Fiction Friday-Kiss The Kitties Resumes In a Week

IMG_0174I’ve started a story called Kiss The Kitties. Each entry will go up on Friday and will be about 1000 words. If readers tell me they want more, I will definitely comply. I just find that 1000 is about as much as anyone, including myself, has time to commit to at any given moment of the day.

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and sadness. Last week our opera, The Place Where You Started, premiered in Portland on November 12th. The first night of dress rehearsal was November 8th. My husband and I barely stayed focused. We barely slept and by the next morning found the ground beneath us gone. It felt as if we floated into unchartered and terrifying territory holding on only to each other.

Protests vibrated in the streets and strained the already taught space between my family and I, half of whom voted for the other party.  I can only imagine what the election results will do to families across this nation as they gather for Thanksgiving. Maybe people should lay off the libations a bit. Spirits already run high. But then, how does one manage that kind of strain for an entire day sober?

Anyway, last week was intense. I’m sick now. I haven’t been able to get myself to the keyboard. Additionally, and sadly, I must drag myself to a day job that frustrates and drains me.

Next week, thankfully, I’ll resume my writing. Thanksgiving Day I’ll be at home, in Southern California, with my husband and my two glorious, magical, majestic cats. We will cook a turkey, the cats will allow us the scraps, and all will be well on that little day. Chloe will hold court on the state of the nation. Fortunately, William won’t be here to argue.

Kiss the Kitties will resume next week. I have lots in store for Chloe, Charlie, and William. You’ll also meet Helen the Siamese, Jack the Mancoon, and Akihla the Abyssinian. There are many adventures ahead. I hope you stay tuned. Thank you for indulging me this break.

Fiction Friday-Kiss The Kitties

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Chapter 1–Santa Cruz, CA Present Day

I kiss kitties for a living. I once wanted to write, but found I was much better at kissing kitties. I have a large home and an even larger backyard with trees and kitty tree houses. All cats are neutered and spayed and their vaccines up to date. Over a hundred live here. I know each by name. If a cat is ill, I can sense it right away and herd her to the the vet, my sister, Lisa, who hates cats, which makes her brilliant when it comes to putting them to sleep and cutting them open. Cats hate her too.

That’s where I come in. I have no husband, or wife. Who wants to kiss a woman who kisses cats for a living? It’s pretty gross even when I think about it. Yet, kissing kitties is akin to kissing love itself, but better. Kittens are the easiest. I kiss their pink paws, their fuzzy bellies, their silken heads. I kiss and I kiss and I kiss and it’s never too much for them. I could charge a lot less than I do for them, but I charge more because of higher demand. Its supply side economics. After I’m done with them, you’ll have yourself quite a smashing kitty. Someone who loves you, greets you at the door, follows you from room to room, and will even sleep on your head. Most people don’t like that last bit. It’s a joke between the cats and I. I tell their humans it’s just part of their new kitty’s nature, but we both know better.

The older cats, the ones who’ve been abused, abandoned, ignored, and even never loved, well, they’re my specialty. I don’t charge much for them. They’ll be dumped again, or killed if someone doesn’t like my price. My sister would like nothing better.

That’s how I met William, an irascible orange fellow who’d lost an eye and part of his ear in a barroom brawl. William was mean. My sister was about to kill him, but because she enjoys it when I fail said, “Here, take him. Just try kissing him. He’ll scratch your damn face off. You’ll probably end up killing him sooner than I. I’ve got a backlog. Cancer. Incurable. They’re dropping like flies.” Then she laughed like the villain she was.

I took his cage and looked at him. What to do with William? We squared off. Don’t you dare, he said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” I said. Kissing kitties meant getting them to want to be kissed. And their psychology wasn’t too hard to pin down. Make them think you don’t want them. But William was used to that. I had to think about this one.


“I think you care more than you say you do.” I said. Lisa stood in the kitchen cutting steak into cubes.

“I think you care less than you say you do.” She said. She lifted a glass of expensive merlot to her lips. Johnson, her new whatever, was coming over. Both of them were meat eaters. Fresh blood dripped down her hand and dribbled down the glass.

“Blech,” I turned my head. “Prove it.”

“William,” she snarled

“What about William?” I spat.

“Exactly.”

“We love each other.” I paused. “He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Hah! Ridiculous. Admit it. He’s just not that into you.”

“You’re cruel.”

“That’s correct.” She pierced a chunk of bloody flesh with a skewer.

“Has William told you something? Have you been talking to him?”

“He talks to me.”

“Why is he talking to you and not to me?”

“He’s begging me to put him down.”

“What? He’s suicidal and you didn’t tell me?”

“Don’t be dramatic.”

“You’re such a witch!”

“And you’re so boring.”

Tears streamed hot down my cheeks. “Why? Why do you hate me?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t hate you, dear girl. Now go. Johnson is coming and he needs to think I’m a good person. I can’t be good when you’re around. You’re too irritating.”

“Where’s William? What have you done with him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you kill him?”

