Short, Short Story: Waiting for the Phone to Ring

“She said she would call right back,” he mumbles out loud. “That’s what she said, and she always does what she says… well, mostly.”

There is a worried, almost fearful look on his face. He looks at the clock. It’s 5:23. The time on his phone is 5:24. His mind wanders as he tries not to worry. “In a couple weeks that clock will be another minute slower,’ he thinks.

‘This isn’t like her,’ he thinks. ‘Then again it is. Sometimes she doesn’t call when he thinks she will when he thinks she should. Sometimes she doesn’t call for days, and he’s worried sick by the time he finally hears her voice again. That’s when he thinks she should call when he wants her to call when he hopes she will call. He would call her, and sometimes, desperate, he does. She almost never answers. Almost never calls back until she wants to talk, until she has something to say, but she always, always calls back when she says she will. Not today though.

It’s times like this when he wonders if he should love her. She always says she’s busy. She’s got her job, and her family, and all her friends back there. “I love you, baby,” she says it every time he says he was worried because she didn’t call. “I love you so very much and I want to move out there, I really do,” she says again and again, “but it’s so expensive and all. It shouldn’t be more than a year, as soon as I get my promotion. Then I’ll be making a lot more money and I can transfer.”

‘A year,’ he thinks. ‘Already been almost two and it’s not like there’s not enough money, but she has to have her own. “I don’t want to be one of those girls, you know.” Why not. If she really loves me, why not?’

He stares at the icons on his screen as if they’re going to do something as if a new one is suddenly going to appear, an icon for the What-Is-Kelly-Doing-Now app.

Suddenly the phone buzzes in his hand, and his favorite ringtone plays. That phone number and his five favorite letters flash on the screen as he moves to swipe the accept button.

“Hi,” he says casually as if he had not been waiting, doing little else for the last four hours. “Just a minute while I put my dinner in the microwave.” He opens the microwave door, acts as if he’s putting something in it and closes the door.

“You’re about to eat, I’ll call you back,” she says.

“No, no, no need. It’s frozen. It can wait.”

“Okay then,” she says, “Sorry I took so long to call, but I’ve been thinking.” She stopped and took a deep breath.

‘She’s coming out here,’ he thinks. ‘She can’t stand not being with me anymore. She’s going to transfer, keep her job, wait for her promotion out here.’

Then she took another deep breath. “I know this is kind of sudden and it’s really hard… but maybe we should stop seeing each other.”

“What?” he half says, half shrieks. “You can’t…

“No,” she says, “Not maybe. We shouldn’t… I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“You’re kidding,” he says.

“No, I’m not.”

Before he can protest. Before he can ask why. Before he has a chance to say anything, she hangs up.

Again he is staring at his phone. He thinks he is going to pass out. He feels like all the blood, all the feeling, almost all his breath has been sucked out of him, but one thought keeps going through his head, ‘Why did she bother to call back.’

Bowling, Handicaps, Sandbagging, and Pride

Buena Lanes, Ventura, CAI did something at the bowling alley yesterday I’m quite proud of, but maybe I shouldn’t be. After you read this tell me, should I have been proud of what I’d done?

It was the first day of the Senior Summer League bowling. It’s a day of some excitement for new bowlers, a day of strategy for seasoned bowlers, and a day of hope for all of them.

Most of the year in a handicapped league winning and losing is not based on actual scores. It’s based on the scores plus handicaps. Each player’s handicap is established on the first day based on the bowler’s average for the first three games. It’s a slightly complicated system and I won’t bore you with it here. Suffice it to say everybody begins with a zero average and a zero handicap. Everyone is expected to bowl well. However, someone who has bowled in a handicapped league before also doesn’t want to bowl much better than he or she usually bowls because a smaller handicap than the bowler is used to would act as a penalty and make it harder for him or her to score well enough to help the team.

Thus most seasoned bowlers will be afraid to bowl well and will often try not to bowl especially well. To bowl poorly on purpose is called sandbagging.

I did a little sandbagging.

My average is usually around 155. Going into the 10th frame of the first game my score was 150. I knocked down nine pins, leaving the #7 pin standing. If I missed it my score would stay at 159. If I knocked it down my score for the game could have been as high as 170. Normally, I would have tried to knock down the pin and tried for that 170 score. However, since 159 was higher than my usual average, I purposely missed the pin. I wasn’t proud of it, but I was okay with what I’d done. Until that last ball, I’d done my best to bowl well.

