Road of Change

Road of Change: Santa Fe,The Next Day

Santa Fe The Next Day

The first stop of the morning was a bank where I collected a cashier’s check for the amount I was willing to spend on the car.

Chris, Matt and I arrived at the car dealership just as they opened.  Our young salesman waited for us at the entrance and he asked if I was ready to buy the car.  I told him only if we could agree on the money.

He started his salesman spiel just like I expected him to do. I cut him short and gave him the figure I would pay.

The kid acted flustered for a moment and then left us to collect the sales manager.  The sales manager asked if I wanted to test drive the car again and I told him, “No. I’ve seen the car. Are we going to deal or not?”

The sales manager started telling me about the cost of the car and overhead expenses.  I stopped him and showed him the cashier’s check. “This is what I will pay. Not a penny more.”

The sales manager looked at the check that was actually nearly $10,000 off of the list price and then told the salesman to write up the contract.

Two hours later, I drove off of the lot in my shiny new 2018 Octane Blue Metallic Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.  The dealership helped me to customize the mirror settings, the seat position, the GPS, the satellite radio, and a hundred other features.  I just hoped I remembered half of it. The owner’s manual looked like an unabridged dictionary, so I uploaded an app on my phone with all the instructions for operating my new car.

Noon and Matt treated us to lunch at a chain seafood restaurant that was next door to the dealership.  As we left the restaurant, Matt said to Chris, “Stay one more night and then you can hit the road in the morning.”

Chris replied, “I was hoping you would ask,” and then to me, “I’ll ride with Matt.” The two brothers walked toward Matt’s car obviously, they had more to talk about.  Whether it was Matt’s idea or Chris’s didn’t matter. Maybe in talking to his brother, Chris could get some of his issues sorted out.

I got into my new car.  I deeply inhaled the new car smell, ran my hands over the dashboard, the steering wheel and the seats. With the touch of a button, I started it up and verbally instructed the GPS to provide a map to Matt’s address in case I lost them in traffic.

By the time I arrived at the house, I had a better feel for the brakes and the steering. I totally enjoyed driving my new car and was well pleased with my purchase.

Before I could get out of the car, Charlotte ran out of the front door and said to me, “We’re going shopping.”  She climbed into the passenger side and told me to turn right out of the driveway. “Wow! I love this car. I can’t wait for Ernesto to see it.  I think we will get one, too.” She spent a few minutes investigating the dials, knobs, vanity mirror and glove box.

“Where are you going to live after you are married?”  I asked her.

“Ernesto and I have an apartment downtown.  He is living there full time and I will move in right after the honeymoon.”

“Where are you going on your honeymoon?”

“Nowhere special.  Disneyland for 3 days.  We would rather spend our money on buying furniture for the apartment.”

“Very wise.  My wedding was unbelievably lavish.  My mother spent so much money in order to impress her friends.  I don’t even remember having fun during the reception. There were mostly people there I didn’t know.  The decadence is embarrassing. It was the wedding my mother wanted for herself, I think. Anyway, I should have done what my sister did–a very small wedding and reception.  She and her husband paid for most of it themselves.”

“That is kind of what Ernesto me are doing. We only have about 60 people coming and most of them are his family. Dad paid for my dress, the cake, the flowers and the photographer.  Ernesto’s family is furnishing the food and the decorations for the reception.

“So where are we going and what are we buying?” I asked her.

“Mom thinks your clothes are deplorable, so she instructed me to get you some new ones.  She gave me her credit card.”

I frowned at my choice of clothes for the day. “I bought these yoga pants to travel in because they are comfy and I can wash them in the hotel shower.  I do have a couple pairs of of jeans with me, but I have gained a little from eating nothing but fast food and my jeans are tight enough to be uncomfortable.”

“We’ll fix that,”  Charlotte said.

“Look, I can pay for my own clothes, but I would certainly love some fashion advice and shopping company.”

“Mom insisted, to thank you for the afghan and the dog. Besides, we can give Dad and Uncle Chris a chance to talk.  Mom would have come with us if she were feeling better.”

