Tagged: head

March 16, 2017 Scribble 0

A chance to bleed.

I spent the morning re-writing explanations of my writing tools so they would make more sense. I actually found a few ideas I had forgotten such as planning climaxes and struggles. I think most of these things are apparent, for instance, you tend to see them pop up. But that is the pantser in me; plotters get ahead faster. I used to be just a pantser because it fit better with my observational nature. However, if you fail to notice a detail, it will show in the story. So you have to think about the plot to help build up the scenes. Anyway, plotting is much better than pantsing when you get to the middle of part two and you have no idea what comes next.

***

What’s better: a comb-over or buzz-cut? The buzz-cut aficionados swear running a blade through their hair solves so many problems and looks better. If a bunch of round heads looks better, then fine. The comb-over set swears at least they have a few hairs to shape up their head. Of course, they look ridiculous if only two hairs cover the bald spot. Maybe it is time to think about a toupee?

***

Four women stand like a choir bunched up against the rosemary wall separating the federal courthouse from the sidewalk. They can stand on the path and protest as long as they keep it open for visitors. Together they hold a sign; “Justices for Our Brothers.” On the back of the sign slashes tally up the number of hugs offered to anyone who passes. The count totals more than 600.

***

Chicken and Wild Rice soup simmers in the kitchen. The wild rice resembles black-eyed peas with the brown speck surrounding the white kernel. Orange rounds of carrot float on the surface. The perfect soup for a cold day. But, it’s nearly 90 outside. For some reason this year, I dislike the warm weather. With nearly 400 inches of snow I want another storm  to dump more frozen water. Might as well see if additional records are broken. Towards summer, the melt may lead to a second round of records as the most snow leads to the most runoff. Maybe a new lake will form in the Fallon desert. Lake Tahoe has enough water to keep the Truckee flowing for three years. And more is on the way. Northern Nevada lies under piles of snow and ice. Send some of that south; we need a few more days of winter.

***

In my present condition, the only thing left to eat is dirt. Dirt contains no cholesterol and no sugar. Depending on the source, dirt contains iron and other minerals. Free-range dirt sounds organic, but even it can lead to problems; the raw soil might contain natural asbestos or arsenic. Even dirt has its limitations.

***

Mark Twain spent a sojourn in Territorial Nevada. Some of his observations in the gold and silver camps of the Sierra Nevada ended up as well-remembered short stories. Other pieces found there way into longer novels from his office in Hartford, Connecticut. The school room scene in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer originated at a schoolroom in Carson City. Always be on the lookout for interesting events or scenes. They will prove useful at another time.

***

I still like to ramble adding unneeded words to sentences. My mantra has become, “Get to the Point!”

***

A nine-foot stone wall stands across from the Spanish mission with water flowing over red sandstone rocks. Two fat pigeons, one grey and other steel, each splash through the puddles of water before they fall to the pool. The artificial river meanders passed a canyon of concrete, Mexican fan palms, and under flat tan rocks until the water reaches the pump. With a whisk, the water starts the climb again.

A potable water truck pumps rainwater from Utah into the pool. This is water trucked 500 miles to make the desert green. A  pet project of a former mayor who demanded a water fountain between the city courthouses. At the end of the river, the Poets Bridge features Earth House Hold poet Gary Snyder and 19 other poets and Las Vegas artists.

 

March 15, 2017 Scribble 0

I spent twenty minutes holding my head to the right as a doctor went in again for my fourth thyroid biopsy. “Boy this is really deep,” he said. “Yep, maybe you’ll be the guy,” I said. It is clear with have a nodule or two. We don’t clearly know if it is cancer. “At least if it is cancer, this is the best one to get,” said my endocrinologist. “It takes so long to grow.” Comforting. While other writers are busy taking people to other places, I’m in an endless loop of out-patient surgery. No, you would not be interested in the waiting, prodding, and sore neck. It doesn’t jump off as one of those stories you want to hear.

