The American Writer
Humor, Storytelling & Observations on Writing
Marri Bernier * Louis Kraft * Dan McGinley
Tracy A. Phillips * Lisa Snider
Entertainment - Enlightenment - Education
I didn't post on Friday, because I didn't feel like it. This blog is under construction . . . possibly destruction . . . haven't decided yet. I'm moving the blog from GoDaddy's pathetically inflexible and Robotically Spammed to Death platform to Wordpress. I'll be able to move all my old posts over, too, which was my biggest concern. Give me a week or two or three . . . .
In the meantime, there are a couple hundred posts going back to December 24, 2009, most of which nobody or few have read. This will give those of you reading the blog a chance to simply explore the entertaining, enlightening and educational posts from the past.
“Can I watch it?” Arlie says as she follows Denny and Bobbie into the house. Closing the door, Denny stops, takes his eyes from Bobbie’s tight behind.
“Up to him,” Bobbie says offhandedly. “It’s his house.”
Stunned, a strange weakness creeps down his legs, and he sits on the arm of the couch and looks at Bobbie, who is inspecting the beautiful walnut paneled living room. He wants to say something, to tell them that he is very uncomfortable with this arrangement, for them to take the hundred bucks and just go.
Arlie’s eyebrows rise. “Well? Can I? It’s been awhile.”
He is unable to speak for a moment as the image sweeps across his eyes: he lowers his nude body down onto and into this bawdy stranger, feels the sensual gaze of her young daughter watching them from the chair in the corner.
Denny finds his voice. “I’m not . . . I’m not sure I can go through with this.” He can't help but look at his hands.
“Hey, look,” Bobbie says, “you offered. If you don’t wanna, fine, just say so, but don’t play games with us, okay? We’ve seen enough shit this century.”
Denny raises his eyes. She stands over him with her hands on her hips, and he drops his eyes slowly, following her shape. He thinks of Kay, their dinner, what might follow his inexperience; the idea of the first time being special steps aside for the obvious logic: to be with a woman before he tries to make real love to one.
Arlie sighs. “Make up your mind, mister.”
“Don’t be rude,” Bobbie snaps at her, and then turns back to Denny. “Do we stay or go?”
Denny glances at Arlie, back to Bobbie. Both have their arms crossed.
“Okay,” he says. “You, you can stay. But I don’t want her to watch. Okay?”
Arlie grunts in adolescent astonishment, shaking her head, and says: “What is the big deal?” She gestures to the TV. “It’s just a little electricity, mister—take it out of the hundred bucks. Jeez!”
Confused, Denny doesn’t reply. He peers around her at the TV. Arlie plops in his recliner.
Bobbie says, “So what do you want me to do for the hundred?”
He hardly hears her words, because he suddenly understands that Arlie only wants to watch TV and not him and her mother in bed.
“I . . . I was, I was just kidding,” he says. “You can watch TV.”
“Cool.” She smiles, finds the remote on the table next to the recliner and clicks it on.
“What do you say?” Bobbie says.
“Some joke,” Arlie says. She notes her mother’s stern look. “Thank you, Mr. Bringleson, for allowing me to watch your television set,” she says with sarcrastic articulation.
Impatiently, Bobbie says, “What do I do?”
The urge to make the money a gift wells up in him again. He recognizes the urge. Insecurity. She will know he is inexperienced, and she will wonder why a 28-year-old man is still . . . still a virgin. Maybe not. Maybe she will find it distinctive. Unusual. Maybe she’ll be attracted to him as a man.
Do it, he tells himself. Do it.
Bobbie breaks the silence. “Well?”
“Okay. Let’s do it.” He leads her up the stairs to the bedroom and closes the door behind her. She looks around the clean, orderly room. The blue comforter trimmed in red is neatly spread over the bed. She frowns, backing away.
“What the fuck is this?”
“No shit. It’s immaculate. What’s to clean?” She realizes something and looks back over her shoulder. “Why’s the door closed?”
Denny awkwardly sidesteps towards the cedar chest at the foot of the bed, perplexed at her testy tone of voice.
“If you want, we can leave it open. I just thought—”
“Get away from it!”
“—you might want some privacy.”