The second game was similar. I’d bowled well and going into the 10th frame my score was 155. Since 155 was my usual average I didn’t want to knock down a lot of pins, so I instead of throwing the ball so it would hook I threw it from the same spot I usually do in the same way I usually do except that I made sure it wouldn’t hook. I knocked down four pins. My score was again, 159 but I had another ball to throw. This time I did the exact opposite I made sure it would hook so much that it went across the alley missing all the pins.

bowling scoreboard showing 159 gameNow I had two games with a 159 score.

The third game was similar to the first two. I bowled well again and went into the 10th frame at 148. I decided I was going to try to get 11 pins. My first ball was a strike, meaning I had to roll the ball twice but get just one pin. I decided to try to pick up just the #7 pin. However, I decided if I picked up more than one I’d try to get the rest of them with the second ball. In other words, it was either one more pin and a 159 game or try for a 168 game. My first ball went down the alley, headed for the #7 pin, but dropped into the gutter so that my score was still 158. One more try. Again the ball rolled down the alley, then turned to the left and headed for the #7 pin. Would it miss and drop into the gutter again, leaving me at 158 or would it clip the four pin before hitting the seven pin, leaving me with a score in the 160s?

I bent over in anticipation, trying to get closer and guide the ball into the #7 pin. My teammates knew what I was trying to do. They were cheering me on. Everything seemed to slow down. The sounds behind me were like someone had turned a turntable down from 78 to 33 1/3, just crawling along, almost indistinguishable.

Then everything returned to normal the moment we heard a sound that went, Clunk, as the ball hit the seven pin knocking it back off the alley, giving me three 159 games in a row.

Later the scorekeeper who hadn’t been watching looked at my scores and said, “Did you do this on purpose?”

Proudly I said, “Yes.”

I Write Like You and You Write Like Someone Else and Some Else Writes Like…

I Write Like, writing analysisWhen all is said and done, what you read here might amount to little more than nonsense. I found an interesting site: I write like

Enter a sample of your writing and it will pull out the name of a famous writer who writes the way you do, or vice versa.

I decided to give it a try. The first sample of my writing indicated I write like Cory Doctorow. That was interesting, especially since I’d never read anything by Cory Doctorow. I decided to try again, and again, and again. My second sample, a totally different piece of writing than the first gave me an answer I liked, Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite writers. The next three samples gave me the names of two more writers I also like. The third sample said, E. L. Doctorow, the fourth and fifth samples both said, Stephen King. I decided to quit while I was ahead. If I write like Stephen King, that’s good enough for me.

“One grey cloak is much like another, just as all cats are grey in the dark.”  –  Andrew Taylor, The Ashes of London

I was having fun with the site and wondered what would happen if I entered samples of famous writers, would Nabokov write like Nabokov or Updike like Updike?

According to the single samples I entered, David Sedaris writes like Dan Brown, Vladimir Nabokov like Leo Tolstoy, John Updike like H.P. Lovecraft, Isaak Beshevis Singer like Chuck Palahuniuk, Dorothy Parker Like J.D. Salinger, George Saunders like Raymond Chandler, Groucho Marx like Dan Brown (does that also mean he writes like David Sedaris or David Sedaris also write like Groucho Marx?), F. Scott Fitzgerald writes like Ian Fleming, James Thurber like H. P. Lovecraft, John Cheever like Douglas Adams, Earnest Hemingway like H. G. Wells, E. B. White like Gertrud Stein (I’m sure they the both would love knowing that).

I was hoping to see a pattern here, but it was looking like every writer writes like someone else.

I hadn’t checked any of the writers who the website said my writing resembled. So, started with Cory Doctorow. He writes like David Foster Wallace. Kurt Vonnegut’s sample was the first one I entered that led me back to the actual writer, Kurt Vonnegut. Does that mean he was always true to himself? E. L. Doctorow it said, write’s like Nabokov, who you remember writes like Leo Tolstoy. Finally, there was Stephen King, the only writer who appeared more than once for my own writing samples. However, it appears that Mr. King writes like Raymond Chandler. In case you’re wondering, Chandler writes like Dan Brown. And Dan Brown? He writes like Dan Brown.

“Invisible things are the only realities.” – Edgar Allan Poe, Loss of Breath

There was one last thing I wanted to try. I entered some samples of gobbledygook. I know there are some who will agree, but according to the I Write Like site my meaningless sample is apparently somewhat like the writing of…I Write Like Edgar Allan Poe

Did Someone Release 1,000 Monkeys in a Room?

