Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Noah

Seen on the Brown Line to Kimball at about 8:15 a.m.

Noah leans his bearded face closer to the folded piece of newspaper, his eyes squinting in concentration. He moves his pen furiously over the page, as if he is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to look at the clues. For that is certainly what is occupying Noah’s attention—the Red Eye crossword puzzle. You imagine that his handwriting must be messy and cramped inside the tiny boxes.

If you looked at his paper, however, you would quickly realize that Noah is not doing the crossword puzzle. It’s doubtful that you could ever understand what he is writing.

Noah is writing the world. You didn’t think it was all left to chance, did you? Noah and those like him spend their days determining how others spend their days. With ancient symbols he sparks a romance, inspires a graduate thesis, starts a war. The strokes of his pen spell out the past, present, and future. His is the ink of emotions and needs. You should be careful not to jostle him, you should hope that the train is slow and steady, for with one small mark he can rewrite your entire life—or erase it altogether.

DWChitown was AMAZING last night! We had some really great discussions. I am so excited that I started doing it. We have managed to collect a freaking awesome group of people. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wanda

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:25 a.m.


Her skin is too thin for the whipping wind, her bones too hollow for the bumping train, and so Wanda finds herself equally uncomfortable on and off the L. She adjusts her glasses and zips her coat up higher. She scoots herself as far away as she can from the overweight man sitting next to her. A woman her age shouldn’t have to travel like this; a woman her age should have dutiful children who would take time off work to drive her to the doctor’s office. They would be visibly disturbed to learn about her sore throat. They would insist that she get checked out right away. Wanda knows she should have thought about this years ago, when Stanley offered her his hand. But at the time it was so easy to turn him away. Her beauty was too vivid for his plain face, her pride too strong for his humble offer. How could she have known she’d never have another chance? 

The wind is ridiculous today. In other news, I am wearing fabulous bright red tights, and I'm pretty excited about it. That is all. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dee

Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:15 p.m.


Dee was like a beetle, scurrying back and forth between her apartment and the office. Her face was too small for her rotund body, and her oversized glasses magnified her dark eyes. She continuously scuttled over to whoever was closest (today an unsuspecting fellow commuter) and chattered away, her teeth clicking. She tried to furrow into the deepest corners of people's minds and hearts, desperate for gossip, secrets, attention. She kept her needy hands busy, wringing them over and over in circles.

No matter how much she tried to assert her humanity, others only saw Dee's loathsome arthropodic nature. Many wished she would simply disappear, that she would be banished to the dirt, her rightful home. Some wished she would be squished to death along with the other crawling pests that invaded human space. I thought she was fascinating; I wanted to pin her bulky frame to a giant board, to examine and catalogue her features. I wanted to discover how she ended up among us, so very out of place.

Back from a little Thanksgiving break. It was quite enjoyable. I ate way too much food. That was supposed to stop today, but I came back to the apartment only to discover that my roommate made chocolate chip cookies. At least I worked out. The next meeting of Drivel & Wit Chicago is tomorrow, so I'm quite excited about that. We should have some new members yet again. We'll see how that goes. 


I can barely bring myself to put down "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. It is so, so, so good. I highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Danielle & Cary

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

“Oh, hey! How are you?”

Danielle looked up to see her friend Cary getting on the train. With his suitcoat-topped-sweater and his neatly-styled hair, he looked like a Cary—like an old-fashioned, dapper film star. She had not seen him in quite some time. He sat down next to her. She smiled.

“I’m good. Tired, but you know…” she trailed off.

“Right, who isn’t?” He smiled back at her. “Where’s Alex? Don’t you guys work at the same place?”

“Yeah, but he comes in later and stays later. That’s one reason it’s so hard for me to get up in the morning, because I’m the only one actually getting up.”

“I totally get it. So he stays really late sometimes, huh?”

“Yep, he does.”

