Monday, October 31, 2011

Writing Prompt Six: Thumblessly happy

So I've crazily signed up to do NaNoWriMo - write a 50 000-word novel in November. I don’t have the time, but I’m going to try. If it doesn’t work this year, I will try again next year when, hopefully, I will be in the place my heart swells and have plenty of time on my hands, and inspiration. In the meantime I fear this blog may be a little neglected for the month. Here’s another Writing Prompt for now – they are such deliciously bizarre prompts, see at the end, after my little story…

Alice had always known she was a little different. It had started with her not having thumbs, and the endless string of childhood taunts that elicited. Then that whole trip to Wonderland. Why she’d told them, she herself couldn’t fathom. The fact that she kept going back there reinforced her differences, despite her keeping her dalliance’s with the Cheshire Cat and what had developed into a rather passionate affair with The Mad Hatter, quiet. He really wasn’t all that mad, after all, and damn, he was good in the sack. It was the only place where people didn’t stare and snigger at her lack of thumbs.

It was just a pity that she had to work so hard to earn the money to go, and then pay to stay. Despite that sweet storybook tale, which made it sound free, her trips to Wonderland, like any fabulous holiday, cost. As sweet as the Old White Queen was, she had a business to run and staying in one of the hundreds of rooms in the castle added up. Alice had tried camping, once, but the campsite was owned by The Caterpillar and his incessant smoking had made her sneeze. It wasn’t free, either.

So she’d been going back and forth, conducting this long-distance relationship with The Mad Hatter, missing him when she was away, loving him there (but not enough to move in with him – he was a slob, she could never share a bathroom with him). Knowing this, he kept sending her e-mails from Red Heart Realtors with pictures of properties for sale, but they, too, were exorbitant.

And so it went, year after year, Alice being inconsolably unhappy each time she had to return to the Real World, slaving away, making doughnuts for a living, saving each cent, until she could return and then being happy as a lark for her time there. But always she had to return to the teasing and grey Real World.

And then, one particularly damp and miserable day, she won the lottery, packed her worldly belongings and moved to Wonderland with not a look back, where she lived thumblessly and happily ever after in a beautiful house with candy floss wall paper, next door to her love, The Mad Hatter. The sun shone all the time, unless they felt like a bit of rainy weather, and then it rained. The End.

Prompt 6: Imagine if your favorite character from 19th-century fiction had been born without thumbs. Then write a short story about them winning the lottery.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween in the hood

We went there last Saturday too, to watch the rugby. Well, to do the usual deal, where G watches the rugby and I read my book. I liked it. It's close by, it is enough of a divey kind of pub/restaurant to suit my desire for such dives, and the guy who owns it made a toasted sandwich for a woman who walked in off the street with a baby and asked for help. She was another blogpost, but one that's been filed way back in my head, possibly not to come out. Yet. The people, all around 40+, and mainly manly-kind-of-men watching rugby, seemed to all know each other.

Anyway, we decided to go again, it being some rugby final and me loving the idea of reading my book and watching people. I was rewarded splendidly. The same crew were there, but arriving a bit after we did was a pretty and friendly blonde woman with a whole armload of plastic bags which she dumped on the big table in the middle of the room. Intriguing. She was greeted by most people in the room and I saw many an admiring glance from the male contingent.

It turned out that she was decorating for the Halloween Party later on that night. She had the whole bang shoot - bats, full moon pictures, zombies, fake spider webs and pumpkins. Well, sort of. She didn't really have pumpkins, but instead four butternuts and ten gemsquashes.

I became engrossed in my book for a bit, G completely focused on the rugby. I was reading the latest Fannie Flagg, you see, and I adore her writing and become completely entwined in her stories. Twenty minutes later I looked up and saw, seated all along the side of the table from which you could see the TV, three of the manly-men, all of them armed with a sharp knife, all of them shelling the "pumpkins" and cutting out scary faces.

What a perfect picture. They reminded me of family Christmas lunches when the women would all sit around a table, preparing the feast and chatting. As we left after the rugby, checking out their, suprisingly really good, handiwork, one of them looked at us and said "You girls leaving? Why don't you stay for the party?"