“Privacy? What are you talking about? Why would . . . ?” The rinse of fear on her face suddenly dries up and her eyes widen, filling with an unmistakable expression of understanding. She points at him. “You thought”—a derisive chuckle—“you thought I was going to fuck you? For money? Ah, Jesus! I don’t believe this! You think I’m a goddamn whore!”
Denny says nothing—his embarrassment so great he can only stand there while she falls back on his bed, laughing hysterically, pointing at him, slapping the bed. Heat rises from his neck, washes over his face, burning so hot, he breaks out in a sweat. He can’t look at her. He wants to run from the room but can’t seem to get himself to move. She continues to laugh, finally coughing, which stops her, and she sits up, panting, her face pinched from anger and hurt.
In silence, Denny looks at her, finding the words. Finally, he straightens his back and shoulders and says, “I apologize. For my ignorance. I didn’t . . . I meant no disrespect, ma’am.”
Her eyes narrow, piercing through him, surgically exploring the character of the man behind the words.
“I’d knock the shit out of you,” she says calmly, “but . . . I don’t know—how can someone be so . . . ?
“I apologized. What do you want from me? Everything sounded like you were . . . you know.”
“I didn’t even want to do it really.”
“I kind of got the opposite idea,” she says.
“I didn’t want to be rude.”
“Please,” he says, “accept my apology, take your daughter and the hundred dollars and . . . go away. Please.”
Denny walks to his dresser, glances over his shoulder, hesitates, and then opens the center drawer. Blocking her view, he takes five twenties from an envelope, opens the bedroom door, and, standing to the side like a doorman, offers Bobbie the money.
She looks at it. Then she snatches the money and runs down the stairs. He closes the door and leans against it. The front door slams.
It is cool for a summer evening. Sitting on the side of the house on an old oak stump, Denny watches the moon rise over Ventana Valley. A tide of loneliness pulls him deeper inside himself. Denny watches his parents through a memory, a memory of ritual exchanges they had with each other. His mother complains about some minor foible in his father. His father hums a tune he makes up as he goes. They are together, alive, comfortable, still in love. Lovers and lunatics, Denny thinks. Lunatic lovers. A man and a woman so much in love, having worked so hard to make life together, parents of a son who loved them more than himself.
Denny restrains the memory of their end. An end that remains always the same, because it is true, because it happened. But the end will not be inhibited, and he recalls their end came on a summer night much like this night, with the moon dispatching its craziness over the Earth. He looks up. The lunar mountains make the Man-in-the-Moon look like he has a five-o’clock shadow—like his father’s, at the end of that day last summer. He recalls tiny button-sized puddles of blood leading across the Linoleum, his paralyzing panic; he feels the insane chill in the hot kitchen, where he finds his father sitting in the breakfast nook with his head flopped back over the chair, slashes in his throat gushing, pulsing blood like gills on a dying fish.
The horror, the inhumanity of it revives, and Denny rises to stare back at the moon, to take its brightness and blur the memory. But it won’t go away. He runs into the orchard, faster and faster, until he cannot evade the cherry branches in his path. He closes his eyes, still racing recklessly through the trees, anticipating the blow.
A low, looping bough punches him square on the chin, throwing him back off his feet. The horrible nightmare fades peacefully to black.
Consciousness returns like a refreshing, early-morning dream. Denny rolls to his side. The smell of cherries rises from the dirt around him. He touches the blood in the split in his chin. He stands, woozy.
“Oh, I gotta do that again, real soon,” he says. He holds his watch up to the moonlight. He’s been out for only fifteen minutes. Looking through the trees, his head throbbing, he starts back towards the remaining darkness of his home.
Back in the kitchen, Denny drops ice cubes into a sandwich bag, gently presses it to his chin and carefully walks upstairs to his bedroom.
He moves through the darkness like a blind man accustomed to the surroundings and stops beside his bed. He reaches under the lamp on the night stand and fumbles for the little black knob to turn it on, when a voice says:
“Leave it off and come to bed.”
Finally, I get to attempt something few would try. Make writing about conjunctive adverbs amusing . . . even fun. Having fun? I'm having fun. You didn't know conjunctive adverbs could be such fun. Now I realize that, in the story, BW is omniscient and all-powerful, so it makes sense that he understood everything about conjunctive adverbs instantly upon hearing Tommy's prayers. But Earth-bound writers need to know a few things about how to use them:
So . . . .
Once upon a time, in a place far, far away, there was Mr. Connect and Ms. Idea. Indeed, each was single, searching for a marriage of intimacy and independence; however, the Big Writer-in-the-Sky never came calling on them. Mr. Connect was first and foremost a Conjunction from out West and needed, nevertheless, to meet Ms. Idea, a dyed-in-the-wool Adverb from the South. Mr. Connect and Ms. Idea were nowhere near to each other. Nonetheless, they wanted the other--badly.
They prayed to the BW-in-the-Sky every time he sat down to write. BW-in-the-Sky didn't hear their prayers; therefore, the marriage was suspended until the next time he'd sit down to write. But each time it was the same. Big Writer just wouldn't listen.
Something unexpected happened, however. An intercession . . . .
A blogging fool
named Tommy O'Toole
rode into town riding a mule.
(Wasn't that unexpected? The rhyme. Not that Tommy rode a mule.)
He lit down in the town,
in a pew of a church,
to confess to Big Writer he was in quite a lurch.
with diamonds for eyes,
couldn't help be distracted by Tommy's loud cries.
He cries for intimacy,
and independence, too;
subsequently, BW thought, "Tommy got through!"
Looking down from the sky,
gouging diamonds from his eyes,
guess who Big Writer spies--Connect/Idea, likewise.
BW calls to Tommy,
"Hear you loud and clear! Connection and relationships, ya hear?"
Subsequently, meanwhile and therefore, the Big Writer-in-the-Sky came down to Earth to toil in the soil (sorry, didn't mean for that one to happen) to mine only for a very special gem: conjunctive adverbs. And BW took Mr. Connect and he married them to one another--two as one--and instantly they had offspring which formed a vein filled with accordingly, however, nonetheless, also, indeed, otherwise, besides, instead, similarly, consequently, likewise, still, conversely, meanwhile, subsequently, finally, moreover, then, furthermore, nevertheless, therefore, hence, next, thus . . .the mother lode.
And he saw that it was good. The end. Whew.
Conjunctions have one job: to connect. I use them to join words, phrases and clauses to clarify what I am saying. Just their presence gives my writing smooth transitions from one idea to another. When I use an adverb to make the connections, it's called a conjunctive adverb, what a surprise.
You may wonder what the heck it does. Not the surprise, the conjunctive adverb. It joins, introduces, interrupts or concludes. Did you know it could do all that? Well, it can. (Can you tell I'm really high on these conjunctive adverbs?)
When joining, a semi-colon precedes and a comma (usually) follows the conjunction; from the above story and verse:
Indeed, each was single, searching for a marriage of intimacy and independence; however, the Big Writer-in-the-Sky never came calling on them.
BW-in-the-Sky didn't hear their prayers; therefore, the marriage was suspended until the next time he'd sit down to write.
He cried for intimacy,
and independence, too;
subsequently, BW thought, "Tommy got through!"
When introducing, interrupting or concluding, a comma (sometimes not) is used to punctuate the sentence:
Nonetheless, they wanted the other--badly.
Mr. Connect was first and foremost a Conjunction from out West and needed, nevertheless, to meet Ms. Idea, a dyed-in-the-wool Adverb from the South.
Something unexpected happened, however.
Conjunctive adverbs make it possible for me to join two main clauses, connect two complete ideas, and, when used to introduce, interrupt or conclude, they show relationships between ideas within an independent clause. Without this gem, I'd write only in simple sentences, one thought leaping to another thought like a, oh, let's say a kangaroo, leaping over transitions in a single bound. Without this gem, I'd write like Hemingway. Oh, wait. I mean his style, not his success.
Finally, similarly, accordingly, conjunctive adverbs add rhythm to my writing.
Ana-one, ana-two, ana-three!
Having fun? I'm having fun. You didn't know conjunctive adverbs could be such fun. Now I realize that, in the story, BW is omniscient and all-powerful, so it makes sense that he understood everything about conjunctive adverbs instantly upon hearing Tommy's prayers. But Earth-bound writers need to know a few things about how to use them: