Tag Archives: Writing

5 (Writer’s) Block Busters You Can Do in 5 Minutes

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[Said in obnoxious infomercial voice:]

Hey there, Fellow Writers!

Are you tired of having a scene (or even a whole story) in your head that you can’t seem to transfer to a notebook or computer?

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Or, sitting down to do your daily writing, and coming up with a big fat blank?

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It might not be your fault! According to the research of people you’ve never heard of who do studies of questionable legitimacy, you might be suffering from a condition known to lay people as “Writer’s Block.”

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If you have strategies to help get rid of writer’s block that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to say so in the comments. Hearing new ideas (Or ones I knew, but had forgotten) is always helpful. Thanks.

Here are some exercises I’ve found helpful when my brain locks up on me:

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1.) Spend 5 minutes doing a prompt. This always gives me a mental kick-start and gets me writing. I don’t have to sit around trying to decide on an idea, and the time limit keeps me from editing as I go, which is something I do too often.

Prompt Examples:

– Find a friend. As quick as you can, both of you write a beginning sentence and an ending sentence, but nothing in between. Trade papers and fill in the blank  left in the scene of the other person’s sentences. Try to have a paragraph-long scene or story when you finish.

– Flip open a magazine and write a paragraph inspired by a picture or article on that page. What you write doesn’t need to have any actual connection to what’s on the magazine page. It’s just whatever that image/article brings to mind for you.

– Look at a news paper and start a scene where a character reads and reacts to one of the headlines. (This is also good for keeping your writing current and socially relevant.)

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2.)Take a 5 minute walk. Fresh air, Vitamin D. The outdoors are full of stuff that’s good for you. You’ll also be getting a little (but probably enough for our purposes) of exercise, which, as you probably know, gives your brain more of the stuff it needs. (Blood flow, oxygen.) Try to find a power walking pace that boosts your heart rate, but doesn’t leave you winded. You should end with more energy than you had when you started.

Things to pay attention to while walking:

– Landscape. Is there anything around the area where you’re walking that inspires or interests you? Anything that could be used in a potential story setting? This includes natural and man-made structures. Does a house look like a place one of your characters would live?

– Graffiti. I actually go around looking for graffiti because it always makes me wonder who wrote it there, and what made them think it was important enough that everyone should see it.

– People. What kinds of other pedestrians are in the area? What kinds of cars? How are the people driving? How are they dressed? Is there anything unusual about someone’s gait or mannerisms?

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3.) Eves Drop. Not on people you know, or anything. Just people out in public places who are having loud obnoxious conversations anyway. Make them work for your writing process. (I know two out of three so far require leaving the house, but they’re worth it.) Pay attention to word choice, voice inflection, speech patterns, accents, euphemisms. It can really help when writing dialogue.

Good places to overhear a conversation:

– Coffee Shops. Not a coffee shop where everyone else is there alone, writing or playing Fruit Ninja. One where you know people meet for lunch and gossip.

– Bus stations. I swear I have seen and heard stranger things waiting for buses than anywhere else I’ve been except the blood bank. (I do not recommend the blood bank for this exercise. You want to go someplace where the conversation might be a little scandalous or sketchy, but not someplace where you’ve got a high probability of getting stabbed and robbed as you leave.)

– Colleges. You don’t have to crash a class. You can just visit the campus and grab lunch in the cafeteria or something. Topics overheard can range from who did what with who/what for x amount of beer/money to the validity (or lack thereof) of existentialism.

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4.) 5 Minute Research Session. Fact check a portion of what you’ve already written, or do some quick research on a subject you may have avoided writing about because you didn’t feel knowledgeable.

Things to remember while researching:

–  Bored sixth graders have taken over a good portion of Wikipedia. That’s not to say you can’t or won’t  find good information there. Just remember to double check it.

–  Librarys aren’t just where homeless people go to use a computer. Most of the writers I know do a good job of utilizing the library as a resource. (Which is much cheaper than buying every book on amazon. Nothing against amazon, but it’s hard to beat free books.) A few, however, seem to keep forgetting it’s there, so I like to throw out a reminder once in a while.

