Monthly Archives: March 2014

Hi Mom!


I found out over the weekend that my mother reads the blarg here at Pavorisms.

I have mixed feelings about that.

There are basically two kinds of people reading my more-or-less daily word-tripe here.  No, make that three.  Actually, it’s a little bit more complicated than … ah, Fargo it.

There are a few different types of people reading this blarg.

The first type is the family and friends whom I personally invited to look at it or who saw it on my Facebook and are checking it out as a sort-of-obligation, sort-of-curiosity, sort-of-show-of-support for my recently declared writing endeavors.  I love them dearly and thank them for taking the time to show an interest in what I’m up to.

The second type is other writers stumbling in from some writing sites I’m frequenting.  These people do not know me personally, but rather are here strictly to check on the art and, presumably, to suss out the competition and maybe even get some ideas for their own work (I know that’s what I’m doing when I visit your sites, type-number-twoers).  I love them dearly and thank them for taking the time to show an interest in what I’m up to.

A third type is other users of WordPress who have had my blargs end up in their queues for one reason or another and who, again, have stumbled in to see who the haberdashery is making all the noise down the hall.  Sorry about all the sawdust and classical music.  One of those is good for my sinuses and the other relaxes me.  Nevertheless, they are here, poking around, checking out the decor, probably thinking to themselves how much I’m bringing down property values around here.  I love them dearly and thank them for taking the time to show an interest in what I’m up to.

There are probably some other types out there, too.  My wife sort of defies categorization (in all the best ways!) because she reads up on me and probably most importantly is responsible for allowing me the time to write and Ramble here and on the Project.  I mean, sure, she’s family too, but she’s in a class of her own (sure, I’m obligated to say that, but honey, I mean it!).  Then, it’s even possible, if not likely, that at some point one or more of my students will discover this site and I’ll have them to welcome as well.

All that is to say, finding out that my mom is out there reading got me thinking about a couple of things.

First of all, persona.  The me you see writing here is not necessarily the same me that parents a toddler or teacher high school English or gets up at 5am to run.  I don’t talk this way in real life.  (Most of the time.)  But these thoughts buzz around in my skull ALL THE TIME, and I am pleasantly surprised to find that blarging and letting some of these thoughts drip out has a dual effect: one, the buzzing in my head is diminished; and two, it actually helps me to focus my thoughts for future writing, both Project-related and blarg-related.

Second, my audience (such as it is).  After all, as an English teacher, one of the things I typically remind my students in their writing is that you have to know your audience.  How can you write appropriately if you don’t know who you’re speaking to?  You won’t sell a lot of Legos and toy airplanes and matchbox cars if you advertise in black and white.  You won’t get a generation of teen girls out to see the newest vampire movie if you don’t put a bronzed, bare-chested, vaguely ethnic heartthrob in the trailers. So who the Fargo am I writing for?

The answer, it turns out, was simpler than I even thought.  I’m writing for me.  I don’t know if that’s the best way to write, but it’s the only way that makes sense to me right now.  I’m writing my novel the way I want to write it – in a way that I would want to read it.  I want to write the best goldfinger book I can , but more importantly, I want it to be a story I’m personally proud of.  As far as this little pile of brain crumbs goes, I am just trying to have a little fun and reflect on what it’s like to go through what I’m going through.  Writing in any capacity is stressful at the least, and at the worst it can make you want to dig a hole in the earth, fill the hole with your broken and pitiful ideas, and set them all on fire before diving in headfirst yourself.  Writing a novel — working with the same characters, the same plotline, the same problems, the same story — for days, weeks, and as it will soon become, months at a time, magnifies all of that.  Some days writing is transcendent.  I open my brain, let my fingers do a little tap dance on the keys, and the magic just streams forth as rainbow colored goop streams from my toddler’s mouth.  (Sorry, got a little bit topical.)  Other days it’s like practicing dental work on an irate shark; all thrashing and screaming and fighting for air.  Other days still it’s like the 13th hour of a stakeout; the donuts have gone stale, the coffee’s cold, and I’m fighting sleep just for a glimpse of the perfect word to come through the door.

