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Sometimes the writing process is danged fun!

15 Aug

By L. Stewart Marsden

This might be somewhat repetitious from an earlier post, but different enough so I’m okay writing and posting along the same ground.

Last night I had Writer’s Insomnia. That happens when an idea gets stuck in the gears of your brain and everything basically shuts down except the idea. Like a song you can’t eject.

So all through the night, rrr — rrr — rrr it went, clanging loudly and frequently. No tossing nor turning, no arm flinging nor leg exposing offered relief. Rrr — rrr — rrr.

Finally dawn crept through my bedroom window, and I wearily got up and showered. As I began to give off more acceptable odors, and when my teeth and mouth had been scrubbed afresh with baking soda-containing toothpaste, I turned my attention to the task.

Illustrating a story.

I should tell you that drawing is not my forte. I’m no competition for those who have the talent to look, perceive, and then translate to paper, canvass, marble, steel or whatever in wonderful artistic strokes of genius. I’m more autistic than artistic in that regard.

Here’s the storyline: a pet lion eats everyone in the family, then burps them up again to resume status quo.

I heard that story umpteen times as a camp counselor at a YMCA camp located not far from Roaring Gap, NC. Herbert Burped left us all in stitches whenever it was told. As you might guess, the punchline was roared out by everyone at the story’s end!

Several days ago the story came back to my memory, so I googled it. What came up was a grandmother somewhere in the northeast repeating a similar story on YouTube. It was cute, I’ll grant you — but not the same as the story I heard years ago. Apparently, Herbert got around.

I set about working on stick figure drawings. You know the kind … those decals on the back windows of minivans that tell everyone how many people are in your family. May as well post them on Facebook. I googled stick figure drawings and found ample examples of the yukky drawings. Also found some stick figures that were better suited to porn sites. Amazing what you can find online!

Here’s the process I went through, illustrated with pictures I snapped along the way:

  1. I have a roll of newspaper print paper, about 20 inches wide, which I rolled out and began early sketches in pencil. Studies, I guess you might say.

sketches

2. I retraced the pencil sketches with a fine-point marker …

marker-enhanced

3. I jury-rigged a back-light so I could retrace each of my characters on a separate cell … I used to do this kind of thing when I was a kid. Then, I would tape the drawing to a window pane that was sunlit. Same results.

jury-rigged backlighting

4. Now I could trace each character to a separate sheet of paper …

voila - ready for tracing

5. Let the tracing begin …

tracing

6. Once my individual character sheets were complete, I scanned them into my computer …

scanning

7. And saved them to an external hard drive …

saved-to-harddrive

8. Now the fun begins … I pulled each jpg into Photoshop Elements and manipulated them, inverting each …

manipulating

… until:

Voila!

PhaseOne-nearlydone

Kind of a lugubrious process, I know. But I don’t own Illustrator or Photoshop, and can’t do this onscreen. For those of you who have that skill, I am envious. But, for the vast majority of us, this works pretty well.

As I worked on each character, I mentally developed a back-story that was more adult in nature. If this becomes, as my intention is, a children’s book, then these stories will not be part of the work. Duh, yeah!

The story begins,

Once there was a Daddy, a Mudder, a Sistah, a Brudder, a Dog, a Cat, a Boid, a Fish, and Hoiburt, the Pet Lion.

Here are the adult back-stories:

The Daddy

The Daddy is king of his castle, lord of his wife and kids, and all he surveys. In reality, he is subservient to everyone. No one understands him, except for the really-buff guy he accidentally met on Facebook. The Daddy is questioning much about his life, and is ready to meet his online friend at the local bar and spa.

Copyright, Lawrence S. Marsden, August, 2015

Copyright, Lawrence S. Marsden, August, 2015

The Mudder

The Mudder (mother) is a compliant female who is a people-pleezer — especially in regards to her place in the home and the church. Secretly she harbors anger and suppressed emotions, wanting to “fly away” at the first opportunity — but she dares not. She is secretly in a Facebook relationship with a guy whose profile pictures make her swoon. She knows this will probably remain a fantasy.

The Mudder

The Sistah

The Sistah (sister), while hoping to inherit her mother’s great physical looks, also disdains Mudder on account of what she calls “hypocrisy!” Under a pseudonym, Sistah is posing as the hunk of a man her mother is in a secret relationship with on Facebook.

The Sistah

The Brudder

The Brudder (brother), aka “Scooter,” is an avid skateboarder, which everyone knows is a gateway activity to cocaine and heroin abuse. He is pro-legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug, and has Rand Paul in 2016 stickers all over his Plan B skateboard.

The Brudder

The Dog

Fido (not his real name) is a rescued dog. Actually, a family down the block forgot to spay their female ho-dog, who did it with every dog within a three mile radius when she was in heat. Fido was the runt as well as the ugliest, and the owners put him in a cardboard box when he was six week’s old which they left on the doorstep of our favorite happy family. The Daddy said “No #%&@-way, but the Mudder, the Sistah and the Brudder prevailed.

The Dog

The Cat

The Cat, aka, The Cat, is content to live off of the family and contribute nothing to the upkeep and running of the home. A one-time feral, he quickly figured out it is much easier to let someone feed, groom, and take care of your medical needs than to fend for yourself out there among the crazies.

