Monday, June 22, 2009

Untitled IV - Ed (FICTION)

The sign on the freeway welcomes me to the sate of Oklahoma. And Merry fucking Christmas to you too. I've still got 800 miles to go until I reach Mexico. I need to get some food. 

I enter the diner and sit in a booth in the darkest corner I can find. It's a run-down place, and only about half the bulbs are working. It's 4pm, so there are only a few customers inside. No one raises his head as I walk in, not even the waitresses. Maybe it's my lucky day, I say to myself, as I slide into the booth. Maybe the news hasn't reached the boonies yet. There is a TV on across the room, but it's showing what...yesterday's game? I can't really make it out from here; besides, the flickering lines aren't really helping. On second thought, probably they are. 

"What'll it be today, sonny?" she drawls, as she blows a big bubble with her chewing gum and suddenly I'm taken to the year 1972, December 12th. It's snowing outside and it's my 10th birthday. I sit at the kitchen table, waiting for breakfast. My father isn't there, as usual; I'm not really sure he came home last night. My mother is smoking a cigarette and staring out the window. Her hair isn't combed and she still has her makeup on from the day before. She has shown no signs of remembering that it's my birthday, but just like every year, I hope that there is a surprise for me planned. Deep down, though, I know that she doesn't care enough to plan all that.

She throws the cigarette butt into the sink, amongst the dirty dishes. The smoke continues to rise from it and cloud up the room. She seems to not be bothered by it. She pops a cube of bubble gum into her mouth; she always chews gum after she smokes. This is the reason why her breath always smells like a combination of sweet and putrid. It's been like this as long as I can remember her. 

"What'll it be today, sonny?" she asks as she blows a big bubble. "Cocoa Puffs or Cheerios?" She asks this everyday, when I know as damn well as she does that the only thing we've got is burnt toast with butter. She hands me two pieces on a plate, and laughs, her weird crooked laugh. There will definitely be no surprise today. 

"So what'll be? I've got other customers, you know!" the waitress yells. What happened to southern hospitality?

"I'll have the steak with the baked potato." She walks off. She's obviously not from around here, and neither am I. Shit! What am I going to do now?

Book Review

"Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott
My grade: B

As is clear from the title, this book is for writers, or more specifically, aspiring/unpublished fiction writers. Having read several books on writing, I would say that this one is quite helpful and insightful, and offers to some extent a new perspective while covering the basics. There are a few things I didn't like about the book, however. Firstly, Lamott states quite openly that being funny is important to her, and while she often is, sometimes it feels over-the-top and plain unnecessary. Secondly, she focuses way too much on her own story, and not enough on general tips and potential outcomes for all writers. She additionally has a tendency to dwell on a certain story from her life, which in the end, bears no (or hardly any) relevance to the reader. There were, overall, a significant amount of anecdotes and details from her personal life, which in my opinion didn't have to be present in such a book; at least, not to this extent.

For all of you writers out there, if you haven't read too many books on writing yet, I would recommend this one.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Must be said

I can't stand animal cruelty, and cruelty against children for the same reason: neither can understand what is happening. An adult, at least, can understand the injustice, get angry, in some circumstances, fight against it. But a child, and in a certain sense an animal, are completely helpless against such crimes, because they cannot rationally conclude that a crime is being committed against them, and of the greatest kind.

I am not a violent or an aggressive person by any means, and physical violence of any kind is completely against my nature, but I believe a person who commits a crime against a child or an animal should be killed, because that is not a person! That is some form of an evil force that exists only on Earth and it must be immediately extinguished.

It makes me firstly incredibly angry, but mostly indescribably sad when I see something like a goat walk a tight rope in a Chinese circus with a monkey on his back, also doing some sort of tricks. I can only imagine what type of abuse these poor living creatures were subjected to in order to be able to do that. Let's all face it: a goat is not mean to tip-toe a tight rope!

Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm sick, or maybe I'm just plain wrong. I'm against - full-heartedly AGAINST - all crimes against humanity, against all creatures that are alive and feel pain, but I'm most passionately judgmental and intolerant of people who commit any act of injustice or violence against one who cannot defend itself. Rise and stand for justice, or look yourself in the face and feel no shame; I won't be the one to judge you. But if you are guilty of a crime against another living creature, especially a child, or an animal, get the hell off of my blog!

Fran 6 (FICTION)

They hadn't really spoken about it, but considering that Francisca was living in Brian's flat, the conclusion was obvious: Francisca would need to move out. It was actually quite nice of Brian not to kick her out straight away, Francisca thought. After all, it was his right. Besides, Francisca never told him about the disease. In fact, they hadn't really spoken in two-and-a-half weeks. She decided it really would be best if she just quietly packed up her stuff and left. He wouldn't be too surprised to find her gone, whenever he did return back home.

It didn't take Fran long to pack. The only things that were hers, really, were two closets-full of clothes and some jewelry, accumulated through the years. She took only the essentials and the few items that held sentimental value, like the 2-karat diamond ring Charlie had proposed with. He was a good kid; it's too bad, really, the way things worked out with him.

Francisca grabbed the two suitcases and headed towards the front door. By the time she got there, she was completely out of breath. Come to think of it, she really had become weaker lately, but she tried to push that out of her mind for now. She sat down on the couch for a minute, to get a quick rest. A thought came to her: maybe she should leave a note for Brian, even if just a couple of words. She got up, with effort, and waddled over to the kitchen counter, feeling herself decrepit. She took a Post-It note and pen, but on second thought, wrote nothing. It's better left unsaid, she thought.

Dragging the suitcases to the car, one at a time, Francisca finally got in herself and started the ignition. If only she had somewhere to go, someone to turn to. Never in her life had she felt so alone - and so helpless. Her life was coming to an end, a terribly sad an pathetic end, but nobody seemed to care. Perhaps it was something she had done, perhaps it was her fault nobody loved her, Francisca thought. But she was too tired to ponder such questions, so she put the car in Drive and drove to the only place she could think of: home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
My grade: A+

This is a book I read a while ago, but it has stayed with me nonetheless and I feel it worthy of a post on my blog. This is probably the best piece of modern literature that I have read in the last few years. Its incredible darkness sucks you in, and I found myself unable to put it down, even though it was emotionally incredibly difficult to read. It was definitely worth the pain, though.

The book is not broken down into chapters at all, and I'm sure McCarthy doesn't follow all the rules of grammar, but there is purpose and effect in that. The story is that of a father and son, but really it's about humanity. The father and son don't even have names. They are trying to survive in a world where most are dead, to protect one another while maintaining their integrity.

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you read books, you have to read this one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Review

"The Northern Clemency" by Philip Hensher
My grade: C-

I'm surprised at myself for getting through the 738 pages, which believe you me was no easy feat. I have to say, what really kept me going was the anticipation of the ending: I really thought that there will be a point made somewhere along the way, but it was all in vain.

This book strives to be a family epic. I would even argue that "War and Peace" comes to mind when reading this book, for a number of reasons, although its many shortcomings are only highlighted by this reference. In a family epic book, what becomes crucial is character development. The only reason the reader would be interested in learning what happens to a character as he gets older is if the reader feels something for the character, regardless if that is love or hate. This aspect is entirely missing in the novel. The characters are to such an extent underdeveloped that I was often confusing one person with another, along with their histories, up until the very end. It also arouses no interest whatsoever to find out what happens to the characters as time progresses, nor is one either happy or sad when one character or the other dies off. Whatever little is learned of the characters only paints them in a relatively bad light, and in the end, you have a poorly-written book about pathetic people, who you neither respect nor have any kind of strong feelings for one way or another.

Additionally, the book is poorly edited. Starting from an impermissible amount of typos for a published work all the way down to too much telling and hardly any showing (in 738 pages!), you would think a work of such supposed caliber would have been read over one or two times before going on the bookshelves. I would definitely NOT recommend this book, even if you have all the time in the world.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shelves (FICTION)

The shelves are stacked one on top of another. Some are white, and some are black; some are right, but some are wack. And as I look at these shelves, I think how much like life they are.

