Friday, January 31, 2014

Think #5: Snuvs

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

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I leaned over and gently kissed my sleeping daughter, Hope, on her forehead. The sweet smile on her face while she slept — dreaming of princesses and fairy tales, no doubt — always just melted my heart. I was so lucky and blessed to have her, an anchor which kept me from being lost in a sea of depression. 

It seemed like everything else was going wrong in life. Her mom and I had been having problems for months; it was only a matter of time before one of us uttered the dreaded “d” word. 

Divorce. 

We had married too young, shortly after a night of partying had left Claudia carrying a child. We knew that we just simply weren’t right for each other almost as soon as the wedding vows were completed, but we did everything we could to put a happy face on for Hope. It was getting harder and harder to go through the motions. Claudia wasn’t even staying here often anymore, staying most nights with her parents.

“Don’t forget your snuvs tomahwo, Daddy!” Hope said groggily, her sudden outburst bringing me back to the present from my thoughts. My anchor, again.

“I won’t, Pookie,” I said, “I love you.” Her only response was the cutest little snore you ever heard, sleeping again already. I silently closed the door and went into the kitchen for a quick drink before bed. 

Since Claudia had basically left a few weeks ago, the scotch was about the only thing that could clear my head at night so that I could sleep. I knocked back two slugs of the stuff before I headed for bed. Sleep still came fitfully.

The next morning, I overslept my alarm and had to rush to get up and get Hope ready for school. There was a slight chill in the air, and a pretty stiff breeze, so just before leaving I grabbed a light jacket. Remembering Hope’s random outburst from the night before, I grabbed a pair of gloves and stuffed them into the jacket pockets. 

I drove her to school, tousling Hope’s hair as she bounded out of the car and ran gleefully into the building. I drove away, amazed it had already been five years since Hope had been born, a bundle of brown curls. I couldn’t help but to be smiling when I got to work.

Then the phone rang. Claudia. Determined not to let her bring me down from a rare moment of genuine happiness, I let it go to voicemail. 

The day had turned cooler by the time I left work and remembered to check my voicemail. The day I had dreaded for months had come. “Thomas,” Claudia said, no trace of emotion in her voice, “I’ve been doing some thinking…and I want a divorce. I’m sorry.” The click of her ending the call had a definite ring of finality to it. 

Tears were already falling by the time I had put the phone into my pocket, my hand brushing up against something inside. I pulled out the pair of gloves I had grabbed that morning, a folded up piece of paper falling out of one and fluttering down slowly to the ground. I put on the gloves and bent down to pick up the piece of paper. The large block lettering was unmistakably Hope’s.

“I lov U, Daddy!”


And I knew I would be OK. All because I didn’t forget my pair of “snuvs.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

There's a good possibility that no matter the time of day you can find Beau keeping/making up some ridiculous statistics that nobody but he cares about. Often, he tweets at @INukeYou about sports, those ridiculous statistics, and hating his job. Rarely, he blogs at beaubarnett.wordpress.com

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Think #4: Schlopp.

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

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He looked at them--all twenty-two little blue beauties. All in a perfect row. All he had to do was scoop them up.

What had his life turned into? Schlopp.

He smiled--the first honest smile he had in a while. It was because of his mother. She refused to use curse words.

“They belie a small vocabulary,” she’d say. So, instead she had her own little words, all made up and imaginary. Schlopp. Farkly. Helicosis.

How many times had he heard her utter those little nothings of nonsense before? How many times when she had forgotten something at the house had she mumbled, “Oh schlopp!”?
Now, here he was, thirty eight years old, still mumbling the same words.

His life wasn’t schlopp. It was shit.

She was out again. With friends--that was what she said. Friends.

She didn’t know he had seen those chats on her phone. She didn’t know he had heard her whispering when she was locked in the bathroom one night. She didn’t know he had found the pictures.

He hadn’t slept in months. How could he? Every time he closed his eyes, he kept seeing her laughing with that stranger, cuddled up, the look of love in her eyes and it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him that was making her feel that way, it wasn’t him that she dressed up for anymore.

It wasn’t him.

Twenty-two of them, lined across the kitchen counter. The pills his doctor told him would help him sleep. All he had to do was pick them up.

Then he could hear his mom tell him made up words again. Then he wouldn’t care about anything anymore. Then his wife could go be with whoever she wanted to be with--he wouldn’t be in her way. No more secrets.

No more schlopp.

“Daddy, what are you doing?” the little girl asked him, rubbing her eyes. He looked at her head, her hair wild from some war that must have happened in her sleep, and kissed it. He picked up the pills and placed them in the bottle.

“Nothing, hon. Let me put you back in bed.” He smiled as he picked her up and walked back to her room.

His life was schlopp.

