Splurge #1: microfiction

This is just something I threw together at work. I’m not sure where I’m gonna go with it, yet. Just threw it together and figured I’d put it out there.

Haven’t proofread or anything so please excuse any mistakes.

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We always tell ourselves that it will be a rejection letter. We know better than to get our hopes up. But that does nothing to temper the disappointment when you peel back the top of that envelope and see that it, in fact, a rejection letter.
My mother was strong; she always recovered quickly.
“Oh well,” she’d say. “Knew that was coming, right kid?”
“Yep,” I’d respond with a shrug. I never hinted that I saw her falter, that I saw the air escape from her like she’d taken a hard blow to the midsection, that I saw her muscles dissolve and her skin droop lazily against her bones; I never let her know I saw her moment of weakness. And I always walked away before you could see mine.
“Next time, kiddo. They’ll pick us next time.”
“Yep…”

The Last Lie

Decided to post on of my micros! If you like it, buy it on your Kindle. Why would you buy a story you’ve just read for free, you ask? Because, Asshole! 

Enjoy :)

 

 

 

 

The Last Lie

 

 

 

What have I done?

 

I’m sitting in this empty room – white walls, stucco ceiling, wood floors – full of boxes still needing unpacking. The only furniture, besides the stool I am sitting on, is the massive, drawer-less dresser sitting in the middle of the floor, her dresser. It looks skeletal sitting there stripped to its bare frame, like a shell of what it should be; perhaps that emptiness is what drew me to it. Perhaps, that’s why I’ve been sitting here, staring into the mirror mounted on its back all morning.  Empty, but still able to project the image it was given, as it was expected to; still able to keep appearances. I’ve always hated this dresser.

 

What have I done? 

 

I just stare at him.

It is just us, now.

He is supposed to be me. He is supposed to be nothing more than my own light, fed to the glass and silver and shown back to me.  But how can that be? Look at him. He’s young, he’s handsome; sure he looks tired, but he does not look weary, does not look fatigued, does not look as though life itself is becoming a burden too heavy for him to bear. Look at him; nice teeth, glowing skin, stylish hair. He looks like he’s ready to take on the world – perhaps first he’ll take on a toothbrush and a cup of coffee, but then the world.

He is supposed to be me? This man, in his universe of silver and glass, was born of my light? How is that even possible when I have no more light to give? My light is dying; it could not satiate the hunger of the mirror well enough to produce such a pristine image.

Yet, he is supposed to be me, or better yet, I am supposed to be him.

I’d like to blame him; his smiles, his joy, his energy. I’d like to say that those things are what have gotten me here, but he has only done what I asked him to do, what I did so long and couldn’t do anymore. I invited him in, instructed him, and watched idly as he fooled all the people in my life just as I once had.

All I wanted was to hide my pain from them. I wanted to spare them from having to know what I was going through, what I was feeling. I wanted to spare her especially. I still do. I dug myself into this happy hole. I could’ve avoided it early on with honesty, but instead I started living this charade. So now what should I do? Tell them the truth after years of lies?

I’m sorry, but I don’t love you, I don’t know if I ever really did. I didn’t want to hurt you, I still don’t want to hurt you, but living this lie is eating me away inside. It’s killing me. I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t do that. Not now. It wouldn’t just hurt her, it would hurt them all. No, I put myself into this and now I just have to deal. But dealing is becoming all the more painful – the fake smiles, the fake cheer - it is all becoming too heavy, and I am cracking under the load.

That’s why I let him do it.

He gives everyone the feigned smiles I can no longer deliver. The weight of it was crushing me, but everyone else was happy. I am sparing them all the pain of knowing the truth, or perhaps I was sparing myself from having to watch them suffer the truth. Either way, he plays his role well.

“How excited are you, Hon? Our own place!” I remember hearing her say to him one day, while sitting on his lap.

“It’s wonderful, Babe,” he lied. “I can’t wait to finally start our lives together.”

While I wept, he looked her in the eyes and smiled.

It was a perfect smile. So perfect that, without him, I would’ve broke under its load.

“I Know! I’m so excited! You love me?”

I was going to tell her the truth right then, I was going to do it. I was going to apologize for all the years of lying and just come clean. I didn’t want to hurt you, but I can’t go through with this anymore. I can’t give my whole life to you on this pretense of love that doesn’t exist and maybe never did!

That’s what I was going to say, but his resolve was stronger than mine. He did not stray from his assignment.

“Of course I do, Babe.”