“Absurd. I don’t do anything for free.”

“You would if it hurt me.”

“True. But no. I actually haven’t seen him since last Tuesday.”

“That’s when I last saw him.”

“So go. Find him.”

“Do you think he’s dead?”

“You’d know.”

She was right. I would know. I always knew when one of my own died. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew. I ran from the house and let the screen door slam. Dear William, don’t give up on us, you jerk.

Chapter 2 Los Angeles, five years earlier. 

 

“I believe in you.” Chloe said. She was my first cat, a tiny calico with enormous grass green eyes. “I believe you can do anything because you’ve always done everything. You saved my life lots of times.”

“I did, didn’t I?” I was sobbing, again, because of all of the failures.

“I love you, mom. You always figure it out.” She stared at me. Charlie, her brother, an orange domestic, said nothing. Like most guys, he was useless in a crisis.

Chloe had three chronic illnesses. I’d been keeping her alive with love, the right food, and prescription medication. Now that I’d lost my car and my job, we were all about to be homeless. She’s right. We’d been destitute before, but I’d had hope. I’d always had my eye on the next thing. Always had one foot out the door. Always had the resources to get there. Credit. A car. A winning smile. My youth.

But Los Angeles had stolen all of that from me. Rent was too high. School loans were in the triple digits. I quit or was fired from every job I’d had in ten years. At the end I  worked, in sales at a for profit screenwriting school, peddling dreams like snake oil. The CEO charged thousands to cash-strapped writers and tacked on interest when they couldn’t pay. One day, because a writer didn’t make her payments, he ran her debit card three times consecutively.  She stood at the grocery store checkout line trying to pay for groceries for her three children and found that he’d emptied her account.  Los Angeles, land of the great con. I first came out to write movies, perhaps direct. Now, I was a cliché like the millions who preceded me and the millions on their way. Exhaustion plagued me day and night, as it does in poverty. He paid us $30,000 annually.

Writing was out of the question when getting out of bed was the major accomplishment everyday. In addition to shattered dreams, disastrous jobs, I’d left a string of empty, useless relationships behind me. I was incompetent in life, career, and love. But not at kissing kitties. Charlie and Chloe were the only reason I didn’t throw myself in front of a bus. Every earth-shatteringly terrible day when I returned from the seventh circle of hell that was my job, both greeted me with enthusiasm with loving eyes, and their little tails tucked around neat paws.

Yet, today was an exception. Today they weren’t at my door when I came home. The apartment echoed. Not soul stirred in the dark, dusty place.

Betrayed

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This piece is not meant to represent any specific person, place, or event. It’s a compilation of conversations and experiences I’ve had in many different places. I’ve written one experience here to represent many. Any similarities to specific people, places, or events is a mere coincidence.

“If you’re so miserable, why don’t you just do something about it? Everyday you come in here and you just complain. Just get another job already,” Sandy said.
It was late. We stood near our counters. The department stood empty. Yellow track lighting glared above us. The chrome counters glistened. Bright shades of lipstick waited in their black heavy plastic units, ready for the next day’s clients. Her counter always looked great. I was in the process of dusting mine with an old powder brush.
“Wow. OK black,” I said.
“What?”
“Pot. Black.”
She gave be a blank stare.
“Pot calling the kettle black.”
“I’m not miserable.”
“You complain as much as I do.”
“I don’t complain everyday. And I don’t complain about my job. I’m working through bigger life goals. And I’m doing something about them.”
“OK. Got it,” I said, a little too loudly and too aggressively. But I was pissed and all I wanted to say was, Fuck you. You absolutely complain as much as I do. And when that’s the only thing you can think of to say, you walk away. Conversation over.
Her voice rose the further away I got. “I’m just not telling you about them.”
My eyes grew wider, in what I can imagine was my mother’s, I’m going to silently punish you face. “OK, I got it, Sandy.”
“Well if you’re so miserable don’t take it out on me,” She turned away.

Which I should’ve seen coming. A few weeks back I told her that a co-worker took some products from her counter. She told a mutual friend of ours. Our mutual friend told me. I did not know she already knew, that she had been the source of the information. I told her, because I thought I was doing her a favor. She flipped out. Completely and totally melted down. I was shocked. It’s not like I had betrayed state secrets. This wasn’t the Pentagon for Christ’s sake.

Sandy seethed. “I told Alison that in confidence. I can’t believe she told anyone. Who else did she tell?”
“No one, I’m sure. She only told me because we’re all friends. Listen, I thought I was doing you a favor. I thought we were friends. I would want to know. Jesus Sandy. What’s the big deal?”
“That’s fine. It’s not you. I just know I can never trust her again.”
“OK, you’re overreacting.”
“I don’t think so.”

I walked away from her counter. Fallout would come. She’d confront Alison and punish us both. I was too chicken to tell Alison I’d told Sandy. I can’t remember if she’d told me not to say anything.

