Sunday, February 22, 2009


Wanting to know an author because you like his work is like wanting to know a duck because you like paté.

Margaret Atwood

Monday, February 09, 2009

Flash Fiction #2

This is my 2nd try at flash fiction.  This time Patti Abbott asked anyone interested to send in three or four lines of a first paragraph.  Then she sent one of those to each of us and we had to do a 750 word story using whatever first paragraph she gave us.  The list of the other stories are here: Below is my story.  Remember the first paragraph isn’t mine and I don’t know who wrote it.  Yet.




          Davy Dunn was irritable. Stomping his black boots outside of Madison Garden, he bit his fifth cigarette out of a nine dollar deck of Marlborough Reds and smoked the hot marrow out like he wanted to taste the lips of hell.


          Ray was late and it was fucking cold. Colder than his old lady's heart. He blew out smoke that curled like a snake chasing a mongoose.  Shoving the stick in his mouth he clapped his leather-clad hands together.  They made a muffled sound as if they were underwater.  Dunn kept clapping but it didn't warm up his hands.


          Looking uptown he saw Ray limping his way toward him, the little prick.  He was wearing his grimy pea coat which was a size too big for him.  He'd told Ray to stop wearing the thing but Ray wouldn't listen.  He had on that brown cowboy hat that looked like a sewer rat had made it his last meal. Sometimes Dunn wondered why he kept the loser around.  But they'd known each other all their lives growing up in the Bronx, and the thing was Ray needed somebody to look after his sorry ass.


          "Hey, Davy."


          "You're late, asshole."


          "Sorry."  He looked down at the sidewalk.


          "Sorry ain't good enough, you moron."


          "I tole you not to call me that." 


          Dunn knew he shouldn't because Ray was something like a moron.  Retarded maybe.


          "You know how long I been standin out here waitin on you, Ray? Wanna know, huh?  My balls are like white hot ice."


          Ray looked up at him. "How can they be hot and ice at the same time?"


          "Shut the fuck up."


          "Sorry, Davy."


          "What're you doin wearin that asshole cowboy hat for? You know what it looks like?  Like somebody took a crap on it."


          "Nobody did."


          "Shut up I tole you.  I oughta leave you here.  You know how cold I am?"


          "Like hot ice balls."


          "Listen, Ray, you're gettin on my nerves."


          "Sorry, Davy."


          Dunn tore off a drag of his cigarette like a starving vampire, then blew the hot smoke into Ray's beat up face.  When they were kids Ray's old man used Ray like a football.  He kicked him anywhere he wanted.  If Ray was standing up he'd kick him in the nuts or ass.  Ray was sitting down he'd kick him in the face.  Broke his nose a dozen times until it looked like mashed potatoes.


          "So Davy, you got the tickets?"






          "Something wrong with your ears?"


          "I thought we was goin to the game."


          "Sold out."


          "You tole me you'd get them.  No problem, you said."  Ray's eyes began to fill.


          "Oh, here it comes."  Dunn wanted to bash him into the Garden wall like a rotten tomato.


          "I can't help it.  I was countin on the game, Davy."


          "Too bad.  Stop cryin like some pussy."


          "I wanted to go to the game.  You promised."


          "What's that smell?" Dunn said.




          "Yeah.  Like dirty feet or something."


          "Too cold to smell anything."


          Dunn leaned closer to Ray and took big long sniffs like he couldn't get enough.  Ray stepped back.


          "What're you doin Davy?"


          "Smellin the stink."


          "What stink?"


          "You. That pea coat. I tole you not to wear it no more, Ray."


          "I gotta, Davy. I don't have nothin else."


          "Well, you stink like rotten feet."


          "I'm sorry Davy."


          "You fuckin should be.  I have to smell it all night.  You can't even smell it with that nose, can you?"


          "Can't even smell my mom's corn beef no more."


          "Good thing.  She cooks like shit.  Everything she makes tastes the same."


          Ray looked at him with his brown eyes like slits in a devil Halloween mask.  "Don't, Davy."






          "What kind a thing is don't?"


          "It's what it says."


          "You're a dick."


          "I don't want you to say nothin about my mom, Davy."


          "I'll say anything I fuckin feel like sayin, moron."


          "And don't say that no more neither."


          "Listen you retard, you're lucky I let you hang out with me."  Dunn snapped the end of his cigarette into the street and watched it roll around the gutter until it stopped. "And your mother's meatloaf tastes like puke."


          Ray took two steps toward Dunn and shoved his knife through the black jacket and into Dunn's belly.


          "Ray." Dunn fell on his knees. He groaned then went over like a side of beef onto the freezing slab of sidewalk.

          Ray said, "Mom's meatloaf's the best."  He leaned over, pulled the knife out of Dunn, swiped the blood off the knife on his pea coat and limped downtown.


I’m back writing a novel and I’m so happy.  I feel like I’ve come home.  I’m not a short story writer, which doesn’t mean I’ll never write one.  But I’m so much more comfortable writing in this form. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Whether Or Not or Weather Or Not

I don’t seem to be doing too well.  I’m not able to stick to any schedule.  So in the morning it’s whether or not to write.  This is a question I never asked myself during years of writing novels.  I’ve tried to blame my vacillation on the weather, but I know that doesn’t make sense. 

Still, yesterday as the snow fell it was more a reading day to me than a writing day. I started off reading in bed, then moved to the living room and sat in a big comfy chair.  Although I could see the snow easily from my bedroom, the living room afforded me many more windows to watch through if I looked over my reading glasses.

But weather isn’t an excuse I would’ve taken if I had a contract for a novel.  Or maybe even if I was writing a novel without one.  I’m not sure this short story thing is for me.  I’ve always known that short story writing was an art unto itself.  And I always believed some people could and some couldn’t and I counted myself among the latter.

I’m used to the build of a novel, the many characters, the freedom .  A short story needs to be what it says: a story that’s short.  Concise.  It’s true that my novels have become lean in style, but there’s still a license that I don’t find in writing a short story.

I’ve written most of one story and the beginning of another.  I do like that I can go to any story I want on any given day.  Or start a new one without finishing another that I decide I’ll go back to.  Writing a novel I wouldn’t dream of starting a new chapter without finishing the last.

It worries me that if I start a novel my expectations will rise up and bite me.  I have an idea but it isn’t a burning idea.  It doesn’t keep me up at night or take my mind away from what I’m doing.  It’s just an idea.

I do believe I’d be more disciplined if I was writing a novel.  But so what? I see that I can start writing after nine in the morning.  That’s one thing that trying to write stories has given me.  I don’t have to be as inflexible as in the past.

So what if I started writing a novel and didn’t use my rigid schedule?  Would the novel writing police arrive?  Of course I’m the novel writing police.  What if I give writing a novel in a more relaxed fashion a chance? Although trying to write at least four days a week.  I think I’d be happier than attempting short stories and not getting to my desk more than two days a week at most.

There’s no one to stop me except me.  Still, I’ll have to stick to one rigidity.  I’d never start a novel on a Thursday.  I’ll think about this and then if that’s what I want to do I’ll start on Monday. 

I feel anxious simply thinking about it.  Maybe I have to let go of what day I start.  Maybe I have to let what happens happen.  Ohmigod!

Monday, February 02, 2009


"It's finding the emotional door you have to go through. You have to find a way, an angle in on the characters, so that your emotional dope, your limits, concerns, needs and hopes at that moment can be expressed through the vehicle of the made-up story. And then you have to shape the story as entertainment so other people can feel that same emotion."

Stephen King, on revising a novel