Helping Hands, Part 1

[It’s been far too long since my last fiction project on this blog, and today’s as good as any to start a new work. Like many of my stories, this one’s been kicking around in my head for many years, and it feels good to finally commit to getting it out.]

Ven sat on the chair that he would soon carry down to the van he had rented for the day. The living room was a field of cardboard boxes and plastic crates, filled with the belongings (mostly books and electronics) that Ven had accumulated over the past six years. His roommate had moved out the prior evening, both of them agreeing not to assist in the other’s move, and Ven had finished packing by 11; when he had woken that morning to the quiet and empty rooms, he no longer felt comfortable in the apartment where he had lived in the two years since he had graduated.

Late morning sunlight reflected sharply off the bare floor. Ven took out his phone, checked the time — 9:54. If Quentin and Bonnie-B were their typically selves, they’d arrive in exactly six minutes. A thought came to him, or more exactly returned once again, to call or text the Richardsons, tell them they shouldn’t bother themselves, he really didn’t have that much stuff and could handle the move on his own. But what had Aidan told him at the bar the other night? You need to let them help you get your skinny little ass down to the city. And no, I’m not available.

The young man rose from his chair, side-stepped past the boxes and crates on his way to the bathroom. He didn’t need to relieve himself, he just needed to move, work out some of the anxiety he was feeling. His caught his reflection in a mirror, and paused, examining his face. He thought he looked terrible, not having shaved in two days, or showered after packing his toiletries yesterday. His hair had grown into rough brown tufts, like a weed-infested field; he was weeks overdue for a trim. He couldn’t look like this for the Richardsons, they were always so clean and well-groomed, like they were perpetually ready for a family portrait.

He ran the faucet, wet his fingers and began stroking his hair, when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He took out the device, examined the incoming message. We’re here! Ven sighed, and without responding to the message, quickly exited his apartment and began walking down the stairs to the entrance.

Friday Fictioneers: Within Belief

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Not always.” Craig36 AZ-19 pointed at the blank wall in front of them, and teleped the Archives. As the image formed, Winifred82 AZ-02 gasped.

“Is that — the sky?”

“Yes.” Craig36 smiled. “I stumbled across this during my research last week. It’s dated before the Cyber War, before clouds had completely covered the atmosphere. Before we needed the solar farm satellites.”

Winifred82 turned, her envirosuit constraining her movement. “But the sun’s hidden in this picture. You couldn’t find any pictures of the sun?”

Craig36 adjusted his suit’s oxygen filter. “I did. But I figured you’d find those beyond belief.”

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt by clicking the little blue frog.

Friday Fictioneers: Snowbody’s Business

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

Jack. Yes, this time I shall call myself Jack.

The cold night air has rejuvinated me. The Warmbloods have failed, temporarily, in their attempt to prevent my return.

My time is short, and I shall make it my business this evening to sink my icy fangs into Warmblood hearts. Soon I’ll leave, as I have in the past, and some day this world will be uninhabitable for me. But when the Warmbloods bar that door, I will know they have sealed themselves in their own tomb.

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt.

Friday Fictioneers: Cheers

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

By the time Lester had emptied the beer bottle, he’d wandered into a large field, no trash can or any other receptacle in sight. With a dismissive shrug and an unspoken apology to nature, he tossed the bottle aside. An unexpected thunk stopped him, and he walked over to the sound’s source.

The bottle deflected off the decapitated head of a mannequin. A tree branch lay across the mannequin’s shattered face; without understanding why, Lester picked up the bottle and rested it on the face, adjusting the branch to secure the placement.

Lester stood, belched, and laughed. “Cheers, mate.”

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt.

4 – 8 – 15 – 16 – 23 – 42

After a three-month hiatus, Ana Spoke has resumed posting to her blog today. Explaining she “was too busy getting married and starting my new job” to blog, Ana never did lose her literary ambition, although she struggled mightily to get back into her writing.

The difficulty Ana faced in re-starting speaks powerfully to a dilemma that’s been coming for some time. About five years ago, I was writing sporadically in this blog, and wasn’t happy with what I was posting. I had read from several bloggers that the key was to make a committment of some fashion — number of posts per week, word count, completing a story each month, whatever — and stick to it. Many suggested that posting each day was the key, and for whatever reason that committment was the most appealing to me. Not sure of the exact date, although I do know it was the day after my younger son’s bar mitzvah (I could look it up, as if that mattered) — I told myself I was going to post something, every day, in this blog, starting that day until… whenever.

I’m now wondering if whenever’s day has finally come.

