Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Night

When Frederick woke up that morning, he wanted her.  He could hear Debussy following him around campus that day, as he refilled his pencil with lead, as he dropped coins in the slot and made copies, as he raised his hand in his Ethics class.  He chewed on his saut√©ed carrot slices at lunch and thought of her hair, rippling like the ridges on the carrot slices.  He scrubbed his hands in the bathroom and the soap reminded him of her clean smell.  Everything about her was clean and smooth, and he wanted everything about her.

He took her out that night.  Leah wanted Thai food and he didn’t complain.  After he ate Thai food he always felt full and spotless as if Leah were inside of him, fitting into his skin and pushing all the dirt out through his pores.  The booth was lumpy and frayed, and while Leah spoke slowly of her 2D design professor, her lips like slices of peach forming the words perfectly, she squirmed from the waist down.  Frederick coveted her tiny movements.  He couldn’t see, only felt with the tip of his kneecap, once, her smooth leg under the table.  He thirsted for her.

At the end of the night, Frederick pulled the car into the dark driveway of her apartment.  He made a dramatically sluggish ordeal of shutting the car off, taking the key out of the ignition, and unbuckling.  Leah sat still and intelligent in the passenger seat, her hands in her lap, placid as a Thanksgiving snooze.  He took one of them on impulse.  She had beautiful hands.  Her palms were plump and the lines defined.  Her knuckles rose smoothly like grassy knolls.  Her fingernails were tiny moons of silk.  They tasted of seasoned salt as he quickly kissed them, following her arm up to her shoulder as she looked at him, silent and motionless on the leather seat.  He paused in front of her face.  Molecules hopped back and forth between their noses.  He wanted to be clean, he wanted Leah to scour him inside and out. 

She put her hand to his chest and pushed him away.  One slow push.  His eyes grew wide.  His mouth was dry.  The click of the door filtered into his ears after her slow voice did, “Not yet, Fred,” and she glided inside decades after she shut the front door, leaving him stranded in her soapy scent, his car filling up with foamy bubbles that overcame him.  He was suffocated by her long after she was gone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It Hit Me

Music is like fiction.  It's all about tension and release.  Music isn't interesting if there is no conflict.  Even in Palestrina's music, harmonically perfect music, it's there.  You can't have music without the V, I.  You've got to have the cadence.  Conflict, suspension, dissonance, anticipation--all these things make music perfect.  

You can't have the relief without the tension.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jane And Her Mother

She started biting her thumbnails again that day.  Her mother had long kicked her of the habit, she thought, but it crept back in as she paced in slow relay from the dresser to the bed and back again.  She was always slow, methodical, levelheaded.  Instead of ditching the bus with a cry and escaping to the mall after school like her friends, she came home to her mother and brother to pull weeds or set the table.  Instead of crying, she would steady herself and sit quietly on her bed until it passed.  She would do these things this evening after she told her mother she was pregnant.

She rehearsed in her head.

“Mom, I’m pregnant.”  Too direct, I shouldn’t start with the news, she wouldn’t even listen to me after that.  “Mom.  I need to talk to you.”  She’ll probably just continue watching the news and say, “…Yes…Yes?  Sorry, the news is on.”  Like I don’t know the news is on.

“Mom.”  I’ll sit down next to her on the couch and wait for her to turn the news off.


            “I need to talk to you about something.”
            She won’t even raise an eyebrow, probably, since she would consider it proper of me to come to her with a problem.  She will probably feel proud of herself.  “What is it?”

            “Well…”  No, no, no, no stumbles allowed.  I can’t give her any chance to feel like this is her conversation.  “You know I’ve always been a responsible person, Mom.”

            She will nod but not say anything.

            “And it’s because of you, you know.  You taught me to be responsible and to take care of business.”

            A swift nod, probably.  At this point she is expecting the worst.

            “And you’ve always been there for me in times of trouble, you know?  You’ll help me through anything, right?  You’ll make it okay?  I’m pregnant, Mom, I don’t want to be but please can you just make it okay?”
She stopped herself.  She looked down—her hands were clenched around her abdomen.  This is ridiculous.  She would never help me.  She didn’t teach me anything.  She didn’t teach me to be responsible and take care of business.  She would never be there for me in times of trouble.  She would never help me.

