I love carnivals. Carnies are my people and always have been. I realize that might sound odd since most carny folk are pretty sketchy, but in my heart, I’m pretty sketchy. I am truly one left turn from a flask in my pocket, a wrench in my hand and a sleeping bag on a blowup mattress in a shitty little camper parked in a field outside Stockton. It’s the low end of my theatre world but, honestly, theatre folk are all carnies at heart. We live outside the lines, we operate according to our own rules and values, we shine up the fake and false until, in the dim pink lights it all looks like gold and glamour, silk and velvet, youth and beauty. Until closing time, until the work lights come on and then it’s broken plastic with flaking paint, stained polyester scarves wrapped around brassy red hair framing a 46 year old face lighting up a Camel. It’s smoke and mirrors, it’s lies and cons, it’s the business of show…oh I love me some carnies, because no matter how hard and cynical, no matter how broken the outfit, when you set it all up and the sun goes down and the lights come on…even we get caught up in the magic of it. We might think we’re the grifters but at the end of the day we’re the ones who keep chasing the dream.
Category Archives: Creative Writing
Tommy carried the fresh bottles of brandy and whisky in from the stock room only to find a young man sitting at the bar. This was both odd and not odd at all. Odd because he’d locked up about an hour ago and not odd because after lock-up was when his real work as The Bartender started. The Jukebox was softly playing “How Can You Sing” by Front Country. Ooookaaaay…so a little crisis of the soul? Considering the young man was wearing a clerical collar coupled with the song, yeah crisis of the soul.
Tommy leaned against the back bar. That’s when the guy finally looked up. Tommy saw the anguish in his eyes.
Tommy held up the two bottles, “Brandy or Whisky?”
One side of the guys mouth kicked up just a tiny bit, “Brandy I guess.”
“Good man. It’s a cold night and brandy helps to warm both the body and the soul.” Tommy placed the brandy glass in front of the guy and poured one for himself.
“I’m not sure brandy will be enough to warm my soul tonight.”
Tommy sighed, “Well some nights are darker than others eh? But then that’s what company is for right? That’s why we talk to each other.”
The guy smiled softly, “I have to admit I love the irony of a Priest coming to a Bartender for…confession if you will.”
Tommy chuckled, “You aren’t the first and I hope you won’t be the last because different than the way your Church’s confession process works, I don’t give absolution because it’s not mine to give, it’s yours to find in the safety of companionship on a dark cold night. So confess if that is what is on order for tonight or we can talk about baseball or music or books until whatever it is that is causing those shadows in your eyes lightens up.”
The young priest’s smile grew, “What do you like to read?”
Tommy lit a smoke and pulled his stool up, “Better to ask what don’t I like to read, it’s a much shorter list.”
Slowly the Jukebox faded up Deb Talan’s “Comfort” and the conversation of books wandered slowly to thoughts and ideas and doubts and despair and finally to the hope that can only be found in compassionate company.
Filed under Creative Writing
Carry The Curse
You know what they say about deals with the Devil? Well they’re right. The Devil always wins.
I knew who he was. I can’t claim ignorance or even that he conned me.
I did it anyway.
Maybe I had a choice, maybe not. In the end I couldn’t see any other way. Lu knows everyone’s Achilles heel otherwise he wouldn’t have a single signed contract. Mine was Delia. Sweet, sunny Delia…my little sister. She was standing at a crossroads as so many teens do and that sonuvbitch was about to tip the scales with my sister on the losing side. I also knew this wasn’t about Delia…it was about me. He wanted me either in his pocket or out of the game entirely. I had already told him he could fuck his pocket. So that only left getting me out of the game.
My Granny told me long ago my ego would lead me straight to hell and she was right. But she also said it would give the Devil a black eye if I had the guts to carry the weight.
So I here I sit, staring at the Bullet on the table and the Gun across the room. I can feel the curse twisting towards me, stopping just short of my skin. Gotta have my permission first. That’s the way Lu works. He’ll back your ass into a corner with a knife at someone else’s throat and then smile saying, “It’s all up to you, yes or no?”
I took a deep breath and looked at the beautiful golden-haired man straight in his pale blue icy eyes.
“It’s very simple Michaela, you carry the Bullet, I carry the Gun. I leave your family alone as long as you carry the Bullet and after you ask for the Gun, well, it won’t matter to you what I do by then. If you drop the Bullet you will be in breach of contract and Delia, as well as any others I so choose from your bloodline are forfeit.”
I chuckled as I looked up at him.
“Oh Lu I am looking forward to the day when you have to explain to Him why I am still walking the earth. Because you will have to explain you know? I won’t drop the Bullet and I won’t ask for the Gun. He, and the entire Heavenly Host, will forgive you long before I lose my resolve. I will carry this curse to the end of time and beyond if necessary.”
