Friday, August 12, 2011
Charlie was an idiot although he was competent at his job. People tended to stay out of his way since he was easily rattled and distracted. In a four shift it was rare for him to speak more than ten words at any given moment. This was the way people liked it and wanted it.
This was not the way, however, that Susan had been raised. She was a regular at Charlie's but only started to notice Charlie the busboy recently. At first it was pure curiosity which caused her to ask her favorite waiter "Why do people make a point of not talking to that boy?" The waiter claimed ignorance and then clearly chose the inconvenient route to reach the kitchen in order to avoid him. This only furthered to pique Susan's interest but she bided her time.
Over the next couple months she made observations in the hopes of understanding the situation. Charlie seemed to move swiftly throughout the restaurant - he never had to be called to clean a table or a spill.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Ironically, Euclid Street was the main road in my college town but I never thought of it as the premise for a story until seeing it in LA.
Euclid Street - Part 1
If Tom Sharp had been told when he was eighteen that by thirty four he would be married, divorced, married again, divorced again, dating a girl from Mississippi, and have two children and one dog, all under five years old, he might have tried to steer his life in an altogether different direction. But, as it happened, he had not been informed, and in August of 1995, at age thirty four, Tom Sharp found himself moving in with his girlfriend, Karen Peters, on Euclid Street.
Her father had found the house for sale one morning during his daily run, nearly thirty years earlier. He immediately sprung into action by jogging into the open house. He met with the broker, jogged up and down to the master bedroom and the basement, and left his business card. Later that day, he owned the house.
He moved in with his pregnant fiancé in 1972 when Euclid Street was at the beginning of its rebuilding. Most of the houses were relics form the turn of the century. One house, number 1861, was built the year the War of Northern Aggression began.
When Mr. Oscar Peters moved into his house on Euclid Street, the entire neighborhood received a facelift. The Peters family was descended from some of the first pilgrims, or so they claimed, and were accustomed to living an affluent life. Martha Dunn, Oscar’s fiancé, who was lucky enough to fall in love with such a distinguished man, and enter into a life of luxury, was at first appalled and confused at Oscar’s rash purchase.
“You could have any house in any town,” Martha said in an airy Alabama accent.
Oscar did not listen to her complaints, and Martha eventually came around. Two months later Karen was born and Martha’s concerns about her husband’s realty choices were all but forgotten. Besides, she knew that Oscar was no fool.
And so did Oscar. He was not the type of man to live somewhere that did not live up to his grandeur. He was known in town as somewhat of a perfectionist. His lawn was cut at just the right length. His house was always at the right temperature. The shade in the backyard only brought refreshing breezes, never chills. Similarly, his parties were frequently the highlight of the social calendar. Everyone looked forward to the somehow perfectly mixed sweet teas.
Though he was a humble man, he was not a peasant and did not want to be surrounded by them. However, he was also a man who did not give up on what he loved simply because it was not perfect. He loved the house. And he wanted the street.
When Oscar stepped into City Hall and laid ten grand on the table (in words, not dollars), the Euclid Street Renaissance, which turned into the Estoria Township Renaissance, began. Many were skeptical about his plans, and refused to pay any attention to him, thinking the whole project to be a display of wealth by an arrogant man. Oscar paid them no attention, and no money. Years later, those same skeptics attempted to buy houses on Euclid Street, only to be turned down by the Euclid Council, headed by Oscar Peters.
Tom Sharp knew very little of this history, for all his facts about the Estoria Township came from Karen Peters, who had left the town for boarding school when she was sixteen and stayed away for nearly twenty years. She kept in touch with her family, and saw them at various vacation spots around the world, but it was not until she turned thirty that she felt a desire to return to Euclid Street
Karen and Tom met in New York City where both lived in comfortable downtown apartments near NYU. Tom first saw Karen at a mutual friend’s party, but did not meet her until several weeks later at the same friend’s movie screening. The film was entitled “To Begin Again” and revolved around a married couple facing relationship problems. It was based on some real experiences that Tom knew about all too well. He was amazed to see the couple make it through the ordeal and then have the confidence in themselves to go through it all over again by making the film.
