Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nick's Last Stop

The old man walks with practiced ease on the spine of the roof and stops in front of the glowing plastic Santa. The offending decoration has a small bulb threaded through a hole in its back. Its unnaturally large baby blue eyes glow manically over cheeks painted a garish red. The old man pulls a cigarette from behind his ear and lights it with a battered Zippo. The lighter snaps shut with flick of his wrist before he shoves it back into his canvas jacket. He leans an elbow on the hollow figurine and survey’s the neighborhood. The house next door is boarded up. Bass thumps from its basement, making the plywood nailed over the broken windows vibrate. Even with six inches of fresh snow on the ground he smells moldering wood and garbage. After a last drag, he crushes the cigarette butt against Santa’s snub nose. He tucks his hands into his jeans and kicks the figurine into the ally between the track houses.
A chuckle turns into a cough as he turns and gives the reindeer a stern look. Their breath hangs in the fridge air in white puffs. They watch him with soft black eyes, their ears forward. The old man sighs and walks back to the sleigh. A manifest hangs on the sleigh’s side door. He checks it before pulling a present from the back. It’s wrapped in dingy green paper that is slightly crumpled. A bow with frayed ends is smashed on top. He pats one of the reindeer on the rump as he waddles past.
“Remind me to tell operations to stop using this paper. It’s depressing.” He says. His voice is raspy from the cold and chain smoking.
He walks back to the chimney and stands in the bare spot left in the snow where the glowing Santa had been. He squints down the cold stack and stabs his earpiece with a chubby finger. “Really? Haven’t I done enough of these tonight?”
“Yes sir. I know. But it’s not really about the number. It’s a matter of protocol.” The voice on the other end replies.
“Protocol.” The old man grunts as he tosses the present down the flue. He pulls the International Harvester baseball cap over his eyes. “I hate this part.” He says. His ponderous backside presses against the edge of the chimney. He hitches up his jeans under his protruding stomach. Closing his eyes, he leans back letting himself fall into the opening that is too small to take him. His body stretches like warm rubber as its being pulled down. A sucking noise grows louder until it ends with a champagne bottle “pop!”. Snow shoots from the stack like confetti.
The reindeer are quiet. Blitzen stomps his hoof to dislodge a painful snow pack. “Wait for it.” He mutters as they stare at the chimney.
“Damn!” echoes up the stack. The reindeer look at one another and burst into laughter.
“I love that part.” Comet says shaking his head.
“Is it just me or has the old man put on thirty pounds?” Dancer asks rolling his shoulders.
Donner turns and glares at Vixen, Cupid and Dasher. “Hey guys don’t worry about the entire right side of the sleigh. I got it. Ok. Just take it easy back there.”
“What?” All three ask at the same time, giving him an innocent look.
“I know your lazy asses have been drafting for the last, oh, what? Six or seven hundred miles.”
 “Oh, come on Thunder.” Cupid says. “Maybe you’re just getting a little long in the antler for this run.”
“Don’t call me Thunder.” Donner says. “You’re such as ass.”
“Your momma’s an ass.” Cupid replies.
“Enough!” Dancer calls from the back. “Everyone’s pulling their own Donner, so quit bitching. Cupid you are an ass. I can’t speak for your mother.”
“How many Santa’s does that make?” Comet asks. He cranes his neck to see the shatter pieces of the plastic Santa.
“Ten-thousand six-hundred and seventeen.” Prancer replies.
“Eighteen.” Dasher corrects. “You forgot the one in Macon.”
“What? That doesn’t count.” Prancer says. “He clipped it with the sleigh.”
“It counts.” Blitzen says. “That puts Cupid ahead in the dead Santa pool. The old man really hates that suit.”
“How many years has it been since Coca-Cola put him in that suit? Eighty? Let it go.”
 “Screw Coke. Did you see the commercial last year? They had him dancing around with polar bears.” Vixen shivers. “Polar bears. Can you imagine? And penguins, smelly little runts.”
“What’s going on?” Rudolf asks.
“Nothing Rudy. We’re talking about soda.” Vixen replies.
Comet asks under his breath. “How long has he been out of rehab?”
