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Sundry Musings

Flash Fiction Friday…

Since I have a welter of writings scattered here and there I thought I’d start a series, culling various pieces from piles of papers. There is no set word count here; it could be from 100-1,000. I believe this simple exercise will allow me to free up the writer’s block that sometimes plagues me. (Especially now, since I am engaged in NANOWRIMO.)

Anyway, here is my first post of flash fiction, fashioned from my own prompt. It just came to me out of the blue one night, right before bed.

Thank you for stopping by.

The Cornfield

Effie was barefoot and giggling as she sprinted ahead of me, down the dusty dirt trail, wearing her usual summer clothes, frayed cutoff jeans and a billowing white shirt tied at the belly, her long curly auburn hair flowing over her shoulders, running just ahead of me past the bend, and me only knowing you left the trail by the broken stalk to my left, sticking out of place, as though the unity and wholeness of the cornfield was somehow breached, now broken.

I stopped at the break and, in the distance, I heard your laughter. I plunged into the fragrant stalks, breaking my own fair share, laughing to myself as I sought you through the dense vivid green foliage, the tasseled ripening corn tickling my arms as I raced forward, searching for that unseen mirth. I ran, wondering how you could be so far ahead, marveling at your grace, your speed, your ebullience, your loveliness. Yes, we were only 14. Well, you were; I was 12. But I knew, deep down, that I felt something toward you, something inexplicable, something warm and comfortable and pleasing.

And you were out there, somewhere, laughing in the wind, nothing but vast fields of brilliant blue spread out above, us running and slapping at lush green stalks as we raced through the field, me winded and excited and wishing to just gather you in my arms, to hold you, breathe you in, to fall amongst the shattered verdant limbs and let the full sun embrace our youthful giggling madness.

word count: 257

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2017 All Rights Reserved.

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Addendum and Note About Flake, et al…

It seems that in my last post I did not provide a link to Senator Flake’s powerful speech from the Senate floor, denouncing the president and his ill-advised visions for America and the world. Here is the link.

Also, my letter applauding him and his speech has subsequently been soured by his vote for corporations and against consumers. My fellow blogger, Chuck Wendig, says it best here.

It is a shame that yet another Republican Senator has decided to relinquish their post and not stay to fight the nonsense that permeates Washington. Bannon and his ilk (Trump and his sheeple) have won again.

Besides eloquently execrating the soulless world of the occupant in the White House, Mr. Flake and Mr. Corker should remain, to fight against all they rail against. It is only through such spokespeople that the world has a chance to reclaim a lost dignity, one that has been slowly eroding for decades.

Is it possible to recover from the invidious nature of the current power structure? The world and its people yearn to heal, to become whole, to become one with all people, to become one with our wonderful blue planet.

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2017 All Rights Reserved.

In Response to Mr. Flake…

Dear Senator Flake,

I would like to personally commend you on your speech made on the Senate floor in front of your fellow colleagues. I applaud your speech.

I am neither a Republican nor Democrat, but an Independent, and I could not so easily sit and dismiss such a profound and heartfelt and urgently needed message. I, therefore, felt compelled to reply to your strong, evocative, and powerful message, a speech filled both with passion and concern, a speech that will, I am certain, render others in your party—and the White House—speechless. (One can only hope the latter refrains from an infantile tirade within a 140-character format.)

Thank you, Mr. Flake, for allowing a citizen HOPE that others will, after listening and absorbing your perfectly balanced yet fiery speech, follow your lead and reign in the nonsense and horror that has plagued our country for over nine long months.

I rarely reply to anything government-related as I remain a steadfast cynic, censorious in everything to do with Washington proper, a disillusioned citizen who had given up all hope in change for the better, watching with utter despair our descent into the maelstrom of ridicule and oblivion in the eyes of the world.

Perhaps with your words of wisdom, of heartfelt pointed anger, your patriotism (in the correct sense), things will slowly change, for the better, for all humanity. It is in America’s best interest that we all embrace the world’s people, from every country, to welcome all into the bosom of the United States, without judgment, without hatred, without superiority, but rather with open arms and open minds. We are not exceptional, we are indispensable, but just one country amongst others.

Thank you, Senator Flake, for eliminating—at least temporarily—my disregard for our leaders in government, for making me believe that another avenue, another course, another direction in a positive light can be wrought by men and women who humbly serve our great nation of citizens.