After the screening there was a small cocktail reception in the lobby and Tom saw Karen for the second time. Her dress caught his attention. It was polka dot. He could not remember the last time he had seen a grown woman wearing a polka dot piece of clothing, let alone an entire dress. She was between conversations when he got to her. “You’re a popular gal,” he said behind her as she reached for some hor d’oeuvres. She turned and mistook his comment to be from another friend and immediately started talking to the man standing next to Tom. The friend, a little surprised at the situation because he knew who had tried to speak to Karen, did not stop the conversation because Karen was pretty and he also had a crush on her.
As the reception wined down, Tom attempted again, after having boosted his confidence by introducing himself to more than a few jack and cokes. This time, he approached the filmmaker, John Swallow.
“John, who’s that girl in the polka dots?” Tom asked when he finally did get a chance to talk to the director. In fact, those were the first words Tom had spoken to him all night. He did not even comment on the film.
“There’s someone wearing a polka dot dress at my film premier?” John asked, bewildered. “Who invited her?”
“I have no idea but don’t make her leave before I get her number.” Tom discreetly pointed in Karen’s direction and both half stared, half looked disinterested.
“Oh,” John said, turning his back to her so that he could have a real conversation, “that’s Karen Peters. She works in advertising.”
Tom sipped his drink and kept his gaze on her. After a brief silence, he finally looked back at John. “Well, are you going to introduce us?”
John looked back at his friend, contemplating Tom’s background. John had been friends with Tom’s second wife and had heard stories of the first. He did not know all the details of the divorce and Tom did not offer them. What he did know was that Tom was often rash when it came to women. He would become infatuated with a woman and persist after her until his love waned and left both of them spent. He had seen it happen to another one of his friends, Susan McCord, and was not particularly interested in seeing it happen to another. John toyed with the idea of refusing to introduce them but realized their friendship was stronger than that. He made a mental note to talk to Karen separately.
But Tom proved his friend wrong. Not only did Tom adore Karen but she loved him back, and within six months the two were living together in Tom’s former bachelor apartment.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Working on a new script - first script in years. I'm really excited about it.
A friend contacted me asking would I help write her write a script based on the story she's been thinking about for years. The basic plot is that a man loses his job and thus becomes very depressed and becomes infatuated with a street performer, losing interest in wife. There is a murder and an interesting psychological/paranormal twist but I won't reveal it.
This is the first time I've ever been asked to flesh out someone else's idea and I found it liberating. She sent me a rough outline for the story, some sparse but definite details about the setting, characters, story arc. What I loved was being asked to just expand and open up the story and I think I did a fairly good job, for first thoughts.
It was incredibly liberating to work on someone else's story. I haven't written anything of my own in a very long time but suddenly working on another person's idea gave me the ability to just suggest everything for the story. It was a great brainstorming session. Rarely do I have sessions like that for my own story. I usually start writing and try to work everything out along the way. Really, what I should be doing, I realized, is fleshing out the idea before even starting - not necessarily make an outline, but expand on the characters lives, setting, any possible story points, just so I could understand the world more.
I feel like I need to do more research for my writing also.
This is becoming too much like a normal blog post, just wanted to say that I'll be writing soon.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I've begun collecting ideas for a book of short stories. Right now there are just titles with vague concepts. See below.
Walking with the Living, Sleeping with the Dead - just heard someone say this in the office and found the phrase fascinating. I don't know if it has any real meaning but I'm sure it can be put to use. This could used for an obvious vampire story, or something a bit more philosophical, maybe a story of a family dealing with the recent death of someone close.
Saving Fish from Drowning - this came from a ted talk (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/amy_tan_on_creativity.html) by Amy Tan and she mentioned this phrase as a part of a Burmese folk tale. She already used it as a title for one of her books but I think it could still be used as a short story, if not as the title than as a central theme.
Cadillacs and Rose Milk - been starting and stopping on this story. The title phrase came to me one day and I just thought it sounded beautiful and romantic. The story I started writing is not as beautiful or romantic; it became a prequel, of sorts, to another unfinished story but I didn't like where it was headed so I stopped. I keep trying to revitalize it but I'm thinking I'll have to start over. I don't mind the idea of a prequel but I just didn't appreciate where the current story was going.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
"The chandelier in my house was an Old World relic, something specifically called for and transferred across the globe, and has been in the main hall since the day the ceiling was built to hold it."
"The day I committed suicide I knew exactly what I was thinking."
