If you define “being published” as receiving monetary compensation for writing made available to the public, then…I have been published!
Though in a far more realistic sense, I won a flash fiction challenge over at a blogÂ of a writer-type I’ve come to respect and he gave me a copy of one of his books for the honor.
The book is calledÂ Irregular CreaturesÂ by Chuck Wendig. I haven’t had time to read it yet but looking at the story descriptions it should be pretty wild.
The story that won was limited to 100 words and had to include 3 out of 5 randomly chosen words; Enzyme, Ivy, Bishop, Blister, and Lollipop. Here’s what I came up with:
I still remember what started it. He stole my cherry lollipop. It was my favorite flavor. He stood over me that day, laughing. His fatness shaking with his mirth at my pain.
Days passed into weeks. We fought, he overpowered me. I got in trouble, he skated free. My rage formed a blister on my brain. One I couldn\’t lance with a safety pin.
He stopped after that night. I forgot about it until I saw him at the store years later. The scars still kissed his face like unchecked ivy. Lessons taught in pure flame.
Cherry was my favorite.
If you like you can read the other winners and entries to this contest here.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I am coming up on one month without cigarettes so I thought I’d share a few of my experiences along the way.
Your sense of smell returns.
You’ve probably heard this before or perhaps told someone who’s trying to quit. Usually, it’s coupled with how good that will be. Food will taste better, you can stop and smell the roses, etc. However, it has been my experience that the good smells are not what the new ex-smoker will notice the most.
You will notice how terrible humanity smells. Maybe it’s because I live in a big city and rely on public transportation and I quit during the hottest part of summer, but it is a foul collection of smells that I have only just become aware of. Previously I was blissfully ignorant with my olfactory abilities overpowered by the tobacco. Now each sweaty, drunken business man next to me on the train is a private torture.
The main benefit is being able to smell tobacco again which helps reinforce the desire to quit.
You’ll be more energetic.
Now this one I haven’t experienced. I guess if I had to look at it objectively I might say that I feel a little healthier. It’s too soon to tell though. But don’t think that if you quit smoking that suddenly this magical desire to go jogging will beam down from outer space and fill your legs with Athlete Juice (that’s what steroids are for).
If you prefer to stay on the couch watching movies and playing video games, an end to your cigarette habit probably won’t change that overnight. At least it hasn’t for me. But on the scale of health, not exercising and smoking is a million times worse than not exercising and not smoking so there’s that. Just don’t be discouraged when you aren’t running marathons a week after you quit.
You can still taste them.
This was one of the hardest things for me. When I would go a while without a smoke, say two hours instead of one, I would get a strong taste of tobacco in the back of my mouth. It was like a signal, “OK you need some nicotine buddy, get on it.” When I quit that taste wouldn’t go away even up to this point. It’s less often and not as strong which leads me to think it’s all in my head. I usually try to chew a piece of gum when it gets too bad.
But remember, don’t use gum as a replacement reward for cigarettes because that never works. You have to change your thinking about cigarettes in general. Which leads to my next point…
It’s easier than you think.
A lot of people who smoke say it’s hard to quit. I was one of them myself. The problem is in the mental addiction not the physical. The nicotine withdrawal symptoms are really not that bad. The problem is, the smoker makes them worse by thinking he’s giving up something valuable. There’s nothing worthwhile to cigarettes. You think they make you feel better at certain times of stress etc. But the truth is nicotine withdrawal makes you feel worse and a cigarette only get’s you back to normal. The trap is the cigarette re-writes what you consider normal.
I’m not saying it’s easy, just easier than you think. I’ve been tempted several times but have held out longer than I think I ever would have if I hadn’t decided to change how I saw cigarettes period. And that’s the easy part, just change your mind and stick to it.
Some who might read this might think it sounds familiar. Well, truth is I read a book that pointed out a lot of this idea about changing your perception. If you want to know what it is just ask and I’ll point you in the right direction.
So it begins. My last year in the age of twenty. Countless friends have already crossed into the realm of the thirties, including, two days from now, my best friend. More a brother than a friend. We were always the same age for two precious days. It made for some difficult birthday party arrangements. In two days he shall turn 30 while I remain blissfully young at 29.
Thus it is my last year as a twenty-something. Thus I must question what I am dong to further my generation. The age of thirty seems to be a significant one, at least for the male of the species. After 30 is the age of settling down, of solidifying a career. A house with a wife, picket fence and 2.3 children. Â At this time I am nowhere near achieving any of that tripe.
Do I want it? This picture of the American dream? Well, for one thing I don’t live in America currently. So it might be a little hard to convince the locals of the ideals embodied by said American dream. Two chickens in every pot seems a little presumptuous when that pot is better used for rice, and two cars in every garage is outrageous in a city with excellent public transportation. So excellent in fact that many residents never bother to learn how to drive in the first place.
But I digress. I have gathered none of the markers that you might believe that a thirty year old should have. Why? I don’t know. To be honest it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Perhaps I prefer too much to live vicariously through my friends that have happy “normal” lives.
Perhaps I am too broken?
Whatever the case, I feel an incredible desire to better myself in this coming year so that I may meet the decade of thirty with open arms and fewer regrets. There are pieces in place that could provide a clue to the mosaic that is my destiny, but at this moment the markings are unclear. Perhaps they will fit into the crucially empty space in my heart or perhaps they will not. If so, this final year of my third decade will be one full of pleasure and joy.
If not, well…eventually, somewhere that piece will be found. Perhaps it will be here, perhaps not.
Perhaps I will stop being such a moody pretentious writer type.
I doubt it.
If I were to be honest here for a moment, this is simply an attempt on my part to not fall behind too much on my blog postings. That being said…
Stealing ideas from other people and adapting them as your own is the highest form of flattery. Or is it plagiarism? I forget. Anyway, I would like to hear from anyone that so deigns to acknowledge my internet space existence at this point, about the place you currently call home. In exactly 100 words. That’s the trick. 100, no more, no less. I’ll be counting.
That is if anyone participates…but to get the ball rolling…
Towering buildings. Cramped spaces. Glittering lights. Sweltering nights. Tokyo is a city that varies drastically depending on which station you step out of. Shibuya is the living embodiment of fashion, most current trends and image of the future. Five minutes away by train you find Shimo-kitazawa which is small, quiet, and rather hipster (Hipsterish? Doucheoisie?).Â
Tokyo is a city that can remind me that I am far from home yet can provide moments where I forget that I am in Japan. I say this not to disparage the town but to point out how wonderfully diverse the distractions are here.Â
The winning entry will receive
nothingÂ a firm pat on the back.
First, stop buying paper tickets. They are hold overs from when they actually needed someone to stand at the gate and hole-punch each ticket. I’ve seen video of it. It’s been 20 years at least. Buy a damn train pass.
If you have a train pass and you screw up and it beeps at you, you have failed. Your turn is forfeit, please don’t stand there until it resets so you can screw it up again. These are highly efficient magnetically controlled machines. If something went wrong it’s a 99.9% chance that it’s your fault.
If you are they type of person that follows someone closely so you can skip through and avoid paying the fair, sand blasting your colon is too good a punishment for you.
First, pick a seat if you’re going to sit down. If you switch destination seats, block me, and cost me the other seat I thought you were going for originally, I will want to stab you with an umbrella made of fire ants.
If the train is fairly crowded the rule is, if someone directly in front of you gets off the train, then that seat is yours. If you don’t take it, everyone feels awkward unless it’s one of those reserved for the olds or the injured/pregnant. If it’s a regular seat some jerkwad will push through the crowd and claim it, leaving you looking stupid and me pissed off for a wasted seat.
Look, I get it when the train is way above capacity. You gotta get close. Be quicker on making the room in that case or I’ll push your kidneys into your stomach with my elbows.
But when there’s lots of room and I’m chilling by the door, get the hell away from me. Since I quit smoking I’ve discovered just how terrible everyone on the train smells during summer so get the fuck back please.
Not everyone is on your schedule
This is huge. Just because your train isn’t pulling into the station right this second doesn’t mean you can hog the stairway/escalator. Someone behind you (me) trapped by your
douchbaggeryÂ apathy will not appreciate having the doors to the other train (usually there’s two directions per platform, didn’t you notice?) shut in their face because you don’t feel like walking up an escalator that’s only wide enough for one person. Especially if it’s a fairly local line where catching one train and having to wait for the other can be the difference between making it to work on time and being late! I’LL KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ummm, sorry about that. Just stop being so shit about moving around the city, Tokyo.
Just some friends and the odd stranger or two doing what brings them joy in this world. Hope they don’t mind me posting this up here.
