Sunday, April 16, 2017

injaynesworld it's "A Giraffe Named 'Joe Cocker'..."

For months, millions of folks have been obsessing about the pregnancy of April the giraffe. It makes sense that with so much grief in the world we would yearn for some reason to look forward with hope. The story of April and her baby got me thinking about my own mother and another Easter many years ago. 

The Oddest Easter Gift

Five feet tall, bright orange with yellow spots and balanced somewhat precariously on four furry legs, its long neck drooped forward to reveal a facial expression as perplexed my own. 
Every Easter, right up to the year I moved out at the age of 19, my mother would make up an Easter basket filled with my favorite See’s Candies chocolates and buy me a stuffed animal. That year, it was a giraffe. 
I took “Joe Cocker” with me to every home I lived in up to the age of 42, where he would always take up an entire corner of my bedroom – something my boyfriends over the years must have wondered about and possibly a reason why I’m still single. It wasn’t that I was so enamored with the large, fuzzy beast. It certainly never went with any of my d├ęcor. Truth be told, I wish she’d chosen something more traditional – and smaller. Perhaps something that had some symbolic connection to the holiday. But then, that would have been ordinary and my mother, who for my high school graduation in 1967 gifted me with my first birth control prescription, was never ordinary. Still, I always wondered what her thinking was behind such an odd choice or mine in carting it around all those years.  I do recall that the thought of throwing it away filled me with guilt.  Of course, as a Catholic, however lapsed, just about anything can fill me with guilt, but still such a decision would not have been unreasonable as time went by.
I believe now that it may have been my mother’s way of saying “Remember that my love for you is enormous,” as I was about to leave her life and start my own. I wonder what that must have been like for her, living alone for the first time at the age 51, her main purpose – raising me – now over.  She died only three years later.  Each Easter, I still smile at the memory of walking into the living room that morning so many decades ago and seeing my mother sitting on the couch in her robe, a cup of coffee in her hand, and an expression of excitement on her face as she anticipated my reaction to her surprise.   
When I finally decided that the giraffe really did need to move on, I carefully sewed up the torn seams where various cats had used its legs as scratching posts, and donated it to a thrift shop that benefited the local animal shelter where I felt it had the best chance of finding a good home. It’s been several years now and I’d like to believe that on another Easter morning some other child woke up to find this huge expression of their own mother’s love, however odd they may have found it at the time.  And that they are still carting it around.  


Monday, December 19, 2016

injaynesworld it's "A Christmas Story..."

Spirit of the Season

The line wound all the way out the post office door.  Bundled against the winter chill and laden with last-minute packages to be sent to her family, Dawn tried to ignore the chatter all around her.

“We’re going to my daughter’s house for Christmas…” 

She would be alone this year.  She couldn’t face the pitying looks from her sisters; the whispers.  She never has finished anything she started.

“…Molly and all the kids will be with us…”

Just her and Bruno, the Rottie they’d adopted as a puppy.  She’d agreed to allow Sam visitation in order to get custody.  For once she was grateful he’d be with his new girlfriend in the coming week.

“… My parents are flying in on Tuesday…”

Her mother cried when she said she wasn’t coming.  More guilt.  The postal line edged forward. 

“… We’re having an open house on Christmas Eve.  I hope you’ll come…”

Dawn had turned down all her friends’ invitations.  She was going to take her days off from work to stay in her pajamas, eat junk food and binge-watch sad movies: “Love Story,” “Terms of Endearment,” and “The Notebook” were already in her queue. All she’d felt since the divorce was anger. Her therapist had told her she needed to cry, mourn, get it all out.

“Merry Christmas... Happy Holidays!”

Damn. This really sucked. Oh, hell…

She took out her phone.  Maybe she could still book a flight.

May this holiday season find you all surrounded by those you love most.  


Sunday, June 12, 2016

injaynesworld we "Shelter in Place..."

I awoke this morning to gentle cloud cover over the peaceful landscape of my rural valley.  I breathed in the cool air, gazed out at the beauty that surrounds and nourishes me and gave thanks to God for such blessings. Coffee was brewed, dogs fed, I planned my day: Some writing this morning, a ride on my horse mid-day, plants to water and trim this afternoon, and tonight “The Tonys.”  I cursed CBS for not broadcasting them live on the West Coast and that was my biggest concern of the morning.

