Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30 november

You know how it is when you’re almost there? But you’re not? There’s a strange space that exists when you feel that you’re getting closer to the end -- and you can see the finish line approaching, and it’s closer than it’s ever been before -- but yet, in these unfortunate cases, you find yourself stuck in the air. Nothing is stopping you -- inertia should be pushing, you, right? Gravity itself should be pulling you in, right to the core of success. Faster. Speedier. Physics, et. al. Right?

And yet.


There’s a feeling, sometimes, that you are getting slowly stuck. Like everything is getting more steadily slowed down and broken down into microsteps instead of the leaps and bounds that you were so easily accomplishing before. That rapidfire progress of the past is somehow drifting out of your grasp -- how were you ever able to get so much done so fast?

When it slows further, you feel that you are suddenly swimming in a pool of honey. Moving is possible, but it’s ridiculous. How are you supposed to get anywhere in this situation? Doesn’t anyone else see what is happening here? Why isn’t anyone helping?

Further, the honey starts to harden. You imagine you will be stuck -- one of those insects embedded forever in a resin necklace. Disgusting. But it’s impossible to escape. Where was the finish line again?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

29 november

How must it sound? To say that what she is writing is coming true? A simple answer: it must sound ridiculous. She punched out the numbers on the keyboard and thought this through. While she did not love math, there was something about the simple calculations involved in managing a store well, sort of managing the store, as much as she could manage. Math was clear. Whenever there was a problem, there was a solution. Maybe this was only true because she worked math at its most simple levels, but still. Why had she had this conversation with Dennis? Maybe she should wait and have this talk with the teacher. But really, she wanted to get to the end already. How could she go back and make changes and improvements if she didn't have a draft? But, if this hilarious and ridiculous Theory were true, what if she was taking lives in her hands every time she wrote something new? Wasn't it safer for all of the characters if she proceeded with a plan in mind? Not for the first time, she thought about how glad she was not to be God. If such a thing or being or person or entity or whatever even existed. Humans can create anything, of course.

Monday, November 28, 2016

28 november

Sitting at a red light, each of us in our own little tuna cans, each one of us is secretly a dolphin, we are all contemplating the net. The next game, the net worth. What our net will get in the next paycheck. So much to lose. So little to gain. Nets are made of holes, after all. And so the holy rolling continues. The light is green. Go, go, go.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

27 november

Sometimes, meaning times like this, she just wanted to drive. Where was unimportant. Who had a destination in mind anyway? There was only forward. Away. Maybe toward something unknown.

It’s not like she was some amazing driver or had some amazing car or whatever, but she loved the feeling of progress. Stillness was fine sometimes, but motion and getting there and the wind and a bit of blur could help burn off whatever might be hanging on and dragging down.

It wasn’t necessarily a logical thing. But this was America. Not to say there was no logic, but to confirm the love of the open road. As a country significantly reliant upon its citizens owning or renting or otherwise getting about in cars in order to make it from one place to another, there was no need to justify this need for -- if not speed, at least movement.

Welcome Interstate Managers! came to her mind. What’s that? Modest Mouse, maybe? Anyway, an album. No -- Fountains of Wayne. Duh.

Thank you, gas stations of America!

Thank you, highway system!

Gratitude always helped, when it was possible to muster.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

26 november

This is why he was checking his phone. This is why everyone else was checking their phones. Not because his wife would apologize to them -- or anyone, at any time, for any reason. But because something might happen suddenly. For better or for worse -- and suddenly the rest of those standard marriage vows filled the rest of the sentence -- for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health: anything could happen, and life might change in an instant.

He looked up. Everyone else was looking down. Suddenly someone caught his eye. And gave it back. End of interaction. The crowd shifted, and that someone was gone. It had been a familiar face. A man? He wasn’t even sure. It didn’t matter. The eye had been returned.

Friday, November 25, 2016

25 november

Sometimes you're driving away from the place and you feel like your heart will break.. Anyway, where else do you have to go? Where else will you be treated so kindly? Where else would you be loved, hug, cuddled, and altogether paid attention to? This is the wonder of having a family. Whether it's your parents, your siblings, or anyone else you're lucky enough to be related to, driving away seems like the stupidest thing that you could do. While you are there, you may be annoyed by the smallest things. You wonder why people don't just take your advice. You wonder why you're not just in charge of this whole thing anyway. You are an idiot to wonder this. It would be exhausting to be in charge of everything. And yes, the way some people do things shocks you and baffles you. However, to return to the point, as you drive away, you will wonder why you are driving away. Where did you say you were going?
As you drive away, you will think of all the mistakes that you're making in your own personal life. You wonder why you always seem to take the wrong things so seriously. You wonder why it seems that everyone else has long since figured this whole thing out. You wonder why you seem to be the only one without a clue. The only one driving home alone. The only one driving home to an empty house. And then, if the universe is aligned correctly, something will happen to remind you. Something will happen, like a beautiful sunset. It sounds like a ridiculous hypothetical line from a greeting card, but you can believe me, that's really what just happened. If you've put in your time, your energy, and enough good deeds, hopefully the universe will occasionally reward you with a sunset to make the difference.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

