Sunday, September 27, 2009

brainstorm list.

The boys have names: Drew, Neil, Jude

Neil has a sledgehammer. It is his mother’s, and she keeps it under her bed “in case.”
Ambulances have pulled up to his driveway late in the night.
When it started happening too often, his father left.
Neil’s violence looks like bullying. It looks like menacing that he laughs loud about.
Neil seems like the leader, but he is mostly following Jude’s quiet lead.

Jude has the liquor and weed, both stolen from his dad’s stash.
Jude has forearm muscles that blue veins bulge from.
Jude has tan skin and a blond bowl cut.
Jude has lines of skin that convulse over his forehead when he is concentrating.
He is substantial.
Jude’s anger looks like survival, but the boy has no self-awareness.
In any other circumstances, he would be a good person.
Jude is a natural leader.
Jude has a father, but his mother hung herself.

Drew has a camera.
Drew has his dad’s discarded Playboy’s.
Drew has a mom.
Drew has a good life. This is what it looks like.
Drew is quiet, but less quiet than Jude.
Drew is scared of his own anger. He will not touch the sledgehammer. He will not destroy a house until late in the story.
Drew doesn’t know how Jude’s mother did it, but he imagines scenarios.
Drew’s father is the construction manager for the new neighborhood coming up.
Drew’s mother cheats on his father. But everything looks normal.
Jude and Drew both keep secrets.

The boys ride skateboards at night.
There is the sound of urethane wheels grinding against black asphalt.

In Jude’s garage there is a ping pong table, a dart board, a stereo, an old couch, and old rug, an oak-like coffee table with chips that reveal particle board.
There is one window. Half of the ceiling is dry-walled, but half is not. The room is always damp.

In Drew’s dark room, there are chemicals, a thin wire from which photos hang clipped by clothespins, and his dad’s rescued Playboys buried beneath National Geographic magazines stashed at the bottom of a photo processing supply shelf.

The Vietnamese are moving into Live Oak Acres. With their fishy smells and foreign vegetable gardens.
A black family moves in next door to Drew’s house.
The pecan grove that is the edge of Live Oak Acres is leveled and now bears only the name: Pecan Grove Estates. This will be a gated community. It is the 1980s.
The news thinks that the Vietnamese teenagers are destroying the construction site.
Drew's dad thinks it is the Vietnamese teenagers.

A family photo will fall, crash down so that glass shatters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

sick day.

My plan today is to work on a story. A story that I started writing last semester and I just cannot seem to complete, no matter how badly it is the story I wish to tell.

I am sick today, which is irritating. No, I do not have the swine flu. I do have a sinus infection, sore throat and a massive headache that makes staring at the computer screen unpleasant.

This morning, I took some medicine, fed the dogs, ate some cereal and got back in bed. I woke up because of a weird nightmare. Two strangers were at my screen door asking me if I could help them. I had a bad vibe and I held closed the screen door latch. Then I saw a man in a hat and sunglasses walk across my yard. He was holding a gun. I knew if I let go of the latch to get to my phone and call 911, the couple at my door would charge in. I woke in a panic, wondering if my front door was gaping open.

I am rambling.

I am a slow writer. I am noticing this about myself. Not that I haven’t noticed before. Experiences, ideas, words, they all need to percolate. Then they spill out onto the page and there are too many. But in my slowness, it can take months, a year, before I have enough distance to look at all of the spilled words and decide which ones to wipe up, clean away, and which ones to contain into a little, perfect cup.

On Saturday I spent about 4 hours revising a story that I first wrote about 2 years ago. It used to be close to 30 pages; now it is down to 18 pages. It felt really good to tear out chunks of writing, delete, delete, delete, until the real story was left and all of the fluff was removed. Then I got to work sprucing it up, painting walls. I’m not ready to hang curtains just yet.

I am mixing metaphors. I cannot look at the computer anymore. My eyes are begging.

Friday, September 18, 2009

week of September 13

In a fit of productivity that willfully did not involve teaching or writing, I made banana bread and butternut squash soup with roasted garlic and oyster mushrooms that I had sauteed in a white wine butter and shallot sauce. In the soup, they tasted like good bacon. At least, to me they did.

In one of the least productive conversations I have had in a long time, I gathered that the person speaking to me (my teaching supervisor) believes I am not old enough or experienced enough to logically prioritize my life, and she felt the need to spell out for me what my priorities should be. (Hint: her discussion class about teaching holds a higher priority than actively preparing for the 2 classes that I actually teach and than working on my own writing; my writing... probably is wasting space so high in my own ranking.)

I spoke to my cousin on Skype for 4 hours. It was virtually the first time we have spoken face to face since I was in 4th grade. It was the highlight of my week. I also did some dishes.

I felt like tossing books, heavy books, at some of my students. I think they sensed my aggression.
I also felt like yanking some of my own hair out. Instead, I convinced c. that we needed to go out for dinner.

I sat through a 3-hour class in which it felt like the professor had drug a dead horse into the center of the room and we each beat it with our own stick for the duration of class. *See Monday.

Is here. I am getting my hair trimmed. For starters. I also plan to write.

I am attending a talk where an agent/editor will tell me and my peers why the 2 or 3 pages we each submitted to her would not keep her interested enough to turn to the 3rd or 4th page.

I know. Now I am just being cynical.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

i'm only telling you 'no' because i love you.

Yesterday, after I recorded this rejection on my type-A excel spreadsheet, I tossed the paper version. This morning c. dumped coffee grounds on top of it. A couple of hours later, I decided to dig it out of the trash, and this is what I found. Gross maybe, but I also think there's something pretty. It's as if a live oak trunk got superimposed atop of the already superimposed live oak canopy.

Also, notice the words hand-written in red ink. I'm pretty stoked. I liken a positive rejection to: I'm only telling you 'no' because I love you. Hopefully, some other fool will tell me 'yes' about this particular story. In the meantime, I have nothing else that I feel is appropriate to send to The Southern Review. I am going to work on revisions to one story today. It could potentially fit the bill. I mean, the journal.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


According to my Susan Miller Astrology Zone monthly forecast, Mercury will be in retrograde this month. This means:

"miscommunications could cause real problems, so make a concerted effort to be understood. If you are in important talks, keep summarizing what you think the other person has said to you, to be sure you have picked up the right message. No one would ever fault you for doing that."

Does this account for my fumbling, bumbling idiocy today during class? The blank stares that all of my students landed on me at one point?

Does this account for the text-speak email I received from a student? Or, from another student, the email composed of not one, not two, but three run-on sentences?

Also, do you know that college freshmen will snicker and giggle if they see the phrase, "the person who reared you," and they will also not know what this means? Okay. Maybe I would giggle too. I'm thinking about awarding (rewarding?!) 3 bonus points to every student who can adequately argue whether it is more correct to use "reared" than it is to use "raised" in reference to children.

Which is more correct in the previous paragraph: rewarding or awarding? Someone please help me remember.

Do I need to reword this entire entry? Quite possibly.