January 30, 2008

haiku wednesday - January 30, 2008

This week's words are

smooth approach... hot score!
warm the baby bottle, dear
(should have used condoms)

please, stewardess, please
bring a bottle of smooth scotch
failed approach, frayed nerves

violent approach
jagged bottle, knife slash wild
smooth words turned ugly

January 28, 2008

moving day

moving day

a rumble and a grumble and around the corner crawls
a great big tractor trailer chewing tar and belching smog
with a screech of brakes and somber grunts it puffs, it huffs, it stalls
and it settles to the curb like an old wagon in a bog

the words upon its sides announce that it's a moving van
and I wonder with excitement who it is that's new in town--
a movie star named Lola or a garbage man named Stan
a psychotherahypnotist or possibly a clown

a tax accountant dreaming of becoming president
or a baseball player on his way to Hall of Fame election
or a churchgoer deciding what he might give up for Lent
or a Buddhist monk who only wants some peaceful, calm reflection

or a crazy lady thinking that the cops are out to get her
or a kindergarten teacher who bakes cookies on the weekend
or a teenager who wants to party but her dad won't let her
or a wise and kind old gentleman whose heart has somewhat weakened

but whoever owns the lot of stuff that's packed inside that truck,
I hope they have a couple kids who like to play outside
cuz for years in this dull neighborhood it's me who has been stuck
without a single other kid to run or chase or hide

and now they've opened up the back, and I can plainly see
an empty truck without a single lamp or couch or chair
and now my mom is saying that the one who's moving's... me!
and I wonder with excitement only one more question... WHERE?

One of my writing goals for 2008 is to write at least one light verse or poem every week in addition to my haiku wednesday and fiction friday posts. I will try to do this on Mondays.

January 27, 2008

need critters for short story

To all my friends: If you're interested in critiquing a short short (only 1500 words) that I am submitting to a contest soon, please email me (peter at peterdudley.com). Needs to be done soon because the submission deadline is February 10th.

January 25, 2008

Fiction Friday: Danger!

This Week’s Theme: Describe a first brush with danger.
Even though this is "fiction" Friday, I decided to tell a true story from my youth.

By eleven a.m. the autumn sun had warmed an October chill from the Cambridge air. I grabbed my sweatshirt anyway and tied my sneakers, then checked my pocket to make sure I had fare for the T to go meet my brother in Boston. One dollar was all I had, crumpled up in my pocket. It was all I needed.

I liked visiting my brother at MIT, but the morning had been boring. He lived off campus in a cool townhouse with cooler roommates. I was barely fourteen, and spending a few days with college guys who drank beer and used bad words thrilled me. Except when they were at classes or work, like this morning, and I was bored stiff after already having read all my books and the newspaper.

I headed out, confident in my ability to navigate the Boston train system, transfer from the red line to the green line, and get to his stop at the lab. But getting to the T stop was new for me, and my brother had given me good directions. Go one block south, turn right, then turn left down this long alley to the main street, turn right, and there it would be. Easy.

Hands in my pockets, I trudged along between the buildings, trying to stick to the warmer, sunny side of the street. Half way down the long alley, though, I heard a shout.

"Hey! Hey, kid!"

I turned to see another kid, about my age and in jeans and a sweatshirt, a black kid, running toward me. Two others, one bigger and one smaller, followed close behind but not so quick.

"Hey kid!"

I stopped and waited for him to arrive. He looked OK, but as I stood there I noticed how long this alley was, at least fifty yards in either direction, and no one else around. He was in front of me before I knew it.

"You from around here?"

I shrugged. "I'm staying with my brother, over that way." I kept my hands in my pockets but waived my elbow in the general direction back up the alley.

"Yeah? Got any money? Give my your money."

I was never confident in strange places, so my pulse already was racing. Now my heart was pounding, too. My whole body felt like shivering. The other two boys showed up, and I saw now that all three of them were slightly bigger than I was. One of them was pretty hefty, too. I didn't move. "I don't have any money."

"Don't lie, you got money. Where you going anyway?"

"I'm going to meet my brother."

"Your brother? How big is your brother?"

One of the other kids piped up now. "Get out your knife!" He looked at me. "He got a a knife. Get out your knife!"

I weighed my options. I could run--I was fast, probably faster than any of them, but the one that approached me first was wiry and maybe as fast as I was. I could fight--I had been taking Bando lessons (a Burmese martial art) for two years and was pretty good, though not very advanced and never field tested. And maybe they really had a knife.

