American Chimera – 2.1

American Chimera Cover Small

A woman with a long, blonde braid yanked at the chains that held her to the chair. She spat at the interrogator, falling short only by a couple inches. “Let me outta this chair, you cow’rd!”

The interrogator remained calm and wrote something on her tablet. “It’s not my intention for you to get hurt, Mrs. Huffman, but fighting against those cuffs can’t be good for your wrists.”

She tugged once again, scraping against her already raw wounds. “You let my daughter go, you piece of garbage! You don’t wanna know the words I got for people like you!”

The interrogator’s gaze snapped away from her tablet and up towards Janie instead. She remained quiet for a moment. “I just want to have a nice chat with you. Brett Huffman already cooperated with us, and he’s enjoying the benefits.”

Janie spat a second ball that made its way to the interrogator’s leg. “Eat shit and die.”

After removing a handkerchief from her breast pocket, the interrogator wiped the saliva from her pants. She turned her wrist to check the time. “I’m going to leave you alone with your thoughts here for a little while. I’ve got all the time in the world to get you to talk.”

“Say that in thirty years, you old coot,” Janie prodded.

The interrogator stood from her chair, closed her tablet, and walked away. As she got closer to the door, Janie screeched louder and fought harder against her bonds.

She turned off the lights.

The door shut.

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Stained – #Shadorma #TankaTuesday

img_20190930_161231585

Detailed stains
Glove her dainty hands.
Celebrate
A wedding,
Engagement, or fun with friends-
Let joy stain your soul.

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This was written for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday #161, a photo prompt. Henna tattoos interest me in that it’s a tattoo without needles.

American Chimera – 1.5

American Chimera Cover Small

“And what then?” the interrogator asked. “What did the vet say?”

Brett pointed ot the ground. “Chaw first. You get my chips and Pepsi out here, or I will shut my mouth tighter than a snappin’ turtle in a lightnin’ storm.”

The interrogator stood from her chair. “Your chips and Pepsi are on their way. Tell me what the vet said, Mr. Huffman.”

He turned up his nose at the interrogator and swiveled his head to watch the door. In the middle of the door was a slot that could be opened from the outside, a small table hanging from the door just underneath. An exit sign glowed a faint red in the dim room and reflected faintly off the metal walls. Lights hung from the ceiling, most of them off during the interrogation.

The interrogator cleared her throat and put a hand to Brett’s shoulder. “How did Mrs. Huffman decide to keep the spider so quickly? How did you decide what to do with it next?”

The slot on the door opened, and a hand placed an open glass bottle with a bag of chips next to it. Brett looked up to the interrogator, who let go of his shoulder and nodded to the gift with knowing eyes.

He stood from the chair, exaggerating the pain with which he stood, then hobbled over to the door. The interrogator noticed the thick skin on his fingers, the layers of sunburn that had built up the scabs and markings on the back of his neck. The man reached a shaking hand down to the chips and ripped open the top.

“Mr. Huffman, are you going to talk?”

He took a swig and coughed. “Oh hell no. Ain’t givin’ you nothin.”’ He took another sip and chewed some of the peanuts that came out with the drink. “I asked for Pepsi, and sure ’nuff you got me a Coke. Good faith my ass.” He sat down next to the door. “Take me back to my cell. ’Less I get what I ask for, you ain’t gettin’ nothin’ else outta me.”

The interrogator let her shoulders drop. “You’ve done well today, I suppose, and I’ll have plenty of time to talk with you later.” She tapped a few buttons on her tablet. “I’ll grant your request. You’ll have to learn to trust me better, Mr. Huffman.”

He laughed openly and tossed the empty bottle to the side. “Trust you? A colored Yank woman from the gov’ment who’s got me in jail for no reason at all?” He giggled and stood, offering his bonds as a means of control. “Sorry, ma’am, but there’s no way I’ll ever trust you.”

She put her hands behind her back as the door opened, a couple large guards taking hold of Mr. Huffman’s shoulders and dragged him out of the room.

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Big Science Mountain

scientist

The mad scientist created
Freeze rays and said, “This is the best,
I dare anyone to beat me.
I’ll freeze banks and avoid arrest,
Then freeze folks at the city hall
To cause the government to fall.
Yessir, I’m gonna have a ball,
With my freeze ray and my money.

