Marcus G. Minnow School of Sorrow PTA Meeting

I remember making this sitting on my laptop while my oldest son did taekwando practice. I’m not sure what sparked the idea; perhaps it was me reflecting on the one PTA meeting I attended, which was I went to one, which was awkward and incredibly boring. 

Screenshot (9)

 I can’t insert a bigger picture, so if you can’t see it well, I’m afraid you’ll have to zoom in.

Have You Ever Been to the Grave? (freewriting)

I’ve been on a creative writing break for about two months now. I didn’t plan to take a break, but I’m glad I did. Doing so frees up my creativity so I can write more music…it turns out I have a hard time spending energy on both pursuits. I’m sure the pendulum will swing the other way in time.

I still engage in freewriting periodically, as is my wont. I usually go back through it to find a theme or a few lines for the beginning of a poem. I’m not sure if there’s anything here worth saving, but it struck me as interesting nonetheless:

Do you ever want to speak about the funeral? No. Of course not because you were all, “Uh, I can’t stand dead people!” and then you went somewhere and got drunk. Do you think it was easy for any of us? The rest of us had to sit there and take it, deal with our pain. We had to listen to that idiotic preacher spin a story about a man I never knew existed. It sure as hell wasn’t our father, which you know if you’d bothered to stick around.

Have you even been to the grave? God, you’re so disappointing. You have some pair of balls showing up here and expecting me to forgive you. If I start forgiving you for this, where does it stop? Am I supposed to forgive you for everything? Is that how forgiveness works? Is there some kind of statute of limitations on forgiveness, like a certain number of crows that are allowed to gather before they officially become a murder? Don’t look at me like that. Jesus. I’m making perfect sense, but you don’t understand anything because you’re so focused on yourself. If there’s a god in heaven, which is highly suspect, he doesn’t care anything about you. You were a tragic mistake, a slip of the pen, a scribble in the corner, an accidental union of chromosomes that somehow managed to make it out of the womb and draw breath. If I could go back in time, I’d kill every single one of your ancestors.

Well then. (ahem)

Glinda and Charley (a scene)

I’ve given up trying to write traditional stories (at least, for now). Instead, I’m just letting the words do what they want. In this case, the words made me say, “What the hell?” Incidentally, the picture has nothing to do with the story. I just typed “weird” in the Flickr Creative Commons search bar and clicked on the one that made me laugh.

“Is there somewhere we can talk privately?” Glinda asked. She wasn’t the Good Witch, or a witch at all. She was just Glinda, and she didn’t know how to dress herself despite being thirty-three. She had a maid help her. The maid’s name was Fuzzy. She was a cat, but a really smart one with a keen fashion sense and a remarkable vocabulary.

“Like the moon?” Charley suggested. He was fond of the moon and its wild temperature swings. He was also rather partial to radiation.

“The moon’s too far,” Glinda lamented.

“It’s not that far if you travel with your imagination.”

“Like Mr. Roger’s?”

“Sure, if Mr. Roger’s was a kick-ass space explorer.”

“Mr. Roger’s is plenty kick-ass without adding ‘space explorer’ to his already impressive resume,” Glinda said. Her hair dragged the floor, and she suffered from excessive optimism, the kind that made Charley nervous.

“Whatever,” Charley said. “Are we going to the moon or not?”

“Not. What I have to say can be said here. It’s private enough.”

“The bugs are listening.”

“I’m not worried what a few bugs think, if they think anything at all.” Glinda took a deep breath. “Ok, here it is. I’m worried you might not be real.”

Charley rubbed his chin. The thought had occurred to him, too. It was troubling notion, that he might not be real. Glinda’s realness was never in question. Was that strange or is that how things were supposed to go?

“Does it matter if I’m real or not?” Charley asked. “We still like each other.”

“We do?” Glinda felt warm inside. She thought Charley kind of hated her.

“Well, we tolerate each other.”

Glinda felt her insides clam up. She would never be the apple of Charley’s eye, or of anyone’s. The only creature that loved her was Fuzzy…maybe. Or maybe Fuzzy was just doing her job?

“Now that we’ve settled that, I’m off to check out the moon,” Charley said. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?”

“Yes,” Glinda whispered.

“Toodle-oo,” Charley said and blinked out of sight.

Glinda settled onto the floor and tried to cry, but she’d forgotten how. Or maybe she’d never learned in the first place.