As the train rolled on, they talked about many things—mutual friends, what they were doing for Thanksgiving, movies that they wanted to see. They laughed. The conversation carried on naturally, like an avalanche. And all the while there was a tiny voice in the back of Danielle’s head reminding her that she could have been with him.

It’s true; she could have. Danielle and Cary’s moment had come and gone a few years ago. They met because they always went to Myopic Books at the same time. They would peruse the shelves, he would touch her arm too often, she would grin like an idiot. Then she met Alex at the office, and for some reason she could not quite recall now that she was back in Cary’s presence, she had chosen to be with him.

She and Alex had a good relationship. It was solid and steady and full, like a barge. She had kept in touch with Cary on facebook, and that was enough. But now with his body, smile, voice, mind so close to her, Danielle spent her commute pulsing with regret. 

Have to get back to work, but wanted to update. Excited that I get to work from home tomorrow. Really want to go see The Muppets. Like...right now. Who's with me?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Walt

Seen outside the Lawrence Red Line stop at about 12:30 p.m., November 20th, 2011

Walt pushes his small voice above the rumbling of the train: “Would you like to buy one of my drawings? I just want something to eat.” He tilts his portfolio to the pedestrians, but they keep their smiles and conversations, their determined dashes to dates and appointments, and their grateful sips of Starbucks facing forwards. It is not entirely their fault. On this winter day, Walt’s pale skin and shabby clothes blend into the gray sky and cold buildings. He’s just a part of the scenery.

Furthermore, were they to look at his portfolio, they would be unimpressed. There is no great talent here. Walt offers them drawings of superheroes, but they are all wrong. Batman appears lethargic; his frame contains no tension, no drive to fight. And Superman’s body is weirdly thin, the Man of Steel reduced to a man in a stupid costume. There is no truth or justice on these pages. Walt will not sell a single one.  

Wrote this one about a guy I saw on the way to the Chicago Book Expo yesterday. That was fun. I went to a flash fiction workshop, and I bought a book on writing flash fiction, so hopefully I can continue to hone my craft. 

Boy am I glad this is a short week. I am awfully tired. I should sleep more. Story of my life. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Albert & Rhonda

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


Silently, Albert and Rhonda trade sections of the newspaper.  Aside from this small interaction, Albert keeps his eyes and his big nose pointed at whatever he is currently reading (at this particular moment, the comics). Similarly, Rhonda’s heavy-lidded eyes never leave her reading material (at this particular moment, the editorials). Their wrinkled mouths do not speak.

After 47 years together, they have learned that this is the key to a successful marriage: periods of silence. When they converse, a few problems occur. Often they can easily predict what the other will say, so there is no point in talking. We think our minds are constantly bubbling over with new ideas, but after 47 years, there’s very little you haven’t said. Other times they’ll argue; Albert has strong opinions regarding just about everything, and Rhonda can never resist the urge to relentlessly challenge his beliefs. When they were first married, these arguments were like a passionate game, but now arguing simply makes them grumpy. Neither of these outcomes leads to wedded bliss.

Thus, they feel that time spent in silence is time well-spent. Huddled together in the train seat, reading the newspaper, they are happy. 

Hello everyone. Was too busy with work and go-go rehearsal yesterday to post. Sorry about that. I am excited that it's Friday. My office is having a happy hour at Moody's! Oh yes, it's sangria time...

In other news, I think I might attend the Chicago Book Expo this weekend, probably on Sunday. That way I can promote PTKY, and Drivel & Wit Chicago. They're also having a flash fiction workshop, which I would very much like to attend. Good times! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Touching Moment Between Batman and a Cat

I'm working from home today, so I haven't seen anyone on the CTA. In lieu of a normal post, I thought I'd post this short piece I wrote last night at Drivel & Wit Chicago. We all took 5 minutes to write something based on the prompt "Cats and/or Batman." I think the stories came out better than expected. Enjoy!


