My Only Friend

(this is a piece I wrote for my fiction class, I thought I’d share.) (photo credit Jessie Shelton)

Angie wandered to the kitchen and found most of a bottle of Jameson sitting on the bar. She grabbed it up and headed upstairs, uncapping the green bottle and taking swigs directly out of it.  Gallie had a nice house. It was like her place, a little. Her ex-house. Repossessed as of the eighteenth, she watched them put the big Keep The Fuck Out lock over the doorknobs, and tears threatened to spill hot onto her concealer. She dabbed at her eyes with a careful finger, trying to shoulder how much she’d lost in such a short span of time.

The house. The stretch. Brad, her yoga instructor. Charlene, her majordomo. It reminded her of watching dominos fall, these slices of bad news toppling her life over. She walked up the stairs to the master bath, with its hardwood floors and its glassed off shower and deep soaking tub. Gallie had told her to take anything she wanted. She’d mentioned there was Valium around. This lead Angie to snooping. She set the bottle of Jameson down on the counter and found the mirrored cabinet. She jerked the hatch open and noticed how many little yellow bottles were in Gallie’s cabinet. Enough to kill a horse.

She found the Valium. There were a few left, but Angie wasn’t sure it was enough to do the job. She started poking around her cabinet in search of anything else she could take. She found a bottle marked cyclobenzaprine, with an ambiguous message, “For pain.” The bottle was almost full.

Running a bath seemed like the thing to do while she waited. She took another swig of Jameson and stepped into the rising level of hot water that made her feet tingle and turn pink. Angie thought about everything that happened. The video that started it all, the video of her creating her sculpture. It had gone viral, she couldn’t believe the hit count. Until Abhimanyu Singh himself contacted her to purchase the piece. He was the highest profile client she’d ever landed.

Her stomach gave a violent lurch. Quickly, she reached for the Jameson and swallowed, drawing down the liquid into her stomach. She couldn’t fuck this up, or she’d be in rehab for months.

She thought about her fame. She was a has been now, washed up, worse off than when she’d started. No one thought her art was cutting edge anymore, everyone was off chasing her copy-cats instead, Helene and Ursula. Who had a name like Ursula? It was as fake as the rest of her, Angie despised her.

It was getting hard to breathe. Angie leaned back in the hot water and tried not to struggle. Then she heard something speak. “Really? A suicide attempt? Isn’t that a bit overdone?”

Angie tried to look around the bathroom to see who spoke, but the glass revealed that she was alone. “Who said that?”

“I did,” said the Jameson bottle.

Angie almost dropped the bottle. Instead, she set it carefully on the edge of the soaking tub. “Why are you talking to me?”

“I’m the spirit of drowned sorrows. And you took too many pills,” The Jameson bottle’s voice sounded tartly disapproving.

“Fuck off, I’ve lost everything,” Angie snapped. It was hard to feel angry with so many relaxants in her system but she felt distinctly pissed off at the moment. “You don’t know anything about it.”

“Oh, I’ve seen plenty of artists kill themselves when their popularity sinks low,” the Jameson bottle supplied. “I’ve been in the toxicology reports. You need to puke, and soon, if you’re going to live to prove them wrong.”

“There’s nothing left,” Angie said plaintively.

“There’s this,” the Jameson bottle said, and showed her.

Fighting the lethargy in her body, Angie pulled herself up the sides, and stuck a hurried finger down her throat, gagging almost in slow-motion as the drugs pulled her body towards a grave. With a final push, she brought up the mass of booze and pills, onto Gallie’s pristine white tiled floor.

“Now what do I do?” Angie said, still gagging on the bitter-sour aftertaste.

“Get your ass to a hospital,” the Jameson bottle said. “Then get back to your art. Don’t get tied to what you can get from it. Just be proud that you made it.”

Angie reached for the Jameson bottle, but her fingers didn’t respond to their commands and she knocked it over on the tile, too. The neck of the bottle shattered and littered shards amid the vomit and the ceramic.

She looked at where she could safely step and found there wasn’t anywhere. She hoisted herself out of the tub and gingerly stepped down into the morass.

