Archives for category: Writing

The apartment empty of furniture as if cleared for a realtor’s viewing, but it was enby because Tamara had cleared out every stick, every dust mote, anything that could be moved while Thom was stuck in that freeze in Houston.

‘I know you’ve got your big oil company presentation, but if you stay one extra night this time, I swear I’m leaving.’

One time, on one trip, Thom had hooked up with a colleague and ever since, Tamara had given him this spiel. And there was no winning. It’s not like he had even come home late, but that was Tammy’s fear – that any day he was away longer than planned, it was a day he was fucking around. So she hung this albatross on him that he always had to be back on his planned flight. When he got home as planned, she always tried to make it worth his while, but the threat hung over everything.

He was only supposed to be in Texas for four days, but curse everything, it was the week the whole state froze. He called as often as the power situation would enable him to and tried to calm her fears. 

‘The whole state’s frozen. There’s no way I can get back before the storm passes. No planes are going anywhere, and no one wants to see them try to take off in this condition. I’ll be back as soon as I’m able.’

‘Ted Cruz got down to Cancun, why can’t you get back to San Diego?’

‘Ted Cruz is a senator and has donors who will pull strings for him. I’m an advertising executive and I don’t have that kind of pull with anyone. Yet.’

‘Well, get it and get back here. I’ll make it worth it if you get back in time.’

He didn’t have to ask, ‘And if not?’ He knew. That combination of cajoling and demanding and promising made his head spin, but in this case, there really was nothing he could do.

He sat on the bed talking to her through his tablet and tried to make her see the logic of the situation. ‘The runways are frozen, there’s no way anyone’s taking off today from any airport in the state – or at least in the eighty percent of Texas that I’m in.’

He tapped the screen in an attempt to make their pictures the same size rather than one large image of himself and Tammy tiny in one corner of the screen. What happened was he tapped the camera button and suddenly heard Tammy screech, ‘Thomas Stone, who is in that room with you?’

‘Housekeeping. It’s just the cleaner.’ He frantically tapped the screen to focus the camera back on himself.

‘In a towel? You best be home on the next flight or you’ll be so sorry you got on a plane in the first place.You hear me?’ Tammy broke the connection and Thomas exhaled. 

‘Housekeeping, Tommy?’ Rod from Accounting slid into the bed next to him, and reaching under the cover said, ‘I’ll try to make this worth your while.’

Aaron: Let him that think of me so abjectly know that this gold must coin a strategem

Those who see me on the street think little or nothing of my appearance. I don’t look poor or rich. I’m clean when I go out of the house and my clothing is such that I’m neither ragged nor ripe for mugging. Not that the muggers these days are picky, but I prefer not to look as though I’m asking to be held up.

But seeing me on the street and knowing me from meetings, or water cooler discussions, the to and fro of office chit-chat, that’s a different story. In the office, you see, I open my mouth. People know how I sound, know my opinions, know the way I manoeuvre. And many of them look at me with a sort of abject pity, as though my inability to navigate office politics is something I should regret, or work to change.  

But the fact is, and you of all people will understand this, there’s no reason to fall into that game, to play as though there’s a real way of winning. There’s no real way of winning and so the way I play is not to play. The way I win in general is not to engage. ‘But you want to rise in the company, don’t you?’ Is rising in the company the goal? ‘But you won’t get a raise.’ Is there a need for more money? Only insofar as I could share it with others. I suppose that’s a reason to play. The company isn’t feeding the community now, is it?

But those aren’t the questions you ask, my friend. You ask how I can retain myself at the end of the day. And I’m not sure I know either. I go home at the end of the day and I can sleep with myself. I can write to you knowing that I was honest and worked to the best of my know how and did the best I could by the people around me. Is it a philosophical victory, to be seen by those near me as something of a failure? 

I ask myself that question with the additional question: Is there such a thing as a philosophical victory?

For three weeks, I used a random number generator to select one of Shakespeare’s sonnets (1-154) and a line number (1-14) and I used that line as a prompt for some writing. This is the first one.

Andrew awoke with the sound of the wind whipping through the tarp he wrapped himself and his belongings in each night. There had been no wind when he’d gone to sleep. Everything was wrapped up so that he’d be awakened should anyone disturb his stuff. 

He didn’t consider himself wretched by any means – he had clothes for the weather and books and a few regulars who tossed him coins and sometimes a sandwich.

His hard bed of a sidewalk kept his back aligned if he didn’t move too much in the night and he could sometimes even wash his clothes.

