Camp NaNoWriMo? Maybe….

camp nano

As if I need something else to deal with in the midst of recovery. Still, I’m considering getting back into the book I wrote for Nano last November by way of participating in Camp NaNoWriMo.  The problem is, a lot of my book (Water, Bleed Away) was written while drunk. Well, not flat-out drunk, but certainly under the influence (when wasn’t I under the influence in some way?). I know for a fact I wrote entire sections while blitzed. When I think about the book, I can’t help but think about drinking. That, and a major character is an alcoholic, and now I want to rewrite (or add to) my main character, Alice, as a woman dealing with recovery, too. Working on the book could be therapeutic or it could be a giant mess. Of course, it could be both.

Camp NoNoWriMo doesn’t begin until April, so there’s time to ponder. And if I do this, it would be simply to motivate myself to work on the book; I wouldn’t be concerned about word counts or anything like that. Like this blog, the Camp could keep me accountable.

I tend to overdo things and stretch myself too thin, so I may not commit to this. If I do, I’ll let you fine folks know.

Don’t Wanna Fight No More

Listening to “Don’t Wanna Fight No More” by the Alabama Shakes…and feeling the need to write. 

The fight had left him, finally, around two in the morning…but it was still going strong in her. Burned inside like a fucking forest fire, man, and there was only one way to quench it.

“Kill him?” asked the little man at the window.

She rolled her eyes. “God, give me some credit, Lester,” she replied. “I don’t want to kill him, though I admit the idea has some appeal. But then where would I be?”

“In prison, most likely,” Lester said, sniffing delicately. “Say, it smells awful out here. What say you let me in?”

“That didn’t go so well last time.”

“Ah, yes. Well, last time, you didn’t have a comatose boyfriend to wrangle with. What’s your plan when he comes to? He’s given to incredible fits of violence. Trust me, I’ve seen them. What’s more, I’ve been on the receiving end of them. Did I ever tell you about the time Brandon picked up a hot iron and–”

“Spare me,” Lucy said, walking over and opening the window. “Why can’t you go to the front door like normal people?”

“Too pedestrian,” Lester grunted as he heaved himself inside the bedroom. He fell into an inglorious heap at Lucy’s feet, and she shook her head.

“No, no, don’t help, I’m fine,” Lester grumbled and got up. Standing at tall as he could–and with lifts on his shoes–he barely reached five feet.

“You’re the strangest small man I’ve ever known,” Lucy said.

“I wager I’m the only small man you’ve ever known,” Lester said, dusting himself off. “You seem to surround yourself with Amazonian women like yourself and men who could double as linebackers.”

“We’re all normal, actually. You’re just a freak.”

“Ever the charmer, Lucy, ever the charmer.” Lester walked over to Brandon, who lay face down on the hardwood floor. Out of habit, Lester knelt and checked for a pulse. “He yet lives,” he said, not without a tinge of disappointment.

“Good,” Lucy said.

“But I expect him to regain consciousness at any moment. This isn’t like the movies, dear. If someone is out for more than a few minutes, we’re talking serious brain damage.”

“Would that be so bad?”

“Brandon in a semi-vegetative state?” Lester rubbed his stubbly chin thoughtfully. “No, I suppose not. You’d be on the hook for his medical bills, of course. I doubt you could swing that. Tell me, how lucrative is the erotic dancing business these days?”

Lucy scowled. “I don’t do that anymore.”

“No? Bully for you. So how do you line your pockets?”

“I’m a server,” Lucy answered, lifting her head higher.

“Oh, you’re rolling in the dough now.”

“Fuck you, Lester. Not all of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths.”

“Honey, that spoon didn’t stay in my mouth long before it was replaced with my father’s disgusting cock, damn his eyes.”

“You’re still richer than God.”

“Ah, but at a cost,” Lester said. “Enough of that. Behold, the golden boy stirs to life.”

What the hell? Like most things, I probably won’t finish it. I need to commit to a story. And my novel. Hmf. At least I’m sober. WhaBAM!

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab (and I Said Yes)

I try not to reference my other blog about recovery, but today I graduate from rehab, and I wanted to share that fact with everyone here. It’s been a tough journey and will continue to be, but I believe I can make it. In the beginning, I thought “one day at a time” was just a tired cliche…but I don’t think that anymore.

