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Ride for Life: Chapter 1

Weeks have passed since my last post here. Since no one demands stories from me, I find it easy to procrastinate. But, for the NOBODY who are itching for new stories, here is my first draft of the first chapter of my most recent book attempt. 

I hope someone finds this blog and starts demanding more writing from me. 
It’s longer than my average story…but that’s because it’s a chapter to a book! Enjoy…

The Meeting

Screams came from beyond the door. He smiled a quivering smile with knowledge that these screams could just as easily be happy screams as ones of a more distressing nature. Like Schrodinger’s cat, knowing which was truth and which was mere fantasy dancing in his head required opening the door. With a sigh, and hopeful held breath, he did.
Walking into the bare room, it was difficult not to notice the dirty mess of a man at the head of a plain table. People he assumed were physicians and experts of differing fields adorned one side of the table to which the disheveled man headed. Each person was well dressed or at least casually appropriate for a meeting of this sort. That, of course, excludes the pile of caked dirt at the table’s head. It was equally difficult for those seated at the quiet table not to notice him coming into the room. They all turned in his direction, making him dip his glances to the walls of the room diverting direct eye contact.
Part of him hoped that the vagabond at the head of the table was John Birmingham. If not, one of John Birmingham’s physicians needed to reconsider his overly Earth-friendly ways. Another part of him hoped it was not John Birmingham. If it were, it was clear he had bitten off more than he could chew. Then again, he never witnessed an intake. At least not an intake for a person entering the system for the first time. To be clear, John Birmingham was no stranger to the system. No, John Birmingham grew up in the system early on. But, in the eyes of the state of state, John Birmingham was green behind the ears. Both because this was his first intake in this state and because John Birmingham was, as it was so unabashedly put in his legal documents, of a diminished mental capacity. Because most people entering the system are planted into the system at birth, near birth, or certainly by early to middle childhood, and because the man who entered through the door only worked with adults to this point in his career, a new intake such as this was something foreign to him.
“Ah,” said a man at the far end perched opposite the dust ball shell of a man, “I was just telling everyone about you. Please. Sit.” The man opposite the dirty man at the far end waved for the man who just entered to sit opposite the experts just to his left. Fluttering the same unwanted smile, he started to find his way to an empty seat. “I was just telling John here that you are going to be his new direct support staff.” With his other hand, the man pointed with an open and friendly hand to the dirt pile across from him.
Before the direct support staff could get passed the line of well-dressed experts, the one closest to him stood, extended his hand, “John Birmingham’s PCP”. They shook hands. Most likely out of felt necessity, the others stood one by one, “Birmingham’s case worker,” “Birmingham’s SLP”, “John’s BT”, “and you know me, I’m your boss,” said the man sitting opposite John Birmingham with a humor that broke the business niceties and brought an ebb of light chuckles. Out of habit and assumed courtesy, John’s direct support staff extended his hand to the filthy creature of a man at the head of the table. With a puff of dust and a cloud of month old sweat and weathered clothes, John Birmingham leaped, stumbling, catching himself with his waist on the edge of the table for stability, and snatched up the man’s inviting hand, laughing a toothless crazy old man laugh. John’s free hand shook as it pointed at their handshake. His direct support staff started to take a step back in surprise but stood his ground fearing he would look put off, which he was, but it was his job not to appear that way. For John’s sake.
It was several minutes of wheezy ear-piercing laughing from John before he calmed enough to give his direct support staff back his hand. As he finally found his way to an empty seat, he caught his boss staring at him and smiling a proud smile. His boss patted him on the shoulder a couple times before speaking again, “John, you can sit down again if you’d like.” This sent John screaming in laughter to the point of turning red. After a while more of pointing at his new direct support staff and pretending to straighten a non-existent tie around his bushy neck, he finally sat down again. His gurgling laugh faded away but his toothless smile remained.
The boss started in again welcoming everyone to John’s intake, though he made special effort not to call it such. Instead, he began began calling the meeting an Individually Specific Plan. Heretofore, he said, was to be called an ISP. As he so tenderly spoke the acronym he peered up and down the row of experts to his right. John’s direct support staff wondered why his boss stressed ISP to intake and why he seemed to stare down his colleagues across from him. Being the newest one to the trade in the room and not wanting to step on any toes too early on, he returned his attention to his notebook in front on him, pretending to jot down something important.
The boss thanked all for coming. Each expert straightened themselves up as each was introduced to John. His tone remained inviting and unassuming no matter who he spoke to, or about. “You remember your doctor, John. Right?” While John nodded in the boss’s direction, his doctor interjected, never taking his eyes off the boss, “PCP, actually. I’m his PCP.” Never taking his eyes off John, the boss noticed John’s apparent confusion to this new term. “I apologize. You’re correct. You remember your doctor, John. Right? Your Primary doctor?” John’s nod became more animated and accompanied by a loud “Oh” that sounded more like someone getting kicked in the stomach than an exclamation of epiphany. The direct support staff looked up long enough to provide a modest smile and nod to the PCP. “To his left, John, is your new Speech Language Pathologist. He’s going to help us communicate with you better and help you help us understand each other.” John chuckled. His direct support looked up from his notebook to nod at John’s new Speech Language Pathologist. “Next is your job coach, John. She is going to help you find a job. Would you like to have a job, John?” John stared blankly into the boss’s face, still smiling his toothless smile. “You want money don’t you, John?” John screamed an ear piercing “Yeah” to which the expert not yet identified growled and nursed their ear drum. John’s other three other experts cringed with disgust or discomfort, it does not matter which. The boss never lost his smile nor flinched, “I thought you might. She will help you with that.” To which his job coach added, “Let’s not get carried away with ourselves,” as she glared at the boss, “we have no way of knowing yet if this man is capable..”
The direct support staff looked up from his notebook with scribbles of job titles and descriptions as they were given to see his boss’s attention leave John and focus on his job coach. “You mean, John?”
The job coaches voice tightened, “To whom else would I be speaking? That is why we are here. Is it not?”
“Ah. Right,” remembered the boss, still speaking with an inviting tone though the direct support staff wondered if he heard something else also. “Though we have not ascertained everything about John here,” the boss brought his attention to John briefly before returning to his job coach, “We have ascertained both his gender and his name, oddly enough. It is, therefore, fitting to reference both while speaking either to John or about him. Wouldn’t you agree?” Head cocked back a fraction, her brow furrowed, “I was only asking for a little more patience and a little less over excitement.” “Today is a pivotal moment in John’s life,” he returned his attention to John. “There couldn’t be more reason to be excited and optimistic.” John added a gurgling giggle at the boss the way an infant giggles at a mobile.
“Of course, you’ve already met your new direct support staff, John,” his boss said, pointing openhanded at John’s new support staff. His direct support staff looked over at John. Staring at his new support staff long enough to make his support staff uncomfortable, his smile widened as he gurgled what the direct support staff assumed was John’s way of saying “Awe shucks” without the fine motor skills necessary to form such complex vocabulary. They smiled at each other.
“And I’m your direct support staff’s boss, John. Your new staff is only part-time, John. He will only be working at The Club for about twenty hours a week. Because of your newness to our organization and because we don’t know each other very well, I feel it’s best if your support staff be able to focus on working with you. You will be his only client.” Pointing directly at John rekindled his gurgling crazy-man laugh. John pointed back at the boss and yelled an open-mouthed “You”. He did this several times, annoying his job coach to his left enough she placed her hand over his shaky pointing finger to quiet him.