            She will hate me.

            She breathed in and out.  Walking downstairs, she didn’t hide her thumbnails.  She stood in front of the TV. 

            “Mom, I’m pregnant.”

This was an assignment on imagined dialogue.  Once again, I did it on my way out the door.  What is happening to me?  


Monday, September 8, 2008

Uncle Rob

My mother’s brother.  He’s the one that would be missing at Thanksgiving some years, and the table would be a decibel quieter.  For years, he’d bring a friend to gatherings—Stacey.  We all loved Stacey as kids.  She was loud, inappropriate, wrestled with us on her hands and knees.  A perfect match for Uncle Rob.  He was all those things—except he didn’t wrestle.  He was aloof, sidetracked most of the time.  We realized when we grew up that he usually didn’t know what to do around the youngers.

He and Stacey would cackle together and she would chide him like a wife of decades, but no, they weren’t together.  My little brother asked her once, “Why don’t you live in Chicago with Uncle Rob?”  She and Gramma hooted and Stacey bent down, put her hands on his shoulders, and said knowingly, “Would you want to live with your Uncle Rob?”  Conrad’s nose squinched in his laughter, “Ohhh, no way!”

It was in our early teens when we were allowed to learn that Uncle Rob was gay, and everything made sense.  His elbow-nudge jokes with my mom that made her sob with laughter, the solid way his gut hung over his belt, his vowels and elongated s’s and emphasized t’s…of course.  We nodded solemnly to our parents as they told us to not to discuss it, Oh no, we would never.  And at that point, we never would—it was a satiating, correct puzzle piece to our secret, starved wonders about our Uncle Rob.  He had been a smoker for twenty or thirty years and spoke in raspier tones each Christmas.  He celebrated his choice of Fiji water that one year at the ranch and never passed up a fart-joke opportunity.  A conversation with my Uncle Rob was a kind of unholy privilege that you received secretly every two years.  It made sense that all of this unholiness would culminate in such a fact in our Catholic minds—Uncle Rob was gay.

And we loved him.  How could we not?  In spurts he would tell us jokes or hug us and absentmindedly give us candy.  There is a picture of us playing Monopoly that I keep in my journal.  I am about 5 and Uncle Rob is thinner.  The look on my face is crazily gleeful because Uncle Rob was there, playing with me.  He was my special uncle.  I remember finding this picture in a baby album a few years ago.  It was right before my mother and I were supposed to fly up to Chicago to stay with him during college visits.  I was nervous about the trip and about what kinds of things I would find at Rob’s apartment.  So I picked up the picture and stuffed it in a book.  Why I did this is still unclear to me.  My attempt, maybe, at creating a history with Rob, a loving, endearing childhood friendship that never existed.    

I know, I know, the last paragraph is weak.  I wrote this today right before it was due and I had to scurry to print it off and get to campus on time.  That is the worst way to work and unfortunately the way I do many things in my life.  Maybe this semester will be a turning point on that field for me.

Family Woman,


Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The gang was trekking to Alaska.

Well, it was not really a gang, rather a gang of something, a gang of superiors, a gang of spirituals, a gang of the eclectic searching for experience.  They all wore backpacks, except for Lucy who wore a crocodile purse, and in them they carried tools.  Benjamin a hammer for the way he liked to make squirrel stew, Micah his mother's face on a coaster she had made, Gabe a recorder to summon the blessings of heaven.  Marge carried used loose-leaf because she could only brew her words on scrap paper, and Clint carried an old baseball from the days of his father.  Lucy carried weapons--a shark's tooth, a switchblade, a rifle.  The others whispered about broken glass and how the bag was a real crocodile in disguise.  They were all seeking souls, seeking fulfillment of a life, as they would find, that only allowed them to carry the selected necessities.  Of course, the necessities they carried now would change over time.

I really want to develop this.  I see Lucy here as a great character.  There are so many things left unspoken for in this blurb--what more about Micah?  Gabe's name connection?  Why the weapons?  Why the scrap paper (thanks Peggy)?  How admiring was Clint really of his father?  These things are all tools, but tools for what exactly?  And what are they really seeking?  A new beginning, perhaps.  And all because the instructions told me to write for ten minutes, mimicking Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried."