Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Tree

...or 8 degrees of separation. I don't have a facebook account (and probably won't unless I date a guy who really wants me to) but my dad does - see also: July 4th, 2009 post - and he's been talking to one of his cousins who is into genealogy. Turns out that our family is related to this guy. In addition to being one of the first governors of Conn, Samuel Huntington was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. I guess that's kind of cool that someone important springs up in our family tree if you trace it back 8 generations.

Dad said, "I can't wait to tell Vynce!" because he knew that my brother would get a kick out of telling people that he's related to someone famous. I thought the same thing, because that's just the kind of thing Vynce would find funny. He and Joe like to complain that the few times they've ever been stopped by cops is racial profiling (note: Vynce has fair skin, red hair, and blue eyes like I do. Joe is half Cuban but, as a fair blue-eyed blond, looks as Cuban as Cameron Diaz does) because of Joe being half Cuban and the fact that one our great-great grandfather was black and we're 1/4th Latino, not that either of us look it at all beyond me inheriting my great-grandmother's curves rather than the boyish figures common to the Irish women in my mom's family. Anyway, he thinks it's funny, and he's amused by our famous ancestor too.

"You say I'm just impossible, but why should we even try?" - Eagle Seagull, The Boy With A Serpent In His Heart

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Flash fiction May

I finally found the picture from May's contest...

The picture to the left and the words "Pandemic",
"Sanctuary," and "Spy" needed to be used to write a 2000 word or less story in sixty hours the weekend of May 14 - 16.

Silver Blues

I ran. My pursuer growled as he chased me, and this fueled my panic as I crashed through the undergrowth. There wasn't enough air to keep me from wheezing, and a stitch in my side burn hotter every step - at least until a tree root tripped me. I landed with a bone jarring impact, but it was soon forgotten when gray fur and sharp teeth boiled over me -

My scream still echoed in my ears as I sat upright amidst tangled sweat-soaked blankets. No neighbors shouted for me to keep it down, and only a full moon stared at me in disapproval. Moonlight or not, the hand that reached for a flashlight trembled in time with my still galloping pulse.

It was silly, I knew I was alone, but I still arched the light into every corner of the room, especially the ones were the sterile glow of the moon didn't reach. Spit dried in my mouth as the beam hit the bulletin board. It was the photo that did me in: a boy on a bike forever captured as he hung in mid-air. An image from before, one happy memory worn at curled, coffee-stained edges, half hidden among leaflets about disease prevention and flyers promising safe harbors.

Slipping out of bed I loosened a mirthless bark of laughter as I thought about that dull tease - sanctuary. Those flyers were old, all from the early days of the disaster. Sanctuary had been one of the first casualties of the blight.

As I stood there and contemplated hard liquor, it had been 270 days since the lupine flu had been discovered, and 241 days since it had been declared a pandemic by newscasters whose doll-like masks of nonchalance had begun to slip with a wildness about the eyes. One had to wonder how many of them were out there now, no longer constrained by studios or uniformly hideous hairstyles.

People, if they'd still dare to emerge from their hidey holes to converse, would have argued about precisely when humanity had teetered at the blink before going over in an Alice-like freefall into utter chaos. Part of this stemmed just from no longer having the primetime lineup to fix internal calendars to, but the rest was because we'd each descended into a private hell on our own schedule.

For me, it had been 63 days.

- Mom and Dad no longer kept up any pretense of being able to stand each other's company by the time the contest rolled around, so I'd been sent as family representative 275 days ago, accompanying Max as he competed in Paris. The appeal of BMX biking was beyond me, but that didn't stop me from cheering myself hoarse. Max won his class and the trip took on the air of a wholesome family film about trying one's hardest and being rewarded for it.

We didn't even realize anything was wrong until we got off the plane at Logan airport six days after we'd set out. Which isn't to say that the French media had covered things up, I simply didn't speak French. Instead Latin had fulfilled my college language requirement. Max used to tease me for not picking a more useful language, like his own barely passed high school Spanish, but the dead language had resonated with me. At the rate we're going, all of them will be dead soon...

