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The Serendipitous Event

I don’t like starting a story with a tragic event, but in truth, I’m beginning to feel like tragic events are no less significant than any other kind of event. I was thinking about that at the grocery store the other day, my total came to exactly $20.00. “It’s your lucky day” the cashier told me, smiling, finally something interesting, they must have just gotten the job.

Yes, it is interesting, serendipitous, that I should choose precisely the correct amount of vegetables and fruits that my total would amount to an even dollar amount. But really, I though, actually it is not so lucky, I mean why this obsessions with even numbers. In fact, every total purchase amount should be fortuitous, and lucky. Really, the person before me with eggs and milk $7.59, I wonder how often their purchase matches that exact amount.

I began to think about how tragic events are not so significant, really, as I walked out of the store. Why should they excite a reading more than a guy going to the grocery store?

So, as I crossed the street, lost in my thoughts, you can imagine I was only mildly shocked when I was struck forcefully by a car running the red-light.

– – –

A little story I found in my notebook the other day, you know it’s fictional because when would I be a customer and not a cashier at a grocery store?

Posted in Blogging, Stories by Preston on March 15th, 2012

Dear Preston,

When I woke up this morning, I sat up and realized I was shaking, trembling. I felt like my entire body was trying to fit itself into another dimension, but the laws of time and space where keeping me trapped. That’s how I felt when I woke up this morning, trapped.

And when I reached for the two pills on my bedside, the ones I always set down before I go to sleep, I couldn’t help but pay close attention to the way they felt, the little capsules in my palm, and their movement as they slid down my throat and esophogus. It was almost surreal, but in a familiar sort of way. And then… the phone rang, and I was struck, not with the urgency to answer it, but with the energy and vivacity of its sound. It was almost alien, like someone was trying to contact me from another universe.

But then I tried to stand up and reality fell upon me like a cinderblock pressing me to the ground. My legs shook as I attempted to stand up and without warning, I felt a sudden coldness, like my body was being filled with ice-water. The phone continued to ring, and I knew it was you. But the more I attempted to answer it, the more I began to fear missing it, the more my fascination began to fade, the colder my body began to feel. Something was pulling me towards some mysterious shadowy country that I had never before seen, and the more I resisted, the harder I was pulled; and the harder I was pulled, the more I feared, until finally my knees locked and I stood, bracing the nightstand for support, only to fall to the floor sobbing.

When, finally, I was able to stand again and walk to the bathroom, I turned the warm water on and set my hands in the sink until control slowly crept back into my body. But as this happened, I realized that the control is only an illusion, a cheap trick our mind plays on our body, until our bodies grow weak, and no matter the strength of the mind, the strings the mind uses to waltz our bodies around like marionettes are cut one by one.

I have not grown isolated and cynical here in this small town, Ged and Maria visit me a couple times a week when they walk their dog, and I have Tom Shepherd the local sheriff stay to chat every Wednesday evening, he says the kids don’t make much of a ruckus when it isn’t the weekend. I enjoy my days here, even if I occasionally miss seeing you and your brothers.

But this morning, even after I had regained some false sense of dominance over my functions, I could no longer keep myself from knowing that every movement, every intention, every yearning, was driven by fear; fear of this incomprehensible void that has followed me my entire life.

And so I have written you this letter to tell you that, for once in my life, I have made the decision to let the final marionette string be cut, to face the void. I cannot continue to live in fear any longer, but if it be the way of the universe, I will die gladly in full embrace with the void.

But before I leave, you must know that my love for you, for everyone, is greater than I can describe, and unceasing. My body will not be here when you arrive, but my presence is, and has always been, with you. Illness, oldness, and death await me on the voyage to peak of Mount Henry, and with every emphatic step I take, from here to the end, I will meet them like old friends.

With abiding peace and love,

Charles

– – –

A letter one of my characters wrote to me today. A version of this will go into the book. The problem I’ve been dealing with is that the book is being written in first person, so I have no way to get the inners thoughts and feelings of the other characters out unless they’re telling them themselves to me, or in a letter. This letter is based off of a section of a story in which a dam is failing and the old man’s (Charles) house will be in the spill zone when they release the dam, but clearly, Charles has other issues on his mind. And the name, Charles, by the way, is a filler name. I don’t see myself sticking with it.

