Tag Archives: Pretentiously-Eloquent Microfiction

Gone Fishin’

Please forward all correspondence to SpaceJunk.

I’m wondering if there’s some web-parallel service to a Winter Caretaker, someone who could come by once a month and open the windows, dusting and airing the rooms out in the summer, then battening down the hatches come autumn, while keeping the water running a bit in the winter to make sure the pipes don’t freeze up, and then coming around to make the minor repairs needed in the spring…basically, someone to do the little bits of daily upkeep that prevent a structure from becoming a ruin.

I wonder this because I’m going to be moving on from here.  Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction is closing up shop, boarding up the windows and putting in a change of address form.

A while back, I speculated on what to do with this site…it began as a novelty, a place to record my returning ability—and willingness—to write, and what was driving me at the time was short bursts of language, Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction, as I originally defined it on day one.

I had realized that, over time, my work—fiction and non—had moved away from that structure, and was of two minds about what to do:  do I change things around here, reflecting the evolution of what I’m working on now and how I want to share it?  Or do I keep things as-is, a reminder of what’s come before, and a desire to maintain a realistic history, at least as much as you can online.

And I decided, then, to keep on keeping on.  P.E.M. is critically important to me, as much a part of what defines me in this last half-decade of my life as my family and my new career.

But the time has come for me to realize, and acknowledge, that the work begun here, lo many years back, hasn’t just changed in direction:  it’s complete.  As in, over.  Something new is come ‘round, and it just doesn’t fit here anymore.

So, I’m turning out the lights and locking the door behind me.  I may return to these parts at some point in the future—if publishing my fiction on the web ever again becomes something that I feel I need to do, it’ll end up here.  But it’s time for some new scenery.

So update your bookmarks, if you will:  SpaceJunk.

These are my new online digs.  Something shiny, with different places to arrange the furniture and a new view outside the windows.  I’ve migrated some of the least-fiction-related posts from here over there already, just so we have something to build from, and now that I’m getting comfortable there, and feeling somewhat freed from the original strictures that were built here, you may even find me posting there more often there than I have been here of late…though, of course, the Rules of Engagement still hold.

And in case this truly is the last post that will go up here, I want to end it with something that it began with, something important that reminds me—and I hope encourages you to do the same—that intent is everything, and the baggage and previously-existing conditions surrounding a thought, or emotion, or situation, can and must be re-evaluated, so that it becomes meaningful to you, and you’re not just absorbing the meaning that others have given it as your own:

“We’re deathly afraid of that stabbing word ‘pretentious,’ the word that students use to curse each other’s ambition.  It’s a young person’s word, a shortcut-to-thinking word. I’m a big fan of pretension.  It means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment.’  It doesn’t mean failing upward.  It means trying to exceed your grasp.  Which is how things grow.”

– Warren Ellis

 

New-to-you – Over

Woah, did I say in my last post that an old story of mine was going up “tomorrow”?  Which would have been, like, a month ago?  No, I couldn’t have.  I think, when I typed “tomorrow”, what I meant to type was “sometime in September”, I just spelled it really, really wrong.

So here’s the one I was talking about.  Posted exactly when I said I would.


Over

There’s music playing in the background, badly.  The selection could use some improvement as well.  We were speculating earlier that the musician is probably related to the restaurant’s owner—nepotism, that great equalizer.  But I’m into my third glass of wine—miles behind my rambling friend here—and the buzz is smoothing out the rougher edges nicely.  Even Barry Manilow on an out-of-tune guitar is bearable after your third Merlot.

It’s a small restaurant.  “Atmosphere” they advertise; cramped it is.  You can only apologize for so many inadvertent elbows for so long before it all descends into absurdity.  Or a brawl.  Thankfully, this appears to be a crowd of the former.  My knees, on the other hand, are black and blue and know the underside of our off-balance table too well.  I imagine I’ll be feeling them—and everything else—rather vividly tomorrow morning.  God bless Merlot—but God really loves two aspirin and a glass of water before bed.

It’s an Italian restaurant, supposedly.  The menu is in Italian, and there’s enough garlic hanging to invade Transylvania with, but there isn’t a pasta dish or a clam in sight.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong; in fact, it’s already gone.  It’s getting pretty late, and most of the new customers wandering in are wearing blazers and pearls—it’s time to go.  Except our second bottle’s only half empty, and we both know we’ve only got a few more of these Romantic Evenings left in us, so we’re lingering.