We arrived at one of those outdoor malls and hit the shops, trying on clothes, drinking gourmet coffee, and buying plenty of treasures.  I bought two new pairs of designer jeans, a variety of colorful tops, sandals, a straw hat, turquoise jewelry and three shirts for Chris.

By the time we got back to Matt’s house, the guys had dinner waiting–A cool pasta salad and fresh fruit.  I just had time to visit the bathroom before joining the others at the table. The dinner featured a domestic setting and light conversation.  A perfect final evening in Santa Fe.

We played Trivial Pursuit after dinner with Ernesto the clear winner.  

We said a tearful goodbye to him because he would not be here to see us off in the morning.  “I will see you in November, for the wedding,” he said. He kissed Charlotte and aimed for the front door.

Julia left us to go to her room to finish the paper she had due the following morning.

Charlotte went to bed because she had to work tomorrow.  That left Chris, Matt, Barbara and me in the living room.

As usual, Matt took the lead.  “I am going to be sorry to see you go, but I think the two of you need more time to get things worked out.  I want you both to promise me something.”

“Anything,” Chris said.  

I wasn’t as ready to jump into a promise that I may not want to keep, so I hesitated.  Matt directed his stare at me. “Well?”

“What is the promise?”  I asked.

“Nothing you will find a hardship.”

I was wary, but I nodded my head.  Matt said, “Before you two go to bed at night, spend fifteen minutes talking to each other.  Really talking and listening. No fighting. No arguing. No judging. Tell each other how you feel.  What you feel. And you are required to tell each other one thing you love about the other.”

“What do you mean?”  Chris asked.

“Find something about Anne that you love and tell her what it is.  Like, uh, I don’t know. Maybe ‘Anne, I love the way your nose wrinkles when you sneeze.’ Or, ‘Chris, I love your pinky toe on your right foot.’  Everyone has something lovable about them. Find it in each other. And you are required to tell each other that you love them as the last thing you say before going to sleep.  See, not too hard.” Matt stood and held his hand down to Barbara who grasped it and rose from the chaise.

“See you in the morning,” Barbara said.  

I stood up to go to our bedroom and Chris followed me.  “No time like the present,” Chris said. He sat on the bed.  “Anne, I love the way your nose wrinkles when you sneeze,” he said to me.

I must have looked at him like he had suddenly grown two heads because he said, “What?”  A deep frown crossed his face.

I took a deep breath and then said, “Okay, we have to start somewhere.  Chris, I love your right pinky toe.”

We both laughed and Chris said,  “That really didn’t hurt too bad.”  He paused and then said, “Anne Archer, really, I love your eyes.  Your eyes are the most beautiful I have ever seen.”

I looked at him in wonderment.  “I never knew you felt that way.” He shrugged a shoulder and gave me a crooked grin. “Chris Archer, I love how you stand up so straight.  You have amazing posture.”

“Lillian would love to hear that.  She told me ten thousand times to always hold my shoulders back and my head up.  I guess her parenting worked.” I smiled at him, imagining Lillian’s voice in my head telling him to straighten up.

“The other part of the promise is to talk about how we really feel,”  Chris prompted.

I nodded and sat on the bed beside him.  “Okay. Barbara said something to me that I just didn’t realize.  She said I should ask you to join me when I am cooking, going to the grocery store, picking Lily up from school.  Whatever. I thought it was easier to do all those things by myself. I prided myself on my independence and self-reliance.  We probably shouldn’t do that when we are married.”

Chris said, “That’s what Matt told me.  We are on the same team. We can be self-reliant, but still include our spouse in everything.  He said to not just do things with each other, but for each other. Like him looking up information about what to cook for a person on chemo.  Like him reducing his work hours so he can be here to help Barbara.”

“We both screwed up this marriage,”  I said.

“Yeah, we did.”  He replied. “It’ll take both of us to fix it.”

“I know,”  I stood up and Matt grabbed my hand.  

“Anne, I love you.”

“Chris, I love you.”  I walked to the other side of the bed and slipped in between the sheets.  

That night, I spooned Chris from behind like always.

Road of Change

Road of Change: Santa Fe, Second Night

Once again, Chris and I slept together in the same bed.  Right before I fell asleep, I realized I had not thought about being angry with Chris all day.  We spent the whole day together, eating, laughing, cooking, talking and buying cars. No harsh words or rancorous barbs tossed about.

