24 June 2010

"Come Together" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

The flight attendant served 7-Up to Dad, Orange Crush to Mom, and a Hi-C juice box to little Violet. She winked at Violet and proceeded down the aisle.

Violet strained to see over the seat to follow the nice lady with her eyes. It was better than being trapped in-between her parents.

“Of all the impossible things you could’ve come up with Marshall—”

“It’s for the best. I think that if we just work together we can save this—”

Violet asked to be taken to the potty often. It was the only break in conversation; Mom looked distressed and in need of a break. She was pretty, but with lines creasing her brow she looked tired.

“I’m sorry Vi, we can’t get up just yet. You’ll have to hold it.”

Her plot foiled, Violet glowered at the back of the seat afore her. The urge to kick it tickled her mind. Mom and Dad were busy ignoring the fact that they couldn’t talk to one another anymore. She nearly gave in to her last resort, a temper-tantrum, before the plane listed to the right; the sound of a small explosion rocked the cabin’s occupants.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention. This is an emergency. You must remain calm. Please view your emergency procedures booklet and follow the instructions.”

“He’s kidding, isn’t he Marshall?”

“I don’t know.” Dad’s face was dark and pale at the same time. “Violet honey, are you alright?”

Violet nodded mutely. Mom screamed as the masks dropped from the ceiling. Dad put his mask on and helped Violet with hers. Mom hyperventilated into hers.

“What are we going to do Marshall? We’re going to die! We can’t die like this! This is—”

“Cynthia! Stop it! Where is the woman I married?”

Mom whimpered. She was crying. Violet clung to the armrests, realizing that this was all a very bad thing, but something was happening.

“I don’t know Marshall. The job, the money, the pressure to be better and better—”

Dad’s moustache bristled. “You’re already my personal best.” Noise picked up in the cabin. Violet saw Dad’s eagle tattoo cross her chest to reach her mother. A strained smile. “We must work together now. Will you work with me?”

Cynthia nodded, dabbing at her nose with a sleeve.

At Dad’s request, they unbuckled their belts and pulled Violet down between them. The descent was deafening now at a higher pitch. They faced one another, wrapping themselves around Violet, hands clutching arms, and Mom’s perfume soothing.  Their words were lost in the boom as the final engine exploded.


Did they survive? I'd like to think so. I wanted to present the point that in the most dire of circumstances, attitudes can changeoften for the better. Maybe we shouldn't wait til then. Cheers - C.C.

17 June 2010

"The Casket Crew: Folds" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

They called us the Casket Crew in college, but we were something better than that. Janie was only seventeen, but she was a genius in biology. Thad was a brilliant surgeon in another life. I was just curious. I blame my dad for letting me get as far as I did. He’d slaughter the calves, and leave me the brains. Brains are mushy unless you do something to harden them. Like unset gelatin. Like cottage cheese.

We weren’t sure how long we’d have the formaldehyde so I conserved it the best I could. I boiled the brains, just like I did as a kid. We had to find the one person that wasn’t missing half his folds. Folds make you smarter. It’s like another ring in a growing tree. The ones we split had few folds. Opening them up felt like cauliflower. Pluck that glistening thing right out of the pod. If I cut wrong, the eyes would come out with it and I’d feel guilty in their dead stare.

Janie wore a lab coat. It had stains that looked like rust but it was blood. I think we all had permanent blood caked under our fingernails. It was part of the undertaking, only there was nowhere to take them to. They just kept going somehow, organic and melding with nature. Like a coma walking. They said nothing, ate nothing, and died after a few weeks as the body exhausted all resources.

It was like a death camp, but we weren’t responsible. We had to figure out why. We needed to find out how. I kept cutting brains, and Thad would toss the husks outside. We had to think of them as husks, not people. The only part that looked like people lay hardened in my hands:

Smooth and grey with no folds at all.

16 June 2010

The Writer and Crooked Fang

I've always written about the adventures of Xan Marcelles and his small-tavern band, Crooked Fang. They aren't too famous, but those who do know them are some of the best fans a vampire could ever ask for. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to share an evening and a drink with the prolific bassist. I'm the one behind the camera; rarely do I get my due.

