mikidemillion

Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

Ride the Storyline Express – with Bubbles and a Big Startle

In Blog Post, Entertainment, mikidemillion, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Stories, Story, Uncategorized, Writers, writing, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on October 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

The first story of this series can be found here:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

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BUBBLES and the BIG STARTLE

Remember the things you said as a kid?  In my neighborhood we said it all, mostly when out of the hearing range of parents.  We weren’t allowed to swear so we called each other things picked up from television shows or expressions passed down from kid generation to kid generation.  Things that made us laugh.  Like ‘snot nose’ or ‘dog breath’.  One particular favorite, always good for a giggle or two, was calling someone a ‘bubble butt’.

“Hey, Bubble Butt, just try and make it to second base!  You’re going out.”

Or, “Quit stalling and just kick the can, Bubble Butt!”

To be honest, we didn’t really know what a bubble butt was, it just sounded funny.  So we said it.

I don’t want to think how long it’s been since my kid days.  I’m thoroughly embarrassed to even think of the many other things that used to make us laugh.

And I guess there’s not a lot to laugh about now, waking up early every day and going to work and having to pay bills.  Welcome to the real world.

 

Photo by Tokyo Metro GFDL 1.2

 

On the way home from work this week I boarded another crowded bus.  When people tried to get on at the next stop they were stopped at the top of the bus steps by a wall of people that you could bounce a ball against.   Only five blocks later did people finally begin to get off the bus.

I moved, inch by inch, deeper into the interior mass of people.  I noticed a guy sucking in his stomach and squeezing around people, leaning halfway into one of the seats to move to the back door.  That’s when I saw that the back half of the bus aisle was empty.  What is it with people wanting to stand at the front of the bus?  Not me.  I passed by two people and could see light shining through the rear bus window.   I moved toward it, but was blocked.  There was only one person between me and freedom of movement.  This person was big, but not really fat.  Just very tall and a bit meaty but not at all obese.  I crossed over the other side of the aisle and looked down to keep my footing, and that’s when I saw it.  For the first time in my life, many years out of my childhood, I was actually being blocked by the biggest bubble butt imaginable.

This was the real thing.  More expansive and bubbly than any butt I’d ever seen in my lifetime.  It took up the entire aisle space.  I mean, the distance from the right-hand row of seats stretching across the aisle to the left row.  Shaped like bubbles about to burst, it protruded out far enough to block the aisle.  It defied gravity.

I didn’t want to stare.  I sucked in and leaned halfway into the same bus seat the guy before me had used.  The poor woman sitting in that seat had to move her head to let me by, just as she had to do for the guy minutes before.  I squeezed between her and the bubble, holding my breath, and barely made it into the open aisle space.

So, it was true, I kept thinking, able to breathe again.  There really was such a thing as a bubble butt!  I was absolutely awestruck that it really did exist.  Isn’t it wonderful how we humans are all alike yet so different?  It’s the differences that make each one of us interesting, makes each one unique.

A seat opened up and I sat next to the window, staring out at people walking down the sidewalk.  A hospital was nearby and I watched car doors flying open and people emerging with handfuls of yellow and pink flowers.  Babies went by pushed in strollers.  One man caught my attention.  He walked slowly.   I stared because there was something about him that didn’t seem quite right.  His head hung low.  When my mind registered what I was seeing  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so startling I couldn’t help but openly gape at the sight, turning my head to continue looking as the bus passed by.  I turned all the way ar0und in my seat to watch as long as possible.  And, still, it was difficult to process what I was seeing.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think the man had a neck.  There was skin where his neck should have been but it sagged down over his shoulders and at the end of it his head bounced along like a watermelon inside a mesh produce bag.  I stared harder, trying to see him in the distance as the bus rolled along.  How was it possible?  How can someone survive without the support of a cervical spine?  People die from broken necks.  But this guy was walking around with his head hanging below his shoulders without any sign of support.

Other than that he looked like any one else on the street.

What a ride!

Living in the city, at times I am annoyed by all the people I have to encounter in a given day.  It’s normal to stand in a long line at the post office, wait for ten orders of people ahead of me to be made before I can get a cup of coffee, and to have a bus go by my corner because it’s too packed with people to stop for more.  I could scream sometimes!  People are annoying and obnoxious and pushy, yes, but they are always fascinating and unique.  How wonderful there are people with bubble butts and how miraculous someone can walk down the street with seemingly nothing but skin to keep their head on.

I used to read a book on the bus, but now I ride with eyes wide open.

On The Way Here – If You Write It, They Will Come

In Blog Post, Entertainment, Literature, mikidemillion, On The Way Here series, online communities, online networks, pop culture, social media, social networks, Stories, Story, Writers, writing on October 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm

How did you get here from there: past websites, old online communities, failed social networks?  What have you left behind?  Is there anything you’ve learned along the way?

I’ve seen a few things in my online travels and have often wondered if many have had similar online experiences on different sites.  I’d be interested in reading about it.  Drop a link to your stories in the comment section.  I’ll share my thoughts about my online traveling experience in this ongoing series ‘On The Way Here’ and add to it whenever I can.

A place for writers of all kinds

My first participation in social media was a start-up website that targeted local business.  Someone I knew launched it and I helped in the beta test stage by posting a few pieces of online content and making comments on what others posted.  This was before MySpace and FaceBook and that other big website I won’t name and give it any more exposure, the one that rates businesses and has been accused of dirty marketing tactics.

It was fun for a time, hanging around my first online community.  But the site’s focus was on reviewing local businesses and it wasn’t especially exciting to read about the help at Hank’s Hardware or how strong the coffee was at the corner cafe.

It wasn’t the sort of stuff that made me want to rush home and read about it.  I wanted to read about people, their stories, their travels, their thoughts on current events and pop culture.  I wanted fiction and sports and music.  There was so much more out there beyond the local grocery store.  My friends and I wrote some content other than business reviews, but there weren’t many of us with time to post and, it seemed, people were hesitant to write, so after a month or two there was a slow drop-off of participating users.  People were reading but not writing.  And without that fresh daily content there was nothing to entice others to join and participate.

The site was slow loading, the members weren’t participating and it was unlikely to attract local business advertising for site revenue.  I did miss the site when it folded, it was a place where many of us could connect with each other no matter where we were in the country, using the site’s messaging feature and making comments on each other’s posts.  Immediate interaction, more than one person could comment on something in real time.  Not at all like sending an email.

Months later I received an invite from a friend to join another beta website, it was a closed community until the beta phase was complete before it would open to the public.  What kind of site was it?  A place for writers.  To share their writing, to talk about writing, to interact, to socialize with other members, and it was a place for readers to find content from  established and promising writers.

Wow.  I joined immediately.  What a great concept!  It was a perfect mix.  A social network of writers who do what writers do – provide content.  As well as interact with readers.  Targeting writers was ensuring there would be fresh content on the site for potential members.  In a social atmosphere.  You didn’t have to be a writer to join,  you could simply choose to read and comment on the wide variety of posts.

I was timid at first.  So many good writers were posting some great material.  Stories, political views, sports enthusiasts, music reviews old and new, and so much more!  It was exciting to read.  I couldn’t wait to log on to see what was new.  Recent comments scrolled down the home page and it was easy to find the most interesting conversations to follow.  Titles of new content were linked from the main page as well as grouped into broad categories to make things easier to find.  And there was a lot of content.  With many comments.  It was the first place I went to when I had free time.  And the place I stayed until I had to go and do something.  I was hooked.  I even started commenting.  I was participating and interacting with writers.  It was wonderful!

What could go wrong?

I’ll have to go into that next time.

The Pigeon and the Coffeeshop

In Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Story, Uncategorized, writing on September 26, 2010 at 5:17 am

I’ve been gone for some time, work-shopping a story at some other sites and reciprocating reviews with my thoughts on their stories.  It all takes time, as anyone who participates in online workshops knows.  I’ll write another post about it.

I haven’t had the time to come back here and share more transportation stories about people I meet traveling to and from work.  One recent incident didn’t happen on a bus but it was on my way to work so that should count for something.

Sometimes I stop at a little corner coffeeshop for my morning caffeine fix.  The woman who works behind the counter is an elderly woman who is pleasant enough but moves so slow that not only can I take time to smell the roses but plant the seeds and watch them bloom before she makes it to the cash register to ring up my order.  Imagine when there is someone in line ahead of me.  I can cash out my retirement plan savings with no penalty by the time she asks for my order.  I don’t mind the waiting.  I usually get there early and have plenty of time before I have to be in the office.  And she’s friendly and grumpy at the same time.  I like that.  None of this saccharin, “Hello miss, I’m Super-Happy-So-I’m-Talking-Fast-and-High-To-Show-You-Just-How-Really-Happy-I-Am-To-Serve-You” crap so early in the morning.  This woman is the perfect mix of what do you want and the cups are over there.

Pigeon - photo by Alan D. Wilson, http://www.naturespicsonline.com

One morning I walked in the opened door of the shop, scattering a flock of pigeons roaming around the doorway.  The woman behind the counter yelled and waved her arms at me to back away.  “You don’t stomp when you see pigeons at the door! You must walk slow and let them move aside.  You don’t stomp at them.”  I didn’t know what to say, and stood frozen, looking at her and at the pigeon in line in front of me.

She opened the flap-door of the counter and stomped to the pigeon.  It ran toward me, then ran toward her and, trapped, it spread its wings and flew over the counter onto the pastries in the window.  I watched in horror.

The moment the bird flew into the window, that woman raced through the open counter space and leapt into the air, hands raised above  her head.  In one magnificent movement she’d captured the pigeon in her hands and met the floor like a Olympic athlete sticking the landing.  It was an out of body experience, as if this little old lady had suddenly morphed into the spirit of large, predatory cat and bounced out of the shop with prey in hand.

But, she was angry.  These pigeons had been taunting her daily, standing in line waiting for orders with other customers, and she was fed up with their bird brain habits.  “I hate pigeons, they are always coming in here,” she kept saying,  “I hate them.”  And she stood on the sidewalk outside, with both hands raised high above head, and swung her hands downward with such force the pigeon whacked the sidewalk.  It was a sickening sound.  I couldn’t move, not really registering what I’d seen.

People on the street stopped to look at the woman and the unmoving bird lying on the hard sidewalk cement at her feet.  No one said a word.  The woman realized people were looking at her.  “I hate them,” she said, loud.  Talking about the pigeons.  But people continued to stare.  She walked to the pigeon and nudged it with her foot.  I was sure it was dead, from how it sounded hitting the pavement and the way its neck seemed to bend on impact.  The whole thing made me feel queasy.

But the pigeon flapped its wings.  The woman lifted it up with her shoe.  It stood up, as if just waking up, and after a timid step or two, opened its wings and flew off as if nothing had happened.  I almost clapped my hands at the sight.  Thankfully, that poor little pigeon was going to be fine.  The woman, who’d by then realized how wrong she’d been, was redeemed.

She walked back into the shop and it was business as usual.  The cups are over there she told me when I ordered coffee.  And a pastry.  She went to the corner of the window where the pigeon had been moments before.

“umm,” I motioned to her, “I don’t want to be eating anything with a fresh coat of…”

“oh yes,” she said, “good idea,” and checked the bag she’d been handing to me.  “It’s okay,” she said with a smile.

I don’t think I’ll be returning to that coffeeshop any time soon.  And now, in the mornings, when I’m walking along the sidewalk, I slow my gait and step lightly around groups of pigeons.  That woman helped me see them with new eyes, not as messy, annoying birds always in the way, but as an innocent group of creatures that happen to share the city with us.  When did it become okay to kill something because it’s an inconvenience to be around?  Aren’t we the ones with bigger brains?  You’d think with all that brain power we could figure out simple things, like how to  close the door.

