When writing short stories formatting, plotting, and strategy becomes the forefront once the initial seed of an idea pops into my head. Then I spend hours upon hours fixing, rewriting, and toiling a story together. This leads to sucking the joy right out of writing! So I decided the other day to go old school and time myself for ten minutes and write nonstop. For me, this idea is horrifying. There are no edits allowed. There are no seconds to ponder. You just put pen to paper and write. This is what I came up with—please, no judgment!
I am floating in water. Submerged in an ocean, lying on the waves, being pulled towards shore and pulled away. I bob on the surface, salt water lapping at my ears. I am not swimming. I am not wading. I am floating—a dead man’s float, towed by something so great, I forget I have a say in it.
What am I waiting for? What am I doing here? I feel lost in a sea. Uncertainties lapping at my ears, being towed towards the life I think I want as well as being pulled away.
Seagulls flap overhead, screaming joy, of urgency, of life. A breeze picks up. It splashes salty mist that dries on my skin.
I am alive, though I fear of dying, of death, lurking beneath my limbs, swimming upwards, mouth opened wide, teeth rounding wide, hungry for a snack.
My body is buoyant. My thoughts are drowned. I see the water. I feel the water. I am not the water, though it is part of me.
A skiff streams by. A single person commands it. The sun is bright. It bounces off the surface and hides the sex of the captain. I see the captain. I am not seen. I am passed by. If I am dead, I don’t already know it. For if I knew, I would not fear it.
I float in the ocean, on my back, staring up at the big wide sky. White clouds gather. They thin. They turn orange and then pink. They sink down, down, down, into the sea.
I forget where I am. I forget who I am.
I don’t want to remember. I am alone, buried in water, breathing in water, floating in the water.
This book isn’t fun enough to be a genuine Book Bite Snack, it’s too long and isn’t thrilling enough to be a dessert. However, a Snack is where you’ll find it. I gave it two stars.
Brilliant billionaire and computer scientist, Edmond Kirsh, has finally answered the philosophical questions of Where are we from and Where are we going? At the moment he is to make his discovery public he is struck down by an assassin. Professor Robert Langdon, a former teacher of Kirsh’s, and friend, now finds himself accused of kidnapping the future Queen of Spain a hunted down by not only the assassin, but by the Spanish Police Force, and the Palace Guard.
Langdon must protect the next Queen, as well as crack the code to unleash Kirsh’s discovery online with only the help of Kirsh’s advanced A.I. named Winston. Can Langdon do it? Who else can?
Origin has been an anticipated novel, the fifth in the Robert Langdon series. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its hype, which was heartbreaking as a Dan Brown fan. I found that there was a ton of historical background and minimal actual story. Robert Langdon became a secondary character to the lists of architectural feats and modern art. The marvelous plot twists and dazzling revelations that Brown is known for were limp, predictable, and weak. Well Dan Brown, maybe next time?
It has been a while since I took Zoey for a walk. I have a list of excuses for why I haven’t taken the time to walk my dog. The weather has been cold. I’ve been busy. Christmas.
This afternoon, I knew it was time, not just for her sake, but for mine. I weatherproofed Zoey throwing a sweater over her head and tethering her to a harness and leash, and I followed suit and bundled up myself. We started walking.
Zoey was excited. She sniffed, peed, and scratched up dead grasses where the scent of another dog had passed. She was on a mission. Her nose kept low, her ears pinned back.
The wind was chilly. The sun was out, and it seemed we were the only two left in the world. We strolled through our neighborhood and up a steep hillside where an LDS Temple perches at the top and the end of a curve in the sidewalk.
Winter has been mild for Utah this year. We are lucky. We are ignorant of the bitter freeze, rivers of mud, and school closures that are rampant to both the west and the east. At that moment, everything was still. In the distance, the cry of seagulls hinted of summer coming around the bend.
I had no agenda for going for a walk today. No storyboard to work through in my head. No emotional baggage to drop along the way. No podcast to catch up on. Today I decided to open my front door and go.
This morning a mass email went out to all parents of teens who go to the nearby high school. The message was a somber one as well as confusing. A student died over the weekend. The Principal asked each parent to discuss openly and honestly about the situation and if we had questions or concerns to call the school.
I don’t have any information. I decided to call the school. I left a message with a counselor who quickly called me back.
I wanted to know what happened. Before I could ask, the counselor cut me off. He told me that the family had not released information to the public and therefore, he couldn’t tell me anything. However, if we did know the boy, counselors and grief managers would love to talk to Nate about his feelings on the subject. What?
He went on to say there was an announcement made over the intercom that a student died and that if any student was struggling with it, to make an appointment with their counselor. Okay, but what if they didn’t know the student, but did know the rumors surrounding him and are worried about those? Too bad. The counselor can’t discuss anything specific. Huh?