Writing is hard.  This blarg is here for me to clear the pipes a bit, to burn out the gunk, to give my brain an ice bath after it runs its verbal marathons.  I hope that those of you out there reading it find some enjoyment in it.  I hope that you can find some humor in it.  I even dare to hope that maybe you can find a little inspiration in it.  But this is not for you.

If this blog were for you, family and friends, I’d try harder to clean up the language and use less disgusting metaphors and talk less about my spiraling, uncontrollable writer’s brain thoughts.  If it were for you, fellow writers, I’d try harder to clean up the run-on sentences and the overly wordy similes and unnecessary adverbs, and talk a little less about my kid and my job and the rest of my life.  But it’s not.

Today, I squeezed off 1100 words on the Project. Some of them were the right ones; many of them, I’m sure, were the wrong ones.  But they all felt right.  They all work to tell the story I’m trying to tell.  There’s some gouda language in there.  There are some run-on sentences and probably too many adverbs.  But I love the story like crazy so far, and if I’m lucky, it will eventually find some other people who enjoy it like I do.

Who knows, my mom might even enjoy it, too.  Despite all the gouda.


Want Crayons (Toddler Art?)


The kid has started coloring on the walls.

We’ll start with the metaphorical.

He’s caught another stomach bug – his third, or his second and a half, depending on how you quantify the two weeks of pain we endured at Casa de Pav back in January.  How he keeps catching this evil is beyond me, but he doesn’t catch it halfway – it starts out of nowhere with a big, dramatic vomiting spell (I could tell about the time I was in Wal-Mart with the sprout at 7 AM and he erupted in a fountain of cottage cheese and peach slices shutting down an aisle and requiring me to make a pit stop through the toddlers’ clothing section which I was not planning on making and then carrying him home wrapped in my hoodie and his clothing in a garbage bag, but I won’t, I MEAN OOPS).  Then he moves on to blowing out his diapers and literally pooping the rainbow for a few nights.  We’re on night two.

I feel for the poor kid.  He’s had a rough weekend as far as toddlers go, for whom every day which does not see your every whimsical desire fulfilled to the fullest possible extent.  In short, every day is a rough day.  But the weekend has been a bad one, by dint of a couple of things.

First, the barfing.  That’s never fun; it scares the haberdashery out of him every time, and it would be better if you could comfort him but the only thing that really comforts him is being held and, well, eww.  He hasn’t developed the decency to bend at the waist while he’s blowing chunks (a skill which, like so many others we take for granted as adults, is apparently NOT second nature after all) so he likes to walk around while he’s spewing, really maximizing the ratio of affected area versus possible area.  Of course his clothes get caught in the crossfire (just made myself laugh out loud and gag a little simultaneously, a pretty unique feeling), so holding and hugging him is low on the list following one of these sessions.  Also, his last vomit fountain was bright pink; fluorescent, almost.  The only saving grace is that it happened out of the house (in grandma and grandpa’s house.  Sorry about that.)

Second, the poops.  I won’t go into too much detail here for the benefit of those of you reading this who do not have (and have not had) young kids whose poops you have to clean up.  I will just say that his entire, uh, undercarriage is raw and painful to even look at, so I can only imagine the discomfort the sprout is in.  Honestly, picturing it mentally to try to write about it is giving me the haberdasheryfied heebie-jeebies.  We’ll just stop here.  ORANGE POOPS GREEN POOPS OATMEAL-COLORED POOPS OH MY stopping now.

