Edit: An Accidental Life 1

The bumper he was following ahead suddenly stopped and he slammed on the brakes. In the rearview mirror, he watched as a red streak narrowed the distance. He turned to Candice and said, “I’m sorry,.just as it hit. She lunged forward in a violent snap. His head cracked on the dash as bits of metal flew by himHe saw bits of metal fly past his head, which landed on the dash with a crack.

The image froze and he watched the wreck from above. He saw all of the angles. He saw his BMW stop and the Mustang behind coming faster. He marveled at how the BMW’s trunk rolled up. The Mustang hit violently and its hood bounced over its top. He watched it again from the front mirror. He saw the red hood coming at him. coming up fast.  He looked down over at Candice. She lunged forward in slow motion. He wondered if she was okay.

He rolled the images back and repeated the accident. He was about to start a replay the accident again when he heard the voice.

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Edit and Repeat 0

All of the great writers say the real writing starts with the rewrite. Most of what I write comes out as first draft and I leave it alone; no sense in revisiting it.

However…

I want to get better and that means a rewrite is warranted.

What you may notice is that some of my stories will appear again with redlines and edits. Finally, I will post the final draft.

This blog was always going to be more of a working space rather than a place to showcase finished projects. In fact, I have a few projects underway that I have not returned to in a while.

Mark Twain used to leave stories in a cubby-hole until they wanted to be worked on again. I have a few cubbies!

Anyway, stories with an edit will be marked Edit and stories in final draft (is anything really final?) will be replaced after the edit.

Plato’s Bougainvillea Vine 1

Plato's Bougainvillea Vine

Merrily and cheerfully, Benedict woke from his night’s sleep and rolled over to silence the alarm. The time a precise 6 o’clock. The window blind remained down and no light streamed from underneath. The dark winter night refused to let any light in. Benedict rolled under the comforter and went about waking Alice.

He softly patted her ears with his nose and kissed her cheek. She stirred slowly and smiled.

“Another lovely morning dear,” she cooed.

“As good as the last,” Benedict said.

He reached underneath and tickled the soft skin under her knee. She laughed and pushed him away. She looked up at his scrabble of beard and placed a hand on his chin.

“I think you should run to the shower,” she said.

He tried to grab her knee again, but she was too quick and jumped out of the bed. She turned on the hot water, slammed the shower door, and ran to toilet. He stood outside waiting his turn. Done, she squirmed past and avoided a kiss. He laughed and went in after her. Quickly, both were naked with the hot water swirling past their bodies.

Benedict picked up the loofah and soap. He started lathering up the suds and soon was bathing her shapely breasts. She was perfect. Smart, a great figure, and sweet. He had hit the jackpot. With the soap covering her wet chest, Benedict reached down and attempted to kiss her breast.

“Not today. We’re late for work,” Alice said. The clock on her dresser let her know 19 minutes were gone. “We have got to go.”

She rinsed the rest of the soap and turned off the water leaving Benedict without a shave.

“Sorry.”

Alice turned on the water again as she bounced out. The shower door slammed and she left him to finish his face.

Benedict parted his hair and reached for his pressed, white, dress shirt. He then put on his navy khakis. He pulled an errant hair in place and stood before the mirror. He presented himself as a successful young career man. He smiled back at the picture of himself.

Alice dabbed atop an eye and sat at the mirror half ready. She still needed to find her dress. Benedict’s digital watch plainly showed 10 more minutes gone. Both had a minute to leave. Not going to happen, thought Benedict.

“I’ll make you a coffee,” he said.

“Not too much creamer,” she said. He walked toward the kitchen down the unlighted hall. Benedict shivered at the cold, notched up the heat two degrees, and went straight to the coffee maker. It was still a bit too dark. The sun would soon rise along with another day of deals and phone calls.

He slipped the coffee pod in the maker, checked the water, and waited. A slow drip of coffee started towards his cup. He tapped the counter, rubbed his nose, and tapped again. Soon the maker let out an exhausted sigh as two errant drops filled the cup. Benedict topped it off with creamer and pulled the cup to his lips.

He looked down at the creamy coffee. Simply a sip. As he brought the cup down to his chest, he stared out the window. The returning darkness appeared too dark. Benedict dropped the cup into the sink and the ceramic handle broke off at the bottom. Benedict leaned into the window.

Alice ran into the kitchen alarmed.

“I dropped your cup,” Benedict said. He looked around the side of the window and stared off into the dark. Alice drank in the smell of the spilled coffee. She reached into the sink and pulled out the broken cup.

“Mother bought me this,” she said. Alice looked up at Benedict and followed his gaze out the window. Alice dropped the broken cup into the sink.

“Nothing but black.” Alice shouted.

Benedict turned to her scrunched face. Terror filled her eyes. He looked back at the nothingness and a wash of terror shook him.

He ran out the pantry, through the garage door, and flipped the automatic door switch. Darting to the door, he waited for it to open.

As the door moved up its rails, pure darkness filled the garage. He could barely see the tail end of his red sedan. Garden rakes and hoes lined up near the door and his rack of junk lined the other side. Outside the garage, deep blackness replaced the missing driveway. He reached out over the edge of the door and looked down. The house seemed to float above the dark. He looked around the edge of the door to the front of the house. From every corner, nothing remained of the plants, the trees, or the road.

Benedict jumped back feeling nauseous and dizzy. He turned back to look at Alice. She looked dead and he gasped.

“It is all gone.” she said.

Alice ran to Benedict and grabbed his waist. He felt off-balance as she reached out into the blackness. It felt cool and dry to the touch. No light came from the sun or the sky. Alice shuddered and held Benedict tighter.

Back by the sink, Alice gathered up the bits of cup while Benedict stared out the window. The dark took over filling his mind with dread. It penetrated his mind until his memory lacked definition. Everything seemed a blur. Alice dropped the broken cup into the garbage compactor and it thumped into the bottom of the can. Benedict continued to stare. The outside of the window never seemed important to him. Now he yearned to fill in the blank.

He closed his eyes and waited. He concentrated on his memory outside the window.

“A bougainvillea vine with tiny pink flowers stood off in the distance. The wind would make its limbs float and the flowers bounced up from the ground,” he said. “Sometimes a ruby-throated hummingbird would jump in the flowers. She hovered and darted back and forth.” Alice smiled at the memory.

Benedict clinched his eyes and thought about the bird. He could almost see it bouncing flower-to-flower; its wings drawing a whirlwind of color. He liked the memory too.

“Tell me more,” she said.

Benedict thought more about the shape of the leaves and the color of the flowers. Each petal was a soft angel of pink and white. The leaves were thin and pointed; slightly narrow at the ends and light green. He told Alice about the leaves. She could almost see them framing the flowers. He moved on.

“At the front of the window, yellow and pink roses grew in the spring. And once I saw a huge grasshopper, yellow and brown, sitting next to one of the flowers. It sat on a leaf and didn’t mind my stare,” he said.

“Tell more about the roses,” she said.

“I know they were huge,” he said. “Big enough to fall apart in the wind. And each petal was tipped in white.”

He strained to paint the roses as the color swirled in his memory. He clinched his eyes tighter as if that would help him see better.

“The flowers grew in clusters of three and their colors blended together from white at the tip to deep pink at the bottoms,” he said. Alice started to see them too.

He opened his eyes and looked out at the dark. Ghosts of the pink tree and the roses began to fade. He tried to imagine them with his eyes open. The narrow green leaves held up the pink flowers. Slowly, he started to see more color through the tree. Its leaves bouncing in the wind. The ghostly image started to brighten and he could see the entire shape of the tree. In the dark a small tree filled the space.

“Tell me about the roses again,” he quickly said to Alice. She looked at his face. He seemed to be getting back some color.

“They were yellow and pink, growing in clusters, and you once saw a grasshopper staring back,” she repeated.

His gaze seemed distant and Alice wondered what he was imaging. All she saw was a milky black outside the window. Clearly, Benedict pictured their world in his mind.

Suddenly, the outline of a tree and a small clusters of roses filled the window. Alice jumped back. Color filled the right corner of the dark. She thought about mountains in the distance. They began to fill in the top of the window.

Benedict looked over at Alice and smiled.

“Did you remember the mountains?” he said.

She nodded and looked back at the scene. She thought about a fountain and birds jumping in the water. The dark green of the water reflected back light and glinted off the window.

“I remember,” she said. “Over there, a bougainvillea vine grew up on a trellis.” The left corner of the dark window began to fill with red flowers.

Color replaced the milky black and the entire window reached out with depth into the distance.

Benedict and Alice looked out the window and marveled at the colors and the objects in the garden. It was as they remembered it.

“Let’s go work on the rest of the outside,” said Benedict. He grabbed Alice’s hand and pulled her to the living room window.

~

In a dark room illuminated only by a computer screen, Charles nibbled on a pretzel stick and typed a line of code. He reached for another pretzel as Todd walked in looking like he needed a shower. His oily hair lined up in a string over the bald patch above his forehead.

“Hackers managed to scrub the background leaving just a few buildings,” said Charles. “I shut down the servers and am slowly bringing them back up.”

“Did we get the algorithm back?” Todd asked.

“Not yet,” Charles said. “But over here something weird is happening.”

He pointed to a small house inside the computer screen.

“The program seems to be healing itself,” Charles said.

“Without the background simulation algorithm? That makes no sense,” Todd said.

“I know. But look outside this window,” he said. “The plants are there and over here by this window the background elements are also filling in.”

“It has to be the cache,” Todd said. “These games don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They need someone to see the code and make the pictures. Now, bring it back up. I want to go home.”

Charles dropped in a new line of code. He brought up the first server and reached for a second pretzel. He looked at the small building in the simulation.

“I will debug that glitch later,” he thought, clearing the cache. He returned to his task of rebuilding the simulation with light, color, and depth. In an hour, Charles stuffed another pretzel in his mouth. On the screen, the colors of the simulated world returned and the game was back online.

Uncle Charles Left a Note 0

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A sheet of paper swooshed out the open door into the front yard followed by three or four others. Tom Sheets picked up his errant mail from the walk. An afternoon wind tore through the heavy wooden door knocking it against the wall. The door swung back into his palm. The open door worried him. He swore he locked it this morning. The worry passed. The scattered mail and the open door bothered him less than the Civil War sword stuck in his ceiling. Tom shuddered to think someone waited for him to come home.
 
Pinned to the top of the ceiling by the sword, he found a torn note with “Tom” shouting out in big block letters. He pulled on the pommel and tugged. The sword fell forward pivoting around his grip and rang out on the floor in front of him. He pulled the sword toward him and plucked the note off the point.
 
“It’s gone. The package is gone,” the writer scrawled in pen before signing in an unsteady hand, Uncle Charles. Leave it to Charles to leave a dramatic note.
 
The mess with the mail, the open door, and the note from Charles capped a long day where everything felt off. From Dianna Peacock’s feud with Sandy Holworth, to the looming catastrophe of Sam Wright, Tom wondered what else could go wrong? Of course, he relished the stress of being Hollywood’s favorite publicist. He had one rule; leave the stress at work. Home let him escape. He looked up at the ceiling. Uncle Charles brought some trouble home.
 
Tom shut the door and tiptoed into the kitchen. A quick look around and nothing seemed to be missing. He called out for Charles and heard nothing in reply. He walked into the den and searched his desk. Everything seemed to be in its place.
 
“What the fuck?” Tom shouted. He ran to the window and saw three large mounds of dirt next to three holes in his back yard. The yard Sebastian designed with the manicured grass, fountains, and stepping stones. The yard that cost over $10,000 and five months to complete. The yard that now looked like a large gopher popped out of the ground in three spots.
 
Tom face palmed his forehead. He shuck his head and wondered what the hell was going on.
 
Tom slumped down in a chair and read the note again. He looked up at the ceiling and saw the hole where the sword stuck above. Bits of tile lay on the floor. He signed and looked back out the window. The piles of dirt made the whole yard look worse than when Sebastian first started working on it.
 
Outside he peered into a hole and surveyed the damage. A shovel lay on the ground smashing down on the blue fescue grass. Each hole was roughly two feet deep and empty. Tom leaned on the shovel.
 
“What was Charles looking for?”
 
He propped the shovel up on a porch post before reading the note again. Tom wondered why Charles was digging in his backyard. Too many questions flooded his mind. What could Charles be looking for?
 
He dialed up Uncle Charles and after five rings it went to voicemail. He considered shouting. Instead, he remembered not to lose his cool. He told Charles to call him as soon as possible. Tom felt no point in shouting right away. He’d save the shouting for when he finally had a chance to face Charles.
 
He then scanned through his texts. Six more messages from Dianna panicked about her social media reputation. Judging from the rapid texting, she was not going to get better. If she refrained from reading that social shit, he thought. Oh, it would never be that easy. He texted her the usual, “It will get better, I promise,” text and told her to stay off the computer. That was going to have to hold her. Now Tom needed to find Uncle Charles.

Behind the Faded Wallpaper 3

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Sunday mornings I rest; no talking, no movies, and no human sound. Once the dogs wake me, I lie on the bed and stare upwards. Last Sunday, I counted 337 holes in the ceiling tile around the light. So far the number hasn’t changed. Over the past few weeks, sounds seem richer. Birds share greetings and I can hear the leaves slapping against each other. Bees hesitate among the flowers and I swear the hedge hides a family of crickets.

This morning, I heard a slight whistle. Not a loud whistle, but more like your grandma dozing in an overstuffed chair. A light pat-pat interrupted the sound followed by a pause and then a single pat. The pats punctuated the sucking in an infrequent but regular manner and seemed to come from above me. I needed to investigate it.

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An Accidental Life 0

An Accidental Life

The bumper ahead froze and he slammed on the brakes. In the rear view mirror, he watched as a red streak narrowed the distance. He turned to Candice and said, “I’m sorry.”  She lunged forward in a violent snap. His head cracked on the dash as bits of metal flew by him.

The image froze and he watched the wreck from above. He saw all the angles. He saw his BMW stop and the Mustang coming faster. He marveled at how the BMW’s trunk rolled up. The Mustang crashed and its hood bounced over its top. He watched it again from the mirror. He saw the red hood coming up fast.  He looked over at Candice. She lunged forward in slow motion. He wondered if she was okay.

He rolled the images back and repeated the accident. He was about to start a replay again when he heard the voice.

“The Mustang failed to stop.” it said.

“Yes,” he thought. It just came up fast. He watched it again hit the back of his car. The trunk rolled up again and he froze the scene. Candice’s head stopped in mid-lunge. He reversed the accident until Candice was sitting upright and smiling. He looked at her face. She was calm and happy.

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Something Foul at the Chicken Shack 0

I hoped for spark as I watched the new version of the motoring show Top Gear this weekend. It reminded me of a visit to Pittsburgh.

spark

Outside a downtown cheese steak and sandwich shop was a sign with a huge rooster promising spark with copy which read in essence, “This is the hottest chicken sandwich you will ever eat. Hot. Hot. Hot!” Recently removed from Texas, where I had eaten my share of hot food, and now living in Las Vegas, where hot food can be found, I of course was very interested in eating the “hottest chicken sandwich in Pittsburgh.”

I ordered and waited for the challenge.

It seemed to take longer than my friend’s cheese steak and I visioned the cook dipping it in extra hotness and spices before it was cooked. Special hot requires special handling.

Soon my number came up and the cook promised, “You are going to like this one.”

The plate was hot and steam was coming from the middle of the chicken. It certainly was hot and it smelled promising.

My mouth watered in anticipation and I prepared for the blast of Pittsburgh-inspired heat.

It was bland.

The cook was smiling when I returned to fetch some Red’s Hot Sauce.

“Are you sure? That is one hot sandwich!”

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for a Wendy’s so I could down a spicy sandwich and cleanse my pallet.

Returning to the new Top Gear, the show missed spark. It was bland.

Not so much because of the missing trio of presenters – Clarkson, May, and Hammond – although I missed their banter. It was more that it seemed like someone forgot how to write small talk. The hosts were off.

In fact, the spark came during the off-road desert test of Matt LeBlanc. I thought perhaps I was being an Americanocentric snob when it hit me: this piece worked because of excellent writing. The writers really knew how to spice it up.

Whoever wrote this really knows how to make the rocks fly and the wheels jump.

The writer captured the excitement of flying through the desert and made it fun. Adding the evil British villains was a clever play on the outsider American on the car show. Overall, the writing engaged the viewer and kept me past 40 minutes of the program.

The rest I am not sure about. My son brought me a video titled “DHL box challenge (No 4, medium)” which gave me back some of the spice I missed.

Where Did You Go Joe DiMaggio? 0

Good question.

All I can say is I have been writing, reading, writing, and reading, in no particular order. I just have not updated my blog.

After years of pantsing things to roughly 20,000 words, I have decided to outline, research, and think about my projects. Honestly, the reason things tended to drift was I ran out of things to say. With just a little research, I could write easily another 50,000 words. My fiction would read like Wikipedia, but I could go on and on.

K.M. Weiland offers a wonderful set of educational books, if you lack motivation to plan and afraid of letting pantsing go. And if you think of each chapter as a scene, i.e. James Patterson, you might be able to get to the pinch and plot points without much effort. (These authors helped me focus on ideas and I am not selling their courses.)

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No offense to pantsers, but at least with an outline I have a road map of where the story is going. I can still let a character run with it, but I also can reign them in and head back to the plot. It is a relief, actually.

Honestly, outlining takes quite a bit of pressure off. At least you know where a character is going when you decide to pants-it.