He’s good. The happy-face and the lies that were becoming like load of lead to me, he can easily handle. He knows the cost of the truth; he knows that it will ease no pain, only transfer it from me to them, and if one of us had to bear it, then it is I that deserves it. That is why I’m sitting in this empty room, gazing at him through this barrier of glass, asking myself one question.

 

What have I done?

 

“You OK, Hon?”

I turn to the doorway where she stands, a concerned look on her face. I turn back to him for help, but I’ve temporarily trapped him in his prison of silver and glass. He cannot help me now.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I mutter to the floor.

“Why are you just sitting there in your underwear, staring at the mirror like a weirdo?”

“Uh, I don’t know, just tired I guess,” I say through a forced half-grin. “Just zoning out, or something.”

“Um, OK,” she says through a small giggle. “Well, I’ll be downstairs unpacking, come down when you get a little more awake. Love you.”

I simply nod and grin. I don’t have it in me to tell another lie.

I look back toward him with envy. It is so easy for him to wear this guise of happiness; he doesn’t have to feel the pain that came with it.

Why can’t I be stronger? I say I lie to spare them, to spare her, but have I spared anyone? Or have I just trapped us all in this downward  spiral of an empty loveless life, full of resentment and self-loathing. Have I really spared anyone?

It doesn’t matter, I thought as I used the razor to trace the big blue vein in my arm from wrist to shoulder.

And as my head lie down on the dresser, watching the beautiful, crimson falls, flow away from my body, he reached down and began softly stroking my face. Lovingly.

I smiled.

And for the first time that I can remember…

 

The smile was weightless…

Acceptance

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Change is not always welcome, but it always comes. The only things that one might be certain of in life are death, change. One can be pretty sure of love, loss, successes, failures, heartbreak, sadness, joy, contentment, depression, anger, sex, drugs, fights and make-ups, friends becoming old friends, strangers becoming new friends, and a few other things; but the only things one can be CERTAIN of are change and death.

I resisted change, like most of us, and failed, like most of us. In my mind, I’m still resisting. I don’t want to move; I like where I live. I know this place. I’m comfortable. But deep down I know that knowledge and comfort are the enemy of growth; so is sameness. If I want to rise, I’ll have to fight for it. It won’t be easy from any aspect, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s better to find a comfortable spot, tuck myself in there, and stay. Comfort doesn’t exist on the climb, only at the peak. And success is never reaching the peak, but always climbing.

Change is not welcome, but it’s coming. It’s here.

I’ll find the good in it.

The Road We Travel

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Stop and think for a second. If you were to ask the you of ten years ago where they would be in ten years, would they have said they’d be where you are today? Let me rephrase: at this point in your life, are you where you’d thought you’d be? Where you hoped you’d be? Where you wish you were?

This coming Friday, July 13, is my 26th birthday, and I’ve been pondering this question a little. When I hit 26, I will officially be closer to 30 than I am to 20 (yes, I know that I was closer to 30 than 20 when I was 25 years and 1 day old, but you get what I’m saying… asshole). Seeing the big three-oh on the horizon makes it difficult to live in the delusion of eternal youth and unlimited time. Truth is, I’m getting old (older anyway) and there is a limit to the amount of time I have on this earth, and to the amount of time I have to do the things I’ve set out to do in this life. Time only moves in one direction, and the clock is always ticking.

In a movie I saw recently (the title escapes me) a company is downsizing and our protagonist is being fired from his job. After delivering the news, his boss says, “Just move on to plan B.” to which the man replies, “This was plan B!” The line made me laugh out loud, but thinking about it more seriously, this is true for almost all of us, save for those kids in, or fresh out of, school that haven’t gotten that far yet. We’re all living our Plan Bs. When we’re young, we all have ideas of how our lives are going to go: graduate high school, go to college, get a good job, white picket fence, etc. That may not be everyone’s blueprint, but it’s probably the most popular one. How many of us are still on that path? Or whatever path you laid out for yourself? I know I’m nowhere near mine.

I graduated High School with good grades, and went on to college, where I did pretty well. Going into my fourth semester, though, things took a turnaround. The on-campus job I’d picked up wasn’t cutting it (my funds were so low that I actually had to spend some of my time sober! *gasp*) so I was searching for a new way to bring in the dough. For the hell of it, I tossed a resume on Monster, thinking that a company related to my field of study might hire me to do something, and then I’d be killing two birds with one stone (fuck birds!). Three days later, I got a phone call. Turns out, the company calling me had nothing to do with my field of study – they were a trucking company – but they had decided they wanted to infuse their organization with youth, and were offering very good money to work for them – better money than my mom was making at the time. To me, it was a fortune. I took the job. Soon after, I got a promotion. More money. More hours. Not good for the schooling. Eventually, school fell by the wayside and I became an official college dropout (I swear I’m just taking a break! I’m going back real soon). When I look back, I tell myself that, if I’d stayed in and gotten my degree: 1. I probably wouldn’t have gotten a job because of the economic collapse of ’08, and 2. If I did get a job in my field of study (Sport and Exercise Science) I’d most likely be making less money than I am now (I still work for the trucking company). Both these statements are true, but the fact is, this isn’t how I planned it, and sometimes I wish it hadn’t gone that way, and I’d just stuck in school. But it did, and I didn’t, and that’s OK, too.

Life is silly like that. It doesn’t give one fuck about the plans you make when you sit down, with all the wisdom of your teenage mind, and map out what’s going to happen for the rest of your earthly existence. Not one fuck. There will always be forks in the road, at which you’ll be forced to make decisions that you never planned for. There will always be bends, detours, closures, construction, bridges out, traffic, streakers, and drunk drivers that are there for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc. There’s nothing any of us can do in these conditions except for react and move, and sometimes that motion puts us on an entirely different path, and all we can do once there is try our hardest to trudge forward from wherever we land, and smile while doing it.

Am I where I thought I’d be at 26? Well, I’m not a trainer; I don’t own a gym; I’m not a physical therapist, nor am I in graduate school to be so; and I’m not yet a published author; so, NO.

Where I hoped I’d be? Ten years ago, I hoped I’d be rich by this time, so it’s a no on that one, too.

Where I wish I was? Well, let’s see. I sure wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else. This isn’t a perfect situation, definitely isn’t a dream life (where are the BIKINI-CLAD WOMEN?!), but I’m perfectly content with this. I’m close to my home, close to my family, and I’m able to work toward my dream every day. So, no life hasn’t followed the straight path to the good life I’d planned out before college, it’s thrown its fair share of surprises, twist, and disappointments, but I’ll take it.

Introspection #1

I’ll probably never be a famous author. I doubt I’ll ever win any awards. When I die, few people that don’t share my last name will remember me. It’s unlikely I’ll leave anything behind worth a second look. And the odds are against me winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

These are just the facts.

I try, though. Every day I write. I revise what I’ve written to make it better. I read books about writing, I order writing magazines, read writing blogs. I read non-stop, hoping that some of what made other authors famous will permeate into me through their words (it does, by the way). I blog, so that hopefully people will get to know me, like me, and want to see my work. I’ll be making YouTube videos for the same reason. The hill is steep, and the odds of me even making it off the ground are insanely low, but I try. I never stop reaching for that elusive little kitten! I want it!

I talk a lot about dream chasing, about aspiring for greatness, about reaching to achieve one’s goals, probably to the point of annoyance to those who hear it (or, more accurately, read it on Facebook and Twitter). But how can I help it? How could I not talking about trying to do the impossible, the improbable, when I live it every day? I feel the weight of the task every time I sit down at my computer, every time I take off down that dark tunnel and can’t even feel a hint of light at the end. And I love it. If there’s a better feeling in the world than knowing your busting your ass to achieve your dreams, then I haven’t found it, and I’ve licked one of those toxic Brazilian toads (trippy), so I feel like I HAVE to tell others about it. Not the toad, you fuckin’ weirdo, the dream-chasing!

 

“But TJ, it’s really hard, and odds are it’ll never happen anyway. It’d be smarter for me to just stay here at McDonalds and focus my energy and climbing up the corporate ladder here!”

Oh, you shut the fuck up! Yes, continue your job at McDonalds and, yes, try to advance, but you must also push yourself to do better. Is it hard? Yes it’s hard! Life is hard! Penises are also hard sometimes. My point is: you’ve got to do these hard things. Attack them with reckless abandon! You have no idea the happiness it will bring you just to know you’re trying! Don’t be intimidated.

 

“But TJ, I’ve gotten so far off track, it’s too late!”

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out of college! Now, we don’t think much of that, but at the time, I’m sure they, and their parents, saw that as going pretty far “off track.” There’s no boat that’s so far off course it can’t be corrected. And yes, you’re the boat in that analogy.

 

“But TJ, I don’t have time.”

Bullshit. Make time.

 

“But TJ, my friends will think I’m ridiculous if I tell them I want to be a ballet dancer/acrobat/Olympic curler/ alligator wrangler.”

