26 May 2009

May Miniflash: STRIP

Only two flashes this time, but as it's optional, that's cool. Please comment thoughtfully. The new theme will be up by the 4th of June.

Terry Atkison

Pamela Twining

Pamela Twining: Sunset Strip

“Rack up, Moselle!” the guard hollered from the end of the corridor. Moselle stepped back into the cell we shared just in time, as the electric doors slammed shut. Nine-thirty: lights out at Sybil Brand Institute for Women. Moselle was an old white lady, awaiting trial for getting drunk and shooting up the sheriff’s car. Luckily, he wasn’t in it at the time.

My best friend, Landru, was two cells down, bunked with a little blonde girl covered in jailhouse tatts, who shot her boyfriend and the woman she caught him in bed with. “Lan! Lan!”, I half whispered, half yelled. “Shut up! Ya wanna get us all in trouble, ya stupid little bitch?” came from the cell between us. If I put my face in the lowest corner of the bars, I could just see Lan’s silver blonde hair and the “V” she made with her fingers, when she saw me. She had eaten two tabs of acid, when the cops came to the rat-hole motel where we were staying and arrested us for distribution of narcotics. She was probably tripping her brains out!

We weren’t runaways. I was 18 and Lan would be 18 next month. Thrown out by our parents, we decided to hitchhike to California, by way of New York City. We worked the streets of New York, panhandling and working in massage parlors, to save the money to get to Cali, at night trolling the truck stops, looking for a ride out of the city, headed west.

Lan wouldn’t work the massage parlors, even though the money was better, because she didn’t want to strip for the clients. You didn’t have to, but the tips were better, if you did. She was a whiz at panhandling, though; I never saw anyone who could talk someone out of their money like Lan! On a frosty night in late January, we finally found a driver who would hide us in the cab of his truck and take us as far as Pennsylvania.

The plains were windswept and frigid this time of year and we did a lot of hitching in the cafeterias of truck stops, drinking coffee and stopping truckers over and over, till we found someone willing to take us the next leg. Including the time we spent in jails for vagrancy, in Chambersburg, PA, Weatherford, OK, and San Antonio, TX, we were on the road for three weeks. A soldier who was shipping out the next day finally dropped us on the corner of Sunset and Vine, handed us each $20 and a carton of cigarettes, said “Pray for me” and drove away.

We crashed at the Free Church and panhandled for food, but the streets of Hollywood were a lot less forgiving than New York. The take for a whole day, for both of us, was only a few dollars. We lived on candy, chips, and soda, because it was cheap. Within a week, we were completely broke and everything except the clothes we were wearing had been stolen. And I had scurvy.

My gums were bleeding and my mouth was full of sores. I could hardly talk. Lan made me go to the Free Clinic, but they just said I needed Vitamin C and sent us on our way. “Don’t worry, Ran!” Lan said. “Look around us. Orange trees, grapefruit trees, lemon trees! Vitamin C for the taking!” The fruit was not ripe. Even an orange tasted as sour as a lemon, and it burned! God! How it burned!

The next day Black Teddy took us to Denny’s for dinner and invited us to join his stable of women. The look in Lan’s eye wasn’t to be ignored, though I was tempted, because the money sounded good. But Lan is the smart one, and I went along with her this time. Black Teddy said

“You’ll come lookin’ for me soon, no jive!”

Then we met Cowboy and Laughing John, who brought us to a hole-in-the-wall apartment they shared with a guy named Bear and a bunch of street kids and runaways. We became part of a crew that went out during the day panhandling, stealing, tricking, and brought all the money home to share. We ate well, for the first time in weeks, and there was always excellent dope. Until we got evicted. Which is how we ended up in that rat-hole motel.

“Hawaiian Woodrose; it’s totally legal,” Cowboy told us. “I can get an unlimited supply. We’ll sell it until we save enough to get a cabin in the hills. Fuck Hollywood! We can grow our own organic food and dope. We’re paid up here for a week, so let’s get out and make it happen!” At that moment, the sound of sirens pierced the air and police swarmed into our room. The owner had taken our money and then called the cops!

“If it’s legal, the lab will tell us,” a disbelieving officer said. “But it’s Friday and the lab won’t be open till Monday, so you all are looking at the weekend, at least, in jail.”