“Individual,” interjected the job coach looking down the table to the boss. Here we don’t use the term, ‘client’, it’s too impersonal, too clinical. Here we focus on the person. That’s why we’re here, the ‘individual’”. This comment broke the boss’s otherwise inviting demeanor. “Right you are. That is the term used here at The Club. But why don’t we get started, shall we?” Each expert mumbled a yes, to which the direct support staff followed suit and was the owner of the voice that trailed off last.
John’s PCP spoke first, explaining John’s mental capacities were “limited at best.” Mild mental retardation coupled with the accumulation of years of alcohol and cocaine addictions mean John hardly grasped complex concepts. Likewise, the individual appears to have difficulty focusing on anything that is not directly in front of him. The PCP also concurred with archive files that report the individual suffers from a relatively mild form of Cerebral Palsy, explaining the individual’s inability to speak basic words and the individual’s shaky extremities. He explained that the individual’s oral hygiene, obvious to all at the table in scent and visual proof, demanded immediate attention. Though the individual had few teeth currently, this appears a recent occurrence. What teeth did remain likely needed to be extracted. There was significant rot and significant gum degeneration. Without being able to hold a conversation with the individual, the PCP continued, it is difficult to make any further assessments as to the individual’s current conditions. Perhaps, he concluded, the SLP can shed some light on what the individual is trying to communicate with us. It does appear he is attempting to communicate through sign language but I am not well rehearsed in ASL.
John’s SLP chimed in with an air of disappointment. He explained to the PCP that the individual did appear to be signing something and appears to know a relatively large vocabulary. But none of it is proper ASL. It is likely, he continued, that the signs he used were based on a language he and either his foster parents or foster siblings created to speak with him. Turning his attention to the boss at the head of the table he added the obviousness of necessity of long term therapy sessions to try to decipher the individual’s own language and train him in proper ASL so he, the SLP, could then train the individual’s direct support staff.
By this time, John was sitting up straight with his hands on the table attempting to twiddle his thumbs similar to what the boss across from him was doing. He looked out at the boss, back at his own hands, giggled with pride that he too looked important and dignified. He looked to his new support staff, tapped his shoulder with a shaky hand and gestured with his head to look at his dignified appearance. His direct support staff nodded, smiling at him. A voice in the direct support staff’s mind let him know his new relationship, his new client, was going to be more fun than work.
While John’s job coach spoke of nothing of great consequence since she felt it too early to consider the individual for any sort of job prospects nor had she seen the individual prior to this meeting, so she knew nothing of him or what interests stored themselves in the individual’s mind, the direct support staff started to notice the peculiarity of the language each expert used. Always ‘the individual’, never John, never Mr. Birmingham. Looking through his short list of notes, he recalled the job coach reminding his boss that ‘client’ was an inappropriate and impersonal term not used at The Club. Clear to him now, ‘individual’ was The Club’s term. He began scribbling ‘individual’ across his notebook pages. Twenty-one times at least, he thought. Twenty-one times of repetition before something is chiseled into the brain. Being a new job, he wanted to ensure usage of this new term. Slipping up one too many times with ‘client’ could have compromising repercussions; repercussion he did not wish to experience.
This new term made sense to the direct support staff. Subtract any clinical terminology in place of more individualistic, humanizing language. Doing so, he thought, probably forces one to see the client, the individual, as a human being rather than a patient. Likewise, it likely makes the client, the individual he corrected himself internally, feel more at ease. It shows a certain humanizing respect for the client, individual he repeated to himself again.
“Now then, John,” the boss began again, having returned his demeanor to its pleasing tone of invitation, pulling the direct support staff from his thoughts, “this meeting is all about you. Our job is to make sure you lead the most positive, constructive life you want to lead. Our job is to help you get out of life what you want to get out of life.” To this John started chuckling again with his watery crooked tooth laugh, pointing at the boss. “What is it you want to do, John.” All John did was continue laughing. “What is it you like to do? Fishing? Reading? Do you want learn to cook? Do you know how to clean your room? You’ll be living in your own apartment in this facility. It will be your responsibility to keep your apartment clean.”
John stopped laughing appearing as he had just witnessed a ghost. Squeals that could only be deciphered as either something akin to a “really” or a “what” any number one to two syllable words to express exclamation jumped from his cracked lips. His eyes widened so much his job coach made a move toward him, assuming to help the individual keep his eyes in their sockets but pulled back, also assuming, at its absurdity. Then she spoke.
“I must object to this,” the job coach said, pulling her hands back to the table’s edge where they grabbed for stability. With calm of a teacher trying to keep a rowdy group of teens from becoming unmanageable, the boss asked John’s job coach to explain herself for clarity. “Absolutely,” she began, clearing her throat. “This individual…” “John,” corrected the boss. “Yes. He exhibits no capacity to understand even the most basic safety precautions and appears to have no functioning fear of things that could harm him. Alone he could hurt himself beyond repair.” She then placed her hand gingerly on John’s shaking attempt at twiddling his thumbs before continuing, “This little guy needs our full support now. Not coaching. He needs to be cared for.” She began to tear up, her lips quivered. “He’s so fragile at this point in his life. If we are not careful, things could only get worse for him.” The other two experts concurred with quiet agreed’s and unequivocal nods.
John exclaimed something at the sight of his job coach beginning to cry. Without warning, he popped out of his chair clumsily enough to knock it over and hobbled over to a small side table where, among other things, sat a box of tissues which he returned to his job coach, box held in both shaking hands. Her lips flickered as violently as his own muscles did, she mustered a whispered a thank you to him as she pulled a tissue and blew loudly. John began laughing again at this making his job coach giggle through her tears and soggy tissue. “Unfortunately for John,” the boss stated comfortingly, “the state does not see it the same way as the rest of us. And with current funding as it is, there is no choice but to leave John in Independent Living.” The job coach slumped over somewhat, all the wind sucked out of her. “To be sure,” the boss continued, “With John’s direct support staff focusing his efforts exclusively on John’s needs, and John’s living on-site, endangerment will be minimized to the best of our abilities given current constraints.” Noticing this explanation insufficient for the job coach, or for that matter the SLP and PCP, he added, “At John’s six month review, we can revisit this issue then. By then, if more comprehensive support is required, we will have evidence and legitimate cause for requesting more funds on John’s behalf. As it is, our hands are tied.” Glancing back at John, “As it is, I believe John will thrive just fine in our facility under part-time care of his new direct support staff. So, if there are no further concerns? Great. John, what do you like to do?”
His cheeks wrinkled around his mostly toothless jaw as he stared skyward for something floating around his mind. “Anything at all, John. The world is your oyster,” the boss continued in his usually touching tone. One finger points to the ceiling as John’s eyes go wide forcing his weathered dirty skin to collect by their respective temples. Then he extended both fists in front of him as if grabbing handlebars to some imaginary bicycle. “You want to learn to ride a bike, John?”
“Let’s keep these goals reachable now people,” interjected his PCP.
John yelped, looked skyward again momentarily, proceeded to hop on his imaginary bike again but this time adding what could only be described as engine noises behind trembling vocal chords and cocked his right wrist several times.
“A motorcycle?” This was the first time since his introduction John’s direct support staff spoke.
“For heaven’s sake! You can’t seriously be entertaining this fantasy.”
“Well, we can certainly work in that direction, I think. The end result wouldn’t happen next week for sure,” the bass assured John’s PCP.
“For the love of all, this person…
“John.”
“…has Cerebral Palsy. He’d be lucky to comb his hair without stabbing himself in the eye. This individual…”
“John.”
“…could not possibly operate a motorcycle. His gross, let alone his fine, motor skills are far too compromised.”