The Cat

The Boid

The Boid — aka, Caruso — livens the house with his beautiful arias. He especially-loves to sing from Madam Butterfly. He read Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and put it down halfway through and has never resumed reading it. He is certain Angelou never hung around in a bird cage before.

The Boid

The Fish

Cicero is the 4th generation (well, the fifth survivor) of predecessors who were overfed and died, underfed and died, strangled in untreated water that had too much chlorine, or somehow got minced away by the garbage grinder when Brudder cleaned out the fish bowl like his mother told him to do. His motto is Fish who live in glass bowls should not do so sandwiched between a cat and a lion.

The Fish

And last, but definitely not least, is Hoiburt, the Pet Lion

Cecil — uh, I meant Hoiburt — came to our favorite family as a gift of a great uncle of Daddy’s who illegally buys and sells exotic animals on the black market. As he grew into adulthood, Hoiburt was treated like a little lamb, and fed straw, grass, and oats. You know … lamb stuff. And he had been content with that diet until one day he sneaked into the kitchen and ate the roast chicken that Mudder had left out to cool before serving it for dinner. That took place just before our little story begins.

Hoiburt

Thus Phase One of this project is somewhat complete, and the next phases begin: fleshing out the illustrations for the entire story, formatting the book for submission to a publisher, and then submitting it.

Let’s arbitrarily target November or December to begin submitting it.

A very, very, VERY enjoyable journey thus far. Now, I hope I can get some much-needed shuteye tonight!

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 15 August, 2015
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Marco Polo

12 Jun

image
A short exercise as an assignment for a playwriting seminar.

Criteria: Two characters in one location. Ten lines back and forth dialogue for each, with no more than five words per line. Something must occur that forever changes the relationship.

 

MARCO POLO

At rise, a backyard. MALE and FEMALE fireflies flitting about. It is evening.

MALE

Here I am! Psst!

FEMALE

Where?

MALE

Right here! Listen to me!

FEMALE

Oh, there — you went out!

MALE

Endurance is not my strength.

FEMALE

Apparently no one else, either.

MALE

Marco!

FEMALE

What?

MALE

It’s what the kids do.

FEMALE

Huh? What kids?

MALE

At the pool. Say Polo.

FEMALE

Polo?

MALE

Right! Say it again! Marco . . .

FEMALE

Polo — oh, I don’t know!

MALE

How ’bout I sing, then?

FEMALE

                                                                      (frustrated)
Anything but this!

MALE

                                                                      (Sings, like a goat)
You light up my life . . .

FEMALE

AUGHHHH! Stop! Please stop singing!

MALE

Well, I could dance like . . .

(A bat swoops down and catches the MALE, then swoops away)

FEMALE

Marco? Are you there? Polo!

CURTAIN

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 10 June, 2014

I’m going to save you THOUSANDS of dollars!

11 Jun

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I’m going to save you thousands of dollars,

(and headaches)

 

What a hook! So you’re thinking, just how can Skip save ME $$$$$$ and ######?

Simple.

Over the next few months, I’m going to blog about my experience at getting my children’s book, Stinky and the Night Mare, published. Now, it’s not through Harper and Row or any other big company that has paid me billions of dollars up front. And, it’s not me going through the trials and tribulations of doing it all myself.

It’s somewhere in between.

This will be more a diary of my experience, with pics, etc., as I can get them. The whole painful/joyful process.

But, that’s not all!

I am ALSO going to have a second diary on my experience writing a play, and the process of formatting it, getting it read, and hopefully produced.

Yes, I know most of you are aspiring poets and novelists, nonfiction writers and the like. Writing a play may not even be on your radar, much less your forte.

But I may as well do both, as both are on my immediate TO DO LIST!

And here’s the nice thing. I’m giving you the benefit of my experience for free!

That’s right! F-R-DOUBLE-E  free!

Tomorrow or the next, you will see a new link on my website for a new page: Follow Along. For those of you who want to know the specific day/date (remind me to tell you about the FREE HOT DOGS TOMORROW billboard I saw while visiting in California as a kid), it will be either Thursday, June 12, or Friday, June 13, 2014.

There’s a remote possibility is could be as late as Saturday, June 14, but I’m usually pretty good about following my schedule.

When you open that page, you will see a link, Stinky and the Night Mare publishing experience. A second link, The Last Stand, writing a play, will be below.

I invite you to come along for the ride, and to share your own experiences, as well in the comment sections. Click on either link — or BOTH — if you like.

Skip

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The sweatshirt

1 Jun

image

The Sweatshirt

by L. Stewart Marsden

Hey! Where are you?

Down here. In the basement.

(Pause)

Hi! Didn’t you hear me calling you earlier?

No, I guess not. What’s up?

I just thought I’d drop by and see, you know, how you’re managing.

Well, I’m managing, I guess.

Yeah . . . yeah. So, what’re you doing?

Laundry.

Where is it?

Oh, right. I came down to get the laundry basket.

That Mom’s sweatshirt?

Yeah, it is. It was in the laundry basket.

Um-hum. To be laundered?

Yeah.

And . . . it’s been down here how long?

Um, I dunno. For some time I guess.

Since before she went to . . .

Yeah, I guess. Before that.

You’re right. That’s some time.

You know how things’ve been, though. I just haven’t come down here since.

So . . . there must be a helluva lot of laundry to do, then.

Enough.