"I got a knife. Give me your money, man."

"Check his pockets."

I didn't move, and the first kid shoved his hands in my pockets and found my dollar. "You got more?"

I shook my head. "No. Just T fare to go meet my brother."

The three of them backed off, eyeing me, and turned to run back up the alley the way I'd come in. I waited and watched them go, then followed when I thought they were going to leave me alone. I returned to my brother's townhouse and tried to slow my heartbeat and stop shaking. At fourteen, and I was embarrassed to cry about this, even alone. It was a dollar. A stinkin' dollar. Finally, I called my brother and explained what happened. I don't remember the rest of the day.

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January 24, 2008

Pinewood cars

Unfortunately, we got shut out of awards this year.

Snow at 2500 feet in California?

Block^H^Hg party Thursday!

Update: The Blog Party is HERE. Evil Editor has already made several appearances, and robin and ril are already on fire in the comments. I only wish I didn't have a real life and that I could play all day over at Church Lady's place.

OK, so here's the deal. The greatest editor on the Web, Evil Editor, is releasing a new book this week called Novel Deviations 3. Church Lady is having a blog party on Thursday all day (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the time zone is suspiciously absent) with prizes, special guests, and, well, other stuff.

Definitely drop by to check it out.

Evil Editor's identity is a closely held secret, but I think I've managed to find a photo of him:

January 23, 2008

haiku wednesday - January 23, 2008

This week's words are

red roses hurled, crushed
baby's breath scattered like rice
tomorrow he'll pay

final breath sears lungs
people scattered like dead twigs
no more tomorrow

kids scattered, breath held
won't find me til tomorrow
hide and seek savant

January 21, 2008



piled on naked branches
snow, white and filled with promise
teetering thick in the windless morning
invisible ice sloughing off the pane
over my cheeks, making my eyes water
with reflected delight

voice from above and the world rattles,
two feet dangle off the top bunk
mismatched woolen socks left on
from a predawn newspaper march
"I bet it's five inches"

through my eager breath I see Tryon Street
at the bottom of our hill
fresh dirt and sand fanned in great arcs
one pair of cautious tire tracks
grinding off toward town
a motionless river frozen
between its plow-shoved banks

we bound like bones tossed
down wooden stairs
electric air flows past us,
the smell of blankets ironed too hot
we slide to rest on matted carpet
cushioned thick with old dog hair

power on
dial tuned
breath held
list read
school closed
snow day

One of my writing goals for 2008 is to write at least one light verse or poem every week in addition to my haiku wednesday and fiction friday posts. I will try to do this on Mondays.

January 18, 2008

Fiction Friday: Lifelong Dream

This Week’s Theme: What is your character's lifelong dream? Why did she not pursue it?
I've decided to take a character from a Fiction Friday from over six months ago.

The room had the musty smell of old bath towels and once-flooded carpeting, that vaguely sour odor of mildew that even the hardest scrubbing with bleach won't eliminate. I didn't bother looking at the bathroom yet, preferring to sit on the edge of the stiff, double bed and stare at the telephone. The table-tent sign next to it said fifty cents for local calls, a dollar plus long distance charges for toll calls. At least the HBO was free, according to the perky night clerk at the front desk.

It was just before midnight, and part of me wondered why I'd wasted thirty dollars on a motel room. My bus was scheduled for seven a.m., and no way in Hell would I be able to sleep with Dustin's last words still ringing through my thoughts. "Thanks, mom. For everything. Write to me." While Jimmy and the boys watched their football, Dustin saw right through me and knew, in some way, that I'd already left.

He would love California, I tried not to tell myself. He'd thrive on the different foods, the different languages, the different people. He'd find his true self instead of languishing among all these meatheaded, testosterone-soaked men here. But I couldn't support him. And if he came with me, he'd get lost and I'd get lost, and I'd never be able to break away, truly break away.

All these thoughts tumbled around me on the bed, just as they had orbited my head on the six miles from home to the motel, just as they were bound to linger next to me on that long bus ride to Los Angeles.

God, how I needed to call Dustin, to explain it all to him. To tell him I had actually been discovered, once, by someone other than his father. It was the dress rehearsal, the night before we were going to open Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sitting on the bed now in this motel room, I still remembered the line I was on when that producer from the big stage in Dallas, Frank I think his name was, walked in and started listening. I whispered it in the quiet hum of the electric window heater: "I don't mind making a fool of myself over you."