I replied: "Perhaps next year we will. Have fun!"

And I think we might very well just do that.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gossip Girl

I watched Season 4 of Gossip Girl. There, I said it. I devoured it as The Big Black Dog devours each of her meals - as if she hasn't been fed for months. Admittedly, I feel slight shame in admitting that. I know it's a load of hogwash about far-too-rich-for-their-own-good kids living a ridiculously glamorous and silly world with little to no regard for anything that's real and true or, for that matter, kind.


Despite all that, I love it. It's unrealistic escapism that requires absolutely no concentration or thought. The scheming and planning and focus on all that is only skin deep is astounding in its excess. I feel myself falling in love with each character, waiting for the kiss that's meant to happen as they carelessly throw each other's hearts around. The drama, the angst, the passion, the ultimate me, me, me-ness.

Last night, though, we were out for dinner and we sat next to a table that had five squealy 14-year olds at it, out for dinner on a Friday night. I don't remember going out with just my friends on a Friday night when I was 14. Sure, we spent hours at each other's houses and went out with each other's parents but alone? Maybe we did and I've forgotten in the mists of time.

It was like watching a real, live, version of Gossip Girl. They were all dressed in similiar outfits - skinny jeans, fresh faces, long hair. All of them. Attached to their cell phones, they took pictures of each other, presumably to upload directly to Stalkbook, so that those who weren't invited knew they hadn't been, a' la Gossip Girl. They spoke of holidays to LA next year. Rich kids. Young kids.

The thing that horrified me, though, was when I watched them order. All of them ordered and ate, except one. She had a water bottle filled with some milky thing, presumably a diet shake which she sipped on throughout the meal. She was tiny, skinny, beautiful. My heart broke when she, literally, asked her friend opposite to smell her food. Smell it. She did, a look of pure pleasure crossing her face as she inhaled the aroma of the food, before passing it back.

Not a thing passed her lips except for the shake. I wanted to hug her, shout at her mother, tell her she's beautiful. And then I realised how dangerous media can be. These were bright young things who are the real audience of Gossip Girl and, I fear, they're not considering it as fun, frivolous, silly entertainment, but as something to aim for. And that is just frightening.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing Prompt Five: A diary entry from Humphrey

These writing prompt things are completely bizarre, but fabulously so. Here’s number five. It was gross but I actually really enjoyed this one.

San Jose, 27th October 2011.

It’s not that I wished to have been involved in such crass behaviour, it was just that I was born into it. I opened my little compound eyes and wiggled what I now know are my antennae and looked around. I was not alone, but surrounded by my brothers and sisters and the biggest feast I’ve ever seen. All around us, a living spread of food.

Thinking back I cringe at such unbecoming behaviour, all of us chomping away at that tarantula flesh, not even stopping between bites to wipe our mouths. It was a feeding frenzy. I blame youth and pure naivete. My brothers and sisters think not, of course, but I consider them all simple.

I only realised the error of my ways once we’d eaten up the entire feast. I gagged on the fur on the outside and realised what we’d done. Now being five hours old and far more worldly, I stopped, spat out the fur, and swore to go vegetarian. It’s been three days now and I’m just getting used to the ridicule from my brothers and sisters. I swear the copper in my wings shines much more brightly than theirs, though, on my vegetarian diet, so I'll push through.

Humphrey Tarantula Hawk, the 12 674th, aged 3-and-a-half days.

A wasp called the tarantula hawk reproduces by paralyzing tarantulas and laying its eggs into their bodies. When the larvae hatch, they devour the still living spider from the inside out. Isn’t that fucked up? Write a short story about how fucked up that is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gift horses

It's a funny story really, how it came about that I am about to head off to that beautiful stadium down by the sea, beneath the mountain. After going to watch Coldplay there, exactly three weeks ago, and swearing never to go to a big concert again, here I sit, about to go back.

I love Coldplay. I love the stadium. But a whole bunch of factors twisted and angered themselves together to turn it into one Big Bad Experience, despite there being all sorts of reasons for it to have should have been a great night. What an awkward sentence, what an awkward, cold, disorganised night it was. Honestly, the sound was so bad that it was hard to discern which song they were playing, when. And it was cold.

I'm a good consumer, though, and I complained. Bitterly. To everyone involved in the organisation of the concert. Result? Free tickets to go and see Kings of Leon, tonight. So off we go, G and I, never being able to look a gift horse in the mouth (thanks, Miranda, for the teachings on the origins of that funny saying), we are off to the stadium for the second time in three weeks.

I thank Miranda for her teachings because, yesterday on Stalkbook I said something about the tickets in my status update about said tickets, followed by the comment:

I'm also now going to spend a productive day researching the origin of "Never look a gift horse in the mouth" because 1. WTF is a gift horse? and 2. why would you look it in the mouth in the first (or second for that matter) place and 3. if you decided you wanted to, what would be the harm? Would the gift horse lick your eyeballs or gnaw on your eyebrows?

And the lovely Miranda explained:

‎1. A gift horse is a horse that has been given to you as a gift. 2. You look at its teeth to see how old it is (long teeth = old horse. As in 'ooh he's a bit long in the tooth') 3. As our mothers told us, Its just rude, really to see if the gift you've been given is a dud, as opposed to a stud. And also horse slobber is disgusting.

And now we all know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing Prompt Four: Enough already

Back to the writing prompts. Sheesh, they're bloody difficult! Again, I'm not entirely happy with what I've done with it but I've been sittting on it for two weeks and then just decided to write and get on to the next one so, here goes:

When he’d retired early, at 46, Bob had made a deal with Debra. After being married for 21 years and working hard for all of those, he’d done extremely well and retired with enough money for them to live very comfortably and do all the things they’d always wanted to do. They would now have the time to fully appreciate their farm in the Winelands.

Debra was worried about having him home full-time, she’d got used to only having to deal with him in the evenings when he got home (usually late) from the office. Over weekends he played golf which suited her perfectly due to its long hours. Now he’d be home morning to night.

Bob had always loved horses and had learnt to ride at an early age growing up on a farm in the Natal Midlands. He’d always wanted one of his own. Debra thought it was a yearning of his to be one of the horsey crowd, he had always been a snob. Regardless of its roots, she’d always stopped him from buying a horse because she knew she’d land up looking after the bloody thing and she was mortally frightened of horses.

He’d retired though so they made the deal: he’d buy the horse and she’d get a hot air balloon and lessons on how to fly it. Seriously, it was all she’d longed for and she loved it.

That was five years ago. Debra is now a seasoned hot air balloonist and Bob… well, he rides every now and again, and leaves his sweaty, smelly, riding shoes just inside the front door, every. single. time he rides, despite Debra’s first asking nicely, then not-so-nicely for him not to. Despite her irrational fear of horses she hates how cruelly he treats the poor thing.

She hasn’t got used to him being around all the time, especially because he treats her as, she assumes, he used to treat his secretary at work and as he treats the poor horse – not very well. In fact, he is being mean to her too.

Debra is seriously thinking of leaving him, despite their being together for 26 years now and actually thinks she doesn’t really like him at all.

"I'm going away with Nigel and Mike for Christmas, we're leaving the day after tomorrow" Bob said, walking into the kitchen as she opened the pot to stir the soup she'd made for supper. She looked up at him, surprised by this sudden announcement, a week before Christmas. "Oh. What about the horse? The groom is already on holiday."

"Oh, you can give him his food, surely? It's Summer, he'll be fine for a week outside. You can just chuck his food over the fence." Debra shuddered, her dislike rising in her throat like bile, making her feel quite queasy. As much as he'd been particularly unpleasant, she'd never quite expected this degree of neglect for anything she felt. At the same time she grinned slightly at the thought of being free of him for a whole, blissful, week.

Mistaking her grin for agreement Bob smiled back saying "Oh good, you're fine with it then? That soup smells revolting, I'm going down to the pub. See you later." She mumbled and watched his ample shape leave through the back door. The last iota of her tolerance slipped out of the door with him as he slammed it behind him.