Then I turn on the Internet.  I do this with some trepidation because yesterday morning I did so only to find that some mad man had gunned down 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie; a beautiful, young girl whose life held such promise, now gone. Although, not a day goes by without news of a killing somewhere, it often passes my attention like background noise, a steady hum that one learns to tune out, for to focus on each senseless death would plummet us into a state of constant grief. 

My Internet opens to Google news.  I expect some additional details on Grimmie’s killer.  I expect to still feel anger.  I expect to still feel sorrow for the Grimmie family.  I do not expect:

 - ‎51 minutes ago‎

Orlando, Florida (CNN) A gay nightclub here was the scene early Sunday of the worst terror attack in U.S. history since 9/11. * 50 people were killed inside the Pulse club and at least 53 people were injured, police say.

My mind explodes, thoughts shooting off in all directions like a rack of pool balls, its whole shattered, its parts seeking escape, much like what I imagine the inside of that nightclub to have been:  The terror, the shock, the complete horror that this could be happening – again. 

I can’t watch the news.  I can’t absorb such carnage anymore.  My mind struggles to comprehend the incomprehensible.  What was it I was going to write about today?  Any attempt at words now seems foolish and self-serving, yet I yearn for some order. 

Raised in an age where murder was mostly the stuff of cops-and-robbers shows, where nobody carried around guns unless they were hunting, where a TV news story of a killing was still considered aberrant, the world I see now so rampant with disregard for human life is unrecognizable.  When did this mass madness infect us?  How did we get here?  How do we cope?

Outside my window, my personal world remains untouched.  The hillsides the color of wheat dotted with oak trees; deer graze, a spring-born fawn at their sides, birds continue their song.  The contrast is surreal.  I turn off the Internet, turn off the television, shut out everything but that directly in my view.  I pull this cloak of serenity around me, huddle in its comfort, tell myself I’m safe.  I shelter in place.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

injaynesworld "Drink a glass of prune juice and call me in the morning..."

I recently won a Flip Video Recorder.   How I got it has nothing to do with this post, but when I win something I always like to brag a little.
I told a friend about this and said that I hadn’t yet had time to read all the directions.  She replied that whenever she gets some new techno-gadget she puts the manual in the bathroom, which led me to quite seriously inquire: “Just how much time to you spend in the bathroom?”

This got me thinking about all the people I’ve known over the years who take reading materials into the bathroom and lock themselves in there for what I consider an inappropriate amount of time -- something that has always perplexed me. 

I’m a get-in-there-get-it-done-and-get-out-type.  If I want to read, I’ll get comfy, pour myself a libation of some sort and settle in by the light of the sun or a good reading lamp.  I truly fail to get the appeal of sitting on a hard porcelain seat, hunched over, elbows drilling into my thighs and reading for any length of time, but apparently there are those who like to linger.  

What’s up with that?  Do they honestly not know that they have business to do and they’re hanging out just to play it safe?   Because I always know.  It’s no big mystery.  There’s a certain pressure, if you will, that frankly I learned to identify as a child.
I suppose for some it may be the only place they can find a few moments of uninterrupted peace away from the demands of others. Yet another reason why I’m single.

Lately, I’ve felt a different kind of pressure.  I’m a big believer that if you sit at the keyboard long enough, something will materialize – that 90% of writing is just showing up.  

As you can see by where I’ve gone so far with this post I’ve proven my premise. Yes, it’s crap and I’m not proud of it, but when a blockage occurs in the flow of ideas it’s a relief when anything emerges.  Of course, then the proper thing to do is to flush it.  However, like a three-year-old excited to show they made poo, I just had to share.    

You may resume your day now.   

Thursday, February 18, 2016

injaynesworld welcomes “’Rattle of Want’ author Gay Degani…”

“Rattle ofWant,” is a diverse collection of 46 flash fiction stories and one novella-in-flash.  Rich in characterization that bleeds onto the page, this collection takes the reader through the full landscape of our own human complexity as experienced through the prism of our desires. 

Jayne:  What intrigues me about these stories and held me as a reader is that there is so much at stake for your characters in each story.  It’s not just that they “want” for something; it’s the underlying element of desperation that drives their desire.  Was that an intention of yours in putting together the collection?