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When You’re in College, Everything Looks Like an Assignment

So I haven’t been blogging lately at all, and I blame being a senior. I have so many assignments to turn in right now, that thinking about doing one for myself feels like wooooork and my brain begs me not to do it and I realize I may be on the edge of doing too much and not quite looking towards jumping off.

I am in three excellent classes right now. I’m taking a seminar fiction class (which means, lots of writing.) I’m in a Queer Studies poetry class, which means lots of reading and writing. Then I’m in a communications class, which is a lot of research and activity. They’re dovetailing nicely, the concepts from one class folding over into another until I’m not sure where one starts and one ends. I’ve heard of integrated learning like this before but usually it’s designed that way, and this is spontaneous. I accept it as part of the weirdness that can pervade my life.

I’m getting to the end of classes, though. This quarter, then Summer quarter, and I’ll be graduated, which is freaking me out a little bit. This bubble that I created for myself was a safe place where I wasn’t expected to be out in the job market is about to pop. I’m anxious about finding work after school. I’m sort of an anxious person anyway but this isn’t helping. Imagining getting turned down to jobs I haven’t even applied for yet is probably not the healthiest way to spend my time, but brains don’t always play nice.

There are other struggles playing havoc right at the moment, too. Such as, my son. He has a tooth that has snagged on the root of another tooth and isn’t growing right. We’ve been trying to get insurance to cover it for months, and I got a letter in the mail today saying it was approved. I got a call from the orthodontist saying it would be denied. So, I called my orthodontist, and they have no record from the insurance company that the procedure for Toby has been approved. When I tried to book an appointment, they were booking out to July. We’ve been fighting with this since October. Our other option is to pay a private orthodontist which will be faster but much pricier. Rock, meet hard place.

This is what life is when you’re busy making other plans.

unsplash-logoAnete Lūsiņa

Fiction Midterm

I wrote this for my fiction midterm story, but I thought it would be fun to post here and see what people thought.

Emily’s Garden

The tower rose three stories with a top floor filled with glass. A hot house, with ripe tomatoes on the vine, beans growing up trellises, mounds with cucumber poking through the soil, a small herb garden that released pleasing aromas into the air. There was even a small patch of strawberries. He stood at the east windows of her garden, looking at the glow just clearing the horizon. He winced, unable to look at it directly, then, he wouldn’t have to.

A furious clatter atop the stairs caused him to turn around. A woman stood at the entrance of the room, blood-spattered and breathing hard. She wielded a large axe, but what he took notice of was the thick black utilitarian braid running down her back, her large dark eyes, the flush of pink at her lips. He could smell the blood of Clarence and Vanessa on her, but not of Emily. No, that would just be ash.

“What, no sly remarks?” The woman demanded. Girl, he thought, probably no more than forty, although perhaps only thirty with a rough life. Her teeth were nicotine stained. “No menacing threats?”

“Child,” he said, his voice a slow breath over dandelion seeds, “you killed me yesterday. Go away.”

“You look surprisingly animate for a dead vampire,” She said. “I think you’re lying.”

“Tell me, was it your brother or your sister?” He asked, and watched her eyes go wide in shock. “It couldn’t have been a parent, they are expected to pass first. Was it in the dark of night? Were you in the room, listening to soft sucking sounds as the monster lay atop them, holding them close so they could not escape? Or was it a lover? Someone you were very close to, surely.”

“You don’t know me,” She spat, braid stiff like an angry cat’s tail. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know everything about you,” he said, his gaze turning back to the horizon, ignoring her. “You were hurt, you were trained, you started to make a name for yourself. You decided to try for more difficult prey. You killed Emily.”

“I kill a lot of vampires. I’m going to kill one more,” She said, taking another step closer.

“I told you, you killed me yesterday. When you staked Emily, the wood pierced two hearts. I cannot face immortality without her.” He confessed, his fingers caressing the soft ripeness of a nearby tomato. “I have given it thought, and I realize without her, this life offers me no more.”

“Bullshit,” She advanced again, holding her axe up between them. “Vampires can’t love.”

