Breakfast and Bogeys at the Donut Mill–a cut scene from my novel.

I found this on my computer. I don’t know why I have it excerpted and hanging out on my computer or what I was doing with it. It’s from the rough draft of my novel, very early on, and as poorly-written as it is, it’s a little scene that I like. It was supposed to be a bit of foreshadowing and character development, but it didn’t work and I replaced it with a scene that might or might not work better, who knows? we’ll see what happens when I get to the final rewrite of this epic bastard.

Anyways,

Enjoy.

 

They had stopped there for breakfast—Jack touting the biscuits and gravy as the best anyone could get anywhere. The day had started early, before the sun had properly risen, Alec had assessed, for the sky was a scabrous red, as if the mountains had rubbed it raw, and the air dry and warm, with winds barreling down the highway, buffeting Jack’s Jeep.

Alec curled up like a cat in the back of the Willys. Against the protestations of his co-campers, he’d unrolled and unstuffed their sleeping bags, piling them and making a nest, upon which he promptly fell into a soporific daze. He watched through heavy eyelids as the city was slowly stripped away from land. The wilderness peeked out from behind houses and from under bridges—red rocks winking and the branches of scrub oak waving coyly. Eventually, wilderness replaced the city, and the houses hid behind stands of evergreens and outcroppings of granite and sandstone. He had only been camping once before, and only in the past year,

They drove west through a narrow valley, the road running beside a creek. Gusts of wind barreled down rocking the Willys, “a Chinook wind,” Jack called them. They simply made Alec’s attempts at sleep that much more difficult. When he had finally begun slumbering, Greg pounded on the back windows snapping him awake.

“Ey, Sleeping Beauty, we’re going in to breakfast, you comin’?”

Alec waved him away and sat up. He watched as the three walked up to the small shingled building. He fumbled his way out of the Jeep and staggered, a somnambulist, across the parking lot to the squat shingled bungalow. A trucker walking out of the Donut Mill headed in his direction, whom Alec disregarded until he stopped in front of Alec.

“You and your friends. . . You going far?”

The trucker trapped Alec. He was only a smidge taller than Alec, but his presence and bulk gave him the feeling of a giant. Bursting from his flannel shirt, and with a bristly white beard, he looked like Santa Claus, if Santa Claus spent the off-season driving big rigs. He watched his friends helplessly as they stood gibing each other on the porch. He decided that the best tactic would curt and quick. “Yes. Camping. I’ve got to go join my friends now.” As if to punctuate this assertion, his stomach growled fiercely. Alec started walking again, but the trucker snared him, grabbing him by the shoulder.

“Look, you boys. . . .” The oafish man peered at Alec from behind his beard, as if he were hiding behind it. Alec was about to assert himself, but those eyes stopped him.

“There’s something. . . That fog, the roads. They aren’t what they seem. There’s things going on.” What the man couldn’t voice his eyes spoke of: uncertainties in the shadows, something worse than bears lurking behind trees or nighttime tricks played by trees and boulders, something haunting and sinister. “Hell, I don’t know what I’m saying. Maybe it’s the hunger or late-night driving. Just. You boys be careful.”

They stood in silence. The traffic hushed and the outlines of buildings and roads blurred as the fog tightened around them, a downy comforter blanketing them, and they became like two children in a blanket fort where the world outside has become whatever they imagine it to be. Alec looked around him and the world seemed a little more menacing: the cars passing and the people waiting in line took on an unseemly glamour, but most of all it was the mountains and the fog. It was nature that had become nefarious and plotting. The wilderness waited for them maw agape, ready to devour them in one greedy uncivilized bite. Something skittered from one smeary building to the other, the fog swirling, giving glimpses of an orangeish tail and paws padding ghost-like, hinting at an animal but revealing nothing. Eyes flickered with eldritch flame, cutting through the fog, twin beacons burning them with awareness: “We know that YOU know,” they flashed before disappearing. The two men shivered, as if a parade just marched over their graves.

He let go of Alec, and pointed a last warning finger at him, “The mountains. . . They aren’t right.”

They went their separate ways. Alec shuddered, thinking about the gruff man’s warnings, and then his stomach growled again. Hunger brushed aside these fantastical thoughts, and the warnings of the trucker became nothing more than the ramblings of an unbalanced mind on the road too long.

Jack and the others were at the counter by the time Alec caught up with them. They ordered, filled coffee mugs and shuffled to a table by a window, where the fog peered in, palming the window like a hobo and leaving moist, greedy prints upon the glass.

“What’d the big guy want?” Greg asked.

“You guys were out there sometime,” Jack observed.

