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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Word Prompt: Sprinkler

Maxwell wanted to be a baker. He envied the men and women who cracked the eggs, poured the flour, sifted the sugar, and whipped up bowls of fluffy cake batter. Even the frosting makers had better jobs than he. With delicate precision, they concocted bowls of vanilla bean and dark chocolate icings, which they artfully swirled atop cupcakes and cookies. From across the room, Maxwell would gaze enviously at the dessert artists sculpting their delicious masterpieces and silently beg for the day when he could join their prestigious service.

Maxwell was relegated as a “sprinkler.” One notch above dishwasher, and one step below the dough boy, who rolled out pastry and shaped it into pie pans lined across a table beside Maxwell’s “sprinkles station.” It was a humiliating post which rendered him a fly on the wall in a room of bustling chefs, who knew him by no other name than Sprinkles Boy.

“Give that tray of cakes to the Sprinkles Boy.”

“Hey, Sprinkles Boy, make sure the chocolate flakes are evenly dispersed across the top. Last batch looked like half-eaten moons.”

Maxwell consoled himself with lame assurances that as the sprinkler, he had no other direction to move in the kitchen than up. But sometimes he caught the dishwasher eyeing him with the same look that Maxwell’s dog gave him while he took a bit into his burger or steak. In those moments, Maxwell would feel the defensive need to guard his sprinkles station and devote his work day to producing the best sprinkles-topped cakes the bakery had ever seen.


Word Prompt: Galaxy

The galaxy inside

Oscillates in orbit

Moons circle planets

Directed by a sun

Waning and waxing

To the pull

A black hole

Light years away

The closer it moves

The farther I push


Word Prompt: Needle

When Mark Dinning’s voice warbled during the chorus of “Teen Angel,” Clyde dropped the dish he was washing in the sink and bolted to the record player. A long scratch marked his precious record, marring Dining’s sad lament for a wasted life.

“Nothing can be done,” his pal Darryl said. “Records ruined, and your needle’s gotta problem. Doesn’t look like the fixing kind, my friend.”

“Then how am I going to listen to my songs while I wash my dishes and do my puzzles?” Clyde asked.

Clyde was a man of precise routine. Mark Dinning sang in his kitchen every night at 7:03. Not a minute before or after. Clyde was already peeved that he had to find a new song to take the “Teen Angel” spot. Looking for a new needle to fix his record player was about to send him in a full tailspin.

“Well, I can’t fix this,” Darryl said, “so I don’t know what to tell ya.”

Clyde left the repair shop with smoke spewing from his ears. He was not one to try change. And hell would freeze over ten times before he set foot in one of those big electronic stores and bought one of those shiny silver discs that the friends like to play in their cars. Their music was crap, he thought. All the good songs died fifty years ago.

That night, for the first time in his life, Clyde washed his dishes in silence. Well, he imagined there would have been silence if the neighborhood kids weren’t playing tag in the field behind his house. And if crickets weren’t chirping up a small orchestra outside his kitchen window. And if his porcelain dishes didn’t clang against each other as he stacked them beside the sink.

Clyde stopped mid-dry and thought about the noises around him. He’d never paid attention to them before.

Blended together, they weren’t half-bad. There was something refreshing and new about hearing those different sounds together. He felt a strange feeling, which connected him to the present world happening around him. Was this living, he wondered. Being aware of the small things breathing and playing and singing outdoors and inside. His record player couldn’t capture that nuance and replay it in the crystal clear layers he heard now.

When the needle broke, Clyde heard his world for the very first time.

Word Prompt: Ghost town

When I imagine my childhood home, I picture it in a wasteland, abandoned and desolate, a post-apocalyptic bubble where the stale air is impossible to breathe. Where Main Street is a ghost town, windows shattered, glass and crumpled newspapers littering the curbs, broken signs dangling in feeble winds. The urban high school is emptied, an eerie maze of cavernous rooms with desks lined in precise rows and facing blank chalkboards.

Everything about this town is blank. The billboards, posters, movie theater screens. No one wants to live in the place struck down by God’s heavily armored fist. The survivors fled as fast as their cars would burn rubber on the searing asphalt roads. Weeds and kudzu strangle the yards in their quest to conquer broken homes. Their old riches mean nothing now. No one dares to cross the border into the town of seven hells, where one is guaranteed to spiral toward its deepest pit and never escape. The oldest money is caged there, dirtied and bloodied by greed and lust, sloth and catty rage.

One day, the whole area will be sucked into the earth, and nearby mountains will crumble and fall, covering the shame with rock and soil, from which a field of bold red roses will grow and bloom.

Word Prompt: Farmer’s market

On Saturday mornings, Dad drove us to the farmer’s market. We bought the same things every week – big red tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and a dozen eggs. Sometimes Dad bought us a fresh head of butter lettuce – perfect for the BLTs and hamburgers we liked to make when we got home. And sometimes – in the summer – he ventured to a stand at the far end of the market to purchase himself a fried green tomato sandwich before we headed back to the car.

I looked forward to those Saturday mornings when we drove downtown. On the way, we’d stop at a small, family-owned bakery with the best cannolis and vanilla cupcakes with white buttercream frosting that you could find anywhere in town. Dad let me eat the cupcake for breakfast, but I couldn’t have it when Mother was around. She’d allow a cannoli, but cupcakes were on her list of forbidden foods for her family to enjoy.

As I licked the last smears of frosting from my fingers, we’d be pulling into the parking lot of the market. There would be the Mennonites, unloading their truck of sweet breads and corn. There would be the regulars with their wicker baskets, strolling from stand to stand, chatting with the vendors, and admiring their spread of fruit. My sister, more bold than me from an early age, would hand-select items for Dad to buy. I would gaze at the juicy nectarines and polished green apples and wonder how to possibly choose. What if the one I picked had a warm or didn’t taste as sweet as the rest? Too many factors went into picking the best fruit and I simply didn’t have the confidence to try.

When we ambled between the aisles, stopping to smell the bread or admire an elderly grandma’s prized pecan pie, I longed for those minutes to last hours. We lost my dad to golf in the afternoons, and these were my precious moments with him on the weekends. He couldn’t take us on bike rides or on steep hikes, like other dads. He had no interest in art or catching a matinee. The market was our special time, and of all the potential memories we could have had partaking in anything else, I wouldn’t trade those Saturday mornings for a single one of them.

Word Prompt: Confusion

Confusion tells me to keep thinking. Think hard and all the answers will come running toward me, like an army of puzzle pieces on a mad spree from the dusty box in which they were encased for half a century. Frayed and mildewy. I’m stuck in cobwebs waiting for those little guys charging with swords to free me from the sticky fog. It’s not evaporating any time soon. Not while we’re stuck in the gloom.

Answers don’t fall into place in the gloom. They swim and float and drift. A lot of drifting. And hanging. Dangling like glistening droplets of dew. If I reach too fast, they’ll break and…splat. I’ll have less answers than I did before.

I’m empty. Wishing for more. Waiting for inspiration in a dry well. There’s not much to see around here. It’s dark. Black almost. If there weren’t echoes, I’d think no one was here. I hope there’s something. I hope it approaches and pokes me on the nose. Says, “here I was the whole time, and now I’m in your face telling you to wake up.”

Word Prompt: a Book

A book leads me from the mundane. Carries me toward truth and escape. Gives me hope there is a world where I’ll find peace.

A book introduces me to new friends. Lures me into their dark and swings open their doors to reveal the light. It’s not always enough to see, but there is a glint, a sliver of sun creeping across the floor or wall.

A book flies me to India, Paris, or an old lady’s home in the middle of nowhere. Middle Earth and mysterious islands I’ll never see in this lifetime. In pages, across words, I sail open seas and scale giant mountains.

A book opens my heart and lets it bleed. Tears of joy and empathy, bursts of laughter, small gasps and sighs. They tumble freely from the wound and mend the broken pieces of me.

A book shows perspective. Heals the troubled scars on my soul with the power of words. A book is my 12-step; my therapy; my drug of choice. Under its care, I feel finally free.