Sorry it’s mostly crappy iphone footage. The content is great, the medium not so much. I tried to spice it up a bit in the old iMovie thing that I just discovered.
This is a story I wrote in response to a fiction challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s blog : terribleminds
might beÂ is some cursing and naughty language. And other kick ass stuff like that.
When the man\’s arm exploded into fire my first reaction was an understandable, Holy shit what the fuck is that?
Then he started pointing at people. A fat bald man, wearing a University of Nebraska cap, detonated into a corn ethanol fueled fireball. Somewhere in the back of my lizard brain I knew humans didn\’t react quite so violently to a flame engulfing. Not to say that I had any first hand experience prior to this moment, nor did any of the other diners on the beach with me.
The man with the fire arm seemed excessively happy to educate us on the physics of involuntary human combustion. An older woman a few tables away from me lit up in a slower, more rational way. I learned something about the difference between the sounds of pain and fear in the human scream. An odd thought went through my brain. A surprising amount of actresses in horror movies failed to nail the nuance. For obvious reasons, but still, you\’d think at least one or two could make it convincing.
The cheap plastic furniture hampered my ability to flee the madman behind me. I tripped in the loose sand of the beach. Only half an hour ago I was commenting to my friends on how beautifully the setting sun reflected off the pristine white grains. They called me a pretentious cunt and threw used lemon wedges at my face. We had been drinking since the previous dawn.
Another blast sailed over my head as I fell to the ground. It ignited one of my frat brother\’s hair as he failed to duck sufficiently. He leaped to his feet before sprinting in the general direction of the surf. The man with the fire caught him in the back using a between-the-legs shot. For a homicidal maniac he was a bit of a show-off as well.
The beach suffered from a shortage of other easy targets so the crazy man turned towards me. I was having trouble getting my limbs to cooperate with my brain and get all of us far away from this guy. He pointed his arm at me, the one with all the fire, and smiled. I shut my eyes. I heard a blast followed by loud shouting and cursing. I opened my eyes and witnessed the fire guy in a headlock with an ice guy.
I mean, this guy had an arm made of solid ice. The type of perfect ice you get in a glass of whisky at a bar with a dress code. The fire guy had his dangerous limb covered in melting ice crystals. They were yelling at each other but I couldn\’t understand. I don\’t speak Thai. Watching them struggle I remembered reading something about this in the guidebook I picked up at the airport. Listed under the Dangers section right next to the part on pickpockets.
The fire guy got his arm free of the ice and gave the other man a check to the gut. The ice guy flew back several yards before stopping in mid air. He shot straight up into the clouds. The fire guy followed and they both disappeared. Only the occasional flash of light in the sky and the heavy stench of charred flesh were the only signs it had happened at all. And the scorched remains, can\’t forget about them.
I lay on my back and lit a cigarette. I watched the flashes of light for a good while. Sometimes one of them would fly out of the cloud cover shooting at their counterpart as they chased each other about. They seemed pretty evenly matched. About the time I started to get bored of the battle, one of the hotel staff jabbed me with a broom. I sat up and looked around. Waiters and busboys were busy cleaning up the wreckage from the fire guy\’s appearance. The staff member who poked me, handed me a coupon for a free shrimp cocktail. No substitutions.
Free shrimp is free shrimp I guess.
I had to argue with the bartender to get him to honor the coupon. Something about needing undeniable proof of an attack. The two guys had moved their fight further down the beach. I couldn\’t see flashes in the sky anymore at least. I had to grab the original waiter who provided the discount to vouch for me. Even so, the shrimp possessed a faint smell that said they were close to turning. I ate it anyway.
My friends wandered back to the bar after some time. They asked how I survived. We all had a very stiff drink. Followed by several shots of tequila. Soon we were laughing and boasting about how we\’d fuck that fire guy up if we ever met him again. One of my friends said something similar had happened to him in Europe the previous summer except it was some guy with lightning or poison gas powers. He couldn\’t remember which. We had a few more drinks.
We stumbled out of the place a few hours later hungry. Our dinner had been interrupted, so we weaved our way down the beach. A place we knew had pretty good hamburgers. We were still talking about how much of a pussy that dude with the fire arm would be if only we weren\’t taken by surprise or something. Of course, karma is a bitch. It surprised none of us when we entered the burger joint and fire guy was there at a table near the door.
