strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
You know you love me.

Well, at least you know you love my stories.

This week's topic was "bupkis", which I tried my best to incorporate into my piece, "The Emergence of Amazing".

If I stick around another week or so, I'll explain where I got the idea for this whole thing. I suppose if you want that to happen, you're going to have to go vote for me, now aren't you?

Tribe 1, near the bottom since it's alphabetical.

And check out everything else there, if you want. There's some gems!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
He didn't stop running until he reached his street. Then, the better part of his brains took over and reminded him that his neighbors might get suspicious if they saw him sprinting to and into his own apartment. He slowed down his pace until he reached his apartment door, on the ground floor of a four-plex that his landlord had called "antique". He'd called it "ancient" later when describing it to friends, but the truth of the matter was that it was cheap, it was cozy and it was theirs.

His hand was frozen on the key, just having been slid home in the lock, thoughts of those old friends rushing back to his mind. They'd all faded away, too, but whose fault had that been? Had it been his? Had it been hers? How long had it been, anyway? He sighed and shook his head to scatter the memories. He supposed it didn't matter. Besides, he had more pressing matters to attend to.

First and foremost: What the fuck?

Closing the door behind him, he slid to the ground with his back to the door. He'd left a window open and the curtain there blew in with the light breeze and rustled up against the wall. Even the children outside had stopped their shrieking. There was silence around him, enough that he thought he could hear his upstairs neighbor's voice talking on the telephone, ordering a pizza.

At least, he thought it was a pizza. Distracted, he listened a bit closer for a moment, then shook his head again.

He'd honestly felt the push at his back as he'd stood waiting for the train to take him on to the great hereafter. Then he'd stumbled over his own feet, tumbling to the ground beside the tracks again. Again, in that brief moment right at the end, he'd seen the conductor of the train with the look of shock on his face. He'd registered, briefly, that it was a different engineer than the night before.

He pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them close to him, resting his chin on his knees. He tried to still his mind, just to think clearly, but it was difficult. He had so many questions that he was pretty sure that no one would be able to answer. Who was there left to talk to? Furthermore, who the hell would believe him? Finally, he just sighed and closed his eyes.

When he woke, he wasn't sure how long he'd slept. It was dark outside, though, and he could hear the faint hum of his neighbor's television, playing one of the late shows. His body ached from having slept in such a strange position, all curled up in front of the door. He stood and stretched and listened as his stomach grumbled. He hadn't eaten all day and, suddenly, he was famished.

He tugged on the grey striped hoodie he'd left on the couch by the door. Patting his pockets to determine that he did have his wallet on him (why did he need it if he was going to go stand in front of an oncoming train, he'd asked himself many times), he turned and opened the front door. When he did, something that had been rolled into a tube and tucked beside the door knob and the door frame fluttered to the ground. He bent and picked it up, unrolling it to see what advertisement he'd been hit with this time.

A smiling woman beamed back at him from the black-and-white photocopied ad. She was bent into a yoga position and the business name at the bottom of the page seemed to indicate that was the exact purpose of this ad.

"DO SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!" the ad screamed at the top of the page. "BE SOMETHING AMAZING TODAY!" it read at the bottom. In the middle of the page, in slightly smaller font, it read, "Be more than you think you're worth - be a yoga hero!"

"Well, that's a load of bupkis," he muttered to himself and tossed the advertisement back into his apartment. It seemed a little overboard for a yoga course plug - kind of like the screaming radio ads for the monster truck rallies he remembered from his youth.

Giving the flyer no more thought, he closed the door behind him and headed down the darkened street, his shadow trailing long behind him in the glare of the streetlights.

* * * * *

She still wasn't entirely sure where she was. This city was too big for her. She'd pulled into a gas station not more than twenty minutes ago, hoping she could get her bearings, but she was still unsure of where exactly the motel was where her husband was holed up.

She'd been prepared to leave him. She'd packed the children up and sent them off to their grandmother's. They'd be there until the end of summer, picking berries and catching fireflies. While they were gone, she'd been able to envision herself packing their rooms, packing the living room, packing the moving truck. They'd stay there with her parents for a little while and then head on out on their own.

Now she was here, though, in this unfamiliar city and without any idea the address of the motel and only a vague telling of the name. Her husband's co-workers had called her to tell her of his "breakdown" and asked her to come fetch him. She wondered if this would change her plans, if she would be able to still be strong enough to leave.

She also felt partially responsible for his meltdown. If she hadn't texted him to tell him that they were leaving, would he have been going through this? What if he'd had an accident with the train? She'd never been good at calculating when he'd be stopping and where, so she was always making mistakes like this.

She sighed and decided to try asking for help from the convenience store cashier. She opened the door of her old sedan (with its faint smell of spilled juices over years past) and got out, stretching her arms above her head. Across the parking lot, a man in a striped jacket was walking towards the convenience store as well. When she bent her arms back down to her sides, the man stopped in mid-stride.

He seemed to be staring at her.

She was about to avert her eyes from him, head into the convenience store and ask the man behind the counter if he knew where the half-of-a-name-motel was, when she heard the tires squealing. She heard shouting. She thought she saw the man in the striped jacket start running.

All told, she was pretty much confused out of her mind until she hit the ground with the man in the striped jacket on top of her. The sound of screeching metal continued on and the air seemed to fill with a brown, dusty, smelly smoke.

She didn't realize that she was cursing (and loudly, at that) until the noise abated and the man pulled himself off of her and then offered a hand to assist her up.

"What happened?" she asked him.

"Crazy driver," he replied, seeming a little out of breath. "Drove right into the damn building." He paused, taking a moment to really look at her. "Are you okay?"

Dazed, she looked down at herself. "I guess so. That was amazing."

The man blinked - once, then twice.

