Saturday, December 14, 2013

A.J. DOYLE HALL


            Each entryway wore the thick letters “A.J. DOYLE HALL” over its threshold. It was the largest building on campus, with doors facing north, south, east, and west.  The coliseum style lecture hall had been built by money donated by Mr. A.J. DOYLE himself.  He was wealthiest man in the tri-state area and chose to hand deliver a check to the dean when he realized he wanted to fund the masterpiece of architecture.  It just so happened A.J. lived on the crest of a hill that overlooked the scenic campus, and from his bedroom window, in his colorful Victorian house, with use his brass antique telescope, he had a perfect view of A.J. DOYLE hall. 
A.J. never went to college himself—but over the years he had grown fond of seeing his name on buildings.  Well, not just buildings: bridges, street signs, parks overpasses, ornamental boulders, even those bricks in memory gardens would do in a pinch.  But there was something especially satisfying about seeing one’s own name on a building.  Mr. DOYLE enjoyed driving through campus in his AWD Jeep with the doors off.  He only put the doors on on the rainy days, because fresh air was good for one’s constitution.  He kept the Jeep in the lower gears as he drove through campus, careful to slow down when the bells chimed the end of a class period.  He would wait for the students to come out of A.J. DOYLE Hall, and wait for them to see him driving by. He was quite confident the students looking at him were whispering, “That’s the generous Mr. A.J. DOYLE.  Without him we would never have had the chance to attend such a brilliant lecture on astrophysics.”  Since A.J. didn’t go to college he didn’t realize the only thing taught in a lecture hall that large were massive flunk out classes, the ones used to weed drunken freshman from those who may actually be able to hold an 8-5 job one day.
            One doesn’t become a billionaire by going to college—of that A.J. was certain.  Still he enjoyed giving the youth of the world a place to stave off their adult responsibilities a few years longer. And it couldn’t hurt to have your name shown in such a place.  He wasn’t so worried about successful people coming out of his hall, because A.J. knew Universities were the last road to success.  He often thought that if he taught a class, he would share the true secret of success. Mr. A.J. DOYLE always knew he was on the right path when everyone looked at him as if he had done something wrong.
Like the time he told Miss McKinnon he should like to harvest shed snakeskins for a new type of sausage casing.  Miss McKinnon told him the skins were too fragile and the public wouldn’t eat something called Snake Sausage.  A.J. shook his head at her declaration and went straight to work pioneering the realm of reptilian foodstuffs—very popular for those who like to live on the dark side of danger.
            “Miss McKinnon, people always want to appear brave, especially when all they have to do is nothing.  Even better if they can do it while eating.”
             
***ps Hope to see you tomorrow (Sunday, December 15) at 4 pm at the Plaza library for the launch of Kansas City Voices most recent issue.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

You're invited-save the dates

I took a month of from blog work.  I had a brilliant plan to get all of my rewrites on Color Eaters done by December 1st.  The plan went like gang-busters the first half of the month.  Ten pages a day, ignore the world, ignore the dishes, focus on the story, get the pages in.  It was a good plan.

Now, it's back to business as usual, and that includes jumping back into my role as the President of Whispering Prairie Press, and Managing Editor of Kansas City Voices.

There's a few things coming up that  you should put on your calendar.

1)  If you're free come out the Plaza branch of the KCMO library two weeks from today.  We're having the launch of Volume 11 of Kansas City Voices.  We'll entertain you with stories, and you can meet some really great people.  You can also buy copies of the magazine and I'll be telling about all of the exciting things going on with WP Press.  (Sunday, December 15 from 4 pm - 5:30 pm at the Plaza branch of the KCMO public library.  We'll be downstairs in the back room on the east side of the building.)

2)  I'm doing a reading.  It's the first one in a long time, but I've decided to jump back in with baby steps.  It's part of our Kansas City Voices editorial showcase, and I'll be reading along with a handful of the other writers.  All of these writers are good.  I promise you won't be bored, plus (if you're so inclined) there's liquor available.  Put it on your calendar, and I'll see you there.

