Together but Separate…

Sometimes, my Love catches me staring at her. I cannot help it. I am mesmerized—still—by her infinite beauty.

“Stop it,” she protests, always possessing that sixth sense (only inherent in women?), knowing that someone is looking at them.

I tell her I am intrigued by her loveliness. She smiles and says, “Rub my feet.”

We are on the sofa, at the end of the day, watching some show on Netflix, or Hulu, or Amazon, I don’t know. There are so many shows out there. But it’s not only when we sit mere feet apart on the couch; we could be in the car, and I’d glance over at her, sneaking a peek once more.

“Stop it,” she’ll say again, not even looking at me but knowing. Or we could be lying in bed, our respective books in hand, and I’ll steal a glimpse of her, lingering in my stare, marveling at her angelic radiance.

‘What?” she’ll say. “What are you looking at?”

“You. How truly beautiful you are.”

“Rub my feet.”

And I would, or rub her back. She is afflicted with chronic back pain that no doctor or surgeon can seem to remedy. Sometimes I get a little perturbed, of massaging her back once again. But what right do I have, being the supreme wastrel, not doing much but flailing at my writing.

She is, as I’ve said, a Saint. And I suppose the reason I mention any of these sideways glances at my Beloved, the purpose of this post is this: of all the days, of all the years together, spending every day with each other, how much time is spent not looking at each other?

Perhaps it is only on the rare occasion when we go out to eat, sitting opposite each other, that eye contact is made for any length of time. It is probably the only time that two people so united sit in such a way. Unless you’re the sort who actually sits down at the dinner table, in the oft-maligned, rarely-used dining room, where family gathers for a repast and repartee. But that doesn’t happen too often.

Every night we eat in the living room, curled up on the couch, watching something or other, and have our dinner. There are not a lot of moments where you can simply peer over at your significant other. Because as you know, she’ll develop that sixth sense, suddenly look at me, and say, “Rub my feet.”

And I do.

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon-2017

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We Never Heard Them Coming

Yet another fine writing prompt from the wonderful mind of Mr Wendig at terribleminds.

The idea is to take a title, opening line, and an ending line and make a story with them. It is due tomorrow, by noon. Yes, it’s close, but you can do it!

Here is my take on it. And thank you for stopping by and reading my words.

Paul

We Never Heard Them Coming

Three days without sleep was the least of my worries. Trekking through the wastelands took its toll, especially with Aja. She was game, at first, but trudging through rough terrain, scrambling through brambles and thickets of dense catclaw slowed our progress. So far, though, we had managed to elude them.

“Let’s stop here,” I said. Aja peered at me with relief. “We can only rest for a few minutes, though.”

She nodded and looked around and sat on a small boulder. I felt sorry for her, for dragging her skinny-ass, rail-thin teenage body across this hellish place, always on the lookout, wondering if they were getting close.

“Luke,” Aja whispered. “H…how much longer? I’m really tired.”

I didn’t have an answer. We had been on the run for over 72 hours, catching only a semblance of sleep, her more so as I had to remain vigilant, even though exhaustion crept into my weary bones. The thought of a solid eight hours of slumber in a nice, comfortable bed teasingly beckoned. But that remained a pipe dream; out here, the baleful glare of the sun provided little respite and the long frigid nights offered only a cold cruel blanket of stars.

“Can’t say,” I finally replied, reaching around for the goatskin. I shook it, to see how much water we had left, and handed it to her. “Drink. But not much. We have to be careful. Have no idea how much longer we’ll be on the run. After that we gotta keep going, all right?”

Aja looked into my face with such sadness I felt like crouching down and cradling her dust-laden face in my rough hands, to give her a little slice of comfort and hope.

“You’ve been doin’ great,” I said, trying to buck her spirits. “When we get to where we’re going, you can sleep as long as you like. Deal?”