He was silent.




Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
In fact, you knew this post was coming, right? You knew voting time was around the corner and you were like, shoot, I hope [livejournal.com profile] strryeyedgrrl puts up the voting reminder soon!

Well, here I am to save the day.

This week's topic was "Inconceivable" and I continued with foray back into the land of fiction with an entry I titled, Of Dreams & Bottle Caps.

If you liked it, please let me know with your vote. I'm in Tribe One, right at the start of the polls.

And, of course, read, read, read. There's some good stuff over there.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
He woke the next afternoon, drenched in sweat. His experience the previous evening had left him inexplicably exhausted - well, perhaps it wasn't inexplicable, considering he'd managed to sprint the entire length of the city back to his apartment. Still, though, he'd felt...spent. He could barely recall collapsing onto his bed, but he must have because here he was on top of the quilt that his mother had given him when he'd moved out on his own at 19.

He'd been dreaming again, the dreams more vivid and fierce than those in the past. This time, he could see the detail of the train bearing down on the woman and child; he could see the colors of the blanket that covered the boy, yellow and white checked. He could almost very nearly hear her deep, expectant breath inward as the locomotive raced toward her steady, relentless form.

He sat up on the edge of the bed, his clothing crumpled from having been slept in. He reflected to himself that he certainly hadn't made any efforts to dress nicely for his own demise, what with the condition of his jeans and t-shirt. He brushed at a grass stain on his left knee even though he knew that merely swiping at it would do no good. He supposed he ought to wash them, but then decided it wasn't worth it.

He was going back.

The intensity of the dream had led to a renewed sense of determination. All the way home, his feet slapping in a soothing rhythm on the pavement, he'd decided that the botched attempt had been some kind of sign. He'd felt it on his back, at the final moment as he looked the train dead in the face.

He'd felt the hand.

He wasn't a religious man. He had no quarrel with God and he was no atheist, but he certainly couldn't be called a man of faith. He was simply a man - and religion, or other supernatural or metaphysical beliefs held no weight on him.

Still, though. He'd felt it.

It had shoved him (quite roughly, he remembered) out of the way of the oncoming train, so close at the time that he could have reached out and touched the hot steel of it, had been able to see the shocked face of the engineer. Right as he'd thought the moment was about to arrive, he'd instead been tumbling off the tracks and into the brush.

So, he'd figured that was it - he'd given it a chance and nothing had come of it. Time to cut his losses and move on, right?

The dream had changed his mind.

He'd go back.

He spent the rest of the afternoon in the apartment that still sometimes smelled of her, even though he knew that was just an illusion. It had been many years since he'd last heard from her, even more since she'd been here. Still, sometimes he thought he could pick up the scent of her Marlboros and the the Love's Baby Soft that she sometimes wore to try to mask the smell from her mother.

He made coffee, but he didn't drink it.

He looked at the food in his fridge, but he didn't eat it.

He turned on the television, but he didn't watch it.

He lay down on the couch to nap, but instead he stared at the ceiling where countless bottle caps were arranged into a crooked daisy. Over time, some of them had fallen to the floor and he'd sometimes accidentally suck them up in the vacuum cleaner. The basic shape remained, though, the daisy's center growing darker over the years as the water damage had seeped in.

Outside, the neighbor children shrieked, but he didn't hear them.

He stared blankly upwards at the bottle cap daisy until a tinny alarm from his bedside clock announced the time. Before he rose, he wondered if the bottle caps could stay there forever, if they would come look at them and wonder about their impact on his psyche. He shook his head as he stood. They were just bottle caps, nothing more. He reached up and plucked one down. It had been from a decent beer, an expensive brand that they'd only buy on special occasions or when the paychecks had good overtime pay on them. He rolled it around his fingers for a bit before shoving it into his pocket.

Maybe it would bring him good luck tonight, he thought, as he shuffled to the bedroom to turn off the alarm.

It was an hour walk from his apartment to the train tracks. He'd stopped at a mini-mart to see if they had the expensive beer available (they didn't), so he was a little late when he finally arrived to the same place he'd stood the night before. He wondered if the same engineer would be in the locomotive tonight.

It was silent around him for a few minutes.

The whistle of the train in the distance caught his attention.

One foot in front of the other.

He measured his steps evenly as he grew closer to the tracks.

At the same time, the locomotive grew ever nearer.

The horn brayed. He could see that there was a new engineer tonight, but this new man made the same o-face as the last had.

He stepped in front of the engine and let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

Like the woman in his dream, he was resolute.

* * * * *

As he came into town, he drew long and hard on the train whistle.

He'd only taken this shift because yesterday's engineer was so shaken up by what had happened that he'd refused to report for duty. Word had it that he was holed in some motel room across town, being fed whiskey by his fellow men.

He'd heard what had happened, had heard whispers that they thought he might've imagined it. He was under a lot of stress at home, with his wife leaving him and taking the kids. There was talk they'd send him out on a leave of absence to clear his head. After all, you couldn't do this job if you weren't somewhat right in the head.

He leaned over and spat into the tin can at his feet. The chewing tobacco made a satisfying "ting" noise as it hit. When he raised his head, he felt the color drain from his face.

It was then that he supposed that the ol' boy from last night hadn't been quite out of his mind after all. Here was the same man, quite possibly wearing the same damn clothes, standing in quite possibly the same damn place as before. It was hard to tell from this vantage point, but he was pretty sure the dude was smiling with his eyes closed.

Then he wasn't there anymore.

He was too busy bringing the train to a stop and making the appropriate calls that he didn't get a chance to see where the man had gone.

He had a feeling that they'd be feeding him whiskey tonight, too.

* * * * *

It was grass again. Pebbles, digging into his cheek.

A space between his shoulder blades hurt, as if someone had shoved him hard.