It’s over, almost, for us.  You couldn’t tell from the outside, and, hey, we’re doing a pretty decent job of ignoring it ourselves.  But we’re lingering, and we know it.  It’s not exactly devastating.  Oh, hopefully it’ll happen as a fight, so she can cry and throw things and I can yell and get righteously pissed-drunk afterwards.  But it’s coming regardless.  I can feel it lurking just a couple of tomorrows away.

So, we linger.

But we’re not the only ones.  Just across the aisle from us, actually.  She’s by herself, has been since we first came in.  I can only imagine the scene we missed.  Just as we were showing up, a big, burly man came storming out of the restaurant’s front door.  I hope to God I never have on my face the expression he had on his.  He looked damned.  Like whatever had been haunting him had finished its work and seen that it was good.  He brushed by us without noticing, and I probably would’ve forgotten all about it except, when we went inside, the place was silent, not a word or a clank or warbly Fmaj7 cord in sight.  And all eyes were on this woman, this woman we ended up sitting just across the aisle from.

If he looked bad, she was worse.  Still is, as far as my surreptitious glances can tell.  Her table is as small as ours, and was set for two, but—and this is what’s absolutely killing me, and probably her as well—along the edge of the table are four or five crayons, strewn across a half-finished child’s activity place-mat.  The man who left didn’t have a little one in tow behind him, and there’s no one else at the table with her now, and so the question I still haven’t been able to answer is:  where the hell is the kid? I don’t know and still don’t know.

She has a glass of wine—whatever plates and silverware she had were picked up a while ago—and occasionally she takes a polite sip from it, probably without realizing she’s doing it.  She doesn’t look like she’s paying much attention to anything right now.  I’ve seen couples waiting by the door for a table, and given how rude our waiter has been to us, I’d expected someone to ask her to leave a long time ago.  But they haven’t yet.  In fact, part of the crampedness at our table is a result of everyone who uses the aisle’s swerving around her, ending up in our laps.  And no one’s staring anymore.  Maybe there is some compassion left in this world after all, people who won’t kick you, no matter how gently, out of their way when you’re down.

Her make-up is still in place, same with her hair.  She doesn’t look like she’s been crying.  Her dress is nice but doesn’t look very expensive.  If I had to guess I’d say she was just the other side of thirty.  She’s wearing a bracelet and stud earrings but nothing on her fingers or around her neck.  If I weren’t still lingering, I might wonder if she was attractive.  Her napkin is folded in her lap, a streak on a dangling end showing that it’s done its job.  But I can’t get over those crayons.  They aren’t set so that she or the person sitting across from her would have used them.

What happened?

I think it’s time to go.  There’s still a little wine left, but I have some more at home if we need it.  No more lingering; dinner’s over.

That Fat Bearded Fuck

(BTW, the title is partly in honor of the upcoming Fuck Week; celebrate as you will.)

I recently came across this quote in a book:

“You know, I’ve heard the same rumors, but really, why would I want to do that?  The movies are just fine as they are, better than fine, in fact.  Sure, even though we were breaking so much new ground at the time, we were pretty limited in what we could do, and very little of what I saw in my mind when I was writing Star Wars made it onto the screen exactly the way I wanted it to.  But art isn’t just the content, it’s the time and place it was created.  Sure, with the technology that we have today, I could go back, frame by frame, and ‘update’ them to be closer to the movie I saw in my mind, but that would completely betray the artist I was at the time, and everyone who worked on it with me, and everyone who experienced it and was moved by it.  It’s like I’d be saying that none of those experiences were valid, and need to be improved upon, when the truth is, all we would do is cheapen them.

“And as for that Han rumor, are you fucking kidding me?  He’s a smuggler, with zero honor:  he runs from the law, and doesn’t even hold to his criminal agreements.  He’s scum.  Of course he shot Greedo first, it was a cold blooded murder.  It’s the only thing that makes his redemption arc over all three movies meaningful.”

Han Shot First and Other Things We Wish That Fat Bearded Fuck Had Said (Scribner, 1997)

What a great, honorable man.  He’s one of the reasons I do what I do.

I bring that quote up because I’ve been facing a slightly similar quandry myself.  You’ll note the name of this blog, Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction.  And it fit when I started, but it’s been nearly two months since I’ve written anything under 1000 words, let alone legit microfiction, and most have been well over 3000 words (with two noticeable 7500 and 10500 word examples just in the last two weeks).  So that bit doesn’t really work anymore.

