If It Was Only A Sabbatical – Flash Fiction Snippet

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Over the last year I have written down snippets and little plotlines, even dialogue of a cooking story that has no real basis other than just inserting some of it into my writing life. Since cooking and the restaurant world is so much a part o f my life these days, I can’t help but write about it. I have ideas of some sort of novel, maybe a bit biographical, but I’m not sure. Mostly it’s just playing around with scenes. So after Coffeeman left, I found myself channeling the situation in a different way. What if Coffeeman was leaving only for a sabbatical or something. It would be hard, but doable. Right now, doable is just survival. Surviving till the next change. Nothing so wonderful as sabbatical. (you would not believe how many times I’ve spelled that word wrong.)

So here is something I wrote in my journal on September 5th. With a few edits. Of course.

She let her knife sink into the freshest tomato, still nearly warm from the sun. Slice, slice, slice. Perfect rounds of flesh. It was all she could focus on right now. The prep list was too long, Micha was leaving in a few days, the boys in the kitchen, from line cook to dishwasher, were all acting up, and she was about ready to fall apart. Tired, apprehensive. Could she do what Micha had faith in her for? Did she know enough?

She was ready to swear at anyone who stepped out of line. A recent run in with a shelf, which had left a nasty bruise on her underarm, had left her swearing a blue streak that left all in earshot giving her a wide berth and wary look. She was nearly in tears when she bent back a fingernail after prying at a cambro.

“You know you’re going to be fine,” came Micha’s voice from her left, scaring her out of mind and musings. She let her knife hit the board with a whack and glared at him.

“Don’t do that!” she growled. He just chuckled at her and slid a coup of coffee over too her.She accepted it with a nod and leaned her hip against the counter with a sigh. He was sipping at one of his many cups that she found floating around the kitchen throughout the day.

“Have you taken a break and gotten something to eat?”

She shook her head the tiredness hitting her. The sadness. She was already missing him and the little things she knew were going to be gone. Things like him asking if she ate before her sugar dove and she started threatening everyone with bodily harm and a knife.

“Go eat something. Take ten and come back when you’ve done that. This will wait.

“Bu—”

“No buts, just go.” He shooed her with a direct look.

She made a face at him, but didn’t argue, setting her knife on a towel and heading off to the line to see if there was still some soup from an earlier family meal.

The French Laundry

Nothing much. A touch off of the characters from Just A Day, Just An Ordinary Day… Not – Flash Fiction because I like them and well, yeah. So enjoy. I’m picturing a very different kitchen than what I work in. Something along the kitchen from The French Laundry. It’s so open and pretty. I want a kitchen like that. When I first started working at my place, I was bummed by no windows and no clocks. We never knew what time it was. It was my own insane asylum. Now, I’ve gotten used to it, and I am out in front where the windows are a lot of the time so I can see out and it helps. But I still dream of open kitchens. Lots of windows and natural light. I think all our moods would be better.

Kate

Just A Day, Just An Ordinary Day… Not – Flash Fiction

“Joe, make it a double…”
Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

I’m taking a bit of flash fiction from earlier in the year and reworking it. So if you all read this one before, well I’ve changed it some.  I have this idea of the gal, G, or Gigi, or something… is a sous chef or working her way up to that, and another sous chef comes in, they meet, fall in love, bla bla bla, but  haven’t put the pieces together. I like that my world gives me inspiration. I love that the guys I work with are like brothers. Idiots, complete and total kids, I could smack all of them half the time. I write down the random conversations I’ve had with them, or points of interest because kitchen talk is not like any talk I’ve had anywhere else. I joke with the people in back that the reason we are in the back is because we couldn’t be out front. It’s funny and hard and I’m glad I can write about it. This was once based on other things but I’ve realized that I have this guy in my head for a Chef that’s like Jon Favreau from the film Chef, only thinner. Someone that’s like this giant teddy bear of a guy. I kind of want to work for him.  He seems like he would be passionate and fun. Gads, I’ve been in this world too long….*smacks forehead*