Posted in Stories by Preston on February 21st, 2012

“I know.”

I stood at the register, my feet holding the ground solidly beneath me. I wore a slight smile, the kind you can wear all day, as customers passed me by like waves, my hands pulling the cans of tomatoes and stalks of broccoli and celery over the little red eye in seeming slow-motion. Like a meditation, it was so simple, only the moment existed and I knew it, yet, secretly, I was indifferent to it. Every passing breath as empty as the moment that held it. Until a familiar man and woman came to the register. When I had first met them, many years ago, they were children and so was I. But here they were, before me, smiling, jolly with holiday cheer, ignorant of the moments passing before them, splashing them in the face.

I greeted them. They looked like they might be a couple, now, after all these years, and they’re together. 10 years in the same school. It’s enough to make this big city seem like a small town. They weren’t paying together. She just wanted a few chocolates, he wanted a soda. It was christmas eve, home for the holidays, holiday spirit. We must imagine each other to be such ordinary folk, but really, you, I, and our families, are as dainty and civilized as our cheap, tawdry smiles.

Of course, none of that really matters anymore. We’ve all grown up. I work in a grocery store, they live their lives. I couldn’t ever forget they’re faces, even now. Signs of age and maturity emanated from their pores. Let them have their life, I thought. Enough time has passed. Like moments, we move on. Still, the sight of them made my name-tag feel suddenly heavy on my collar.

“Is your last name Palmer?” he asked me. He had to ask me. I was surprised he hadn’t asked sooner.

“Yes. It is.” Here we go.

“We used to go to school together.”

“I know,” I said, maybe hoping to surprise them, confuse them. They’ll enjoy chatting about it later, I figured. Yes. I know we went to school. Do you remember? Do you remember how we related to one another back then, in those halls and classrooms. I remember it all, but I’m too old to hold a grudge, and too old to pretend like we’ve ever known each other any differently.

“It’s been a while,” I say, taking a $10 bill from him and making change in the drawer.

“Yes it has, how are you?”

“I’m alright, in school, you?”

It feels strange. I hope they don’t consider this “reconnecting with an old friend.” 10 years together and we have always been strangers. But the boy you knew then is a stranger to me too. I just cant seem to help myself here, smiling like a man with too much to say, saying, “well, have a nice holiday,” as you walk away.

Yes. It’s fun to see a familiar face after such a long time. Perhaps when we meet again, instead of stopping, when you see me, you will walk silently by, your hand in hers, moments washing over you like rain. And I will be fine, making my own friends, who remember when they first met me, who know who they are.

Posted in Blogging, Stories by Preston on December 25th, 2011

Wrong Choice, Adam

I’ve always wanted to write a never-ending story, but I never have, so here is my own version of one. I feel like it says some very interesting things about the nature of writing and the nature of life itself. At a certain point in writing this, I realized that the only thing that could allow the story to be never-ending was by forcing the character to make that decision. Certain loops can be forced into a story by means of extraneous information, but if the character himself decides to go through the whole thing again, even if he made the decision unwittingly or forcefully, I feel like the story carries much more weight. Poor Adam, unfortunately for him, he cannot write his own story. He is a slave to my pen. Perhaps we are all just slaves to some mysterious hand’s pen. Or perhaps we really do control our fate. Regardless, it certainly is eery when things start to repeat themselves…

You can technically begin the story anywhere and just scroll back up to the top when you reach the bottom, I decided to start it at the same place I started writing the story. What do you think, is there a better place to start the story? Does it even matter?

Click here and read more after the jump…

Posted in Stories by Preston on November 3rd, 2011

Arthur Hated Words

Arthur hated words, he despised them. Not every word, mind you, but certain words made him sick, just the thought of them. Sometimes he even hated entire categories of words, like names of countries, or adverbs that don’t end in “ly.” One of the first words he started hating was the word “it.” He couldn’t stand it, not for a second. He would turn his paper in to the teacher and get marked for redundancy, be he didn’t care, the word was simply too foul, awful, it put a bad taste in his mouth.

