Amidst the Geeks

Photo © 2012 Markus Spiering
Click here for original image.

A hundred geeks with cameras. Yup, and I was buried smack-dab in the middle of ’em. Didn’t want to be there. Didn’t mean to be there.

I remember in a high-school science class, we saw a film of an amoeba eating a paramecium. The amoeba’s body flowed around its prey, and after it had the poor bug surrounded, it just, kinda… digested it, right there, just like that. The paramecium squiggled and squirmed, tried valiantly to escape, but too little, too late. And then—poof!—it shimmered and was absorbed into the predator. It was gone.

That was me, that poor, little paramecium. My goofy boyfriend pulled me in before I knew what was going on. And by the time I realized what was going on, I was surrounded, and being digested by an amoeba, and unable to escape.
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Tugat haNefesh

This way-more-abstractly-metaphorical-than-I-usually-write story was inspired by one of the exercises in Holly Lisle’s “How to Beat Writer’s Block.” She calls him her “muse”; I call her my very life-breath.

My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
(Psalm 119:28)

Flashlight in hand, I progress slowly down each step, toward the dungeon in which I keep my soul. Repeating drops of condensation drip, drip, drip and echo off the cold, dead walls. The scent of urine and defecation permeates the air, and intermingles with a poison must.

I loathe this place, which reeks of hell and depression.

I approach the cage. My keys rattle against the thick, steel slats, as I wrestle with the heavy padlock.
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Substitute (by Danielle La Paglia)

Photo © 2011 Gerald Pereira CC BY 2.0

Something a little different today. I signed up to take part in Tony Noland’s Great April Fool’s Day #FridayFlash Blogswap. Tony paired me up with Danielle La Paglia, who has in gracious silence endured my haphazard attempt at keeping to a deadline.

(Oy. Just be thankful you’re not my publisher.)

Danielle and I both wrote a story around the same prompt. I’m posting hers here, and she’s posting my story over on her blog. Tony gave us the following prompt to inspire our stories: “three free tickets to a movie.”

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Perhaps to Dream

Original photo © 2009 sflovestory CC BY 2.0

Head down in the middle of her solid mahogany desk, eyelids blocking the mid-morning sun from the searing pain behind the bridge of her nose, the expanse of her office morphed into a loosely packed suburb of rich greens and blues. A month of late-night facts and figures melted into the insanity of random imagination. Her Starbucks dark-roast tasted like Kahlúa. The bottle of store-brand ibuprofen became a mailman in sexy shorts, delivering packages of happiness.

“We finally made it!” she bragged.

He wrapped strong hands around the back of her shoulders and her aching neck muscles, and firmly massaged. “Mmm,” she groaned, and stretched and relaxed her neck.

“I’ll pick up the kids and meet you at six?” he said.

She nodded, laid back on her mahogany deckchair, closed her eyes again, and sipped her Kahlúa. A long, deep sigh.

Then thunder boomed from the overcast sky.
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The Woman Who Loved Men

Photo © 2007 Randal Cooper CC BY-SA 2.0

Mark, timid little creature, he stammered through, asked me to “dinner or something, sometime.” I smiled and told him I’d love to, because he’s cute and sweet, and he plays a beautiful guitar. He’ll never dominate the top of the heap, but you always know where you stand with him, and you can trust him always to be faithful and to do the right thing. Mark, it turns out, is also a great kisser, which I knew he was going to be. And deeply passionate. Sigh.

Tony, on the other hand, he lives the life of the stereotypical alpha male. Six feet, 190 pounds, works out at the gym every day and benches 350. Top dog in his world, and he knows it. So when asked me to drinks, he already knew I’d say yes. You could see it in his eyes. He strolled by while I was halfway through my run on the treadmill, stopped for a minute and admired me— I wanted him to take me right then and there.
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Of Death and Smiles

Photo © 2010 rawryder CC BY-ND 2.0)

He smiled over his Sunday morning oatmeal, plain and steaming, his grapefruit cut into halves. Smiled with his eyes. Gotta remember, always with the eyes.

That’s your problem,” pointing at his wife’s sausage and pancakes, drenched with syrup.

