October 28, 2014 – Excerpt

“The houses weren’t always empty. There were bedrooms and families. There were television sets. There were computers. But then, father lost his job, then got lost. Mother kept burning dinner every night. The roasted chickens jumped off the tables and strolled away. The children went feral, biting holes into their arms, then licking the wounds clean with mouths rimmed with mold. The houses were vacated quickly, families scrabbling down the walkways, leaving the front doors wide open. A mass exodus flooded the streets. For hours, days, the bodies passed and fell, crawled and struggled. Eventually, everything was emptied. The houses yawned and darkened. The plaster peeled. The aluminum burned down, victim of half-exhausted matches tossed carelessly onto sloping roofs. Time and rain put the fires out. Eventually, there was nothing left to burn.”

October 24, 2014 – Come Monday…

Posting has been limited on the site this week for a very good reason. I’m not writing. It’s not because I have nothing to write or don’t want to write. It’s because I finished my latest project on Monday and am now editing the writing. I’m almost at the half-way point and I have the whole weekend ahead of me so if I’m not done by Sunday night, I’ve got some problems. And beginning Monday, I want to get back to writing. Plus, I need to make sure that I’m done editing so that I can figure out what I’m going to start working on for National Novel Writing Month, which begins next Saturday. Another glorious month of deadline-driven novel writing. It’s like Christmas came early. I guess, in a way, Christmas did come early this year. Last week, while I was teaching, my husband ran out to Barnes and Noble to pick up my copy of 300,000,000 by Blake Butler. It was the book’s release day and I had reserved a copy in the morning so that little beauty was waiting for me when I got home. Then I went back to Barnes and Noble the other day and got a copy of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. I was also looking for a few more books but got discouraged when the computer system lied about the availability of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (they did have a copy of The Rum Diary) and went home with the one novel and then two books about theoretical Physics and Universal Hypotheses. I have varied tastes, people.

Tuesday of this week, I traveled deep into Northwest Jersey to attend a brief funeral service for my family’s dog. We had our little dachshund friend for over 16 years but he got very sick and was put down so that he wouldn’t suffer anymore. So Tuesday was just a weird day. It was rainy and miserably, the area we were in was hideously rural (this is coming from someone who has been able to look outside at any given time for the majority of her life and see some glimpse of the New York City skyline), and the funeral was just weird. We saw part of the cremation process and when the cremation technician opened the crematory oven, it roared like a furnace. That sound is stuck in my head now. We had to wait a few hours to pick up the ashes so we found this historical village to wander through. It was what I imagine the Village of the Damned looking like. There was barely anyone around and out of all the stores advertised, only two or three were open. There was a church in the center of the shopping area that was peeling with disrepair and when my family and I went to the only little restaurant on the property, we were immediately greeted by a giant spider hanging beside the door. I ate the most atrocious meal of my life: mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers and fried potato skins. I chose to eat all that fried muck because I figured that because the place’s fresh vegetables probably couldn’t be trusted and at least frying the hell out of everything would reduce any chances of food poisoning. At one point, my sister asked what I would do if we encountered a little ghost child “like in one of the Nancy Drew books you used to read” (my sister knows me too well). It seemed very likely that the area was haunted. It was all so run-down and old. In the middle of the shopping center was a pond/fountain. The water was covered with pond scum so thick, it seemed like grass. My sister and I spent a good amount of time heaving rocks into the pond to watch the pond scum separate, then come back together. I’ve included a picture below. You will see a surface of greenery. Do not be fooled. That greenery is not solid. It is water. If you were to step on it, you would fall in and get pond scum all over you (and possibly drown—don’t drown, people).

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And that friends, leads me to today, where I am trying to get through editing as quickly (and carefully) as possible because I’ve been accumulating thoughts and observations over the course of the last few days and I’m dying to get them down on the page. But because I don’t want to get distracted from editing, I need to finish this task first, then jump into the next project. I’m torn between a few projects to start on Monday. I might decide to work on two simultaneously just because what I want to write doesn’t fit in with the other project but I think that that’s the novel I want to work on during November. But I promise that Monday will have new writing. I swear it. Mostly because I can’t bear to not be writing. I keep scrawling lines down in my notebook just so that I don’t forget anything. But the edits come first so that I can look at this novel and finally think, DONE.

