Nanowrimo – Warm-up Day 9


Tues. 10/23 Day 9 – 900 words two or three “super-short” stories (I have 3 separate stories below)

The flyswatter was in the kitchen, hanging on a hook he thought he’d put there for oven mitts–hot pads, his wife called them.  The book he was reading in his lap was for graduate school, but this fly in the room could care less if Tommy’s paper was done on time.   Swoosh. Land. Fly near face. Scatter toward TV. Read a paragraph. It’s back. On page 62. The book is over two hundred pages long and the fly hates it almost as much as Tommy does.  Getting up, retrieving the death device, seemed like it would interrupt his reading flow even more. Then, Tommy considered if he was hungry. If he’s hungry, he won’t be able to concentrate on the book.  He’ll read a few pages, swat the fly away again, come across a word like ‘souffle’ or ‘tapioca’ or ‘whisky’ and think of reasons he should probably just get up and go to the kitchen. Get the damn flyswatter.  End this fucker’s life. Pour two fingers of Jameson. Try to get through this atrocious, pretentious novel. A dog barks outside. He thinks it’s Jasper, their mutt, but then he remembers that he had to bury Jasper two springs ago while his wife Dana cried in the bathroom over their divorce papers.  


Barney ordered his coffee and didn’t move out of the way for the next customer.  He just stood there, staring at a picture he’d been sent on his phone. The cashier talked over his shoulder, assuming he’d click back into humandom and move the fuck over.  He didn’t. The woman behind him was kind and almost too polite to make the person behind her upset that this is not what society has become, is it? Minor acts of civility and manners fall off each day–today from this jackhole who’s too busy looking at his five-inch screen with hair screaming out from under a baseball cap.  The second customer takes the longest possible path to avoid Barney and waits patiently near the area underneath the large Pick-Up/App Orders Here sign.

But no one but Barney knows what the picture is.  No one cares either. Even if he explained. It was her calf.  It was Lindsey’s calf, surrounded by gray bed sheets that he remembered buying for his sister Marie.  Of course, when Lindsey didn’t come home, he assumed she’d stay with someone. She’d stopped texting at eleven or so, and he went to sleep.  But the fact that she ended up at his adopted sister’s apartment across town made him wonder for the next forty years if his lesbian sister screwed his wife and proudly sent him evidence of it while he stood, waiting dumbly for his white chocolate latte with skim milk.


So my neighbor knocked on my door seconds after I settled a fight between my two children that began when one of them threw spaghetti noodles at the other’s face.  Gina, collected as always, discussed appropriate behavior with them in her authoritative voice while I stuffed meatball after meatball in my mouth so I wouldn’t blow up.  She doesn’t like it when I yell at them; she thinks it sends them the wrong message about maturity. Instead of saying or doing anything, I just washed the one-inch think, canned-sauce-slathered meat spheres down with a Michelob Ultra, a beer my wife thinks will help me lose weight.

I answered the door and Dave, my neighbor of ten years and friend of five months, stood there with his hands linked together.  He wore a plaid shirt that was tucked into pleated tan pants. He’d probably just arrived home from his job at the high school my kids were destined to attend.  “Hey, Rick,” he said as I pushed open the squeaky screen door. I eased out after he backed up a step. “Didn’t interrupt dinner, did I?”

“Just finishing.  What’s up?”

“Catch that Mets game?”

He always did this.  He always begins a serious concern by getting me to think about sports or my motorcycle or something nice my wife did out in the lawn.  It’s a great technique to prepare someone for bad news, don’t get me wrong. I’ve done it at work for as long as I can remember. It’s a little insulting, however, because I know exactly what he’s doing, and he knows I know it.  

“Yeah.  Close one.  That closer may not have a job next week though.”

He agreed.  “Listen, I wanted you to know something.  I know you don’t have Facebook anymore, right?”  I nodded. “Somebody in the neighborhood group said something that I thought you should be aware of.”