Ah, the judgment of your peers. I’ve been writing since I was twelve, yet never said a word about it. You see, like any other kid with his priorities in proper order, I knew being cool was the most important thing in my life. Writing is not cool. As I got older, the uncoolness mixed with the outrageousness of the aspiration and I still dared not say anything. We all go through it… Well, most of us, and Zeus bless the people that don’t. I’m 25, and only recently have I began openly talking about my ambition to be a writer. Even now, there are still probably some people who know me and don’t know that. Bottom line: your real friends will support (or at least not discourage) what you want to do. Weed out the negatives Nancys; you don’t need them anyway.

Yeah, that’s right, Nancy. Told you I was gonna call your bitch-ass out!

 

“But TJ – “

No! I’m done! Your excuses are lame as fuck! I’ll tell you your real excuse: you’re afraid to fail. Well, fuck that! Get out there and fail. Then fail again! And fail a dozen more times for good measure! Dr. Seuss was rejected like 50 times! Is that failure? Do you DARE call Dr. Seuss a failure?

No.

You’ve only failed when you quit; it’s cliché, but it’s true. So long as you’re trudging up that mountain, or crawling through that tunnel, you’re winning. So stop making excuses and get to it. Keep reaching for that delicious-looking kitten, fat little baby laying your belly. Keep reaching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterword

 

Hey peeps. Hope you enjoyed the post. Just wanted to give you some news.

 

1. The official new post day will be every other Tuesday, starting today. Not to say things won’t get dropped in between those days, those are just the days when a post can be counted on.

 

2. I’ve put two of my short stories for sale on Amazon: “The Last Lie”, and “The Curse.” Buy them! The slave children that wrote them will appreciate it! Thanks.

Lost in Translation (Original title, right?)

Most books are terrible. That’s just the long and short of it. The simple, undeniable truth. Most books suck. In the past, we were saved from the worst of these gouge-my-eyes-out-with-my-severed-thumbs awful books, but now, in a world where the internet has lubed the pipes of self-publishing with the jelly of ease and affordability, they are everywhere. They. Are. Everywhere.

Usually, no one hears much of anything about these terrible books. Because they’re so bad, they lack the necessary backing to be properly promoted and publicized. No one will touch them. I wouldn’t touch them; what if they’re contagious? I can’t afford to have my writing get any worse, I have to threaten people at gunpoint to read it now.

Anyway, I’m not writing to tell you that there are bad books out there; we all know that already. Some of us may have written one (no one bats 1000). No, I’m not just rambling, there is a question I’d like to pose to you, one that’s been bouncing around in my head for a long time. But before I get to the question, I want to tell you about a terrible book I’ve read recently. When I originally formulated the idea for this blog, I planned to leave out the title of the book and its author. I mean, let’s be honest, no one knows who the fuck I am. I’m trying to build a name for myself here, so coming out insulting books and pissing people off may not be the best way to go. But then I said, “Fuck it” (if you follow my posts, you’ll see I say this a lot). First of all, all you have to do is go to my Goodreads page and look at my reviews to figure out the book I’m talking about. Secondly, this is my blog, these are my opinions, and I can express them if I want. Authors (and actors, and singers, and painters, etc.) put their work out there to be criticized and should be able to take it. I can. *kanyeshrug*

So, the terrible book I will be talking about is called Ali and Ramazan, written by Perihan Magden, translated by Ruth Whitehouse. It. Is. Awful! So awful, in fact, I urge you to buy it so that we can discuss together how awful it is (I’m testing this out for when my own books comes up for sale). (By the way, this book was not self-published, which shows that even professionals get it wrong.)

Let’s talk about the book (SPOILER ALERT, it sucks). Two boys, Ali and Ramazan, meet in an orphanage as young children, fall in love, and have a destructive relationship until one of them dies. Of course, that’s a slightly simplified synopsis, but it pretty much gathers it up. Now, don’t think just because I can sum up the book in one sentence that that is why it’s bad, no! I’ve read a handful of wonderful books I could sum up in one sentence. Novels that lean away from plot tend to be easy to summarize. The core story of the book is actually its redeeming quality and the only reason I finished it.

Wait? What the hell did you just say, TJ? Did you say the story is, at its core, decent, but the book sucks? I thought it was all about the story, that’s what Stephen King said. I don’t understand this, TJ! Why are you playing mind games with me! Make the voices stop! PLEASE!

Relax! Gosh! Yes, of course, the story is very important. But the number one most important aspect in any piece of literature is the CLEAR COMMUNICATION OF THE STORY. If you have a great story and you try to have your one year old tell it to me, it won’t come across well and I’ll probably get frustrated and punch the kid. I hate kids.

Anyway, so if the story is good, what’s the problem? I’ll tell you.

The writing is terrible.

