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.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Anti-Hoarder

I’ve been a lurking around writer websites for a couple of years now.  A post that seems to spring up consistently is how many books writers accumulate.  I have to confess, I don’t have stacks of books sitting by my bed. Hell, I don’t even own a bookshelf.   

I own a lot of reference books, on a variety of subjects, gardening, resume building, home repairs, auto repair (OK, those last two are Mr. K's) and of course, writing.  But fiction? Not many.  And what’s stacked in a corner of my closet are works of fiction that are just, eh, OK.

God knows isn’t not from a lack of trying. I walk through our local bookstore dropping books into my overflowing basket.

“You know you have like $300.00 worth of books.” Mr. K eyes the basket.

“No.” I frown. A book slides from the pile to the floor. “Can’t be.”

Mr. K picks up the book and set it back on a shelf. “How about you start with three?”

“Ten.” I counter.



So it’s not from lack of trying. I think it boils down to two things. First, I’m thwarted by Mr. K’s insistence on keeping us out of bankruptcy.  God love’m.  Second, almost every good book I read, I end up passing along to someone else.

And by “passing along” I may mean shoving under someone’s nose and blabbering about what a great read it is and how the story pulls you in. In some cases, I think people take the books just to shut me up. But, hey, whatever works.  

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brother can you spare a dime?

A couple of weeks ago I learned I’m losing my job in November.  I’ve been with the company almost a decade.

We were herded into a conference room and provided a Power Point presentation on how restructuring would create more efficiency. (What about me?!! You could feel the silent scream.) HR then handed out severance packets, dark blue folders customized for each employee.  No one made eye contact. We all rifled past the mental health brochures and the list of resume building websites, looking for the sheet of paper that told us what our severance pay and retention bonus’s would be.  Not fun. But not the hard part.  The hard part was the call to Mr. K.

“We’ll be fine.” Mr. K says.

“I know, I know.”  I’m pulling up job websites as we talk.

“We’ll just have to cut back.”

“Uh-huh. Hey, there’s a job in North Dakota, Big Sky Country.”

“I think Montana’s Big Sky Country, honey. Calm down.”

“Who’s not calm? I’m calm. How about Guam?”

“This might give you a chance to focus on your writing.”

“Whuzza…what?” I stop typing. My eye’s narrow. “You’re just saying that to calm me down.”

“I thought you were calm.”

“Asshole” I mutter.

“Sure, why not?  Thing#1 and Thing#2 will be in school.  You’ll have to cook dinner, though.” Mr. K is normally the chef in the house.

“Dinner. Sure. No Problem.”

So there you have it.  I’m a broke-ass full time writer starting in November. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wish Me Luck

Thing#2 watches Sponge Bob, popping Fruit Loops. I sit next to him and smile.  He clutches the cereal box with a get-your-own look on his face.

“We’re going to your pre-school screening today. You can meet your teacher and see the play ground, there will be a bunch of other kids there to play with.” I beam, secretly holding my breath.

He looks at me with blue eyes still cloudy with sleep and gives a weary sigh. “Sounds lame, Mom.”   He stuffs a purple ring into an already crowded mouth and looks back at the TV.

I exhale and grab a handful of cereal.  It may be a long morning.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Conversation

Last night, Mr. K and I had an evening without Thing#1 and Thing#2.  A rarity, I assure you.  We sat in a beer garden, enjoying the company of other adults and people watching. 

“I’m trying to figure out what to start on next.  I mean I have a couple of ideas but not really sure. You know.” I tell him.  I proceed to throw out one of the storylines, young man dealing with internal demons, overcoming adversity, blah, blah.  Good shit, really.  I pause to gage Mr. K’s reaction.
He nods his head and looks off into the middle distance as if visualizing a scene. “You should write a story about aliens in Roman times.”
“OK” I say. We watched The Burrowers, the night before, so I know where this is coming from.  A mash-up of western vs. human-eating aliens, it wasn’t bad if you rolled with the cheese factor.  The special effects were pretty good. It was actually kind of fun.
I nod my head, considering it. Hell, I love sci-fi. “So what would my main character do?”
He looks at me and blinks. “Kill the aliens.”
“Ok, yeah, but what else? Why?”
Again, the look.  “Kill the aliens to save the Roman Empire.”
My turn to look off in the middle distance. “That’s an idea.” I say neutrally.
“Don’t forget to put me down as co-writer on this one.” Mr. K clinks his beer bottle to mine.
“You bet.” 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy Birthday!