The cat's green eyes peered out from the trash can, an orange peel hanging out of its mouth. It saw a thick, boulder-like figure drop from the top of the building across the alley. The figure landed heavily, but with an agile crouch, on the dirty pavement. Slowly, the figure rose to its full height. The cat thought the figure was much like himself. Its gray skin matched the cat's gray fur. They shared small, pointed ears. The most obvious difference was the figure's billowing cape. The cat was jealous. It crept out of the trash can and wound itself between the figure's legs, listening to its raspy breaths. "One of these days I might need to borrow one of your lives," said the figure. The cat purred in reply.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Annie

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:20 a.m.


Annie stares at the pages of her book, her face cast with confusion and distaste. What IS this? she wonders.

The other day Annie left her Kindle at her boyfriend’s house. Preferring to spend her time on the L reading, she picked up one of the few books her local grocery store carried: “Shattered,” by Marnie Desolation. She figured with a terrible pen name like that, the book would probably be hilariously campy. So bad it’s good.

But no. This is just so bad it’s bad. What was supposed to be a detective story has turned into some kind of sex romp. And not a fun sex romp, but rather, a mildly disturbing one. And it seems as though no editor was involved in the publishing process. Not only are there numerous spelling and grammatical errors, but the story itself is poorly organized, and it’s mostly just boring. Annie would guess it was self-published were it not for the Del Rey Press logo on the spine.

Annie puts her bookmark in and gratefully stops reading. She really has to call Justin and get her Kindle back…

My mom reads books like this all the time. I buy her good books, and she reads them, but then she still goes back to her trashy ones. I've tried to read them before. I don't get it. I guess I shouldn't say trashy. I'm in no place to judge. I just don't prefer them. At all. Ever.

Second meeting of Drivel & Wit Chicago tonight! There are definitely going to be some awesome new members. Can't wait... 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fabulous

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


Her mother was an immigrant from Tanzania. At the time of her birth, her mother was trying her best to learn the English language. So, when she was born, her mother decided upon her favorite English word as a name for her daughter: Fabulous.

And Fabulous really was just that. Her frizzy hair flew above her head, accented, but not in any way hampered by, a jeweled headband.  Soft, dark eyes beckoned to the world from beneath thick lashes. Freckles peppered her wide nose, and her full lips smiled at those with whom she accidentally made eye contact. She wore an attention-grabbing, asymmetrical scarlet coat, and her feet nestled into a pair of pumps that Lady Gaga would kill for. Her fellow commuters could not help but stare admiringly. Fabulous was undoubtedly the Princess of the Purple Line, the Flower of the CTA.

But Fabulous’ name was not restricted to her surface. She was naturally intelligent, effortlessly charming, and quietly funny. She was a hard worker, but was just as dedicated to play. She was a loyal friend. She attended law school, and volunteered at an animal shelter. Fabulous was ephemeral and totally solid at the same time. A paradox. A rarity. A delight.

This weekend was totally nuts. Had friends in from out of town. Went out a lot. Ate way too much food. Gogo danced on Friday night in an outfit that we deemed "Moroccan Fantasy Barbie." It was fun, though now I am quite tired. Second meeting of Drivel & Wit Chicago tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about that. Also, if you're interested in reading some of the stories that didn't make it into Machine of Death 2, someone has set up a tumblr where people can publish their rejected stories. It's kind of fun! I think I'm going to submit mine at some point. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Franklin

Seen on the Fullerton platform switching between from the Brown Line to the Red Line at about 8:30 a.m.


The second the doors opened, Franklin awkwardly rushed across the platform. Awkwardness was simply his way. The wintery sun glinted on his bald head and bounced off the glasses perched upon his prominent hooked nose. He peered up at the sign flashing the train arrival times. “Shit,” he muttered. No red line train for ten minutes. He was going to be late.