Sandy confronted Alison. Alison, indirectly, communicated to me, she knew I’d told. In the end, it seemed, it blew over. We shared laughs, covered each other’s counters while the other went on break. In general, we enjoyed an ease and camaraderie one needs when working together in about a 500 square foot area.

Until last night. Sandy’s sanctimonious direction to “find another job if you’re so miserable,” revealed she hadn’t let it go. Her barb, “I’m doing something about it. I’m just not telling you,” was a clear message. It was meant to impugn my character. I can’t be trusted and I’m too afraid or too lazy to find another job.

Sandy got me when I least expected it. So yes, she won. I know that revenge can feel sweet in the moment. I hope she enjoyed it because the effects are final. Maybe she just wanted it that way. Alison’s the only ally I have left. I plan on protecting that with my life. No one can survive that floor on her own. You’re bait.

On Working With Women

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Cat Fight

This piece is not meant to represent any specific person, place, or event. It’s a compilation of conversations and experiences I’ve had in many different places. I’ve written one experience here to represent many. Any similarities to specific people, places, or events is a mere coincidence.

“I can’t stand her,” she said of me. Though I was not the one who heard her. Ariana told me.
“Are you friends with Sally over there?” She pointed to the makeup counter on the other side of the department. I had to strain to see her around all of the chrome towers piled high with soaps and body scrubs.
“Who’s Sally?” I asked.
“Sally over there at that counter.”
“Obviously no. I don’t even know her name.”
“Well, she said she can’t stand you.”
“I’ve never had a conversation with her.”
“I’m just telling you so you know who your friends are.”
“OK, thanks.”
“I don’t want you getting close to her or anything.”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Did she tell you that?”
“She told Marina and Marina and I were talking when we had nothing to do the other night.”
“She’s just young and bored and she wasn’t raised right.”
“She said they were standing at the registers and Sally said, “I can’t stand that Barbara Bastet* girl.” When Marina looked up you were the one standing there.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I didn’t say that to bother you or anything. I just thought you should know.”
“I got it, thanks.”
“Well, don’t get defensive.”
“I’m good. What else do you want me to say?”

Later, Marina and I had coffee.
“So you don’t like Sally, huh?”
“What? I don’t even know Sally, but I understand she doesn’t like me.”
Marina’s eyes widened. “She doesn’t like you. I’d stay away from her.”
“She doesn’t scare me. She’s half my age.”
“I know. Just don’t deal with her.”
“I’ve never had the occasion to. I’m certain it will not come up now.”

Recently, due to this election season, I’ve been thinking about the misogyny in this country. Women can be worse than men. I don’t know how men take out their aggressions on other men in the workplace. Women are vicious to one another, particularly women who are bored, hate themselves, and hate their jobs. We’re all looking for a scapegoat when we feel like shit. It feels better to dump on someone else then to take responsibility for the life we feel powerless to change.

It’s not a good feeling when somebody doesn’t like you. Sally’s comment made it even more difficult to walk through those doors everyday and face clients with screaming children or menopause, all of whom are frustrated, agitated, and looking for someone to take it out on.

I’ve said the same thing Sally said about me twice about two different people on two separate occasions. The message got back to both of them. I regret that now. They didn’t deserve it. I wish I could apologize. They’ve both left those jobs. Their positions got the better of them. Most people can’t take the suffering. They just didn’t know how to complain. I find that if you know how to do it, you can stand almost anything.

I actually had a very good upbringing. I was taught to be kind, respectful, and hardworking. But I changed after I moved out. And I grew worse when I moved to Los Angeles. I can’t explain what has happened here. It’s a rude and mean town. That seeps in. I could say that Sally’s comment is Karma, but I don’t believe in it. The people around me are unhappy. It makes for a toxic environment, one where we turn and eat each other.

Feminists talk about lifting one another up, giving each other opportunities, offering support in the workplace. I don’t know where they work, but I’ve never seen that happen. Not in the corporate world, not in restaurants, not in retail. It doesn’t matter what their education or success, I’ve never met a woman interested in helping other women. Mostly, the women I’ve met, prefer men. I think it’s just an easier transaction. They know how to get what they want from them. Men don’t usually play the same head games or get into Machiavellian schemes. At least women can’t imagine it. Machiavelli was, after all, a man.

In 2006 I moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. I needed to get away from a possessive boyfriend who lived in New York. I figured that by 2008 I’d have untangled myself from him. I wanted to move to New York without complications. It seemed like a good place to be a writer, meet interesting people, and put together an exciting life.

Then I met my husband one month before I was set to leave. I’d already given my notice to my landlord and was looking forward to quitting my low-paying, abusive entertainment job. But I knew, as soon as we met, I wasn’t leaving. Love is not a readily available commodity, as my mid thirties unmarried friends discovered after they’d given it up for their careers.

L.A. exhausts me. Half the time I don’t know the season. It’s 100 degrees in November. I wake up every morning and feel like I’m trapped in and endless summer job. I’m aging. The world is moving forward. And I can’t find the exit.

*All names have been changed. Barbara Bastet is a pseudonym for a makeup line.

The Huddled Masses Shouldn’t Vote

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Me on November 8th awaiting election results.

 

And so we are, as a nation, without principals. I grieve for what we could be, what we promised to be. But I shouldn’t be surprised, right? The Founding Fathers wrote equality into the constitution even as they raped, pillaged, and oppressed. Aren’t we then, both the ones who oppress and, the ones who free?

Yes.

We’ve been waging war against one another since the beginning. Those in power protect themselves. The disempowered demand a fair shake. This, of course, has gone on since we stepped outside the cave. But, the Founding Fathers wrote the possibility for something more into the Constitution. They aspired to something no one had before–the evolution of thought. As the population grew, ideas changed, and amendments were written. The Fathers knew that they didn’t know what they didn’t know and thankfully, their humility allowed us to lurch forward.

Now we have a serious problem. The largest economic recession of our time created debt the likes of which people have not seen in their lifetimes. I cannot pay my student debt. I cannot even use my Master’s degree. My fault, perhaps, but not one that exists in a vacuum. Everyone needs support, a thriving economy not just for the well off and the wealthy. There must be opportunities at every level. Instead we have a glut of jobs available in technology and the sciences and none for those with little to no education. And that trend continues. As education grows more expensive, only the elites can afford to have a career.

And so we have the GOP and we have the Democrats, both propping up candidates that don’t represent the population. One an anarchist and dictator. One a conservative boomer, her understanding of the world, in many ways, stuck in the 20th Century. Economic evolution will not happen in the next four to eight years. We face the option of total mayhem, or stability and a little bit of growth. I believe in Hillary. I am, however, losing hope in our country.

The seething masses don’t think for themselves. They blame the media for liberal bias. They don’t trust anything the media covers. We can thank the Republicans for that.

The GOP has been winning the narrative for years. Decades. This idea that the media is biased, that they are Clinton shills is their story. They are the masters of the sound bites and political tag lines. It’s the media who gives them a platform, follows them around, begs them to weigh in, never challenges their hypocrisies and lies. Fighting makes for better television and no one fights dirtier than the Republicans. So, who is the media shilling for?

This week, just 11 days before the election the Guardian, a highly respected news source led with a headline stating, Newly discovered emails relating to Hillary Clinton case under review by FBI. 

What does that title suggest to you? That they’ve discovered new emails. That the investigation has been reopened. Neither are true. Incidentally, the Guardian has since removed this article.

They had jumped into the media feeding frenzy, then discovered, only after the fact, that the emails were not new. They were in the original investigation and that it had not been reopened. But the damage is done. The GOP won again. The voting masses will not read past that initial headline. Thanks media.

I’ve been wondering a lot if voting should be put in the hands of the huddled masses.

In California we vote our judges onto the bench. On it’s face, it may seem like an empowered and even liberal idea. Judges determine civil and criminal matters, set precedent, make laws.

They must remain impartial, communicate their work ethic, demonstrate their knowledge of the law and issues that face the community. Yet, how does one communicate impartiality if they’re appealing to voters? Voters want to be courted. They want their candidates to prove they care about the same issues. That is, if they care at all. Voters, in large part are uninformed. They don’t know and they don’t care to know.

This email thing with Hillary will be our undoing, not because it’s true, but because it feels true.

FICTION FRIDAY: The Place Where You Started–a libretto

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I’ve just finished collaborating on an opera with my husband, which will open in Portland in November. I wrote the libretto (script) he wrote all the music (much harder than the script). We developed the story together. This is the first act–about a five to eight minute read. The synopsis is just below the cast list should you only want to read that. I may post the rest, should anyone like it. It’s modern, funny, and toward the end, tragic. Enjoy.

Characters

Meredith – Frustrated writer
Macario – Gardner
Steve – Meredith’s long-time, underachieving boyfriend Brianne* – Steve’s sister-in-law
Brendan☩ – Steve’s brother
Samantha – Meredith’s agent

Soprano Baritone

Synopsis

A literary phenomena at age 19, Meredith never imagined that now, some years later, she would be writing un-produced screenplays and teaching part time at a community college.

Macario finds peace working as a landscaper and gardener. These daily tasks help keep him from becoming consumed with memories of a terrible tragedy in his past.

Through a chance encounter, Meredith and Macario discover they have much in common and form an unlikely friendship, transforming them both. But a petty act of jealousy will tear the friendship apart.

The Place Where You Started is about living fully in the moment, not being held hostage to past decisions, and discovering a future wide open to possibilities.

 

 

*Each scene should proceed immediately and without pause into the next. The one exception being between scenes 4 & 5, where a significant pause should be taken.

Duration: ca. 1 hour and 35 minutes 3

SCENE 1

(Lights up on MEREDITH in the living room of a small, very modest Southern California bungalow. There are hints of a window, a door to the outside, a door to another room. MEREDITH is sitting in front of an open laptop, staring at the screen.)