“We need to change that,” he said over the phone. His voice was just as I always imagined it to be; deep, free of accent to the point of flatness. 

He was right of course. A quick plane ride over and then back again. Just long enough to sit and stare at the man I'd dreamed up nine years ago. His skin was a little darker than I imagined, yet it fit him. The black rivers of inky tresses were left loose and flowing to trail over his neck and shoulder and drape down the back of his chair.

He fiddled with Sasha (his guitar) as we talked, and every so often, I caught a glimpse of those lupine fangs. I didn't ask to see them fully, and he never bared them at me. It's a sign of aggression or sexuality in his world, and I deserved nor desired either from him. Plus, I think he knew just how much his survival depended on mine.

Still, I felt like prey in his presence, with his dark indigo jeans and scuffed black and buckled boots. I almost expected to see spurs jangling off the heel, because for all points and purposes, Xan struck me as cowboy. He was a loner, a tough guy, stoic and strong. He was content to be left to his guitar and his drink, but something always interfered with his quest to be 'normal' again.

If it wasn't for the defined jawline and the nose that was almost too big for his face, he would have been beautiful. As it was, the dimpled chin and dark brows pulling together over storm-colored eyes made me stare.

“I take it you're satisfied,” he said with a cocky grin. Another discreet flash of fang. His eyes surveyed the mingling crowds of Pale Rider's after show. The drink we held was the last for the night except for Xan. He gripped the neck of a whiskey bottle and caressed its curve like a lover. I watched his fingers: long, quick; for guitar or a trigger.

He lit a cigarette and endured my examinations, draping an arm over the deep blue electric bass guitar. The strings plucked wrong with no electricity, and I asked him if I was going to hear him play tonight.

“Maybe later,” was his response. “You have to interview me, y'know, justify that big deal trip you made up here.”

“Right,” I said, internally disappointed but I forced a smile. The fact that I was here was incredulous enough.

“So ask away,” he said, plucking an E note. He sat the guitar aside and fished in his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He threw them on the table to join mine after lighting up.

“We can do it like Rolling Stone,” he said, a timid smile approaching those lips. “With the initials and everything.”

So that's what I did. Enjoy:

CC: You're a vampire, don't you have to sleep in a crypt somewhere?

XM: Y'know I've been asked that question more than any other. I don't. It's not that I'm not supposed to, I just don't. Next question.

CC: Sensitive on that, alright, let's switch gears. Your music. It's really good, and Serv's voice is nothing beneath astonishingly heartbreaking. Why don't you pursue a career? No one has to know it's you. You can disguise yourself—

XM: Hold it right there. Isn't that what I do now? Hide from people that just might recognize me? They say it gets easier once everyone you know is dead. It's the same reason for taking the band into the spotlight. We're thinking of going all vampire because Josh and Jason are really getting antsy about wanting to make it big.

CC: Does anyone at Pale Rider besides Serv know what you really are?

XM: I'm assuming you mean vampire. Nope, not yet. I've fiddled with the idea of telling Charlie, but I'm not sure if it's really even necessary. People get scared when they hear the word “vampire” tossed around. Or they laugh and try to ignore it. We aren't fucking funny, I'll tell you that.

CC: I don't know about that, you crack me up most days...

XM: That's the part I play now in your evil scheme. Apparently, I'm one hell of a funny dead guy.

CC: You sound disappointed...

XM: Well hell yes I am. I've got a reputation to keep, and doing goofy shit like fucking up my chances with girls just ain't cute, y'know? Get back to the story questions. And finish your drink—you've barely touched it.

CC: Well I am having to make notes here, and I have to stay somewhat sober to make sense of your words.

XM: …

CC: I mean make sure I add them as they are said, slurs and all.

XM: (laughs) I'm not drunk yet!

CC: Tell me about your life growing up. Who influenced you the most?

XM: First, it was my mom. She was real busy trying to support me and my sister...

CC: You have a sister?