Bitch.

Bitch.

Years ago, I wrote a poem called Red Wine Drinkers Make Better Lovers. It was a good poem, actually, and I’ll post it here if I can find a copy (luckily, I did). My thoughts regarding wine have altered since then. I miss her, but she was cruel to me. She was my drug of choice (though that bastard vodka gave her a run for her money). It was with wine that I made a spiritual connection; it was with her that I cemented a Faustian deal back in my twenties. I broke that deal on January 5 of this year, and I don’t plan on looking back.

Here’s my old poem:

Red Wine Drinkers Make Better Lovers

Those of us with burgundy and cabernet
competing with blood for space
fill our vessels with better potency.
We snap quick into bed,
let the red surf pound under our skin,
behind our eyes, and we laugh
because the ocean outside the window
has never been drunk and lurches
only because of the moon,
envying us as we rest in better tides.

Here’s my follow-up. I don’t know how it’s going to go, but that’s part of the fun.

Expanse

My veins run clear for once,
and my brain is vexed–
where is she? where has she gone?

She has left the building,
flooding her red way
toward the unsuspecting

and suspecting alike,
toward those willing to flail
in her liquid arms

and those willing to trade
breath for gills
and swim deeper

and deeper still,
not knowing that
to dive is to drown.

I stand on the dry shore,
gritting my teeth against wind,
the blood surf teething the sand.

I move further away
until the ocean recedes
from view and I’m left

with nothing
but the expanse,
of a clean, sober sky.

Which is the better of the two? I know which one gets my vote.

Dreary Days and Old Bookstores

It’s chilly and rainy here, which is a far sight better than up north, but a bit of a shock for folks who live in Savannah. The weather’s been strange lately. Well, more than strange–it’s been downright bizarre. The high tomorrow will be 72, but it will be 48 by Friday. I wear a coat and scarf one day and a t-shirt the next.

Weather like this is good for one thing: staying inside with a good book, a blanket, and a cup of coffee or tea (I’ve had both today). I’m reading Niagara Falls All Over Again and loving it, but I don’t have as much time as I’d like to devote to it or my own writing. I’m in the middle of grading papers, for one thing, and my children plague me with such pedestrian concerns as wanting to be fed and clothed warmly. The nerve.

I don’t have time to work on poetry, a story, my novel, or music today (that’s a rather tall order, now that I see it typed out). Instead, I’ll share what I’ve been thinking about today: old book stores, specifically Bookland, B. Dalton Booksellers, and Waldenbooks, .

bookland There’s nothing I looked forward to more than visiting one of these three bookstores when my parents took me and my brother to the mall. I wasn’t much of a heavy-duty reader then; I was into the Choose Your Own Adventure series and the Endless Quest books, both of which were amazing. I’d go on to read Terry Brooks, Tolkien, the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books, but in my salad days, I was content to get my Revenge of the Rainbow Dragons and look through the rest of the store.

Awesomeness.

Awesomeness.

While my brother complained, I walked up and down the aisles, running my hands over books in every section: travel, religion, fantasy, literary fiction. I wanted all of the books. I wanted to work at Bookland. No, I didn’t just want to work there; I wanted to live and sleep there and take all my meals amidst books. I would grow old and die among them, well-read if not a bit crazy from the isolation.

b dalton I got part of my wish many years later when I took at job at Barnes & Noble. Even though I enjoyed working there, the magic wasn’t quite the same. There was no way it could have been. I was in graduate school, wading my way through post-modern feminist poets and trying my best to craft decent poems and stories. I met my wife at Barnes & Noble (she worked there, too) and I made many friends, so there’s that.

waldenbooksAll the old bookstores mentioned in this post are gone, as are many of the malls that housed them. The mall that my family and I went to closed in 2009. It stubbornly hung in there longer than I expected it to.

I read a lot on my Nook these days, and I rarely go the Barnes & Noble in town. When I do, I find myself missing the bookstores of my youth, when the world seemed impossibly big, and I couldn’t wait to get my latest book, go home, and get lost inside its pages.

