Category Archives: Stories

Prompt: When Do I Feel Most Free?

When do I feel most free?

Ah, I know. When I write fiction.

Nothing matches the sense of freedom I feel when I settle into a comfortable chair with either my laptop or notebook and pen, and write a random sentence or fragment of dialogue with no idea where it will take me. From there, the words just begin to flow, each word informing the next and each story choice setting a whole world into motion in my head. The outside world melts away as an inner one begins to take shape with houses and streets and people and problems and, ultimately, perhaps not a solution, but some sort of resolution.

Gone are my external worries. Who cares at that moment about mortgages or electric bills or phone calls to return or people to see? No, none of that is relevant. Instead, I am focused on characters who are facing a problem while they inhabit a place that may or may not be that different from my own spot in the world. But in this case, I can be a man, woman, boy, girl or any age in-between as well as rich or poor, black, white or brown, tall or short, fat or skinny, sincere or sarcastic. Whatever suits the story I am writing.

When I return to my life , I am either reluctantly pulled from the muse’s breast or else sated after getting the story out of the page. Either way, I’ve experienced life in another world and am aware I can return any time I wish.

Real freedom?

When I write make-believe stories.

The best part: I can write them at a cafe or at home or on the beach.  Location is not critical.

Just give me a few minutes to myself.  The freedom will follow…

 

woman-cafe

 

A Reading of Flash Fiction Story #2: Jacob’s Search

I am adding a second flash fiction story here, which is the one I put on my blog last week. Since several people said they liked these but prefer to see the text too, I am adding the text below the YouTube video.  (I promise I won’t do this more than once a week!)

I hope you’re having a great Fourth of July weekend.

We are headed over to a family barbecue now and I will be tired when I return so I am posting now.

Talk again tomorrow.

Jacob’s Search

Jacob reached for a cigarette, lit it, sucked in the smoke then blew it out through his nose. Good grief, what was he going to do today?

He considered his options. Watch more CNN? No, that was making him agitated and depressed. Take another shower? How many did he need and besides his skin was getting too dry. Think up a friend to call and talk? Ugh. That sounded like work. His wife was busy working in the garden. His kids were all at their jobs. His grandkids were in school.

He stood up and walked to the window. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild. A woman in a pink running suit jogged up the street. Cars passed filled with people who had somewhere to go and something to do. What had happened to him and his destinations? He took another draw from his cigarette. Who needed a retired man in his late sixties for anything? That was what younger people were for, to try new things, fill new vacancies. They had a life ahead of them to build; he had built his, lived it and was now watching the world go by.

The phone rang, he ignored it. More solicitors. Nobody who knew him called on the main line anymore. Not many people called his cell phone. Just his kids for a duty call every couple of weeks.

He ground out his cigarette and stared. What now? He thought he could go to the beach and get some fresh air. Or out to eat just to be around people. Or to the library to get a book. None of those things appealed to him. Instead, he sat down and took a deep breath. He thought of a line he’d often taught to his patients, breathe in calmness; breathe out anxiety. In calmness; out anxiety. Over and over again he did this, breathing deeper each time.

After a few minutes, he noticed the cool air from the ceiling fan, the deep shade of green of the hedge outside the window, the rich smell of the coffee from his cup. “Maybe I’ll go for a walk,” he muttered, then saw his dog’s ears perk up. He sighed, went to find his socks and tennis shoes and the leash. Maybe life wasn’t all that complicated after all.

Just before heading out the door, he walked to the kitchen sink, pulled his package of cigarettes from his pocket, dumped them out and turned on the water. “At least, for now, I’m not going to smoke.”

His dog was barking with excitement as Jacob fastened the leash. As they stepped outside, he stopped for a moment and felt the warm sun on his face. He took another deep breath. “What do you say, boy, let’s go meet the day. Who knows what we’ll discover if we’ll just slow down and look.”

An Experiment: Reading a Story Aloud

Having just gotten back from seeing Garrison Keillor’s last show with A Prairie Home Companion and in the spirit of oral storytelling, I am launching an experiment tonight. I have included a link to me reading one of my flash fiction stories. This is only a little over three minutes long. I am doing it because one of my student suggested that I try this. Please let me know if you like this sort of thing or not. I am looking for honest opinions.

