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Sunday, January 25, 2015

the germ of a new story

Yeah..just look at her face for a second.

The shit we used to hear! And yes dear, we listened in. Just for a second to make sure the connection was good.

Way back in the day, I was a telephone operator for Ma Bell. It was just like that, right down to the equipment.

I could write a book!

The premise could go in two directions . Like her, it could easily happen that you accidentally overheard something that you wished to God you hadn't. Shit ensues. It happened to me more than once.

And then there was my daily idle fantasy of establishing my own phone company called the ES&D network. That stood for "eat shit and die". A network for the burgeoning legion of creeps who liked being abused over the phone. I believe they have grown up to be fans of E.L. James.

The customer would pay fifty bucks a month for the service (a lot back then for a phone) and could only call The Operator who would abuse  him (or the rare her) in a creative and deeply offensive manner for a minute or two and then hang up on them to the tune of a dollar a minute. You never get to make or receive any real calls. Some called it Heaven.

At Ma Bell we had to be unrelenting pleasant and professional no matter what the caller said to us and NOBODY ever called up the telephone operator to say "Have a nice day!"  There is nothing that anyone could say to me over the phone that would shock or insult me. It's all been said.

I conspired with a core group of other evil minds on our coffee breaks over what we would say to people on that fabled Last Day at Work. You know, the day you snatch the headset off, fling it blindly, stand on a chair and have your say and then, walk out.

Unfortunately, back in the late sixties, working as an operator for Ma Bell was one of the highest paying blue collar jobs a woman could get so not too many of us jumped ship with our hair on fire.

Oh, the stories I could tell you.


Friday, January 23, 2015

night skating

waiting until after midnight, waiting for the furnace to kick on so the sound would cover my movements, the muttering mechanicals breathing warmed air throughout the house, everyone deep into their dreams but me.

Thick socks over thin, jeans and sweater pulled on over pajamas, I sat in a chair in the kitchen and pushed my feet into my skates and laced them tight, tight, my high heels, in just enough time to ease the back door open, slip out and close it before the furnace sighed and stilled.

the ground was covered with brittle brown grass, frozen hard and unforgiving of the misstep. I picked my way carefully down across the yard to the edge of the lake where the ice had trapped little pockects of air that you wanted to avoid stepping on and cutting with the sound like ripping silk.

keeping the blades flat and taking the first steps out onto the black ice..right foot left foot ..tock. tock, tock  then leaning and letting the glide take me further away from the house into deeper silence and darkness  then setting the toeteeth and pushing off. Another long glide before settling into the rhythm and picking up speed, steadying, shifting and lifting the right foot up and back, leaning in and forward, shoulders down, head up..flying into the night on that burning, bad, but anchored, ankle. 

Picking up speed in a wide arc I fly off into the darkness for  a while but soon catch a careless toe and go sprawling. Heated up and winded, I lie on my back and look into the overcast blackness unable to find any stars, my eyes smarting with the cold. The ice speaks underneath me then, through me, a thrummimg groan, booming low and pinging high at the same time. letting me know it's gathering strength under me as unseen snowflakes land on my burning cheeks and melt instantly the water running into my hair.


  originally posted here

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

taking instruction, or not

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, there are two "how to" books in that pile. "The Fire in Fiction" by Donald Maas and the other that I won't even  mention because, one chapter in, I'm already disappointed. Oh well, out of a heap like this I'm glad the first stinker is non-fiction.

"My writing has been stalled by a variety of life circumstances" is complete bullshit and a handy statement of fact. When the fever is on me, I write, no matter where or when. Any writer will tell the same thing.

In this little slack sail period I've been reading. Didion and Maas are great inspirations from two very different points on the compass, but when I started reading "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" I did what I always do, check the first date of publication. In this case, 1961. It helps me to fix the author in her time to get a better feel for the writing. I got to wondering if Joan Didion could even find work these days. I don't think she'd make a good blogger.

