These stories are inspired by the 100 Days project film clips of John Timmons’ (corresponding clips are linked below each title) and each is in response to his own daily piece or that of one of the other participants.
Note: only the most current stories are accessible, to secure the text and particularly, the images from being nabbed by and displayed on public sites. If you would like to read some of the stories that are here, simply email me at email@example.com for the password.
#40 THE MADONNA
He cannot help himself; Joseph immediately wants her. Craig made his latest girlfriend sound like a madonna and what does Craig know about madonnas?
They are best friends but when it comes to women, Craig has gone through more women than Joseph will ever meet in his life. Craig is tall and shaped like a capital Y. He has crackling green eyes and a smile filled with white teeth that sparkle like snowflakes. He is a master of cool and has the quicksilver tongue of a lizard to whisper beautiful lies into the depths of a lady’s ear.
Shy. Myopic. Late bloomer. Geek. That is Joseph. But Joseph believes that if he ever gets the chance he would be the perfect boyfriend, the ultimate caring lover. He reads a lot. He’s even read romance novels so he knows exactly what women want. All he needs is the opportunity.
Which is what Craig hands him one lonely Saturday night.
“Hey, bro, can you do me a favor?”
Joseph’s skin tingles. He would do just about anything to please Craig. “Sure.”
“I double-booked tonight with Sam and Lynette, and I need you take one of them off my hands.”
The tingle starts to drip. Joseph is sweating just at the thought of a date. He can’t believe that Craig handed him Lynette–the new girl, the madonna–just like that. He’s ready though, by God, he’s ready for her. Except that he makes Craig call her and tell her that he, Joseph, will be picking her up.
The concert is loud and the crowd steams around him. He wishes he’d spent just five minutes more on deciding not to take a jacket. Now he can’t take it off because wet stripes of sweat have bled into his shirt. Lynette is beautiful, smells like a combination of tangerines and roses. He breathes her in, missing the occasional glance she gives him, focusing in on her scent with the nose of a bloodhound. He wonders if she smells like that all over. In the car he drives with his elbows out like a bird flapping his wings. He doesn’t think she notices and when at last he feels dry, he relaxes.
“Who’s your favorite writer?” he asks.
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess whoever wrote The Twilight Saga movies,” she says.
And so it goes on until Joseph has run out of possible connections. He feels the threads burn and drop away like a severed walkway over a canyon. They hang raveled and raw against the cliff. He hears the water rushing below. He pulls the car into a road that gradually turns to gravel, then sand, then tall grass that bends out of his path. He turns off the key and thinks but he can’t think of a thing to say.
She’s on him like a mother cat cleaning a kitten. His ear is cold and wet. The very last thread, the thing that ties them together, the man-woman moment is all he cares about now. She undresses him, then herself and they grab and heave and hump as they do in the novels. Joseph is exhausted, exhilarated. He lifts up and looks at her glowing in the light of her halo.
#39 I WONDER
If I count to thirty-nine and miss twenty-seven would anyone care? If I take the stairs two at a time does the stairway become six or seven steps long? I go up to the bedroom and somehow don’t remember the stairs. What if I take them in one giant leap; will they even be there? Do people run numbers or instead, are lives dictated by the hours, the minutes, the weeks and the years so that all we can do is estimate, guess, return numbers that didn’t work out back to the hollow dark of the lottery ball and spin it and spin it again?
I woke up at three and the sun was missing from the morning. Something else wasn’t there, an escape of breath like an early spring breeze. A twitching of toes like a caught bird at the foot of the bed. If I rewind the time to yesterday’s dawn, will the sun pop up as it did? I worry. Tomorrow has such an effect on yesterday that if I can hold it back on the other side of the covers, keep it from entering, I can control the next day. So I burrow under the quilt that my grandmother made for our wedding. I hold the top tight against the pillows, yours and mine. I search this oyster shell for a pearl, a hair from your head that I will then have cloned and grow into you.
I wonder if you would still leave me if I am there from the start. If I suckle you and teach you colors and numbers. If hand-in-hand we follow butterflies to the edge of the meadows and we live in a treehouse and climb up a ladder not stairs.
In this soft blackness I can wonder and no one else, least if all you, would wonder or care.
#38 PARTS IS PARTS
The first time I saw a penis was when my cousin Jeanine let me see her baby brother for a quarter. For a few years after that the image came back into my mind whenever I was pondering the mysteries of life or walked into a room where a group of laughing adults suddenly shushed each other as soon as they spotted me. It just didn’t seem like what looked like those straw mushrooms you see in chop suey was going to fit anywhere except in my ear and that image didn’t make sense. Eventually I learned that penises and boobs grow when fed by teenage hormones and technically, the whole thing works when the parts match.