So I was wondering:  do I change the name of the blog?  What about the “A Few Things…” permanent post, wherein I set out the rules of engagement and my mission statement, which also doesn’t appear to make much sense in light of what I’m doing right now?

But, in addition to the insight that wise man gives in that quote above, I’m still enough in awe of this rebirth of my writing to not want to mess with things too much.  I may start a new blog, somewhere down the line, depending on where the upcoming paths in my life take me, that will address where I am at that specific moment…but to try to ret-con this site to fit exactly what I’m doing this weekend, completely ignoring what I might’ve been doing when the site started, or what I might be doing two months from now…that would sully the growth that’s happened thus far.

So, it all stays.  And we’ll look back a year from now and see what makes sense then.

New-to-you – Saturday, June 6

I’m almost clear of it; the project is nearly done, all that’s left is the death spiral of closing it out, offering sacrifices to the great god First Party…there’s a clarity dawning, shapes protruding through the fog.

Work has begun again on something new, picking up the tools and materials and dusting them off, trying to remember where I was, what I was aiming for, when I set them down such a short while ago.

In the meantime, here’s another treat from the pre-drought days…I can’t pretend that I got it right, but my mom did read it, back in the day, and said she liked it, so I must’ve hit somewhere close to the mark.


Saturday, June 6

1

She figures it’s way beyond habit, much more than conditioning.  The day to day after day after week after month after…Christ, it’s been years.  How many?  From the top:  twelve of elementary and prep school, two of eight AM survey courses, five times a week, three years of getting to the office early enough to have the coffee ready when everyone else arrived, four years married (but with the same responsibilities), then the last fourteen with the kids.  Plus the last four months.  Just the three of them.  Even consciously trying, she can’t remember the last time she’s slept past six o’clock in the morning.  Slept in.  All week she’s been trying to convince herself to look forward to this.  As a reward, maybe, for making it to the weekend.  But here it is, the first Saturday in June, and it’s six-oh-three in the morning and it’s taking such a deliberate effort to keep her eyes shut that sleep’s already gone.

She tries to enjoy it anyway, but automated alarms start going off inside of her.  The kids’ll be up soon, and they’ll need breakfast and someone to break up the fights over the television.  Except they won’t.  Or, rather, will, but not here, not in her home, not today or any day until the end of the summer, when their father will pack them up (probably putting all of the expensive things he bought for them on top, where she can see them), and drive them back.  Then every other weekend with him, until the holidays, which is already looking like it’s going to get messy.  So they’re at his place, and probably already awake, and alone, and trying to fight quietly ‘cause they know better than to wake up their father before he does it himself.

But still, she can almost hear them, thumping lightly down the carpeted stairs, hitting the eighth and ninth square in the middle, thankfully (to her mothering heart) not yet knowing how to step on the edge of them to silence the creaks and gunshot pops.

Before she’s fully aware she’s doing it, she stands, grabs her robe from the chair in the corner, and follows their memory down the hallway and stairs.

2

There’s something wrong in the kitchen.  She doesn’t know what it is, if something’s missing or severely out of place or a different color—like the fridge, for instance.  She gets out the pan, the bacon first, then two eggs fried in the bacon grease.  Some orange juice and a couple of chocolate donuts for a chaser.  She gets the paper, finding it where she should, and sits down in the silence for her breakfast and Dear Abby, like she does every morning.  Except that’s what’s wrong.  It’s never this quiet.

She allows no time for thought, just lets the impulse take over.  By the time she’s on her feet she’s already made a mental note to call Anne and tell her to clear her couch all next week.  This is definitely getting certifiable.  But she won’t think about that now.  Just pick up the remote, change to channel nine, another super-hero battling another super-villain.  She turns the volume up to the earsplitting level where the kids would have it, and goes back to her food.  She eats in peace, enjoying reading about another bridal shower snafu, blessed for a bit, living without having to think about it.

3

There isn’t much she needs; she could, in fact, probably hold off until Monday and swing by the store near her office on the way home.  But nobody bothered asking her.  It’s Saturday morning, a little after seven-thirty:  it’s time to go to the store.  Q.E.D.  No question mark in sight.  And as such, it’s easy to tune out and let her autopilot take over.  She drives past the 7-11 two blocks down, gets onto the freeway, and drives for ten minutes, all the way to Playa Del Rey.  To the only supermarket in Southern California that carries a certain kind of chocolate toaster pastry which the kids are addicted to.  There’s no need to drive all the way out here for milk and wine and tampons, but again, no one’s asking.