“Don’t forget the laugh.” Cupid says. “The old man hates the ho-ho-ho shtick.”
“Jolly, my furry backside.” Blitzen says.
“Speaking of your backside, Blitz.” Vixen gives Blitzen’s rump a shove. “What have you been eating? You’re peeling the felt off my antlers.”
“Is that why you’ve been using ‘felt-in-a-can’?” Prancer asks, giving Vixen a wink.
“I do not touch up my antlers.” Vixen sniffs. “Some of us are just born with naturally thick felt. Jealous much?”
“Doc put me on a high fiber diet. It’s not my fault.” Blitzen replies.
“Nice. You couldn’t lay off for twenty-four hours until we’re finished?” Vixen asks.
“Shut up!” Dasher shouts. “Can’t we go one year without you two bitching at each other? Or all the backbiting?”
“Geesh.” Vixen mumbles, looking him up and down. “What his problem?”
Cupid whispers. “His mate ran off with a caribou from the highlands.”
“Oh yeah? I know some highland caribou. What’s his name?”
“Monica.” Cupid replies.
“Monica?” Vixen frowns. Oh, Monica. He mouths, arching his eyebrow.
Cupid rolls his eyes.
“Hang tough, bro” Vixen nods at Dasher.
“Screw you.”
“Incoming!” The old man yells. The drab green present sails through the air and lands on the roof.
Dancer breaks formations and steps to the edge.
The old man climbs up a trellis using no small amount of Christmas magic to hold the rotting wood together.
“Give me a hand, will ya?” He swings a leg over the guttering and reaches up. Dancer presents him with an antler and grits his teeth as he drags the old man up.
“Whew!” He lands his back and wheezes. “Next time I’ll just take the chimney.”
The old man presses his earpiece again. “Knut? Get me the guy in charge of distribution and statistics? What’s-his-face?”
“Huh, Todd, sir?”
“Right, Todd. Patch me through to him.” The old man catches his breath. He slowly rolls to his feet and pats Dancer on the neck. “Thanks D.” He drops the batter green present into the back of the sleigh.
“Yes sir?” Todd’s voice quivers.
The old man smiles.
“Todd? Listen son, I know you’ve never been in the field, so I’m going to cut you some slack. I’m not giving this kid a pack of Uno cards. I was thinking more of an Xbox or maybe a PS3.”
“I understand, Sir, but –”
“You understand what?” He asks patting down his jacket for the Zippo as another cigarette dangles from his snowy beard.
“Statistically speaking, the probability this kid’s dad will pawn any gift with a value greater than $25.00 is 86.3%.”
“First, the kid’s name is Michael. I know his dad’s a tweaker. I just came from the dump he lives in.” The old man kicks at a loose shingle.
“That’s not all, sir. There’s a 56.7% probability that Michael will commit his first felony within the next 365 days.”
“He’s nine.” He says, incredulous
“Yes, sir. It’s unfortunate, but—”
“So we’re withholding a gift for something he might do?” The old man paces waving the unlit cigarette. He looks over at the reindeer. Their ears are plastered to their heads, nostrils flared. “Easy boys, it’s just a discussion.” He thumps Vixen’s side.
“Sir you put this task force together for exactly this kind of thing.” Todd replies. “You said yourself that it was getting too complicated, that we needed a way to simplify the good/bad policy, to make it more cut and dry.”
“Well this is just horse shit.” The old man flicks the cigarette into the alley where the broken Santa rests. He growls as he fumbles with the earpiece trying to turn it off. Todd’s voice fades as the small phone sails into the alley.
He sits down in the sleigh. Its ancient springs creak and groan under the weight. He stares at the northern star and absentmindedly flicks the top of his lighter. The reindeer wait for the signal for takeoff.
“Screw it. He’s getting the Xbox. The kid’s a walking heartbreak. There were saltines with jelly and half a glass of ice tea left for me. He wants to believe.” He looks around and grunts. “Needs to.” He rummages through the presents and finds one with silver paper that shines in the moonlight. “If he tries, I do to.”
“I’ll be right back.” He climbs out of the sleigh. The present clutched to his chest as he makes his second trip down the chimney.
 “Damn it!” His voice echoes. No laughter this time. The reindeer stand with their heads high and chests out waiting for the old man to finish this year’s run.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Critical Eye