Third, I tried to do a nice thing for him on this weekend of horrible weather and horrible sickness.  To be fair, I didn’t really know how sick he was at the time, so it’s sadder for me now.  I tried to take him to the mall for happy running-free unfettered playground magical wonderland time (see my previous post on toddler heaven) and the goldfinger playground was closed for some random publicity stunt in the food court.  Foolishness.  Knowing the tantrums and blowups that can result from a small thing like, oh, I don’t know, not being allowed to dig through the trash and pull out the salmonella-infested chicken-trimmings which would of course cause him to DIE IMMEDIATELY (this thought process on the behalf of parents is REAL), I’m sure I don’t have to hyperbolize to accurately represent to you the overwhelming ways in which happiness completely and utterly failed to ensue when I had spent the entire morning talking up “Playground?  Bear (we call him Bear) wants to go to the playground?” and then had to tell him, within sight of the Holy Land itself, that it was closed and he couldn’t play.  In fact I won’t try to describe it.  I’ll just let your imagination fill your ears with his heartbroken cries.

SO, a difficult weekend to be a two-year old in the Casa de Pav.  But now, we can return to the literal.

I finally remembered that I’ve been meaning to start tracking his growth here in the house in a concrete and measurable way that my wife and I can look back on in a few years and say, “aww, he was, in fact, that tiny once,” so I rounded up the sprout and a crayon and I drew a line on the wall over his head.  You know the drill.

What I forgot to remember is that every moment in a toddler’s life is a moment in which the toddler is learning things about the way the world works.  Whether the thing he is learning is the thing you’re trying to teach is, of course, a thing you can laugh about later.  What I wanted him to learn was that we can make a permanent mark on the world around us, that we can leave landmarks to the future from the long-forgotten past, that even when he gets bigger, we will still have proof that he was once tiny, helpless, adorable.  In retrospect, I see that perhaps those concepts were and are a bit abstract for a brain that has trouble understanding that the trash can is a thing that should be stayed away from, even though it’s a lesson we’ve tried to teach, oh, I don’t know, maybe thirty times last night alone.  (Can you tell that the kid playing in the trash is a fargoing ISSUE in our house?)

What he learned, on the other hand, is that crayons can make pretty, colored markings on walls JUST LIKE THEY DO ON PAPER.

So in short order, this happened:

wpid-IMAG0912.jpg

What can I say. It’s hard to take it away from him when he’s feeling so pitiful.  We’re pretty much resolved to the fact that if we ever want to move we’re just going to have to burn the house to the ground.  What harm are a few more marks on the wall?


The Acid Orphan


This is my second bite at the apple for Chuck’s 5 random words challenge.  If anything, it teaches me that I should trust my instincts.  This title occurred to me immediately, and I shied away from it initially, but it just wouldn’t go away.  I realized, as soon as I gave it serious consideration, that it meshes perfectly with another novel idea that I’ve had; maybe the next one I’ll write after I’m finished with AI.

So, lesson learned, and fun has been had writing this one.  It’s not as dark as my others of late either, so there’s that, too.

994 words, and I could easily have kept going.

 

 

The Acid Orphan

When Terry arrived at the League, the wolves began to circle.  They always did, of course, when an Orphan arrived.  But something about Terry drew them in more than usual.  Maybe it was her tiny stature, maybe it was her too-pale skin, maybe it was the strange symbols tattooed on her wrists that she refused to explain.

Not every Orphan is an orphan.  Some of them come from loving households.  But even those have an unmistakable air of abandonment about them.    A sadness, a weariness, a mistrust cultivated from years of rejection, years of phone calls home from the principal, years of being locked away, being forced to hide, forced to pretend.  Every recruit at the League has felt it in some capacity or another — we are all a bit different — but the Orphans carry it heaviest of all; it is a part of them, etched on their heart, stamped on their soul.  You can spot it on them, smell it, like dogs smell fear.  Abandoned.  Turned out.  Unwanted.