– Databases are your friend. The good ones make it easy to search specific subjects and check the credentials of the authors of particular articles/ books. Plus, lots of these are also totally free.

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5.) Make an outline/timeline/flowchart/whatever. I have a large white board I use for this purpose. Sometimes when I’ve got writers block it’s because I know on some level that what I’m trying to write isn’t working. I could be missing a key fact, or maybe a new idea contradicts something that happened in a previous scene. either way, this process helps me figure out what’s wrong and how to change it so it works.

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Prompt Writing

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I  used to believe writing prompts would only serve as one more distraction from whatever project I was working on.

When I took a creative writing class in college, however, I discovered that one of the best ways for me to shake off writer’s block was to stop what I was doing and spend about five minutes working on a writing prompt.

Prompts are to the writing world what a starting gun is to a sprinter. And it is a sprint. The goal is not distance, quantity, or energy conservation, it is to get something down as quickly as possible regardless of how coherent, silly, or irreverent it may be.

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How I GotLit! :

Writing prompts also illuminate how many ways there are to look at a single subject. At Inland Northwest Writers’ Guild meetings, we often do a writing prompt or two, and even if we all have exactly the same starting point, the differences in the directions our thoughts take us is striking.

This was also the case at a panel I went to during the GetLit! Festival. Four professional writers were given a prompt: Red Eye, and asked to write something that could be read in about ten minutes. The person who came up with the prompt had been thinking of airplanes and red-eye flights, but that’s not how any of the authors interpreted it.

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Kim Barnes, a professor at the University of Idaho and the author of In the Kingdom of Men, wrote a nonfiction piece involving her family history (Which was filled with scandal and made for a great story.) and the Red-Eye Gravy her grandmother made. It brought to life the complicated family dynamics involved with several generations of relatives, and the self discovery that comes from bringing who you are together with where you come from.
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Shann Ray, author of American Masculine and professor of leadership studies at Gonzaga University, wrote a fictional story about a professional ballerina who marries a lumberjack. The connection to the prompt was a scuffle between the husband and wife, which he starts, but she ends by nearly putting his eye out. It sounds violent, but it had an emotional depth and a flow reminiscent of well-written poetry. By the end, I felt as if the characters were old friends, and was rooting for them to patch things up.

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Nance Van Winckel, a Spokane poet, read a piece about a young child’s tragic accidental death, and the after math for the child’s parents and their friends. Everyone’s eyes were red from crying. It was so powerful partly because she had the courage to ask the question I can never bring myself to ask when I hear about something like this on the news: [Please note, I am paraphrasing, these were not her words. I could never hope repeat her exact phrasing here, but I tried to capture the sentiment because I found it so incredibly moving. My apologies if I fail to do so.]

This was an accident caused not by malice, but by a simple lapse of memory. He forgot. I forget things all the time. Little things mostly, but where is the line between and a careless moment that leads to inconvenience and one that leads to disaster?

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Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun, ended the panel on a lighter note. His story was a spoof of old Noir detective stories (which faithful readers will know I love.) It was titled Spokane Envy, and involved a blues-music-obsessed son of a rich Seattle woman running away to Spokane. I never would have guessed I’d laugh so hard at anything so soon after contemplating death and culpability and whether good intentions mean anything. But as soon as Jim Lynch started reading, I was so caught up in the story of this socially inept, bumbling private eye who was running around Washinton State looking for a missing rich kid, trying to interrogate a girl who works in a fruit stand by the side of the road, posing as a waiter in the Peacock Room at the Davenport, and meeting a rooster named Red Eye, it was impossible not to laugh.

I found the spectrum of emotions and styles, all evoked by the same two words staggering. It was like some insane literary Rorschach test. But that’s the great thing about prompts, everyone comes up with something different. It’s also easier to venture outside your comfort zone because you don’t give yourself time to over think things.

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My Own Prompt Response:

Annette Drake asked me to include my own response to the prompt given at the last Writers’ Guild meeting in this post. The prompt was GetLit! You could take it any way you wanted. We were told shorter sentences were preferable because that had been a style we were discussing at the meeting. Anyone who had anything at the end of five minutes was asked to read if they felt comfortable doing so. I did. It’s good practice for reading my more polished work, and you won’t find a friendlier audience. I came up with this:

Patches don’t do a damn thing for me.

