How to Improve Blog Traffic

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The woman let the sword scrape the asphalt as she walked towards the pay phone.  She could not drop it nor wield it, despite its weight, as she did not have the strength to untie the rope that bound it to her wrist.  It sparked and clattered at her side.  It tilted and slit into her bare, frostbitten ankles.  Nipped at the edges of her bare, bluish feet, leaving small paper cut-like wounds that should have bled, but merely darkened as though she had been marked by a quill, instead.

It was clear she was discomfited.  Her eyes bulged out as though she had been staring at a single point for days on end.  Here, a few ragged white bed-sheets knotted and twisted around her form to protect her from the elements, to provide a modesty that felt laughable to concern herself with.

But still she drug that anchor forward.  She couldn’t lose it, not if she wanted to, and she didn’t want to.  It was, on some level, as necessary as her own spine. She didn’t even mind the suffering that came right before a resurrection.  It never lasted as long as it should.

It was too early in the morning for many cars to pass her as she stumbled forward on the small 2-lane road that smelled as though it were Northern.  Her nose had not always been better for dodging blows than differentiating the delicate blooms, tasting the terroir between wines, but for now, all she knew was this idea of North of before.  Of colder than Then.  Of the phone call she had to make now that she was utterly and completely exhausted of all other resources.

It wasn’t much further if she remembered correctly.  It was less that she hoped that she remembered correctly, and that there was nothing else to hope.

If she were seen, this spectral figure on the road, she would appear as a ghost.  Some banshee, some eidolon, some half-known creature. She would not register as a person in need of aid.  No one would stop to inquire, no one would dare.  Another hope that by necessity was fact.

It was some time, step after step, pain after pain, when the wooded roadway opened up slightly and revealed a gas station.  She ignored the security cameras, she ignored the smell of North, the feel of not-Then as the here and now became corroded with gasoline and bitter coffee beans.  She clattered up the graffiti’d phone booth.

Rather than fumble through pockets for a quarter, she plucked a greying red hair from her wounded temple, one of the few long enough to pull free.  She held it in her hand until it trembled, spun around itself, and slowly shifted into a bright, shiny piece of U.S. currency.

The phone number was several digits longer than any international call, and the silence much longer than she, nor any soul with reason, would endure.

She could feel this body beginning to mutiny, beginning to chase the foreign captain at its helm onto the plank.

“Thank you for calling your local Vitamin Spree!” An aggressively cheerful female voice chirped in greeting.  She frowned, a reflex the body could not deny her.

In her own voice, rusty from disuse, she whispered “It’s done” before fainting on the cement pad of the Loaf and Jug.  She did not hear the subtle ding of assent as it replied through the receiver.  It was some time before she heard anything again.

Les Demons En Haut

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+460 words and an odd impulse to write more once I can get out of this desire to make it better than it could possibly be on the first pass and to stop researching islands.  Though, maybe that’s thematically appropriate.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Maybe take a minute and drink some wine or some coffee or both or eat some cake or have a cry or read a book or think about Ireland or read your Tarot or lay very still and imagine laying outside in the snow, having it covering you but not chilling your skin at all.

………….

Echoing through the foyer, she heard a warm voice rasp: “She’s returned! Let the games begin!”

The woman had arrived in London via Capri. A journey by boat and rail that left her comfortably swaying, her mind firmly settled in the Grotta Azzurra. She had been meaning to take a stop there and the opportunity finally arose when she completed her task in Rome. Her cargo was light, easily carried on her person and acquired with surprising ease. This meant she could spare a week to explore. The fourth of their four could still taste the limoncello, could still picture the water lapping against the row boat, the Sphinx of sorts that lined the villa of Dr. Axel Munthe.

She had returned, she reminded herself, almost entirely on time. If only to attend this dinner.

A maid gathered up her raspberry velvet cape and if she had any misgivings about where the final guest’s chaperone was located, she wisely held her tongue. She stopped the maid, and gathered from the silk-lined pocket the mail that had been delivered while she was away. This entailed a single letter addressed to her from her tormented prisoner on L’Epine, on L’Ile de Noirmoutier. She had yet to read it, but she knew what it said. Come home, come home, come home.

Pas maintenant, Maman! There is no home. But there is a world to see.