“What, another complaint about kids walking in the grass?  Trash getting picked up too late?”

He chucked, nervously.  “No, not this time. Someone said something about how sad it was that people didn’t put out their flags on holidays anymore.”  Without realizing it, he glanced to my left to where the owners before us had placed a slot for flags to be displayed. They’d even left one carefully placed in the garage along with a note about the rules of flag flying.

I just sighed.  I wanted another beer at that moment.  He knew I wasn’t going to change anything about what I believed or how I chose not to put a flag out while every other house on the cul-de-sac did so, ceremonially.  I could tell he didn’t want to tell me, but he thought I should know.

“Well, thanks for telling me.  I hope you and Carla have a good night.”

“You too, buddy,” he said.  “Go Mets!”

“Go Mets,” I said, as I stepped inside and closed the door.  

October Warm-Up (Day 1–“A First”)


In the spirit of practicing what I preach, here was yesterday’s first warm-up writing.  This, and the 19 to follow, are obviously rough drafts that may or may not find their way down Revision Lane someday…

Day 1 – A first

This was a first that speaks to my nervousness around the opposite sex.  I had to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 or 12 at most.  I know I was still in elementary school.  My mom took us to either King’s Island or Cedar Point for a day about once a year.  We have some family in Ohio, and we must have made a weekend out of it–not entirely sure.  Anyway, my older brother was either on his own or with a friend that summer day at the park, so I was left with my mom.  We were in line for a ride I called The Octopus.  That may very well have been its name, but I distinctly recall this multi-legged ride with spinning cars  at each end to be white with red stripes.  

I can remember thinking it would be fun to ride this ride with my brother and not with my mom.  I sensed that she was pretty much over riding rides at this point in the day and her life, so I probably said something like how I didn’t want to ride the stupid Octopus.  Whatever I said was typically ignored or not met with adult conflict.  No.  My mom looks around and sees a girl about my height who is standing alone a few inches behind us.  

“Young lady, would you like to take my place and ride with my son?”

She clearly had not been asked such a question in her life.  Her gaping mouth suggested that no one had even ever referred to her as a young lady.

By this time we were being rushed forward toward the entrance gate to the ride.  The guys operating that day couldn’t have known I’d just met this girl seconds earlier when my mom accosted her in line.  Later, I remember looking down from my vantagepoint and seeing my mom’s cryptic grin–something that, then, made me think she was pleased by seeing her baby grow up.  Nope.  It was definitely because she got me in the end for back-talking her.

The girl was as forgettable as this tiny memoir.  She had long skinny legs and our knees touched once or twice as the motion of the mid-air car swayed us around.  I’m sure I didn’t talk to her.  I told the story several times at school the following year and probably even wrote about it then.  

It’s well over twenty years later, and I can still see those bare skinny knees and my mom’s devilish grin a few dozen yards below me.  



1650+ words – hotly debated argument


She’s at it again.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why people like to get her started.  Some of us just want to sit in Mrs. Higgins’ class, read the book or write the paper and move on.  We took regular Senior English, not Debate.  We certainly didn’t take Cranky Crass’s Current Issues Class nor did we want anything to do with Speech II.

But they’ve gotten to her again.  And now we’re listening to her go on and on.

I’m really tired of it too.  Most of the girls in my grade are making a better case almost daily for why I should never speak to them after graduation.  They don’t really bother me, I mean, go after me.  But in a way they do.  They know who they annoy–Georgetta is their main target, but the other girls like Destiny, Vicki, and me–we’re like bystanders.  Mrs. Higgins would perhaps like my metaphor of us being dominos.  Once they get Georgetta, the rest of us fall or suffer.

Georgetta Chapman came to Harriston two years ago and immediately impacted our flow of high school.  On the first day, normal kids who change schools keep to themselves–maybe even just to learn a little about the environment or simply observe the way others talk.  Georgetta, however, asked Mr. Boling if she could make a brief announcement at the end of class that first day.  He, and the rest of us, thought she was going to just say a few words about herself, her family, her hobbies, whatever.