***

Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” True. Sometimes you just have to write it out and hope something sticks. Then let it fall to the floor. In Hemingway & Gellhorn  he says,” Never crumple pages. Always let them float gently into the basket. Any writer who rips out his stuff and crumples it will go insane in a year, guaranteed.” I like the idea of floating paper to the trash. I would float this to the trash, but it’s a huge monitor.

***

It turns out nobody reads this blog. (more…)

March 7, 2017 Scribble 0

You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.

The Big Squeeze is coming to Las Vegas. The Spaghetti Bowl, a large mess of on ramps and off ramps between the US 95 and I-15 will soon be reduced to two lanes. It already becomes two lanes on US-95 under the Bowl, so I’m not sure how this is a squeeze, but through media hyperbole and advertising, I’m to understand this will be terrible.

This morning, I decided to find an alternative route. On the advice of some friends, I decided to try North Fifth, a new road into North Las Vegas.

After fifteen minutes waiting for a light to change and let three cars through at a time, I’ve decided I can suffer through the impending peril of the Big Squeeze. Even if I sit for 5 extra minutes, it will surely beat a 55 minute commute to go 20 miles via surface streets. This is ranting I know, but you have to start 750-words somehow.

We spring back this weekend. Frankly, this just means getting up earlier. Remember to set your clocks ahead. (Don’t think about it too much: Your head will explode).

Sequoia Strawberries in the flower bed mulch
Lined up like bare root roses
Patted safe in the warm soil
Watered and blessed; a hopeful refrain.

Spring lasts a few days before summer rays
Bear down on the garden beds
Warming the soil to dry dust
A delicate balance to keep them moist.

The morning frost reminds spring follows winter
Breezes as March enters like a lion
Or sneaks in like a lamb.
Either way, the garden struggles to bloom.

A small leaf springs up from the bare root tip
As roots firmly establish themselves
And the plant becomes accustomed to its new home.
It spreads out to take space.

Small droplets in the morning light
On large leaves of green vermillion
Summer sun gobbles up the water
As ladybugs jump through the delicate flowers.

“Are you drinking enough water?”

“I think so.”

“It’s getting hotter and you need to be refreshed.”

“I went to the bathroom three times tonight.”

“You’re diabetic. That’s a sure sign of the disease.”

“I don’t suppose four tall glasses of water had anything to do with it.”

In these writing exercises you are supposed to write whatever comes to your head, in any order, without stopping. This came to my head just now.

S. I. Hayakawa was a U.S Senator from California, and before that he was a semanticist at San Francisco State University. I first read his book Language and Action in high school. The idea Bessie the Cow was an abstraction allowed me to add only those details that made her a cow, rather than endlessly describe all of her features. Abstraction allows writers to write a picture that others fill in. Hayakawa warned to stay at the top of the abstraction tree, otherwise you could lead others into an existential hell.

Trees have a colored leaf. And the leaf is made of smaller parts from veins to individual cells. Staying at the top allows the reader to fill in the abstractions, without the writer having to describe the color of the veins or explain the arrangement of the cells. However, sometimes a writer wants to describe these things. Knowing when to stop is the art of writing. A writer must be careful not to chase themselves around in circles!

Hayakawa also addresses the power of words to hypnotize and manipulate. If a person can be convinced a brown cow is really white through powerful descriptions, then a writer can powerfully draw a crowd in with the force of prose. He cautions readers to avoid taking whatever a person says at face value; question them and their motivations. Abstractive communication allows writers to rely on simile, metaphor, irony and pathos to communicate an idea. Abstraction has power as long as everyone agrees on the definition of the abstraction.

Too deep? Enough philosophy on the mechanisms of writing.

“I just don’t feel motivated or respected.”

“You hate your job?”

“Just the people. Nobody sees my contribution.”

“So you’re looking for a reward?”

“I would like to be respected and given a little credit.”

“For showing up?”

“For making this place work despite the lack of respect.”