What did surprise us was his crying into a beer. Ice guy sat next to him with his hand on fire guy\’s shoulder giving a super-powered version of a bro-chat. We tried to act casual and grabbed a seat at the far end of the room. We ordered our food and kept our eyes locked on our plates. Ice guy ordered another beer and fire guy kept sobbing until we finished our meals and left.
Trying to get anywhere in Tokyo can range from extremely convenient to hot needles in the eyes level of frustration. These are some thoughts of mine that if everyone did, I would at least be happier for it.
Walk like you have a purpose.
This is a big thing. In my mind the only people allowed to stumble around the city without a care are drunks, children, and hobos. Everyone else, I don’t care if you’re on your way to a Directionless Adults Anonymous meeting, walk like you mean to go somewhere.
Don’t block traffic.
If you stop in the middle of the flow of pedestrian traffic, everyone hates you. You are that person. If you’re lost, need to make a sudden phone call, or scratch your butt then do us all a favor and take it to the side. This also applies to groups that take up the whole sidewalk moving slowly while laughing a dentist drill pitch. Whole offices of drunk people standing around taking an hour to say good night after your company mandated all you can drink night is over. Also people that get on trains as the doors are about to close and don’t clear the area. I will bump into you in a passive-agressive manner if I’m trying to catch that train.
Let the trains go where you think they will.
Many times I’ve gotten on a train only to have it suddenly stop service only a few stops later. Often this means shifting over to a more crowded car. Just the other day I took a train way out of my regular stomping grounds. It stopped three stations from where I wanted to be. In my confusion I switched to a train in the other direction. I changed again only to have that train stop at the same station as the previous one. Nearly an hour wasted to what should have been only 20 minutes.
Just be aware of your surroundings.
I will admit, I am not perfect. Sometimes I try to walk and text at the same time. Sometimes I need to turn around and catch my bearings etc. However, most people just don’t seem to give half a microshit about the space they occupy. Take a moment to notice when you’re aggravating a fast walker like me and you might avoid a few more umbrella stabbings than usual.
Ten years ago, I was a sophomore in college. I hadn’t learned how to drive. I couldn’t speak a word of Japanese. I still thought I could make Chemistry work for me as a career. I was still a virgin. My male-pattern baldness hadn’t manifested yet. I had never been outside of the US. I did not own a passport. I had a fat redneck for a roommate. We argued about whether or not NASCAR qualified as a sport. We fought over where to keep the thermostat.
Ten years ago, my radio turned on around 9am, as it always did when I remembered to set the alarm. Usually, if we were lucky, musicÂ would play.Â Classic rock. If we were unlucky it would be a commercial or ten. Loud and effective as an alarm but not interesting.
Ten years ago, however, the alarm played nothing but fearful noise. Broken, unsure, confused, and frightened noise. My roommate turned on the TV and we stood watching until everything had ended. Empty, I took a shower. I couldn’t think of what else to do. I went to class.
Ten years ago, I and the world changed. That’s something hard to forget. I wouldn’t want to and hope I never do.
No don’t worry, I wasn’t a hobo for a day. Or trying to score some drugs or nothing.
No, it was a BBQ! During a typhoon! (Remember what I said about crappy weather yesterday?)
Yeah I’m going to try and make this a photo blog of some sort. Need the practice with images and such. Anyway this is a friend of mine passed out by the fire.
It was a bit cold that day for August. Again, crazy weather. So we made a fire. Maybe not the best idea with young children running around constantly but I’m of the school of thought that if kids aren’t in a least a little bit of danger most of the time then they aren’t being raised right.
I have no kids and grew up in the South during the 80s.
Speaking of these kids running around, this was with a group of friends I’ve known for almost as long as I’ve been in Japan. I’ve been to two of their weddings, soon to be a third. I’ve watched them have three kids, soon to be a fourth. We get along so well, I think, because they can all drink as hard as I can.
Case in point. This little darlin’ was just a sparkle in her daddy’s eye when I met him.
I think you can see where she gets it from.
It was a wonderful time even though I showed up way late because I was so
passed out drunkÂ sleepy that I didn’t hear my friend come by to pick me up. The sad part is it almost didn’t happen. Another friend of ours was involved in a serious traffic accident a few weeks before the BBQ. We all lost some sleep to worry those first few days, I know I did.
He’s doing better though. Still a long way to go but he should survive at least. That was a pretty big question early on. OK, enough depressing stuff.
Yeah I fell asleep by the fire too, twice…