Sunday, September 6, 2009

let's try this again

So I've let this blog languish for about the last year and a half, although it's not unusual for me - I start things and rarely finish them. However, a chat with someone who inspired me has gotten me to take another look at this blog, and maybe even post writerly things here every so often. Like every 18 months or so, as has been my wont so far. ;) Anyway, thanks, Jacob! I owe you one, if I ever make it out to Austin.

Before I launch my next piece, though, a preemptive warning/disclaimer type thing: the way the story is shaping up, it's very, very possible that it will end up dealing with some very sensitive subject matter. As I haven't written it out yet, I have no idea exactly which direction the plot will lead me; however, either way it pans out it is bound to be very controversial, and it's not meant to espouse one point of view or the other, or my own feelings on the matter. So make of it what you will, and please don't send me hate mail if you don't like the end result.

I think I'll start with the prompts I got from the last time I was supposed to keep this blog up - don't be surprised if you see some or all of the elements given in the prompts woven in. Or even none, if the story leads me in that direction.

Anyway, enough blather. On with the writing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

creative writing, 4/19/08

So here are the elements for this week's blogroll:

* A library
* Someone or something French
* A river
* A glass bead

argh. I have totally run up against a wall here. This one might be a little late in coming.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Electric Blue

Electric Blue

The young girl sat in the living room, which was dim, lit only by the suffused rays of the summer sun coming in from between the blind slats. While she usually lounged on the couch on a lazy day like this, reading a book and perhaps eating a snack - a bowl of popcorn, or an apple, or a PB & J sandwich and a glass of milk - today was different. Today, Cassandra was too impatient to read. She was too tense to just sit, either; every few minutes she would glance at the antique carriage clock on the mantelpiece, impatiently noting the time. She'd get up and wander around the living room, or start back up the stairs to her room, thinking maybe she'd forgotten something, and then turn around when she was halfway up the stairs, worried that he'd pull up to the driveway while she was upstairs, and she somehow wouldn't notice or hear his arrival (she knew that was silly: he wouldn't come to the door? Ring the doorbell? Knock?), and he'd drive away. She tried to push the irrational fear that she'd never see her dad again to the back of her mind.

It had, in fact, been several years since she'd last seen her dad, but this time, everything was different. The last time had been five years ago, when she was nine; Dominic had blown back into town for a couple of days on business and consented to take her for a few hours to "hang out." The "few hours" turned into about 45 minutes in which he took her to the Creamery to buy an ice cream cone. He'd gotten a phone call right after he'd paid for the cone, said it was "important business," and dropped her back at her house with a perfunctory kiss and a cheery, "See you soon, kiddo; I love you."

"Soon" had somehow stretched into the ensuing five years; Cassie was going into high school in the fall, and physically, she was much changed from the little girl who had felt slighted for a disembodied voice on the other end of the phone. Emotionally, though, she sometimes felt she was still that little girl, holding in her tears and silently licking her ice cream cone, trying not to let her tears or the drips of ice cream fall on the black leather upholstery of her daddy's flashy antique car (a vintage 1966 Mustang, cherry-red). He had hardly looked at her on the drive back to her mom's at all, talking instead to whoever was on the phone, telling that person excitedly to buy this and sell that and call the other thing. Whatever that meant. He'd only paused long enough for his farewell.

The carriage clock steadily ticked the minutes away. It was already well past two o'clock; he had said he was going to be here "at about two." In Cassie's world, that meant around 1:55 to 2:05, but in Dominic's world, two o'clock could mean anywhere between 12 noon and four p.m. Or whatever struck his fancy. It was this utter informality that had failed to charm her grandparents, the people who would have been his in-laws. Her mother had steadfastly defended this flightiness (there was no other word for it) for a while, until she was no longer so blinded by love for him that she couldn't see how he broke their little girl's heart each and every time he failed to show up on time to see her.

God. Her mother. She'd stubbornly refused to think about her for the last few hours, because the last thing she needed was another reason to cry. The funeral had been two weeks ago. Dominic had not shown up then - Cassie was angry that he couldn't even be bothered to show up to the funeral of the woman who had supposedly been his first love. She guessed he had his reasons, mostly having to do with her grandparents, but the least he could have done was to man up and be there for her, for his own daughter. He couldn't even be bothered to do that much. It seemed like he could never be bothered to do much for her, despite the fact that she was his own flesh and blood.