Anyway, the airport. There hadn't been anyone there waiting. If you've ever been to Logan, you know it's usually teeming with frayed tempers and poor drivers, but no one greeted the new arrivals. I'd shivered taking in the tile and metal ghost town, at least until Max grabbed my arm and pointed at a TV that babbled on, unaware that it'd lacked an audience.

Men on screen howled as they were dragged to their execution by a foreign government. Given it was all going down in another language I didn't speak, I was grateful for a bulleted list that patiently explained that these were the men responsible for the theft, spies who'd broken into a lab and taken the first thing they could find that was valuable, dooming us all though no one had known it just yet -

A sound. I'd been pacing as my thoughts ran through the same worn grooves, but froze when I thought I heard something outside my apartment door...a canine snuffling, a doggy chuffing, a death threat. Neighbors might not have minded my scream, but had something else been listening? When it didn't repeat, I chanced moving to the chair, drawing up my knees as I sat, and wrapping my arms around them. It almost felt like a hug. Or I was forgetting what human contact was really like. Don't do, just think, I told myself, slipping back into the fractured past.

- Outside the airport there were signs of normalcy, taxis waiting. The driver of ours didn't speak as the tires ate the miles, and gave off the air of someone impatient to return to something more important. Through the windows of passing houses I saw entire families glued to TV sets, and worried about what had happened. What had the executed men done?

I think Max and I both expected our parents to stop fighting long enough to explain everything to us, but the house was empty when we finally got home. We checked every room. At last we discovered a note set on the table. All it said was, "Jessie, Max, take care of each other. Mom & Dad".

My brother's eyes had gone wide just then, and he looked to me for answers. I might have been an adult, twenty-five to his sixteen, but I felt no less Hansel and Gretel abandoned than he did. We never did see them again, and by day 94 we no longer expected to.

I have my theory, as grim as it is: they killed themselves before things got bad. It was a more logical explanation than thinking that a couple that couldn't go without bickering over breakfast had somehow decided to run away together. They'd both been government screws, and I'm sure they'd known which way the wind blew. Maybe I was wrong, and they were together somewhere, a cozy cabin, a white sand beach, laughing up their sleeves. But I doubted it.

Before newsmen no longer wore cheap suits, we all knew something about what happened. The lab those now headless spies had broken into in Babel had been birthed in the US before being outsourced like everything else. Bioweapon, a mistake, a plague waiting for just such an opportunity, no one knew that detail, but what followed? Yeah. Hard to escape that knowledge.

In the wake of the supposed swine flu the year before, preservationists prophylactically objected to the term lupine flu before the name even caught on, even with the clear presence of wolf in the deadly viral cocktail. Someone on talk radio jokingly dubbed it the "K-9 flu" and that's what stuck despite the minor inaccuracy. Back then it was almost funny, but that was when it seemed like the illness that the spies had unleashed was going to be combated with hand sanitizer, face masks (for the most paranoid of germaphobes), and that we'd tough it out as we waited to see how long companies took to produce a vaccine for this flu strain.

Of course, this was before anyone's neighbors grew excessively hairy and developed the disquieting propensity towards chasing prey by moonlight.

The first time Max and I saw the guy next door lope home with a bloodstained mouth (muzzle?) and glazed eyes was the last time either of us went anywhere on our own. Not that it helped in the end -

Snuffing again. Then scratching that reminded me of how joyfully our long dead husky has dug a labyrinth of holes in the backyard. If only it had been Blaze's ghost visiting me. My eyes flew to the door as I considered my options. A bat under my bed, pilfered from Max's little league days, and the gun, of course. I eyed the gun with a bitter resentment. It had been my grandfather's, but the silver bullets had not come with it. So, I'd covertly ordered some, but not covertly enough.

