Marjorie shifted in her chair and gave her iced tea an uncommitted stir. She let go of the long spoon and watched the ice settle.

“While I will not apologize for using the word ‘egregious’ to describe Debra’s pecan pie, I will admit that throwing it out the fourth story window was a bit excessive.”

Marjorie was a minefield and any commiseration that rang false could mean the difference between Lucy keeping her position at the Women’s Federation or banishment from the Houston auxiliary.

After a moment, Lucy spoke through a taut smile. “Margie, I’ve never seen you less interested in a glass of my tea.”

Marjorie looked past her and sneered. “Debra Zewicki had the cheek to serve a store-bought pie, then walk it into our monthly meeting like one of the Wise Men wearin’ oven mitts!”

Lucy tsked. Marjorie walked to the window and poked a manicured index finger in between the blinds. “I mean, why not just spit on the Texas flag? Lucy, what is that man doing out there?”

“José?” Lucy stood. “The gardener?”

She placed a finger on Marjorie’s shoulder and peered through the crack in the blinds. A man Lucy had never seen before was out on her lawn, dancing through the sprinkler water wearing nothing but cut-offs and a hippie headband.

“I cannot say I know that person,” Lucy said, dumbstruck.

“What did I tell you?” Marjorie sighed. “The outsiders are taking over.” She jerked her finger back and the blinds snapped shut.

Lucy wanted to call the police or at least open her front door and shoo the stranger away, but Marjorie was back on the previous topic and Lucy was powerless to do anything but wonder how much harm a madman running through her sprinkler could really do, after all.

Marjorie swiveled, pivoted back then forward: The Texas Hitch. Lucy recognized the step from her pageant days.

“Texan women are a stoic breed,” Marjorie went on. “Perhaps eccentric and outspoken, but at the end of the day we are, what’s the word?”

After years of positioning herself to have Marjorie’s ear, Lucy’s chance had finally arrived, and like her ancestors who settled the Red River, she would not crumble or cower. She pounded her fist onto her new Florence de Dampierre dining table from Neiman Marcus and shouted “authentic!”

“Yes!” Marjorie’s arms flew up like a preacher at a revival meeting. “Authentic! Caricatures to some, archetypes to others, inspiration to many. What, dear Lucy, would our world be without us?”

Lucy decided the question was rhetorical so she smashed her lips together and shook her head so quickly it must have looked as though a seizure had taken hold.

“I swear—” Marjorie said, “—on the hair of Ann Richards, no new-moneyed fake from San Francisco is going to chair our Centennial.”

Then she reached out, took Lucy by the hand, and together they flung open the front doors and chased the stranger off of Lucy’s front lawn.

In his daydream, the building was a boat.

Barry turned his deck chair. Past the rooftop garden to the east corner of the veranda, an imagined prow aimed to the Hudson River and Fort Lee. Would there be a booming groan of a horn or would the ship simply inch forward, plow apart the neighborhood streets and concrete roads of Washington Heights and the Westside highway, then push forward through the currents of the Hudson alongside the George Washington Bridge? New Jersey would not be his port of call. No. Barry craved parts west and farther, through the Appalachian range, the flats of tornado alley, over the continental Divide. Monterey was a good choice, but why not settle into the cushy body of the Pacific? Because from there, the choices were endless. He needed a tropical clime—hot sand, lazy people, fresh seafood. No ten-story Beaux-arts buildings, stuck in place, rooted and founded. No static of cicadas or thuggy gangs of pigeons. No highway swoosh. A place where no one would expect him in at nine, and the words that spiraled up from the sidewalk would not come from harping mothers, but dark-skinned locals hawking cowries and suntan oil. He closed his eyes and almost managed to smell the Plumeria.

The Birthday

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Blog post, Short Story - My Fiction

Please enjoy this short, melancholy story, published by Larks Fiction Magazine.

http://larksfictionmagazine.blogspot.com/2012/06/issue-one-volume-four.html

“Feet propped on a small table, she twists on the plastic deckchair, pulls the wool blanket up over her legs and takes in the view: the pumpkin she placed on the deck railing the day before; the unsettled motions of the clouds; the churning tops of the half-dressed trees — eddies in a tide pool, she thinks; the strands of rainwater rolling off the deck overhang – drowning, she thinks.