We were wrong.

“Hello, fellow students,” she began.  I’ll never forget that part because Ox O’Brien, who had been asleep two chairs behind me, shot up and asked if she was our new teacher.

“Go back to sleep, Ox,” Mr. Boling said, which was also kind of funny coming from a teacher.

“At any rate,” she continued.  “Thank you for the warm welcome.”

No such welcome had happened, but she wasn’t being sarcastic either.  It was obviously a speech she’d either given before or had practiced endlessly.

“I would like to extend my invitation to all of you to join my family at the Harriston United Church this Sunday for a fun-filled day of fellowship, food, and fun.”

For some reason, I looked over at Mr. Boling.  He had bit his lower lip, something I noticed usually meant he was trying to hold back from saying something or stopping something.  Not laughing or anything.  No, for that he always grinned and dipped his head so we couldn’t see his face for a few seconds.

“No offense, church girl,” Ox hollered.

“Ox?  Respect, please,” came our teacher’s monotone return.

“Mr. B.  Come on.  She’s not allowed to–”

“Thank you, Mr. O’Brien.  I know.”

He stood and approached Georgetta.  Standing a full foot-plus higher than she was, he sort of crouched down and said something to her.  I thought he looked like an overworked high school football coach all of a sudden.

Georgetta smiled shyly, nodded and offered her hand as an understanding.  He awkwardly shook it and walked around his desk.  Just as he was going to announce something nobody cared about, the bell rang, freeing us for Labor Day Weekend.

I remember that because it was the following Monday morning when her brother all but saved my life.

Today, however, we’re seniors.  It’s known around our class that Georgetta is heading to Michigan the night of graduation to begin some sort of missionary trip.  She has never been very specific, and not too many of us actually listen when she talks about it.  We only know because she wiggles that information into just about every conversation/group work/lunchline.

Mrs. Higgins has just about had enough.  Those are the exact words she uses.  Most of us stop with that verbal warning.  She’s one of those teachers who is actually super sweet but will scare the shit out of you when she’s pissed.  She glares at Autumn, the lead girl in the whispered taunting section around Georgetta’s table.  I can only pick up a few phrases here and there.

Her desk rams up against a nearby bookshelf when Georgetta gets up and walks to Mrs. Higgins’ desk for a tissue.  I try to read anoter Jane Austen paragraph when the page I’m looking at grows dark with shadow.

“Keelie, would you mind if I sat beside you?” Georgetta asks me.

We aren’t friends, but we’re not enemies either.  She’s relying on my for sanctuary.  Just seven minutes of class left and she’s close to losing her shit from the abuse from the window row.

“Go ‘head,” I say.  I stare at the page.  It’s number 234.  I examine those numbers and not the words.  When Mrs Higgins’ phone rings, I listen to most of the students behind me shuffle through their things and zip up bags and purses.  “Class, keep reading.  I’ll just be a moment.”

Small, pointless conversations ensue.  I just want to make it to my car before Georgetta really tries to bring me into her world.

“Keelie!” Autumn whispers hotly.  “Hey!”

I half turn, still with my book open, and sort of tell her I’m listening, without saying any actual words.

“Keelie!”  Some other girls giggle.  “You need me to cover Sunday since you’ll be at church?”

I’m not sure why, but that seemingly innocuous comment forces me to slam Emma down before she unwillingly crashes to the floor on her back.

“You know what, bitch?  Fuck you!”

The room erupts like an arena full of pro wrestling fans.

“What the fuck?” she asks.

I glance at Georgetta and wonder how in the world she got me into this.

“I’m just so fucking sick of your shit.  We all are!”

D’Nay and Charli–girls who always somehow end up sitting beside each other–have covered their mouths, perhaps silencing their own enthusiasm.  D’Nay casually slides to the door and pulls it shut.