MEREDITH

Why is this hard?
Why is this so difficult?
It never took so long
To write a simple line of dialog

Stuck in a rut with a –
What?
A black cursor on a blank page

How can I not write this?
This should be easy
Samantha said it would be easy

Write it in a week or two.
It’s been three weeks instead

And I’m banging my head

Night and day

Be romantic, Meredith!
Be sexy, Meredith!
Be everything, but don’t be you, Meredith!

It’s good girl meets bad boy

Fantasy romance
I know how this goes
And yet I got nothin’.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself

Just do it.
Come on, let’s go.

Oh!
I just received an email
Turn off your goddamn email!

Focus, Meredith, focus Here I go  (She writes)

 

FADE IN

Lucinda and Roland…

(Lights come up on LUCINDA, hip virgin and ROLAND, brooding, sexy vampire – think “Twilight.” They sing dialog as MEREDITH writes.)

LUCINDA

Roland – I’m excited And nervous
But I feel safe with you.

ROLAND

You should not feel safe with me, Lucinda Ever

LUCINDA

But I do
You’ll never convince me you’re evil

ROLAND

I’ve done terrible things

LUCINDA

I see kindness in your eyes

ROLAND

You’re so innocent

Vulnerable to the world
A world that takes advantage

That is my world

LUCINDA

I want to see your world

ROLAND

I will show you things you cannot imagine

Terrifying things
Wonderful things
Things no mortal should ever see

LUCINDA

I want to see

ROLAND

I want to show you

 

LUCINDA

I want to spread my wings

ROLAND

Spread your wings and let me in – To your mind

(ROLAND takes LUCINDA’s hands)

LUCINDA

(Reacting to his cold hands)

Ah!
Your hands are so cold

ROLAND

You smell like life

LUCINDA

Smell me, Roland, smell me!

(ROLAND and LUCINDA freeze in their current position)

MEREDITH

Smell me?

(Lights down on ROLAND and LUCINDA)

Is this the best I can do? I can do better
I’m better than this

Vampire romance sickly sweet

Uninspired fantasy

How did I get here?

Once a “literary phenomenon”
A fresh new voice!
Endless potential
The New Yorker at nineteen!
“On the threshold of a spectacular career!”

That’s what they said

But I chose film
Derailed by flickering promises of fame and fortune

 

Ah well, too late to undo

I might have been more

There were no guarantees

But I was on the right track

On my way

People believed in me, heard of me I want that time back

I want to rewind
Start again, start over, have another chance!

I’ve wasted so much time!

Is this the best I can do?
I can do better
I’m better than this
I want to be better than this I want…

(STEVE emerges from somewhere)

STEVE

I want a beer
Do we have any beer?

(Opens the fridge – success!) (Opening beer)

How is it going?

MEREDITH

It’s not

STEVE

Want a beer?

MEREDITH

No

STEVE

Hungry?

MEREDITH

Nope

STEVE

 

Wanna watch TV?

MEREDITH

(Getting frustrated)

No

STEVE

(Thinking, taking a long moment)

Want to…fool around?

MEREDITH

(Thinking, shrugs)

Okay

(Fast lights down. End of scene 1)

 

SCENE 2

(The next morning. MEREDITH is getting coffee. Her laptop is open on the table as it was in the opening of scene 1. MEREDITH’s cell phone rings.)

MEREDITH

(Answering)

Hi, Samantha

(Fast lights up on SAMANTHA, wearing a power suit. SAMANTHA is located somewhere on stage indicating that she is calling from her office.)

SAMANTHA

Hi, honey!
Is it going well?
Are you almost finished?
The studio loved your treatment

They had some notes:

Make it more romantic
More sexy
But not too much!
Lucinda should be sweet and innocent

But not too much!

They have other writers working
But don’t worry, you’re their first choice I know you’ll get the offer
If you finish soon
No pressure
But finish soon!

How about tomorrow?
Is that possible?
This is such an opportunity

You’ll be set

You’re on your way

On the “A” list
Their go-to writer

We’ll be on our way! So finish soon

Can you finish soon?
I know you’ll finish soon

Remember: keep it hot

Make it steamy
But not too much!

 

Roland should be dark and dangerous

But not too much!
I’d love to send them a draft
Perhaps tomorrow, or Wednesday?

No pressure

But finish soon!

I know you will
You’re perfect for this

Just the right voice
You always come through

Know how to deliver

Work well under pressure

You’re on your way
We’re on our way
So finish soon

Let’s get a draft to them tomorrow, or Wednesday

But no later than that
Call me when you’re finished
Once you’re finished

I can send it to them
Before the other writers
Don’t forget the other writers
But you are their first choice

Make sure you’re their first choice

No pressure!
But finish soon!

Okay, honey Call me!

(SAMANTHA hangs up. Lights off her quickly. Beat. MEREDITH’s phone rings again. Fast lights up on SAMANTHA.)

SAMANTHA

Oh, I almost forgot
Can I bring anything on Saturday? No?

Okay, honey
Call me!