The Unfortunates #1 – Steffan Mosley

I went through a period late last year that I took selfies with Snapchat and made all kinds of hideous portraits, which I shared with my wife. She was more repulsed than amused, and she took to calling the imagined people in the pictures my “unfortunates.” Steffan Mosley is one of my so-called “unfortunates,” and I have a soft spot for him.

The fake article below was supposed to be funnier, but the more I wrote, the darker and sadder the piece grew.

Steffan

Steffan Mosley in his mother’s flat (photo by Ginger Atkins)

Steffan Mosley sits shirtless in a large, red recliner. His belly drops over his blue elastic shorts, and he periodically gazes down at his breasts, which look engorged. “It’s like I’m about to breastfeed or something,” he mutters. His voice is low and scratchy and difficult to hear over the small, battery-operated fan on the table beside him. The fan blows his dark brown hair into wild, sweaty configurations as he continues, “I’m trying to lose weight, but I love food somuch.” As it turns out, being overweight is the least of Steffan’s problems.

Steffan was born with cyclopism, a rare genetic disorder affecting less than half-a-percent of the world’s population. Some cultures, particularly indiginous tribes of the Indian subcontinent, revere cyclopses as gods. Other cultures treat cyclopses as persona non grata. The suicide rate among cyclopses is staggeringly high, especially in Europe and North America.

Steffan was born in Leeds, UK, in 1971. He has brother and sister, both older (and who did not wish to appear in this article). They’re “normal as daises and ducks,” according to Steffan.

“And then I was born,” Steffan goes on. He’s put on a shirt, which is too small and stretches over his large midsection. “My parents didn’t put me in a sack with rocks and toss me in the river, at least. My dad had the hardest time. I haven’t seen him since I was five.”

Steffan’s mother, with whom Steffan shares a small flat, sighs. “Joe just couldn’t take it,” she says, speaking of her former husband. “He comes from a very traditional family, and I think it was as much that as anything. He loves Steffan, in his own way. Maybe he’ll come back into his life at some point. He and I still talk, and he sends Steffan birthday cards. He hasn’t come around, though. I guess he’s too ashamed at this point. Maybe that’ll change one day.”

Steffan isn’t as optimistic about reuniting with his father. “He could have done the decent thing, what any father would do, and stuck around,” he says, “but he didn’t. He took the easy way out. Most days, I just say, ‘Well, fuck him.'”

At twenty-three, Steffan is considered middle-aged. Most cyclopses die in their mid-to-late forties, often not in full possession of their minds. “Dementia is common among aging cyclopses,” says Dr. Saanvi Khurana, director of Cyclopic Studies in London. “Sadly, so is Alzheimer’s. But it isn’t just dementia and Alzheimer’s that cyclopses have to worry about, though. There is a host of other neurological disorders they can fall prey to, such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy.”

Steffan goes to a doctor regularly and has participated in a number of clinical trials. Most recently, he was one of several cyclopses who volunteered for a research project on preventing vision loss, another problem facing the cyclops community. 80 percent of cyclopses lose sight, usually in their later years. The optic nerve in their eye is weaker than in other bipoic people. Retinal detachment is also common.

For now, Steffan tries to maintain a positive attitude. He could stand to lose some weight, and he’s committed to that. “I can’t join a gym because I don’t want to put up with narrow-minded folks,” he says, “so I’m going to exercise around the house. I’ll also take walks around the neighborhood at night when most people are asleep and don’t have to look at me.”

Steffan sits back in his chair and sighs. “I just wish I fit in,” he adds softly. “I wish I was normal.”

Trees Exploding into Bloom (a scene)

This is Beverly, a cranky woman in her late sixties who had a bit to say during a freewriting session. I’m not sure what’s going on with the tree at the beginning. 

I haven’t made grits since my niece Laura was two years old, and on that day, my pear tree decided to bloom the fuck out and scared me half to death. One second it was all scrawny-looking, and then wham! Full fucking bloom, right outside the kitchen window! I mean, it was like God was playing a joke. Or the Devil was. It sounds like something that mean old bastard would do. Then again, God’s been known to throw folks a curveball from time to time, too, so I’m not sure. All I know is the whole episode made my Laura pee her pants, and that just about ruined our breakfast Who could concentrate on eating after that? I sure as hell couldn’t, and Laura was screaming like someone had pressed a hot iron to her face.