Feel Free to Pick Me Up Off the Floor…

…or leave me lying here, which is also perfectly fine, because I’m content with my discontent. No, more than that–my brain and soul are on fire. Why, you may ask?

Because of poetry.

I sat at my desk, sipping my spicy ginger tea, ready to grade some papers like a good English teacher, when I said to myself, “Well, I’m going to click on StumbleUpon and see what I can see.”

And then I came across “21 Heart-Punching Quotes That Will Make You Fall In Love with Poetry.” At first, I thought, Oh, come on. And then I saw the author used the word “feels,” and I rolled my eyes. I can’t stand it when people say something gives them “the feels.” Is it because I’m an intolerant, pretentious snob? Possibly, but we all have words and phrases that rub us the wrong way.

feels

Stop it.

Anyway, as I read through the list, I wasn’t just punched in the heart; I had my guts ripped out and spread out before me. I said “My God!” or “Holy fuck!” so many times that I stopped counting. My surroundings dropped away. I entered each fragment of verse, felt myself sliced open, and emerged, ready for more.

I’m going to locate as many of these poems as possible and inhabit them further. My therapist wouldn’t approve…but then again, my therapist isn’t a writer. Bam!

All these snippets grabbed me, but this is one that stopped me dead and made the world drop away:

“They don’t know I only speak in runaway train stations
and everybody is always a few minutes too late to the platform.
No one has ever gotten the chance to get too close
because it is never romantic to fuck the girl who makes love to her own sadness every single night.”

- Katelin Wagner, “Disappearing Acts (after Miles Hodges)”

I’m going to try to salvage the rest of my office hours and be productive, but it doesn’t look good, people. Poetry’s in the forefront of my being at the moment.

The Bondage O. Henry Story Thing Part 2

I don’t even know what to call it. When we last left our heroes….

“Never mind that,” he snapped, “just get dressed. And for God’s sake, Harry, get some real pants on. Mom’s gonna be in here in thirty minutes.”

Harry pouted for a few more minutes and then slipped the collar from his neck. Annabelle shrugged and got out of bed, purposefully crossing in front of David and pausing for a moment to make sure he got a good eyeful, even though he kept trying to look everywhere else. “It’s okay to want me, you know,” she said. “I don’t belong to Harry or anything.” Not that she wanted David; at least Harry did what he was told. Still, Annabelle enjoyed the power she had over both men. David thought he was above it, but he wasn’t. When it came down to it, no man could resist a naked woman, especially one that looked like Annabelle. She’d even converted a few gays in her time, something she was particularly proud of.

“Get dressed, goddamn it,” David said. “It’s bad enough Mom’s got to see that you’re still here. I oughta kick you out.”

“So kick me out,” Annabelle replied, making no move toward her clothes beside the bed. Instead, she took a tiny step closer to David.

“Hey, don’t start that kind of talk,” Harry whined as he searched through the shabby dresser. He found a pair of semi-clean jeans and a black t-shirt emblazoned with Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson’s grinning face. Under the face was his tagline: can you smell what the Rock is cooking?

“I’ll talk the talk and walk the walk,” David said. “If dinner goes south, Annabelle, you can consider yourself kicked the hell out. Harry, I’d boot you, too, but Mama would put my ass in a sling. Otherwise, you’d have been gone a while back.”

David waited until Annabelle and David were dressed before he made his way into the kitchen to check on the Hamburger Helper….

to be continued

What Does This Have to Do with the Classic O. Henry Story?

Here comes something weird, folks, from the mind of yours truly.

“What the hell is this?” David asked when burst into the room. “Some kind of perverted Gift of the Magi shit?”

Annabelle looked down, embarrassed. She didn’t bother covering herself except for crossing her arms halfheartedly over her breasts. For his part, Harry mumbled around the ball gag. He had on ass-less leather pants and a dog collar. David sighed and walked over, ripping off the ball gag and slapping his brother hard across the back of his head.

“Ow, David, come on,” Harry whined. “Why’d you do that for? Me and Annabelle was just having fun.”

“And I don’t you understand the reference you made,” Annabelle said.