“You received a paycheck this week?”

“Yes.”

“I think you they must like you.”

I’m running out of words for this session’s writing activity and likely this will end long before I ever get to the bottom of a deep well. There. We now have 750-words!

March 6, 2017 Scribble 0

You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.

For years I have created puns without knowing it. Someone would say something, I would reply, and then everyone would start laughing. I struggled to figure out why they laughed. Later, sometimes the next day, I would realize the joke and laugh too.

(more…)

My Life Soon Ends 0

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Sunrise bounced through our plastic dome inching closer to my eyes on the pillow. I looked at the divergence of yellow and red light flaring through the bubble and then across the room. The sixth day of Shepard seemed it would shape up as a typical butterscotch day. I saw the sun’s reflection on the large dome of MaxPol. The sun woke me everyday, but the reflection wasn’t always there. Pioneers colonized Mars 160 years ago by surviving the solar flares in eco-domes with a limited atmosphere shielded from the neural damage of radiation. Those before me found a way to release water, and they invented calendars, fashions, and traditions. They built the central colony of MaxPol and spread out from there. I understood the privilege the pioneers gave me. Every person born last on Mars understood the sacrifice required for the next generation.

Maggie put on a white dress for the afternoon transformation ceremony. She transfixed me with her smile. I looked past her to the mirror as she added a garland of chamomile to her hair. She mirrors Aleren. In the reflection, my grey hair frames the wrinkles around my eyes. With her beauty, my life soon ends.

Maggie stood still in front of the mirror admiring her reflection. She finished up her hair and let her arms fall straight down. I stared too.

“You will make a beautiful bride.” She blushed at my comment. “After the transformation, you will meet your partner. Then you will make handsome babies.”

“And go like you,” she added.

“You must produce at least three children as a Last Born,” I reminded her. “There is no reason to rush.”

“And when those children are born, I will go.” She sighed.

“All Last Born villein must repay steerage,” I said. “And you are the last to repay.”

A generation of villein before, myself, and now my daughter Maggie all preordained to settle the debt.

“This planet requires too much,” Maggie said.

“It only seems that way because of all the work we must do.”

“No,” Maggie said. “Mars owns us until we die.”

Grandmother Viola agreed to the villein contract with the Interstellar Transport and Exploration Company in an attempt to escape Earth. She longed to reach past the stars and make her mark. With her signature, she agreed the next three generations of her brood would work as miners, scientists, and in my case, a Last Born. All Last Borns married after the transformation and raised a family. We taught the Martian traditions and prepared our children for the work. Some of our children work in the distant settlements of Mars or become apprenticed to a scientist here at MaxPol. In most cases, like my middle son Adam, we never see them again.

When Maggie reached the age of viability when the fears of death passed, roughly one sol, her mother walked out of our living pod to end her life. She birthed three children, as promised, and had nothing left to do. Aleren dressed in a white robe, weaved flowers through her hair, and slipped out of our pod onto the soil of Mars. Beyond the dome, the air was thin and Aleren had only a few precious minutes to reach the pedestal. I stood with my two boys and daughter watching her walk away. I was proud of Aleren despite the tears rolling down my cheek. When she finished walking, she raised her arms upward, and turned toward our window. Maggie rushed to the window while Adam held my leg and hid his face. Zach stood stoically next to me. She ended her life on Mars with no regrets.

Aleren dropped to her knees and her head began to swell. Seconds later, her white robe exploded upwards in the wind and she was gone. Aleren aged 16 sols, gave birth to three children, and completed her transformation.

After Aleren transformed, I continued teaching our children the Martian traditions and duties passed down by the pioneers. In time, they began to forget their mother despite the picture of her face in the hallway. When he turned 16, Zach apprenticed to a climatologist. Later, Adam went to the far colonies to work in the mines. Maggie was born last, roughly three sols after Adam, and never knew Aleren. I added two sols to my life due to Maggie’s learning difficulties. Looking at her today, you would never know she was slower than the rest. When she leaves our dome, I will have aged 27 sols, fathered three children, and will walk on the surface of Mars to join Aleren.