Beautiful schlopp.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
J Hewitt wants to die just like Hemingway: fat, drunk, and in Europe. 

Eh. 

Two out of three ain't bad. 

He tweets. He blogs

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Think #3: A Guff Going By

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

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Who Thinks Up a Gruff (or: Seems Like a Dream)

In the days leading up to birth,
I thought a lot about my babies.
I thought about holding them
and feeding them
and singing in my own
tone-deaf way to put them
to sleep.

I didn't think
about gruffs.

I thought about lullabies and 
nursery nights,
rocking chairs and soft
hand-knit blankets.
I thought about the smell
of just bathed baby and the sound
of tiny giggles in my ears.

I never once thought
about gruffs.

I did a lot of thinking about
birthday party themes and
kindergarten cupcake extravaganzas.
I scrapbooked and dreamed
about hands holding mine
as we crossed busy streets
and car seats being buckled
and tooth fairy visits in the dead
of night.

I didn't spare a thought
for the gruffs.

Who thinks up a gruff?
Who watches their baby sleeping
and thinks up
a gruff?

Sometimes you don't have to think
a thought.
Sometimes a thought
thinks you, and you
have no choice but to listen
as the gruff expounds on
all the ways
he hates you.

The gruff that used to be
your son.

He sits there
like a teddy bear, all cute
and brown, and fluffy,
but his long tail threatens 
to strangle you.
You didn't think him up,
but there he is,
this gruff.

There he is,
and he says,
he hates you.

Baby belly dreams
skip over pre-teen
melodrama and
the hormones that who the heck knew
boys had too?

I am harsh.
I am cruel.
I make him feel stupid.

Says the gruff.

He wipes away my kisses.
He pounds the walls of the home
I thought up for him,
the room in the house
built to keep him safe.
He defies and screams lies,
and there are no soft sweet lullabies
that will talk him off
the ledge…

my gruff.

Oh, my gruff.

I cannot dream my way
back to sleepless nights and
diaper changes.
I cannot think my way back
to car seats and
cupcakes,
tooth fairies and Santa Clauses.
Even the hardest hard day
seems
like a dream

with a gruff.

Give me back booties
that won't stay on his feet.
Give me back spit-up stained clothes
and days without
showers
and nights where I cried
just to sleep.
Give me back grocery store visits
with sticky hands and tears
over no candy today,
and give me back mechanical horses 
that make everything better
for a quarter in a slot and
a ten second ride.

Give me back my little boy
and you can have
this gruff.

Because even the hardest hard day
with a baby
seems like a dream

with a gruff.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heather Truett writes literary fiction, poetry, and other things with deepness and feelings (I fear that sounds sarcastic, but it's not - her words are beautiful). She blogs at Madame Rubies and Middle Places. She lives in the deep American South where she's labors tirelessly to raise her children to be even half as awesome as she is. She tweets and you should tell her that her butt looks good in jeans. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Think #2: Red, Pink.

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*****Trigger Warning*****

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You’re sitting on the bus, on your way home. It’s late, and all you want to do is curl up on your couch and veg out there for a bit, while the drama of today rolls off your shoulders.

But first you need to get home.

The bus is kind of crowded, but not crazy, and you slip into a seat in the middle of the bus. Headphones in, music on, ready to lose yourself in the twists and turns of the melodies for an hour or so before you need to get off the bus and get on the next one.

The stale smell of your new seatmate makes you space in for a moment or two, as he settles down in the seat next to you. You don’t say anything, because what are you supposed to say? “Excuse me, sir, but you smell kind of gross, can you please find somewhere else to sit?”

So you just ignore him and concentrate on your phone while the lights dim and the bus pulls out of the station.

Your seatmate is still fidgeting around, trying to make himself comfortable- fixing the overhead lights and the fans and taking off his jacket. He keeps on bumping into you, and you hope he just sits down soon, because you like having your own space, thanks very much.

Finally, the temperature and the lighting, or lack thereof, are all the way he wants them, and he settles down, stretching his leg until it bumps into yours. You push your legs together and scrunch toward the window, because having your leg touch someone else’s for over an hour is kind of gross, to be honest.

But Seat Guy stretches his leg a little further, and no matter how much you try to fold yourself in half and plaster yourself against the window, his leg is still touching yours. You turn your music up a little, and stare out the window. There’s no way you’re making eye contact with him, and you’re at least a little relieved the lights are down.

Until he touches you.

At first you’re not sure if he really is or not, or if it’s just an accident. I mean, your legs are touching each other- maybe his hand is on his leg and you just feel the tips of his fingertips?

That sinking feeling in your stomach is telling you something entirely different. And when you shine your lighted phone screen down, there’s his hand. Resting casually on your thigh like it belongs there, when it most certainly does not.