Gum don’t work worth shit.

What I need is a cigarette:

The glow of an ember.

Smell of tobacco.

Warmth of smoke in my lungs.

But the bitch took my lighter when she left this morning.

The unlit cylinder hangs from my lips:

Benign.

Impotent.

No fire hazard here.

[Please note, I am not and never have been a smoker. I have no idea what inspired this, but that’s often how prompt writing goes. Things seem to come out of nowhere.]

I liked that I’d found a rhythm different from what I usually do, but my feelings about the piece as a whole were lukewarm until I heard the response (laughter like you hope for in a comedy club) and Annette encouraged me to share it with all of you online. I highly doubt I would have even thought of anything like this, without a prompt, let alone written it down or shared it with anyone.

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Things I didn’t need to know

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I used to get yelled at constantly for reading in school. My math teachers were really pissed. Weird, right?

Actually, my english teachers yelled at me too. I’d always finished the book they assigned and moved on to something else. And they really wanted me to re-read along with the class. I didn’t (and still don’t, truth be told) see the point. All they did was get me in the habit of re-reading a section once I finished it, which I sometimes do to this day. It slowed down my reading considerably, but it does come in handy when I’m editing what I’ve written. So, I suppose in the long run, this did serve a purpose, although perhaps not the one they’d intended. (They were always talking about working with the group, which as a writer/blogger, I still have limited use for. I always wanted to tell my teachers, “Well, let’s all be a group and compromise, then. I’ll try to slow down if the rest of you hurry the hell up!” I had a wee bit of a temper in my youth. While I never actually said that out loud, I did get in trouble occasionally. I never got in fights, or anything, but I forgot and ran in the hallway sometimes. I actually picked  up a Sherlock Holmes book for the first time during lunch detention. Everything led back to books for me.

Math is a different story. At twenty-five, I still haven’t had a single day in my life where I thought, “Oh, thank the Lord I took all that algebra!” I know I will at some point, now that I’ve said that. That’s how these things work. You curse your high school, and, next thing you know, some dude in a ski mask has a gun to your head and says, “Alright, listen up! If you can solve for X, no one gets hurt!” That’s Karma, I guess. Until that happens, I’ll probably go on wondering how much more I might have learned if they’d just set me loose in the library and left me alone.

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Warning Signs

theshiningtwins

There is something perverse about horror fiction, whether you’re writing it, or voluntarily picking it up off a bookshelf. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s anything extreme enough to qualify as a mental illness. (So you just tell those men in the white coats to stay back!) It’s just… slightly less than socially acceptable in some circles.

Most people like pleasant things. Pleasant smells, pleasant sounds, pleasant books… you get the picture. Whatever else you could call my writing, it isn’t pleasant. That’s not what I’m going for, but apparently because I gave up the black trench coat and eyeliner that were my go-to fashion accessories in high school, people are sometimes surprised when I start reading my novel and nothing about it is pretty, sweet, or nice. Many times, someone comes up to me after a reading and says, “I didn’t expect to hear something like that from someone who looks like you.” It has never been presented as a criticism, but I get the feeling the other person and I both leave a little bit confused about what just happened. It seems so funny to me, the thought of having some visual aide on my person to warn potential readers about the graphic nature of my writing. Like a poison dart frog warning away would be predators with its bright, poisonous skin. What should I look like, then? Should I start wearing my Mrs. Lovett Halloween costume every time I read at Auntie’s? Brandish my plastic meat cleaver as I step up to the podium, so anyone who is uncomfortable with disease and decapitation, can go to the bathroom, or browse, and then come back when I finish reading? Perhaps a sign. Or something printed on a tee-shirt. “Warning: contains homicidal fiction?” I think I could have fun with this…

For a while, when this first started happening, I did go back to my old way of dressing. Black on black on black with heavy eye make up and boots, but that doesn’t really feel like me anymore. Well, not most days. And anyway, I’m not sure that’s really what’s tripping people up. I’m still relatively young, and I’m female, and I can write fight scenes that make grown men say, “Oh, man! That is so gross!” Maybe this is unusual. Being from Deer Park, where lots of high school girls go hunting,* and help butcher livestock, it’s sometimes hard for me to say what’s normal. In any case, if I can give my dad, a police detective, or my brother, a fellow horror movie connoisseur, the heebie-jeebies, I feel like I’ve done my job.

