Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FFF #40 - Summer Lullaby

I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk
And the sound of keys,
My piano, out of tune.

My heart sang the blues in the moonlight
And my dog
Ordered another round.

Our reverie on summer's passing
Bent our souls leeward
As we listened to the last storm

News of hurricanes blow through our sunburns and
We sandbag ourselves
Against the chill we can't feel yet

The thunder rumbles our bones
And is a harbinger
Of closing up, in

As we weep at the beginning
Of the end of warmth
The earth pulls us closer,
One last embrace before
Our bedtime of winter

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FFF #39: The Lone School Marm

She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora's Box all over again. Susanna checked that her six-shooter was loaded and that her knife was firmly in its sheath. The knife was a gift from her Pa on her 13th birthday and she'd worn it on her left ankle ever since. She had Doc Shaw's satchel stuffed with the paper money and coins. Everything was ready but her nerve.

The last time she opened the door to the school house, she had found three members of the Dirty Boys gang holding her students at gun point, one of whom was lying on the floor, bleeding from the ear and whimpering. Stunned, she watched the men turn and train their guns on her when they heard the door shut. They smirked and licked their weathered lips as they took in the site of the local school marm. She nearly laughed at the sight of their wolfishness, some mania gripping her.

But before the laugh could find its way out of her gut, the children began to call out to her and scream, hoping she'd lead them out of this like it were another one of her lessons. They began to run towards her and the Dirty Boys started shooting. Eli Johnson, her cousin and prized pupil when down when a bullet landed in his spine. Desks splintered in reaction to the barrage of lead flying around the room and her world dissolved into screams, tears and utter devastation.

She felt herself slipping into panic, not knowing where to turn first. Her heart started to break as she remembered what her Pa told her. He'd said, "Susanna, you're as stubborn as my mule and smarter than my whip. Ain't nothin' anyone can throw atcha you cain't handle. People are gonna sense that about you and they're gonna look to you for help. You got the grit, girl. Just feel the fear and saddle up anyhow."

She let her fear wash over her and mix in with love of this school house and her own stubbornness. Her innards began to boil with anger and she knew then that she had to take control. She had found her voice and shouted her standard line to the children when she was ready to start her lessons and they were rowdy and preoccupied: "Looky here, lads and lassies!"

They all stopped running and screaming and turned their wide wild eyes at her. The shots stopped, the bandits having been school children once, too. She took a moment to look at each one of the children that could see. She tried to convey a calmness and love to them with her eyes. She then turned her anger to each of the three gangsters in turn, memorizing two of their faces, the third one obscured by the wide brim of his black hat.

"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded, bringing out the tone she used on bullies in her classroom. "Why have you turned our school house into a battle field?"

The Dirty Boys had recovered their swagger and began to move towards her.

"Well, ma'am," the dirtiest and biggest one said, "We're here to take our cut."

"Yeah, our cut!!" the littlest one sniggered as he pulled out a bowie knife slowly from the sheath on his belt.

"What do you mean, 'your cut,'" Susanna demanded, putting her hands on her hips.

"Well, we heard tell that the gov'ment gave you some money...a lot of money to add on to this school and buy books and such. And since you're only allowed to use this school house by the good graces of Dirty Dan, we thought you'd like to return the favor and give us half."

"Half!" the littlest one laughed and hooted.

"So, why don't you hand it over and we'll let you get on with your history lessons and what not," the biggest and dirtiest one said.

"Well, I don't keep it here, you imbecile!" she retorted. "It's at the bank. Why don't you take your guns and your knives and go over there and try to help yourselves."

"Well," the third one said tipping up his hat, "We thought you might do that for us, save us the trouble of a bank robbery."

The children gasped, recognizing the face of Dirty Dan himself.

"Besides," Dan said, "I'm looking for a new wife...my current one is getting pretty long in the tooth."

"If you think I'm going to marry you, you've got another thing coming, mister!" Susanna declared, feeling the fear trickle between her shoulder blades.

"You? No, you're older than my last wife," he smiled. "Plus, I can tell you'd be trouble....while one of these fine young ladies might just suit me fine." His eyes moved toward the Hailey twins, hungry and clouded over with lust. They were 13 and beautiful with a sweetness of summer lemonade.

Susanna blanched. The twins looked at her in terror.

"Now why don't you get yourself over to the bank and get my cut while me and the boys decide which one of these bookends would look best on my trophy shelf."

"Don't you touch a hair on their heads!" Susanna screamed.

Dirty Dan looked at her, lust turning to ice. "You go to the bank, get your money and come back here by high noon or we'll just start taking our turns at the buffet...Elroy over there likes boys, so no one will be left out."

"Then we'll kill 'em all!" screeched Elroy.

"Now git!" Dirty Dan demanded. "And don't bring no law with you neither or we'll just set this place on fire, lock the doors and run. Pull yourself together and get that money!"

Susanna had turned on her heals and ran down the long country road. Her skirts flew and her mind raced. By the time she reached the edge of town, she flopped under a tree, her lungs rended. As she caught her breath a plan had formed. She went to Doc Shaw's office and told him quickly what had happened. She left him to gather the posse, then raced to the bank to withdrawl half her funds from the school account. The bank manager raised his eyebrow at her but knew her well enough not to question her when her tightly wound hair uncoiled around her face.

And now here she was at the door armed with money, a gun, a knife and her grit. She knew what she was facing this time. She'd never killed a man before, but she had helped Pa slaughter pigs and shoot lame horses. And what were these men, but animals, vicious and lousy with hunger? With the six shooter tucked in the bustle of her dress, the knife at her heel, a satchel of money at her side and her fear vibrating through her bones, she opened the door.

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shouting From the Mountain Top: Halleluia! We've Gone Bankrupt!

So, we've been struggling to keep our heads above water for about 7 years now. I've tried to be good and do the right thing with my money. What I never realized was that our unsecured debt was never going to go away with the amount of money we made. We could only ever pay the miniumums and that will never be enough to make any progress.

I also fell for the bait that home ownership was the American Dream. I kept going down that path and sinking deeper and deeper. Looking back, I don't know why any bank in their right mind would have leant us the money to buy a house. Of course, we all know now that they weren't in their right minds.

But now, we're free. We get a second chance to do things right. It's like, when you're in your 20's, there's no tomorrow. We spent money we didn't have on luxuries because it was fun. Then we had to spend money we didn't have on necessities because all our money was going to the creditors. It was a snowball ride to ruin. But now, we can be forgiven and we have the opportunity to be smart, grown-up and mature about money.

I'm very sorry that I screwed things up so badly. But I'm super-grateful that there's a way to reboot.

Monday, August 16, 2010

PSA: Italics - Use Them Right

Italics are not to be used for any old thing. They are not like cologne that you can splash all over yourself. You don't want to overuse them and take away what little power they have. They are for emphasis or book titles, right? Maybe foreign phrases...maybe the words of Christ.

Please don't use them as the standard font formatting on documents or emails. Unless you are Jesus. Also, if you use italics for everything, you aren't allowed to use the abbreviation IMHO (Jesus...please feel free to do whatever you like).

Thanks for understanding

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

FFF #38 Good Morning, Mr. Jenkins

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction#38 where we are to use the words Bubble, Toil, Rubble, Coil in a story.

"Bubble, can you come here please?" Mr. Jenkins called from his executive squawk-box.

She sighed and turned from her typewriter to press the button on her end and say, "Yes, sir."

She'd been trying to finish typing this proposal all morning. She looked balefully at her typewriter, reluctant to leave it now that it was working. All morning, the "g" key kept sticking and then her ribbon dried out. She had to wait for Larry from maintainance to come up and fix the keyboard and bring her a new ribbon.

Ah, Larry, she mused. He's so good with his hands. And cute too. Her mind drifted back and she fell into the dreamy memory. He was sitting at her desk, examining the old ribbon. She stood watching him speak quietly about its properties, coiling it back up. The content of his speech was lost on her as she became hypnotized by the lilt in his gentle voice and methodical movements of his agile fingers.

"BUBBLE!" the box barked. "When I said 'come here,' I meant NOW!"

She jumped up and grabbed her steno pad and pencil. As she skittered up the three stairs to his office, she smoothed her red, pencil skirt and then ran her fingers through her blond hair to perk it up and reshape the coils of curls so they bounced in that way that Mr. Jenkins liked. She reached the door and looked down to make sure enough buttons were undone on her breezy chiffon top to tantalize but not so many that she looked easy. Satisfied, she opened the one of the double doors and stepped in.

"Good morning, Mr. Jenkins. I'm so sorry for the delay," she said but didn't explain herself. She had learned that he really didn't care for excuses and frankly, she didn't like giving them. In that way, they were a good match.

He had rules about how a person...a girl was to behave in his presence. She was never permitted to shut the office door unless he asked her to. She had to wait to be invited to sit down. And all ideas were his ideas and all communications had to come frm him. Even when she had to make requests for help with typing from the girls in the secretarial pool. Bubble understood she was his tool and he used her 120 words-per-minute fingers to break through enough of the red tape and bureaucratic rubble to become the top man at this firm.

He looked at her over his half-moon spectacles from behind his vast oak desk. She felt his eyes scan her. She put one hand on her hip, impatient for her invitation to sit. He grinned and slowly moved his eyes up to look into her eyes.

"You know I don't like waiting, Bubble," he said. "I didn't toil my way from the mailroom all the way to full partner waiting on cute little blonds to decide they were ready to work."

"I am sorry, sir," she said, dropping her arms to her sides. "What can I help you with?"