I rose from the bed after I heard Chris snoring to beat the band.  I slipped out of the bedroom and made my way to the patio. I needed time to process all that transpired.

I sat in a chair and pulled my knees up to my chin. The night was chilly, so I pulled my knees closer to my chest for warmth.  A breeze tugged my hair and blew the sand around. Plants rustled with a dry sound. No wildlife sounds. No bugs, no frogs, no coyotes.  I could hear traffic from the nearby city and a plane made its way across the sky. Quiet and peaceful.

When the patio door whispered open, I turned to see Chris standing in his pajama pants and a white t-shirt.

“I missed you,” he said.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,”  I replied.

He said in a chair beside mine and asked, “Contemplating the night?”

“Not really.  More like soul searching.”

Silence fell sharply between us.

“We sure are getting a good look at the sky tonight,”  Chris commented.

I nodded and regarded the sky with him.

“Anne, do you want to marry me?”  Chris asked suddenly after several minutes.

I turned to watch his face in the moonlight.  I saw expectation, fear, and vulnerability. It was so tempting to simply melt into his arms, but I hesitated.  

“I am not ready, Chris.  The anger is too deep.” I whispered.

“Do you want to divorce me?”  he whispered back, like a little boy who is as afraid of the question as he is of the answer.

“I am not ready for that, either.”

“Anne, I emailed Kathy and told her to move on because it was finished between us.  I emailed Dan to tell him that I would fire her as soon as I got back and why, and he told me she turned in a resignation and walked out of the office.  Her parting shot was asking Dan to tell me to screw myself. In so many words.”

I watched the desert for long minutes and then I asked Chris, “When did you email her?”

“Somewhere between Tallahassee and Mobile.”  

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“You wouldn’t have listened or you would have thought it was a game of some kind.”

“You’re probably right. Chris, I am glad you did that, but it still doesn’t fix everything.”

“I didn’t think it would,” he said.  “It was just the first step in fixing me. She has texted several times and emailed.  I have deleted all her texts and blocked her number from my phone. I blocked her email address, too.”  He gazed intently at the night, not facing me. “Can you ever forgive me?” he whispered.

“I don’t know,”  I told him, truthfully.  I rose from my chair and returned to the quiet house.  I padded softly to the bathroom and then returned to the bed.

Chris returned in about fifteen minutes and I pretended to be asleep, keeping my breaths deep and even and my eyes forced shut. I felt his eyes on my for long minutes.  Finally, he sighed and got under the blanket.

Sometime in the tiny hours of the morning, we fell asleep back to back instead of spooning.
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Flash Fiction, Love in an Instant, Writing

Flash Fiction: Love in an instant: At the Copa

Everyday, the same nothingness happened on the long commute home.  Two hours in my car, stuck in traffic, boredom abounds.  Inch by inch, I forge ahead, trying to make the twenty-three mile journey to my haven of solitude.  Twenty- three miles in two hours. Progress stops.

Horns, motors, exhaust fumes.  My car starts to overheat in the summer sun, so I turn off the AC and open the windows.  Nothing moves.  Angry faces stare at me out of their car windows as if the gridlock is my fault.  Sweat tickles my face.

I have a CD of my favorite songs playing quietly so as not to disturb the neighbors in their equally dismal commute. But, that song starts playing and I reach over to turn up the volume just a little.  And a little more.  At the chorus, I sing along with Barry Manilow.  “At the Copa.  Copacabana.  The hottest spot north of Havana…”  

Next to my car, the man in the red Ford F150 smiles and his head bobs in rhythm. His window is open to the elements, too. Blond hair matted with sweat and gray tank stuck to his chest, he starts singing. Hot wind brings in the smell of cigarette smoke and rum.

“At the Copa.  Copacabana.  Music and passion were always the fashion at the Copa.  She fell in love.”  Barry, Red Truck Man and me sing in complete harmony.