Confused MonkeyThis story was found on Yahoo this morning and I had to watch the video in order to understand the story. I thought this was written by a foreigner. Periods are misplaced. Sentences are incomplete. Commas don’t exist where commas should be. What does “Ten Stastny that the game Sunday the Ravens are trying…” mean? What is a “Meehan showing?”And what is this: “And each of the Fayette that the news that their teens are going to be that this year’s I think there’s a lot invested in and so. We almost into an.”?

Was the writer drunk? Was the writer tired or lazy and rather than write an intro to the video, just turned in his/her notes to be used as an intro? Whatever happened, ABC and/or Yahoo should be ashamed of

Whatever happened, ABC and/or Yahoo should be ashamed, because this falls far short of the quality standards expected of them.

Maryland Man Clinging to Life After Altercation at Baltimore Ravens Game

October 3, 2016

Ten Stastny that the game Sunday the ravens trying to keep their winning streak alive hosted the oak. Raiders’ Al West Coast team that had an usually high Meehan showing. It was a typical. Rivalry tight game when you have a lot of fans well represented it. And each of the Fayette that the news that their teens are going to be that this year’s I think there’s a lot invested in and so. We almost into an. The city of third some fun banter but nothing like what police described after interviewing witnesses of a fight between opposing fans in the stadium. At about 330 also were alerted by fans there was an in progress fight when programs. When officers got there they found 56 year old victim whose

Source: Video: Maryland Man Clinging to Life After Altercation at Baltimore Ravens Game

Writing Is Not Easy

When I was in 7th grade I won (it wasn’t exactly a victory) the award for worst handwriting. My teacher predicted I would be a doctor. At the time, that seemed like as good an idea as any. Although I also wanted to be a dancer, lawyer, baseball player, and writer.Writing is difficult. Writing is hard. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. I know I have to do it.

P writing blue

Life took me in a variety of directions. I was mostly a radio announcer, but I was also a teacher, a sportswriter, an insurance underwriter, a carpet salesman, a car salesman, a factory worker, a stock boy, and now I’m retired so I’m trying to do something I’ve always wanted to do: write (as in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry).

Writing is difficult. Writing is hard. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. I know I have to do it. It  needs to be done in the same sense that dishes need washing, housework needs working, the dog needs to be fed, walked, etc (there is an awful lot to that etc.), a letter (email) has to be read, a letter (email) has to be written, a bill needs to be paid, etc., etc., and etc. So, I have plenty of excuses to feed my writer’s block.

This is one of those days. In fact, every day is one of those days. It’s never easy dragging my heart and soul out and showing them to the world. I know there’s a good chance when I’m finished I will be thinking, that was stupid, or they’re not going to like that, or I’m sure that’s the last thing of mine they’re over going to read, or etc., etc., and etc.

Still, I know if I don’t do it, I might never do it. Those bills can wait, the dog can wait, the housework isn’t going anywhere; but the words I am going to put on paper, the ideas I am going to dredge up out of my heart and soul might never be there again if I don’t sit down and force myself to uncover them.

I thought if I made a schedule that would make it easier. In a sense it does. I have a direction of sorts when I start. I know that after I finish this blog post I will be rolling, I will be in the mood and it will be easier to work on one of the many, many stories waiting to be finished. This blog starts my day, but even with a schedule there is still the pain, agony, and potential for heartbreak that faces me every time I say, ‘Time to write something.’

The thing is I rarely feel inspired when it’s time to start. While inspiration often hits me at unusual moments: when I’m making a left turn, when I’m trying to decide which yogurt flavor to buy, when I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, when I’m eating dinner, and so on – real inspiration occurs when I’m writing. That little boy I’ve got rolling down a hill after Jill threw a bucket of water at him, what if he rolls into a hole and disappears, what if he keeps rolling and rolling and rolling up and over another hill, what if it’s winter and that water freezes solid, what if… what if… and how about that? That’s crazy, that might just work, that is a great idea. I’m glad I thought of it.

None of that will happen if I don’t ignore the feeling that I’m not inspired, that I have nothing worth writing about, that I’m wasting my time and get started. It’s always the first word that’s the hardest, but once that’s done it’s sometimes amazing how many line up and follow it. That’s when writing becomes fun, after that first word. So, that’s what I did today. I started with that one word: Writing…

Memoir Monday: Let’s be Honest

Something I RememberA couple weeks ago took part in a panel discussion about memoir writing. A big concern of the audience had to do with being honest and naming names. I think the answers we gave were adequate, but I’ve been thinking about them off and on ever since.

