Apr 14

1989

It was a typical warm Florida evening, humidity hanging heavy in the air. Frank sat in his trailer amid the smells of stale cigarettes and cheap beer. He is flipping through a box of old photographs.

Frank pauses, overcome by a coughing fit. He can feel his lungs struggling for air and he can feel the cancer starting spread. Soon he will have to decide what path to take, seek treatment or just live out his days as he wishes. He lights another cigarette.

Turning his attention back to the photos, he flips past images of his childhood, his children’s old school photos, Christmases gone by. Frank stops. One particular photo catches his eye. He pulls it out of the box. It’s a Christmas photo dated 1989. Three young children were posing around a brand new TV as a tree decorated with multi-colored lights shined in the background. He remembers this Christmas well. He exhales and the smoke rises into a cloud above his head, stuck in the heavy air of the evening. He closes his eyes to recall the memory.

It was the winter of 1989. Frank was a custodian at the local Jewish community center in Connecticut. He lived in a small two bedroom apartment with his wife and three children. Barely able to keep food on the table, let alone have an emergency fund, he knew the looming holiday would bring no gifts. If it wasn’t for his wife’s family, there would be no Christmas at all. Frank wishes he could be a better provider, but he was a high school drop out and the custodian job was all he could find.

He remembered coming home one evening from work and being greeted by his wife in tears. She told him the tv, the family’s only source of entertainment, had died. The tube had blown and there was no way, nor money, to replace it. Frank knew the kids would be devastated. Family tv time was the highlight of everyone’s week. He had to fix this, but was at a loss for what to do.

A few days later, Frank was at work when the community center received five tvs to add to a few of the rooms. The stack of boxes tempted Frank. As he went about his routine, he debated with himself “do I or don’t I, do I or don’t I”. When he finished his shift, he was the last person left in the building. Desperation crept over him. He took one of the tvs and put it in the trunk of the car. He returned to work the next day as if nothing had happened. The center reported it to the police but they didn’t end up with any leads, so they wrote the missing tv off as a mistake in inventory or something stolen off the delivery truck.

When Christmas morning arrived, the children awoke to find a new tv under the tree. Huge smiles spread across their faces. They talked excitedly about all the shows they couldn’t wait to watch and were in awe of the fancy remote control included in the box. When his wife asked where he got it from, he just said it came from Santa and to leave it at that.

The guilt had always stayed with Frank, but as long as the children were happy he didn’t let it bother him. And no one ever learned about the origin of the tv. Some years later, Frank found himself divorced and at odds with his children. He fell in to a downward spiral of drinking and smoking. He lost his job. He had to give the tv away to pay off some of his mounting debt. He had hit rock bottom. It was then he learned of some job opportunities in Florida in the oil industry. He figured he had nothing left to lose. He packed up whatever clothes he had, sold off his remaining items, and hopped on a Greyhound headed South.

Frank was brought back to reality by another coughing fit. He wished the photo sparked a good memory, but he still harbors some guilt for that one act of crime. He knows everything that happened since that night in 1989 was because he stole the tv. He barely speaks to his kids, his health is failing, and all he has achieved in his life is a career in the janitorial field and owning a trailer in the swamps of Florida. He knows his time is running out. He needs to make things right. He took another puff of his cigarette before snuffing it out in the ashtray.

Frank gets to work getting his affairs in order. Cleans out his trailer, sells all of his belongings, and hops on a plane to Connecticut. He was going to turn himself in to the police for the theft of the tv. He was going to accept his punishment. He was going to confess to his children. Apologize to their mother. If he was going to die, let it be the lung cancer that takes him, not the cancer of his crime.

Starrynightsig

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: Here is another assignment for my writing class! This time we were to find an article in our local newspaper and use it as inspiration for for a story. I decided to use this story: Florida Man Turns Self in for 1989 Theft

Apr 07

Nothing and Everything

Nothing

I am nothing. The deep abyss under your bed. I lie in corners like a prowler in the shadows. I am the shadows. I am empty. The bleakness calling out to the sun. I am always there, but I hide when you turn on the lights. An unlit pixel. Absent. Lonely. Waiting for the waves to find me.

Everything

I am everything. A melting pot. A swirling puddle of Crayolas. I am deep. Bold. Powerful. Commanding. Impenetrable. I can invoke rage and hate. I can also stimulate and inspire. I am a mathematical equation, my sum can only be calculated if you have all the parts. Without all parts, I do not exist.

Starrynightsig

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This was an assignment for a writing class I am taking. The assignment was to choose a color and describe it using a first person point of view. Piece could not be longer than 250 words. The color I chose was black.

Mar 20

Mary and Bob

Mary was fed up with Bob and his teenage ways. Was it too much to ask to keep his clothes off the floor and the trash cans emptied without constant reminders? Mary called up the stairs to Bob to let him know dinner was almost ready and asked him to come set the table. She received no reply. Moments later the heavy footsteps of a tall nineteen year old walked down the stairs, sighing the entire way. He set the table without saying a word. “What am I going to do with this child” she thought, shaking her head.

Bob’s kid sister helped Mary finish the cooking, while they waited for his younger brother to return home from his job as a mechanic’s assistant. Once they were all together, they sat down to eat. The conversation was casual, mostly talk of the day, and most of it done by the younger children. Bob commented here and there. Mary just sat and listened.