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* I don’t mean just tagging along. I mean they have the gun, they do the shooting, and they do the field dressing.

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So… about last night…

I know I promised to post every day in April. For yesterday’s post, I’d planned to attend the Patrick McManus reading and then do a post about it when I got home.

Let me explain what happened:

I woke up at 5AM yesterday morning, went to college as usual for my (gag) math class,

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Did my homework,

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Checked my blog to see if there were comments that needed approving,

Worked on my novel for so long that I forgot to eat lunch,

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Met up with my parents and my brother, got an early dinner and coffee,

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and went to Auntie’s for the reading…

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Which it turned out had an open bar courtesy of Sante, the restaurant next door…

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Now, I know what you’re thinking, but I only had one small glass.

Still… I may have ‘got lit’ in more than one sense. heh heh

(See Get Ready to GetLit! if you don’t get the reference.)

Patrick McManus was great, and I got my copy of his latest Bo Tully mystery signed. Awesome!

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Also, my mom was friends with one of his daughters growing up, and they’re going to reconnect,

so it was a great event no matter how you look at it.

BUT, although I maybe slow at math, I now know that

me+no lunch+caffine+wine= incessant giggling

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and forgetting to take a picture at the reading for my blog

and falling asleep after my mom drives me home instead of posting… yeah..

So now I know. Please, no shouting in the comments section.

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PS- I will be posting again today. I’m counting this as yesterday’s post.

 

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Get Ready to GetLit!

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Okay, I know that sounds like Cinco de Mayo is coming early for me, but Lit is short for literature. The annual Spokane festival celebrating the arts (and especially literature) is coming up this April 8th-14th. This week, Auntie’s Bookstore is already gearing up for the festivities. Tomorrow, April 4th, Patrick McManus is reading at Auntie’s at 7PM. April 5th, there will be an Open Mic night, also at 7PM. April 6th, there will be a reading by Julie Lilienkamp at 2PM.

For more information on events at Auntie’s Bookstore, go to http://www.auntiesbooks.com

They also have a link to the GetLit! website.

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My Novel; Giving an Old Disease New Life

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I haven’t put any of my own writing in this blog yet, so here’s the introduction to my novel in progress, Isolation. Tell me what you think. Would you keep reading? Please Comment.

Found during the 2012 renovation of Shady Hills Mental Hospital:

January, 8th, 1918

Dear Abelard,

            I beg your forgiveness for my lapse in our correspondence. Rest assured it indicates no waning of my fondness for you, rather an overwhelming increase in my duties as a physician, here in Shady Hills.

            I fear I may have erred in hoping for a quiet country life out West. The Spanish Flu, as I’m sure you know, (your own hospital having been ravaged by it not long ago,) is a formidable foe indeed.

            Of late, I fear there may be a still more sinister illness making its way through my little town. The main trouble is, I am, as of yet, unable to find any consistency in the symptoms or presentation. Whether it is all one virus or many, I cannot say with any confidence. It has been like an epidemic of madness. I’m certain you’ll think me overly dramatic, but I tell you it is so.

            Several patients of mine have, without warning, gone comatose. They sleep for days, weeks, months, and nothing can rouse them. Some have died in this condition. And yet, these are unlike comas I have seen in the past. The patients are unconscious, of this there is no doubt, but they stir, occasionally, or mutter things. They have been known to respond to music, or the voices of loved ones. They will sometimes squeeze one’s hand or move their hands and feet when prompted. To look at them, one would think they were merely napping, and could wake at any moment.

            No head injury, nor known illness can be found in any of them. Stranger still, There have been, mixed in with the occurrences of these strange comas, cases of extreme insomnia, hyperactivity, and even violent mood changes. Dyskenesia is also common, as are headaches (of the migraine variety, I believe), and occulogyric and facial tics.

            Everything indicates some malfunction of the central nervous system. I would be tempted to liken it to a burst of shrapnel to the brain, but my patients are civilians, without history of trauma, serious disease, or a congenital mental illness. I am at a loss as to what this could be, or how to proceed with treatment. Needless to say, this has everyone in town, myself included, on edge. I fear panic may ensue, if I remain unable to stem the spread of this infirmity, whatever it is. I pray, with your experience, you may be able to provide me some insight.

            Give my best to Elizabeth and the girls.

            Your Friend,

            Stewart Milhone

Shady Hills Gazette  May 2, 2012

Due in part to a renewed interest in public health following the Bird and Swine Flu epidemics, the mayor has decided to renovate the old Shady Hills Mental Institute. The Institue was built during the Flu Epidemic of 1918, and was originally intended to help house patients who needed to be quarantined. After the flu epidemic subsided, the town voted to keep the building open, but convert it to a long-term care facility that housed WWI veterans, people disabled by complication of the flu, and so on until the building lost it’s government funding in the 1960s. Current plans are to convert the building to a museum celebrating the town’s history and heritage. It is hoped that this will foster a sense of pride among residents and promote tourism. The renovations, beginning later this year, will be done by independent local contractor Frank Moore, the same man who renovated the high school gym so nicely.

*                       *                       *                       *

Chapter One

            Before the headaches, Frank used to sleep soundly. Kyra used to joke that a marching band couldn’t wake him. Now, he was plagued by headaches that made colors flash before his eyes in time with the pounding in his head. Headaches so intense he sometimes prayed for death during them so he’d be free of the pain. Nothing blunted the pain. The only thing worse than the pain was the insomnia. He couldn’t sleep and he couldn’t shake the disturbing ideas that seemed to come out of nowhere, invading his brain.

            He’d seen his doctor for the insomnia and headaches, but hadn’t mentioned the violent thoughts. The doctor dismissed both as products of stress and gave him sedatives to help him sleep. They hadn’t worked. He’d been awake for days now. He knew he was in bad shape. He was starting to see things.

            He was walking in the park now, well after midnight. He’d gotten in the habit of going out at night even though he knew it worried Kyra. Staying still would be like ceasing to breathe- he’d smother. It wasn’t something he wanted to do. It was a… what do you call it? A compulsion. He was like those guys who wash their hands thirty times a day and turn the lights on and off over and over. Recognizing it for what it was didn’t make it easier to stop. His marriage was starting to crumble. People he cared about were starting to think he was crazy, an asshole, or some combination thereof.

            The usual night crowd inhabited the park: teenagers drinking, druggies searching for a fix, and all two of the known hookers in town looking for customers. Lately, even they avoided him.

            He broke out in a cold sweat as a searing pain flashed inside his head, leaving as quickly as it came. He stifled screamed, not because of the headache, but because he saw a man up ahead on the path pull out a switch blade and stab an old woman in the chest. Shock and horror registered on her face as bright arterial blood spurted from the wound. With a throaty gurgling, she crumpled to the ground. The scream caught in his throat as he realized no one else was screaming. The teenagers swilled their beers and wine coolers, the druggies continued their hand offs, and the hookers trolled for lonely men.

            He looked again. The man was a Douglas fir growing beside the path. The old woman, a lilac bush. He wasn’t phased by how vivid it had been. Using the reactions of the people around him to determine what was real was all that still allowed him the appearance of sanity.

            He wandered downtown, following the river, to the old grocery store to buy a stale turkey sandwich or a candy bar. Not because he was hungry, more to pass the time.

            In the parking lot, he saw a blond girl carrying brown paper grocery bags. Before he was aware he’d changed course, he found himself following her. He hadn’t decided to, he just did. An uneasiness took root in his stomach as he followed her down the dark, deserted sidewalk. He was closing the distance between them. She was unaware of him, looking ahead at nothing in particular, humming something. He tried to stop, or turn around. He seemed disconnected from his body. Then he was behind her, wrapping her in a bear hug, knocking the grocery bags from her arms. He lifted her off her feet, carrying  her off the sidewalk.

