Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I'm going to begin inflicting bad agricultural haikus upon you. People are always asking me about my poetry--or the notable lack thereof.
The truth is I'm a bad bad poet. I have trouble using language for language's sake. Poetry is something I put aside in my twenties when my angst cooled down to a small brick of charcoal needing too much lighter fluid.
This is Agricultural Haiku #1. Geese.
Geese in yard honking
Run outside to see who’s there
What? Green shit on shoe?!
Anyway, what has brought to mind my poetic deficiencies is that I'm in the query process for my flash fiction chapbook, The Smoky Mountain Breakdown, A Chapbook of Appalachia. A chapbook is basically a small book. The manuscript is pretty much done, except for the tinkering I can't seem to stop myself from doing. I'm always writing more of these stories so I'll probably add more if the process goes on too long. Half of them are published already. Anyway, this is the little book you guys have been pestering me to put out.
I think it's going to be really great. I might even be able to get my old teacher, William Price Fox, to blurb it if he's still able. He's 82 now and I'm not sure how much longer he'll be around. He always did smoke too much. And--if they let me use Lee for the illustrations--I think it will be visually fun as well. Provided I can sweet talk her into it. All this is just wishful thinking at this point, though. I'm sure it's going to happen, and am working on it.
Which is what brings me back to bad poetry. Most of the chapbook publishers only do poetry. Or you have to pay them a reading fee and enter a contest. Have I mentioned I'm as poor as the people I write about? So, I'm thinking, if I can come up with enough truly bad agricultural haiku to do a chapbook with--I could submit it and when they write me the inevitable scathing rejection letter, I can write back--hey, could I possibly interest you in a chapbook of really wonderful Appalachian shorts? Yes? No?
I know what you really came here for today. You came for some Porn and Donuts, didn't you? Well, okay....
By the way, if you are just joining the blog and wondering what this is--every Saturday I run a segment of a novella I'm writing called Porn and Donuts. If you use the search bar to search "Serial Story Saturday", it should pull up all of the installments. They are difficult to find, tucked into journal posts, for a reason--sploggers and all that. Just look for the trucker girl in the donut.
“A heist?” It seemed like a big word for her to use.
She flashed the space between her front teeth and the dark gap just on the edge of her smile.
“Yeah, silly--we stage a hold-up! Look, I knows this guy outside of K-town. He keeps a gang of cash in his back room. Last time I was there making a delivery, I watched him punch in his code into the security system. It’ll be real easy. We just go there, break in and we’ll have that eight thousand dollars, and enough to get you a suit and rent a car.”
“Uh, I don’t know, Kellie,” Lucius said. He had been on the wrong side of the law for a long time. A bit of shoplifting here, some check kiting there and the ever-present drug use, but he never thought about robbing anyone.
“Aw, come on!” Kellie said, her eyes shiny. “It’ll be fun!”
“Fun? Robbing somebody? Why’d you want to do this anyway?”
Kellie punched him in the shoulder. “He’s my Papaw, too, dummy! Just think of it as my contribution to the family.”
“So, is this a house or what?”
“It’s a lingerie, adult novelty and check cashing shop.”
“You mean like a porn shop?” Lucius warmed to the idea.
“Well, sort of. They do have some dirty movies and magazines, but their main thing is accessories.”
“Accessories?” Lucius was not sure what she was talking about. He liked porn. He understood porn.
“Yeah, you know--what they call marital aides. Sexy underwear and nighties, costumes, vibrators--edible panties--that sort of thing.”
“Edible panties?” Lucius never gave much thought to such things. If it was on pay-per-view porn, it might have crossed his mind. It did not matter to him what they were wearing. He just liked looking at butts. Sexy underwear was fine, but Lucius was mainly interested in the taking off part.
Lucius knew his mother would not approve of such a place. The more he thought about it, the more this sounded like a place that not only ought to be robbed, but downright deserved it.
“I’m in. When do we leave?”
Kellie giggled. “I knew you’d see what a great idea it was.”
Friday, June 27, 2008
Sorry, no food today.
But I did want us to observe a moment of silence over the tragic death of Newport Utilities' two giant hamsters they use to generate power for Hartford, Grassy Fork and Cosby. Said hamsters expired at about 3:30p.m yesterday, plunging the entire area into darkness for 10 hours.
A company spokesman said, "We thought it was a terr-ist attack, but no--looks like somebody forgot to feed them."
Cuddles and Snookums will be sorely missed and there is some doubt that the gerbils replacing the hamsters will be as efficient, since everyone knows gerbils are just rats with hairy tails.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
That's my Mom circa 1940's on our dock in Bluffton. Of course, we don't fish like this anymore. We are slightly horrified when we look back at these cool old photos, knowing what we know now. But we never imagined in a million years the day would come when strings of dead fish like this would seem sinful. When life in the river didn't replenish itself with the inevitability of tides.
I grew up being told we would never starve because the river would take care of us. So, it's not surprising I have angling in my blood. It's a trait that never seems to skip a generation and I can no more imagine my family's history without fishing than I could imagine the tide not ebbing at full moon. My brother has it much more strongly than I, but I feel a year is wasted if I don't pull my rods out. My brother though--my brother is a creature of rivers, streams and oceans. He's got a bit of Thor in him--forever reeling in the Midgard Serpent.