Then I started reading a few online articles about the trials and tribulations of present day authors and the pros and cons of the various methods of publication. To simplify, either the traditional path or e-publishing and all the variants in between. Daunting? How about stomach turning.

An associate, who was actually making a comfortable living selling her writing, has had that rug yanked out from under her by this changeover in the publication world and spoke about having to find part time work just to survive. It's almost enough to make one chuck the manuscript in the drawer and hire oneself out as a nanny.  Almost.

"Just write" they say.

Not inspired or hopeful, I opened said manuscript up last night and picked out a section with only a few paragraphs. It was a framework for action, like a trellis. In about an hour of work, it became a living thing with heart, head and purpose. If no one but me ever sees the finished work, the satisfaction I felt when I was finished working on it last night was enough to keep me going today.

Friday, January 2, 2015

dog flu

I kept my promise to Day One and hit the trek on the Greenway. It was sunny and cold, cold, but I was prepared. I should have noticed that I was only perceiving cold cold. It was not the weather, but me. Illness underway.

Layered, gloved, earbuds, my shuffle making love to my ears, I set out in hopes of reclaiming a little lost stamina. Just before I locked the car I thought  'pen and paper'. Ok, you never know. I've been dithering about a big scene, the bad guy take down, and gave it two seconds of thought before I had to negotiate with the dogs. Guy on two leads being dragged by two blind looking, big, strong, Man Ray dogs that mystical shade of gray. They wanted to know what I was thinking.


This part of the trail attracts a lot of dog walkers and, lately, the dogs are all giving me the stink-eye. Friendly people with what are probably friendly dogs have to haul them up short on their leashes because they all want to investigate me. Why not? I live with three cats. It's my reaction to these investigations that's unnerving. I find myself stepping off the trail and standing still as if the old invisibility trick will actually work.

So, I'm trudging along, not being able to find the swing. My legs are being dumb and needing constant instruction. "Don't step on that. Stride longer. Watch out stupid". It's like I'm walking my own two witless hounds. Then, a idea occurs out of the blue, a particularly nasty mindset and some dialogue, and I pull over to lean on the convenient railing and scribble stuff down before it evaporates.

 Another fifty yards down the trail and I pull over again for a few more notes, but really  a few more deep breaths that aren't working. There is a pain in the center of my chest where the air seems to be bottlenecking and a twin pain in the hinge of my right shoulder. What's this then? A fucking heart attack? I'm only at the damn quarter mile marker but cold sweat on my face and common sense prevail and I turn to head back.

After a minute I seem to find my stride and breath and stop worrying about dropping dead in a pile of dog shit (not everyone scoops the poop) and  I stop one final time for a little more scribbling with my back to the traffic when I get the magic weimaraner nose lift  from behind. I almost peed on his head.

I turned around and the big bozo jumps up to wash my sweaty face for me with his tongue. He's slipped his lead, Daddy nowhere to be seen. I'm hanging on to the railing to keep from going down. My notes, pen and one glove  go over the side, down into a ravine where the paper is quickly swallowed by some industrial looking slime oozing along into the creek.

In seconds, goofuss dog daddy hollering "Fred, Freddy" rounds the bend and pulls Fred off me, all apologies. Who names a dog Fred?  I assured him I was only sticky. All I wanted was to make it back to the car where I sat and hopefully rewrote most of what was lost,  then drove straight home, no retail side trips. Something was bearing down on me.

I was sick as shit until four in the morning, most of that time spent rolling this way and that in the sheets completely bulldozing a king sized bed, trying unsuccessfully to find the cool place that wasn't freezing and the soft spot that didn't feel like bricks.

At some point I forced myself to get up, take a handful of something with a half quart of apple cider and went back to bed to finally pass out. It must be the dog flu. I dreamed I was standing in front of Freddy who was seated at a desk flicking his way through my manuscript with a red pen muttering "It's mostly shit, but only mostly."

Back to work.