Passing through the foyer, the locked door was swung wide open to the drawing room. A fire was crackling to ease the soft rain that had, predictably, carried through the entire day. The room looked fit to suit the men within. Dark corners, dark furnishings, cigar smoke flowing through the air.

She was, as ever, an interloper. Surely, the gentlemen Carlisle, Smith and Shelburne, would rather their colleague take a more traditional aspect. But if this was a game, it was one that required far more than trousers to succeed at. Amelia picked up a glass of champagne from the table. Smith, full of vigor, had taken Shelburne aside, and appeared to be engaged in some sort of frantic pantomime.

“Giving instruction to the lad as to how to take a punch.”

“I don’t find myself in situations where pugilism might concern me.” Shelburne drew a shy smile and uncrossed his arms to pull a dark blade of hair back from his eyes. He was a few years younger than she, and could fall into giggles at the bare breasts of a Bernini. His calling as a treasure hunter as inexplicable as her own, at least on its face.

“You’re in this room, aren’t you?”

Amelia laughed to herself between sips.

“Now, the lady, she might be able to get away without carrying a weapon.” Smith glanced in her direction. “But when you’re going after something that maybe somebody gives a damn about, there might be a bit of maffickin’ required to get it out of there.”

“I wouldn’t make a plan that did not first include the likelihood of resistance and devise an alternative.”

“As if things don’t go wrong.”

Amelia called over her shoulder, now quite preoccupied by the scurrying bodies of maid, assistant, and honored host as the rushed about behind the east-facing door. “Why don’t you take him out and let him practice upon you, Mr. Smith? Might motivate the spirits before you’re overly motivated by spirits.”

“You have a dark mind, Miss Crevecoeur. Just like that father of yours.” Smith muttered to himself with good humor.

“At every turn, my good sirs, at every turn.”

Others Say She Was Just a Beautiful Idiot

Alright.  meat

Before I fall into the danger zone, I have to wonder if this site – this tether, will be the thing I need to keep myself from going into the nothingness.

I refuse to spend all day gathering and not produce.  Let us play even if we do it poorly, we’ll have something to chew on later.

….

“In a matter of days, the last transaction will be finalized and the request secured.”

“Faster than all the others, I see. ”  He lifted the gold-rimmed glass up and smiled.  He seemed to her to be a bit tired.  There were those lines around his eyes.  Her mother had called them worry marks once, and declared she refused to entertain them on her face.  Her father had retorted they were life marks, and they were visitors no one could turn out.  They’d argued and her mother had been silent for the entirety of the day afterwards.

Looking at them now, she simply thought they made him him.  And she found that he looked…like the ocean after a month in the stuck and staid city.  Still, calm, but below this, a library containing more than it was possible to know.  And handsome.

“A toast to proficiency.”  She raised her glass as well and turned her head away as if to look into his eyes again was to face a firing line.  “And,” he continued, “to charm.”  A quick clink between them before he smiled and downed his nearly-full glass of celebratory champagne.

Amelia found herself willing to smile a bit at that.  He was pleased, then.  It was foolish, but she wanted to be the one who served him best.

In a sudden burst of energy, Kafele called out to the post-meal slump the room had become.

“Come, come, my friends.  There is much we must show you!”  Willoughby had already pushed open the doors from the drawing room into the workspace.  Smith strolled in, holding a champagne glass and its dregs briefly against his chest before setting it on a shelf next to a tray of empty glass specimen jars.  Shelburne, in his inimitable way, excitedly skulked toward the front of the lab.   Carlisle, soundless, distracted, bored, simply was in one room and then was in the next.

They were the last to leave the drawing room and as they walked, Amelia felt the Professor’s fingertips lightly against the small of her back, pushing her, guiding her forward as if she somehow did not know the way.  If it had been another, she might have been furious.  Or at the very least made tense by the unexpected touch.  Instead, a flush ran through her as she felt Shelburne’s eyes catching sight of this briefest moment of connection.  He would be the one to see.  He watched the Professor’s every move to see if he would betray his grand plan in the angle he tilted his head, in the placement of books on his shelf, and certainly in any errant moment he spent with Amelia.

There was a calculation taking place, to be sure of it.

It Said Follow Me, Follow Me, Follow Me, Follow Me, Follow Me, Follow

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What if, just for tonight, we moved quick?  Fleet across the page.  Held no space and no counsel, but darted tree to tree, out of the glens and into the copse where we cannot be found without the bright light of day.  Where we are eyes and eyes alone.

