Thursday, October 27, 2011

Colin

Seen on the Southbound platform at the Fullerton Station, at about 8:25 a.m.


Colin clutches his Starbucks and stares at the tracks, his eyes bewildered from lack of sleep. His gaze skips across one metal track, the wooden ties, the other track, and finally settles on the deadly third rail. He has the sudden urge to jump onto the tracks, dramatically tiptoe and twirl across them until he reaches the electric bar, and walk along it like a tightrope. Maybe he’d fake everybody out with a planned convulsion first. The CTA attendant’s voice would come over the platform speakers: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Amazing Johnny Current!” 

Colin learned that he couldn’t be electrocuted when he was just five years old. His 9-year-old sister, Connie, was blow-drying her hair while he took a bath. They started fighting over who would get to pick the music in their mom’s car that day. Frustrated, Connie threw the hair dryer at Colin’s head, and it landed in the water. Their mother rushed in when she heard the dryer hit the wall; she was shocked to see Colin not shocked. He was playing with his G.I. Joe, the dryer bobbing by his elbow.

His fantastic ability made him a natural candidate for CAPES. He joined up when he was 27, and The Encyclopedic Woman had given him the name Johnny Current. His services had been invaluable to the group. He had scaled the electric fences of dozens of villains’ lairs. He had stepped in front of countless tasers. But sometimes he wished he could perform for an audience. Show off a little. He sometimes dreamed of touring with a circus, dazzling crowds under the red-and-yellow big top—a place so unlike this gray, rainy Chicago morning. 

The return of CAPES! Good times. I think I'll just start posting the CAPES fan art Leta made me whenever I write about them: 
 It really is beautiful, n'est-ce pas? In other news, I'm gogo dancing at the Meatloaf-a-GoGo food truck downtown tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it. :) I also submitted a bunch of stories last night, so we'll see how that goes. Anyway, have to get back to work. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marjorie

Seen just off the Purple Line Davis stop in Evanston at about 8:55 a.m.


Marjorie looks younger than she is. She always dresses well, and today is no exception; a jauntily-tipped cap sits upon her straight brown hair, her torso is wrapped in an elegant gold jacket, and her feet are clad in expensive leather boots. But between the tops of those boots and the hem of her skirt protrude her wrinkled, spotted knees.

Those knees betray her age and belie her stylish outfit. They show how many obstacles she has overcome during her life, yet they also highlight the damage she sustained in the process. Her husband left her for a woman with smooth, soft, shapely knees—knees that had not climbed as many stairs, knees that had not supported the weight of pregnancy, knees that had not broken countless falls. 

Whenever she watches reality TV or reads beauty magazines, Marjorie sadly laughs at the women who want bigger breasts and smaller bellies. Marjorie knows better. She knows they should be worried about their knees.

Hey hey there. I'm at work again, so I can't talk long. It is a dismal day outside, but kind of perfect for Halloween week, I think. Last night my friends and I read some good scary stories to each other, so that was fun. Anyway, I should probably go. Until next time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That Girl

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:30 a.m.

There she sits. Though you don’t know her, you know she’s the girl you hated in high school. You were never quite as pretty, never quite as smart, never quite as lauded, never quite as wanted. You thought you were rid of her, but now she’s right in front of you. And the worst part is that you can tell things haven’t changed. She is still beautiful, with her fair skin, perfectly manicured nails, and not a single blonde hair out of place. (Bottle blonde, you hope. It would make you feel better. But if it is fake, it’s a great dye job.) She wears expensive, tasteful clothing. Probably gets paid more than you, dammit.

If she had been fat or a failure or a mother-six-times-over-by-the-age-of-25, everything would have been okay. You almost would have felt sorry for her. But nothing has changed, and you hate yourself for caring. You’re too old to feel this insecure.

You watch as she reads her kindle through a pair of designer sunglasses. Bitch.

I actually never had a girl I hated in high school. In grade school and junior high, yes. But not in high school. Have you checked out Drivel & Wit Chicago yet? You probably should, and tell all your writer friends in Chicago! Spread the word. I'm excited because some of my friends are coming over tonight for a Mary Shelley Story-Telling party. Much like how Mary Shelley ended up writing Frankenstein, we're all writing short scary stories and reading them to each other. Good times!