Three month’s worth, I’d guess.

About.

How do you do that?

How do I do what?

Go without clean clothes?

I don’t.

You have three months’ worth clean clothes?

Of course not. If I wear something more than once, then that cuts it down.

So how many months clean clothes do you have, then?

I dunno. Couple weeks, maybe?

Ah! So you definitely wear things more than twice.

Sure.

Not underwear, I hope.

Oh, no. I don’t do that.

You have three months’ worth of underwear?

No. A couple of weeks, perhaps.

Okay — I’m not understanding. If you have a couple of weeks of underwear, and — let’s say you do wear them more than once . . .

Twice, at the most.

Okay . . . so, it’s been three months, Dad. Explain it to me.

Oh, I see what you’re getting out. Truth? I don’t wear any. I mean, if I don’t go out, why wear them? If I think that I’m going out, and might have a heart attack or something, I slip ’em on. That would be embarrassing. A sick or dead guy without underwear. Might think I was a pervert.

Dad! That’s disgusting!

No. That’s what they call going commando, I believe. Have you never gone commando, Kiddo?

DAD!

I rather like it! Nice and airy . . .

Stop it! Too much information!

Okay. I’m just kidding with you. I have a couple pair of polyester boxers I rinse out in the sink.

STILL TOO MUCH! And I’m not sure I believe you about rinsing your boxers.

I’m fine. You worry too much.

Apparently not! Besides the laundry piling up, you’ve got a sink full of dishes. How long since you’ve cooked yourself a real meal?

You know, Stouffer’s has an excellent line of full meals . . .

You can’t eat frozen meals every day!

I don’t eat them frozen, I heat them up in the oven. And once the dishes were all dirty, I bought paper plates and cups and utensils. They don’t ever need to be washed. Although your mother would wash them anyway. Protects the environment and saves a tree, I guess. That’s what she said.

Why don’t you just get a dishwasher? Who doesn’t have a dishwasher these days? You can afford it! Randall can come by and install it for you. Plus do some of the other things that need to be done.

What other things?

The railing on the steps, for one. It’s real loose. That’s all you need is a fall down the stairs.

I can fix it. I have tools. Randall’s not the only guy who can do stuff like that.

Yeah, but he does it every day.

Right. Don’t remind me. A real catch, that one.

Dad!

Sorry. But I never liked him from the start. Your mother did. And every other woman that meets him, too.

What’re you implying?

Nothing. I’m not implying a thing.

He’s a great dad.

I’m sure he is. But, just the same, I can do my own repairs. Every time he comes over here with his tools he asks me if I know what he gets for screwing in a damn doornob, for chrissakes.

He want’s you to know his skills are valuable and wants you to appreciate what he does for you.

He want’s me to know he resents doing the work for free, that’s what he wants me to know. And I’m tired of it. So don’t ask him to come over, okay? Okay?

Okay, I won’t. But he’ll ask me if there’s any work to be done.

Jerry and I will get it done.

The screens, too? They need to be taken down and washed for the winter.

Yes, the screens, too.

But Jerry’s nearly eighty. And he has that heart condition.

Goddamit! Just because a guy has a little age on him, everybody’s ready to put him in the deep-freezer! And don’t worry — we’ll both wear underwear when we do the work!

Sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean anything by it!

I know. I’m just . . . well, you know. It’s a goddam adjustment, it is. Your mother took care of all these things and I played golf.

So, can I see the sweatshirt?

Oh, sure.

Wow, there sure are a lot of memories in this rag.

Yeah.

Ummm. It still smells of her.

Yeah, it does.

She would never let us throw it away. She liked to hang on to old things.

Like me, for example.

She loved you.

I think she loved that sweatshirt more. More reliable. More comfortable.

I mean, even the logo has faded almost entirely. And look at the elbows — it’s worn to mere threads. And the grease spots.

Yeah.

Mind if I put it on?

Put it on? Sure. Put it on.

Whaddaya think?

(Pause)

I think you look like your mom. A few years ago, of course.

You’re sweet. So, what shall we do with this? Can’t take it to Goodwill it’s so old and ratty. We could cut it into rags.

Cut nothing! Why the hell would you do a thing like that? Jeesh! Cut it into rags . . . No, we won’t!

I have an idea.

Yeah?

Yeah. Let me have it.

Let you have it? The one who wants to cut it into rags?

No, I won’t do that. I’ll wear it. When I garden — like she did. When the weather’s cool and I’m sitting by the fire. When you come over.

You won’t throw it away?

No. It will be a legacy sweatshirt, and I’ll pass it down to one of the girls and teach her all about Mom.

You will?

I will.

That’s nice. I like that idea. A legacy. Kind of a living memorial.

Except the sweatshirt’s not alive.

Yes it is.

(Pause)

Yes. It is. (Pause) Say, wanna go for a short walk?

With you?

See anyone else?

Sure. Let’s go for a walk.

(Pause)

So, do you have underwear on?

Hmmm. I’m not telling.

________

 

Note:
The sweatshirt conversation was inspired by a delightful poem I read on Bhartithewriter’s blog, entitled “My Old Sweater.” You can read this rich work by clicking here.
— SM

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 31 May, 2014

Query: looking for contributors to Anthology on Aging

21 May

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Anthology on Aging

Poems, stories, essays, art and photography (and more)

on the Golden Years

 

I’m aware of more and more excellent work being done on the broad subject of aging. As I’m sliding down that slippery silver slope myself, I find much of my writing geared in that direction.