        *                       *                       *                       *

            Hailey tried to scream, but the man’s hold was too tight for her to take a deep breath. She kicked wildly, flailing, hitting nothing. The man stumbled as she threw her weight around, but remained upright and kept moving, maintaining his hold on her.

            He dragged her to the alley. She swung her elbow into the side of his head. He dropped her. She landed hard, putting out her hands to catch herself. Pain shot through her left forearm. She scrambled to her feet, and turned to face him. Blood. He was bleeding. His forehead had split where she elbowed him, but his expression registered no pain. His face was slack, mask-like. His motions had an odd, spastic, mechanical quality.  He reached out, grabbing her right arm above the elbow. She kicked at his groin, but he blocked the blow. She hit him in the ear as hard as she could with her left fist, ignoring the pain lingering in that arm. A wave of pain so intense she almost passed out shot up her arm and through her entire body. It seemed to phase him, but he didn’t let go. With a cry of desperation, she kicked the sole of her left boot into the man’s stomach with all her remaining strength. He grunted, his face still blank, and lost his grip on her as the force of the kick pushed them apart.

            She turned and sprinted, glancing over her shoulder. The man was on the ground, making no move to get up. He shouted something, his head in his hands, his voice muffled. She could have sworn she heard him yell, “Run!”

            *                       *                       *                       *

            Frank sat in the grimy gravel of the alleyway. He couldn’t believe what just happened. He knew something was wrong with him, but nothing that explained this. He’d blacked out a couple of times, and sure, he had hallucinated, but he had never tried to hurt anyone. In the morning he’d call his doctor about all his symptoms. He’d get a second opinion, see a specialist if necessary. This had to stop. Now. The familiar ache started behind his eyes. As it grew in intensity, he couldn’t keep a conscious train of thought.

                        *                       *                      *                      *

            Frank opened his eyes, and saw his front yard. He sat on the porch, slumped against the front of his house. He was cold, covered with dew. How long had he been here? How did he get home? He tried to remember, but couldn’t. His head throbbed, a vague, distant pain meaning this episode was almost over. He rubbed his temples. Wet. Why was his face wet? He looked  at his hand, fighting to see through the fading pain. Blood. His hand was covered with blood. Not just his fingers where he’d touched his head. His whole hand. Soaked. He looked down at his sprawled, unresponsive body and found the same to be true of his clothes. Was he bleeding? If all this was his, it seemed like he should be dead. He took inventory of himself, as he began feeling sensations besides the all-encompassing ache in his head. Legs were sore. Maybe he’d picked a fight and had to run. Face and arms hurt. Why? It felt like someone etched random lines on his skin with a hot poker. He peeled off his jacket. His hands and his forearms were covered in scratches. Cat? Too wide and deep. Thorns? That didn’t seem right either. Nails. Fingernails. He was panicked, nauseous. This didn’t look like a fight. It looked like he attacked someone. Not many men had fingernails long enough to lay someone’s arm open.

            He jumped to his feet. He had to get away from the house. Away from Kyra and Justin and the girls. Away from the people he loved. He didn’t know when the next blackout would come. He remembered his earlier thought that no one should be able to lose so much blood and live. Oh, God, no. What had he done? No memories remained, not even fragments.

            He started running. At the park, he stopped, bent over from a stitch in his side, and started laughing. Not because anything was remotely funny, but because he remembered thinking the tree by the path stabbed the lilac bush last night. Of course! Why hadn’t he seen it before? He wasn’t really covered in someone else’s blood. This wasn’t real either. It couldn’t be.

            He stopped laughing and sat on a park bench, still panting from the jog over. He was finally catching his breath when two men with matted beards and paper bags holding their bottles of breakfast, weaved his way. One stopped, looking at him, elbowing the other. Both did double takes.

            “You two okay?” Frank asked, wondering if they’d ask him for money or just mug him.

            “I’s ’bout tuh ask you that same queshion,” Said the bum who noticed him first. The bum blinked, squinted, and stared hard at him, “That your blood, or the other guy’s?”

            “What? Look, I don’t want any trouble…” This man was obviously drunk. It was a complete coincidence that this guy shared his earlier hallucination. Coincidence. That’s all.

