Dime Stories


Last year I organized a Meet-up writers group to see if I couldn’t get workshops and writing collaboration. After a few sessions, I ended the group for several reasons, not the least of which was a growing ghostwriting business. I just didn’t have time. 

I enjoyed the people, even for that short time, and have stayed in touch–loosely–with a few of them, bumping into them on social media and in following blogs. I even met one of them, Kate, in person for a lovely, long, luxurious sit down at a local Starbucks, chatting about dying mothers and writing, and whatever else came to mind.

It was Kate who introduced me, by a quick Facebook messenger note, to Dime stories. I had been writing these ten minute writes as exercise, keeping my writing muscle going and my notebook full of ideas, a la the Life in 10 Minutes people who graciously publish my scribblings when I submit (I’m not sure they turn anyone down, but maybe). She thought this was right up my alley.

And she was right. A group of writers meet once a month in a wine store in Costa Mesa to read their three-minute stories (500 words). On a whim, I went, thinking I had a few dozen pieces I could rip out of my cyber notebook to polish up or down into three minutes. I chose one, printed it out, and went.

After the first one, I knew I had done it again–leapt before scaring myself sensible. I realized I had no idea about the rules of the game or the competition, the first being not too complicated, the second being stiff. I was intimidated after the first reader raced through a thousand scenes in 180 seconds–or at least it seemed that way.

I hadn’t even read mine out loud beforehand to test its timing–and time was of the essence. It.had.to.be.three.or.under. Uh oh. And I brought my sister along to witness my humiliation. It also dawned on me that I had but only once or twice read any of my work out loud (reading to the dog doesn’t count). I did read my poems from my cell phone to the beat of bongos and a bass guitar at the street fair once, but this was a quiet, attentive (seemingly) audience. It was timed, for crying out loud, so someone was paying attention. 

I grew slightly anxious as the readers continued, one, two, three, four…and then my name was called, a folded paper drawn out of a felt hat (was it straw?) 

I got up before the mike and jumped the gun. Yeah, yeah, I’m supposed to wait for the signal from the recorder. False start and go…I thought I’d start slowly to gather myself up in a comfortable pace. I think it turned into a race, though. I wish I’d inherited a voice the timbre of Audrey Hepburn’s, not the lady with the stuffy nose in the cold medicine commercial–nasal. But it was done. 

We voted (good thing I brought my sister) on our first three picks for best of the night, and left. It was such a fun experience in retrospect. I think next time I’ll go to enjoy the stories rather than worry about how I’m going to read mine. Lovely crowd (about 17) of talented writers, including Kate.  Thanks, Kate.

Oh, and my story was one in a three-way tie for second (strategic accompaniment on my part–at least I hope she voted for me). You can listen to the selected stories here. Mine’s titled, “Taco Love.”

Our weekly or sometimes bi-monthly lunch date

  
“How was class today?”

“I finally convinced my students that writers are like magicians. They make something out of nothing. Turning a blank sheet of paper into an essay is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, changing the properties of one thing to transform it into another.”

“And they bought that?”

“They did.”

“Because you hold their future, namely their grades, in your hands, you think?

“Maybe. Whatever it takes.”

“Sounds like teaching is a lot like extortion.”

“There’s a lot of ‘or else’ in life, not just in teaching. Everything is a matter of dangling carrots or dodging sticks: Pay your bills on time or pay penalties, finance charges or lose your electricity. Pay your bills on time and build good credit, so you can have more credit. Sticks and carrots.”

“Speaking of which, I’ll get the check this time. You paid last time.”

“Carrot. You want me to show up next week to reciprocate–or retaliate, right?”

“Clever girl.”

Who’s that Knocking at my Door?

 

 

A shadow slumps in the doorway, a darkness hollowed by blazing corners

where the light exhales, squeezing past the hulking figure that is my father.

“What are we having for breakfast?” Code for make me something to eat.

Desires, requests, pleas, all are puzzles to a man who knows no direct say.

“Sure, go ahead and eat without me. You don’t give a shit about me anyway.”

Read: I want to be loved, appreciated and acknowledged as a human being.

He knows no direct. His sentences scrape the underside of a mirror, inverted.

An uneducated master of language manipulates impulses, inherited relations

to move, respond, act, resist and surrender–a force of father-thinned twining.

 
Mother instilled the love of words in those of us who shone in penning letters.

She idled hours in solving crosswords, leafing magazines, and correcting him.

“‘Don’t got’ is a double negative and makes you sound like an illiterate moron.”

Her words sliding by as if unspoken, he ignored her, she, his virtual dictionary,

until Scrabble time, where strategy schooled the unwary wordsmith defensed.

A board game master, card player extraordinaire and pathological liar, he waits.

Convinced long ago she filled me with philologist love, I glance upon his notion;

my words form around the blankness in the doorway, the gamesman stares me

while the muse I wrestled to the ground, a slutty run-around, scampers past him.

 
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