“On the contrary, we love very deeply. It is difficult to find the one person who can traverse centuries with you, but it is possible. Vampires do not change the way that humans do, but we do change. Like those plants we twine around what supports us, holding us up as we reach for the next level. Many vampires are not capable of love at all, as you say, but there are some who not only do, but who love for well beyond a human lifetime, into the realm of ages.”

“If you want me to apologize for killing your wife, you’re asking the wrong woman,” She said, taking another wary step across the teak wood floors towards the vampire. He discerned that she’d crossed half the length of the space. He wondered which would reach him faster, the sunlight or the hunter.

“I do not apologize for my kills,” he shrugged delicately. “I am a hunter, just as you are.”

“I’m nothing like you!” She shouted.

“Oh, but you are,” he said, taking a step towards her. Her axe flew up in a defensive style. “You have blood on your clothes. This is not the average wear of humans. Very few pick up the cause to end things lives. You are just. Like. Me.”

“No!” She shouted again, and she rushed him, axe swinging.

He reached out and gripped the axe beneath the head, ripping it out of her grip. “Emily was asleep and unarmed,” he pointed out. “You are a clever hunter, but you are not a strong hunter.” He turned the axe and swung, hitting her in the thigh, all the way to the bone.

She shrieked, and her agony was a song in his heart.

“Immortality is impossible, you know,” he confided in her, jerking the axe free of her femur, smiling at the cracking noise that preceded the rich smell of blood that flowed like wine. “It is like perfection; something to strive for, but inevitably as ephemeral as the soul.”

The hunter stopped screaming, and both of her hands pressed hard against the wound, trying to stem the flow of blood. Such riches going to waste, but he would not give her what she wanted. Vampire hunters sought vampires to risk eternal life, and she had killed Emily. Her deed was immortal, but he would not give her the satisfaction of living forever. She coughed. “I could be her,” she begged. “I could take her place.”

He could feel the bright brush of the first rays of sunlight stroke his cheek, so similar to how Emily would rouse him at night that his chest hitched, and his breath caught. His attention was torn away from the hunter as he turned to face the sun. “She was singular,” he said as he felt his cheek turn to ash. “You should try her strawberries before you die.”

He looked back to her, watched her blood soaking into the teak wood floor. He saw her pick up her stake and slide in his direction on her injured leg before his eyes turned to ash and he joined Emily in her garden.

Photo credit:
unsplash-logoChristian Widell

Happy New Year

This is what I’ve been waiting for. The end of 2017. It was a dramatic year, a painful year, and the end was the most intense – my husband had a concussion, I had finals, and the holidays were looming. I had to grit my teeth and get through the season, get through weeks of my husband not being quite himself, organize the holidays, and troop through the season. Which I did, and it was harrowing, but it was good, too. I ended up with a 3.9 GPA, as well as a prime rib dinner for Christmas and the glint in my child’s eyes when he saw what he got for the holiday.

What got me really jazzed, though, was coming back to school. I have a strange schedule, Tuesday and Thursday each week, three classes each. I’m in school from 10-4, which isn’t a full work day but it’s the closest one I’ve had in two years. It’s also not for the faint of heart… by class 3 my brain is full, and I’m trying my best to concentrate on what point the professor is going to teach.

My brain has kicked back into high gear and I find myself more able to remember the little details that were in danger of being dropped, everything from Toby’s vitamins to when I have to pay bills. I had been keeping on top of things over the winter break, but there was much less to keep track of. Being in three senior level classes, I have so much piecemeal work, a little reading here, a little writing there, a little watching movies there, and you have to keep track of all the authors, all the titles, all the story content, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, what are we looking for? It’s been a ton of stuff.

I also went to a poetry reading for one of my classes. The reading was hosted by another one of my professors, so I got to kill two birds with one stone. Three, honestly, I’m sure my Creative Non-Fiction professor would have been glad that I went as well. The poetry was timely, and well crafted, and even though some of it wasn’t my favorite, I felt all of it was well written, which was a pleasant surprise.