But it didn’t end there. As he got older, Arthur began to discover that he had begun to loathe more and more words every month. His essays began to get more difficult to write.

It wasn’t like he was deliberately hating words. In fact the whole situation bothered him a great deal. Sort of like when his parents made pea-soup for dinner one night and it made him nauseous. He had never even considered the possibility of pea-soup before that night, but when he smelled it, tasted it, the texture, it was no good. He was really sorry, it almost brought him to tears but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t -want- to hate it, he just did.

But this hatred for words was beginning to get tedious for Arthur, not to mention frustrating. It was taking him all night to write a simple two page paper. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when the use of numbers in sentences started making him sick and he had to write that science report. His paper was full of “seventy-eight thousand two-hundred ninety-three meters”, and so on. He even got marked down for it, but there was nothing he could do. He was helpless. His teachers were already extremely concerned, especially after the use of pronouns dropped entirely from his writing. But they figured if they marked him down for it, then it would stop. They didn’t realize the severity of Arthur’s situation, this was something beyond his control.

Click here and read more after the jump…

Posted in Stories by Preston on October 19th, 2011

Floating: Into the Horizon (A Portrait)

Everyone knew it would come, it was just a matter of time. But that didn’t mean they prepared. Decades had passed with the same warnings, the same facts repeated over and over. But it was always somewhere else, hurricane in the gulf, the torrential rains and massive flooding in Southern Asia. All of it added up, all of it meant something, but nobody listened.

Even when the final act was building up. It was like everyone just ignored it. Andrew supposed some of them, most of them, were probably in shock, but that was no excuse, it was their fault anyway. He didn’t consider himself a religious person, but he was considering it. Perhaps it would do him some good if he really was the only one left, he thought.

He lay on his back looking up at the cloud-less sky imagining the moment; a giant hand reaching down from the sky out of no-where, and Andrew would paddle up and step on the index finger and be lifted into the sky. That’s how it would happen.

He laughed out-loud, but got quiet suddenly. It had been days since he had heard any voice, even his own. There was nothing anymore. The girl at the grocery store with the braces, the woman from down the street with the dog that Andrew swore had never left it’s owner’s arms since birth, the old man who snuck out to the front porch every night to smoke so his wife wouldn’t know; they were all gone. But none of them mattered anymore. None of them ever mattered he told himself; certain, in a cautious kind of way. He sat up lazily and looked around the medium sized boat. But something was off, something didn’t feel right. He realized at once what it was: Bear was missing.

Click here and read more after the jump…

Posted in Stories by Preston on February 9th, 2011

Doesn’t Matter Where You Stand: Part 1

Matthew looked out at the concrete landscape with awe; giant buildings stood like dead trees in a field of dirt and rock and steel. He tried to imagine what great meaning these monsterous towers must have had to his great grandfather. Now they stood as monuments to confusion and regret and short-sightedness.

He looked up and down, taking in the strength of the building. He figured he must be on something like the 30th floor, which was hardly the top, even though much of the exterior had been ripped away by the fierce winds filled with ice and sand.

He knew night would be coming soon, considering how long it had taken him to get to where he was standing. He would probably sleep there, too dangerous to try and get back to the village. Storm clouds could be heard in the distance and he could see them, but storms were so common now, neither the sound or the sight surprised him. An old man in the village had said a few years back, “It’s like living in a world that’s constantly falling apart.” But this was so obvious to the people they laughed when they heard it. Even their steel roofs melted slowly under the regular acid rain.

He was suddenly aware of how long he had been staring, how much he enjoyed looking out over the world. His mother had spent so much time crying about all they had to give up, but Matthew never understood. What were all these things that had to be sacrificed? Food was scarce, but so were the people looking for it. If you were clever enough, you could find it. And emergency water-lines that had been built underground would supply them for at least the next few years. But there were these other things, societies, schools, companies, all these things that existed only as mysteries to be pondered, until they became folklore; like oxidized iron, history dissolving into mythology.

