Wednesday, January 20, 2010


...posted this a few months ago. Its made a few rounds on Facebook, perhaps led to a squabble or three, but all in literary fun. So as I currently find myself wallowing in "edit-hell," I thought I'd re-post my short about a chilly day in the woods when a pale-ish girl named Bella,(perhaps you've heard of her,) happens upon a "firey" deviant from District 12. Stephenie Meyer would not approve...but I'll take my chances:) Enjoy...

Okay, so what if...

An icy breeze, carrying with it the season's first snowflakes, a shimmering dust visible in glimpses only, darting about like hovering insects, left the air gun-metal cold.

What little warmth remained, was held within the blanketing pine grove on the forest floor. A nearly impassable thicket of brush stretching from one trunk to another, and growing upward sometimes ten feet or more through a soft cloak of moss. Like a natural barrier from the outside world, teams of wildlife used the pine grove as a safe haven from both predators and the falling temperature, as winter's hostile embrace slowly tightened.

In this thicket, where even the solemn gray skies failed to penetrate, where cloved hooves and various forms of paws could pad across the forest floor atop millions of scattered pine needles without making a sound, an abundance of wildlife felt assured of their safety. They were wrong...

Walking hand in hand under the shaded canopy of evergreens, their movements seen as a fluid blur of motion, their footsteps as silent as the early morning air itself, Bella and Edward Cullen glided through the dense undergrowth with the stealth of a falcon slicing through an updraft at high altitudes.

Bella's hair had thickened since being turned. Appearing soft, like woven yarn the color of mocha, long strands trailed along behind her as she glided lithely through the forest. At her side, Edward's golden pelt of wavy curls bounced upon his neckline with each measured step. Together they resembled a pair of shimmering ghosts, fingers entwined, their souls skimming the forest floor without disturbing the fallen pine needles under foot.

On their feet were matching tennis shoes, white Nikes. A lightly fitting, ivory dress hugged itself to Bella's slim form, while Edward challenged the wooded thicket in khakis and a simple cotton t-shirt. The inclimate weather didn't bother them. Their pale bodies were already cold like stone. In fact, only one condition drove them to the pine grove with such urgency. Hunger.

Their eyes were dilated to the size of black pearls. The telltale sign of a vampire in need of sustenance. The couple moved about the thicket unnoticed. Together, they breathed in the scents of their surroundings. Hardened pine sap sweetening the frigid air. A tinge of mildew from the moistened needles underfoot. The sour taste of decaying leaves scattered about and rustling in the breeze. And blood. Pulsing through the veins of a crouched puma nearly hidden in a stand of creaking hardwoods. Sloshing under the thick coat of an elk, head bent low, sipping water from a stream across the valley. And a rogue buck. It's antlered head tilted awkwardly to the side, small teeth knawing on the bark of a towering evergreen. Completely unaware of their presence. So close Bella could practically taste it.

"Mine," she breathed.

Edward released her hand and nodded his approval.

As Bella dropped to a crouch, her attention focused entirely upon the nearby deer, Edward closed his eyes and leaned his head back, taking in the various scents of the forest around them.

It was then, as a gentle current sifted under his nose, and merely an instant before Bella launched herself into the air, when he detected another presence in the area. An alarming essence. And worse, one he recognized.

Startled, he sucked in a breath as Bella lifted herself from the ground.

Edward could only watch helplessly as she spread her arms wide, fingers curved into talons, her sleek form dropping silently upon the unsuspecting deer, when an arrow streaked by his face, leaving a whisper of death in it's wake.

The arrow pierced the deer's heart the very moment Bella's fingertips managed to brush a handful of coarse fir along the animal's back. Caught off-guard, she tumbled over the deer and landed with a thud in a nearby pile of leaves and debris.

In a fluid motion far superior to any maneuver a mere human could accomplish, Bella rolled upright, ignoring the dried leaves tangled in her hair, and crouched defensively, her eyes searching the tree tops.

She spotted her almost immediately. Hoisted roughly thirty feet up a massive elm, a girl not unlike herself in size and shape, was nestled comfortably upon one of the tree's heavier limbs.