Balancing school with the world is the hardest part of it all. I have friends I want to see that I can’t, business partners who are in need of help that I can’t offer, all of my spoons are taken up. It’s frustrating to be a student, there are so many demands, and my time is already shred finely and sprinkled over my life in a very thin layer. I want to do more, but I am finding my edges pretty swiftly these days. If time management is the key to success, then I will be pretty much down to the second by the time I’m through with this quarter.

unsplash-logoNordWood Themes

This Year for Christmas, Just a Handbasket

I would like to say that I have been too busy to keep up with my blog, and that would be true, but the real reason I haven’t written anything is because life got tough for a while. I couldn’t write anything but how much it sucked, and nobody has the spoons for that.

The short version is that my husband passed out and fell, giving himself a concussion. There’s no clear reason as to why he passed out – our current theory is that he had a fever and he stood up too fast. When we took him to the doctor they weren’t able to diagnose any better than us, unfortunately, although they did order some tests to rule out a few things. We were in the shadow of the valley of no insurance, so this made things much more interesting at the time. We have insurance now, but we still don’t have a ton of answers, the fact that he can’t take his ADHD meds, he can’t get his heart rate up, and he’s pretty much had to retool how he works. Luckily, his job is being very accommodating.

Concussions are a serious deal. I already knew that, having had two friends who have had one, but it’s different when you’re living with a person every day who has one. It’s a very intense situation. I’m also used to having a partner who helps out with everything, so to have him on light duty has increased my responsibilities… right before finals. This is a difficult situation but we’ve been handling it. He fell a month ago today.

School has been going well. I have ended up with two classes that I loved and one class that I did not. I am already done with the two classes I love, papers and projects are turned in, everything is now waiting on grading. My last class, the one I don’t love, has a final scheduled for today. I’m not happy about the final but I’ve done my preparation and research so I think I’m as ready to go as I can be. We had 8 study questions and 3 of those will be the final exam, so I need to keep everything in my head a little while longer.

I won’t lie – once this class is done, I will forget I ever took it. It was touted to be a high-value class for my major, but after taking it I am still failing to find it relevant. It’s disappointing, but it seemed like other people got more from the class than me, so it’s obvious I missed something.

Winter break is almost upon us! I am looking forward to three weeks of no homework, family time, and maybe even a little holiday baking. I could even write, although I have been warned against this by friends of mine. It’s hard to give up the habit, even if it is supposed to be break.

This has been a particularly stressful holiday season, not just for me, but for my friends, and I hope that the new year will bring in some much-needed relief. If you are not one of those people and are doing fine, I’m happy for you. If your season has been rough this year, keep going. Christmas rarely killed anybody, unless you’re Phoebe’s dad from Gremlins.

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

Fall Quarter

We have reached mid-terms, that nebulous point in the quarter where Big Tests are taken and everyone begins feeling anxious. To me it felt like we spent six weeks shooting the shit, only to come back around and sample those conversations and remaster them into something the teacher will feel reflects a modicum of processing and retention. It’s intimidating but also bracing, a chance to show off about what you’ve absorbed during those first six weeks.

And what have I learned? My classes this quarter regard Afrofuturism, Augmented Realities, and Philosophy 101 disguised as an English class. The crossover has been fast and furious. I read a book for my Augmented Realities class that featured the word semiotic, which I’d never heard, but found the definition in my own notes from the Philosophy class. (Hint: It’s the science of signs and symbols.) I have read books about aliens taming humans and books on a murdered woman whose remains were eaten. I wasn’t anticipating my Augmented Realities class to be so disturbing, but that has been the watch word. I watched a movie about phone sex operators (Girl 6,). I read a book about a transgender man who has a lot to say about the pharmacological industry on human life. I would like to think of myself as a ‘woke’ individual who is aware of the status of the world in which we live in, but these classes are taking me to school, as it were, highlighting what I don’t know with savage glee.

So instead, I surf the conversations of each of the three classes, trying to chime in where I am able. The funny thing is that I am the most convivial in my Afrofuturism class. Despite being a white girl from a very white state and having very little interaction with black culture, I find myself drawn to Afrofuturism for its message of hope of a better tomorrow. Here is a people who have been subjected to the literal worst for hundreds of years, still trying to find the best in things. Still thinking positive. Despite this not being my heritage, I can get behind the message quite thoroughly. It has raised a lot of prickly questions for me, recognizing my part in colonialism just by being alive, and I’ve been very uncomfortable. Still, I feel like this has engendered real learning, which is more than just getting passing grades in class.

