Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tri Studio Books site info

See Tri Studio Books LLC site for interesting fiction and tools for writers. Subscription to a newsletter is also available.

Flash Tales Ezine

As yet another flash fiction site. See Flash Tales Ezine for current issue. Guidelines for submitting your own creations are also given. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Second Chance at First Love – Part 6 (Ending)

Welcome back to our continuing story. If you are just joining, see Part 1. Here we rejoin Bill and Camille as they leave Bill’s Mom. This is the ending part of their Second Chance at First Love.

The Second Chance

Heading the car in the general direction back toward downtown, I turn slightly to Camille while managing to keep my eyes on the road and ask: “Are you getting hungry?”

I can barely hear her as she responds seductively: “Yes, I’m starting to feel very hungry for … um … for food that is.”

Her words sort of oozes from her lips and I feel a lump in my throat. She then changes her expression back to a sweet innocent look and continues: “Let me treat you to dinner, I can put it on the company’s bill since I’m in travel status”.

As I ponder her offer, a thought just pops into my brain! “That sounds very tempting, but let me tempt you back.” I say in a playful tone. “When is the last time you had some Vickie’s Barbeque?”

I could tell that her expression had changed again to one of wonder and surprise.

“You mean that place is still open? I haven’t had some of those bones in at least fifteen years!”

As I stop for a traffic light, I turn to Camille and say: “You know it’s a carryout only joint. We’ll have to take it back to my place to eat. Is that okay with you?”

Camille looks at me and replies: “It’s okay with me so long as you are not afraid that I might eat you up along with the ribs!”

Not flinching I respond: “Hey, that’s my line!”

We both laugh and continue on our way, angling toward Warren Road and a stop at Vickie’s.

While standing in line waiting to order, Camille’s body sags against mine, her eyes are closed and I can hear her deep breaths as she inhales the smells of barbeque ribs, sauce, and grease cooking up a container of thick fries. My left arm has found its way around her waist. It seems like such a normal stance, such a normal feeling. Glancing over to the side, I see an older couple sitting on a bench awaiting their order. The woman is looking at us smiling – probably reflecting upon her bygone youth.

Suddenly a revelation smacks me in the face! A shudder ripples through my body as I try and delve into the old woman’s thoughts. “Our time is here and now! In order to have fond memories of love in the distant future, we must start making them now.”

Camille also feels the trembling of my body and turns her face toward mine. Not saying a word I just kiss her lips. Her mouth responds, pressing back against mine. Our first kiss in … in fifteen years!

We are interrupted by the waitress clearing her throat and saying: “May I take your order folks?”

Stepping to the side after placing the order, I again catch the eye of the old woman who is now leaving with her husband. She smiles again and gives me a wink, then heads out the door holding hands with her husband.

Back at my place we settle in for some serious barbeque eating. I fumble through my DVD collection and pull out My Fair Lady the 1964 version starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. It was the last movie we saw together before Camille and her parents moved away.

We finish the “Que” about halfway through the movie and I stow the leftovers, rinse the dishes, and throw away the bags and containers along with numerous napkins still reeking of Vickie’s famous sauce.

After washing my hands, I return to what passes for my living room to see that Camille has slipped off her shoes and her bare feet are stretched out on the sofa, toes wiggling invitingly in my direction. She looks up at me while turning off the TV with the remote control. We stare at each other for a few moments, and then I smile and say:

“I never really had a chance, did I?”

“Not after the stop at your Mom’s, no you didn’t”. Replies Camille as a smile also appears on her face.

The Endgame

“Hello, Bill, where the hell are you? It’s almost time to go and pick up the visitors!” Says Carl as he nervously jiggles the phone.

“We’ll meet you over there. You can drive the van by yourself can’t you?” Chides Bill.

Carl starts to make a smart aleck reply, but then does a mental double take and says: “We? Whose we?”

“Ms. Sanders and I of course.” I reply and hang up the phone before Carl can recover.

We got to the hotel at 8:20AM just after Carl had arrived. Walking over to the Café, I could see the other visitors finishing up breakfast with Carl standing next to Mr. Clawson.

