Pomegranate Seeds and Stress

Right now, there are four different types of yogurt in my refrigerator. There’s two types of Greek yogurt. There’s that kind where turn up a corner of the package to dump “mixin’s” into the yogurt. I think the one in the fridge has apple slices or something. Then there’s a couple of cups of Icelandic skyr style yogurt. That’s mine. I like it because it has a lot of protein, not a lot of sugar (so it’s not real sweet), and the girls don’t like it. Katie once said it tasted like cream cheese. Whatever. I like cream cheese.

I just made myself a big bowl of yogurt concoction. Vanilla skyr. Strawberry Greek yogurt. Then blueberries. That would have been enough. That should have been enough. But then I added dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. I didn’t need those. It probably doubled the calories of the dish. I saw them in their pouch in the fridge (why are they in the fridge?) and stared at them, then caved and dumped a handful in my bowl.

I did this because I’m stressed. Stressed about work. Stressed about…work. Also, work. Work is stressing me out. So I eat. I’m a stress eater. This makes me sad. Being stressed about work makes me sad, so I want to eat. And I eat and them I’m sad because I ate. The most frustrating part is knowing and recognizing these things as they are happening. I shouldn’t be stressed about work. It’s just a job. Or another job. I think to myself “don’t stress about this. It will be ok. Everything will be ok.” And everything WILL be ok. No matter what happens, at the end of the day I will be ok. Everyone will be ok. I’m not a doctor – there’s no one’s life on the line. Everyone, everything will be ok.

I know this, but…I still grab the damn dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds.

Quick aside: Some rednecks just drove a bus off a ramp into a pair of flaming buses on AGT. Pam’s commentary? “That’s all they did?” One day I’ll write about how amazing my wife is at commentating MMA fights…

I finished all the yogurt and the blueberries and the dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. It was good. But it didn’t help.


Sorry it took me a while to post. You may have heard, work has been stressing me out. That’s no excuse though, so I apologize. I tried something different tonight. Gave myself 20 minutes to write what was on my mind. Kind of stream of consciousness. Kind of journal entry. Just to let off some pressure.

It’s Wednesday night. Next post will be Monday evening.

The Stuck Nut

“Shiii…..!” The wrench clangs to the asphalt. He shakes his hand, pulling it from the wheel well, blobs of blood already bubbling to the surface. “Dammit…”

“Are you ok?” comes a meek voice behind him.

“Yeah,” he mumbles. The blood is bright red against his grease covered hands.

“You’re bleeding!” the boy shouts.

“I’ll be all right.” His hand and wrist are throbbing – the jam nut still holding tight on the inner tie rod. “Let’s take a break.” He rises from the tool box, with his hand held lamely in front of him and stretches his back. The boy bounds off into the garage, and returns quickly with a handful of paper towels. He holds them out to his step-father.

“Thanks.” He blots the blood of his thumb, and the rivulets running down his arm.

“Does it hurt?”

“A little…I’ll be all right.”

Inside, they both wash their hands and sit at the table to lunch. Tabitha brought subs back from the grocery store, much to the delight of the boy.

Shortly, Tab comes up from the basement with a basket of laundry, she sets it on the floor by the stairs.

“How’s it comin’?” she asks.

“It’s comin’.”

“Jake cut his hand,” the boy offers.

“What?”

“It’s nothing. Wrench slipped.”

“Why aren’t you wearing your gloves?”

Jake chomps his sandwich and she gives him that look where one eye stares harder than the other.

“No, we ‘have to get our hands dirty.’ See?” The boy holds his hands up and shows his greasy palms to his mother.

“Good lord! Jake!?”

“Randall, who’s side are you on here, boy?”

The boy laughs out loud, with a mouth full of Italian sub.

“Just make sure you wash up before you touch anything…BOTH of you!”

She picks up the basket and heads up the stairs. The boy is still chuckling as Jake shakes his head.

A can of WD-40 and a close call with a tipping jack stand later, the jam nut still refuses to yield. With the sun slinking back into the trees, the shadows on the driveway are getting long. Jake rubs his wrist and unrolls his sleeves down.

“Go put a jacket on,” he tells his step-son.