David glanced over to the girl who’d been living under his roof for the last two months. He knew she was kinky, but he never pegged her crazy bondage stuff like in that new film all the ladies couldn’t stop talking about. Fifty somethings of something or other. “What the hell do you mean?” he barked. “I understand everything I say, so what’s your brain damage?”

“Please explain what this situation has to do with the classic O. Henry story,” Annabelle said.

She let her arms drop to her sides, and her breasts shone in their brilliant glory–full, pink, nipples hard. David blushed and tried to keep eye contact with her, but it has difficult. What had she asked him? Who the hell was Henry? Wait, what had he said when he walked in the room? Gift of the Magi, that was it. That was a story? Maybe. David had no idea; he’d just heard it used when describing a shitty situation, and he liked it.

“Never mind that,” he snapped, “just get dressed. And for God’s sake, Harry, get some real pants on. Mom’s gonna be in here in thirty minutes.”

Michael and Clint Discuss Connie

Part of a screenplay? I guess. This is what happened when I sat down to write today.

INT. CLINT’S HOUSE – NIGHT

CLINT and MICHAEL sit across from each other in Clint’s disgusting living room.

CLINT

Didn’t your mama teach you nothin’?

MICHAEL

Yeah, she taught me how to kill myself.

CLINT

Ah, Jesus, that ain’t what meant.

MICHAEL

It doesn’t matter what you meant, that’s how I took it.

CLINT

All right, all right, let’s drop it. That’s ancient history.

MICHAEL

Like hell it is. I think about it every day.

CLINT

(exhaling sharply)

Well, why can’t you focus on the good times before she…you know.

MICHAEL

Killed herself. You can say it, Clint.

CLINT

Listen, I knew Connie…uh, your mother, okay? She was a good woman. Tried dating her once, you know that?

MICHAEL

I didn’t, but I can’t imagine her going out with you. Even once.

CLINT

(laughing weakly)

Yeah, well…I guess I wasn’t her speed. She was something else in high school, let me tell you.

MICHAEL

So I hear.

CLINT

There was this one time she and Roy Rogers–shit, he hated to God that his parents named him that, and he changed it to Steven later, but no one bought it. Anyway, he and Connie got good and liquored up and broke into Old Man Heater’s place. It ain’t around anymore, they bulldozed that thing in 79, but he had all kinds of shit in there. You’d call him a hoarder now, I guess, but he had a system from what I understood. Animal skeletons in one room, hundreds of books in another, and the room where he got dirty with little girls.

MICHAEL

Sounds like he was a lovely man. So why did Mom and this Roy guy break in?

CLINT

Just to do it and check out all the weird shit they’d heard about. Heater’s place was like museum that no one could visit, so they broke it. Heater was drunk and passed out, but he came to as soon they started checking out his books. Shit, your mom loved to read.

MICHAEL

What happened then?

CLINT

They were about to make tracks when Heater said to hold on, don’t go. Turns out he was real lonely, so he made some coffee and they talked all night. He gave them the grand tour and they left when the sun came up.

MICHAEL

I get the feeling that isn’t the end of the story.

CLINT

Oh, no, it ain’t. When they came back in a few days to pay for the damage they done to the window they broke, Heater met them at the door with a shotgun and told them to get the hell off his property. They said they knew him, had spent a whole night with him, but Heater wasn’t hearing none of that. He kept claiming they was from the government, and they could get their asses back to the government in one piece or in body bags, he didn’t care which.

MICHAEL

Damn.

CLINT

Damn is right. Whoo! They never went back. Two years later, he got caught with a thirteen-year-old girl and went to prison. They had a big-ass estate sale. By then, your mom was pregnant with you and living in Savannah. She didn’t even know Heater had died. When she found out, she was mad as hell that she’d missed out on that estate sale.

MICHAEL

What happened to Heater?

CLINT

Well, he didn’t fare too well in prison, being a child molester and all. He was old, but that didn’t mean the guys didn’t fuck him over time and again. Broke his collar bone once, stabbed his ass in the shower, but cancer got him in the end. Liver cancer, to be exact. Not a good way to go.

Scissor Slip

What does Scissor Slip mean? I don’t know. It just popped into my head. I’m going with it. Freewrite powers activate!

The time Tommy fell down the stairs, clutching Mom’s best shears, I thought we both were doing to die. First, Tommy would die with a pair of scissors–but they were shears, that’s what Mom called them, and she they were her favorite pair that she used when making dresses, and even though she had others, she named those Shears the Black Widow–firmly implanted in his neck. Mom would come home and find his crumpled body, stiffening in a pool of blood, and then she’s find and kill me for allowing it to happen. Never mind that Tommy was older by five years (fifteen at the time, and somehow a ten-year-old was going to tell him what to do and make sure he didn’t do something like grabbed the Black Widow and pretend his Superman and jump off the stairs while wearing a bedsheet? I don’t think so.

Boys mature so much more slowly than girls, and that was certainly the case with my brother. He was also kind of stupid, and that day, he was especially stupid. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to run with scissors. I figured jumping off stairs with scissors was a foregone conclusion.

He nicked his arm up, and as I cleaned his cut and applied a Band-Aid, I asked him what he was thinking when he leaped from the stairs, and what on Earth possessed him to do so with the Black Widow.

“I dunno,” Tommy said, and I believed him. He’s still impulsive, but at least grown-up Tommy puts forth a modicum of thought before he does something incredibly dangerous or stupid. To date, he’s been skydiving, base jumping, he’s made his way through Africa and Australia, hiked through Europe, and he did something in Alaska that he’s never breathed a word of. Oh, and he got a girl pregnant in India, and her family kicked her out. She still writes to Tommy and asks him to marry her. and bring her and their son to America. Tommy that Ekta would hate it in America.

“I can’t imagine she enjoys living as a pariah much,” I told him one night over the phone.

“Oh, she’s fine,” Tommy said. I swear, if he saw a man trapped in a burning building and it was up to Tommy to save him, he’d say, “Oh, he’s fine.”

“I doubt they’re fine, Tommy.”

“I send them money.”

“Because that solves everything.”

“Jesus, Lisa, back off,” Tommy snapped. “I’m doing the best I can.”

Never was a bolder lie uttered. Well, that’s not true; Tommy was a pathological liar, and he’d conjured some fantastic ones before. He told lies so much that they became truth.

“What about you, huh?” Tommy said. “Since when was your life so perfect?”

“I never said it was.”

“Yeah, but you act like it is. Just because you’re a teacher and help kids and shit, that doesn’t make you a saint.”

The more Tommy ranted, the calmer I grew. It drove him crazy, and I knew it. “We’re not talking about me.”

“Yes, the fuck we are. Right now, I’m changing the subject. Tell me one bad thing you did this week.”

I burst out laughing but I thought, Just one thing? How about a lay out my entire miserable week, mistake by mistake, and let you pick through the trash until you find one that’s especially loathsome?

Like my brother, I’m a liar, too, so I just made something up about how I yelled at a cashier in the grocery store and made her cry. I guess it worked, because Tommy said smugly, “Yeah, see? Who’s perfect now?”

“Certainly not me.”

“Damn right you’re not.” My brother took a deep breath. “Have you talked to Mom lately?”

I hadn’t, but I wasn’t ashamed to admit it. To put it mildly, Mom was going crazy, and neither of us knew what to do about it. It all started when Dad left. According to Mom, he walked into their bedroom one night and said, “Well, the kids are grown, so I’m taking off. Might move to Mexico.”

As it turns out, he’d fallen in love with a stripper named Monica, and instead of Mexico, he and the stripper moved to California. Mom was left back in Georgia, wondering what the hell to do. She’d always struggled with depression–Lord knows Tommy and I witnessed enough of her dark periods–but this time was different. She couldn’t seem to crawl out of the hole she’d fallen into, and we didn’t know how to pull her out.

She was seeing a new therapist who had her on a cocktail of meds, but she was drinking on top of that, which her shrink didn’t know. When I told her that wasn’t the best idea, she slapped me hard across the face and said, “Don’t you ever question me. I raised you better than that.”

So that’s where it was–Mom slipping farther away, Dad playing house with a reformed stripper, and my brother trying the fill the gaping hole inside of himself with travel and sex.

And me? Oh, I have my own ways of filling the hole. And they’re much, much worse that what my family does.

Huh. Well, that came out rather quickly. Interesting.