“The Club,” the boss retorted, “values all its clients’ wishes, dreams, and goals.” Seeing all three experts open their mouths to argue he added, “Granted, some goals are lofty and difficult. That doesn’t mean we can’t help John here get as close as he can to his goal. Our job is not to tell him what he can or cannot do. We are here to ensure his health and safety first and secondly to encourage and assist our clientele with their life goals.”
Pounding his finger into the table with every syllable, John’s PCP glared at the boss, “I want it made perfectly clear in whatever documents your organization is required to produce that the individual’s Primary Care Physician is adamantly against any motor vehicle operation by said individual.” Chuckles gurgled from John’s wrinkled lips. His direct support staff could not decide if John knew what was being discussed and found his PCP’s anger funny or if John was oblivious to said discussion only laughing out of discomfort or laughing at some other movie playing out in his mind’s eye. After all, he himself was quite uncomfortable with such anger thrown around a room full of experts and colleagues.
“You have my official word,” the boss said in what the direct support staff guessed was slightly more stern voice,”your opinion will not be absent from any report where it’s presence would be of any potential use.” The boss repositioned himself leaning in and staring across the table straight at John. “So you want to ride a motorcycle, do you, John?” His direct support staff was certain John’s neck would snap with how ferocious his nod jostled his head around, clicking flecks of sand or dandruff in his direction. John’s PCP huffed but did little more. “Very well then. How about health goals? Do you think you need some help with personal care?” To this John just chuckled a drunkard’s chuckle, still staring back at the boss. “Perhaps your new staff can make sure you understand the basics?” John yelped, pointing at his direct support staff wide eyed and shook his head. With his left hand, his direct support staff noticed John motioning an open and close, open and close chomping with his pointer, middle finger and thumb. “He wouldn’t be in the shower with you, John. He will just prompt you in the morning, make sure you have shower gel, wash cloths, shampoo. That sort of stuff. You’re considered independent here, John. You don’t have to do anything you are not comfortable doing. How does that sound?” John’s left hand stopped eating air. His direct support staff thought he appeared pensive, though John’s PCP made it clear he thought John incapable of such tasks. It was the boss who broke the silence and not-so-muffled sighs exchanged between each expert, “I don’t know if you’ve seen yourself in the mirror lately there, John. But you don’t look like you’ve showered in some time.” Any other situation this comment would instantly be read as vulgar and uncouth. As it was, the boss said it with light-hearted ease. John laughed, slapping the table with both hands.
“That settles that, then. Your new staff here,” the boss pointed with an open hand, his direct support staff nodded coyly, “will make sure you have all the proper supplies and will set you off to shower alone of course.” Sparking more drunken giggles from John.
John’s behavior support consultant spoke, “I can work with the individual…”
“John,” the boss corrected.
“…to find out where he stands in terms of understanding kitchen safety, use of his stove, microwave, find out how much he understands cooking. I assume he’ll have to feed himself. Correct?”
“That would be correct.”
“I will then ask your new staff to sit in on one of my visits so I can then train your staff on the individual’s behavior and cognitive impairments and some potential support strategies that will require more frequent attention than my once a week therapy sessions.”
“Shall we say about three weeks then. So, around May 20th, you’ll meet with John’s support staff and John for a training?”
“Three weeks should give me a decent understanding of the individual.”
“John,” the boss’s broken record politeness continued. The behavioral support consultant asked John’s staff if May 20th would work, he nodded.
“It’s settled then.”
John’s direct support staff watched everyone flick their wrists or tap their cell phones awake, each looking for the time. Too nervous to realize any significant time had passed, he suddenly became curious, but didn’t look for fear of appearing antsy or disinterested. Instead, following his actions throughout the meeting, he waited for direction from his boss.
“If there is nothing further, then?” chimed John’s PCP.
The boss concluded there was not, that each of John’s goals, those of joining a motorcycle group, basic hygiene prompting, shopping and meal planning supports and perhaps a job in the more distant future were sufficient to disband. All would reconvene in six months to discuss progress and potentially edit John Birmingham’s goals.
John’s PCP, BT and SLP stood, collected their things, each making their way to the door. John’s direct support staff saw John watching everyone leave with a furrowed brow. Tapping his shoulder, John gave a quizzical grunt to which his support staff told him his meeting was over. Maintaining a confused look, his support staff pointed to an imaginary watch on his own wrist and pointed to the door to which John gave a screeching “Oh”.
“That’s not proper ASL.”
Picking up on his employee’s confusion the boss interrupted, “American Sign Language.”
“That’s what I said,” said the SLP.
“Perhaps at your third weekly visit, you can begin to teach my staff here some ASL, or perhaps, the signs our new guest here uses?”
“Do you mean to tell me this person doesn’t even know sign language? And he’s working with this individual?”
“John. And, yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
“Surely you’re joking. It’s bad enough this individual…”
“John.”
“…doesn’t know proper ASL. You have to bring in probably the only staff who doesn’t know Sign?”
The support staff interjected an “I know my ABC’s” too soft to be heard. Though, he wondered if his boss and the SLP were not concerned with each other too much to hear even the siren blaring that rolled by at that moment.
“Well, if, as you say, Mr. Birmingham does not know proper ASL, it should not disadvantage anyone that his staff does not know ASL.”
“But how are they to communicate?”
“They appeared to do just fine throughout the meeting.”
“Neither one said a damn thing.”
“Didn’t they?”
“Whatever. Three weeks,” she spat at the direct support staff, “Three weeks and I’ll start working with both of you. God help this individual…”
“John.”
“…before those three weeks are up.” She stormed out of the room leaving John Birmingham, his direct support staff and his boss. The staff pretended to continue packing his things though they were already packed in hopes of receiving instructions. His boss turned facing John, made unknown hand gestures ending with him pointing at John. John grunted and laughed hysterically like a dying smoker, wheezing and all. A few more hand gestures from the boss and John sat back down nodding, and smiling as if he knew something no one else in the room knew, his cheeks a bunched up pile of dirty bedsheets attached to both ears.
“You,” the boss pointed at the direct support staff, “Come with me for a moment.” Stopping in the doorway, “That sounded harsher than it needed to. I apologize. These meetings take a lot out of me.” The direct support staff followed his boss to his boss’s office before being handed a think, beaten book titled “The Complete ASL Dictionary.”
“But I thought,” started in the direct support staff.
“Mr. Birmingham appeared to understand me just fine a moment ago. She just doesn’t listen when people Sign.” Then his boss uttered something under his breath.
The direct support staff’s heart sank realizing he had to memorize this behemoth of a dictionary just to understand his client, individual, John. Already having read John’s intake folder and sat through a long meeting he was not looking forward to a sleepless night of monotonous reading.
“I don’t expect you to read the thing cover to cover. But it should help you two understand each other as time goes by.”
Much relieved, he thanked his boss quietly.
“How well do you know your ABC’s? In Sign Language, of course.”
“Okay I guess. If you Sign slow enough, I think I can get by.” He tried to run through the signs in his head. Too much was going on though, his boss was watching, his palms went soggy, his mouth dry.
“That’s alright. You too hit it off just fine.”
“Sir, we hardly spoke.”
“Didn’t you notice?” The direct support staff answered with a perplexed look. His boss chuckled politely, “You were the only one to address Mr. Birmingham directly.” He dropped into his chair behind his desk. Louder, he said, “Hell, you were the only one in the whole room who shook his hand.”
“But sir, I was just…”
“Exactly. You were just. Just being polite. Just treating John Birmingham like a human being. Like a client.”
“Like an individual?”
“Careful how you use that term. But yes, an individual. I real, straight-from-the-heart individual with feelings. Either way. Now, if you don’t mind, I think our new guest would do well to get home and get some rest. This is probably the most excitement Mr. Birmingham’s seen in some time. I trust you remember where the The Club’s Independent Living complex is?”
“Yes, sir.”
The direct support staff stood in the doorway quietly until it’s silence was too uncomfortable for either of them to bear. Luckily for both, Mr. Birmingham cried out. His direct support staff used this as his out and left.