Very much human, the girl of nearly the same theoretical age as Bella, was balanced on her knees, her back resting against the elm's trunk. Hair a shade lighter than Bella's, fell upon her shoulders in thin waves. She remained as still as the tree itself, her body poised behind an armed bow, her arm bent at the elbow, the sheathed arrow targeted upon Bella herself.

From where he stood, Edward took in the dramatic standoff with an air of apprehension. Both females remained poised for attack. He watched as Bella's mouth slowly opened, releasing an irritable snarl. From the tree, the girl was a statue, seemingly frozen in place behind her weapon. Now all but forgotten, the dead buck remained on it's cloven feet. The arrow had struck so perfectly, instantaneous death caused the deer to simply lean into the pine tree who's bark it had been feasting. Dead before even realizing it. Limbs now supporting a carcass.

Deciding that he'd better intervene with haste, a thought entered Edward's mind. One that didn't belong to him.

"Hello Edward."

His eyes traveled back to the girl in the tree. While her focus remained on Bella, her thoughts had apparently strayed. A thin smile creased his upper lip.

"Hello Katniss," he whispered. "Nice shot."

The words, "Thank you," formed in his head. The grin widened.

"I guess I can assume that your repaired hearing from the Capitol is functioning well."

"It was the least they could do."

Edward turned to Bella, who remained crouched and hissing.

"Bella...sweetheart, it's her kill. She earned it."

"Little showoff," Bella growled. "That arrow wouldn't work so well on me."

"You mind putting a leash on your pet?" The words entered Edwards mind as if sent through a bolt of lightning. He quickly nodded.

"Bella please," he said. "Let's take the elk down at the stream. There'll be plenty for both of us."

With a huff, Bella finally straightened, but defiantly refused to turn away from the arrow, which remained targeted at her throat. Still smiling, Edward walked into the firing range, wrapping his arm around Bella's shoulder and guiding her out of harm's way. At last, Bella grudgingly turned toward the distant stream.

As the pair dropped below the quiet hillside, he glanced back toward the giant elm. The girl was gone. A moment later, a thought entered his mind. "Thank you Edward." He again nodded his head.

"Stop that," Bella snapped.


"You know what. Reading her mind. Don't think I don't know what you're doing!"

"Sorry, Sweetheart. It's just...well."

"Well what?"

Edward grinned sheepishly. "The two of each other's throats back there. ...that was hot."

"Shut up, Edward."

"Sweetheart...there's a leaf in your hair."

"Shut up, Edward!"