I'm at work, so I must run. Until next time. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Terri

Seen on the Brown Line to the Loop at about 2:00 p.m., October 22nd, 2011


I don't know whether to think of myself as more of an artist or a hero. My job really requires me to be both. So many people do it themselves, all lazy and sloppy. But if they want it done right, they hire me. I have always had an eye for color, especially drab neutrals. I always select paint that perfectly matches the wall. After I'm through with a building, you'd never know that it had been covered in ridiculous names and phrases scrawled in neon bubble letters. I always use as many coats as it takes to cover the trash completely, and I NEVER leave haphazard paint roller marks like you see on so many buildings. I think that's almost worse than the graffiti itself.

I hate people who call it "street art." I hate the people who get famous doing it, like Banksy and Shepard Fairey. If you want to be an artist, spend your money on a freaking canvas. This country was built on private property, and I'm here to help preserve that institution. Not only that, but I protect the people of this city from profanity and lewdness and gang activity. If I could, I would prowl the streets at night, catch taggers red-handed, and put them in their place. Since such vigilanteism is discouraged in our society, however, I do the next best thing: I clean up after them.

I doubt anyone on this train would think of me as an artist or a hero. All they see is a plain woman wearing ratty old t-shirts, paint-splattered overalls and combat boots, her hair tucked into a houndstooth newsboy cap. Little do they know that they owe me a big thank-you.

Personally, I love artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey. I'm lucky enough to live in a city where Shepard Fairey's art is everywhere. Well, I guess not everywhere, but lots of places. I've also seen a Banksy in person when I was in Glasgow (I also think I saw another one in Killarney), but I didn't know it was a Banksy at the time. 


In other news, Felipe and I are officially starting Drivel & Wit Chicago! Our first meeting is November 8th, and I'm pretty excited about it. If you click the link above, you will find our brand new website. Check it out. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Winter

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:40 a.m.

Winter is coming early to Chicago this year. I saw her on the train today. All the signs were there: pale skin and lifeless hair, delicate snowflake nose, icicle-colored eyes with a frostbite stare. She was wrapped up in a khaki trench coat, disguised as a commuter. She thought we wouldn't notice her sneaking in, encroaching upon Autumn's reign. But it is impossible to miss such a chilly harbinger.

Joining in with Drivel and Wit last night was really fun! Hopefully my friend Felipe and I will be starting a Chicago branch sometime in the not-too-distant future. More news on that as it develops. Anyway, I'm at work again, so I should go. Until next time!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Antonio

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 7:30 a.m.

With his right hand, Antonio pulls his white dress shirt out of his gym bag and shakes it open, releasing the offensive smell of cheap cologne into the air. With his left hand, he dials his office to say he’ll be late. He knows this might be the last straw; he’s stayed up too late again. He always stays up too late for one reason or another. Sometimes he whiles away the hours playing Halo on Xbox Live, ignoring the immature verbal abuse from his thirteen- and fourteen-year-old opponents. Other times he goes out to small, sweaty dance clubs, drinks too much tequila, and spends the night grinding against desperate women that he’ll never see again. He spent last night sitting on his ergonomic desk chair, legs crossed, bag of Cheetos in his lap, watching internet porn that he couldn’t bring himself to enjoy. He didn’t want to touch himself with Cheeto-hands anyway.

What will he say if they fire him? Antonio’s boss will call him into his office, ask him to have a seat. “We’ve given you several chances, Antonio, but your constant tardiness leads us to believe that you’re not fully committed to this job. And in this economy, there are many people who would be happy to take your place.” What excuse can Antonio give? “I was just being myself, Sir.” You can’t change who you are. 

Hello there! Posting at work, so there's not much time to talk. I think I am going to skype into Leta's Denver writing workshop Drivel & Wit tonight. I'm excited. It will be good to have feedback from strangers on my stories. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Claudia

Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:35 p.m.


"M'am, if there is no present danger to your life or somebody else's life, you can't call 911."

"But please!" Claudia breathed into her cell phone. "I know someone's after me!"

"M'am, I am hanging up now. If you do this again, you can be prosecuted."

"But--"

"Goodbye."

