Friday, July 31, 2015

Free Fiction: Focused

Jordan preferred not to wear his glasses. The world became fuzzier and friendlier when the glasses came off. Instead of sharp edges and frowning faces, he saw blotchy colors and heard intonations. People schooled their features more strictly than their voices, but their words and inflections betrayed them. Jordan more readily perceived the truth of them instead of the fa├žade when it was all out of focus. Being one step away from frowning countenances and glaring eyes kept him more on task and less distracted.

He took care not to squint when he removed his glasses. In a society accustomed to laser surgery and contact lenses, glasses one day and gone the next were barely noticeable. Obviously, he wore his corrective lenses when he drove to and from work, but in his cubicle he tucked them into a drawer. His eyesight was good enough that he could see the computer screen and perform his work, but past the half-barricade of the cubicle rampart, everything grew blurry and indistinct.

Usually, Jordan also donned earbuds. Nifty, wireless, high-fidelity earbuds that he’d ordered from a specialty store and that were designed to cancel ambient noise as well as provide excellent sound quality. Jordan adored his earbuds. But sometimes the buds made the inside of his ears a little sore, and he lamented not purchasing the older style headphones that went on over the ears. He’d been a bit vain in that decision, and the irony did not go unnoticed. He removed his glasses so he couldn’t see the fads and fashions of his co-workers, and yet he’d succumbed to wearing stylish electronics so he wouldn’t look outdated or weird to them. Today, no matter how he adjusted them, the buds wouldn’t fit quite right, so he left them out.

The ebb and flow of office traffic didn’t disturb him too much and the low-voiced conversations about children, gardens, sales at the supermarket, cats, dogs, idiot drivers during the morning commute, upcoming vacations, and the like were mostly easily ignored. One co-worker’s nasal, grating voice could cut through the air like a clam rake, disturbing everything and everyone, but the other co-workers usual shut her down as quickly as possible. No one had the stamina to converse long with her.

Sometimes people congregated for extended periods and their voices grew louder, and sometimes the conversations weren't about harmless things like surprising roadwork popping up in dense traffic areas causing frustration, but about other, more personal things. Rocky relationships, heartbreaks, and health problems. Jordan eavesdropped, because he couldn’t focus on his work with the distracting conversations. Some days, he grew annoyed at the disruption and banged away at his keyboard, or took himself off for a walk through the corridors.

But, then the contract employees showed up. The company had been hired to change out some wiring in the floor and ceiling and update some electrical panels, and were scheduled to be there for at least three weeks.

They were messy and noisy, and they got in the way. They left ladders in the most annoying places, and heaps of wires, and bits of trash strewn all over the carpet. Two of them were older, grizzled, with variously ample potbellies. The third was younger, and smaller. He was thin, and could squeeze into the tightly spaced ceiling or floor just far enough to keep the project going. Friendly, outgoing, and genial, it was hard not to watch him. His forearms were muscled and tan, and he wore a ragged, faded baseball cap with a logo that Jordan couldn’t identify. His jeans had a distinctive rip at the knee, which he wore almost every other day. The other pair he wore were beige cargo pants with a splash of dark green paint on the lower left rear hem. He wore a different blue company t-shirt every day.

Jordan started keeping his glasses on and his earbuds out.

He strained his senses to listen to their idle chatter, and he hopped up from his seat whenever they needed someone to help them with anything—an extra pair of hands, a brief trip to a locked-down area that required a chaperone, or just traffic control for the rest of the office. He learned that the young contractor’s name was Mike. The older two were Frank and George, and Jordan found himself happy for their amiable personalities and coarse wit. They made each other and Mike laugh all day long with wry statements and observations on the human condition, particularly the human condition in an office full of wiring. It made Jordan glad they’d come as a group, because they were far more interesting that way.

On the final day, they packed up their things and did a last vacuum for debris, and Jordan reluctantly watched them go. As the door closed behind them, and the sounds of the office returned to the previous level of dullness, Jordan slipped off his glasses and tucked them away, and then inserted his earbuds. It wasn’t quite lunch and he had the rest of the day to suffer through. It seemed odd to return to old habits, but without the blurred vision and constant music in his ears, Jordan wasn't sure he could put up with his co-workers for the remainder of the day. Next week would have to take care of itself.