I wrote a story, a bit back, about my brother and his old fishing buddy, Zeke. The details in the story are entirely true. It's one of what I call my "sacred stories"--stories I write from the bone. And I wrote it intending it as a gift.
So, I'm extremely pleased that the story, A Prayer for the Gods of Fishing Dogs, has been published on Donavan Hall's excellent The Angler journal. I've had my eye on this journal since I first noticed it when I started subbing back in November. Donavan publishes stories about brew craft and the occasional fishing story--both things dear to my heart. I can't think of a finer day than one spent out on the river followed by the rich bite of a handmade ale. Life just doesn't get any better than that.
I hope you'll take a moment to read this one. It's a special little story about fly fishing, dogs and honoring a lifelong friendship.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Have you ever done something stupid and while you were doing it, thinking on some subconscious level, "Damn, this sure is something stupid I'm doing," but for whatever reason were unable to stop yourself?
Once, I was in the kitchen and covered a salad with some Saran Wrap. It was when they had that commercial out where they up-ended the bowl and--you know--the Saran Wrap held the stuff in the bowl just fine. Anyway, just out of nowhere--for no reason, whatsoever--I did that. And guess what? The salad ended up all over the kitchen floor. There were witnesses who all looked at me like I was out of my mind.
So, today, I'm up at the pen trying to catch Chops to shear him. I failed and he skittered past me to sulk under the tree. So, it's really hot up there and I see that the chickens are hanging out in the small shed. Over in the sun is a big wood crate I remade as a creep feeder. I decide to turn it over, thinking it will be a welcome bit of shade.
I knew somewhere in my head it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway. And of course, there was a ginormous wasp nest under there. I knew there would be--on some level. I just couldn't stop.
So, I end up running back to the house yipping and flapping. I only got stung four times, but spent the day laid out on antihistamines.
I need to listen more closely to the voices in my head. The ones that say, "Stop, you idiot!"
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Yesterday I managed to manhandle Mutton up to the back porch and shear him. He's a much happier sheep now. Chops remains covered in wooliness and lays down to eat in the cool of the evening. It's sort of pathetic, but he's so skittish I will need to sneak up on him in the middle of the day while he's in the shed.
I thought all the roosters had been eaten. The guineas have been sticking close to home scouring the grass for ticks. Well, the two guineas that are left. But this evening, they were all up there with the guineas. Hopefully they have discovered the roosts. Rose took off with Yang and has taken him to her secret spot she disappears to. So, I haven't seen goats in about a week now. I will need to tie her back up when she shows up again.
I spent most of today in K-town doing the doctor thing. Traffic was dreadful, but I went by McKay's and bought some books. You know, their catalog system makes absolutely no sense. Someone will, I'm sure, explain it to me at some point and I'll feel dreadfully stupid, but for now--I'm just wondering how much acid they had to drop to come up with it.
We had one of our humongous pot busts here in Cocke County. It's the biggest one in five years. They found over 300,000 plants out in the Cherokee National Forest, but they were still little baby plants--2 months old. They are saying that the crop was being grown for a drug trafficking organization--which is to say they hired migrant workers to take care of the crop--just like the 'maters.
Anyway, there's an article on WBIR about it with the usual string of interesting comments--pro and con. There's one preacher man who says it's okay to cook with it cause the bible says it's okay--but it's a sin to smoke it. So--brownies--GOOD.
I'm still not sure where this was in relation to me, but they found it with the same helicopters that make everyone's life miserable all summer.
Kidneys are holding their own--so that's great news.
Monday, June 23, 2008
When I was a child, growing up in Bluffton, SC., the pine trees would be littered with their skins. I remember picking them off and holding them, perfect little amber exoskeletons left behind. Oh, my, what a cool insect, I'd think. How wonderful it would be to shed my own skin like that, become something new and different, become something winged and noisy. Something beautiful.
The 17-year magicicadas(even their name is somehow alchemic and wizardish) have fallen silent. They started up a few days after the guineas were set free and the guineas immediately disappeared--gone looking for them and their tastiness. They sound like something that has been left on in the house. Something you can't find. Something not natural.
You can eat them, you know. But even the collection of them is a mystical ritual--you go out at midnight and collect them as they emerge from the ground, all white and tender.
They call them locusts here and aren't nearly as in love with them as I am.
I wanted to share with you the photography of Roy Troutman, who takes amazing photographs of the magicicadas. You can find his work on Cicada Mania, along with all sorts of Cicada information.
It's so quiet now.
Here's a small sample of Troutman's work. I tried to get photos, but they flew into my hair and made me scream like a girl.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I was still upstairs doing my morning reading when Betsy called. I was pondering the weird dream I had in which snakes fled the light of a basement to congregate in the diningroom. I wish my dreams were more useful. Usually I remember them and ask myself, what am I supposed to do with this? And I'm trying to finish the last 100 pages of Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicles because Greenville County, TN public library needs their copy back.
I miss the call, but listen to the message. Betsy is on her way over with roosters. I had to listen a few times to get the rooster part. We'd talked about this but hadn't made plans. I guess she reached roosterus maximus and having caught the little bastards was bringing them directly over.
I'm okay with this. I'm quite happy. But I make it clear from the get-go.
"You do know--things get eaten here."
Not by me--though that has happened--but by the gentle woodland creatures. City folks have absolutely no idea how freaking savage nature is. I'm down to two guineas from the original six. They came up when they heard the roosters.