Aside from trees exploding into bloom, it was a pretty average day. Creepy Joseph Carrera dropped by and asked me to water his plants while he took a two week vacation to Akron, Ohio. “Who the hell goes to Akron for two weeks?” I wanted to know. “Isn’t your life shitty enough?”

Joseph coughed into his arm (which I appreciated because I catch colds like nobody’s business) and said in that puny little voice of his, “Akron is where Alcoholics Anonymous started.”

“And? What’s that got to do with a wheelbarrow of orangutans?”

Joseph went on to tell me that Akron was where Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob put their drunk heads together and came up with the idea for AA. He also said he’d been sober for nearly a year and wanted to go see the home of Dr. Bob for his sober anniversary.

“That’s all well and good,” I said, not wanting to get bogged down in hearing how Joseph got sober. I’ve heard enough testimonials from former drunks to last a fucking last time. My first husband’s a recovering alcoholic H got sober about a year before he left me for a hot little twenty-five-old accountant. I didn’t care so much that he split, but for a twenty-five-year old? And he was nearly fifty? Jesus wept.

“But what the hell else do you plan to do?” I asked. “Akron’s not exactly a hotbed of fun and frivolity. In fact, it’s kind of fucking dump.

Joseph grinned his crazy grin, which he always does when he’s uncomfortable, and my cursing caused him no end of discomfort. But it’s not like I was going to watch my Ps and Qs around him, of all people. Joseph Carrera was as weird as they came. I wouldn’t have surprised me if the police arrested them and then searched his place and found people cut up and hidden in freezer bags down in his basement.

Joseph babbled about going to see the Cuyahoga River and the Akron Zoo (be still, my beating heart) so I rushed him out and said I water his damn plants. He told me he’d put the spare key under the weird little statue of a scantily-clad boy he keeps on on his porch. It’s supposed to be Peter Pan, but it looks like a ugly-ass kid playing dress-up. Not that a statue of Peter Pan looking like Peter Pan would have been better, you know?

Once Joseph left, I shooed Laura out to play and told her if she sees any crazy shit with my trees to come and get me. I needed a nap.

The Whale-Shaped Man (fiction? poetry? both? neither?!?!)

The Whale-Shaped Man

Is he in his office? asked the whale-shaped man.
Is who is his office? the woman in sparkly pants replied.
You know.
I don’t.
Him.
That doesn’t clear it up.
The whale-shaped man grimaced. I’m talking about your father.
Oh. Why do you want to see him?
To ask for your hand in marriage.
That’s stupid, the woman laughed.
What?
Why would I marry you? You’re shaped like a whale.
But I love you.
That doesn’t change anything.

So the whale-shaped man left. Inside his office, the woman’s father sighed in relief.

The Severed Finger (flash fiction)

This scenario ran through my head as I drove to work. 

fingers

Image courtesy of Flickr and the Creative Commons license

They both stared at the severed finger on the kitchen table.

“Well,” Daniel said, “that’s not what I was expecting.”

“I can’t imagine any scenario in which a severed finger is what you’d expect,” Heather replied.

“You lack imagination.”

The two were silent were a few moments. The finger didn’t speak or move, but Daniel pretended it did. He couldn’t quite make out what it said.

“Look,” Heather said, “we just need to decide what to do. I vote we put it on ice.”

Daniel stepped closer to the table and inspected the finger. It looked to be an index finger, rather tanned, not terribly wrinkled. A youngish finger. “It depends on who it belongs to,” he said.

“Why does that matter? If someone lost a finger, we should save it for him, right?”

“Or her. Unless she’s a horrible person. Then we might be doing the world a favor by depriving her of the finger. Maybe she couldn’t get up to as much evil if she was a cripple.”

“Missing a finger doesn’t make you a cripple,” Heather said. “Besides, that’s not a nice term.”

“Cripple?”

“Yes.”

“I guess so.” Daniel scratched his chin. He was grateful to be in possession of all his digits. “Do you know,” he asked, “what a polydactyl is?”

Heather thought and then said, “Someone with an extra digit.”

“If the person that lost this digit is a polydactyl, then he doesn’t need this finger.”

“Or she doesn’t need it, as you pointed out. I find it funny that you’re concerned about the gender of this person but you’re quite cavalier about using the term ‘cripple.’”

Daniel smiled. “I’m a mystery wrapped in an enigma.”

“Something like that.”

The two continued staring at the finger, no close to deciding what to do than when they first entered the room.