Gay:  This is a collection of the work I’ve done over the last seven years. As for the desperation, that’s what underlies the book and the title, Rattle of Want.  When I was trying to place this group of stories with a potential publisher, he asked me what linked them together.  I didn’t really have any idea because I hadn’t written them to link together.  I’d written them to tell stories that came to me as I was studying the craft of flash fiction.

Jayne:   That’s interesting then that it seems to be a recurrent theme in your writing.  I can relate to that.  Lately, I’ve noticed that, without intentionally meaning to do so, I write a lot of stories that include an element of death or dying.  I’m not sure what that says about me. 

Gay:  My themes seem to always have to do with wanting and whether or not a person should pursue that want. It has been a constant in my life.  I'm a people-pleaser, or what I used to call "a stroke monkey," not feeling good about myself unless I did something to earn some kind of praise.  My desire has been to be my own person, to not rely on other people's estimation of me, and I think that figures into what I write. 

Jayne:  “Rattle of Want” is a fabulous title.

Gay:  I have to tip my cap to Randall Brown for digging that phrase out of a story of mine and suggesting I use it as a title.  One of my earliest craft lessons had been that a character must want something.  If they don’t want anything, then they don’t have anything to strive for, and if they aren’t striving, what is the point of the story?  Why tell it? 

Jayne:  Yes.  And it’s not all a life or death struggle.  We all experience a thousand little desires and frustrations to those desires every single day.  I think that’s what makes your characters so relatable. 

Gay:  I learned as I began to write flash fiction that a story doesn’t need a big dramatic desire.   It can be something as ordinary as wanting to isolate yourself and having a boy climb over your fence to sell you magazines (“Beyond the Curve”).  Or as in my story “Oranges” wanting to feel better about yourself so you buy oranges from a homeless girl on a freeway on ramp and not getting the result you expected. We all experience desire, sometimes we’re desperate in that desire, and that’s what I try to tap into.

Jayne:  One of the things I'd like to touch on is the kind of rural voice that is prominent in several of the stories.  Is that something from your own background? 

Gay:  Yes, absolutely.  My mother was from south Louisiana and my father was from northeast Iowa.  Although we moved from Iowa to California when I was six, we went back to both places every summer.  I grew up to the sound of that flat mid-western accent, “you bet,” and the Cajun clip so unique to the bayous, “how you do?”  I have an ear for tone and twang so it just comes naturally.  

Jayne:  I’d like to talk about the origin of some of the stories – the seeds from which they sprung.  Tell me a little bit about “Chalk Dust.”   I love this story.  It’s has a very eerie “Through the Looking Glass” feel. 

Gay:  “Chalk Dust” was one of my earliest stories published online in Rusty Barnes’ Night Train.  There is a “Chalk It Up” festival in my city every summer where artists swarm over sidewalks and create amazing work.  One year there was a set of stairs that seemed to twist into the ground.  It was almost hard to believe it wasn’t real.  I knew immediately I wanted to set a story about that staircase in the middle of that street. 

Jayne:  “What’s Left” is an interesting piece in that it is only one page long, but spans thirty years in the life of the character and is structured chronologically from present to past. 

Gay:  “What’s Left” was written for a contest and came from two short pieces that I pulled together and added the third segment. Combining those three pieces and rewriting them is what created the structure. Structure for me usually comes during the editing phase.  I respond to a prompt and then need to fit that
response into a shape.  

Many stories have come from prompts at The Flash Factory at Zoetrope online.  “Fishbowl” came from a photo prompt, as did “Losing Ground.” The character in “Blusterfuck” is a composite of husbands of several women I’ve known over the years.  Most of what I write comes from the world around me, things I observed in people, objects that catch my attention.  Everything feels rich with meaning.  It’s just digging down to get the gold.

Jayne:  Well, readers don’t have to dig far to find the gold in this collection.  I’ve read several of the stories more than once and because they are so subtly layered, with each reading I feel like I discover something new.  Congratulations, Gay.  And thanks for sharing a bit about your remarkable process. 

Gay Degani has had three of her flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Glass Woman Prize. Pure Slush Books released her collection of stories, Rattle of Want, (November 2015). She has a suspense novel, What Came Before, published in 2014, and a short collection, Pomegranate, featuring eight stories around the theme of mothers and daughters. Founder and editor emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles, she is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly and blogs at Words in Place where a list of her published work can be found.

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