Probably Not So Popular Opinion

I usually look forward to Fridays here on ye old blog.  Well let’s not kid ourselves.  I look forward to Fridays in general and I know I’m not alone in that.  Fridays are meant to be wind down days.  If you can work from home you probably do (I, sadly, do not have that luxury).  Certainly you work with less vim and vigor than you probably do the rest of the week.

I have been looking forward to Fridays here on the blog lately though, because that’s when Write on Edge posts the link-up for the Red Writing Hood prompts that I’ve been participating in lately.  It is not my intention to be bragging (so if it sounds that way, I’m sorry) when I say that I usually bust those short fiction pieces out in the course of an hour or so.  The hard part with those prompts isn’t writing the pieces, it’s deciding what I’m going to write about.  Sometimes the prompts seem so vague and indecipherable.  I usually figure out something eventually though.  Most of the time I just have to kick my literal thinking mind out of the way and let it be a little more – well, vague.

This week though, that just didn’t work out.  This week’s prompt goes something like this:

This week we’d like you to stir up some conflict, using the following quote as inspiration.

“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

Well…  Not “something like” that.  That’s a cut and paste, so it goes exactly like that.  Only the problem is I’m not sure if I truly understand the quote, and what I think I understand of it, I do not agree with.

Honestly, the quote seems to be self-contradictory.

I do not believe in violence, period.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  I do not believe in violence.

I also do not really see a connection between “be violent, if there is violence in your heart” and a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”  How these two things even relate to each other, I do not know.

When I read the quote though, the first thing that comes to mind is some of the recent political protest activity that has happened around this here country of ours.  Thinking specifically of the “occupy” protests or, going back a little further, the Oscar Grant riots that happened here in Oakland a while back.  Things that were supposed to be “peaceful” but turn violent without much provocation.  Things that I heard lots of people argue in favor of, under the guise that “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”  Sounds like a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence” to me.

Only we aren’t impotent.  We can do something.  There are steps we can take that don’t involve breaking laws and destroying public or private property.  There are ways we can get our point across without belligerently disobeying the police.

Angry does not have to mean violent.  It does not have to mean disruptive.  It does not have to be destructive.

Impotence is laziness.

Impotence is an excuse.

If anything we tend to use violence, not nonviolence, as the cover for impotence.

Advertisements

Red Writing Hood: Pick a Number

This weeks Red Writing Hood prompt was a little different… or was it totally the same…

They used one that they did a while back, before I started doing the prompts so it’s new to me, though I liked it.  They offered four categories, Character, Setting, Time and Situation.  Each category had 10 numbered options.  The idea is, you pick a number for each category and then whatever corresponds to that number you include in your piece.

I used random.org’s random number generator to select the four numbers I needed and I ended up with:

  1. An elderly woman
  2. In a Park
  3. In December
  4. Someone has just gone to the doctor

Henrietta Lewis sat on a bench in the middle of Central Park on the coldest day anyone could remember.  Even for December in New York it was bitterly cold and the usual hordes of city dwellers seen scurrying through the park were hiding in the shelter of their steam heated, barely warm walk-up apartments, bundled in layers and nestled under blankets.  One would have to be crazy, or desperate, to be out on such a day, but there sat Henrietta, unaffected by the cold.

Pigeons shuttled around her feet, hoping the old woman would drop some crumbs or seed, but she didn’t notice as her gaze was cast upward, toward the sky and she took in the iconic sky-line, the grey sky above, the sun shining behind the clouds.  She watched as her breaths floated away like a lifting fog.

Over the tops of the trees she could see the upper floors of the building that housed the treatment center and she smiled as bittersweet tears trickled down her face, threatening to crystallize in the freezing air before they could fall.  For so long, the news had been grim.  While it hadn’t spread, the lump wasn’t shrinking and the numbers showed no signs of improvement.  Once her course had been completed the Doctors sent her home to wait, to wonder, and to worry.

Henrietta thought of all the times she’d sat on this bench.  For months she had come to this spot to sit and watch the living, live.  Life happened all around her even as she was slowly dying.  She always wanted to enjoy the world for a time while she waited for the drugs, already coursing through her veins, to wreak their havoc on her system.  Within hours, she’d be too sick to move, retching and heaving until she was certain there was nothing left.

It had been summer then.  The days sweltering as waves of heat rose from the baking pavement.  The heat felt good to her, though, warming her bones and thin blood.  There was never a shortage of young, healthy, living people enjoying the heat.  The shirtless college boys playing Frisbee or touch football in the grass; the girls in their short shorts and bikini tops roller blading along the jogging trail; the hot dog and peanut vendors hocking their wares with their sweat soaked shirts sticking to their backs.  She would watch the activity and lament the world she was sure she would soon leave.

But today, as she sat in the familiar spot in the park, there were no shirtless boys or bikini clad girls, there were no hotdogs or peanuts.  There was nothing but quiet stillness with only the pigeons to distract her and as the tears freely fell, a smile began to spread across her face and she turned her face to the heavens as she dreamed of the many summers to come when she would sit in this spot, amongst the living, knowing that she would be one of them.

Write on Edge: Music

This weeks fiction prompt for the Red Writing Hood was Music.  Describing how a piece of music affects our character, in 400 words or fewer (The website says 400 words or less, but every time I read/type/write that, I hear my English major mother screaming “Fewer!  It should be fewer!!!” in my ear.)

I almost didn’t make it with this one, but here it is, anyway:

Kieran stepped from the cool comfort of his mid-sized rental sedan and beads of sweat moistened his brow faster than you could say Celtic festival.  He hated the heat and the sweat was an unwelcome reminder.  Today, though, he ignored the heat, to get a taste of home and revel in his forgotten youth.