            “Look, pal, it’s o’vious you got into it with somebody. I’s jus’ wonderin’ do you need help… Hey, an’ how come yer face an’ arms is scratched up like that? Whud you do? Knife fight a bob cat?” Whiskey scented laughter drifted his way.

            Frank looked down. He was still covered in blood. His tee-shirt becoming stiff and brown as it began to dry. It was under his fingernails. The scratches on his hands and arms were starting to scab over. This was real. This was very real.

            He took off running again as the drunks continued laughing. He could not- he would not go on like this. He was dangerous, not in control of himself. The time to try to fix this had come and gone. He wouldn’t put his family or anyone else in danger any longer. He knew what he had to do while he still had even a little free will left.

            As he ran toward the freeway, it started to rain. By the time he got to the side of the road, it was pouring. He was completely soaked. As if sent by fate, a red semi truck came into view just as he stepped on to the sidewalk. As it got closer, he had nothing in his head but pounding blood and adrenaline. He didn’t let himself contemplate what he was about to do for fear he’d change his mind at the last second. As the truck approached, he had little flashes of family memories. Dancing with Kyra on their wedding day. Alicia helping him refinish the kitchen cabinets. Justin learning to ride a bike. Daisee taking her first steps. He timed it just right. When he stepped off the sidewalk, the driver had no time to react. And, for the first time in a long time, there was no pain. There was only darkness.

            By the time Kyra awoke, and went outside to get the paper, all traces of blood on the front porch had been washed away.

*                       *                       *                       *

            Hailey rolled out of bed and staggered to her tiny kitchenette. She heard the coffee pot kick on automatically, picked up her mug to fill it, and yelped in surprise. Burning! Her hand, her arm were on fire! She dropped the mug back on the counter as though it had bitten her. Last night! How do you forget something like that? Maybe she didn’t want coffee afterall. She went to the living room switched on the TV, trying not to think about the lingering smolder of pain. The face of the man who attacked her the night before flashed on the screen, startling her. What was that bastard doing on her TV?

            The anchor said the man, Frank Moore from the caption, died instantly after jumping in front of a semi truck early that morning. It was almost certainly suicide.

            She turned off the TV, pulled her hair back and dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans. She drove to the hospital, signing herself in at urgent care. As she sat in the waiting room, she decided she wouldn’t tell anyone he attacked her. What would be the point? The man was dead. He couldn’t hurt her or anyone else ever again. His family had enough to deal with. The nurse called her back to the exam room. She changed, relieved the short sleeves of the exam gown covered the finger-shaped bruises on her arm. The paper on the exam table crinkled beneath her every time she moved. Her mouth felt dry, cottony. She jumped when he doctor knocked, but kept her voice calm as she told him to come in. The doctor seemed rushed, and looked at her chart more than he looked at her. Today, that was what she preferred.

            “So, tell me what happened.” He still didn’t look at her, continuing to type on his laptop.

            “Oh, I fell. Not much to tell, I guess.”

            “Did this happen while you were on duty, or on hospital property?”

            “No.”

            “Looks like you were lucky.” He told her, after a short series of tests.

            Yeah, sure, she thought, Lucky. She nearly burst into hysterical laughter.

            “Your wrist is sprained, but nothing’s broken.”

            She nodded, trying to think of an appropriate response, but he didn’t wait for one.

            “The nurse will be back to give you a brace, and some information to take home. All common sense stuff. Don’t forget to ice it, take something to help with the inflammation. That sort of thing.”

            Pulling out of the hospital parking lot, her face felt hot. How could this happen? How could she have let this happen? Without warning, tears filled her eyes. They flowed in salty streams, filling her vision, forcing her to pull over. She screamed at the top of her lungs. She punched the steering wheel with her good hand. Then she saw her face in the rearview mirror. Puffy. Red. Defeated. No! She wiped her eyes. Dried her face. Continued driving, but she was no longer headed home. She pulled into the parking lot of the local YMCA.

            Behind the front desk, the teenage girl didn’t look up from her magazine. Hailey cleared her throat. The girl sighed, setting aside her Cosmo. She gave Hailey an insincere, customer service grin.

            “Hi! How can I help you?”

            “I want to sign up for kick boxing classes.”

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