I love the sound of roosters in the morning. I like hearing them scratch around outside and watching the squabbles they inevitably get into. Even fat, placid standard roosters scrap now and again. Chickens really are like little dinosaurs. When they run you can see the movement and gait that you just know--because you've seen dinosaur skeletons--that the dinos must have had. When they fight, they rear their heads back and fan their hackles--puffing their breasts out. I like watching roosters. I like having them in the yard.
Ready for a little Porn & Donuts?
Lucius sat on the bed with his legs crossed and his bony knees poking outwards. He was nude and Kellie was in the shower. He heard her tuneless humming as he dialed his mother’s phone number on the cell phone. The phone rang and he waited for someone to pick up. The TV was showing the local news. He muted the volume.
“Hello?’ His mother’s voice trembled through the line. Lucius' shame made him queasy.
“Hey Mommy, it’s Lucius. I just got your letter.”
“Baby! It’s so good to hear your voice. I knew you’d come to the rescue.”
Lucius heard his mother call out to someone else in the house, probably his sisters, “It’s your big brother, and he’s going to help us!”
Lucius swallowed hard. He meant to come clean with his mother but the more she talked, the more spineless he became.
“Momma, Momma--you got to listen to me.”
“My own baby boy, comin’ to our rescue. When are you going to be getting here? I’ve got your old bedroom fixed up with new curtains and bed sheets and everything.”
Lucius cast his eyes down. He suddenly was aware of his nudity. It felt wrong talking to his mother without any clothes on. He grabbed a corner of the stiff hotel bedspread and covered himself.
He looked upwards as if the courage for truth would rain down on him from the stained popcorn stucco ceiling. He settled for more time.
“Momma, you got to give me a few days…maybe a week. I’m caught up in the middle of something right now.”
“Oh, Honey. We sure do need you. The funeral home keeps calling the house and I just don’t know what to tell them.”
“Momma, you just tell them I’m on the way. I promise. I’m coming. I’m going to fix this.” His eyes strayed to the television. A commercial for Los Tavernos Mexican Grill featured a blond man in a ridiculous sombrero backed by Mariachi band.
“Momma, the truth is, I’m out of the country. I’m in Mexico right now. It’s going to take me a while to get out of here.”
“Oh. Well. Okay.”
As they said their goodbyes, Kellie came out from the shower. Her towel was wrapped around her waist and her hair was plastered in places to her neck. Droplets of water beaded on her skin like they were sitting on a new paint job. Lucius felt the wrongness of looking at his naked cousin while talking to his mother. He felt a deep sense of relief when he hit the “end” button on the cell phone.
Kellie snapped the towel from around her waist and began drying her hair. She bent from the hips and shook her hair over her face. Her breasts bobbled back and forth under her.
“You know,” she said from underneath the veil of towel and hair. “I think I have an idea.”
She stood up, shifted her weight onto one leg, and tilted her head to the right.
Lucius looked at her, seeing only her nakedness. It was hard to concentrate with her shifting around, her flesh and bones jiggling here and jutting out there. He tried to think of something that would allow him to hear her while she was like that. He squirmed around underneath the bedspread.
She whipped the towel around herself, tucking it under her armpits and across her breasts and bounced down on the bed beside him.
“I think we need to pull a heist.”
Friday, June 20, 2008
I'm on the phone with Betsy, the Goat Yoda, because I want to drag her away from the goats to go eat lunch with me Wednesday. Actually, I'm realizing my toenails are getting pointy and it might be a good idea for me to place myself in a social situation where I'm not eating with my hands.
Our conversations usually include what sort of healthy food things we are attempting. I bemoan the fact that even though I've been eating nothing but raw fish and miso soup for the past six months, I still haven't turned into a Japanese teenager. I grudgingly admit it's probably sugar related. If I could just accustom myself to the mouth-feel of Splenda, I'd be looking like Yui Aragaki. Really.
That's when Betsy said it.
"Well, we are just eating farm-grown produce. Our only vice is Blenheim Ginger Ale."
"You are shitting me!" I say. "You found Blenheim here?"
I immediately demand she give up her source.
"So, do they have triple X?"
If all this sounds like Greek to you, triple X was what we used to call Blenheim's Old #3 Hot. Blenheim's is a sipping ginger ale noted for its fiery bite. It burns on the way down. Burns bad. It's a South Carolina delicacy. It's even got its own fansite, The Blenheim Shrine.
I remember huddling around a fire with the wind blowing off the May River, waiting for the oysters to pop open. The drink of choice was Blenheim and Bourbon. I've been drinking this stuff for 25 years and I've got to tell you, there is no better Ginger Ale on the planet. It is legendary.
Betsy passed off a few bottles to me, wrapped in a paper bag--like the drug the stuff is. Her source is already out of the #3. I tried one of the red top bottles and it doesn't have exactly the kick I remember--but it comes right close.
If you like ginger--Blenheim Ginger Ale is something you have to try before dying. Really.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
And J.D. Salinger is totally reading your blog, Dude.
I was reading Smoking with John Colvin (his story, Sister Earth, is breathtaking!) on the Smokelong Anniversary issue and loved this question and his response:
You're a reclusive writer whose work I don't often see. Where do you keep yourself?
Well, I'm flattered that you chose the word "reclusive." It makes me feel like I'm hanging with Emily Dickinson and J.D. Salinger.
