Friday, July 27, 2012

Dialog Exercise

I am in a write club. This excites me more than I have words for. It is something I have wanted for a long time. Our assignment for last week was to write a short story using only lines of dialog- no narration or anything else. Short stories are hard. Dialog is hard. I had to write this in chunks over a period of days instead of in one binge writing spree. That's hard. Then someone else read it out loud at me and I wanted to crawl under the picnic table. HARD! And now it will be less hard next time.


Bobby! Jo! Bobby! Tim! Mikey! Mikeeeey!

Zeke! Zeke where are you?!

Jo! Thank God, Jo! Over here! You okay?

Everything’s ringin’ is all. Shine your light so I can find you.

Me too. I can’t. I’m pinned. Where’s the others?

I donno. They were way back. I see you!

Christ Almighty! Piss on me! Find the others. I’m still breathing.

Okay! Okay! Mikey! Shane!

Check for gas! fires!

I know. Fuck. Timmy! Shane! Bob where are you?!....Mikeeeeey!...


Zeke?! Where you at Zeke!?

Hey, Jo! Here! I’m over here.

No fire. Air’s ok that way, No sign of the others. I donno know how far back they were.

Are we cut off then?

Yeah. The tunnel is gone up that way just before the main shaft. Can’t see or hear nothing through
the fall. Rocks still sliding loose.

Okay. You in one piece? How’s your radio?

Uh, I’m ok. Just scratched up. Radio’s dead. You?

I don’t know yet. I can’t reach the radio.

I meant are you hurt? Besides the obvious.

Uh. I donno. How big is the pile on my arm? Think you can pry me lose without burying us both?

It’s...It’s one big rock and some loose behind it. Lemme find a bar or somethin’.

Do you see my light?

Yeah. Good call. Here. I’ll be back.


What’d you find Jo?

I got a shovel. Whatcha wanna do? I lift, you roll out?

Um… that’s as good a plan as any at this point. You count to three, I’ll roll right.

One. Two. Three. Hrmph… Well your radio’s busted how’s the arm?

I donno. It’s probly broke. Help me up so I can see if my legs work.

You sure?

I gotta know how fast I can get if something else happens.

Do you want to splint your arm or something first?


Ok. Fine. Here.

Yeah. Ok. No. I’m good. Ok, help me get my shirt off we can tie it up.

Christ, Zeke, just use my shirt. Hang on. Hold still.

Ahtch! Ow.


Yeah. We gotta get moving. How long’s it been yet?

No idea.

That’s probly well enough anyways. Let’s start moving towards the back.

You don’t wanna be there to meet them?

No. Start walking. I wanna move back to where the roof is more stable in case they’re in a hurry
when they come through, which I’m hoping for. You seen the safety videos Jo. Think!

I never paid no attention to them movies. Everybody knows PA mines are the safest and nothing
ever went wrong for Rosebud. I never thought I’d end up in a mine disaster. I took a nap.

You’re an idiot. Every mine is a grave that ain’t filled yet. And this ain’t no disaster.


No. Five dead makes a disaster. I ain’t ready to go yet and I suspect you ain’t either.

Shane? Tim? Mike? Bobby? We donno where they are…

Makes four.

…or what other tunnels got closed off.

You got no way of knowing one way or the other. Why be in a hurry to bury them?



We don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’ and no one up top knows where we are cause we were taking
our time coming down the tunnel. We’re fucked.

The whole damn county knows by now. If you’d a paid attention in safety training you’d know
that Rosebud keeps a stable full of boy scouts turned miner who got nothing better to do but dream
about their chance to be a hero. Every time they feel a boulder settle they reach for their gear. You
just hang round and wait and some boy’ll get a chance to make his daddy proud.

Oh Hell with you, Zeke.

Look around. I’m already there with you.

Exactly. And I don’t wanna be trapped in no mine.

We weren’t even halfway through a shift. On a good day you’d still be here a handful of hours and
you’d be working. What plans you worried ‘bout missin’? You taking Sadie out for a night on the
town? Don’t you worry. She’ll be so frisky and tearful when they pull you out the hole, she won’t
wait ‘til you shower to throw you on the bed.

Fuck Sadie. She was running around on me with Mark. She thought she was clever, us in the mines
on different shifts. He worked nights, I worked days, she worked both. I got wise when he started
smackin’ her around some. I knew I never put a bruise on her.


She made her choice.

Mark Scheidemantle?

No. Mark Klause.

Don’t know him.

He’s over at the Long Run mine.

Makes sense. I been at Clementine since she opened. I don’t know any of the guys out that way.

It don’t matter.