We three sing Lola’s story into life:  “His name is Rico.  He wore a diamond.  He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancing there. And when she finished.  He called her over.  But, Rico went a bit too far. Tony sailed across the bar. And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two. There was blood and a single gunshot, but just who shot who? At the Copa…”

The musical bridge played and Red Truck Man and I cha-chaed in our cars.  Red gave me a spin and pulled me in close.  Our bodies move in perfect synchronicity. No longer stuck in gridlock, Red and me flew to the Copa to dance the hot Florida night away. One, two, cha cha cha.

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Barry, Red and me start singing right on cue.  “Her name is Lola…” all the way to the end of the song when we sing, “Don’t fall in love.”  It’s too late Barry and Red.  I already fell in love with both of you.

The traffic starts to move forward and Red releases me from our dance.  

For the duration of a song, my wish for the world worked.  Everyone knows the words to the song.  Everyone knows the steps to the dance.  The guy always gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after. Just like a Fifties’ musical.  Just the way I really want to the world to be.

Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction: The Road Construction Worker: Love in an Instant.

Love can happen in an instant.  Many times I have fallen in love, the affair lasting only moments or a few precious minutes. Like this story.

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Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash

He stood on the road holding one of those signs that commanded drivers to stop. Six feet tall, with dirty well-fitting jeans and a faded t-shirt hidden by a Day-Glo yellow don’t-hit-me vest.  His brown work boots were scuffed and worn from months or years standing on the road, holding a sign.  Or maybe he did real work and that day his turn came up to catch a break.

I was the first in line, waiting for the signal to proceed, but the sign refused to allow forward movement.  It forced me to pause and assess my environs.

Slowly, he turned his face in my direction. He smiled at me revealing bright white teeth.  Eyes made out of blue crystals sparkled in the sun.  I opened my car window and said, “Good morning.”

“It won’t be long, Ma’am.”  he responded, the southern twang adding romance and color to his voice.  The sound of his voice alone told me the story of his life.

I imagined him in a small house in the woods. Pickup in the dirt drive, dirty boots left by the door, feeding two dogs, neither with any sign of pedigree, eating the hamburger he bought on the way home, popping open the can of beer to wash it all down, turning on the news, propping his feet on the coffee table, settling in for the evening.  Unencumbered by the pressures of life.

No responsibilities at work to weigh heavily on his shoulders, to wrinkle his features.  Just hold the sign.  Turn it around.  Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I imagined him in another job.  Print ad model wearing the same clothes and holding a sign to direct the traffic of people to the store to buy jeans or signs.  Or perhaps the poster boy for the road department.  Watch out for the working class while you drive through the construction zone.

Regretfully, he spun the sign around.  He touched the brim of his yellow hard hat that covered most of his short dark hair and said, “Have a good day, Ma’am.”  He talked to me.  He noticed me.

I drove forward among Bob’s Barricades, asphalt trucks, more men in don’t-hit-me vests.  The love affair ended because I drove away from it, like all my other love affairs.  Involved for just a few moments and then forward into my life.  

I smiled all the way to work that day.

Writing

7 Passionate Ideas for Passionate Writing

I am a passionate writer.  That doesn’t mean that I write passionate stories, but rather I write passionately.  And what that means is I treat writing like a job.  True, it is a job I love doing and true, I would rather write than work at (something)Mart.  Passion is the critical element in writing.

Karen Writes' Writing Desk

If I write something bad, which happens more often than I care to think about, I have options:  I can delete it, I can put in that “terrible idea” file and maybe use it at a later time, or I can leave it on my desktop to percolate, marinate, season, age like fine wine or sharp cheese.  Maybe after a few days, I will find it is not such a terrible idea after all.

For me writing often reflects the mood I am in at that particular moment.  Like everyone, I have days that are dark and gloomy as the weather during a winter storm or as bright and sunny as the first of spring.  So, if I am gloomy today and I am trying to write a happy scene, it will not work very well.  I wait until the sun comes out, then I write something happy.  That’s not to say that I won’t write on that gloomy day.  I simply write a gloomy scene or spend time writing a reflective journal post.

I have learned recently that holding myself back while writing will never result in good writing.  What I will achieve is superficial and one dimensional.  To have passion in my writing, I have to get emotionally involved with my characters or my topic and not worry about what the neighbors think.  I have to stop writing what others want to read, because whatever I write will appeal to only one person in a thousand.  The other 999 will not be interested, anyway.

