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.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

injaynesworld it's "The Anti-Valentine's Day Post..."

Last Date 

The second hand ticks off another moment of my life. Waiting couples eye my table.  I pretend to sip from the empty cup, lick the last bit of foam. 
               You arrive from her bed flushed, rushed and unapologetic.
               My finger tightens around the smooth steel nestled in my lap. 
           Nobody wants my table anymore.

Monday, February 8, 2016

injaynesworld "Mixed Messages..."

I am awakened by the bellowing of bovines.

They gather at the barbed wire fence to gaze upon me, large eyes dark ponds of innocence, expressing wonder at this white-robed creature who now beckons them with outstretched hands and baby talk.

“Look how sweet you are.  Yes you are little moo-cows.  Come say hello…” 

Each spots an ear tag, some with names:  Meg, Sue, Lily.  These are the lucky ones, small in stature, shades of soft brown fur, destined for breeding; designer cows to be shown in bovine beauty pageants.  The others, sturdy, black Angus, are tagged with only numbers, and destined for T-bones.  I imagine taking a Magic Marker and changing all the numbers to names, as if that would alter their fate. 

The taste of yesterday’s tri-tip still lingers.  I step back from the fence, fearing #302 can sense my duplicity. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

injaynesworld "Another Star Burns Out..."

It is the late sixties. San Francisco is the rock music capital of the country, and a good place to be young and reckless.  There are few diseases that can’t be cured by a shot of penicillin, you know your drug dealer on a personal basis and they take pride in their product, and concert tickets are only three dollars plus you get a cool poster.  Hidden away in a neighborhood haunted by hookers and heroin addicts is a set of brown, unadorned, double doors that lead into Wally Heider Recording.  It is here that the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the Grateful Dead come to make their magic, and I am the first person they see as they enter. 

I am 21 years old and my job is to book their time in one of three studios, along with the assigned engineer and equipment.  Competition for the most coveted times and rooms makes it hard to keep these artists always happy, but it does garner me a lot of perks in the form of free records, concert tickets, and pot, the smoke from which seeps through every air vent in the place.  

It is a nine-to-five job, but nights are when the big stars arrive, and I find reasons to stay late.  When the heavily-insulated studio doors seal shut and the light above them flashes red, musical history is about to be made, and I am an enthusiastic witness to it all:  Gregg Rolie’s organ solo on “Black Magic Woman,” Jerry Garcia’s vocal on “Friend of the Devil,” Tower of Power’s horn section dropping by to lay down some tracks for The Pointer Sisters.   

My position at Heider Recording puts me in rarefied air with those most others can only admire from a distance and when I leave the job the door to that world closes behind me, leaving only memories. 

Today when one of the tunes from that time comes on the radio, the names, faces, and those hours in smoke-filled studios come rushing back, though I know that none of them would remember the girl at the front desk behind those nondescript doors who was the first to greet them. 

This week we lost one of the superstars of that era, Paul Kantner, guitarist and driving force behind The Jefferson Airplane, later to morph into The Jefferson Starship.  He died at the age of 74, continuing to play gigs around the City up until just a couple of years ago.  Rock on, Paul.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

injaynesworld "How Not to Start the New Year..."

You leave home early to drive 300 miles north for a family visit with plans for a three-day stay firmly in place.  The visit could not go better.  Great food, great wine, movies, shopping, presents (you love presents), and leave-taking before everyone gets tired of each other. 

The car packed, hugs all around, and you're ready to head out.  You put the car in gear, a little wave and some blown kisses and… nothing.  The engine hums, but the car does not go forward, the car does not go backward.  Denial is the go-to emotion.

For the sake of brevity, let’s just say it appears your transmission is kaput. 

You unload the car and go back inside, your stellar leave-taking ruined like an actor who has blown his lines.  Now you must figure out a way to (A) Get your car back home to your own mechanic, and (B) Get yourself home.

You go online and find yourself sucked into the underworld of auto shippers.  One simple request for a quote brings a barrage of offers to your inbox and, like beggar children on the streets of Bangladesh, they are relentless. You pick a phone number at random hoping to find someone who will not screw you over.

A guy who sounds like Gary Busey answers the phone.  You are strangely comforted by his folksy manner and peppered language.  He assures you that every other company but his will indeed screw you over.  All brokers put your information up on the same trucker board and then you must wait for a trucker to bid on your job.  Might take 24 hours, might take 48.  You should call him back Monday morning, because he’s about to take off on a weekend binge.  “Brokers like to party,” he laughs.  You’re no longer quite as comforted, but now you’ve entered into a “relationship” and feel a certain obligation to make it work. 

You then call the 800 number for Enterprise car rental.  You are told you may not rent a car with a debit card, only a credit card.  Your debit card also serves as a credit card, you argue to no avail.  However, someone else can rent the car for you with their credit card if you bring them with you when you pick up the car.  You can do that, and the car reservation is made for pickup the next morning at ten o’clock. 

Along with your cousin, you arrive at the Enterprise Vortex-of-Hell Car Rental right on time.  Their website states, "When a customer leaves with a smile, you know you made their day a little better."  This is not going to be one of those days.  Yes, they have your reservation.  Yes, your cousin may rent the car on her credit card.  No, you may not drive it unless you have your own credit card.  You point out that if you had a credit card you would not have had to drag your cousin down here with you.  The perky prepubescent behind the desk is not moved by your logic. You continue to plead your case.  The word “bullshit” might escape your lips once or twice.  You and your cousin decide the best course of action is subterfuge.  Fuck ‘em.  She’ll rent it, you’ll drive it, authorized to do so or not.  But because of the lack of some kind of chip on her credit card, the card will not go through.  Now the cosmos are conspiring against you, too. 

You and your cousin return to her house where you announce your intention to drink yourself blind. Your cousin offers you the use of her car to drive home.  She will be leaving on a month-long trip that week and won’t need it.  You marvel at her generosity only slightly suspecting that it may just be her desire to be rid of you.

Meanwhile, offers to transport your vehicle continue to flood your inbox.  You begin to question your relationship with Gary Busey.  Perhaps, in your initial panic, you were a little hasty in pledging your allegiance to the first guy who whistled up your skirt.  And let us not forget your long history of dalliances with inappropriate men. 

You troll the websites of other auto-shippers.  At first it’s just a flirtation. Then, sufficiently wooed by an impressive slideshow, you make the call.  Matt Damon answers the phone.  Clearly, he must be researching a role for his next movie.  He needs to run your information by his father to give you an immediate quote.  Yes.  "Immediate," he says in his dreamy, grammar-perfect voice.  His father owns the company.  You feel like Debra Winger in the final scene of “An Officer and A Gentleman.”  You make the deal and send Gary Busey a kiss-off text. 

The rain holds off the next day and you make it home safely.  Your car arrives from Northern California a mere five hours after you do exactly as promised.  A warm bath and you fall face-down into the bosom of your own bed to dreams of having Matt Damon’s child.

Forty-eight hours later the verdict is still out on your car. 

Happy New Year.

Related Posts with Thumbnails