Saturday, January 9, 2010

...sometimes it gets discouraging. The daydreaming and the ideas. Those interesting thoughts and periodic flashes of something that could one day be considered brilliance.
And just when I find myself falling into one of those, "writing grooves," when pretty much everything starts making perfect sense...I read a novel so utterly tantalizing, I'm instantly tossed back into my place, along with the other twenty million author wanna-be's drifting aimlessly about, lost in thought, or just lost.
Edgar Sawtelle was born mute, speaking only in sign, to his parents in a remote farmstead in rural Wisconsin.
While the novel is named after young Edgar, the story revolves around the "Sawtelle Dogs," a fictinal breed of canine started generations earlier by Edgar's grandfather, who sets out to create the perfect companion.
What begins as a slowly moving, poetic glimpse into the Sawtelle' s family history, veers without warning toward a drama, smells of mystery, hints of the super-natural, to finally emerge as a tragedy, whispering the likes of Shakespeare's "Hamlet."
David Wroblewski swares that he never intended to re-write "Hamlet," that his intentions were of original thought. And while the characters honestly don't resemble the ones from Shakespeare's famous play, which I read a thousand years ago in English Lit, it's the storylines that run parallel. And frankly, it doesn't matter. Edgar's story is unforgettable.
And if perhaps the story itself isn't enough, Wroblewski's style of pen keeps the pages turning...
"...They were almost home, walking the road, the world cottoned out ahead, when something caught Edgar's eye. He stopped near the narrow grove of trees that projected into the south field atop the hill. A granite ledge swelled from the ground there, gray and narrow and barnacled with moss, cresting among the trees and submerging near the road like the hump of a whale breaking the surface of the earth. As his father walked along, Edgar stepped into the wild mustard and Johnson grass and waited to see if the ground might ripple and seal over as the thing passed. Instead, a shadow floated into view at the ledge's far end. Then the shadow became a dog, nose lowered to the mossy back of the leviathan as though scenting an old trail. When the dog reached the crest of the rock, it looked up, forepaw aloft, and froze..."
Fifteen drafts and several years were spent creating "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." The laborous edit work, the re-writes, the third party volunteer work...tedious to no end. And in this case, it paid off.
Some novels I read and can pretty much visualize the movie set as I thumb through the pages. "The Road." "Feedomland." "Gone Baby Gone." That vampire saga we've all been caught up in. Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" in the not too distant future I'm sure. As for Edgar...I hope it's left alone. I don't want Hollywood to change the sights and sounds so perfectly described by Wroblewski. It's that good...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010... the crystal ball touched bottom on Times Square on New Year's Eve, it wasn't the cheers I heard from the millions in attendance that drew my attention to the television as I lowered my half empty glass from my lips. It wasn't the flashy colors or new age haircuts that New Yorkers are well known for, or even that strange outfit on Jennifer Lopez, causing her to appear naked, but resulting in her looking, well...kinda old, and maybe a little desperate.
Muffled in the drumming background noise of every party in America, whether televised or not, was the sound of a weary sigh being exhaled.
Simultaneously, and without warning or malice, struggling Americans bid farewell to 2009 with the same reverence as reaching the summit of a mountain, but finding the act of celebration too exhausting to do much more than breathe.
Jobs lost, major industry shaken from their foundation, a plunging economy, and spiralling retirement funds have slapped our faces with a hard reality check, as we glimpse ahead to an unstable future.
Over the past 18 months, as our staggering markets slowed to a crawl, it was the little guys, the same ones who boosted the economy and collectively tucked our executives into their king-sized beds in the hills each evening, who were sliced from payrolls and left behind so that the strong could carry on. So the rich could get richer.
It happened at my job. It happened at your job. It happened everywhere.
But as I heard that long sigh being released on New Year's Eve, and timed it with my own, I realized that perhaps it wasn't so much the sound made out of desperation or futility. The last gasp uttered from a dying breed. Perhaps it wasn't an exhale at all. But rather an inhale. A collective gathering of air in the lungs. Building. Prepairing. An act of hope.
I've read the stories. I've seen the papers. From coast to coast...from Micanopy, Florida to Forks, Washington. From Brownsville, Texas to District 12, people have started turning their backs on those major corporations who so quickly turned their backs on them, and asked themselves that one important question, "So what do I want to do now?"
People have started thinking back to their childhoods, to that moment in their lives when they were asked, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" ...and they remembered their answer.
Read the success stories, check out the statistics. People who have been "bought out," or "laid off," have fired back by venturing out on their own, by taking risks, by putting it all on the line. To better themselves. To better all of us.
And as we begin to realize that life can move forward without the help of major corporations running our lives, we've quietly started to ban together. To help each other succeed. To build on what we've started.
Strangers holding hands. Nodding to one another with a fearful, but hopeful acknowledgement. And moving forward. Living as we've never lived before.
And when the economy does begin to move once again...and money starts being made...and people find themselves worth something again, big industry will come calling as they've always done in the past. Help wanted! Benefits! Bonuses! And maybe this time they won't get so lucky. Maybe this time we'll have moved on. Having learned how to live on our terms instead of theirs, maybe this time it'll be them who have to learn how to survive.
Because that's what we do. The "Little Guys." We fight. We work hard. We learn. And we move forward.
My family escaped this past year with little more than our health. I was spared my job, but fell victim to every other casualty the industry could legally, and perhaps illegally, send my way. Take, take, take. And in the end we were left with little more than a spindly paystub that barely managed to hold a roof over our heads. Long hours spent...measley results awarded.
And as 2009 hissed and spat, growled and clawed at our spirit, my wife turned to me, and I turned to her, and we said, "Enough already."
I thought back to when I was young. A boy sitting behind a school desk, 10 or maybe 12 years old, looking up to an expectant teacher as she asked me that question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
But she was a smart lady. She already knew the answer. And I remembered...'s time for change.