“Ah, he was crazy. A real nutcase right out of a horror movie.” Alec’s eyes widened. “He blocked my way in and then told me that the mountains are haunted and we shouldn’t be going camping.” The last part sounded nice, and he really wished that the mountains were haunted, or that something would come up to keep them from going.

“Sounds like something straight out of An American Werewolf in London: ‘Stay on the roads, boys. Don’t go onto the moors.’ or out of Twin Peaks: ‘The owls are not what they seem.’”

Gary pointed his coffee mug at Jack, plashing coffee over the table. He didn’t seem to notice, while Alec began sopping it up with a napkin. “What if the mountains are haunted? What if there’s something in the fog, like werewolves or ghosts? “

Jack, interrupted, his imagination alit by the conversation. It reminded him of his childhood, and coming up with stories with his brother when they’d go camping. “What if we run into a sasquatch—some Bigfoot, the last of his people, and he’s lonely. Tired of sitting on the top of the peak watching the city lights. . . .”

“Bah, that’s straight out of Harry and the Hendersons,” Greg interjected. The boys became animated by the possibilities of what might be waiting in the fog. Coffee cups emptied and refilled, and the plashes and pools of coffee were left unnoticed and unattended. Aliens and extraterrestrials, cowboys and Indians played out a spectral warfare, ghosts and zombies hungry for soul and flesh—a menagerie of horrors paraded across the table, tromping and trudging and hovering through coffee spills and over donut crumbs.

“What if. . .” Jack speculated, and his eyes began to glaze over as he stared past the window and the fog and the world around him, “What if we end up in another world. What if we’re driving, say up Wilkerson Pass, and we crest the pass and on the other side we don’t find a road or a rest stop or houses or towns, but. . . Something else. Somewhere else.”

They all stopped for a moment of miraculous silence as each one considered this possibility. Alec looked around the table, scanning each face: Greg’s brow furrowed and his thin lips clenched, Gary sipped his coffee and chuckled, and then drew out his pack of Camel Wide cigarettes and began tapping it on the table, a rhythmic, shamanic drumming. Jack smiled a small, deft smile. Elbows on the table, his coffee mug held like a bell, swinging to-and-fro soundlessly.

Each one of them, Alec knew, envisioned another land—someplace distant and different. Change enticed him, but not necessarily a change of scenery. He travelled yearly, often around the world—trips to Japan and Australia and New Zealand—and a new place, as interesting as it might be, would be just like any vacation he’d taken. To be someone different though, that piqued his interest. Stronger, swifter . . . dangerous. A force to be reckoned with, now that enticed him. He could always travel, but becoming something else, when did that happen? A little taller, stronger, more clever? That would be noteworthy.

Gary broke the silence. “What if there was nothing? What if it was the edge of the world and we just drove off. . . Now that would be wacky. . .” He drew out a cigarette and stood up. “I’m going out for a smoke, boys.”

Plates of biscuits and gravy arrived, transforming the formica tabletop into a trough as the boys planted their faces in their plates and gobbled up breakfast. The conversation ended, and all thought of the trucker and his forebodings disappeared with gobbets of sausage and biscuit hunks.

The Spider’s Dilemma

I stepped outside a few minutes ago, just to feel the unusual February warmth and stare absently at the city light and night sky, and was struck by the moon. It’s a full–or nearly so–shrouded in wisps of clouds like the tulle for a bridal veil. It was behind a criss-crossing tangle of branches that made me think of a web, which led to this poem.

Enjoy.

What will the spider do

when she awakens to find

the moon

caught in her web

Gary Goes a-Huntin’–a deleted scene from my Novel-in-Progress.

Deleting scenes. That’s the hardest part of rewriting. I’ve cut so many scenes–so many chapters–as I’ve been rewriting. Most of them are terrible, and deserve their fate–being banished to the “Clippings” file–while others aren’t so bad, they’re boring or unnecessary. In the case of this scene, it’s redundant. I have an earlier scene that explores the same idea, but in a much more succinct and funny way.

For those of you completely unfamiliar with this never-ending story of mine, let me set up this scene, so it’s not so confusing. It’s a portal fantasy wherein four friends go out to the woods for a bachelor party, but end up in another world. Through various plot mechanics (and dumb choices on their parts), they end up getting split up. Gary, the character is this scene, ends up with an organization that seeks out and hunts the uncanny and supernatural–think, a Fantasy version of the X-Files. They begin training him to become a member of their group. In the scene before this one, he has to kill a pig. Here, he has to go hunting.

Enjoy!