He paced back and forth, hunchback blatantly obvious beneath his bulky coat. What excuse could he give The Committee for his tardiness? The Committee was notoriously harsh; they would certainly be insulted by his behavior. Why did he spend so long making last-minute adjustments to his presentation? Stupid fool! He just wanted it to be perfect. It was his life’s work, the only thing he had truly cared about for fifteen years. He had sacrificed everything else to spend day and night in his workroom, altering and refining his creation. And now The Committee, the only group who could make his dream a reality, might reject him because he missed a train! He couldn’t bear the thought.

Franklin hugged his briefcase to his chest. He pressed the detailed plans, instructions, and diagrams close to his body. He knew he held a secret that could radically change the world. His creation would make everyone perceive life and death differently. If he could just make them listen, there was no way they could refuse him. He’d have to make them listen. 

Hey there. I have a busy weekend ahead of me. I'm gogo dancing tonight at Old Town School, a friend is coming in from out of town, and I have to try to put up flyers for Drivel & Wit Chicago if I have the time. But there is some good news I must share: one of my short stories got published on MicroHorror yesterday! It's totally creepy and gross. My sister seems to think I have a problem, but if I have a problem, then people like Stephen King or Thomas Harris should probably be institutionalized. Just sayin'. Anyway, I hope you like it, even if it is creepy and gross. I mean, that was the idea, after all. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elmer

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:45 a.m.


Elmer hated being called Elmer, but he undeniably looked like one. His close-set eyes, baby face, turned-up nose, thin lips, and his lump of a chin all desperately shouted “Hi! My name’s Elmer!” He tried to cover it up with wide tortoise-shell glasses and long brown hair, but to no avail.

Elmer scrolled through his first novel, “The Determined Hunter,” on his iPod. He had used a pen name when he had it published: E.A. Francis. It was the only time he had ever managed to hide his identity from the world. For a few glorious months, book reviewers, publishers, and his fans (he had a decent amount) referred to him as E.A. Francis. It was a noble name, a serious name, a literary name. It was the type of name you could respect.

That all ended when the person running his fansite (he still couldn’t believe he had a fansite) ferreted out his real name. Suddenly discussion forums started popping up filled with people debating why he would use an alias when his real name was so unique. Magazines and newspapers now called him Elmer when they interviewed him. At book signings, people demanded that he write out his full name. Since the discovery, Elmer’s face had taken on a sour aspect. Unfortunately, that made him look even more like an Elmer—helpless, hopeless, ever-frustrated Elmer. 

Drivel & Wit Chicago went really well last night! There were just five of us, but I think it will grow into an amazing, super-helpful group for all sorts of writers in Chicago. Tonight my roommate and I are finally getting back to trivia at the Burwood Tap! I haven't been in forever, so I am extremely excited about that. Time to show off all my useless knowledge. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Louise

Seen near the Davis Street Purple Line stop in Evanston at about 8:50 a.m., November 7th, 2011

Louise rambles down the street in her cable-knit sweater, wrinkled hands holding a harmonica to her wrinkled lips. She breathes into it and the notes blare out into the quiet morning. Louise has only recently started taking harmonica lessons, but it something she has wanted to do her whole life. She knows she is getting old; chances to fulfill her dreams are becoming scarce, and she can’t stand to have any more regrets.

With her harmonica, Louise mourns for all the missed opportunities. Do—she didn’t apply for an Ivy League school because, at the time, she thought she wasn’t good enough. Mi—she’s never been to India, a desire of hers since childhood. Fa—she never asked Jerry Paulson on a date in high school. La—she never met the daughter that she aborted. Louise’s life hasn’t been all bad, but looking back on it, she wishes it were longer. She knows she can’t change anything, but she also knows that she finally has a harmonica. She’s not going to let anybody take that away from her. 