Now, for the advice portion of this post:

  1. Strive to be a passionate writer. Dig deep and find the passion that is there, anyway.
  2. Don’t write for an individual, either real or imagined. Find what’s in that deepest part of your heart and write about it.
  3. Don’t let a day go by without writing something, be it a journal entry, or a chapter in a novel that will later get deleted. Write something.  Every day.
  4. Write about the things inside. If it is emotional to you, it will be emotional to someone else.
  5. Use your favorite method to write, whether it is a #2 pencil and a scrap of paper rummaged from the trash pile or (my personal favorite) a keyboard. I prefer the keyboard because I type fast and fairly accurately, so I can get these random ideas down more quickly.  Also, I have began audio recordings while driving in my car or making breakfast.
  6. Write using your own voice. It makes you unique.  In that way, you will stand out from the crowd.  You’ve heard it before.  There is only one you, so don’t try to be someone else.
  7. Read something every day. Reading is an excellent method for improving your own writing because you are learning about sentence structure, plot lines, information that can be used in a story or article at a later day.  Much of what you are learning is on a subliminal, but reading is beneficial to every writer.

Writing 500 words a day doesn’t take that long to do.  Stephen King recommends writing 1000 words a day, although he writes 2000 a day.   But, I am no Stephen King nor am I trying to be him.  Most days, I write more than 500 words.  All I had to do was to turn off the TV (or Netflix or Amazon) and write.  I put down my computer games and then write.  I make time for writing.  I don’t wait for inspiration.  I start writing and then inspiration just happens.

I write passionately.

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Writing

How to Write: Put Your Fingers on the Keyboard and WRITE

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IBM Selectric Ball
To write something a person has to put pen to paper or, in my case, fingers to keyboard.
I type fast, having learned how to keyboard while in high school.  At that time, I never dreamed I would own a computer.  My big dream was an IBM Selectric–an electric typewriter with a ball instead of keys that got jammed together when I typed too fast.  After years of practice, I can keyboard almost as fast as I think.  Definitely as fast as I can talk.
The ability to type rapidly enables me to get my thoughts in front of me without losing them as new thoughts are processed.

I set aside time to write on my calendar.

By scheduling my time, I know I am going to sit down in front of the keyboard and create something.  That doesn’t mean I sit down to absolutely no idea of what to write.  I always have a general idea of which direction I am going.  I think about my stories or blog articles a lot before I actually show up at the keyboard.  I make notes in my iPhone if something particularly meaty occurs to me.

I don’t always type something meaningful or enlightening.  Often, it is just weird ramblings or several paragraphs in my novel that I can later delete.

The Delete Key

The main key to my writing is my delete key.  I know some writers disagree with that and treat every word they write as if they were chiseled onto a stone table.  For a while, I did, too.  I saved every word instead of deleting until I had a folder chock-a-block full of deleted paragraphs, phrases and chapters.

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My DELETE Key

I NEVER went back in to re-read them.  Finally, I stopped saving everything and just delete, delete, delete.  Eventually, after two years of sitting idle and unopened, I deleted my deleted paragraphs folder.

 

I love the process of editing what I write.  How many times have I ran across something in someone else’s novel I am reading that just screams for an edit?  It is almost disappointing to me when what I have written reaches that point where no further editing is necessary.   In fact, the way I start writing when I am working on a novel is to read what I wrote the previous two or three days, edit while reading and then, I allow the ideas flow to add new content.  By the time I reach the end of the first draft, it is a nearly perfectly edited piece.

Let It Rest

Then, I let it rest for several days or even weeks before reading again and checking for additional edits needed.  I have at this point, chucked an entire body of work.  I have rearranged chapters, I have eliminated chapters.  I have even eliminated characters.  Then, I let it rest again.  And so forth until I am satisfied with the end product.
Working from an outline tends to limit my creativity.
I normally write on the fly, having a general idea of where I want the story to go.  It is like flying an airplane by dead reckoning.  I can pinpoint the landing as I get closer to my destination.
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Write on the fly