Sunday, September 14, 2008
"You can't fix holiness."
I think this is a great quote and opens many possibilities for stories and thoughts. When have you ever heard of someone trying to fix holiness? Is it something that needs fixing? Can it be fixed? I just think it's an interesting concept to be incorporated somewhere.
I'm standing at the urinal at a bar and see something very strange. In front of me, written in bold sharpie, are the words: "For a good time, call 555-7682." Two things strike me. First, that is one of the most overused lines in bathroom wall literature. The writer really could not come up with anything better, especially in such a prominent location? Perhaps he has other writings scattered about with greater literary merit and this just happens to be the one that we all notice.
Second, that's my phone number.
The idea for this story came from two different sources. I'm reading "Straight Man" by Richard Russo right now and the concept I have for this character is similar to the main character in his book. Second, I was at a bar called Busby's and above the toilet are those disposable covers and it has printed on it, very proudly, "250 Toilet Seat Covers" as if other brands would never package that many covers together. So the story is about this guy, a teacher (perhaps) who gets put into these ridiculous situations, spawned by his number being written on the wall. It's basically a quest to find out who wrote his number and why and a story about the people who end up calling him. At the same time, he's trying to put a good face on his life by being proud/bragging/showing off something odd that isn't necessarily something to be proud of, such as housing 250 toilet seat covers.
Still fleshing out the details.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
And the title of the story is definitely changing. Those are just the two main themes of the story so it nicely describes it.
Chapter 1 – Answers Have No Place in a World of Questions
Sally was unpacking her things. One suitcase sat on her bed, open, half emptied. Another was against the wall, closed and obviously bursting. She exited the closet with some hangers and proceeded to her bed. It was made and looked like it had been empty for weeks. The clothing was warm-weathered, in contrast to the snow that was starting to fall outside the window.
The phone rang and she jolted. Her clothes dropped back into the suitcase, crumpling her carefully folded seams.
It rang again and she went to answer. “Hello?”
“You miss me?” It was a familiar voice.
“How’d you know I was back already?”
“Listen, there’s no time to explain myself. I hold in my hand two tickets to the Pacific Islands.”
“Does it matter?”
“Good, then I’ll expect to see you at the airport in an hour.”
“Wait a minute. I haven’t even unpacked yet.”
“Well then grab your suitcase and call a cab.”
“I just got back.”
“There’s no time like the present.”
“Just what’s on this island that’s so important?”
“As I said, there’s no time to explain myself. See you at eight.”
The line went dead and Sally took the receiver away from her ear, staring at it. She looked at her suitcase. The luggage sticker was still on it from her previous trip. She had only returned to her apartment maybe twenty minutes earlier.
She hung up the phone and took the clothes with the hangers into her closet. Moments later she exited with the shirts she had already put away. “Damn it, Alex,” she said, throwing the clothes into the bag and reaching for the phone. She dialed.
“Raimi, it’s me.”
“Sally, didn’t I just drop you off?”
“Yeah, about that…your car’s still warm, right?”
“Then it won’t be much of a problem for you to come get me and bring me to the airport, right?”
“You serious? Did you forget something?”
“Yes and no. I’ve got another flight in an hour.”
“Then why did you bother coming home?”
“Cause I didn’t know about it until now. Will you drive me or not?”
“I’m walking out the door. Give me five.”
“Thanks, Raimi. I’ll be outside.”
Sally hung up and looked at the clock on her wall. It read five past seven. The airport was roughly thirty minutes away. She would be on time provided there wasn’t much traffic or weather problems.
She gathered her things and brought them into the hall. Turning to grab her keys, she noticed her two goldfish staring at her. “Shit,” she exclaimed, forgetting her keys and going back to her bedroom for the phone.
“Yeah, Laura, it’s me.”
“Oh, Sally, how was your trip? Did you take pictures? Meet anyone?”
“I have answers for all those questions, but right now I need to talk about the fish.”
“Oh. I fed them every other day like you said. They seemed fine. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, they’re fine. But I need you to look after them again.”
“Why, where’re you going?”
“The Pacific Islands.”
“Not sure yet.”
“What’s the occasion? Didn’t you just get back?”
“I don’t know and yes. Can you do it or not?”
“Yeah, sure. I left my key in your apartment so just leave it under the rug outside or something.”
