Wednesday, March 31, 2004

"Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess what is seen during a moment."
-Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

From Red Hot Sinner Man

Darrell hated them. He wanted them dead. He knew they laughed at him behind his back. He was the geek. The one with all the pens. The one with stains on his shirt. The one who could fall over his own feet. The one who dropped papers at meetings. The one that had actually passed gas at a company get-together. The one that the bosses would clap on the back at office parties and say good job even as they looked for someone -- anyone -- else for them to foist him off on. When he tried to talk to them, when he tried to explain how the flow of the R327 network was both compartmentalized and yet open and that it kept the freebooters out but allowed interactivity as well as intra-activity, the same lame comments started. "Speak English, man." "Watch a lot of Star Trek, don't you?" "Over my head."

He hated them all, but he particularly hated Rachel because her cubicle was next to his. Had been for five years, but she still didn't say hi to him. She would barely nod when he passed, and if he spoke to her, her eyes would glaze immediately.

He had often thought of reporting her to the HR department for violating IT email policies. She used her computer as if she owned it and it was her personal entertainment box. She emailed her mom, her brother, twenty or so girlfriends, a few boyfriends, people she chatted with online and would never be in the same room together, school and college friends and possibly the whole population of her hometown and several small European countries. She sent them jokes and prayer and recipes. She sent them web site links and quotes and pictures. She sent them advice and gossip and opinions. Rachel was a mass media. And her online activity was in direct violation of the restricted personal use policy clearly outlined on page 46 of the Gallant and Sons Company Employee Handbook.

Darrell didn't know why she hadn't got caught. What was IT doing? Did they notice the bandwidth being used whenever Rachel was at her computer? Were they blind? Or simply too stupid?

Darrell would turn her in, but then he'd be asked how he knew what she did. He'd be fired as soon as they realized he was exploiting holes in their security ice to ghost her computer. He wasn't a good liar and couldn't think of any story that explain his knowledge.

So he sat in his cubicle and hated them all, but mostly Rachel. Sometimes it was hard for him to focus as he sat there, listening to the faint sound of her voice on the phone to her mom, smelling the damned perfume she drenched herself in. The last year had been worse. He nearly quit every day, but he wasn't good at job searching. Actually he was good at job searching; he wasn't good at job getting. It had taken him nearly two and a half years to find this one, and he didn't want to go back to living with his mom again.

Two months ago, though, he had found something that made it better. Something that helped when he felt his hatred of them choke away his thoughts, when he wanted to scream in frustration and rage, when he wanted to run down the halls like a madman. He would reach into his briefcase and touch it. He would hold it, and he could feel cool and calm again.

Two months ago, Darrell started bringing a gun to work.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 29, 2004

From Red Hot Sinner Man

Alex met Abby by one of the grossest ways possible: he threw up on her shoesr. He had just started on Gleeco, one of the latest, greatest cancer buster drugs. Since his tumor was wrapped around his spine, they couldn't operate without leaving him a cripple at worse or needing Depends at best. Perhaps he would be forced into that later, but for now, Dr. Jeremath wanted to try Gleeco.

Most people who were dosed with Gleeco experienced "intermediate episodes of nausea," a medical way of saying that the patient would spew vast amounts of stomach contents in truly Olympic fashion. Gleeco patients easily qualified in distance for the U.S. Puke Team. Alex had already endured a three-day bout following his last dose. This time he was smarter. He scheduled his chemo on a Thursday afternoon so that he would only miss a day and a half of work. Then he stopped eating on Wednesday. He figured nothing in, nothing out. Lying on his bathroom floor, he discovered that dry heaves were worse as he tried to throw up his stomach. He couldn't even keep down the anti-nausea pills. But the worse passed by Sunday night, and he crawled gratefully into his bed and slept deeply.

The next morning, Alex wore with a strange feeling of well-being. It took him a few minutes to realize that he was simply feeling the absence of being sick. He stretched and realized he was hungry and could even think about food without his head swimming. Still cautious, he made do with a bowl of cream of wheat, dry toast and black coffee. Not exactly the approved cancer diet, but it was food he could face without his stomach wailing.

He showered and went to work. He thought about staying home, but paranoia honed fine by years of surviving the corporate environment urged him on. If you were gone too much -- even for legitimate reasons -- people started to get used to you being gone. Projects got reassigned, files got moved. More than one woman had returned from maternity leave to find herself a glorified secretary. Men ended up as assistants or found themselves on under-funded projects that wouldn't survive the next budget. Alex already had a cubicle at the end of a hall. His next move would be outside the building.

His inbox was full, both on his desk and in his email. While picking up a folder, he caught a wisp of perfume. Probably from Rachel. She bathed herself and her cubicle liberally in her favorite scent of the month to the dismay of those close to her. Glenda said Rachel could be tracked through a sewer plant. Alex started to grin, and then it happened. A hot flood rose within him. He whirled in his chair, trying to make it to the restroom down the hall.

He made two steps into the hall, and then the wave hit him so hard that he fell to his knees. He lost his breakfast. More than lost, he expelled his breakfast, shot his breakfast, hurled his breakfast, exploded his breakfast into the far wall. He caught a brief glance of a pair of legs before he was too occupied to see anything but a blur.

After a few eon-long minutes, the spell passed. He slumped against his cubicle doorway, exhausted and horrified by what he had done. Was this going to be his life now? Alex thought he'd rather be dead.

Someone knelt beside him. "Here. Put this on your throat." A wet paper towel was pressed against his skin.