The next time I saw a penis was in Michael Devazewski’s car after the Freshman Social. He took it out and asked me to touch it. Like why? I thought but it seemed to be important to him so I laid my hand on it and he curled my fingers around it. I giggled. Then he pulled my bra below my breast and covered it with his hand and sort of squeezed. That felt good so I freed the other breast so he could match both hands to my pair. Soon after I found out what went where and all the mysteries were solved. After trying on a few as if they were an Easter outfit, I got married.
What interests me now as a lecturer on foreign languages and a writer are the semantics and etymology. Besides the vulgar names for parts and placements such as fuck, and the cutesy ones–I hate pee-pee for penis most of all, though Cheech and Chong had fun with it, and I once decked a guy who call my genitalia a hoo-hoo–there are colloquial and ethnic influences on what to call a penis and a vagina and what they do upon meeting. I like to trace down the beginnings of words. I can explore but still don’t make all the connections. Then again, in her flowers holds the same logic as my friend. I dig deep to find the root source–yeah, root. That one at least makes sense.
So here I am, knowledgeable in the repertoire of the language of love–sex, really–and my husband walks in the room and lifts an eyebrow and without a word, I get up and follow.
“You must have been flying,” said George. Sherril nodded. She had in fact flown since he’d sounded so urgent. In lieu of the car, she just imagined herself there.
“Sit down,” he said, waving her toward a chair in the kitchen while with the other hand he pulled off an accumulation of things that, to a bachelor, have no place else to go. “Coffee?”
“Sure.” Sherril first gave the chair a quick dusting swipe. It was ineffective. She made a face and sat down. “What’s up? What’d you do to your hand?”
Sherril added three spoonfuls of sugar and a plop of milk to her coffee. She stirred it slowly in, imagining the coffee getting thicker with cream, sweeter to the taste with each rotation of her spoon. That was another of her gifts, the ability to comprehend and feel things happening. Which is probably why, she guessed, George had called her instead of a closer friend or an ambulance.
“I was cutting up a peach for my cereal and clumsy me, nearly hacked off my thumb.” He held it up for emphasis, or to point to the sky via the ceiling, or whatever; we really don’t know. We can see that the thumb of his left hand is swathed in paper towels held in place with black electrical tape. We’re curious, as is Sherril.
“I bled blue!” George nearly exploded with glee. “Honest to Christ, goddamn blue!”
George jumped up and picked up a cutting board off the counter. He waved it in front of her face. “See?”
“It looks black.”
“Well that’s because it dried up. But you can still tell it’s blue. Red would have dried to maroon. Or burnt sienna.”
“Okay, okay. I believe you.” Sherril took a long sip of her coffee and set the cup down. “Do you want me to bandage that better and maybe clean the wound?”
George looked at the paper ball on his thumb. “Yeah, I guess that’d be a good idea. It was hard to do myself. You know, with only one hand.”
Sherril thought the cut wasn’t very deep, but cleaned it with peroxide and rewrapped it with gauze and two bandaids. George had put a satiny robe on over his pajamas. He stood there with his injured hand held in the palm of the other as Sherril washed the breakfast dishes, the bloody cutting board and the knife. (“Careful,” warned George.) When she put the mop away and fluffed out the rug, she looked around with some satisfaction. “Well, I must be off,” she said.
“I can’t thank you enough,” said George. “I’ll let you know how I’m doing.”
“Sure, George. I hope your thumb heals quickly. And please be more careful,” she said.
“Oh I will. At least I know who to call,” he grinned, just as she faded away.
#36 LOUD SYMBOLS, QUIET VOICES
Fifty years they were married. She stares at the gold ring split not by death or divorce but a jeweler’s tool. There’s a quarter-inch gap in the band where it was spread like ribs to allow her to pull her finger back through and free as a snake shedding its skin. The ring looks hollow and lifeless; her finger, pinkly newborn and soft. Vulnerable.
She talks to him and he answers–she marvels–more than he did alive! He doesn’t hide behind papers but sits and looks up as if she has something important to say. He lets her watch Dancing With The Stars and sits there and watches it with her. He helps her with dinner and changing the beds, and on the anniversary of his passing, while she sat at the table and cried, he got up and washed the dishes and put the leftovers away.
The nights used to be loud and lonely. She sleeps snuggled and secure in his spoon. In the morning, with the sun sliced by the blinds, she brushes her hair and he’ll come up quietly behind her, give her a gentle pat on the tush. Over her shoulder he’ll grin like a boy in the mirror and she can’t help smiling back.