“Of course. Thanks so much.”
“I expect full details when you return.”
“Naturally. So long.”
Sally returned to the hall, grabbed her keys, and looked around. “Fish, check. Ride, check. Luggage, check. Sanity…” She paused and looked down at her two suitcases. What was she doing? She had a life to get back to. She couldn’t always be on tropical vacations with unknown purposes.
She turned from her suitcase to the window. Snow was falling in and out of the streetlights. “Sanity, check. All right, looks good.” She opened the door, dragging her bags out, then shut and locked it. She put Laura’s key under her welcome mat and went down the hall towards the elevator.
Minutes later she was outside. Raimi was already waiting. He got out of the car and grabbed a bag. “So can you offer me an explanation?” he said, opening the rear passenger door and stuffing the bag in. He turned to accept the other one.
“I’ll let you know everything as soon as I know it,” Sally responded, handing off her bag and getting into the car. Raimi looked at her, perplexed, then entered the car and pulled off.
“Where’s this other flight to?” he asked.
“Some island in the Pacific,” she responded, looking out the window at her apartment building fading into the snowy fog.
Sally turned to her friend. “That’s the question on everyone’s mind.”
“Then I’ll assume there’s no answer.”
“So what are you going to be doing if you don’t even know where you’re going?”
“That’s a very good question. I’ll ask Alex when I see him.”
Raimi let out a big belly laugh. “Alex Maloyez?” Sally nodded and Raimi laughed again. “I should have known. What’s that kid up to?”
“We’ll both ask him when we get to the airport.”
“I almost don’t want to know,” Raimi said, changing lanes. A car honked and Raimi yelled back. “Asshole,” he muttered under his breath.
“I want to know,” Sally almost whispered. She opened her purse and took out her wallet. Inside was a photo of her and a man, two years her senior, standing on a beach. Behind them was a decrepit temple, something of a wonder at the time but she had seen so much more since then. A couple natives could be seen in the background, barely in focus. They were shirtless and practically naked, which had surprised her at the time. However, by the end of that trip she was more used to bodily freedom than the confines of modern society.
“When was the last time you saw him?” Raimi asked, sending Sally on a first class trip from her memories to reality.
“Years ago, I can’t really remember,” she responded. “But we’ve always kept in touch via the mail. He sends postcards from his various trips and I leave him letters at his house. We’re usually both a few months behind on the other’s current events and whereabouts.”
Raimi, an older man with a graying beard that yearned to tell stories of the great unknown, turned to the girl beside him. “I haven’t seen that kid since that great trip to Kaliwei. You remember that?”
Sally turned to accept her friend’s gaze, but he had turned back to the road. “How could I forget? That was where I met the two of you.” Her mind drifted again to the memory of the island in the photograph.
Kaliwei had been an experience that no one in her circle of friends would ever forget. She had arrived on the island, journal in one hand, camera in the other, and a bag slung over her shoulder. She was greeted outside the eight-passenger plane by Raimi and Alex. Raimi was ten years younger then. His beard was fuller and he was still excited by the smallest possibilities in life. Alex stood next to him, a young man by comparison but a peer to Sally. Alex knew who she was instantly and she was immediately drawn to him, an attraction that had yet to dissipate.
“You must be Sally Conor,” Alex said, rushing up to her. She was the last one off the plane. “My name is Alex Maloyez, and this is my friend and partner Raimi Sampson.”
Raimi nodded, his smile never fading. He was wearing dark sunglasses but was still squinting. “It’s our pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Conor,” Raimi said, extending a hand.
Sally accepted it in hers. “You can call me Sally. I expect we’ll be spending a lot of time together so we might as well get used to each other’s names.”
“Straight forward, just like you said, Alex,” Raimi said. Alex smiled and looked at the fresh face across from him. Raimi had a wife on the island but Alex was free to survey the population. “You’re going to fit in well here on Kaliwei, Sally. I’m glad you’ve finally come for the hands-on experience.”
They walked to the cargo area of the plane where Sally’s larger bag was resting. “Thank you, Raimi,” Sally said. “I couldn’t possibly have passed up on this opportunity.” She went to pick up her bag, but Alex immediately dived, intercepting it. She smiled. “Thanks. I packed enough for a month or so. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll be here.”