The unspoken hierarchy of the school puts them at the bottom, where by and large they stay, outcasts even in the place that should sweep them close.  Most of them drop off the face of the earth once they pass their evaluations, choosing to live in exile or even to check out for good.  They become hermits even among the hermits; all of us are reclusive by nature, but the Orphans take it to extremes.

Funny thing, though, is that the Orphans have a way of being the strongest and smartest.  Something about working so hard for so long to suppress your Ability makes it fester and expand, an amoeba feeding on its own colony.  Exposure to the Catalyst would then cause it to flare up and spike, like a saucepot boiling over and spattering the kitchen with bits of tomato.  Accidents happen all the time at the League: a classroom will have all its windows blown out, a student will lose an eye or have a limb shattered in a routine sparring session, that kind of thing.  They always look at the Orphans first.  Unofficially, of course.

In her first month, Terry shut down the entire academic wing of the complex — all thirty classrooms — for a week.

She claimed it was an accident, and nobody doubted it.  But I saw her smirk when she came out of the council’s office.  She saw me see her and she smiled, a lock of her short, chemically-blackened hair falling across one eye.  She casually unwrapped a lollipop as she asked me, “How’s Gina doing?”

I laughed mirthlessly.  Gina had marked Terry immediately — she loved to give Orphans hell — and invited her to the roof for a “welcoming ceremony” with some of her friends.  What happened next was a story none of them were willing to tell, but all of her friends came back covered in boils and burns.  Gina had the worst of it.  Her face was unrecognizable: a riot of red, puckered skin and swelling sores.  Half her hair was gone, dissolved in a sizzling gout of Terry’s acid blood.  The runoff had oozed down through the building, chewing through cement and steel and drywall and wires.  It had been three days before they were even sure they’d cleaned it all up.  Incidentally, that was how we had all learned what Terry’s Ability was; until that day, it had been the subject of heated supposition.

Gina was out of the infirmary — I’d seen her that morning — but still pretty badly scarred and burned.  “She’s not so great,” I replied.  “I’d watch out for her if I were you.”

Terry chuckled.  “I doused her so that I don’t have to watch out for her.”

That made sense to me, so I told her as much, and that’s how I made friends with the Acid Orphan.

We walked outside, talking aimlessly.  She was more than happy to demonstrate her Ability for me, though she insisted that it was silly to call it an Ability.  It was her blood; slightly caustic before, but the Catalyst had turned it into a smoldering poison.  It didn’t harm Terry, but it burned like hellfire on the skin and it could eat through almost anything if allowed to work.  It was a liability until she learned how to weaponize it.  She took off one of the oddly spiked rings that she wore on her thumbs and handed it to me: a simple band of dark steel with a viciously curved talon of topaz in the center.  The precious stone, she explained, was one of only a few substances that could abide her blood.  The ring was too heavy for its size and the stone was wickedly sharp.  It had to be, she told me.

“Why?”

She grinned a mischievious grin at me and slid the ring back on her thumb, the glimmering claw turned toward the inside of her hand.  With a deft, practiced motion, not unlike a snapping of her fingers, she drew her pinky across the ring and then pressed her thumb to the blood that welled up.  Thick and dark, it looked perfectly normal, but it smelled of foxglove, almost medicinal.  When she smeared her hand in the grass, it began to smoke, the vegetation withering and then simply coming apart, the dirt beneath blackening and sizzling.

She watched the poison boiling into the earth, her eyes unblinking.  “A deeper cut means more blood, and more blood turns these,” she held up her hands, looking at me between splayed fingers, “into weapons of mass destruction.”

“Perfect,” I said.

“What?” She asked.

I could already see events unfolding in my mind.

“Could you use that to open a door?  Like, a reinforced door?”

Terry rolled her eyes.  “I can remove a door.”

“Do you want to help me with something?”

“Depends,” she said, “Will we have to break any rules?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.

“Then yes,” she said.