24 november

So, as a writer, it’s no surprise that I like these explorations. If you’ve been trying to track which characters are moving forward and which are moving backward, plus wondering where I’m headed with any of this, you’re in good company. I’m right there with you. Even though, as a reader, I enjoy the satisfaction of reaching the perfectly formulated solution of a well-crafted plot puzzle, as a writer, I trend in a different direction.

Consider what it would be like if you already knew the end of your life. Or, let’s not be so dramatic. Let’s say you know exactly how some big puzzle in your life will work out. Then what? Do you just plod along until it happens? Are you inspired to try to change the outcome? Do you live your life differently with this knowledge in mind? Do you live your live at all?

Free will, you know. I’m into that. I like it for myself and I like it for my characters. As a result, I’m not always sure where they’re going. Even as I catch glimpses, based on the foreshadowing they’ve somehow managed to toss back to me, I really try to keep them a bit in the dark. It’s only fair. If we were on stage and I told you that by the end of the next forty pages, you’d need to be seven more steps toward stage right, what would you do? I think I’d leave. Just try to tell me what to do!

I want to see every possibility! What happens if I run away? What happens if I dance? (Honestly, I hope you do, because I’m surely not about to.) What about all the parallel universes in which I make different choices? What if?


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

23 november

Denise had been listening. That Guy looked very attentive, but in an inattentive and cool way, as always. It was a small class today. Not like small people. Just a small number of people. A low number? There were not very many people in class.

You know that the teacher will call on Denise. She’s the only character whose name you know. It’s inevitable. What will she have written? Does she have dreams? Could we get some plot going here for her, rather than all of this splashing around in characterization? Plus, she has to read with him. With That Guy. Right? Obvious.

The teacher scans the room. His eyes land on the gentleman in question. “Ready to go?”

“Yes, sir,” That Guy says, jumping out of his seat. He’s holding two copies of his scene.

“And the scene calls for, what, one more person?”

“Yes, sir.” Adorable. Sir. Well done.

“Well, have at it,” says the teacher, leaning back.He flips open his notebook as if to make significant reflective remarks and not a grocery list. Anything is possible.

Scanning the room, That Guy looks right at everyone. Right. At. Every. One.

Denise feels her face flush. She’s read this story before. She tries to fix her hair without appearing to fix her hair. She checks her teeth with her tongue. Not that it’s possible to tell anything that way.

“Grace? Would you mind?”

In one version of this scene, Grace would be a peppy and blonde seductress, somewhere between 20 and 22, with long legs and a tendency to blush delicately at the seemingly accidental double entendres she couldn’t help but drop everywhere in her wake.

In another version, Grace would be a middle-aged short order cook who had taken very early retirement when her husband (I was going to say took ill, but then it would really be horrible for That Guy to have chosen her for This Scene) struck rich on an unexpectedly long shot investment. That is, the investment had always been a long shot, but the payoff was completely unexpected. Who knew how popular any given scheme could be? But let’s let Grace tell the story some other time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