“And that’s yours!” She pointed back, at his grapefruit, her well-rounded face slinging condemnation.

“It wouldn’t hurt you to get up off your ass once in a while, either, and exercise.” He suddenly realized he was no longer smiling. Remember, always with the eyes.
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An Indelible Design

I recline in one of the big comfy chairs in the corner at the local Internet café, reading a novel, immersed in conflict, challenge, adventure. She curls up in the other chair, across from mine, her feet tucked under her legs, and stares out the window. The sight pulls me from my book.

Quiet, pretty, young, she rarely smiles, even when serving customers their coffee and muffins. Each morning, I make it a point to grin long and broad, with “please” and “thanks.” But in return I rarely receive more than a rote, “Café Americano, two sixty-five.”

Then, at about 10 o’clock, she takes a break, to sit and stare. The sun peeks around the edge of a cloud overhead, now gleaming through her tender blue eyes and warming her luxurious, dark hair. Her face softens, and my heart melts, and I wonder what she thinks about.
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The Nitpicker’s Guide to Magnum, P.I.

I’m staring at her animated features from across a half-eaten slab of flounder and a mostly-empty glass of Chardonnay. She drones on. Still pretty as when I first met her, but I wonder if I were to choke on an errant bone if it would give me an excuse…

No such luck.

You wouldn’t think it possible that any one person could know this much about Magnum, P.I. Much to my surprise, you would be wrong. I bet she could recite every word of the script of every episode by heart. Apparently, she maintains her own very complete “Nitpicker’s Guide to Magnum, P.I.” site on the web. I say “apparently,” because I haven’t seen it myself. Probably only two or three people in the universe have. I chuckle at the thought. I guess the chuckle is well-timed, because she doesn’t seem offended.
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Dead, Long Dead

Photo © 2007 Rachel Cobcroft CC 2.0 BY NC SA

“We’re both dead,” he says, “long dead. But that doesn’t mean we can’t grow alive again!”

She can hardly believe what she’s hearing, of course. A fellow zombie, wanting to be human? Aspiring to be like them? If she didn’t know any better, she would think he was still one of them. But his pallor, his fetor, his unkempt appearance, his bulging eyes, his expressionless countenance, even the moan in his voice, all point to the sophistication that characterize their kind.

How? she wonders, Again human? One cannot undo death, cannot un-lose one’s innocence.

“No,” she says. “They want. We good.”

He shakes his head at her. “You have it all wrong. They don’t strive to be like us, and we don’t fulfill their wishes. They just want to be accepted, to be included.”
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Abigail White

(Here’s a very short character sketch I wrote 6 years ago.)

She never imagined that this would be the defining moment of her life.

Born Abigail Little, she had grown up with platinum blonde hair and deep brown eyes. As a teenager, she obsessed about her appearance and social behavior. She was smart and pretty, funny and good-natured. She was the girl every boy wanted to kiss and every other girl wanted to be.

As an adult, she married and mothered. Crow’s feet etched their way around her eyes, and though still potentially attractive, looks mattered progressively less to her. She bought nice clothes for her children; sweats and sneakers for herself. Her hair became frizzy and wiry. She put all her energy into her family, all her time into her home.

When the kids were old enough for school, she took a job as groundskeeper at a local amusement park. She was always cleaning up someone else’s mess, but she didn’t mind. In fact, it was an honor, for she knew the story of the broken window. It has been said a building can be vacant for years without becoming dilapidated, until even a single window gets broken; and then the whole building will become uninhabitable within days. Abigail knew that just one piece of trash, and her entire world would begin to disintegrate.

It was this passion she threw into her work. As a result, she was late one day. She was late picking up the kids from their after-school program. She got bawled out. Actually, the woman was very nice to this overworked mother. But Abigail couldn’t see it any other way. She had failed her duty.

It was then she realized, she was being controlled by circumstances. She had lost the excitement, her passion for life, her passion for her own life. She lived for everyone else, where she had once lived for herself.

The next day, she blew off work. She got in the car and drove across the state. Then she walked into the First Bank of Everytown, U.S.A., she walked up to a teller, pulled out her gun, and demanded they fill the satchel with cash.