The clock struck two-thirty, the tinkling chimes of the clock cutting into her thoughts; as usual, Dominic was late. She sighed impatiently, stomped up to her room again and paused on the landing when the house phone rang. She hesitated a moment; should she continue upstairs and pick it up in her room, or go back downstairs and answer the living-room extension? She continued upstairs and took the remaining stairs two at a time, sprinting for her room; she picked up on the last ring, just before the answering machine could click on. "Hello?!" she said.

She knew she sounded out of breath, and she hated herself for it when she heard the voice on the other end of the line. "Cass? Sweetie? It's Dad." She hated being called Cass, but how would he know that? He'd never been around for more than a few hours at a time.

Her heart skipped a beat like it always did when she heard her dad's voice, in spite of herself. "Daddy? Hi." She couldn't resist adding, accusatorily, "You're late."

"I know, sweetie, I know. I'm sorry. Traffic's a bitch on the 580; I'm just getting into Castro Valley now. I should be there soon, but I can't tell how soon. There's a big accident up ahead." She noticed he had the L.A. habit of calling freeways "the (freeway number)." The guilt in his voice made her stomach clench into a knot. He sounded genuinely contrite, but she just couldn't be sure of the man. The cellphone signal scrambled for a moment, delivering garbled noise into her ear.


"I said if you haven't eaten, we can grab some lunch and talk before we head back; we've got a lot to catch up on, and I know you've been through a lot."

We sure do, and I sure have, she thought to herself. To her dad, she said, "Okay, Daddy. See you soon."

"Okay, punkin. I'm really sorry I'm late. I love you." Why did it always seem like he had to "sweetie" and "kiddo" and "punkin" her to death? Was it real affection; was this how fathers expressed love for their daughters, or was this a byproduct of his absentee parenting? He was always sorry he was late; he was always sorry he had to run. Sorry, sorry, sorry. The story of his sorry life. He'd never seen fit to change, though. She wondered, now that she was going to live with him for at least a while, if she was even going to see him, or if she'd still be an afterthought like she was now. Her resentment and anger and sadness boiled over as she hung up the phone, and despite her efforts to keep herself under control, she burst into tears, sobbing into one of the blue, heart-shaped throw pillows she and her mother had sewn two summers before, before cancer had claimed her mother's life.

She couldn't tell if she was crying for her mother, her father, herself, or all three. She couldn't tell if she cried out of anger or sadness or despair; she just cried. Her grandparents had been very good about letting her cry it out, and hadn't been plying her with false comfort they themselves didn't feel; a couple of nights in the last two weeks, she'd crawled into bed with her grandma like a small child, and cried inconsolably while her grandma held her. She didn't know what was going to become of her without her mom.

Now she didn't know what was going to become of her with her dad. She'd learned just after the funeral that he had asked to take her in, at least for the summer. Her grandparents, never great fans of the man (with good reason, she thought), had been gracious enough to let him. After all, she was all he had left of the woman he had once loved. They had wanted to be there today, when Dominic was to come pick her up, but Cassie had decided she wanted to face him on her own; she'd shooed them out of the house and told them to spend the day with their friends, playing bridge or whatever it was that old people did when they got together.

She didn't resent them; she didn't feel like they were handing her off. After all, they'd taken care of her for the last nine months, when her mom had grown too ill and weak to do the job of raising Cassie herself. She thought it strange that he had asked to take her in. She had asked her grandparents and her aunts if it had actually been her mother's dying wish for Dominic to finish the job of raising her, but no one had given her a definitive answer on that. She guessed the answer to that was yes; she didn't think there was any way on earth her dad would take her of his own volition.

Suddenly she heard a car turn into the driveway and honk the horn. She looked out her window, which faced the street, and saw the car below. He'd gotten a different car in the years since she'd seen him, but he was still fond of muscle cars. She was surprised to see this car was blue, her favorite color. Electric blue, with a giant, black, stylized bird painted on the hood. She recognized the style of the car as being something like the car from that old show, "Knight Rider." She liked watching reruns of that old show, with the talking car. When she was little, she'd imagined that her dad was Michael Knight (although he and David Hasselhoff looked nothing alike) and that one day he'd come pick her up in a talking car like KITT. She was amused that this was almost the same car as KITT, although she was sure it didn't talk.

She got up, ran into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on her face and patted her hair down. She dashed downstairs just as the doorbell rang. "I'm coming!" she called, hoping she could be heard through the heavy oak front door.

She opened the door and there stood her father, a bit heavier than the last time she'd seen him, a little more lined about the face, but still Dominic, with the same thick, unruly black hair and dark blue eyes. The knot in her stomach tightened. Now that Cassie was almost a young woman herself, she could easily see what a girl like her mom would have seen in her dad when they were young. He was handsome, kind of rakishly so, tall, and despite his having gained a bit of weight in the last few years, he still looked like a man who took care of himself. He reminded her vaguely of a cleaner-cut version of Johnny Depp.