Marriage is truly forever, she thinks, even as she moves on. She puts away the ring with its mate asleep like a couple in bed. Symbols can die, she thinks, but they’re only that. She stands still, even as she moves on.
#35 A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
“I’d love to go,” Sam said.
That surprised Eulalie. She thought he’d always hated opera.
“Well why did you ask him?” said Edward.
“Because I was sure he’d say no,” she said. She dabbed at her eyes, leaving black smudge spots on her delicate white hanky.
“But it’s Verdi,” said Edward. “You know I love Verdi.” His face was a mask of distress.
“There, there,” Eulalie patted his chest, unbuttoned his shirt, ran her long nails down his back in soft letters of love. “I’ll figure out something. Don’t worry, love, you and I will see Verdi together.”
“Are you sure? Top hat and tails?” Sam asked.
“Yes, and an opera cape. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll have one at the rental store.”
“Eh. Well okay,” he said.
“And a cockatoo. You’ll have to carry a cockatoo. I think I can get one at the pet shop.”
“Really?” said Edward. “He’s willing to dress up and carry a cockatoo?”
“Do you believe it?” Eulalie cried. “I’m at my wit’s end! Whatever is he thinking!” They made screaming love then held each other quietly close while Edward consoled and she plotted.
“This corset is killing me,” Eulalie grumbled, ducking her head to allow for the spray of feathers set in her hair.
“Excuse me, my dear, but I must make a trip to the mens room,” said Sam and he left her fuming in the chandeliered lobby. She tried to blend into the green velvet drapes, but the cockatoo was not happy to be left behind and threatened to squawk.
“Oh!” said Eulalie for she had spotted Edward arriving with a very busty young blonde with lovely aqua ostrich feathers adorning an upswept ‘do. Edward squirmed uncomfortably in white tie and tails. Eulalie was mortified, horrified, and watched the two kiss and separate as the woman headed for the ladies room. She wrapped herself in the drapery and peeked out as the cockatoo climbed up on her head. The bird twittered in happy little whistles as Sam came back into view.
“You must be Edward,” said Sam, now dressed in his grey Sunday suit. He shook the man’s hand with a grin. “And I believe you’ve been sleeping with my wife.”
(NOTE: Yes, if you remember the Marx Brothers movie, this is also in homage to that.)
#34 THE HAND
For days after she’d come to a decision the hand seemed to be more obvious in her vision, in her life. Like when you finally decide to buy the forest green car to be different and suddenly the world fills up with forest green cars. They’re everywhere: on the turnpike coming at you, in front of you, passing you out. You stand in the parking lot at the mall wondering why your key won’t work when you realize it isn’t your forest green SUV. When you go to the dealer for a tube of touch-up paint to cover the scratch Howard put in the side when he backed it into the garage and came too close to the doorway, the parts manager asks you what color? and you smirk and say green, what else?
Anyway, suddenly her hand was at the core of everything June did. She saw it poised on the handle of the cabinet door when she took out the box of spaghetti. She watched it make tea. It was the focus of moving the pen over the checks when she paid the month’s bills. It was driving her crazy and she added that fact to the list of why the hand had to go.
It had all come to her attention with the summer heat swelling her fingers. She’d had to take off her rings but the gold band wouldn’t budge. She tried soap and then Windex, wrapping the finger tightly in plastic wrap and dental floss, icing it till the pain melted like the ice cubes into numbness. All the tricks and advice she could find online. Nothing worked. When Howard suggested she go to a jeweler, she felt the flame fire up into rage that she hid with a nod and a smile. The ring was the real cause of it all, she realized, and it had insidiously tried to ruin her since the day he placed it there.
June selected the large carving knife and sharpened it as Howard had shown her. She practiced on a rolled pork loin and it seemed pretty easy, but on a rib roast it wouldn’t cut bone. After searching online, she went to the hardware store and bought a nice little axe.
Dinner was in the oven, the table was set, and June poured herself a cool glass of Chardonnay. She lifted it up, watched the ring blink as it caught the light and took a long sip of the wine. She went to the sink and picked up the axe off the wooden board.
As her hand lay there on the floor, a thin trail of blood running into a pool because as she’d told Howard a dozen times at the least that the floor was uneven, the thought crossed her mind that maybe she’d had the right car after all and just had used the wrong hand.
#33 WORD SPACE
It never fails that just when I need a certain word, a particular phrase to make the story work exactly right, it slips out of my mind and slithers around the corner and down the stairs. Lately though, well, it seems that more and more are disappearing.
