Friday, August 12, 2011

Longshot Fiction

This week’s writing prompt: So, think of a character and decide what he or she needs/wants to buy and write it out.

The premise was that you can learn a lot about a character by sending them on a shopping trip. It’s a fun exercise to be sure, but a little hard because I don’t really write fiction very much. While I was thinking about this during the week, I realized one of the reasons I don’t write more fiction. I have a phobia of people thinking it’s autobiographical. I write about my life all the time, but it’s obvious that I’m writing from personal experience. Or so I hope. But the thought of someone taking a scene or a character from something I write and positing it as motivated by my own personal experience/beliefs just makes me cringe. I realize this is because I am probably a psychotic control freak. But it doesn’t change the fact that I fear the reader’s (mis)interpretation whenever I write fiction.

Is it just me?


Skywater Longshot looked longingly up at the climbing wall in the sporting goods store. It would be a ridiculously easy for her to scale it’s two story height, but still she longed to be doing that – or pretty much anything else – rather than shopping. Skywater Longshot was not a shopper.

Unfortunately she really, really needed a new pair of tights. Crime fighting was hard on the wardrobe. If only her superpowers included invisibility, she’d just do justice while naked and save herself all the time and trouble of buying replacement parts for her costume. On the other hand, naked superheroing might require some sort of skin cream to combat the chaffing that would no doubt ensue.

In reality, Skywater wore more clothing than your average female superhero. Today she was purchasing a new pair of full length black tights to replace the ones that had been sacrificed to a nasty case of road rash last week when she’d been run over by a speeding Hummer full of escaping baddies fleeing a botched bank robbery.

In addition to the ankle length tights, she also wore a long sleeved mock turtle-neck, black as well, under a black, knee length cape which did an admirable job of hiding a posterior not entirely ready for prime time. Skywater finished off her costume with a pair of bright yellow wrestler’s boots and a matching yellow mask. Yellow was supposed to induce happiness. In Skywater's case it induced a sort of tepid goodwill.

She pondered color-induced cheerfulness as she traipsed past a display of terry cloth sweat bands. There was a pair of wrist bands at the front that would just match her boots and mask. Picking up the cardboard backer they were attached to, Skywater ran her fingers under the edge of the band, pulling lightly, testing the strength of the elastic.

It tested badly. These were more for looks than function. Skywater replaced them and moved on. They’d given her an idea, though. She would look for some gloves. Yellow. Yellow gloves were exactly what she needed. And new tights, of course.
Her pace quickened and she headed for the baseball section. Batting gloves would work. A good pair of leather batting gloves in a feisty canary yellow would protect the skin of her hands and wrist much more effectively than a strip of elasticized terry cloth. And skin protection was important.

In the baseball area she found a small bit of wall with pairs of batting gloves pinned to it. The gloves appeared to be arranged at random – more by color than by size. At first there seemed to be nothing but black and white. Upon closer inspection she found a couple of red pair, four blue and finally, in the top corner, two pairs of yellow. Perfect.

Standing on tiptoe, she reached up as far as she could, fingers grazing the bottom of the gloves. Just as she reached her limit, teetering precariously on the ends of her toes, something popped out of the middle of the gloves, right at eye level and launched for her face. It snarled. Skywater yelped.

She jumped back, knocking over a rack of aluminum baseball bats that clanged violently against the concrete floor. The pimply-faced kid who was restocking socks doubled over laughing. The manager was unimpressed with them both and barked an order at the stock boy. Scrambling to her feet, Skywater glared at the rack of gloves, then turned in a slow circle, eyes scanning furiously.

“I know it’s you, you little rat,” she hissed. Her reply was an angry squeaking noise coming from beneath a stack of t-shirts. “All rodents are rats,” she said, picking up the shirts. “Especially those that act like you!”

A small white mouse wearing a tiny yellow cape was rolling around on the table under the shirts. It appeared to be laughing uncontrollably. Skywater eyed the bitty beast with undisguised disdain. Finally the mouse stopped laughing and jumped up onto her outstretched hand. Skywater lifted him up to stare him in the eye. The mouse grinned at her.

“You are, without doubt, the worst sidekick any superhero could ever possibly have.”
The mouse took hold of the edge of his cape and lifted it to his face. Standing on his hind legs he peeped over the edge of the cape, batting tiny eyelashes at the woman holding him. She sighed. “Whatever,” she said, opening her bag with her free hand. “Get in and stay out of trouble!”

The mouse hopped off her hand and into the bag, disappearing beneath her wallet with a flourish of his silky yellow cape. Skywater sighed and made a final grab for the yellow gloves, still attached to the top of the wall.

Gloves in hand, she made her way to the runner’s area and snatched up a pair of her favorite brand of tights. She didn’t bother to try them on. It certainly wasn’t the first pair she’d bought and it wouldn’t be the last. Such was the lot of an incompletely invulnerable crime-fighter.

Skywater Longshot’s superpowers included invulnerability and an ability to control pain. Unfortunately, the invulnerability did not extend all the way through her outer layer of skin. That layer was susceptible to cuts, scrapes, road rash, chaffing and mosquito bites. It wasn’t uncommon for Skywater to be a bloody mess following an especially intense battle, yet be completely unscathed other than superficial wounds. It wasn’t glamorous, but it worked.

Purchases in hand, Skywater turned back towards the front of the store, ready to check out. A series of squeaks sounded from the depths of her purse. Pulling it open, she looked into the bag. “You want what?”

More squeaks.

“What makes you think I’m buying you anything?” she asked. The mouse’s head popped up next to a wadded kleenex and he glared at her. Then he sucked in a deep breath, puffing out his chest and screwed his eyes closed.

“Don’t you DARE!:” Skywater yelped. She slammed the purse closed even as she hissed “Fine! Fine – I’ll get you the sunflower seeds.” Cracking the bag open, she caught a beady little eye in her own steely gaze. “But do not think you can blackmail me by threatening to blow up like that. Next time I’m leaving you at home.”

The mouse stuck his tongue out and then burrowed under the wallet once again. Skywalker grabbed a bag of bbq flavored sunflower seeds and tossed them on the counter with her other items. “Stupid Ghost Mouse,” she muttered to herself.
Ghost Mouse, the unimposing sidekick, possessing an ability to swell himself to the size of a hand grenade and then explode mightily when she tossed him at her targets. He would blow himself to bits, taking a few bad guys or getaway cars with him, then reasssemble quietly while Skywater completed the mission.

Skywater slid her debit card absently through the reader and collected her bags. She smiled a vague response to the clerk’s canned friendliness and made her way out into the sunshine. “Ghost Mouse, Ghost Mouse, Ghost Mouse…” she mumbled, as if trying it out on the tip of her tongue. How unfair was it that her sidekick had a superhero name and she didn’t?

She’d have to work on that. Later.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

In Which the Writer Demonstrates How Crazy This Damn Drought is Making Her:

This week’s prompt: Creation, Si o No?

Well, it was more involved than that, but you get the idea.

Creation is kicking my butt at the moment. We’ve had 1.15 inches of rain since last October. We’ve busted the record for days in a year with temperatures in the triple digits by almost thirty days, and it’s barely the first of August. And today the air conditioner at my office is broken.

Creation is so not cooperating with me at the moment. Retirement to Seattle is looking pretty darn good right now.

Before I start planning my retirement, I’m planning a job change. I’ve decided to become Pharaoh. I think I’d be good at it. I’m all for covering the walls with quality graffiti. The smoky eye make-up is generally a good thing and Egyptian jewelry is always a favorite. Besides that, I’m ok with deified felines.

I’d be a hell of a good Pharaoh but I would change one itty bitty little thing, though.  If I were Pharaoh, it would be all over between us and Ra.

No more sun worship for me or my minions. No ma’am.  We would be major-league rain devotees. I’ve been a rain-worshipper all my life. Nothing makes me happier than a grey, overcast, drizzly day. I think I have a wonky, alternate universe version of seasonal affective disorder in which continual sunlight zaps my neurotransmitters and I crave the relief of a good thunderstorm or a long, soaking September shower.

And all we’ve gotten is one point one five inches all damn year.

Last week the head of the local Mental Health Center told us they are seeing a lot of people whose mental health problems are being exacerbated by the weather. Today one of my people told me he heard from a doctor that they are seeing drought related problems in their medical practice due to vitamin deficiencies which are causing a lot of depression and even more serious problems.

Drought makes you crazy.

Yesterday one of my people who’s worked on the same farm for 12 years was fired. He and the boss grew up together. Have been friends all their lives. But the drought, coupled with some other person problems have pushed the farmer over the edge. He fired everyone who was working with him. Now my 50 year old man has to find not only a new job (in an industry where no one is hiring) but a new place to live.

I’ve already volunteered to dance naked in the yard if that would help. No one thinks it would help.

So, am I frustrated with creation? Absolutely. Do I think this is God’s punishment on a wanton and wicked land? Absolutely not.

I believe whole-heartedly in evolution. I think evolution is an exceptional miracle. Any old conjurer can turn water into wine, but to start an entire universe with a single spark and mold, evolve and shape it into infinite worlds and infinite possibilities takes some real talent.

I think our actions are still working and shaping the evolution of creation. For instance, in the dust bowl era, which is now officially not as bad as the current drought, people couldn’t survive. Farms migrated. Who ecosystems were blown away. Now we’ve made strides in soil conservation that help hold the topsoil in place in the face of hot, dry, unrelenting wing. We’ve evolved. The next step is to evolve on our water conservation. And to maybe take a peek at doing something about global warming. Such as admitting that it exists for starters.

Hot enough for ya?

So we learn, we grow, we change. I think God watches over all of this, providing strength, guidance and more than a fair amount of grace. I think he’s disappointed in our failures and rejoices in our progress. I don’t think he does a lot of smiting.

I realize that I’m just sort of creating God in my own image, instead of vice versa, but I think of God as more of an observer, than an intimate participant. I don’t need God to be my daddy. I have one of those. I don’t need him to be my boyfriend. Have one of those, too. I need him to be God. Creator, Sustainer, The Omnipotent Author.

And I don’t think he minds if I worship the rain.