Would the door hold, I wondered as the scratching set up a tuneless percussion, long enough to grab the gun? It did, even though I nearly fumbled it. But then what? Shooting through the door would be foolish, weakening it. But how quickly could it burst though? They had a fluid grace, these wolves at my door. There was nothing to do but check that the gun was loaded. It was. I'd known that, but I'd still had to check. You understand.

- It had been Max's idea to keep moving, but I hadn't done that since ordering the bullets. Being nomadic had been a good strategy, as far as end of days planning went, but the only way to get the bullets was to freeze in place long enough for them to be delivered. And we did need them, that was becoming a surer necessity every day as wolves, wolves who used to be stockbrokers, housewives, and paper boys ripped through the populations of every town, both literally and blood-soaked, and in a figurative sense as the virus passed from person to person, or make that wolf to person...It was hard to know how many people shed their humanity every twenty-eight days because they still looked like us at times, but I think everyone got the sense that the world was drowning in fur, and we'd all soon be like them. Or dead.

People said, when people said anything, that silver bullets worked. But you couldn't pick them up at Wal-Mart or even a gun shop, as many as there still were scattered throughout the northeast. To get the bullets we'd had to order them through a mail-order company, and I more than half feared that a lupine mafia would get wind of our sin, and come for us.

In the end I lost Max to people, not to the wolves.

Turned out that the silver bullet seller's records had been compromised, supposedly without his knowledge or consent. It had been easy enough for the government to hack into things like that, especially with the Patriot Act, a declaration of martial law, the suspension of habeas corpus...we ordered bullets. They came for Max.


I guess they figured that anyone with the balls to hunt werewolves nee neighbors had balls enough to join the US military, even against their will, even if they were sixteen. I begged them to take me too, but lacking the necessary external gonads, they patted me on my pretty little head and promised me that he'd come home safe.

It's been 63 days, seven hours, and 26 minutes since then. And I'm here still, family to come home to. Please God, let him come home.

Behind the door the scratching became more frantic, and I knew that it was coming to a head. If I failed to act, Max would have nothing left, if he survived this unearthly draft. A sliver of wood gave way with a scream of protest, and through the jagged cut one xanthic eye gave me a baleful look, full of the promise of my red, wet death.

I fired.

The End

"We think the same things at the same time. We just can’t do anything about it." - Thom Yorke, Harrowdown Hill

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Flash fiction Sept

This past weekend was the second Flash fiction contest, and results aren't in yet on voting, but I thought I'd post my story. If I can find the picture from May's contest, I'll post that story too.

Edit 9/23: Results are in, this story tied for second place.
Anyway, on Friday we were given three words (Auroras, Habitual, Cherished - any form of the words) and the above picture to include in our stories. We then had 60 hours to write a 2000 word or less story...mine came in at 1,999. Here's My story:

Osgood's Machine

"Ben, I need you to drive me to Aurora," Frankie said, not realizing he was about to ruin both our lives with his request that fated day off from school.

"Hmm?" I'd been in the middle of pouring imitation maple syrup onto a stack of microwave pancakes. No one else was home, and I'd failed home ec. "I thought we were going to go see a horror movie tonight."

He attacked his own pancakes with a knife. "I don't mean tonight, I mean today. Now."

"I don't know..." Aurora was way up in Maine, and even worse you had to drive through Alfred with its ridiculous 25 mile in hour speed limit. My dad had fumed about that when we brought Julianne up to the U-Maine campus in Gorham. "It's awfully far."

"Aww, come on, Ben. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. It's not like I can drive myself," he pointed out. That was true, he was only fourteen.

"What the heck do you need all the way up there?" I asked, still not really considering whether or not I was actually going to make the trek. Frankie was a good friend, but we were talking about a trip of three and a half hours. Each way. I wouldn't admit it to him, but the thought of a long drive made me nervous because I'd only had my license nine months.

He wouldn't look at me, which was a bad sign. "I promised my grandpa Osgood that I'd get something for him there."

"Why would he ask you to do that? He ought to know you can't drive, so you'd have to rope someone else into it."