I was still burning with humiliation, after being strip searched, and my fingers were bleeding because I had to file my nails down to the quick. Lan and I pretended to be lovers, protection in jail, against bulldaggers and other pervs. Landru read tarot and told fortunes. Everyone was in awe of her, so they left me alone. And Hawaiian Woodrose was legal, so on Monday they had to let us go.

The cops dropped us off on the Strip. “What do we do now?” I looked to Lan. “Come on!” she said. “Last week, I met a guy named Tex. He said he’d take us out to a place called Spahn Ranch, to stay on a commune started by someone he knows. Manson, I think his name was, Charlie Manson”.

18 May 2009

May Miniflash Theme Announcement & Rules

Try to keep this @ 500 words, but if you go to 1000 we'll deal. You are to be on your honor and write this one in no more than two hours. Less is better. You may edit for grammar and spelling, but otherwise, leave it as it comes.The due date for posting @ the FFC group page or for sending me a message w/your text to be posted in the FFC blog is ONE WEEK FROM TODAY @ NOON !!! I am making it a week because next Monday is Memorial Day here in the USA and many folks may have a long weekend because of it.

I will do better about getting them posted and will have them up by Tuesday @ noon. Really.

If you haven't commented on everyone's main flash, please do so. I've had some complaints that the comments are not as useful as they might be. We are here to improve our writing, folks. Patting each other on the haidbone is pointless. Giving honest, thoughtful critiques is. It helps YOU as well as the writer you're critting. Here are new rules about comments.:

1. Read each flash once and then walk away for at least a day. If something jumps out at you in the first reading, write it in a note to yourself and keep it in a special FFC CRITS file.

2. Come back and read the flash again. READ IT ALOUD if at all possible. This will help you catch things you might otherwise miss. Eudora Welty said in one of her essays about writing, I believe in her autobiography, One Writer's Beginnings, that she wrote for her ear. If something didn't sound natural when read aloud, she fixed it so it would. I try to follow that rule myself, albeit not always successfully.

3. If you feel that you can't sign your name to a comment because you don't want anyone to think you're being too critical, send it to me and I'll post it in the comments for that flash under the FFC blogger ID and a pseudonym to the effect of Critter 1, Critter 2, and so forth.

Okay, now that we've gotten that straightened out, here's the theme for the May Miniflash:


There are many interpretations to this word, so ponder it a while. Don't necessarily go for the cheap and easy.

Go forth and WRITE!

14 May 2009

May 2009 FFC: EYE/S

After going through a long list of possible themes for May's Flash Fiction Carnival, I chose EYE/S because I reckoned it would allow our writers the freedom to travel in whatever direction their imagination took them. Sure enough, the stories are varied and interesting.

Please read and comment on those linked to below. Be constructive and be assured that comments are moderated. Also, feel free to pose questions to the admin of this blog about the FFC and how to partake if you are so inclined.

Now then, let's go read about eyes, shall we?

Anonymous: A Matter of Perception

Terry Atkison: Eyes

Melanie Avila: Brainstorming

Barbara Quesnell: Eyes

Benjamin Solah: Blank Eyes

Synchronistic Catalyst: Eyes

Pamela Twining: The Cave

Pamela Twining: Vision Quest

Pamela Twining: The Cave

return to light
eyes blinded after darkness
it’s just too much all at once
greedy pupils expand/contract
will the images fade
like photographs

return to light
return to water after starvation/
troglodyte climbing
climbing from the bowels of the earth
the eyes have not gone useless

electric blue gaze of heaven
teach me again
to behold the universe

Pamela Twining: Vision Quest

It was time. Little Bird shouldered his pack and set off after his father on the long walk that would begin his new life. They did not speak and their feet touched the ground silently; early morning birdsong was the only sound. The climb began almost immediately, once they left the heavily forested river valley and entered the Trace. Sun was just beginning to fire the treetops and the trail of sunrise sparkled on the water. Little Bird gave thanks for this Time and this Place; the People had been driven from so much of their land. They traveled single-file, as the trail demanded, using all breath and energy to scale the steep hillside.

There was much time to think, to remember. He was named Little Bird for his habit of looking at people with first one eye and then the other, reminding his mother, Grass Singing, of a baby bird with one eye on each side of its head. She had laughed at him and ruffled his hair. But he had passed twelve summers and was tired of women’s ways. His brothers were grown and had been on the Autumn Hunt. He’d seen them dance their stories in the firelight and noticed the shy eyes of the girls, glowing like stars in the night sky.