“Are you fuckin’ psycho, Keelie?  You’re gonna stick up for your homegirl over there?  What, she lending you that fuckin’ denim skirt for prom?”

The boys yelp their approval.  This type of stuff never happens in our school.  Something in me snapped, and I have no confrontational experience.  That goddamn bell will not ring though.

“Look,” I said.  I have really no idea what to say.  “It’s clear you have fucking…issues, you know.  I think it’s called ‘displaced anger.  Maybe your pedophile father fucked with you when you were younger.”

“HOLY SHIT!” two boys boom in unplanned unison.

“Fuck off,” Autumn says.

“And I’m not sure God wants anything to do with you,” Georgetta says pointedly.

Autumn shoots up out of her seat and storms toward us.  I barely have any time to get up and block her from going after Georgetta.

“Bitch, I will cut you!” she screams at Georgetta.  “And that nappy-ass hair too!”

I’m holding Autumn as if I know what I’m doing.  Miraculously, I just reached and latched onto both of her arms at the same time and kept them in a tight squeeze.

“Let her go, Keelie!”

“No!” I scream into Autumn’s face.  She can’t kick me because she’s in a nest of desk legs.  D’Nay and Charli walk around and point their phones at me.  I can’t see any other students; they must all be behind me, filming it no doubt.  While I’m looking at her, I see sweat forming beneath her red hair dye and think about how I’m going to lose my scholarship when this film hits YouTube.  I think about weird shit when I’m uncomfortable.

“It’s okay,” Georgetta says.  “You should let her go.  Don’t get in troub–”

Autumn’s body twists and she spits in my face.

“Did you get that?” D’Nay yells.  “Oh my GAWD!”

“Hey!” Mrs. Higgins bellows.  “What in God’s name is going on here?”

I loosen my grip and Autumn charges away.  Not toward Georgetta, though.  Before she can reach the door, she falls just as the bell rings.  No one moves though.

“She tripped me!” Autumn says, pointing in Georgetta’s direction.

“No she didn’t,” Mrs. Higgins says.  “Everyone sit down!”

“But the bell!” many plead.

“I said SIT!”

Everyone does quickly, but Georgetta and I ease down.  I pick up Emma.  Autumn slunks into a seat in the front row.

“Phones.  NOW!”

For a group of reportedly bad-ass high school students, we all sort of cower up to her desk and create a lumpy pile of iPhones and Androids next to her Kleenex.

She picks up her receiver and dials without losing eye contact with the class.

“Mr. Mansfield?  Please bring the liason officer to my classroom at once.”

Her tone is immaculate.  Precise.  Oddly calm.  I predict a lecture in the thirty some seconds it will take for someone to find the officer and bust ass from the main office to our English classroom at the other end of Hall A.

She’s staring mostly at Autumn.  I keep wiping my eyes, even though I’d already wiped her disgusting saliva from my face before she bit it on the cold, white floor.

Mrs. Higgins inhales slowly and oozes it out.  She’s deliberating whether or not to say something truly hurtful.

“This is probably the most disappointed day of my career.”

A heavy knock is followed by the principal and uniformed officer blasting through.  “Mrs. Higgins?” Manfield asks.

“I’m going to need your help, gentlemen.”

Their faces lean forward, even though they’re still several steps from her desk.

“I stepped down to the lounge for a personal call several moments ago,” she says.  “In my absence, an apparent brawl broke out.  I don’t understand these…phones today, so if you could kindly erase the videos that depict the events of the past ten minutes or so, I’ll kindly appreciate it.”

The officer strides toward her and sees the small mountain of Otterboxes and silicone cases.  He began by holding one up after realizing it was password protected.  D’Nay stepped up, unlocked it, and watched him watch the video.

“And Mr. Mansfield, you’ll need to find a substitute for me.”

He cleared his throat.  “No problem, Mrs. Higgins.  For just tomorrow?”

She stood, positioned her pale green purse over her shoulder and pushed in her squeaky chair.

“For the next thirty years, I’d say.”