In the car, John Birmingham’s direct support staff jotted down all appropriate information on a mileage log while waiting for John to fumble with his seat belt. Cerebral Palsy robs one of fine motor skills even at mild levels, he remembered. After several gut wrenching minutes, his direct support staff reached out, “Aaaaayyy.” Scared, he pulled back. John signed what looked like a chomping bird with his thumb, index and middle fingers, staring his new staff down hard before smiling and cackling. John grunted something his staff took to be “Me”. Tongue attempting to hold his hands steady enough to clasp the buckle himself, he worked at it several more minutes. Months of not bathing prickled the support staff’s nostrils. Breathing through his mouth only overloaded his taste buds with John’s filthy scent. His eyes began to sting. He wondered how he would make the ten minute trek to the edge of town where The Club apartment complex stood. Each breath cut exponentially shorter as molecules of sweat and dirt drilled at every opening. Too afraid to hurt John’s feelings, he refrained from cracking a window.  
It latched.
John looked up at his new support staff with bulging eyes. Then he positioned himself seated up straight as if prepping for some roller coaster ride.
His smile of pride made his support staff smile. What resilience, he thought. What patience. The direct support staff knew he would have lost his temper throwing that damn buckle long before John succeeded in fastening it. Perhaps he could learn a thing or two from his new client.
Unsure how to ask the deaf if they were ready to go, he tapped John on the arm and just asked in English. With gurgling chuckles, John nodded, bracing himself against the car seat.

