Monday, November 19, 2012

Stellar Repo: Excerpt 2

After the door clicked, shutting the sun out, she stood waiting for her pupils to pick recognizable shapes out of the black. Red lights are a stupid choice, she thought for the thousandth time. Pissed off for 3 secs and done with that then, too. Dumb bar owners. I could be drinking already.

A voice wafted from stage right. "Stel." She followed the sound, squinting at the faint glow from the back bar. The owner of the voice and The Bar strolled over, reaching for a glass on his way. "Stel. Waddelitbe?"

"Shot. Thankee, Toke. Make it two."

"Stellar. Whatcha doin?"

"I'm done. Done. Done. Did I mention? I'm done." Stellar turned her head to the old hailer on the stool next to the one she slid onto.

"Surly. Ta for the ask. How's it?"

Surly Bugger shrugged his shoulders past his ears. "You'd listen if I said? No. I'm the same. What are you done with?"


"What'll you do instead?"

Stellar clenched her shoulders together front, rotated her upper body twice around, flexed her toes which no one saw because they were exercising inside boots that were, in her toes' opinion, entirely too pointy.

"Well, Surly. I'll just be me."

"There a market for that then?"

"'Nuff, Surl."

"Stellar, your drink. Run a tab?"

"Yes, thanks for your interest, Token."


"Stellar Repo!" A hand slapped her hard between the shoulders. "Good on ya for the Black Feather retrieve!" Stellar glanced at Surly, who dipped to drown a grin in his frosty beverage. Stellar ignored the man and the hard hand. "What is it you know, Surly Bugger?"

"I know nothing. I never claimed to know anything. I am an empty space in a universe of not knowing."

Stellar Repo, newly unemployed again, cranky recollector of lost stuff and such swiveled her stool to the room while throwing back her first shot. She swirled the stool back to the bar, picked up the second shot, slammed, and continued the circuit of the floor she was drilled into.

Back at the bar. "Surly, how do you keep going?"


"When you're not drinking."

"I don't not drink. What's your point? Are you going deep on me?" Surly turned his head toward Stellar, a thing Surly hadn't done in so long, Stellar imagined a creaky noise.

"I've never been done before. Thought you had some insight on doneness."

"I do. But why would I share? Done. Remember?"

"Good point."

A hard-boiled knee banged into Stellar's on the other side. A beefy fist laid itself ungently on the bar rail, and Surly's whole head, eyes pinioned center, took some interest.

"Token Guy, my man!" A drink for the little lady."

Oh deities, Surly moaned, and scrunched his whole body toward an escape route into his glass. Stellar squinched her eyes at the hand on the bar, moved her head once to signal no to Toke.

"Pay me what you owe, Clod, and I'll buy my own drink."

"It's Claud actually."

"Whatever. You have my loot?"

The big man turned to The Bar patrons, heartily stalling. "Madams! Gents! Stellar Repo got me my stole frigate back. This little lady right here," patting Stellar's shoulder in a way that bordered on groping. Surly shuffled his stool farther to the right, moved his drink to his right palm. Halfway into Claud's exploratory hug, Stellar's left foot in the pointy boot landed a kick midway between the man's head and his own feet.

"Watch the hands, Clod. That's not how it is in womanland."

Toke preemptively set another shot in front of Stellar, one in front of Claud, and reaching below the bar, pulled a transfer port out and slapped it next to the glasses. "Drink's on the house, Claud. Pay Stellar. Drink. Go. In that order. My man. Now." Claud shakily picked up the port, poked some, threw the drink down his neck, and tiptoed to the exit. A brief flash of blazing light and the door hissed shut behind him.

A breath that might have been ahem drifted between Surly and Stellar. "Um. Stellar Repo? I have a situation that -."

Stellar flipped a card from her side pocket, extended it over her shoulder. "Office hours on the back. Ta."

Surly bumped his stool closer to Stellar. "What?" he asked. "What did you mistakenly think I know?"

Stellar grinned briefly. "This Black Feather retrieve. I got a tip. A message in the ether, too wispy, no time to trace. Who tips on this level? It was a joystick, a ride, nothing bigger. Why?" She gestured with her head toward the exit. "For a skidder, no less."

"A minute." Surly stilled. "No, nothing." Stellar stared at the side of Surly's bald dome where a flicker above his eyebrow vibrated. All of Surly blinked out in a flash with SIGNAL LOST hovering midthorax. Stellar, a drink in her right hand, leaned, reached across her body with her left and palm slapped Surly in the spot his forehead should have been. Surly winked back onto the stool. "Ta," he said.