That next day, I said those very words to Jimmy in his car out by the lake, and five months later I was engaged and already showing and off the stage for good.

"Feel embarrassed? Well, I can't live on this way." That was my next line that night, and I whispered it over and over to myself now as I sat in the room with the stifling, electric-blanket air and the occasional rumble of a truck on the highway.

Closing my eyes, I thought back to last night when channel eighteen aired that old movie. Elizabeth Taylor in the fifties, beautiful and elegant and sexy... all those things I'd known I could be on the stage when I was nineteen. What had happened to me? Where had I gone? Age and loneliness was all I really had now, and an empty sense of regret.

And an entire roomful of terror. I'd left my husband tonight, my boys. Dustin. In my small suitcase next to me on the bed hid a Greyhound ticket to Los Angeles, four outfits, some makeup, two books, and six hundred dollars in cash. Seventy two dollars that ticket cost. So that was the price of resurrecting a dream, reviving a life that had once been worth living.

Lying back on the bedspread, I spoke up at the ceiling. "I'm sorry, Jimmy, but today is the day I stop sharing that cage you call a home." But in my heart I was already composing the first few lines of the postcard I'd write when I got to California: "My darling Dustin..."

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January 16, 2008

haiku wednesday

This week's words are

she concocts in her kitchen
awkward failed taste test

obsessed stalker lurks
awkward lunge through kitchen door
kitten and sunlight

kitchen remodel
obsessed owner, lax builder
awkward schedule slip

in kitchen I weep
awkward email left on screen
she's obsessed with him

January 14, 2008

jar full of pennies

jar full of pennies

It's only a penny,
the grownup, he mumbles,
and walks away counting his dollars.
But we all know better,
the dreamers in us,
the little boys, toddlers, and crawlers.

We study it first,
and then pick it up
for we know the old rhyme and its meaning--
if heads up, it's good luck,
but tails is no worse,
if bright or in need of a cleaning.

It could be a rare one,
some infrequent mint
or an old one with wheat on its rear.
and maybe it's worth
ten thousand or more--
the only one left from its year!

If not, we don't mind
to exchange for a wish
by tossing it into a fountain,
or keep it perhaps
in a jar by our beds
for dreamin' and rollin' and countin'.

In hundreds they add up
in long snaky lines
as landscapes and roads for our Hot Wheels,
or fifty together
roll up nice and neat
to finance unlimited dream deals.

And now I'm all grown up,
I have to admit
that I still make a wish now sometimes,
and next to my desk
sits a jar full of pennies
it's just a small jar
my jar full of pennies
but I wouldn't trade it
my jar full of pennies
for thousands and thousands of dimes.

One of my writing goals for 2008 is to write at least one light verse every week in addition to my haiku wednesday and fiction friday posts. I will try to do this on Mondays.

January 11, 2008

Fiction Friday: departure

This Week’s Theme: Write a scene that ends with your character saying,
"I never want to see you again."

"But what does it mean?" Crystal could be so dense sometimes.

I'd been sitting on the corner of her bed, and as I stood I saw her profile in the dresser mirror. Long, blond hair; petite, upturned nose; those infuriatingly natural eyelashes framing her deep, crystal brown eyes. I looked away from the mirror, out the window. I didn't want to catch her eye until I composed myself first, so I shrugged.

"Debbie..." Crystal knelt on her bed and grabbed the pillow to her chest.

It had been a mistake to read the letter out loud to her, but she'd helped me so much in the past week. Ten days ago we were not much more than school friends, chem lab partners who hung out at free period so boys wouldn't bother us. This morning before the letter arrived we had become temporary roommates, and her mom did all the mom sorts of things for me--made my lunch with Crystal's before school, picked me up from the drug store each evening when my shift was over, set a place for me at the family table every night.

I leaned against the frame of the window, feeling the deep bruise in my ribs and my arm and savoring the dull pain. Ten days and I still didn't go to gym class because I couldn't bear changing in front of everyone with those huge blue bruises yellowing around the edges.


I breathed deep and turned to Crystal. She'd been such a good friend.

"Does it say anything else?"

I had stopped reading my mother's letter out loud at the point where it said, "and I'm moving to Houston with Jimmy." Crystal had gasped out loud because she knew what Jimmy had done to me, that the bruises were from his big hands and his empty vodka bottle. She knew I'd told my mother what he'd tried to do, that it was only because he was so drunk I got away before he could do it. For ten days Crystal had been preaching faith to me that my mother would kick the bastard out of the house, knowing I wouldn't move back in until she did.