It was easy enough to do, she used Google, searched "Painless death for horses". She did hours of research, finally coming up with a plan. On day one of his trip with Nigel and Mike she first put the entire contents of Bob's sleeping pills in with the horse's food, mixed with poison she'd bought at the hardware store (who knew?) She hoped Bob was having trouble sleeping, what with his sleeping pills having been swapped with plain old aspirin.

She felt terrible watching the horse get drowsy and then lie down and then it was still. "Sleep tight, may your next place be a more peaceful one." Four days later she went back down to the field and was pleased to see that the horse, now well on its way to rotten in the hot Summer heat, had not moved. She was relieved that she hadn't caused any extra suffering.

The soil was hard and dry around the horse's body but she persevered with her shovel, digging a trench right around it's body, the stench almost unbearable. Scattering the wild flower seeds into the trenches she said a little prayer and covered them, hoping they'd bloom.

Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.

Prompt 4: Write a story that ends with the following sentence: Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday meat market

I watched him nudge his friend and make lewd signals as she got up to go to the bathroom. She was dressed head-to-toe in white flowing things that made her look vaguely biblical. As she passed me I felt a desperate rush of air. He played on his phone while she was away and I could imagine the Twitter update or Facebook status he was writing, his face lit up blue by the screen. The smile he gave her on her return allowed me to know that he knew exactly what he was aiming for.

Leaning against the bar was a woman wearing an outfit that was far too small for someone her age, presumably to show off her numerous tattoos, some of which were beautiful. She’d obviously been there all afternoon and was just a little too loud as she flicked her bottle blonde hair while chatting up a body builder gone-to-seed at the bar, or being chatted up, I couldn’t quite tell and hadn’t been paying attention when it started to know who’d started with who. My money would’ve been on her if I had to bet. Again, I could see where their story would end.

My attention had been distracted by the beautiful young woman in the corner wearing jeans that fitted her so snugly I worried she might not be able to ever take them off. Her dark skin glowed in the candlelight from the table in front of her, the same candlelight that shone through her glass of white wine that was being kept full by the much older man next to her, his wedding band glinting. Beside us, a suave guy watched them, not secretly but unobtrusively. Her pimp.

It sounds like I was out at some dodgy bar. I wasn’t. It’s an upmarket place on the sea with a beautiful view over the ocean. Last night the waves were crashing over the rocks outside and sending spray twelve feet in the air, their spray looking in the window. I’m convinced the waves, like me, were fascinated with the goings-on in the meat market I found myself in on a gentle Sunday evening.

We left after the band started up and the ebony-skinned woman began dancing to the beat. Breathing in the sea air of the harbour, I wasn’t sure if it was the scenes I’d seen in the bar that were making me feel slightly queasy or the bobbing boats in the harbour giving me flashbacks to my childhood of sea sickness.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Drag racers

I hear them sometimes, late-late Saturday night/early-early Sunday morning, when the air is still. Or maybe it's when there's a slight breeze blowing from there, that death-trap ribbon of tar.

Whichever it is, sometimes I hear them, the sounds of their cars roaring at way-too-high speed. I can almost taste the testoerone on the night air. The illegal drag-racers taking over the quiet early morning city highway.

I've never seen them, but I've read the stories in the paper. The ones where they've killed themselves showing off how much bigger their engine is than the guy's next to them. Bigger engine, shinier wheels, more power, slam into a lamp post and all that's left is a glinting silver mag wheel, winking as life drains out of someone far too young, a streak of adrenaline on a cold tar road.

I heard them last night and sent a little prayer of sorts to the gods or whoever looks after us to keep them safe, those young urban cowboys doing their thing, thinking of their mothers, worrying at home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Topsy-turvy, be mine

It's a strange world, this one we live in, a twirly-whirly ride of ups and downs over which, sometimes, we think we have control and, most of the time, we realise we have none. Whatsoever. I'm quite glad of that, though. There is magic everywhere.