The Taking of the Square – 5th Section

In fiction, Random Posts, Story, The Taking of the Square, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Work in Progress on May 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Here’s a link to the 4th Section:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/the-taking-of-the-square-4th-section/

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It didn’t make sense to Maddie.  For the past six months she and Adam had been spying on old man Johnson, hoping to peek at the rocketship he’d been building, the one hidden inside his garage for years.  Now Adam was spending his free time with TG, yes, the toilet girl, old man Johnson’s daughter.

“I told them to meet us here,”  Sharon says, turning all the way around, staring directly at Maddie from the center of Square Three.  “They said they would.”

Maddie bends, tightening the tie on her sneaker.  Outwardly appearing nonchalant, inside her thoughts swarm like mosquitoes in the dusk.   Sharon’s words bite a thousand bites but Maddie refuses her the satisfaction to see her scratch.  From behind, someone taps her shoulder.  Maddie snaps her head to look back, afraid to see who she thinks it might be.  Her eyes relax with recognition.

“Oh, Arthur, hi.”

“Hey Maddie.”  He steps back while she lifts her legs over the cement border to face in his direction.

“Not playing?”

“Nope, ” Maddie rubs her hands together, and slaps them on the leg of her jeans to remove playground dirt.  “Ready to leave.”

“But the playground doesn’t close for two hours.”

“Yeah, well, I’m thinking of going to the horse farm.”

“All the way over there?”

“On my bike,” she says.  “It’s not that far.”

“I’ll race you.”

Arthur runs toward the sidewalk where dozens of bikes stand upright on kickstands or lie flat on the grass.

“Not fair,” Maddie shouts from her seat on the cement.  She leaps up, running.  It feels good to run.  It releases the mind to nothing but the feel of pulling muscles.

Arthur is the fastest runner in the entire school.  One time Maddie almost beat him in a race around the ball field but at the last minute her legs gave out.  Behind them the rest of the class was only halfway the distant around the field.  From that day they’d bonded a sort of friendship.

Arthur’s head-start to the horse farm opens a whole length of sidewalk block between them.  He doesn’t even look back as he pedals, holding tight onto both handlebars with his rear lifted over the seat for speed.  Maddie scrambles to a group of bikes, searching for the familiar dark blue fender of her bicycle.  It’s no where.  She  looks up.  Arthur has not slowed, he’s almost two blocks away, nearly to the railroad tracks.  Maddie views all the bikes, her eyes move slower over each one.  It’s not here.  Maddie’s face flashes hot and she knows those girls took it.  Playing a prank on her.  She will go back to the Four Square and… she slaps her forehead, now she remembers.  She walked here.

Arthur is out of sight.  Maddie laughs.  “You win,” she tells him in her mind, and laughs again.  He’s so competitive he probably won’t notice until he’s at the horse farm.  She can’t wait to see him at school on Monday and hear what he says.  Oh, how it makes her laugh.

The baseball fields stretch ahead of her, two blocks of mostly dark green grass.  She feels like running.  Running forever.  Maddie slips off her sneakers and runs across cool bumpy sidewalk with shoes in hand.  She slides onto soft grass.  The balls of her feet press deep into the grass, it feels cold on this cloudy day, and she is propelled forward by force of muscle and pure emotion.

What has happened to her?  She’s acting strange, even she knows it.  She feels confused inside.  Like she has no control over how she will feel one minute to the next.  A train approaches, the engine chugging a chain of rail cars behind it more than a block long.  Maddie runs faster.  The train tracks, in the distance, parallel to the edge of the baseball fields, on her left, guide the engine head-on past Maddie.  The ground shakes underneath her bare feet.  The clanking and bounce of metal rolling along rails thirty-some yards away drowns all other sound.  But through the noise, racing uppermost in her mind, is the thought of Adam.  And she’s unsure why.  Days before she didn’t think twice about him.  He’s a neighborhood friend, who likes to spend time with her spying on Johnson.  Someone to rocket hunt with him.  That’s all.