Here you go:

Flash Fiction: My New Stepmother’s Tear

Dad gives me a wink, like we are pals or something. We’re sitting in our kitchen having eggs and waffles on a Sunday morning. I’m not sure why he winked; we haven’t said a nice word to each other for weeks, not since he married that witch that is now supposed to be my new “mother.” She wants us to be friends and that makes me want to puke. Worse than that, her heavily made-up eyes light up whenever she sees my dad, like he’s a puppy or something. My dad is definitely not in the puppy category.

I know that Dad wants for us – him and me – to make up. He is not such a bad guy, really, but this woman, where did he find her? She is just the opposite of him. She’s skin and bone, like she might eat once a week, and her hair is the color of strawberries, for God’s sake. It isn’t that I don’t understand that older people sometimes need each other, but I just hadn’t expected a stepmother who darts around like some brightly colored cartoon character with a look of love in her eyes.

But here we are in the kitchen, a month after their stupid wedding, with Dad winking at me again and nodding his head in the direction of Edith when her back is turned. Yes, her name is Edith – the worst old-lady name ever – and I realize that Dad is trying to get me to notice the tear in her dress. I see it, a jagged three inches that she must have done on the edge of our old kitchen table, and beneath the tear I can see a glimpse of her pink underwear. Not gross sexy underwear, but just normal cotton underpants like regular women wear. I can’t suppress a chuckle, which makes dad chuckle and then Edith looks at both of us with a surprised expression. God knows we haven’t been laughing much around the house since she arrived.

Dad points and she turns her skirt so she can see the tear and that’s when she realizes that we’ve been able to see her underwear. Her eyes get wide and then she does something I would have never expected: she lets out the deepest belly laugh I have ever heard, especially from a woman who can’t weigh more than 90 pounds. Dad and I exchange a shocked look, then all three of us start laughing and can’t stop until tears are running down our cheeks.

At that moment, I realize maybe Dad has understood something about Edith that I couldn’t have known. She may have stupid hair and she may be a tad too adoring, but she definitely can make fun of herself. That is a decent human trait, and one that I can respect. Besides, cotton underwear means she doesn’t see herself as a diva. That alone makes me breathe a lot easier.

redhead

 

Prompt: What I’ve Always Wanted…

Here is an inconclusive list in no particular order.  Still, an interesting exercise.

I’ve always wanted to be fluent in Spanish and Italian.

I’ve always wanted to go on trips to many countries all over the world.

I’ve always wanted a simple and nicely tailored wardrobe with at least two cashmere sweaters.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to drive a motorcycle.

I’ve always wanted a happy and fulfilling marriage that lasted a lifetime.

I’ve always wanted to return to singing in a fine chorale again (I sang with the LA Camerata for a couple of years and had the chance to sing at Carnegie Hall with them, which was fabulous.)

I’ve always wanted to live by the beach in either Maine, California, Mexico or Hawaii, though I’d be happy pretty much anywhere there was actually a beach.

I’ve always wanted to dance often and with people who also loved to dance.

I’ve always wanted a gifted editor who could guide me with my writing.

I’ve always wanted to write novels, essays, short fiction and memoir.

I’ve always wanted to cook so well that people were excited to come over to my house for dinner.

I’ve always wanted to spend at least a month at our house in Texas and also on our land in Ojai.

I’ve always wanted to go off and write for at least a month in a mountain cabin and/or in a house right on the coast of Maine.

I’ve always wanted to return to Italy after living there a year so many years back.

I’ve always wanted a horse and to go riding daily.

I’ve always wanted to swim every day in a big pool so I can swim underwater like I did when I was little.

I’ve always wanted to read every good book in literature and maybe glance at a few bad ones.

I’ve always wanted to know well the lives and music of all major composers…and some minor ones.

I’ve always wanted to know well the lives and art of all major artists…and some minor ones.

I’ve always wanted to know more about the teachings of the major religions.

I’ve always wanted an English literature degree from a college with professors who were passionate about their field.

I’ve always wanted my children to be fulfilled, happy and close friends with me.

I’ve always wanted a close extended family.

I’ve always wanted friends with whom I can relax and confide in and for whom the feeling is mutual.

I’ve always wanted an active and meaningful spiritual life.

I’ve always wanted to laugh, be silly, tells jokes and generally act the fool with people who share my sense of humor.

I’ve always wanted to be as genuine as possible so that people never have to guess who and how I am.

I’ve always wanted to know how to sew well enough to make my own clothes.

I’ve always wanted son-in-laws I could love like sons and grandchildren with whom I get to spend lots of time.