I know I sound ghoulish wanting to know what happened. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to know every minute detail, but I’m wondering about what information I should share with my kid and how to anticipate which questions he might have.
Was it a car accident? Am I supposed to talk to Nate about the hazards when behind the wheel or crossing the street? Was it due to an illness? Was it a drug overdose? Suicide? If it was a suicide, was it purposeful or accidental? (This might sound horrendous but there is a difference. If the student was messing around with a gun and it went off, that is different than if he shot himself on purpose.)
How am I supposed to talk openly and honestly with my son when I don’t know anything?
Who can blame the student’s family for wanting to keep their son’s death from strangers? Not me. But I find it only adds to rumor and gossip when an email goes out making a statement without a follow up; we have a terrible secret. Now you know we have a terrible secret. We want you to talk to your kids about us knowing a terrible secret, but we’re not going to give you any tools as to how to handle the limited amount of information we have given you. Have a nice day!
I live in a community where death is immersed in the culture. Mormons talk very openly about death and what happens afterward. For the most part, death isn’t a scary subject for the LDS. The way it happens though could be, especially when it comes to a child passing away.
My culture is also one of worry. When it comes to our kids, we tend to skim over the nitty-gritty and hope there are no follow up questions we need to answer. Sex is a no-no subject. So are drugs, drinking, mental health issues, and suicide. I understand why. We live in a big, big world that is mostly out of our control. Why add to the bad we already know is in it? Why must our kids have to take on the burden of knowing a specific terrible going on in the world?
Also, there’s this underlying concern that if certain subjects are breached and discussed, they are also given as permission. I understand all of this. I just don’t agree.
If I want to help my kid, I need to know what I’m helping them with. I need to be able to talk to them directly and have solid answers.
I’m not trying to be insensitive. It’s horrible that a teenager has died. I feel horrible for his parents and friends and neighbors. I have no idea of the pain they’re going through. I just wish I knew what I could say or do to help my own kid get through some pain or confusion on the subject.
For Christmas this year I got an iPhone Watch. Actually, I was talked into getting an iPhone Watch.
I’d had a Fitbit that I used and rarely took off. I liked knowing my heart rate and keeping track of how many steps I took a day—I got competitive at it.
When said Fitbit bit the dust, my husband recommended the Apple Watch as a replacement. My hesitation over getting one was that it was another thing I’d have to figure out, just like my iPhone that I’m sure is used at half capacity. Also, why spend more money just to check off 10,000 steps a day?
Well, I surrendered. I have and wear a brand spanking new iWatch, and in the process, I have given up any freedom I didn’t notice I had. Now, I’m interrupted every hour on the hour with a chirp followed by a message; Time to stand up, Master. Master? That’s the other thing, why am I suddenly given Master status? I’m not a Master over my watch. I’m someone who owns a watch. Period.
I stand, I walk around my office for one minute, and then I’m told that I’ve earned another hour to sit. Ridiculous! Calls, Texts, if there’s an appointment on the horizon, I hear about it, constantly, and immediately.
Before, I used my phone—I’d ignore it for hours at a time. I’d leave it on my desk or on my dresser and go to other parts of my house. Upon returning, I’d check it for messages or calls. Done. I was the one calling the shots! Me!
I know there is something to having access to how much time has passed since I moved. I appreciate that the Pharmacy has my refill ready, and early. These are indeed perks. However, having an iPhone Watch is not all that convenient—not like it’s packaged as being, anyway.
I guess what really, really bothers me is the irony of the whole thing. I write Science Fiction Short Stories. In fact, I’m working on one now. Here I am delving into what-if scenarios about technology’s place among humanity, all of which of course ends horrifically, because I’m a bit of a sadist and write a lot of Horror, too, and I’m being monitored, manipulated, and spurred on by the object I wear purposefully on my wrist!
It’s that time of year again. The Christmas decorations are put away. The storage room is now pregnant with boxes filled to the brim with glittering sentiments you, at this point, are sick to death of seeing. The house is back in order and events, parties, and gift buying is no longer hijacking you—that season is over! It should be a fantastic start to a New Year. Still, I am looking towards the future with skepticism and dread.
I think it has to do with the tradition of proclaiming a goal that must be accomplished sometime within twelve months—A New Year’s Resolution. With everyone I know, the objective usually includes healthy eating, weight loss, giving up Sodas, and increased exercise. And the enthusiasm to achieve, achieve, achieve, lasts approximately three weeks. So what’s the point?
There are those of us who state we’re not making a New Year’s Resolution siting that they don’t work if we do. But then isn’t declaring a no-resolution policy a goal in itself?
For me, every New Year’s Eve resembles turning forty-years-old every three hundred and fifty-six days. I’m painfully aware that I haven’t done what I set out to do and now have to start all over. Of course, I still have that twinge of delusional optimism that for the next forty years, I’ll do things differently—I’ll do things right—which is then followed by the realization that I probably won’t.
