Sunday, December 17, 2017

Week in Seven Words #374

She wishes her experiences would have more weight and texture. She thinks she's skimming over everything, recognizing but not appreciating beauty.

The suggestiveness of a bookcase, paintings, plants, and piles of papers glimpsed through a window.

Wind chimes chattering by an empty street.

The mural reminds her of home - a two-story house in a wooded lot, with a driveway shaped like the head of a cobra.

I try to feel around the edges of her carefully curated personality for what I think is there - her, her self, whatever that means.

Waiting to learn the outcome of her hospital visit. Stomach clenching every time the phone rings.

The sidewalk has disintegrated to a narrow shoulder of road, and I'm reminded of the suburb I grew up in. A nail salon, an Italian restaurant, a bagel store, and a laundromat in a clot beside an artery of traffic.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Five Short Stories for the Winter Holidays

With one exception, none of these is specific to the holiday season, but they explore themes associated with this time of year.

Title: A Christmas Memory
Author: Truman Capote
Where I Read It: It appeared at the end of an edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's

This story aches with love and separation. A young boy and an elderly female relative who's a bit childlike and eccentric are pals in a house where they're both overlooked. Their friendship won't last for long before they go separate ways in life, but Capote infuses the story with rich details that makes their relationship timeless in memory. Mostly, it's the two of them preparing for Christmas. Here's a walk through the woods:
A mile more: of chastising thorns, burs and briers that catch at our clothes; of rusty pine needles brilliant with gaudy fungus and molten feathers... Always, the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitch vine tunnels.
And making fruitcakes:
Eggbeaters whirl, spoons spin round in bowls of butter and sugar, vanilla sweetens the air, ginger spices it; melting, nose-tingling odors saturate the kitchen, suffuse the house, drift out to the world on puffs of chimney smoke.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Week in Seven Words #373

She deals with the fussy kid by pouring chocolate candies into his hands. His parents won't find out until later.

At the lake's edge, she pleads with her friend on the other end of the line. Her friend has slipped into an inexorable state of mind, and no pleas will move her.

Sharing a window seat and sipping apple cider with rum on a chilly day.

Elephants are so weirdly awesome. The configuration of their anatomy, their perceptiveness and intelligence, their size, their apparent emotion. They're fascinating.

We're not close; there's no strong love between us. Our hug feels like a tentative touch to a wound.

I swing between having hope in humanity and thinking we're just complete wallowing morons.

He thinks his words are gold coins; he's pouring them out for us beggars, and we should be grateful. But all he's doing is tossing us some pocket change and bits of lint to go with it.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Week in Seven Words #372

Cleaning out shelves, coming across movies I used to like and books I've forgotten about.

Chasing an almost-chocolate flavor in a supposedly healthier variant of ice cream.

The dog looks mouse-like with her new haircut, especially when she wiggles between our feet in search of crumbs.

The woman sitting next to me is pregnant and uses her belly as a shelf for the book so we can both read from it.

In the dark, it's the neon shorts, t-shirts, and crop tops that are the most visible parts of the joggers, who advance in a 3x3 squad. They look like a collection of colorful squares and rectangles that rise and fall piston-like against a gray screen.

He sings about "sticking it to the man" (or something to that effect), and it sounds tired and lame. The sentiments of rebellion have been commercialized.

By the streetlights, the trees have an icy green-blue tint, as if they've been flavored with mint.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Week in Seven Words #371

Several adults are squashed together at a picnic table. They shout, sing, and jump up to make backstroke swimming motions. One of them pretends to ride a horse. They're playing Time's Up, round after round.

The stationery store reminds me of a candy box. I buy a couple of gifts for someone and linger over the glossy, gold, silver, pink papery confections.

Walking a couple of miles at night. The streets look like they were sloppily glued together. The sidewalks have ruptured. The buildings leak. On one street, the strongest light is from a supermarket window papered over with ads for detergent and ham.

In one room, the kids make silly videos with their phones. In the other, the adults seethe at the cable company over service disruptions.

I can remember details from conversations that took place months or years ago, but I'll step into a home I visit regularly and not notice new furniture arrangements or a large new shoe rack by the door where I'm just now placing my shoes.

The high school students walking alone are stone-faced and wear earbuds. Some hold their phones a couple of inches from their eyes.

I stare at the screen for minutes without knowing how to finish the paragraph, but as soon as I get up to run errands, everything - the paragraph, the whole article - comes to me.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Movie about veterans: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Title: The Best Years of Our Lives
Director: William Wyler
Language: English
Rating: Unrated

In The Best Years of Our Lives, three men return home from WWII and struggle to adjust to civilian life. Al (Frederic March), Fred (Dana Andrews), and Homer (Harold Russell) live in the same city, and though they've only just met on the plane home, their lives intersect in important ways throughout the movie.

Although they each enjoy happy or hopeful endings, the movie shows the ways in which their lives could have derailed (or still could derail after the closing credits). Al is welcomed back by his loving family, and the well-paid position he held at a bank remains open to him. However, he has taken to drinking heavily and isn't at ease either at home or at work. Fred can't find a good job, and his marriage is strained. He's also suffering from post-traumatic stress. Homer lost both his hands during the war and fears that his fiancee is sticking with him only out of pity. He also begins to isolate himself after receiving pitying and uncomfortable looks from family and friends. (Harold Russell actually did lose his hands during WWII, and this was his first movie role.)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Week in Seven Words #370

She's a cute little peanut, slouched in her stroller. Disgruntled, squirmy, delighted, and peaceful in turns.

Our conversation is a lazy river that turns into Class IV rapids.

Rot has crept into every petal. Rotting roses smell like potatoes.

Near Times Square, an animated display of M&Ms attracts the kids. They run to the cloudburst of candies, the shower of colorful sugar.

She doesn't want to use the steps at first. They're slippery and lead to a path smeared with mud. But the view is worth it for her: A stone bridge, a pond that doesn't bare all its secrets but asks you to follow it as it curves out of sight.

As I head north, they catch up to me at each crosswalk. When I veer west, they give up their pursuit.

This time we meet at a Dunkin' Donuts the size of a pocket. She raises the coffee to her nose, lowers it without taking a sip, and describes the wreckage of her life.