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Flash fiction: Tears

May 31, 2012 5 comments

I recently learned of a style of writing called flash fiction. Rather than restate what it is, here’s a link to a Wikipedia article that describes it in some detail Flash Fiction. Generally speaking, a piece of flash fiction should be no longer than around one thousand words.

Well, I was so intrigued by the concept that I decided to write a short piece about something that’d been in my thoughts for a number of years now. So, here it is.

 

Tears

Michael and Claire were married amidst a fury of passion and love. Neither could imagine life without the other, so when it came time for Michael to leave his bride home alone for the first time, he wasn’t sure what to expect. From the vantage point of years gone by, Michael thought of that first departure and what had struck him the most about it.

Tears.

She had stood by the garage door as he’d backed out of the driveway, her face awash in tears that streamed down her cheeks. He recalled how sad he felt as he watched the love of his life wiping her eyes while she shivered beneath her robe, the chilly fall wind blowing through a gray morning.

She wept

Tears.

By the time he’d pulled out of the driveway, his stomach ached at the thought of leaving her for the week as he travelled on business. He took one last look back. Claire, still weeping, blew him a kiss.

Tears.

They were the one constant Michael could count on each time he had to leave his wife. Whatever else happened, he always knew that he’d see those lovely, blue eyes admitting her loss of his presence, if even for only a matter of a few days. They kept those times of travel bearable, for he could barely hold on while he was away from his love.

Tears.

It was time to go yet again. It was his job; he had no choice. He kissed her gently and touched her cheek, staring into her eyes, as if perhaps they would linger in his thoughts more clearly the longer he took them in. She smiled weakly, but there was no happiness to be found. Nor was there the despair he’d seen in years past. Nor were there … tears

No tears.

They were gone. He looked into her face and felt the familiar sting of sorrow well up in his eyes. Her dry eyes averted his, glancing away as if afraid of revealing the truth. He kissed her lips gently, then shuffled to his car.

Where were they today?

He sat behind the wheel, peering through the windshield as he always did. But instead of seeing his wife crying, he saw only an empty smile filling an empty face. He started the car, placed it in gear, and began rolling out of the driveway. His eyes never left her, though hers rarely caught his. He glanced behind himself as he entered the street. When he looked back, she was gone. The garage door was closing.

His tears fell.

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On life: blessings in disguise

May 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Warning: A personal story and thoughts related to living and dying follow, as do recollections of recent events. If easily bored or depressed, you might want to skip this one.

So keep’em coming, these lines on the road
And keep me responsible be it a light or heavy load
And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I’ll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

from the song, Faith my Eyes by Caedmon’s Call.

Life has a way of throwing curves at you, even when you think you are prepared for the inevitabilities which come from simply being one of the billions of fragile creatures that inhabits this planet. Despite what we think about ourselves, and the ways in which we collectively fool one another into believing that bad things won’t ever happen to us, there’s something on the horizon for all of us, and not a single soul on the planet will escape it. At some point in our lives, we each must face our own mortality.

It either happens unexpectedly, or, perhaps worse, with plenty of advance notice. For example:

I’m sorry, sir, you have cancer and you probably only have a year to live.

The things that go through one’s mind at such a moment are, at least for now, unknown to me. Though I can easily imagine what I might think, until I actually hear those words directed at me, it will remain speculation.

Recently, my father, who is approaching eighty, received such news. I was there visiting my folks when he first heard words similar to what I wrote above. I was visiting with my mom, sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee (something my family does a lot of), when my dad returned from his follow-up appointment with his doctor to get the results from his recent physical. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I could tell simply by looking at this face that something bad had happened. His expression was a subtle mix of confusion, a “deer in the headlight” look, and, for lack of a better word, shock. After a few awkward moments, my mom mentioned that my dad had just returned form his doctor’s appointment. As is her usual way, she downplayed everything to a ridiculous extent, saying only that they’d found a couple of spots in his lungs.

That was it. Nothing more. My dad knew the reality. I knew the reality. My mom, I believe, really was attempting to avoid the reality altogether. So we all sat there at the kitchen table and sipped our coffee. Several minutes later, someone spoke. I don’t remember who, but after that, we all fell into our roles of denial and our visit continued.

Since that day, weeks ago, my dad and mom and us kids, have experienced firsthand a whirlwind of tests, bad news, worse news, some hope, and finally, acceptance and treatment. At this point, my dad is in the middle of treatment, receiving both chemo and radiation over the course of several months. We’ve been fortunate so far, because side effects from both treatments have been minimal. And even better, my dad has been feeling just fine throughout it all.

So where are the blessings in all this? Easy. We were blessed with my dad’s good health for almost eighty years; an intact family with parents married over fifty-seven years; time for all of us kids to return home to be with him and my mom through this tough time; an opportunity for me and my siblings to spend more one-on-one time together with my dad than in as long as I can remember; treatment that has progressed well with little of the debilitating side effects that are so common. And for the first time this year, I’ll be spending father’s day with my dad, something I’ve not done since I was a kid. I’d say that was a pretty big blessing as well.

Perhaps the best of all blessings, though, just might be the change in my father’s outlook on life. He seems to be a man changed by the prospect of staring death in the face. Seeing such a thing has a way of shaping one’s perspective into something focused on the important things in life rather than on one’s self and whatever petty problems may have been around before.

A final note. It was just about a year ago that I first felt the sting of death, though not nearly to the level of potentially losing a parent. It was small, yet painful, and it forced me to realize that death really does exist, that things don’t just continue forever unchanged. Unbelievably, this reminder didn’t come until I was over fifty.

On losing Milkdud

–dp

On writing: overcoming writer’s block

May 20, 2012 3 comments

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for months now, barely dabbling on my most recent WIP whenever I could briefly unstick the cogs of creativity in my brain. Seriously, it’s felt like someone filled my brain with paste. I was at a loss as to how to clear out the glue that had effectively clogged my synapses. But this weekend I take heart in the possibility that my mind, thoughts, and fingers might have finally come unglued (in a good way, of course).

Yesterday, a relaxing Saturday without any real chores to do or things to think about, I sat down in front of my computer and began doing the usual: read news, check facebook, read blogs, check facebook, surf and repeat until time has been wasted. You know, all those things we tend to do to avoid opening up the manuscript and actually typing. Finally, though, I opened up Scrivener (an amazing piece of software for writers available for a ridiculously low price) and loaded up my current work.

There it was, staring me in the face, daring me to type even one word. Despite the fact that I really liked all that I’d already written, for the life of me it felt like chains were holding down my arms, making it impossible to reach the keyboard. But this time, I persisted, because somewhere deep down inside, I could feel things loosening up. And more importantly, I had an idea in my head that I wanted to get down on paper. And I liked the idea.

I typed a sentence, paused, then typed another sentence or two. I reread what I’d just written.

Good stuff. Keep it up, Dave.

So I did. And I kept typing words until I was, dare I say it, writing! It felt good, but in a strange sort of way. It was kind of like waking up from a deep sleep, when your head is still a bit foggy and you feel like a long stretch is needed before you can fully wake up. Well, this weekend, I began to wake up from a lengthy writer’s nap that’s had me floored for way too long. All told, I managed to write over one thousand words. That’s something I’ve haven’t been able to do in long, long time.

Do I now know the secret to beating writer’s block? No. But I think I can at least take solace in knowing that if — or perhaps that should be when — it does strike me again (and it will), persistence is all that will be needed. It’s the only thing guaranteed to (eventually) lift me out of that dreaded literary black hole that devours one’s creativity and imagination.

For now, I can say that it feels good to be back … finally.

One hundred K down, twenty to go.

–dp

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