THE RIVER IS LOW… a Drabble for Fri Fic
Mercury hits 73˚ in San Francisco… and it’s January! Meanwhile in Sacramento:
“Man, the river’s low. I never see it this low. When you think the last time it rained?”
“Hell, I don’t even remember. I hear they’re hiking instead of skiing at Tahoe.”
“Likely be a bitch this summer.”
“No shit, hell I remember ’77. ‘If it’s yellow, be mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down.’ They had to put a pipe across the Richmond Bridge to send those mokes in Marin our water. Let’s secede so we don’t have to send it south.”
“The Golden State will be Brown.”
I guess this is not really a story, per FF ‘guidelines’, but more an expression of a few recent random thoughts as I looked at Erin’s photo for inspiration and saw a river. It made me think of recently seeing the Sacramento river at its lowest ever, no rain to speak of since October there, and this is the rainy season. There is very little snow in the Sierra Nevadas and none at all from the passes of Southern Oregon to Redding. California is declaring a state of Extreme Drought, as we were in shirt sleeves when I was in San Francisco yesterday. And secession attempts are hot and heavy in the Jefferson Republic to create a 51st state.
TO SPACE OR NOT TO SPACE
When I first started writing my blog on WordPress, I noticed a peculiar thing. As I typed my stories I would double space between sentences. When I previewed the story, I noticed a space had disappeared. Annoyed, I would go back into my edit mode and add the spaces back. After awhile, I would sometimes forget, and eventually gave up. I always wondered why this happened. Not enough to do a Google Search, but I wondered.
Two weeks ago, I was listening to a show on NPR called ‘The Dinner Party Download’. I don’t usually listen to NPR on a Saturday afternoon, so the show was new to me. I wasn’t sure I liked it, but then I was driving so maybe not paying 100% attention. It seemed too busy, with a bunch of people trying to be cool, maybe that was the idea… dinner party… people conversing. They did have an interesting story about the 100 anniversary of the Mona Lisa being returned to France, after an absence due to a brazen theft by Italian Vincenzo Peruggia, which is a cool story in itself. But the gist to this story was an interview with some Italian bartender who had invented a cocktail for the occasion, called the Mona Lisa. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it.
Into a tall glass, add:
1 part Alkermes, an Arabic-turned-Florentine liqueur from the de Medici era.
1 part orange juice
3 parts Champagne
As the show went on, they would sit around shooting the breeze between stories and I kind of half-listened, until I heard something about double spacing. I perked up, and one guy said that it depended how you learned to type. If you learned on a typewriter, you double spaced. If you learned on a computer, you single spaced. “If you double space on the internet (a funny way to put it I thought), it ate one of the spaces”, he said. So that’s what was happening! I was typing on the internet and my spaces were being gobbled up.
I wondered if that was true. I learned to type on a typewriter in junior high school… I think eighth grade, maybe ninth or seventh. Hey, that was 55 years ago. I do remember a classroom with a hell of a lot of typewriters and kids clacking away. It was hard at first, but I got the hang of it and am a pretty good typist to this day. My granddaughter Isabel types a lot faster than I do. I’m sure she learned on a computer, I’ll have to ask her if she double spaces, maybe that’s why she’s faster if she’s just single spacing.
A computer keyboard is easier on the fingers, I know that. My first typewriter looked just like the one in the picture above, the keys were hard to push, but I liked the feel. I remember when we got our first electric typewriter… that was something… and then we got one of those ball ones later on, that was fun to watch. I don’t remember the last time I used a typewriter. I’ll probably always double space, but I don’t think I’ll go back and add spaces on my blog now… I wouldn’t want to mess with the internet.
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I wonder how many of my writer friends double space. I wonder if any of my writer friends use a typewriter. Here is a link if you want to read some of my writer friend’s stories… yeah write weekly writing challenge See if there’s any double spacing.
Here’s the link to The Mona Lisa Returns to Italy story on at the Dinner Party Download, in case you are interested.
Last week the Publisher of TedBook sent out the following letter to a recent guest author:
Today we received the following reply:
Her first assignment starts January 14th… Stay Tuned…
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Recent Posts by Miss Grace…
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I thought my friends at yeah write.me would like to meet the new Foreign Correspondent at TedBook. She leaves next week for a country not many Americans have visited. We are looking forward to her reports… internet availability willing. Here’s a few pics of past travels…
Last Chance by Max Welton
It is hard going, but the demolition is scheduled for tomorrow. The brush that started at your ankles now reaches chest height, the fence is in sight. Past bulldozers, poised like fierce beasts to devour the hapless sanitarium, you enter the north wing and hunt for room #36. An excited sadness overwhelms you as you search her room for what was hidden within the wall. After the accident her decline had been swift. Seventeen years since you learned the truth about Daisy, it’s now or never. An unseen hand guides you to a loose wallpaper patch, glittering Art Deco reveals itself. Her bracelets are safe once again.
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FROM THE DESK OF MAX WELTON
So, that’s it! The start to my first novel. I’m kind of going for a Twilight Zone vibe here, maybe Rod will be interested when I’m done. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, like my uncle Nick. I’ve written a few poems and stories for the Reader when I can find the time, but I would really like to write a novel. I have great ideas and can write really great titles, like ‘Death in the Shadow of Saint Mary’s’. I live on the North Side in Bucktown, a Polish/Puerto Rican/Low Rent neighborhood, and I work right down the street from St. Mary of the Angels, I think it’s the coolest looking church in Chicago. I can just never come up with a story… that was it, just a great title. It’s going to be a murder mystery someday when I can think of a story. But right now, I’m quitting my job and writing full-time to finish ‘Last Chance’, thanks to uncle Nick.
My uncle Nick was a famous writer, well kind of famous. He had one big hit, but made a decent living writing for magazines. He was very kind to my mom and me, more like a father than my father. When I told him I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, he said “Write what you know about.” I saw my first Sox and Cubs games with Nick, he introduced me to art, and he showed me Chicago. I wanted to be just like him. I still do after all these years.
Nick was killed covering the war when I was just out of high school. He never married, and I was his only heir, so I was not only sad, but expecting a nice inheritance. Like the character in his book, I got cheated. He left everything to the Perkins Sanitarium in New York. I got a few boxes of old letters and unfinished manuscripts. I was bitter at first, but his lawyer told me that Perkins had given Nick his life back when he was lost in an alcoholic depression. He had dreamed of being a writer, not a bond salesman, and a new technique called ‘automatic-writing’ was a perfect fit to help cure him. His doctor suggested he write about the events in Long Island, and the grief that was fueling his condition. “Write a book. Even if you are the only person to ever read it”, he said. It worked, because Nick came out a well man, and a writer. The story was published to a huge success. He moved back to the Midwest to be near his family and write stories. He took care of me, so I forgave him.
Years later, I actually looked at the contents and discovered a story he never intended to publish. I thought it was interesting, as it was about a distant cousin named Daisy. She had been part of the whole Long Island thing, and ended up in a ritzy mental hospital also, Lakeview Sanitarium on the North Shore. That’s where the filthy rich went… guys like me went to Cook County.
That was awhile back. I forgot all about it until the other day. I was reading the business section of the Trib, and saw that some new luxury homes were slated to be built there, using the bricks from the Lakeview Sanitarium. The property had been abandoned to seagulls and rats for many years and was in ruins. Demolition was slated soon. That jogged my memory… something Nick had mentioned in his story about Daisy.