Friday, January 24th, 2014 – 7 pm – 9 pm-Kansas City Voices reading at The Uptown Arts Bar, 3611 Broadway, Kansas City, MO.  We’ll be featuring poetry and prose from our staff.  Featuring: Alan Proctor, Annie Raab, Dane Zeller, Janet Sunderland, Jessica Conoley, Liane Dobbins, Pat Daneman, Teresa Vratil, and more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Goodbye - Part 3


            On the fourth day, gray storm clouds hung above the mountains, snagged on the jagged peaks of rock.  The ragged camp watched the horizon, weary of the sleet the clouds could bring.  At the mouth of the ramp the earth stretched flat, with nothing stable enough to form a lean-to for the children and their guardians.   A rough canvas tent housed the soldiers when they slept—but it was barely large enough for two men at a time.  Tall grasses bent as the wind crept toward a roar. With each gust of wind, the clouds threatened to escape the grip of the mountaintops.
The woman threw more wood on their fire.  She knew keeping a flame going with the wind whipping at her back was reckless.  But she wanted to give her boy comfort, warmth the only solace she could still provide. If the rain arrived it would douse her final gift to her son. 
            Her boy came close and slid his arm about his mother’s waist.  She wove her arm over his shoulders, the two huddling close to the familiar warmth of one another.  They watched as the clouds escaped the mountains and trudged toward the camp.  The crisp scent of the storm mingled with the campfire smoke, but it wasn’t until the storm had crossed half the distance from the mountains that the woman realized the storm’s full implication.
            A step ahead of the storm was a lone figure.  Too small to be a grown man, the woman’s heart fell.  The seventh child, carried on the edge of the rain clouds that would take her boy away.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Raven Tales-Part 4


(When we last left Raven the cat he acquired his fuchsia headphones, to catch up click here.)
            On the fourth day of Raven’s adventure, the edge of forever began to change.  Bits of green poked through the red rocks, and Raven had to go more slowly as the edge began to slope ever so slightly up.  Where rocks had been Raven’s constant companion, trees scraggled to the surface.  Raven didn’t know quite where he was going, and he was so very worried he would miss where he was supposed to be, so he chose his steps carefully, sure to never go too fast but deliberate to never go too slow.
            Occasionally, he would stop to rest his weary paws and take a moment to clean his whiskers.  Whenever he stopped, after finding a safe place where he could see all around, Raven would slide the pink headphones to his ears.  Listening to the sounds within made his tiny kitty-cat heart beat with excitement.  Some songs wailed and reminded him of the sad days when he was alone in his glass house atop the hill.  Some songs had no words, but made him think of butterflies floating on the afternoon sun.  Some songs made his tail twitch and his hind-quarters switch in time to the bass line.  The last kind of song made him want to meow along, but he hadn’t yet learned the melodies well enough to try.  Just as he thought he may finally have it well enough to try, a flutter to his right made him leap to all fours.
Raven’s fur jumped from his skin as he arched his back and poofed his tail.  His earphones were knocked from his ears, and slid back into their resting spot on his neck, as a hiss burst from his black lips.   His almond eyes narrowed as he scanned the horizon for the source of the interrupting movement.
“Tweet, twitter, tweet tweet, chirp.” A bird called from a tree-branch a few feet above Raven’s heads.  The fat yellow bird hopped up and down the limb over Raven’s head raining down a stream of twitters and chirps.
Now Raven didn’t speak bird, he only spoke cat.  And all of the cat in him was saying that a bird might taste pretty good.  But to eat a bird one would have to catch a bird, and that seemed a task all too daunting to the naturally timid Raven.  As he pondered all it would take to catch the bird, he heard the chirps and the tweets from above.  Now to Raven this bird didn’t sound like he wanted to be eaten.  And one can tell a lot from the tone of someone’s (or in this case something’s) voice.  The longer he sat Raven realized this bird didn’t sound like lunch or angry or sad, he sounded… curious.  That was it, the bird sounded like a curious, flying, chatterbox.
Raven smoothed his black fur down to it’s normal non-sticking up height and settled back onto his haunches. 
The bird hopped down a branch and bobbed his head at Raven.
Raven sniffed the air, and sensing no danger from the flying featherweight overhead, bobbed his head in response.
“Chirp, cheep.” The bird inquired.
“Meow.” Raven replied.
And that is how Raven, the cat, met Felix, the bird.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

One Year, Ten Years, or Life?


The clerk held the IDs to the light, inspecting their holographic images for authenticity.  “So you’re not here for a renewal, then?”
“No, it’s our first time.”  Ryan put his arm around Jenny’s shoulder.
“Yes, I’m sure it is.”  The clerk handed the cards back.  “Marriage licenses are for one year, ten years, or life.  What duration are you applying for?”
Ryan pulled Jenny closer.  “Life.” He said. 
Jenny responded simultaneously, “One year.”
“What?” they said in unison.
“Life?”  Jenny slid away from Ryan.
“She, she means life.” Ryan gaped at Jenny, “Right baby?”
“No. I meant one year.”  She saw Ryan’s lower lip tremble, and slid back close to him.   Batting her eye lashes, she pushed her voice to its highest register, “Don’t you think it’s much more romantic if we take it one year at a time?”
Ryan’s cheeks flushed red, “Like marriage is a car we’re taking out for a test drive or something?”
“No… I mean sort-of, I guess.”
Tap, tap, tap.  The clerk clicked his pen against the glass partition.  “Folks, if you aren’t ready I’m going to have to ask you to move aside so I can help other people who are.  Is it going to be one year or life?”
Ryan leaned close to Jenny, “What about ten, baby?”
She shook her head.  “One.”
The clerk slid their IDs through the partition, “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to move to the back of the line while you sort this out.”
“No, no.  It’s fine.  We’ll take the one year marriage license please.”
The clerk sorted through his forms, highlighting where Ryan and Jenny needed to sign.  Ryan got out his wallet to pay the fee as Jenny carefully signed her name.
Jenny grinned from ear-to-ear as she slid the paper back to the clerk. 
The clerk’s finished the transaction with the scripted words set forth by management, “Congratulations on your impending marriage.  We wish you one year of happiness and wedded bliss.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Goodbye - Part 2

(If you missed Part 1 click here.)


           For two days they had been waiting for the rest of the children.  The soldiers were adamant.  The children would depart in groups of seven—no more, no less. Her son had been the second to arrive.  A matched pair had been deposited at the guard’s feet late that evening, a brother and sister whose guardian hadn’t waited to see them off.  The woman watched the man until the horizon swallowed his shrinking form, he never once looked back at the twins. 
For two days the soldier’s words had haunted her.  Hunched over the flickering fire, heating their small breakfast she heard the gravelly voice, he doesn’t have to go.  Her boy reached for his portion of the grisly gray meat, and hunched close to the flames as he chewed with slow deliberate bites.  He was such a good boy. She caught his gray gaze and knew his stomach was far from full. The gnaw of hunger always had a seat at their dinner table.  Even when he had suckled at her breast, her son was merciful, never making her say, “We have no more.”  He ate what they had without complaint, and when there was nothing, it was without complaint as well.
Across the clearing the twins shouted, pointing toward the mountains.  Holding her hand to shield her eyes, the woman looked, hoping it was a small band of travelers, and not another soul to deposit at the foot of the ramp.  As the forms came closer her heart fell, two children and their escorts.  He doesn’t have to go.
Now there were six. One more and he would be gone.  She turned to the ramp so her son would not see the tears in her eyes.  He doesn’t have to go.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Things you learn by the time you turn 34


1.     Eye herpes is a real thing, but I think only in cats. (To set the official record straight, leg rabies is not real. I made that one up.)
2.     Dorothy Parker & I have the same birthday.
3.     You can mistake a sinus infection for getting old.
4.     Thrity Umrigar writes beautiful books. 
5.     You get as many days to celebrate your birthday as the number of years old you are turning.
6.     The best time to get into the walk-in doctor’s office is 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon.
7.     The Color Eaters has a last chapter.
8.     Turning down the higher paying job for the one that gives you time to write is always the right decision.
9.     Funerals can include feather boas and a man in a ball gown.
10. Bourbon cherries need more than twenty-four hours to soak, otherwise they just taste like a shot of bourbon with a sort of smooshy cherry.
11. If someone is on pain pills and muscle relaxers, and you suggest a trip to the kitten store, they will likely come home with a kitten.
12. The arboretum on 151st street is absolutely beautiful, even if you don’t like nature.
13. The best way to win a long eyelash contest is by blinking rapidly for one minute, as blinking will make your lashes grow.
14. Just because you got your ears pierced, it does not mean you were kidnapped by pirates.
15. When a six-year-old challenges you to a “drinking game”, their definition of “drinking game” is very different than the one I am familiar with.
16. You cannot count on a six-year old’s father to shut down “drinking games” as he will gladly pour the grape kool-aid into the largest cups possible.
17. When things are seeming a little too rough, Grandma may say “Sometimes a bourbon and sweet soda helps.” 
18. Reading other writer’s very beautiful and excellent books can be both delightful and discouraging, all at the same time.
19. Itzhak Perlman drives a scooter and is a very engaging speaker.
20. Roasted chic peas kick ass.
21.  Re-organizing your closet can be the best birthday present to yourself. Ever.
22. This is not how you are supposed to drink milk, and will ALWAYS make me smile, regardless of how crappy my day has been.