22 november

On the side: Writing is an excellent way to figure stuff out. One must only consider the case of Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote. Ahem. Not that she wrote her way out of the cases featured in the episodes. But! The correlation between writing and solving of mysteries is strong. There’s a reason why so many of us -- not just writers -- find mysteries so appealing, whether in writing or in television or films. Unlike stories that start in airports and drift into who knows where, a mystery is going somewhere. Whatever happens to reveal the puzzle, the aim is toward a solution. By the point when the author and reader run out of shared pages -- or when time runs out on the film or TV show -- there must be some answer to the question. The detective must piece together the clues and arrive at some conclusion. Whether it makes everyone happy or not, whether it seems ethically appropriate to enforce necessary punishment, or even whether it’s even the absolute end, this conclusion must include a kernel of satisfaction. The return of so many detectives and the extension of so many series -- Agatha Christie’s wonderful but obnoxious mustachioed Belgian, Hercule Poirot, and busybody biddy Miss Jane Marple; Holmes who need not be named, preferably of the Humperdink Cumberbund variety; and even the recently retired Inspector Chopra, who, when I first encountered him a few weeks ago in an airport bookstore, had just been gifted with a baby elephant by his beloved but now deceased uncle -- indicates the appeal. We see the success, we enjoy the solution, and we want more. We hope to learn from the process of these mostly noble investigators, not only to solve the puzzles pages before they do -- and not in the style of an Encyclopedia Brown cheat, involving a flip upside down to the back of the book for the answers -- but to apply these lessons to the rest of our lives. In only one hundred pages, an answer! In 90 minutes, all will be well! In 44 minutes (allowing for commercials), all of the unraveled pieces will fit into a clear and simple pattern and the next step forward will be clear.

22 november

Monday, November 21, 2016

21 november

She checked her phone first.


It’s like knowing that there’s a lion’s den next door, then going and sticking your face in it. Hey! Lions! Over here! What’s going on? Is it snack time, or what?

So many reasons she didn’t get any writing done. Why not get a snack, too? Come to think of it, when was the last time she worked out? Maybe she should vacuum. Did the water filter need changed? Probably the bathroom could do with a good scrub.

Come on.

She sat at the desk and scooted up the chair. As if closing herself tight up against the table would keep her from escaping. She shook her head at herself. So many tricks. It was like setting the clock in her car fast to keep herself moving. But then knowing that the clock was fast. So. Ahem.

Open laptop. She pulled the stack of Things closer and flipped it over. Chronology. Inventory. Go.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

20 november

No tossing, then. I had the feeling that my muscles were under some sort of reconstruction. As if at any moment I might catch a glimpse of a tiny character scampering over my elbow with a small pick ax. Is that one word? Pickax? A hammer, then. A tiny less-than-Lego army of construction workers and doctors and nurses and miners and architects. Some would be shaking their heads. Some would be poking things. Some would be shouting in less than audible language in a surely foreign language something that would roughly translate as “WE CAN REBUILD!”

With this groaning and stretching sensation in my muscles and my real concern for crushing these hypothetical little people, I went back to sleep. As if my dreams would make more sense than this reality.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

19 november

A few students shifted in their chairs. Or in her imagination. Either way, she quickly added, “I think that if you have that kind of faith or belief system, more power to you. Or to whoever you choose to believe is in charge, I guess. I don’t mean any disrespect. It must be great to be able go to bed at night or wake up in the morning and know that everything will work out the way it’s meant to.”

“That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect, just because there’s a plan,” shot out a girl across the room. Defensive. Not just imagined.

“No, of course not. I mean--”

“So in relation to the story?” Plodding a bit, but kind.

“So, the same. If I’m reading something -- or if I’m writing something -- I don’t want to have the whole situation completely planned out, with the route laid out in front of me. I don’t want to open the book and have a big map inside the front cover, then spend the whole book tracing that map.”

Defensive seat-shifting among the fans of fantasy and science fiction.

“So, down with plot?” She knew that one on one, he was great. Some of the interpretation was for the benefit of the group.

“Of course there should be some plot. I just don’t want to plot the whole plot in advance. Otherwise, sometimes I end up with my plot plotting against me!”

Friday, November 18, 2016

18 november

Ghostwriting might be okay, but really -- would it? Just giving the credit away? Probably wouldn’t have the final word anyway, so it might be just as well her name not be the one on the cover. Would it be somewhere on the inside, though? Like ‘with help from’? Or ‘with support from’? ‘Featuring the syntactical stylings of’? ‘Couldn’t have done it without’? Probably not any of those.

At least a check, anyway. And isn’t that what every writer wants? It’s the check that makes the professional, after all. She rolled her eyes at this misconception. What does a writer want? Who knows. Usually not the writer. Not this one, anyway. Fame? Fortune? Readers galore?

Lunch, for now. Some of that twisty Armenian string cheese with those little black seeds in it. Nigella not Lawson. Delicious.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

17 november

I’m pretty sure this is not what happens next, he thought. He wondered if saying this out loud might help.

The odds of ending up alone together were unlikely enough. Having dinner together was also strange. When was the last time he had eaten dinner alone with a woman who was not his wife?

It’s not like anything inappropriate had happened. It had simply worked out that they’d left the last session at the same time, had discussed dinner options, and had headed to the same place. They’d even taken separate cars. Nobody else from the group had joined, so it was a table for two. He tried not to seem awkward about it. As a result, he felt completely awkward.

