Tagged: story

The Ely Pass Accident 0

When I was in college, I was driving across Nevada around Christmas and hit a cow with my car. I wasn’t driving too fast, but I managed to come out of a cloudy valley onto a pass and there was a herd of cows in the roadway keeping warm. Since I was driving pretty slow, I managed to weave the car between the standing cows and most of them ran away. However, there was one steer in the middle of the road that refused to budge. And so I hit him with the side of my car. It all happened so fast and I remember hearing a “bump.” That’s not so bad, I thought. I drove the car to the side of the road, got out and saw the imprint of a six-foot cow on the side of my car. The dent was so bad, I had to pull it away from the back wheel so I could keep driving. The cow ran off and I never did see it.

Anyway, I kept driving on and hoped the cow never died. In Nevada’s open range, the driver is responsible for killing a cow. Being a college student, I barely had enough money to drive home. I surely didn’t have money to buy a dead cow.

Fiction comes out of real and imagined experiences. Here is a piece of flash fiction about a cowboy heading home.

Thirty miles of snow blanketed the valley from range to range. Small strips of black pavement broke through the snow. The pavement disappeared as the road dipped farther around a bend. The cowboy paused the truck at the top of the grade and considered his future. Would it be possible to turn around and start over? Too many miles to go and too much behind him, he decided. A gust of wind raced around the cab and snow swirled around the hood. He looked down at an endless snowy valley. His breath blew fog on the window. He wiped away the frost and wondered if he should have called Sally to let her know he was coming.

The cowboy sat until he felt the cold on his legs. The chill rode up from the bottom of the floorboard through his boots making his bones hurt. The chill reminded him things were not warm between him and Sally. He patted his thighs and shivered. He must try to reach her. He turned the heater up, pulled the truck into gear, and jumped the start smoothing out as the truck picked up speed.

He considered the snow, cold, and all the times he had been stuck in this same spot shivering. He traveled this lonely highway all the time and it never seemed very warm. Watching the junipers pass against the snow, he expected to see a bandit ahead. This stretch of basin and range resembled a desperado’s playground. The roadway always seemed covered in snow with no one took the same road on the same day. Today was no different. The snow piled higher against a whitened sky and the truck began to make new tracks in the packed ice. He no longer saw the pavement. He watched for the mile markers and aimed down the middle.

The cowboy imagined what was happening four ranges over. Sally focused on her two boys, three poodles, and a husband. He thought about her growing up. She rode beside him with her small legs hanging over the seat. Now her smallest boy could take her place. He rarely saw her now. An unspoken distrust hung in the air when they did see each other. Another cold he never could thaw. His daughter looked at him with suspicion when she poured him a cup of coffee in her kitchen. Her eyes wondered what he wanted and why he dropped by. He smiled and hoped she would forgive him. He wished they could be closer.

The cowboy hummed an old melody, something he had heard once, in a haphazard manner. He stomped his heel on the down beat as the truck bounced off the center markers. He wondered if he shared this song with Sally once, rocking her to sleep or out of habit. He turned his attention to the road and began to whistle the melody.

He regretted he never could find the middle ground with Sally. His daughter never liked horses or the ranch life. The time he was away had further wedged them apart. The divorce made it harder for him to be close. A cowboy’s fate he guessed. He made a fist in his lap, then relaxed as the truck climbed a hill. He geared down and the truck slipped in the ice. He caught the wheels from slipping before the bed fishtailed.

A grey cloud enveloped around him as he climbed the grade and thick fog erased the mile makers. The cowboy felt for the center line. He inched up until the tires grabbed pavement. The truck sped up as the cloud passed and he could see the road ahead.

A small herd of cows stood in the pavement warming themselves. He breathed in and stomped on the brake pedal. The brown and white cows looked at him like he was interrupting a meeting. He threaded past them sliding across the pavement. He hit a patch of ice and the truck bed began to spin. He steered into the slide but went too far sliding the truck around to the right. More cows ran away and he could see their wide eyes as they rushed off the road. The tuck continued to slip sideways and he could see it slowing down. An ounce of hope as he figured he might make it.Out of the passenger window he saw a large steer standing its ground in the middle of the road. The cow looked through him. He pumped on the gas and tried to drive forward. The acceleration gave the back-end more speed. The truck slipped even faster toward the standing cow. There was no way he was going to avoid a crash.

He heard a small thump in the middle of the door and the truck stopped sliding. He took a moment to collect himself and he thought it was a small dent. Then the bottom of the truck rounded him landing in a crunch. Broken glass showered over him. A toolbox dropped and cut a gash above his right eye. He grimaced and passed out under the glove box.

He laid in the cold air bleeding. Cows wandered around the overturned truck sniffing at the doors. The truck sat in their warm spot.