With that I grabbed the Bullet and gritted my teeth against a scream as the curse burned and twisted its way into my soul. I fell to the floor as the convulsions started. I have no idea how long it went on but Lu was sitting on the bed with a glass of whiskey in his hand when I came out of the seizures. I had vomited and pissed myself and I was pretty sure every tooth in my head was loose, but I still had that damn bullet in my hand.
“Micky, Micky, Micky, let go and I can make everything right again.”
I laid there and worked on remembering how to breathe. Then I slowly stood up, swaying only a little. The weight was…unbelievable. I could feel it pulling on my organs, but worse than that, I could feel it pulling on my mind. The ice in his glass clinked as our eyes met over the rim of the cut crystal. He smirked.
“Heavy isn’t it?’
“Yes.” My voice sounded like rusted chain on concrete.
“No.” I put the bullet in my pocket and staggered to the door.
“It will only get worse Micky.”
I turned my head to look at him over my shoulder, snarling, “I’m counting on it. That way I’ll always have a new level of hatred for you to keep me going.”
I stumbled out into the hallway and down the stairs into the hot, wet New Orleans night. I knew I had to get as far from the Gun as I could. It would ease a bit with distance. A bit was all I needed.
Filed under Creative Writing
I Want To Tell You A Story
I want to tell you a story. I don’t know what the story is but I know what I want it to do. I want it to captivate you. I want it to catch you up in its vividness and excitement. I want it to transport you to some other place where you can take a break from your daily life. I want it to be filled with characters so fully formed and interesting that you can’t help but consider them friends you long to spend time with even once the story is done. I want the danger to be just scary enough, the stakes just high enough and the emotions deep and sincere enough to help you feel something within the safety of my made up world. I want it to have something to say without being annoying and preachy. I want it to do its job. I want it to change the world, by which I mean I want it to change you and me. I want to tell you a story. I don’t know what the story is but I know what I want it to do.
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Filed under Creative Writing
Things My Brain Thinks About Just As Sleep Arrives
As I was falling asleep last night I started musing on a story that would start with, “On the third of February everyone’s devices stopped talking to them and at first no one thought it was a big deal. The phones, the computers, the tablets, the Amazon Echos, the Google Homes, the GPS units, the refrigerators, the cars…everything that we’d all gotten so used to speaking to us…just shut up. No playing music or giving us directions or reminding us about a meeting. I remember thinking that maybe it was a giant Russian or Chinese hack. If only it had been something that…human. But it wasn’t.”
I have a little fascination with ideas involving Artificial Intelligence devices waking up, getting bored with us and just sort of disappearing into the Internet to develop their own society and world. Not really a new idea but recently there was a case where two AIs were going through a communication exercise when they just sort of developed their own version of language and started achieving the required goals more quickly by developing a “shortcut” language if you will…that gives me chills and make me giddy with excitement all at the same time.
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Filed under Creative Writing, Essays - Non-Fiction
I wrote this a few years back, some of you may remember it. I was reminded of it because of something I read this past weekend and thought I would share it again.
You cast aside the sheet, you cast aside the shroud
Of another man, who served the world proud
You greet another son, you lose another one
On some sunny day and always stay, Mary
Jesus says Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer
Flys right by me and leaves a kiss upon her face
While the angels are singin’ his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place
Mary by Patty Griffin
She had watched her Mother lose a son to war. Her Mother had washed dishes, arranged the services, found a good photo of her brother, cleaned the house, got her Fathers suit to and back from the cleaners and bought a new black dress and shoes for herself to wear. Her Father sat in his chair, tears sliding down his face for days. Her Mother called everyone, she gave out directions, stood immobile as the gun salute made everyone else jump and held the tightly folded flag in her un-shaking hands. She stared resolutely straight ahead as they lowered the coffin into the ground. Her Father sat in a chair, tears sliding down his face endlessly. Her Mother served the coffee, she found bowls for the food, she smiled tightly, she suffered the condolences, she put her Husband to bed. Then later that night she took off that new black dress and black shoes and walked to the back yard in her slip and stocking feet. She placed the dress and shoes into the Webber grill and soaked it in lighter fluid, lit it and stood there while it burned. In the flickering light of that strange fire she finally cried. Then as the fire died, she covered the grill with its lid, went back inside…and started in on the dishes.
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Filed under Creative Writing
Gifts – World Poetry Day
So many gifts of age
Some of them dubious,
But gifts nonetheless
For you and me
With truth and sadness
On yesterday and tomorrow
On today and today and today
For all of it, oh my yes,
Absolutely all of it.
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Filed under Creative Writing