Rain King (revised and rewritten)

This is a final-er draft of a story I wrote and shared on here a while back. Enjoy its recent revision. 

Rain is such a purifying, beautiful occurrence, thinks a woman in business attire clinging to an umbrella perched just above her expensively styled hair. Oh how nature hugs you, her thoughts continue, with its love and leaves everything feeling fresh and new. She pretends not to notice a man sitting atop a box to her left who would think similarly were it not for his ever-sputtering mind. Off and on like a child playing lightning with a light switch. An oncoming car’s headlights bring her face into view. Her features bring on a different thought that flickers behind his eyes in sputtering television form, his lips shudder a rain-soaked smile.
He is with a brown-eyed woman, lying together on a beach while water laps at their toes. They giggle in unison while their hands search out each other. Before his brain steals this recurring happy image from him again, she pulls away from him, no longer giggling, “I have something I have to tell you…” When her image drifts off beyond the rain, he forgets its comforting feeling and its unnerving conclusion.
Most, like the business woman with the umbrella, divert their gaze elsewhere, anywhere else. It’s impolite to stare at the poor soul, they think to themselves. The few unable to override their inconsiderate urges misinterpret the man’s shuttering smile and unconscious muscle spasms for senility. They double their pace, as do those more polite.
Little do they know, little does he know, his awkward smiles are of a broken record memory he’s forgotten again and again. Always the same brown-eyed woman in his arms on the same beach giggling as young lovers do, but always interrupted with her pulling away and starting to tell him something. Then, like each time before, he can’t remember what he’s forgotten.
Empty thoughts of rain trickle through his once again silent mind. The poor man’s thoughts trail off like a siren disappearing into the wind with no one around to hear it before, after, or since.
He tastes metal in his mouth. Rain drips down his nose leaking onto his tongue. Little replaces the perpetual fog in his mind. And when it does, he forgets it ever happened like an easily redirected infant stuck in an old man’s body. This would depress him, if he could remember it depressing him or why he should feel that way.
The rain continues, but he no longer feels it draining down his face or pooling in every crease of his weathered clothing. Poking through a torn shoe, his big toe drowns in a puddle of rainwater rushing toward a gutter somewhere beyond his memorable surroundings. It sparks the same forgotten memory, flashing and disappearing again as if it were never there.
The rain sucks what little warmth he collects as he’s cuddling in refuse around him. Shivering is the only constant reminder of his environment, his only link between a moment ago and a moment from now. When he can, he wishes it wasn’t. When his mind allows it, he prays for something other than shivering. Then his prayer is answered in the short term.
The poor man is back with the brown-eyed woman, their toes wrestling covered in sand and cool surf, their kisses loud in his ear drowning out the sea. He tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear to kiss it. She pulls away, a look of seriousness in her eyes, “I have something I have to tell you.” His heart stops beating fearing the worst. Her brown eyes shimmer with tears in the moonlight, “I…”
The brown-eyed woman and the memory are gone again.
He searches between buckets of rain seeking anything to fill his empty mind. He looks up toward rainwater cascading off the brownstone businesses he’s crouched below. Sounds of waterfalls rushing down brick walls bring back that same memory of the giggling woman. Again, she tells him she has something important to tell him. He begins to cry but can’t remember why he’s crying; then he forgot to cry altogether.
He does not know it, but he too is grateful for the rain. How it hugs him with its love. How it hides his tears and incontinence from passersby. How it fogs his humanity from passersby.
The rain stops.
The poor man, still soaked in rain, begins to feel warm, inside and out. That same haunting memory comes back, but it’s clear, crisp, smooth flowing like the stream of rainwater at his feet.
He’s holding the beautiful giggling brown-eyed woman in his arms, the surf tickling their feet. Sand mixes with their skin; sounds of the surf blend with kisses and heavy breathing. He smiles at her as she pulls away. Her eyes show signs of seriousness, “I have something I need to tell you.” His heart sinks. The night is too perfect to end this way, he hopes to himself. Why now? Why tell me something like this on a night such as this? She leans in close, as serious as the moon is reflective in her shimmering brown eyes, “I…” His heart waits, “I love you.”
The poor man’s smile widens as his body loosens. She is the last thought he ever forgot.

Max Grinnell

An update to the first writing contest I ever won:

Yesterday Max Grinnell spoke at Albuquerque’s Central Library. Mr Grinnell put on the writing contest for local writers to bring attention to local writers and to garner support and attention for his own travel books. 
Max Grinnell is a very friendly person who’s presence exemplifies his college teaching abilities. His stories are fun, his understanding of small towns and people in general is acute to say the least.
After sharing with the audience his love of traveling without a car and without focusing on big box resorts, something I too feel a personal attraction to, he read the 3 winning entries to his writing contest. Having now heard someone else read my story “Us and Them” aloud, I’m quite impressed with my writing skills.
The winnings? As the 1st place winner (cough, cough, straighten tie), I received a 1953 Edition of Duncan Hines’ “Adventures in Good Eating”. 
Perhaps this sounds silly. And, to most, it probably is. However, I share the same love of traveling to small towns and enjoying all hidden gems in every nook and cranny around the U.S. So, this prize suits me better than even Mr. Grinnell could have thought. 
Okay, time to get back to editing my book “Cog”…

Owned by IT

Here is part 1 of a short story I’m working on that seems to have taken on a life of its own.