Randall pauses, mouth open as if to protest, then dashes off inside. Randall returns to find Jake leaning his full weight onto the wrench. He groans, bounces, curses, and slumps back down onto the tool box, he’d been using as a stool.

“Why do we have to get the old nut off, anyway?” Randall asks. “Can’t we just screw the new tie rod end on just like the old one came off?”

At this point in the afternoon and declining temperature, this option initially appeals to Jake.

“Well…” He slides the toolbox back a bit and turns so he can see the boy kneeling behind him. “You have to do it right. Sometimes…when something breaks or wears out, like this old tie rod end, you have to replace everything. So that it works right.”

“You have to replace everything?” Randall is looking into the wheel well, and the stubborn jam nut.

“You never know what part was the problem. Now…odds are that this jam nut wasn’t the problem. In fact, judging by how…difficult…it’s being, it’s probably stuck in there for good.”

“So…is it ok if we leave it on there? If it’s stuck for good?”

Jake looks at the boy, staring into the wheel well, furrowing his brow and trying to make sense of the tangle of metal and tubing and the stuck nut.

“We can give it a shot. See if it holds together.”

The boy smiles.

“All right, now turn it to the left.”

Randall, hunched on top of the wheel, turns it hand-over-hand, all the way to the bump stop.

“Good! Now back to the right!”

In the dark, with the flood light shining next to him, Jake’s shadow casts large against the back wall of the garage. He waves his arms high over his head like he’s landing a plane.

“Keep going – back and forth.”

He moves to the passenger side and puts his head into the still wheel-less wheel well. The boy’s heart quickens a bit as Jake disappears from view.

“Slowly!” Jake yells. There’s no noise from the new parts. No shuddering or thumping. Everything moves like it should.

“Slower!” Randall turns the wheel at a snail’s pace. Jake’s gaze is fixed on the stubborn jam nut. As the spindle moves slowly back and forth, the nut doesn’t budge.

He stands and rubs at the dull ache in his wrist.

“Well, I don’t hear anything. Everything looks rock solid. Have to test drive it tomorrow. Shut if off like I showed you and climb out.”

“We’re done? It’s all fixed?”

“Yep. It’s all back together.”


 

This is a story a wrote when I was in school (the second time). It became the first part of a larger piece about Jake and Tabitha. The other pieces and the overall story needs a little work, but I will post them from time to time.

Sorry I missed my deadline this week. It’s been a busy week and is going to get busier, but that’s no excuse. It is Tuesday evening, the next post will be Sunday evening.

Loved

“Loved.”

“Loved?”

“Yes. You asked why I thought he was lying. He used the word ‘loved.’ ‘I really loved it.’ That’s what he said and I knew he was full of it.” Shauna drops her eyes to the kitchen island countertop, her fingers idly tracing a vein in the granite, stopping to pick at the base of her wine glass.

Frankie shrugs and lifts her own glass and swirls the bright yellow chardonnay. Seated on the counter, she drums her heels softly on the cabinets below.

“Maybe he meant it?” Frankie takes a sip.

“Pfft. It meant he wasn’t paying attention.” Shauna takes a sip of her own. “Rob’s never loved anything. For as long as we’ve been married, everywhere we go, everything we do, he finds some fault. There’s always something wrong. If he had said ‘it was good but it was too dark’ or ‘the accompaniment was drowning you out’ I would at least know he was paying attention. Instead, I get ‘It was great. I really loved it.’ I bet he was buried in his phone the whole time. You didn’t see him in there, did you?”

“No…not until the end, when everyone was filing out.”

“How full was it? It was hard to see the seats from back stage.”

“It wasn’t ‘Back to School Night’ crowded, but…good crowd.”

Shauna takes another long sip from her glass, sets it down and pushes her hair behind her ears.

“You sure he didn’t mean it? You sang beautifully. Maybe it struck a chord in him. Maybe he was overwhelmed by seeing his beautiful wife up on stage, in the spot light…”

“Yeah, right. You saw how fast he got out of there. I barely got a peck on the cheek before he was out the door, back to the office.”

“…Maybe he was intimidated.”

Shauna raises an eyebrow. “Rob?”

