Creative Writing Prompt: Polar Bears in the Desert…

Or, in other words, write a story about someone who is at odds with their environment.  Some examples are a minister in a political race (okay, maybe not so much), a domestic goddess who switches places with a CEO (that one could really be fun), a Millennial hipster stuck in the sixties, to name a few. 

Living in the South, having to deal with Yankees who make a deal about my “yes sir” and “no ma’am-ing”, was the inspiration for this farcical piece.

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When Melissa Met the South

Melissa Caldwell blotted her temple with a handkerchief. It was so undignified to sweat, or perspire, as her aunt Addie would say.  Her aunt Addie believed every word had a gender—men sweated, women perspired, men tailored, women sewed, men were chefs, women were cooks.  She even still used the terms male nurse and lady doctor.

It had been more than twenty years since she had seen her father’s aunt. Even though she’d been five the last time she had been in Pensacola, Florida, she hadn’t remembered it being this hot.  The humidity made her feel as if she were walking through a steam room.  She stopped at a café to get a cup of coffee—iced, that is—then realized she was a couple of eggs short of hangry.

“Would you like grits with that?” the server, whose nametag read Mandy Claire, said.

“What are those?” Melissa asked, and this little pissant waitress had the nerve to look at her like she was stupid. Well, at least she wasn’t a waitress; she had gotten an education.

“Okay, never mind,” she said with a wave of her hand and a roll of her eyes. “Do you have anything gluten-free?”

“Gluten-free?” Again, the look.

Melissa blew up her imaginary bangs in exasperation. “You know what?  Just bring me an iced coffee to start.”  Mandy started to walk away, but Melissa called out.  “Oh, by the way, do you know where a good Jewish deli is around here?”

“Publix has a really good deli,” Mandy said, then scurried off before Melissa could ask what in the hell was a Publix.

Melissa took that as an opportunity to fish her cell phone out of her Prada bag and call her best friend, Marisol Fernandez.  Melissa spoke Spanish fluently, so she chose to be respectful of her friend’s culture by speaking in her language, garnering a few glares from nearby booths.  She loved the privacy of being able to speak in code, but she could’ve sworn had she been speaking English, she would’ve been ignored, so she transitioned.  Funny, how they were all about “speaking the language”, yet they couldn’t spell worth it a damn.  The funniest one she’d seen had been on a church sign that said, “Not haven Jesus in this life is hell on Earth.”

“So, how is Jennifer and Kathy’s wedding coming?” Melissa asked her friend.

The waitress gave her a funny look as she set down her coffee, topped with a copious amount of whipped cream. “Anything else, ma’am?” she asked, seeming reticent to disrupt the conversation.

“Ma’am?” Melissa said, mid-conversation. “Please, I’m not even thirty.”  Melissa dismissed her by resuming the discussion on hers and hers bath towels.

The girl looked confused, then went back to work.

~

A group of people were having some kind of Bible club behind her while she finished her coddled eggs (another thing Mandy had never heard of), and it was making her uncomfortable. She turned around, looking aggrieved.  “Would you guys try holding that praying jazz down?  It’s really offensive to those who don’t believe.  Thank you.”  That was how she always got what she wanted—assuming she would get it anyway.

“We’ll pray for you, Sister,” one of them called out, so she sucked down the rest of her coffee, leaving a ten dollar tip. As she looked back, she saw the waitress’s astonished expression.  The girl did need some dental work, after all, and Melissa’s inherited wealth was a bit embarrassing.  She was like the only one-percenter in this greasy spoon.

A young, Mormony-looking couple holding hands walked by her car, pointing and shaking their heads. “Coexist only works if the others don’t want to chop your head off or blow you up,” she heard the man say.

God, what the Christian hell is wrong with these people? They are so paranoid, Melissa thought. This part of the country bled red, so it was no wonder.  She couldn’t wait to get to Aunt Addie’s house.  She’d kept in touch with her lonely great-aunt for the past several years, and she’d always seemed like a fairly rational person, albeit old-fashioned.  She didn’t know how her aunt stood living in a place that was so damn American Gothic Horror.  It was like freaking Pleasantville.

~

When she reached her aunt’s beach house, she was in awe. The sand was as white as sugar, the gulf vacillating between emerald and sapphire.  A wrinkle in the sky divided land from sea, and the sea oats swayed like dancers in love at the end of the night.  She even though she saw a dolphin making a graceful arc.  There wasn’t anything like this in New York.  The Jersey Shore didn’t even compare.

“Melissa?” a sixtyish woman said, coming out in a tank, Bermuda shorts, and flip-flops. An ivory Virgin Mary blended in to the landscape, but the “Marriage is Between a Man and a Woman” bumper sticker did not.

