At The Station (Chapter 9)

Sometime last year I started seeing a movie in my head. The movie was really more of an alternate reality. Somehow I was seeing "Todd in an alternate universe"...as a movie. I knew I had to write it.

Now, to be fair, that's pretty much how all of my written pieces (other than the poems and blog posts) start out--as movies. When I see enough of the movie playing in my head, I have to sit down and start writing it out.   The excerpt below is from a work in progress. It has a working title, but I'm not going to tell you what that is. Hence the 'in progress' part of the work in progress moniker.

I owe a good chunk of the second half of this piece to friend and fellow author Monica Corwin. She had posted a 'who wants to do a word sprint' kind of post on the book of face tonight. It wasn't just a word sprint kind of post, it was exactly that. So I was all like, "yeah, sure. Let's do this shit!"  Or something like that. It was a 15 minute sprint.  I did 485 words. None of that is what grabbed me by the short hairs, though. What did grab me by the short and curlies was the following:

  • I started writing again on a book I had thought was stalled
  • Writing characters based on people who may or may not have ever been in your life was cathartic
  • Seriously, cathartic as fuck
  • Also, I was already passed 31,000 words on this book (I had never really looked before)--YAY ME!
So, here's an excerpt.  This is a couple steps above free-writing, so don't get too attached. But please...enjoy. And see if you can spot the catharsis ;-)


Chapter 9

The bustle of an active police station that had only barely registered when I was brought in hushed to nearly library levels as the detective led me back through the maze of desks toward the elevator.  It seemed as though I had a cloud following me that silenced anyone I passed. By the time we got to the elevators there was an eerie silence.
Webber motioned me on first. I turned as she was getting on. Pretty blue eyes with a heaviness that I couldn’t place.  She quickly averted her gaze. I looked over her shoulder and saw a chilling sight--every single face in that squad room was focused squarely on the elevator.

It was my turn to avert my gaze as the elevator doors closed.

“What the fuck is going on?” I thought to myself immediately after wondering if I had taken my meds for the day--there was a good chance I was going to be here a while.

She pressed the lowermost button in the columns of floor buttons. The Elevator shuddered as though protesting the fact that it was taking a trip down to a floor labeled ‘MG.’

“It’s probably used to one of the bodies on the ride down being dead.” Too late I realized that particular thought had vocalized and was not just in my head.

I saw Detective Webber tense up and instinctively put her hand on the butt of her holstered weapon.

“Excuse me, Mr. Andrews?  What was that about a dead body?” She looked at me quizzically.

“I..uh. Nothing Detective.  I saw the letters “MG” and assumed we were going to the morgue. I figured that the elevators didn’t normally take only livi-- you know what? I’m just a little nervous. This is all kind of new to me. I haven’t been out here in a long time.”

“Out here? The city?” She asked, relaxing somewhat.

“No.The world. As in outside of my apartment. I haven’t left in nearly twenty-eight months. I figured your officers had good reason to break that streak, though.”

“Shit.” It was Webber’s turn to mutter something that she clearly meant to be under her breath.  “Twenty-eight months? She asked again as though the number came as a shock.

“Twenty-seven months and 3 weeks. The divorce kind of fucked with my head. There’s no real--”

The ding of the bell and the fact that the elevator took a sudden lurch interrupted whatever thought I was trying to convey.

“We’re here,” she said dryly.

I didn’t know where ‘here’ was, but the ache in the pit of the stomach wasn’t going away. Apparently it was along for the ride too.

I followed Webber through a pair of ER-style doors that led into a cold examination room.

“You were correct, Mr. Andrews. This is the morgue.” She walked over to a vestibule and tapped on the glass. A freakishly tall man came out from behind the partition and walked to the wall of doors that I assumed housed all of the bodies.  He opened the door labeled ‘37’ and pulled out a metal stretcher.

As he lifted the sheet, Detective Webber asked, “Mr. Andrews, do you recognize this woman?”

I wanted to turn away. I tried to turn away. My feet had grown concrete ballasts. My eyes had completely lost the ability to close. I stared transfixed at the body on the slab.