     “I used to like October. But now, everywhere you look, things are wet and failing.”
     “Noted,” he says. “Did you print out my boarding pass?”
     “Don’t go.”
     “Got to. What would you like?”
     “A foam Statue of Liberty hat.”
     He scoots his chair close, squeezes himself warm. “No, I mean what would you like for your birthday?”
     “Stars,” she says.”

Purchase the anthology that includes this magical story from A Cappella Zoo – issue 11.

http://www.acappellazoo.com/order

“Miss Ambrosia lowered herself carefully to her chair and finished the last of her lemonade. Her hands throbbed, and her shoulders ached. She breathed deeply, exhaled, and focused on the sunlight that glimmered off the edge of the lace curtains. The crow cawed over and over, and the neighbor’s dogs began to bark. The rumble of delivery trucks reached a crescendo, then faded away. A jet roared faintly high overhead, and she imagined a white contrail marking its path in the troposphere: expanding and dissipating like steam, fading as though it had never existed.”

Order the anthology and read the entire story…

Purchase this story along with writing from others in the Spark: A Creative Anthology – volume one.

http://store.sparkanthology.org/collections/buy-the-book/products/volume-i

“His aging chick-mobile accelerated into the street. He ignored a stop sign and the car peeled out around the corner; a cloud of oil smoke puffed and hung in the air.

She moaned.

Richard, her broken-down car, a forty-degree day in May? And to top it off—that morning’s dénouement—her wig was crooked.

After so many years, she had a sense; a visceral connection to its levelness. She pulled down on both sides, looked up into the rearview mirror and evaluated her penciled-on eyebrows: whether they were the same size, on the correct angle.

I’d hate to look surprised or angry all day long, she thought—a long-standing joke she had with only herself.

Order the anthology and read the entire story…

Here’s a surreal little story, published at Devilfish Review.

http://devilfishreview.com/archives/issues/issue-two/to-the-place-of-ashes-by-scott-warrender/

“Tom rolled out of bed and walked into the bathroom. Jane heard the shower curtain scrape, then the groan of old plumbing. She wanted to recount the dream before the day diluted its wonder, but by the time she had joined him in the bathroom and rubbed a face-sized circle into the foggy mirror, the dream was already pulling out of focus. She could only remember a few images: fire, ashes, colored glass. She shouted over the hiss of the shower and watched herself fade away into the steam.”

Read more…

What is it about us neurotic types? We can read a glowing review of our work, then manage to interpret even the smallest reservation as an insult.

I write short stories. Gratefully, I’ve had a few published and when I do, I share those small but meaningful milestones with my friends, family, and followers. I receive a variety of responses.

Here’s some advice: the best way to tell a friend you haven’t read their work is to reply with unspecific praise.  I’ve listed a few examples here followed by my translations. Enjoy!

Comment:

My translation:
I LOVE it! I didn’t read it.
Can’t wait to read it! I have no intention of reading it.
Congrats! I didn’t read it.
Wow! Are you kidding? I barely read your email! I’m certainly not reading your damn story.
Nice, reminds me of something (insert name of popular author here) might write. I read the first sentence.
I will read it tonight. I promise! I didn’t read it. I’m never going to read it.
That is so cool! Who are you and why do you keep emailing me?
I love (insert a reference to the story title here). I resent you and no, I didn’t read it.
Can’t wait to read more of your writing. I only read stories 160 characters or less.

Even though my last name is spelled incorrectly, I’m happy to be published at Stanley the Whale.

I hope you enjoy this nutty little flash fiction piece.

***

The next week, Nadia showed up with her arm in a sling. She said that Boris had pushed her into a propane barbecue.

“Was it lit?” I wanted to know.

“No,” she said. “It was at Sears.”

     I insisted that Nadia move in with me, and she did.

Read the entire story…

Image

A few years back, a friend of mine who taught music in the public school system for over thirty-five years was called in to her principal’s office.  It seemed a parent had complained, accusing her of “teaching Satanism” to her children.

