This short story eventually led to the feature screenplay How I Saved Christmas (and Other Great Things I’ve Done), available for download.
Jeffrey awoke with a bound and jumped to the window. Was it? Could it be? The night he’d dreamed of all year was here, and not a moment too soon.
He looked around the yard, but there was no movement of any kind. Even the trees, full with the weight of newly fallen snow, were strangely silent. Jeffrey ran to his bedside table and grabbed his flashlight. Bringing it to the window, he sent a flood of light piercing into the yards deepest shadows, hoping to uncover…what? A fat old man in a red suit? A reindeer on the loose? An eight-foot high present, bulging at the sides? But as Jeffrey looked, he saw nothing.
It was stupid really, Jeffrey told himself. He was much too old for this kind of nonsense. Shining the beam onto the sleeping mound that was his brother, who was not too old to believe in Santa, Jeffrey frowned and climbed back in bed. The arms of the clock glowed in the darkened room. It was not quite midnight. And that was too early for Santa anyway, wasn’t it?
With a sigh, Jeffrey rolled onto his side and tried to shut his eyes. He’d need every ounce of strength to get through the next day if Santa hadn’t come through for him. It was a tall order that Jeffrey had asked for, but that was the old man’s job, right? Making dreams come true?
It had been two years since his father had passed away, and in the time following, Jeffrey had seen his mother grow more scattered and remarry (to a loathsome bore named Dirk, a plumber) and his little brother Bryan retreat from life — literally. Bryan now lived in a large cardboard box, and wouldn’t come out for anything. They’d tried bribes, pleas, and threats, but Bryan remained hidden in his cocoon.
Bryan was given his meals in the box, took his nap in the box — even brought it to bed with him, though it remained next to the bed, with Bryan safely ensconced beneath the covers. Occasionally they would catch a glimpse of Bryan’s pale arm as it would creep towards a plate of cookies, but that was about it. Indeed, Jeffrey was unsure exactly what Bryan looked like anymore, so hungrily did the little fist pound down the cookies. He could’ve been three hundred pounds and they would never have known.
While Bryan’s change was understandable, to some extent, and could be explained away as a youthful quirk, Jeffrey’s mother’s change was more puzzling, though not as pronounced. Sure, anyone who hadn’t seen her for a while would have noticed the transformation, but to those around her, the changes appeared slowly and subtly. First, she dyed her hair blonde and fashioned it into the popular bob. Fine. Jeffrey could deal with that. Next, she started wearing brightly colored party dresses at every occasion, however inappropriate. Then her mannerisms became almost unbearably cheerful and upbeat. On and on went the metamorphosis until Jeffrey finally realized what she was doing: Little Maggie Clements from Omaha was doing everything within her power to turn herself into the glamorous and dazzling Doris Day. Not only did she see every movie that Doris made, including the stinkers, but she even started paraphrasing lines and bits from these movies. In fact, just yesterday at breakfast, when Jeffrey said he wanted only one piece of toast, she cajoled, “With Six You Get Eggroll!” (more…)
2 – Replace the Country Western dance tent with bull-dyke oil wrestling.
3 – More frothy fruit drinks, served in coconut and pineapple shells.
5 – Open the dog park to all wearing dog collars. (more…)
As we note the 30-year mark in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS, it seemed an appropriate time to publish this short story. I dedicate this to all of my friends, gone, but not forgotten, as well as those still fighting.
Jeffrey gazed up at the ceiling and, again, he began to count. It didn’t matter that he’d counted them before, or that he knew the number of holes by heart — 3,016. It also didn’t matter that he always counted the same square, never changing. The number of holes was constant; as constant as his mother sitting numbly in her chair, stumbling through her crossword. What mattered most to Jeffrey was that he knew it. And since he knew it, it could never be taken away.
He sighed, though no one heard it, and thought of Kevin. Blond, handsome, studly Kevin. How had everything gone so wrong? Jeffrey’s mind raced over the details of their relationship, sifting through the rubble for clues. The beginning, middle, end.