We shall see if others in all facets of Washington heed your clarion call to change and action.

Sincerely,
Paul Grignon

There, but for the Grace of…

Buddha, Beelzebub, God, Allah, or whatever you call your higher power, it remains the power of an instant to realize the true importance of what matters in life and in your own individual existence on this spinning blue orb.

Yesterday I had to suffer through a dilemma of sorts, something that has plagued my mind for months now, something that gnawed at me during the night, eating away the hours of slumber; wide-eyed at 1am, then 2:20, then 3:45, then…well, you get the gist.

It was something that I do not care to go into any detail. Suffice it to say it played a huge part in our financial situation, something that should not have played out as it did at all.

There. I will leave it at that. I will add, though, that whatever ‘it’ was—and is—still preys upon my mind, at times oppressive and consuming, and all thoughts eventually lead to my sense of self-worth, my self-esteem, my own existence here and now, wondering what in hell to do. The mental anguish, the myriad of unanswered questions, the inner turmoil, the sense of hopelessness that, at times, rears its unwanted and hideous visage into my consciousness.

All this was renting space in my head as I returned from this ordeal in western Mass, heading east to home. But before ensconcing myself in my house, errands remained essential. After a bout of dodging ponderous pachyderms as they plodded along the corridors of Walmart, hunched over squeaky-wheeled carriages, I had to pop into the supermarket for a few items.

It was there that I witnessed humanity, how grand life is outside your own self-pity, your own self-wallowing, beyond what you perceive as life itself massed against you.

I got my groceries and, normally, I go to the self check-out lane, not wishing to spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for a bona fide human to ring me up.

But this time, given my trials out west, I opted to stay in line and wait for the cashier. I placed my groceries on the belt, and waited for the couple in front of me to finish with their purchase.

It was then that I noticed for the first time who the cashier was, someone that I knew from being a customer at the place I worked at, a kind older woman who, in the past, had confided to me her own financial difficulties.

My immediate thought was to collect my items and go to the self check-out registers. But I hesitated. I told myself, no, I’m going to stay right here and talk with this kind woman.

When the customers in front left, I chatted with her, asking how she was doing. She hesitated, with tears in her eyes, and proceeded to tell me how drained she was: physically, mentally, spiritually. I inquired as to what was wrong. She said that her son, 47 years old, had lost everything and she was sure he was about to commit suicide.

It seems he had indulged in drugs and alcohol, was now behind bars, his wife was leaving him after almost 20 years together, that he has nothing left to his name, is hooked up to a house monitor and, as she said, was sure he had nothing to live for and will soon take his own life.

During all this outpouring, I stood there and listened and thought about how utterly trivial my own plight was, how minuscule it was compared to her own story, of many stories out there; the horrific hurricane that decimated Puerto Rico, the conflagration in California, the myriad of problems all over the United States—the entire world.

What right did I have feeling sorry for myself, how pathetic it was in the grand scheme of human suffering? Jesus. After she rung me up, I walked around the register and gave her a long, lingering hug, wishing her well, sending both her and her son white light for healing as she trembled within my embrace.

Before I left, I told her there must have been a reason why I was in her line, instead of the self check- out, and I believe that. It was to make me realize that, despite my inward worry and stress, there are always many more worse off than me. That is what I told her; there was that reason I was there, at that moment in time, to give her a semblance of comfort, to perhaps provide a tiny portion of calm to a soul so troubled.

I left the store with my groceries, made my way to my truck, and thought how lucky I was—am—to not have to go through such anguish. It put things in perspective.

There are—always—others who suffer more in ways we cannot possibly fathom. The experience taught me a lesson.

I thought I’d share this with you.

 

©Paul Grignon – 2017

A Gem from a Gentleman…

Once again my dear friend from across the miles has generated yet another wonderful, insightful haiku, a thought-provoking poem that perhaps will intrigue you to compose one of your own. Here is the link to his wonderful site, and here is a link to the comment page.

Eric Alagan is a prolific writer and possesses a most generous soul, always regarding his followers with poise, grace, and gracious comments. Take the time to peruse his excellent site and may his own musings provide a spark for your own artistic soul.

Take care and enjoy your writing!

Paul

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

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.