My Augmented Realities class looked like the easiest one to pass, based on the fact that I would have a class project of my choosing, and I could write a short story as one of the options. I decided to write a short story based on Bento Box, my sci-fi world. However, what I didn’t expect was to read so many books that were so challenging, which took the basis of my understanding of how the world worked and twisted it until it was nothing more than a swirl of color in the forefront of my mind. One book was written by a transgender man who has a lot to say about pharmacology and how it effects every human on the planet; another book instead focuses on journalism in today’s world. Everything is like a quick jab to the ribs, causing you to forget how to breathe and struggle to survive at the same time.

I love my classes, and I love my school, and I am very learning how to navigate the world of junior classes. There is a synergy in having a focus for your major, and the classes meld together until you can’t tell where one stops and the other starts. I’m a little spooked by how this is working, but I’m also a little thrilled, as the whole point of this education was to push me beyond my high school level education and prepare me for jobs where more is demanded.

There is no doubt I will look back at this and miss it, but for the time being I’m looking forward to graduation.

Read, Write, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I have been in school for a week, and I can already feel myself getting smarter.

Yes, I am gaining knowledge, but I can gain knowledge by picking up any old book and starting to read. There are documentaries out there, if I can’t spare the time for a book. There are YouTube videos that are even shorter, although the danger of being trapped in the Kittenverse is much greater that way.

What I mean is that I can feel spaces in my understanding that I previously did not realize I had. I can feel them because they are filling up, with discourse and reason and logic. Not the knowledge itself, but the framework, like a spider’s web being spun to span a doorframe. Things that I missed, because it flatly wasn’t my strong suit to notice. I’m learning system.

What I mean by learning system is that I’m learning the terminology, the grammar, the rules which construct thoughts. I think all the time, but how I think is changing as I recognize key concepts that I’d never thought about before.

This mind expansion is assisted by the young classmates that I share classes with. A significant portion of them grew up with this kind of mindframe. It is not new to them, or different, so they are not sharing my experience. They are instead adding to it, by showing me realtime how they reflect on the content we are being exposed to for my classes.

One of my classes is a Philosophy class, and while I am singularly unimpressed with the gender bias and general air of superiority that is rife with every reading, the how of it sinks into the cracks and I begin to see how they thought, how they examined the world around them. I don’t want to emulate their conclusions, but we are nearly five thousand years beyond them in terms of science and technology. Their findings don’t make sense anymore, but they are the basis for thought in Western Civilization, so I suppose one might give them a nod for it.

Another one of my classes is investigating Augmented Realities, and how those realities affect the people that exist in them. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you recognize that every book every written is an alternate reality, created by a person who saw things in a unique way. We may only just be scootching our way in to virtual reality, but humans have been taking trips into their imagination for millennium. Hell, once every couple of weeks I indulge in the same process, of sharing an illusory world with approximately 40 other people. I am aware that I am not actually my character, but for several hours I have a different set of priorities, principles, goals and beliefs, and I portray her with all the cleverness and pathos I can muster. I am invested in a world that doesn’t exist, and I have learned a lot even in the short time I’ve played with the troupe.

The last class is a lesson in culture, focusing on black science fiction. Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, but more than that, musicians like Sun Ra and George Clinton, and let’s not forget Nichelle Nichols, who became a cultural icon as Uhura. I grew up in a small white community in Wyoming, with very few friends that weren’t white. I wasn’t exposed to black culture in any meaningful way, but this is something that I can plug into immediately. The stories they tell are unique, powerful, and inspiring, and I am expanding my understanding in ways that I can’t even calculate yet. Better understanding often leads to better communication, and I am all for that.

So, this is how I’ve spent my days since school started. Getting smarter, feeling more confident, enjoying the hell out of my classes.

Things are turning out all right.

 
Photo credit:
Ryan Holloway