Melissa had always been vocal about her beliefs and non-beliefs, but she had never quite pegged her aunt as a Christian conservative, and yet, here she was, welcoming her into the folds of her embrace like it didn’t matter. It was then that Melissa knew she was in very grave danger here—of losing her heart to this place where it was flip-flips and bikini tops all summer long, where it didn’t snow, but rained at Christmas, and where everything was fried (except peanuts, which were boiled); where there was a church on every corner, and a hobo or Bible-thumper on the other.

Yes, she was, indeed, afraid of falling in love with this lovely place.

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #337, Theme: Persona Poem

A Persona of Grace

Grace

Grace Anna Goodhue,
a persona of grace.

Twas never church creeds,
but the spirit of the sermon
that lit the path beneath her feet,
leading her in music and song
that were her forms of worship,
education, her edification.

She taught those who could not hear
to read lips—
to learn the language of the perfect pitch.
She taught them how to live not just in their world,
but in the world around them,
so that they could be a part of both.

With an unspoken understanding,
she was to marry another,
but then she met Calvin
whose presence and poise
was most gentlemanly
with his quiet dignity.

She knew he needed her
more than she needed him,
and for seven days,
in the land of Montreal,
the man Calvin proved himself to be
ice to her fire.
She was his babbling brook
that bubbled over his still waters,
which would ripple all the way to Capitol Hill.

With her husband who spoke in silences,
she followed him,
even as he followed her.

As she listened to yarns on politics
behind closed doors,
she knitted away her anxiety,
ticking away the quiet.

The President’s equal, was Grace Anna—
his Florence Nightingale—
this lady with the knitting needle,
mightier than a sword.

She was a kindred suffragette—
a word that had always sounded
like a battered woman in a tattered dress.
When the right was recognized,
giving women the voice of men
to elect those who would rule over them,
she was there,
filling out an absentee ballot,
the flash of cameras dazzling in her depths.

An English rose, was this First Lady,
coming into the bloom of her time,
shining as the morning dew.

Like an archaeologist searching for an ancient language,
digging through tomes,
brushing them off like old bones,
she searched for a slice of herstory—
knowledge about the former mistresses
of the great, White House;
but, like the Bible in ways,
it was about the men who won the elections,
with the wives supporting them from behind,
raising their children,
doing what they did
so that their husbands could do what they did.

Though he never spoke of the issues of women,
he showed his respect in so many words,
in so many ways.
While he served the public,
she served the private,
her influence shielded like the veil of a widow,
a little light filtering through in times of his need.

Threads of conversation would unravel,
and she would pick up the ends,
knitting them back together.
Never did she want another to hear in him
what was unspoken—
a man in the greys of melancholy.

Like Cinderella,
she was the princess of the American palace,
with the mice family her friends—
a love for the underdogs,
be they mice or women.

And then, in July of 1924,
the smallest thing,
unseen,
killed her son,
leaving her with one
who would live to the New Millennium.

It was Grace who would wipe her husband’s tears
with the lace of her handkerchief.

Of an open door, she would write,
her spirituality shining through it,
banishing the darkness that was her grief.

When Calvin said a depression was coming,
she thought of all people,
he would know.

When she became a widow,
spending the next quarter of a century of her life as such,
she spoke no longer of the man
whose voice she had been.

“For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.” 
–Calvin Coolidge

Source:  http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=31

 

Benefits of Being a Bibliophile

Cafe Book Bean

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There are many benefits to being a book lover. Maybe we have an unhealthy compulsion to buy books. Maybe we have no surface space not claimed by random literary treasures. We may regularly suffer from book hangovers, but by gollie we:

 Prefer simple pleasures                              Never go to bed lonely
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Get excited easily                                          Have better vocabulary 😉
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Never get bored                                              Travel to distant landsa01696412fc05b59444a1f1bdaf05b1bFavim.com-9108
Never stop learning                                        Have less stress
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Improve memory                …

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Writing Prompt: The Desert (Inside of Us)

travel-857086_960_720Imagine a desert, and then a cube in this desert.  Describe the cube.  Then describe the ladder that you see.  Imagine a horse, then flowers.  A storm commences.  Describe everything as you go.  How do all these things relate to or affect one other? 

This was the first creative writing exercise in my creative writing class (the professor said it was based on an ancient, Middle Eastern philosophy, that reveals your inner self).  More in-depth analysis can be found at the link below:

http://oliveremberton.com/2014/how-to-connect-deeply-with-anyone-in-5-minutes/

Here was my attempt:

The desert is like scorched earth—dry, desolate, with nary an oasis in sight.  It’s like the life has been drained from it—evaporated in the air that doesn’t move, but is dead, like a radio gone silent.  It’s as if Mother Earth has been stripped of all her beauty…and flesh and blood.