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This poem was pooped out of somewhere for the Terrible Poetry Contest #55, “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” In order to do this, I had to read up on the song and found out it was supposed to be about Hobo Paradise. I wrote about Mad Science Paradise.

I chose this photo because all the science done in the 50’s and 60’s was mad science because they didn’t really care if they died from some insane exposure to chemicals or whatever.

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

I Must Protest!

beans and sliced lemon near glass bottle

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

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This was written for the January 16th Carrot Ranch prompt, protest.

Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com

American Chimera – 1.4

American Chimera Cover Small

We brought the egg back to the trailer and kicked all the dogs outta our bedroom. We opened the bottom drawer of our plastic dresser and stuffed it full of clean shirts and underwear, makin’ sure the egg were sittin’ in the plushest place you e’er did see.

Janie’s parents had raised chickens while she grew up, so she knew the thing needed to be warm. We unhooked the meth setup from the propane and drove to town to get a space heater, then stuck it in the room. Even with the dogs outta the room, the heat started makin’ all the shit stink to high heaven, so we cleaned that place up. While our lil’ egg grew in the underwear drawer, Janie and I slept in the livin’ room on the couch.

Well, turns out we didn’t have enough money for another propane tank to cook the meth, so Janie went to town and got a job fixin’ the Bojangles’ robots. I started workin’ for the Mexicans buildin’ a piece of the school down the road, plannin’ just to do it as long as I needed to get a new propane tank, but it weren’t that bad. It felt a bit healthier, too, not to be cookin’ meth or havin’ drug pushers breathin’ down my back. About then’s when we started to backslide on our cookin.’

Every night, Janie and me’d turn the egg. The swelterin’ summer soon turned into a nice, cool fall, and we cranked that space heater up to keep the room nice and cozy. Soon we was conflicted ’bout whether or not to sleep in the bedroom, considerin’ how cold it got outside, but we decided it better to keep it real, real hot in there instead.

One propane tank turned into two, then three, then four. Eventually it got so hard to keep up the gas that I near ’bout considered admittin’ where we was parked and hookin’ into electricity. I moved on with the Mexicans to the next job, and Janie was good enough at her job that they wanted her to become a specialist in the Bojangles’ Biscuit Bots.

At last the egg started hatchin’ in November of ’72. It was the middle of the night when I felt Janie’s lil’ hand shakin’ me to wake up, and I stirred just the slightest amount.

“Y’hear that?” I ’member her askin. I blinked my eyes a couple times, seein’ her eyes sparkle in the dark and the dogs pantin’ in the background.

I listened close for a minute, mostly just hearin’ a dog scratchin’ at the bedroom door and the whir of the space heater in the background. But then, sure ’nuff, I got an earful of the eggshell crackin’ away. My eyes lit up and I scrambled, hands picking myself up from the floor where I was sleepin.’ Some of the carpet came up in my hand, makin’ me fall, but my clever mind followed what Janie asked. “The egg.”

She nodded and helped me up. “C’mon – let’s go watch!”

I shoved the dog out of the way and opened the door behind her. I turned on the overhead lights, disappointed to find most of the bulbs had burnt out and it’d be dim in the room at best. The ceilin’ fan attached started wigglin’ the light every which-a-way, too, since a couple of the blades had been whacked off by my cousin Jim, who’d owned the trailer afore we did.

Janie didn’t pause a lick when she went over to the drawer. She picked up the Coleman lantern and revved it up. “It’s hatchin’!” she cried out. “Brett, lookit! We’re about to have a baby!”

I squeezed her so hard that she prob’ly near ’bout burst. I’d waited and waited for this moment, and finally it was happening. The cracks formed around the egg in a random pattern, much as you would expect from a dragon or a bird.

“I love you, Janie.” I gave her a kiss.

Then a spike poked out of the egg. Janie gasped and sat back. “Brett, what was that?”

More spikes poked out, goop from the egg splurting out everywhere. I heard screaming, just like a child, come from the egg, and my heart began to hurt. “It needs help!” I said.

“No – you cain’t! You never want to help something out of its egg, ever!”

At about that moment, the creature succeeded at pushing enough of the eggshell away that I could see it was a spider the size of a basketball, screechin’ like a newborn and all the black legs wigglin’ crazy.

Janie just put her hands up to her face and screamed. “Get the gun!” I shouted, pushin’ her back.

