Vignette: “Defeated”

A man leans on his stone-top counter, his tired eyes possessing a will of their own to ignore the blackness outside the kitchen window, the hour of the night. The first bus of the day rumbles away from its stop outside. That would make it 5:17. A wine bottle shakes in its cubby. Sounds of rain and wind suggest an autumn crispness to the air. He suspects–he knows–that it would be bitterly cold instead. If this kitchen is no longer a place of warmth and solace, it at least provides protection from that.

Before him, tendrils of scarlet descend through a tumbler of water. Berry flavor, innocent in low-carb tastiness. It is something.

The fruity drink-to-be morphs further, the red besieging the clear with an almost violent efficiency. Blood in the water. Larger bits dissolve as they sink, giving up more of themselves to the cause. Rocks entering atmosphere. Shrinking with progress, refusing to admit how temporary they are. Ignorant, perhaps, of being consumed.

Behind him, the broccoli stir fry pan is still dirty. A wine bottle nobody bothered to cork. Bits of decimated green on the counter, flimsy slices of white–the water chestnuts. He likes them. Water chestnuts will have to be part of his future, somewhere in that Big Country song. Rolling hills, the unknown.

A meow and soft brush at the shins announce the family pet. A sigh escapes. Cats don’t understand sighs. The tabby usually chatters at the blue jays, happy in his contained world.

The kids are both at sleepovers. No audience last night. How much do they understand? Too young, he supposes.

Papers are scattered about the island counter. A mortgage statement, the high-cost phone plan, a Macy’s receipt. Artillery. Pie pieces. Numbers calculated on the couch while he evaded sleep. Safety in the quiet dark.

His eyes roll to three clumsily-painted tiles hanging above the stove. The outer ones are his daughter’s, such vibrant green and purple. Nearby is the simple black coffee maker, still chugging strong after fifteen years of brewing. Above, the cobweb he’s always been reluctant to reach with a broom, so close to clean dishes and cutting boards.

“Christ,” he thinks, “I liked this kitchen.”

The beverage is now completely red. Crystals made it to the bottom, like sediment. If he stirs it, will more flavor be offered up? Would that be the point?

Another sigh. Another ‘coulda-been’ floats to the ceiling, toward the cobweb.


Kitchen with pantry door crease down the middle, red trim and dragon image on the periphery.

Endgame Agent Chat

“Endgame” is now available. The snipers, the quest to be human, the fun animals, the stuff exploding–all of it.

My guesstimate is that the book has taken 1,500 hours so far (including the note-taking and writing fits over the first two years). Because this wannabe bestseller is entirely a product of my imagination, my imagination has often wandered off to the willow trees and thrown some colorful stuff over his shoulder. The following chunk is how I imagine my 15-minute sit-down in a literary agent’s office would go (provided they actually read the whole novel).


Agent: “You fool, you can’t write a story with a cataclysmic battle at the beginning. It has to build to the big battle. Hollywood won’t like it. And if Hollywood doesn’t like it, people won’t buy it. You’re wasting your time.”

Agent: “You fool, you can’t write as an intelligent, level-headed woman. You’re not one! That’s a stupid idea. You’re wasting your time.”

(Creative license?)

Agent: “You fool, you can’t craft a story where the heroine’s mentor dies in the beginning. It has to be schmaltzy, and he has to say something really sage before he’s cut down by a blade in self-sacrifice (he can’t be crushed by falling rock, for God’s sake). Who taught you? You’re wasting your time.”

Agent: “You fool, nobody wants any more of this world-building stuff. We’ve got all the planets and parallel universes and fantasy realms we can handle. This one doesn’t even involve earth people. You’re an idiot. You’re wasting your time.”

(We can’t be everywhere.)

Agent: “You fool, you put the story on an ice planet where humans–and all these other colorful folk–can’t really live. Who wants to read about that? We’ve already had our fill of Shackleton. Next. And you’re wasting your time.”

Agent: “You fool, whales that walk on land? Are you kidding me?”

Me: Well, I didn’t say they’re reffing soccer games or playing the church organ. Whales on earth used to walk on land–scientists have proven it.”

Agent: “Yeah, imagine trying to make them the star of the picture. Now these, uh, ghost bird thingies. That might be something. Re-write it to make them important. Until then, you’re wasting your time.”

Agent: “What’s with all the damned stories? The heroes find a cave, spend the night, and move on. Bam. No need to talk about war or how bad the Mitochon…Master…Micronesians are.”

Me: “Mitasterites.”

Agent: “Whatever. Bad gray guys. Although now I rather like that name. Like cancer, Mitasti…mitast…ah, however the hell you say it. I bet you didn’t know that.”

(Nope. No idea.)

Agent: “You were foolish to write it in first-person, you know. Then you can’t see it when the big gas station blows up. And then those big cruisers in orbit–now that would be something! Instead you’ve got Jennifer imagining it, and then the crap comes down from orbit. Cha-ching.”

(Her name’s June. She’s my hero.)

Agent: “The shark dream, that’s interesting. Re-write it so she, your hero, get’s swallowed and then has to blast her way out. Costner did it in that flick.”

(Oh God, now you’re bringing up “Waterworld.” Sound of toilet flushing.)

Agent: “Now all this other junk–the guy losing his arm, the hermit, the dumb stories about Jennifer’s past, jury-rigging a ship to fly, the flaming debris–”

Me: “You liked the debris a minute ago.”

Agent: “I did? Whatever. Just get rid of it. Good guys, bad guys. Lots of lasers and crap blowing up. Bad guys come to club the baby seals for fur, Jennifer screams ‘No’, big firefight, take off in the bad guy ship. That’s how you write a story, Jason. Bam. The end.”

Me: “Thank you for taking time out of your schedule, sir.” (Sarcasm–a universal language, for some.)


Endgame novel cover mock-up