I started thinking about being a reclusive writer. Because I do consider myself one—in real life anyway. I live on a mountaintop. I avoid contact with people as much as possible. I mean, I’m sure Emily had to get out for milk and eggs now and again. She probably had to say hello to people. I do that too.
The one thing reclusive people have in common is fear. Some of us are born that way, our eyes blinded by the light of the world at first breath. I’m that way. Dickinson was obviously that way. I remember the scratch of Pendleton wool against my face—breathing the scent of the Chanel #5 my mother wore. I hid when introduced to new people, using her as my shield. Feeling betrayed when she pushed me forward.
“Say hello, Rosie.”
People are terrifying. They really are. They still are.
Theater taught me how to project outside of myself. It taught me of masks and how to become my own choros. So, I was able to participate in the world using those skills. We all do this to some extent, but for introverts it’s a survival technique. You either master it or become something weird people cross the street to get away from.
I’m done with that now and can sit on my mountain and be still.
The Internet allows me to connect with the world in a safe way. I can be an extrovert here because there are no sweaty palms to press, strange cheeks to kiss or—you know—actual physical closeness with people. I can let you get to know me here, because—you know—you aren’t actually looking me in the eyes, making me uncomfortable. Making me wonder if my fatness is grossing you out. Or if you noticed I’m missing some teeth.
All you see here is my mind, which is my best feature.
I wonder what Dickinson’s specific fears were. Oh, sure, we know about the death thing—who isn’t endlessly fascinated with death? What was her “glass of water”? That small human want every character needs to be believable beyond whatever epic task or conflict set before them.
Anyway, I’m thinking old Emily would probably do just fine in the Internet age. I’m pretty sure she would have been as disappointed by her EHarmony matches as I was. But I’m pretty sure she would give it a try, just for hoots as I did. Mine were hilarious. I’m pretty sure she would have been a blogger. And I think she would have let the world get to know her. She’d never have to leave her room—except for milk and eggs and a loaf of white bread.
Oh—check your stats—‘cause J. D. Salinger is totally reading your blog, Dude.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I love going through my spam folder. I just look at the titles mainly. I get a lot of Chinese and Japanese spam. Prolly from all the anime I watch. You know, I have to keep an account on a website just to keep track of it all. Who knows what they are saying to me with Kanji or Han--probably the same ridiculous things they are saying to me in English. I've noticed a trend of heckling spam. Spam that has titles like "You look really stupid," and "What a stupid face you have here!" Once one even claimed to have a picture of me naked.
I mean, you know if somebody has a picture of you naked. You just do. Do you really care if you look stupid? If I had a dime for every time I looked stupid, I'd be mostly wealthy. Evidently there are enough people worried that someone might have a photo of them stupid or naked.
I've been watching the birds recently. They are very active. Since I don't have the huge goatherd I used to have, the grass in the pasture has grown up and attracted lots of birds. There is a bluebird who sits on my hammock outside my window as I write. He sits there and cocks his head at me. I've tried to take his picture but he flies away.
Do you know about the bluebird's mating ritual? I'm plotting a short story off of it. The male, the pretty, flashy one, launches himself to the ground in front of the female and thrashes around like he's mortally wounded. He carries on like an Italian soccer player being fouled then takes off into the air. I'm not sure what response this is meant to evoke in the female. Pity? The pity of bluebirds must be a powerful thing. The Appalachian people believe bluebirds mate for life. It may be true. I don't know.
I was gifted with a remarkable image the other day about doves. They believe that doves have teats under their wings to feed their young milk. When asked if I had heard of this, I said, "No, but they are really tasty." I loves me a bit of squab and wild rice.
I'm guessing this belief stems from pigeon's milk. That's not exactly the same thing, but I can see where the myth began.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Yes, another post that is all about me--and Smokelong Quarterly. I can't believe they put my name on this with all of these amazing writers.
My aunt Libby used to say this thing when she didn't understand something. "Who shot who?"
Anyhoo--my story is Memento Mori, developed here on the blog. And they even did an interview with me!
And very special, slobberingly grateful thanks to Lee from our very own blogroll, who provided the appropriately irreverent artwork, Skull Triptych, to go with my story. In fact, Thomas White, the editor who recommended me, had her do artwork for his own amazing story, Double-Exposure. It's called Bar-fly.
Yang, the literature goat, has read the entire issue front to back and highly recommends you bookmark it and read every single story. Over and over again.
Well, except for mine, which he insists still needs more cowbell.
He's already offered to blurb it.
"Smokelong Quarterly's Fifth Anniversary issue is a triumphant orgy of flash fiction! Better than the neighbor's rose bushes! You must read them! They are a must read! Except Rosanne Griffeth's story, which obviously needs more cowbell." ~ Yang the Literature Goat
Sunday, June 15, 2008
My parents were best friends. They slept in separate bedrooms and each had their own interests and activities. My mother took me to art openings, the symphony and the ballet. My father took me to boating, fishing, hunting and horsey events. My siblings were much older and I got to be my mother's daughter and my father's son. I was dreadfully spoiled by my father--that much is very true. He took great joy in making me happy.
It was easy to be overshadowed by my mother, she was like a force of nature--but he never minded and quietly went about restoring wooden boats, woodworking and fishing, his greatest passions. He was funny and loved to laugh, turning bright red and tearing when he was really tickled. He was courtly and chivalric with a deep sense of justice. He never really got it that life wasn't fair. He always thought that it should be.
