Search

Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

Month

March 2018

writing tip – rearrange the furniture

from January 21, 2017


Last night was one of those nights.  Fell awake around 3:00, finally decided to quit fighting it around 3:30.  I made a cup of tea and sat down in front of the computer. My imaginary friend, Heather, has been stuck in a waffle house for a few days now.  I’m sure she wishes I’d get her out of there.

So at 3:30, I was going to make something happen.

But.

4:00, and she was still there.  I had managed to go back and tweak a few things, made a couple of sentences better. But I was still blocked.

Maybe this is the end.  Maybe Heather never gets out of the waffle house. Maybe nobody cares what happens to her.

I’m 10,000 words in.  Not that much, really, in word count. I’ve abandoned novels at 40,000 words. Except that I’ve taken my time with these words, tried to write them better as I go. So it would be disheartening to pull the plug.

There’s a mother and a kid – a screaming kid – in the waffle house, too. At first, the mother was sitting with her back to Heather. I rearranged the furniture. Now they’re sitting beside Heather, facing each other, so that when Heather hears the kid scream and turns to look, she makes eye contact with the mother. It was an uncomfortable moment.

And then.  And then.  And then.

At 5:00, Heather was still in the waffle house. But things had changed dramatically. I was unstuck.  I went to bed.  I still couldn’t sleep, but it was a more restful insomnia.

Lesson 1: Maybe insomnia has a reason.

Lesson 2: Sometimes you just need to rearrange the furniture.

Lesson 3: Sometimes being uncomfortable is good.

 

Heather Girl (from an alternate universe)

Heather Roth has little to look forward to.

The alien overlords have enslaved Earth’s population.  Her two sons are working for the cyborg underground and her brother is the head of the Benevolent Alien Reconciliation Federation (BARF), which seeks to create a more peaceful world through mind control.  On top of all of this, Heather has a really nasty cold that just won’t go away.

And then she learns that her father is being paroled from the penal colony on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.  Which, as it turns out, is really not a big deal because he’s being assigned to work as a cook on the aircraft carrier Nimitz, which has been repurposed as a floating sheep farm.

Then Heather finds an old guitar, learns three chords and leads a musical revolution based on Nickleback songs.  The aliens leave.

A story of mathematics and free verse, Heather Girl takes the reader on the ultimate emotional journey, culminating in a long nap.

Heather Girl

Heather Roth has little to look forward to. Her two sons, who have occupied most of her adult life, have grown and left her alone in the house in which she grew up.  Her ex-husband, for whom she still has feelings despite his abusive nature, lives hundreds of miles away.  And she’s being treated for Huntington’s, a disease that ravaged her mother, and for which she knows there is no cure.

Then the news she wasn’t expecting. Her father is being paroled from prison in Texas where he has been serving a sentence for the murder of his wife, Heather’s mother.

She’ll do anything to keep him out of her life, but when she is forced to take him into her home, she learns that the lives of her family weren’t what they seemed to be.  A story of tragedy and heartbreak, Heather Girl, delivers a whisper of hope and an abundance of compassion, even in the darkest hours.

i have to go

“I shouldn’t have come here. I’m sorry.”

He reached across the table and put his hand on hers. She pulled away.

“I need to go.”

“Can’t you stay a little longer?”

There was no guile in his expression. His eyes had turned soft and pleading, his smile gentle and nervous. He was seventeen again, unsure of himself, captivated by the girl with the flaming red hair who could persuade him to do her bidding with her own teasing, alluring smile. He looked at her, a strand of his brown hair in front of his eyes, enticing her to brush it away, to touch his face, to feel his shoulders through his white t-shirt, tempting her to stay, to finish dinner, to find the bottle he had hidden behind the cereal in the cabinet above the refrigerator, to sip and smell the sweet liquor on his breath, and let the evening take them back in time to their wonderful and terrible lives of so many years ago, that would delight the flesh, break the heart, and leave them in ruin.

“I have to go.”

He stayed at the table as she got up and walked out. As she opened the front door, she heard him from the kitchen.

“Heather.”

She closed the door behind her.