Now, usually when I say this, I mean that the prose is terrible. I mean that the writer didn’t transition well, or that their language was too convoluted, or that it didn’t flow quite right, or something like that. I don’t mean that now. When I say, “the writing was terrible” I mean that this author didn’t seem to understand the basic fundamentals of the written English language: sentence structure, dialogue, and she seemed to have an especially hard time with the function of a paragraph. A few sentences on one central idea, then move on to the next! C’mon, Bro! I understand authors bend and break the rules all the time – a well timed sentence-fragment might be the best weapon in writing – but at least show me you know them! Wow!

Problem number two: pace. Now, let me step back; the whole reason I read this book when I did is because I’d just finished reading the wonderful book, 1Q84, a book that was released as a trilogy in Japan, but as one massive tome here in the US. It’s long as fuck. After reading that, I needed something short to reset myself. I perused my shelf and saw the tiny, large-worded Ali and Ramazan and grabbed it. But it seems the very thing that made me grab it, worked against it. The entire book was rushed. Seriously. I can think of one section that was too long, and another that was just right, but the rest was just whizzed through. I mean, we’re talking about a very destructive, very sad, very tormented relationship between these two boys that goes from age 8 to age 30something. The book’s brevity should’ve been a signal to me, but I missed it.

There was one more major problem with the book (I won’t even make an attempt at the minor ones) and that is… *drumroll* … it TELLS. Any aspiring author on the planet that’s ever asked for advice (and probably those who haven’t) have heard the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.”There are probably people out there with no interest in writing that have heard it before. But damn is it deep, right? I mean… show don’t tell? What the hell does that even mean? Why do you talk in riddles, old man? What? Well, children, if you want your answer, go read this book. It is TOLD, TOLD, TOLD. That’s the main reason it’s so short; it takes time to show a reader what’s happening, it takes only a second to tell him.

Romeo and Juliet fell in love. Their families wouldn’t let them be together. Juliet faked her death to be with Romeo. Romeo didn’t realize the death was fake, so he killed himself. Juliet rose to find Romeo dead and killed herself. And then they were dead and making rhymes about woeful love.

^See. Quick.

I urge any aspiring authors, writers, bloggers, poets, singers, actors, swimmers, football players, strippers, et cetera to go read this book? Why? Why would I suggest you read a terrible book? Because I hate you! I’m kidding J, actually it’s because I believe whole-heartedly that a terrible book can help improve your writing just as much as a good book. Once you see WHY it’s bad, you won’t mimic the mistakes. Plus, it will boost your confidence. If that shit can get published, I can surely dominate the world and enslave humanity; at least South Dakota anyway.

Now, back to that question. Remember early on I mentioned I had a question to ask of y’all (yes, I said y’all). Well, first I have to point out something else I said earlier: this book was originally written in another language and translated to English. So, the question is: who’s at fault, writer or translator? Some things are clear – the way the story rushes through everything is clearly the writer – but what of the writing? What of the fact the story is TOLD not SHOWN? These things could be the fault of either party, or the fault could be shared between them. It’s certainly not the concept of a translated book; as I said, I read 1Q84 right before reading this book, and it was translated by two different people, still great.

So whose fault is it?

Every person I’ve asked thus far has said the same thing: give the write the benefit of the doubt, blame the translator. I don’t know if I buy it, though. And if it is solely the fault of the translator, what does that say about the role an author should play in that process? How big of a role can an author play when the book is being translated to a language that he himself does not speak?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. Answers are hard, questions are easy.

Thoughts?Imageost in

What up, World?!

What’s up, WordPress?! I beat the fuck out of bear today! What have you done?

Ok, that’s not entirely true (nor is it partially true) there are no bears in Ohio. I’m sure you’re think, “If there are no bears to get into fisticuffs with, what is the right of passage from boyhood to manhood?”
We start a blog and try to trick one person into reading it. Ha! I win!

Anyway, where was I going with this?….. Oh. Yes. Blog! WELCOME!

Welcome to my blog, guys (I considers “guys” a unisex pronoun, FYI). My name is TJ Coles and I’m handsome, witty, extremely intelligent, and I base my morals on the concept of unending humility. I’m a wannabe writer, so occasionally I’ll be trying to shove my writings down your throat. Don’t worry, I’m far too mentally unstable to use this strictly as a promotional tool. A platform to get my opinions out to the world, unfiltered, or at least to the people who read this (hi mom!) that’s too much power not to abuse!

I want to get my words heard (the first step to any good world domination plan) so I’ll be blogging about whatever my little schizophrenic mind thinks up, and you WILL enjoy it, humans!

Hope to see you back!
(Ignore the subliminal code below.)
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