Archive for the Original Writing Category

Story Fragment: SHADOW IN THE SHEETS

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2017 by smuckyproductions

Part of a larger story, exploring a woman’s trauma after a sexual encounter leads to terrifying cosmic revelations – and her attempts to forget what she learned at all costs. 

Jules interviewed Naomi after the date, as she insisted upon since their sophomore year of college, though Naomi thought these questions were more precise. They had lived with each other long enough that something small, the rhythm of their steps or ferocity of a sigh, could hint at mood; so the inquiries burrowed close. “Was it okay?” she asked. “She seemed cute, and smart, but…”

Naomi paused and hitched a breath, which almost ruined her composure and spilled the truth through her teeth. But she managed, “It was fine. Great in the moment, when I was drunk, but not so special the next morning. You know how it goes.”

It gnawed at her, that only two people would ever know what had happened in her bed. She shuddered to realize that such an impossibility would go on as just that, a dream. In the end, this assurance is what kept her silent, even if it terrified her. Jules did not need to know what had occurred so close to her sleeping body. Naomi would have paid steep prices for a similar ignorance. She felt nostalgia for a time when her bed had been an escape; to melt into the worn sheets, the years-old mattress pad, was to forget the complexities of the world. Her comforter, once a prized possession because of its sheer size, now lay at the base of a dumpster several blocks away. She had tried to sleep in the sheets that next day, but could not bring herself to peel them back, in case some sign remained under them. She closed her eyes as she donned the purple rubber gloves from her bathroom and ripped them from the mattress, stuffed them into a garbage bag. It occurred to her what she must have looked like when she rushed down the street, eyes bulging and toting the soft package – realizing that she was just another crazy person on the street, a true New Yorker, kept her from screaming every time the bag bumped against her leg. Sometimes she wondered if it was still in the dumpster after all; perhaps it had slunk away on its own.

These details scuttled through her mind as she answered Jules’s questions – “What did you do? Where’d you go? Was she a good kisser?” She overcompensated in her answers, since she so vaguely skipped through the first one. She described for Jules the candle-flickering speakeasy where they had begun; Alex ordered pungent Negronis for them and grinned over hers, prepared to initiate Naomi into a dark, secret world. “This city has so many places to hide,” she whispered after the second round; “all these corridors and spaces where no one wants to go, and no one will. Imagine what’s sitting there? Who’s using those places to escape? So many stories. You look at these windows, all quiet and dark, and the heavy doors – what’s happening in there? What has happened? What will?” Had Naomi not been a little drunk, this would have bored her. It was the gloom, the aromatic gin, and most of all Alex – her voice edged with a practiced rasp, and her eyes… they glimmered with candlelight and promised, “I have seen these secret places.” Later on, she couldn’t remember what had actually been special about them. If she could have placed their draw through the gin, she might have avoided the rest of the night, and what came after. Their speckles of green seemed to spiral deep into pools of shade, and Naomi wanted to go inside, where it was cool and unknown wonders crept. Alex promised to lead her down.

Story Fragment: PAYMENT

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2017 by smuckyproductions

The first page or so to a short story that is more or less complete. Please share thoughts in the comments – perhaps the full version will follow. 

PAYMENT

He had expected, when the knock came, for the grip on his throat to tighten at last into a fatal clench that would finish him off before he could get to the door. Instead, the grip released. The fear of a decade fizzled into a low-grinding acceptance. He preferred the choking.

The knock came once, and Stephen knew not to make him wait. He stumbled to the door on traitor feet and pulled the knob, which put up no resistance, no sympathy. Then the night gushed in and unfolded and the man with the briefcase stepped forward. Rendered in motel fluorescent, the image disappointed Stephen. The lips had deflated. Their kiss, the sealing embrace, wouldn’t do much for him this time. But the amber eyes were more truthful, showed more of the hellfire behind them.

“Hello,” said the salesman.

Stephen moved to the side and allowed the salesman to float into the room. His presence brought the shroud of night with it and dimmed the already-weak lights inside. As he passed, Stephen noticed subtle, peeling burn marks along his skin. Ten years ago it had been perfect, enough to make anyone jealous, addicted.

