Monthly Archives: August 2013

Flash fiction challenge: Ancient Sumer

I keep saying I’m not going to participate in these things anymore, but I’m really having fun doing different things.  Another flash ficiton challenge from terribleminds.com.

Gata looked across the field at his day’s work.  The Euphrates had flooded and receded, leaving his field a muddy mess.  This was the order of things.   He had spent the day tending the field with his ox, trampling out weeds and preparing the soil for the planting of another year’s crop of wheat.

The sun continued to swell as it descended into the earth.  Shadows lengthened to warn him of the coming night.  It would soon be time to shutter the windows and take his evening meal.

The ox was tied to the tree and the tools had been put away when Gata heard something he didn’t recognize.  “No, you do recognize that sound,” he said to himself.  His chest froze with the realization.  “You just want to pretend you don’t recognize it.”  He was as still as the stones that marked the edge of his field.  With dread, he listened for the sound to repeat.

Too soon, it did.

Gata and his family lived near the edge of the territory claimed by Uruk to the north.  He had fought for Uruk before.  Every few years, a leader in Ur would claim this area and send troops.  Gata wondered if maybe he was hearing the troops of his own country’s infantry.  If so, he would soon be pressed into service.  His crops would be consumed by weeds if he were called away now.

Of course, if these were units from Ur… he didn’t want to think about it.  Usually the armies didn’t move during planting season for obvious reasons.  Even a military victory would result in a starving population if there was nobody left behind to grow the crops.

There was the sound again!  This time closer.   His stomach dropped and his heartbeat quickened as he realized the direction of the sound.  South.  Coming from the plains of Ur.  It was the sound of hundreds of shields clattering against the shafts of spears as they walked.  He had heard it during past campaigns when a unit was moving nearby.

He went quickly into his small home.  His wife was breast feeding the baby while his oldest stared into the fire quietly.  “Get up, grab anything of value.  Ur approaches from the south.”

Wide eyes and frightened looks quickly gave way to a flutter of activity.  Pots and bags were packed with whatever could be found worth saving.  They were going out the door within minutes.  Everyone at the edge of civilization knew this drill.

They were met at the door by strangers, wearing feathered headdresses and carrying spears.  The fire from within the tiny hut shone onto their faces with dancing wings of light and shadow.        “You are not from Ur.  These fertile valleys are the lands of Ellosha, King of Ur.  We have come to plant the fields for the coming year.  You must leave at once.”

“This is my land, it is all I have to feed my family.”  Gata tried, but failed, to sound strong when he spoke.  A woman screamed from a nearby hut.

“Perhaps, if you don’t have a family, you will be more willing to cooperate…”  The stranger waved to the three men behind him and they began to move forward.  Gata had only grabbed one thing as the family was packing their items:  the axe was sharp, but small, larger than a hatchet but shorter than a true axe.  It had split many things, but never a skull.   The copper head glowed golden in the firelight.

Gata backed up so that the strangers would have to come in to harm him or the family.  Their spears would be a hinderance in the tight quarters of his home.  The ceiling was low, the walls were close, and a long stick with a sharp tip would be of little use.  The first stranger came in, leading with the spear.  Gata came down with his axe on the shaft, breaking it in half.  In a continuation of the same motion, he stepped forward and brought the back of the axe up like a hammer into the man’s jaw, shattering bone and teeth from one side of his mouth to the other.   The stranger fell backward out the doorway into the others who had been too eager to enter.  They fell in a heap, blocking the exit for the scared family.

“Elshab, put out the fire!  Quickly!”  His son turned a large bowl of water onto the fire, smothering the small flame and sending the hut into deep blackness.  The only light was a  remnant of the sun reflecting off the clouds.  Gata watched the outline of the strangers outside his door.  The sunset was ominous.  It would be his last.  Of that there could be little doubt.

“Set it ablaze!”

“I want the woman!”

The screaming from the nearby hut stopped with a thud and a new light began to shine outside.  The same, dancing light that had illuminated the inside of his home was now illuminating the outside.  He couldn’t see the fire directly but could tell from the brightness that the flames were growing.

“Gata?”  His wife rarely spoke, and he turned to see what she wanted.  The deep shadows surrounded them, but for a fleeting moment his wife, son, and baby were lit by the light coming through the open doorway.  They were illuminated by the flames meant to consume them.  That look in her eyes…  They both knew.