She wanders the aisles slowly, leaning on her unneeded cart, following the regular route.  Occasionally her arm starts to rise as she reaches for one or another of the items she’d usually buy.  If the kids had been around to have used the old up.  It hadn’t been so noticeable during the week.  Work had been particularly hectic, and she’d only barely been aware that all of the little artifacts that the kids would leave behind in the course of their after-school lives weren’t popping up anymore.  The quiet had actually been nice, particularly after half a bottle of white wine.  What she is feeling now is subtle, almost devious.  It hits her like a bullet shattering her spine:  no pain, just a slowly dawning awareness that something significant has already happened to her.

She comes to aisle six, her autopilot steering a true course, and doesn’t notice the other shopper in the aisle until her cart runs into his.  She looks up, and even under the blanket of numbness she’s been knitting herself all morning, she can feel shapes moving, shock and surprise overwhelming the last parts of her worth taking.

“David.”

Her ex-husband looks, she’s sure, as bad as she does, if not worse.  He hasn’t shaved yet, and clumps of gray-speckled hair poke out from beneath an old baseball cap.  His T-shirt and sweatpants were probably slept in.  He’s staring feverishly at the shelf with the toaster pastries on it, the grinding gears of his memory nearly sending smoke out of his ears.  He hadn’t even noticed when she’d bumped his cart, but when she says his name he turns to her, the same compressed astonishment bringing his eyes briefly to life.

They look at each other for a moment, a long one.  This is no time for improvisation.  And then inspiration comes.  She motions with her head towards a section of the shelf he’d been staring at.

“Devil Bombs.”

He follows her gaze and finds what he’d been looking for.  He takes one, then thinks better of it and grabs another two boxes, dumping them into his jumbled cart.  A small smile hangs briefly from the side of his mouth, and for a bit they’re blessed.

“It’s hard.  To tell them no.”
“Isn’t it.”

The burning insults and threats that should follow dissolve on her lips.  They don’t mean anything right now.  She offers him a sad, wry smile, and continues on her way, trying hard not to look back and see if he’s watching her go.

edge – 8-19-09

Heard back from the final microfiction publisher that I submitted “edge” to, and as the ones before it, it’s a no-go.  I’m reminding myself that I’m not writing for publication anymore…so the hell with them, here it is.  My readership here is probably bigger than theirs anyway.


edge

Age occurring, edges, firming, definition increasing.  The essential kept, timeless embedded, the common abandoned.  Light marking where it ends, showing the lines of his face.

It was to be a birthday party, and at this exact moment, she can’t remember why.  Birth and day ceased to speak with breath and tongues.

The light unsteady as it fell and spilled, uneven and clinging, yellow in the afternoon.  The other guests were arriving well into night; this was just for them.

She moves closer, steps slow and definite.  He hasn’t seen her yet, his head down, slightly to the side-like, kenning something on the paper before him.

The air breathes for them, choosing the tone, the tempo, the pause and the gasp.  They rode, and abandoned.  He, still unaware, she, still, fully.

Rotations, a passing of one to the other, a passage, as eyes rotate, passing over.  A word pulling, paper falling, feet moving, moment crowning.

He gets to his feet, moving towards her.  Stretching, will enforcing, begging, a moment sliding aside, forgotten and cherished.  That moment, that specific moment, that air, and light, and moment, momentous, aside, and gone.

And for a while, for as long as they can, two of them, old and timeless, living there, giving life.

Two of them, sliced, branched, branching.  In this one of infinite nows, the wave is poised, the foot raised, the light still, spilling but unspoilt.  In this one of infinite nows, two of them, the word birthing on his lips, collapse imminent but eternally hesitant.  Two of them, now, now, and again, unseen with infinite ache, unfulfilled.  Fulfillment brings an end, and for this once, this now, the scent and first wetness upon the lips slips and hides between the length and width of now.

His foot reaches the floor, and they leave them behind.  Edges adapt, pressing in, pressure and change collapsing, wave crashing, love laughing, at the traces left before, behind, and now.

Sketches – 8/7/09

Wow, this place gets dusty when I’m gone for a few days.

Have been wanting to wait until what I’m working on is done before posting it here…it’s much longer than what I’ve posted previously, sort of taking the microfiction I’ve been doing and seeking a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.  But, then I realized two things:  it’s going to take a long time before I’m done, given how little time I have to work on it now; and I started this place up to share what, how and why I’m writing.  And that means not having to wait until every last little detail is perfect.

