People Change – An Experiment

People change.
They leave and they come and they go.

People change.
They aren’t the same as they were yesterday.

People change.
They have good days. They experience kindness, and know small steps lead to amazing things. The world is beautiful.

People change.
They have bad days. They get hurt and turn inward. They believe stories that speak to their fears. The world is full of darkness.

People change.
They use perceived slights to feed the hatred growing inside. They build walls. They think something is being taken from them by people who don’t look the way they do. They refuse to see what they have taken away from others.

People change.
They see sadness in someone else’s eyes, and it stays with them. They see injustice, and they know it’s not how things should be.

People change.
They know the road is long, that sometimes you rest, but you don’t have to quit. They choose not to be afraid.

People change.
They aren’t the same as they were yesterday.

People change.
They leave and they come and they go.

 

 

*******

 

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

 

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Reddit Writing Prompt – Immortal (For Sarah)

The prompt,

You’re one of the universe’s few immortals. You’ve witnessed stars forming, studied life on remote planets, and seen the evolution of numerous sentient life forms. Today you were laid off after working at McDonald’s for twelve years.

*******

“What the hell happened?”

“No idea. Mark pulled me into his office and blabbered on for, like, twenty minutes, and then he’s just like, you’re fired.”

“Son of a bitch.”

“Right?” Kipp leaned back against the driver’s door of his Chevy Cobalt. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from the inside pocket of his jacket, “I just, I don’t know what to say.”

Pash crossed her arms and sneered, “You know, I bet it was Cynthia. She’s had it out for you forever.”

“Cynthia? Really? So twelve years is down the tubes because I wouldn’t make out with her at the Christmas party last year?” Kipp dug a lighter out of his front pants pocket and lit the cigarette.

“Christmas party? Isn’t she like eighty years old?”

“She’s only sixty three Pash,” Kipp half closed one eye and gazed off into the distance, “We connected on some really weird level.”

Pash’s lips were in a thin, tight line as she watched Kipp.

“Hey, she was hot when she was younger. You get a sense for these things after a while.”

“Wait, did you say twelve years?”

Kipp took a long drag from the cigarette, “I don’t even know why I’m upset. Shit, the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done, and after twelve years I couldn’t do any better than a bloody fry cook?”

Pash looked Kipp up and down, “Seriously dude, how old are you?”

“I don’t know that I’ll ever understand this place. I didn’t know there was such a thing as being petty before I came here.”

“I was like, not even in kindergarten twelve years ago…”

“What’s the saying? Something about a train wreck, or a car accident maybe. You can’t look away. That’s me I guess, I didn’t look away, so here I am.”

“But you don’t look…”

“Even that shithole out on the edge of the Cygnus Arm, bag of dicks those guys, but at least they didn’t pursue extinction on a daily basis.”

“What the hell’s a signus arm?”

“I mean honestly,” Kipp exhaled a stream of smoke through pinched lips, “I’ve seen balls of slime that were more supportive of each other.”

Pash’s eyes were wide, focused on the pavement in front of Kipp.

“No really, slime balls. That was out past, what the hell was it called? I think it was in the Columba Supercluster anyway. Granted they had the collective acumen of paste, but they were good to each other,” Kipp looked toward the sky and smiled to himself, “Anyway, if I was waiting for a sign, I’m pretty sure this is it.”

He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. He pulled cards out one by one and let them spin to the pavement. He palmed the last, it was brightly coloured and covered in strange writing. He removed a small stack of bills and held them out, “Here, take it. You’re a good kid Pash, and I sure as hell won’t be needing it anymore.”

Pash stared at Kipp, her mouth slack. Slowly she reached out and grabbed the money.

“Alright, stay cool, or whatever the hell it is you kids say these days,” Kipp dropped his empty wallet to the pavement and then lifted the card in front of his face. He drew the tip of his index finger along a metallic strip on the edge. There was a faint pop, and then a distinct absence of Kipp.

Pash licked at her lips, looked to her left, and then to her right. She folded the bills and slipped them into her pocket, and then lifted the visor cap from her head and smoothed out her dark hair, “I think I need a day off.”