He smiled at her, reaching a hand out. "My little girl." He pulled her gently into a hug. "You look so much like your mom." In spite of herself, she allowed him to hug her. She was surprised to find herself clinging to him as if for dear life. The tears came again, unbidden, but unlike all the other times, this time she let them fall. She heard a choked sob, and was even more surprised to discover it was not her own.

She pulled away. "Daddy?"

He steadied himself, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "Cass...sweetheart...let's sit down for a minute, okay? Can we go inside?"

It was hot and bright out here; she didn't know if her grandparents would take kindly to him being in their house, but she figured that, were she in their place, they wouldn't want her stuck outside just because he wanted to talk. She said simply, "Okay." She led him back inside to the dim coolness of the living room. She'd grown so accustomed to playing hostess in the last couple of weeks that she automatically reverted to that role again. It gave her something to do. "Would you like something to drink?" She felt stupid instantly; this was her dad, the dad who came around only once every few years for a few hours at most. There was no need for so much formality. Not with the man who'd treated her like a mere afterthought for the last fourteen years.

"Water would be nice, thank you. It's been a long trip." She thought she saw something dawn in his expression, as if he'd gotten the sudden notion that she wasn't quite his "little girl" anymore. Cassie had a sudden urge to tell him there was a gas station on the corner, but the good girl in her vetoed that notion; her grandparents would be horrified at such behavior. He was a guest like any other; she knew her grandparents would expect her to treat him as such, even if they didn't much care for him. She squelched any thought of what her mother might think of such behavior; the thought that she would be very disappointed in Cassie was too much for her to bear. She went into the kitchen. "Crushed ice or cubes?" she called from the kitchen, ever the good little hostess.

"Crushed," he called back. She took a glass out of the cupboard, poured her dad his glass of water from the refrigerator's filtered water dispenser, and even fetched a slice of lemon for that little extra something and perched it on the rim of the glass. She didn't know why she wanted to impress him in some small way; maybe it was because he lived in L.A. now, and she had the idea that everyone got the "star treatment" in L.A. She even got a cocktail napkin to give him with his water. Wasn't this the kind of treatment he was used to?

His eyes widened when she came back into the living room with his fancied-up glass of water, cocktail napkin and all. "Wow - you didn't have to go to all that trouble. It's just your old Dad."

"It's okay," she lied. The lie came easily to her, and she was almost ashamed of herself. "It was no trouble."

"Thank you," he said.

She perched in the La-Z-Boy, while he sat down on the sofa. He cracked his knuckles and she bristled; she hated that sound. "Well..." he said, hesitantly. He took a sip of his water.


"Cassandra..." She was taken aback. He'd never called her by her full name; it was always "Cass," which she hated, or "sweetie," or "honey," or "baby girl," or some other halfway irritating term of endearment, which she wasn't sure he meant. However, she said nothing. She sat still in the powder-blue La-Z-Boy, waiting for him to speak. "I know I haven't always been the greatest dad, I haven't been around, I've always been busy doing my thing, but that last time -"

His voice broke a little, and her stomach clenched again. She didn't interrupt. She tried to catch his eye, but he wouldn't look at her. "That last time I saw you, your mother and I had a huge argument. I had a business opportunity come up, and I let it get in the way of my time with you. I was stupid. I was young, and even though you were already nine, I wasn't ready to be a father. I - I -" Here he hesitated again. Cassie squirmed. She wasn't sure she liked hearing this, even though she could tell he was trying to be brutally honest, maybe more so with himself than with her.

"It's okay, Daddy. Really." She was lying, and she knew it. She squirmed again. She didn't think it was okay at all; in fact, she had been very angry and very resentful.

"No. No, it's not okay. I -"

"Don't, Dad! Just don't, okay?" She had the feeling he was going to tell her some uncomfortable truth, and she didn't want to hear it. She sprang from the chair and stepped directly in front of him as if to challenge him. "It happened, it's over. Mom's dead now, but you didn't even come to the funeral. You couldn't be there for me. But you were never there, were you? You were never there to begin with! So what's the difference now? What's the fucking difference?" The swear word slipped out before she could catch herself. All the vitriol she'd been bottling up since the night her mom had died was now pouring out in a flood; she doubted the room was big enough to hold her anger. "Why did you come back here? Why did you even bother? So you could play part-time dad for the summer and dump me off again here in the fall, and maybe never see me again, now that you'd done your time? That's bullcrap! Maybe all I ever wanted was my dad, together with my mom, and now I'll never have that! Never!" She didn't know where all this was coming from; just like her tears earlier, she let it all pour out. It was making her feel better. "Never! And maybe it was all your fault!"