 

He wore a brimmed fisherman’s knit cap, dark and dingy hoodie, converse tennis shoes, thick frame Elvis Costello glasses, anyone could have taken him as a hipster or college student, but for the gray invading the scruffy week’s stubble and curls in the dark hair at the base of his neck. Writer, she mused. Had to be with the pen and spread paper. Or maybe one of those cool professors. She was scribbling the description down in her ever present notebook. Filled with a weird curio of curiosities from random bits of poetry, recipes, lines from a movie, song lyrics, and random ass fiction, it was a writers delight and a view of who she was as a person. Dangerous in the wrong hands.

“Or maybe he’s just doing the crossword puzzle,” Micha said over her shoulder nearly making her shriek at his stealthiness. He had slipped up behind her and glanced at her notes before his devilishly deep, rich voice crawled up her spine. 

She sighed as he came around into her line of sight and she tried to calm her racing heart that had decided to go galloping around in her chest. The damn man loved to scare her. And he was good at it.  Like a brother, he teased her mercilessly and was too good at it. Thankfully she could smack him when he was close. Unfortunately he walked by and went up to the counter to order his drink and was too far out of reach. She debated tossing her scone at him, but the blueberry delight was too delicious and she didn’t want to share.

Micha was the perfect boss. Fun to be around, a bit of a dreamer, talented, creative, pragmatic, a wild pain in the ass. Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t so great.  He was this perfect combination of soft planes and hard edges. The glasses softened his face, when he deemed to wear them. Today he was. Rimmed rectangle lenses and tapered navy blue temples. Spiked hair today. He must have been playing in gel, she noted as he slung off his leather jacket and ordered a double espresso latte.

“He’s doing the crossword,” Micha smirked as he sat down across from her with his first of many coffees of the day.

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Smartass.”

“Better than a dumbass,” they both finished together, and while he chuckled, she rolled her eyes.

“So, plans today?”

“You know. Just an ordinary day. Scrub out the walk-in and organize the freezers.”

She groaned.

“What? You knew it was coming.”

“That is not ordinary!” she wailed. “I seriously do not have enough caffeine in my system for this.” She raised her hand to signal the young guy at the counter. ‘Joe, better make me another. It’s gonna be a long day.” She flipped the page in her notebook and started making lists.

“We could just wing it,” he supplied casually.

She arched her left brow at him and tilted her head down looking over the rim of her glasses.

“You are way too chipper about this. What should I be afraid of?” her voice was filled suspicion.

“The produce order comes in at noon and the beef order at 3, and I kind of want this all done before then…”

“Oh god. And?”

“Emily and I have reservations, so I will be gone by 5…..”

“I hate you.”

“I know. Want to get started?” He grinned.

She could smack him….

So, enjoy. This was a fun bit to write and fits into a cooking novel I am plotting.

Kate

Begin Again – Just A Ramble About Writing

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

A family member recently was horror struck (my mother’s tone, not necessarily true) by my lack of writing these days. It’s true. I rarely take a moment to write, but I haven’t given it up. In fact, my mind is as active as ever, plotting out bits of stories. From ideas at work to marvelous dreams…. gads those things are active little plots, aren’t they?…… to random bits of poetry, and even dabbling into writing prompts. The writing prompts always give me loads of trouble because the ideas are so good I simply must play with them! Only to have them go spattering of and chasing out the gate. I rather picture chickens scattering out the open door. Pecking at this interesting bit, and that.

Recently, meaning literally just the other day, Valentine’s day to be exact, I was thinking how I should write my cooking novel in chapters or segments of holidays. Because that is a rather irksome thing within the restaurant business. You can’t have a proper holiday because you are working on that day. Personally, other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the rest of the holidays are non issues. I love Valentine’s day for the pink, the red, the hearts. That’s about it. I like thinking in food terms with holidays. But a lot of momentous things have happened to me on holidays. People are stressed. People have bad moods. I got a lot thrown at me on those days. Perfect for an angsty account.