Are you writing about that time of life? Drawing? Photographing? Recording?

If so, and if you would consider contributing to a project that would be self-published, let me know by emailing me at skipmars at gmail dot com.

Agreeable details can be ironed out by agreeable people, I think.

How about you?

Wanna try?

 

Skip

The interrogation

18 May

 

image

 

 

The interrogation

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

Thank you so much for having me over.

My pleasure, Dear. I know your father’s a hand-full right now, with the accident and all.

And thanks for watching over him while he was at the hospital.

No problem. Cream?

Please.

Sugar?

No, thank you.

(Pause)

(Both together at the same time) Well, I . . .

(They laugh nervously)

Sorry!

No, please . . . you wanted to say?

This is all new to Dad. New place to live. Different area of the country. I think the stress was a little much for him. And you stepped in and I do — really — I do appreciate it.

It’s a big adjustment. He tells me that he and your mother were married forty-five years.

Would have been. She died before that happened. We were planning to have a celebration when her health suddenly turned.

I’m sorry.

Don’t be. She lived a good life. She and Dad were like this. I know he misses her, you know.

He does.

Soooo . . . how did you and Dad meet?

We met in the dining room here. He would come in and sit by himself, you know. Not too outgoing at the time. Still trying to adjust and everything.

Yeah. It was a hard decision for us.

You and your dad?

Well, yeah. And my brothers.

I see.

Well, he wasn’t doing well by himself. And the house was full of memories — and way to big for him to keep up anymore.

Right.

And then — well, he had another incident — similar to this one.

Really?

Last October. Mom died in September, and we all thought Dad was doing fine. It turns out he wasn’t.

What happened?

Near as we can tell, he went out driving and got lost. He ended up in the next county and pulled over. A state trooper found him and took him to an emergency department at a hospital there. That’s when they called us. We were worried sick! It was pretty late and was dark. You know you hear about these older people wandering off and all . . . oh, I’m sorry! I don’t mean to offend you!

What, for being one of those older people? Sure beats the hell out of the alternative, I always say. You did not offend me, Dear.

So my brothers and I decided he would be better off in a safer environment — where he didn’t have so many responsibilities and all.

Yes. Responsibilities definitely speed up the aging process.

You don’t think so?

What I think is probably worth the cost of that cup of coffee you’re drinking.

I’m sorry, I got off track. You were going to tell me how you met my dad.

I accosted him, really.

What?

Like I said, every time I saw him he was alone. At dinner, or walking around The Glens. He looked so lonely! I couldn’t stand it. And the men out here are not the kind who accept strangers very well. They tell you it’s a friendly place and all — (whispers) but it’s not.

Yes, they told us that. Introduced us to several who lived here and I thought them quite friendly.

It’s a set up.

What?

They promise those geezers seconds on desert.

No they don’t!

I’m just saying. Anyway, your pop hadn’t made any friends by the second week here, and I took it upon myself to introduce myself.

I’m glad you did. Thank you.

Well, he didn’t respond too well at first. I guess he’d never met someone as old and as forward as I am.

You’re not old!

Honey, I was there when the pyramids were still on paper!

(They laugh)

Want me to warm that up for you?

No thanks. So then what happened?

We sat at lunch together a couple of times. I would invite him to sit by me, and he really had no choice ’cause all the other geezers were watching.

Ha!

Then, one evening he arrived earlier than me, and when he saw me he grinned from ear to ear and pulled out a chair for me — right next to himself.

Aw.

So that went on for a while. Finally, your dad asked me out on a date. Well, not a date. An outing. He took me to a baseball game, of all things.

Dad loves baseball. He and Mom, well . . .

I don’t love baseball. Or even like it. Had never been to a game in my life and never watched it on TV. None of my husbands were fans.

Husbands? More than one?

Honey, I collected husbands like charms on a bracelet!

How many?

Three. After the third I figured I’d give ’em up and enjoy life. Too much trouble, men are. So I moved down here and started growing cobwebs, if you know what I mean?

I’m not sure.

You’re young. You’ll find out. So we go to this game and start to talk, and your dad starts hitting on me like crazy!

He did?

And we left the game early. But we played our own version of baseball when we got back here.

What?

You know . . . he taught me what first and second base meant.

Um, I — Why are you telling me this?

You asked.

Not for details, for goodness sakes.

Honey, you’ve been wanting the details ever since you got here. I’ve been on the earth long enough to know how other women think.

I came to make sure Dad was okay after the accident.

You came after the manager told you that your father had a girlfriend.

That’s not true!

Isn’t it? A few stitches and you fly all the way from New York? I told you he was fine, and that I was taking care of him. But that’s what worried you. Another woman, taking care of your father. Someone you knew nothing about.

He mentioned you in one of his letters.

Really?

Said you were ogling him in the dining room.

He said “ogling?”

Well, something like that. Making eyes, I believe.

He wasn’t exactly turning away, my dear.

So, just what kind of relationship do you have with my dad?

Well, it’s become quite intimate?

Intimate?

As intimate as too old people like ourselves can be.

What do you mean by intimate?

Well, what do you mean by it?

Um, you know.

