Brought to You by the Letter “F”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fearful Symmetry.”

Fear holding me in it’s cold embrace.

Finally wiping that smile from my face.

Fists left open, resting against my hips.

Fidgeting, quivering the moves of my lips.

Faceless demons come visit at night.

Forcing them down takes all of my might.

Fate for my future sometimes out of my hands.

Facing a life whose time is measured by sand.

Faith in a Deity long gone from my mind.

Fruitless whispers, Why won’t you be kind?

Forgotten by some as if I’ve already left.

Feeling dead already, “don’t worry” the words of my very last breath.

I dislike writing poetry, but today’s challenge was going to center around a theme.  Originally I was going to go with the infamous “F-bomb” to start every line, no matter what style I had chosen.  It felt empty since I wasn’t able to conjure the emotion to go with it.  Later on I need to post the Writing 101 prompt about fear, which is probably what helped trigger this little piece of word play.  Maybe that will get it out in the open for me to deal with.

Boy on a Stoop – Writing 101 Day 18

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

Mom said I can’t go out and help. I have ta just sit here and watch cause it’s safer than wandering the streets. Looking up and down the block I can’t see nothing. Everyone has been following the sounds of the police and the fire trucks since yesterday. Jimmy next door gets to go, why can’t I?

“Well, Jimmy’s grandma don’t care what he does. You lucky to have someone like me watching out for you. Damn-it boy, you don’t know how lucky you really is!” My grandma always had a way of fixing an argument by telling me how lucky I is. I don’t feel lucky, just left out. Jimmy got a new pair of shoes yesterday from his uncle. Bright white Air Jordans, like I seen on tv.

Wonder where he got the money for them? Jimmy’s uncle ain’t been working much lately. That city job went away after he starting yelling at his boss. Jimmy’s uncle got a temper, I seen him hit Jimmy once before. Grandma says it’s none of my business, but Jimmy’s my friend.

Last night there was some excitement cause some kids started lightin’ firecrackers so the police would come running. Not sure why they do something like that? Why would you want the police chasing you? Grandma says they no-good kids just making it harder on her to get to work. Three buses, walk some blocks and all so she can style hair at Aunt Lucille’s House of Beauty. She ain’t really my aunt, but we all call her that outta ‘spect.

My phone’s been blowing up with messages telling me to get down to the CVS. Smoke still coming from the place since it burned down Monday. The old people place they building burned down too. Grandma was looking to move there, church had it all set up for her. I could get my room back, not sleep on no damn couch anymore. Why they have to go a ruin that for me? I need me my space.

“Boy, I need you to go down the street and get me some milk. Don’t you be draggin back here two hours from now. You go, get milk, get back. You understand?”

“Yeah, grandma. I hear ya!”

Finally I get to see what all this ‘citement is about. Grandma give me $5 bucks and says to give her the change, she ain’t running no charity. Grabbin’ my jacket, I put my headphones in and start off.

I can see what’s left of that cell phone place that Korean guy run. The windows are gone. The shelves empty. Did he leave? That was fast. Then I see the police tape over the door. Yellow rope always means someone done something wrong. You see it here too much.

That market Grandma wants me to go to is closed up too. What have people been doin’? Mom was talking about people stealing stuff, but this looks like they took everything they could stuff in a pocket. There ain’t even no Windex sitting on a shelf. Grandma always talking bout how that stuff cleans anything.

“Excuse me young man, what do you think you are doing?” I know that voice! That neighborhood watch guy who always walkin’ and wavin’ at people. Always writing stuff down, ready to call the police if something not right.

“I’m just getting milk! What you care?” A little more loudly than I thought. Not smart, just angry I being ‘cused of doing something I ain’t.

“You best be getting back to your grandma, kiddo.” Writing something in that notebook and just wandering off. How’s even sure who I am? Stupid guard dog!

Taking the long way back so I can tell Grandma that I tried, I see the people picking bottles up in the park. Another bunch of people carrying off the remains of that jungle gym where Sheila let me kiss her last week. Jimmy so proud I finally be acting like a man, not no boy. She smelled like strawberry.