Getting nearer to the group, I could make out their mixture of facial expressions:

Carl has a deer caught in the headlights stare across his face;
Maria has a big grin – Camille had already confided in her before meeting me last evening;
Mike has a sly smile;
Mr. Clawson, Sr. V.P. Clawson that is, was the only one that counts. He has an expressive mix of angst, and relief; standing up as we draw near to the table.

Maria had covered for Camille so the group hadn’t issued a missing persons alarm or such; however, Mr. Clawson had seemed out of sorts. But, as Clawson studies the approaching pair, he can see that it had not been just some spur of the moment one-night-stand. It is obvious that these two have history; a great deal of history and that love has certainly blossomed between them. His thoughts turn to his own son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. His expression starts to change, his facial muscles relax, then reform into a smile conveying: that all will be worked out, all will end in happiness.

Bill and Camille could sense the change in Clawson’s demeanor and both breathe a collected sigh of relief. The last unknown has come up ok.

Love has finally triumphed after all!

The End

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flash Me Magazine Contest

See flash for contest rules regarding flash fiction entries. The Flash Me Magazine eZine publishes on a quarterly basis. Note, flash fiction stories have to be no longer than 250 words.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Character therapy trip

See item therapy on Jayes Blahg for an interesting idea for flushing out details and nuances of your main characters in a story or novel. Personally I found the idea intriguing and plan to give it a try in a story I’m currently working on.

Note, you don't have to actually use the therapy session in your story, but just to get a more intemate feel for the characters inner thoughts and motivations.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Second Chance at First Love – Part 5

Welcome back to our ongoing story. If you are just joining, see Part 1. Here we rejoin Bill as he takes the visitors to their hotel and hopes to meet Camille later by the pool.

The Hotel

Arriving at the hotel, Bill and Clawson exchange a few pleasantries as the bellboy and Mike unload the baggage. Bill confirms an 8:30AM pickup for tomorrow morning, and gives everybody a collective: “Enjoy your evening, and see you bright and early in the morning”. Clawson indicates with a smile that he plans to go souvenir hunting for grandkid gifts. Mike seems to be angling to be alone with Maria; Camille plays along by saying that she plans to spend a quiet night.

Bill pulls the van into the hotel overflow lot and parks. He decides to just sit and wait a while to collect his thoughts. It will take at least ten minutes for the visitors to get checked in and to their rooms. He mentally clicks off his quandaries:

· “I’m scared to face my true feelings for Camille”
· “I feel like a total ass”
· “How could I even consider a relationship with Camille while working for the same company?”
· “Why didn’t I keep in touch or at least check on her over these past fifteen years?”
· “How does she feel about all of this? It would appear that she maybe battling the same inner demons that I am?”

I look up and see my reflection in the van’s rearview mirror. The sweating, twisted visage staring back is a stark reality check. I wipe my face off with some paper towels from the back of the van. I take off my tie, carefully folding it and place it in my inside jacket pocket, then loosen my collar, straighten up my shirt and adjust my pants. There are no options; I must go through with this meeting. I’ll just have to convince her that we don’t have a future together! Hopefully she will have already come to the same conclusion.

I make my way back into the hotel to a secluded table in the rear of the Snack Hut. Contemplating a drink with some kick, I reconsider and select lemonade instead. My eyes slowly adjust to the dim lighting and I settle back comfortably into my cushioned chair. Five minutes later the cell phone that I had placed on the table started to ring. After the second chime I pick it up and speak: “Hello Camille. Yes, I’m here, on the pool side.” Looking up, I see her coming around the far corner. The shadows and streams of sunlight play tag on her slowly moving body. She’s changed from office black to casual tan slacks, a light blue blouse and open toed flats.

Her feet are still delicate and pleasing to the eyes. I can remember massaging them for what seemed hours on end during lazy summer afternoons, years ago.

I get up and fumble with the chair next to me pulling it out for her to sit in. She glides fluidly into the seat and I sit back down. As I attempt to get the waitress’s attention, I turn to Camille: “Would you like a drink? I recommend the lemonade.”

“Ok.” She says with a smile that remains on her face as she continues to look at me.

“The years have treated you well!” I say, returning her smile with my own.

“You’re too kind Bill, too kind.” Responds Camille with a slight blush. “You still look pretty trim yourself.”

“Well, I try to keep in shape. I make use of the exercise equipment at the office at least twice a week. I’ll bet that headquarters has a great layout of machines?” Bill responds.

“Yes, we do, though I’ve only seen them from afar. I’m still working up the courage to try them out. I’m afraid that I’ll make a fool out of myself since I’ve never belonged to a gym or such.”

Just as the conversation is starting to get to the issues at hand, my cell phone rings again. Glancing at the caller-id, I could see that it was my Mom! “Wow, what timing”: I say to myself, but thought that I had better answer. I excuse myself, turn to the side and speak in a subdued voice: “Hello Mom.” I could see that Camille had heard my response and her eyes seemed to brighten and she started signaling that she wanted to say hello! “What did you say Mom?” I mumble as my mind has gotten sidetracked. “Oh okay, I can do that on Thursday. Mom, Mom, hold up. You’ll never guess whom I’m with? Here, let me give them the phone!”

I hand the cell phone over to Camille and watch as she speaks with an even bigger smile on her face: “Hello, Mrs. Baker? This is Camille, …, Camille Sanders. Yes, it’s really me! I know, it’s been a very long time.” Camille’s eyes dart back and forth from me to looking out over the pool area as if she’s attempting to conjure up some image of the past. “I’m in town on business. In fact I work for the same company that Bill does, only at a different location.” Camille continues to converse for a couple of minutes, then suddenly looks puzzled. “Well, I don’t know, … Just a minute”.

With that, she hands the phone back to me and says: “Your Mom wants to see me. She wants both of us to come over this evening!”

It is my turn to look puzzled. I pause, compose myself then respond: “Mom, I don’t know. Camille is here on a business trip. No, she’s not doing any business right now, but, … but, … No, we have no plans to … But. But.”

Seeing my helpless state of affairs, Camille takes the phone out of my hand and says: “Mom, we’ll be glad to come over. See you in a little while. Okay. I love you too. Bye.”

Bill remembered how they both used to call each other’s mothers Mom!

Camille then presses the END Key, folds the phone and hands it back and says: “Well Bill, shall we go?”

We hadn’t really started talking about “us” and now my Mom has been thrown into the mix! I turn to Camille as we both proceed to finish our lemonades and say: “We can take the van back to the office, pick up my car and head over to Mom’s place. She lives in a retirement complex out in Royal Oak. Dad passed away a couple of years ago.”

“Yeah”: says Camille, “Mom mentioned that, sorry”.

“How are your Mom and Dad?” I venture as we get up from the table.

“They are both fine, living in Florida near Orlando in a retirement community.”

Endeavoring to refocus the conversation, I venture: “You know, we’ve just been beating around the bush, and now we are going even further field visiting my Mom. But we still have not really talked about Us”.

We stop near the big fountain in the hotel’s lobby and just stare at each other for a moment. Looking down, I realize that somewhere along the way from the Snack Hut we had started holding hands, and are still doing so, here, by the bubbling water! We both simultaneously withdraw our hands to our sides and look kind of embarrassed.

Riding in silence toward the office, we both just look out of the van’s side windows reluctant to press each other’s buttons regarding our own plight. Once we get back to the office and exchange vehicles, I feel more at ease and say: “I often thought about seeing you again, and of … of us living happily ever after so to speak. But it was all just wishful thinking. I never had the will or the nerve or the … the guts to attempt to get into contact with you. In this day and age, it just wouldn’t be that hard. I just couldn’t get up the courage to do it.”

Camille sat there in silence for a few minutes, continuing to look out of the window at the passing landscape. Then she says: “Well, I thought about you too. I missed the good times we had. The way we could be honest with each other, trust each other. Not like the other boys and men that I later came into contact with. They all wanted to play mind games or to just try and get it on so to speak. There was no interest in innocent pleasures and joy of companionship. Of course, the past is the past. You can never really go back.”

As she continues to look at the changing landscape, Camille turns toward me and says: “This neighborhood looks familiar, but has obliviously seen better times.”

“Much better times”: I respond. “Much better times indeed” as I turn the car onto our old block.

I stop the car right in front of our old houses. They are both much worst for wear, but still appear to be occupied. However, there is no one about. There are only a few loose papers and plastic bags dancing in the slight breeze. After a couple of minutes, I take my foot off of the brake and we continue on our way.

“Your are right. We can’t physically go back, we can only truly visit the past in our dreams.”

Stopping for a traffic light I continue: “In fact, I dreamed about the first time we met early this morning.” I pause, and think: “this morning? This is a day that just seems to go on forever”.

Camille responds: “Bill, I found out last week that you worked for Robbins & Clark when we got a list of contacts for the Detroit office. I was able to confirm the fact by checking the personnel files. It was a shock, and I agonized about how I would handle our meeting after such a long time. I started to call you, but couldn’t think of what to say that wouldn’t just sound lame and deranged!”

I’m a little taken aback by her revelation, but it does explain why she hadn’t seemed overly surprised to see me at the airport. It’s funny that I didn’t even think about that fact until now. I guess that I was so caught up in my own thoughts and feelings at the time.

The Mom Gambit

I turn the car up into the driveway leading to Mom’s apartment complex and think: “There is still the question of what about us”?

Mom’s telepathic powers seem to be in fine working order as she is already standing in the doorway even before we had arrived. As I open up the passenger side door and Camille steps out, a broad smile forms on my Mom’s face and her arms stretch out wide. Camille rushes up the steps and the two hug for what seems to be several minutes. When they finally move back from each other, both are shedding a steady stream of tears.

“Females.” I thought to myself attempting to maintain a faux macho attitude, but it is all that I could do to hold back my own tears. The weight of this long, long day is taking its toll on my psyche.

Finally I manage to usher them thru the entrance way and into my Mom’s apartment. Glancing around her living room, the familiar objects take on a surreal presence as I’m filled with thoughts from the past. Furniture, figurines, even haunting aromas of long ago seem to come alive! It has the aurora of a dream, and yet it is real.

My mom grabs Camille’s right hand and leads her into the kitchen. They both soon return: Mom has a pitcher filled with iced tea and Camille is carefully balancing a tray with three glasses each filled with ice and lemon slices. Mom leads the way to the sunroom and we all sit down in well-cushioned wicker chairs around a glass-topped table.

Still beaming, Mom looked at both of us and says: “You two simply look great together. It’s been so many years.” Glancing down at Camille’s shoes she ads: “Oh, I see that you’ve kept your feet cute and sexy. I can remember Bill’s keen interest in them! We started to worry about that boy for a while …” Looking up, she saw that both Bill and Camille had starting to turn a reddish-brown! Smiling, she continues, I remember those good ole days when …”

We all went on reminiscing for the better part of an hour. Finally, as the sun was fading from the sky Mom said: “Well children, it’s getting late for an old lady like myself to still be up and about. Anyway, I’m sure that you young folks have other plans in mind.” The smile on her face seemed to beg the question: “Well don’t you?”

At some point during our reliving old times, Camille and I had started holding hands again. As we get up to leave, we both suddenly become self-conscious of this fact and immediately let go, awkwardly putting our dangling appendages behind our own backs. My Mom’s smile turns into a frown as she observes our actions. Coming over immediately in front of us, she stretches out her arms and embraces us both.

Mom whispers in my ear: “Son, here is a second chance to get things right – don’t blow it!”

Then she whispers into Camille’s ear: “Dear, I hope that you remember how dense the boy can be, give him a swift kick or something if you have to, but don’t let him just slip away!”

She then gently but firmly grabs my right hand and Camille’s left hand and pulls them out in front of us. Looking first down at our hands, then up into our eyes she says: “I now pronounce you … stuck together forever!” Then she presses our hands back together.

As we Walk away hand-in-hand again, Mom looks at Camille and says in a matter-a-fact tone: “I’ll tell your mother that you came by and were with my son, she’ll be so pleased to here that!”

Wow! This bombshell stopped both of us in our tracks. Camille and I just stared back at my Mom, speechless. However, she just kept on smiling at us and continued: “Just because you two didn’t bother to keep up with each other over the years doesn’t mean that others are just as dense! Sarah and I developed our own friendship independent of your puppy-love antics. We never stopped exchanging Christmas cards, and talk to each other once a month or so on the phone.”