“Father, are you thinking?”

I shook off my melancholy. It struck me I should not upset her before the transformation ceremony.

“I was remembering your mother.”

“I only know what my brothers have told me,” Maggie paused. “Why did she leave us?”

“She realized her purpose,” I replied. “Her benediction and death allowed you to live.”

I needed Maggie to understand the gift Aleren gave her.

“I barely passed one sol,” Maggie said. “I never had a chance talk with her, learn from her, or gain her wisdom.”

“All Last Borns have one job; to ensure life goes on. She spoke to you often in your crib about the future.”

“A baby maker, you mean,” Maggie said. “Enough. It is time us breeders became naturalized freemen.”

“Your mother was very proud you would be a Last Born,” I said. “Your children will be citizens,” I paused to look her in the eyes. “The first generation of Free Martians.”

“And I will not be able to see it,” Maggie said.

I gave Maggie credit for grasping the gravity of her transformation. And it gave me pause; I would not see my family earn citizenship either. Zach and Adam would never be freemen, but at least they had the chance at a long life. I did have that comfort to fall back on. And Maggie would be the final Last Born. My grandchildren would decide the future for themselves and their children.

I placed my pressed white robe on my dressing table. After the transformation ceremony, I would come back alone and prepare for my passing. Maggie would be off to the breeder colony and will miss it. Just as well; Maggie didn’t remember Aleren’s passing and she wouldn’t remember mine.

Under the central dome, the transformation candidates stood on a transparent stage. Maggie embraced her friends and I could hear their laughter above me in my seat. All the Last Born fathers sat away from the rest. The audience cheered as the chancellery read the names of those moving on.

As a group, Maggie joined the Last Borns by holding her right hand equal to her head and reciting the vow. Each swore to build up the community, teach their children, and carry out their purpose. At the end, the chancellery invited the honored Last Borns to stand. We stood and the crowd cheered as the chancellery thanked us for completing our service.

Everyone became silent for the marriage partner epistle. Maggie gasped when the chancellery chose Charles, a tall, black-haired Last Born, for her partner. I imagined their handsome babies.

At the end of the ceremony, Maggie approached me with Charles walking a step behind dragging on her hand. She seemed assured. I tried to act casual but my happiness betrayed me. Tears welled in my eyes and I pulled her close.

“They made a good choice,” I said. “Your children will be strong.”

“Yes, I suppose.” Maggie took a furtive glance back at Charles. “He is as good as anyone.”

“I guess you two are off for your training?”

“Yes. We learn the private bits about each other,” Maggie said.

“Don’t practice too much.” I couldn’t help myself. Maggie punched my arm and Charles became scarlet.

“It looks like they want you to go.” I pushed Maggie and Charles toward the stage. “I am sure everything will be fine.”

Maggie wrapped herself around me dropping her head on my shoulder. She wept and pulled me closer. I rubbed her back and whispered, “You make me proud.”

“I love you too,” she said.

Maggie avoided an awkward goodbye. I stood with the other Last Borns watching her leave. Soon I stood alone with nothing left to do but return to my dorm.

I dressed in my transformation robe and reflected on my life. None of my children died, they each learned something from me, and there was nothing left to teach them. The last thing to do was complete my transformation. Before the ceremony, I transferred my credits to Maggie, uploaded my last words, recorded a congratulatory video for my grandchildren, and pressed my robe with an iron. I fingered the trim on the collar feeling the intricacy of the lace. Everything seemed in order.

At central day, an alarm sounded and a happy voice reminded me to proceed to my affirmation. This was it. I would perform the last part of my vow.

I climbed up to the airlock between our dorm and the outside dome. Across the complex other Last Borns also entered their airlocks. I counted as many as six other men. Not as many as in the past, but still a sizable number. I realized I had never spoken to any of them.

Over the speakers the Requiem Aeternam began to play in the airlock. I decided this was a fitting anthem for my end. I took a deep breath and let it out. The door opened and the atmosphere blew out the rupture in the dome. On Mars, I lived a total of 27 sols. On Earth, I would celebrate reaching the age of 50 years. For the first time I felt tired.

The final moment of my life I practiced sols ago with Aleren. We each let out our breath like we were coming up for a dive. We giggled when we had to breathe in. Now outside it was difficult. I felt the effects of the vacuum on my face and my lips tingled from the lack of oxygen. I failed to realize how hard it would be. Yet, I wanted to experience my death. The moisture in my eyes evaporated and my lungs started to freeze with my slow exhalation.

Aleren made roughly 40 steps before the wind scattered her across the surface and I wanted to walk as far as the platform. Yet, I had not counted on the difference in our age. My heart struggled under my exertion and I walked less than 20 steps. I managed to reach a small rise in the dirt. I climbed over it, dropped to my knees, and realized death was near. My eyes began to burn, so I closed them, and let the sun warm my face.

As I gave in to death, the ground under me opened and I dropped beneath the surface. I tumbled down and landed with a thud in a dark hole. I could see nothing but black; did somebody dig me a grave?

“Place him in the bateau and run to the compression chest,” a male voice said.

The taste of oxygen differed from the thin nitrogen and carbon dioxide of the surface. I took a shallow breath. It felt cool in my aching lungs. Around me I heard voices, but my eyes were blind. Nothing took shape.

“It may be too late,” said a female voice.

The transformation prepares us for the responsibility of ensuring life begins on Mars, I thought. Each Last Born teaches, scolds, counsels, and nurtures their children. I let out a final breathe.

“We must save him. He deserves to know the future.”

“Adam?” I thought I heard the voice of my middle son and realized it was a dream. His voice took me to my memory of all of us standing together for a portrait under the middle dome with the yellow sun shining behind us. I smiled thinking about them as my transformation ended. I knew Mars was a better place.

Scarlet Ribbons 0

 

[aesop_image imgwidth=”500px” img=”http://wordsmithholler.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/little-girl-1304950_1920.jpg” credit=”Pixabay” alt=”Scarlet Ribbons” align=”left” lightbox=”off” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off”]

The trip required three bus changes, a slight wait, and the chance of no seat. He just wanted to forget work on the humming bus ride home. Before noon, someone clogged the sixth floor toilets. The backup sent water over the walkway as he returned to lunch. After a shower of piss water, Robert Lotz needed a seat.

The bus lurched to the stop letting out a whoosh from its brakes. Second stop on Robert’s trip. He waited behind a college girl in a running suit, a boy wearing eye shadow, and a shopping cart pulled by a hunched-over woman. In college, he organized each weekend frat party dressed in modern pop.  Tonight, he was the old man at the end of the line with four kids, two dogs, and a wife who saw him more as a burden than the wild guy she married. Waiting to board, he read the newspaper folded to the business section. The economy needed this market to come out of its flats. He pushed up a pair of bifocals as the hunched woman struggled to lift the shopping cart.

He reached to help. The woman turned, gave him a look of contempt, and smacked his hand back. She pulled the cart into the step again. Unable to lift the cart, she turned and gave him a look of “what are you waiting for.” He picked up the cart and raised it on the bus.

He dropped three quarters in the meter, turned inside, and shook his head. Just as he predicted; no seats. Robert walked over to the straphangers, propped his briefcase between his feet, and folded the newspaper under his armpit. The bus jumped forward and he grabbed a hanger. With his hanging hand he pushed up his glasses. Another night of standing unbalanced. He stood opposite of where the shopping cart woman had managed to wedge between an angry fat man and the skinny track girl. She shoved to position further into the seat, the fat man nudged back, and the reaction slid the college girl off the seat. Catching herself, she grabbed a hanger just as the bus turned onto the highway.

The driver made a fast pace over the rolling hills. The girl, the fat man, and the shopping cart woman all left the bus. Robert sat down three stops from home and scrunched up his toes seeking freedom. He set the newspaper down beside him and watched out the window. The highway gave way to a street lined with elm trees, white cupboard houses, and Halloween decorations. He hit the buzzer and the driver stopped two houses from home.

Children dressed as villans, superheros, princesses, and ghosts jumped on the sidewalk or scurried across the grass. They popped up beside him or in his path in spurts excited by the night of tricks and treats. He marched through the costumes pausing and pitching from side to side. With his dance, he managed to miss most of their twists, turns, and orbits. A crowd of kids blocked his porch scampering for the treats laid out by his oldest daughter Cindy. She ignored him as she dropped small candies into each bag. He cleared the horde of small monsters into the house. (more…)

A Visitor Awaits 0

 

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Bolsón de Mapimí, Chihuahuan Desert, Old Mexico

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. – Eden Phillpotts

The desert wind blew warm and dry across his face layering grit on his chapped lips. He dropped the square bottle to his mouth and let the agave drip down his chin. The cold air bit into his bones. He wrenched the long robe tighter around him.

“What’s that?” he shouted out as he spun into the wind. He cocked his head to the left listening for a voice. The bottle sloshed at his side.

“Un visitante?”

He laughed a high cackle and spun around with his arms outstretched as if to collect all the stars in the sky. The bottle swung up in the air and a stream of Mescal sprayed out into the wind raining down on him. The drops bounced off his nose and forehead. He looked up and watched a drop grow larger and land in his eye. He wiped his face and shook his hair. He shouted at the stars.

“There are no visitors here. Nobody dares come into this hell-forsaken sand trap.”

He laughed before listening again. There was nothing but the wind blowing past the field of creosote and ocotillo. The wind rubbed the plants together forming a low hum.

“No me diga?”

The man cocked a confused look toward the sky. He took a step and stumbled forward to his knees. The bottle dug into the sand. He listened to the wind.

“You don’t say.”

(more…)

Second Writing: Proofreading and Editing Skills 0

By all means write as fast as you can and put the words on paper. In the movie Finding Forrester, the fictional reclusive author William Forrester tells Jamal Wallace, “No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think!”

No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think!

The second writing comes through the proofreading, editing, and re-writing.

Too many writers get bogged down in re-writing each sentence as they write it. A missed opportunity to allow expression and creativity to flow on the page. Capture the spark of genius first and allow it to build. Stopping to edit just breaks the chain and makes it difficult to put down pages.

The story develops and becomes refined in the second writing. I like to let the story sit and ferment like a bowl of bread dough; it sits and bubbles until I have the time to return to make the loaves. The second writing allows you time to smooth out the wrinkles and improve on the structure. At this stage you notice the awkward phrasing, the empty dialogue, and the story weaknesses.

In the coming weeks, I plan to began writing a short story about a girl who comes to Las Vegas seeking revenge. Over time, you may notice the story will contain strikeouts and edits. I plan to keep those in there to show you how I am editing and re-writing the story. Of course, I would appreciate your feedback too.

[plain]Do you write like a whirlwind, or do you carefully consider each word? What are your thoughts on getting words on the page? Post your comments below.[/plain]

 

That’s a Wrap 0

His knee slipped and he hit the door frame hard.

“Son of a bitch!”

The unbalanced bag of dog food pulled him around the frame and into the stucco wall. The dogs bounced below his feet threatening to entangle him further. His knee and this new bump on his head each provided an equal measure of pain.

He let out a sigh.

Unfortunately, the abuse returned in the shower with the knee giving out again slamming his body into the wall. Another bump on his forehead.

“This getting old sucks,” he shouted through the glass panels.

Two more near slips and he was done. He climbed out of the shower wet, went back to bed, and called it a day.

Copyright 2015, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.