No one thing stood out as wrong or imminent or foreboding. When Jeffrey’s suspicions were confirmed and it did end, there were the expected rows, and tearful apologies, and scenes in restaurants. But no one could have foreseen the agonizing pain that would come to Jeffrey. He’d gotten through it, eventually, and now Jeffrey was alone. Sadly alone.
He filled his time well, though. Going through his Rolodex and renewing friendships. Making dinner plans, and festive theatre outings, and endless gym workouts–anything to stay away from that apartment. The reminders. The memories. (more…)
Too often in life, we forget to give thanks. While we may offer up a quick word to our party hosts on our way out the door, or send a prayer up to God, thanking the big guy for some request we’ve made that he actually delivered on, how often do we show gratitude for the simple act of existing?
Taught by her mother at an early age to write Thank You notes, Leah Dieterich does just that — for everything. With humor and affection, she is able to give thanks for things both big and small, positive and negative, in the most unexpected and thought-provoking ways. Whether it is in thanking the days of the week, or finding praise for a 1983 Shalamar record, Leah manages to see the good, even in the thick of bad.
On her blog thxthxthx, browse her notes and you’ll quickly discover how she reaches past herself,maintaining perspective by focusing on the bigger picture. In a thank you note to Melancholy, for example, Leah points out that she is most productive during such states, and “always ends up making something. You’re a better house-guest than sadness,” she notes, “because you leave gifts.” Looking beyond her own emotions and insecurities, she allows herself to give thanks for such “negatives” as the breakup of a relationship, or her anger, or even for her period.
And, to help you do just that, 200 of her notes havebeen released as a book, and having even more of Leah’s Thank You notes to read is something we can all be grateful for…
Brian Lane Green, singing John Bucchino’s “Grateful”: http://tinyurl.com/3pem6a6
One of my favorite writers is Irish novelist Maeve Binchy, author of such books as “Circle of Friends,” “The Glass Lake,” and “The Copper Beech.” There is something very comforting about the worlds she creates. Her writing is neither high-brow literary, nor frothy chick-lit, but somewhere comfortably in-between. While her leads are always women and the villains always men, she still manages to create layered stories and environments filled with warmth, where you care deeply about the characters and their outcome.
Her novels are great page turners, where as much as you want to read quickly, to discover what will happen, at the same time you pace yourself, knowing that once you put the novel down, it will be at least a year before she releases another.
Unfortunately, her short stories, of which she’s released several compilations, are more uneven.
With novels, you can take time setting up your story and characters, letting your readers slowly immerse themselves into the world you’ve created. But with short stories, as a writer, you really don’t have time for the niceties that Binchy does so well. You have to immediately hook the reader and quickly convey a clear look, tone, and feel. Whereas a novel can be like a realistic painting, a short story is more like impressionism — a quick and vivid glimpse, with your mind filling in the blanks.
Several years ago, I challenged myself: write a short story as if you were Ms. Binchy — but hopefully more successfully. “Channel your inner earth mother,” I said. “Create characters which are interesting, keep your readers intrigued, and try to stir up some feeling of emotion, all in as few pages as possible.”
“Antique Lace” was the result.
Let me know if I succeeded.
I believe that “gay” still means “happy”.
I believe that good will always triumph–Unless, of course, we’re talking “Melrose Place”.
I believe that Latoya Latex could benefit from a nice full-length mirror.
I believe that one day Richard Simmons will rise up and lead us.
I believe in fairies.
I believe that Stephen Sondheim should be deified.
I believe that the Rev. Fred Phellps should not.
I believe in the Golden Rule (and anything else made of gold.)
I believe that rimming is next to Godliness.
I believe that Pamela Sue Martin is due for a comeback.
I believe that O.J. needs a better acting coach.
I believe that Susan Sarandon is the only woman I’d ever sleep with.
I believe that in Newt Gingrich’s next life, he’ll come back as Connie Norman.
I believe that in Mel Gibson’s next life, he’ll come back as a blow-up orifice Ken doll.
I believe that the seven deadly sins should’ve included bad hair.
I believe that no one will ever hand you anything–except a supeona.
I believe that “Saturday Night Live” should have been canceled long ago.
I believe that Calgon can take you away.
I believe that one day there will be a cure for AIDS.
And I believe that I will be here to see it.