Gadzooks, I'd hate to feel like I had any kind of control. Out-of-control has always appealed, despite my being a particularly organised sort. Organised in some aspects, the ones that, I am hoping, hoping, hoping, allow the rest to be completely and utterly and mind-blowingly, topsy-turvy all over the place.

The fat moon laughs at me from high in the sky, taunting and teasing.

I'm craving topsy-turvy, I am.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I owe an apology

I think I owe an apology. In fact, I know I do. In a most roundabout and completely unintentional way I have been badly behaved. It happens sometimes, when I feel a little trapped or think that someone else is feeling trapped. I get prickley and build a wall you see. The wall has little airholes, though, which allow me to smile through. I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing. It may just be confusing to the person on the other side.

There are certain aspects of living and being that are hard for me. I don’t mention them much because, honestly, it’s a bit boring, even to me in my most navel-gazing times. They’re things that make some stuff impossible and make me want to scream and cry until I can scream and cry no more. It wouldn’t help, though, so instead I get the prickles, build the walls, and ignore it all.

The problem is that I then don’t give anybody the chance to get in. I assume how they’ll be, how they’ll react, what they’ll do and, in my mind, I save them from it all by moving steadfastly away in a prickley fashion. And, in the process, I fear that I can even be a little bit mean. This makes me sad. Like I said, I think I owe an apology, or two, possibly many. I just have no idea how to go about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pearl Jam

I found it strange that we were amongst the few women in the cinema. Groups of men kept arriving. I’d had fun in the foyer with G, guessing who would come into our cinema and who was going to see “The Smurfs” or “Friends with Benefits” or the other mainstream offerings. Yes, I was being a movie-snob.

The ratio of men:women was about 6:1. I mentioned this to a male friend on Stalkbook and asked why he thought it so. His reply? “Because chicks generally have appalling taste in music. There, I said it!” I could only snort in derision and make a derisory (is that a word?) comment. I’ll tell you what it was at the end.

Being more an art nouveau kind of movie watcher I’d forgotten that the mainstream cinemas have enormous screens, so huge I wanted to squeal with delight. I waited until the movie started, though, before letting out a discreet squeal. Pearl Jam Twenty, one of only two screenings here – a commemorative documentary of this band that I have loved since, well, they began!

It’s a visual and aural whirlwind. I cried, I smiled, my heart soared with their story, which I hadn’t realised has many heartbreaking twists in it. The sound in the cinema was superb, filling the room and climbing right into my soul. I’m not a huge fan of their really heavy stuff but there, in that dark room, on that enormous screen, it was perfect.

And then there’s Eddie Vedder. Swoon. Double swoon. And his voice that trickles at first and then gushes through me. If I were to have to describe sex in sound I would say, simply: Eddie Vedder. And then there is the rest of the band, each one a genius in their own right. The guitarist that seems to just fly through those riffs, the bassist who always just looks happy, and they all seem to have so much fun!

I left the cinema feeling like I’d been thrown back into my youth, the energy coursing through me, the music filling my head, Eddie talking to me. We stayed until the last credit had rolled. I was interested in the fact that there was a Bootlegologist mentioned. I think I’d like to have that title.

So, in answering my Stalkbook friend’s reply, I said: “I fully expected an answer of that calibre. There, I said it. Of course, being a chick and all, I was not there to appreciate anything about the music. I was purely there to look at Eddie Vedder’s arse.”

I failed to mention the fact that, lyrically and musically, Pearl Jam is one of my ultimate favourite bands and Eddie Vedder’s oh-so-beautiful arse and face and lips and…, just make the whole deal so much sweeter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday afternoon epiphany

One sentence, a beautiful, complementary one, reduced me to tears. It was somebody else’s thing but then it was mine. A completely unexpected Tuesday afternoon, a testament to the power of Social Networks, despite my complete cynicism toward them all.

Clicks of a mouse button in places far away, the realisation, again, that I was never alone in this. The heartbreak flooded in, drowning out everything else, filling me with tears, like a blow-up doll water balloon, but a loved one. Lucky, lucky me.