(SAMANTHA hangs up. Fast lights down again. MEREDITH sits down at the computer.)

MEREDITH

Finish soon

 

Tomorrow?
Don’t sleep
More coffee
I can do this
It’s just girl meets boy

Who wants to bite girl

(She takes a deep breath as she begins to type. Lights back up on LUCINDA and ROLAND)

LUCINDA

You can’t understand how I feel

ROLAND

I can see into your soul

LUCINDA

You only see my youth

ROLAND

Your beauty is eternal

LUCINDA

Beauty is fleeting
My body has a sell-by date!

ROLAND

I…don’t understand

LUCINDA

I’m on the clock here, Roland! Yesterday I found a gray hair

Down there!

ROLAND

Um…

(Sound of a weed-whacker – loud. It’s coming from outside Meredith’s house. LUCINDA and ROLAND freeze momentarily. The weed-whacker stops and MEREDITH sighs and continues.)

LUCINDA

Roland, aren’t you hungry?

 

ROLAND

You have no idea!

LUCINDA

Then take me…

ROLAND

Never!

LUCINDA

(Pouty)

Don’t you want me?

ROLAND

More than anything

LUCINDA

Then what’s the problem?
Make me like you, and we’ll have eternity! Everybody’s happy

ROLAND

I will not condemn you to my existence

Roaming the night
Never aging

LUCINDA

As long as I’m young I’ll always be relevant

ROLAND

Frozen in time
In perpetual youth

LUCINDA

I don’t see the down side…

ROLAND

Ah, sweet innocent, pure, Lucinda

LUCINDA

Would you bite me already!

 

(Weed whacker. Everyone stops. Waits. MEREDITH aggressively erases last few lines, stabbing the “delete” button. She starts to type again, aggressively)

LUCINDA

I need more time…

ROLAND

Be careful what you wish for

LUCINDA

I wish to live forever!

ROLAND

Forever is damnation!

LUCINDA

Oh, don’t be dramatic!

ROLAND

I only want to protect you

LUCINDA

Okay, here we go!

ROLAND

You are my everything

Only you understand me

LUCINDA

Of course I do
You were born in the 18th Century
To you mouthwash is a technical marvel

ROLAND

(Wistfully)

It’s so minty…

LUCINDA

(Exposing her neck)

How about it, Roland, just a little nip You know you want to!

ROLAND

No!

 

LUCINDA

But I need more time to restart my career!

ROLAND

Wait…what?

(Hysterical weed-whacker. Lights off immediately from ROLAND and LUCINDA)

MEREDITH

Jesus!

(MEREDITH slams the computer closed and stomps over to the door to the outside and goes out. Lights up on MACARIO, who is yielding the weed-wacker and wearing ear protection)

MEREDITH

Excuse me! Excuse me!
Do you mind…?

MACARIO

(Jumps – surprised. MACARIO removes his ear protection.) My apologies, Señorita
I was not aware…

MEREDITH

Can you do that somewhere else?

MACARIO

I am sorry for the noise
But I noticed this area needed work

MEREDITH

Do you have to do it now?

MACARIO

No
It can wait (Turns to go)

MEREDITH

(Guilty)
Wait! I’m sorry Please – it’s not you

I forgot the day

 

MACARIO

It’s alright

MEREDITH

Please, continue

Anyway, I need a break

(MACARIO goes to put the ear protection back on.)

MEREDITH

Oh – may I ask you a question?

MACARIO

Of course

MEREDITH

I was thinking that some flowers here might be nice

Growing something might inspire
It’s just…
I don’t know how

MACARIO

It is not difficult
Depending on the flower
But they all require some attention

MEREDITH

I can learn
It would be good for me
Are Marigolds difficult to grow?

MACARIO

Not difficult
But they are…
(Attempting to translate internally) Not – nativo?

MEREDITH

Native! Of course
Hard to grow in the desert

MACARIO

(In his element)

Have you thought about… Cacti, aloe

 

MEREDITH

Succulents

MACARIO

Si

Zanzibar, agave, echeveria, rosea

Some even bloom with proper attention

Plenty of sun
Not too much water

MEREDITH

That sounds like a lot of work

MARCARIO

At first much work
But rewarding!
Working with nature

Calming the mind
One simple task to the next

Brings…paz interior

(Taps his chest)

Peace

MEREDITH

I could really use that

MACARIO

If you would like, Señorita, I can help you get started

Bring the right soil
Next Tuesday

Arrive a little early?
Show you how to elevate the ground

MEREDITH

Yes
And please, call me Meredith

MACARIO

Macario

Encantado

Next Tuesday then, Meredith

MEREDITH

Thank you

Gracias

 

(MACARIO puts ear protection back on. Lights down as MEREDITH goes back into the house and MACARIO goes to re-start the weed whacker. End of scene 2)

Dear Monica, We Are The Villains

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New York Times Insider

I saw HBO’s 2002 documentary on Monica Lewinsky, Monica In Black and White, not too long ago. I wanted to understand her. I’m in a different place in my life now. Was she, as I thought at the time, a seductress, a home wrecker, or was she, as I thought now, a victim of male dominance and power? The truth is simpler and far less sinister.

