do something awful to himself and she wanted to stop him. As she was pushing open the doors to the parking lot, the shot rang out.
She was too late.

policetape

On being rich.

Published October 6, 2013 by mandileighbean

The older I grow, the more I believe that life truly does have a rather funny way of helping one out.  I am fortunate enough to find myself in winning situations more often than not.  For example, my dad offered to take me to see a film and then out to eat on Friday night.  My little brother came along, and we saw “Runner Runner” with Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck.  The movie was thoroughly entertaining (and I found Ben Affleck to be particularly engaging … and handsome) and as we were walking out of the theater, we were all intrigued by a small crowd outside.  They were all females; seven teenagers and two middle-aged women.  Dad, being the ultimate nosey body, asked what was up, and one of the women admitted they were in a bit of a pickle.  Apparently, the women had dinner plans and purchased tickets for the teenagers to see “Prisoners.”  However, because the movie was rated R, the employee who had sold the tickets insisted an adult over twenty-one years of age accompany the girls for the duration of the film and assured the women there would be a theater check conducted to prevent any kind of circumvention.  Dad started laughing because I had in fact argued for seeing “Prisoners,” even though he had already seen it with my little brother a week or so ago.  There I was, offered an opportunity to see a movie I was very anxious to see, for free.  It isn’t a cosmically epic moment that decides the fates of nations or anything as brilliant, but it is a moment nonetheless.  It is also the kind of moment that is readily and often attainable.  I wonder if I shouldn’t chase small smile moments such as those, rather than scenes from silver screens.

I know I’ll chase both.

 

WEEKLY PROMPT #3: “Four men decide to rob a bank.  Two of the men intend to take all of the money, even if it means killing their partners.”

bankrobbery1THIEVES

Harvey sat at the end of the emptying bar, a tumbler of warming whiskey before him.  He held his face in his hands, calloused palms scratched by the thick, rough bristles of hair coating his jawline and chin.  It had been a while since the last time Harvey had shaved, most likely because it had been a while since the last time Harvey had identified any reason to shave.  Pride in personal appearance had a tendency to go by the wayside when one found himself unemployed and miserable.  It was that exact desperation that had led him here, to this seedy bar.  Jeff, a buddy from Harvey’s old job, had stopped by the apartment to see how Harvey was making out.  The accumulated trash and lack of even basic maintenance had concerned Jeff, and so he sat Harvey down and shared a detailed yet outrageous plan to rob the local bank.  Harvey had scoffed until her saw the serious lines of Jeff’s face pull together in an almost convincing display.  Inexplicably outraged, Harvey had leapt to his feet and roared about laws and safety and the improbability of making it out of there alive, let alone with the money.  Jeff had persistent, however, and calmed Harvey down and inspired him with a dangerous kind of optimism that only desperate and miserable men are capable of.  Thus, Harvey had followed Jeff to the Bar Miraculous to meet with the others, some guys named Ben and Matt that Harvey had never seen before.  Ben was big and brawny, an intimidating fellow who seemed to dutifully follow Matt wherever and whenever.  Matt was significantly smaller than his counterpart, and to see them seated beside one another at the bar would have made John Steinbeck nostalgic for his ranchers in Soledad.

The men had sat side by side at the bar, four in a row.  They rarely, if ever, made eye contact with one another, and they talked out of the sides of their mouths, although Harvey hadn’t said a word.  He had only nodded or grunted to show his approval and consent.  The plan had been developed mainly by Matt, with Jeff tweaking and augmenting here and there as he seemed to be more familiar with the area and even the employees.  The next course of action was to meet at Matt’s apartment in two nights, to case the bank the night before.  They would also discuss further details and tighten any and all loose ends; dot the Is and cross the Ts as it were.  Suddenly and simply, Matt and Ben had excused themselves and left.  Jeff clapped Harvey on the shoulder and headed to the restroom.  Thus, Harvey had been left to his own devices, to sit and drink and think.  He wasn’t sure how he felt, how truly on board he was.  Robbers never got away with it, not even in the movies, and they were not professionals by any stretch of the imagination.  They were bums, average Joes who had suffered no great tragedy, but only wanted more than what they had faster than they could acquire it.  Planning to rob a bank did not make them some antiheroes or anything as glamorous.  It did not make them intelligent or brave.  If anything, it defined them as lazy and cruel and dumb, dumb for taking such an absurd risk.  They were no Dillinger, seemingly stealing from the rich.  They were the poor so they would take and keep for themselves; where was the honor in that?  Amidst Harvey’s existential sort of crisis, Jeff returned.  There was the familiar clap on the shoulder and groan of the aged, wooden bar stool as Jeff reclaimed his seat.

“So what do you think?  How are you feeling?”

