Fiction: Party Lies

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Author’s note:  This story was inspired by the idea that we all would like to be someone else at times, or to appear to be someone else.  I especially liked that idea. – TJB

She went to the party ready to have a good time.  It was on the third floor of a funny little Spanish-style building in old downtown L.A., where her friend Marilyn lived.  You were supposed to bring your own beverage – most people would bring booze, Marilyn had told her.  But she was on the wagon and she brought club soda.  With a Tupperware container of cut limes.

It was a hard scene for her at first.  Everyone seemed to be drinking and everyone seemed to ask her if she wanted a drink.  She obeyed the recommendations of her rehab therapist, Dr. Clausen, and armed herself with a frosty glass of club soda with a couple of lime wedges to keep the ice company.  When they asked her if she wanted some wine – “Red or white?” – she shook her head, remembering to smile, and when they said, “Surely a beer?  Hard cider?’ she replied, “No, thanks,” as calmly as she could manage.

Of course, everyone thought the smallest thing hilarious, from the dog they saw peeing in the street below – visible from Marilyn’s wrought-iron balcony – to the latest gossip from the NCIS set as related in fits and starts by one of the guests, who was an associate producer on the show.  She, being dead sober, saw little to laugh about in their raucous repartee.

Finally, when she was about to leave, someone she hadn’t seen earlier came over to where she stood, next to the shefflera plant she’d given Marilyn last Christmas.  He was a man who looked like a young George Clooney, or maybe Jude Law before he lost his hair – she couldn’t decide which.  He said, “What are you drinking?” in a very non-judgmental way, or so it seemed to her.  She gave what she knew was a tired smile and said, “It’s only club soda,” with a shrug.

He looked around the room.  “Idiots,” he muttered, and then grinned at her.  She relaxed a little.

“Want to get a coffee?” he asked.

“I was about to leave, actually,” she said.  She felt all used up, having said “No” all night to the demon she’d been determined to banish, alcohol.

“Me too,” he said.  He held up his hands as if to assuage her protests.  “Honest.”

“Well-”  She felt herself soften.  The hard edge she’d been putting up all night seemed to be cracking just a little.

“There’s a Starbucks on the corner,” he said.  “You look as if you’ve led an interesting life.  Maybe you’ll tell me a little about it.  If I’m lucky.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”  She had a sudden thought.  “You’re not a screenwriter?”

He nodded, a rueful expression on his face.  “Guilty as charged.  But I promise not to use your life in a future script.  – At least, not verbatim.”  He grinned again.

Huh.  Well, it might not be such a bad thing to be a little famous in a secret, discreet sort of way.  But she didn’t tell him that, not just yet.

“Randi,” she said, holding out her hand to introduce herself.

One eyebrow raised, he said, “With an ‘i’, I presume? My name is Peter.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said.

“Likewise.”

The coffee was rich, hot and strong, and the Starbucks was quiet this time of night.  It bolstered her confidence.  After all, she’d made it through the whole evening – the better part of three hours – without breaking her determination to remain sober.  And even better, she had the prospect of an entertaining conversation before her.

“So what do you do?” Peter asked.

“Costume design,” she said.  It was a lie, but this was her story to tell, wasn’t it?

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. . . Maybe Randi will meet up with Margy, our Giraffe-Head costumer! Thanks for visiting.

Celebrate with me! 2 flash fiction stories published

Story 1: The Tyranny of Enslaved Eyes

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Grievous Angel, a UK flash fiction publication, has published my second story for them, “The Tyranny of Enslaved Eyes.”  One of the things I’ve heard from publisher Charles Christian is that I’ve got ideas he has never seen before.  What a lovely and inspiring compliment!  The story starts:

These eyes have never been enslaved. I still look at what I want to look at and see what I want to see. And I’m keeping it that way. . . .

It may be interesting to note that the origin of this story was in response to a well-known Lucille Clifton poem.  I like to grab a line of poetry when I start writing and see where it takes me.  “homage to my hips” is a declaration of endurance and spirited independence; it starts

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips. . . .

– Lucille Clifton, “homage to my hips”

The lines from this poem inspired me to think:  What would happen if you voluntarily enslaved your sight?  Why would you do it?  What if you knew it was a mistake, but a beloved family member had sold their eyes; how would that feel? Link to the story here.  (And, if you have time and inclination to leave a comment, I’d be thrilled.)

Story 2:  Deceit

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Ramona has moved in, she’s getting free rent and she’s bringing exotic pets into the apartment, all at the expense of her somewhat naive, long-suffering boyfriend.  Her latest acquisition is a poisonous frog she has named “Deceit.”  Is this the last straw?

I’m excited that Every Day Fiction has published my story “Deceit” this week.  As you may remember, I have a chapbook manuscript in progress that contains flash fiction stories, each with the title of a type of deceit, which I’m calling “The Little Book of Lies.”  This is one of the stories from my collection.