Monica fell in love. She doesn’t see herself as a victim. She was a woman who reached for what she wanted and got it. “I have a crush on you,” she said to him that snowy day when the building was nearly empty. He took her into his office and the two of them passed the time.

Following the Ken Starr witch trials, she went on to give interviews and pose, scantily clad, in every major fashion magazine, which seemed unseemly to a world working so hard to shame her. How dare she. Show some regret, woman. Who do you think you are? You’re not above our wrath. And she wasn’t. Because we won. After that she tried to live a normal life. But the joke’s on her.

What do you mean you’re not going to give us sex, Monica? You have no purpose.

She received her Master’s at the London School of Economics, but when she returned home, she couldn’t get a job, even as a volunteer. Some hiring managers went so far as to interview her just to see what she was like.

She’s the circus freak. The Bearded Lady. All because she had sexual relations with the most powerful man on the planet, who unceremoniously dumped her, because for all of his power, he was as much a coward about ending things as any man.

My journalism instructor, once the AP Entertainment reporter, said he’d been one of the army of journalists camped outside her Beverly Hills home. I shared this piece from the Guardian. Monica has put her life together and, as the first cyber-shamed person in the world, uses her story as a spring board for an anti-bullying campaign. Her talks have put her in front of audiences on the Ted stage and at Facebook headquarters. They’re taught in schools alongside Harriet Tubman. She has created an anti-bullying app. It’s a hug. Two arms wrapped around a shaking heart. She hopes to spread empathy, and, to save kids from suicide.

In his email my professor wrote back, “None of us really thought of her or what she was going through. I’m sorry about that now.”

Nobody wants to think about her, but it’s a problem for us. Monica may not have been Bill’s victim, but she’s ours. We shamed her. We scarlet letter A’d her. She should be part of the national conversation about slut shaming, but she’s not even a footnote.  We’d have to admit we were wrong. And we’d all, especially those of us on the Left, prefer to think of ourselves as better than that. Right about now, we should be asking her for forgiveness.

She’d give it. One gets the sense that she’s generous and loving.

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The New York Post

Nevertheless, Monica’s 22-year-old specter lingers over Hillary and Bill, perhaps not directly, and not for everyone, but for those of us who lived through it. Ken Starr ripped a hole in the nation’s fabric, and sealed a Monica, Hillary, Bill-shaped scar there. Can’t you see it? There, just out of the corner of your eye. Yeah, when you’re least expecting it, her image flits across your awareness. You wonder, what happened there? What really happened? Did Hillary really forgive Bill? Did she know about all of his indiscretions? Why did she really stay with him?

Inquiring feminists want to know.

Monica was a child. Hillary was a wife and mother. Bill was the leader of the free world. I imagine he did it because he could. Monica did it because who wouldn’t? Hillary stayed, perhaps, to heal the country.

And we? We’re the real villains here. Our drive empowered Ken Starr and created a media landscape that would go on to look more like the Enquirer in twenty years, partisan, salacious, vicious and grievance driven.

We slut shame. We call one another bitches and cunts. And when a guy says, “You’re too needy,” or after sleeping with you, “I’m not looking for a relationship right now,” or goes missing for days or weeks at a time, it’s fine. His momentary needs matter more. Even if they outweigh the needs of the entire country.

In spite of us Hillary has shaken off the filth of those days and remade herself. But, as Obama’s presidency blasted a klieg light onto the rabid racism that still seethes in the dark places of our continent, we’ve only just begun to see the effect a woman president will have on the culture. It will divide us and hurt us while lifting us to new grounds of strength and hope. She will show how we are strong, while we reveal how we are foul.

monica1

The Los Angeles Times, Mark Fritz

And Monica? Her narrative is tied to Hillary’s as well. She’s a model for 21st Century strength in different ways. She survived the burning at the stake.

I’m not sure what’s in store for us. We are the mob. We destroy with impunity.  It just feels good. Perhaps I’m just being pessimistic. If we can elect a black men, and now a white woman, perhaps there’s hope for us still. I’m just not sure.

Fiction Friday: The Lipstick Chronicles, Adventures in Retail Cosmetics

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Each Friday I’ll be posting a new installment of the Lipstick Chronicles. This is the pilot. Follow Jennifer, a third generation Japanese-American single mother, as she navigates the perilous waters of the retail cosmetics world in a Southern California mall. 

“Can you pick a lipstick for me?”

Jennifer turned around and peered over the black unit stacked high with lipsticks to see a middle-aged, razor thin, rat-faced woman with slick, dark hair. Her accent was distinctly New York, which was not unusual in Southern California. New Yorkers moved out and, after decades of residency, held onto their accent as a point of pride.

“What color did you have in mind?” She asked the woman.

“Neutral. Isn’t that what’s in this season?”

Jennifer held up a brown one. “Here’s a nice neutral.”