"Please?" Frankie was beginning to look a little desperate, and that worried me. Almost as if reading my mind, he said, "It's nothing illegal, but no one else is home today."

"Well great. I'm flattered that you asked because I'm home."

"Do you have anything better planned for the day?"

Not really. I was just glad to be out of school. The only reason I was talking to Frankie at nine in the morning was because he'd slept over the night before.

Against my better judgment, I found myself agreeing to the drive. "Maybe I should run it by my mom-"

"Don't. What's that saying, it's better to ask forgiveness than permission? She might say no."

That should have made me more cautious, but it didn't. Next thing I knew, we were piling into the 2000 Camry that was nominally my sister's, but really mine to use for the year because freshmen weren't supposed to have cars on campus.

"This thing really doesn't have a cd player?" Frankie asked, peering at the dashboard.

"Really. The radio's good, though." If it had really been my car, I'd of saved up for one.

A familiar voice began to coo as soon as he turned the radio on. "Give me faith. Give me joy, my boy, I will always-"

Frankie flicked the dial, and muttered, "Great, soccer Mom music." Over the next thirty seconds I heard parts of a dozen different songs, like an annoying game of Name That Tune. Eventually he stopped on something he didn't hate. "That's more like it." Frankie sang along with the guy rapping, "Late night sex, so wet, you're so tight..."

I cringed, imagining what Julianne would say if she heard those words coming out of the speakers of her car. She was majoring in Women's studies, and had lost her sense of humor.

The drive didn't seem to take as long as I thought it would, and I gradually came to realize that Frankie's habitual stream of talk was doing what he wanted: keeping me from asking what the hell we were doing. Eventually we stopped for gas (I made him pay) and there was a break in his chatter long enough for me to ask, "What exactly are we going to do in Aurora?"

"Uh, I told you, we need to get something," he said evasively.

"Yeah, I got that. What sort of something? And where?"

"It's in an impound lot."

"An impound lot?" I asked, growing alarmed. I'd seen movies that had junkyards in them, and they always seem to contain dogs with a taste for human flesh.

"Don't worry, Ben. My grandfather owns the lot. We won't get in any trouble."

"Is there a dog?" I asked, picturing one with teeth bared.

"Nah, he doesn't keep a dog."

"If this is his business, I don't see why he can't go and get whatever it is himself."

"He's not there right now."

"Oh yeah, where is he then?" I asked, feeling clever. What I didn't expect was what Frankie said next.

"Do you believe in time travel?"

I figured he was just changing the subject. I supposed that it didn't matter where his grandfather was, since we were almost to Aurora by that point anyway. "No, not really. I've read some stuff about how it's not really possible because of time paradoxes."

"But if it was real, when do you think you'd want to go in time?"

The idea of seeing myself in the future came to mind. Being forty, maybe, and seeing if my wife was hot, how many kids I had, and if Julianne ever became bearable to hang out with again. "A couple decades into the future, see how my life is turning out."

"There isn't a time in the past you'd like to revisit?"

"I don't know, maybe. There are a couple of Christmases when I was a kid that I wouldn't mind experiencing again. Why do you ask?" Even though I mostly had my eyes on the road, I could see his expression change. That desperation that had been on his face when he'd practically begged me to bring him up to Maine was back. "Are you all right, Man?"

"He's in 1956." Frankie said so quietly he was hard to hear.

"Whatever," I grumbled. "If you don't want to tell me what this secret mission is about, fine. But don't screw with me."

"I mean it," he insisted with an alarming intensity.

"Yeah, sure."

"When we get there, you'll see."

"What, are you going to show me his time machine?" I asked, starting to laugh. I stopped when I realized that I had accidentally hit on the right answer. "Oh God, don't tell me we've driven all this way so you can show me a fucking time machine."

For the longest time Frankie didn't say anything. Not for miles and miles. I thought about turning around the moment I realized that he had the crazy idea that his grandfather was able to time travel, but by that point Aurora was only ten or fifteen miles away.