Three thoughts played ping pong as I stood frozen. The first was the fact that dead bodies on TV have a purplish hue to them. Still looking as though they were able to be reanimated. The body before me looked dead. Gruesomely and horrifically dead.

The second thought bordered on gratitude.  I was thankful that I had not eaten lunch yet today. If I had, these dry heaves building in my stomach would have been so much worse.

The third and final thought…

“That….that’s my ex-wife,” I said to the Detective in almost a whisper.

...I’m so fucked.

She ushered me back towards the elevator.
“Hold on a second Mr. Andrews.”  I barely registered what was happening after the point that the sheet was pulled back. The tall guy.  I assume he was the Medical Examiner or morgue lackey of some sort pulled the sheet back up over Lorna’s head.  I hadn’t thought of her in quite a while. At least that was what I kept telling the therapist.Truth is, I wasn’t sure, even now, that I was fully over her.  Memories flooded my mind.  Emotions long since pushed down to the pit of my stomach came rushing to the surface on a mission. I looked around frantically for a bucket.

Luckily there was a metal wastebasket next to the elevator. Breakfast came back to the surface in a vengeance. I leaned against the wall to steady myself until I was sure the nausea had passed.

Detective Webber placed her hand on my shoulder.  “I’m sorry,” she said to me just before the hauntingly cheery ding announced the elevator.  “Let’s get you back upstairs.”

I was in no condition to argue at this point.

I turned to her in the elevator, my voice barely a whisper.  “You thought I was a suspect, didn’t you?  Your plan was to read me, try to trip me up when you showed me her body.”

“Yes.” Her voice was barely louder than mine at this point. She stared up as the light behind the floor numbers moved from left to right.

“Fuck you.”  I felt weak in the knees again. As the small world of the elevator expanded to a big, black nothingness, I heard the Detective whisper, “I’m sorry. I had no idea.”

I don’t know how much time passed between passing out in the elevator and waking up in the office. I don’t know whose office it was or even if it was an office. All I know is that I was lying on a couch. More 70’s thrift store reject and less high class leather cop show couch, I tried to sit up.

Detective Webber was sitting in a chair near the couch, shoulders slouched in defeat. Someone I hadn’t been introduced to sat behind a wooden desk with metal accents that also looked as though it would feel more at home in the corner of the set of Barney Miller. Both looked up as I stirred.

“Mr. Andrews, I’m Lead Detective Merchant. We’re very sorry for your loss.” He reached out a hand. I shook it. Still dazed. I didn’t want to make eye contact with Webber. She was just doing her job. Likely on the recommendation of this douche-nozzle. Who was also doing his job.  I suppose I would have liked to know that they had done their homework.  At the moment I wasn’t convinced.
“So...I’m not an idiot detectives.  The spouse, ex or not, is usually the first suspect.  At least that’s the way they play it on TV.  But, fuck.  Clearly someone missed something.”

I wanted to make sure I had their attention.

“I didn’t handle the divorce well. After everything ended, the outside world seemed a little too big.  Your little subterfuge today was the first time I have left my apartment in nearly three years. And if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to go back now.”

An empathetic tone I wasn’t expecting came from the chair next to me. “I’ll drive you Mr. Andrews.”

I stood to follow Detective Webber when Merchant spoke.

“One more thing Mr. Andrews--”

“I’m not leaving the city.  I’m agoraphobic you prick. I’ve been diagnosed and under professional care for it for over two years now. Check with my shrink. If you’ve got my ISP records or bank records, you already know how to reach her.”  I refused to look at him as I left. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought Webber’s postured lifted slightly at my comment.

- - 



Guest Blogging

This is a little 'cart before the horse' here, but that's never really stopped me before.  In the writing group I'm part of (check them out here...there are some crazy good authors in there), the topic came up of helping to elevate each other. Cross-posting blogs and events and the like. And the topic of guest blogging came up.  It's a simple concept. One of us asks another to throw a post together on a topic of interest.  I threw my hat in to the ring and said I'd be happy to throw a post together.

I'm not sure at this point whether to cue the Disney 'creatures of the woodlands singing and helping the princess in disguise get dressed' music or the subtle but unmistakable tones of foreboding, foreshadowing that the shed in back was actually the gateway to hell.

Side Note: Backyard shed or not, the gateway to hell may actually currently be held closed by a pie pan that is hammered in to the ground in the front yard of a farmhouse in KY.  Don't ask me how I know, just take my word for it.

I didn't really think too much more about it. Yes, I write a blog (I mean you ARE reading it, right?). Yes, I think I'm funny. No, I wasn't actually thinking any of my fellow wordsmiths would actually tap me to tag in.

I should have known better. You see, the thing that I am constantly grateful for with this particular group I've fallen in with is this-they seek to lift each other up. The group succeeds because we all want ALL of us to be better. We all want each of us to take a chunk of that literary world and swing it around by the short hairs. I haven't felt this genuine desire to elevate since first working with the Columbus Help Portrait group. It's amazingly refreshing to have that kind of time with artists who want to share and grow each other in their chosen craft (in this case writing).

So enter Tim McWhorter. He came up to me after one of our writing group meetings and asked if I was still game to write a guest blog post. I nodded. And I asked about length, topic, shoe size.  OK to be fair I really don't remember how the conversation went. I was already in 'wheels racing way the fuck ahead' mode.  I'd read some of Tim's blog. I knew my personal blogging voice wouldn't be too far off from his posts. We settled on the topic of inspiration.

And then I did something I almost never do with a blog post.

I kicked around the idea in my head for a couple of days before I started writing it. It's not that planning is bad. I do it with some of the posts on here (what? You think this random-off-the-cuff vibe happens naturally all the time?). Or I'll start a post and let it sit, simmering in the juices and come back to it.

That's what I did with the post on inspiration.  I was down on the Farm.  And it hit me--everything I had written (at least what I had remembered of it) was just bullshit. Or mostly bullshit.

I tried to be smart and step out of my element. I did some research (*cough* Google and Wikipedia *cough*) about the Muses and their meanings to the Greek and Romans.

Damn thing almost turned in to a book report.  And then this weekend, I caught myself.

I was here looking at this barn. This barn that has been part of my life since my earliest memories of coming down to Kentucky and I figured out what inspires me.

So?  Care to clue us in Todd?

I know. I hate cliffhangers too.  I don't want to dive in to it. I would MUCH rather have a future post with a link to Tim's blog and you can read my a-ha moment for yourself. Needless to say I did a 180 somewhere around the middle of the post and got back to my true voice. After all, it seems to be working for the 9 of you that put up with my antics here.

I guess the takeaway here is that if someone asks me to guest blog, it's for one of two reasons (or maybe two of two reasons): they want a break from writing on their own blog and/or they find something cool about the voice of my blog that they want on theirs. And I guess a third option is that they want to help me by giving their readership a taste of something new.

In any event, I'm good with it. As long as I stick to my own way of doing it and stay true to my truly random (albeit charming) nature, then it's all good. When I did that, it was a much better experience.  Hopefully Tim thinks so, too. But if not, it's no big deal. I'll just have a post all ready to go some time down the line.

Remind me to tell you some time about that portal to hell. It really is truly amazing what you can do with a pie pan these days.



What Is A Writer?

This past August, I found myself in the good fortune of being asked to join a local writers group. The group is small but has several published authors in its midst. Something that is a goal of mine. Don't get me wrong, dear readers, I will still write and publish on this and possibly other blogs for as long as that medium is viable, but there is a part of me that wants to be out there. That wants to be able to walk through an airport and see my books in the overpriced 'newsstands' where haggard travelers are buying overpriced tap water in bottles they have no intention of reusing or recycling.

That is the dream. Or one of them anyway.

Back to the group.  Yesterday was one of two of the meetings we have monthly. And a conversation started (possibly by me) about how "non-writers" always seemed to want to help us in our quest.

Side Note: Before I go further in this post, I would like to mention one thing. I have struggled with whether or not to even put this post out here or leave it in my paper journals to languish in obscurity until long after my death.  In the end, I decided to throw it up here. It will still be every bit as obscure, but there is at least a chance it will resonate with one of the seven of you that normally read this blog. That, or you'll think me a bigger prig than you already do. Either way, here we go.