At times, the show’s title perfectly described its audience

It’s not that the thrill is gone; I still love writing, and blogging, as much as ever. But this daily obligation has me feeling like Desmond Hume from the television show “Lost”, tasked with entering six numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42) into a computer terminal every 108 minutes (I’ll save you the work — the six numbers add up to 108). Desmond was told this sequence of numbers had a supernatural power, and entering those numbers was the only way to prevent a catastrophic event. “Lost” was a cult phenomenon in its day, and its fans spent a good deal of time and energy speculating on some of the show’s recurring motifs, particularly those six numbers (hey guys, astrology has 12 houses and 9 planets — guess what number you get when they’re multiplied!). Posting on online message boards, speaking at conventions, and giving interviews to fawning entertainment writers, the show’s writers would frequently drop hints at the numbers’ significance, but after the show ended in 2010, they admitted most of show’s motifs had no hidden meaning. Those numbers had been chosen pretty much at random, and served as nothing more than a useful plot device, what the detective novelists would call a red herring. In other words, Desmond had been entering those numbers for absolutely no reason.

The decision to post every day was the right call five years ago, as I don’t think I could have produced as much as I have if I didn’t have that disciplined motivation. But there’s been too many obligatory posts the past several weeks, and I don’t see the value in keeping the streak going any longer. My Christian readers will likely say that I’ve made an idol out of my daily obligation — and they’re likely to be correct.

But as I contemplate stepping away, I think of Ana’s struggle to resume writing. Let’s say tomorrow, Wednesday, I decide not to post. What’s going to motivate me to post on Thursday? Or any other day this week? Next week? The rest of the month?

If you’ve managed to wade through the preceding 500+ words, I’m now asking a favor. What advice do you have for blogging consistently, but not daily? What tactics do you employ to keep posting regularly? I don’t want to be like poor Desmond any longer, but right now I’m at a loss in my search for a different way of being diligent.

Competing

Been five months since my last post about fencing. Going to practice consistently, once or twice a week; being at the club, surrounded by people who have the same passion for the sport as I do — very invigorating. Haven’t been competing or refereeing in tournaments since that post in September, which is not entirely surprising since organized competitions aren’t the reason I got back into this sport. Thoroughly enjoy competing and officiating at the club; still trying to find my comfort zone at tournaments.

Asked my coach the other day about goals for the coming year, and she replied that my mental approach to the game needs to catch up with my physical abilities. I know what I’m supposed to do on strip, and I’ve accomplished enough to know I can be competitive — finding that comfort zone has been my biggest challenge. To be as relaxed and focused during fencing as I am when bowling — they’re two very different sports (nobody’s coming at you with a weapon when you’re bowling), but there’s a serenity that can be found in each.

Voices in a Tough Time

This is a difficult season for people suffering from depression. It’s dark when we rise, dark on the drive home, the weekends wet and gray. Winter seems to have begun ages ago, with no promise of relenting. There’s never a good time of year for depression, but times like these are worse than usual.

I’m actually having a better February than I’ve had in years past. Maybe it’s because of the fairly mild weather (only had to use the snow blower four times so far); maybe it’s the enthusiasm I feel about my writing; maybe my abstinence from alcohol in January has given me an advantage over my darker moods; maybe regular exercise has kept the endorphin flowing; maybe I’m giddy that one of my favorite professional sports teams has just won a championship (no, I can’t be that shallow… can I?… maybe I can). It’s probably a combination of all those elements, some of which I can control, others not so much. Whatever the reasons, I accept this bounty with gratitude, and will fight like hell to keep feeling this way.

For many people, communication can be a powerful tool in combating depression. In that spirit, I want to share posts from bloggers who write powerfully about this subject. I’ve shared posts from each of these blogs previously, and do so again because their work continues to deserve recognition:

  • Depression can manifest itself as an almost physical presence, and few other writers can convey this sensation more acutely than Megan at The Manic Years

  • lilypup’s blog provides an honest journal of an entire family suffering from emotional disorders. It can be a heart-wrenching read at times, but lilypup never asks for the reader’s sympathy — only their understanding.
  • Depression Comix never makes fun of depression, but does find space for humor in the lives of people who suffer from the disease

 

Grinding

The revision of The Land Without Mosquitos is not going as well as I’d hoped. In the fall, I submitted the first three chapters for review by the local writers group I’ve joined, yet after nearly three months of work on chapter four I don’t feel I’m any closer to being finished. I’d hoped to submit for this month’s meeting (we meet the second Saturday of each month), but by the end of January I knew I wasn’t ready.

Part of the problem is that I’m introducing a character who didn’t appear in any of the earlier drafts, and that character will be the catalyst for a subplot that’s also new to the narrative. For those reasons, I don’t want to give in and submit what I have in its current state; this character and his story are important, and demand a proper introduction. No sense in creating a mess that I’ll have to salvage later.

I’ll play the role of reviewer this Saturday (there’s some good work done by this group), then push on with chapter four. Submissions are due two weeks before the meeting, so that gives me three weekends, with one being extended for the Presidents Day holiday. Think I should get out of the house, escape from domestic distractions; go to a coffeehouse, perhaps, or a library. Spend three, four hours just writing; repeat if necessary. Whatever it takes to grind out that chapter, craft something I’m proud to have critiqued by my peers.