She slows her pace near the outer edge of the baseball field.  The train has stopped.  It blocks the sidewalk in the direction home.  On this end of the field younger kids are playing baseball.  Maddie sits behind the ball fence to watch and wait.

The train sits for a long time without moving.  Maddie moves closer to the crossing and sits on the sidewalk to put her sneakers back on.  From spaces underneath the train cars she sees others have been stuck on the other side as well.  Cars are lined up and there are legs walking back and forth and bike tires with riders’ legs leaning to one side with one foot on pavement.  Something catches her eye two rail cars down from the crossing.  A blur of fur rushes forward, passing under the train.  People shout from the other side.

Maddie doesn’t breathe until the dog appears on her side, safe, the train behind it remains at a standstill.

“Ranger!” Maddie yells, surprised and angry.  He could have been killed.  Ranger bounds over to her at the sound of his name and Maddie grabs his collar.  “Stay!”  She holds him with both arms and leans forward to see if Adam knows where he is.  “Don’t you dare move!” she says when Ranger pushes against her shoulder as if ready to play.  “I mean it!” Maddie tightens her hold.

Adam, crouched to the ground, peers underneath the stopped train.  Adam bends to a crawling position.  He doesn’t appear to have seen her yet, nearly two car lengths away.  Maddie wants to wave both hands so he’ll look in her direction, but no way will she let go of Ranger now.  What if he runs underneath the train again?

The train cars flinch, metal connectors bump backward in succession from rail car to rail car.  The engine has moved forward and it takes a moment for the cars behind it to respond.

Finally!

Maddie glances again to Adam.  Her heart stops.  He’s crawled forward, near the edge of track. He’s turned to the right, unmoving, staring at the wheels of the train.

“Get back!” Maddie yells.  Is he crazy?  She loops her fingers around Ranger’s collar so she can half-stand.  Adam’s not going to crawl under, is he?  The train is ready to move. Can’t he see that?  He should know better than to guess how long before the wheels will advance.  Does he think he can get to the other side ?  Why would he do that?

She tugs Ranger, hoping to move him closer.  Maybe Adam will see them and know Ranger is safe with her.

Maddie drags Ranger around a blue station wagon in the line of cars stopped at the crossing.  She hurries, anxious to peek under the train again.  She pushes Ranger to sit and bends, looking for Adam.  What she sees is TG pulling Adam by his arm, forcing him to back away from the train.

Maddie, relieved, nearly collapses at Ranger’s side.  More than anything, she wants to scream at Adam.  What was he thinking?  She practically had a heart attack watching him.  What is wrong with him?  And she could give TG a big hug right now.   At least she has some sense.  Maddie feels a twinge of appreciation for her.

The train cars lunge forward  several inches.  The train creaks as it begins to move.

And it hits Maddie like a freight train.  That’s why he did it.  Her blood races.  She is sure of it.  Adam was trying to show-off for TG.  That’s exactly what he was doing.  And here she is, holding his dog, keeping Ranger safe, while Adam’s goofing off on the other side to impress some girl.  Playing chicken with a train.  All for TG.

Maddie’s lungs expand, feeling like they’ll burst.  She holds Ranger closer.  And when she buries her head in fur, what bursts are a million tears.

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NEXT TIME: Is this the end of Maddie and Adam’s friendship?  What will she do?  How will he react?

Ride the Storyline Express – with Bad Boy and Backpack

In Don't Read This - It's Personal, fiction, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Story, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on May 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

What’s the Storyline Express?  Here’s the link to where it started:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

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Another ride along the mikidemillion route

Here’s another happenin’ on the mikidemillion route:

Years ago my alarm went off at 4:00am sharp every weekday so I could be at the bus corner to catch the 5:00am bus.  Let me tell you, no one is up and moving at that hour unless they get paid for it.  I had to be in the office before the stock market opened so I waited on the quiet corner by 4:50am just in case the bus came early.  Not fun, but necessary.  An older woman showed up most mornings to catch the same bus.