One night last week I’d gone to bed right after working on the novel and a dialogue popped into my head just before I’d drifted off to sleep. You know, that lightning bolt of inspiration. I got up immediately, turned on the light and sat down and started typing. The words came quickly, letter after letter, spaces, sentences, like good little children lining up for recess; then they stopped as if I’d locked the schoolyard door. I sat there stupidly, my brain a frog-tongue lapping at flies when I heard a noise, a soft thudding sound outside my bedroom door. I flipped on the hall light, cautious, listening. I saw a shadow moving at the bottom of the stairs but I believed it was my own.
Now it’s happening every night. The march of words escapes me. Every night the same: the eventual lull in story, the sudden smack of hitting the wall. The barrenness, the utter loss of any sense of narrative direction. The feeling that the creative thought, all nouns and verbs and adjectives that gather in military formation to heed my General’s command as writer are eluding my grasp, scattering to finally desert me.
At first I thought it was my imagination, then recognized a memory going down the stairs in Slinky style with measured careful rhythm. Clink, clink, clink–just like that. It was the time my father took me on the ferris wheel at the Hoodsville county fair. It was the very scenario I needed to end the chapter–gone! I raced back to the keyboard, sat down to write but it was useless. The words had slunk away and I was blank.
Since then it’s gotten worse. I’ve given up the book. It grew impossible to continue with just the words and letters I had left. I was a Scrabble rack with Qs and Zs and not a single vowel. I hear a slithering sound, a slow extrusion like the leaching from an emptying bottle left on its side. Or better, lemmings off a…what?
I see the white glare of monitor, the words I had written over several months now faded from the page. The title, word count, all of it, leapt off, skittering under the door, into the hall, down the stairs and gone. I sit, fingers poised, trying to think of my name.
#32 REACHING OUT A HAND
He did feel terrible about it. He would have wished that she had tried reaching him again. He’d told her that a hundred times. That if she ever found it too much to handle, she could, of course, call him and he’d be happy to help. To listen. To direct her to a professional who could help her, though this last part was not what he’d said. “Reach out to people, Denise,” he’d always said. People are always willing to offer a hand.” He sort of believed this himself.
They’d been married for seven years. Together for almost fourteen but that included a few breakups that never stuck in between a passionate first love pairing–that he realized now was no good–and the inevitable end. Denise was dependent and he was her water, her manna. It felt great at the beginning, when he himself was just finding his way and becoming the man he thought he should be. A fence post, stolid and secure with the wisp of her wire clinging safe from the wind. Yeah, that had felt good.
Now he had a new life, a new wife, and while he wanted to be supportive, Denise could be a giant pain in the ass. His wife didn’t complain but he didn’t feel she should have to unpack his baggage. He told her not to bother answering the phone if it was Denise calling but to just let him know she had called. He said she just wanted a shoulder or money or something like that and that most likely she was pilled out or drunk. He said he’d take care of it and call her back. Now he felt bad that he hadn’t.
#31 COUNTING EVERYTHING
When she ran out of fingers and toes she used bones but these soon were all assigned and numbered too. She tried pretzel sticks but suspected they were being eaten by mice. Marbles were plentiful, but they rolled and organization by cat’s eye, aggie, and color soon met in a giant mosiac grin on her floor.
Her job was eighteen stairs, a bus ride, and five hundred seventy-three steps from her doorway. This included the walk to the bus stop. Her parents lived four states, two airplane flights, sixty-seven stairs, a taxi ride, and one thousand three hundred forty-nine steps from her front door. Her bedroom was only seventeen lonely steps inside.
She liked counting flowers but they were so multitudinous that she deducted each bloom as it died. This worked for many years until it struck her that there were flowers all over the world. Flowers she couldn’t touch, couldn’t see, couldn’t count but that existed just the same. The thought troubled her, recalling all the counting she’d done in her life, all the balloons and the leaves, the meals and the people, the roses, and now she knew the count was really inaccurate. Though she tried to find a solution then tried to ignore the whole thing, it hibernated like a black bear in her mind.
By the time she was twenty-five years, two months, seven days, three hours and twenty-one minutes old, she realized that she would have to subfile the counting in her head. She hesitated to use letters but coding them into numbers worked well enough.
Eventually there was nothing new to count and the numbers just ran on and on without end. This depressed her, and she sat and stirred her two thousand seven hundred thirty-third cup of tea for the twentieth time at the cafe just down the street. She’d collected so many numbers that they started to leak out and fell with sharp tinks on the floor. “Six million three hundred six…..” She looked up to see a tall handsome man smiling down at her.
“You’ll think I’m insane, and I apologize for being so forward,” he said, “but you’re the first woman who’s made me feel like I just found the right one.”
She looked at him oddly, then closely, then stared right into his eyes. “And I believe you’re the first and last man that counts,” she laughed. Numbers spilled out of her ears and scurried away.