XM: Oh, Don't EVEN act surprised...

CC: I don't think everyone knows about her.

XM: Oh, right. Yeah she's married with a kid now, out somewhere in California. I hear she married a producer.

CC: So she's about the same 'age' as you then?”

XM: She's forty-somethin', if that's what you're askin'. So in short, she's my baby sister.

CC: Pretty much. Back to your mom and your life. Didn't mean to interrupt...

XM: (rolls eyes) Thank you for the courtesy. Can I cuss on this?

CC: You already have once.

XM: Oh shit. I mean...

CC: (laughing) Yes Xan, you can curse all you want.

XM: Awesome. Yeah, Mom died when I was eight, and then I went to live with my dad in Colorado. Devan stayed on the res and grew up differently.

CC: Devan's your sister?”

XM: Yeah. Devan Nez.

CC: She has a different last name...

XM: Okay, let's get something out in the open. Xan Marcelles is a fake name for my bad-ass vampire self. My name was Gabriel Nez. Nice and simple, huh?

CC: Gabriel like the angel?

XM: Oh shut up.

CC: How was life with your dad?

XM: He was a ladies' man, but respectful of women at the same time. 

CC: So your parents were never married...

XM: Nope, and somehow that shit seemed normal back then, y'know? Hell, it's normal today for damn sure.

CC: When did you start playing guitar?

XM: Dad gave me a guitar for my birthday when I turned seventeen. I was into sports before I broke my ankle playing basketball. Anyway, because I was totally miserable, Dad gave me a guitar, but it wasn't a guitar. It was a bass guitar. He offered to take it back, but I fell in love with it. Thing was heavy as fuck but I stuck with it.

CC: So it was just kind of handed to you. You didn't 'discover' your love for music...

XM: Naw, I always loved music, but you gotta remember, this was back in the sixties and seventies. We didn't have iPods then. So you just kinda sat around and listened to records, which was kinda neat.

CC: What was the coolest thing your dad gave you? The guitar?

XM: 1967 Camaro RS. I still got her. Dad and I worked on it together. She wasn't well-taken care of and the engine was fucked to hell because some guy'd gotten it for his kid who destroyed the poor thing in like 3 years. It sat in his garage til my dad talked him into selling it. By that time, it'd been sitting for like a decade already.

CC: What kind of schooling did you have?

XM: I graduated in Colorado and went on to college. It was what people did when they got out of school. More school.

CC: What did you study?

XM: Commercial art. (laughs) Bet you didn't think I could draw...

CC: Crazy, never would have guessed it.

XM: Yeah, I was a different person then. Tall, skinny, geeky, like you guys say now.

CC: How did you change that?

XM: Worked out. A fuckload. I decided I wanted to be a bodybuilder or some shit. I doubt I would've kept it up past when I got dropped as a vampire.

CC: You mean turned into one.

XM: Yeah, that. So Zeta got me at the fucking apex of my manhood you could say. (grins)

CC: But you said you were a mechanic, not an artist.

XM: I love cars, so yeah, I worked on them. Well, I changed oil and tires. Fuck, you've busted me now. It was a part-time job, and I wasn't certified or anything. Just like to tinker.

CC: So, Crooked Fang...what's the story behind that?

XM; Been with these guys for a few years now. I came up with Crooked Fang. It just sounded hella cool. I came here to Pale Rider after I left the bitch that turned me and took room and board in exchange for forming a house band that could bring in business.

CC: Do you guys play anything besides cover songs?

XM: No. 

CC: I bet you get a lot of female attention.

XM: You could say that. (smirks)

CC: Xan, it's been a real pleasure.

XM: Likewise. Next time, I'm going to interview you.

CC: ...

We parted ways soon after that. He had his rehearsing to do, and I had to get back to my own life and work. The baby was sleeping when I came in, and I kissed her forehead. I love all of my children.