But then, what about just by season of the year? Or months? How does one even plan how to write out their novels? And titles. And groupings? Chapters? I should probably worry about this less and just write!

My journal has gotten more traction with bits and pieces that are fiction related. I was writing out a dream a couple weeks ago and realized that if I tweaked it, it would be a perfect Hallmark story. Never mind that I have other ideas for that as well and enough ideas to keep me well occupied despite my lack of time. What can I say, I have a job. Jobs take up a lot of time when it comes into the writing world. But I’m trying to vent here and there into my journal. I would like to sit down and write at the end of my work shift, but I’m usually too keyed up, the music’s too loud, or someone interrupts me. Or I’m trying to get home to an actual meal.  Excuses, excuses. I know. But they are rather decent ones.

I’d like to come up with more than a few things here and there. I’m not as prolific as last year. Last year was semi ridiculous, but well, such is life.

So there, just rambling about writing. Nothing important.

Kate

Just a Dream – Flash Fiction – Character Profiles

Intro: Gosh, I love being a writer. There I was sitting at a coffeeshop in Ashland, Bloomsbury Books, to be exact. I was finally eating something that was staying down and calming down after feeling lousy most of the day. I sat there with my cafe au lait watching the goings on and decided to do a character sketch/profile which morphed to a bit of flash fiction. Note on subject. It is modeled after aspects of my life and people in my life and even some emotions I’ve felt, but no one will know which ones are true or made up. The prerogative of a writer. We embellish. So if anyone reads this, IE boss or friends, remember. I am first and foremost a writer and dreamer.  Everything can and will be used in my writing.

 

He wore a brimmed fisherman’s knit cap, dark and dingy hoodie, converse tennis shoes, thick frame Elvis Costello glasses, anyone could have taken him as a hipster or college student, but for the gray invading the scruffy week’s stubble and curls in the dark hair at the base of his neck. Writer, she mused. Had to be with the pen and spread paper. Or maybe one of those cool professors.

“Or maybe he’s just doing the crossword puzzle,” Micha said over her shoulder nearly making her shriek at his stealthiness. He had slipped up behind her and glanced at her notes before his devilishly deep, rich voice crawled up her spine. 

She sighed as he came around into her line of sight and she tried to calm her racing heart that had decided to go galloping around in her chest. The damn man loved to scare her. And he was good at it. And it really was a shame that he was taken. As much as he killed her sanity daily, was like an older brother and all, that didn’t mean she didn’t have eyes.

Micha was edgy. She was not. Not even close. He was this perfect combination of soft planes and hard edges. The glasses softened his face, when he deemed to wear them. Today he was. Rimless rectangle lenses and tapered black temples. Spiked hair. He must have been playing in gel, she noted as he slung off his leather jacket and ordered a double espresso latte.

Hmm, diamond studs in his ears; must be going out with his wife later. Lucky girl.

She was only slightly jealous. They would have never worked as a couple, being too alike in moods, vices, interests, and even irritations. Plus, she loved Elle, his wife of 6 years. Two point five kids, a dog, house….yeah he had it all. No, she didn’t want him, she was more jealous of the dream. Oh sure, he was nice to look at, quite nice, actually, and one of her best friends. She was oh so good, she wasn’t dead. He was easy on the eyes.

“He’s doing the crossword,” Micha smirked as he sat down across from her with his first of many coffees of the day.

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Smartass.”

“Better than a dumbass,” they both finished together, and while he chuckled, she rolled her eyes.

“So, plans today?”

“Scrub out the walk-in and organize the freezers.”

She groaned.

“What? You knew it was coming.”

“I seriously do not have enough caffeine in my system for this.” She raised her hand to signal the young guy at the counter. ‘Joe, better make me another. It’s gonna be a long day.” She pulled out her notebook and started making lists.

“We could just wing it,” he supplied casually.

She arched her left brow at him and tilted her head down looking over the rim of her glasses.

“You are way too chipper about this. What should I be afraid of?” her voice was filled suspicion.

