Tuesday, January 31, 2012

one hundred word story #84: Transit

We park my bike next to yours in the shed overnight. The next morning, three small tricycles hide under my back wheel. The tricycles have my curvy handlebars and your racer stripes. My bike looks tired, her tires deflated. Your bike’s pedals spin midair. You reach for a trike, but it rolls out of view. Maybe they belong to the neighbors, you say. You reach for the door but I stop you. Let’s leave it open, I say. We’re not gone long, but when we come back, the bikes are gone. That night, we park our cars down the street.

Monday, January 30, 2012

one hundred word story #83: Migrant

Gertie wants to follow the birds south. She can see them from her window: Canadian geese, loons, the occasional egret or blue heron. It’s been a long autumn. Sometimes, on days when it is all too much, she gets on her bike at sunset and tails the birds around the pond. The birds fly in one great vee, swooping back to their nesting grounds in time for dark. But sometimes there is a straggler, a lingerer, a loner who considers the darkening sky an invitation and just keeps flying. Gertie understands. One day she’ll go. Until then, she waits, nesting.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

one hundred word story #82: Spring cleaning

Kevin walks into the kitchen as the appliances are staging their revolution. The fridge door slams open and shut, jiggling expired salsa and salad dressing. The dishwasher foams, soap bubbles colonizing the tile floor. The oven is on full blast. The wires in the circuit breaker have been cut. What do you want? He asks. The oven opens its mouth. The dishwasher gurgles. The fridge swings open, beeps. The icebox has a message scratched across its frozen surface. Use us, or we’ll use ourselves. Kevin empties the fridge. Mops the floor. Bakes cookies. He relaxes, until he sees the bathroom.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

one hundred word story #81: Rainbow

Eric is incapable of feeling emotion, so the doctors install a meter on his abdomen. When the arrow swings to the red zone, it means he is reacting in anger. When it goes blue, his body is heavy with sadness. He can’t locate a color for happiness. Then Angelika walks in his shop. One look and blood rises like mercury to his brain. Eric feels steam in his throat, iron in his chest. This feeling – if that’s what it is – is off the charts. Are you okay? She asks. The meter is whistling—self-deconstructing. I am, Eric says. I am.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

one hundred word story #80: Lecturer

He is loquacious, not listening when people ask questions, not caring when someone gets the answer wrong, just loving, adoring, worshipping the sound of his own voice, its sonorous tenor echoing off the classroom walls in almost visible waves. Then, halfway through a lecture on Active Listening, his voice gives out, hissing like a deflated tire while the words wind down. He. Can. Only. Say. One. Word. At. A. Time. The gaps between words fill with sounds of students talking. Some have smart things to say. He is startled into silence. Despite his efforts, he’s given his best lecture yet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Self-deportation? Really?

Apparently there is a grassroots organization, endorsed by the Tea Party, called Patriots for Self-Deportation, whose mission it is to "call awareness to the threats that our beloved nation, the United States of America, faces from illegal immigration."

This is frightening, absurd, and frankly, un-American.

The movement calls for Americans to "verify that you are an anchor baby" (those are their exact words) and in the case that one is not, say, one of "us," citizens are advised to reapply for citizenship (yes, that's a "re" there), or return to the country of the ancestors' origin. Effectively, this website and its organization is asking people to go back where they came from -- all under the guise that by doing so, they are being real patriots.

Perhaps the best part of this website are its comments. There were those like me, who after stumbling upon this site, assumed (and frankly, hoped) that it was a huge practical joke. This organization believes that the best way to address illegal immigration is to ask citizens to research their family history with the intention of catching "an illegal" (they use that word to refer to a person more than once), and then voluntarily self-deport (I did not know that was a reflexive verb, thanks Mitt Romney) back to their ancestral home. This is all assuming that one's ancestral home will be beckoning them back with open arms, regardless of, say, religious persecution, political exile, um, genocide, or, I don't know, run-of-the-mill immigration regulations. How could this not be a joke?

And then I noticed this: about halfway down its Frequently Asked Questions Page, there is the following exchange:

Luke Owen: "This is batshit insane."
Eric Rife: "It's called SATIRE. Loosen up."
Patriots for Self-Deportation: "We are for real. Why would you think it is satire?"
David: "Because you are ridiculous."