Since Frankie wasn't talking, and I'm too prone to day dreaming – at least according to my dad, since he tells me to pay more attention every time we're in the car together – I let myself imagine what it'd be like if Frankie's grandfather really was in 1956 right then. I sort of knew what people dressed like back then, so I imagined him putting on a suit and stealing a hat from a hipster before getting into his fabulous machine. You know, so he'd blend in. I figured that all the women would look like Donna Reed, and everyone would whistle as they walked. The kids would be well scrubbed and wholesome, and you could pick out the bad guys by their slicked back hair and black leather jackets-

"There, up ahead." Frankie's voice sounded raspy, and I wished I'd bought a soda when we'd stopped for gas. His index finger pointed at a sign that said "Osgood's Salvage."

I pulled in, and there wasn't anyone around. "Where do we park?"

"Over by the office." So I did, and we were the only car there.

"So now what?" I asked, climbing out of the car. Peering into the yard, I realized that my sister's car looked a little out of place here. Most every other vehicle in the lot had been made before my parents were my age.

"We're looking for a car."

I followed him into the yard. "What sort of car? There are dozens here."

"It's the only one of its kind, he promised. It's a Hudson Hornet."

"A what?" I knew a fair amount about cars, but I'd never heard of that one before.

"A Hornet. They made 'em for a while during the fifties."

"Naturally. You said he hopped back to 1956, so that makes sense. Does he need a Dodge Charger to get to the late 60s?" I asked, thinking of old reruns I'd watched with my sister when we were little.

Frankie shook his head. "It doesn't work that way."

"Then how does it work?" I asked, trying to keep up with him as he walked by car after car. I had no idea what a Hornet looked like, so I was just looking for cars that might look like the old Chevy my aunt restored. Somehow, though, I didn't think it would be powder blue. Hornet sounded more like earth tones to me.

"Hey, there it is." Frankie said, point to a car a few hundred yards away. It stood next to an old VW microbus with yawning doors.

I grabbed his arm before he ran off. "If the car's here, and if it's his time machine, he can't be back in the 50s, can he?" I asked, hoping that he was going to laugh and tell me that the time machine thing had all been a big joke, and we were just supposed to take something out of the office here.

He went still. "If it's here, then he's back."

"Frankie, what are we supposed to take out of this 'time machine' exactly?"

Instead of answering, he pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket. "Him. He left me this letter, saying to let him out today, October 18th, 2010."

"Out of the car?"

"Out of the trunk. That's where you sit when you time travel."

Of course.

Frankie held something up. "He left me this key and this letter before he left six months ago."

"Great…" In another second or two we were standing at the rear of an unremarkable old car whose paint was coming off. Osgood's machine didn't look special. It was no Delorean, that was for sure.

I watched silently as Frankie unlocked the trunk, but I was standing back a ways so I couldn't see in at first, which is why I was surprised when he moaned "Oh no" and collapsed to his knees.

"Frankie?" I looked over the top of his lowered head. The inside of the trunk contained a whole mess of electronics. And a desiccated corpse curled on its side. "Is that…" I didn't finish. Of course it was grandpa Osgood.

"He must have gotten stuck in there," Frankie said before dry heaving. "No safety release thingie in old trunks."

I realized then that Frankie thought the dead man had been locked in the car for six months. That didn't make sense, though, not from what I'd learned at the museum and from watching CSI. It took a lot longer than that to make a mummy.

"It didn't work, oh God, poor Grandpa…" Frankie rocked back and forth, holding his head.

Looking past the body, I noticed two things in the trunk. The first was a newspaper, looking brand new, that said it was from October 1st, 1956. The other was a series of numbers that I eventually realized made up a date. The date was October 18th, 2000. He'd misdialed.

I dragged Frankie back to my car, and called the cops. It took hours before we could go home.

Officially the cause of death was listed as an accident, the basic assumption being he'd been trapped in there for six months. Which was fine, if you didn't think too hard about that misdialed date.

The End

"She's not the kind of girl who likes to tell the world about the way she feels about herself. She takes a little time in making up her mind." - Garbage, The Trick is To Keep Breathing

Monday, September 13, 2010

August Music

Sorry for the lateness. But anyway, here are my recs for the month

8bit Pipe - Bless America
All Left Out - I Was Wrong
Animal Kingdom - Tin Man
BettySoo - Who Knows
Billy Talent - Fallen Leaves
Black Lab - Say Goodbye
Black Sunshine - Once In My Life
Customs - Rex
Didorion - Tag Along
Emprise (Canada) - Light Of Day
Eskimo Joe - Sweater
Florence + The Machine - Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
Francis Bakin - Cold Snap
Get Well Soon - If This Hat Is Missing I Have Gone Hunting
Ghetto Cowgirl - Thing Like That
HIM - Vampire Heart
Heather Combs - Something More Like You
holloe - Disease
holloe - Level
JaclynRose - only one you love
John Enghauser - Breathe Again
JunkFood - Who's Your Enemy
Kaki King - Life Being What It Is
Kongos - The Way
Law - Brain Probing Relativism
Lucinda Williams - Rescue
Martina Topley-Bird - Snowman
Miike Snow - The Rabbit
Music For Animals - Change Yourself
Music For Animals - If Looks Could Kill
New Fight Scene - Backside of New York
Nine Even - Gone, Comprimise
Prick - Animal
Rachael Yamagata - Accident
Shout Out Louds - You Are Dreaming
Silversun Pickups - The Royal We
Sister Cities - We Don't
Sparky James - She's Not My Keeper
The Hundred in the Hands - Dressed In Dresden
The Ropes - Flimsy
The Rosebuds - Nice Fox
The Rugburns - This Flood
The XX - Teardrops

As usual:
Bold = I have other songs by them in my mp3/cd collection
Italic = I'd heard but didn't like other songs by them
Neither = never heard of them before

"Take the longest day, waste it all away. I can't stand it but I can't do anything." - Toad The Wet Sprocket, Woodburning

Sunday, September 5, 2010


When I was a kid, my dad listened to a lot of country music. There was one song he insisted was called "Shameless" but it didn't sound like he was singing shameless. It sounded like shaveless. "I'm shaveless!" the singer would practically shout. Hey, me too.

It's been a little over a year since I stopped shaving my legs on a regular basis. I think I've shaved them four or five times since then. Don't get me wrong, I haven't turned into a hippy chick or anything. Instead I discovered the wonders of this.

I'll be honest, I hate the color pink, which is why I decided to do laundry today primarily because I discovered almost all my clean undies are the pink ones I wear the least - why does virtually every multipack of women's underwear have pink ones? But other than being pink, I like my epilator a lot. To my surprise, it didn't hurt very much when I started using it, and now it doesn't hurt at all. (On the legs, that is. I try my underarms once in a while, but it does hurt, so I'm still shaving there). The ads say you can go up to four weeks without epilating, but neglect to mention that it's like that if you do it for years. However, I need to do it about 1/3rd as often as shaving, so I'm not too het up about that.

The very best thing about using an epilator is knowing that the more you use it, the more damage you do to the hair follicles on your legs. You know what that means, right? The damaged ones can't grow hair. I know someone who has done it for a decade, and she has very little hair left. Awesome. After just a year I've noticed that there's significantly less hair. It's a nice feeling of satisfaction to know that you're defeating an enemy, even if the enemy is leg hair.

Anyway, if you've gotten over feeling like pulling a bandaid off is painful, I suggest you try an epilator like mine out. They're no longer the Inquisition-based torture devices that left women screaming in agony during the 80s.

"If looks could kill she'd be an automatic, watching empty shells raining down on me. It's your blood she spills waiting for another rabbit. In her hands you will beg and plead" - Music For Animals, If Looks Could Kill