“The produce order comes in at noon and the beef order at 3, and I kind of want this all done before then…”

“Oh god. And?”

“Elle and I are going to the cabaret at 5.”

“I hate you.”

“I know. Want to get started?” He grinned.

She could smack him….

So, enjoy. This was a fun bit to write and fits into a cooking novel I am plotting.

Kate

Writing In A Book and The Story It Created – Flash Fiction-y

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford the other day, and within a few moments I read a couple of lines that had me needing a pencil as I had an idea that I had to write down.  At the time, I was indisposed without my notebook or pen. I started panicking because I knew if I didn’t write it down I would forget it. Fortunately, I found blank pages at the back of the paperback and I was able to have my sister get me a pencil tout de suite.

So there I was scribbling in a book. Something that I rarely do. In fact, I posted my interesting dilemma on Facebook and Susan Wooldridge’s responses were wonderful.

read-ex-libris

 

 

ann-fadiman

I found out as an interesting factoid today in my writing group that those pages at the back of the book are for taking notes. I love it! I am forever needing to make notes, but I am not always one to go crazy and write in my books. I make notes in the margins; word definitions and such. But It’s almost hard to go crazy with my markings in a book. I’m learning if I am going ot keep the book and it’s one I need to make notes in, I do. Cookbooks especially.

Well, writing in this particular book created this bit of flash fiction that  I have no idea if it is going anywhere, but I like it.

 

Despite their close proximity to their neighbors, the dead keep to themselves in their solitary graves; they don’t talk back. At least to each other. It makes cemeteries rather quiet, unless you’re like me. You see, I can talk to the dead. Sometimes at night, when the dead seem to be more restless, I go and perch on headstones and have a chat. I’ve met lots of nice dead people. The fresh ones being more chatty than ones who have been dead for quite some time. But they never talk to each other.

Why I can talk to them but they can’t talk to each other is a mystery. I’ve talked to my psychic friend, Paul, but even he can’t get a proper hello out of any dead. They ignore him. In fact, they ignore me if he’s around. Trust me, I’ve tried to prove that they talk to me, but whenever I bring Paul around, it’s like nobody is home. Dead silence. Ha ha, even I have to laugh at that joke.

So, when I can’t sleep at night, I head up to Piedmont Hill and visit. I have my favorites; the ones who talk about their kids and life, or the ones who have been buried a while and want to know what’s new in the world. Sometimes I try to talk with someone who has been buried for a hundred years or so and saw the old days, but like I said, they are content in their solitary confinement, rarely answering. Though there is one grave for a Captain John Werthers who was originally from Liverpool, England. he always tells me to go bugger off. Even though it’s really rude for him to say that, it always makes me chuckle. Sometimes I go to say hello just to be annoying. Supposedly he was a loving father and devoted husband, but I wonder since he’s so crotchety.

My favorite graves are the Deveraux Sisters; Elise and Della. Both dies of scarlet fever in the 30s. They are so sweet and hilarious, though again, they only talk to me, never to each other and they don’t want to hear about the other sister. Inf fact, they don’t ever believe me when I mention they are buried next to each other. I’ve tried seeing if anyone ever wants me to carry a message to someone else buried, but there’s this weird sort of structure where no one ever believes that they are buried next to a loved one. Like everyone is in stasis and the loved ones must be living.

Which is funny and annoying when they ask about how a loved one is doing and I tell them they are buried next to each other, or two rows down. They start shouting at me to which I shout at them and look like a crazy person yelling in a cemetery. At night. Which I am. Maybe I am crazy….

 

So there it is. I sish I could find an image I saved years ago that I feel fit with this story, but I have too many image files. If I ever find it I’ll add it….

Kate

Let Me Occupy Your Mind As You Do Mine – Flash Fiction

A darker version of a similar idea for Bookends bookstore.

A darker version of a similar idea for Bookends bookstore.