I gave her a little smile as she drank sparingly from the bag. She wiped her mouth, leaving a clean streak across one cheek, like some primitive indecipherable tattoo. Her clothes were dirty, her long blonde hair matted and limp against her scalp. Despite her griminess, she was a pretty 15 year-old girl.

Our rest was short-lived. Beyond the fringe of shrub and mesquite, the distant sounds of hooves carried across the gorge.

‘C’mon. We have to move. Now!”

We scampered along a dirt path, through the underbrush and cover of towering cacti, moving uphill as fast as we could. It was near twilight, and if we could just reach the summit, find a niche or crevice to hole up in, we’d be safe for the night.

Clambering up the rock-strewn hill, we fled from our pursuers. The escape seemed long ago, as though we had been traveling for weeks instead of days. The desert played no favorites; it was an unforgiving place, but I was determined to get her to safety. I owed her that. I owed her parents that. Had to keep moving.

With the arrival of dusk and its legion of shadows, we crested the mountain and gazed at a ribbon of trees giving way to verdant fields, broken only by the faint glimmer of a serpentine river, dulled by the fading light. We could see salvation. Tomorrow, before the break of dawn, we would descend and seek shelter and safety in the cover of forest.

I found a niche tucked beneath a rock overhang, a good place to hole up for the night. It would protect us from the wind and rain as well as a sandstorm, if that happened to rumble by during the night.

Aja collapsed against the rough surface of the stone wall, her legs splayed out in the crumbled pebbles and sand, her whole body racked with pain and exhaustion.

I made sure she was okay and ventured past the niche, to make sure we were safe for the evening. Up here, nestled in the crotch of the mountain, I felt secure. For another night. The pursuers would not risk climbing the treacherous hill in full dark.

Peering around a boulder, I saw a small camp fire below. They were close. Closer than I thought. Maybe we should get a leg on earlier than dawn. We had to move fast and cross the river. Only then would I feel somewhat safe. There was still a lot of terrain to cover. For now, though, making my way back, I was relieved.

Aja was already asleep, her head lolling on her shoulder, her thin arms wrapped around her chest, the flimsy jean jacket providing little warmth.

I slumped next to her, leaning in to give her some body heat. Reaching into my rucksack, I pulled out an old, ratty Navajo blanket, and wrapped it around her frail form. It would have to do. It was going to be another long night.

The sound of something moving startled me. Straining into the gloom of early morning, I saw a rattlesnake slithering slowly towards us. Our body heat had given us away. Looking around, I found a good-sized stone, and heaved it at the reptile. It recoiled, hissing and writhing, and squirmed in a different direction.

It was before dawn and time to get a move on. I gently shook Aja awake, jostling her to roust her from her fitful sleep.

“Aja. Come on. We gotta go.” I carefully removed the blanket from her and that had the desired effect. The early morning chill crept along her sullied jeans, her ragged jacket, and slipped between her dusty t-shirt, giving her gooseflesh.

“Ten more minutes. Please?” she said, eyes still firmly shut.

“We can’t afford it. We have to leave before they break camp and climb after us.”

Aja opened her tired eyes. I saw defeat and utter despair in them, a hopelessness that pervaded her entire being.

“Aja. Look. We’re almost there. Once we descend the mountain and cross the fields, we’ll be there. But we gotta go.”

She got up, stretching and getting the kinks out from laying on crushed stone and red sand. She followed me to the ledge and we slowly made our escape down a slippery trail.

Within an hour we had reached the edge of the woods. From there it was less than a mile to the fields and, beyond that, the river. And freedom.

The forest provided shelter from the morning heat of a relentless sun, and the cool shadows gave us energy. Up ahead, the trees thinned and I was relieved to see a break in the canopy. A flood of sunlight streamed across prairie grass.

“Come on, Aja. Not much further. We can’t stop now. Just another mile or so.”

We waded through the tall grass, keeping an eye on the sun, making sure we were going in the right direction. The hot wind whistled over the grass and our sudden intrusion startled a few sage grouse into flight. I could smell the coolness of the riverbank ahead. Not much longer, I thought.

