Connections and Creativity

I find that part of the joy of revising is that you find connections emerging that you didn’t expect to find.

The house that John and Martha buy turns out to have been previously owned by a couple named Myrna and Zeke who died in an automobile accident on a mad dash to the hospital. Scorpions turn out to have an attraction to candle wax, and red leaves were the main ingredient for the ink used in a famous journal kept by an anonymous online writing student.

Or perhaps this is merely idle galumphing and playing bricoleur. That’s fine. So can you connect these?

Olive with pimento


coal slag

cracks in the sidewalk

mismatched socks


24 responses to “Connections and Creativity

  1. Neil Simon awoke from a restless slumber. He couldn’t remember going through his “night-before” routine of reviewing case notes and objection lead-ins. If there was anything Neil could be know for it was his abrasive objections and rash rebuttals. Of these he always practiced the night before. He wasn’t called “Coal Slag” Simon for nothing. Neil rubbed his eyes and looked over to the clock.
    “Crap the time!”

    Neil opened the door into the courtroom. He walked in wearing a grey suit with so many wrinkles and creases that it resembled cracks in a sidewalk. The judge held the gavel above the sounding block roughly the same distance as his jaw. Neil took quick long strides through the public gallery and swung open the gate.

    The judge closed his mouth with a quick gasp when he noticed that the prosecuting attorney wore a blue wing tip on his left foot and a black and red square toe on the right foot. His socks were as equally mismatched, purple stocking on the left and pink tube sock on the right. “Mr. Simon, I hope you have something to say about this. This courtroom is not a circus.”

    “It appears that my house was broken into last night, Your Honor.” He laid his briefcase on the plaintiff counsel’s table. “All of my clothes were stolen and someone left me with only these.” He pointed at himself. The orange ruffles of his tuxedo shirt protruded through his jacket.

    “I have had enough antics from the defense side of this case, I need none from you Mr. Simon.” The judge glared at the defendant’s table and moved the glare in Simon’s direction.

    “Yes, Your Honor.” Neil sat down and opened his briefcase. He wasn’t going to let the Donald Lewis case go. He had them right were he wanted them. This type of maneuver wasn’t going to do anything to stop him. He was ready.

    The latches on the briefcase made their customary clunking noise as he popped them open. When the lid of the case opened he knew he was in trouble. He left in such a rush this morning that he did not take any time to double check the case before leaving. That decision was a bad one. Springing out of the case were coils of color and a puff of shiny confetti. The public gallery gasped at first and then let a roar of laughter escape.
    A single jar of pitted olives with pimentos rolled around the bottom of his briefcase. Neil snapped his eyes to Donald Lewis and glared. He then stood up shouting “Your Honor -”

    With his Scottish burr Donald Lewis asked, “Is it a rescu’n you be need’n?”

  2. That is completely unusual. What a scene!

  3. It was the coldest morning the town had ever experienced, and the townsfolk huddled for their mutual warmth. The line shacks were barely tolerable on decent days, and today their interiors were as bleak and frozen as the ice-covered outdoors.

    The church murmured with a hundred “burrs” as the flock gathered, cramming the pews closest to the coal slag stove, which popped and smoked, but offered little heat. The collective breath of those gathered, a size at least triple of the usual Sunday accumulation, rose with each exhale and stuck frozen to the plain glass panes which grew into a pattern of white stained glass echoing that of cracks in the sidewalk. Those who believed saw angels. Others, despair.

    Women wore bonnets stuffed with rags, drawn under and tied beneath their usual gossipy chins. Petticoats hung beneath dresses in a most unlady-like way. Men wore dingy coveralls over Sunday best. Feet shuffled in pinching boots crowded with feet layered in mismatched socks. Bodies were covered with coats upon sweaters upon shirts, upon what ever other garments could be pulled on.