"Inconceivable," he whispered before he pushed himself up off the ground.

Once again, he ran.




Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Not much time, but you know the drill.

This week's topic was "What does narcissism have to do with me?"

I ran with that and wrote a continuation of my fiction project, titled Run, Narcissist, Run.

If you liked it (or hated it, fiction isn't for everyone in this battle), let your vote be your voice..

And, always, read the other amazing stuff that's out there right now.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
"You're a narcissistic bastard." Her words had been intended to be light, but he could hear the rough edges around them.

"What's your point?"

"Just that."

"I don't think you know what that word means."

"Are you calling me stupid?" She crossed her arms across her chest, which he noticed was quite fetching when she wasn't wearing her bra.

He chuckled, shaking his head. "Not quite," he replied. "But I think for your birthday this year, you're getting a dictionary."

She stomped her foot, her habit when angered. "Stop that."

"You started it. Remember, I brought you flowers and made dinner. Then you called me a bastard."

"You did all of that for yourself. You did it to make yourself feel better."

"Feel better for what? Can't a guy just do something nice for the girl he loves without being accused of something?"

She frowned, her thick blond bangs getting stuck in her eyelashes as she looked up at him.

"You know why," she replied, sighing. She stuck her hand into the pocket of her housedress, an ugly floral thing that her mother had given her last Christmas, and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. He handed her the plastic yellow Bic lighter from the counter he was leaning on. He hated that dress and so did she - that's why she wore it, to be ironic. She liked what her friends thought of it. She didn't care that he thought it was ugly.

She lit her cigarette and inhaled it briefly, her eyes never leaving his face. "You know why," she said again.

He did know why, but he wasn't willing to let her win. Not this time.

"Suppose you illustrate the story for me a little."

She huffed out a haze of smoked and sat down angrily on the chair at the kitchen table. He picked an empty soda can off the counter and pushed it towards her, a makeshift ashtray. She knew he hated it when she smoked in his apartment. That's why she was doing it now and that's why he was happy to accommodate - if he got angry, she'd win.

"You were late last night."

"I told you I would be."

"Not that late."

"I never gave you a specific time."

"You're never that late."

"There's a first time for everything."

"My mother was furious."

"She had no need to be. You should've explained to her that I'd be late."

"You were three hours late."

"I never said when I'd be there. We've been through this already." He flexed his arms behind him and leaned against the cupboard. She glared at him from behind those enormously thick bangs.

"You didn't even apologize."

"I didn't think I needed to. I told you I'd be late."

"I think you did it on purpose." She dropped the half-finished cigarette into the soda can, where it extinguished on the leftover Dr. Pepper with a satisfying hiss.

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

She stomped her foot again. "You're impossible!" she growled.

He smiled and reached out to take her by the arm. She resisted a little, out of anger, as he pulled her close to him. He could smell the cigarette smoke on her hair, wafting on the strands as they shifted with her movement. With her leaning against him, he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"I know," he said. "So what're you going to do about it?"

Before she could answer, he silenced her mouth with his lips.

* * * * *

When he landed on the other side of the tracks, the train's whistle seemed to be screaming at him from another world. In his mind, in that final moment, he'd had her on his mind - the smell of Marlboros and her dumb, ugly, floral housedress. He hadn't meant that, to be thinking of her then.

Then again, things here weren't exactly working out according to plan.

She began to fade then, another vision from another time, far away and gone. Untouchable.

Instead, he was face down in the grass, sharp pebbles digging into his knees and his forehead. Immediately, he wondered if he'd cut his face badly. It wasn't a rational thought, but it was his first. His second was that she might've been right about the narcissistic jab.

His third thought, the most lucid of them all, was to wonder what exactly had happened.

Behind him, the train continued to scream to its stop and somewhere in the distance, sirens began to take up the call.

He did the only thing he was good at: He ran.






Need more background on The Guy and the Train? This season, I'm going back to my roots as a writer and tackling the land of fiction. This season of LJ Idol, for me, is an exercise in that: In stretching my creative legs to build characters and moments and places off of a single flash of inspiration found in a tent in the middle of Oregon. If you'd like more context, check out my previous entries. Above all, though, enjoy the ride.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Once more, with feeling, fiends friends!

(It's only week two, folks - don't get tired of clicking those shiny shiny buttons yet!)

This week's LJ Idol prompt was "Three Little Words". I ran with that and wrote a piece that I called Maybe Next Time.

I suppose you all might be wondering about my choice of fiction-writing this season. It was most definitely a conscious choice, one I made before the season began. I'll get into the whys and hows and the "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING"s sometime later - for now, just enjoy the ride, 'kay?

So, if you liked this week's piece, please head over to the community and vote like you've never voted before. I'm, for some reason, in Tribe 9 (nobody knows why but Gary), near the bottom. You should also vote for some of my friends and stuff, 'cause they're cool, but you should check out some of the other entries since it's all mostly amazing right now.

Oh! And you'll need to be a member of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol in order to vote this time around. It's really worth it and besides, if you've been on my friends list long enough, you're probably already a member. It's free to join and the perks are endless!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
"I love you."

Those were the words his wife had said to him two evenings ago, as he'd kissed her goodbye. He'd stepped out of their brightly lit, warm home into the dwindling twilight of a late summer evening. Faint stars were beginning to poke out starkly against the darkening sky above him and he looked up at them and sighed, feeling his shoulders sag slightly under an invisibly weight.

His wife's lips had been soft under his, the coarse bristle of his whiskers scratching red patches into her pale skin as he nuzzled her neck. "I'll miss you," he'd said in response to her fervent embrace. She had held him tighter in a way that felt strange to him, as though she were afraid he would disappear from between her fingertips.

She followed him to his pickup truck, a grey thing that he'd gotten for a reasonable price back when they'd first gotten married. He supposed it might be time to think about upgrading (he was making enough money these days, after all), but he enjoyed this truck and the memories that came with it. He could remember trips to the drive-in, the two of them settled into the bed of the truck, blankets piled around them while the movie's soundtrack crackled through the beat-up stock speakers. He could feel the softness of her hand in his as she held it across the bed seat, while they rumbled across country roads that neither of them knew.

They had been young, once. He supposed they were still young now, although their faces had aged with time and circumstance. The truck was no longer a practical vehicle for their family consisting of themselves, three children, two cats and eight goldfish. He could see one of the cats now, lazing indifferently beneath the front left tire of the pickup. As he approached, he shooed the cat away and it skittered across the paved driveway towards the house.

Inside the truck, it had been dirty, his boots kicking up layers of dust that no detailing could fully eliminate. His bag sat on the seat next to him, the place where once his wife had sat on those long trips into nowhere, when they had taken adventures into the countryside because...well, because they could. He smoothed the empty space in the middle, where the seat cover always bunched up, and then turned to look at his wife as she stood next to the open window.

"Come home safe," she said.

"I always do," he replied with a wry smile, the kind that lifted from the corners of his lips in the way that he knew she liked. She did not smile back, but her eyes lighted briefly and he knew that she knew that smile would always be just for her.

That had been two evenings ago, though, and now, as the scenery of another nameless city whizzed past him in a blur of green and brown and all matters grey, she felt very far away. He was another day out from his destination and three days out from returning home. What kind of home he'd be returning to, he didn't know. He had the strange sensation that his world was all wrong right now, that up had been turned into down and light into dark. At points, he felt like his feet were not quite on the floor beneath him, as though he weren't able to ground himself. He felt a little like dying, if he were being truly honest with himself.

He'd received her text message last night, after a stop in a town so small that it didn't even have a name. He'd had to read it more than once to fully grasp its meaning.

"We leave tomorrow."

It had been coming for a long time, but he'd been trying to pretend that things would get better, that this too would pass. He'd thought they'd been communicating better, that he'd said more of the words that she wanted to hear, that he'd been more attentive with the children. He knew then, after seeing the words come across the screen, that her embrace that night had been one of goodbye, not of longing for him to stay. She may be more resolute in her decision, but he could still tell that it broke her heart...perhaps even moreso than it was currently breaking his.

He returned his attention to the task at hand. He was coming into another city, its landscape no different than the others. In this place, though, he knew he would have a watcher. In his years as a locomotive engineer, he had encountered many watchers - the people who sat along the tracks to watch the trains go by. In one place, an old man sat on a folding chair and waved. In another, there was always a black sedan parked facing the tracks and young man would be laying on the hood and windshield, smoking a cigarette. There was another town where the tracks passed close to homes and he'd watched a young girl grow up over the course of ten years, standing on her back porch to give a peace sign to the engineer as the locomotive sped past.

In this city, though (and he knew it was a city from the distant skyline of highrises and bright lights), a man had stood in the grassy field along the tracks nearly every night for the last six months. He never waved or jumped up and down as some others often did. Instead, he just stood there, watching the train pass him. He thought that the man might feel as lonely as he did tonight.

Despite his best efforts, his thoughts pulled him back to memories of his wife. As the locomotive sped into the city, he was thinking about the way her hair caught the sun's reflection. He had always loved the way it shifted around her neck, catching in the clasp of her necklace, a simple gold chain and pendant that he'd given her on their fifth wedding anniversary while she was large with their second child. His mind was there, not on the tracks in front of him, as the train grew closer to the place where the man had been waiting for him.

Not entirely focused on the scene unfolding in front of him, he barely realized that the man was much closer to the tracks than he had ever been in the past. The whistle had been blown many times (he'd at least had half a mind to make sure that went off properly) as they'd entered the city limits, but the man didn't seem to notice. Or, for that matter, care. Instead, as the train approached steadily, the man stepped onto the tracks and, from his vantage point, seemed to stare directly into the oncoming lights.

"Oh no, please," he said under his breath as he began the preparations to stop the train. The horn sounded plaintively across the landscape around them and he looked up, hoping that the man had gotten out of the way in time.

The man was still there, the train bearing down on him at a speed that could not be stopped no matter how much he willed it. It seemed to happen in slow motion.

He wouldn't write about this in his reports later.

The man was there: steadfast, unbending. Ready.

Then, as though a great gust of wind had come up out of the field around him, the man was seemingly shoved off the tracks, tumbling across the pebbles and the dirt and the long grass. He wasn't a superstitious man, but he could swear that it was nearly like a hand had sent the man flying off of the tracks. A tremendous, invisible hand.

He'd had to turn his attention away and, when he was able to exit the locomotive, the man was gone.

Somewhere, he heard sirens. Growing closer.

The evening wind whispered around his ears.

"I'll be damned."
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
That's all there is to it - shiny, shiny buttons.

This week's Idol topic was "When You Pray, Move Your Feet" and I wrote In the End, He Found That He Didn't Require Any Prayers for it.

If you liked it, go here and click the shiny shiny button with my name on it. It's in alphabetical order, so I'm down near the end, in Tribe 7, right by [livejournal.com profile] sunnyrai. Hey! *waves*

As always, check out the other entries - I bet you'll find a few pleasant surprises.

Although the downside to [livejournal.com profile] amenquohi taking the cake last season is that there's no entry from her. :(
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
The summer was coming to an end around him, the summer breeze still warm against his cheek, yet with a stiff undertone of the chill that autumn promised to bring. The sun began to set earlier in the day, the absence of light only multiplying the desolation he felt within the confines of his chest. He breathed deeply, feeling the faint, nearly imaginary tug of sadness as he exhaled. Light was fading, yes, but in so many other ways than what he saw in front of him now as the light on the horizon began to shift into a comfortable, deceptively warm dark orange.

