Monday, February 28, 2011

The Blues are Running - Up at Blue Fifth Review

I am honored to have my story The Blues are Running up at Blue Fifth Review. Dedicated to my father, who was happiest at the Outerbanks with his rod, his dog, and his family.

Thank you to Sam Rasnake and Michelle Elvy, the wonderful writerly souls who guide BFR. Please enjoy the issue, themed BLUE, and the gorgeous word and paint strokes of Leslie Marcus, JP Reese, CE Chaffin, Sheldon Lee Compton, and Pamela Johnson Parker.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cheap and Convenient

Coincidence? More like serendipity. I mean, this pink paper flapping under my windshield wiper, the only car on the street? Day care services, the flyer said. Infants welcome. Manna from heaven! Do you know how hard it is to find someone to watch babies? I had to return to work -- you know how it goes when you’re single. Besides, she was cheap and convenient.

She seemed okay. Quiet. Sad brown eyes. She looked kind of familiar. But she rocked Sophie, face out, the same way I do. “Beautiful baby,” she sang. “Beautiful baby.” Later, when she said she’d had miscarriages, I should have put it all together. Because she was there in the hospital, you know. In the same room. I only remembered after.

I hated leaving Sophie with her. I wanted to stay home with my baby. That first week Sophie screamed herself purple when I dropped her off. Me? I bawled at my desk. Called every hour. “Is she all right?” I’d ask, and she’d say, “She’s just fine, Miss Dorothee.”

It got better. We found our routine. That day I was actually relaxed – it was my birthday, you know – so I treated myself to an ice cream cone on the walk home. But no lights were on. She didn’t answer the door, so I kicked in the window, black raspberry spattered all over the front steps, but she wasn’t there, no one was there… oh God, officer, please find my baby.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: coincidence. And a tad of guilt -- two kids, and I never was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom.


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Milk for Free?

Not too long ago, a writer friend asked me why I posted my stories on my blog 'for free'. I sort of laughed, because the short stories I write might make a grand five bucks. Which is, in fact, the most I have ever made off my short stories; it's sort of the going rate for flash fiction these days.

But his observation gave me pause. For while my stories may not cover my retirement expenses, they could be placed in literary journals. While not pay markets, litmags at least carry cred on vitaes and might attract the attention of an agent or editor. Which led me to ask: should I keep my writings 'secret', revealing only when properly published?

I run on the periphery of literary circles. I'm undegreed and unaffiliated, just a middle-aged woman who comes late to the writing show. There are inner circles, and getting published in many of the premier litzines (print and on-line) often requires membership. I'm the kid who doesn't belong to the country club. Not a pity party, just a fact, ma'am. Besides...

...I consider what I post here my throw-aways. Which is not to say I don't care for my stories -- I do, I love them, I have spent a lot of time caring for and crafting them. But they are my guilty indulgence, the late-night Drambuie, the chili-infused dark chocolate bar squirreled in my pencil drawer. I get to play with new words once a week after hacking and sawing away at my novels (which I will NEVER give away for free). Plus...

...I do submit these stories. And boy, do I get frustrated. Not with the rejections -- I WOULD LOVE A REJECTION! I would love a response! Any response -- EDITORS, are you listening??? Holy Guacamole, I have one story out for 213 days at a reputable paying flash fiction market. No response, even to polite queries. I have 4 other stories out there approaching 100 days (plus 6 others I recently withdrew. I typically withdraw after 100 days if no response). I'm keeping this particular story in for fun -- let's party when it hits 365 days. Hey, I'm an editor, too, things get busy, but with submishmash THERE IS NO EXCUSE for not responding. Besides, it's just plain rude...

...but sometimes my stories DO get published. In the last year, more than a dozen stories and poems which first showed up in some shape or form on my blog have been published in other venues. About half of these are solicited by editors. Which thrills me, because it means someone coveted my words enough to reprint them. And I thank you kind folks and am grateful for championing words, especially my words. But...