I’ve always wanted to be a well-known and critically acclaimed writer of fiction and nonfiction to the point that I can actually live comfortably on the proceeds from my writing.

I’ve always wanted to be grateful for the many gifts I have received and to recognize the beauty in my life.

I’ve always wanted to get enough sleep every night so that I could be truly rested.

tita-tulum-cabin7-1

Flash Fiction: Jacob’s Search

Jacob reached for a cigarette, lit it, sucked in the smoke then blew it out through his nose. Good grief, what was he going to do today?

He considered his options. Watch more CNN? No, that was making him agitated and depressed. Take another shower? How many did he need and besides his skin was getting too dry. Think up a friend to call and talk? Ugh. That sounded like work. His wife was busy working in the garden. His kids were all at their jobs. His grandkids were in school.

He stood up and walked to the window. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild. A woman in a pink running suit jogged up the street. Cars passed filled with people who had somewhere to go and something to do. What had happened to him and his destinations? He took another draw from his cigarette. Who needed a retired man in his late sixties for anything? That was what younger people were for, to try new things, fill new vacancies. They had a life ahead of them to build; he had built his, lived it and was now watching the world go by.

The phone rang, he ignored it. More solicitors. Nobody who knew him called on the main line anymore. Not many people called his cell phone. Just his kids for a duty call every couple of weeks.

He ground out his cigarette and stared. What now? He thought he could go to the beach and get some fresh air. Or out to eat just to be around people. Or to the library to get a book. None of those things appealed to him. Instead, he sat down and took a deep breath. He thought of a line he’d often taught to his patients, breathe in calmness; breathe out anxiety. In calmness; out anxiety. Over and over again he did this, breathing deeper each time.

After a few minutes, he noticed the cool air from the ceiling fan, the deep shade of green of the hedge outside the window, the rich smell of the coffee from his cup. “Maybe I’ll go for a walk,” he muttered, then saw his dog’s ears perk up. He sighed, went to find his socks and tennis shoes and the leash. Maybe life wasn’t all that complicated after all.

Just before heading out the door, he walked to the kitchen sink, pulled his package of cigarettes from his pocket, dumped them out and turned on the water. “At least, for right now, I’m not going to smoke.”

His dog was barking with excitement as Jacob fastened the leash. As they stepped outside, he stopped for a moment and felt the warm sun on his face. He took another deep breath. “What do you say, boy, let’s go meet the day. Who knows what we’ll discover if we’ll just slow down and look.”

photolibrary_rf_photo_of_older_man_looking_out_window

Grace and Frankie: Worth Watching

I have just finished watching the first and second seasons of Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. I realize I am late to the G and F party, but I’d like to put in a good word for this original HBO series. It is funny, topical and, of course, well-acted. Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston complete the primary acting quartet and, while not as fluid as Lily and Jane, they do a great job of portraying two 70-year-old men who have finally admitted to the world that they love each other. That is the premise of the series: two husbands who are law partners finally admit to their wives after 40 years of marriage that they have had an affair with each other for the past 20 years and want divorces so they can get married. This premise provides an opportunity to cover a lot of topics on the show: love, sex, betrayal, gay issues, straight issues, family issues and most importantly, aging issues.

The most refreshing and novel aspect of Grace and Frankie is that it is about people in their seventies. This is not your usual television fare because these 70-year-olds are healthy folks who just happen to be the age that most of us think of as “old” and yet they aren’t really that old at all. They are definitely older than the usual protagonists in television, but they each defy the stereotype of aging. And they tackle tough issues while they are at it, such as a love interest of Grace’s whose wife has advanced Alzheimer’s and end-of-life decisions for one of Frankie and Grace’s closest friends who has learned that her cancer has spread all over her body.

The gist is that this series, which I initially resisted I must admit, is well written and has a lot to say to those of us who are getting older, but who face challenges daily about love, sex, friendship, career, relationships and family.

Suffice it to say that I highly recommend this series. It is not always perfect but it has its charm, primarily because the approach to all issues is never the easy way out. These characters work their way through their feelings on some tough life problems, and they do it with a genuine desire to look at all sides of whatever it is they are dealing with. That is impressive in itself.

Grace and Frankie can be found on Netflix.

Give it a look-see for some thought-provoking television that is also entertaining.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Sam Waterston, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê
Sam Waterston, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen in the Netflix Original Series “Grace and Frankie”. Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.