The whistle of the train in the distance caught his attention. He closed his eyes as he imagined it growing nearer. He could see the headlight bearing down on the tracks, see the big wheels turning against the tracks. In his mind’s eye, he could see the entire plan as he had been formulating it for the past six months. He had not consciously come to the conclusion that today was “the day”, but had instead allowed the fates to gently guide him. He did not know what had made today special, except that when he had woken up this morning, after another night’s troubled sleep, he had simply known. It was time.

He kept his eyes closed, working to concentrate solely on the sounds of his breaths, even and deep as though he were meditating himself into a deep sleep. He tried to clear his mind. He reflected on how effortless this was turning out to be. In the past six months, he had envisioned every possible outcome – including the possibility that he might simply “chicken out”. He had long decided that if his body had cried out to flee, he would allow it only if it were a natural reaction. He had, however, not experienced any last minute jitters or self-doubt. He was, in a manner of speaking, experiencing a greater sense of inner peace than he had had in a very, very long time.

The whistle of the train grew closer now. As he concentrated on his breathing, still even and deep, his heartrate steady, he recalled the last time he had dreamed of the train. It had been the same dream as the first time, haunting him long after his eyes ripped open – an echo throbbing around the edges of his soul.

The woman stood solid, still. An evening of tears showed coarsely against the fair skin of her face, a trail of mascara streaked tracks reaching down her cheeks. In her arms, the infant slept, warm in the swaddling of blankets and the nearness of his mother’s skin. As the train whistle sounded again, more insistent and louder this time, the child only stirred briefly in his deep sleep. His mother stood still, looking blankly, but resolutely, into the light that grew ever nearer, larger with its proximity. When it was nearly upon her, she did not blink. The slight curve of a smile, like a treasure long buried, tugged at the corner of her lips. When the light arrived for her, she was ready.

Each time, he would awake bathed in sweat, his heart racing and his soul aching. After the third recurrence of the dream, he sought out the tracks. He knew them once he saw them – the long grass surrounding each side, threatening at any moment to go to seed. There were no houses nearby, only a forgotten shed a few hundred yards away, standing in stark contrast to the grassy field it was situated in. He did not know why he had dreamed of them – he had never been to this place before, despite it being in the city in which he had spent the majority of his life. It was a part of town reserved for those assigned to its maintenance only, existing only because it had to.

He had never questioned why he’d dreamed of the woman, either. He did not know her and her features were not significant enough for him to remember, even after multiple recurrences of the dream. His subconscious remembered tiny details, like the curve of the woman’s arms around the sleeping infant, the shine of the locomotive’s headlight on the woman’s forehead, the twitch at the corner of her lips as the train bore down upon her. He did not question the dream, gruesome as it was, and he accepted that it simply had become another part of his self.

The train’s whistle, the one firmly cemented in reality, grew closer. He knew from his visits here that it would be only moments before it passed the place where he stood. He stepped forward to take his place near the tracks. His eyes were still closed, but he knew the way – it was as though he had drawn a map here on his own heart. His feet carried him without needing to be told by his mind where to go.

Just like in his dream, the whistle of the train grew louder, more insistent. The ground began to rumble beneath his feet, pebbles banging against each other silently.

It was silent in his mind.

He’d thought he might find himself praying, but he found there was no need.

He took a breath.

He took a step and let the light bear down upon him.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
You know, this also means that you'll see more posts from me.

Which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

And depending on what I decide to write this season.

I just finished reading the Outlander series, the new Twilight movie comes out next month and The Walking Dead just started back up, so you never know. You could get some kind of Scottish vampire zombie fiction for all I know.

If things go well, that is.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I'm kind of a jerk sometimes.

To Whom it May Concern:

I wanted to share my disappointment with your latest product, Nice 'n Easy Color Blend Foam.

I received a free coupon to try your new hair color about two months ago. I purchased Dark Brown (4) and applied it myself, as I have been doing for many years. The first thing I noticed was that it was nearly impossible to get a handle on the dye itself. Because it's a foam, it is lightweight and easily flung from one's fingertips. That's how I wound up with hair color splattered on my bathroom walls.

The next thing I noticed was that a foam is nearly impossible to use to get those spots that require precision - such as the temples and hairline. Instead, I wound up with hair color smeared across my forehead and cheeks. I wasn't too concerned by this at first - like I said, I've been coloring my own hair for years and I've had my share of mishaps. I figured that most of the mess on my skin would clear up after the rinse.

Right, I should be so lucky.

I literally had to SCRUB my skin RAW to get the color off of it. Even then, after applying heavy duty soap and using a Buf-Puf, I still had splotches on my forehead and neck when I attended a Girl Scout meeting two days later.

Let's not even discuss just how dark that dark brown came out. Dark brown is my natural hair color - I color my hair to cover up the early onset of greys in my hair. This box of color, though, came out nearly black.

All that said, I chalked it up to my own oafishness. I'm sometimes a goof, so I thought maybe I'd messed up the process along the way. That meant that when I had a couple of coupons for the foaming color again (not free, but at least discounted), I gave it another shot. This time, I enlisted the help of my best friend, another seasoned home hair colorer. I figured this would mean less mess on the walls, at the very least, and maybe a better experience all around. This time, also, I chose a lighter shade of brown, Medium Ash Brown (5A), so not to end up with nearly black hair again.

Boy, was I wrong.

The first that killed us was the smell. Something must have changed because the first dye job was done in my tiny apartment bathroom and it was fine. This time we were in a very open space at my friend's home - and we had to open every window and turn on a fan to keep the smell from burning our eyes. Next, was the same difficulty with getting those areas that require precision like the temples and hairline. (And I'm pretty particular about the hairline, since that's where those pesky greys like to hang out.)