She was savagely glad to see the expression of shock and disbelief on his face, glad that he raised his hands as if to fend off her verbal assault, glad that he recoiled back. "Cassandra Leigh!"

She'd never heard that tone of command in his voice before, much less ever heard him use her full name, but then again, he'd had very little occasion to use either one, either by dint of the fact that she was always on her best behavior around him, or because she'd seen him so rarely. Cassie had always been a fairly good, quiet girl who did as she was told, and that was the Cassie that Dominic knew. But the events of the last year and especially of the last few weeks had taken their toll. The quiet, obedient, rational Cassie took over again. She suddenly realized she had been right up in his face, and she stepped back.

"I didn't come to the funeral because your grandparents asked me not to be there, okay?" His tone was quieter now, more even, his words and his cadence soothing. "I wanted to be there for you, but it would have been uncomfortable for them. I did it out of respect for them. I loved your mother, Cass. I loved you, and I still love you. As hard as that may be for you to believe, believe it. You're still my daughter, no matter what." He paused, sighing. "Your grandparents already raised their kids, and they helped take care of you when your mom was sick; their job is done. You're my daughter, and I've never done the best job of taking care of you. Hell, I'll probably still screw it up. But it's the only thing I can do right by your mother now. I want you to come live with me." He looked directly at her, his steadfast gaze telling her everything she needed to know. He meant it. "I know that's a lot to ask of you when I haven't been around. I'll understand if you don't want to. Your grandparents wanted me to give you the summer to decide. I would have talked to you about it at the end of the summer, but you kind of forced my hand a little."

She was quiet again, biting the inside of her cheek, wishing she could bite back the words that she'd thrown so cruelly at him. She hung her head. "I'm sorry, Daddy." She felt fully ashamed of herself now. Of her own free will, she hugged him, and he hugged her back, fiercely.

"Don't be." He ruffled her hair, and then stood up. "You've been through a lot, and I'm sorry I haven't been there for you." He gestured at her bags, lined up neatly by the fireplace. "Are you ready to go? We've got a long trip ahead."

She nodded, unable to trust herself to speak again for a bit. She was sure he had been ready to get up in disgust and just leave her here. She had almost expected him to get up off the couch and walk out of here and never come back. She would have deserved it, too.

They went back outside into the hazy heat and the sunshine; the sky was a harsh, cloudless, glaring blue, almost a coordinating shade to the electric blue of her dad's Firebird (that was the name of the car!). It was a little muggier outside now, because it was getting late in the day. She was glad she was going to be in the air-conditioned comfort of her dad's fancy vintage car. She imagined, for a fleeting moment of amusement, that it was KITT that was coming to take her away from the life she had known so far. She laughed aloud for the first time in weeks.

"What's so funny, Cass?"

"Nothing. I just thought this car looked like KITT, and I was imagining it being a talking car like him. And, Daddy?" She looked sidelong at him. "Since we're going to be living together, do you think you could do me a favor?" She felt emboldened by the fact she was in the car, on the road, really on her way to L.A., to stay with her dad. Possibly forever, if he wasn't sick of her by the end of the summer. She wondered if she'd get to move her things down, or if he had everything already set up for her. She was afraid to ask; if she decided to stay, she hoped he'd let her have her things from when she lived with her mom.

"What's that?"

"Can you not call me Cass, please? I like being called Cassie better."

He reached over to ruffle her hair, keeping his eyes on the road. "Sure thing, Cassie."

She looked out the windshield at the black ribbon of road stretched before her; the sun shining down on it and making the road shimmer in the heat. She had a long journey ahead, but something told her everything was going to be all right. Everything was different now, but she was going to be all right. Her dad reached for her hand and squeezed it; she squeezed back, and her heart swelled, because it was then that she knew.

She was loved. He never would have come for her if she wasn't.

- mg, 3/28/08

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

first assignment

The first "creative writing" blog assignment must include the following:

* a blue car
* a clock
* a man named Dominic
* the time of 2:00 - am or pm, you decide

This is going to take some thinking. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

just like starting over

Except yeah, ok, I'm totally starting over. I had left this blog disused for a long time, but I suppose I will let it languish no more.

I'll be linking a feed to my main LJ so that you can get here from there...or there from here...or however you want it. Either way, welcome back to my (fictional) life, and let's get the party started.

ms. m.

Sunday, April 1, 2007