Rafe Simon sat at the small table that separated Bookends from The French Press coffee shop. It was both the most unpopular table, from eight in the morning till two in the afternoon, or the most sought after table, from two-thirty to five.  It became a very popular table mid afternoon when high school girls would fight over the coveted table just to have the chance to watch Jeff, Mia’s Elvis Costello wannabe assistant, working in the bookstore. Personally, while Rafe enjoyed chatting with Jeff, he couldn’t quite understand the girls’ fascination. Especially the floppy hair, skinny jeans, and thick, black, plastic-framed glasses.

Currently, though, Rafe’s view of the shop was quite improved as he observed Mia unloading a shipment of books at the front desk. The Devil’s Food cake slice added to the sweetness of his view, the cake moist, and for once, more chocolatey than most. The lyrics to the song playing in the shop didn’t hurt either. Gotye was eerily singing “Let me occupy your mind, as you do mine….”

Mia glanced up and at Rafe just at that moment, a frown between her brows before it lifted and she smiled. Rafe jerked his head in a hello and he watched her duck her head still grinning. Mission accomplished. Now he was in her mind.

About bloody time, he thought to himself. The woman hadn’t left his thoughts since meeting her two weeks ago. She had taken up residence and while he was loath to kick her out, she did make life rather distracting when it was as if she was twirling her finger in the hair near his ear while he went about his days on holiday. Bloody woman had to be his mate’s girl as well.

Rafe sipped his coffee and watched as Jeff came to take the stacks of paperback books Mia was setting out on the counter. She stopped and grabbed on, flipping it open excitedly.

“O Lord! He will hang upon him like a disease!” she exclaimed, dramatically leaning against Jeff, her forearm pressed to hear forehead.

Rafe chuckled, both at her and at Jeff who had rolled his eyes heavenward and shook his head in mock surrender. “Bravo, Beatrice,” he called, clapping his hands.

Mia blushed and stood upright. “The books for the high school’s play have come in,” she explained. “I love Much Ado About Nothing.”

“Classic play,” Rafe agreed.

“Best play I’ve seen in Ashland,” Mia sighed. She scooped up another stack of books and swirled off, leaving her to occupy Rafe’s mind even more as he pictured taking in a play with her.

the-bookends-love-triangleI started ‘Bookends’ (working title at this point) over ten years ago and I have only recently started thinking of working with it. It’s a love triangle romance with my characters inspired by Colin O’Donoghue, Martin Freeman, and a lovely model from the Garnet Hill catalog.  Like my earlier post about Regina and Luke, this is another Hallmark style story. Granted, in all my original drafts, unlike a Hallmark film, sex is involved. Love scenes are so much fun to write. But as I continue on, I find that sometimes you probably don’t need that. You can add it if it fits the storyline, but it’s not necessary. Unless one is writing a Harlequin Blaze….. I have contemplated that as well.

But at this point, all my stories are a Hallmark style story, and like the film, Love Actually, everyone in every story is connected at some point. Be it best friends each have their love story, or other stories are just connected somehow. One day, ONE DAY, I might have them all written. Sigh. Right now, I play out my characters in my head more than writing them.

“Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys”

13406986_10153566220727371_623513095724235842_nA few weeks ago I came across this statement. I fell in love with it and it has become entirely too applicable in my life. Today I was brutally slapped with it again as I had to deal with some craziness that while affected me, was not my circus. Thank God. I can walk away.

I have had this idea since last year while watching Paris When It Sizzles, a favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. I mean, I seriously love this film. And I got this idea for my local library. What about ‘Summer When It Sizzles’ for a book theme where you pull off all the romances and steamy books and trashy romances….  okay, not super trashy, but heck, even a few Harlequins have some ‘bodice ripper’ style covers. It is what it is and hey, the library has them on their shelves. It’s not like I would insert naughty books. Heck, the Fifty Shades of Grey books are right there.

So I talked it over with the librarian this year. I thought, heck, while the kids are having their summer reading program, the adults can have a fun “summer sizzling’ kind of reading program. Nothing fancy, just all the romance are pulled out and showcased. Up on shelves with little cut out tidbits of  ‘something steamy in here’ or “sweet romance’  or ‘a classic romance’. See?  Simple.

The librarian loved it. She even said, she would pull out one of the extra kids tables and set it up by the door for me to set up the display. I was even wishing I had some red fabric for a Valentines-y look.  I was tempted to cut out hearts.  And I like to think the librarian was excited for this display because the day before the first of July, when we were going to set it up, she made sure I was coming in to do it and seemed super excited.

So, I set it up. You can see my display.

July 1st rolled by and we got a laugh when she had to hunt for a book that I had pulled out to showcase and she had to switch labels…..

The the holiday came…….

Then today.

I walk into the library with my stack of due books and before I barely get in the door, one of the volunteer ladies immediately tells me that they didn’t think it was appropriate that the children’s table had been used for ‘those kinds of books’ so they put them all back in the library and set up children’s books instead, and oh, would I call the librarian.

Fortunately the librarian was trying to catch me before I was slammed with the switch.  But I would have liked her to have maybe stood up for me a bit. I mean, I had spent two hours making the labels and wording for the sign, and another hour setting up the display. And good grief, what? The table is not specifically a ‘children’s table’ but just a small table in the kid’s section.  I didn’t know that kids could get an STD by picking up a romance novel…… which they can check out and the librarian cannot stop them (I should know, I worked in the library and when I saw a 12 year old check out Hannibal, I was shocked but couldn’t do a darn thing about it….)

The shock and horror that was in the volunteer woman’s tone was like I was this awful bad person.  Yet, aren’t we supposed to be promoting reading? At a library?  And aren’t romances part of the library? And a lot of them? And Fifty Shades made the rounds.  And yes, I’ve read some of it.  (Personally I find it terrible writing. I’ve read much better erotica in my time, but I digress)

The point being was, how petty can you be? How utterly childish and prudish can you be?  Now, I’m not naming names because I plan on sending this to a few friends who know these people, but my gosh.

This is where I say, not my circus, not my monkeys.  You can go take your own GD monkeys and well….. I’ll leave the option up to you.  Needless to say I was not happy. In fact, I was kind of fighting tears later this afternoon because honestly, one day. The display was up one day with the Librarian’s permission and people got upset.  Emma was one of the titles for pete’s sake!

It reminds me of Marian the Librarian from The Music Man (modern version best)

Professor, her kind of woman doesn’t belong on any committee.
Of course, I shouldn’t tell you this but she advocates dirty books.

Harold:
Dirty books!

Alma:
Chaucer

Ethel:
Rabelais

Eulalie:
Balzac!

OMG! Dirty books! I mean, who knew that Emma and Emilie Loring books were dirty?

And this is one reason I don’t get terribly involved with the library. And this is one reason why younger people don’t get involved with the library. It’s having to deal with anyone over the age of 55….. and their lack of , well lack of a lot.

Is this a rant? You bet it is. It hurt. And am I going to let it go? Yep. But seriously, this is the last time I bring up an idea to the library.

Kate

Women As Writers – Day No. 10

I had another post planned for today but with it being day ten and being exhausted with the writing, something else came to my mind. Being a female writer.

sad-writerBeing a writer now, especially easy, is a very accepted thing. You tell someone a writer and boom, they are impressed. It’s really hard to believe that it used to be a male dominated world. Poets were male. Writers were male. Playwrights were male. I can probably list on one hand the female writers of the 1800’s. Even into the mid 1900’s there were very few female writers.

Now, I would say that writing is a predominantly female profession. You hear more about a woman writer then male and there are a lot of women writers. More than three quarters of the authors I read are women writers.  They dominate the fiction world especially, throwing in all the romance genre, along with young adult.  Young adult is specifically filled with women writers.

It’s an interesting thing to think about considering most of the classics of old are written by male writers and the books were good. I love some of the classics. I love the poets from long ago. But what I find even more interesting is how much I enjoy the way a man writes poetry or the fiction from ‘long ago’.  I love how women write. I can totally relate to what they are saying, but the way a man writes feels like he’s writing it to me. He is whispering something rather amazing to me.

So while I love being a woman writer, I sometimes feel like I can’t ever express the lyrical romance the way a man can. Now I don’t think male writers of today have this ability. Shakespeare, Tennyson, Scott, Dumas, etc…. Have a way of writing romance that is so perfect I want to spin around in a circle of happiness. I cannot write like that, nor have I ever read anything a woman has written that is like the way they can write.

It’s an interesting thought. I would say the same applies to music. Male singers have this way of singing about women in a pure, poetical way that I never see female singers be able to do. Women never describe men in the completely romantic way so many songs directed at women are done. Male singers just seem to hit that perfection that women can’t or don’t repeat.

So, in conclusion, I think a lot of women writers could learn something from male writers. I also think the reverse could be said in the detail department. That’s another whole post, but male writers, especially now, do not deal in detail….

Kate

Fog Wildfires – Short Fiction

This last month my local valley libraries had their annual writing contest.  I decided to enter their theme of Wildfire Summers and ended up placing third.  Down from second two years ago, but I sort of half-assed it, writing it two days before the deadline.  But still, I placed…. amongst 5 people. Ah, small town.  I have to laugh.

But I thought I would share. I don’t think it’s good enough to ever submit to any literary magazines, but who knows. Once I publish it here, I wouldn’t dream of submitting anyhow.

Enjoy

Fog Wildfire

She called the summer wildfires ‘Fog Wildfires’ after the way the fog of smoke would sink down the mountains just like the fog rolling into San Francisco Bay. However, unlike its counterpart, this kind of fog was hot, dry and smelly. The golden disk of the sun was no more than an amber colored stone, and it gave the land an eerie sepia tone like she had stepped into a western film. Or an aged photograph. Still air with not even a hint of movement made the smoke and heat push down on her. It made her feel anxious and restless.

Days like this, where the smoke was a thick as fog you could cut it and call it marshmallow, except for the nasty, noxious smell of it, which marshmallows were not, was when she wished for the foggy, coastal-like mornings of early January. She loved the cool, winter fog. The kind of fog that was so wet you could see each individual droplet hanging in the air; a fine curtain of silk. The kind of fog that dripped off the eaves and made the earth and trees smell like she was in some exotic damp forest. The kind of fog you find on the coast where you can breathe as deeply as you want and it never hurts because the mist was like a balm to your lungs. Today she wished it was fog instead of smoke.

She had hung her laundry under the porch eaves as ash sifted down like shavings. Ashy pine needles, fragile as talc, floated to the ground in shades of grey and white. Easily crushed under foot. Sifting down like snow, except a whole lot less pretty in her mind. The air was dirty. When the wildfires were at their worst, like today, the sky was obscured by thick, dirty, grey smoke. But of course smoke was dirty. The day so hot you could melt, but then not hot enough as the smoke, thick grey would hide the sun enough to cool it down. And amber sun was not warm.

Stagnant air. Smelly air. Smoke filled air. The air perpetually permeated with the acrid, sharp tang of burnt trees; thousands upon thousands of wilderness burned to a crisp of blackened giant’s toothpicks. Nothing left.

She missed the days that would clear up to blue sky, but only when the inversion lifted. That was always nice because she could breathe again, filling her lungs with fresh mountain air, warm from the summer sun and smelling of fields of grass and wheat. The resin of pines and firs a spicy sweet scent that she could never get enough of smelling. But the lifted inversion meant that the fires would worsen, the blazes having more wind to ignite the downed debris. Then a plume would form, one that you could see for miles, and by late afternoon, the smoke would settle in again, thickening the air, and obscuring all of the scenery.

The laundry had taken forever to hang as she tried to find places around the porch to clip clothespins and hangers. Doubling up clothes on the line she had strung around the eaves. The sheets hung, folded twice to make room for everything. Socks hung double by one clothespin. One couldn’t walk around the porch without something wet hitting them in the face. However, because it was so still, the dampness hung like its own cloud under the roof. Step out from under and she was assailed by the heat and dry smokiness. Step back under and it was a step into the south; damp, muggy.

She couldn’t win. She wanted that misty day where she could sit in her favorite window, the fire warm and dry in the stove as she sat sipping a cup of tea. She didn’t want to be figuring out the best spot to dry her favorite shirts, knowing that they would still smell like smoke for days once they were dry. She was tired of the heat, the smoke, and the incessant smell of it permeating every nook and cranny of her life. Tired of having to sleep with her windows closed because the smoke was so thick she couldn’t see her neighbors.

Every year it was the same thing. Every year there was a wildfire that set up a blaze that lasted months. Every summer she dreaded that first hint of chlorine in the air; her first indication of a fire started in the mountains. Every year she had to make due with hazy days and always smelling like smoke.

She sighed as she took down the burnt smelling sheets. Maybe it was time to invest in a new place to live. Maybe she needed to move to the actual coast. Fires were rare there. Maybe she could find herself a little cottage near the water and breathe mist all day.

She smiled to herself, almost a little giddy at the thought of never having to deal with the wildfires again. It made her bounce around and hum to herself as she took down the laundry. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would live on the sea and have foggy mornings every day. She would never smell smoke again.

Just as she was about to call her cousin who was a realtor she stopped and frowned. If she moved to the coast she would never have the summer heat that she loved. She wouldn’t have the snowy winters and the autumns that were like a storybook waiting to explode in perfection.

Darn it! She was going to have to deal with the smoky summers if she wanted all her other favorite things. She sighed again. Well, at least she could dream of her misty mornings that came in January, and remember them when the smoke was too thick.

Like right now. It was time for another night of closed windows, a stuffy house, and her hair smelling like the burning pine needles. The fires would finally go away, the skies would be blue, and the world would be clean and fresh again, like the mountains should smell. She just had to get through the next few weeks in this foggy kind of smoke.

Such was the life of living where wildfires were a common enough thing every year.

Kate

Praise for : The Ocean at the end of the Lane

I had heard about Neil Gaiman‘s book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane a couple years ago by chance. I sort of keep tabs on what Mr. Gaiman is doing because he’s such a fascinating writer/author.  But it wasn’t until recently when I was talking to one of the volunteers at my library, that I found out that my branch held a copy of this book. The volunteer had read it and she said it was rather disturbing and found she couldn’t read it at night. She had to keep putting it down because it bothered her, even though she enjoyed the style of writing.

Well, I decided to see if the library still had the copy on the shelf, and with luck, it was there. That was on Tuesday.  The volunteer mentioned that ‘oh, so you want to try this disturbing book?” and because, yes, I was checking it out, I did.

“Ocean at the End of the Lane US Cover” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org

I finished the book Wednesday afternoon.   That could mean one of two things. Either one, I loved it, or two, I just had to see what happened.  Let’s go with love. I’m not sure that’s a strong enough word, but it’s adequate.

I have not read a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work, but what he is very good at doing is pulling in the mythical and the  nonsensical and turning it into a captivating and utterly wonderful story. With The Ocean… he has maintained what I call The Neil Gaiman. It is so him it is perfect.

It wasn’t a disturbing story. I could have read it through the night had I wanted to stay up. The story left me wanting more, as his usually do, and I absolutely love this little novel. For those not used to Gaiman’s work, though, they might find him very strange indeed. But for me, as a writer myself and one who has read her fair share of juvenile fantasy (which includes Harry Potter, Twilight, and others of that ilk) he is a brilliant writer. He makes you feel things you didn’t know you had in you and the story captures you.

I could go on and on about this book, but suffice to say, I won’t be taking this particular volunteer’s opinion any time soon. Another thing, Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, absolutely loved this book. I love The Night Circus, so, you see, this is clearly my style.

If you are a fan of Mr. Gaiman’s work, or of that style, I highly recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is a quick and unique read. Brilliant in every way….

Now to go hunt down a copy for myself.

Kate