They start waving me over, asking if I wanted to help. “Grandma told me to get right back! She don’t know where I am.” But I want to stay, this looks like fun. At least it ain’t sittin on the porch staring at cars.

“Call your Grandma, tell her you here.” It’s that old guy who keeps walking by at night, Mr. Tyson. I think he got a thing for my grandma.

It might work. Grandma likes him too, maybe this is my get outta the house card?

She’s cool with it once I tell her whose her. She didn’t even ask me about the milk. Says she’ll bring some water or something for us to drink. Thank you Mr. Tyson! Grandma must really like you.

Everyone talkin bout how to replace this stuff. Where the money gonna come from, stuff like that. Maybe that guy who runs things at the community center might be able to help. Maybe, someone find some donor to take pity on us poor folk and just give us new stuff. That one gets boos. Ain’t no one gonna care later bout this.

Grandma comes down and the old people start talking about Dr. King. They saying he wouldn’t have been happy bout how things working out. People still talkin about that guy who died last week after he been arrested. Mom doesn’t like me watching the news, too depressing she says. But I hear the stuff at school. Teachers talking in class about how to act if things get bad. Way to talk to the police so you don’t end up in the back of some squad car. Grandma told me always answer with “yes, sir” and “No, sir”. Don’t say nothing stupid. Jimmy’s uncle always talking about they looking to lock up anybody, no reason. Some quota thing.

I see Sheila across the park. She just sittin there with her sister, sipping on some water. She starts pointing over where the jungle gym used to be and sorta shrugs her shoulders. I guess she don’t know where we gonna hang out later either.

Time to go home and sit back on that porch. Staring at cars goin by, some just cruisin’ looking for something to do. Other people driving through so they can see what the heck happened while the sun is still up. Before the curfew goes in at 10. Mom making sure she gets home in time, no need to have no police asking her where she coming from.

I just want to walk mt street without lookin over my shoulder. Me and Jimmy just talkin about girls. Talkin’ ’bout sports.

Just as I get round the corner I see flashing lights in the street. Why the police on Jimmy’s porch? And why they holding they hats while Jimmy’s moms be cryin? Grandma just holds my shoulder and tells me to stay where I at. We find out soon enough.

People over Places

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

I like going places where I can just walk around the joint.  It could be a museum or some landmark, but I truly prefer a place with some wandering is expected and encouraged by the facility.  Most of the time it also depends on who I am going with.  A trip to any place with my father turns into a Bataan Death March because he likes to walk at a rapid pace to observe things.  Some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet and my father is walking at 5 miles an hour, camera wrapped around his neck, looking for the next item on his mental checklist.  He’s gotten better because of grandchildren, but then they like to run anyway!

The last few years have been odd for travel.  Some money constraints, and other family things that just took priority.  Those family weddings were turned into longer trips, even a funeral was a multi-day adventure just so we had some time to get away.  For a while we were working different schedules, so even having dinner together was a treat for me.  That hour being the best part of the day.  But back to travel stuff…

I have only one stupid rule for when I travel, it has to be near a place where I can go for a run.  The hotel can have a gym, but running outside is the way to go.  The one exception being the weekend I spent in Philadelphia.  Too many traffic lights always working in the opposite way of my travels.  So I had to sacrifice history for ease of use.  Plus it let someone sleep in late while I would grind out a few miles.

Places with a sense of history have always been appealing to me.  Trips to Austria, Germany, italy [and I still won’t go back to Venice, I really dislike that place!]; they all have wonderful churches and palaces, museums of all sorts.  Even as a teenager I would wander around just insanely jealous of the structures they had built.  My camera going crazy trying to capture the water coming from carved deer heads or water pumped organs.  Even little parks in the countryside held a fascination where one of my companions would pose on a see-saw just so we could capture the scale of these toys.