 

In the intervening days after the kill, no one mentioned anything about his behavior, and Willem acted as if nothing happened: he continued training Gary in different aspects of the farm, and working with him in the afternoons on his martial arts, archery and crossbow marksmanship, basic swordfighting and hand-to-hand combat. At breakfast the next morning, Willem gave Gary a cock-eyed grin as he took a bite of hamster. It seemed harmless—a grin that said, “Look, you helped make this breakfast.”

Saethe took him out horseback riding in the afternoons—and though she could be a less patient teacher than Willem, she would stay out with him until he succeeded in that day’s lesson. She too, said nothing about the incident, though Gary was certain that Willem must have reported it. His certainty wavered for, a few days after the killing of the pig, Saethe had Gary join her and a couple other members on a hunting expedition. They were going out for elk, and felt it important to have him come, for his marksmanship with a crossbow was better than expected.

He took the crossbow because it felt very familiar, much like one of his dad’s rifles or shotguns. They never went hunting, but he and his dad would go up to a shooting range in the mountains on the weekends. Gary had no love of guns or violence, but this was the way he and his dad bonded. They talked little—either at the firing range or at home—but when they were out shooting together the guns did the talking for them. After firing off a few rounds, they both loosened up, and would chuckle and tease each other. From his time out with his dad, not due to any real effort on his part but from the sheer amount of time spent at it, Gary became a pretty good shot, and he found this carried over to the crossbow. Whereas the bow and arrow required strength and skill, the crossbow asked little of him, much like a gun. He had to load, aim, and fire. Once he grew accustomed to the weight and balance of the crossbow, it was that simple, and he could hit his target at least eighty percent of the time.

They didn’t go far to hunt—fifteen miles northeast of Baelrath, into the foothills. They left before the sun rose, in the tender hours of the morning when doubts about the sun rising and the belief in witches and wishes are taken seriously. The new day hasn’t officially begun, and the old still lingers, and between the two something new is birthed momentarily, something strange and uncanny that allows for witches and wishes and the end of the world. They rode on horseback in silence, the hooves of the horses shattering the crystallized grass, crackling, crunching thud the only noise. They stopped at the border between the forest and the meadow, leaving the horses with one of the stableboys. From there, they hiked up and over a ridge, through an evergreen forest thick with undergrowth, and then down the other side to where the forest met another meadow. They went along the forest edge, slowly, deliberately. One of the men, a lanky ferret, scurried low over the forest floor looking for sign of elk—scat or tracks. He found scat from a few days earlier, and prints, but to Gary the prints were indistinguishable from the rest of the forest floor, and the scat could’ve been made by any animal.

They continued on for another hour, the ferret-like man assuring them that they should be finding something soon. The sun spilled orange light over the meadow, and the crystalline grass sparkled. Stepping into the sun, bathing in its tangerine glow, was a herd of elk. For their size, they stepped daintily, picking their steps carefully. Gary had never seen elk, outside of a few photographs, and had imagined that they’d look just like deer, only a little bigger. What he saw astounded him—the mammoth size and presence stupefied him. They appeared with the sun—one minute it was dark and the clearing was empty, and the next, the sun poured out her rays and the elk sauntered out of the woods.

Saethe tapped him on the shoulder, and nodded to ready his crossbow. He had to remind himself that elk were just like pigs, but bigger, and with antlers. What if he missed, or just injured one of them, would it come rushing at him, seized by a berserker bloodlust? He slowly raised his crossbow, lining up his sight on the biggest elk out there—a behemoth with a shaggy reddish-brown coat that reminded him of redwood bark, and a set of antlers upon which could hang all the trucker hats at a NASCAR rally.

The elk took no notice of them, and nosed the ground snuffling the grass and eating it. It looked peaceful and content out there with its herd, with the sun stroking its glossy coat and polishing its antlers. Black birds flew over the field, cawing and jawing noisily like a flock of teenagers, startling a couple of the elk, who looked about skittishly. One more startle and they could leave, Gary realized—he had to fire now. His trigger finger caressed the iron trigger, and he hesitated—how could he take that animal’s life? It’s not like the pig he killed—they raised that pig solely to be eaten. This elk—it lived a life outside of the farm, free and wild, roaming wherever it pleased. Who was he to determine when and how it should die? This elk would help feed the farm for the rest of winter—there was no Whole Foods where they could pop in and pick up a pound of venison. The world was their supermarket, and if they wanted to eat well, certain sacrifices had to be made.

He pulled the trigger and the arrow whizzed across the meadow, piercing sunbeams and splitting the wind, finally penetrating the elk in its side. Stunned, it looked up, eyes alight with terror. It staggered forward a few feet, ready to run before its knees buckled and it collapsed onto the meadow.