“All that hounding and hunting will do that to a guy,” the salesman said, unprompted. He sounded like he’d swallowed too much gravel. “The vessels are only supposed to last five years. You, however, you made yourself hard to find.”

The remnants of Stephen’s charms – pentagrams drawn in sheep’s blood, holy dust sprinkled at each window, packets of forbidden herbs that had long gone impotent – dangled or dripped around the room. “Well, I gave it the ol’ college try,” he muttered. “But I still heard you coming.”

“Be grateful I’m just an associate,” the salesman said. “An executive would have started flaying you in dime-sized pieces by now. You’re my first case. We’ll just pretend those extra years never happened.”

“Yeah, sure, lucky me,” Stephen said, and sat heavily on the couch. The rusted springs groaned at him. He looked down at the cushion to make sure he could reach beneath it when the time came. The salesman sunk down next to him. Stephen forced himself to stay still when a bony but gentle hand settled on his knee. He looked at the salesman, an inch from his face, and for a miserable second Stephen remembered the first time he had looked. It had stirred his soul to meet those eyes, promising lots of golden things. Out of all the smeared glasses and buzzing neon of the bar, those eyes, the only things that shone.

Poem: TO MY GRANDFATHER

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , on April 4, 2017 by smuckyproductions

A eulogy to my grandfather, Berle Larned, who passed away this morning, April 4th, at 77 years old. 

TO MY GRANDFATHER

How will I remember you? What image
Would hold you in place –
Not as now,
Stained in dark lost dayfalls
Scribed with words best left untouched
Glazed with glimpse of final truth –
No; this image is meant to fade.

That body was new once
It owned the air and glowed with it
All the promise of eternity,
Which I see now
The younger will see after –
Your red veins and unshadowed eyes
Looked down it and followed

Then the promise breaks
And only breaths are left – cruel joke
Of a lifetime’s brevity upon you.
You fumbled and flawed and must
Rest in silence knowing
You never needed absolution.

No need to worry, for I hold you
Not as now
But as then –
Your eternity safe
Until I, too, wither.

A Poem out of Darkness

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2016 by smuckyproductions

They mean to break down your body
They mean to flay it into little pieces
that are easier to pack away
and poke holes in

They do not realize
your body cannot be parceled
It was made whole
Through the fire of their stares, their hisses
it continues to move
Rent perhaps, torn at and patched,
but inseparable.

What they cannot understand
they seek to destroy
but our bodies, patches and all, prove
Erasure is out of their power.

Short Story: OUT THERE

Posted in Halloween, Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by smuckyproductions

A little mood piece about darkness for the Halloween season. 

OUT THERE

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The stars stared. Jem could see thousands of them, unshielded by clouds or pollution from the city. He wondered how many of them could see down this far – or perhaps the distance blinded them. But they are so big, Jem mused, that they can see as far as they like.

“Over here,” Jem’s father said.

He stood several yards away, at the edge of the street where the grass began. Winnie waited at his knee. Jem skipped closer and looked behind them, at the strip of subdivision. Its lights almost overpowered the stars, if you looked at them too long; but they could not shut out the mounds of hills, heaped on all sides. From far away, Jem imagined, these houses would look pitiful, and at any moment the hills could lean forward and swallow them. He blinked, cleared his eyes of electric light, and turned back toward his father. The flashlight he held revealed a patch of grass in front of them, and the beginnings of the forest. Otherwise everything was shadow – the stars glowed but did not illuminate. Jem knew that, when he stood behind the flashlight, he was a shadow, too. He kept himself there, wondering if he felt any different, ensured that he was only two steps away from the flashlight and reality.

“Go on,” his father said to Winnie. She perked up and trotted away into the grass, which half-devoured her. Jem’s father kept the flashlight trained on her without fault. He did not blink or flinch; in fact, Jem noticed that his hand bulged with veins, from the strain of keeping still. The beam did not waver, either – it cut a single hole in the dark, allowing the trees and rocks beyond to remain formless until sunrise.