...(there is always a but...) once published, I rarely get feedback from readers. Not like here, on my blog, or at fictionaut, or at 52/250. Which saddens me, because jeesh, all I REALLY want (other than a book contract) is for readers to tell me my words moved them or made them think or inspired them to treat a fellow human differently. It's kind of isolating to 'publish', it's like my words get sucked into this great big blackhole. So...

...this leaves me with another question: do I write for readers, or for other writers? And... do we best share our stories and poems with the world?

And that's sort of the crux of it all. For me, at least. And you?

Peace, Linda

Thursday, February 17, 2011


You pause at the subway entrance. By the blind woman. Every evening she shows up for the commuter rush, rattling her cup, hustling for coins. Tonight you press your bagged lunch, uneaten, into her hands, then pull out the crumpled twenty you found wedged in your pencil drawer. She mumbles thanks, so you stuff your hat and leather gloves and the Ray-Ban’s your ex gave you last Christmas into her waiting lap. So many riches, all at once, and for the smallest instant you wish you were her, you wish you were anyone but yourself. She leans closer, she smells of grease and raw onion and the street, and peers into the Xerox box hugged tight against the curve of your hip. When you question the veracity of her condition, she laughs, a smoke-smoothed cackle, and you think, what does it matter?

The escalator whisks you silent into the dim bowels of the station. At the bottom, the box thuds at your feet: mug, wedding photo, the 25-year pen. You think you should feel lighter, somehow unencumbered, but you don’t. The platform trembles. The cold rush of air precedes the oncoming train.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: the money's gone. But also inspired by a very small story of mine published last year at nanoism. Can you find the story within the story?

Don't know about you, but there's a lot of folks rattling boxes at the subway station these days. Makes me grateful for the job I do have, even those days when it drives me barmy. Peace...

Monday, February 14, 2011


Love comes in many flavors. Today is a celebration of love, mostly embodied by the symbols of roses and chocolate and glittery things to drape around body appendages. And then there's sexual love, which I wrote about in LOTUS. But the purest love, the best love, endures. I offer this story today in honor of my parents, who stuck through everything together for 48 years. Peace, Linda


Another Thursday night.

She usually looked forward to sharing the next hour with her husband, but tonight she felt weary. Leaning on the table, she pushed away her half-eaten Stouffer’s lasagna and pulled herself up. Wavering over her walker, she adjusted the dial on the portable oxygen tank to highest flow.

The walk across the kitchen seemed interminable. She paused at the counter and gathered the supplies. The cans rattled against the metal basket. At the living room entrance, she rested again. The carpet slowed her down; it always did. She adjusted her nasal cannula. After a few breaths, she shambled the last steps to the Lazy Boy.

Her husband’s white hair always shocked her; once, it had been jet black. But she loved the feel of it now; spun silver soft as the Lamb’s Ear edging the front walk. He slumped in the chair, washrag pressed against the side of his face where the tumor had eaten into his jaw bone. A good man, an obliging patient, his tee shirt was already rolled up to his chest.

“Dinner time.” She tried to sound chipper.

He grunted, nodded his head, but didn’t look at her.

The tubing unwound in her hands, unreeling like a garden hose. She leaned over him, feeling precarious without her walker to steady her. Her hand trembled against the warm skin of his stomach, shrunken so that the skin folded in canyons. This time she managed to slip the tubing end into the port on the first try. It wasn’t always that easy. Tears of relief welled in her eyes.

She wheezed and gripped the side of the recliner to catch her breath. She shook one can, then the next, struggling with the pop-tops. Arthritis crippled the finger that had once quilted and knitted, that had wrung weeds from the earth and turned patients in their hospital beds. She despised her weakness.

He grunted again.

“Oh. What’s for dinner tonight?” A new part of the ritual she kept forgetting. “Tonight we have meatloaf with lots of catsup, mashed potatoes dripping with butter, and, of course, peas. The LeSuer ones you love. For dessert, Boston cream pie. Your favorite.”

He grunted again, but managed a weak smile.

She smiled back. She hung the bag from the IV pole and slowly poured in one can. Liquid the consistency and color of gravy slowly edged down the clear tube. She sighed as she sank to the couch and waited for gravity to pull sustenance into his frail body. He watched, too, his eyes anxious on the bag.