This morning started like every other morning except for my having to go to work. For one reason or another my tablet, which I relied on to project myself in daily meetings, gave up on me when I turned off the snooze. I say “gave up” on me because that is the most appropriate phase I can muster. It didn’t quit, or break, or even die. The screen went a deep magenta. Across the screen the words “time’s up” sat, nonchalant, unassuming.
As with any computer-based technology, I did what any owner would do–tear the battery out and cause a soft reset. Unfortunately, upon turning it back on, the same soft magenta showed with the same soft message. Odd for sure. Part of me was still tankful not to receive the same tired blue screen of death. Damn computers. Can’t live with them, can’t live with out them.
My cell phone still worked. So I called ahead to say i would be in today. No one answered. I left a message with my business partner.
After showering and shaving, I heard a muffled incoming text message. It was my wife. If you want to make dinner plans with me, you have to show up. I read this aloud back to my phone and my irritatingly dysfunctional tablet. I read it again. Weird. I didn’t make dinner plans. She’s probably cheating on me and texted the wrong man.
Half  not wanting to start an awkward  conversation but mostly just not caring, I tossed my cell  onto the bed and finished my morning routine. I had to go to work after all. Just wished she wouldn’t bring me into the mix, accidentally or otherwise. Of course I loved her. And always will. However, we rarely see each other because of our conflicting schedules. I could hardly hold it against her for seeking companionship elsewhere, though I miss her much.
My coffee was ready per the preset on my appliance app on my cell. Good thing my tablet and cell are synced up together. Otherwise I’d be late to work and grouchy.
While brushing my teeth, my free hand thumbed through the options on my cell until I found my Auto-Start app. Living in upper Michigan made this little auto car starter app absolutely invaluable. Coffee in hand, cell in pocket, tablet still mocking me on my nightstand, I jogged to my waiting car. I turned on the radio. One positive: driving to work allowed me to catch up on some local programming. Earlier podcasts ,of course, via my cloud podcast playlists.
There were no strange happenings at work when I got there. Thrown off a little with having to be there rather than via the Web, otherwise things just went. My company desktop recognized me immediately though I barley remembered it. I typed up my reports. Meetings went on as scheduled. Though, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t dislodge that text from my wife.
Who was it? Did she realize she mis-sent it? Would we still have that awkward conversation I was trying to avoid?
In hopes of calming the voice in my head, I pulled out my cell to read her text again. Why, I don’t know. No body knows why they stare at something they can’t get out of their head. Perhaps it’s hope of finding answers, or a mute button for the mind. Perhaps it’s more masochistic.
Why does a man stare into the window of an unrequited lover’s window? Is he day dreaming, inserting himself into her life? Is he attempting to work up the courage in hopes that placing himself so close she saw him and his want, his puppy dog eyes, come running out and embrace him in realized love? Having found myself in just such positions in my past, one would assume I was capable of answering such questions. As it is, I cannot.
When I peered down where my wife’s text should have been, there at the top of the long list of archived texts, mostly from colleagues, it was not there. I stopped listening to Mark’s marketing presentation.
I know I didn’t erase it. My thumb began flipping through conversation upon conversation. Nothing.
Immediately I thought, “All the better. No need to concern myself with such trivialities. After all, we haven’t spoken in weeks, maybe longer.” Then that nagging worm crept back into my stomach like a bad bottle of Tequila. Talking or not, we’re still married. She’s still cheating. How dare she? I haven’t cheated. All my urges were satisfied with Internet porn like any self-respecting loyal spouse.
And who the hell is this other man?
I flicked through my apps opening one that synced my cell with her’s. Being married had some bonuses, if only useful during times like these. Her call history should show who this other man was. But it didn’t. Just my name, over and over. All the way down. Impossible, I thought. These call histories are individualized. Only I can delete calls viewable on my cell. Switching to my map app, I saw she was at one of her favorite shopping centers across town. Unassuming enough, right? Zooming in showed me a grocery store, a few hair salons, a sandwich shop, and a gym. If she were cheating, she’s probably at the gym, or buying new shoes.
Mark flicked my ear letting me know he was irritated I had not noticed his meeting was over. As everyone around me ruffled their way to the exit, another text came through. Rather than look like I texted the entire meeting, I shoved my cell back in my pocket. Whatever was there would have to wait until later.
“Hey,” another flick to my ear. That one hurt. “Glad you could join us, physically at least.”
“What? Oh, yeah. Well, it’s just…My tablet was acting up this morning. Just threw my whole day,” I said, hoping to sound at ease. Mark gave me an odd look, almost comforting or concerned.
“I bet that really screwed your day.”
I was in no mood to retort such comments, concerned or not.
“Plus, I’m not feeling too well. Excuse me.” I gathered myself and left the conference room. Trying to look sick, but feeling ill, I read the last text, “You better be there this time.” Be there. Be there? Be where? That was it.
I picked up my pace to the nearest bathroom stall flipping through my messages one by one to find her first text. Gone. It was nowhere in my cell. Where the hell could it have gone? I didn’t erase it. Flipping back to the beginning for her most recent text it too disappeared. I ripped the battery out to reset it as well. It started to seriously irritate me that it appeared both my main devices were giving up on me. Damn technology.
Turning it back on solved no problems. Instead it gave me time to stew about this other man. The man that my wife now had thrown in my face twice in a matter of a few hours. If I could just figure out who this other person was I would feel better, I assured myself.
I thumbed through my other text conversations in hopes of finding other missing texts. If one disappeared, others must have done the same. My efforts were fruitless. Nothing appeared out of place, but I couldn’t remember one conversation from the other. That’s why I had a cell to archive my messages, so I don’t have to remember conversations. I could just flip through old ones and be reminded of what I said, of what others said to me.
Then I thought, “I’ll just wait until tonight when she’s to meet with this man and I’ll catch her in the act. I’ll find out who she’s seeing. She’ll wish she never started seeing anyone.”
The rest of my day dragged. My desktop kept me at the office well passed the time I wanted to be there. Luckily for me, though, it was synced up to my tablet. The tablet might not have let me use it this morning, but it was still syncing to my desktop. All my presentations, reports, were accessible even if I had to stay in this drab place.
Little work was accomplished. I couldn’t get those damn texts out of my head. Over and over they replayed in my head like tickers on some nightly newscast. Gone from my cell maybe. But they were stapled to my memory. I couldn’t shake them no matter how hard I tried, and I did try.
When it finally came time for me to leave work, I did. My wife was on my mind. This other man was on my mind. I auto started my car, collected my belongings, and headed for the door. It was in the elevator when I realized that, passing Mark’s desk, he wished me luck. I jogged passed him with other things on my mind. Nothing registered until my eyes stared back at me in the chrome elevator door. What an odd comment. What an odd day.
I stopped at the house briefly to shower off the anxiety that had collected on my skin. One tap of an app and the front door unlocked. No key necessary anymore. Another, the shower started. Preset to a comfortable 103.5 degrees, I turned the water heater down to 78 for a more exhilarating cleansing.  
Waiting for the alarm letting me know the water’s temperature plateaued, I checked my tablet. It still showed a pale magenta but the words I saw this morning were no longer there. Turning it off and on again brought it to life this time. It worked. This made me decide to try my cell again. Still no texts from my wife. Everything was in its proper place again. Perhaps this was all in my head. Perhaps I never actually received those texts. I’ve read about people thinking they hear their cells ring only to find out it’s in their mind. Similar reports exist of people feeling their cell vibrate in their pocket only to find not only had their phone not rung, but that their cell was across the room in a jacket pocket. It’s more plausible I imagined those texts, my tablet rebelling just a figment of my subconscious. It’s not that great a leap from hearing your cell ring to feeling your phone vibrate on silent to seeing your phone produce texts that inevitably never existed.
Certain this was the case, half certain I heard the shower alarm, I showered. No washing, just standing there, letting the lukewarm water whittle away at those festering negative thoughts.
Refreshed, ready to follow my wife to her now not-so-secret date, I ticked through my cell again. Still nothing there.
Then another text came. Or at least I thought one did. It showed for only a moment before it too disappeared into the clouded ether. But I was ready for it. It read, “You’re weird but whatever. 6PM.” I didn’t know what was going on with my tablet or my cell or my wife’s ill-sent texts but I did know I only had 30 minutes to get to wherever my wife was going for her date.
Her GPS coordinates brought me to a bustling coffee shop in our city’s center. It didn’t smell or look like fast food as many do now. So, it attracts lots of patrons hoping to appear more cultured and refined than they truly are. Thus far, I’ve done everything to avoid such places. Here I found myself seeking it out. And why would she want to come here. We talked about these places when we first met. She felt as I did. Yet here she was, somewhere in here, making nice with some new man.
I ordered something expensive and impossible to repeat five times fast so as not to draw attention to my venture. Like a predator, alert one’s pray and there is no dinner.  With so many people crowding the place, it took until I actually got my drink before I found her. Sitting in the far corner, staring down into her tablet. Whoever he was, he wasn’t with her yet. I held back in wait.
No one looked familiar yet. Our lives were so separate now, I could not place her with any person at all, not even me. Who she was seeing escaped me completely. I never introduced her to any of my colleagues directly, nor did she introduce me to any of hers’. However, our social networking lives were so well connected, we had access to each other’s colleagues’ profile pages. Then again, we each compiled hundreds of ‘friends’. Thumbing through some of her male friends on my cell, it was like searching for a specific brush stroke in a wall mural. Her new love probably flowered at her workplace. There was a good chance I never saw this man before and will not notice this man until he sat beside her.
A pang tugged at my sternum. This was the first my eyes enjoyed her presence, what with our busy, conflicting schedules and all. All I wanted to do was run up, give her a hug, tell her how much I missed her. As it was, my jealousy gave me strength to hold back.
The time, exactly 6:30 P.M. according to my cell. My eyes shot around from face to face. No one walked toward here. No one looked familiar except the beautiful woman slipping away from me. Figuring I missed him, I looked back at my wife. She was still alone, but she laughed out loud at her tablet. I smiled painfully. She looked so happy. Just then Mark walked looking lost. Then his gaze found her.
That’s when it hit me. That look of concern wasn’t concern at all. Not for me anyway. Mark concerned himself with whether or not I was going to find out about him and my wife. He knew at any  moment I would figure it out. She may have even told him of her mishap in texts.
The next segment of time escapes me. One moment an Epiphany shot through my skull. The next moment Mark and I struggled in the parking lot. The first words I remembered was “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Of course these words confused me since they belonged to me. I was the cheated. He was the aggressor. Play with fire and get burned. Added anger in his arrogant question, I left him bloody but otherwise just fine in that parking lot. Let him explain his bloody nose and shiner to her.