"Don't mention."

Toke wandered over, removed the empties and shuffled the trans in front of Stellar. She nodded, swiped her wrist over the black wafer, glanced at the unit, touched the screen and moved it back to Toke, who picked it up and stashed it back under the bar.

Stellar stood. "Surly, you'll report anything that surfaces, yeah. Token Guy, ta. Use some of that loot to get some earth plane light spectrum bulbs, huh?"

Toke rolled his eyes. "Cheers, Stel."

Back on the blistering sidewalk, Stellar paused, eyes slammed shut at the agony of light. She opened one eye a sliver, and whoosh, blackness again as a hood dropped down. She was picked up, tossed over a smelly body, toted four steps and thrown into a hover that shot skyward before she stopped rolling.

The hover landed. Stellar draped nose to armpit again, then dropped on a floor from height. Hard. The hood was yanked off by a grinning ugly face too close.

"Get away from me, slick. This is my drinking night. I want to be alone."

Ugly guffawed. "You know where you are?"

"I do, rockabilly." She cold-cocked him. He went quietly.

An unmanly giggle she recognized turned her head.

She sat up, rubbing her knuckles. "A woman likes to be asked, McCloskey. Asked nice."

"Got a gig for you."


"McCloskey's Rule. The answer is never no. If required, it's I'll get back to you."


"Real marks are involved. Clinking coin of the realm," his singsong wheedle made her stomach think about hurling.


"I could kill you now."

Stellar stood up, fussed with her hair mashed by the hood. She growled, kicked the downed rockabilly just for fun.

"Later, McCloskey. Next time you want me to beat up your goon, make an appointment. Call first. Ask nice." She pointed a finger at him, stabbed once. Walked out. "You'll get my bill," she shouted from the lift.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Three Story Life: Backstory

We move about our lives in the history of our experience, like the classic suit in the closet we don't think about, no longer wear, but have not abandoned. Knowledge we can get if we're intellectually curious. We can knead awareness like physic dough, but the ingredients that made us are still there. Change can help us grow; the yeast of chaos delivered to our cupboard. Two conversations in an hour yesterday made me try to put that old classic suit on again. My father has 86 years of history and experience. I have no idea, and never will, what his life means to him, beyond what he shares in anecdotes, and what I can discern from reactions to events. He has no idea what my experience has made of me either. My brother may still be absorbing everyday events, but Alzheimer's disease has changed the interactions for the three of us. Dad wants it the way it was before. Scott wants the relationship to change. I need to adapt to the now with agility. Three individuals. One living with Alzheimer's, one living in the past, and me trying to make it all work harmoniously. Does how we came to this point matter? What defines who we are? The first conversation yesterday started early with Dad showing me the long sheet of details about the antidepressant Scott is on - the side effects that we're seeing in Scott. That's easy. We need a change in prescription. But Dad relayed stories about Scott's behavior that told me he's still trying to control his son. He picked up the sheet on the medication to read it because he wants a change to make Scott follow his orders. Scott, for the first time, is shaking off the control. Dad doesn't like it. What's my role? I told Dad for the thousandth time that we can only offer Scott safety and joy. He's done being trained. Get the medication changed, hope for a better outcome, and let the rest go. My backstory doesn't help me at all now. I hated my parents complete domination. I got out from under it, fought for dominion over my own experience, succeeded some, lost some. And here I am back in it. I can handle my own parental stuff, but Scott never did get away. Am I cheering his tiny steps for independence as a loving sister, or as a champion of freedom for myself? The second conversation yesterday was with a dear friend about affirmative action. Chaos delivered the newspaper headline to our talk, and my companion thinks it is time to abandon preferential legislation. I understand that constitutionally the argument is valid. My backstory is woman experience, starting with being the daughter of a sexually abused daughter; earning less for decades, counseling to get a grip, fighting to gain the ground I did, trying to help sisters up. I have strong feelings and history on this subject. It's my old classic suit. And I got angry yesterday, and suppressed it until later. The anger was a reasonable reaction, but now I'm questioning my feelings again. I'm mighty confused. Does it matter that my father wants to control his child, my brother? I don't know. Can I contribute anything healing and constructive? Why did a disagreement about affirmative action affect me so much? I don't know that either. I have the child story, sibling story, and adult senior woman story. Which serves me best? What helps my loved ones? And when the hell will I get rid of that old classic suit that used to fit but no longer does?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Three Story Life: Navigation

