The Lull

I must confess I expected to think of a subject to write about before this week ended. Even if it be a little gauche, consider this post “talking about the lull.” In American culture, that’s the type of subject you are to avoid. The reason isn’t exactly clear, but what is understood is conversation cannot abruptly end. That makes people very uncomfortable. Silence is not golden; it’s poison.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been known to freeze up before, without provocation too. The best way to describe it is there are words one moment, and they’re gone the next. I’m not sure where they ran off either. They may be in between the couch cushions for all I know. Needless to say, it can be embarrassing at the time.

Why, it happened to me yesterday at lunch. I couldn’t say things like “hello” or “good to see you again” to the person who I now realize was my mortgage officer. I hadn’t seen her in over a year though. She couldn’t remember my name either, but at least she could spit out greetings.

What wasn’t helping matters was the purchase of downloadable content (DLC) for Borderlands 2. I’m a sucker for a good video game and could lose an entire weekend, if I gave in to the desire. I had to cut myself off from World of Warcraft back in 2006, because it became unhealthy. Absolutely unproductive but certainly satisfying in the moment.

With this award-winning combination, I blew off my writing for much longer than I had planned. So, I did some flash fiction for fun.

“Have you ever been so angry, you couldn’t contain yourself?” Mick was drinking his usual black coffee while staring off into the distance. The sun was displaying an almost inviting feel with its offering of canary, honey, and sunflower. Fresh light wouldn’t help the fact that it was 5° C in the foothills of southwestern Ohio though.

“Oh, a few times I think.” Howard stuffed a bit of lemon poppy seed muffin into his mouth to prevent further disclosure.

“That’s something in life I can say is a regret of mine. When I was younger, behavior wasn’t as important as feeling better. People would constantly rub me the wrong way, and there was only so much I could tolerate. This would constantly upset my family. My father was always on me to cool off. He wasn’t sure where I got the hot head, but he knew it would lead to problems.”

Mick stopped and rubbed his face with his hand, almost to wipe away the pain of old feelings. He sighed and continued his story.

“I wouldn’t listen. Letting it out and blowing my top felt much better than the times I would hold it in. Holding it in felt like a pressure cooker, delaying the inevitable. It got so bad that I couldn’t go a day without screaming. I would walk in from work and just start shouting at the top of my lungs. I don’t know if anyone heard me. They could have been afraid to ask.”

Howard put his muffin down on the bench and folded his hands in his lap. “Would you have gone off on them?”

“That’s a good question,” Mick stared at his cup, “it’s probably a good thing I wasn’t given the opportunity.” His eyebrows picked up and he continued. “It wasn’t until my folks passed that I came to grips with myself. I was in the middle of a fit, because of the traffic getting home, when I grabbed the nearest object I could find and threw it against the wall. Only moments later did I realize it was my father’s urn. It was damaged beyond repair and I spent all night, crying, trying to save his ashes.”

A moment of silence passed between them like a leaf in the wind.

“After that, I came out here to get away from it all, put the past behind me, and start a new life. I’ve been working on being a better person since.”

Howard picked up his breakfast and began picking the edges. Before another bite was taken his curiosity got the better of him with “is it working?”

“Sometimes.” The coffee swirling in the cup splashed a little from vigor and an imaginary string bass played for pizzicato spots on his jeans.

“MmmMMmmph!” Mick’s eyes closed for a few seconds to avoid looking at it. “I just bought those last night.”

 © 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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8 thoughts on “The Lull

  1. I really liked this piece. I feel that there is a lot packed into this. The presence of the muffins as a means of avoidance strengthens that idea of silence being poison and of all the things that are not being said. Like the fact that the main character Mick seems to be sharing his entire life story, yet his friend Howard says so little.

    • I’m glad you caught that. Howard was feeling him out, which means Mick is a recent arrival in the area. Either Mick was raised to be very candid or he’s laying down some background information as a way to gain trust with the residents.

  2. I get the same feeling when I start to draw something. Putting the first mark on the paper is the hard part. With writing I do the same..just make a mark on the paper and then another….

  3. Laura Lynn says:

    Really enjoyed this piece. I like Mick. I like the pace. I wish I could ‘flash fiction’ like you do. I’m only now realizing how hard this writing game is. But since I started it, I’m going to try and finish. Is it normal to feel a little embarrassed? It’s a hard realization to come to, that I read at a far far higher level than I write. I guess I’ve always known that just because I love Chet Baker, doesn’t mean I can play the trumpet like him. Just because I like William Gibson (or whoever) doesn’t mean I can write like him. Because, frankly, I think I write like crap. But…it IS kind of fun. So, here’s my question. Is there ANY kind of writing that’s easy?

    • Thanks! Flash fiction seems to be a convenient format for blogging. I suspect I could turn some into a novel, if I put my mind to it. Bits and pieces come to me through life and abstraction that I say, “that would make an good vignette.”

      Even at the tender age of 34, life has provided me this: if you’re not embarrassed at what you’re doing, you’re either too confident or you don’t care. You may appreciate this narrative from Kurt Vonnegut on his writing of Breakfast of Champions:

      “What do I myself think of this particular book? I feel lousy about it, but I always feel lousy about my books. My friend Knox Burger said one time that a certain cumbersome novel ‘… read as though it had been written by Philboyd Studge.’ That’s who I think I am when I write what I am seemingly programmed to write.”

      There’s a saying “if it’s easy, then it’s not worth it.” That’s the hard truth handed to a boy in the cornfields of Ohio several years ago. If you didn’t put your best into writing it, then why would you expect anyone (yourself included) to do their best to read it?

      • Laura Lynn says:

        Thank you. I happen to love Kurt Vonnegut so it was especially inspiring to read his words. I still believe that this isn’t good, but as I said…it’s fun. I went and got a book out of the library to find out how to improve my use of metaphor and guess what?! It’s hard for everyone to come up with fresh ones. Is that like being a dog in the manger? Like I said, hard but fun. A good exercise for my brain and I’m enjoying writing, though I STILL don’t really know how to plot. Thinking of discontinuing posting chapters as I continually go back for rewrites-which aren’t posted. Well, back to the grind. Thanks for the read through BTW. Means a lot to have a real writer looking over my stuff.

      • Thank you for the compliment! It’s a strange sensation to be hailed as a “real writer.” I still feel like the kid who became an accountant because he was too confused, scared, and alone to do anything else. Is there anything in particular that makes someone a real writer? I’m going to say you have good reason to do so, as you’ve read so much.

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