“Elshab,” he said to his son, “You are my life.  What I do I do in the name of Inanna.”  Without another word he struck his only son in the neck with the axe, nearly separating his head from the body.  Elshab fell lifeless.  His wife handed their baby girl to him.  With tears in his eyes he crushed her little skull.

“Gata?”  He looked at his wife.  She was not looking down at the carnage of their children.  She was looking him in the eyes.  “Thank you.  You were a good provider.”  She turned her head away as the flames began to eat through the beams on the ceiling.  She stood with her back to him, and gently pulled her long hair around to expose the soft, pale skin of her neck.  He struck with all his might so that she would not suffer.

He stood in the midst of his dead family for only a moment.  There was nothing left in the hut to give him reason to stay.  He launched out the door swinging the axe at everyone.  There would be no stopping until his death.

I did a second flash fiction just for fun.  I picked this setting rather than drawing it randomly, but it suited my needs and tastes for the moment…

There she is:  she’s not my grandma, but she’s a grandmotherly type.  I see her from time to time.  Usually when I’ve been lazy and It’s Time.  She pours me some tea, just like always.  I sit in her slightly-too-comfy chair and nod my thanks as she hands me the sweet drink, steamy in its tiny little cup.  “March” is scrawled in some kind of wavy calligraphy across the bottom of the saucer.

“Would you like a donut, sweetie?”

“Of course, thank you.”    I raise the cup, trying in vain to NOT burn myself this time.  I realize with irritation that my pinky is sticking out.  I curl it back under my hand before she notices.

“You know, you’re really a nice boy.  What ever happened to that pretty little red-head you were seeing?  Didn’t you have a big crush on her?”

“Yes ma’am, but she’s no longer here.”

“Oh, well, that’s too bad, isn’t it?  You two were so cute together.”

“She was the cute one. “

“Nonsense, you were cute together.”

“Thank you for the tea and donuts, they are delicious.”

“Yes, you always did like your sweets.”

“Pardon me, but how do I know you again?  I gotta tell ya, I must be completely flipping out, because I know I know you, and I have for a long time.  But I don’t know why, and I don’t know how.”

“It’s alright, shoog, I’ve always been around.  I know a lot about you.”

“But how did we meet?”

“Sweetie, we met on June 4th, 1999.  You were a boy, just becoming a young man.  You fucked up that day. “

My spine turns into a block of ice.  I remember that day alright.  Fuck.  What did she see?  “How did we meet on that day?”

“Well, as I recall you were slamming a homeless man’s head in a car door.”

I stand up, spilling tea and donut on her spotless area rug.  The fringe seems to cringe at the act of spillage.  “WHY THE FUCK AM I HERE?  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO ME?  HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT?”

“Sit down, you incorrigible little brat!  You think you can do all those things and just walk away?  Look, honey, I can’t turn you in or do anything to you.  But the urges are coming back, and I’m here to remind you that you have a choice.  Every time we meet you get all antsy, you go out and do it again.  I want to put a stop to that.  Listen to me, and things can be normal again.  You can get your erections back.  You can date women and not be afraid they’ll find out.  You don’t have to go through all this anymore.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Your erections.  I can give them back.  You don’t have to do it every time to get one.   “She reaches toward my cock.  “I can make that thing jump out of them pants and dance, baby dance!”

I jump backward, away from the claw that is reaching toward me.  It’s still a hand.  Kinda.   It looks like a tree branch, tiny and withered with twigs veering in all directions from the knot that is her palm.

“Put it in my hand, I’ll make it DANCE!!”  Her cackle recedes as I run out the door, only somehow I’m naked.  I look down and see that my penis has turned into a tree branch and WHAT THE FUCK HAS SHE DONE TO ME…

I sit upright in the bed, as usual.  Sweat free-flowing down my face, soaking my sheets.  The small of my back soaked and caked with the fear-sweat.

It’s Time.  She woke me early tonight; it’s only 11:00 p.m.  I get my clothes back on and head out into the night, looking for someone to kill and make the dreams go away.

The setting for this second one was a serial killer’s nightmare

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finished rough draft

I finished the rough draft for a potential novel this weekend.  I enjoyed the writing.  It’s my understanding that the editing is what will make me want to fling myself off the bleachers at the next UK game anyway, so there’s still more work ahead than there is behind.  Still, WOOT!

 

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ten things to know about law school

so i’ve been tapped to write one of those 10 things you need to know about…articles for an independent magazine in Lexington, Ky.  I wrote the article and got it all shiny and smooth only to find that the magazine went belly-up.  Since they aren’t going to be publishing it, i will just put it here.  Enjoy, my three followers!

Ten Things You Should Know Before Law School

Everyone goes to law school for different reasons.  Some go because Daddy is a lawyer and hey, it’s a living (that was me).  Some go because lawyers make a lot of money so they see this already overcrowded profession, with attorneys so desperate for clients that they are wrestling dinosaurs and ninjas on television commercials, and think “I want a piece of this!”  Some go to law school because they suck at math and would rather be tazed in the gonads than have to take a college level chemistry class (me again).  Some go because they want the prestige and respect that comes from being a lawyer (I have to pause a moment here to stop laughing and to clean the spit off my computer screen and shirt).  Hell, I’ve heard that a guy went to law school a few years ago because he was interested in the law.  Not sure I believe it, but there it is.  I’m sure he probably just went to further his chances at running for public office sometime in the future.  But whatever the reason, if you are planning to apply for law school, or wish to take the “legal track” through undergrad, I think it’s important that you consider the following TRUTHS.  These aren’t opinions.  Don’t be confused by the flippant, indifferent tone I’m taking here.  I was there, I know.  As an undergrad, we all have this belief that once we get out of school and start our chosen career, everything will fall into place and we will suddenly have some sense of peace.  Grow up.  Nothing ever falls into place and peace is for hippies and epitaphs.  So, if you find yourself wanting to be a part of a profession in which there is more suicide, alcoholism, chemical dependency, and depression than any other career path start taking notes because this entry is just for you.

1                      Law school sucks.  It’s not just the place, or the work; it’s the people.  Yea, there are good people in law school (hell, I was there, and I think I’m pretty swell) but the bad people are really bad.  Grades are generally posted publicly by the last 4 digits of your social.  Law school classes are small.  There are always douches that compare those 4 digits across all classes and figure out what YOUR 4 digits are so that they can figure out what your grade is, and if you are a threat to them.  It has to take them hours, probably days, to figure it all out.  The first year is the worst, after that it generally just turns into something like a soap opera, where everyone knows who everyone else is sleeping with and which teachers like to go home to “tutor” students.  There are two upsides to being in law school, and only two.  The first, every student bar association event I’ve been to at any school involved kegs, hard liquor, and drunk women.  Law students are some of the heaviest drinkers you will find, so if you like waking up in strange places with people you don’t know then by all means, dive in.  The second upside is that whatever your sex, you are suddenly more attractive to others when you answer the “What’s your major” question with “I’m in law school.”  Otherwise, law school sucks.

2                      They don’t teach you anything in law school.  You may think I’m joking here, but I’m not.  You will work your ass off in law school and at times, you will really feel like you are grasping some heavy legal concepts.  You are not.  What you are grasping is as useful as canned unicorn farts.  Do this experiment if you don’t believe me.  Find a third year law student and ask her to draft a complaint.  Make it about whatever you want, it’s fine.  She won’t be able to do it.  There you go.  3 years of her life and about $200,000 worth of education.  Can’t draft the simplest of legal documents.

3                      Your professors don’t care.  Once you are out of their class, they won’t even pretend to know you in the hallway.  You want to know why?  They aren’t there to teach.  They are above you.  Those stupid classes they have to teach really get in the way of why they are professors in law school anyway-they are writing.  Not cool stuff either, there are no bestsellers coming out of law school offices.  “Guerilla Courtroom Tactics”, “Lawson’s Rules of Evidence” and “Deposing Deceptive Defense Doctors” will never be on the front row at your local Barnes and Noble.

4                      Unless you are in the top 10% of your class, you might as well be in the bottom 10%.  That’s right.  If you find yourself really pushing yourself hard, but only making the top 20%, let yourself go.  The fact is, getting in to law school is the hard part.  Just coast, dude.  It’s cool.   You won’t flunk out unless you just stop showing up.  Drink, party, tell every girl in the bar you are a law student.   Come to class wearing your pajamas or her pajamas or whatever.  It probably won’t make a bit of difference about where you get hired and won’t affect your income earning potential at all.  The old saying about law school is true:  A students make professors, B students make judges, and C students make money.