“You’re welcome to stay as long as you want,” Raimi said, motioning for them to start leaving the plane. “There’s always an extra place to sleep, plenty of food, and mediocre washing facilities that keep your clothes relatively clean for as long as you can stand the smell.” He laughed the belly laugh of a thirty year old.
Raimi continued talking but Sally was not paying full attention to him. How could she with Alex right next to her, staring at her, sizing her up? It seemed that she was the first woman he had seen in years, which was impossible because the island was known for its extensive native population. Nevertheless, she was flattered by his attention.
She had come from Boston where it was October and pressures of school, work and family had kept her from most social events. Alex sensed this without any words. He had that ability, to know what someone was thinking, and to know their past with a single look from head to toe.
They reached the first village of many and Raimi disappeared into a hut. Alex walked into another. Suddenly Sally was alone. She looked at her surroundings, for the first time soaking it all in. The sun was bright even though the evening was beginning. The first hues of the sunset were starting to form. Oranges appeared at the horizon, over the endlessly blue ocean. Clouds seemed to disperse in an effort to make room for the sun in the sky.
There were plenty of people on the beach, mostly dark skinned natives. They wore paint on their faces and bodies, which were barely clothed. Some children ran around naked, completely unaware of the differences in sex or age. It didn’t matter to them as much as it did to kids on the mainland where everything was controlled by the constructs of society. She felt free for the first time since childhood and let out a breath that seemed to finalize her trip. She was on Kaliwei and would be for some time, maybe forever if it was always this wonderful.
Alex exited the hut, carrying drinks, a straw hat and a dress slung over his arm. “You haven’t moved,” he said when he stood next to Sally.
“It’s more incredible than the books make it out to be,” she responded. Alex handed her a drink and she graciously accepted it. She drank and was overwhelmed by the flavor. It took the essence of the island atmosphere and made it liquid.
Alex put the hat on her head. “You’ll learn that it’s better to be with a hat than without. Feel free to change styles, there are a variety, or make your own.” She looked to him, not sure why someone she just met was so compassionate. Maybe it was the tropical air that pushed all worries out of people’s minds. Alex held up the dress. “This is what the natives wear. Don’t feel obligated to wear it, but it may be more comfortable on the hotter days.”
“How hot does it get?” she asked. She tried to look to Alex but her gaze was now fixed on the foliage emerging from the inland forest onto the beach.
“That depends, really,” Alex replied. “For me, it’s never hot enough.”
The car came to a screeching halt and Sally was thrown from her memories back into the passenger seat of Raimi’s Volvo. “Well, it looks like there’s an accident up ahead.” He reached into his pocket to grab a cigarette. “I wish people would truly learn to drive before they started driving.”
Sally looked at her watch. It was past seven thirty. There was still time for her to get to the airport. “Do you think Alex will wait?” she said.
“Well he invited you, didn’t he?” Raimi said, keeping the cigarette clinched between his lips as he searched for a lighter. Sally produced one.
“I don’t know how important this trip is for him, or what it even means to him,” she sighed. Raimi accepted the lighter and she turned to look out the window once more. Snow danced over the rooftops and streetlights without regard of what damage it may do to any manmade structures. “I’m not even sure what I’m doing here. Does this make sense to you?”
“To be honest,” Raimi said, taking a puff and exhaling out the window crack, “not much that kid ever did made sense to me. I’m surprised that half of our expeditions were successful. Alex just goes off and does and thinks what he wants, assuming that others will follow. And if they don’t, well that’s their own fault and he usually won’t slow down for others.” He inhaled again, already feeling his nerves calm down. “But, then again, he always had a special liking for you.”
Sally would have blushed if she did not believe it. She turned to her friend and noticed he was halfway through the cigarette already. “Would you go?” she asked.
“On this mystery voyage?” he responded. She nodded. “If I wasn’t tied down to life here, you know I’d be in that airport already. The only reason I’m not traveling with Alex is because of Nora. After Kaliwei all she wanted to do was settle down, find someplace that wasn’t always tropical.” For a moment Sally thought he regretted the marriage. Then Raimi chuckled. “But I love the gal, so what was I supposed to do?”
The laughter was welcome, and the world seemed to enjoy it, for the traffic began to clear. “Finally,” Raimi said, shifting into gear. Sally checked her watch. They could still make it.