Jem’s father had protested when Jem asked to go outside, too, and wait for Winnie to take care of herself. He said he did not want to deal with Jem being frightened in the dark. Their first night in the mountains, after being accustomed to the suburbs and the city where darkness was just a lower grade of light, Jem really had been afraid – he did not sleep for fear that the dark, so heavy and complete in the mountains, would break through the window of his room. But, when morning came and proved his survival, Jem realized that the dark was not an enemy. It allowed him to transform; without the watchful streetlights and windows, always keeping his body illuminated, he could become anything. He did not express these notions to his father, who would have snorted and shaken his head. He simply promised that he would not be afraid of the dark. Though the shadows were strong beyond the flashlight and hinted at moving shapes, Jem felt no fear. Besides, if anything should approach, Winnie would alert them.

She squatted now, glancing back at them with something like embarrassment, and marked her territory –she always did so over a small hole, once occupied by a fox. “Good girl,” said Jem’s father, almost like a command. Winnie straightened herself and trotted back, a bit faster than before. Jem’s father turned to follow, but Jem lingered and faced the dark again – did they have to go inside so soon? He felt the shadow on his skin, and marveled at how strong it seemed. His eyes strained to see detail and failed. A thrill wormed into his abdomen and worked its away up until he was grinning. Stay like this, he thought. Stay.

“What, girl?” his father was saying. “What’s there?”

Jem glanced up and saw Winnie staring at him. Her face was rigid, nose pointed at his head, or something behind it. The flashlight blasted into his eyes as his father followed Winnie’s lead. While his eyes danced with red and readjusted, Jem heard his father mutter something, a nasty sounding word. He looked where Winnie pointed, and his face was slack with dread.

The grass rustled behind Jem – a soft, inviting sound – and he turned to see what everyone else did. “Don’t,” his father snapped.

Jem would have disregarded the command, but he had never heard his father’s voice crack like that, as if he was being choked. Jem turned back to him and frowned in silent inquiry. His father waved a hand, beckoning, and Winnie took a step back. A low growl rumbled in her chest as she stared.

“Come here,” his father said, and the grass rustled again.

He walked toward the flashlight only to satisfy his father. The dark still felt calm and exciting on his skin. The flashlight was so loud in comparison. His father was shaking it now, as if flicking a whip. “Back,” he barked, not to Jem. “Back.”

Now behind his father, Jem turned to look. His eyes had quite recovered from the flashlight’s glare, so he was blind to the dark; and before he could blink away the light his father’s hand was over his face. “Don’t look,” his father cried.

“Why?”

“Because I said so.” It was not a demand but a plea. Jem looked back at the house; but slowly, long enough to glimpse something in the grass, whose movement was utterly wrong as it crept closer. The flashlight’s dancing beam did not allow for a more concrete view. His father continued to growl, “Back, back;” and something hissed, or sighed, in protest. Jem did not hear the sound so much as imagine it – no physical vocal chords could have produced it. He was suddenly glad that he had looked away.

Winnie had already raced back toward the house, and now his father followed, pushing Jem alongside him. The flashlight was weak next to the streetlamps. Jem took a last glance up, at the far away stars, and then the door slammed shut, and his father was coughing out a grotesque noise. Jem thought he might be laughing, maybe, and left him alone.

Neither of them spoke for some time. Jem’s father vanished into the bathroom for a while, where he continued making the noise, and Jem watched through the living room window in his absence. He could not see much beyond his reflection. It was possible that something looked back, and he would have turned off all the lights in order to see it, but then his father emerged, red-faced and sniffling.

“Why couldn’t I look?” Jem said immediately.

His father stared at him, as if not recognizing him. “Some things you don’t need to see quite yet,” he muttered. “There’s things out there that don’t leave you once you see them. That was one. You’ll have your time someday. But not yet.”

Jem nodded and pretended to understand.

“Promise me you won’t go out there,” his father said; his voice croaked again.

I’m not scared, Jem thought, but whispered, “I promise.”

His father smiled and murmured, “Good boy.” Then he retreated to his room again, shut the door, and locked it.

Jem stayed at the window and looked at his reflection. The glass made it look faded, uncertain, and small. He scowled and tried to see beyond. The darkness was still there, and would be for hours. Perhaps that meant the sighing thing was still there, too. He pushed away from the window and crept toward the front door. Winnie stared at him as he went, but did not protest. His hand fell on the knob, heavy and final; he would wait until his father started to snore, then he would go look.