Copyright 2018, joseph e bird, from the novel Heather Girl.

rest a little longer

do you remember
the smell of spring
and the freshly cut grass
when it’s ok
to sit in the sun
for a few minutes
without guilt?

do you remember
driving with
the windows down
and walking without
a jacket
for a few days
without worry?

do you remember
the daffodils
and the beans
and the tomatoes
growing so freely
for a few weeks
without tending?

do you remember
the windows open
and the breezes flowing
and the skies so clear
in the night and the day
for a few months
without winter?

do you remember
to everything
there is a season
and a time
to every purpose
under the heaven
without apprehension?

tomorrow will come
soon enough
so find peace
in the rest
and gain strength
for the labor
that is tomorrow.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

into the night

When the last lingering light of day had finally disappeared, she waited another twenty minutes. Then she walked through the automatic doors of the ER, completely unnoticed, into the night.

She headed east, toward the homeless shelters. She had driven through that neighborhood many times during the day, where ragged men with shopping carts gather under the interstate bridge, where young kids, barely in their teens, mingle with older addicts on the steps of the treatment center, where the women who would later stroll the streets sat on the curb smoking cigarettes outside their run-down apartment buildings. In the light of day, they were there, but the street belonged to those whose lives were comfortably insulated from the stench of unwashed clothes and grimy hands with broken fingernails and shattered liquor bottles and needles in the gutter and the ever-present hint of mind-altering chemicals breezing through the air. It belonged to those who shopped at the open-air market and dined at the sidewalk cafes and visited the plush offices of medical specialists that appeared like satellites around the hospital, not far from the free clinic or the street doctors who offered their own cures for those who had no other choice. In the daytime, they were all there together, some living, others waiting.

She walked the first block away from the hospital as she always walked, quickly and with purpose. She crossed the street and onto the sidewalk that fronted a medical office building. She began to slow, not completely sure of her destination. At the other end of the block, behind the office building, the parking lot was almost completely vacant. In the next block, where houses once stood, was another parking lot, this one unpaved and ungated, sometimes attended by a man in small hut, but now the hut was empty. Across the way near the opposite corner two men stood smoking cigarettes.

She kept walking, her hands stuffed in her jacket pockets.

Another block.

A man pulling a hand cart, slight of build with long, stringy hair passed by her without even looking up.

In the next block, a woman stood near the corner, another in the middle of the block on the other side of the street. Heather crossed the street at the corner, avoiding the first woman. The second woman at the middle of the block stepped back, giving her room to pass. They made brief eye contact, each sizing the other up. After she had passed, Heather slowed and finally stopped. She turned back to the woman. She stared back at Heather.

“Yeah?”

Heather took a step toward her. The woman didn’t move. Heather took another step and saw that the woman was too young to be on the street.  A runaway, no doubt. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in a week. Her eyes were wide, accentuated with heavy eyeliner and too much blue eye shadow. She shifted from one foot to another and kept her arms crossed, a habit Heather surmised was developed to hide the needle tracks.

“What do you want?”

“I’m…uh…looking…”

“Get it out lady. What are you looking for?”

“Hydrocodone.”

“You a cop?”

“No. I’ve got a serious health condition. It affects my nerves. I’m just looking for some relief.”

“Right. Can’t help you lady.”

Heather could see that she didn’t trust her. Not that getting busted by an undercover cop would ruin her life. More like an inconvenience.

Heather glanced around and then pulled a bill from her jacket pocket. She made sure the woman saw that it was a hundred, then folded it and tucked into the woman’s hand which was still gripping her arm. The woman didn’t hesitate. She took the bill and stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans.

“You too stupid to be a cop. Hang on.”

She pulled a phone from her front pocket and made a call.

“Hey, Bobcat. I got a woman here looking for tabs. Can you set her up? She’s legit. She’s too scared to be a cop.”

She turned to Heather.

“How much you need?”

That’s something Heather hadn’t considered. She had no idea.

“Twenty?”

The woman spoke to Bobcat, then back to Heather.

“Two hundred bills. You got that?”

Heather nodded.

The woman stuck the phone back in her pocket.

“Two blocks down, take a right. Bobcat’ll be on the front porch.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me. Curse me.”


copyright 2018, joseph e bird
from the novel, Heather Girl

monika

a photograph of monika
her reflection in the glass
of the empty train
as time passes
with the sound
of the wheels
across the steel
of the tracks

there are no conversations
and no hidden meanings
in furtive glances
and no possibility
with the man
with dark eyes
because he’s not there
and never was

a newspaper
is folded on the seat
left behind by those
who have come before
and knew of the day
and of its end
and are now
home quietly

days upon days
and nights upon nights
weeks and
months and
years upon years
the mundane
passing of time
a blessing and curse

waiting and hoping
for meaning
beyond the ordinary
until one person
sees her reflection in the glass
on the empty train
and knows loneliness
no more


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