Won My 1st Writing Contest

Low and behold, I won my first writing contest. First place even! Granted, the contestants were probably myself and some poor old senile lady. But I beat that poor old senile lady, and I’m considering that a major win no matter how bad a person that makes me.

For details about the contest: http://libguides.cabq.gov/mn

If you want to read the story that will some day make me famous? http://noobwriterblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/us-and-them.html

I’m pumped! This almost makes me a legitimate writer.

Rain King

Here is another short one. This one houses a character I’ve been wanting to bring into existence. I know what I want his life to look like but cannot figure how he should come into being. It’s difficult to create a character that cannot hold a thought.

If it ever makes it to book form, here is your introduction to him.

Rain is just such a purifying, beautiful occurrence, thought an easy on the eye woman holding an easy on the eye umbrella over her dry head, oh how nature hugs you with its love and leaves everything feeling fresh and new. The man sitting atop a box to her left she pretended to hardly notice would have thought similarly were it not for his ever rebelling mind. In and out like a child flicking a light on and off; a goldfish in a bowl ever entertained with each new direction it turns. For a moment, though, a similar thought flashes behind his eyes in sputtering TV form, his lips flicker a rain soaked smile.
Most passing by divert their attention elsewhere, anywhere else. Its impolite to stare at the poor soul, they think to themselves. The few who cannot override their inconsiderate  urges misinterpret the poor man’s shuttering smile for senility or intentions of a sexual nature. They double their pace, as do those more polite.
The poor man on the box is granted another moment of clarity. His lips quiet and soften. No longer happy, yet his heart is warmed. They mean well, he thinks while he can. They are decent people. Its not their fault.
The poor man’s thoughts trail off like a siren disappearing into the wind and no one around to hear it before, after or since. He tastes metal in his mouth. Briefly he hopes its something he ate last night, or perhaps something foreign in the rain dripping down his nose leaking onto his tongue and not another tooth coming loose. Before he musters the courage to investigate, he forgets about the flavor and his rotting tooth. Nothing replaces his attention, but something does steal all of this attention. The same something that stole his attention as long as he could remember.
The rain continues coming down, lightly but definitely raining. It sucks what little warmth he collects cuddled in the garbage around him and his box, his home. Shivering is the only constant reminder of his environment, the only stability, the only constant finger poking at his back taunting him to remember his plight, to remember his past or present. When he can, he wishes it was not. When his mind allows it, he prays for something else, any other feeling than cold.
No one stops to assist him. Either they feel its not their place and if he needed it he would ask or they fear he will attack them, ask them for money. In the distance somewhere a dog barks. That bark shoots a glimmer of a thought, something he tried to see from the wrong end of a long and dark tunnel. Barking reverberated through that tunnel, through his head. He started to cry but couldn’t remember why; then he forgot he was crying altogether.
He does not know it, but he too is grateful for the rain. How it hugs him with his love, how it hides his tears and incontinence from passersby, how it hides the human part of him that passersby would not be able to ignore.