A woman with blue eyes looked steadily at him.

"You're in a bad way, guy," she said after a moment. "Well, let's just see what we can about that."

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Favorite Recipe

Melon Fruit Dip

1 package of softened cream cheese
3 tablespoons of orange juice
bite-size chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or other melon

Mix cream cheese and orange juice until creamy. Mix melon chunks together in large bowl. Drizzle dip over melon or serve in side dish with ladle.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

When you're a writer, you no longer see things with the freshness of the normal person. There are always two figures that work inside you, and if you are at all intelligent, you realize that you have lost something. But I think there has always been this dichotomy in a real writer. He wants to be terribly human, and he responds emotionally, but at the same time, there's this cold observer who cannot cry.
-Brian Moore

Friday, March 26, 2004

From Red Hot Sinner Man

The first thing Alex learned about cancer was that it scared other people. Oh, they put on a brave face, they plied him with sympathy, they shook their heads regretfully and spouted things like, “We’ll be thinking about you” or “Keep a positive attitude” or “You’ll be in our prayers.” Then they would delicately ask if he smoked or if cancer ran in his family or did he eat too much red meat or had he worked somewhere where he could have been exposed to some sort of terrible chemical that caused the tumor wrapped around his spine. They wanted to know why he had cancer so that they could avoid it or be relieved that they didn’t smoke or eat red meat or do whatever it was that made him sick. They were afraid of this death that worked in the cubicle next to them. After those few words of concern, those muted conversations, they began to avoid him. Nothing overt. Just conversation fading away when he walked up or sat down at the table in the break room. Dead silences that went on so long that he could hear every rustle of paper, every click of a pen, every cough as loud as the Methodist church bell at noon.

When he realized this, he withdrew. He went silent. He retreated into his cubicle and wished for a door. He felt ashamed, almost as if cancer was some sort of STD, like he was sick because he wasn’t a good person, unclean, a leper among the washed. He was a sick person among the healthy, and he didn’t blame them for being squeamish about him. Who wants to be reminded of their own morality? Who wants to hear the ticking of the clock? Who wants to know they won’t live forever? That a disease can strike them down despite all the raw vegetables consumed and all the miles sweated? He had felt the way they felt before Mr. C entered his life. So he understood. He would be quiet. He would die politely. He would make it easy on them since he couldn’t make it easy on himself.

At least that was what he thought he would do at first. Then he met Abby and everything changed.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

"Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree."
-Ezra Pound

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

"We like that a sentence should read as if its author, had he held a plough instead of a pen, could have drawn a furrow deep and straight to the end."
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

"It's as interesting and as difficult to say a thing well as to paint it. There is the art of lines and colours, but the art of words exists too, and will never be less important."
-Vincent van Gogh

Monday, March 22, 2004

"Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him."
-Mel Brooks

Sunday, March 21, 2004

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoids all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every work tell."
-William Strunk

Saturday, March 20, 2004

"If a man means his writing seriously, he must mean to write well. But how can he write well until he learns to see what he has written badly. His progress toward good writing and his recognition of bad writing are bound to unfold at something like the same rate."
-John Ciardi

Friday, March 19, 2004

"The process of writing a book is infinitely more important than the book that is completed as a result of the writing, let alone the success or failure that book may have after it is written ... the book is merely a symbol of the writing. In writing the book, I am living. I am growing. I am tapping myself. I am changing. The process is the product."
-Theodore Isaac Rubin

Thursday, March 18, 2004

"Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat."
-Robert Frost

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

"If you don't like my book, write your own. If you don't think you can write a novel, that ought to tell you something. If you think you can, do. No excuses. If you still don't like my novels, find a book you do like. Life is too short to be miserable."
-Rita Mae Brown

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon."
-Robert Cormier

Monday, March 15, 2004

From Red Hot Sinner Man

Regina knew he wanted her. She could tell. The way he looked at her. The way his eyes not only undressed her but threw her on the red leather couch in his neo-Spartan office and made her scream glories until she was hoarse. How his hand would rest on her shoulder, just a brotherly pat, a touch of friendship, but his long, slender fingers would linger as if they longed to press themselves deep into her flesh until they left dark violet marks of his passion.

She sat at her desk and watched him over her filing. Once she sliced her finger on a piece of paper and pressed the welling cut to her mouth. She looked up and caught his eyes focusing on her lips before he turned away. She knew he wanted her. Now if only his inconvenient wife would just die.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

"Here's the secret to the universe: Everything has structure. From snowflakes to fire, everything has form and function. And this applies to the craft of writing."
-Jay Bonansinga

Saturday, March 13, 2004

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, March 12, 2004

"Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."
-William Strunk, Jr.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another. The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbors, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all."

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

"A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words."
-Robert Frost

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved ... the ones who never yawn and say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."
-Jack Kerouac

Monday, March 08, 2004

"There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle."
-Robert Alden

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road, or a secret gate.
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.
-Job 12:8

Friday, March 05, 2004

Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have below.
-Joseph Addison

Thursday, March 04, 2004

"Quality--in its classic Greek sense--how to live with grace and intelligence, with bravery and mercy."
-Theodore H. White

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

"Discipline does not mean suppression and control, nor is it adjustment to a pattern or ideology. It means a mind that sees 'what is' and learns from 'what was.'"
-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"We only part to meet again."
-John Gay

Monday, March 01, 2004

"Growing up is after all only the understanding that one's unique and incredible experience is what everyone shares."
-Doris Lessing