The fact that she was reasonably attractive did little to help minimize the awkwardness. Let’s say. But really. At what point on the scale would it not have been awkward? Maybe if she had been a man. But then would people think they were gay? The fact that he was wearing a wedding ring only made him self-conscious.

When they walked out to the parking lot, she offered him a drink back at her hotel room. A client at the conference had presented a nice bottle of wine to her as a gift, but she’d be flying home and couldn’t take it on the plane.

Not the scene, he thought to himself. The moon seemed unnaturally bright. Fictionally so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

16 november

She opened her eyes, slowly. Too much. She quickly shut them again.

One of the issues with morning was how much of it came at once. Light. Sound. Smell. Sometimes the hard bounce of small child hurtling in at breakneck speed. So rarely a gentle touch.

If morning could be delivered in layers -- or slices, or some other kind of increments -- that would be ideal. It’s a service she would subscribe to. No doubt it would be available soon, in the convenience-as-commodity marketplace the world was fast becoming. Evolution? Devolution?

For now, anyway, she brought her hand up to her face, felt the grimace planted and growing in the flesh and furrows: she’d have to deal with it.

A magazine page flashed in her mind and the headline spun before coming dizzily into focus. Smile First, Day Later. But would it work? The article advocated a big smile first thing in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day. “While the practice may not seem scientific,” one research was quoted as saying, “we have found it to achieve successful results among a surprising number of participants in our studies.” Hardly a ringing endorsement, but what could you?

She yawned and stretched her jaw. Massaging her cheeks, she pulled a smile into place and patted her face with her hands as if to ensure its accuracy.

She opened her eyes.

Then closed them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

15 november

And there it was again. Fight or flight. It’s blissful to blow through the early easy phases where nothing needs an up-close look. Why bother leaning too far in or pressing too hard on those tender spots? But then without fail -- there would come a point at which a decision had to be made. Really, every day -- every minute -- is a decision. Sit. Stay. Chew. Nod. Live. Love. Run. But somehow, the frames would get jumbled and suddenly the question: cut the line or let it struggle on?

Only a woman would pose it as a question, he had once thought. A man would just walk away. But now?

He wanted to ask, but he didn’t want to darken the air with the idea. It was like the general public’s (inaccurate) fear that talking about suicide led to more suicides. In this case --

He closed his eyes.

Monday, November 14, 2016

14 november

She imagined herself streaming through the great halls, diverting attention from all angles. Just as she had when she was a child running or riding a bike, she felt her hair flowing behind in a shampoo commercial breeze. Was it vanity? From this description, it certainly sounds like it. But really, it was more of the feeling of threading through those throngs with grace, navigating with elegant ease.

It’s not as if she was aiming to make any connections -- with people, of course; she did aim to connect with the right planes as planned on her tickets. There was safety in this anonymity, though. A perfect glance, angled and reflected, offered more recharge than any inflight coffee or cocktail could ever hope to. Nothing need follow, and nothing ever would.

Onward, upward, away. An admiring look. A child’s wonder. The dreamy approval of a young couple wandering toward their next destination together. So many looks to catch. Motion. And the look to return? Confidence. Forward. Self-aware. She might never -- would never -- be on a catwalk, but this was the closest display she’d ever want. Get it. Know it. Go.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

13 november

Maybe it’s oxygen that fails to make it to the brain -- squeezes out of every available nerve and fires each tiny zap until the collapses between synapses short circuit and the day must be done, no matter what other plans were made, what answers should be written. The explanations bubble up but none cures the problem. Into the dark. Roll over and out.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

12 november

And yet. Somehow. One stranger at a time. Picking up clues, answering in kind, tuning in to tone -- suddenly these conversations could become so personal, so fast.

But why make these connections? Still looking for Someone Wonderful? Just hoping to pick up some advice? Aiming to open up those tightly controlled gates?

“Good thing you’re such an extrovert,” the HR director had said to her after she’d emcee’d the company’s annual holiday party program. Unbelieveable, these people.

Still looking, then.

Sometimes finding, sometimes being found.

Friday, November 11, 2016

11 november

Working backward, he realized how long it had been since he had taken a vitamin. Why had he even packed them in his suitcase? He was pretty sure he hadn’t had one all week. Most people would probably have some other system to make such a calculation, like dumping them out and counting the remaining tablets. Not this guy.