When I first submitted this story to Every Day Fiction last March, I was interested to receive a message from their editors saying that they liked the story, but they wondered if I’d be willing to do a rewrite based on feedback from their first readers.  Of course! I responded, and when I submitted the rewrite a few weeks later, they responded again that they liked the rewritten story and would be publishing it in late November.  I’ve never been through a rewrite process for publication before, and it helped me strengthen the story. Very rewarding! Link to the story here.

Thanks for celebrating with me!  Have a wonderful week!

When I look up, part 6

Harbor Steps0
Photo by Theresa Barker.

How many times do we walk by something that doesn’t get our notice?  If you’re like me, you’ve got your mind on where you’re going, what you’ll do when you get there, making it to the bus on time, to an appointment, figuring out what you need to do over the rest of the week – grocery shopping, etc. – and your surroundings get missed. This week I caught myself doing that in downtown Seattle on the way to the ferry.  This is the Harbor Steps, an elaborate public space with fountains and a smattering of greenery and seating areas (not visible here) and a graceful way to connect the main part of downtown with the Seattle waterfront.  It was a gray Seattle November day when I took this photo last weekend.  I wanted to capture the feeling of looking up, up, up, into this window-slice view from waterfront to downtown along the Harbor Steps.

 

My photo-taking ability sometimes falls short (I feel), so I went out on Flickr to see what other photographers had done with this site.  These are some lovely images from other artists.  (Don’t forget, you can click on an individual photo in the collage to view each photo on its own – something I learned from another blogger(s), Tom & Audrey at USAThroughOurEyes blog!)

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Update on “When I Look Up, part 3” – where I wrote about the multi-panel video art installation in the lobby of a building in Seattle . . .  I took a photo of the lobby placard describing the art project, for those who might be interested in more info –

Melanie Biehle

Are there places you take for granted in your city or town?  What do you think about your own photographs?  (I definitely have “photographer’s envy” for many of my more gifted photo-blogging friends! Hah!)

Thanks for visiting!

When I look up, part 5

Looking up . . .

IMG_0233
Photo by Theresa Barker.

A few weeks ago I was at an event in Port Townsend, Washington, called “Autumn YAWP.”  Fifteen of us or so gathered together over a weekend, and we did a couple of prompted-writing sessions, read a little of our work to each other, and spent time on our own writing.  If you’re anywhere near Port Townsend, you might consider this modestly affordable writing retreat, sponsored by Centrum and offered 3-4 times a year.  I was walking across the campus one afternoon – the weather was gorgeous the first day – when I saw this enormous and beautiful tree.  The first thing I thought was:  Dahlia’s trees!  My writing friend and fellow blogger Dahlia of Stories and More blog has an wonderful and magical way of capturing trees in her photographs, and she brings lovely and imaginative observations about what she sees to her photos.  I knew Dahlia had to see this magnificent tree.  I love how it stands alone, majestic, lush and perfectly filled out.  With the blue sky in the background this tree looked like a bit of the heavens.

IMG_0238 (1)Fast-forward to a day or two later – still in Port Townsend – when I saw this tree.  What happened to the weather?  Gray and dim, clouds on the horizon, the weather had changed.  But this tree!  Such a shape, so defiant, plunging its evergreen branches skyward, buffeted by the wind from the sea.  It whispered to me:  “Dahlia needs to see me!”

… and looking down!

 

Not too long ago my friend and blogger Dippy-Dotty Girl of A Dippy-Dotty Girl’s Travel Tales wrote a blog post about which leaves were which in her autumn leaf neighborhood.  In my wanderings around town in Port Townsend, I saw some of the leaves she’d written about.

The five-pointed leaves at the base of the bollard (that wharf-post) on the left are maples leaves!  The symmetrical leaf (shaped like a person?) on the concrete sidewalk on the right is an oak leaf.  (I’m not so confident about other leaf shapes, but I’ve got these memorized!)

Looking up and looking down.  Isn’t it fun to notice things outside our usual view of life?

Thanks for visiting!

When I look up, part 4

IMG_0074
Photo by Theresa Barker.

Last month I walked into the Monterey, California, airport to pick up a relative for our family reunion.  I looked up, and I saw this! – over the TSA security checkpoint.  Oh!  It captured my imagination in a single instant.

IMG_0075
Photo by Theresa Barker.

Can’t you just imagine the places you could go, like in those old-fashioned travel posters you see in museums or on poster sites?  If you do a search on “travel posters”  in Google Images, you’ll see a ton of vintage posters, posters that have a delightfully intriguing flavor to them.  Here are just a few:

 

I don’t know about you, but when I see these posters, I feel as if you could simply jump into them and be instantly transported to those places. What is is about the images, about the colors or the illustration style, that makes me feel that way?  Perhaps some of you know more about this than I do – Joy at turtledesk blog, Amy at Photography Journal Blog, Miriam at Shower of Blessings blog and others, artist colleagues – about what makes it feel like you could dive into any  of these illustrations and come out on the other side in a magical, enchanted version of the destination being shown.  Am I the only one that feels that way?  It’s like in The Wizard of Oz, going to a place where strange, wonderful things happen and you only have to enjoy yourself when you get there.

Thanks for visiting!