She froze, though, so I had to scramble out of the room. I fought through the dogs to get out the bedroom door and find the gun stuffed under the couch cushions. A couple of shells popped into the double barrel twelve gauge and I was ready to fight the monster.

I came back into the bedroom to find that Janie’s mood had changed. I pointed the gun at the dresser, but she was in the way. “Janie,” I said, “Janie, get out of the way.”

She turned her head to look at me and kept her fingers in the dresser drawer. “Brett,” she said, “Brett…it’s cryin.’ It’s cryin,’ and I don’t know how to fix it.”

“A shotgun to the head, that’s what! We shoulda known the damn Yanks couldn’t do anything good – this ain’t a dragon, honey, it’s a gol-dern spider!”

The spider’s legs wiggled in the drawer, the egg continued to crack more. I listened to it cry, saw it wasn’t harming Janie in the least. I didn’t understand how Janie brought herself to touch the thing, not at the time, but I heard the same cry she did.

It was a human cry.

“It’s a baby,” Janie said. “It’s…it’s not a dragon, but it’s just a baby…”

I put the gun down to my side. “We cain’t keep a spider, Janie. Spiders eat blood.”

She brushed a finger over the spider, fearless, then used a shirt to wipe away some of the grime from its legs. Though it didn’t seem to know what she was doin,’ it reached up to her. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “Get it some instant breakfast or somethin.”’ She reached deeper into the drawer, picking up the baby spider and cradling it in her arms. “It’s our baby, Brett.”

And so I did what she asked, goin’ to the kitchen and fixin’ our baby spider a protein shake. That did good ’nuff ’til we went to the vet and got some formula the next day.

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The Lake – #TankaTuesday #Haiku #HaikuMadness

adventure blue calm waters climb

Serene, hushed lake
Plants and animals now sleep
Wait for ice to melt

Serene hush
Lake, fish, cat-tails, now
Solid ice

Placid
Now frozen
Iced lake

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This was written for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday #160, Calm and Present (synonyms are in bold). Recently amongst the blog-o-sphere (or cube? why can’t it be a cube?), there’s been some controversy over how long to make an English haiku. Each of these were intended to be closely related, but they’re obviously not the same.

Which length do you prefer?

Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com

Witty Nib Writing Club – 5 Tips for Memoir Writing

06092019 Writing Club

This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re focusing on memoir!  Join in the prompt here and start honing your skills.

5. Tell the Truth

Sometimes you’ll want to embellish it.  Sometimes you’ll want to tone down some of the bad stuff.  In both cases, however, you’ll want to avoid it.

Telling the truth enriches your story and allows a human element to shine through.  When someone is reading a memoir, they’re looking for a story that draws them into the reality of someone else’s experience.  Stories from your life already come with a richness and detail that make them full of character and drive.  Tap into those feelings, share the themes and drive within your story.

Even if you’re able to create a convincing lie, a story that isn’t true isn’t doing service to a reader who believes it.  Respect the reader and give them something about you to chew on.

There are two instances where a lie may be necessary: the easy one is a lie of omission.  Since you won’t be telling your whole life story, either for this club or in any medium, sometimes you’ll need to cut things that might seem important.  The second is to change people or place names in order to protect the innocent.  If you don’t have permission to post a story with a real person in it as a character, change enough identifying information that they can’t be picked out. If you can’t protect others, consider telling a different part of your story.

4. Focus on a Single Story

I love reading biographies, but they’re not the same as a memoir.  A biography states the course of an entire life, focusing on how formative events in one era can shape the decisions in a later.  It is more factual, dry, and somewhat historical.  A memoir is a small story that focuses in on small, formative events.  These events are told in a narrative form and evoke emotions.  They entertain. 

When people publish their memoirs (plural), what they’re publishing is a collection of memories and small tales.  That’s why you often see memoir, singular, to describe a small story.

So get into small, gritty details.  Look for formative events and determine what messages they sent to you and will say to your audience.

3. Determine Your Audience

Memoir is often used in a therapeutic sense.  In this case, writing the memoir can help one work through a tough time, or help us remember a good event.  It can be peaceful and calming to recollect the past.  When writing with therapeutic purpose, however, the audience is the self – or the self and a loved one or therapist, at most.  When the self is the audience, the goals are to please yourself and follow the flow that helps you.