Here are some questions for you, Patriots for Self-Deportation:

1) Who, in their right mind, would rescind their citizenship? Especially if they were born in this country and their parents or grandparents fought tooth and nail to get them a better life? Especially if their family was fleeing a war, a racist regime, etc., etc.?

2) Given the amount of paperwork that goes into applying for citizenship in any country, do you really think that this is the most efficient way to approach illegal immigration in the United States?

3) By the way, where are you from? Your parents? Grandparents? Oh yeah, that's right, it is not supposed to matter, because we live in a country that was founded by people fleeing other countries. A place where people should be treated like people -- not objects that can be made legal or illegal, zipped back and forth over borders because they fail to be "anchor babies."

If you are curious as to what got me so riled up about this, please watch this:

You'll notice some laughter in the background. I think that's our pal Luke Owen.

one hundred word story #79: Problem solver

Jared’s body is a series of stacked triangles—his nose pointed, his pecs sculpted, his legs boxy and small. He is an unsolved mathematical proof. His body, though compact, is only useful when plugged in to an equation. He’s not big enough for football, not aerodynamic enough to swim. What can he do? He fits into a square two times. Given the right proportions, he can make any angle right. But he is incomplete. One day he meets his match: Alfonso, the diver, whose legs are steel, whose arms circumnavigate Jared’s neck. Together, they solve problems. Together, they are indivisible.

Monday, January 23, 2012

one hundred word story #78: His story

When she tells him her major, he says, Let me tell you something about history. History is dust. History is the dirt under your fingernails. What are you going to do with that? She doesn’t say anything, so he says, I study political science. I’m going to make history. He hasn’t looked up from his drink, so he doesn’t notice when she walks away. But she does remember his face—-enough to recognize him ten years later, when he interviews for an internship at her law firm. Has your political philosophy changed? She asks. Oh that? He says. That’s history.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

one hundred story #77: The sound of music

She used to listen to records with her father while they washed dishes. Her hands had to be dry when it came time to flip the record. She’d hold it with her thumb and forefinger before placing the needle. This is sacred, he’d say, peering through the record’s eye. Twenty years later, when she’d fit her music collection onto a single hard drive, she realized what was missing. Aretha, Bob, Etta—they were invisible files written in invisible code. She longed to hold something. That night, at the music store, she thumbed stacks of records, rubbing music into her hands.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

one hundred word story #76: The letter

On your way out you say, write me a letter. I watch until your car is white speck on the horizon. Monday is lousy with rain so I let the drops fall on the page. Tuesday the trees are dewy with blossoms, so I squish some in the envelope. Wednesday a squirrel leaves footprints on the paper. Thursday I want to fit the rest of the world in, but there aren’t enough words. When Friday comes, you are here again, your books on my desk, your smell in my room, you say, don’t worry, baby, this is what I meant.

Friday, January 20, 2012

one hundred word story #75: Good girl

She always worked hard, took out the garbage, brushed her teeth every night. By all accounts, she was a good person. What was so special about good? Or was that just it—good wasn’t special? She decided to test her limits. She started small: biting her fingernails, lying about her age, skimping on tips. No one noticed. She took it up a notch, sending passive-aggressive emails, “forgetting” to file her taxes, letting her dog shit on the park lawn. She’d never felt better. Then she realized: good is defined in terms of bad – and bad felt so good. Thank goodness.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This makes me really happy

Lydia Davis: on the off-off-off-off-off chance that you come across this, or perhaps have your name set on Google Alerts, or perhaps have an intern somewhere whose job it is to Google you, please know that your stories are my manna. Granted, you are too interesting, important and busy to read blogs like mine, but I'll let myself dream that perhaps, someday, through the miracle that is the internet, you'll know what I mean.

footage from the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, shot by Penguin Digital

one hundred word story #74: When you're a skunk

Stefano and the skunks sport gang colors, comb their white stripes into mohawks, The cats stake out windowsills kitty-corner to the crime scene. The trouble started when the chief cat, Maurice, discovered the trash heap behind the student co-op and snuck his ladyfriends in for a late night snack. By the time Stefano’s crew showed up, the good stuff was gone. The ensuing battle was a sensory explosion: Maurice and his girls’ sharp claws could only do so much before Stefano launched his secret attack. The stench inspired a silence so raw, so reverent, the cats got drunk on skunk.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

one hundred word story #73: Intelligent design

Elsie works nights as a nurse, volunteers every week with the elderly. She prays on her hands and knees. She is vegetarian, vegan on Sundays. Her clothes are second-hand. Then, one night, Jesus comes to her in a dream. He says, I can grant you one wish – peace on Earth, eternal life—anything. Her dream self asks for a tree that grows Louis Vuitton purses. Jesus is surprised but he obliges her. Elsie wakes up embarrassed. She’s nearly forgotten the whole thing when she steps outside and there it is: a tree decorated in designer purses. “Hell yeah,” she whispers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reggie Watts: my cosmic hero