Short Story: A FINE DAY FOR A WEDDING

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Autumn has enfolded us fully; so why don’t we look back to the heat of summer for a little love story?

A FINE DAY FOR A WEDDING

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You’ll likely remember that Midsummer day when young Tom O’Riley got it into his head that he should propose to the apple of his eye, Amaryllis Jones. What a fine, hot day it was, too! The sun celebrated its own glow on the streets of our pride and joy Little Creek Bend, and that Tom O’Riley took to them like the stones had been lain in his name. Scarce is an individual who did not see good Tom on his way, head high and holding out that velvet pouch for all to acknowledge, the pouch that bore the jewel to sit upon his beloved’s finger.

Tom had put on his favorite checked shirt and pressed blue jeans, the ones that work had not worn down, and over his hair he wore that grand beacon of a hat, the color of raw chicken’s skin. He stuck his head up as high as it would go so even the merchants in their offices up top could see it bobbing on by. There was sweat a’plenty running under the brim and inside his best shirt, but Tom would not be stopped by anything, let alone the heat. His smile was bright enough to set you on fire if you looked at it too long. The air itself, perfumed so gently with Mrs. Bernard’s roses and the wildflowers in Farmer Leigh’s field, carried him along toward his divine purpose. Watching Tom O’Riley go to meet his sweetheart on that fine June morning was enough to melt the heart of the coldest miser, and make the mute sing praises. Even after the way it turned out.

Rare, too, is the soul who did not know beforehand of Tom’s intentions for sweet Miss Jones. They had been seen all over town, her delicate hand wrapped around his big young arm, gazing at each other like their necks had petrified. More and more did Tom’s demeanor turn on his fishing buddies down at the saloon – where once a burly and brutish bull had held court, there was now a twittery, pink-cheeked, thoughtful stallion who was always preoccupied by something he didn’t dare proclaim. Quite a thing to see, such a big boy broken up over a little flower. But she was, we all know, the loveliest flower that ever was, with skin like precious metal and hair that floated about her head like angel’s breath. Many a young soul – and, I might add, a few old ones – pined for the heart of Amaryllis. Not all of them were too pleased to see Mr. O’Riley toting that velvet pouch, either. He paid none of them any attention as he made his pilgrimage down the streets of our pride and joy Little Creek Bend. Even if he’d had a mind to look and see his competition, the brim of his hat would have prevented it. That hat, by God, was the joke of all the young folks around, for the way it overshadowed Tom’s face and weighed twice as much as his skull; but as he walked so tall and regal, his hat took on the aspect of the grandest crown.

At about ten after nine did Tom round the corner of Amaryllis’s street. Widow McNally gave him a shy little wave, and that good-hearted merchant Stalmouth tipped his hat in congratulations. Tom regarded them all with the most pleasant manly grin as he ascended the white steps of his beloved’s mamma’s veranda. He waited at the top, as if exploring all the phases of his life and all that could come after, the endless versions, and deciding that the one before him was the only one worth going for; so he rapped his hand against the door.

It swung on its hinges not into the bright and welcoming corridor that old Mrs. Jones always maintained for her guests, but a dark and gloomy one. In the dim light it was a challenge to see what was making smacking so, or to pick out the unnatural shadow at the foot of the stairs. Tom did something he had never done before – he faltered in his step. And he further surprised all us watching when he let out a high-pitched and desperate scream.

It took the watchers a moment to find the reason for his outburst, but when it slithered onto the porch, we all understood. A first impression reminded one of a tumor with the arms and legs of a soft-shelled crab, bearing an old man’s toothless face and four unevenly arranged, red-rimmed eyes; but the skin was too muddy, flecked with red, and after a good look, it was clear that the legs were covered in hair. Tom was confronted by this striking creature, in whose misshapen jaws dangled the well-chewed body of his intended. He staggered back and nearly fell down the steps as he gaped and tried to think of the proper response. The velvet pouch clattered on the veranda and was forgotten.

After dropping Amaryllis’s leg from its jaws, the creature said, “Who the hell are you?”