In the center of this desert is a most curious thing.  It is almost clear, but not quite—a sort of milky pearl, except it is a square, like a lump of sugar.  It glistens under the hot sun, and there is a tiny puddle underneath it.

Adjacent to it is a ladder with 12 rungs, lying on its side.  Like a hologram, or a mirage, I move, and it is no longer visible.  As I move nearer, the cube becomes smaller, until I step on what I assume to be the bottom rung; it is only then I realize that I had to take the first step to be able to reach the oasis.  I had to acknowledge that I had a problem—this was the first step to sobriety, but that oasis was getting smaller the longer I waited.

I take the 12 steps and reach down to kiss the ice cube as if it is the Pope’s ring.

Twelve months have passed, and I look up to see this strange animal—a unicorn.  It is the only living thing besides the cactuses.  The unicorn is rainbow-colored, her tail reminiscent of Rainbow Brite—a favorite of my childhood.  Her horn is silver, and, upon closer inspection, I see it is a compass.  I pet the unicorn I have named Lavender, for she appeared in the twilight of my life.  I mount her, for there is a storm coming.  There is darkness ahead, but I know I can pass through life’s hurricanes if I just use the compass and carry on to wherever Lavender takes me.  I hold onto the horn and we pass through the storm.  When the clouds are behind us, I realize we have crossed over, for I see the Rose of Sharon—a single white rose—and Lavender stops, and asks, “Will you accept this rose?”

I answer, “I will”, and then I reach my eternal destination.

What each story element represents: 

Desert=worldview
Cube=you, self-portrait
Ladder=friends
Horse=lover, ideal lover
Storm=trouble, challenge
Flowers=things you nurture or create

What each story element (I surmised) represented to me:

Desert:  Hell on Earth, known as Pensacola (my surroundings)
Cube:  Oasis
Ladder:  My friends are my 12 steps
Horse:  At the end was my true love, leading me away/saving me from a life of drunkenness
Storm:  Addiction
Flowers:  I nurtured my faith, and my faith did not fail me; because of it, I shifted focus to the Living Water, not old wine

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #336, Theme: Unique

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Their Stories

Two women,
one story,
each unique
and wonderfully written.

Two women,
the story of one Man
Whose life and love
helped write their own.

Two women,
who loved the same Man–
one as a mother,
another, a lover,
both as a Savior.

Two women,
happiness in their names;
one well-behaved, the other, not so much,
but cherished all the same.

Two women:
one knew a Man,
one knew many;
one was a giver of life,
the other, a witness of the afterlife.
Both made herstory.

Creative Writing Prompt: Write about a safe space (that isn’t)

For this exercise, I was required to use the words porcelain, linen, ripe, manifestation, forbidden, and permission, in the context of writing about a safe space (that is anything but safe in the story).

To me, a hospital (as long as the doctors and nurses know what they’re doing) is a safe space, because you rarely hear of mass shootings (or shootings, in general) happening in a hospital.

Nursing a Coma

Whiteness envelopes me like a cumulous cloud; a haze settles over me like a cool mist.  I feel as if I am floating through the London fog at midday.  It is here that I am safe, alone in my semi-consciousness, my broken body surrounded by angels in white.  My personhood, my humanness, is respected here, though I hover in the valley of the shadow. 

A woman with porcelain skin enters, checking my vitals and linen—a shroud of Turin—for my body must have surely made an impression on it by now.  The space buzzes with battery life; the machines never die here.  She touches me, but I want to touch her.  I want to give her an affirmation, some manifestation that my soul is still here and wishes to intimately mate with hers. 

Even as there was Florence Nightingale with her lamp, Carrie’s, whose name I no more know than that, is my lady with the light brown hair.  But the relationship between us now, as is, would be forbidden.  However, I know she feels the same, for I am like her silent priest.  She has given me permission to know her secret wish for a child.  She knows what manner of man I was before the accident.  She has read all my books, and it is through these, she feels like she knows me, that she would’ve loved the Before me, if not the After me, if I were to wake.  I let her extract the only thing I can give her, for I will have a son or daughter who will literally rise up from the dead in my genes, though he or she will bear not my name.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #335, Theme:

Years ago, I created a caricature book of all the members of my family, and that’s what prompted (no pun intended) this poem.

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The Anatomy of a Family

Dad is the bread vendor who can’t quite make the bacon;
Mom burns the bacon and the bread.
Brother plays video games in bed;
Sister prefers to be well-read.
Grandma comes over with casserole and all is well;
Grandpa Lee always has an inappropriate story to tell.
Aunt Ida Claire (born in Jaw-juh) starts cleaning house,
Uncle Beau helps his way out of the doghouse.
Cousin Danny Boy cuts it up,
and Tippi the cat chases Fido the pup.