Improvised song about the universe? By the one and only Reggie Watts? On public radio? Yes please.

one hundred word story #72: Bedside manner

"Open wide," the dentist says. Clarissa hates the dentist. She hates the smell of his gloves and the brusque way he flosses her teeth, see-sawing between molars like he secretly wants to saw them all down. He always asks he questions when his hands are deep in her mouth. One day he asks her to recite the Quadratic Equation, then waits while her mouth fills with saliva. Clarissa takes this as a sign, and studies before her next doctor’s appointment--a pap smear. When the gynecologist says “Open wide,” Clarissa recites the Pythagorean Theorem. “Um, other end,” the doctor says.

Monday, January 16, 2012

one hundred word story #71: Ninth life

Their mom said they could no longer afford the cat. Rudy filled a burlap sack with rocks. Gerald coaxed the old girl inside, her fur matted and dirty. Tom tried to block out the mewling, the incessant throb of her purrs. When they got to the bridge they saw that the riverbed was dry and cracked. The brothers looked the other way while Tom wound up. He didn’t notice the fabric shred just so. When he released, the bag was light and airy, the cat gone. There was no plop. The boys waited. And then: the bridge began to purr.

one hundred word story #70: Hit and run

Burt is a lonely medical student. He spends long hours studying in the library and as many hours at the pub, decoding graffiti on the wall. And then he meets his match: a leggy brunette with fascinating viscera. Her lab report says it was a hit and run. Burt cannot understand who could run from her. They keep her face covered but a single curl escaped below her jaw. He writes her poems on pub walls, leaves notes in biology textbooks. One day he sees a note balled in her fist. Fuck off, it reads. Burt hits her and runs.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

one hundred word story #69: Penny Pincher

Stefan was afraid of money—the leathery, scratchy feel of green in his palms, the metallic smack of coins. He sold artisanal crafts at local flea markets, although he turned away cash-paying customers. His bottle-cap mobiles were a big hit. And then it occurred to him: his cure. He kept his eye on the asphalt for stray dollar bills. He spent weeks weaving bills together, George Washington’s face kissing Abraham Lincoln’s. The result was a patchwork quilt; Stefan’s biggest piece yet. Though a bit unwieldy, the quilt worked: for years it was his bargaining tool. His money never exchanged hands.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

one hundred word #68: Speech impediment

Fern was born with a strange ailment. Every word she uttered, she could only speak once. She wished she could say her name, that beautiful way eff curled so easily into ern. Her parents devised a complicated sign language, along with color coordinated flash cards, to get her through each day. Whenever she made up a word her jaw would lock. Then Fern discovered William Shatner. More importantly, she found Esperanto. Because so few people spoke those words, there was enough room in the universe to repeat them. Each night before bed, she whispered dankon, dankon. Thank you. Thank you.

The Moment from SMITH Mag

Exciting news: my piece 2.10.01 is included in SMITH Mag's latest book, The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous and Obscure. The anthology includes pieces from such writers as Benjamin Percy, Elizabeth Gilbert, Steve Almond, Dave Eggers, and Shalom Auslander. A version of the piece I submitted started here on this blog, posted on the anniversary of my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

I will be reading my piece, along with a number of other Bay Area writers, at the Booksmith bookstore in San Francisco on March 8. SMITH Mag is hosting promotional book events around the country to highlight writers from various regions.

It's nice, as an obscure writer, to have a moment every now and then.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

one hundred word story #67: Démon

I swore in church and so my babysitter washed my mouth out with soap. Organic, tea tree sandalwood soap, French milled vegetable soap the color and texture of satin. She didn't realize the soap would alter my vocabulary. After I'd choked back the silky suds, the first words I said were por quoi? Shut yer trap, she said. I tried but my lips bubbled. Voulez-vous dansez? Quit yer fooling, she whispered. She didn’t want to dance. Instead, she took me back to church to exorcise the demons, this time with good old-fashioned industrial strength Dial soap. Il n'a pas travaillé.