Harvey shrugged and took the tumbler before him in his hand.  Rather than sip from it, he moved his wrist to swirl the alcohol and he pensively watched the liquid lap against the sides.  “I don’t know, man.  It’s awfully risky.”

“It is,” Jeff conceded, “but look at us, man.  Look at our lives, for Christ’s sake.  We work too God damn hard to be this fucking poor.”  He drank deeply from the bottle before him.  “Shit, they kicked you to the curb.  How long do you figure you’ll kick around, practically begging for a job, any job, even if it’s below your pay grade and skill level?  What way is that for anyone to live?”

“I agree, you know I do, but –”

“Matt has everything figured out, Harvey.  He has it timed to the fucking second, I shit you not.  As long as we stick to the time table, we’ll be fine, just about untouchable.”  Jeff smiled.  “What have you got to lose?”

Harvey was not amused.  “Oh, I don’t know; my life?  My freedom?”  In fact, Harvey was only sarcastic and bitter.

“It’s a solution to a problem,” Jeff persisted.  “We need money, so we take money.  We’re talking enough to get the hell out of dodge and start over.  We can be whoever we want to be.  We don’t have to be losers who go home alone night after night in cars that barely start in clothes off the clearance rack.”  He looked down at the wooden grain of the countertop of the bar.  He lowered his voice.  “And if we knock off Matt and Ben, pin it on them and silence them, we can get away scot free.”

Harvey’s eyes went wide.  “What?”

“The only thing holding you back is getting caught, right?  Of course it is; that makes sense!  So let’s eliminate that and we are suddenly completely uninhibited!”

“Stealing is one thing, Jeff, but murder is another.  I can’t –”

“You’re going to go all noble on me, really?  Do I have to remind you about the office Christmas party?  Nancy was all sorts of messed up, but that didn’t stop you from –”

“Shut up,” Harvey said.  He had intended it to be a command, but it had been more of a desperate plea.  That’s all he was, was desperate.  Jeff knew it, and seized upon the opportunity.

“Come on, man.  They’re nothing to us.  We could be doing the universe a karmic favor.  What do you say?”

Harvey looked at himself for a long, long moment in the cracked mirror above the shelves of liquor.

bankrobbery

On literal weddings and metaphorical funerals.

Published April 15, 2013 by mandileighbean

First and foremost, I would like to begin this post by sending my prayers to the victims, their friends, families and loved ones, and the entire city of Boston.  I would also like to borrow the sentiments of Fred Rogers and urge all of us to look at those helping and sacrificing to provide aid, rather than be utterly and completely incensed.  Evil does happen – it absolutely does – but so does good, and we must never lose sight of that if we are to remain loving, compassionate and human.

religionI must admit that the post I had planned for this evening now seems completely frivilous and in poor taste, at least somewhat.  However, that being said, I am going to continue because not doing so will not help those afflicted in Boston and perhaps posting my ramblings will offer a distraction, at least for a moment or two.  Then again, I probably flatter myself greatly in thinking enough people read this blog to place a judgment of value on the timing of my posts.  So, please, allow me to talk about this past weekend.

I was seated with colleagues and friends in a purposely poorly lit bar.  There was nothing remarkable about the venue; it could have been any Irish pub anywhere in New Jersey.  I did think it was slow for a Saturday night, but that is not a complaint.  I was idly sipping a Coca Cola and Jack Daniels, suffering through it patiently as some kind of demonstration of bravado that was unwarranted and probably unnecessary.  We were gossiping and chatting, generally enjoying ourselves, when someone familiar walked in.  All the blood rushed to my face and hands so that they felt swollen and numb, utterly useless, and I suddenly became unattractive to the point of being grotesque – or, at least that’s what I felt like.  I wanted him to see me, but at the same time, I was comfortable with recognizing without being recognized.  It was not like there had been some great love affair; it was only a schoolgirl crush, juvenile notions compounded with lonely fantasies and absolutely nothing more.  Yet there I was all the same, reacting as if some great figure from my past had walked in with the sole intention of rekindling some great passion.  It was silly and I know that, but it’s all I have and I can’t help it and I am not sure if I always feel like apologizing for it.

He did walk over to say hello, but he started with those seated farthest from me.  He hugged and gave quick kisses upon the cheeks of the ladies, offered a firm handshake to the lone gentleman present.  He did not say hello to me at first; he sat with those he knew the best and had a long conversation.  It gave me a chance to sip at the alcohol through the straw desperately, to giggle to expunge nerves that were winding tighter with each passing moment.  I delighted in the teasing, perfectly happy to entertain some farfetched notion that any kind of mutual attraction was possible when really, his mere presence made me feel so unworthy.  “Indeed, when he did come over to say hello, he offered a genuine embrace, but then turned away to spend most of his time talking to the others.  Though his arm rested upon the back of my raised chair – some kind of hybrid between a chair and a stool – he did not make eye contact.  I received the impression that I was unimportant, boring and even a nuisance.  I wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else.  How he had the ability to make me feel so small was perplexing until I realized I allowed it, because my writer’s imagination and romantic mind were turning nothing into something important, something worth writing about when honestly, it was baited breaths and daydreams – nothing more.  But every time he left, he would place his hand on the small of my back ever so lightly, just to signal he was leaving but promising he would return.