His childhood hunts had been in this green wilderness, air sweet and heavy with the odors of vegetation. He had stalked foxes and small game here, but never climbed so high, or gone so deep into the Big Turtle passage. He would camp in the open; his father would help to build the ring of stones and he would sit within that circle for three days and nights, without food or water, without leaving the place outlined by the stones. When his father returned for him, he would be a Man and have a new name.

The path became steeper and narrower, opening suddenly onto a rocky outcrop overlooking the Cut, where the water fell from the sky to beneath the earth, roaring, sometimes overflowing the banks and heaving giant trees aside, like sticks. In late summer, the falls still filled the air with thunder, but everything was green to the water’s edge, now darkening and rusting with the kiss of promised autumn.

The ledge was wide, at least ten long strides. He and his father foraged for stones of the proper size and shape and placed them in a circle twice his length across, using branches to rake the inside of the circle. They worked well together and, when all was complete, they ate the dried venison Grass Singing had packed and drank sweet water from earthen containers.

Then his father stood and lit the chanumpa, the ceremonial pipe, making offerings to the four directions, invoking the Dreamtime. “This one would be a new Man. Teach him what he needs to know.” He placed his hands on Little Bird’s shoulders, saying “I will return on the third day, when the sun is sinking behind the western peak.” Lifting the pack, he turned and walked back the way they had come, down the steep path before light left the slopes.

Little Bird was alone within the ring of stones, with only his medicine pouch. He opened the pouch, placing his sacred objects in front of him on the ground. Enfolded in red cloth was an Eagle feather fan, fringed and beaded by his mother. He opened the wrapping and stroked the feathers. He had prepared for this ceremony for over a year, and now it was real.

The first night, Little Bird slept soundly. He had no blanket and no fire, but the night was warm and he had traveled far and worked long. He awoke to the sun climbing over the eastern ridge, gilding the hillsides and making rainbows in the mists rising above the falls. He was thirsty. The sun rose higher and he knew that this would be a hot day. He spent the hottest part of the afternoon in the patch of shade cast by the large stones they had placed in the south.

The second night, clouds moved across the sky and the darkness was unbroken. The squeal of a rabbit, fallen prey to some night prowler, woke him. Several times, he thought he saw eyes peering out of the underbrush, awaiting his inattention. Staring into the darkness, he said the most sincere prayers of his life.

It wasn’t hunger. He hadn’t thought of meat or corn or beans once. But he had visions of melons and berries and, most of all, water. He had never been unable to drink, and as the sun rose high in the sky, the shade disappearing once again, he curled himself around one of the stones, seeking any coolness that might remain. As the third night approached, Little Bird made prayers and brushed himself with the Eagle feather fan, creating an aura of protection.

There was no moon, but the sky was alight with countless stars. This night, he had waking dreams. He saw lines of people, traveling west. They looked sick and weak. Some fell in their tracks and could not get up. And he saw the predators and the scavengers closing in on the People. He saw that they could not survive. Then, a huge young Eagle soared above them. His wingspan cast a shadow that blotted the sun from the sky. The Eagle spiraled lower. Talons outstretched, he landed on the back of a mountain lion, poised to leap on a woman who had fallen and was too exhausted to rise. The big cat screamed; the Eagle dug in his talons harder, allowing the woman’s escape.

The next afternoon, his father found him seated in the center of the circle of stones, the Eagle feather fan in his hands. The new Man stood, stepped outside the circle and held out his hand to his father. “I am Kwetamolc, Eagle Spiraling Downward. The little bird has flown.”

Anonymous: A Matter of Perception

“Failure is hard, but success is far more dangerous,” warned Erica’s Starbucks cup. “If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

Great, she quipped, I came for coffee and they gave me a fortune cookie. Shrugging, she slurped some whipped cream off of her mocha so that she could snap down the lid. “See ya later, Tom,” she said to the barista as she headed for the door.

“Have a great day,” he said, “Don’t work too hard.”

Erica smiled and chuckled a little. That’s easy for him to say, she thought. He’s just returned from a month-long European vacation with his wife and kids. She has two months of unused holiday time and a cat who provides all the companionship she has time for. Men, she’d decided, are more work than they’re worth.

From an early age, Erica knew that she would make something of her life. She had always had high expectations of herself and she knew they weren’t hers alone. First in her family to graduate high school and first to go to college, she was the golden child. In her family’s eyes, she was destined for great things.