Even with having someone else in charge of the process, I still wound up with fingertip streaks of color on my forehead and neck. It seems nearly impossible to avoid it - and normally this wouldn't be such an issue if the dye weren't so effing permanent on one's skin! Again, after showering, I was stuck scrubbing at my skin to no avail. I actually had to SHAMPOO my hair less than 8 hours after the initial coloring, just to find some way to reduce the visibility of the splotches. 24 hours later, I still have a splotch on my hand that has yet to come off, despite multiple washings, showers and handwashing a sink full of dishes.

Not only that, but the dye dried to my scalp in lines of dark brown that could be scraped off with my fingernails - and this was after only 20 minutes after application! I'm still, a full day later, able to scrap the hair color off my scalp with my fingernails. And remember, that's even after shampooing it as well. Since it's dark brown, it looks like I've got dirt or bugs in my hair and I'm sure that looked delightful when I went to register my kid at her new school today.

Speaking of color, I've decided that someone in the Clairol color labs is colorblind because that would be the only excuse for this - Medium Ash Brown came out just as hideously black-brown as the Dark Brown did. In fact, it darkened the already Dark Brown hair that I had from my last coloring 8 weeks ago. I don't know why I chose a different shade since apparently all browns must be the same.

I'm pretty certain you can tell by now that I never intend to use Clairol's Color Blend Foam again. I started coloring my hair at home, on my own, at 16. I'm 32 now, so that makes up for half of my life. Using the Color Blend Foam was a worse experience than any other home coloring I've ever done. That includes the time I had to color my hair an hour before a new job because I had to get rid of the magenta tips or the time I bleached my hair three times in a month. I've never seen such a mess or had such an issue with the staining on my skin or scalp. I've also had Manic Panic boxes that were truer to their color examples than this color has been.

I love Clairol products - I think you guys usually offer the best bang for one's dollar. This one, though, needs to be taken back to the lab for re-tooling. At a regular price of $9.99 at my local drugstore, it's a pathetic waste of money.

Sincerely,

Jill
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Couponing had become the new trend, which kind of pisses me off. Sure, it leads to clearer store coupon policies and more knowledge on the subject, but when shit gets its own reality show, I get a little turned off.

For the record, I've been couponing since the first time I moved out of my parents' house, filling the cupboards and the fridge of my new place for under $50.

That said, I'm not an obsessive couponer, I don't do the "extreme" couponing or stocking up that others do. I'd love to, actually, but I just don't have the time. Or the sales are going on when I don't have grocery money. I try to only coupon for things I need or would actually have a use for. On average, I can scrape at least $30 off my bi-weekly shopping trip, if not more.

For example, last week's grocery trip was $140 before coupons. After, it was right around $70. That's right, I cut my bill in half.

Today, I decided to go for some good deals I'd seen online. I follow only two couponing blogs, Frugal Living NW and I Heart the Mart. I also get coupons through Coupons.com, though the Sunday paper, mailers, company promotions (a lot that I used today were from a Proctor & Gamble booklet I got in on and was sent to me) and by loading them onto my Fred Meyer Rewards card via their website.

I took Ron. Half an hour into it, he was bored. He did a good job holding my coupons, though.

Here's how I made out. Everything in the picture was purchased with some kind of coupon.

Photobucket


Some things, I hadn't intended to buy, but they were low-priced enough that, with a coupon, it came out to what I was willing to pay. Some of my coupons went unused because I couldn't find the product - I would've hunted a little more, but Ron was getting cranky.

...more detail under the clicky clicky thingy! )
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I dumped the messenger bag upside down and scattered its contents across the desk. Tiny papers fluttered everywhere - notes with phone numbers, crumpled receipts, jumbled up coupons and gum wrappers. My co-worker at the desk next to me laughed.

"What can't you find now?" she asked.

"My housekeys," I replied, not looking up from the mess on the table. I checked my watch - ten minutes until my bus arrived to take me home. I needed to find those keys quickly or I'd be either stuck at the office until my husband made it home with our daughter or I'd be waiting for them in the rain on the front steps of our apartment.

"Did you leave them at home, maybe?" she asked, fiddling with the spiral cord of the headset that led its way back to the phone.

"I know I didn't," I said. "I specifically remember picking them up and putting them in my bag." I picked out the tiny pieces of paper and dropped them into the trash can at my feet. The keys had to be in here somewhere.

They were not in the pile of junk that I'd haphazardly flung onto the desk, so I shifted my attention back the insides of the bag itself. There were pockets and crevices everywhere so it was entirely possible that I'd simply overlooked the keys. I dug my fingers around every space possible, hoping to feel them poke into my hand.

No such luck.

Giving up, I jammed the contents back into the bag and bid my co-worker farewell. I didn't want to stick around the office, so I hurried my way out of the six-story brick building and made it to the bus stop just as the lumbering beast of public transportation arrived.

Back at home, I did have to wait on the front steps of our apartment, but not for long. My husband arrived quickly after I did and let us both into the house. My hair hung at my shoulders in soggy tangles, my hoodie having provided nothing in the way of weather protection.

After dinner, I pulled out my messenger bag to seek out a document that I needed to review. I stuck my hand inside the pocket where I kept all my paperwork, then stopped. Cold and metallic against my fingertips, I knew I had found my keys. I pulled them out and lifted them inquisitively into the air.

"Found them?" my husband asked with a light smile on his face.

"Yeah," I said quietly.

"I told you that you'd just misplaced them."

I shook my head, my hair still damp against my cheek.