I do not belong to a writer’s group.  Groups, in general, annoy me.  As Groucho Marx said “I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.” (or something of that nature.)

That, being said, I love to read WIPs.  One of the best ways for me to learn something is showing others.  Am I qualified to teach anybody anything about writing? Uh, no, not really, actually, not at all.  BUT, spotting even the simplest of writing flaws in others work will make you a better writer, especially, if you do it over and over.  When I explain why most adverbs are yucky pushed up against a verb or why you should stick with tags ‘said’ and ‘ask’ 90% of the time or notice when the author has slipped from one POV to another and so on and so on, I find that I practice what I preach.

How do I get my grubby little hands on writer’s word babies if I don’t socialize with other writers?  Or the human race in general.  Critique Circle. I imagine some of you who have been doing this for a while have at least given it a look.  Some of the stuff out there makes you want bang your head against a wall, but there are also a lot of really talented people, posting some really great stuff.  And you can get some helpful feed back on your WIP, if you’re so inclined.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Open Seasame

We move into our rental next week.  It’s about a third of the size of the house. The question of the week seems to be, “Aren’t you sad?”

“Hells no.”

“But you guys built this house.”

“And at some point we might build another, although I doubt it. It’s a huge pain in the ass.”

I finally figured out why I’m indifferent to the house. I am completely infatuated with new beginnings, with all the endless possibilities. (This has to be the writer in me.) We are now in a position we could move practically anywhere.  I have given serious consideration to about five different states and at least three different countries.

My latest obsession is moving to the US Virgin Islands. It’s totally doable, with a little planning, and a budget. OK, OK a lot of planning and a super tight budget, (milk $7.00 a gallon) but still doable. I scour websites and blogs about employment, housing and schools, shooting off emails to Mr. K with all kinds of VI info.

Mr. K is a wise man. He lets that horse run. His willingness to buy into my crazy is one of the reasons I love him.  If I come up with a feasible plan, he will execute.  Most of the time, I manage to see reason before it gets too far.  But this is a different world altogether.  All the doors may not open, but they are certainly unlocked.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Beta Reader

I asked the wife of one of my husband’s friends to be a beta reader. We had been to each other’s homes only a couple of times, but had bonded over book exchanges. I jumped at the opportunity to have an avid reader give my MS a once over.


“Wow, really?” I held my breath. “That was fast. It’s only been about a four days.”

“Read it twice”

“OK. Wow” This does not bode well. “Well what did you think?”

“It’s pretty good.” Uh-oh.

 “I did a little rewriting for you.”


“I think Phillip should be a cop.”

“Cop? Why?”

“I just think it would be better if he was a cop.”

She is kidding me?  “Well, that’s an angle I hadn’t considered” I can hear Mr. K snickering from the couch.  I throw a pillow at his head.

I finally hang up the phone. “She’s nuts, she rewrote three scenes. She’s emailing them to me. Was she kidding?”

“Probably not.” Mr. K grins. He tried to warn me.

I pull up the MS. Phillip a cop? Really? Mmmmmm…….

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest

Jason Evans is sponsoring a kick-ass flash fiction contest.

Check it. Now. I mean it.

Clarity of Night

Monday, July 11, 2011

Night Owl Reviews

There's a 4 star review of  Rules for the Care and Feeding of Tiffany

Thanks Josie.

Check it out!  Night Owl Reviews

Thursday, July 7, 2011

By the Numbers

We are currently in the process of selling, giving away and scrapping a lot of stuff in anticipation of moving into a much smaller place.

Here is a breakdown of where Team Krenshaw stands in anticipation of Momma Bear being unemployed.  

Number of day’s house was on the market before it sold: 8 (unbelievable, right?)

Number of couches we traded-in at the furniture store for a new kitchen table: 3 (and the old kitchen table)

Trips to Goodwill:  3 (and counting)

Trips to the city dump: 1

Number of panic attacks: Does the one I’m having now count?

Number of times someone has asked, “Do you think this is a good idea?”: 30ish

Number of times I wanted to punch said people in the nose: 30ish

After looking at our new place I think we need to cut our toy inventory by 50%. (Just the baby toys that have been outgrown would constitute 50%)   That is going to be a black ops exercise.  Thing#2 has a sixth sense when I’m trying to throw away/give away any of his toys.