Now in her thirties, Erica wasn’t so sure about greatness. She’d landed a good job after college and spent the first few years earning her stripes, steadily rising through the corporate ranks and earning the respect of her bosses and coworkers along the way. She became the one to go to whenever there was a tough job or an impossible deadline, and somehow she always pulled it off. To her coworkers, she seemed unstoppable.

That was the problem. Erica’s career was on the fast track, but she could no longer be sure that the place she was hurtling toward was a place she wanted to go. Was this success? It seemed that everyone around her thought so. Not so long ago, Erica had believed it too. Before the relentless hours and the endless workload, before the back-breaking expectations and the isolation that goes with them, she’d believed this was what she wanted. The perks weren’t lost on her, but they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. The travel was nice, although never the “working holiday” her colleagues thought it was. The pay was good, but she had little time to enjoy it. Erica was by all the usual measures “successful,” but she felt drained.

Erica felt tense just thinking about the vicious conundrum of it all. She took a sip of her mocha and let the sweet marriage of coffee and chocolate soothe her frayed nerves. She studied the quote on the side of the cup once more. “The Way I See It #26.” She found it strangely ironic that of all the people she knew, only she and her coffee cup saw eye to eye.

It was little comfort to her as she pulled an envelope out of her pocket and knocked on her boss’ office door. This was it. She knew what she had to do, and she hated herself for it.

The door opened to her boss’ smiling face, “Good morning,” he said, waving her inside and closing the door behind her, “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”

14 April 2009

April 2009 FFC: FOOL

This is the best FFC thus far, folks. We have ELEVEN!!! writers this month. Woohoo! Please comment on everyone's if you're in the group. If you are not in the group, you are welcome to leave comments here or in the other blogs linked to below. Comments are to be constructive and honest and are moderated to avoid spammers and flamers.

In alphabetical order:


B. Anonymous

Melanie Avila

Terry Atkison

Ian Chamberlin

Jeanette Cheezum

Kat Frassrand

Helen Peterson

Barbara Quesnell

Synchronistic Catalyst

Pamela Twining

B. Anonymous: Fool Fascination

“Well, I’ve about decided his lactose intolerance is all in his head. Ever since I’ve been making my own butter, he’s been eating it every day and hasn’t had one bellyache. But bring a pizza into the house? He gets all accusatory and has three hissy fits. ‘You’re trying to kill me, woman! You know I have a game tomorrow!’ Then he’ll go have a long sulk in his office and pretend he’s working on his business interests when all he’s doing is playing video games. I love him, I do, but he’s a trial.”

Tisha fingered the new sports-themed butter molds her favorite gourmet supply store in east Memphis had ordered in just for her. The folks at The Culinaria did not understand Tisha’s obsession with the frou-frou molds, but the high price point quelled any questions they might have had.

“Men are babies, Tisha. My mama always told me that when I was a child and so far I have yet to meet one who belies that bit of wisdom.” Michael Jones, Tisha’s best friend among the team wives, reached for a set of miniature flower-form cake pans and placed them into his basket. “Heaven knows Juan is. When he left for the game in Milwaukee yesterday he was missing his lucky socks and I had to FedEx them overnight so he’d have them in time for the game tonight. You’d think he was gone to summer camp and forgotten his teddy bear or somesuch!”

“Shane’s the same way. But for him it’s his pillow. If he doesn’t have his special pillow to sleep on the night before a game, he gets into a funk and decides there’s no way he can win. Coach and I finally got together and we have it fixed now so I have several pillows in the spare closet all the same and Shane has no idea there’s more than one. All he knows is he has his pillow and that he will wake up on game day ready to win. Silly, silly man.”

Smiling at her friend, Tisha looked past his shoulder and saw a display of serving bowls by a sign reading: For Your Favorite Fool.

“These are so pretty! But I don’t understand. What’s a fool? Maudie! Yoohoo! Can you come over here, doll?”

Maud, who owned the shop, nodded and walked over, ending her phone call with, “I’ll be sure to let you know when we get those in, Ms. Neely. Now then, what can I help you with, Tisha?”

“These new bowls. What are they for? And don’t people get mad when you call them fools?”