October 21, 2014 – Excerpt

“Mother was preparing pork chops by pounding the raw meat with a hammer, piercing each piece of meat 50 times with a rusted nail because she said the extra iron enhanced the taste, made it have a better after-flavor that settled comfortably upon the tongue. I think of those times fondly. All the washing sounds and the pounding and the hammering happened in various parts of the house. How there was a water stain in the ceiling of my closet and if I squinted just enough, I could watch it grow. How sometimes I found my parents standing just inside the backyard door, staring out at the wooded area beyond the manicured lawns, their bodies almost transparent and so I thought they were ghosts shaped like my parents but then they would turn and frown at me before resuming their vigil. How while they watched the dark outside the glass windows, I would pour myself a glass of ice cold milk, then leave it on the counter without ever taking a single sip.”

October 17, 2014 – Excerpt

“The turkey corpse we left at the bottom of the garbage pail came back to life and chased us with its severed head squeaking, the neck stalk pecking in our directions, small wings fluttering, stuffing entrails dripping from its back. Father stopped the turkey’s massacre with a yardstick and rake and when the running was over, shoved the turkey corpse into the back of the freezer where it was stopped up with ice cube trays and all the frozen vegetables too freezer burned to ever make it onto our plates. At night, for the next three months, we heard the turkey clucking while pecking at the walls. We couldn’t open the door for even a moment to grab a piece of ice or else the turkey would come leaping out at our faces. Our drinks remained lukewarm or—if we were especially lucky—room temperature.”

October 16, 2014 – Excerpt

“I went to my mother who stood in the center of the kitchen holding a piece of toast in the air while asking, Would you care for a piece of whale? I went to the refrigerator and the milk jug label read WHALE. I squeezed an orange into a glass and mother said, Aren’t you allergic to whale? Mother went to the oven and pulled out a steaming loaf of black custard. She asked, A whale slice? She went to the table with the loaf, laid it down, and jabbed a fork against her tongue. She said, My whale hurts.”

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: NaNoWriMo is about two weeks away and I’m looking forward to another November of frantic, dead-line driven writing. It’s just the sort of thing to help get me out of this writing stupor I’ve been in. The writing was going really well and then the small rabbit passed away and I’ve been in a sort of stupor ever since. But I’m really trying to get back into a regular routine again. Hopefully I’ll be done writing my current project by the end of next week and then I can spend the rest of the month editing that manuscript before getting ready to dive into my NaNoWriMo novel. On Tuesday, 300,000,000 by Blake Butler (Barnes and Noble has it listed as Three Hundred Million) was released so my hubby picked up the copy I reserved on his way home. I haven’t started reading it just yet because I have another book I’m in the middle of but by next week, I’ll be ready to dive in.

October 14, 2014 – Excerpt

“A whale washed upon shore and we were startled by the phosphorescent suds glistening atop the carcass. It seemed that the whale had been turned inside out, its fatty layers exposed to clean, circulating air, but we were convinced that the change had happened only moments ago. There was a stink that hung around the whale, a putrid stench that wavered like haze around it, and several people approached the whale, then immediately backed away, hands cupped over flared nostrils and puckered mouths, faces faint with green sickness. They nearly vomited but were able to catch themselves before the retching became more.”

October 10, 2014 – Excerpt

“There are those who cannot sleep. I am among them. I cannot sleep, I cannot sleep, I cannot sleep. God knows I try. I cover myself with a ragged baby blanket and pray for a thrashing lullaby to come for me. I curl up beneath the kitchen table and wait for unconsciousness. I drink several glasses of warm milk and give myself diarrhea instead of exhaustion. I go into the kitchen and keep the lights off. I stand before the glow of the refrigerator light and I wait for a glass to shatter or the milk to spill.”

October 8, 2014 – Excerpt

“Mother’s head swelled and swelled until it nearly exploded. That was when she became a pig. Her skin wasn’t pig pink nor did she have a curly pig but she was pig enough. Father and I struggled to keep her but she insisted on sliding out of the kitchen. She wanted to bury her head in the garbage heaps outside. Aluminum cans were her favorite afternoon snack. I threw rotten apples and plums out the windows and mother caught them in her mouth while rolling through puddles of rancid mud. We couldn’t scrub the smell off her skin. We scraped with scouring pads and stainless steel wool until her skin came up. But the stench was well in there.”

October 1, 2014 – Miscellaneous + Excerpt

This week has been a strange one. Yesterday, the small rabbit passed away. She got sick over the weekend and when I brought her to the vet, it seemed like there was a chance that she would make it. Unfortunately, she didn’t even make it 24 hours after she was given medication. Admittedly, it’s been rough. For such a small fur ball, she took up a lot of space in the house and her absence is evident. I wrote a poem about her passing but I’m not going to share that here right now. It’s sentimental compared to most of the writing I post.

On a happier note, Vinyl Poetry nominated my story “The Cells” for the 2014 Best of the Net. Here’s the link to the piece http://vinylpoetry.com/volume-9/page-52/.

With all the turmoil in the house over the small rabbit, I haven’t really gotten a chance to write. Today is the first day I really got to write and I like what I came up with. Without further ado, an excerpt.

“I want Nina to love me. I want Nina to treat me like any other mother. The removal attempt was a mistake. Every mother is allowed to have an accident. Mine involved a strong sedative and a scalpel. Mine didn’t cause Nina any irreparable damage, although in certain parts of my abdomen, I can jab the flesh with my finger and feel nothing. I ask Nina, Why won’t you come out? Nina says, I like how warm it is in here. Then Nina asks, Why do you keep trying to remove me? Before I can eat another pork chop, Nina digs her teeth into my urethra and chews through the tube.”

September 29, 2014 – Excerpt

“The man throws an old egg at my face. His aim is terrible. The egg sails past my face and breaks against the wall behind me. Long streams of white strings dribble down the wall to the floor. The yolk is a rotten yellow splotch. The man screams, Now you have an egg! I watch him for a long time. Tucked deep inside my body, my own egg rattle. There are more eggs than I’ll ever use in a lifetime. And now I have one more.”

September 25, 2014 – Excerpt

“Just before John, Jim, and Frank died, they sent me a bushel of fresh apples they picked themselves from an orchard about an hour outside of town. They left no note but I knew the apples came from them. The apples were polished too carefully, buffed against shirtfronts to the point that the peels reflected my face cleanly. The apples were too red, too perfect. There were no blemishes, no parts that went flat instead of round, no leaf out of place, no stem snapped too close to the fruit itself. Every apple seemed pristine. The only thing John, Jim, and Frank couldn’t help was that the apples smelled like them.”

September 23, 2014 – Excerpt

“Sometimes I’m lucky and can find thick pieces of half-used graphite sticking out of the dirt. Then I put on rubber gloves and write scrawled messages on whatever empty wall surface I stumble upon. I write many things:

WE WILL MELT FOREVER.

THE SKIN IS NOT CONTAINED.

BEWARE THE HEAVY MOON.

…THOSE BAGS OVER THE HEAD?

SMELL WITH THE MOUTH.

I eat the graphite pieces for breakfast. I devour charcoal briquettes. I vomit sporadically and spontaneously.”

September 22, 2014 – Excerpt

“The gums were a filmy, milky white. The teeth came out red. Those rotten generations attempted to breed and so the degradation continued, one DNA pool after the next, each more mutated than the last.

When the reactor failed, a klaxon sounded. Now the klaxon shrieks every day at the strike of noon. It makes me think of sunshine.

The nuclear reactor has a sound that fills a radius of twenty-miles.”

September 19, 2014 – Excerpt

“There is a pig on the wall. There is a pig on the table, on the stairs, and stuffed inside the oven, where Christmas dinner waits to be slivered into rusted tins. You walk in circles, sucking on your thumbs. Whenever you step, your stomach cramps. Poor you. Poor you, walking back and forth, licking the walls whenever you turn the corners. Sometimes, the corner stops abruptly and you strike your nose against the plaster. Then, you are faced with a deep red bloom that crosses your face and disappears into your skull. You keep thinking about dinner. You want a meal you can stick your crosses into.”

September 18, 2014 – Excerpt

“Once, I saw a funeral where the cadaver was rolled in on a metal table and positioned beneath a meat hook. Ever so slowly, the cadaver moved across the table, flinging its body this way and that in a watery-sort of ballet, mouth loose and eyes relaxed, and when the meat hook dug into the small of the spine and set the body spinning back, almost in a sort of flesh-meets-metal embrace, I sobbed because of the beauty. Mother cried because she found the dance blasphemous. Father cried because he loved the dead body.”

September 17, 2014 – Excerpt

“I grew up eating greasy spoons. They were my mother’s specialty. When she was tired, she brought me to the diner for a tuna melt. When she was happy, she brought me to the diner for a dish of chicken pot pie. When she was miserable, she brought me to the diner for the Sunday Night Meatloaf Special. I always ordered everything with extra ketchup. I always finished my ketchup. I always licked the ketchup from my hands, then wriggled my fingers around until the air dried upon them, turning the skin stiff and breakable.”

September 15, 2014 – Excerpt

“I found the farmland and it was rotten. The ground was brown with putrefaction. What should have been the smell of moist dirt and fertilizer was more of a meat stench. I picked my way through the grass but it was more of a muck. The grass liquefied beneath my feet. I slipped in the putrid mud, then fell under. I clawed my way out but even lying on dryer grounds still left me moist. I leaned to one side and a stream of thin bile dripped from my mouth. I watched the bile pour onto the ground and the fluid was an unhealthy yellow, the sort of yellow heavy with fat and arterial deposits. This was not the apple orchards of my dreams. This was the kind of rotten liquid I had nightmares of. I felt my bowels loosen the longer I stared into the tree-filled horizon.”

September 12, 2014 – Excerpt

“The fever threatened to eat me. I walked slowly for a time, shuffling down the side of the street, my head looking down instead of ahead. The sunlight burned holes in my shoulders. I smelled smoking flesh. I knew I smelled myself. My pores barely sweated. There wasn’t enough fluid inside my body to spare. I barely remembered the last time I sipped water. What was liquid anymore? I paused from time to time to pick up a small rock and place it in my mouth.”

September 11, 2014 – Excerpt

“Whatever rabid packs of bodies ran up and down the sidewalks never left the concrete. It was easy to duck into the remains of an excavated basement or huddle in the back of a clogged attic. Relentless footsteps sounded in the backyards, the front yards, in the middle of the streets. The streets were no longer paths to other places. They were drop zones. They were ways to be targeted. I stayed low on the ground. I never went where there was nothing. I walked fast, then rolled away. Skeletal shrubs were safe zones. Vision eroded with the sunlight’s constant bursting. Too many retinas seared and became useless.”

September 10, 2014 – Excerpt

“The animals went radioactive. They were covered in boils and thick plaques knives couldn’t slice through. The hunting wasn’t one of our great concerns. Instead, we worried that the radioactivity might be contagious. If the animals became irradiated just by strolling past a copper pond in the early afternoon, what would happen if we drank the red water? We couldn’t know. It seemed that the houses were radiated, the sidewalks and chimney stacks. The trees released puffs of decaying ions into the air. If we breathed enough times, those isotopes would degrade further in our lungs, their chemical collapse causing a cataclysmic chain reaction of anatomic proportions.”

September 8, 2014 – Excerpt

“We wanted soap and water but both were gone. The water evaporated. In our desperate hunger, we took to greedily putting soap in our mouths. We chewed the soap up, spit the suds out, and swallowed whatever hard pieces were left behind. Our eyes rolled. We tilted our heads back and screamed until our vocal cords seemed fragmented. The sounds came from three directions. We weren’t throwing our voices; our voices were throwing us.”

September 7, 2014 – Excerpt

“Mother was gone. Father was gone. I was all alone. I walked and saw a man with an engorged head. He sat up. He sat down. He cried, Your name, your name! I watched his forehead turn bright orange, then yellow-red. The yellow-red was different from orange. The colors were partitioned, layered atop one another so that in thinner parts of the top layer, the under-layer was visible. I wanted to pick the color from his face [...]“

September 6, 2014 – Excerpt

“I drank a spoiled glass of milk and caught the infection quickly. Within a few sips, my throat was already lined with sores. I tasted them each time I swallowed. There was a sickly sourness packed in my mouth. It didn’t matter what I chased the milk with. Orange juice was sour. Meaty broth tasted too much like death. Water was like charcoal. I drank what I could, then vomited it on the floor. I spewed unnameable green things. I wasn’t the first to be stricken.”

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