The shelves stand empty now. They were full of his things before. I hated his things; they were useless trinkets, probably gifts from ex-girlfriends. Some seemed really exotic, but I know he's never been to such places before. He prided himself on these shelves, and I hated them, but now that they're empty, I miss the way they once were. 

Two days ago, he packed up his things and he left. He didn't take everything. But he took the trinkets, and the best six years of my life. He left me, though, with an old half-empty bottle of shampoo, 3 dirty unmatching socks, a Dutch-Swahili dictionary, and six years' worth of memories. Long, wonderful memories, with a sad ending. Oh, and he also left a note. 

In the note, he explained everything, and nothing at all. He said he had to go, couldn't possibly stay, but I don't know why. Is it the shelves? He said I should move on, find someone new, someone who would deserve me, but he didn't say how. He said I shouldn't cry, shouldn't think about him anymore, everything was really for the best. But is it really? The note was 30 pages long. He walked out through the door, carrying all of his bags, but he left the shelves. The crooked black and white shelves. They stand here now, mocking me with their emptiness. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Untitled III (FICTION)

I open my eyes…where am I? It takes me a few minutes, but finally I remember. After driving along an almost-empty highway, for four or five hours going west, I pulled over. I had to take a leak. The bushes, though, were tempting and I was tired. I drove a little ways off the road, so’s no one could see me. I’ve been sleeping now for… 4 hours?! Shit, that’s longer than I expected. I have to keep moving. The plan is first west, and then south across the border. I know, it’s not a sophisticated plan, but I’ve gotta do something. I need a way to start out clean, a second chance.

I pull back out onto the highway, but two miles down the road is a rest area. Next one is in 60 miles. I need a cup of coffee; I need to make a phone call.

“John, it’s me,” I say. This better be worth a quarter.

“What the fuck did you do?” The voice is completely uneasy. I’m shocked.

“This is Ed.” And then, “I did as we planned, just like you said.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about, you dumb piece of shit! The whole country is looking for you, and I’m going to say this only once, if my name is ever leaked out in connection with yours, I’m going to find you myself and drain every ounce…”

“What the fuck are you talking about John? Who’s looking for me? I thought Tia was…didn’t Tia get arrested? But the police…” My voice begins to trail off. Slowly, I begin to remember, to understand what’s happened. It’s only in my dreams that things have worked out as planned. But in the real world?

“John, what’s going on? What happened to Tia?”

“I’ll tell you what the fuck happened to that darling fucking wife of yours. She woke up, an hour after you left and surveyed the home. She put two and two together, got DRESSED, and calmly drove herself to the police station. That bitch had a plan of her own! She told them everything she’s heard and what she’d seen. And guess what else, Ed? That fucking cunt even said that she thinks you’re trying to frame her for murder! Now where would she get such a silly idea, huh, Ed? Where could that come from?”

“I have no idea,” I whisper, hardly loud enough for John to hear. The machine is asking me for more quarters, I need more quarters, dammit! “I gotta go, John. I’ll call when I can.”

“Ed! Don’t you…” I hang up the phone. What the hell just happened? Tia…

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fran 5 (FICTION)

Patty, Dr. Richards' secretary, called Francisca one week later. She would be calling often from now on, but surprisingly, Francisca grew to find her voice reassuring, in a strange kind of way. Patty wanted to invite Francisca for a consultation with Dr. Richards, "to discuss potential treatments, including the one in the clinical trial phase Dr. Richards must have mentioned. How are you holding on, dear?"

"I'm coping," Francisca lied, as she hung up the phone. The fact is, she had hardly come to terms with the ugly monster now facing her. The fact is, she didn't know where to begin. 