It was my little sister's birthday yesterday. I tinkered with sending her an e-card, then got the idea to write a piece of flash fiction with her as the main character. 

I’m 39!!!

                        Joy looks at the pile of scrubs in the laundry room floor and runs her hands through her short hair.  “Not tonight.” She mumbles.  Closing the door, she heads for the kitchen and the bottle of wine that is calling her name. 
            Settling on the couch, she uncorks the wine and flips on the TV.  A groan escapes her lips at the knock at the front door.  “Who the hell can that be?”  They had been in the apartment only a few weeks.  Maybe Jared sent flowers for my birthday. She springs over the back of the couch and dances to the front door.
            Peeking out the window, her heart drops to her feet. She crouches down before she can be seen.  How did he find me? I thought I had more time! Her heart races as she takes another look. Her hands curl into fists. I do. I have another year.
            Taking a deep breath, she stands and straightens her stained t-shirt. She looks out the window again. A shiver runs down her spine and wonders if she should wake up Jared, but quickly decides against it. She can handle this.
            Leaving the security chain on the door, she opens it a crack. “Go away.” She says in a firm whisper.
            He chuckles. “Ah, come on girl. It ain’t so bad.  It’s inevitable.” He reaches in and caresses her hand with his long gray fingers.  
            “NO!” She tries to slam the door, but he’s too strong. Breaking the chain, he pushes he’s way into the small apartment.
            She’s ready for him. She crouches in an ‘Angry Flamingo’ kung-fu stance. “Come on, then.” Joy motions with her hand. “Let’s dance.”
            He takes a flying leap at her, but Joy sees it coming and does a back flip, catching him under the chin with both feet.  His head snaps back, stopping him in mid-flight.  She can feel his teeth breaking with the impact of her kick.
            He springs to his feet, seemingly unaffected by the bone crunching blow.  He smiles at her through the blood and the broken teeth. “Really, I think you’re over reacting, my dear.”
            Joy grabs the skillet she used to reheat 20 pounds of chicken Mc-nuggets for Jared’s late night snack. “It’s not my time, Forty. I have another year.”  She cartwheels over the couch and smashes the side of Forty’s face with the cast iron skillet. 
            Forty pulls his head from the sheetrock and cackles. The side of his head is caved in, clumps of gray matter drip from his open skull hitting the floor in wet plops.  He reaches a hand on each side of his jaw and wrenches his head back in place with the sound of popping cartilage. “OK. OK.” He holds up his hands. “I can see there’s no changing your mind.”
            Joy’s shoulders slump, the skillet drops to the couch. 
            Forty, seeing his chance, charges with his arms extended, he clamps his long finger around Joy’s throat.
            Joy’s blue eyes widen in surprise.  She holds on to Forty’s boney shoulders and drops onto her back, her feet catch him in the crouch. He drops to his knees. Grabbing a fist full of hair, Joy drags Forty to the front door and heaves his broken body down the flight of stairs.  She holds up her bloody fists to the sky and shouts, “I’m 39!  Come back next year Forty and we’ll dance again!”
            She walks back into the apartment and closes the door.
            “Huh, honey?” Jared shuffles out of the bedroom rubbing his head. “What’s going on?”  He looks at the hole in the living room wall.
            Joy quickly hides her bloody hands behind her back and gives him a tight smile. “Oh, got a little carried away….” Her voice trails off as Jared spies the skillet on the couch.
            “With….” He prompts.
            “Home renovations done with every day kitchen appliances.”
            Jared blinks and scratches his crotch. “Whatever.  You want to go out for your birthday?”
            Joy glances sideways at the front door. “No, let’s stay in.”

Happy Birthday!!!