First be as honest as you can even if what you write makes you cringe either because of what you did, said, or thought or because of something someone else did or said. Don’t sugarcoat it. Also don’t say things you never said or write about things you did, that you didn’t really do. That’s for fiction, not memoir.

I believe most of us have found ourselves going over the things we should have said or should have done. Hours after a confrontation we think of the clever turn of phrase we should have used rather than the one we used. In your memoir write the one you used, not the one you think you should have used. Don’t paint yourself to be better, wittier, and cleverer than you actually are. There’s a good chance your reader will recognize your fabrication and will think you’re actually a terrific bore or a twit.

The beauty of a memoir is in its humanity showing the truth for what it is or was in a very down to earth way.

As for using the names of the people involved in your memoir, there are times when using the actual name will not be a concern and there are other times when it might be better if you did not use their real name. I have a simple rule that I use: If the person is dead and most of what I have to say about him/her is good, I don’t worry about it, otherwise I use a fictitious name. If the person is alive I ask them if it’s okay for me to name them. If they say no or if I don’t ask their permission, I use a fictitious name. The real name of the person is rarely as important as the story I want to tell. Fictitious names are indicated with an asterisk in this way: * (name changed to protect).

In her post entitled Memoir: Do I Use Their Real Names?, Nomi Isak offers these suggestions:

  1.  Write your first draft exactly as it happened, using all real names and places.You (like most writers) already battle with enough resistance and procrastination when trying to write; don’t make it worse by censoring yourself.  The best way to write a first draft is to remove all censorship and pour it out onto the page.  Save the editing and decision making for a later draft.

  2.  Wait until you’re ready to sit down to your second draft (or third or fourth) to decide what you’re going to do about the name issue.After completing the first draft or two, you might have more clarity on the pros and cons of using real names.

  3.  Before publishing your memoir, get feedback from others and, if necessary, consult an attorney.  We’re often far too close to our own writing (and our own story) to see it clearly.  Hire an editor or enlist a trusted friend (trusted to be kind, but also to tell the truth) and ask her how she thinks you’ve portrayed a particular character.  You might be surprised.  Perhaps you think you’ve written Uncle Saul as a complete ogre, while your editor or friend finds him endearing.  Regardless of how you have portrayed the people in your memoir, if you use real names, or if the characters are otherwise recognizable, you may need to get signed permissions.

If Uncle Saul really does come off as a complete putz, you probably will want to change his name, and you may even need to alter recognizable traits or story elements.  This is where an attorney well-versed in publishing could come in handy.  If you have the good fortune to have sold your book to a publishing house, their legal department will take care of that part, vetting the manuscript before it goes to press.

Even if you paint a character in a glowing light, it’s not a bad idea to have a conversation with him before publication, and be willing to show him the scenes in which he appears.

Whatever feedback or advice you get, in the end you’re the one who has to live with the decision and its consequences.  Remember, too, that you have the option to use some real names and some pseudonyms.  You can explain that choice in a disclaimer at the beginning of your book.  The disclaimer language goes something like this:

The stories in this book reflect the author’s recollection of events.  Some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the privacy of those depicted.  Dialogue has been re-created from memory.

Also, you might want to click this link to some books about memoir writing.

Memoir Monday: More Techniques

Five Memoir ConcernsEvery Monday I’ll be adding a memoir related post to this blog.

Last week I began by telling some of what I’ve learned about writing the memoir or personal essay and left you with some techniques to help you choose a story from your life to write about. My goal is to eventually write a book length memoir. It seems to me that many people who write such a memoir have a pretty good idea of the story they want to tell. I’m not one of those people. However, I know I have many good stories to tell so I’ve been learning both about writing a book length memoir as well as short personal essays.

Hopefully, you’ve picked out (or you soon will choose) a bit of your life, a little story to tell and maybe you’ve written the first draft, maybe you’re not sure where to begin.
First don’t try to tell all the backstory, start at the place you would start telling the story if you just walked into the office, or just sat down for coffee with your best friend, or if you were on the sofa with one of your children.

You do not need to tell about everything that caused you to be wherever you were or everything that happened to you earlier that day or everything that happened in your life before the moment or event or thing happened that you’re writing about.

Here are some usual writing guidelines that are not necessary for memoirists to follow.

Forget about grammar. You don’t want to forget about it entirely, but right now don’t worry about whether you should be using a comma or period or semi colon. Don’t worry about punctuation, capitalization, parts of speech, or if you’ve used the same word or words too often. Write everything as it comes to mind. Then in a later draft you can edit it or find or hire someone to help edit it. You’ve got a story to tell, so tell it.