Naturally, she hadn't said a word to Brian, although somehow he seemed to have sensed something. At least, things had changed, quite drastically, since one week ago. He started coming home very late from work; later than usual. The funny part was that he didn't even try to explain this, or comment on it in any way. And the even funnier part - Francisca didn't care. She knew that whatever they had was over. After all, in a couple months' time, what of the trophy would remain? Now, it was only a question of where to go? Whom to turn to?

Three days ago, Francisca finally decided to call her mom. They hadn't spoken in about two months. It's not that their relationship was bad; it's only that is was half-existent. 

"Hi, Mom, it's me," Francisca said meekly into the phone. A silence ensued, before the recognition.

"Oh, yes, Francisca, how are you, honey?"

"Mom, I've got something important to tell you. The thing is... It seems that I... The problem, the doctor..."

"Francisca, really, you're not making any sense and I haven't got time for games now. The thing is that I've got 30 women due any minute now for my summer fashion discussion, and Franz hasn't even gotten the quiche out of the oven yet. Really, I told your father, that hiring French help is not a smart idea, but your father, well, you know how stubborn he can be when..."

"Mom, I'm dying!" Francisca yelled into the phone. "I'm sick with a terminal disease. I don't have much time left, Mom." There is a silence. 

"Mom? Are you still there?"

The silence continues. And then, after a couple of minutes: "Oh, Fran, you do tend to be so overdramatic, just like your grandmother, God rest her soul. Just drink lots of orange juice and chamomile tea and you'll be good as new. Really, honey, now is not a good time for me. Why don't you get some rest and give me a call in a couple of days? Kiss, kiss," and the phone line cut off. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Untitled II (FICTION)

The meal was amazing, perhaps one of the best I've had in a while. But then again, I can't really remember the last time I had a proper meal. Or perhaps it's just my mood tonight. I'm in a good mood, despite everything. She must have felt it, somehow, too. She doesn't normally make this much food. It doesn't matter, though, I've got business to take care of and she's just getting in the way, now. 

We finish eating without exchanging a single word. I'm glad for this peace before the storm; the bitch really knows how to nag. She hands me another beer and washes the dishes. I stare, working out the details of tonight.

She's taking an hour to do the dishes, and I'm beginning to grow impatient. "The dishes will still be here in the morning, " I mutter. "Let's go!". She understands immediately and turns the water off. She goes towards the bedroom and I finish my beer, slowly, savoring every sip. When will I have the chance to have another? I feel a little bad for what I'm going to have to do to her, but I have no other choice. She shouldn't of been poking her nose around where it don't belong. The bitch deserves it. 

I make my way back to the bedroom. This will have to be good. After all, it is the last time. With her. She's waiting for me in bed, just as I like it, with no clothes on. I take the blindfolds from my drawer. "Put this on!" I demand. Those eyes - not tonight. I can't look at them anymore tonight. No, I want to remember her just like this, the dirty slut that she really is. Not the angel she maybe once was. 

Two-and-a-half hours later and she's fast asleep. She sleeps like a baby after a night like this and that's what I'm counting on. I get up out of bed and get dressed, careful not to forget anything. I take one last glance around the room, and leave. I walk directly towards my car without looking back. If she wakes up, starts asking questions, this won't work. I leave, quietly, and drive away. Far, far away.

She wakes up in the morning to the sound of banging on the door. It's 6:30 am. She hasn't noticed that I've been gone until now. She's confused. She walks to the front door in her sheer nightgown, hardly understanding what's going on. 

"Are you Mrs. Cooper?" the cop asks, clearly noticing that she's not armed, but reaching behind his back nonetheless. 

"Yes," she stumbles, seeing for the first time the six cops standing behind the first one, all with their weapons drawn. 

"You're under arrest...," the first one says, turning her around in one swoop and cuffing her. "...for the murder of Stacey Hawk, Rachel Dole, Angela Smith..." he continues. They're all women, she thinks to herself. Monster!

They put her in the back of the police car, clearly surprised by how easy the catch was. She sits there, with a dumb and maybe a bit sad?, look on her face. Unless she's smarter than she looks, she will have to pay for my crimes.