5                      They go by different names at different schools, but prepare yourself for “gunners.  Law school uses the Socratic method, which means the teachers in most classes will ask questions to make sure the students are actually paying attention and keeping up.  Most of us sit in the back of the room and roll our eyes, which I put forth to you is the correct way to proceed through any learning experience.  But these gunners, they are different.  They seek out the seat in the front row, in the middle.  The Gunner, much like a wild bird, has an elegant display that he is very proud of.  It is accomplished by sticking one wing straight into the air at every opportunity.  The display is followed by the gunner’s song, one you need to get used to now: “I have a question.”  It is sometimes personalized to the individual gunner, so if you are passing an open college class window and hear things such as “Point of inquiry”,  “I would like to propose a hypothetical” or “Might I interject something here”  you are hearing the territorial call of the gunner.  For God’s sake, run.

6                      Your liver is not ready for law school.  I know, you stay out every night as an undergrad, going to bars and getting the guys to buy you drinks.  You even drink blowjob shots off the bar the right way, just to get more free booze.  You think you are ready, but you are wrong.  My theory is that by the end of the first semester of law school, everyone has realized that they made a mistake.  They also realize it’s too late to quit, as they either have gone too far into debt to get into law school, or they have spent too much of their or their parent’s money and realize if they quit now, they will be cut off.  Booze deadens the pain.

7                      Law schools are like going back to high school.  You know who’s sleeping with whom.  You are remembered for every stupid or cool thing you do.  So, if you want to reinvent yourself, go ahead and try.  Want to be the class clown?  Start your fumblebuckery on the first day.  Want to be the cool and aloof chick?  Put your panties in the freezer from the beginning.  You will be around these people for three years.  Every.  Single.  Fucking.  Day.  Enjoy the act, because sooner or later the real you is going to pop out like the breast of a German beer maiden and everyone will see that you are really just an act.  And you have puffy nipples.

8                      Law school is expensive.  As in, you are now a slave to the system.  You will be assigned a number and a uniform shortly.  Welcome to the machine.

9                      Once you graduate, you are going to have to learn how to practice law.  See number 2 above.  You will not even know the proper procedure for the most basic of cases.  You will walk into courtrooms for months before you are really confident that you are standing in the right place, that your paperwork is in order, that you are speaking at the proper time, and that you are even in the right courtroom.  It’s sort of like that dream where you are standing in front of the class and you realize you forgot to put on pants that morning.  Only now this is your fucking career.

10                  Being a lawyer sucks.  Everyone thinks you are rich, so nobody wants to pay you for your work.  You go to a restaurant only to run into a client who “just wants to ask you a couple of questions.”  Doctors will refuse to see you just to punish you under the false pretense of “not getting sued”.  There is no respect.  It’s also a very crowded field right now.  One option is you can hope to get on at a large law firm, where the pay is ok so long as you don’t really expect to go home evenings, weekends, or holidays.  Another option is you can go apply for government jobs, such as assistant prosecutor or judicial clerk.  It’ll be ok for a while, until that student load debt payment causes you to send your children to Thailand for sweat-shop wages.  Or, you can go out on your own.  Please remember though, many lawyers advertise now, and while it does work, it does so at the expense of dragging down the entire profession.  You’ll have to set yourself apart somehow.  Might I suggest you use zombies or vampires in your commercials, they are really “in” right now.

That’s about it.  I know this entire article sounds really negative about the law school experience but in reality, the experience can be much worse.  It’s up to you.  And if you find yourself sitting in the front of the class with your hand up, asking questions every time the professor pauses to take a breath, just remember:  I hate you.

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Nut Cutting Time

I’m getting down to the business end of a lengthy rough draft.  I’m in the 45,000 word range at the moment and anticipate roughly 70,000 words total.  I think I’m going to give these flash fiction challenges a break.  I seem to write perfectly dreadful stories anyway.  I’m going to instead concentrate on my articles and finishing the rough draft.  Excerpts to come

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Flash fiction challenge

This one challenged the writer to use 4 of ten items in a 1000 word story.  I used 5:  a leather mask, a police badge, a rocking chair, a street sign, and a child’s toy.  Events from today’s local news inspired the subject matter.  As always with flash fiction, it’s not been edited much so please forgive