I think this is far enough back. Beams look solid and nothing looks loose. You ok with camping

I don’t have much choice.

So what were you gonna do tonight then?

I was going to Harry’s after to watch the game with Shane.

Well then when they punch the hole through you ask ‘em the score and for a pair of fish plates.

Dinner? I donno why you are so damn confident. It’s gonna be a week before they clear that

Harry’s has been there since before you were born. It ain’t going nowhere in the next few days.
And we’re playing Cleveland so we know who wins. Why wouldn’t I be confident?

Who says we make it that long. We’re trapped and you’re joking about fish and football.

What the hell else are we gonna do? You’re right. We got a few days. If you think about it, we are
already dead and buried. If they get to us in time then we ain’t dead no more. The way I see it, it’s
pretty hard for things to get worse but that means lots of room for getting better. You got a lot of
time to think in the dark. Be miserable if you want. I won’t.

If you know so much then you tell me what’s good about this.

Oh, I donno. I’d say they get us out of here in a few days and we’ll be all over in the papers and on
the news. You’ll be able to pick up any sweet looking girl in any bar in the tri county with your
story. We both get a coupla weeks R n R on the company and a nice hazard paycheck. You can
get your ma something nice for Christmas. I can take my wife on a cruise. How’s that sound?

I donno. Just wanna get out of this hole.

Or I could always bust you up good with the shovel. Then you could file for disability too.

And sue you?

Nah. I went crazy underground. Rock hit my head. I was trying to put you out of your misery and
mine. You wouldn’t get a cent.

And they’d never let either of us down a shaft again.

Now you’re starting to get the picture.

You are crazy. Go ahead and retire old man. What am I gonna do?

Did you really wanna work in the mine all your life anyway? What did you wanna do before you
stuck yourself here?

If I had any idea I wouldn’t be here. Ma wanted me to join the state police.

You didn’t like that idea?

It was ok. My driving record is pretty bad though. Shane’s brother got denied cause of his. I didn’t


No. But I got lots of points for speeding.

That’s easier to fix. What’s it hurt to try?

I donno. Maybe. I could do steel or iron I bet.


No. Never been interested. Isn’t one of your sons Army?

Both actually. Well Travis is out now and doing something with computers in Columbus. Chad just got himself a promotion but they are also shipping him out next month. He’s flying up on Friday.
Did you know Chad?

Not really. I think he graduated the year before me. But I knew Jenna. She was in a few of my

Really? I thought you were older than Chad.

More beat up I guess. What’s Jenna up to?

She’s down at Slippery Rock. She started doing nursing but last time she was home she said she
was gonna switch to special ed instead.

I can’t picture her as a nurse.

Yeah, no one could. Listen, we’re fixing to have a party for Chad on Saturday. The kids’ll all be
home. I promised Jody I would do up steaks on the grills even if there was snow on the ground.
Why don’t you come?

You think they’ll have us out by then?

Come Saturday we’ll be dead or we won’t. And if we’re not dead that’s one more reason for a
party. So you come over and bring your ma and some beer and we’ll all be alive together.


Or there won’t be a party and neither of us will care.
Just beer then. Ma’s in Reno with her fat sister for a few weeks anyway.

Fat sister? Shirley?


What in the world do you have against your Aunt Shirley?

She won’t sit in the same room as me ‘cause I look like Karl.

Shirley’s bent that you look like your father? Who’s she want you to look like?

It don’t matter.

Guess not. You can’t change your relations. Speaking of, how is your pa these days? Last time I
seen him he was trucking for McClymonds.

No one’s seen him. He got in with some long haul company going down to Louisiana and back.
They were either too desperate or stupid to piss test him. Last summer he was broke and got edgy
south of Wheeling on a run and tried to rob the wrong gas station. The kid held him at gunpoint
until the cops showed up.

Where’s he now?

Hell if I know. I hope he’s still in jail. He called Ma for bail money but she was out somewhere. He
tried his story with me. I let him finish and hung up. She hates him as much as I do but I know she
woulda sent him the money.


I don’t understand her. Hey, did you hear that?


I thought I heard tapping.

I can’t hear nothin’ any more.

Maybe not…no I’m sure. Can you hear it now?

Yeah. Grab the shovel and tap back on one of the beams. You know Morse code?

Are you kidding?

Me either. At least they’ll know they got a reason to hurry.

I guess if they match the beat that means they got it?

I’d say so.

What happens now?

We keep waiting, they keep digging.

Okay. I can bring chips too.


I’ll bring chips and salsa on Saturday. And beer.