Crystal reached out and took my hand. I could see tears forming in her eyes. "Debbie, does it say anything else?"

"Yes," I whispered. It says, "I never want to see you again."

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January 9, 2008

lunch in the plaza

I am a big fan of hawks in the city. They keep the pigeon population in check. This guy was just chowing down outside the Rincon Center in San Francisco at lunchtime today.

haiku wednesday

This week's words are

train's left the station
gossip fuels naive losers
election's over

hissed gossip frightens
naive fret and station guards
wind in the branches

slander, gossip, hate
am I naive to want that
station off the air

January 8, 2008

Write Stuff Poetry

Write Stuff Poetry Contest Rules
Vote Here (starting January 11th)

Here is my entry into the Write Stuff poetry contest for January, 2008. The theme is "cold, bitter," which seemed like a cheery and fun way to start the year.

One Day As We Grew Old
Said Miss Cold to Mr. Bitter, "I have known you all my life.
You humph, garumph, and moan about like all your days are filled with strife.
You kick at dogs and yell at children, Your angry wit is like a knife.
You've never had a single sweetheart! How come you never took a wife?"

Mister Bitter to Miss Cold replied in even-tempered tone:
"The only girl that ever mattered always chilled me to the bone.
Her icy stares did not impel me to call her on the telephone.
Her frozen shoulder did not make me want to make that girl my own.
Through years of cheerless drudge I foundered as I grew and aged alone,
but this one and only girl I longed for turned my heart to icy stone."

Miss Cold let loose a little sniff and wiped a false tear from her eye.
"Why, Mister Bitter, your tale's so sad I think I might lie down and die.
For years I hoped for the attentions of a certain handsome guy.
I tried to flirt but when I winked he said I had a screwy eye.
One day I tried to bake for him and made a special apple pie.
I made it sweet, with lots of butter-- he said that it might make him die.
So what's there for a girl to do but pine away and moan and sigh?
I thought that love was to be sweet, but not for me--oh why, oh why?"

The two of them just stood and gaped
for neither could the other bear,
but which is Cold and which is Bitter,
and is love ever really fair?

January 4, 2008

Fiction Friday: be it resolved

This Week’s Theme: What is the first New Year’s Resolution your character breaks? How soon? Why?

Laura Tiffany Tate McSmother
had it in for her little brother.
She'd punch one arm and then the other
and run away when he'd tell mother.

Oh, She was cruel and she was sly.
She'd pull his hair and make him cry,
then pour Tabasco in his eye,
and whisper "Joey, Mamma hopes you die."

When Christmas time approached this year,
and Santa asked if she'd been dear,
she said, "You bet your big, fat rear,"
and grinned all toothy, ear to ear.

But Santa must have seen her soul
cuz in her stocking he left coal.
She wept into her breakfast bowl
and vowed herself a New Year's Goal.

"I won't set Joey's hair afire
or call my little brother 'liar'
or wrap him up in fishing wire
or tie him to the pickup's tire.

I won't paint his favorite teddy green
or switch his juice for gasoline
or force him to eat lima beans...
I will no longer act so mean!

I will be kind, I will be sweet!
I'll say hello to those I meet.
And I won't stomp on Joey's feet.
My resolution is complete."

On New Years Day she tried, she did.
She really, really, really, really,
really, really, really did.
It helped a lot that Joey hid.

By nine a.m. she'd tried to smother
her incessantly annoying brother,
and lied about it to her mother.
Poor Laura Tiffany Tate McSmother.

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January 3, 2008

Blogger's new layout

I finally upgraded to the new Blogger layout. It's been fun playing around with it, and it's always nice to have a fresh look. Not sure I like this look as much as I should, but. Whatever.

January 2, 2008

haiku wednesday

This week's words are

search button, dumb luck
please pretend you like my site
comments ease winter

button press, bad luck
pretend fairy patterns lost
windshield ice erased

I press The Button
I pretend it isn't me
good luck, humankind

New year!

Thank goodness 2007 is over. There were highlights like meeting with White House advisers and the administrator of the Small Business Administration and a record year in the charitable giving campaign I help run, but there were also a lot of awful things and challenges.

2008 started on a high note, though. When I got to the office today and opened my mail, I found I had received a Service Excellence Award. Woo hoo! But it's probably all downhill from here.

January 1, 2008

New car!

The other car was officially deemed a total loss. We had a great experience with Livermore Subaru in buying the new one.