Since her husband had passed, Mary had done her best to raise the three children on her own. But it was hard. The boys were turning into men and she knew they needed their father. And Mary really needed her husband. She missed him terribly. It had only been five years since he passed, be it felt like a lifetime. She excused herself from the table.

As she got up, Mary told the children to clear the table and do the dishes. As usual, Bob put up a fuss. She asked him to please stop complaining and just help out before she made him do it all by himself. Bob mumbled unintelligently and started to clear the table.

Mary retreated to her room and sat on the edge of the bed. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She didn’t mean to be so hard on Bob, but she knew he would have it worse in a few weeks. Bob had joined the Army and he was leaving soon. Mary worried when she would see him next, as the country was currently engaged in war. She hoped for the best, but feared for the worst.

Mary closed her eyes.

After what seemed like hours, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes to see a tall, young man. Mary reached out her hand and touched his cheek.

“My Bobby, when did you get so handsome,” she asked.

The young man replied, “No Grandma, it’s Andrew.”

“Where is my Bobby,” Mary asked, puzzled?

Andrew paused for a moment before he replied, “Uncle Bob passed in Vietnam Grandma. Don’t you remember?”

Mary just stared at the young man, not recognizing his face, trying to let his words sink in as if it was the first time she had heard them. Nothing made sense. She felt confused. She felt lost. She looked around, feeling like a visitor in a foreign land of strange faces. She didn’t understand.

Mary sat on the edge of her bed, tears rolling down her cheeks.Starrynightsig

 

 


Editor’s Note: This was an assignment for a writing class I am taking. The assignment was to use a prompt as the opening line of your story – the prompt I used was “Mary was fed up with Bob and” – and end it with a twist. It was also supposed to be done in around 20 minutes and 300 words or less. I managed the 20 minute goal, not so much on the 300 words. I ended up with 500. And I will not go a single word less.

Jan 03

Reading Rainbow

booksIt’s January, time for readers everywhere to set a book goal for 2016. For the past five years, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Challenges and every year I’ve failed. In 2011 I pledged to read 10 books, but I only managed 2. 2012 and 2013 I also pledged 10. In 2012 I read 4, 2013 it was 3. For 2014 I went big and pledged 20 books! I read 0. I went easy on myself for 2015, 1 book. And for the second year in a row, I read nothing. A big, fat goose egg.

Let’s hope this year I break the “losing” streak. I set a goal of 12. One book per month. This year is different though, because I’m now reading with more of a purpose. It’s been said if you want to be a good writer, you have to be a reader. And I will be a writer! I want to write a book or two, something people can put on their must read lists for future challenges.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

—Samuel Johnson

I already have a list of the top books I want to read this year. Once I’ve finish these 20 books, I’ll make a new list!

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, Four: The Transfer, Four: The Traitor, Four: The Son, Four: The Initiate by Veronica Roth – I started reading Divergent during a hospital stay in 2013. Never got around to finishing it, so I’m going to start over and read the entire series. Hopefully I finish the books before the final movie comes out.

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

A Million Little Bricks: The Unofficial Illustrated History of the LEGO Phenomenon by Sarah Herman

Chain Letter; The Ancient Evil by Christopher Pike – I’m pretty sure I’ve already read these, since Pike was my favorite author as a teen. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so I’m going to reread them to see if they are as good as I remember.

Extras (Uglies Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld – I finished the three books of the trilogy in 2013, but had a really hard time getting into this bonus book because it’s vastly different from the others. I’m going to attempt it again just so I can say I finished the series.

Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith – Coming in at 976 pages of a small font, this is the largest book on the list. It could offer a bit of a challenge.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – Another book I hope to read before seeing the movie.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett – The Silent Stars Go By is a Doctor Who story. I love the tv show so much, how can the books not be amazing.

The Hoard by Alan Ryker

I also have a large collection of research books about writing, poetry, photography, animation, and toys I’d like to tackle this year. I want to improve my skill sets and increase knowledge in areas of great interest to me.

I’m off to hit the books! What are you looking forward to reading this year?

Starrynightsig

Dec 17

This Is Just To Say

Prompt: By Heart

You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind? – Daily Post

Being asked to recite a poem from memory would be a near impossible task for me. I know chucks of a couple different poems, such as “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, and  “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. I remember parts of these because I adore these poems. I am just not able to remember them in their entirety. My memory just doesn’t work that way.

That said, one poem I do remember the words to, and that poem is “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams

This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

The reason this poem is so embedded in my memory, an 11th grade English assignment.

When it came to school, English classes and I didn’t always get along. I hated anything that had to do with spelling, vocabulary, grammar, assigned reading, and tests. I did enjoy research papers, creative writing assignments, and special projects. Those three things were what saved me from failing year after year.

During my Junior year, we were assigned a project where we had to pick a poem, analyze it, and present it to the class. I chose “This Is Just To Say” and if I do say so myself, I kicked serious butt on my presentation. I compared the poem to life with a younger brother and the fights over the good snacks in the house. The plum in my story was a KitKat bar. I even managed to find a recording of the author reading the poem to play to the class. And this was before the Internet! So this is just to say, I scored an A on the assignment and managed to pass the class that semester. 

Starrynightsig