So, here’s a bit of what I’m working on right now.  Let me know what you think, and keep an eye out for more bits and pieces to show up over the next few weeks.


Of bleeding stars, and screams, ancient and quiet.

Like that one guy, that one time, who did that thing in that place.

And the temple walls fell.

*****

She shakes, muscles primed and failing.  The voices echo, ache in her head.  Pictures fly past her closed eyes, dizzying, incoherent narrative of everyone she used to be, and the holes they’ve left behind in her.

She sees sadness with held tears, creases filled with dust, hands unable to find the right movement, and words from toothless mouths that gnaw at her long after they’re gone.

She sees laughter cut short, limbs cut short, Death’s celebratory streamers of red, pink and white.

She sees sweat, and heat, and coughing constriction, knowing the tightness in her chest will last long after she’s unstrapped and removed her armor.

She sees a fly land on an unblinking eye, and can’t bring herself to brush it away, to confirm this place and time.

She sees a vortex, a maelstrom of the half-remembered and half-forgotten, and the shame of both.

Through it all, just one anchor, one solid place she clings to.  Before she does it, as she does it, she sees it, the knife taking hold, skin bending, then breaking, can feel the shatter through her whole she, reaffirming it’s there.  In that moment, the blinding flash drives it all away, it’s ecstatic, the release, all the tension, the confusion between hateful dreams and dark fantasies and why she can’t tell the fucking difference between them…all of it, fear and doubt and pregnant weeping, pulsing and burning, until finally cut.

She sees it before she does it, and as she does it.  She doesn’t see it after…after is nothing, is quiet, is nothing but hands, arms, legs, the core in between, and a soft, gentle, warm caress dripping down.

She hides it from him.

2 Sketches – 7/26/09

These are the sketches I mentioned in my last post; they had titles while I was working on them, but I’ve removed them to avoid biasing too much whatever they turn into later.

*****

sketch 1


I…now…no…can’t…god…she…stop…burns…shouldn’t…

…oh god…

Small words escape static.  Eyes closed in shadow.  Control shakes and weeps.  And pain, a physical thing, he stands there untouched and is split, torque tearing him.  Fingers, grooves and drawn blood, wounds to keep the ache at bay.  His foot, tick, tock, ten and two and ten again, back and forth, timing down to an end.  Or not.

Ten and two and ten again, delaying and denying.  Soft scrape of sole.  And eyes, flicking, aimless.  Careless, light on him, visible and unwanted.  Or wanted.  Or not.  Waiting, or not.  Wanting, or not.

Tick, tock, ten and two and ten again.

He can hear, a cascade, echoing, memories pushing air, a million and one sounds, her voice, all meaning wanting.  Or not.  Every moment of certainty follows, pivoting, sure and sure again, back and forth, fallen petals.

She loves him.  Or not.  She’s waiting.  Or not.

Back and forth and back again, pristine and painted, possible cresting.  An asphalt Charon, descent or ascent, unpaid and waiting, whichever way.  And his foot ticks, tocks.  She waits, or not.  The hair on his arms stretches to her like the sun.  He shakes, vibrating off key, and maybe, just maybe, she’s waiting for him.

Suddenly, movement, action, bit and teeth, need paid and collecting.  A door, rising, path and gate and cage.  Fingers dancing, absent floor, almost but not quite, not just quite able.  Numbers memorized, sounds rehearsed, words possible, feet again still.

House to half, final breath, pray and stretch and avoid eye contact.  Once pays for all.

She’s waiting.  She wants.

And a rising curtain of human light, a single broad star, edge to edge, muted and wishless overhead.

*****

sketch 2


Broken laugh, jagged.  Bent wrists, bent back, bent eyes.  There’s a cough as she stands, a silent wince, and tiny sway as she begins to move.

“Did you finish yet?”

A small smile, wry, crossing the room.  Another cigarette, on the heels of the last, practiced yellow hands shake the match out and cover the subsequent cough.

“Wha?”

She dips and sways as she answers, counter and pointing to each beat.

“I said, did you finish yet?  Because you won’t after that.”

He looks down at his hands, the kit, battered leather case, tarnished altar, in media res.

“Well, I—…I didn’t…”

Synapses fire, and then ash, as cheeks sag and muscles release and eyes glaze closed.

“No, I didn’t think you did.”

A moment, lip bitten, then sigh.  Ripples as voices pass, echoes, former selves warring over what space remains.  And then a drag, ember flares, smoke escapes, tasted, and the cough.  No blood; someday, but not yet.