I commented on the fact that writing was a creative art and profession unlike any other in one simple respect: In due course of traversing the primary eduction system in this country and others, we are all taught how to write. The mechanics.  The structure of writing. The rules, if you will.  Those are all things we are taught and things upon which we are graded for at least a cursory understanding of the fundamentals.

Because of that education, I think there is a certain dismissal by the general populous when someone says they are a 'writer.'  If you're not as famous as Stephen King or (insert your favorite author here), then the assumption is that you're doing it as a hobby or that you're not necessarily a great writer because they haven't heard of you or seen you in the airport overpriced 'newsstands.' 

So along with the, "Oh? A writer, huh? Have I read any of your work?" line of questioning and down the nose glances invariably comes the next line, "I've been meaning to write a book. I just haven't had the time (or some other logical sounding excuse here)."

When I encounter these folks (some of whom are friends, family, or co-workers), my first line of defense is a polite smile. I also tend to encourage people to write. Because, yes, I believe that everyone can write--mechanically. And it's a good way to clear your head of cob-webs.

But just because you write, it doesn't make you a Writer.  And that's really where the conversation centered in our little tete-a-tete on Saturday.

I know how to play football. I know the mechanics of the game. I know the rules. I know the positions, formations, theories, etc. I don't, however, have the burning drive to make it big in professional football. Nor would I think it anywhere near my place to, if I found myself conversing with someone who did play professional ball, tell them how they would best improve their game. I don't know what process they go through. I don't know what they've gone through to get to where they are. Even if they don't appear to be successful by whatever standards I deem adequate to measure success in that realm, it is certainly not my place to tell them how to "make it."

And that's the funny thing about writing. There is no shortage of advice and well-meaning "criticisms" that come our way as writers.

Pick up a copy of Word and bang out a few paragraphs and suddenly you're a writer.

But are you? I don't know.

I guess that goes back to what makes someone a writer? How to you measure success?

At the first meeting I attended of Creative Minds Columbus (the writing group of which I am a part), I was asked by Tim McWhorter if I was having any success at this writing thing. And I didn't really know how to answer that. I turned it back around and asked what does it mean to be successful as a writer?  And I think I've been working through the answer to that question ever since.

Here's the thing...it's not really my place to say whether you're a writer or not. The Blog Phenomenon has opened the door for many people to get their work out there now more than ever before.  But just as the paper publishing world....some of it is brilliant. Some of it is rubbish.  But the only person that knows if they are successful is the person that's writing.

I look at the number of hits each of my posts get on here. If I get above 30 hits, I know the post has resonated with my friends. The 10 or 15 of you that see the link on Facebook and click over here. If the post gets over 40 or 50 hits, then I know you've shared it with people that don't normally read my blog.

As a writer who wants to be successful, I should really figure out what trends and give you more of that.

But that's just it. The fact that you come here means I'm successful. It means that there's something about my voice, my style, or me as a cool dude that you like to peek in on every now and again.

Does that make me a writer?

No. What makes me a writer, in my mind, is the following.

If I go a day without writing something, I feel bad.  There is a physical ache inside.  Much like going to bed on an empty stomach. A day without writing for me is painful.  I don't have to get 1000 words in to feel sated. I just need to write. Whether it's in my journal, or here, or jotting down an idea for a book I had while I was in the shower; I just have to write-something.

Much like a gym rat feels like complete shit if they skip a workout, the same is true for me with writing. If I go a day without it, I'm lost. I'm a wreck.

Amongst my friends who are also writers, this seems to be a common thing. The longer they go without any writing at all, the worse their world is (and the world for those around them).

Writers write.

I don't write because I think it's a nice hobby. I don't even write because I think that what I have to say is terribly interesting--I know it's tripe sometimes.

I write because I have to.  Period.

Even if you never read it, I have to write.

I guess that's the barometer of whether or not you are a Writer or just someone who writes.
Would you still write even if you knew nobody would read it?

If the answer is yes, then welcome to the wonderful world of pain and misery and inexplicable joy that is writing.

Failing NaNo - 4 Years and Counting

I looked, Dear Readers, and noted that the last time I saw fit to let the words fall from my brain bucket and onto these virtual pages was o...