Sexual? It’s okay. We can use the word sexual in this day and age.

Yes.

How old are you, Honey?

I’ll be forty-two.

How long you been married?

Fourteen years.

Children?

Three.

How would you describe your relationship with your husband after fourteen years and three kids? Hot? Romantic? Still the love-of-your-life stuff?

Well, I — we love each other and are very — committed.

Ah, committed. Your dad likes that word. Are you still intimate?

I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Intimate. Pillow talk. Hand holding. Walks together. Trying new things together — and I don’t mean sex. I mean, your dad took me to a baseball game. I’d never been to one before. And did he tell you about the skydiving?

Skydiving? Dad?

And me! We went skydiving! Guess whose idea that was? Your dad’s! And guess what I have just bought?

What?

Two tickets for Game Four of the World Series!

You’re kidding!

I’m too old to kid, Kiddo!

He calls me that.

I know. I know a lot of things. And I know that right now your dad and me got a pretty good thing going. The sex sucks, but him and me are very intimate.

What are your . . .

Intentions? If I left it up to your dad we’d hop the bus down to city hall and get hitched. But he’s too mixed up right now. That’s why he got lost again. He’s so in love with your mother, and misses her too much to let go. I’m not really sure what I am to him, but I’ll tell you this, it must be good, because he tells me that he sleeps so well these days, and it’s not because I’m exhausting him in the sack.

My brothers are worried that you might be a — a —

Gold digger? God no! My first husband actually had me in his will when he died. He had a lot of money. My second husband was a gold digger, but I found out quick and got rid of him. And my third husband? Well, I got him by the balls, and I’m squeezing out everything I can — which isn’t chopped liver, if you know what I mean.

So you’re not after Dad’s money, then.

If anything, he should be after my money. But, no — we enjoy each other. Is that so hard to believe?

It is in a way. Forty-five years of marriage. And Mom’s not been gone that long.

I know. That’s why I say no every time your dad brings up marriage. That commitment thing you mentioned. He’s really stuck on that.

Look, I’m sorry. You’re right that I came down here to check you out. You hear all these stories.

I know. And I don’t blame you one bit. It shows you care. Your dad thinks you kids are worried about the money.

My brothers are. I’m worried that Dad is safe, and that someone won’t take advantage of him and hurt him more than he’s already hurting.

Me too. And believe me, there are a lot of blue hairs and pink hairs out here have him in their sights. They were too slow. I got him first. In the best way, of course.

Do you love him?

Honey, love is a word I’ve found too easy to use over my lifetime. The word is not magic to me. What is more important between your dad and me is that we are intimate. Remember, not the sex — but the being. If love means would I hurt if he dumped me — then — yes, maybe I do love him. But I also know that hurts heal over time.

Yeah. You’re right.

You been hurt?

Once or twice.

You look okay to me.

Yeah.

More coffee?

Sure. I’d like that.

So, tell me about those once or twice hurts . . .

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 18 May, 2014

The incident

17 May

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The incident

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

How do you feel?

Woozy.

They have you on some pain meds. You had stitches in your head and quite a few on your arm.

Cuts. At least I didn’t break my damn hip. ‘Cause then I’d know I was gonna die.

You’re not gonna die from this. The doctor said she wants to run a battery of tests.

They always want to do that. Assault and battery is what I call it.

It’s for your own good.

Says who? The doctor? She’s just trying to screw the system with her tests.

I really don’t think that’s the case.

Trust me. This whole medicare thing is another way to line the pockets of doctors and lawyers.

Lawyers?

Well, doctors.

Speaking of lawyers . . . the guy you hit has got one, I hear.

Screw them, too!

Calm down, your heart monitor’s beginning to look like a roller coaster.

It’s supposed to look like that — otherwise, I’m dead.

Oh. So tell me. What happened?

It was an accident.

Yes I know. What happened that got you into the accident?

How the hell should I know — it happened so fast! And the guy jumped out of nowhere, by the way!

But what were you doing up on that side of town?

I got turned around. I don’t know. I went to Publix. Hadda few things to get and I got ’em. So I’m pulling out of the parking lot onto the big drag.

Yeah?

I don’t know. I turned right instead of left. The traffic was so heavy, and it was easier not to turn against it. I guess I figured I’d go around the block to catch a light. I dunno. I just never went around the block.

How did you feel?

Whaddaya mean, how did I feel? I felt fine! I guess. I was thinking of another time . . .

Your wife?

No. There was a time I got lost.

As a kid?

Not as a kid. As me. An adult. I got lost on my way home from work. Jeesh! I bet I’d driven that same route to work and back for thirty-five years or more. And I got lost.

When did that happen?

A year ago. It happened a year ago. In October.

Not quite a year.

Who’s counting? Anyway, I was thinking about that time.

Weren’t you retired then?

Why?

Why were you coming home from work, then?

I dunno. I was out driving. And I went past the office. What’s the big deal? So I was on my way back home.

What happened?

I just told you! I got lost! And . . .

And what?

I guess I freaked out.

How?

I don’t know . . . I got scared! It was growing dark and nothing looked familiar to me. After all those years, and nothing looked the same any more.

How did that end?

Like today. I ended up in the hospital.

Were you hurt?

No. I was scared, like I said. I pulled over and put my flashers on. A state trooper came along, and he ended up calling for an ambulance. It was a lotta hype over nothing. I was fine.

Did you stay in the hospital?

Overnight is all. And, they ran tests, too. I tell you, you even drive by a hospital these days and they run tests.

What were the results?

I went home.

Of the tests?

See? That’s the thing. The doctors were kind of mumbo-jumbo with me. I think they told my daughter more than me. She said I was upset over my wife.

Over your wife?

Yeah. She had just died. Cancer.

I’m sorry.

Why should you be sorry? You didn’t know her.

I know you.

Yeah. It was a tough time for me. But I was handling it.

So she would have died a little more than a year ago, then?

In September. When the leaves were just starting to turn. When we would head up to the mountains and stay until the really cold weather set in.

Was she . . .

Hospice. She had been in hospice for about a month. I have a picture of her — one of the last ones I took — at the beginning of the summer. She looked pretty good then.

I’d love to see it.

I sent it to my daughter.

Oh, speaking of your daughter . . .

What?

She called.

She called you? How the hell did she know to call you?

The office administrator called her. The police had reported to The Glens that you were in the accident and in the ER. The gal knew about you and me, and called me. That’s how I found out where you were. I was so worried!

Yeah? You were worried?

Yeah. I was worried. Anywho, they gave your daughter my number and she called after she called the hospital. She’s nice.

She can also be a pain in the ass.

I wouldn’t know about that. She was nice to me over the phone, and told me she would be down as soon as she can catch a flight.

Oh, jeesh! More drama! She probably wants to know how long I have left, is all.

Why do you say a thing like that?

Because it’s true! Alla my kids are sitting by the phone, waiting for the damn thing to ring out the news that I’ve died.

I don’t think . . .

You don’t know! Since their mom died, it’s just me separating them from all that money!

All that money?

Okay — maybe not a huge amount.

And don’t you live off that?

That’s the point! I’m a drain on their inheritance! Every day my heart continues to beat, that pile of cash flows out the hole — like an hourglass! Exactly like that!

She sounded very concerned about you on the phone. Why would she rush down here if she didn’t care? I told her you were fine and there was nothing to worry about.

Did you tell her about the guy I hit? I bet she was all upset about that!

We didn’t talk about that. And she was concerned about how you are.

And did she mention the other time?

Last October? She didn’t say a thing about it.

They think I’m losing it. You know, the A- word.

What?

Alzheimer’s.

Oh. Well, we are the right age.

Not for the bad kind.

There’s a good kind of Alzheimer’s?

You know — what they call chronic. Comes on earlier — and works on you faster. You vacate quicker.

I didn’t know that.

That’s ’cause you don’t read. If you read more, you’d know a lot about these things.

And I’d have my head full of them and worry about everything.

I don’t worry about everything! Just the important things.

That’s why you take all those pills, I bet — ’cause you only worry about the important things.

See? I’m supplementing all the things my body doesn’t make for me anymore.

And how many are prescribed by a doctor?

Well . . . one.

And how many of those pills you take does the doctor know about?

One.

My point. If you don’t gag to death first, all those other chemicals in your body are going to blow up!

What you don’t know.

What I don’t know might kill me — right! But at our age? Who gives a flying fart? Look, they’re gonna keep you over one more night, and I’ll come get you. You can stay with me until your daughter gets here. She said she’s going to stay a week until she knows you are safe.

A week? Jeesh! What the hell did I do to deserve all this?

Well, apparently you got lost again and hit someone. And for the second time, already.

I didn’t hit anyone the first time.

Thank God for small miracles.

I’ve got to go and clean up your place for your daughter.

It’s not messy. And it’s only my daughter.

It’s not messy to you — a guy. To me? It’s messy. And she is a daughter who loves you. All that other stuff you think is crap. So, they tell me tomorrow around ten. Hey — we could catch ball game!

Spring training is over. It’s the playoffs and the World Series is coming up.

Whatever. So, let’s catch a World Series game, then.

You know nothing about baseball. Absolutely nothing. You can’t get tickets now!

I don’t know. Ever been to a World Series game?

No.

I’ll work on it, then. I gotta go. You rest and don’t get so upset with the doctors. They’re all trying to help.

Help themselves. Hey . . .

Yeah?

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Yeah. You’re welcome. See ya tomorrow.

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 17 May, 2014

New page: Conversations

15 May

 

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I’ve added a new page called Conversations.

On that page are the titles of what I call conversational pieces. These are dialogues meant to set a scene or portray a slice-of-life situation. Prose and poetic, I invite you to peruse that work, and to give me feedback if you chose. Conversations is one of the links above.

Commitments

15 May

 

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Commitments

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

What’s a four-letter word for “sex?”

What? That’s in there?

I got it. M-A-L-E.

Oh. Not what I would have put.

Well, it’s gotta fit sideways and up and down.

Now you’re just pulling my leg. Why do you do those?

Keeps my mind sharp.

Must be working. You certainly put all the other men to shame — and I mean that loosely.

You mean shame loosely?

No, men.

So, you think I’m hot to trot, do ya?

You have a sharp mind. Like you said yourself — the body is a bit on the dull side of the spectrum.

I don’t see too many Miss America’s out here.

Yeah, well, it’s not cause they’re not trying. Everybody is tucked or boosted or dyed or injected anymore.

Not you, right?

That’s my secret to keep, and if I told you . . .

You’d have to kill me.

Well, the truth might kill you. I won’t.

So, whaddaya think?

About what?

About us.

What’s to think?

Well, here we are on the patio. I’m doing the crossword and you’re — just what are you doing?

Cross-stitch.

Yeah. And it’s nice and cool here in the shade. Whaddaya think?

It’s nice. And cool.

And comfortable?

Okay, where are you going with this?

I’ve been wondering the same thing. We enjoy each other’s company. We have fun together.

I’m not looking for a commitment from you.

I never said you were.

And — look — after three failed marriages, I don’t have it in my heart to disappoint another man. Why are we getting into this? I’m perfectly satisfied the way things are now. Aren’t you? (Pause) Well, aren’t you?

I was married forty-five years to one person.

I was married thirty-eight years — just not to the same person. I’m not the kind of person who commits long-term. Does that bother you?

Are you committed to me? Are we committed to each other?

I can’t speak for the we part, but, yes — I’m committed to you. For the time being.

Ah.

You want more?

Well —

I can’t give you more than that. One day at a time. After all, this — whatever we have here — is your fault.

My fault?

I was perfectly fine with my harem of dottering old farts until you arrived. And then you upset the apple cart.

Did I? How?

Oh, aren’t you the one! You know exactly how. You aren’t like any other man out here. And you know that, too — you’re just baiting me.

So, I’m unique, am I?

As unique as one can get.

Until the next unique guy shows up.

What?

You heard me.

Gad! You’re jealous about somebody that doesn’t even exist yet! Jealous of another man at The Glens, I can understand — even though I just told you no one comes close to you. But you’re afraid some senior stud muffin’s gonna show up and I’ll dump you.

(Pause)

Maybe.

Jeesh! So, what the hell kind of commitment are you looking for from me? Marriage? If so, that’s one helluva proposal you kind of didn’t make. And that’s not gonna fly. So don’t go there!

Look, I never had to worry when I was married — you know — about my wife’s commitment. She was always there for me.

That you know of.

What do you mean?

As far as you know, she was pure as the driven snow. A veritable icon of trustworthiness.

Are you saying she wasn’t?

I don’t know. I never met the lady. But I can tell you that every happily-ever-after story has this big part that no one knows about. That’s why country music is still around — there’s some cheatin’ heart behind closed doors and buddy, I never promised you a rose garden.

I knew everything about her.

Right. And I’m a virgin.

I don’t like this — what you’re saying.

What I’m saying is that I’m committed to you. Probably the same as your wife was. But I don’t live in a fairy tale. I know who I am. I know my tendencies. I’ve been straight up with you from the beginning.

I know.

I would also think, after forty-five years of marriage, you might want to spread your wings a little at this point in your life?

I don’t spread wings.

Right. The straight-laced guy. Boy Scout. GI Joe-faithful-to-the-end-God-Bless-America-baseball-loving-red-blooded-boy-guy.

What’s so wrong with that?

Nothing! I can hardly wait to read your memoirs!

You want me to be more exciting?

Not for me! For YOU! I want you to be more exiting for yourself. Make a bucket list, for chrissake. Go on a cruise and forget to get back on the ship at some exotic stop. Get a tattoo! Buy a sports car convertible! Get drunk and wake up on the beach!

That’s not who I am.

How the hell do you know? Ever sky dive?

No. It’s dangerous.

C’mon, you could choke to death any morning just taking all those pills you take. Ever go to the horse races?

I don’t gambol. I live on a fixed income.

Yadda-yadda-yadda-yadda! Do you hear yourself? What’s the most exciting thing in your life?

You are.

I’m sorry — I don’t want that responsibility. I do not want you to depend or rely on me to be why you get out of bed in the morning.

Actually, you’re the reason I can go to bed at night. I’ve never slept this well before.

That, too! Ooh! I was afraid this would happen.

I shouldn’t have said anything. I should have just let well enough alone.

Yeah, you shoulda! But you didn’t. You had to bring it up.

I’m sorry.

You sure are. I’m starting to see the cracks.

Cracks?

In the armor. Not so much the shining suit anymore.

Wait a minute — how is it I’m at fault for needing you — and that’s not okay — but it is okay for you to have these unrealistic expectations of me being the knight in shining armor? Explain that to me, please!

(Pause)

I can’t. I’m a woman. We have these expectations that are seeded in our minds as little girls. Every love becomes Sir Lancelot. Every love fails us.

I didn’t fail my wife. We were married forty-five years.

Sure you did. But she didn’t say anything because she loved you.

Yes, she did. And I loved her. So, what goes around comes around.

You’re going to make me cry again.

Did you love them? Your husbands. Did you love them?

Oh, I suppose I did — however deep or not-so-deep. Maybe it was infatuation. Maybe it was their power I loved. Or their money. Maybe it was my little girl need to love.

So, now you’ve grown up.

Now I’ve grown up.

And you don’t need to love.

I don’t need the complications. I don’t need someone who worries I’ll meet someone bigger or stronger or richer or more good-looking and then split.

Is that what happened?

I was like a butterfly. Like Scarlet O’Hara. It was hard to land on just one flower or one person for me.

Well, people can change.

And, spots are spots, my friend.

So that’s what I am to you? A friend? A friend only?

No. More. But a good friend is really hard to find, isn’t it?

Yes.