Cresting a small hill and tramping through the last of the tall grass, we came out onto a clearing. The shock and horror greeting our eyes was too much.

Straddling a length of the river were our pursuers, their horses lined up, all standing perfectly still, all staring at their captives.

At that moment, it was quiet; no sounds of insects hidden in the grass, no call of birds in the air. Time seemed to have stopped.  A lone cumulus sailed slowly across the expanse of blue sky.

Silence blanketed the meadow.

Copyright, Paul Grignon-2017*

*except for the title, opening and closing lines.

Thoughts on #WDC17 in New York…

I did it! Or, I should say we did it as my lovely, wonderful, beautiful wife accompanied me to the weekend long affair (and she paid for it via a birthday gift!) and it was a whirlwind conference that left me rather overwhelmed with information. I am quite certain that other fellow writers feel the same way.

I will compose all my notes and make them available to anyone who wishes to peruse them, perhaps glean a token of wisdom to help their writing career.

Special thanks to Stephanie Adams who made everyone very welcome, and to Lisa Scottoline for an inspiring keynote speech. She was…amazing!

If anyone wishes to share their own experience of the weekend, please do drop me a line.

Take care, and here’s to your writing!

Paul

 

Flash Fiction Challenge…

….from the incomparable Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds. Go here (his site) for this wonderful prompt. Here is my particular take from Inspirobot. What is that you say? Well, just go over to Chuck’s wonderful page and you’ll find out.

Anyway, here is my story, generated by said Inspirobot prompt. Feel free to leave a comment.

Thank you.

Paul

 

Inspirobot: “First the problem, then the sound.” (exactly 1,000 words)

Lee would definitely say he was in one hell of a predicament. First of all, he had no fucking idea where the hell he was. Secondly, it was pitch black and very quiet. He couldn’t hear a damn thing, save his labored breathing and rapid heartbeat.

Lee could not see a damn thing in front of his eyes, and he was quite certain they were open. But then again, given his present Stygian world beyond his dilated staring orbs, a sense of doubt entered his heightened soul. A sense of doubt—and dread.

Where in Christ’s name was he? How the hell did he get here? He tried to recall where he had been before he awoke to this dark nightmare, who he had been with, what could possibly have led him here to this hideous midnight realm.

“Ok, Lee, calm down, for chrissakes. Gettin’ all het up ain’t goin’ to help.” Talking to himself gave him a moment of calm. Yet the dread lingered. It felt like the time he snorkeled in the Bahamas, and his friend decided to head for shore for more beer, leaving him out in open water. Alone, with nothing beside, above, or below him but ocean. Surfacing, he had the awful feeling some unseen creature was circling him, silently narrowing its approach, waiting for the right moment to strike, with a maw filled with razor-sharp teeth.

‘First the problem’ suddenly popped in his mind, something his 10th grade algebra teacher said with frequency. Mr. Luce had stood before the chalkboard, writing an impossible formula down with his right hand while rubbing his left through his thinned white hair, leaving streaks of yellow on his forehead. He had a habit of rocking back and forth and, when he finally turned around to the chalkboard, had yellow chalk streaks all over his ill-fitting store rack suit.

‘Okay, Lee, first the problem,’ he said to himself as he reached into the darkness, searching for anything out there but the floor. He felt nothing. The silence was starting to get to him as well. How could there not be any noise, besides his own trembled breathing and thumping heart?

He dared not stand up. Better to crawl around, slowly, and reach out for anything that might be out there. “Where the fuck am I?” he asked into the void. “Hello! Is there anyone out there?” he said and chuckled, recalling the line from a Pink Floyd song.

Then he heard a sound.

“Is…is there anyone in here?” he asked, hoping whatever made that brief sound was indeed a person. “Hello?…”

He stopped. Again that sound. Off to his left. In the distance. How fucking big was this room? If it was a room. He had no idea.

Lee froze and listened, breathing shallow and trying to get his goddamn heart rate down.