Claudia shivered and zipped her jacket up further. Why won't anyone believe her? Those low-hanging clouds, poisoned with gray, moving swiftly to the west. The peculiarly sharp chill in the air that slashes into your lungs and stomach. It is still; there is no wind to relieve the pain. It all points to one thing--murder. This is a perfect day for killing, and Claudia doesn't want to be the victim. She's sure nobody would find her body, dragged behind a dumpster, flesh devoured by rats, bones blanketed in dry, brown leaves.

Sorry kids. I'm in a really macabre mood today. I don't know what's up with that. I had to work really late. No fun. Hope your day was better.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Marshall

Seen at the Occupy Chicago rally & march on Saturday, October 15th, 2011


Where were all the other dressed up people? The facebook page said this was supposed to be a fancy event, poignantly highlighting the irony of poor, jobless protesters marching against corporate greed. Marshall had dry cleaned his one-and-only suit for the occasion. Oh well. At least he was finally surrounded by like-minded, intelligent people who are angry about the current state of the American economy.

When he'd voiced his support for the Occupy Wall Street movement in his political science class the other day, many of his classmates had literally scoffed at him. Kim Brown called him naive for believing that a "rag-tag bunch of largely uninformed people could change the country's powerful financial institutions." And Joseph Henderson, his voice gushing with pity, said that while he sympathized with the protesters, "unless they come up with a clear set of political objectives, they simply can't hope to make a difference." Marshall could never understand how such imbeciles got into University of Chicago in the first place. That's why he spent so much time with his internet friends. Conversation with them was far more worthwhile. And when Commie_Spectre101 sent him the link to the October 15th Global Day of Action, he couldn't have been more excited. It was time to get out there and fight for change!

The crowd continued to gather at Jackson & LaSalle, the Occupy Chicago headquarters. There were lots of good signs: "At least the war on the Middle Class is going well!" and "I can't believe we still have to protest this crap!" Marshall looked down at his own sign, strung around his neck. It was a picture of a $100 bill, surrounded by the words: "Hey Congress! Will you pay attention to me now?!" He wished he'd thought of one of the others.

The air bubbled with a commotion that suggested excitement and a sense of purpose. One girl was asking people to sign a petition on GetMoneyOut.com. A crazy man was handing out zines full of paranoid (or maybe not so paranoid) government conspiracies. The woman directly in front of Marshall was touting the virtues of AmericansElect.org to her friend. The desire to bring them all together, to focus all their energy into a single point sent Marshall's heart into palpitations, and he began to chant, "THE PEOPLE, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED! THE PEOPLE, UNITED, WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED! THE PEOPLE, UNITE--"

The AmericansElect lady turned, glared at him, and went back to her conversation. Marshall brushed past her and crossed Jackson, heading toward the food cart. He realized he should probably have some water before they marched, so he could shout even louder. When he reached the corner, a man with tied-back dreads and a camo jacket began chanting into a bullhorn: "ONE! WE ARE THE PEOPLE! TWO! WE ARE UNITED! THREE! THE OCCUPATION IS-NOT-LEA-VING!" The crowd swiftly took up his rallying cry and clapped their hands. Marshall joined in, too. This movement was, after all, bigger than his petty personal issues.

Before he knew it, they were ready to march to Michigan and Congress. The police had already gone ahead to stop traffic. Marshall swarmed onto Jackson with everybody else and wormed his way up as far as he could towards the front of the group. He thought about the future, when they would write the history books. He hoped that he'd be counted among the leaders of global change.

I was indeed at the Occupy Chicago march on Saturday night. I was out there until 3:30 a.m., actually. But don't worry, your humble author was not arrested. I am quite glad that such a movement has begun. It seems long overdue to me. I don't know where it will go, especially when you have such a diverse group of people who all want different solutions to the problem. But I think it might currently be our best hope for change, since politicians are so clearly in the pockets of the banks and other large financial institutions.


But anyway, this blog isn't about politics. You can think what you want. I wanted Marshall to be this sort of Holden Caulfield-ish character, but older and maybe more idealistic/optimistic. Hope that worked out. This is a long one. 577 words. Huh. Anyway, hope you like it. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Malikah

Seen on the Belmont Bus at about 7:30 p.m., October 5th, 2011

"Excuse me. I'm just trying to get back there."
 