"No," I replied. "I dumped out this entire bag. Even these papers were on my desk. There was nothing else in these pockets but those papers."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Did you find them and put them back in here?"

My husband laughed. "Why would I do that?"

"I don't know, to fuck with me? Silly ol' Jill, can't find her housekeys?"

He laughed again. "It's a good idea, but no. I didn't even look for your keys after we got home."

My face screwed up in frustration. I knew he was right. We'd been in the same room since coming home, not even having used the bathroom yet. The only time the bag had been alone in anyone's presence, it had been mine.

So where had the keys come from?

The answer dawned on me slowly, over the course of the next few days.

* * * * *

This time I was at home. Again, the messenger bag was dumped upside down, this time onto the surface of the couch. My debit card was missing. Without it, I'd be a bit hungry come lunchtime. My watch made it clear that if I didn't leave the house NOW, I'd be late for work.

Finally, I gave up. It was nowhere to be found - not in the main part of the bag and not tucked into the card-shaped pockets where my ID and bus pass were. I rushed out of the apartment and down the street, making it to the bus stop as my bus was rounding the corner.

On the bus ride to the office, I dug around inside my bag again. With the time to spare, I went through each pocket with meticulous precision. There was no sign of the little red debit card with the bent corner and the peeling plastic. I would simply have to make do with the Top Ramen packet in my desk drawer and the free soda from the vending machine.

Once back inside that old brick building, I sat down in my chair and powered on my computer. I pulled open my bag and stuck my hand inside.

I stopped.

Plastic, a little bit of it peeling, touched my fingertips.

My eyes wide in disbelief, I watched as I pulled out the little red debit card from one of the pockets that I specifically recalled being completely empty earlier.

Blankly, I stared at it, marveling at it in my hand.

I blinked.

I knew.

* * * * *

Just the other day, my sliding glass door was opened while I was out of the room. There was no logical explanation as to how it happened since I was the only person in the house.

I didn't have to think too hard on it this time, not like I did with the keys and the debit card.

I believe in ghosts.

I always have, so it's no big deal, really.

I just happen to specifically believe in one little ghost that likes to play tricks on me. The debit card and keys phenomenon has been repeated many times over in the last few years.

Somewhere, I believe, there is a little boy giggling about the tricks that he plays on his auntie.

I always promise that when I see him again, I'll get him back.

For now, though, when my keys or my debit card or something else important goes missing for no reason, I take it in stride. I take a deep breath. I even abandon my search efforts, knowing that it will come around in due time.

You can't always control everything, especially those things that are not of this world.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
She fidgets on her feet. She was never good at waiting in line and she's not being very good at it now. She hates it even more when there are people waiting on her, as her friend is now, parked outside in the car. It probably wouldn't be so bad if her friend weren't rightfully pissed at her. This diversion on their grand adventure had certainly not been planned for and, quite frankly, the last twelve hours had culminated in one metric ton of a hot mess.

She makes it to the front of the line, finally, and discreetly tells the woman behind the counter what she needs to purchase. A single pointed finger directs her to the next line, two windows over. Inwardly, she groans. She could've gotten in that line to begin with, if she'd known, and could've likely already been done by now.

Outwardly, she smiles, cheerfully thanks the woman and tells her to have a nice day.

"I'm a good kid," she tells herself in her mind.

Best to keep up with appearances, anyway.

As she shuffles her feet across the generic black-and-white speckled flooring, she reflects on what got her here, to this overly florescent corner of the city, to this section of hell where the loudspeaker bellows for "assistance in the pet department, assistance in the pet department" every five minutes on the nose. She recalls the flashing lights, the loud laughter swirling around her, the concrete pounding underneath the soles of her shoes, the animated conversation and the darkened corners.

She could lie and say she doesn't remember anything, but she can't bring herself to do that. She remembers everything. Therefore, she is just as culpable in the crime she's committed.

The woman at the next counter makes her repeat her request, louder than before. So much for being discreet. She's then asked for identification with an apologetic shrug from the clerk. It's for age-verification, she's told, as you must be over 18 to purchase this item without a doctor's prescription.

As she hands over her identification, she jokes, "I'm much too old to be dealing with this, that's for sure."

The woman behind the counter simply shrugs again. She suspects she's heard it all before.

On her way out of the building, back towards the unforgivable, searing heat of the sun and the asphalt baking under her dirty flip-flops, she drags her sunglasses back across her face. It is the only thing she can do to close off the world. Otherwise, she feels like the whole world is staring back at her.

* * * * *

There is an elephant in the room that is neither an elephant, nor is it in the room.

In the little zippered pocket inside her purse, it lies in wait.

It likes to pop out when she's digging for a pen at a PTA event, pulling out her checkbook at Girl Scouts or rooting for her debit card at the grocery store.

A tiny, plastic pill pack, tucked into her purse as a reminder.

When it makes its way out into the open, her heart races and she moves into panic mode.

She always questions her decision to leave it there, where she tucked it after popping the hermetic seal and downing the pill with a swig of Diet Coke. As she frantically pulls the zipper closed across it, she tries to remember what the reminder was.

Is she reminding herself? Or is she reminding the world?
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I am a 30 year old lawyer, visiting the area (Olympia and Tacoma) on business. I came across your profile and wanted to see what you had planned later...you are a cutie ; ) If you don't have plans...and are interested...txt me: 907-XXX-XXXX ; ) Hope to hear from you : P

I'm sorry, but do girls actually fall for this?

First of all, I'm going to bet that ol' Todd here (at least, that's what his profile says his name is, anyway) isn't really a lawyer. He's probably getting his paralegal degree online from one of those "accredited institutions" that advertise on late-night TV. You've seen their commercials - smiling folks in business suits, standing next to delighfully sculpted shrubbery. The next commercial, of course, is for the local singles chat line.