For the record: A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five notes. A Pentagram is a five pointed star. You know, just like on the state flag of Texas?

Compose your own piece of music using the pentatonic scale.  Have fun!

http://www.sembeo.com/media/Matrix.swf

Tuna Fail

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Blog post, Short Story - Real Life Musings

Picture

If you live in Seattle, you may have seen the signs placed along 15th Avenue that read “Fresh Tuna”. For years I didn’t give them a second thought. I don’t know why that day was any different but I found myself thinking about all the people who cannot drive three-quarters of a mile and buy fresh tuna right off a fishing boat. “Life is good,” I thought. “I love Seattle! Woo Hoo!”

We jumped in our hybrid and followed the signs to a moderate-sized fishing boat moored on the far side of the terminal. “Tuna?” I shouted, to a nice man in waders. “How big?” he asked.  I thought about it for a second or two then asked “For four?”

Maybe it was his puzzled look or the other people in line behind me who seemed to know what they were doing, but I was suddenly self-conscious. I knew, and the fisherman knew, that I belonged at the supermarket fish counter. I looked back at the other folks in line–all nice looking Japanese men (second clue!)–but I was determined to follow through. The guy in the waders shrugged, then shouted something down into the hold of the boat. Is that what you call it? A hold? Anyway, after a few minutes, I watched in horror as the tail of a 3½ foot tuna appeared, lifting out of the hole like a space shuttle. A girly-man inside me shouted “Run!” The guy lifted the frozen tuna, covered it with a heavy, clear plastic, and passed it over to me. I paid him something like $10,000 and then walked back to the car. A cool customer. A frequent tuna buyer. Yes, that was me.

I’ll never forget the look on my partner’s face when he looked up from the Sunday Times and saw me approaching the car with something that looked like a frozen German shepherd wrapped in plastic. He opened the car door and started to argue but I shut him up, “Don’t say a WORD. Just drive”. I crammed the frozen tuna into the backseat. For a minute, I didn’t think it was going to fit and I considered leaving it there on the asphalt and peeling out of the parking lot. I ended up in the passenger’s seat, leaning forward so the knife-sharp tail point didn’t impale my head.

A brief car fight but I was undaunted, determined to turn this into a positive situation. “We’ll laugh about it later” I said. “I’m putting that on your tombstone” was the response.

I carried it into the house, placed it in the bathtub, turned on the cold water and covered it with sufficient ice–if one ice tray full of ice could be considered sufficient–then straight to the internet for some gutting and cutting advice.

Today, if you Google “How do I defrost, gut and slice a large frozen tuna?” you’ll get a link to a You Tube video. But when I searched I came up empty-handed. I was quickly baffled by strange-sounding advice like ”You might want think about carking the tuna” or “Make sure the water in your bleed tank is 40 or 50 degrees”. Damn! I knew we shouldn’t have sold our bleed tank on Craigslist. Finally, “Keep in mind that only tuna prepped this way with a Tanaguchi rod left in place will be considered Sushi quality.”

Tell me. How did I make it this far without a Tanaguchi rod?

We decided to go out, see a movie, and let the sucker thaw in the bathtub.

Here’s some really good advice: Never leave a giant frozen tuna in your bathtub for three hours. You’ll be sorry. For about a month, our house smelled like the inside of a rotting Sperm whale.

In hindsight, when trying new things, I suppose there should to be some planning involved, some glimmer of knowledge to prepare you for the task. If not, it’s like showing up to a rock climbing excursion wearing a snorkel and flippers, or buying a goat and keeping it in your guest room with the intent of having a constant supply of delicious cheese handy. Okay, bad examples.

The sad end of the story is that we ended up with very little edible tuna. My brother-in-law, an avid fisherman, just rolls his eyes whenever I tell this story. “You know,” he said to me, “there is a fish market at Fishermen’s Terminal. They do all that for you.” I thought I was getting a deal, I told him. I thought I was avoiding the middleman and supporting our local fishermen.

Last year, a friend offered me some fresh bear meat from a recent hunting trip. My partner just looked at me and whispered “tuna”.

I declined the offer.