“Oh! I see what you’re asking. These are serving bowls for the dessert called a fool. It’s a really old whipped cream-based dish from Renaissance times or even earlier. I discovered fools in cooking school when I needed a simple dessert using fresh seasonal fruit that would do for a Madrigal dinner we were preparing. Fools go back to cookery books dating to the Sixteenth Century.”

“Wait a sec. So what do you do? Is it just some Cool Whip with fruit in it? My Aunt Trudy used to serve us that all the time whenever we went over for a visit.” Michael was not impressed.

“My soul, no!” Tisha shook her head. “Now that you’ve reminded me, I remember reading about fools in one of the dairy books I found when I went up to Michigan with the team last fall. I wanted to try making one, but Shane and his lactose issues kept me from it. I think they have wine or some other liquor in them, not just cream and fruit.”

“Girl, it’s simple.” Michael smiled conspiratorially and said, “All you have to do is tell him you used Cool Whip and not real cream and he’ll never know. And if you’re worried, just grind up some of those little white pills with some chocolate shavings and sprinkle them over the top. That’s what I do with Beano when Juan insists on having beans and rice. The man will not take a pill, but if I tell him it’s part of the spices on top of the dish, he’ll gobble it right up.”

“Ooh, you’re conniving, aren’t you? But I like the way you think.” Shifting her attention to the storeowner, Tisha added, “Maud, I’ll take a set of these. That big one and six of the smaller ones.”

“I’ll wrap them up for you right away. Can I do anything else for you?”

“No, that’s all for now. The butter molds and the bowls will be just fine.”

Once she was home again in her apartment overlooking the Mississippi River, Tisha carried her laptop to the table on the balcony and began looking for fool recipes.

“Gooseberries and elderberry wine. I wonder where I can find those here in Memphis. Maybe that British import shop will have some.”

Tisha picked up her phone and pressed 12 on the speed dial. Her new butter molds forgotten, she scrolled through web pages. As soon as she heard the British accent that answered her call, she knew the theme of her next dinner party.

“Tell me, Miss Percival, do you have any Anthony Newley music on hand? And what about gooseberries?”


Congratulations! I am pleased to offer you admission to My University for the upcoming fall term. Your academic profile confirms that you are, like most of your classmates, appallingly ill prepared to cope with the rigours of higher learning, but we recognize that you didn’t get here alone. Rather than bemoaning the failures of your parents, teachers, and the intellectual collapse of society at large, we at MyU prefer to take a more constructive approach, teaching you fundamental academic skills that we know we shouldn’t have to teach you at this stage, but better late than never, don’t you think?

At MyU, your education begins with a reality check. We believe that early disillusionment is the key to our students’ success in the real world. Yes, we know you’ve been told since you were five that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, and we think it’s fantastic that you’ve held on to your Olympic dreams along with your 10th place ribbon collection, but here at MyU, we are more concerned with your learning than your self esteem. If you need to be coddled, go back to kindergarten.

We believe that a spoon is an eating utensil, not a learning utensil. Learning requires thinking, and thinking requires that you actually do something more than occupy the seat. Assignments aren’t suggestions, deadlines aren’t negotiable, and no, we won’t tell you what to study for the final exam. Figure it out yourself. And while you’re at it, figure out how to manage your time so you don’t need to waste ours asking for a two day extension for that term paper you had eight weeks to write.

If you find you need help with that term paper, we are pleased to direct you to any one of the campus’ libraries. Remember the library? It’s that place with lots of books and trained professionals who can help you with your research. Why yes, you could just use Wikipedia, but you could also get an F. Your choice.

We pride ourselves on a grading system that still means something. At MyU, if you get an A, it means something. If you get an F, it also means something and we hope you get the message. We know you desperately want to get a degree and get on with your life, but we firmly believe that disguising your D effort in a B-plus isn’t going to change the fact that you haven’t learned enough to make it. If you don’t like it, try studying harder.

Here at MyU, we recognize that post-secondary education is expensive. Really expensive. And while we are deeply sorry that increasing tuition may jeopardize your plans to spend Reading Week drinking yourself stupid at an all-inclusive Mexican resort, we also wish to remind our students that simply paying your tuition will not guarantee that you learn anything. YOU still have to do that part for yourself. We don’t want you to waste your your parents’ money, but if you insist on wasting our time by not learning anything, we won’t feel bad about how much it costs.

At My University, we care about what you learn, not what you pay.

Welcome, and good luck! See you on campus!

PS...April Fools!