After seeing the puzzled looks on Camille’s and me, she ads: “I never told you that son frankly because I had given up on any prospects of you two every getting back together again.” Then she turns toward Camille and continues: “I guess that your mother felt the same way.”

“Amazing, simply amazing. How could we have been so brain dead about each other for so long? Was the trauma of separation that dramatic as to rob us of the simple ability to just pick up the phone or something? Maybe it was because we hardly ever talked to each other over the phone, and never wrote letters while we lived across the street from each other. Our almost exclusive method of communication had been face to face. It was a rare day during those seven years that we didn’t see each other at least once. We basically viewed each other’s homes as extensions of our own. Once that bond was broken when Camille moved away, we seemed to be helpless in our ability to communicate. Until we came into face to face contact again today.” I thought.

We leave Mom’s place still holding hands all the way to the car. After we both got into the vehicle, we wave a goodbye and drive away into the darkening sky.

That's all for now. Join us next time for the last part in Bill's Second Chance.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Second Chance at First Love – Part 4

Welcome back to our ongoing story. If you are just joining, see Part 1. Here we rejoin Bill as he sees the visitors approaching the baggage claim area.

Airport Confirmation

The escalator carrying the group of four descends at a snails pace. Carl has started to approach the bottom of the escalator attempting to make eye contact with Clawson. Bill is hanging back, still trying to identify the fourth visitor. Finally the group reaches the floor and quickly walks out toward Carl. The fourth person steps to one side and is suddenly in full view of Bill. She is in fact ignoring the introductions being made between Carl and her associates and is starring directly at Williams!

Fifteen-years older, a tad bit taller, a few pounds heavier, different hair style, the strains of adult life starting to show around the edges; but the probabilistic speculation is over – she is most definitely Camille, his Camille, his first love!

They stare at each other for what seems an eternity but could only have been a few seconds. Bill vaguely hears Carl’s voice: “…and this is William Baker …”

Snapping back to reality Bill responds: “Hello, Mr. Clawson, welcome to the Motor City”. He sees Clawson tentatively reach out to shake his hand and realizes that he must have an odd expression plastered on his face and quickly tries to compose his countenance into a more business-like pose which just makes him look even more ridiculous. Bill awkwardly turns toward Maria followed by Michael and continues the round of introductions.

Then his eyes re-focus on Camille. He hears Carl rattling off: “… and this is Ms Sanders.”

Bill responds: “… ah … Hello Ms … Sanders” as he shakes her hand. Their fingers stay intertwined for an extended period of time, eyes mutually boring into each other’s souls. The touch is instantly familiar and evokes memories jumbled upon each other like a pile of toys in the corner of a child’s room. The days of walking hand-in-hand in the park, or just going to the store or school; the slow dances holding each other tight; of playing doctor all intermixed with one another. From their mutual expressions, each could tell they were experiencing shared memories.

However, Bill and Camille smile in a business-like manner and exchange pleasantries. Taking Camille’s lead, Bill doesn’t let on that they have a shared past to the group. His mind, on the other hand, is calculating on when and how they can get some time alone!

Finally, Carl interrupts their reminiscence giving Bill an odd look and espouses: “Shall we go over and see if the bags have showed up on the conveyor belt?”

As they all start walking over to where luggage is being disgorged from a gap in the wall onto the waiting moving belt, Carl pulls Bill aside and says: “Hey buddy, pull yourself together!”

Bill turns to look at Carl, his mind still calculating and attempts a weak smile and shrug of the shoulders.

In the van, Clawson commandeers the shotgun seat relegating Bill to join the other visitors in the second row. He manages to sit next to Camille and keeps fidgeting about until his right thigh is pressed up against Camille’s left one. He keeps his eyes focused on the passing sites and Camille keeps staring forward. However he feels her leg pressing back up against his! Carl is babbling on about the record of the Detroit Tigers verses the Yankees engrossing in friendly banter with Mike. Clawson is dawdling with some notes and Maria looks like she is taking a catnap.

The pressing of thigh against thigh reminds Bill of a time long ago in a roller coaster line at Edge Water Park on Detroit’s northwest side. Camille’s backside had been pressed snuggly up against him and his arms were wrapped around her waist. It seemed that there was some kind of mechanical problem with the ride and the waiting line had really backed up. It felt so good standing there with Camille in such an intimate embrace that he had hoped that the coaster would never get fixed! Now the slight touching of our calves yields the same innocent pleasure – “let the van ride go on forever” Bill thought!