If something bad has happened, if you’ve made a mistake, misjudged something, said or done something you regret, don’t gloss over it. Readers, no matter who they are, will find your struggles and failures, the obstacles you’ve overcome much more interesting and will appreciate you and what you’ve written more because they will more easily relate to something that in some way or another has happened to them.

Try to address these five concerns or questions:

  1. What do I remember? This may seem obvious, but you don’t want to digress, stick to this memory. If you’re going to digress, then perhaps there’s a different memory you want to write about.
  2. What do I see? As you stand in your memory, take a look around. Who or what do you see? Is it a sunny or rainy day? Do you hear or smell anything?
  3. What do I think about this or what am I thinking?
  4. What am I feeling? In a sense this is the most important concern of all. Everything else in your memory ties into this, because this is usually where the story is.
  5. What else is important? Is there a detail that isn’t a part of the memory, but is important to understanding it?

As you’re writing try to keep these five things in mind. When you rewrite watch for places where one of those five questions comes into play.
Next Monday I’ve got some more techniques I’ve found useful in writing some of my memoir essays that I’ll tell you about.

Also, I’ve added a store where I’ve collected links to some of the better books I’ve found about Memoir writing. The link to it is at the top of the page and here, too.

Memoir Monday: Writing a Memoir Essay

autobiography or memoirMemoir writing takes guts. It’s revealing and personal – sometimes even painful to put on the page. Some people know exactly what they want to write about when they start. Most of us live such interesting lives that we often think to ourselves, Should I write a memoir? Memoir writing can be a cathartic way to tell your story—whether it’s funny, fascinating or just heart-wrenching. All over the Internet you can find examples of memoirs, memoir essays, even six-word memoirs (that’s a challenge). But before focusing too much on examples of a memoir, I’d like to start with the memoir essay or personal essay, a sort of personal short story.

Writing the first draft of a memoir essay is actually rather easy. You do it just about every day, sometimes a number of times in a day. You get to work and the first thing you say is: “I came this close to an accident this morning!” Then you tell all about the harrowing experience you had. Or maybe you meet a friend at the grocery story. You’re looking at the tomatoes and start telling your friend about the delicious tomato stew you made for the in-laws a couple weeks ago. Or maybe the in-laws are visiting and you tell them about the cute thing the two year old did while playing with the neighbor’s kids.

the truth is there is no such thing as a dull person, a dull life

Those are all memoir essays. You could write the story and you would have a suitable memoir story, maybe not an essay that would be publishable, maybe not a story many people would want to read, but it would be a start. It might not even be the best memoir essay you have available. We all have hundreds, thousands of stories. Maybe you think your stories are boring, but the truth is there is no such thing as a dull person, a dull life. Any dullness resides in the telling of the story, not in the person. Your journey has been much different than mine, but there are many aspects of your journey that have been similar, that I can relate to. That’s what I want to hear, a different story that I can connect with.

Here are a few techniques to get your started:

Make a list.

The easiest place to start is with the stories you’ve told in the past. The funny stories, the sad stories, the poignant stories. Get a pad of paper or open your word processing program and start jotting down any random memories that come to mind. Don’t write the whole story, just a headline or a sentence or two to describe it. Each memory is likely to trigger another memory. Don’t worry about whether anyone would want to hear about it or not. Don’ worry about whether telling it will embarrass anyone. Right now you’re the only one who is going to see this list. You should have at least 50. You might want to stop when you get to 50. Or you might want to continue. It doesn’t matter, because there will be one or two or maybe a few of these memories you’ll want to write about. At least one of your memories is going to be jumping off that page.

Write a few paragraphs as if you’re telling the memory to your spouse or a good friend or to your kids. Once you start writing it you won’t be able to stop. There’s a good chance you’ll find, like I did, that it’s so much fun, you’ll want to write more than one.

Use Photographs.

If you’ve got some old photo albums or boxes of photos open it up and start telling the stories behind or the stories that go with the pictures.

Use Maps

And another technique: open Google or Bing maps or Mapquest. Find the towns or neighborhoods that have meaning for you (where you were born, grew up, went to school, your first apartment, house, etc.) and tell the stories that go along with the various streets, locations, buildings, etc.

That’s it for now. Next we’ll talk about ways to turn that first draft into something better. Our goal is to have a finished product that at the least can be a nice gift for someone. I have a friend who a few years ago gave every member of her family a parchment scroll with a favorite memory, a moment, a story they shared.

Of course we’d like to go the next step and have something publishable.