“Yeah. Maybe. He’s always been the big shot attorney. Center of attention. Maybe he was intimidated to see your talent out there on display. In front of the whole community.”

“I don’t know about that.” Shauna replies with half a smirk.

“Sure! Now at the dinner parties everyone will be all ‘Shauna sing for us! Sing us a song! Sing Walking After Midnight!

Shauna coughs as she chokes down a gulp of chardonnay between laughter.

“Then someone’ll be at the piano, playing…I don’t know…Fly Me to the Moon…and you’ll be singing and everyone will be all,” Frankie puts her fists under her chin and bats big Bambi eyes up at an imaginary Shauna. “And poor ol’ Rob will have to stand in the kitchen all by himself. No one to tell his $500 scotch story too.” She adds “Boo hoo” in the style of Droopy Dog.

Shauna is in fits. She is careful to place the wine glass down and step away, lest the shaking and giggling spill its contents. They both laugh until tears well in the corners of their eyes. Shauna takes her glass, exhales and takes a sip.

“I don’t know Fly Me to the Moon.”

“Whatever, you can learn it. And sing the shit out of it, too.”

Shauna smiles.

“I’m sorry he didn’t react the way you wanted. He’s a dick…”

Shauna shrugs her eyebrows and brings her wine glass to her lips.

“But I’m proud of you. And Greg’s proud of you, too!”

“I’m proud of you!” Greg calls from the small office at the other end of the wood hallway.

Shauna chuckles.

“It took a lot of guts to get up there and sing for people like that. I’ve seen – and heard – how hard you worked and practiced, and it was amazing. Really amazing.”

Frankie hugs her friend.

“Thank you.” Shauna bows her head and takes the last of sip of her wine.

“I mean it. I mean I…I…”

Shauna furrows her brow as Frankie’s smirk grows.

“I really loved it.”

“Oh eff you!” Shauna yells and they both erupt.


This started as a writing exercise based on the following prompt from “642 Tiny Things to Write About” by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto: “His lie would have fooled her, except for one word that gave him away. What was that word?”

First word that came to my mind was “loved.” Story just kind of came quickly after that.

It’s Thursday night. Next post will be Sunday morning.

Virginia Sun

Emerging from the briars onto the road, the heat is relentless. In the woods, the heat hung close to the ground. In the road, the heat is everywhere.

With a half-strength tug, he frees his shirt from a final persistent sticker, and shuffles onto the sun bleached dirt. He dips his head as his eyes adjust to the full strength of the morning sun. He looks west, where the road enters the tree line. About a quarter-mile into the woods, the road crosses the stream they tapped, only a couple hundred yards from the campsite. From there it winds around the hills until finally meeting up with the pavement. To the east, the road cuts a barren path through scrub brush spreading out to distant trees and hills. He squints and can just make out the tops of the power lines through the heat waves. There must be another road out there. He looks back to the tree line, then turns to the east and starts walking.

His left leg drags as it slowly loses strength. With his right, he pulls himself in short, shuffling steps through the Virginia heat. He grimaces with every step. Cracked ribs scream from under his sweat soaked t-shirt. He stops and inspects his throbbing head. His scalp is tender, there’s a knot forming on the back of his skull, but he sees no blood on his hand when he checks. He glances quickly at his left hand, pressed to his side, catches a glimpse of red and continues shuffling down the road.

“Fourteen-hundred dollars…” he says slowly shaking his head.

The sun is glaring straight down on him now. His head is pounding. He’s about a half mile from where he started. His left leg is completely numb, and the red is soaking through his shirt. It seeps through his fingers and drips a muddy dotted line marking his progress. He tentatively pulls his hand away from the wound, winces, then quickly puts it back.

The bright sun on his face momentarily dulls the pain in his head. The numbness in his leg has spread and his arm shakes. He breathes deep. Squeezes his eyes tightly shut as the pounding returns. He drops his head, and tries to will his legs to keep him moving, when a car door slams behind him.

He whirls quickly, with wild eyes and ready to fight them off again. His concussed brain takes a moment to register and recognize the Sheriff Deputy’s cruiser. When it does, he collapses onto the ground, legs sprawled in front of him. He looks up at Deputy Clement and opens his left hand, slick with sweat and blood.