However, in times past, whenever we got into a too intimate situation, we would both back off from the point of no return. As underage kids that had been a good and proper reaction and served us well. But now it still seemed to prevail, to override any raw, untamed emotions trying to evolve between us. An uneasy feeling falls like a dark curtain on Bill’s lusty thoughts: suppose this is just a huge build-up to a big letdown? Can some type to passionate encounter ever live up to the hype? Can their past intertwined innocence successfully morph into lust?

“In a word: No”. Bill thinks.

As nonchalantly as possible he adjusts his position to put some air between his thigh and Camille’s. Camille may also be experiencing similar feelings as she also makes a slight seating shift increasing the space a few additional inches. They venture a sideward glance at each other and seem to connect with similar doubts.

“What to do, what to do”? Bill sighed to himself as he turned back to stare out of the side window just in time to see a sign proclaiming: “Welcome to Detroit”.

Back to the office

The van group heads back to the same conference room used for the morning staff meeting. The boss and a few others join for another round of introductions and “blah, blah, blah”. At least that’s all that Bill hears. He is still brooding about his relationship potential, or more to the point, lack thereof with Camille. The mere act of immersing himself into self-pity and wallowing in his own misery brings its own healing affect upon his soul. Bill seems to be coming to terms with letting this fairytale opportunity just slip through his fingers. However: “we must at least have some quiet time to talk to each other face-to-face”: Bill muses.

“… and what about the project to develop a statistical analysis of the last customer survey Bill?” The words of the boss are gnawing at the outer boundary of Bill’s consciousness as he feels his ribs being prodded by Carl’s left elbow under the table.

All eyes had turned upon Bill as he attempts to gather his thoughts and focus on the projection screen where a set of charts is currently being displayed.

“Uh. Yes.” Bill stammers. A few beads of sweat pop up out of nowhere making his forehead glisten.

“I’m still awaiting some additional data from the western region, but, …, ah the view so far points out several areas of concern.” Bill’s voice became more even and confident has he continues to talk, like an old-fashion locomotive starting to slowly chug, chug, chug before building up a head of steam. After a couple of more sentences, Bill has gotten into his rhythm and presents an acceptable status update on his major project. The boss’s initial frown has turned into a smile, and he then moves the discussion onto the next topic. Bill allows himself a silent sigh of relief and absentmindedly wipes his brow with a nearby napkin.

“Way to go buddy”. Says Carl in a low voice as the meeting breaks up. “I thought you were in the deep stuff without any boots for a while”.

“Well that’s it for today. We don’t want to wear you folks out before we really get started.” Said the boss to Clawson. “Carl and Bill will drop you all off at your hotel and we can get back together first thing in the morning. Oh, keep tomorrow night open, I’ve got tickets for all of us to attend the ballgame!”

Carl muttered: “damn, the time is late and I have a hot date tonight!”

Bill frowns slightly, attempting to hide the joy he feels at the potential chance to be alone with Camille and responds: “oh, don’t worry Carl, I can take care of getting our guest to the hotel. My schedule is clear and quiet.”

“You’re a real trooper or whatever” responds Carl as he gives Bill a pat on the back and with a slight wink tosses the van’s keys.

Bill wonders: “Hmmm, was that wink for his own anticipated conquest or for mine”?

Bill remembers a small snack lounge located near the pool in the hotel where the visitors were staying. He confirms this fact by querying his computer back in his cubical. He logs-off the system, and proceeds to wrap-up his business day. Then he pens a small note:

Obviously we need to talk. I can park the van, and meet you in “The Hut” a small snack shop off the back of the hotel’s lobby by the pool.

Love, Bill “

After also including his cell phone number on the note, he folds it twice then places it in his right pants pocket.

As he meets back up with the visitors to arrange to take them to the hotel, Bill feels like a little kid in class as he palms the message and discretely passes it to Camille. After a quick smile and acknowledgement by her, the plan is set!

Be sure to join in next week for Part 5: The Hotel Rendezvous!