As he crossed through the rutted field of dry, matted straw, he absently touched his chest; his rough hand detecting the soft cotton fabric, but his mind’s eye seeing the McFlarity family crest circled in Celtic knot work tattooed on his lily-white flesh beneath.  The closer he got to the festival gate, the louder the strains of stringed instruments became.

Passing through the festival booths and vendors, Kieran followed a direct trek straight to the center stage.  As he drew closer his heart swelled along with the music.  Memories of his youth in the hills of Ireland rushed into his thoughts, bringing a smile to his face as his feet tapped out a private jig, meant solely for his own enjoyment.

Kieran thought of the rolling hills on the edge of his village, Balbriggan.  How he used to run on those hills with his brothers.  And the water front at the edge of the Irish Sea as he watched his father and the men, boarding the fishing boats each day.  Pa had always come home smelling of salt air and salmon, but his mother never seemed to mind; always happy just to have her husband safe and sound back at the family homestead.

As the music grew louder and the cymbals clanged together, Kieran flinched as his memories took a turn.  When the war had finally come to Balbriggan there was barely time for planning.  His parents would take the family away, to find a place of safety in the home of American cousins already living in New York City.

When suddenly the music softened, tears welled up in Kieran’s eyes as images of his last moments in Balbriggan flashed through his mind.  His father, shot in the back, branded a traitor.  His brothers dragged away by the soldiers and made to fight a war they could not understand, only to die pointlessly on the battlefield.  And his poor, sainted mother, savagely  beaten as she held the men at bay long enough for the fishing boat to set sail and carry Kieran away.

Write On Edge: Salt Water

This is another Write on Edge piece.  The prompt this week was “salt water”  In this piece of fiction, the salt water was to be used to solve a problem:

———————————-

 

Hunter awoke from deep sleep as a ray of light played across his eyes.  After a long stretch, he sat up in bed, casting his gaze toward the bay window.  The skies were clear.  The sun already shone brightly at 6:30 on this Saturday morning.  Today was the day.  Hunter cast aside the cobwebs in his mind and lunged from his bed, anxious to awaken his roommate, Cal.

They shared an over-priced flat that looked out over San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.  The price they paid in rent, the endless days of fog and gray skies, they were all worthwhile when they got a clear day like today.  They both liked to make the most of it; a run in the sand, a game of Frisbee, a lay out in the sun, it didn’t matter.

The beach was empty this early, too cold to lay out, but a rollicking game of Frisbee sounded just about right to them both and they played hard.  Suddenly, Hunter let out a shout of disgust.  “Why don’t people clean up after their dogs?” he groused to Cal as he hopped on one foot, not wanting to step on the crap again.

Cal approached his friend and after ducking under Hunter’s arm helped him to the water’s edge.  “Here,” he said, “use the water to wash off.”  As Hunter splashed in the water and rubbed his soiled foot on the sand, Cal stared out at the rolling waves.

Hunter looked at his friend.  When he saw Cal’s posture, squinted eyes, head thrust forward at the waters, he asked, “What is it?”  He turned toward the sea, “What are you looking at?”

“Look,” Cal said, pointing at the tumbling form, approaching through the froth.  “What is that?”

Soon, their questions were answered as the body, broken and battered, washed ashore, near their feet.

Flavor

A while back K told me about an on-line writing group; a website called Write on Edge.  I subscribed to the blog and started watching the writing prompts they offered.  Everything, at first glance, seems so vague.  The word limits are always too small.  We all know brevity is not my forté.

The most recent writing prompt was one word; flavor.  Four hundred words or less, either fiction or creative non-fiction.  I told K, “I don’t like it.  It’s too vague.”   She told me I should just give it a try.  So I did.  What follows is my first ever submission to this writing group, in the shadows of which, I have lurked for months.

I don’t think it’s very good (go figure) and it seems really contrived, but what the hell.  It’s not like I’m going to get a grade for it.  So here you go…

Flavor:

It took him a long time to open up.  Months of silent car rides, open-ended questions answered with a vague “I don’t know”, and doubts about what the relationship was accomplishing for either of us.  I began to contemplate giving up.  Maybe he didn’t need me.  Maybe he didn’t need anyone or maybe he needed something I wasn’t providing and someone else could.  Could I walk away?  Should I walk away?  After all, I had met my initial commitment.

Walking away just seemed wrong, so I stuck it out hoping to see something change.  I reduced the amount of time I spent with him; it took a lot out of me and I didn’t feel connected.  Half as much time would have to suffice.

I don’t know when it changed.  One day it was suddenly obvious; half the time wasn’t enough.  He wanted more and I wanted to give him more.  A new schedule.  More time.  Different days.  Dinners some weeks.  He lit up at the notion.

After the second dinner when he returned home he told his sister all about our outing.  “And he had five Diet Pepsi’s” he told her, excitement in his voice.  That’s when I knew he was watching.  Picking up on everything.  He sees all that I do.  I have to be constantly aware, vigilant about the example I set.  But I don’t mind.

I try to show him a good way to be, but it’s hard when what I want to show him is something different from what I am.  I know he’s following my lead.  I should eat better; drink more water.  But I love the flavor of Diet Pepsi.  It’s my one vice.  I’m completely addicted.  The sweet, refreshing, cola taste.  It’s the first thing to enter my mind when the all important, “can I get you something to drink?” is asked.

He talks to me now.  Still a lot of “I don’t know”, but there’s much more than that now.  Stories about school.  Stories about friends.  Stories about playing video games.  But he talks.  And when I taste that sweet, dark elixir, I’m reminded, once again, that our relationship matters; that he needs me and I need him.

And that tastes pretty damn good.