Standing above the wounded man, Clement takes a long look back towards the west.

“What the hell happened, Curtis? Everything’s a mess in there.”

Curtis sighs.

“Fourteen-hundred dollars.” He replies before passing out.


I know I promised to post something this morning, but better late than never. Happy Father’s Day everyone.

This is a new piece. It’s been really hot here lately, so that might explain the theme of this one. Like the previous post, this is a snippet of a larger story I’m still trying to plot out. I like the premise of some kind of backwoods deal gone wrong. Betrayal always makes for a good story.

It’s Sunday night, next post will be Thursday night.

Triple Tree

The first time Christopher saw his father kill a man, he was four-and-a-half years old. Mother had taken him to the market to fetch a chicken. As Christopher amusedly watched the flapping, squawking birds in their rickety crates, a man suddenly shouted from across the market square. His voice was booming and every man and woman in the square was turned to face him. The only sounds were this man’s booming voice and the squawking birds.

The man stood above the crowd, on a large wooden stage. Behind him, three men stood with their heads low, one mane looked to be shaking. It reminded Christopher of the follies Mother had taken him to the prior winter. These men, on their high stage, performing a show. Christopher slipped from his Mother’s tightening grasp and darted to the front of the crowd. Weaving through the forest of legs, slipping under market baskets and around tethered dogs, Christopher made it to the front, and stared up at the shouting man. He was reading from a scrolled paper. Christopher didn’t understand all the words, but knew the meaning of “crime,” “King,” “crown,” and “death.” Christopher thought the crier must be the hero, and the silent men the villains. Then he saw the man in the black mask.

A tall man, with narrow shoulders and large hands hanging at his sides, the man in the black mask stood apart, silent, from the other men. Only when the crier finished his speech, and whirled in a flourish with his hand over his head, did the black mask move.

“Until dead!” the crier yelled, spun and moved to the side.

A priest came moved across the stage and spoke softly to the three men, as the black mask slid a sack over each man’s head. One of the men began to cry and shake and wail. The third stood silent, with head bowed. As the priest made the sign of the cross in front of each man, the black mask slid a hoop of rope around each man’s neck. Now Christopher was sure the black mask must certainly be the villain; a merciless ghoul hidden behind the ragged eye holes of the tattered fabric. Yet the crier stood aside, and did nothing.


 

This is the beginning of an idea I’ve been trying to write for a couple of years now. I like the concept – small child learns his father is the man who does the town’s dirtiest deed – but I’m not really sure where I want to go with it. I’ve written another part, but thought I would post each separately to keep the posts relatively short. If anyone reads this, leave a comment with your thoughts. Thanks.

It’s Wednesday night. Next post will be Sunday morning.

The Reservoir

It was almost one year ago I said this blog wasn’t dead. It’s time to make good on that statement. Consider this the rebirth and renewal of the tragic adventure. This time, instead of exploring the swamp we’ll explore the Reservoir. Hence the new title of the site. Swamps are sad and dark and thick with mud. It’s easy to go in and not come out. It’s easy to get stuck. I don’t want to get stuck. Instead we’ll use the Reservoir. Reservoirs are the source. The collection. Vast. Deep. They can be both natural or artificial.

Changes to the site go deeper than a new title and a new design. I won’t be posting fishing reports or equipment reviews here anymore. Or videos of Callie swimming (sorry). Maybe I’ll start another blog for that stuff. I need to write more fiction and creative non-fiction. But not just writing for writing’s sake, but also to share with others, get feedback, and improve. The first time around, I was too concerned with putting up polished and complete pieces. As a result I rarely posted, and the blog withered. According to the dictionary, a Reservoir is “a place where anything is collected or accumulated in great amount.” So I’m going to post a lot more. They may be incomplete thoughts, fragments of conversations, plot ideas and outlines, or full stories or chapters. I may revisit some of the better ideas and build on them. Others will sink to oblivion. The idea is to open the floodgates and let the Res fill up so there’s plenty to go back to, rework, and improve.

This is the new plan. I have to hold myself accountable. The Res won’t fill itself. So I’ll end with this:

It is Sunday night. Next post will be Wednesday night.