I was 21 years old when some friends and I rented a house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  One of those family oriented communities where the businesses shutdown by 8 o’clock with the exception of the ice cream parlor and movie theater, which I think closed at 9!  There we were, dumb college kids, shacked up for the week.  We cooked out every night, each taking turns preparing something.  My pal Jason and I would get up and go play basketball in the morning for a hour or two.  Surprisingly not an ounce of alcohol was present.  We even spent our evenings playing board games or reading some novels.  Old people had invaded our bodies, or maybe we just learned to appreciate each other and didn’t need the other stuff.  [fun history lesson, my godson must have come about on that trip!  ‘Nuff said…]

There have been some wonderful trips over the years, but mainly I like to go with a few people who are of the same mind as I am about doing things.  The scenery doesn’t matter as much to me as spending the time with people.  Plenty of times we have gone in different directions to see opposing items, it’s never mattered to me.  The memories I have of all the places I have been are always accompanied by the people I was with.  So I guess I’m just happy wandering anywhere with people I care about.

No Magic Cure

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Full Moon.”

Last night, just like Saturday night, I sat watching the local news.  There really wasn’t any other option on the 1000 channels Comcast provides me with.  See, I live just south of Baltimore, Maryland and last night was some of the worst vandalism the city had seen in over 45 years.  People so angry with their lives that they took to looting their own neighbor’s businesses in order to make a point.  The news reporting people being upset that the rec centers and schools were being closed.  People upset with not having opportunity.  But most importantly they felt like they weren’t being heard.

I’m white, 43 years old, and live in the suburbs.  The exact opposite of what was being represented on the television screen.  My parents gave me and my brother every opportunity to achieve and succeed, sometimes they may have made it too easy for us.  They grew up working hard, just like their parents.  My post high school education cost over $500,000 with not an ounce of debt, an all cash transaction.  I can’t relate to what these people are going through.  I read it in case studies dealing with unions in the 1920’s, it’s not the same as living it daily.

Sometimes I joke about the doors my family has been able to open over the years.  There’s a museum in Pennsylvania where if you share my last name, the ropes come down and you get free reign of the building.  My nephew has access to places and things other’s could only stare at through glass.  There are actually pictures of him standing next to a sign that says “Do Not Touch” while he is holding the objects!

My father has been readying his own retirement and his company shifted him into a role where he still has a vast amount of influence, just not the daily grind.  All these people started asking him to stay, or offering thanks for his work should he finally decide to hang it up.  Those are big shoes to fill.  I’ve tried over the years, hell we share the same name even thought I one upped him in the degree collection department [yes, that extra Master’s counts Old Man!].

Why do you care?  Well, really you shouldn’t.  None of this affects you unless you know me.  But it goes to show that years of hard work went into building these reputations.  Years went into providing something that I was handed so easily that others are fighting in the streets to have a small piece of, and it confused me to watch.

I hope they understand later when they wonder why the jobs have left that it was because no one wants their business burned to the ground.  That local bar you looted, that was your neighbor who was trying to provide for his family.  That CVS where your grandma used to get her pills, that you burned to the ground, means she has to get on a bus and travel miles for the same thing.  The Church were your cousin got married, now is rubble.

When  my daughter died I railed against the machine, against God, against everyone.  I was angry, and I still am.  But I didn’t burn Johns Hopkins to the ground.  Sure I internalized the pain and grief so much that it is still a center of angst for me.  The worse damage I did was to myself, some to Whitney because we couldn’t talk together about it, but mostly to myself.

The prompt was supposed to be about some change that happens one mythical night.  That’s great, but true change doesn’t work like that.  And if there is something so glaring in my character that I know needs to be different, hard work is the only thing that will make it worth a damn.  The people rioting don’t know that the change they affected will take years to resolve.

But to give an answer to the question, I would love for one night to be able to talk to a friend.  Just get over the pain and play a board game for the night.  It’s stupid, it’s simple, and it won’t happen.  But boy can dream!

She’s Not a Good Watchdog…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Menagerie.”

I love big dogs.  Not the Marmaduke variety, something that could have a saddle placed on it and rented out for children’s parties.  Just larger than average dogs.  My current housemate is a 13 year old Husky/ Border Collie mix named Wooglin.  Strange enough name, well it goes back to the frat boy days where we learned some “lore” about a mythical dragon.  Woogie is be no means scary, she sniffs every person who comes on the property and treats them like family.  She is the worst kind of guard animal you could ever have.  The UPS driver doesn’t even get a second glance from her, if she even raises her head at all!