wedding1

He told us he was attending a wedding and for one positively horrifying moment, I thought it was his wedding, and that meant that the infintisemal window of opportunity I laughably deemed was present for him and I had been slammed shut.  However, he was simply attending a wedding.  So the next day, when I was attending informative workshops during which I should have been paying more attention and behaving in the fashion of a consummate professional, I was imagining.  What else can I do when my expectations never ever come to fruition?  I closed my eyes and saw myself, in some kind of slinky, sexy yet elegant evening gown, colored emerald green.  I was not wearing shoes – perhaps they had been discarded on a dance floor, or thrown to the side to better enable movement because I was running, and running fast.  My long hair flew out behind me, all waves and curls that no blow drying or hairspray could ever possibly hope to replicate, and my arms and legs pumped in unison with my heart like some well-oiled machine I have never before seen.  Across cobblestone warmed in the sun I run, and there he is, running towards me.  Left behind is his jacket, and the sleeves of his shirt are pushed up from his wrists to his elbows.  His tie is blown back over his right shoulder as he sprints towards me, just as eagerly and as quickly as I am running towards him.  Eventually we will collide, fall into each other’s arms, crash against one another’s body.  Will it be a passionate explosion, or will we both slow just before contact is to be made and simply stare, chests heaving from breathing hard?  I do not know, because the daydream always ends, and it is always unfulfilled.  I have never run towards someone who was running towards me.

I imagine it is one of the greater experiences of this world.

wedding

On nearly a quarter of a century.

Published September 17, 2012 by mandileighbean

I turn twenty-four in two days, which means – and excuse me for stating the obvious – that I will have been upon this spinning globe for nearly a quarter of a century.  Have I accomplished everything I hoped to at this point?  What do I really have to show for twenty-four years?  Have I anything to be proud of?

I would like to think that the answers to those questions are not black and white.  I have a full-time teaching job, but I am still living with my parents in my childhood bedroom.  I am having a novel published, but I am single and lonely and at times, that makes me miserable.

If nothing else, I believe that the past twenty-four years have taught me many, many lessons, but the most significant lesson of the past has been this: to take the good with the bad, and then deal with it.  I need to be thankful for what I have and take my blessings into consideration.  Everything that I want will not suddenly appear before me when I want it to.  I have to learn how to be patient.  I find it ironic that I am so petrified of death and of wasting my time as I simultaneously wish it away and focus so much on some ambiguous future while ignoring the present.  I cannot have it both ways; I cannot be young and careless and reckless, and be wise, mature and responsible.  What I should wish for when I stoop to extinguish the candles on an ice cream cake is to find a healthy balance.

But then that wouldn’t be me.  What I’m going to wish for is a whirlwind romance and literary success.  I will keep dreaming big, planning an impossible future, but will vow not to forsake the present.

 

Wish me luck.

PROMPT: “The only thing I’ve got left is my pride.”

 

PIECE: I was sitting at the bar on a wooden stool that was mostly uncomfortable and tottered from side to side on legs that were clearly uneven.  I had been speaking with a boy – twenty-five but not yet a man – that I had been fawning over and lusting after for years, literally years.  We had made a trip to a chic, bustling New England city to visit a mutual friend.  She was currently in the restroom, probably puking and then cleaning herself up.  We had been in the bar for hours, since before the sunset, and now it was long after – most likely just an hour or so before last call.  We were all pretty intoxicated and it would only take the suggestion of one to call it a night for us to head home.  A natural silence had descended upon my current conversation, and I had decided to pass the time by picking at the label on my bottle of Coors Light.  The conversation was idle and slurred and not worth continuing; both he and I knew that.  Therefore, I was shocked when I felt his breath hot against my ear and neck as he whispered, “Let’s go somewhere real quick, okay?  It’ll be just you and me.  There’s something … I want to tell you.”  He paused between words because he was lying.  There was nothing to tell me.  He wanted to do things and have things done.  My body tensed and I didn’t dare breathe with him so close, speaking the way he was in the husky tone with the implications.  He thought my silence meant I needed more convincing, so he kept talking.  “I know how you feel about me.  Everyone does, and I’ve never taken advantage of it, have I?  I mean, I’m a good guy and we’re good friends.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?”