Instead, he remembered back to The Applesauce Incident. Historically, he’d always had trouble swallowing things -- big things, that is, like those capsules in commercials they’re always pulling apart to pour out the goodness inside -- for display purposes only, of course.

Stop thinking about this. The point is to try harder. The point is always to try harder, isn’t it? This is one of the reasons he’s not too fond of reflecting: the realization is always that there’s plenty of room for improvement. Still, anyone who thinks otherwise, upon reflection, probably simply has more reflecting to do.

Anyway. Vitamins. Who knows if they make a difference. Minerals or psychology? At least some elements should contribute to a positive result, right? Leftover vitamins, though, tell their own tale.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 november

Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay in takeoff. Our departure was delayed by one passenger who didn’t behave according to the rules of the air. He and his luggage have been removed and we should be leaving shortly.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve now reached our cruising altitude and will soon begin our inflight service. I’d just like to thank you all for your patience with our delay. I’m not sure how much I should say about the situation, other to say that we were not too keen to have him on board.

If only we knew why that guy was pulled off the plane. That would make a great story.

Yeah, like the time the guy next to me did a line of coke before take-off.

Well, technically, I’m not really sure that would actually be ‘rules of the air’ -- we were still on the ground.

We were still on the ground this time.

Yeah, alright.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

9 november

It was a pledge drive again. For some reason, she couldn’t get enough of the messaging. Even as it cut into the regular programming and prompted shows to air episodes compiled of clips layered in with generous slices of do-your-share, designed to get across either a carrot or a stick nudge, and sometimes both at once. With all these bits wedged together, some dressing, and a healthy appetite for guilt and a belief in common giving to the common cause, it was a pretty customized recipe that went down easy in this very specific market. GOT IT, she could have said. She did, and they had it, too -- her donation -- and at the monthly sustaining member, no less, thank you all very much.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

8 november

He was remembering the election night he spent in Denmark listening to a rich strudel of language lapped around the names of candidates he’d long since tired of hearing about at home. The incomprehensibility was almost a relief, although he was anxious to see numbers. He was both pleased and distressed at the amount of attention paid abroad to US elections, but what to do? A few well-placed reactions and he’d manage to join in. Popcorn and a few drinks. More rounds of reinforcements as the night wore on. The immense pressure he felt as The Opponent took several early successes. How could he hold his head up here if the unthinkable were to occur?  It could not be thought.

Watching the Vikings brought all this back crashing down. The clerk chewed his lip and rocked back in his chair. Way, way back.

Monday, November 7, 2016

7 november

Pulling over his pullover, he picked up his wallet and room key card, taking care to put each in separate pockets. That demagnetization thing was real enough to be annoying. He tried to be careful. Should he drive? The store was maybe a half mile away. He imagined somebody noticing him from a distance drive away and pull up. Ridiculous, that person would think.

How much of life is based around calculations of awkwardness? He wondered this often.

He decided to drive. Ridiculous, he thought.

At the store, he picked up a magazine and a small bag of honey mustard pretzels along with the deodorant. He didn’t really need either. Again. It just seemed awkward otherwise.

The girl behind the counter didn’t say anything. No doubt she had her own thoughts. There were basically two options. Either she had it totally together and would imagine his doubts ridiculous, or she was just as confused as he was to be up in the middle of the night contemplating this purchase and the deeper questions revolving around the innate awkwardness of life.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

6 november


It was Denise. She was standing above him, had her hand on his shoulder.

“What?” He was startled, but pushed off the syllable in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner. It was like that sport where they throw the heavy weight across the floor -- ice? -- and then sweep after it. You wonder what the sweeping has to do with anything but clearly it must help otherwise why would they and why would it be a sport. Is it a sport? Curling?

Denise, however, looked concerned. Maybe he hadn’t swept hard enough. Anyway, he hadn’t cleaned up.

“What are you doing out here?”

He looked around, oriented himself in the present tense. He asked himself: How did he get here?

She went on. “I asked you to come out and get this chair like half an hour ago. Have you just been rolling around in the parking lot and daydreaming all this time, or what?”

Dennis was sorely tempted to ‘Or what’ this one, but the first half seemed to be spot on, as far as he could tell from the evidence.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

5 november

And what to say? So much time to stand around or sit around or be around with other relatives. Looking at pictures was at least something. Sometimes Dennis would find himself in one of the group shots. He particularly admired a certain kid’s cowboy hat in one photo -- then was totally surprised at his mother’s totally surprised face.

“Dennis. Honey.” She pursed her lips. “Don’t be vain.” She looked pained, glanced around. “This is hardly the place.”