One Award


This week’s challenge from Chuck:  Five Words.  In short, write a short story of under 1000 words using 5 words out of a list of 10.  I used just over 800, but managed to squeeze in six of the words.
I started this one out intending to write something a little happier.  WHY CAN’T I WRITE A HAPPY SHORT STORY.
Anyway, here goes.
One Award
A light glinted in the hermit’s cave atop the cliff, hazy in the mist of the salt spray off the ocean. It was the third time Henry had seen the light this week.  His bedroom window, at the back of his house just across the inlet from Marbler’s Bluff, afforded him a perfect line of sight on the nook: a craggy opening carved into the side of the cliff face a hundred feet below the trail that led to the peak, and a hundred feet above the sharktooth rocks pulverizing the surf.

Henry had visited the cave again and again as a child, leading secret adventures up there.  He’d follow the nigh-invisible dental floss path down to the cave and pretend to be a pirate or a bandit while his lazy hound dog watched with weary eyes.  He chuckled to himself; he had probably left a stash of lollipops in the box he’d buried in the back.

And now, there was a light twinkling up there.  Almost like a flashlight winking at him from a neighbor’s window in secret code, but there was no message hidden in its luminous semaphore.  At least not one that he could decipher.  He wondered if anybody else even knew about the cave at all.  It didn’t seem likely.

His parents had bought the house just before he’d been born, an enviable little split-level right on the waterfront, with nothing around it for a mile.  There had been other houses, once, but their supports were cracked and sagging and one by one they had tumbled to the earth.  This house, too, would not last long — it already had deep fissures in the foundation, caused by shifting topsoil or something like that, they’d said — but he couldn’t bring himself to leave it.  He’d inherited the house when his parents had heart attacks within two years of one another, leaving him alone at the age of twenty-three.  Jobless and broke, it had seemed to him a fortuitous misfortune, and he had moved back to his childhood home after only five years away.  For twenty years since, he’d stayed here, never thinking of leaving.  The town was nice enough; sleepy, dull, safe.  Just what he’d needed after his years in the field.

As the sun descended, the flashing of the light grew less frequent and finally stopped altogether.  Perhaps he’d only imagined it.  He made his rounds of the house, checked all the doors and windows, and let himself drop off to sleep.

Next day, his thoughts wandered up to the cave once more, to the times he’d used it to hide from bullies, to hide from his parents, to hide from his friends.  In retrospect, it was easy to see how the troubles he’d hidden from were no different from anybody else’s, but like they do for all kids, the troubles had seemed all encompassing to him at the time.  That cave had been his sanctuary, his hideout, his refuge.
At twilight, the twinkling started again, beckoning, signaling, like runway lights on a starless night.

At daybreak, he packed a bag for a hike and set off for the old cave.  The whooshing crash of the waves on the rocks accompanied him all the way to the summit, and the old familiar vertigo seized him as he wended his way down the craggy path to the cave.  It was deserted, of course.  No sign of anybody having been there in years.  Just some old brittle bits of driftwood, bleached as whalebone, littering the craggy recesses.  Henry collected a few twigs and lit a fire, felt the warmth seep into his face and his hands as he traveled back in his mind to a time before he’d known about evil, before he’d known about death and guns and landmines and night attacks and suicide bombers and the horror of making a five year old into an orphan right in his own living room.  Before he’d forgotten how to smile.  He exhaled thickly, the chemicals swirling as they always would in his lungs.  He massaged the shrapnel scar in his side.

He left his pack and walked to the mouth of the cave.  There, to the right of his shoulder — about as high as he would have been able to reach at the age of 11 — hanging on a tiny outcrop, was the medal he’d won for “Outstanding Performance” in his youth league soccer team, the only award he’d ever received.  Somehow it had remained shielded from the elements and, in the last moments before sundown, reflected a tiny beam of light down toward his window.