I never imagined my parent's relationship to be a passionate one--other than the deep respect and affection they showed to each other. When I packed up the house after he died, I came across his love letters to my mother. They were works of art penned in my father's Victorian scrawl and I realized his was a great love and so much that I had not understood became clear.
My father never wore his undershirt to the dinner table. Not once.
He was fond of saying when he became exasperated with me--when I did not behave as he thought I should, "I just don't understand you!" In the weeks before he died, as I sat by his bedside, I think he finally did understand. He finally understood that I was just like him.
Happy Sunday. Happy Father's Day. I miss my Daddy.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Okay, so sue me. I took a break. I felt guilty about it, but I sort of needed some off-blog time.
Anyway, not much going on. Just waiting for my toe to scab over so I can sheare the sheep. Bless their hearts. They hide out in the cool shack all day and spend the evening grazing. Got to get that fleece off of them in this heat--as soon as I can stand to wear my boots.
Today's installment of Porn and Donuts had salty language and adult situations. Just a warning. These sorts of people use salty language and engage in adult situations. So don't read if it offends, M'kay?
Back in the room, he sat on the unmade bed and turned on the bedside lamp. When he opened the letter, the odor of White Shoulders escaped, making his eyes water. It smelled like home.
He sneezed a few times before reading: Dear Lucius, I’m so sorry to bother you at work, but it’s been a long time since I heard from you. I’m afraid I have some bad news and the family needs you. Your Granddaddy Otis has passed away. We aren’t sure what to do as he didn’t have no life insurance. I told your sisters we may have to bring you back to help take care of the arrangements since you are the onliest one in the family that could afford to help with the burial and the monument costs. Please call as soon as you get this letter. I’m sorry to have to pull you away from your busy life as a record producer, but we need you here to help pay for Papaw’s funeral. Eight thousand dollars should do it.
His mother scrawled her name, dotting her “i”s with little hearts.
Lucius felt ill. He had lied to his family for years, telling them he was working on the “next big thing” in country music. His family back in Jolo, Kentucky did not questioned why he never sent any money to them, visited in his Mercedes or invited them to stay at his spacious country mansion.
He stared at the letter until Kellie came back. She strolled into the room with bedroom eyes, her pupils dilated. She had crushed one of the oxycontins and snorted it on the way home.
“Good news!” She had an odd combination of dopiness and jitters that comes from snorting enough semi-synthetic opioid in a few seconds to last an entire day. “I got enough cash and oxys to last us a week! And I went ahead and paid Rupert the rent, so he’s happy.”
She crawled on the bed and sat with her legs wrapped around him, spooning into his back with her breasts. When she got no reaction, she rubbed the crotch of his jeans and nuzzled his ear.
“So who shot your dog, honey?”
“I’m in a heap of trouble, Kellie.” Lucius handed the letter over to her.
She took it and lay back on the pillows to read.
“So, your Mommy thinks you have eight thousand dollars to give her.”
“Yep. She thinks I drive a Mercedes and have a big house too.”
“Oh, crap.” Kellie seemed to straighten up and tense when she looked at the return address.
“Oh, crap is about the gist of it.” Lucius hung his head. “Where am I gonna get eight thousand dollars to pay for Granddaddy’s funeral? My momma’s gonna be crushed if she finds out I’ve been lying to her all these years. But what could I tell them? That I clean up poop at a Wild West Dinner Theater? And I cain’t even hold onto that job? Oh, Sweet Jesus, what am I gonna do?”
Lucius looked up and scraped his fingers across his scalp. “Yeah, you said that already.” He said, turning to look at her.
“No--what I mean is--well, if I’m reading this right--Lucius--” Kellie folded the letter and put it back in the envelope. Her hands shook slightly as she met his eyes.
Lucius stood up and faced her. He stamped on the stained carpet. “What? What, for God’s sake?”
Her dilated pupils made her look sexy, Lucius thought. He was briefly distracted by their moist glassiness.
“No, uh--Lucius, finding eight thousand dollars, a Mercedes and turning you into a record producer isn’t the worst of our troubles.”
Lucius stood there looking at her.
Kellie sucked her bottom lip. “Lucius, we’re first cousins.”
Lucius collapsed into the chair next to the window. He put his head in his hands and groaned.
“Jesus. I’ve lied to my Momma and I’m fucking my cousin. I’m going to hell. I’m just going to hell.”
Kellie produced a bottle of oxys and handed it to him.
“Here. Crush up one of these. It’ll make you feel better.”
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The rolling thunder has begun, just as it did last summer--the summer when springs dried up and hay became scarce and horses were set free in stranger's yards. We have gotten a bit of rain, but it's so hot that the moisture rises off the dirt like tarmac. It was so warm this past winter, my lawn tractor's battery didn't die. That's the first time that's happened. But I'm looking forward to blackberries. At least we didn't have the double whammy of a killing freeze while all was in bloom.
I was researching through literary journals the other day. That's part of what I do--try to find journals who publish things sort of like what I write--or who seem open to the sort of stuff I write. Or if not--do I have an atypical piece they might like. I do have a few of those. I can write very arty clever literary things--but mostly get so carried away by things like two-headed calves I can't focus on being too clever.
And I think this is the considerate thing to do. Fiction editors have to go through a gang of crap. I've read the horror stories on their blogs. And you know I'm sort of a stickler for civility so I cringe when I hear a writer has been less than polite. So, I try not to send them stuff they wouldn't use in a million years. Sometimes I get this right--sometimes I fail miserably. But I do make the effort.
So, the other day, I'm going through a few online journals because I'm looking for places for a few SNOWs (stories no one wants) that have gotten excellent reviews but can't seem to find homes. One of them hit the top three on Zoetrope this month. They are not shabby stories.
I start going through the archives. Story one is a penis story. Oh, well, I think--don't have any of those--so I continue to browse and I'll be damned if every single story I pulled up randomly on this one journal didn't feature penises engaged in all sorts of penile activities. This is a literary journal, mind you--and I'm left to conclude that the fiction editor has some sort of monumental johnson fetish. It's not like there was a note in the guidelines that said, "Send your best penis stories," or "All penises, all the time."
It's not that I'm a prude or anything--I just don't have any good wanger tales to tell at this time that don't involve goats and urinary calculi. And I did spend an awful lot of time reading his sausage party stories--so I did rather feel entitled to get something out of it.
And you all know I'm a HUGE Python and Cook & Moore fan. So I wrote this. Enjoy.
Mrs. Snodderly's Letter to the Editor
Dear Fiction Editor,
Whilst perusing journals, I came across your website and read with interest your guidelines and recent entries of the story type.
I find myself fascinated by your distaste for the term “flash fiction”, and the irony of that aversion combined with your publication’s focus upon stories dealing with lady parts and dangly bits. You must admit, there is something flashy about a ripping good dangly bits yarn, particularly coupled with liberal descriptions of lady parts.
While I have nothing against such tales dealing with bits and parts, my own work focuses more on moist cicadas emerging succulent from slitted shells, trout sliming across palms to plunge into dark wet spaces, spears of asparagus thrusting from loam, the swell of ripe squashes, farmer’s hands greased black fondling tractor pistons and the rumps of slaughter cattle dancing through chutes. I think we can both agree there is nothing of bits or parts involved here.
As I said, I am not in the least disturbed by collections of stories dealing exclusively with dangly bits or lady parts, indeed, I sometimes browse the internet looking for just such stories, though I’ve rarely found them presented in such a literary fashion as in your journal.
I will refrain from submitting at this time, since my current work is at odds with your journal. But I think I may have something for you in the future, perhaps with both trout and lady parts.
Mrs. Wilma P. Snodderly
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I'm in it.
Yang, The Karma Goat will visit you...
And pee on all of your shoes...
This is the MARK of Yang...
In case you didn't believe me...
Trust me...It's easier to buy a copy of Keyhole.
Goat pee is hard to get out of shoes.
Oh...and you are so not off the hook yet. I got another piece accepted today.
Monday, June 09, 2008
The roads up the mountain wind precipitously around hairpin turns and are often one lane. You do get accustomed to driving them. I am known for driving very carefully. I figure, why take chances--peril blinks up at me like a tiny toothed demon from the first step to my bedroom. That's were my big toenail met its end, so why tempt fate? I stay on my side of the road and wait on the layby for oncoming jalopies to pass even if I, by rules of etiquette have the right of way.
Everyone waves when they pass. That is an unspoken rule of the road. It is neighborly to wave in some form or another to the oncoming vehicle. They don't do this as you go further north. Some people do a full five-fingered flash of the hand. Others lift a single finger from the steering wheel and that's enough. I favor the single finger, because I'm nervous about disengaging the wheel to wave. Unless it's someone I know well and then I may wave like a fool.
But if I'm navigating a particularly treacherous stretch of road--I will sometimes not wave. Sometimes I'll try to wave, but realize I waved too late and the person couldn't have possibly seen my friendly polite gesture. I worry briefly after this happens.
Friend Scott used to put more meaning into the waving ritual than I think it deserves.
"So-and-so didn't wave at me, the bastard. They hate me," he'd say, flopping into my big chair, furrowed brow and nostrils flared in outrage.
"You don't know that," I'd say, attempting reason, "They may have been--you know--paying attention to the road."
"They didn't wave to me two days ago, either."
I'm a bit flabbergasted that Friend Scott actually keeps track of who waves and when. I imagine him having a little log book with everyone's name and when and where they neglected to wave. He takes it home and adds it up.
He even accuses me of giving him pissed off looks and not waving once.
"You had your face all screwed up and glared at me."
"Where was this?"
"Right out in front of my driveway. Off the bridge."
Okay, the bridge in front of Scott's ex-driveway is barely eight feet across. The potholes in it go clear through and you can see the creek below. It makes a 90 degree turn on the approach and a 90 degree turn leaving it. Essentially, you have to make a U-turn to cross this bridge. It has mangled, barely there guardrails--scarred by the folly of those who took their eyes off this bridge while crossing it.
"Oh, I wasn't mad at YOU that day," I say, cleverly pretending I recall the exact moment he's talking about. Like I remember.
Not that people can't be hostile on the roads here. I went through a period last year when people tried to run me off the road due to the slander campaign launched against me. Now there's just one little beat-up compact truck that tries to do this. They usually have a gang of scantily clad children and adults in the truck bed and shoot birds and obscene gestures at me. I find this pretty hilarious since I haven't a clue who they are and all their misplaced road rage is going for naught. Did I perhaps forget to wave at them?
There are instances where I passive-aggressively withhold "the wave". Some people drive on both sides of the road, cutting the edge off the curves by crossing the center line. Scott used to be really bad about this. If someone is on my side of the road coming toward me--no wave for you. I'll curse softly to myself, "Idiots," or perhaps something more colorful if it is a close miss. Honestly, I think it's a bit much to ask me to be polite when they do this. Don't you?
Sunday, June 08, 2008
I arrived late to homecoming at Pastor Jimmy's because I got the time mixed up. It was the biggest crowd I'd seen in forever. I was sorry I got there late though because the preaching is always amazing at homecoming. Pastor John Brown was there and several other preachers so I'm sorry to have missed it. While Jimmy's will always be my favorite because he is so musical with his preaching, I do enjoy hearing the other styles.
I did get there in time to witness a healing. They laid hands on a lady who had been having severe pain in her right side.
I got to see Don Dudenbostel and all the other photographers I've met. There were the usual complement of university students and a pair of independent filmmakers from NYC. I very much enjoyed meeting the couple from Sweetwater who have Jimmy's art in their gallery. They seem like very nice folks and the display they set up for him is gorgeous. I hope Jimmy will attend an opening of his work at their gallery. He could be a sensation in the outsider art world.
The food, as usual, was plentiful and delicious. I ate way too much and indulged in some chocolate cake with ice cream. There was this amazing pulled roast that I think was venison that was particularly good. Several meatloaf type dishes, hams, deviled eggs and green beans. Good honest food--you can't get food like that at a restaurant--even those places that profess to cook home-style food.
The only thing was the dreadful heat. I felt quite lightheaded from it so they prayed over me before I went home. I need a healing--or some sort of divine intervention--since I keep hurting myself. I've never been this accident prone before. Last night, I stubbed my big toe and the entire nail came off. It won't stop bleeding, but not nearly as painful as the arm thing. I just got my arm out of the sling and now I can't wear closed toe shoes. I think the laying on of hands must have helped. It's the first time I've experienced that and it's very comforting.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
I almost forgot today's installment!
I got caught up writing a story I've had percolating in the back of my mind for some time. I did it for The Flash Factory over on Zoetrope. It's a good place to work out first drafts and they give me a weekly prompt that sometimes pulls these stories I keep tucked away in hidden folds of gray matter forward. Anyway, one reviewer already picked up that the story was begging to be longer and I'll probably expand it. Maybe even beyond flash format, but the limit was 750 words.
Anyway, the story I got caught up in today was tailor-made for Anne Johnson. It's about an Appalachian kid who comes home from Tibet to die and has his best friend take him to the summit of Clingman's Dome for a sky burial. Yes, Anne--it's a thinly veiled buzzard worship story. Anne has like a buzzard costume she dresses up in. Crazy about them she is.
Lest you think it unbelievable that a Cocke county native might be in Tibet--we do have world class mountain climbers from here who've been there. Read about them in the paper--Appalachian folk get around. We got opera singers too. So there.
I almost subbed a story to a London group that does readings but the thought of London actors trying to wrap their mouths around this dialect gave me the shudders. The only person there I know who could handle it would be Buffy Holt, and damn--she should be reading her own work. I'm actually quite pleased I've gotten the jump on subbing to journals before Buffy--umm--cause--she's going to wipe the floor with me when she starts subbing. She's my favorite Appalachian writer out in the blogosphere.
Well, let's check in with Lucius and Kelly, shall we?
They stayed at the Happy Mount Hotel, a seedy strip motel, where Lucius kept a room. The neon sign had burnt out in spots so at night it flashed, “Happy Mo--Ho--”.
The cache of sixty hydrocodones did not last long. Kellie held the bottle of hydros to the light and gave it a shake. It was time to get back to “work”. She made a few calls and prepared to take off for the hills in the beat up Fiesta to pay a few visits to some old folks. Lucius kissed her before she left, pulling her to him.
“Baby, you knows I love you!”
“You be good, while mamma’s gone.” She grabbed his crotch and left him standing there, twitching.
Lucius watched some TV in the room. Damn, he loved AFHV. He liked to watch the bits where guys got hit in the nads. Damn, he thought, they just never saw it coming.
With his mood restored and the promise of his girl coming back with some drugs and money, he wandered over to the manager’s office. He had not checked his mail in a few days.
Rupert Mims reclined behind the shabby counter topped with cracked green linoleum. He had dozed off to the buzzing whine of the NASCAR race on his small television set. NASCAR memorabilia decorated the walls with a special place of pride given to a large portrait of Dale Earnhardt with Jesus. Jesus towered in the background with his arms out, embracing the grandstand and track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dale stood in his racing regalia in front of Number 3. The caption read, “God’s Own Driver, The Father, The Son and The Intimidator”.
Lucius banged on the counter. Rupert gave a snore like a chainsaw failing to start and blinked up at Lucius through eyes buried in the fat of his cheeks. He tugged his shirt down to cover his wide expanse of furry belly and rocked his chair up from a reclining position.
“What’chu want, Lucius? You got some money for me I hope?”
“Not yet, but I’ll have it in a few hours. It’s on the way!”
Rupert gave a snort. “Well, it better be. I can’t keep giving you extra time; it’s not fair to the other tenants who do pay on time. I got a few working girls who’d be glad to have that room of yours.”
“Don’t worry, Rup! Look, have I got any mail?”
Rupert shuffled under the counter for a moment and came up with a bunch of junk mail and one letter.
“Here you go. L. Mantooth Productions…is that you?”
Lucius frowned and accepted the letter. “Yeah, that’s me.”
He looked at the return address. “Yep, it’s from my Momma.”
“Well, good,” Rupert said, “It’s nice to see your old momma writes you now and again. Just make sure you have that rent money in here by tonight.”
Lucius nodded and left the office. He felt a bit of dread as he always did when his mother contacted him.
Friday, June 06, 2008
I was given this amazing leaf lettuce today along with some stunning onions from a local home garden. I just finished eating a salad made with both.
This sort of lettuce is most often prepared lightly wilted in a bit of bacon fat here--but I've never become accustomed to the idea of cooking lettuce. I've done some nice wilted spinach salads but lettuce--not so much.
I love when the fresh produce starts coming in. We are enjoying the Florida cantaloupes already. I had one that rivaled South Carolina cantaloupes(if you've had these, you know what I mean) I purchased at the Morristown Farmer's Market this past Monday.
I also purchased one of the best pink Brandywine tomatoes I've ever had there. A few chayotes and some amazing Peaches & Cream corn. I got a hugeous red papaya--and I confess to eating the entire thing when I got home.
When I was growing up in Bluffton, SC, a local family kept a large open air fruit stand on 278. There were amazing roadside fruit and vegetable stands in that area then and my mother was well acquainted with them all. When I was a teenager, my friend, Elizabeth, and I would cruise by there and get bags of fresh cherries. Elizabeth was the most beautiful girl of all the summer girls--blond and busty, she made traffic stop from the time she was eleven. Precocious she was. I never could get the hang of tying that stem in a knot with my tongue. Oh--I could do it--I just looked like a dog with a peanut butter cracker stuck to the roof of its mouth.
I'd love to hear about any special produce that impressed you this season. How is your garden coming along? What did you plant?
Unrelated--I'm a big fan of watching my spam folder. Got this funny one in today.
Increase ur VALU
Bacheelor, MasteerMBA, and Doctoraate diplomas available in the field of your choice that's right, you can even become a Doctor and receive all the benefits that comes with it!
Our Diplomas/Certificates are recognised in most countries
Maybe that's what I need. Get me one of them there Doctoraate degrees. Then folks will recognise me.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I've written about the "inbreeding" taboo before, but thought I'd go over it--one more time--since Dick Cheney slandered our West Virginia cousins this past Monday at the National Press Club.
So we had Cheneys on both sides of the family—and we don't even live in West Virginia. You can say those things when you're not running for re-election.
When I first moved here, I was told Cocke county--Grassy Fork in particular-- was the community other Appalachian communities badmouthed. Said all that stuff about inbreeding was true here. That those folks kept hidden kinfolk with strange things wrong with them locked up or tied to trees in the back yard. And these sorts of things I heard from native Cocke countians and residents of neighboring counties.
"Be careful--they'll steal your car. That's the chop shop capitol of the country."
And it's true people are closely related to each other here. There are many first cousin marriages. There's all the bad things like incest, ignorance, cruelty, child abuse and illiteracy.
But here's the kicker--not more so than anywhere else in the country or the world. The sad thing is when Appalachian people don this mantle of shame and take it as their own. It is the other people who promote all of this who are ignorant. I wish there was some way to empower Hill Folk so they didn't feel the need to carry this around with them. It's past time to stop being the scapegoats of the rest of the world.
You want to point a finger at line breeding gone wrong in human populations--I give you--The British Royal Family. Haemophilia and big ears. There were some odd looking folks until Princess Di came along.
At any rate, there is an excellent article in yesterdays Slate on this issue.
West Virginia, Incest Virginia? How the Mountain State got a reputation for inbreeding.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Sorry I've skipped a few days. I'm okay. I went to Morristown yesterday--splurging on some gasoline. I thought to go to the First Monday Market but got there as everyone was packing up, so it was a bit of a wasted trip. Maybe it will be overcast next first Monday and I can get some good photos. I spent too much money and am afraid to look at my bank account. I never go shopping.
I spent Sunday killing mice. I found where they were camping out and it looks like they slipped in the back door. I'd put Havoc in places where the dogs couldn't get to it and the mother mouse evidently carried it into the closet. I found and entire mouse family--mostly dead. Grisly, really. I found them because one came out in the hallway. I don't see as well as I used to and thought it a dust bunny--or perhaps some dog hair that escaped the vacuum. It was a bitty mouse. Just sitting there. I grabbed my boot.
So--I am now triumphantly mouse free and happy I found them before they trashed the oriental rug they had decided to shack up in. So--all day Sunday was spent in a killing spree and cleaning up the evidence from said killing spree.
I've been very busy with the writing thing. Idgie at the Dew published Frog Giggers. I think I always had her in mind for that piece. I've got Smokelong coming up on the 15th and Keyhole coming up this month. So you can add both of those pubs to your reading list. I'm excited about both, but Keyhole is so cool because people will have to pay money to read me. That's almost as good as getting paid to write.
I've got 31 pending responses out. People seem to really like my work. But you guys already knew that. Though every once in a while I'll get a weird rejection letter. I think the accessibility of what I write and that I do think about entertainment may be confusing to some literary editors. But you know what--it don't gots to be painful to read to be well-written. The deep stuff is there if folks care to look for it--otherwise--it's just a good read. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.