“T-t-t-Tom O’Riley,” the poor boy stuttered, always polite.

“Well, T-t-t-Tom, you’ve got real great timing,” the creature said. “Now, unless you’re here for a good reason, I’ll ask you to kindly go away.”

Now Tom, being a fine boy, did not appreciate being talked to in such an inconsiderate manner. He puffed up his chest and widened his stance. I daresay he felt foolish having left his pistol at home, but Tom, he was not one to shy from hand to hand combat, even if his opponent had seven to his two. “I came here today to make Amaryllis Jones my wife in the eyes of the Lord,” Tom bellowed. It wasn’t his fault that his voice cracked. “You have no right to keep a man from that.”

The creature shrugged its shoulders and lumps. “Not to be rude, but that doesn’t sound much like my problem,” it said.

“Hell it isn’t!” Tom yelled.

“I don’t like this attitude of yours,” it said. “And when a body is just minding his own damn business. How am I supposed to know you’re coming over here to do such and such bullshit? I didn’t even mean anything personal. This just happened to be the toilet that I crawled out of today. A body’s got to eat, you know. If you want to get all fussy with someone, why don’t you talk to the asshole that planned the sewers? He’s got more to do with it than I do.”

By this time, I’m sorry to say, the smell of the creature and the sight of the girl’s half-eaten flesh got to Tom, and he spilled his breakfast all over his shoes. “Now isn’t that pleasant,” the creature said in response.

But like a good boy, Tom puffed himself out again and wiped the spillage off of his mouth. “You got no right, doing this to a man,” he said.

“I’ll take you to court if you try anything,” the creature said.

Tom stepped up to his opponent, putting out his fists, avoiding Amaryllis’s head. “I want you out,” he said. “You got no right eating up a man’s wife. Get out of this house and go back to the hole you crawled out of! I see you around here again, I’ll really give you something to bawl about.”

All of us watching were real quiet while they waited to hear what the creature might say. It gurgled, twitched its hemorrhaged eyes, and then snorted in a nasty gulp of air. Something like a smile wriggled over its mouth. “Well, I guess you aren’t such a dope after all,” it said. “You smell real nice, as a matter of fact. I’ve been looking for a nice-smelling thing to keep me company. The sewers get real lonely, all that waste and bad insulation. Why don’t you come down with me, huh? What do you say?”

Sure as anyone, Tom did not have the slightest idea how to respond to that request. He just blubbered along and took a glance at his beloved, splayed out underneath him. But the creature was impatient, I suppose, and didn’t have a mind to wait around for an answer; so it reached out one of its arms and took hold of Tom’s collar, another latching onto his sleeve, then retreated into the house with Tom flailing behind it. “You’ll like it down there, a big guy like you; we’ll have a good time. And I got some new records, too…” Then they were down the hall, something splashed a few times, and there were no more sounds to be heard from either of them. His grand hat was left on top of Amaryllis, and the sparkling jewel lay soaked through in unmentionables.

Suffice to say that none of us expected it to happen in such a way; you never know, I suppose, how one day will turn out. You never know what’s going to pop out of your sewer, either. And it’s easy to imagine that folks in Little Creek Bend were confused for a long time at the outcome of Tom’s proposal. We don’t see much of that nice boy anymore, though sometimes you can hear him hollering from down there, in the bridal suite. But those folks did get what they expected, after all, even if it came in a different shape. After all, those hot days in June are fine days for a wedding.

Poem: EULOGY FOR THE YOUTH

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2016 by smuckyproductions

As graduation is almost upon us, I feel the need to share this – one of the first poems I wrote, while still in college.

EULOGY FOR THE YOUTHIMG_2833

Lying tangled on the bedroom floor
Medicinal poison ravage our veins
They won’t hear us in the sober dark
We, the gutted ones, trapped silent

Til the smell gets loose
And tells them for us:
Your brethren are dead.

They will weep, and grey-shroud snow
Will cover our graves, our stories untold
Effigies for children to see and to know

Blue corpse in black dirt, chose not to rise
The midnight call deaf on sodden ears
The bottle too thick, the liquid too dry
To allow us to keep our unchristened eyes.