There it was, a low scraping sound. Only closer. To him. He dared not utter a word. Who knew if whatever made that sound was even friendly. He regretted asking if anyone was out there. He should have said any ‘thing’.

Another sound. This time, off to his right, like a clatter of claws on concrete.

Something whizzed by his head, a flutter of wet leathery wings, strong and powerful.

Lee sat down and slowly moved backward, scuttling along on his butt, reaching out behind him, feeling for anything at all.

A sudden low moan erupted out of the dark, and then a high-pitched anguished wail.

He had enough. “Hello!’ he yelled into the void. “Okay, enough is enough! Joke’s over. C’mon, let me outta here!”

Silence.

‘Damn it’, he thought. ‘I gotta get out.’ He stood up shakily and tried to get his balance, wondering how in hell blind people managed to maneuver.

He shuffled forward—and stopped.

That mewling sound, like something wounded—or hungry—was closer.

The hairs on his neck stood erect. The fear coursed through his skin, a sixth sense that some thing was behind him, hovering over his shoulders, something large and foul and terrible.

Lee stayed rooted in place, his breath ragged. In the darkness he could sense the creature inching closer, could feel its rank hot fetid breath, the wetness of jaws and teeth working before feasting on flesh. His flesh.

The stench of rotted meat edged closer to his neck, muzzle open wide, the click of talons ready to shred, claws grazed his nape—

Lights suddenly flooded his eyes. The nightmarish experience was over.

“Helluva a trip you had there, Buddy!” Kevin laughed, offering him an ice cold beer.

“Jesus,” Lee exhaled. “ Damn! That was real! I…I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

“I told you, didn’t I? The new virtual reality is sick.”

Lee got up and headed to the john. Standing at the sink washing his hands, he felt a burning sensation on his neck. He craned his neck to get a better look.

Near his carotid was a long red streak, a scratch made by…what? Maybe the new VR wasn’t all that virtual. Maybe something did happen to him.

He left the bathroom and went to the kitchen to fetch another beer.

“Hey, Kevin,” he called out. “Ready for a frosty?” He cracked two longneck Coors and walked toward the living room. “Kev, I—”

He dropped the beers, the bottles hitting the floor, suds flowing over the bamboo floors. Lee’s eyes widened, the scene before him incomprehensible.

Sprawled on his La-Z-Boy, Kevin was in no condition to answer. The VR goggles still covered his eyes, but his throat…his throat was torn and bloodied, flaps of raw skin plastered on the chair and Kevin’s shredded shirt.

As Lee edged closer, he heard a faint sound coming from the console. He strained to listen and then he heard it; a low mewling wet sound, a smacking of lips, and then the horrible scrape of claws on concrete, a faint cackle, receding in the distance.

Copyright Paul Grignon-2017

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Digest Conference-2017

Quite unexpectedly, and certainly out of the azure, my lovely wife Julie surprised me with a 50-‘ish’ birthday present: a full ticket to attend the writer’s conference in New York come August! Here’s the link.

I was wholly surprised, elated–and nervous. She also included the feverish ‘Pitch-Slam’ event where, for a full 90 seconds you can pitch your book to various agents. Imagine that; a minute-and-a-half to encapsulate your entire novel, something akin to the ol’ elevator pitch.

I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity and, as stated above, just a little nervous. Well, a lot. What this has taught me is that I better get my buttocks in gear and really develop that pitch, as well as a slew of other things necessary in order to be prepared for this event.

I have been reading a welter of information about attending conferences, what to expect, making sure to be early at all the sessions, a myriad of things to focus on prior to August 18th.

If anyone out there has attended any writing conferences, please do drop me a few helpful hints. Thank you. In the mean time, I will fine-tune my delivery and make sure my manuscript is polished and ready.

A lot ahead in the coming months. I look forward to being prepared and having a good time in New York that weekend.

Perhaps I shall see you there!