Good idea. I think I am gonna take a nap while I still can. Soon we’ll both be famous heroes.

Yeah, ok. I’ll wake you up in two days when the fish gets here.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

200 Days

Because I am ABSOLUTELY counting.

It is 200 days until the big bad Twinkie day.

I encourage you to consider joining me and the other Jn on a hillside in Punxsutawney, PA for the culmination of our culinary...disasterpiece.

If you've been keeping track, I came up short 1 Twinkie somehow. So there is now only 1 nine-ish year old Twinkie floating around that we know of. The other Jn has it (I just have an empty box still under my bed) and we have plans to meet at a great big groundhog's day celebration to share it.

I have been told by many people that they want to participate in this. Awesome. We want you to be there. We are crazy. You love us anyway. Lets celebrate it together. This is what I expect you should expect...

I ate one of the many Twinkies there once upon a time and have pictures to prove it. The experience defied my expectations. There were tailgaters galore. The all night Walmart parking lot where we parked to catch the shuttle was filled with equal measures of families sleeping in RVs waiting and drunk college types who had come from colleges up to several hours away and declared their own holiday. The school buses of the down had been transformed into an armada of person shufflers, shifting a steady stream of humans towards a hillside turned carnival. Once in the magical place you were accosted with all manner of groundhog paraphernalia from hog shaped pastries and hats to large metal sculpture and carnival games. The majority of the crowd stood, sat or lay curled facing down on the slope of the hill and the participants were split down the middle for everyone's enjoyment and protection. One side of the divide was family friendly and had all the pent up excitement of children waiting for Santa at Christmas, the other side was raucous and teaming with the energy of a spring break beach party with the exception of donning every layer of clothing possible instead of removing it. These sides bantered playfully and without malice by tossing beach balls and balloons back and forth. At the base of the hill was a large stage and a team of cold but chipper cheerleaders moved to the beat of obnoxious music and encouraged the watchers to dance hypothermia away. There were flags and camera crews from many nations. There were periodic updates from men in long coats and top hats regarding the status of the day. How long must we wait, had the weather report changed, and heaven help us what has the temperature dropped to now? And during these intermissions all manner of people were escorted to the stage for recognition. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, distances traveled, number of Feb 2nds celebrated at that spot, the eldest, the youngest, the tallest and shortest. We applauded with gloved hands and cheered through muffling scarves and we shivered together for the sake of a very strange tradition. When called upon we would even sing. Shortly before dawn we collectively turned our gaze to the left to watch a frosty morning fireworks display sneaking above the treeline from a nearby field. At the appointed time the ground hog entourage arrived and the formal ceremony was performed to practiced perfection but while this was the climax and the purpose for the day it was by no means the most exciting bit of it.

So as you wander through the next few hot, hot, dry, dry days of summer I suggest you start thinking about a cold, early Saturday morning foray into planned madness. Come for the company. Come for the celebration. Come just to say you did it that one time. It will be a party. And there will be Twinkies.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's too hot to sleep

I forget when I wrote this. I hate when I don't write important things down. Now I have to work to find the answer.

Photographs of Rain

If you show me yours, I'll show you mine first
Not that I believe you will cause no one ever does
But these things can't hurt me any more, I'm pretty sure
My eyes aren't wet just yet so it must not be real pain,
More like photographs of rain, every single stain on a soul
Kept in a shoebox under my bed in the back of my mind
Waiting for such a time as this, my hair and my heart slightly amiss
And eyes that plead with a deep desire to be fully known
And you sitting there with nothing but all the time in the world
Sometimes these days I even feel whole
When the sun is shining down 
Like it will shine on forever, and never leave me alone
Yeah I'll show you mind if you promise
Promise you won't make mine worse

Union Hill

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Early July

I woke up this morning surprised it was Sunday. I love Sunday although this one is more unusual than most. I spent part of a busy yesterday making the house chores past tense and the roommates that I usually bump in to while I lazily do whatever a morning requires are both absent this weekend. One bizarre consequence of this is that I have been fantastically productive which leads directly into a soothed and gregarious muse. I say bizarre because in reality I spend most of my days pleasantly alone so having no one in the house should not feel any different but both my conscious and my unconscious are acutely aware of the complete solitude that I was gifted for a few days.

I've come far enough to understand that I would make a horrible and miserable hermit. I need to be regularly brought out of the internal dialogue to reconnect with a 3.5 dimensional reality and the humans which inhabit it with me. But not too regularly. I have a pleasant enough balance right now. I can go a few days without saying more than a handful of words to my roommates as they pass in and out of the dwelling to tend to their frantic schedules. But no more than a few days. I typically get a day spent in solitude to accomplish my tasks and in the evenings I whisk myself away to be with real people living real life in situ. I posit that this is a wonderful way to spend a life and I will be immensely happy if I find a way to work from home for the duration of it.