Apparently it was him -- about age seven. Surprise. He considered asking his mother when she might suggest he be vain, but he decided against.

It was hardly the place.

Friday, November 4, 2016

4 november

Author’s Note: This week I had a little pink tin pail on my desk full of candy for trick-or-treaters. There were five or so types of different Hershey treats from an assortment pack, all pretty good choices. When I picked up the pail at the end of the day to dump it -- in another candy dish, not the trash (let’s make smart choices, not ridiculous ones: I’ll be out next week and someone else should eat all that before I’m back) -- there was a single crowning mini Snickers. How did it get there? It had landed out of nowhere, as if from a totally different candy planet. I didn’t overthink -- I ate it. I’m totally sure it’s because I wrote about Snickers the other day. Simple -- reality. Boom!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

3 november

Before leaving for work, she noticed that her cat, curled tightly, fit perfectly on the frisbee she’d recently unpacked from the junk box. It was like a pot pie made out of cat. A plate of catterole. Catterole? Too much. Why did she even come up with this stuff?

Sometimes she was fairly sure that she had an excellent future ahead as a comedian. Of course, a lot of people seemed to talk about the importance of “being discovered”, but she really felt like discovering yourself was more important. How can you be a comedian if you don’t know it? Like someone will just walk up and tell you ‘Hey kid, you’re a comedian! I’ll take you places!’ and all the time you thought you were a clerk.

You have to know who you are. This she found to be a core tenet. There were probably a handful of others, but who’s counting? If you know you’re a comedian, you are. You can make it happen.

Keep in mind, nobody here’s saying comedienne. That’s gross. Knowing who you are means figuring out what you’d agree to be called. Comendienne is not an option. Please.

Her cat didn’t seem to mind being the main ingredient in a fresh catterole, but she silently promised a better option. It would come. That was the point of going to work, after all. Occupy yourself with something requiring mechanical engagement but allowing mental escape and you’ll be free to come up with all kinds of good lines.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

2 november

He stayed in his own lane these days, mostly, and so he’d pass these fly-by-diners and head to the news shop to pick up swedish fish and cheetos -- two things that he always craved but could not bring home. If the shop had chocolate milk, too, so much the better. With his loot, he would find a quiet airport corner to stuff down the cheetos, making the most of the crunch and the favor while making a conscious effort to minimize the snow of fluorescent cheese powder all over his clothes and skin -- and wash it down with the chocolate milk, as available. Once satisfied and thoroughly scrubbed -- especially those carefully licked fingers -- he would board the plane and strategically angle for and then down the swedish fish throughout the entire flight. Sometimes he would precisely subdivide the flight by fish, keeping clear intervals and exercising his powers of self-control by letting the fish melt in his mouth on particularly long flights. He’d come to see it as a form of meditation, almost, and had often considered bringing it up with someone. But again -- what would he say, and who would he say it to? “Hey, I’m getting a little close to achieving inner peace and possibly even enlightenment over here by slowly sucking on a red gummy fish. You should totally try it.” No doubt the people sitting next to him were already well aware of what he was doing, if not the internal mental digestion of the fish. It’s hard to do much on a plane that goes unnoticed by those beside you -- especially if it involves food, especially something sweet, and especially if there’s some kind of cellophane packaging.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1 november

The story starts in an airport. This is an ideal place for a story to begin because it’s an ideal look at the problem of defining where a story really begins in the first place, if there is a first place.

Even a simple line -- the man getting off of the plane, returning home from a business trip, dreams of making it home in time to tuck in his children. This is a picture so known you can see the man’s tired rollerbag following dutifully behind him, the unevenness worn in his shoulder where his laptop bag has unbalanced his jacket. You imagine dust on his shoes, even inside this modern, mostly linoleum corridor. No matter whether I stretch this man or your imagination in any number of directions -- his “children” are all parrots, his children are characters on an evening sitcom, his children are in the cemetery -- the appearance of the man himself begs all kinds of questions, if you’ll pardon this grossly common misuse of the phrase.

Where is the man coming from? What was he doing there? How long has he been away? Simple questions, maybe, perhaps, with simple answers. Go bigger. Why did he choose this flight and time? Was it chosen for him? Why did he choose this family? Was it chosen for him? Is he a traveler or a pilot? Does he sit or does he also stand and serve? Where did he get those socks? Bigger, broader, back. Where did his story begin? Who would he be if his mother had sat next to someone else on the first day of high school in a new dress in a new town?