Secondly, Todd's profile claims that he's from Seattle. Here's the deal - no one visits Olympia and Tacoma from Seattle and claims that they're "on business". It'd be the same as me saying that I go to Bellevue every day "on business" or that I visit Olympia "on holiday". Using the term "on business" indicates that you're decently far away from your base of operations - like, at the very least, maybe being up here from Portland.

Also, no one comes to Tacoma "on business". They come here to get shot and maybe buy some Almond Roca.

Next, how does one determine cuteness based on a MySpace photo? I mean, my photo IS cute, but it's just of my face. For all he knows, from the chest down, I'm as hairy as an ape or have an ass the size of Alaska. Perhaps I have no legs. Perhaps I'm really a man.

By the way, who the hell uses MySpace anymore, anyway? Oh wait, I know. 30-year-old lawyers that have no concept of using Match.com or eHarmony to find a date do. Also, illiterate Seattlites that don't know how to read a profile that says a girl is married. I checked his profile and all of the comments are from other girls, sending him e-drinks. Which means that he has no real friends. Just the ones he makes up on the internet.

Also, what's up with the non-local phone number there, Todd? Something to hide? New to town? Trying to keep your indiscretions on the down-low from the wifey?

You know what? I could just be a giant bitch. Maybe Todd's a great guy. Maybe he'd buy me a house and diamond rings and empty my chamber pot on a moment's notice, all the while spending his spare time reading to blind cancer patients. Maybe he'd cook me fancy meals and massage my feet.

Maybe.

Or maybe I'd just get roofied tonight and wake up itchy, disoriented and wondering whose pants I was wearing.

P.S. Dear Todd, thanks for being the fodder for this week's LJI entry. I was screwed until you came along.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
As I commented in the voting post over at [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol:

Cheese and crackers, man. I've been down since Monday night with a flu that hit me like a bag of bricks upside my head. A trip to the grocery store today was the first time I left the house since Tuesday evening. Only yesterday did I start to come down from the cold medicine cocktail I took three days ago. I feel like I lost a month of my effing life.

Thank heavens it's early enough in the season that byes still exist. Check y'all next week! :)


*looks around*

*whistles*

Oh, real world, there you are. I was beginning to think I only existed in the confines of my apartment and in how my life relates to Super Mario 3. Which I've beaten twice since I've been home sick.

For moar giggles, my voice is raspy enough that when I quoted my favorite movie evar to the hubs last night ("They got other fish to fry, believe you me!"), it was nearly spot-on.

*dives back into the thick of things*
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I'll just cut to the chase.

Vote for me, dang it.

I'm in Tribe 2, near the middle.

(That is, if you liked my entry, Maybe I Should Just Buy a Space Heater Instead. If you didn't, then ignore this. In fact, ignore everything. Ignore me crying over here in the corner. All alone. Know that you did that to me - just go ahead and own it.)

And vote for other people, too, because they're awesome too.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
There is a crackle in the air. She can't see it, but she can feel it.

The desert air is dry, which probably lends itself well to this whole electricity thing she's feeling. Her hair, despite the metric ton of Aussie Aussome Volume gel she's applied to it, is standing on end in places. It flutters against her cheek and she brushes it away mindlessly. The hairs waft back into place against her skin and, this time, she ignores it.

There is silence, despite the sounds of the shrieks and car horns around her. She is aware of the noise, but she is oblivious to it. It is just another living and breathing part of the city. She moves on within it, paying it no mind. In her head, it is quiet, if not electric.

She enjoys the feel of the sun, baking on the pale skin of her arms. It has been too long since she felt warmth like this, which she reflects inwardly to be relatively metaphoric. There is warmth on her flesh and there is warmth in the air and there will be more warmth tonight.

She closes her eyes and imagines the rush of blood to her face, the vodka or the tequila or the Southern Comfort finding its way home. The pulse of the lights on the dancefloor, the rumble of the music coursing through her body. The smeared makeup at five o'clock in the morning and, lo, the inevitable warmth.

She doesn't suppose that anyone would understand it if she tried to explain it. It sounds so ridiculous and a little bit reckless. She doesn't mind, though. She just keeps on swimming through the sea around her, waiting on the next great something - even if she's not entirely certain what that next great thing is...or even if it is a thing. Maybe it's a time, maybe it's a place, maybe it's a someone.

Maybe it's nothing. She's contemplated that, in the dark of the night when she's alone in her bed. What if it is nothing? What then?

If it's nothing, she supposes, then there's nothing wrong with a little bit of hot sun on her stupid pale arms.

There's a song that's making its way into her head, breaking through the calm silence like a pebble hitting the smooth glass veneer of water.

this will be my last confession
i love you never felt like any blessing


She pushes the heavy thoughts from her mind - she will worry about more important things later. For now, the mission is simple: get warm, stay warm.

She pushes the wisps of hair away from her face again and looks out the car window. One hand out the window, she pushes through the hot air with her fingertips. The breeze under her palm is comforting.

She is winding up.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
That is, of course, if you're not in a place that considers today to be Election Day.

If you're here, in Washington State, there's a bunch of initiatives on the ballot. I think it makes for a more interesting mid-term election than in past years. Restate the 2/3 majority needed for tax increases? Booze in grocery stores? Insurance madness? State income tax? Some other stuff that didn't get as much air time on television?

Or, you could just come here and take the stress off a little. It's voting time over at LJ Idol and while this week doesn't really count, it's still good practice on how to find my name in a massive list of other names. Also, you get to click a button. Clicky, clicky!

So, here's what I wrote:

Introductions, Schmintroductions.

And here's where you get your clicky-clicky on:

HOT BITCHES VOTE HERE

I'm way down towards the bottom, since it's all alphabetical and shit.

And don't forget to vote!

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