Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas on the Battlefield

...Christmas Day.

Mid-afternoon. The lights in the tree have been twinkling since sunrise. Silent flames dance in scarlet cheer from the gas fireplace. Through the front window the world rests quietly in gray doldrums, the air thick with moisture. Occasionally a car drifts by, its exhaust fumes dissipating like scattering leaves in the wind...and the holiday is observed.

Meanwhile, a lone soldier clings an uzi to his waist as he rolls behind the wreckage from a recently destroyed apartment building, bullets slicing through the air overhead.

His chinstrap unclasps, causing his helmet, once olive, now blanketed in dust, to slide over his vision as he awaits the throbbing in his ears to settle.

He opens his eyes, sensing the sting of grit and tiny pieces of shrapnel floating like angry hornets through the paltry air. In the distance he can now hear the voices of his enemy, calling out to one another in foreign tongue. If only he could understand their jargon...

From his belt the two-way radio chirps. What remains of the rest of his squadron, calling out to him. He quickly taps the receiver with a forefinger, turning the radio off. The voices fall silent. How far did the sound travel? Has his whereabouts been discovered?

He rises to a sitting position behind the brick husk of what was once the home to many civilians and their children, no doubt long gone by now.

He can hear the thudding of combat boots approaching. Small plumes of dust rising from earth's scarred surface. The sound of many, from different angles.

Realizing he's cornered, he clutches the sub-machine gun with both hands and looks up through the soot to the sun above. It's the same ball of flame he's seen countless times throughout his life. But from this strange, desolate place, it's somehow different. Not as friendly. It's managed to absorb the turbulence of an unforgiving mountainside surrounding him, the blazing sand under his torn fatigues, and the vacant angst expressed upon the faces of the few survivors left behind. The one's he's fighting to protect. The same one's willing to turn on him without a moment's hesitation.

He exhales a breath, voices a prayer through a hoarse whisper. A mouthful of dust, and lips chapped like scorched asphalt. Then he grips his weapon, releases a fearful whine, and turns toward the oncoming assault...

"Aww man! Got shot again!" my son exclaims, bent over in frustration. He slams a fist upon the carpeted floor, his legs crossed Indian-style in front of the television. I glance up from the book I'm reading. The Sony reveals a downed soldier lying in a pool of blood, a few splatters trickling like raindrops on the screen.

I look at my son, clutching his XBox controller as if wielding The Hobbit's magical ring and refusing to relinquish its power. Still bent over in defeat, his eyes find my gaze from across the room. The corner of his mouth curls up in a grin. "Care if I try again?" he asks.

I roll my eyes, shrug my shoulders, and return to my book.

"You're going down, lousy terrorists!" my son bellows.

Then I hear the eery background music. Moments later I hear the guns.

Christmas 2010. "Call of Duty: Black OPS Edition."

...Jeez, I'm getting old:)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"South of Charm"

...our lives forever changed the day she saw it.

It had been a day or two since watching the fireworks fill the night sky with spider webs the color of a rainbow over Walnut Creek Park. Later, I swore I could still hear the cannon blasts, like distant gunfire from across the county.

I was nine years old, enjoying summer break, sweating through a July heat wave. Humidity in the shape of a giant mushroom cloud, hovering over the state of Ohio. Its intensity was enough to make our cat pant like a dog and scurry for shade by ten a.m. I'd sneak up on him, a lazy orange tabby, its fur twisted and mangled from a territorial dispute with the neighboring tom, and blast him with the garden hose. He'd spring into the air, his back arched, a guttural screech causing every nearby sparrow to flutter about in graceless circles, and stumble for the bordering maples in the distance. Then I'd giggle to myself as he'd stop, just out of firing range, and offer me a grimace from across the yard as if to say, "Between you and me, that hit the spot."

It was later that evening when she saw it. There was never a warning of things to come. Never a chance to mentally prepare. It just happened, like things sometimes do...

...the final read/edit is in progress. A cover design has been chosen. And we're close:)

"South of Charm" 2011

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"I write like...Chuck Palahniuk? Okay then...bring it, Charlie!"

"This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time." -C.P., "Fight Club"

...being the novice scribblers that we are, chomping at the bit for a drop of notoriety from anyone willing to read our thoughts, I'd bet my left shoe that most of us have skipped over to the "I Write Like" website, and accepted the challenge of seeing who our work most resembles. Dickens or Cormier. Perhaps your fingers mimic the work of King, or Collins...someone with prowess, someone granted the opportunity to quit their dayjob and begin life anew. And in return we're allowed a moment of bliss, to think, "So if I write like him, then maybe..."

And so I went to the site, plugged in a line or two from "South of Charm," punched ENTER, and a name spit out that I wasn't expecting, but after some thought, didn't mind in the least.

"I see the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived...and these men are pumping gas and waiting tables." -C.P. "Fight Club"

Chuck Palahniuk was born in '62, in Burbank, Washington. He grew up in a mobile home, his family living paycheck to paycheck, surviving as best they could. His parents separated when he was still a young adult, scraping by on dreams alone. With little else to strive for, Palahniuk turned to the arts, realizing his passion for writing at an early age.

"This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom."-C.P. "Fight Club"

Palahniuk earned acceptance to Oregon University, majoring in journalism. He took a job at Freightliner, making ends meet. He eventually gave up journalism, focusing his time on writing fiction when not struggling to pay his bills. He was in his mid-thirties when lightning struck.

"You aren't alive anywhere like you're alive at Fight Club. Fight Club isn't about winning or losing fights. Fight Club isn't about words. You see a guy come to Fight Club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything."-C.P.

Like Palahniuk, I grew up in a mobile home, the bill collectors taking turns knocking on our door. My parents separated when I was fourteen, forcing a change of school, different life, a time when keeping one's feet on the ground proved challenging. And so I turned to the one thing I always felt I was meant to do...a pen, some paper, and away I went...

I'm unable to predict whether lightning will strike or not, for that's up to my readers to decide, but good or bad, the story's on its way.

And so perhaps I write like Chuck Palahniuk, an honorable comparison...but then, you tell me...

"For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil. And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born."-C.P. "Fight Club"

...No one saw them. A pair of shadowy forms, ghostlike against the darkened backdrop of an expiring twilight. They appeared from behind an aging Dumpster along the edge of the church parking lot. Careful not to bump against its steadily decaying welds, the metal having long since fallen victim to corrosion from Ohio's inclement weather, they crept along behind the steel deterrent, patiently awaiting nightfall's obscure embrace....

...To anyone passing by on nearby State Route 62, they would've resembled the darkened forms of a pair of meaningless shadows belonging to anyone. A peculiar presence spotted through one's peripheral vision, then gone without any thought of foul play. An untimely blanket of goosebumps rising upon one's arms, then forgotten with a frown and the pull of a steering wheel.... E.G.-"The Fellas"

Perhaps one day, on a whim, Chuck Palahniuk will find himself on "I write like," entering a favorite passage of his, then hitting ENTER, and seeing my name appear on the screen. For that's why we're allowed to dream, is it not?

Thanks for reading,
EL ;)