There is a quiet cantina where they play accordion music and pour wine that tastes as if the grapes cried when they were crushed and it hangs so far out over the ocean that even to lean against bar is to court seasickness.   For a moment, we are there, bound by nothing but the curiosity about the young barmaid who smiles as she pours the wine of tears.  She sways with the waves as though she was born in the water, but walks with a hitch.  Was she caught by a fisherman and made to walk after so many years knit together by scales and tails?

I drink the wine and disappear before this mystery is solved.

….

I lost more weight.  This is good.  A downward trajectory is reassuring when you are hunting, as though perhaps, you might just fall right into the base of what you’re looking for.

I am thinking about you today.  A specific version of a collective noun. A you mask for the generalized syndrome.  You are in my thoughts, you-mask, a bit more lately.   You lean against my bar, and look out over the ocean as I sway.  As I look over the me-mask and think the most earnest, most telling, most heart-rending things.  As I grow grateful for these legs that have brought me so high to fall.  As I wait for you to disappear from me and for the wine to stop tasting so sweet.

For now, for now, for now, I pour from the carafe and do the most daring thing there is.  I do not disappear first.  I see how the ocean rears up to let in the light, to churn in the air, and these great shows of watery cape unfurled remind me of your eyes.

Oh, how it feels as though some part of you has the same source as some part of me.

I am learning to believe that this feeling is not meant to stay wrapped in muslin, pressed against my ribcage, fluttering just enough to tell it still bears life.  I am learning to believe that if I free it, it won’t take the heart and the spleen and the sweetbreads with it.  I am learning to believe we don’t die for loving one another even if only one of us does.

If it went, I would catch another one.    Go through the woods, clear the roots in my path, move through the close branches and come upon it.  Swallow it down till my whole gorge glowed, till I was full of fireflies.  If I let it go, I would let another one burn bright.  I wouldn’t have to be dark.  I wouldn’t have to find my way by feeling.

I am learning to believe that it doesn’t matter.  But, just so I have the story, have another glass.  Turn this way. Give me the ocean light, give me the little bug, give me that homesick taste of home.

To Have Done

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Happy Day, beginner of things.   Happy Day, continuer of things. Happy Day, ender of things.  We are all sparks and conduits and keepers and quashers.

It is frightening to have a mission.  To know what you are meant for, to know what you love in the world, to know that you bear gifts that exist in no other combination, in no other form and they will not exist again once you pass through this existence.  If you don’t acknowledge this, there is no one else who possibly can.   You have but one entrance and one exit.

It is also deeply comforting.  If you let go of others’ plans for you, if you can embrace what it is you’ve been given, you can get enough answers to tide you over.  To work with.

I know I am a writer.  I know it with Elizabeth Gilbert-style assurance. In blood and bone and when I wake and when I sleep. I know it as Robert Louis Stevenson knows his little shadow and it has gone in and out with me every day of my life since I made the first discovery of language.

I also know I’m a cute thing.   Maybe more like a stuffed animal cute, but cute, kawaii, Bee-ish.  I’m endearing and good-hearted and supportive of others.  I am empathic and attentive to the heartaches and discomforts of others.  I am clever, sharp-witted, bent towards the light, but with that shadow stitched to my ankles.  I am not so very different than any person who spends their time looking about.

I can also be the absolute opposite of all of those things and when I’m in stress, fear, anxiety, frustration, yearning, shame…I am rarely any of them.

It can feel embarrassing to nakedly say you’re lonely, you want help, you’re trying to get better, you’re afraid that you won’t, you’re struggling with money and weight and absence of love.  But I think over time, not letting yourself look and see the wound of that is far more dangerous than any collective laughter or rejection or pity you might receive by allowing your mess to be lived on paper.  To have it be spoken and plotted on charts and recited back at you.

Oh, there’s the girl who’s trying to lose weight.  Okay.  There she is.  There’s the girl who is trying to get over her driving fears.  Alright.  I see her, blinking at us with her girl-like eyeballs.  That’s the girl who wouldn’t like to be a one-girl show the rest of her life.

Deep breath.

Yes.  That’s her.

….

It feels rather nice to be wearing the waders, to have exercised and to be getting ready to sort out my assigned chapter, to know that my body feels different because I’ve driven it to be that way.  That if I keep going, it will come with me. I’ve taken steps.  The momentum is on my side.