I mentioned that I have been productive. It's true. It actually started Friday evening after I dropped off one of the mates at the airport and came home to see the other one lock the door and step out. This opened up a world of possibilities and I spent a good hour running in mental circles searching for some traction. I settled on a scandalous evening of downloading lectures from last semester while filing papers which I had sort of started and stalled around 4am some weeks in the past. (I know how early my roommate gets up and when I see her walk down the stairs headed for work I know I have forgotten to sleep.) The caveat of this previous filing was that there was very little left to throw away and that all of the easiest things were already handled...which is why I hadn't picked the task up since. I chose to distract myself with movies I had not seen- with my mind distracted I could not focus and obsess over the minutia to the point of halting progress. I sped through 2 movies that turned out to be much lamer than advertised and turned to a fallback favorite to finish off the night. It is still a favorite. And then it was nearly 2am. I am left with a pile of "stuff to deal with" and "papers that require dedicated thought to process" and a sense of accomplishment.

Saturday "morning" I spent a great deal of time cooking. I made breakfasts for many days to clear out some produce and freezerables that were on their way out one way or another. And I got things ready to do the same come dinner. Then I voyaged out to the farm where we have our CSA. Normally I am chaperoned but the boss is in another state...sort of. So in addition to the box of wonderfulness I brought home several packs of orphaned plants and many mini cucumbers. I had a vague idea about my time, about the state of the garden and the pots in the garage, and the number of cucumbers required for pickles. And vague was more than enough. I am equally likely to bring home a stray plant as a stray puppy...or piranha for that matter. (On that note I swear I saw a pen of skunks for sale on my way to the farm. You cannot imagine the depths of my disappointment when I discovered they were border collies. The only good thing to come out of that discover was I did not have to explain myself and my new pet to my roommates. But can you imagine? I can!)

Once home I commenced to rearranging the soil in pots and committing my plants to holes in the ground. I started by relocating tomatoes. I did not plant a single tomato seed this year. But last year I had the good sense to buy heirloom tomato plants from the super discount dying plant rack at a big box store. The chipmunks thanked me for their bounty (I ate very few of the tomatoes) by planting for me. And so, come spring I saw wee tomatoes coming up of their own volition stacked on top of each other in absolutely horrible places. But I was beyond giddy. I think I would have been less excited (albeit more surprised) had an orange tree sprouted. I am growing mongrel tomatoes. As it is I only ever knew what 3 of the 4 tomatoes I planted were in the first place. So my flock will likely be some combination of black prince, Mr. stripey, pink brandywine and un-identified red pear shaped wonder. But I also had some cherry tomatoes kicking around from before before. Those got replanted too. I waffled for weeks about relocating the tomatoes and right after I decided that it was too risk at this point (1ft high) I did it anyway. I am pretty certain that I now have 6 plants in the garden proper. They are most certainly still too close together but the are at least not touching and only 2 are devouring my peppermint. Nestled around the tomatoes are dark leaved basil plants. I saved 4 spindly 'matoes and one that was more robust to stick in pots (again with basil) mostly out of curiosity. I also planted hot peppers (I couldn't find jalapenos :( so late in the season.), one clump in the garden and one clump in a big pot. Round the outside I laid a hedgerow of marigolds which I love love love. The rest of the garden is laid out with peppermint and chives from this spring and spearmint reseeded from last year. Basil and mint love tomatoes. They help the tomatoes grow and enhance the fruits' flavor by changing the soil chemistry. They also repel pests and attract pollinators. All this and they are tasty in their own right. Likewise marigolds attract good guys and repel bad guys and while you can eat them they are more visually than gustatory satisfying And ruling over the whole bunch is my calamondin. It almost died a few weeks back but it is recovering in a hurry. It is putting out new leaves all over and getting ready to flower! 

I finished out the evening with a flurry of more cooking to prepare for the week coupled with cleaning the house in between stirring, shifting and savoring. And then to complete the night I wrote and wrote some more. 

So this morning most every necessity that requires doing was done save reheating. The transplanted tomatoes seem no worse for wear and I found myself with a chunk of hours to transcribe. I have filled them wholeheartedly. And now I will shift gears to showering and readying myself all around for a trip to the lake where I mark my starting over where I will meet up with a platoon of like-purposed and very real peoples. While this is one of the most challenging appointments of the month for a raging introvert it also has the potential to be the most fulfilling.