The rest of the elk panicked and fled, springing nimbly into the woods, ballet dancers exiting the stage—their flight as beautiful as their moment of calm. Just as quickly as the elk had appeared, they disappeared, leaving behind their hoof prints and their dying companion. The elk lay there, crumpled and defeated, blood trickling from its wound. Gary could swear he heard its heartbeat at that moment—a quick heartbeat, quite contrary to what one would expect, especially with an arrow embedded in it. It wasn’t the elk’s heartbeat pounding like a hummingbird’s, but his own in his ears, pounding like the tell-tale heart.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Saethe gripped him, beaming proudly. “Great shot,” she said. “Are you sure you didn’t have a crossbow back on your world?”

They walked out to the elk—Gary shuffling after the others, blind with shock. He was exhilarated at the kill, and saddened. He wanted to laugh and sing and cry all at the same time. This felt different than kill the pig—much less personal, for the pig he saw daily, while he had never seen this elk—or any elk, for that matter—and so it felt strange and foreign. Killing this elk felt like shooting a target in a video game—he killed a free-spirited animal, but an animal so foreign and unreal to him it might as well have been a zombie or chocobo. When he stood over the elk, saw its blood welling up around his crossbow bolt, and its thick tawny fur and brown eyes, he shivered and gasped. He reached down and stroked its rack of antlers, and then felt the spear-like tips. It was an awe-inspiring and majestic animal, more impressive to him than any unicorn, for this elk had a head full of horns, while a unicorn only had one; he felt powerful and cunning, too, to have taken down such an obviously strong and deadly creature.

“I killed that,” he said. Saethe glanced over at him and nodded. “Yep, you did. We were there, remember?”

He knelt down beside the elk. “I killed you,” he said, staring into its blank eyes which seemed to answer back, yes, you did, but don’t let it go to your head—for someday this will be you, too. He shuddered and turned away from the elk, looking up at the primrose clouds blossoming and the bloody seam of sunlight on the horizon.

Winter, A Witch, A Window

I write somewhere between 150 and 200 poems a year. Most of them are terrible, while maybe 2 or 3 are actually publishable. Between these two extremes are poems that I usually post here on the blog–they’re a little strange, a little silly, and have a sparkle I can’t explain. This is one of those–a melange of the strange and silly.

Enjoy!

 

She watches with cat’s eyes

the blood tacky on the yuccas, the snow

from the sun setting over the foothills

 

She fingers the windowsill latch

painted shut single pane

and pine frame

which she could open

with word and a twitch

of her nose

 

She runs her tongue

past teeth tanned

mummy-wrap off-white

by cups of black tea–

she drinks it now

the cup rests upon the sill

amidst dust and beside

a desiccated winter fly–

strokes the ridged

not-yet-ready-to-flake

skin of chapped lips

and would smile

but for the lack of

chapstick, lipstick, salve

 

Her breath catches in her chest

a mouse snapped in a trap

as he passes on the path

below her window

behind her house

in the sunset’s blood

until only sneaker-soled

diamond prints

twinkle in the snow and dust

and the kettle shrieks

tearing its hair out for the attention

she saves for him.

Kooky Cookie poems inspired by Basho

It’s a hot night. Unbearable. I tried sleeping, but it led to tossing and turning and calling down curses upon Summer. So what does one do when one feels all hot and bothered on a Summer night? Why get up and read Basho, of course. One haiku in particular stuck out for me, and it’s pretty obvious why. Inspiration struck my boiled brain, and I sat down and whipped out a baker’s dozen of pomes and haikoos in “homage.”

Here is Basho’s haiku:

Awake at night–

the sound of the water jar

Cracking in the cold.

 

And here is a sampling of mine. Enjoy!

1

Awake at night

with an empty cookie jar

and a glass of milk whiter than

the moon.

2

Fingering the cookie jar

Finding only crumbs

Licking them from my fingers.

3

Feeling inside the cookie jar

I find only the Spirits of Cookies Past

but they don’t taste the same.

4

If

I didn’t live alone

I could blame

someone

for the empty

cookie

jar.

Two Apple Blossom Poems

There is a line of apple blossom trees at work that I love to sit by while taking my lunch. Here are a pair of poems written while I was sitting there enjoying a Spring afternoon.

Enjoy.

1

Petals of pink snow

pile up in the shadows

of an apple tree upon the grass

waiting for someone

to make

an apple blossom angel.

 

2

A bubble of gum on a girl’s lips–

apple blossoms

bursting from a branch.