About a week after driving her home I had to get an electric fence.  She liked to run from one end of the neighborhood to the other, to her it was a game.  This wasn’t such a big deal to anyone, they were accustomed to my previous dog, who was going blind, just wandering around, looking for love.  Wooglin was all about bursting through the fence, she took the hit from the collar and just kept on going.  That was until she hit another yard with an electric fence, one more shock.  Let’s get out of this yard and move on to the next.  Another shock and by that time we had finally caught up to her, she was just a whimpering mess.  For the next couple of days all she would do was walk off of the deck to do her “business” and scurry right back into the house.

They talk about how animals know when something is wrong.  For a long time after my relationship ended, Wooglin would sit at the edge of the driveway waiting for mommy to come home.  Every night there she sat until it was long past dark and sadness set in.  Wooglin’s way too old now to jump up on the couch, so I sat on the floor with her for days.  It’s hard to break that habit for humans, let alone a dog that just wants love, a rub on the head [much like humans!].

The other part of my dog that I love was re-enforced over the weekend.  I’ve talked about the cancer and the chemo, but one of the lovely side-effects in my case are these blinding headaches.  I had to pack my head in ice most of the weekend and just lay there like a lump of coal.  My mother was taking care of the odds and ends things, but she tried with all of her might to get Wooglin to go outside yesterday morning.  Poor girl hadn’t been out for almost 14 hours at this point.  {sidenote – she has only ever had one accident in the entire 10 years I have had her.  And that was the first week when I didn’t realize what her “signs” were.  I learned quickly!]  Wooglin wouldn’t come out from next to the bed for any reason.  No treat, no gentle coaxing, nothing could get her to budge.  Eventually I had to just get my own butt out of bed for her to move along.

It’s amazing to me how she “knows” when things are just off.  Laying on my feet when I need her to, sensing those times when Daddy just can’t play but loves to have her around.  It’s hard during those times when I’m not home, wondering if she realizes I am thinking about her while she mopes around the house.  So much like a human it’s scary.  She just sat there with her head in my lap the day my daughter died.  She didn’t leave my side for days afterwards.

She doesn’t run the lengths of the neighborhood anymore, she fights taking walks longer than the length of the street.  Her back legs have a little arthritis in them and Wooglin has a nasty habit of scratching her ears until they are red and raw.  If she hears a loud noise, she’s outta here.  And for some reason she will bark at the trees every night around 8:30?  But I love her like a child.  She’s great with kids, never pawed any baby who has ever crossed the thresh-hold, just stands guard.  As amazed as the human adults, eyes filled with wonder.

There’s going to come a time when she just doesn’t get around anymore.  The stairs to the bedroom will be too much for her, maybe even the three steps off the deck.  And that’s scary to me.  I know we’re closer to those days.  13 years for a dog like her is a good run, 15 would be even better!  I know somewhere there is a little girl waiting for her to play catch, run like the puppy she once was.  Someone who will look after her.  I’m just not ready for that day.

What’s in the Box, Bill?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “BYOB(ookworm).”

Life was beginning to become a series of missed opportunities for William.  After almost losing his business as a result of the Market Crash, he was barely keeping things float.  Work was constantly asking questions, his home life was suffering as a result.  It looked like everything was about to disappear, leaving him alone.  But then one day a mysterious stranger arrives asking William to look after a package.  “People will be looking for this eventually, guard it.”

And than things started to change.  Every day William checked to make sure things were safely kept.  He also made sure to keep the same routine, but with a different sense of purpose.  Weeks grew into months of careful planning.  People started to ask what had changed, but were met with silence.  Always looking over his shoulder, always worried that this mysterious stranger was going to return seeking to take his purpose away.

And then one day it happened.  The package was gone.  No note, no warning, just gone.  And with it a series of events unfolds that takes William deeper into an underworld he didn’t know existed.