In the distance, he could see his house, the orange glow of flames behind the downstairs windows, fingers of smoke prying their way out around the panes.  Henry took off his shoes and his shirt and stood with his toes hanging out over the sharks’ teeth a hundred feet below.  They had never looked so inviting.  The sun’s light mingled with the mist collecting on his face, warming and cooling him in the same instant.  He smiled.

Forty Two Pages


Another week in the bag, another few thousand words on the page. I finished today’s writing on page 42, which has a happy significance for me.
You sci-fi geeks out there won’t need me to explain this, but my wife will.  Seeing as she reads this pile from time to time, it’s better if I don’t leave her in the dark.
42 is, of course, the answer to the Grand question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, as posited by the late, great Douglas Adams in the first book of his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.  However, of course, the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, is rather ill-defined, and so he defined it in the third book, Life, the Universe, and Everything.  The question, it turned out, was (is?) “What do you get when you multiply six times nine?”  This nonsense question-and-answer was representative of the absurdity of both the book series itself and, in proper artistic fashion (life imitating art and all that – wait, no, I got that backward – wait, no, I didn’t), of the whole of existence as the author himself saw it.
I’m conjecturing, of course, but I think it’s fair to say that Adams, himself an avowed atheist, saw the world as a whole sort of general mish-mash, a more or less random collection of atoms, molecules, compounds and quarks that followed their own rules about how to behave, even if those rules are indecipherable to the best of us.  Nine times six equals forty-two?  Well, that’s just life, innit?
Anyway, Douglas Adams was and is one of the only authors whose work I could read anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances and both a) enjoy it and b) learn something about myself or the world (usually myself). He spins a haberdashery of a yarn, and he’s funny at the same time.  His characters are so distinctive — each with their bizarre individual quirks, yet each one choice with Adams’s signature wit and pacing.  He’s kind of my writing spirit guide, and every time I’ve tried my hand at writing, especially when I practice informal writing (like ye Olde blarg), I find myself gravitating toward emulating his style.  It makes me nostalgic for a time when I was first discovering that literature could be not only enjoyable, but could actually impact a person’s life.  Believe it or not, high-school me could barely give a sharknado about Shakespeare or Fitzgerald or really any instance of the written word.
But we grow up, don’t we?  We grow up and we branch out, and as I travel down this lonely road of writing my first (okay, that’s optimistic, but times like these call for a bit of optimism so, DonDraper it, I’m gonna be optimistic) novel, those divergent paths are catching my eye more and more.  I am painfully aware that, as much as I enjoy writing in this style I’ve modeled on the late Mr. Adams, it’s exactly that, an emulation rather than my own creation.  Does it work?  I suppose that’s ultimately up to my readers to judge (and I have at least 25 of you out there now; thanks for following!).  I feel like it does.  But use like an Elvis impersonator can only throw so many pelvic thrusts or “awuh-huh”s about before he begins to feel a little empty inside, so too I feel the creeping sensation that this style of mine may actually ring a bit hollow. It’s not a thing that needs addressing right this minute, or maybe even not on this novel, but it’s starting to nag at me in a way that is obviously not going to stop anytime soon.  I’m probably over thinking it – I over think everything. 
No favorite passage today; I got the writing done but none of it really sang for me.  It felt utilitarian, and I don’t even know if what I wrote today will survive the first edit.  The character in question is turning out to be awfully mean and I just don’t know if it makes sense for him to be quite so mean.  Vindictive.  A villain doesn’t make sense if he’s only a villain for the sake of getting in the hero’s way — he has to make sense and work as a character in his own right.  Gotta stay focused on that.  I think I need to bring this guy back to center a little bit.
Okay, enough of this ramble.  When I return to the project I’ll be moving on past page 42.
Instead of my own favorite passage, I’ll leave with one from Adams, a useful one for writers everywhere:

“The only moral it is possible to draw from this story is that one should never throw the letter Q into a privet bush, but unfortunately there are times when it is unavoidable.

Funny, I seem to recall DA using a lot more punctuation than that.


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