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Pulpy Fiction – A Lifeless Ordinary

First off, thanks to the BBB Gals. Ladies, I am honored to contribute to this fun blog.

My prompts were:

  • Amy – Fireworks erupted at the conclusion of our team’s defeat.
  • Cameron – A shield carved in stone above the central doorway.
  • Erika – There’s no place like home.
  • Jen – Should somebody die?
  • Wendy – I woke up in my favorite story.

I mainly went with Amy’s because it hit so close to home with my Warriors team getting ousted in the NBA playoffs recently. However, I decided to try something funky. I’m not sure if someone else already tried this here (and this definitely now seems to be un-wise), but I started to add bits and pieces for the other prompts and loosely merged them together into a hopefully passable pulp. Fair warning: this is a little crazy-weird and fairly raw. Hope you enjoy it!

* * * * *

Fireworks erupted at the conclusion of our team’s defeat. Amidst the crackles, whiz-bangs and booms, they illuminated the face of the man beside me. My father. The bursts of light revealed crow’s feet near his eyes, prominent enough to see in quick flashes.

Such wrinkles meant a happy life, a friend told me. “You can’t create an authentic smile without those accompanying lines,” she said. My mother– God rest her soul– would’ve agreed. She exemplified the Duchenne smile.

They were both right.

However, I never saw my dad smile or get upset, except at games. He reserved his emotional highs and lows for basketball alone. Every wrinkle, he earned at sports coliseums, rooting on triumphs or enduring failures with our beloved team. There was nothing I relished more than cheering with him, the thrill of our brotherhood and playing witness to this hidden humanity.

Despite a colorful display, the final series of mid-air explosions could not grab my attention away from him. He tilted his face to the floor. The small gesture prevented the vibrant, popping lights from accentuating his visage. Instead, it drove long shadows across his face, like fingers that scrabbled into a makeshift mask. I imagined those claws crept from him, across the floor, to me. Indeed, something quivered inside me, wrapping around my heart, hitting pause on my breathing.

I closed my mouth to swallow.

Mostly hoots, applause and the offhand snide comment followed for those supporting the winners. We were on their turf. The acrid odor left from the earlier wave of celebratory rockets permeated the building, with a faint tinge of nachos and booze. Though the arena could seat twenty thousand, it trapped it all in, inducing a bitter taste that welled in my throat.

A nebulous blob of fans (damn them and their team) merged into one shifting, pulsing being, vacillating and pouring down the steps to the exits. Only a handful listened to the winning players prattle on in victory over the speakers.

We remained seated in the near-last row of the upper deck, furthest from the action, but no less enthralled by it.

It was hard to tell what Dad thought about in that brief moment. Would I get the pleasure of seeing the classic five stages of grief in real-time? Clearly, he was stuck on denial, as he rocked back and forth; maybe soon he’d start on anger.

“If… if only they got that last shot off,” he said.

Ah, bargaining. He skipped stages on me.

He banged his fist on his armrest again and again, then kicked the empty chair in front of him. “This was supposed to be our year. Our redemption. What a waste of time. What a wasted season!”

There‘s our friend, anger. His outburst made my lips curl. “It’s okay,” I said. “We’ll get ’em next year.”

I stood and clapped my hand upon his shoulder. The gesture morphed into a lame pat-pat-and-withdraw. Looking at my palm, I wondered if I’d done it wrong.

My father remained motionless. After a few seconds, he acknowledged me only with a grunt.

When he turned to me, I nearly fell back into my chair. His eyes held the sheen of restrained tears. He tore at his hair before settling his face in his hands.

“Hey, I’m glad we got to share in this,” I said.

“Got five grand to spare?” he asked, shaking his head.

My mouth formed a tight line, as new fireworks erupted in my head. “You bet on them? That’s what all this is about?”

He shrugged and raised an eyebrow.

My laugh echoed across the empty seats. “And I bet on you. Guess we both wasted time.”

A security guard cleared his throat, as he strolled up the steps toward us.”We gotta clean up here, folks, sorry. Show’s over.”

“It sure is,” I said.  I turned and headed for the exit.

* * * * *

John raced toward the first exit to the outer arena, muttering under his breath. As he moved past the final corridor, he noticed a shield carved in stone above the central doorway. It was a prominent feature, though purely ornamental. As it didn’t fit in with the rest of the decor, he wondered who would affix such a monstrosity.

“Prominent and useless. Sounds just like my old man,” he said.

The image of the decorative shield stuck in his head. He made his way to his car and reached for the door, pondering in haiku.

A shield carved in stone

above the central doorway

A family crest?

“I don’t owe him anything.” He jumped in the car and headed down the boulevard.

 A shield carved in stone

above the central doorway

I’d rather have swords

He grimaced. “He’s certainly wasn’t there to defend us.”

A quick left.

A shield carved in stone

above the central doorway

a failed smoke alarm

 “There’s the problem.” He made his way to his neighborhood.

Not just of no use

A real danger to others

There is no meaning

He pulled into his driveway, nodding to himself.

 * * * * *

Across town, the old man returned to an empty nest. In his mind, his son got upset too easily and for what?

“There’s no place like home,” he said, as he tossed his keys on the counter. He chuckled and shook his head. After he kicked off his shoes, he settled on the couch and flipped on the TV.

He sighed. “There’s no place like home.”

“Unless you’re being robbed,” said the man behind him, holding up his pistol and pulling back the hammer with a click.

* * * * *

The flash of the gun

sparks old memories.

 

“Should somebody die?”

the young boy asked him,

eyes wide and shiny,

secure in his seat.

 

“Absolutely, son.

We all must someday.”

He revved up the car.

 

“That guy who just cut me off?

He goes first.”

 * * * * *

“You awaken in your favorite story,” a little fairy whispers in my ear before she zips away. The faint sparkle of pixie-dust fades.

My first thought is you should never start a story with waking up. Isn’t that cliché?

My second is to pat my chest and check for holes. No blood.

I never told John that he shouldn’t turn out like me, but maybe it doesn’t matter.

I’m in a courthouse. Is this the scene in A Few Good Men? I hold back from spouting quotes and look for Demi Moore.

Blinking, I gather my bearings. It isn’t easy with the harsh, fluorescent lights directed at me. Fingers and glares from all sides aim in my direction.

The heat is unbearable. Sweat drips down my forehead. My chair is too hard– uncomfortable.

A woman I hardly recognize calls out, “He tailgated my car for ten miles, just because I cut him off. He’s a sociopath.”

My dead wife weeps for me from the corner. “He was a good man!” she shouts. “He loved me, even if he was stoic.”

I nod vigorously.

“He shed no tears at his wife’s funeral and used the life insurance money the next day for season tickets. He’s a monster,” said a man in a suit.

Bastard won’t be getting my business anymore.

Turning toward me from behind the judge’s bench, I see my son, John. He tilts his head to acknowledge me, but then begins to shout. I only understand the last words: “Monsieur Anti-christ!”

“That’s a little harsh. Don’t you think?” I say, as if sitting in the stands.

Suddenly, I realize he’s speaking French and qu’est-ce que c’est? Je ne sais pas! Nous ne pouvons pas…

The man who robbed me grins beside the glinting blade of a guillotine. “He was just a stupid bloke watching the telly,” he shrugs.

Why isn’t he the one on trial? I wonder.

Bang bang, the gavel sounds. “Meursault,” they call to me. “We sentence you to death.”

My favorite story is Camus’ The Stranger. Why couldn’t I get Harry Potter?

Meh. I close my eyes and bask in their cries of hate.

* * * * *

Well, that was weird and messy. Let the deconstruction and ambivalence begin. 🙂

In the world of writing, I’m working on editing my first novel, a contemporary thriller. I’ve also got a second novel in the works and a children’s story. I like to mix it up. Feel free to give confused looks and golf claps at: @TLJericho or tljericho.blogspot.com.

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Wishes

Jen had the following prompts to choose from:

Cameron- Create a character based upon your former coworkers/boss
Erika- “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”
Wendy- The Northern Lights and alien abductions
Amy- Introducing Specialty’s…what’s the vibe, what’s your favorite menu item, the great staff

I chose “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”  My family used to say “If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry.”  An internet search found the full text of the horses version, which goes on to talk about turnips as swords, but not of my family version.  This got me to thinking about wishes in general.

After trying to write a long short story (long for me, a picture book writer) about a couple of tramps/hobos/beggars, I realized I should stick to what I do, short and sweet. So without further ado:

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

If wishes were eggs, well I’d take mine fried.

If wishes were caramels, we’d all have a chew,

But everyone knows, not all wishes come true.

A wish is the same, by coin or by star,

Desire not just what you call a streetcar.

A wish is a prayer, whispered above

A hope for your life or for someone you love.

Do you wish life be easy? Do you wish to be strong?

I’m not going to judge, perhaps neither is wrong.

So make all you wishes, and have all that hope

Just know that sometimes the answer is “nope.”

Go ask the beggars, the poor walking souls,

With or without wishes, you must strive for your goals.

So when a star shoots across the night sky,

We all make a wish, I would never deny.

Wish your wishes with all of your heart,

Then work hard and finish what you start.

Have you met Jen?

Have you met Jen?

Jennifer Fosberry is a science geek turned children’ book writer. Jennifer is the author of the New York Times Bestselling books “My Name is Not Isabella,” “Isabella Girl on the Go,” “My Name is Not Alexander.” Her newest book “Isabella Star of the Story” is out now.  After working in the high tech industry in Silicon Valley and running away to Costa Rica for a few years, she returned to the San Francisco Bay area to read, write, and try to get out of housework. She lives with her husband and three children and her little dog, too.