Malikah squeezes her way past the standing passengers to get to the very last row of seats. One seat is open, but a man has set his gym bag there. She shoves it aside and gratefully plops herself down.

Malikah loves riding in the back of the bus. There is nothing she likes more after a long day at work than feeling her thighs jiggle up and down as the bus bump bump bumps over the old Chicago streets. Road construction and the beginnings and ends of bridges are a special pleasure. She smiles when people's books are jolted from their hands, when their purses fall over, when they lose their footing and stumble across the aisle. From her vantage point she keenly observes the other passengers, eavesdropping on their phone conversations. With a big window behind her, giving everyone a clear view of where she's been, and this microcosm of society in front of her, Malikah feels thrilled, like she's really going somewhere.

Oh, the bus. It's good to write about the bus sometimes instead of the L. I feel like there's definitely a different dynamic between the passengers.  Good news! My friend Leta is coming to visit from Colorado this weekend! I cannot wait until she arrives. We shall paint the town red. Or something like that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smith

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:30 a.m.

I wish people would stop staring at me. Yeah, I get it. I'm in my thirties. I'm too old to ride a skateboard. But cut me some slack, alright? It's not like I'm some teenage Avril-Lavigne-esque "sk8er boi" good-for-nothing. Well, maybe I used to be. But that was a long time ago. Now I am gainfully employed as a video game developer. And what's wrong with that? Just because I contribute to people's happiness rather than their necessities doesn't mean I'm not a contributing member of society. It's a relatively lucrative business, in fact. Well, sometimes. Sorry you're just jealous that I don' t have to wear a suit and carry a briefcase. And it I want to skateboard to work and get there the fun way, who cares? It's my right as an American, dammit. So just back off. I'll "grow up" when I feel like it--maybe never.


I like it when people don't act their age. Well, I guess it depends on the situation. In this case it was good. Although I wrote the story this way because I also liked the idea of someone who is outwardly confident, but is struggling to justify his own lifestyle to himself. I feel like that happens to the best of us, sometimes. Until next time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bailey

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:35 a.m.

Everyone else on the train looked groggy and glum, unhappy to be heading to work. But not Bailey. With her bright yellow skirt and wide smile, neon green sunglasses atop her head, Bailey seemed a continuation of the clear Autumn sun that was steadily rising over Lake Michigan. With every sip of coffee she became giddier, and many times she had to suppress outright laughter. Frank Sinatra was crooning in her ear: "What a day this has been, what a rare mood I'm in, why it's almost like being in love." As the train carried her forward, she couldn't stop thinking about last night. It had been a great first date.

I had to write a cheery one to make up for yesterday's depressing story. Luckily there was a very happy-looking girl on the train today! Good times. Well, I should probably not be posting this at work...but I am. I should get back. More diseases to research... (no wonder I'm driven into creative pursuits!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grace

Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:30 p.m.


It looks so impersonal on paper. Phrases like "each party is required to prepare a financial declaration" and "if the divorce is contested there is no settlement agreement phase" do no justice to the hard diamond of feelings set between her ribs. The acrid resentment towards Harry, the eagerness to start anew, the anxiety of being alone, the heavy disappointment in herself--none of this is present in her notes. On the way back from her lawyer's office, Grace shuffles through the looseleaf paper, wondering about the damage and the freedom to come.

So I wrote this story about the woman sitting next to me, who was probably just a law student, and I definitely read over her shoulder and copied her notes to get those phrases. I hope she didn't notice. If "Grace" ever reads this, sorry I was such a creeper! Also, what do you think about the diamond metaphor? I don't really like diamonds (they seem cold and heartless), and they are multifaceted, so I thought it was at least sort of an apt metaphor. 


In other news, I didn't post this on here, but I was published on Paragraph Planet the other day! You can't link directly to any of the pages on their site, unfortunately, but here's a screenshot:



You can also go to their archive and look up the entry for September 24th, which is mine. You should also look up the entry for September 23rd, for they published a lovely paragraph by my friend Leta that day! It's good stuff. I think I might make a "publications" page for the blog. Right now just the Paragraph Planet entry will be on it, but I have submitted some other stories and am waiting to hear back, so hopefully it will eventually maybe fill up! We shall see...