Austin, Texas
August 13, 2009

10 June 2010

"Eulogy" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: kingofcoleslaw from morguefile.com

Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men. - Herodotus

It rained that day. Damp earth mixed with silvered tears from heaven; drops slithering over the skin of our raised umbrellas to form mud. The red-clayed result fell inwards beneath the hovering casket adorned with a shield of white lilies. Eulogy was cited. Family muttered and sniffled behind black-gloved hands. The breeze collected around ladies’ stockinged ankles and felt up their fluttering mourning dresses. Their heels sank into the muck around this receiving hole that would take him in for eternity. We stood sentinel to a lifeless shell; we stood as wraiths in the storm.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From earth we came, to earth we return. Amen.

Two of us stayed behind. She was pale as moonstone, delicate as ivory. Eyes of jade, lips curved and soft as velvet pillows. She held an umbrella. I did not. I stood there, shoulders hunched, sopping with wet and grief at words left unsaid. Her approach elicited no response from me. She offered her umbrella. Blood filled my mouth; I bit my tongue to prevent a lash-out. How dare she be kind to me?

The only time before that I’d seen her was in the passenger side of my father’s car.

05 June 2010

Featured on American Week

See this picture? It was the first surprise I received from Cathy Olliffe. She followed it up with the most most touching tribute I've ever received. It came out of the blue, and blew me away. See? I'm a writer. I know phoenetiks. Enough of silliness. Please, if you haven't visited her blog, do so. Here's the tribute:

Carrie Clevenger - You Oughta Know

03 June 2010

"Ruth" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

I remember my very first best friend. Her name was Ruth Smudrick. She was a lady ensconced behind her son's house in a pale burgundy trailer home. I discovered her one day at the same time I discovered her roses. We hit it off and after my parents approved of my visits, I would go see her almost every day. These were quiet times, when kids were pushed outdoors in the morning and didn't come home til it was very nearly dark. In time, I felt a love for this woman like my own grandmother, and learned how many different kinds of roses there really were in the world.

I remember the inside of her house like it was yesterday: dark, cool‑the gentle hum of the window unit as it ran non-stop. She played old-time radio and made fig preserves from our tree that grew on the property line between our yard and theirs.

Her son was flashy and drove a big black Lincoln. Shiny, with leather interior. I got to sit in it once. It was brand new, just like everything else behind their grand white two-story home. But Ruth's house was a modest place, everything in its place: a small table with two metal chairs predating the atomic age, a recliner that she said belonged to her husband. He was in Heaven, she said.

"There isn't a heaven like that," I said. "People wait, like the elders at church teach us." I was raised Jehovah's Witness, and they didn't believe in going to heaven, except for 144,000 people. Mom says those were the old ones, like Ruth maybe. She didn't know.

I loved to hear her talk. She was like a magnet for me. She wore flowered dresses and black orthopedic shoes. She said the white ones got dirty too easy. She kept sales brochures around, and wore an id bracelet that said she had diabetes. She made sugary treats, because I liked them, and I came nearly every day.

Then one day, dad brought home a big, big truck with the ominous "U-HAUL" emblazoned on the sides. Mom told me to tell Ruth goodbye, and that we would come visit. I hugged Ruth and cried. She always smelled good and her hair was always curled. She went into her bedroom, the room I never saw before. I followed her and saw pictures of her husband. I saw pictures of her flashy son when he was still just a kid. She opened an ancient oak trunk and pulled out a carefully-wrapped package. It was a quilt. She said she'd made it from scraps collected over a few years. It was warm, and she wanted me to have it.

I got in the big truck with dad and we drove away, the monster burdened with our house-full of things. Mom and I visited her at her house once, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't just me and Ruth and mom kept telling me not to touch Ruth's things, when before Ruth let me touch her knickknacks as long as I didn't break them.

I wanted to visit again, but mom got a phone call. Ruth was in the hospital. Mom stopped at the store and I picked out some nice orange flowers. They weren't marigolds, but it was the closest thing I could find.

The lady in the bed didn't look quite as plump as Ruth had been. I gave her the flowers and recognized her by her smile. We hugged again, careful not to pull the tubes from her arms. It was the last time I ever saw her.

I hope she made it to heaven.