    The supply wagon had not been to town in three weeks; women felt faint; children fussy and hungry. Voices clamored to the preacher to pray for relief. The preacher tipped a hidden flask to his lips and swallowed. From her coat pocket, Mrs. Livingston pinched a corner of a cold-cut sandwich – olive with piment0 –, and she quietly fed it to her sickly son who lay like an infant in her arms. Her prayer was that no one saw her.

    The preacher took another sip, blinked his glassy eyes, and passed the offering plate.

    A child cried. Then another.

    • Again Jeff, it seems the challenge words were taken from your story instead of the other way around. Good stuff, my friend.

    • Excellent Jeff. I particularly enjoyed the historical accuracy of the piece. It’s a reminder of the dependency early settlers of the great plains had on a viable supply chain. The Donner Party was traveling across the country exposed to the elements, it’s frightening to think that a group of people “safe” at home in their own community could easily suffer the same fate.

      Again, very well done.

  4. I found this very affecting, Jeff. The struggle of life. I hope you are keeping all the fine writing you are doing that I see here.

    Are you working on a novel these days, perhaps?

    • Hi Ann, and thanks for the kind words. I have a couple longer items in the works but have been working more with my short game. I had hoped to self-publish through Amazon a volume of short fiction in time for Christmas, but writing is always more fun than work.

      • Perhaps this fall we can compare notes about using Amazon. Within the next month or so I’m going to put two novels on Amazon for e-book download. While I love to write, I find marketing very tiresome. I don’t need the money, nor do I want to do book tours and interviews. Nonetheless, it will be good to get my novels somewhere besides in the hands of friends and sitting on my hard drive. Keep in touch!

    • My Sister (in-law) who writes under the name Johnee Cherry has recently published her second novel on Amazon. They apparently are undergoing some peculiar marketing contracts with writers (probably a more accurate name for that). If you would like some input from her and her experiences with them, contact me and I’ll get you hr email.

      • thornyrosedechile

        Hi Jeff–I’m planning to publish on Amazon before the end of this year. I’m curious about the “peculiar marketing contracts.” Can you fill me in?

  5. October Madness

    Fletcher sat beneath a canvas baldachin on the patio at ‘The Ides’ and watched the gray sky drizzle vexation upon the equally gray streets of central Philadelphia. It was a good day to be drunk by noon and that thought served to refocus his attention on the double vodka that sat somewhat precariously on the spindly wrought iron table that had no business where cobble stones made a floor. This drink, the third incarnation since he, in a fit of eremitic exuberance, had arranged this very small party some fifty minutes ago, was as uninspiring as the dank October weather.

    “Olive is drab,” he muttered, sufficiently inebriated to believe the connection was clever. “Olive with pimento, yin with yang, rye with ginger, mother with…”

    “Excuse me sir?”

    A miniature wave of embarrassed sobriety barely washed over the tops of his feet as he realized the waitress had been standing next to him. Wisely recognizing the value of making eye contact, he looked up to find a rather wispy college-age girl, clearly freezing in her Roman themed costume, scowl unconsciously at him.

    “Perhaps you would be more comfortable inside on a day like today,” she suggested in the most sincere tone a romance language major making the minimum wage could manage. “I can transfer your tab to the bartender.”

    Of course it would be more comfortable inside on a day like today, and it would be easier for the waitstaff, and, were that not enough, inside there would be the possibility of conversation and companionship.

    All of those things, taken as a whole or in part, simply served to enlarge each of the many burrs beneath the saddle that Fletcher had carried on his back for as long as he could now remember.

    “No,” he said with the satisfaction of knowing he could share his pain with the girl. “I’ll settle up out here and then go.”

    The wispy girl frowned once more and disappeared, presumably to warm herself for as long as it took to finalize his bill. When Fletcher completed his transaction, and the remainder of his drink, he thoughtfully left her a tip that he imagined she might use to buy school supplies.

    The only thing that could make Walnut Street more depressing was actually nothing at all. It was as depressing as it could possibly get. At the corner of Sixth Street, Fletcher paused to watch workmen blast away the remains of a barely legible Schmidt’s Beer advertisement that had been painted, likely at considerable cost, on the side of an ancient brick building some two stories above the street.

    He viewed the work as validation of his increasingly melancholy thesis regarding creation and destruction, and the cost associated with each. It was a process that people like Fletcher, young men of consequence, were supposed to understand and embrace. It had become the process that was driving Fletcher mad.

    As he watched from the street, he became aware of something lightly pelting his face. Wiping his cheek, he realized that the shifting winds were now carrying the abrasive coal slag, and bits of painted brick, over the canvas barrier erected by the workmen. While he would have been more than content to wallow in this process of destruction, Fletcher had no plans to be a part of it. Hiking his collar, he stepped over a large puddle and crossed Walnut Street, past the destruction project, making his way north on Sixth while doing his best to avoid the large cracks in the sidewalk that always seem to be a consequence of urban molting.

    By the time Fletcher reached Market Street he had come to regret having left The Ides and decided it was time to search for a suitable replacement. Under normal circumstances, a man like Fletcher would never patronize an establishment such as The Bavarian Brauhaus. Education and social status, so he had been taught since birth, should preclude convivial interaction with the working class. However, the rain had picked up considerably, it was getting colder, and Fletcher had begun to feel the wispy college girl’s pain.

    A half flight down brick steps from street level, Fletcher opened the massive iron-strapped oak door and stepped inside. Instantly enjoying the warmth, he shook off his coat and hung it on one of the wooden pegs lining the entryway. He turned to find a crowded room filled with the smell of oak fire, tobacco smoke, and beer. The walls were constructed of knotty pine boards, varnished and stained a deep yellow with age. The area near the ceiling was entirely lined with all type and size of antler. A small band played at the far end of the room and boisterous conversation competed nobly with their sound.

    “Hallo. Guten tag!” said a voice from behind one of the wooden pillars at the end of the crowded bar. The voice, as Fletcher soon discovered, belonged to a stout gentlemen of below average height with a generous crop of snow-white hair that gave the impression of once having been blonde. He was dressed in classic, nearly stereotypical, German attire, and when relating the story many years later, Fletcher would still feel some tinge of shame that his initial observation of his host had more to do with mismatched socks than any other detail of his dress.

    The little man held a large earthenware stein in each hand as he energetically made his way across the room toward Fletcher. As soon as he was within arm’s reach, he abruptly thrust one of the steins forward, sending a wave of beer infused foam to the floor. “Drink with me now,” he demanded, already raising his own stein to his mouth.

    Impressed with his energy and purpose, Fletcher watched as the man drained, or nearly so, the entire stein in one continuous pour. When he was almost done, he nodded to Fletcher and gave him a back hand wave of encouragement. Already thirsty, Fletcher took the offered stein and eagerly followed suit.

    He, also, managed to empty his stein without interruption, as his college experience had thoughtfully provided him some training in this field. When finished, he smiled broadly at his host, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

    As if in synchronism, the band struck up a new tune and were given vocal accompaniment by a small group of revelers.

    “Miiiiiine liebling works at the corner wiener stand
    And I tink dat’s all right
    She’s a good girl who vill always give a HAND

    Fletcher turned to his host, “Do you do this all the time?”

    “Ha ha, my boy,” the little man said through a crooked grin. “It’s Oktoberfest!”

  6. Drizzle vexation. The saddle as his burden (not his ride). Urban molting. Some training from college. Drifting slag. You never cease to amaze me. I’m inspired to create more challenges now, just to read some treible.

    • Thanks Ann. This was a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed writing the song, which I sang to my wife until she threatened to hit me (which was twice I believe). I suppose the phrase, “One must suffer for one’s art” is true after all.

  7. Not guilty by reason of insanity. That was my plea. I wonder if I am a good enough actor to pull it off. If not, the penalty for my crime in the state of Georgia is death by lethal injection. Somehow I just can’t imagine the life draining from my body. I think I would feel something – fear, anxiety, anger – if such an end were to be mine. Maybe it’s a sign that such an end will not come to pass. Not for me. Not last time. Not this time. Not ever!

    I hear nothing as we travel along the wet highway. I don’t see the clouds hanging heavy with as yet unshed rain. I am alone inside my head. My thoughts have already traveled beyond my imminent visit with the state psychiatrist to the future. Revenge on the one who put the pieces together. She thinks she’s so smart but she’s no more than a lucky blundering fool. My plans are perfect. They always are because unlike that nosy detective, snooping and poking into everything, I am a mastermind. She’ll see. She thinks she can match wits with me, but she’s in way over her head. The end for her will be the best yet. Better even than the last one. I can feel a smile forming deep inside. It won’t reach my face. They’ll never see it…never know. At least, not until I’m ready.

    I struggle to pull myself back from that happy place. My mind wants to follow that path. My thoughts, like cracks in the sidewalk, fracture in different directions. I force myself to follow the one that leads me back to the present. As we pull off the highway, I hear the gravel drive beneath the tires. I try desperately to stay here, in the present, but the thoughts prickling my brain are like burrs under a saddle. If not removed, they rub until they bleed. That detective is one burr that I will gladly do away with.

    We pull up to the back of an old stone building. No front door entrance for me. Focus…I must focus. The present. The upcoming interview. I must stay here and not wander. I force this thought to the surface through the other. It must stick out of the green dingy color like the bright red of a pimento protruding from an olive.

    They lead me up the stairs, through the door. The long quiet hall matches the outside of the building. Everything is gray and lifeless like the rain drenched sky. The gray dreariness is in complete contrast to my vivid thoughts.

    The detective, the psychiatrist, the cops leading me bound like an animal down the hall. I see them all. They’re in a white padded room, the red of their blood a beautiful painting contrasting perfectly with the white background. Their severed limbs lying in disarray. Two legs lie side by side like a pair of mismatched socks.

    Once again I struggle back to the present. They open a door and I enter a stuffy room filled with books and heavy furniture. An office designed to intimidate. The doctor doesn’t rise in greeting, an intentional snub designed to say, I’m better than you. He indicates a chair and smiles. The fake smile never reaches his eyes. The image he presents to the world is as fake as the one I present. I am alone with the psychiatrist now. He thinks he’s smart too. Again I’m smiling deep down in that place where no one can see. Let the games begin.

    • Hi Debby: you are a talented writer so let me caution, since you are about to take a beginning writers’ course, don’t rest on the talents you bring to class. Continue to push, boundaries and sensibilities.

      I like writing in first person. I liked the line “The fake smile never reaches his eyes.” I got into the mind of the character. But, then, those who know me here know I like dark.

      At the end of your story you use the word “fake” twice in the same para. Try to catch those duplications. In short fiction I strive not to use a word like that twice in the same story.

      In closing I will leave you with a quotation by William Carlos Williams which is taped to my monitor: “Forget all rules, forget all restrictions, as to taste, as to what ought to be said, write for the pleasure of it…”


  8. I’m enrolled in the Beginning Writer’s workshop starting later this month. I was poking around and found this site. I hope it’s ok that I contributed.
    Thanks, Debby

    • Hi Debby, and welcome. Of course it’s okay that you contributed. It seems that many writing sites are slow at this time. I haven’t had time to read your posting but look forward to it. Jeff

    • Actually, I’m delighted you showed up here. Feel free to poke around some more! The September group will be big (it always is) but you’ll find that this makes it all the more fun. You’ll meet folks from all over and get to try out some new things to see what you like and how you like to write. I’ll see you there! –Ann

  9. Thanks Jeff. I look forward to your comments.

  10. Jeff, thank you very much for your feedback. Since I have no experience with or training in writing, I think the beginner course is the right move. I have many stories floating around in my head and they’ve been screaming for release for quite some time. I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to express them in writing in such a manner as to enthrall readers. I’m hopeful that this class will give me the tools to be successful.

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