*******

This is for my friend Sarah who said I should check out the Reddit Writing Prompts, and then for days hounded me nearly to death to see if I had written anything. Okay, so she actually only asked me once in passing. It’s nice to try something different once in awhile, even if it makes you realize that you’re getting old and have no idea how young people talk to each other. Anyway, here’s the Reddit link in case you want to see some of the other responses.

 

unsplash-logoMohdammed Ali

99 Words #26 – The Raven

“Anything?”

“No.”

Sean squinted and rubbed at his earlobe, “I thought you said they’d be here soon?”

“Yes. Soon.”

“But, you said that, like, twenty minutes ago. And twenty minutes before that.”

Torben focused a dark eye on Sean.

“Soon. Got it.” Sean looked back past the ridge, and over the clutch of snow tipped Spruce trees, “It’s just, I need to know they’re alright.”

Torben turned. He stretched out his neck and shifted on his feet, “It’s time.” He spread his wings and launched into the air, feathers shining like obsidian in the light of the rising sun.

*******

unsplash-logoDean Truderung

Inspire Your Audience

I wanted to share something important for my 100th post, and this is immediately what came to mind. It was written as my tenth speech for Toastmasters, the project was to “Inspire Your Audience”, and I chose to do so by highlighting three quotes. It was one of the hardest projects I’ve done to date, not necessarily because of the subject matter, but because I wanted to do it justice. I hope it brings you some inspiration, or motivation as the case may be.

 

*******

You Are Dying

This is the opening line of a spoken word piece by Shane Koyczan called “Pinned to the Dish.” In this he speaks about regrets and missed opportunities. He asks,

What Are You Waiting For

It’s easy for us to resist change even though our current path leads to all kinds of unproductive situations. We make excuses because we’re afraid. We say things like, I’m not good enough. I don’t have time. Or it’s too late, I’m too old. Well, the first two are easy, you are, and you will if you make it a priority. The last one I struggle with, because I often hear it from people who are far too young to have anything to complain about. And so, in response I offer you quote #1.

It's Never Too Late

I like this one a lot, but the problem is that George Eliot didn’t say it. It actually comes from a passage in “The Ghost in the Picture Room” written in 1859 by Adelaide Anne Procter,

 

No star is ever lost we once have seen,

We always may be what we might have been.

 

What I’m learning lately is that for many the most productive and rewarding years of their life aren’t until much further down the line. In fact, there are people all around us who have changed direction late in life and had a huge impact. George Eliot didn’t write quote #1 but was in fact a renowned author. She didn’t publish her first novel until the age of 40. I said she, because George Eliot was the pen name for Mary Anne Evans.

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I shouldn’t have to explain why a woman might want to adopt a male pen name in the late 1800’s, or today for that matter, but what I like to take away from this is that she wanted to write, and she found a way.

 

 

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Annie Proulx is the author of five novels, including The Shipping News and Postcards. You may be more familiar with a short story she wrote that was later turned into an Academy Award winning movie called Brokeback Mountain. This past November, at the age of 82, she won a National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. This was amusing to her as she didn’t start writing fiction until she was 58.

 

 

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Link to image

This is Charles Bradley, also known as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”. He was 62 years old when he released his first studio album, “No Time For Dreaming”. It was named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 50 albums of 2011. The follow up, “Victim of Love” came out in 2013. “Changes” was released in 2016. That same year, in October, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He fought hard and it was thought to have gone in to remission, but on September 6, 2017 he announced that he was cancelling all upcoming tour dates to focus on treatment as it had moved to his liver. 17 days later he passed away at the age of 68.

Welcome to quote #2,

The Problem Is

According to the internet this comes from the teachings of Buddha, but it’s actually based on a much longer passage in the third book of the Don Juan series, Journey to Ixtlan.

There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time … If you don’t think your life is going to last forever, what are you waiting for? Why the hesitation to change?

 

 

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This is my mother in-law, Jane Arams. In September of 2014, just before her 62nd birthday, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastic Colon Cancer. She passed away in July of 2016. I had never experienced a loss like this before, but watching a life that was once so vibrant, diminish as it did, made me realize how much I take for granted every day.

Shortly before she passed, I found out that she had always wanted to see the Penguins at the Calgary Zoo, but didn’t get the chance. At that point she had been admitted to a palliative care facility and there was no turning back. It was something so small, but it still sticks with me today. Never mind that she won’t see her grandchildren grow, or get to experience retirement, even though she hadn’t needed to work for a number of years. It opened my eyes to all that I don’t make time for, or that I set aside, waiting for “one day”.

None of us lives forever, but some small hope comes in the form of quote #3, and the closing line of “Pinned to the Dish”,

Don't Panic

I have struggled over the past few years with putting perceived obligations to work and to my family ahead of my own needs. I resisted steps to change because I didn’t want to let certain people down, but the fact is, by playing small and setting aside my hopes and dreams, I was in fact letting everyone down, most importantly myself. The way I look at it, life is like an emergency situation on an airplane in that you need to put your own mask on first. By taking care of yourself, by being happy and living your best life, you are giving everyone around you permission to do the same. With this realization in mind I decided to take some very small steps in a new direction.

This pile of paper (you’ll have to use your imagination here) represents 47,000 words of my first novel. I have a plan in place to self publish this, and a collection of short stories before the end of the year. I’m generally pretty hard on myself, but it’s a fact I am not extraordinary. If I can do this then anyone can. And so I ask all of you,

What Are You Waiting ForWhat can you do in the next thirty days to begin the journey to fulfilling your dreams? There’s still time. Don’t wait any longer.

Thank you.

 

99 Words #25 – Boots

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“Get the gun outta my face!”

“I said gimme your boots man…”

His hair was soaked with sweat. One eye was almost swollen shut. The cuffs of his jeans were damp. There was a ragged hole at his thigh with a ring of crimson soaking into the material and trailing down his leg. His feet were scratched and raw at the soles. The pinky toe on his left foot was missing the nail.

“Listen, I don’t want any trouble.”

The man steadied the revolver and pulled the hammer back, “Take ‘em off and walk away, won’t be no trouble.”

 

*******

unsplash-logoMarcus Cramer

Written in response to Carrot Ranch Communication’s January 18, 2018 Flash Fiction Writing Challenge prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots.

January 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

 

Homework Gone Awry: And Now For Something Completely Different

Stuart rubbed at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. The words on the page still weren’t making much sense. He wasn’t sure if it was fatigue or his inability to grasp the benefit of understanding the intricate social system of a German cockroach.

The latch on the door behind Stuart clicked, and then clacked. The sound of shuffling feet materialized in to Darryl sliding across the living room floor. His hands were deep in the pockets of his tattered bath robe. The hems of his pajama pants left trails in the dust. Stuart’s gaze followed as Darryl stopped in the middle of the room. Through greasy bangs a concerned look flashed across his eyes.

“Hey, listen. Ya hear that?”

Stuart looked around the dim room. “Hear what?”

“Shh. Quiet.”

In all fairness, Stuart didn’t know what he should have been listening for. It may not have on any other day, but the noise that resembled the painful regurgitation of a distressed sheep took him by surprise. The shock lasted only a moment before he was hit with an intense aroma.

“For the love of Christ, my mouth was open!”

Stuart turned away, the book in his hands now flattened against his nose. He looked back to see the concern in Darryl’s eyes turn to mischief and a sly smile cross his face.

“Ya like that do ya?” Darryl pursed his lips and raised his nose, “There’s a hint of something special there, it’s sort of Oakey.”

“It’s like you just shit a burning log is what it’s like.”

“Come on now, probably won’t be no lasting effects.”

“Go kick a ball Darryl.”

Darryl dropped his head and continued across the room, “Don’t go gettin’ all hurt, you’ll live.”

“I know I’ll live, it’s you I’m worried about!”

Darryl didn’t answer as he passed through the darkened bathroom door.

Stuart sighed, “I need to find a new place to live.”

 

*******

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

Michael

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“Michael, is that you?”

“Yes Charles, I’m here.”

“Where… where are we?”

“In a safe place Charles.”

“I can’t feel my legs. Why can’t I feel my legs?“

“It’s for the best.”

“Is this… Oh God no. It was you all along, wasn’t it? But why?”

“The reasons why will serve you no purpose. Not now. Focus instead on what is to come.”

“Michael please, I can’t…”

“I’m afraid you don’t have a choice Charles. You see, I’ve decided to make you my special project. The others, the cases that bolstered your career, they were gifts. I have decided you will not be like the others.”