You flinch, and shift your thigh over again, and feel his hand move slowly off your thigh. This was so not how you wanted to spend your ride home. But it was just a mistake, you reason. He wants to take up both seats, so he kind of forgot that that thigh wasn’t his.

Except for when not two minutes later, his hand is back, like nothing happened.

You elbow him a little, because seriously? Why is his hand back on your thigh?
And again, he moves it back slowly.

Your stress level has rocketed, and the music isn’t calming you down at all. You leave your headphones in because people don’t talk to people wearing headphones, and if that’s the only thing that stops your seatmate from talking to you, so be it.

No sudden movements, you tell yourself. Just sit quietly, and nothing will happen.
Words that are empty, because you don’t seem to have control over the guy’s wandering hands.

You think back to the freak-outs you’d have during every thunderstorm, and how your mom would stand next to your bed and try to calm you down. ‘Imagine a bunch of balloons,” she’d always say.

“I don’t see them!” You’d reply, half terrified and half hysterical, clearly not distracted from the storm.

“They’re all different colors,” she’d continue, knowing if she would discuss the storm with you you’d fixate on it and everything would be worse for you and your nerves. “See the balloons? There’s a red one, there’s a pink one…”

You try to find the bunch of balloons as you elbow his hand off my thigh again. 

There’s the red one, there’s the pink one…And his hand is back.

You’ve gone from annoyed to scared. Even though there are people sitting in front of you and behind you, you’re still scared, and wish desperately that he would just keep his hands to himself.

He partially stands up to fix the lights, and this somehow means he needs to almost plaster himself on your side to do so.

Your stomach has seemed to have fallen through the bottom of the bus, and your throat is closing up.

Balloons. Think of the balloons. There’s the red one, there’s the pink one.

You’re almost a squashed bug, blood and organs splattered against the window, as you clench the handle of the seat in front of you. And yet his hand is back on your thigh.

“Stop it,” you finally say quietly, but he doesn’t understand you. He doesn’t speak English. But he moves his hand, because you’ve picked it up gingerly off of your thigh and put it on his own.

You hope that wasn’t an invitation in his mind, because your lunch is threatening to reappear.

Why is he so fascinated by your thigh? you wonder as you try to inch closer to the window. On the list of assets, your thighs are not near the top. Honestly, you’re not sure when the last time was that you shaved them, and you’ve neglected the gym a lot longer than you should have.

And yet, his hand manages to creep his way back onto your thigh.

Elbow the arm, concentrate on balloons. There’s the red one, there’s the pink one… Breathe. You’ve been on the bus forever, it seems, which means you’re almost there.

And it’s back.

Why? Why? You’re not asking for it, whatever that even means. You didn’t say anything to him at all. You don’t even look like you want to talk to anyone, with your hair piled up and your makeup virtually nonexistent. You’re wearing some of your comfortable clothing today, which while supremely comfortable isn’t really that flattering.

There is no part of you that says ‘attractive’, but that doesn’t even matter.

What matters is that that hand is back on your thigh, and you have to physically remove it again. Your heart is pounding, trying to escape from your seat on the bus- escape and go anywhere but here.

Think of balloons, you tell yourself, trying to wrap yourself in your arms. There’s the red one, there’s the pink one….

Your hands are shaking, and if he touches you one more time, you might scream. 

When his hand creeps back onto your thigh again, you start to get up, trying to leave. You’ll stand in the aisle for the rest of the bus ride- you don’t care. As long as you don’t have to be sitting next to him…

He points to the bus driver and shakes his head, mumbling something in a different language, probably meaning something like, ‘the bus is moving so I can’t get up’.

You don’t want to start anything, so you sit back down, and fold yourself up against the window after giving him a dirty look. You don’t care if he knows why you want to move or not- but this is the longest bus ride you’ve ever been on.

Why is his hand back? Since when do you have a sign that says ‘Public Property’? He’s already taking up a seat and a half, isn’t that enough for him? But apparently it’s not, because when you elbow him again, he creeps his hand slowly off your thigh and back to his. Like it’s all some sort of joke to him.

No matter how hard you try to concentrate on the balloons, it’s not working.

There’s a nostalgic innocence that used to come when you’d think of counting balloons. But not anymore. He’s ruined it for you. There’s the red one, there’s the pink one…

When you finally get home that night, you jump into the shower to try to wash off the feeling of someone’s hand where it didn’t go. The feeling of being violated, of being ignored and concentrated on at the same time. The black stain that has clouded your soul, through no fault of your own.

No matter how hard you scrub, it won’t come out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

KK Hendin's real life ambition is to become a pink fluffy unicorn who dances with rainbows. But the schooling for that is all sorts of complicated, so until that gets sorted out, she'll just write. Preferably things with angst and love. And things that require chocolate.  She’s the author of the NA contemporaries HEART BREATHS and the upcoming ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG.
She spends way too much time on Twitter (@kkhendin), and rambles on occasion over at www.kkhendinwrites.blogspot.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Think #1: Yellow, Blue, Birds.