This is where the true mystery began.  Why was he picked to look after this box?  Who was the mysterious person and how could William find him?  Why was this all so important?

___________________________________

For me this prompt just had me thinking this story if ever written could go in two directions.  Firstly, I know I could easily tun this into a book about the loss of my daughter and the journey I’m on trying to understand why.  Metaphysics at its best?  But at the same time I could turn this into a story about cancer, another one of my issues.  That one is still being written and I’m not sure about the final outcome.  So maybe sticking with the daughter aspect would be better.

It was about having this little package arrive and all I could do was protect her.  All of the mystery of her potential is still allusive for me.  Who knows, maybe it would make for an interesting novel.  Authors always talk about how some incident spurned them on to write.  Hell if I know.  But I do know Hell.

I Miss the Music, or Maybe It’s the People? – A Writing 101 Production

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

Music, decent food made with love by a selection of vendors who are trying their best to outdo each other, and a bunch of rowdy people jockeying for space closest to a stage.  This is how I liked to spend the first weekend in May.  The DC101 Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation and Bud Light!  I get the irony in an alcohol based anything working with a national charity to raise money, but we’ll get to that later.  Standing under a series of tents, hawking beer to potential minors, praying that I didn’t have to wash my hands after every person I met tried to hug me; for me it was paradise and torture all at the same time.

Every year around March I would get a notice asking what I wanted to do to volunteer.  Check I.D.s, take tickets for the beer, help set up tables and later tear them down, or my go-to Selling Beer to Anyone with Money!  That sounds overly broad, if someone gave you a wrist band, I was selling you a ticket.  You’d wind your way through the rope, all 12 feet of it, hand me your money, I would hand you some tickets and point you towards the giant tanker truck style vehicles with taps in their sides.  This became more interesting as the day would go on, lots of drunk morons lost in the parking lot of R.F.K. Stadium just on the edge of Washington, D.C.

I’d pack Whitney up in the car, tell her that it was going to be fun [or the people I was laughing about would be the humor point], we’d watch a couple of bands and just do some good for a day.  I hated the Port-o-Pottys, I disliked the fact that I wasn’t sure if my car would be vandalized by someone from the surrounding hood, and I have a reputation for not liking people.  By the end of the day, my t-shirt saying proudly “One Last Call for Alcohol, 7:30 p.m.” covered in sweat.  Unfortunately I was usually the drunk who hugged me because I slid him an extra ticket.

Over the years I saw Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, plenty of other rock acts during my time slinging booze.  I never got over the people who would thank me profusely for selling them beer.  You gave me money, what did you expect me to do?!!  Even the year I felt creepy about the guys looking inside the shoebox we were storing the money in, until I put it in my backpack and walked it to security.  [The next year, they were a little better organized!]

Than, it just stopped.  No more asking for volunteers and then no more festival period.  I never heard why.  Clear Channel is a large enough company that they could have kept cajoling musicians into showing up.  The Kidney Foundation, well they do like to find ways to raise money.  These things always made plenty of that.  I sold $5,000 worth of beer on my own in the matter of a few hours.  There were at least 20 other doing the same thing, in four hour shifts, all day long!

I looked forward to that every year.  It was just one of those times when I would act goofy for a few hours with people I would never see again.  Or at least hoped I wouldn’t run into in a professional setting.  I looked forward to sitting in a chair, watching Whitney smiling back at me because while she wasn’t the biggest fan of this event, she knew I was secretly loving it.  Talking music, for a couple of hours with people who were so different from my daily routine, it excited me.

We’d drive back to Annapolis afterwards commenting about the people pouring both in and out of those Port-o-Potty stalls.  Some barely able to remember which direction the stage was in.  I’d talk about the first time hearing some of the acts first albums in college, she tell me about hearing some of those same things but she was still in high school.  There weren’t any worries about work, or family, nothing about doctors visits or some other issue.  I could always count those days as being something we could joke about, from the minute we left the house until the minute we crawled into bed exhausted from it all.

Maybe I miss it most, am angry about it’s having gone away because I always knew those were going to be good days.