 

Ushering in 2017…

Yes, ’tis been a while since I have been here last. Not that I’ve not been writing, mind you. I participated in NANORWRIMO  last year, coming up short with 33,000 words. But still, it provides fine fodder for my next novel. Now to really buckle down in the new year and get my first book out there.

It’s funny and sad in a way, how last year I eagerly purchased the brand-new Writer’s Digest Market, Deluxe edition no less, and what did I do with it? I think I perused a few chapters, read a few pages, randomly searched publishers and such, but is that any way in getting results, to find an agent? That would be a resounding no.

And on that note do I write here, for all to see and bear witness, that in the year 2017 I solemnly promise to pursue my dreams of getting published and to work on a myriad of other ideas, all projects that have been, for far too long, simmering on the back burner. (You’d think by now it would be nothing but a burnt sludge at the bottom. But no, I still hear a few bubbles percolating within, a veritable cauldron of dreams waiting to be unleashed and consumed.)

On that note, for all you other writers who have also been absent from your own blog, may I tempt you with a writing prompt from my good friend Eric Alagan, a wonderful chap who resides many miles distant but an individual who has a fabulous site and equally kind words for all who deign to stop by his magnificent blog.

Go here and participate in his latest exercise, something to get the creative juices flowing and perhaps, like me, will allow you to settle in a chair and compose a simple post.

Best wishes to all out there, and may your own writing endeavors prove most fruitful in the new year.

As Tennyson wrote in his poem “Ulysses”:

‘Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’
Take care, and keep on writing,
Paul

Happy Birthday, Dad!

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Eighty-four years ago a man was born in Flushing, New York. He married young, at age 22, fresh out of the Air Force, with a promising career as a civil engineer. But with the first child born, and then twins right after, that dream was dashed.

This man was my father, who died six years ago today. Six long years. And yet every morning I still say hi to him, wish him well, hoping that he’s doing okay in whatever dimension he resides, smoking a cigar right down to its wet spinach stub and cradling a glass of chardonnay.

My Dad’s passing was the first time in my life I experienced a close death. I guess I was lucky over the years, through my thirties and forties, never witnessing a death, never having been to a wake or funeral.

That all changed six years ago, when my dear Dad died from—what was assumed—a massive heart attack. Who knows? There was no autopsy. Christ, there wasn’t even a wake or funeral. It was as though this man who lived and breathed on this beautiful blue planet suddenly vanished, with no fanfare at all.

He was whisked away, only to be subsequently burnt to ashes in a matter of days, still wearing the golf shirt, overly long shorts, and tennis shoes he wore when he died. I never did give him a proper good-bye. I tried, but when I called the funeral home, the woman informed me that “I’m sorry, Honey. He’s on his way to the crematorium.”

I remember that day, six years ago on August 10th, when my brother from Florida called me and told me that Dad had died.

I was floored. I didn’t believe it. I was pissed, angry, confused, bewildered. I ran into the backyard, bent to the ground on both knees, and wept, big, wet wracking sobs.

To this day I still cannot fathom that he is…gone.

Dad, even though some family members have said in the past for me to get over it, I still greet you every single morning with a hearty hello and plant a kiss on the portrait I did of you. The picture above was taken a day before he died, on Friday the 13th, 2010.

Or who really knows? It could have been August 14th, the morning my Mum returned from vacationing in Maine, where my Dad was just there the day before. She found him lying face up, his legs resting on a chair in the living room, as though he was doing sit-ups, lying there staring at the ceiling, his last gaze probably looking at the years-old resin stain from countless Christmas trees dragged and hoisted into the room. Maybe he thought, with his last dying breath, he wondered how he could get rid of that stain, having not seen it from this angle lying on the floor.

And then he released his last breath.

How do I feel on this momentous day, the sixth anniversary of my father’s death? I am still angry. I still miss him. Terribly.

I love you, Dad, and wish you much comfort. Know that at least this offspring, one of seven, still think of you—every single day.

Happy 84th Birthday, Pops!

With much love,

Paul Harry

 

© Paul Grignon – 2016

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