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The glass wasn’t clean. Well, it had been earlier, but I’d sat there touching it for so long my fingerprints were all over my side. I could still see through it, though. My friend was on the other side. I’m not sure why they separated us, but it made me sad not to be able to touch him. He was lying there, probably asleep. At least he had a mat between himself and the concrete. But he didn’t have any blankets. Not that he needed one, it was pretty warm.

I scratched my knee. It was still hurting from earlier. They said I shouldn’t scratch it, but I couldn’t help myself. It itches. Doesn’t everybody scratch when they itch? I looked back at my friend through the glass. His eyes were a little bit open now, watching me. I pressed my nose to the glass and he raised one eyebrow. I knew what he was thinking, “Like that’s gonna’ do you any good.”

He was right. I pulled away and watched him for a minute. He scratched behind his ear. He did that a lot. Then he walked away a little ways. I leaned forward. Where was he going? He paused. I held very still. 

A bird – a blue one – hopped toward him. He didn’t move. I knew what he would do before he did it. He pounced at the bird, catching it between screeches and cries for help, I pressed my face and hands to the glass, grinning as I watched. My friend lost the bird for a moment, then caught it again. Then lost it. Then another bird – a yellow one – swooped down and landed on my friend’s head, pecking at his ears and eyes.

“No! Watch out!” I cried. 

As my friend shook free of the two birds, I heard someone coming behind me.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” she asked.

“The birds!” I said.

“Oh, did you see some birds?” she asked, smiling. 

“Birds!” I said again, smiling back.

She laughed, and we both looked through the glass at my friend. He’d moved to his food now, and was eating. I guess maybe he’d meant to eat the bird. 

“Do you want to go outside?” she asked.

“Outside!” I said, clapping.

She slid the glass aside, and I stood. My legs weren’t the best yet, but I was getting better. I went to my friend and sat beside him while he ate. Being able to touch him always made me feel better. I knew it helped him too, since he sighed when I laid my head on his stomach.

The sun wasn’t on us, but I felt the heat. Maybe we would play in the water later, if it got warm enough. 

My friend stood, letting my head slide to the ground. He ran away as I stood on my shaky legs and when I was steady he’d brought back a ball. She was still there, and she took it from my friend and threw it.

He ran to get it again. I knew this game, but I couldn’t throw the ball yet. I didn’t mind. It was funny to watch her throw it, and even funnier to watch my friend chase after it. When he was done playing, he sat chewing on the ball, and I climbed into her lap. I looked back over to see the glass in place again. I’m not sure why the glass was there, I didn’t like it very much. And then, why they always put me on the inside of it. 

The outside was much more fun.

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About the author: 

Darci Cole is a writing mother living in the American Southwest where she gave birth to both a frog and a monkey. She's obsessed with Harry Potter and Brandon Sanderson and Dr. Pepper. You should tell her that her butt looks good in jeans. She blogs at Darci Cole and on YAvengers. She tweets almost as much as I do and is one of the handlers of the Friday Night Writes #WriteClub. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!

I'm a sucker for Dr. Seuss, and this book is my absolute favorite. Starting next week, I will be featuring this book on my blog in a new way.

Throughout the book, Dr. Seuss suggests nineteen different "thinks" you can think up: We're going to explore all of them. Short stories exploring Da-Dake and the Rink-Rinker-Fink or what you could do when you meet a Jibboo. Nineteen talented authors, nineteen amazing stories. Some are adorable, some are fantastical, some are creepy. Every single one will be worth your time.

So spread the word, we're using the twitter tag #Thinks, posting a new story every day, starting next Monday, January 27th.

Here's the lineup of super-talented and awesomely adventurous authors:

Darci Cole - January 27th
KK Hendin - January 28th
Heather Truett - January 29th
J. Hewitt - January 30th
Beau M. Barnett - January 31st
Sarah L. Blair - February 1st
Jennifer Welborn - February 2nd
Ryan Dalton - February 3rd
Aaron Greene - February 4th
R. Scott Whitley - February 5th
Christine Tyler - February 6th
Jessica Collins - February 7th
Suzy G - February 8th
Carey Torgesen - February 9th
M. Andrew Patterson - February 10th
Brianna Shum - February 11th
Sarah Anne Hayes - February 12th
Gina Denny - February 13th
Jenny Kaczorowski - February 14th
Katy White - February 15th

Go, follow every single one of them! They'll all be tweeting about their story when their turn comes, and I don't want you to miss one tiny bit of the fun. Make sure you're back here on January 27th for the first story from the fabulous Darci Cole!