But today his carefully wrapped set-up was fluttering in a storm. The detritus of the street whipped about him and the storm whipped his skin, his hair and pieces of his life away. The book, wrapped in a zipped plastic bag that had been his pillow, was whisked down the street as soon as Andrew lifted his head. Now on its way down the street, he’d only had about twenty pages left of it to read. He knew of course that Miss Marple would solve the case of X and Y, but he was sad not to be able to finish it. It might have been the least of his possessions, but as his life flew away in the storm it was the most important. He also didn’t have another book to read. 

What made him most wretched is that he’d have to pack up all his stuff in this wretched weather and find a shelter. Somewhere.All the other homeless on his block of downtown street were doing the same. 

He started to hear the grumbling of the hard sleepers around him, but the wind tore their words away as soon as they were spoken. No one on the street said anything new anymore and even if this storm was real, it wasn’t making anything better and whatever the rest of the folks on the street had to say would differ in degree, not in actual content. 

He went to work wrapping his possessions again, more meager now. He reined in the blowing tarp. And rolled a blanket and a metal plate and bowl and thought about the dog – Billiard, she’d been called – weird to name a girl dog after a game played with a stick and balls. But someone had lured Billiard away. Andrew knew about the dog fights that people gambled on, but pushed the thought of his gentle dog being used that way from his head and concentrated again on getting his gear into a form he could carry. Somewhere. 
Source

To kickstart my writing recently, I created a random prompt. I took two random numbers, one between 1 and 154 for one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and one between 1-14 for a line number. I’ve been doing this for almost three weeks, writing a page or a page and half in my journal based on the prompt. Sometimes the rest of the sonnet informs what I write, sometimes not. I have no idea if any of these will make it into larger pieces I write, but I’m amused by what has come up.


But that, your trespass, Molly, becomes a fee owed the corporation – you must ransom yourself to be again in our good graces. We must both consider what that ransom entails.

Molly sat back on the folding metal chair in HR’s austere office. The room had one big window with pulled metal blinds to let in the open plan’s lights, but also to let everyone on the floor know she’d been called on the carpet.

What an odd phrase – there was no carpet anywhere on the floor she worked on. Molly was torn between looking at the HR lady (who was probably a robot – who could tell these days?) and looking at her hands in shame. But what had she to be ashamed of? A minute’s distraction from the day’s work, a daydreaming look, a clattering of her pens, or paperclips on the floor? She was human (not ‘only human’ for as a human she was supposed to have more rights than this walking vacuum cleaner who represented corporate interests).

You are the face of the company, Molly, both on the line (They didn’t say phone anymore. When did that happen?) and to your fellows here on the floor. Surely you know that?

I know that because you tell me often enough that it’s true, but – and here was the sin in her heart – the only true compensation for that kind of representation was cold hard cash and they weren’t parting with that. Quite the opposite – they wanted to dock her, would dock her – for being human. Someone must be made the example. For a while Corporate made their weekly or biweekly examples in alphabetical order. All the Ms knew to be on their guard if an L was made an example the previous week. Corporate took an entire year to realize their employees had caught on to that plan. So now it was truly random. Last week had been a William and the relationship between William, his phone number, his badge number and his birthdate had been sanitized against all available information on the previous example. There was truly no winning or predicting anymore and Molly knew that her crimes were no different than the behavior of anyone else on the floor and she’d be docked more than she could afford no matter what. What with company stores and so on.

Molly suggested four hours and two meals. The HR lady replied ‘eight and four’ and stamped her file with a loud thud.

My colleague Stas posts a monthly entry of books he’s read with a bit of commentary. Deciding to do the same.

  1. (Audio) Mel Brooks – All About Me. A lot of fun, great stories about making the classic movies. Hadn’t known that his company produced The Elephant Man and My Favorite Year. (The latter didn’t surprise me, the former did.)
  2. Ken Krimstein – When I Grow Up. Graphic novel of several autobiographical stories submitted to contest for Jewish youth in the 1930s. The results were supposed to be announced on the day the Nazi’s rolled in to Poland. Long thought lost, they were rediscovered in 2017. Krimstein chose six for this volume. Very moving.
  3. Genevieve Cogman – The Invisible Library. Cool fantasy/detective/bibliophile novel. Quite enjoyed it. A friend recommended the second in the series when Amazon had it for 99p. Turns out I had already bought this one (the first in the series) a couple of years ago. There are now eight in the series. Fun.
  4. Agatha Christie – Curtain. The last Hercule Poirot. Good stuff. But most of AC’s books are.
  5. Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle In Time. Great YA fantasy. Christian/Western underpinnings are sometimes obvious, mostly not. Enjoyed the reread.
  6. Madeline Lo – Last Night at the Telegraph Club. Oh man. This was *so* good. YA romance set in 1954 San Francisco. The daughter of Chinese immigrants falls in love with another girl at her high school. Beautifully done.