I turned to look at him.  I saw the glassy eyes that were trying to focus on me but were failing.  I felt his hand upon the small of my back, moving in small circles in what was an intimate gesture.  I should have thrown myself at him; after all, I’d been waiting for years to be one of his chosen ones.  But I didn’t because it was cheap.  He was drunk.  I was drunk.  There was no meaning, no significance, nothing to build on there.  I wanted to cry and I wanted to be alone.  Sliding off the stool, I looked him in the eye as best I could and said, “All I’ve got left is my pride.”

On storms and stories.

Published July 19, 2012 by mandileighbean

Currently, I am anxiously awating the arrival of what is supposed to be one hell of a summer storm. I can hear thunder rumbling low in the distance, like the growl of a frightened dog that begins back in its throat as it backs up and straightens the hair on its haunches to stand at attention. The skies are gray, but the dying sunlight is somehow still managing to poke through here and there so that above looks more like a worn, thin sheet with a bald light bulb shining behind it, like the side of a child’s hand-crafted fort. The oppressive heat that plagued us yesterday and for the vast majority of today has finally started to abate and I am considering taking Jane Eyre out onto the back porch so I can simultaneously read one of my favorite books of all time, and have a front row seat for the storm.

Normally, I like to read one book at a time, but there is so little time and so much to be read, that I’ve decided I can manage two books at a time. I read a chapter a day from Glenn Beck’s Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure and as much as I want from Jane Eyre. This way, I can broaden my literary repetoire and still adhere to my beloved favorites. A major benefit will be feeling inspired – reading other creative work to fuel the dying fire of my own.

Let’s hope it works and I can break free of my slump.

PROMPT: “Time out!  Time out!  We can call that, right?”

PIECE: Jacob bounced the quarter against the laminate countertop of the bar which jutted out from the wall, but despite all his athleticism and silent prayers, the coin did not go into the shot glass.  Instead, it bounced wildly away from him, rolled off the other side and just beneath the humming fridge.  The fridge was surrounded by a crowd of partygoers who seemed to quite enjoy their prime location – near the drinking games and the fun times while having liquor and beer close at hand and easily accessible.  It could take Jacob quite some time to maneuver through the bodies to the coin, and then return and get the quarter into the glass.  During that retrieval time, his adversary across the bar could easily get his quarter into the shot glass and play would continue on, and Jacob’s team would lose and it would be all his fault.  He would have to endure friendly teasing that would, in time, become annoying and he’d be forced to chug beers as a consequence and normally he wouldn’t mind one bit, but at the present moment, he was already quite intoxicated and vomiting was a possibility.  He couldn’t puke, not tonight, not when Rebecca was standing by the window, making idle chatter with a female companion who seemed utterly bored and boring.  Trying to think quick but the alcohol did slow him down some, Jacob called out, “Time out!  Time out!  We can call that, right?”

The two teams broke out into riotous laughter, but seemed to acquiesce to Jacob’s request.  The metallic dings of the coins against the counter were silenced and the volume level of conversation increased.  Pleased with himself and smiling, Jacob scrambled over to the fridge and dropped down to his hands and knees.  He turned his head to peer underneath the fridge and his coin should have been right there at the end, bisected by the fridge, half concealed and half revealed.  It was not there, however, and Jacob was baffled.  Where could it have gone?  Did some tightwad, some poor college student, pick it up, not realizing it was a vital component for the intense and competitive game underway?  Jacob rose to kneeling and rested on his heels.  He looked around again, but found neither coin nor culprit.  Sighing heavily, Jacob called out, “Does anyone have a quarter?”

“I do,” called Rebecca from the window.  Mouth agape, Jacob slowly turned his head, so slowly he was sure those around him could hear it creaking.  He turned his head as if he were in a horror movie, turning slowly to try and comprehend the illogical and all too real monster behind him, waiting and ready to pounce.  That’s not what Rebecca was; she was a dream, a beauty, an intellect, a vision.  Hurriedly, he rose to his feet and did his best to walk over to her without weaving and swerving, and thereby revealing just how intoxicated he really was.  Jacob assumed he pulled it off because Rebecca’s smile did not fade as he neared.

“Hey Rebecca, thanks, “ Jacob said as he took the quarter from her outstretched hand and halted to stand beside her.  “Why don’t you come on over and join in the fun?”

“Jake, have you seen these lights?” Rebecca asked, sounding distracted and far away.

Moving closer to the window, Jacob paused a moment to gaze out of the window and into the night sky.  He saw few stars, their brilliance muted by the city lights, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Then suddenly, there was a giant orange flash across the middle of the sky.  It happened again shortly thereafter, and Jacob was near breathless when he said, “I saw that just now.  That’s crazy; how long has that been going on?”

“Since I got here,” Rebecca answered.  “I think they’re getting closer.”

Together, Jacob and Rebecca watched open-mouthed.  The lights were indeed getting closer.  They did not speak, but only stared.

In the morning, both were dead.

P.S. – That storm I was waiting on never arrived; such is life.

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