No real pithy end line is coming to mind.  No big tears today, I know I’m working on this for me.

Time to write!

Where the Veil is Thin

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Couldn’t possibly find five hundred words.  Could only watch more videos and lay still, chained and rattled by the idea that this day should be a certain way – meaning the way all days have always been when we are in the midst of a much more complicated discussion.

I told my mother the thing I meant yesterday to tell you, blog.  That the therapist essentially said that the therapeutic model the insurance is based on is one of obvious improvement.  Of issues being resolved, cases being corrected, things being handled and bettered.  It is not based on patients finding comfort in spending an hour venting and re-situated their brains on the challenges in their life.   There needs, in all cases, but particularly in mine where the issue is one regarding pushing forward, to be progress.

Or I could lie and press the buttons on the diagnostic box and say that no, never in the past two weeks have I felt overwhelmed and found social situations difficult to deal with.  Not once.   And that would mean that, at least in terms of the box and the data attached to my name in the records, that I am improving which would lead to ending therapy because well people don’t need to be coached back to wellness. Or we can set up a short series of four or five sessions and try and knock some of these problems out and end the therapy.   This seems intense and not something I know how to do.  I immediately doubt this is possible when she says it.  Or I can still go, once a month, and do this thing of pressing the buttons on the box that say that I still struggle, which will be utterly true.  Because it’s either sometimes or not at all in the registry of the box, and just a little bit or less and less is a therapeutic addendum.  A note that matters in the specific, not in the aggregate – it matters in my relationship with my therapist but not  at all to the materials her bosses see when they are considering how well she is doing at fixing people.  So I get that she sees my holding pattern as an all around liability to all of us.

So as I took this in, I felt a bit threatened.   Like I was boring her.  Like it was either get well, or…not get out…but languish.  This was exactly my rationale for ending therapy the last time.  I was just going there to vent my spleen, to be mothered, to be supported and get the sour patches repaired in my brain.  It was a short-term solution because I wasn’t working on the problems.  We just mopped up the milk.   So, the threatened feeling passed, and I saw the opportunity she was presenting.  The Faithful Light nodded through me and said, no, we need to accomplish something here.  I said, how do we do this?  She said SMART goals.  I refuse to second-guess, to roll my eyes, to do anything but just follow through.

I told my mother this over dinner.  There was no comment.   I wanted to let this cause me doubt and upset and to feel ever more alone in this process towards a life unchained from fear, but I realized how much I am her daughter.  How she, despite having never phrased it as I would, is off in her head, thinking her thoughts as arbitrarily and autonomously as any sonderous soul in the universe.  That my demanding her meet my wavelength and see my troubles in the first instant I declaim them is as likely as pigs flying over the mountaintops and dancing down 36.

I only want to show myself.

 

We Paid for Blood

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“Eggs and toast, butter on the side.”  Lurene’s voice had been aged by a pack-a-day of Marlboros habit and the same acidic coffee she was pouring into the detective’s cup.   Most of the folks in Falls Valley weren’t interested in the sights a waitress takes in from behind the formica counter top year after year, even if she gave it to them anyway in snide bursts and asides she no longer pretended to whisper.  Having someone in a booth in Early’s who was writing down what she had to say was about as much like a celebrity as Lurene had felt since prom night.  A night that even Meryl Streep would envy her if she happened to stroll in, order a reuben and listen to the story.

As it was, at first light, when only the trucking crowd and graveyard workers huddled around the corner booths, the detective had been the one to walk in.  Snub nose, hair about the color of chewing tobacco, she strode in, and showed her badge – – Detective Maria Mayfair – and wanted to know about Mallory Green and the mysterious bald man who had breakfast with her two days before the bomb went off at First National Bank.

Now in her late fifties, Lurene might not be able to tell her who lit the fuse, but she could remember a customer’s order when she saw them walk in the door, remember if they up and decided to have an iced tea instead of a soda three months ago.  She could definitely remember the order of those two.

“That’s what he ordered.  Oh, and coffee, of course.  She had the pancake plate with fruit on the side.”  She said with approval.  The pancakes were good, here.  Couldn’t fault anyone for ordering the pancakes.

“But he didn’t eat it.”  The detective scribbled down a note that Lurene couldn’t make out upside down.