A cold, bitter breeze swept through the floor, and he knew it was about to rain. He took a few steps back from the ledge and turned to look through to the other side. Hardly anything remained, though Matthew had a hard time imagining what could have occupied this space. It was just a maze of steel, on top of more steel. The rain began harshly, but he didn’t notice it, until he heard dripping from up ahead, near the staircase he had ascended.

He followed the noise slowly, careful not to make any wrong step and fall 30 stories to his death. The dripping was coming from a broken piece of tubing, still suspended from the ceiling. As the water fell, it made a soft patting noise before it collected in a pool on the floor. He quickly discovered that the water was hitting a small plant before it hit the concrete. The plant, a miniature version of what must have been a tree, had been grown in a small wooden box. Its branches stuck out awkwardly, and its roots were poking through cracks in the box. Medium sized leaves clung to the branches, but with vigor and pride, taunting Matthew in his infirmity.

He knelt down, trying to stay clear of the spatter, and he inspected it. The leaves were so green, and the trunk and branches were a rich brown. He hesitated, but then plunged his hands into the dripping water, lifting the small box. As he raised it slowly, the wet, rotten wood disintegrated in his fingers, leaving him with just a handful of dirt and the rich, vibrant tree in the center.

He knew instantly the importance of this discovery and he cursed aloud at himself for his impatience, his greed. The rain outside began to pick up in intensity, and the winds brought the smell of decay. It was becoming very difficult to see anything, so he set the plant back down in the puddle and began to look for a place to rest until the storm passed.

Posted in Stories by Preston on February 4th, 2011

Marian took her heel. Story #2

I once knew a girl named Marian; she’s not a girl anymore, though.

I remember the first time I saw her with her brown hair, frizzy in the summer heat. She was short then, but we all were. I was walking my German shepherd, Casper, down the street when I saw her. I stopped in silent awe as Casper stopped to sniff the ground. Her friends stood behind her as she strutted down the sidewalk, walking on her tiptoes so it would seem like she was wearing stilettos. The dried out lawn and boulevard on either side of her seemed to accentuate her beauty. The freckles on her cheeks looked like glitter and she puckered her lips to kiss the invisible audience waiting for her at the end of the pretend runway. Her friends squirmed and giggled when she turned, and that’s when she saw me. Casper had long since finished his sniffing business and had taken a seat at my side, panting thoughtlessly. As if she knew she was already holding the strings to my heart, she paused, threw her hip to the side and blew me a kiss, and then continued down the runway, never looking my direction again.

I thought I could stand to wait a few more minutes, but Casper had his own plans. A bunny had emerged from beneath some hostas, and we were off, but Marian was not gone.

Her friends thought she was going to grow up to be one of the best models, and wear expensive dresses, and date rich men. I thought so too. I didn’t stand a chance. But Marian wasn’t sure. She knew that when her friends left, she would go back inside and have to take the empty beer-bottle out of her father’s hand and put it in the recycling. She knew that when her mom got home there would be yelling about how her father didn’t take care of her. But Marian thought he did okay, she could take care of herself anyway. And he was better drunk and passed out than drunk and awake.

I didn’t know that Marian. I knew the Marian that was standing out on the sidewalk, giving her friends instructions on how to be a supermodel.

And while I had fallen for her, I hadn’t fallen far enough. I remember how I would walk down her street day after day, whenever I walked Casper. Sometimes she wouldn’t be there, sometimes she was alone drawing pictures in chalk on the sidewalk, and sometimes she was with her friends. Before I knew it, she really was gone; disappearing into a world I assumed she knew far more about than I did.

And soon enough, she didn’t have to stand on her tiptoes; the empty space was filled with shoes of all colors and prices. Her strength and determination turned into weakness and vulnerability. She felt like she was in over her head. At least, that’s what she told me the other day. Marian, the girl who I had admired for some reason I still don’t understand, became a woman. We drank iced tea, as buses and cars zoomed by in front of us. We choked on the stale fumes and savored them. The fumes had been in our blood since we were children; like naïveté, it had not left us.

Click here and read more after the jump…

Posted in Stories by Preston on July 31st, 2010