I found the volume devoted to Daisy. Nick tells how her life unraveled after the murder of Gatsby. She was a woman torn between two men not able to have them on her terms, her tense gaiety gone, and perhaps never forgave herself for her involvement in an automobile accident. She had been the one driving the Rolls, and Jay had covered for her. Nick was never sure if her husband knew she was the driver, but Tom Buchanan saw fit to take her away from the unhappy scene. They moved from East Egg back to their estate in Chicago, not even going to the funeral. When Nick finally went to see Daisy, he found that stricken with grief and guilt, she had slipped into a despondency so great that she was in a constant state of shock. Her husband could no longer put up with it or bear to watch and committed her to a sanitarium, where she stayed till her death. Sadly, Nick was her only visitor, and would go to Lakeview to visit Daisy once a month.
This is the part I was looking for… “I never knew who to expect when I visited Daisy. One time she would be staring out a window, alone in her thoughts, and completely incommunicado. I would hold her hand and talk to her, hoping she could hear me. Maybe she wouldn’t feel alone. Curiously, the next visit would find her attired in one of her finest dresses bedecked in jewels and excited to see me. She loved her diamonds, especially the bracelets, of which she had many. She would chatter on, completely a different girl. We would never bring up Long Island. On occasion, she would ask me about her daughter, Pam. Daisy had not been the most caring of mothers when well, and I wondered if she thought it odd that Pam never came to visit. I would say she was just fine, and that was that. Lakeview liked the guests, that’s what they called the patients, to dress as they had at home, and it could be quite the fashion show. We would dine in the great room and the attendants always made quite a fuss over her. Daisy liked that, as I think it brought back memories of the good times. One day as I walked Daisy back to room 36, I asked her if she wasn’t the least bit concerned about the safety of her jewelry. She assured me she wasn’t and was quite proud that she had been so clever. Daisy explained that she had peeled back a square of wallpaper, and hollowed out a place in the wall. With the wallpaper pushed back, “you couldn’t tell otherwise”, she said. I didn’t ask her to show me, but she did say it was low to the ground.”
The demolition date was in two days, so with that bit of information and a few tools, I set off for the old hospital to see if I could get lucky.
Maybe now, I’ll get lucky with ‘Death in the Shadow of Saint Mary’s’.
Max Welton… Chicago… 1970
Okay, I know what you are thinking… “The next F. Scott!” … please, I’m far to modest. This is a post I started last June. I had just seen ‘The Great Gatsby’, and was inspired to write a 100 Word Flash Fiction for Friday Fictioneers based on Daisy’s character. It is actually Max’s story and can be seen here… Friday Fictioneers: LAST CHANCE It got me to thinking about what life would have been like for Daisy after the book. The only problem… I had never read The Great Gatsby, so I only had the movie to go on. I know, I can hear it now… the outraged “Never read ‘The Great Gatsby’, The Great American Novel!!!… in your mind right now. I’m still puzzled why it was never assigned to read in high school or college, but it was not, maybe it wasn’t The Great American Novel in the 1960′s. So I had started the story of Max Welton and then put it on hold till I could read the book. Mission accomplished, I finished my story and immediately got sidetracked with work, taking time off writing anything for a while. And so my story languished in my draft file, a cold case, forgotten… until my memory was jolted by this line by Karen, in her blog Fat Girl In Boxing Gloves, “ They’re all in my draft box collecting cyberdust, and if that trollop of inspiration that stokes my creative fires ever returns, you’ll get to read them”. My creative fires were re-lit and my story now sees the light of day, or the glow of your computer screen. Please let me know what you think.
The photograph is of the Willard State Asylum in Upstate New York. I came across it when looking for photos of gothic looking asylums to represent my made-up ‘Lakeview Sanitarium’. I also came across an amazing story. A project by photographer John Crispin, inspecting patients suitcases that had been stored in the Willard State Asylum, which closed in 1995 and had only recently been discovered. It is pretty amazing… Willard Suitcases.
To start off the 2014… my first blog post on WordPress… and an entry in a new writing group for me…’ yeah write’!
Originally posted on TedBook:
When I was 15 my father thought it would be a great idea if I worked on a cattle ranch hauling hay… to teach me the lesson of why I should go to college. Well, I did go to college but not because hauling hay was hard work. (which it was) So, in 1958 I spent 4 glorious weeks on a cattle ranch in Modoc County near the town of Adin. Our family spent a few weeks each summer at our friends ranch… and I got an extended stay. The rancher’s wife took me to town in Alturas, and I got fitted with boots, jeans and a cowboy hat! It was Farmer’s Boot Camp for sure… they treated me as an adult and expected me to work. I learned how to do, and did, everything re: haying. I straightened and raked furrows, repaired broken bales, moved bales into rows, rode on the baler and helped fix it (seemed to break down a lot to me), worked the loader, drove a tractor and ‘bucked bales’ to load the barn.
RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH A BANG!
Somewhere along the Brown Line, an iPhone sounds, startling nearby riders.
Quack!… Quack!… Quack!… Quack! “Hello?”
“Ethel, where the hell are you? Our show’s about to start!”
“Well Ralph is going to have to send Alice to the moon without me, Cheryl. I’m almost to Armitage now, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“You’re on the Ravenswood L? Do not tell me you’ve been to Jeremy’s!”
“We can’t ring in the New Year without fireworks, Cheryl, and he has the best.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. You do remember the school playground last year, Ethel?”
“He says these are much safer ones. Record ‘TV Land’ and we can watch when I get there.”
“If you get here, Ethel. Remember, there is bomb sniffing dogs at Lake Transfer Station.”
“This week’ sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, Jeremy, can be used ANYWHERE in your piece.” “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“And the media prompt is a picture, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the picture, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission.”
To read J. Milburn’s award-winning story, go to Writing To Be Noticed
ETHEL & CHERYL WRITE A STORY
“‘I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.’ Okay, that has to be the first line to start our story. Not over 750 words, okay Ethel?”
“Wait a minute! What are you talking about, Cheryl? The first line has to be ‘Pass the basil, would you?’. You were late and I’ve already started the story. It takes place on a TV cooking show. Here, take a look.”
“Pass the basil, would you?” “Basil! What are you a @#☠%^#✴︎& Idiot!!!” “I think it goes in spaghetti, Chef.” “But you are not making @#☠%^#✴︎& Spaghetti!!! I asked for @#☠%^#✴︎& Lo Mein!!!” “Sorry, Chef!!! All noodles look the same to me.”
“For crying out loud, Ethel, you misread the instructions! They are introducing the prompt painting with the ‘basil thing’. It has something to with the story in the painting.”
“What story? They aren’t cooking in the painting. I don’t see any basil anywhere, just a skinny-ass dog and some people having a meal. Okay, let’s figure out how they’re using basil, and I’ll save my cooking show story for later, I think it’s hilarious.”
“To each his own, Ethel, but it’s not about cooking. If we want to be writers we need to focus, especially since we’re going to win a prize, we want it to be good.”
“Okay, let’s think outside the box here. We can have ‘the tracks found deep in the snow between the trees’ be the dog’s. And, we can have the cook find them!”
While surfing the web, Ethel came across a writing challenge called The Speakeasy #140, always on the hunt for something new, she enlisted Cheryl to help her. Here are the instructions she came across:
This week our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, EA Wicklund, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece. And the media prompt is a painting.
Pass the basil, would you?
The painting this week is Isabella by John Everett Millais. It’s the first painting he did in the Pre-Raphaelite style and it was inspired by John Keat’s poem Isabella, or the Pot of Basil. Be sure to click on the image to see this painting in its large format because there is a lot going on in it.
- Submissions must be 750 words or fewer.
- Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
- Your piece must include the following sentence as the FIRST line: “I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.”
Incidentally, to read some damn fine Sci-Fi, check out Wicklund’s Fairy Tales.
Suzanne Purkis runs the speakeasy, and can be found at Apoplectic Apostrophes.
IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
The Detroit Auto Show was always a basin of opportunity.
But, the myopic choice of a name by Mister Ford failed to dazzle.
Both for the new model line-up and the child.