The Only One

It’s late but I am thus far unwilling to break my procrastination for today. With that in mind, I’m sharing a story I wrote this week for WritersWeekly’s Spring 24 hour Short Story Contest. Rules, regs and other spiffy info can be found at http://www.writersweekly.com/misc/contest.php

Basic gist: 900 words, using a scenario that had to include a woman saying “I’ll see you tomorrow, friend” and the responder saying “No, you won’t”. We didn’t have to use any part of the scenario, just reference it. Oh, and you have 24 hours to write the story from start to finish, polished and all. 
Here’s my awful attempt: 

Oh, how she loved starting her mornings at the fruit stand just outside her gym overlooking the boardwalk. Mornings were so rough these days with problems that wreak havoc in the lives of many middle-aged married women with children too old to care about her predicament, too young not to need her. The fruit wasn’t the draw, she hated fruit. The pleasant salty breeze did not entice her either, it smelled of ocean all over town. No, the eccentric man behind the kiosk was her reason. He was such a kind old man. He brought a smile to the otherwise serious lines chiseled into her cheeks.
As with each morning, the same conversation ensued, with one exception, always one exception.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Good morning, Miss Leslie.”
Leslie let out the faintest sigh, “An especially long night, Miss Leslie?”
“You always know everything, young man.”
“You flatter me.”
“Mmm.”
“Your usual then, given the disquiet in your heart?”
“Much less disquiet now that I’ve seen you, kind sir.”
The old man picks a banana, seemingly at random. They exchange exact change for the ripest banana possible; perfect to the eye and better on the tongue.
Before leaving, she patted the old man’s hand, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, friend.”
“No, you won’t…”
She walked away with that smiling old eccentric man on her mind. What a kind, funny man, she thought, always the same bizarre farewell from his always smiling face. Leslie’s heart grew fonder of the man at the fruit stand over the years. They shared a certain bond.
She knew everything about him because she asked—unlike all his other customers who just grunted or lost their tempter as he fumbled through their change. She saw something special in him. She had patience for him, compassion. She knew the story of how he went blind as a child when “my drunken father beat the sight out of my brain” as he put it. How sad, she frequently thought. She knew he worked this small fruit stand, relying heavily on customer honesty, because he could not read or write. “Mother home schooled me the way father home schooled her” he told her. When she heard this, her heart broke open.
Leslie cried herself to sleep for many nights.
All these insensitive people that see him everyday, why do they not get to know him like she does?
The next day, paler than usual, Leslie continued her daily ritual of visiting the same fruit stand where the same conversation ensued, with one exception, always one exception.
“I cry for you most nights, kind sir,” as she adjusted her sunglasses coyly, tucked her hair behind her ear instinctively before untucking again in shame.
“Cry not, sweet Leslie,” his smile never faded, “I am a happy blind man who lives every day like it’s his last.”
With this, Leslie’s heart warmed, mended, “You’re such a sweet man. I’m better for knowing you.”
“The feeling is mutual. And, might I add, Miss Leslie, that your new sunglasses do not suit you. You are better than that.”
Leslie’s heart skipped. How could he know, she wondered? Ah, he’s blind, working senses heighten; he must have heard me adjust them. Her legs stiffened, she cowered slightly. The man’s smile didn’t. That smile managed to soften even the discomfort she felt. She smiled. She knew he was on her side. They had a bond.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning, friend.”
“No, you won’t…”
She slept better that night after her husband calmed. She knew the blind man was happy. This made Leslie happy.
The next day, the same conversation ensued as it had for as long as she could remember, with one exception, always with one exception.
Finally, one particular exception came to the forefront. Desperate for something else to think about to quell the pain in her ribs and between her thighs, Leslie asked, “Every time we meet, you are so kind and we’ve shared so much. You end our conversations with the same awkward farewell implying I will never see you again. Yet every next morning, we meet again on the same corner at the same time. Why, kind old man? Why must you end such pleasantries with ‘No, you won’t’?”
“Because, dearest Leslie, you are blind.”
Dearest Leslie would have giggled if her ribs and conscience would have allowed her, but she cared too much for the blind man to make light of his impairment, especially given their connection.
The blind man continued, “You see me as others see you. You know my story of blindness, why I work here, everything that makes me the blind man you see everyday.”
“This is so true, but why am I blind?”
“Others see your coyness, your bruises and shame. That is not the real you any more than my sight and my childhood is the real me.”
To this Leslie became uncomfortable. Unsure if she felt angry, scared or saddened, she let out a great sigh in hope of garnering something more stable for her mind to balance upon. He did not respond
With what breath her chest provided she said again, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, friend.”
“No, you won’t…”
And she didn’t.

First Post!

This blog serves two purposes, purposes? Purposi? Purposies? No, that last one sounds like Pansies, and my writing is effeminate enough.

First, this gives me an outlet for procrastination that feels to some degree productive.

Second, NoobWriterBlog serves as a place where I can post the stories and other pieces I write and mention on my Twitter page: Noob_writer. Look me up or just click the link here:

Well, I should go make din din for me and the wifey. Until next time, write it till your hands fall apart!