Yesterday Dad yelled down the stairs. "I'm going out to scrape my car." Okay, I thought. What's that about? He was leaving for the dentist in half an hour. Practicing observe and let it go, I took note and moved on to other tasks. A thought drifted into focus. Maybe this reportage is about bearings. I fell a couple weeks ago. Afterward my left brain got caught up in analyzing what happened. It was a new surprising event and I mentally gnawed on it to get its flavor. I lost my bearings. Spinning out, my father calls it. What Dad was doing when he gave me his location was using me like a star in a sea of change. At first it seemed I was a sextant, but that's a tool - there are still x and y points to locate in order to use a tool for navigation. We have physical locomotion needs: how far away is the ground? How close that step? And we have psychological placement needs. Establishing behaviors that define our physiologic borders. Scott has lost sense of where his body ends and the rest of the world starts. We don't know how he feels about this. Dad knows how it feels, and although he cannot communicate it any more than Scott can, he sets his internal sextant to coordinate the points he can recognize. If I know where he is, then he feels less at sea. I become either a point on the horizon or the north star. It's an awesome role, and I will respect the assignment with humility and reverence, and think of it as an opportunity for growth. And this awareness is a marker to watch for this in other seniors, and hopefully, to remember to use it myself.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stellar Repo: Excerpt One

"Lady Pierpont. This man is not your husband."

The woman opposite the desk glanced wide-eyed at the man seated next to her. "You're sure?" Her voice cracked like thin ice. The whites of her eyes gleamed.

"No doubt."

Lady Pierpont vibrated. Her long painted nails flicked the tiny tablet in her hands open. Closed. Click. Click. "What do I do?"

"That's a job for counsel, Lady Pierpont." Stellar Repo leaked breath through stretched lips, gazing at her new client. Thinking.

"Lady Pierpont. May I call you Mabel? Mabel. The suit is a pseudomorph. Oscar Pierpont has been replaced molecule by molecule. You've heard of imaginal cells? No. Anyway. He is a new thing. His apparatus is the same. He may or may not have some remnant of who he was banging around in there. But mostly he's an empty shell named Lord Pierpont. Do you understand?"

"But how?"

"How is not relevant. Irreversible. He is. Gone. You are united in connubial bliss with - let me be blunt - an astoundingly wealthy cypher."

Stella squinted at the shell in the suit. Thinking. Diagnosis got her so many marks. Standard guild stuff. Next steps billed several degrees of magnitude more.

"Lady Pierpont. Mabel. Were your needs being met?"

"Sorry?" The click click of the tab stopped.

"How long are you married?"

"Fifteen years."

"You are much younger than Lord Pierpont."

"Well. Yes."

"And sex?"


"I see. Mabel. Think. Blank page. No peccadillos, preferences, predilections. All new gear."

"Uh. Oh!"


The two women stared at Lord Oscar Pierpont. The man with no preconceiveds. A new thing.

"Well. Mabel. On your way then. We both have work to do. Will you be paying with credit? Or marks?"

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

I'll do just about anything not to write. Essays I write are about avoiding writing. It's National Novel Writing Month. Got a good start with a terrific idea, whizzed through day one. Then nothing. I lit the writing lamp. Drank tea. More tea. Sharpened pencils, dusted the desk, lit candles, got out a new notebook, cleaned the bathroom, washed kitchen walls, changed out the wreath on the front door. Made two dinners one nght, so I could write through dinner the next. Today I had to costume. The novel I'm not writing is Stellar Repo, a space noir scifi adventure, loosely based on my stint as aircraft collection manager for MNB. I had no idea what I was in for, but my learning curve was hilarious. Repossessing aircraft. Friends suggested I write those stories. Young Emmett, my friends' TV show producer said, do it in space. Space noir. Princess Leia as Sam Spade. Noir requires a black fedora. Check. Cigarette. check. Scruffy beard shadow. Check. Sunglasses, ditto. The sigreet is a rolled 3x5 card, set on fire. I had to draw the smoke with a dry media Photoshop brush, smudged. The stubble was a burnt cork, just like Dad used to do when we were kids, and it rained every Halloween, forcing us to go trick or treating in our raincoats and Junior Fire Marshall hats as smoky firemen. Space noir. Next up: the cover of Stellar Repo. And an excerpt.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trimming My Wick

Three wicks actually. The secret to candle burning longevity is keep the wick trimmed. The light is more intense, less smoky. As we learn to shine our own light in our world, as our passions are identified and we practice active engagement from our center, our light is wide and diffuse. Like a flashlight with an unfocused beam. I am learning to focus on the causes I care about, the people I love and the community I am able to serve. I'm trimming my wick. Three wicks actually.