When writing for a larger audience or with the intent to publish (i.e. if you were writing a Chicken Soup for the Soul story), things change.  How do people other than you look at the story?  Are the same things important?  Is there an overarching feeling or message conveyed in the story?

When writing for self, the purpose is to get your emotions out.  When writing for others, you need to suck their emotions into your story.  This doesn’t mean you can’t write about the same events for either cause, it just means you may need to think about where the entertainment and enjoyment are coming from.

2. Don’t Worry About Having a “Boring” Life

I’ve read plenty of great memoirs in which nothing of real, plot-worthy note happened.  Sometimes it’s just a person sitting around, doing nothing, while the world seems to crash in on them.  It’s about the development of character and emotion.

As well, something to remember: your ‘boring’ life is someone else’s exciting.  When I was growing up, I thought nothing about my grandparents’ rug, but then in college my now spouse alerted me to the fact that normal people don’t put actual sawblades on their floor.  My spouse thought swimming was something normal people did, but I was very impressed and interested in how people could do competitive swimming.  You are never too boring.

1. Remember, Good Writing is Good Writing

Check your grammar, read over your writing, tag dialogue appropriately: these are things useful for any prose.  Just because you’re writing a true-to-life story doesn’t mean you’re safe from these elements.

One important element of memoir is voice.  You want your voice to come through when you write, and sometimes it can be tempting to do this as literally as possible.  As a redneck, I have plenty of relatives with speech patterns that don’t fit standard English.  However, standard English is what most people know how to read and interpret.  Find your balance between good sentence structure and your own dialect, and don’t underestimate the importance of being able to read something without much effort.

Other Places Full of Neat Hints

Looking for more things to consider as you write a memoir?  Perhaps just want to listen to someone with more authority than me?  Then enjoy these links.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the same advice floats around, so definitely check out how many hints are shared between them!

Reader’s Digest “Great Tips on How to Write Memoir

New York Publishers’ “How to Write a Memoir that People Care About

Standout Books’ “Six Tips for Writing Memoir

Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed?  Something you’d like to focus in on?  Leave it in the comments!  Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s first prompt!

American Chimera – 1.3

American Chimera Cover Small

The interrogator lifted a brow. “You kept the contents of the box because you were high and thought you’d found a dragon’s egg.”

Mr. Huffman guffawed and rolled his eyes. “I thought I’d ’splicitly told you we weren’t high.”

She just wrote something down on her notepad. “Sure, Mr. Huffman. I’ll make a note of that. But surely you also understand that the explanation doesn’t ring true – you must realize that we all know now that you hadn’t found a dragon’s egg. What happened when Dani hatched?”

Brett Huffman crossed his arms. “Where’s my chaw? Chaw first, then I’ll tell you.”

“I have all the power here, Mr. Huffman. Finish your story. Tell me how you kept the egg and what you did when Dani hatched.”

He squinted. “Then you’ll let me have a bit of chaw?”

“Without a doubt, Mr. Huffman.”

“And I want some peanuts and Pepsi.” With deep seriousness, he pointed directly at her face. “Copenhagen, Lance, and Pepsi in a glass bottle. Got it?”

The interrogator put her hand to her face, repressing a chuckle. “I understand this is serious to you, Mr. Huffman. Surely you realize there’s no more peanuts in existence, though? I will get you your dip, a Pepsi, and some potato chips if you agree to talk.”

He gave a nod and sat a bit straighter, his back pressed against the back of the chair. “As long as you act in good faith, so will I.”

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You Carried Me

purple crocus in bloom during daytime

You carried me.
I didn’t ask,
But then again,
I couldn’t speak.

You settled me
On soft, silken,
Pinkest pillow,
Kissed me tender.

My eyes were shut,
But I still knew
You adored me.
I cherished you.

I wanted to
Clean the sad pile
Of tissues at
Your well shod feet.

Did my urges
Disrespect your
Sadness and grief?
I allowed tears.

Upon your exit
Through sanctum’s door,
Someone shut my
Coffin’s wood lid.

When you returned,
You carried me
In my casket
To earthen home.

But my spirit
Carries you now
Until you come
To rest by me.

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This was written for the January 9th Carrot Ranch prompt. Sure, I took a long time getting to it, but it also took a long time to figure out what to write. Also it didn’t turn out to be a flash, but you know, I tried…

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