She wondered whether the artificial nutrition had any flavor, whether he could somehow taste it through his blood. Whether it satisfied. To her, the liquid smelled the way chalk tasted. She thought of the meals they had shared the past 49 years: the duck confit and profiteroles in Paris, the smorgasboard of salmon and cheeses enjoyed in Sweden on their second honeymoon, their daughters and grandchildren gathered around the Thanksgiving table. The glasses of wine, the morning coffee. Thursday night pizza and television. All those years.

“Honey, do you remember when we—“

He grunted. “Shush.”

She bit her lip, averting her gaze to the floor. Her mouth flooded with a metallic wetness.

He looked past her, to the wide-screen. Buff young bodies dove into crystalline water in an exotic country she would never visit. Jeff Probst’s voice filled the room. “Last week, on Survivor…”. She looked again at the mud-colored nourishment flowing into the hole in her husband’s stomach and wondered how many more Thursdays they still had left. She patted his knee.

“I love you.”

He grunted, eyes still glued to the tube. But he released the remote, circled her trembling fingers, and squeezed them tight.

(Originally published as Another Thursday Night in The SHINE JOURNAL, May 2010).

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Drape me with silk

lustrous as the line of my thigh,

feed me oysters

champagne lapped, finger napped,

cream whipped

to fill my hollows.

Make cartography with your mouth,

move mountains with your fingers,

tongue highways down my belly

moan your prayers

hush in my ear you are done

with her,

hope these offerings will

unfurl my heart.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: passwords.

Not really sure where this came from, other than I had two ideas in response to this theme and two writing deadlines fast-approaching (the other piece, a story about hobos, is still in flux). I guess I was pondering how no one can really ever own another, but how we go through life trying to unlock each other's secrets. The image of a lotus flower came to me, slowly opening. Funny, but I found this little factoid AFTER writing the poem: In Asian cultures the lotus flower signifies the values of sexual purity and non-attachment.

Peace, Linda

Monday, February 07, 2011

Chatting at fictionaut

Last week, hours before the snowstorm barreled up the eastern Coast, Susan Tepper and I chatted about space in life and writing. Read all about it here.

(Thank you Susan!)

Peace, Linda

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Winter in Istanbul

The Winter Issue of ISTANBUL LITERARY REVIEW is live, and what a panacea for the winter doldrums! ILR aims for an international readership with international contributors, with editors from Turkey and the United States.

I am honored my short story Wolves and Butterflies landed in this issue, alongside such talents as Michelle Elvy, Michael Dickes, James Lloyd Davis, Matthew Hamilton, Jules Archer, and James Robison. Thank you Susan Tepper and Gloria Mindock for including my story in this stellar journal.

All that reading will likely make you hungry, so take a peek at the recipes - yum! Peace, Linda

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I close my eyes, see the hair. Plastered in a swirl of thalo blue, too short and black to be mine, too long to fall from the brush. I remember tapping ash from my Camel, wondering who trespassed my studio. I reached for that hair and my arm went numb, the air zagged white, and out the window fog huddled grey over the sound. I crumpled on the paint-spattered floor, counting cigarettes and brushes rolled under the easel, the shadows passing.

Now the world is blank canvas – the shades open, the sun pours in, harsh titanium. The television murmurs too low to hear, too loud to think. Nurses turn me, rub my pale unfeeling feet and arms and backside, and swaddle me again in brilliant sheets.

My son comes. I smile but he cannot see it. No one can. He sits by the bed and cradles my hand, stroking the parchment that stitches me together the way the nurses do, but longer, with smaller, tighter circles. He talks to fill in the space, more than he ever talked to me before, and I blink fast. A single tear squeezes past, and I wish I could feel it slide hot and wet down my cheek. His hand reaches. “Oh Mom” he says, and peters out of words, my poet son. I close my eyes, see the hair.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: long distance. As well as by delving into a scene from one of my novels where the prodigal son returns home to find his mother immobilized from a stroke. Peace...