(Pause)

What’re you doing?

I thought I’d check the yellow pages for a listing.

I don’t think they have a category called Friends, or Commitment.

That’s not what I’m looking up.

What then?

Skydiving schools. Have you ever sky dived, by the way?

 

 

Copyright by L. Stewart Marsden, 15 May, 2014

 

 

Checklist

14 May

 

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Checklist

by L. Stewart Marsden

You like long walks on the beach?

No. My sciatic nerve starts acting up, and then I gotta take ibuprofen.

Chick flicks?

C’mon. Even you don’t like chick flicks I bet.

True. I’m a sucker for James Bond.

I figured you’d go for the slasher movies.

Why the hell would you think that?

You know . . . married three times and all.

What, you think I killed them and dismembered them for their life insurance?

Stranger things have happened.

You don’t have to worry.

Food?

Yeah. I like food.

What types of food?

All types.

Your favorite?

Spam.

Naaaaaa!

Ever tried it?

C’mon! Who eats Spam?

Somebody’s got to. It’s in every grocery store I ever went to. Even the dollar stores. You slice it and fry it with onions, peppers — then mix it with celery soup with half the milk. Really good.

Spam? Sorry.

And fried chicken hearts and gizzards with spicy mustard. And liver.

I hate liver. Makes me gag. There’s not enough ketchup in the world can mask that taste.

Then I guess foie gras is out, too.

I never had it. I thought that was banned.

Are you one of those hippy activists?

Anything wrong with being an activist?

At your age it just sounds funny! Especially with your sciatic nerve thing!

For that matter, I don’t eat veal, either.

Oh, god! And you were looking like such a catch! (Pause) So, do you smoke?

I gave up cigarettes years ago.

I don’t mean cigarettes.

Oh. You mean . . .

Yeah. Do you smoke?

No. Tried it once.

And you didn’t inhale, right?

No. Yes — I did inhale. It didn’t do anything except make me paranoid the cops were going to suddenly burst in and I would end up in jail.

And jail would be a bad thing? For an activist? Again, seems to be a bit of inconsistency going on with you.

Okay. I’m not an activist, per se. I’m more of a mental activist. I think activist thoughts.

Ever march or sit in?

No. But I thought about it. And I supported those that did.

Waved to them as the police hauled them off to jail, did you?

There’s more to activism than being hauled off to jail.

I suppose.

I ate blood pudding once, if that makes it better?

Blood pudding? Gawd — yech!

It wasn’t half bad. With eggs and juice and coffee.

Gag me with a spoon!

I was in Scotland.

And so, when in Scotland . . . So you ate the haggis, then?

I couldn’t bring myself to do that. But you like Spam.

It’s different. I’ll fix it for you one night.

Tell me which night so I can be out of town. What about music?

What about it?

Whaddaya like?

All kinds. Rock, you know. Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.

The hard stuff.

What’s wrong with the Beatles?

Elevator music, now. I’m talking Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Kiss . . .

Not my thing.

So you’re the Perry Como, Steve and Eydie kind of guy.

I like them, yes. And Sinatra and the classics and opera and big bands and beach music and Motown . . .

You still have your eight-tracks, don’t you?

I might.

You do! And a player, too!

Yes. And I have all my albums, if you need to know. They’re collector’s items now.

You’re a collector’s item! God! I have a LOT of work to do on you!

Work? On me?

If we’re going to hang, we gotta bring you up to speed.

Hang?

You know — be together.

So, for me to be with you, I’ve got to change to your . . . specifications?

Does sound a bit harsh.

Well, yeah! A lot of work has gone into who I am. I don’t think you can snap your finger, or do whatever you have in mind and it’s going to change. And maybe I don’t want to change.

Sure you do. Believe me.

Wow — that’s really — I don’t even know what to say about that!

No need to thank me now.

No, um — so maybe we need to rethink this?

No, wait! Maybe I stepped over the line a bit.

Maybe? You sure do put a lot of stock in who you think you are. May-be it would be a good idea for you to back off and take a look at yourself.

(Pause)

Look, at our age — at my age, anyway — I tend not to want to piddle around. I cut straight to the bottom line. I’m sorry. You’re right, I do think a bit higher of myself. But, you see, I’m the only one who thinks of me anymore. Period.

What about your kids?

What kids? I didn’t have kids. I had marriages, sure — but no kids. They just weren’t on my radar at the time. You know, kids get in the way.

Yeah. They do. But I wouldn’t trade ’em for anything. And, it was my kids talked me into coming to The Glen.

Well, that was good.

I didn’t think so at the time.

And now you’re convinced it wasn’t good.

No. Not at all. Look, I never knew a woman like you before.

Yep, broke the mold with me, they did.

Don’t cry. I think that we can do this.

Really?

Yeah. Whatever this is. But I don’t want to change you. I’d just like to get to know you.

You sound like the song.

What?

You know, (sings) I’d like to get to know you!

Yeah, right. Right! That’s exactly it. Let this — whatever it is between us — develop as it will.

Wherever it goes.

Exactly. You remain who you are, and I’ll remain who I am. If we change — we change. If you end up liking Spam because of it — so be it.

So be it. Spam. Ugh!

(Together, quietly, tentatively, not precisely together or in tune with each other):

I’d like to get to know you . . .

(They laugh)

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 14 May, 2014