“Every lipstick I own looks like that. Pick another one.”

“Is there a certain look you had in mind?”

“You’re the professional. You tell me what would look best for my skin tone.”

“OK, how about this one?” Jennifer held up a soft pink.

The woman let out a sigh of disgust and pointed at another. “I said NEW-trall,” She stretched her mouth around the word as if Jennifer was the moron. “What about this one?” She pointed at a dark shade.

“Ma’am, that one is red.”

“No it’s not.”

Jennifer held it up for her to see the color written on the bottom of the tube. “Red,” she said.

“Well then, pick one for me.” The woman demanded.

“Ma’am, I don’t know what you already have in your collection. If you could offer some assistance I might be better able to help you.”

“Don’t get sassy with me, young lady. I’m the paying customer. Isn’t this what you do? Aren’t you capable of picking out a simple lipstick? Don’t they teach you how to do that in makeup school?”

Jennifer smiled. “This one is perfect for you.” She held up Blue Mocha, the lipstick for dummies, the one the girls selected to make the most difficult customers go away. It had an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of effect. It looked good on almost everyone because it barely had any color. All people saw then, was their own lip color with a bit of gloss. Not too sticky. Not too color-y.

The rat-faced woman put it on and worked it into her lips. “Is it long-wearing?”

“It has a patented hydration technology. Long-wearing lip colors are drying. The hydration is a particular benefit as we head into winter.”

That seemed to satisfy the woman. She was dry as hell. “I’ll take it.”

“Cocoa Moon Dust is the perfect liner for that.”

“I’ll take that too.”

“Great, I’ll meet you at the cash wrap down at the end here.” Jennifer pointed to the register to her left past the mirrored shelves of foundation bottles and multi-colored eye shadows.

Lipstick customers were the highest maintenance, lowest return on her investment of time and energy. Lipstick customers wanted to treat themselves, but usually didn’t want to or didn’t have the thirty or so dollars to spend on a lipstick. Yet, they’d convinced themselves, that for the perfect lipstick, it was worth it.

But “perfect” was as illusive as a fairy tale ending, the very thing, incidentally, the cosmetic industry trafficked in.

Every season launched “The Same But Different!” Every Christmas was “More Sparkle! More Chocolate! More Burgundy!” Every Spring and Summer was, “More Nude!” And if more of the same wasn’t enough, just add more in general. This season the look was clumpy, gloppy, stiff and sloppy mascara. In other words, make your lashes look as gross as possible. No kidding. The sticks stomping down the New York runways looked like they had spiders growing out of their eyes.

Amelia, Jennifer’s co-worker waved her down. A blonde, heavy-set customer with dark-rimmed glasses stood at the counter frowning impatiently. This was the woman who tried to return a foundation that was two thirds empty because she thought it had gotten old. When Jennifer had refused, this person went all the way to the store manager, who took it back. Since than Jennifer took everything back, even products from other stores, just to spite the store manager.

“Oh god, kill me now,” Jennifer said passing Amelia.

“Yeah, good luck with that one,” Amelia said.

Jennifer approached beaming a big smile. “Hi!” she chirpped. “What can I get for you today? Would you like a foundation? Maybe I can match you to make sure it’s new!”

Amelia let out an audible gasp. The heavy-set woman’s mouth dropped open. “Is your manager here?!” She huffed.

“Sure. Probably. Let me get her for you.” She left the counter. Amelia followed her.

“Oh my god, girl. Why do you keep doing shit like this? You’re so going to get yourself fired.”

“It’s fine. Who’s on?”

“Sandra.”

“Great. Then I have nothing to worry about.”

“Jesus, Jennifer. You can’t count on that.”

Jennifer opened the door to the manager’s office. Sandra was at her desk. “Sandy, can you come see a customer? She’s that one who returned the empty foundation. Do you remember her?”

“How could I forget?” Sandra rolled her eyes. “You need me for this?”

“She wants to feel special.”

Sandra sighed and got up shaking her head.

“I owe you,” Jennifer smiled.

“Yeah, ya do.” Sandra said and marched passed her.

I Apologize For Not Reciprocating

chimpanzee-1545010_1280

This photo just felt right. 

I’m a makeup artist, of sorts. Technically, I’m a writer by trade, a makeup artist out of economic necessity. It’s the only job I’ve ever had that allows me time to write and doesn’t drain me creatively or intellectually. Not that I’ve been writing. I’ll get to that.

In high school and college I was an artist. I specialized in charcoal and pastel portraits. My artistry is not without merit. People say I do “pretty makeup.” Which is why I resisted learning to contour, that horrendous technique that makes women look like drag queens. (I’m all for it on drag queens.) You shade out the hollow of the cheek and sides of the nose with a brown hue and paint the high points of the face with a white or very light pink color. It’s best for photos and on camera work, but ghoulish in the daylight.

Nevertheless, it’s not going away, as I’d hoped. I have to learn it to stay employed.

Continue reading “I Apologize For Not Reciprocating”

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