Maybe it’s the timing? There’s so much pressure on becoming, and very little on just being at the end of a season where go, go, go, buy, buy, buy, create magic, magic, magic has exhausted every crumb of oneself. What now? How about making a list of failures and then another list of what to do to fix them? That’s not grueling or depressing at all!
Perhaps if the date for resolution happened at the beginning of spring, I’d be rested and rejuvenated enough to make a goal and achieve it? Doesn’t the end of March, when the snow’s beginning to melt, new grasses are poking up through the ice, and flowers are budding seem more conducive to newness? Self-awareness? Progress? I think so.
I know that some may call me a pessimist and some, a realist. There are those who could say I am creating my destiny with the onslaught of disappointment in the process. People might say that my biggest issue is my bad attitude. Maybe you’re all right.
I admit I don’t know how to go about doing the New Years Resolution thing correctly. Then again, does anybody?
Story 24/24: The Christmas I remember best happened during my College Freshman year over Thanksgiving break. I moved to Cedar City, living for the first time on my own and returning for a holiday no longer felt like I was coming home.
In the Ellis household, the day after Thanksgiving had nothing to do with the words Black Friday or sales. Instead, we had a tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree. We’d head east on I-84 through Weber Canyon to a town called, Mountain Green, and a Christmas tree farm called Papa Pines.
Papa Pines speckled a steep hillside perpetually covered in marshmallow fluff. Here, my family would separate into groups of two and hike, seeking out the perfect Balsam Fir—bell-shaped, with green and gray two-toned needles and smelling of evergreen.
This trip was much like all the others. We reached Papa Pines. We dispersed through the planted forest, knee deep in the snow, scouting for our family Christmas tree. When one was spotted, my dad retrieved a handsaw. While he and my brother, Rick cut it down, the rest of us stood around drinking watered-down hot cocoa from white Styrofoam.
Afterward, we half carried, half dragged the tree back down the mountainside and tied it to the roof of our Caprice Classic station wagon by rope remnants and bungee cords.
I took my place in my designated spot in the car, sharing the jump seat with Rick, facing backward. For our entire childhoods, the first we saw of any destination was what everyone else saw looking behind them.
As we headed home following the last traces of sunlight, the tree began hinting at escape. Thump! Thump! Thump!
“Something’s happening with the tree,” Rick said.
Overhead, the tree shifted scratching into the aluminum roof in high-pitched screeches. Several tree limbs dropped low over the side of our car.
“Yeah, I see it!” My dad yanked the steering wheel hard to the left. The tree slid to the opposite side, and the branches disappeared. After a minute the banging began again.
A low groan rumbled along the rooftop followed by a whine and snap! The ribbons of a bungee cord flapped down, its metal hook slapped the side window.
A wind hurled through the narrow Canyon and collided with the front of our car ripping the Balsam pine free and launching it off the rooftop like a torpedo rocketing out of a wood-paneled submarine. It landed in the middle of the highway.
My dad skidded to the shoulder and slammed on the breaks. He leaped from the driver’s seat and ran onto I-84. Rick scrambled after him. The rest of us stayed, open-mouthed, and wide-eyed, as car after car maneuvered within inches of hitting our tree and then our family members.
Rick and my dad almost had a solid hold on the tree when the sound of a loud horn bellowed. They dropped it and hurried out of the way as a Semi-truck ran over our perfect pine splitting limbs, scalping needles, and shredding its trunk.
It was dark now. The only light came from passing cars swerving around the Christmas tree corpse and the two men lugging it off the side of the road.
No one said a word as the pine was strapped back down to the roof. No one breathed even as we drove up the driveway of our house.
The tree was taken off its gurney and carried inside like a funeral procession. It was leaned against a far wall in the front room, bent, bald, and broken.
“It’s not that bad,” my mom said tilting her head to the side, assessing the damage.
“It’s missing a whole side,” my dad pointed out.
“Oh, I can fix that,” she said, and we believed her. My mother is a decorating genius with a black belt in disguise. If anyone could make the tree presentable once more, it was she.
I’d made plans with some friends that evening and left. Hours later, I returned. A beautiful Christmas tree stood in the corner where the battered one had been. My mom was at the base adding final ornaments.
“Did we get a new tree?” I asked.
I walked closer and saw the fix; branches were reassembled around the trunk secured by screws. At the tree’s point, between the star topper and the ceiling was a white eyehook with fishing line wrapped and knotted in the middle.
Perhaps it was the act and antics of getting the tree, or maybe it was the familiarity of witnessing my mom’s brand of magic that whispered in my heart. For the first time since I arrived for Thanksgiving, I felt like I was home.