“No.  He just watched her eat.  I don’t know, he seemed a little shaky.  Definitely looked like one of those drug addicts.  Or maybe, you know, like he needed a cigarette.  Not that I’d have bummed him one.”

Looking down at her, while she didn’t wear a trench-coat and fedora, the detective had a matter-of-fact sort of expression and a short bobbed haircut that fit Lurene’s expectations well enough.  The sounds of the town slowly waking up as the road that lead towards the highway began to dot with movement, just as things ought.  Nothing had been right since the bomb went off and even this comforting noise felt nervous, fragile.  Lurene didn’t know how to do anything for fragile times.

“That’s right.  She ate his, too, ate like she was starving.  I never liked that Mallory woman, anyone who would marry one of them Greens can’t be right in the head. But then again, I don’t trust people who don’t eat what they order.”

“You hear her call him anything?  Say his name?”

She squinted her eyes, roved down to the other side of the countertop to refill another customer’s cup, and put her hand on her generous hip.

“Every kind of awful name through her teeth, some of it wasn’t even in English.  .  You know – like she’s the kind of woman who can do that to a man and get away with it while the rest of us have to be ladies and say please and thank you.  Still, I would say she liked him.  Only time I’ve ever seen her without that sneer on her face.  Him, he was just thinking.  It just blew over that bald head of his. He was on another planet.”

“She mention anything about her husband?”

Lurene chuckled, “Maybe.  But I doubt Willy Green speaks French, either. Makes you almost feel sorry for him.  Almost.”

The detective’s eyes seemed to glass over all of a sudden, and she sighed and leaned back in her chair, making more notes.  After checking on the other diners, and clearing the ticket of one of them, Lurene realized that her audience was fleeting so she changed tactics.

“How’d you like that coffee of ours?”  She glanced at the cup, not even a glimmer of the pink gloss on the detective’s face seemed to have transferred to the lip of the white cup.

“It’s fine, ma’am.   Now, did they mention Lt. Charles Senna by name? Anything regarding the Falls Valley PD?”

“No.  Nothing….” She paused, pursed her lips, “Do you think they had anything to do with what happened inside our bank?”

“Ma’am…”  The detective shook her head and waved her hand dismissively.  Maybe in her thirties, the woman was small, with a sidearm holstered under her blazer.

“Well, I mean, they didn’t exactly do anything wrong. I mean, they didn’t say bomb, or explosion, or whisper about about killing.  But they seemed, well, they’re outsiders, and that poor kid, growing up without his father…you’re going to go and interview her, right? Arrest her, maybe?”

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say, ma’am.”  She stood up at the counter, resituated herself.  “Here, here’s my card.  Please call me if you think of anything else.”

“It’ll be it for 23…”  Just as Lurene picked up their nearly licked-clean dishes, she had heard Mallory say that.  It hadn’t struck her one way or another then, when she’d paid her attention to the man’s suit.  Not even the Mayor would wear a suit like that to his inauguration.  Mallory had looked like a street person sitting across from him.  But she’d heard it, and maybe it was meaningless…

“What did you say?!”  The detective reached out and grabbed her arm, hard enough that the coffee pot flew out of her and hit the coffee station behind her rattling the metal shelves and knocking the powdered creamers over before gushing out onto the tile floor.  Lurene saw the intensity in the woman’s face as if she’d just caught a glimpse of a fish she’d been waiting on for years and stepped back, forgetting her own muscle memory and backing into the percolator with a yelp.

“My word!  She said, well, the fryer was really going, but I thought I heard her say that will be it for 23, right?”  She practically squeaked.

“You all right there, Lurene?”   Jim, the cook, peeped out of the order window with concern and a face easily unsettled by trouble.

“What else did he say…?”  Suddenly the interview felt more like an interrogation and the spotlight she sought in her gossip circle was a single bulb hanging down right in front of her eyes.  The detective looked furious, desperate, perhaps.  Like she really gave a damn.  Lurene touched her hair to assure herself her updo hadn’t lost its perk, took a deep breath and thought hard.

“He just said it’s already over.  I don’t remember anything else, I swear.”

“Thank you, ma’am, you’ve been most helpful.”  The detective put a twenty dollar bill down on the counter, snapped her notepad closed, and nearly ran out the front door.  The mumble of the diners swirled back in around her, bewildering and delighting the waitress in equal measure.

“What kind of detective leaves a $23.00 tip?”