“But, Rachel and Casey, what will they…”

“What will they do without you? Well, let’s talk about that shall we? Young Casey, abandoned by his father, how long do you think it will be before he starts to act out, to get in to trouble? And Rachel, she’ll be so heartbroken, so scared. As young and beautiful as she is, it won’t be long until another comes along to replace you.”

“Don’t do this Michael, please…”

“Focus Charles! You are responsible for everything that is about to happen. You brought this upon yourself, and on your family.

“No…”

“It’s time. Let’s begin.”

 

*******

 

This was written awhile back in response to a prompt that Sacha Black had sent out requesting “208 words on a villain”, but since I apparently don’t deal well with deadlines when it comes to writing I did not submit. It did however seem like a good post for today. I hope you enjoy it.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

The Flood – Part 20

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The first drops of rain hit my face. I wipe at them and my hand comes away the colour of red clay. It hardly registers. I’ve been running on pure adrenaline, but I can feel the tank is almost empty.

Whatever the hell those things are, I’m positive they’re toying with us. They never get closer than about thirty feet out, and they’ve been doing circles around the boat and the barn for the last twenty minutes. They’re trying to wear us down, and it’s working.

Tess is calling to me. She’s wrapped in a blanket, propped up against her sister. Her face is gaunt, her eyes are hollow. It hurts me so bad to see her this way that I nearly forget what’s going on around us.

“Tess?”

“Dad, Grandma says it’s time. It’s time to make all the bad things go away.”

She pulls back a corner of tarp. I don’t know what it is, but the chaotic tangle of wires and repurposed machinery has John’s name written all over it. It’s beautiful. That’s the only way I can put it. It doesn’t make sense, but it feels important.

I’m distracted by a commotion in the water. They’re coming for us. I can see their dark eyes for the first time, and I sense no hesitation.

My hand is drawn to the small red button set on one corner of the machine. There’s an audible click as it hits home, and then the world is bathed in light.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue

 

 

The Flood – Part 19

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I’m flat on my back. There’s a trickle of warmth on my left temple, and a hint of copper on the air. The girls are screaming, but it sounds like they’re at the far end of a tunnel.

“Dad! It’s coming back!”

I feel more than hear the impact. It’s like someone hit a tree with a sledgehammer. I manage to get up on all fours in time to see the creature’s wake moving away from us.

“Oh my God, there’s another one!” I follow Zoe’s shaking hand. This one is bigger. It’s pushing hard against the current and coming right for us. I reach out for the girls, “Get in the middle. Stay down!”

The front of the boat lifts at least two feet out of the water and then slams back down. I’ve got a shoe in my face and Tess is sprawled on top of my legs. Zoe rights herself and edges toward the back of the boat. Tess picks up the journal and cradles it in one arm while brushing at the cover with her free hand. I heard the hull give that time. I scramble to get upright and cold water soaks into the knees of my pants.

I think I’ve lost track of them, until a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky and I spot them about fifty feet out. They’re moving away from each other as they come closer to the boat. Oh God, they’re flanking us. I think this is it.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue

 

 

The Flood – Part 18

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The sun is setting. At least I’m pretty sure it is. You have to pay attention to the subtle change in the colour of the clouds from day to night. The sun hasn’t broken through at all the last couple of days.

It’s been hours since the girls said a single word in my direction. Tess hasn’t even looked at me. I got mad at her earlier. She was crying, but I thought she was faking it. I didn’t realize that her tears had run out. We’re all dehydrated. I need to be more careful.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. There’s not much else to do. I’ve been wondering what we could have done differently. How we could have been better prepared. I wonder about John. I come up with scenarios where he is still safe. Where most people are safe. Maybe even Janine. The problem is I’m not a very good story teller. I am pretty good at lying to myself though.

The wind picks up. It’s warm, and there’s a hint of moisture that I’m not fond of. The clouds are shifting around us, twisting and turning in on themselves. Out of nowhere there’s a flash of lighting that hits somewhere behind the barn. The sky cracks like it’s trying to split apart. We’re all frozen, waiting for what’s next. It doesn’t come from above us though. Something hits the front of the boat hard. I reach out to stop myself from falling, but my hand slips.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue