Category Archives: Warm Ups

Where I can stash blog posts that are really just warm-ups. At the time they are composed, posts don’t belong to any actual work of fiction I have in progress.

The Professional

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

She pushed him away, and she pushed hard.

“Get away from me. Just get away.”

She meant it, but only for a moment. Only for THAT moment. The truly terrible thing was that she knew she would push and push and push until he left – and then she would miss him so much that she would realize without a doubt that she had been wrong. But it’s a twisty mess, see? She already knew that she would later know she was wrong. But she felt so right in that moment. How does this make sense?

And people came to her for professional guidance on getting their lives together, their thoughts in order, their addictions under control.

For Sarah, love was not the answer. Methodically picking apart a problem and addressing each individual level of the issue was the only answer. A problem could not be loved away, but it could certainly be solved by rational thinking, a clear plan of attack, and dedication to the most important step: follow-through.

This was what she preached. This method had helped countless clients trudge through the depths of misery until they could see hope, make progress, and eventually become a functioning human being capable of great things – and yes, love. Healthy love. She knew it worked. She guided so many through the process and had seen the positive outcome. She had a list of names in the back of her notebook, as a matter of fact. A list that provided validation. Proof of success.

“Get away.”

She wouldn’t be adding her own name to that list anytime soon.

Four Years Later

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

“I don’t know, I guess it’s confusing to suddenly be part of someone’s life. It’s like walking into a movie halfway through, and no one will tell you what the first part was about. You have to feel your way around and try to figure out each little piece of the story and hope you at least kind of have it right.”

Sarah tapped her pen on top of the yellow notepad.

“Do you want to be in the middle of the story? Do you want to figure it out?”

He paused.

“No, not really.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“Shit, Sarah. I don’t know. I just want to feel like I matter. I want to feel like I have a reason for being here. I want to feel like I accomplished something at the end of the day.”

“Do you want to feel like that with Bridget?”

“Not really.”

“Then why are you still there?”

“Because I said I would be.”

“So you’re saying that you’re willing to continue to sacrifice your own well-being because you’re a man of your word. Is that right?”

“I guess so. Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

The table clock ticked twice in their silence and then buzzed. Sarah reached over and turned it off. She leaned forward with her elbows on the notepad in her lap and hands clasped in front of her.

“Matthew, you either have to decide to be happy with where you are or take steps to change the situation. Otherwise, you’re always going to be right where you are, feeling exactly as you feel right now. I don’t want that for you. But you are the only one who can change how you feel. You’re in total control of that. It isn’t up to Bridget to make you happy. You have to make you happy.”

“I know.”

“I’m not sure that you do, because week after week you come back and sit with me for 45 minutes and we talk in circles. You aren’t willing to change the situation or how you think and feel about the situation, and honestly, I don’t think this is helping.”

“Are you telling me not to come back here?”

“No. But I want to know why you want to come back.”

“You listen.”

“You pay me to listen.”

“True. But I think you would listen anyway.”

“True.”

“So see you next week?”

“Same time, same place. But Matthew, would you please just think about what I said? Let’s go back to making the game plan for getting happy. Let’s do that. We can do this, together, but I need you to participate and not just vent.”

“Okay. Next week.”

“Come prepared. We’re putting a plan in place.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Bridget’s Last Stand

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t think you cared.”
“Why wouldn’t I care? Seriously? Why would you think that?”

He shrugged ever so slightly, and then he walked away. She watched him go, and she didn’t say a word. But he did not hang his head. His stride was long and purposeful, as though he had made his point, and the sun setting to his right cast an amber glow and long shadow that she would always, always remember.

And then he stopped suddenly and put his right hand up, pointing to the heavens.

“This is over. This is it. We’re not doing this anymore.”

She nodded, affirming agreement to herself but certainly not to him. She watched him shake his head slowly from side-to-side, put his hand down, and stand facing away for three beats before turning full to face her one final time.

“This is what you wanted all along, isn’t it?”
“No.”
“You meant it to be like this, didn’t you?”
“No, I did not.”

He rushed her now, his face angry and red and twisted, but she stood her ground. For years and years she had feared what might happen, what could be, but she didn’t feel that anymore. She stood her ground and waited, braced and ready.

Struck & Stuck

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

She couldn’t have possibly known.

But what Bridget could see with her own always-suspicious eyes told the story far better than the words which came from his perfect and forever smile-stretched mouth.

He grinned and said he was happy. He told all who would listen that he had everything he needed, all that he wanted, and far more than he ever expected. He was grateful and humble and loved, and he said over and over again that he was happy. Happy. Happy.

Yet there he sat, the rain flooding his face and drenching his gorgeous, thick hair. He sat there soaking it in, water running down his chest and into his shoes. It came down so heavily that she couldn’t make out if he was still smiling, but by his posture she suspected not. What an odd sight for someone like him.

She should have known.

Tapped, Part Two – Trudy’s Diary

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

December 2, 2003

I know how to fix it.
I know how to fix it.
I know how to fix it.

It is possible, in fact, to be too compassionate. Compassion has crossed over into a sickness, a malady that requires a lot of wine and way too much down time from which to recover. This need to love the shit out of someone until they feel better is nothing short of madness. I know this now. I see it.

I know.

I do.

He did not come to me; rather, I saw an inkling of his discomfort, and I was drawn to him like an ant to yesterday’s coffee sugar, spilt and sticky. I hunger for a place to shelve this overwhelming feeling that bleeds from my heart to my head to my restless fingertips. No, it doesn’t matter who he is. It matters that the need exists. Tall, short, skinny, fat, angry, placid, funny, nerdy, handsome, smart, dumb as fuck, single, married. The only thing I see is a hole that can be filled with this gooey, sickly sweet, disgustingly overused compassion.

Today I saw his daughter. Blonde curls everywhere. I didn’t feel an ounce of compassion for her though, did I? Why not? She was singing as she pumped her thin little legs back and forth to swing higher and higher, leaning so far forward and then so far back that I thought surely she would lose her grip and fall hard and fast to the earth with a painful thunk. But she didn’t. She just kept going, and singing, and then she laughed and I thought to myself, yes. That’s the life I want. I want that.

Not this. Most certainly not this.

Homewrecker

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

When Sarah was a little girl, she learned of her father’s infidelity. She didn’t know it had a name as formal as that, though. Infidelity. Such a short word to describe such a complex situation.

To Sarah, infidelity was called “Trixie.” At first she thought it was a funny joke. “Daddy is late coming home because of Trixie,” would say her mother. And her mother would laugh and laugh and laugh. Sarah would set the table for three, as always, and her daddy would come home late and shower and then meet them at the table for dinner just a couple of hours past when he was regularly scheduled, smelling so vibrantly clean. He was his kindest and sweetest and most silly and happy when was late, and so Sarah didn’t mind one bit. “Trixie” was something Sarah looked forward to, but how was she to know? How could six-year-old Sarah know that Trixie was really a woman named Trudy who would later be branded a home-wrecking whore by her mother and a second-wife by her sweet-smelling father?

Oh, life. Such surprises.

Tapped

**SHORT STORY EXCERPT – FICTION**

This is what she learned today:

Love is not a magical salve that heals a wound. It isn’t, and anyone who tells you it is? They’re a goddamn liar.

These little pockets of quiet were remarkably soothing yet dreadfully illuminating. She preferred life rushing by, to be honest, yet she craved the quiet and calm, and so it was this constant battle within her secretly self-described “dark and displeasingly deep” mind. I hate you, I love you. Slow down, speed up. Fuck me, get the fuck away from me. Frustration. Forever the frustration. The layers that could never peel down far enough to reveal the peace that she pretended was her finest quality.

But today, today the silence did not swallow her. It spoke to her.

Love is not the answer.

“But how can that be,” she questioned. She questioned it right out loud, asking herself, asking God, asking whomever was on the other side of the thin wall of her one room flat in the blindingly beautiful snowy city.

“How can that be?”

She was one to look for messages. A fortune cookie always held the key to life, until it was cracked and crumbling and the little piece of paper revealed a destiny clearly intended for someone else. She would open the New Testament and close her eyes as she placed her finger upon a verse that would surely light the way, but somehow the answer never quite fit the question. The Magic 8 Ball on her desk was clearly full of shit – or at the very least extremely and, of course, frustratingly evasive. “Reply hazy, ask again later.” Utter horseshit.

But today she sat in the quiet and watched the neighborhood dogs chase one another in the courtyard, and the snow stuck to her curly, unkempt hair until it was a wet, sloppy mess, and she heard it loud and clear for the first of many times that day: “Love is not the answer.” This message, this message she questioned, but in her heart she immediately and fiercely knew it was true.