So it turns out my story didn't get into Machine of Death 2. Oh well. I'll just have to keep on keepin' on. And there are plenty of other things to look forward to--like the start of Drivel & Wit Chicago this evening! It's going to be awesome. Get ready to workshop, Chicago writers. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hannah

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


Hannah peered out from under her hood. A red line train to Howard passed. Then a brown line train to Kimball. Then another red line. Then another brown line. Hannah wandered slowly around the platform, but she did not get on any of the trains. Finally, a purple line train to Linden rumbled into the station. But she still did not get on the train; she just stared at it blankly. Quite frankly, she was waiting for a more exciting commute.

Hannah was looking for the right train. She’d know it when she saw it. She imagined it would look like all the others, except her train would have something special that only she could see—an aura of purpose. She wasn’t sure if it was a red line train to Love, a brown line train to Adventure, a purple line train to Enlightenment. Maybe it would be headed to another destination entirely. Hannah was content to wait on the platform, to let all the wrong trains pass, for hers was a commute of hope. 

Hey there. At work, so I can't talk long. STILL no word from Machine of Death. Gaaaaahhhh. I'll probably hear by tomorrow, early next week at the latest. Trying to stay calm. I'm trying to write 50,000 words of flash for NaNoWriMo. I wrote three stories last night; two I like and one I hate. But that's ok, because the point of NaNoWriMo is to do your editing later and just get words out on paper! So I'm trying to do that. Hopefully it will work out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lana

Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 6 p.m.


Lana's heavily made-up eyes cannot be torn from her iPhone screen, her manicured thumb sliding up and down the plastic. She chews her gum loudly, and unconsciously shifts as far left as she can to avoid the man sitting next to her. If she weren't doing all of these things, maybe she would notice that her leather boots have started to inch up over her kneecap.

As the train progresses, her boots slowly slither ever higher up her legs. One might be tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt; perhaps they simply want to be a little bit taller, a little bit prouder. But no--Lana's boots are not content even to be thigh-high. When they reach her pelvis the material fuses together into one constricting garment.

Now Lana is trying to have a discussion with Siri:

"Tell me where I can get Indian food."

"I'm sorry. Could you please repeat that?"

"TELL ME WHERE I CAN GET INDIAN FOOD!"

The rattle of the train prevents the phone from picking up her voice. Absorbed as she is, she still does not notice the boots squeeze in her waist and compress her chest. She will finally discover the treacherous footwear when they cover her hands in impromptu gloves, forcing her to stop playing with her phone. But by that time it will be too late. Let's get off the train before that happens. Nobody wants to see Lana swallowed whole.

I must admit, I was a little stuck on ideas today. Hence this strange story. Still no word on MOD2. Driving me crazy. In other news, I've started reading Wuthering Heights. I've never actually read it before. I feel like it's one of those books everyone had to read in high school, except for me because I was in AP English and we read stuff like Italo Calvino and Thomas Pynchon instead. I really like it so far, actually. Victorian novels never fail to surprise me (except for Dickens--I find him rather dull). There's something about the era I quite enjoy. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Seen on the eastbound Fullerton Bus at about 6:35 p.m., October 31st, 2011


There are many advantages to a sheep costume, let me tell you. It's warm, and protects me from the brisk, late October wind. It's cute, and is invariably a hit at parties among people of all ages. But most importantly, it covers my face, and the rotund belly has plenty of room to stash the goods. Say goodbye to your iPods and smart phones, you drunken idiots. It's the ultimate trick-or-treat.

Hello there. I had a relatively uneventful Halloween weekend, although I was a zombie go-go dancer Friday night. See?



I had a horrible day at work. I don't want to talk about it. I desperately need to find a new job. In other news, I JUST WANT TO KNOW ABOUT MY MACHINE OF DEATH STORY! We find out this week. I freak out every time my droid tells me I have new email, and then it's just stupid groupon or something. It's driving me nuts. But I'm excited! 


Also, you may have noticed that PTKY has a brand new look! This is all thanks to the talents of my fabulous friend Leta. She is good at this sort of thing, don't you think?