Daddy

Danielle realized she was waking up.  She was still in a dreamy, sing-song sleep in which she could spend just a few moments remembering, half dreaming.  She was a little girl again.  Her father was there.  He had caught a grasshopper and killed it.  They put the dead grasshopper on the root of the big maple tree outside the back door, the one that all the big black ants lived in.  They were the biggest ants Danielle had ever seen.  She and Daddy watched as the ants meticulously dismembered the grasshopper and carried the parts up the trunk.  Its legs were carried by individual ants, but the head and body required several ants to work together.  Daddy was explaining how they were taking the grasshopper parts up to feed the rest of the nest when she realized the ants were all over her arms, crawling toward her shoulders…

She swam into her bedroom and opened her eyes.  She hadn’t dreamed of Daddy in a long time.  The bright morning light came through the sheer window covers and welcomed her into a bright, beautiful day.  She laid perfectly still, arms up over her head and touching the headboard.  How come morning light had that fresh brightness about it, but afternoon light was yellow and dingy?

Danielle scanned the familiar surroundings of her room.  One of his police uniforms hung from the wall peg next to the door, the badge gleaming in the fresh day’s glow.  His extra uniform pants, still in the dry-cleaning bag, were stretched over the rocking chair where they had sex just last night.  Goose pimples came up all over her body at the thought of sex, and she quickly distracted her mind from the subject.

She moved her hands a bit, to try to work the knots out of her shoulders.  The handcuffs jingled with the move.  He had closed the one on her left arm  too tight.  A deep purple groove was exposed as her arm twisted in an attempt to find some comfort.  They had argued about her being handcuffed all day, but he had never relented on this issue.  It makes for a day where minor inconveniences like itches or needing to pee turn into mind-burning obsessions that cannot be ignored.  Her shoulders would cramp and she was always afraid to eat or drink anything, to keep from having to use the bathroom.  He liked that; it kept her perpetually thin and weak.

Her gaze returned to the headboard.  How many hours and days had she spent handcuffed to that piece of iron over the last few months?  The dream of her father had slapped her emotions.  What was Daddy thinking right now?  Where was he?  Poor man had lost his wife and daughter all at the same time, with no idea what happened and no answers to his questions.  Had he given up?  Deep in his heart, did he know she was dead?  Was he yelling at the police to find his daughter when they knew where she was all along?

“Fuck the cops.”  They came in here and fucked her whenever they wanted.  Sometimes several of them in a day.  Not all of them, of course, but who knew how many were in the local precinct?  Anyway, some of them wore the leather mask that stared back at her from the bed stand so they could be anonymous.  Others didn’t even bother.  She assumed they didn’t bother to hide their faces because she would be killed soon.  Sometimes they came to her still in uniform, with their shiny badges and nametags.  That’s what told her she was going to die.

The doorknob turned, and another one walked in.  She hadn’t heard him come in the house.  He was in uniform.  He saw her nakedness and immediately dropped his eyes to the floor.  Instinctively, he took his hat off as he stared down.  “Ma’am.”

“I don’t recognize you.  What do you want from me?”  She knew what they all wanted when they came.

He walked to the side of her bed and they locked eyes.  She saw a glistening and softness in him where she had only seen lust, hatred, or indifference in the others.  He was here for a different purpose.  Her eyes narrowed as it occurred to her that she might be looking at the man that was about to kill her.  “I want you to be able some day to forgive the men that have been in this room.”  She felt his hand brush hers as he touched her wrist.  The pressure released with a click and the cuff opened.  A moment later both hands were free.

“I didn’t bring any clothes.  I didn’t know he kept you handcuffed naked.  I came as soon as I found out you were here and knew it was safe. Hurry.  Wrap yourself in the sheets if you don’t have clothes.  My car’s in the driveway.  I’m taking you to a hospital.”

Sore arms came down to her sides.  Being free of the cuffs always made her shoulders hurt for a few minutes.  They wrapped the sheet around her naked body.  His name tag said T HARPER but at that moment he was Jesus and God and everything in the world.  She didn’t know she was crying, yet tears were flooding out leaving long streaks down her face before crashing onto the sheet covering her breasts.  He didn’t let her see his face because he was crying too.

As T HARPER drove out of the driveway, she sat in the back and marveled at the street sign outside her bedroom window:  “-SLOW- Children at Play.”  There was a child’s bicycle lying in the grass beside the sign.  She had heard those children playing yesterday while he was at work.  She thought about Daddy again and this time she knew she was crying.

why in the hell is it that every time i write one of these flash fiction pieces it is so damned dark and grim?  Maybe i need therapy but I’m actually a very happy person.  Moreso now that I’m writing again.

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