She was feisty and mouthy.  I liked to see her while at the same groaned inside when I did.  She was much older than me and, as I’ve noticed in most close-to-retirement agers, seemed to ‘take no crap from no one’.

Me, not so much, a bit meek around people I don’t know and not fond of chatting to everyone I meet.

I don’t think this woman was chatty, it was more like she carried on the conversation in her head out loud.  I just happened to be there to hear it.  But she did talk directly to me at times.

“Oh, you have herpes!” she’d said once, before her usual morning hello.

She’d stunned me into silence.  The confusion on my face must have been obvious.

“On your lip,” she pointed to a newly forming cold sore.

“That’s not herpes!” I told her.  I most surely did not have herpes and was not going to let this old lady publicly claim I did.

“Oh, yes it is,” she said, almost sounded happy about it.

“I really don’t think I’ve had herpes since I was a kid.  Been getting cold sores on and off my entire life.”   It was the first time I was really mad at her, and resolved to stop participating in conversations with her.  She didn’t seem to notice.  Kept on talking.

Later, I found out that she was partly right, that the herpes simplex virus has been identified as causing cold sores. Most of us carry this type 1 or type 2 virus.  Normally, it’s dormant but when it becomes active, it begins on the lip or nose and causes a cold sore.

Cold sore or no cold sore, I listened to this woman’s work problems every morning, how she always spoke her mind and told the boss exactly what she thought.  It was something she did everyday.  Part of the normal routine when working with people she considered idiotic.

One thing I knew, this was a tough old bird, as they say.  I was secretly relieved that she was not in my workplace.  But I respected her commitment to stand up for herself.  I began to enjoy her little discussions with herself in the mornings.

Don’t misunderstand me, she did not talk like a lunatic.  She was intelligent and independent.  I think that maybe she didn’t have too many people to talk to in her life anymore.  She’d mentioned a few times that her daughter visited once in awhile but I had the sense she felt neglected by her.  I was someone who was a perfect vehicle for a sounding board.  Captive audience, didn’t say much back, and, as the weeks wore on, was actually interested in some of what she had to say.

When she didn’t show up one week it surprised me that I really did miss her.  When it extended into the next week I worried.

Finally, there she was, walking along the darkened sidewalk to the dimly lit corner where we waited for the bus.  I smiled when I saw her.  But her walk wasn’t brisk and purposeful as before.  She said hello and seemed sullen.  She didn’t speak.

“How are you?”  I said, the first time I’d ever initiated the conversation.

“Not good,” she said after a pause.

My heart dropped. “What’s wrong?”

And she told me the story.

The bus had been crowded when it’d stopped at the corner.  As usual, everyone congregated at the front of the bus so there was no room for new passengers to get on but the aisle-way in the back of the bus was clear.  She’d forced her way onto the bus, knowing there was room in the back, and asked people to move back.

Some complied but a young man with a large backpack blocked her way.  She couldn’t get past him.  She asked several times for him to move his backpack out of the way.  He didn’t.  She increased the volume of her voice, letting him know she’d like to get by.  Still no response.  Then she tapped him on the shoulder.  Several times.  He finally turned to look at her.  She asked again that he move.  He leaned left and she had just enough space to get by him.  No sooner had she stepped past he pushed her.  Hard, on the back.  She lost her footing and tumbled to the floor of the bus.  Hard, on her back.

And there she lay.  She knew she was hurt, but no one offered assistance.  The people on the bus let her lay there for minutes until a lone young man knelt and put out his hand to help her.  The only one to ask if she was okay.

That’s when my morning companion started to cry.  Tears came to my eyes as well.  She wiped her eyes and said, “You know, I’m not crying because of what that guy with the backpack did to me, but what makes me cry is that one act of human kindness I felt from the man who helped me up.”  She stopped, deep in thought.  “Someone I didn’t even know.  Isn’t that strange?” she said, “how we accept all of the horrible things in life as that’s the way it is but when someone shows they care it touches the deepest emotion.”