A grey sky spit snowflakes. The herd of cows huddled near a borrow pit watching the truck. The cowboy woke up to a smell manure, urine, and cold. He rose up on his elbows as a small steer ran by the windshield. He found himself wedged between the door, the crumpled roof, and the steering wheel.

The roof shot up bouncing him to the floor board. He felt a primal scream rise through him. The sound made him to want out. The cowboy reached for his crumpled hat under the dashboard and missed. The truck rocked under him and his butt slipped down toward the door. He reached again for his hat. The wild scream rose from under him a second time in what seemed like a hollow and desperate plea. The cowboy pulled up on the steering wheel and pushed on the driver door. It wouldn’t budge. Facing the broken window, he stuck a boot over the center hump, pushed himself up, and wiggled out.

***

The cowboy fell face first in the snow. A smell of iron, urine, and manure caught up to him and he looked back at the truck. A bloody and mangled head moved under the window. The cowboy stood up and brushed ice off his neck. Melting ice burned a hole through the gash in his forehead. He patted the wound and a clump of blood covered his fingers. He wiped the blood off on his pants.

The reflection in the door revealed a four-inch gash in his forehead. If he had hair, he would look scalped. Blood hung from the torn skin. He pulled the mess over the raw wound and patted his forehead. The falling toolbox had opened up a sizable piece of his face.

He ripped off a piece of t-shirt leaving a curled up ribbon below his flannel shirt. He wrapped the thin material around the bloody mess tucking one end under the other to hold it in place. The white cloth soaked with blood making the bandage a scarlet banner.

The wound made him queasy and he needed to sit down. He lowered to the ground next to his crumpled hat. He smoothed a dent in the crown and placed it over the scarlet bandage.

The cowboy sat in the snow and shivered. The falling snow melted on his hat and jacket. The gash in his forehead hurt. He watched snowflakes dance across the valley. The wind swirled the snow around the junipers. Nothing moved. Nature paused to see what would happen next.

A snort interrupted the silence. The cab moved up as the steer tried again to remove the truck from its back. He jumped away from the truck. The smell of urine became stronger. The cow let go and the cowboy watched as its eyes closed. The herd watched the truck with snow swirling around their heads. A few moved back to the center pavement. The cowboy shivered again and pulled his jacket tighter. The wind seemed colder than before.

The crumpled cab lay on top of the steer. The cow no longer moved. The cowboy heard an odd whizzing nose and he realized the rear tires continued to spin. He walked around the truck and wrenched on the driver door. It wouldn’t open. He found a rock, smashed the window, and turned off the engine.

He stood in a puddle of urine and blood next to the cow’s rear legs. He stepped away leaving bloody footprints in the ice. His forehead stung and a trickle of blood dropped from his eye.

***

The cowboy sat underneath the overturned truck bed. He tolerated the smell of the dead cow by moving as far from it as he could near the tailgate. To keep dry, he sat on a carpet made from the clothes in his duffel. He had placed a few more layers of t-shirt around his wound. Outside, three inches of new snow-covered the ground from a couple of hours of snowfall. Small flakes fell at first, and then large, wet flakes came down like rain. None of the wet wood he gathered lit a fire with the few matches buried in his glove box. He never found the cigarette lighter. The stack of clothing failed to keep the cold ground from making his seat numb. He kept his bare hands tucked under this armpits and rocked back and forth to keep warm.

No one came up the grade to discover his wreck from either side. For the longest time, he stood in the falling snow looking into one valley after another hoping for a rescue. The snow only made him wet and cold. Winter was the wrong time of year for a steady stream of cars. And no one knew he was out there.

He laid his head on the metal panel and thought about Sally. She might be cooking dinner now. Macaroni, cheese, broccoli, and steak. He like a thick cut, medium rare. A wave of nausea rolled over him and he sat forward. The cold metal made his head hurt. He rubbed the makeshift bandage and came back with another hand of blood. He wiped it away on his leg and then held his head in his hands.

What if I die out here?

***

He thought about a time when Sally stood on her tiptoes to lick chocolate cake batter from a spoon. Her pink dress matched her toddler stockings. She reached up to get at the spoon and he kept pulling it away. He chuckled. No wonder she hated me, he thought. Another time, he let her paint his lips and color his eyes. He looked like a rodeo clown, but she liked it. Then there was the years he wasn’t around. She stopped counting on him and grew closer to her mother. After that, he couldn’t break through the distrust.

He wondered what if he had stuck around? It might be different. No way to know. He let out a sigh. He would have found a way to screw it up. Nothing he did seemed to work.

He looked at the dead cow mashed under the cab. It looked asleep. The cold no longer bothered it. The cowboy felt warmer. He shifted on the carpet and leaned to look under the tailgate. Still snowing and getting colder. The sudden change in altitude shot a quick pain behind his right eye. He could feel his heart beat through the blood-soaked bandage. He took a deep breath, laid back on the truck panel and closed his eyes.

***

Sally held out a hot mug of coffee to him as he walked into the kitchen. She laughed as he burned his lip pulling the cup away from his mouth. He set the cup on the counter and reached out for her hand. She took it and he pulled her in for a hug. He smelled her hair and thought about what a great daughter he had.

A highway worker pulled into the wide shoulder next to a pile of black cinders. The cows were long gone. A wrecked truck lay overturned near the far shoulder. Melting snow dripped down on the carcass of a dead cow under the crumpled cab. Broken glass spread out on the pavement.

The red-haired worker in overalls looked under the tailgate. He found the cowboy laying on a bed of clothes with a smile. A brown bandage and dried blood covered the face of the dead cowboy.

The worker stood up and looked out over the snow-covered valley of rabbit brush and junipers. He kicked away some snow from his boot. He looked the other way down the grade. Another long stretch of snow. Heck of a place to wreck, he thought. He spied a hawk flying across the valley.

The bird hung on the wind channels between the ridges floating over the basin. Miles of chaparral and high desert spanned below. The hawk saw a rabbit and darted to the spot vanishing behind a stand of junipers.

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 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…)

March 3, 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.

America is divided. The Hatfield vs. the McCoys. #BLM vs #BLM. Of course, it is nowhere near the biggest mix up as The Orange and the Green.  At least not yet. (more…)

March 2, 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.

According to my new writing goal, I am supposed to just write down whatever comes to my head and finish up in 750 words. The whole thing sounds a bit of a waste of time, frankly. I don’t have the luxury of writing nothing; there is so much more to write and get done.

Yet, here I am just writing. And counting time.

(more…)

The Baby Picture 0

Enlarge

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Pixabay

“The usual?” Mary grabbed two slices of sourdough from a bag before slapping on some tuna salad.

“Yeah,” Tom replied looking around the deli.

Two small puddles of rain water merged on the floor. He shook the drops from his umbrella before sticking it into a cloth grocery sack. Water leaked through the canvas of the heavy bag. He looked around to see if anyone saw its contents.

Mary sliced through his sandwich, placed it on a plate with pickle, and pushed it toward him. He placed on his tray a banana from the fruit basket and a cello-wrapped brownie from the deserts.

“Just a cup of ice water,” he said paying for the lunch.

(more…)

Finding the Character’s Pain 0

Sunshine and rainbows. We all would like to have a life free of stress and full of sunshine and rainbows. A life of bliss only leads to trouble. There is no excitement, no drama, no life.

Writers need to run as quick as they can from sunshine and rainbows. At least when developing a story everyone will want to read. Can the main character end up in a land of beauty and peace? Sure. Just don’t plan on writing a sequel.

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Courtesy Pixabay

Pain, wounds and disaster are what we need to strive for when writing a good main character. Give a character pain and a past full of strife, trouble, and challenges. Allow them to triumph. And then smack them again.

Wounds provide the best motivation to overcome an obstacle and move the story forward. Give your characters a reason to fulfill a basic need for love, faith, understanding, and belonging. Make this character pain so intense they must do something to overcome it.

Pain and suffering also suggests your character has a basic flaw that leads them to more pain. A character weakness that they must hide or tackle in order to move the story forward. Allow the character to show they have the strength to overcome their weakness.

The whole goal is to make the story move from scene to scene. The best way to do this is by finding the pain.

[plain]What are your thoughts about character development? Post your comments below.[/plain]

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]

A Tall Tale of Sin: Greyhound Arriving 0

I work downtown Las Vegas. For all of the glitz and wild scenes on Fremont Street, what is often overlooked is this town is a business. And that means for every cup tossed on the ground someone has to come along and pick it up. While the entire street is a stage, it still needs to rest, if only for a few hours between parties.

I’m also fascinated with neon and what it means. Las Vegas discards its neon signs; they can be found at the Neon Museum. Unfortunately, many of these signs no longer light up. I often wonder if each neon sign is waiting for someone to jump start their hearts so their lights can be alive again.

I’ve been pondering an idea for a while that will take more effort than a 1,000 word short story. Not quite a novel; I think it’s more of a 60-page novella. However, it will take some time to write and I may need to draft it in smaller assignments.

Clearly this story will have some fantasy, crime, and drama.

So what will follow is a serialized short story and a way for me to plod along until I finish it. Short of NaNoWriMo, I tend to drop the ball and there are lots of stories I have written waiting for a finish. My two NaNoWriMo efforts still need me to edit them; those stories may never see the light of day! Too many half-baked ideas waiting for an editor. With this project, I anticipate it will be a forced march of sorts to reach the finish line. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up in a trash can.

Each segment will be like a short chapter with the main title “A Tall Tale of Sin” preceding the current effort.

I plan to discuss my story idea and share my planning. Frequently, I may update this post to add character sketches or to expand on the idea. By the way, you can find the tools I have created to help me write here.

Planning