He kept his glasses off at the end of the day as he walked out to his car. Everything seemed too harsh with them on, although he’d need them to drive, but for these last few moments, he preferred the blobs of color and unresolved images of the world.

Then, a blob of blue moved against his car.

Jordan reached into his pocket and fumbled with his glasses.

“Hey, there,” a familiar voice called.

The glasses slid into place and the world came into focus. Mike was leaning against Jordan’s car, and he was smiling. “Hi,” Jordan said. He slowed to a stop, unsure what was going on.

“We finished up today,” Mike said, “so the contract is over. Which means, technically, that my company is no longer associated with your company.”

“Oh?” Jordan replied, still not comprehending.

“Which also means, I’m not restricted from having only a professional relationship.”

“Oh,” Jordan said, now feeling an odd combination of enlightened, happy, and dumb. For all that he spent a lot of time listening to conversations, he wasn’t particularly skilled at having them, he decided.

Mike tilted his head. “Did I get the wrong idea? Or aren't you interested?”

“Definitely interested.” Jordan pushed his glasses up farther on his nose. “Just, uh, caught off guard.”

Mike laughed. “You didn’t think we needed that much help this whole time, did you? I was making up all sorts of excuses to get you to help us. George and Frank never had so much fun teasing me!”

Jordan gaped, and then closed his mouth. “And I thought I’d been so discreet!”

“Who cares,” Mike said. “The rest of your office is too busy talking to notice anything about anybody but themselves. Now, how about dinner?” Mike came closer to Jordan, and reached out. He gently tugged the glasses off Jordan’s face, and then kissed him.

Pulling apart, Jordan realized Mike was near enough to be in focus, even without his glasses, and that up close he was even more appealing than when he was just a fuzzy blob. “Yes,” Jordan said. “Absolutely.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

four hour clean fest

I've got about four hours this afternoon to get as much cleaning done as I possibly can. And also some cooking (to make lunches for the work week). It's a lot of cleaning that needs to be done. I've got to focus, get organized, and jazz myself into a frenzy of accomplishment.

Ready? Set? Here I go!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Discovery Anthology

Queer Sci Fi held a contest -- write 300 words or less, and tell a story. A whole bunch of plucky authors -- including me -- gave it a go, with some amazing results.

I don't usually write in the sci fi genre, so this was a great challenge for me! My first try at it didn't even turn out to be sci-fi, so I had to try again, and I will tell you, there's a lot of fussing to do when you can't go over 300 words!

More information on the contest, an excerpt, and buy links can be found here:

Friday, July 17, 2015

Free Fiction: Evening Walk

The night was exceptionally quiet and calm as they walked through the neighborhood. Oscar’s work had run late, so dinner preparation began late, and then they’d lingered over their empty plates, talking. Now the dishes soaked in the sink, not even washed, as the sun sunk into the horizon, and they’d promised to return to finish clean-up. But first, they’d wanted a chance to walk a route around their neighborhood on a rare summer day with low humidity and the last golden splash of sunlight.

The air washed warm across Phillip’s arms as they meandered from one block to the next and even the mosquitoes seemed to be placated for the evening. Only a few brownish beetles buzzed through the night, occasionally clutching at the fabric of Phillip’s shirt. Oscar noticed and brushed them away, and the beetles opened their wings and vanished into the darkening evening.

A few other people were out, jogging intently or slowly following their dogs as favorite sniffing spots were heavily investigated. Warm lights illuminated a few windows in the houses they passed. A baby cried in one house and the outline of a man shifted in the recess. He must have picked up the child because the next cry came out in a jiggling up and down manner meant to protest being soothed. Some houses remained dark, and Phillip wondered if the residents weren’t home or if they’d gone to bed early. It was a gorgeous night to leave open the sash and allow fresh, cool air to stream in. Tonight’s sleep would be deep, rare, and heavenly.

They passed a house with a party out on the porch. The entire residence was lit up like Times Square, blaring brightness against the creeping gloom, with even the garage wide open and exhibiting all the bikes, brooms, and odd assortment of gardening tools. Chairs had been stuffed onto the porch into every corner, and people moved into the house and back out, carrying wine in long stemmed glasses, and cans of soda. It definitely seemed like a family affair. Older people rocked contentedly in a group and children raced between them and the indoors, and then back out again, past adults who scolded them lovingly. The hubbub of their banter cascaded out into the yard, unintelligible except for an odd word or two by the time it reached the sidewalk where Phillip and Oscar glided by. It felt warm and happy and it both buoyed Phillip and dragged him down.

Oscar reached out and gripped Phillips's hand. In the scant light, he turned to search Phillip’s face. “We can have a party and invite all our friends,” he said.

“I’d like that,” Phillip replied. His family wasn’t really that small, but they were scattered far enough away that visiting was not a matter of popping over for a quick chat. He missed them keenly.

“Okay,” Oscar said. He kept holding Phillip’s hand, warm and solid, and they finished their walk hand in hand, the whole way back.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

hot hot summer

It's the middle of July now and the weather is getting warm and humid. It's sticky all day and then sticky at night. I love going to walks, but the bugs and the heat make it a challenge!

And the deer are coming out of the woods and eating all sorts of things. I can understand them eating everything in sight in the spring, when there's not a lot to eat, but now? They have so much to choose from! Why must they nibble off all my rosebuds? And the tops of my tomato plants?

Plus, the Japanese beetles are buzzing about in full force, looking metallic and gorgeous, and causing a ruckus and chewing things up, and I saw another cucumber beetle in the garden two days ago. My radishes never developed -- my thumb of radish death strikes again!

But today I had my first ground cherry and it was as sweet and wonderful as I remembered from last year. So it goes, and goes and goes. I must remember to cherish the good things.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Free Fiction: Block Party

Oscar and Phillip are back! It's the 4th of July weekend over here, so of course, there's a block party.


"And then we labeled all the boxes so that the next time we needed to inventory them, we wouldn't have to!" Carlson laughed at the end of his story and the rest of the group around him laughed as well.

Oscar opened his mouth to show some teeth, nodded, and backed away from the group very slowly. They didn't seem to notice as he left the group, they just closed ranks tighter together as someone else began another tale about saving receipts.

Safely away, Oscar took a deep breath to restore his equilibrium. His lemonade was low, so he bee-lined straight for the snack tables.

After filling his cup, he gave the table a hard look. There were several kinds of salads, at least four of which were pasta salads, and bowls and bowls of crunchy chips, but nothing had yet come off the grill. He could smell the tang and salt of cooking meat in the air, promising hamburgers and hot dogs and barbequed chicken, but nothing had yet made its way to the table. Oscar nabbed a piece of cheese from a plate. He'd already filled up on handfuls of baby carrots dipped into creamy blue cheese dressing and mushroom caps filled with bread crumbles. He'd avoided the guacamole. Whomever had made it had stirred baby peas into and it looked odd. He stuffed the whole piece of cheese into his mouth and chewed it, then grabbed another.

He spotted Phillip far away across the lawn, talking to another swarm of people, though Phillip was actually laughing genuinely. Oscar recognized a handful of their closer neighbor friends. Phillip was smart. He'd surrounded himself with people he already knew and liked. Oscar had dared to blaze a trail into uncharted territory. He'd foolishly wanted to meet new neighbors. The attempt drained away almost an hour of his life he'd never get back.

Phillip turned and stared straight at Oscar and a warm feeling crept up from his toes all the way to his scalp where it prickled. Then, as if Phillip had read his mind, he waved good-bye to the people near him and walked straight over.

"Not having a scintillating time?" Phillip asked. He rubbed one hand across Oscar's shoulder. "And they're trying to starve you as well. Not even a veggie burger available yet?"

"No," Oscar said.

"Some purist named Dave only wanted to use real coals, and he didn't even have them started until noon," Phillip said. "He made everyone with a gas grill wheel it home."

"Good grief," Oscar said, then added, "And the guacamole has peas in it."

"Barbaric." Phillip trailed his hand down Oscar's back. "Come on, then. We're one block from home. We'll come back a little later." Phillip's hand pressed low and then released, coming to find Oscar's hand and twining their fingers together. It left no doubt how they'd fill their time.

"Just don't tell me about labeling boxes in our attic."

"I told you not to talk to the neighbors on the west end of the street." Phillip gave a mock shudder. "They're all accountants over there."

"It all makes sense now," Oscar said.

"I know something that makes even more sense," Phillip said, and tugged. They left the block party in the dust.