Monday, August 15, 2016

Best in Town

(Note: This story was my entry in the 31st round of the Microcosms contest.  My prompts were: Ice Cream Vendor [character], Thunderstorm [setting], and Mystery [genre].)


            The sky octopi were doing their dirty work as the line began to form.  A few raindrops fell to the sidewalk beside my cart.
            I counted each of the women as they approached.  Ten.  Twenty.  Thirty.  They were all gorgeous, and almost all of them ordered vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone.
            Lightning split the skyline, but none of the customers bothered to look.  They kept their eyes locked on my face.  I shivered.  Crowds attract crowds, right? I thought.
When the storm opened up, I expected my line to rush away in a frenzy; instead, the women all pulled umbrellas from behind their backs, opened them, and resumed their staring.  I adjusted my waxed mustache.
            A few of the women ordered novelty items or chocolate cones, just frequently enough to keep me in stock of vanilla while my wife brought over two more tubs from our apartment down the block.
            “What is going on?” my wife whispered to me, leaning in close.  She smiled at the growing tendril of patrons.
            “I really wish that I knew.”  I turned to my next customer.  “And what can I get for you today, ma’am?”
            The woman took a small brass statue out of her jacket and set it on my cart.  It was shaped like an ice cream cone.  “I would like to congratulate you.”
            Some of the tension left my shoulders.  “What is this?” I asked.
            “It’s an award,” said the woman.  “Your homemade vanilla ice cream has been voted the Best Ice Cream in Portland by the Portland Coven.”
            “By the Cov—”  I coughed.  Witches.  Huh.  “Thank you very much.”
            The witch set a second, smaller statue in front of me.  “And this one is for Best-Looking Cart Vendor.”  Fifty witches winked at me in unison.  I blushed.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Style (Poetry Edition)

Alright, so I haven't written much on the subject of poetry on this blog.  There are two poems available for reading on here that are marked with the "Poetry" tag.  They aren't my best.  I can't say that they are my worst either, unfortunately.

I wrote several poem drafts for my Intro to Creative Writing class last Fall.  Two of those became polished poems for my portfolio.  I revised a poem that I had written on a whim toward the middle of the semester to take the third and final slot in the portfolio.  The three poems earned me a 98%.  All three were later accepted by my school's literary magazine and published in print.  While the three poems cover widely different subjects, I have noticed some similarities that seem to be becoming aspects of my own personal style as a poet.

I've written two poem drafts in the last week, and I dug up a short poem that I wrote within the last few months that I think shows some promise.  Those three poems also share some similarities with the three from my portfolio.

The first aspect of my poetic writing style seems to be: short lines.  Many of my lines in these six poems have contained three or four lines, some with one or two words.  Only a handful have five.  I believe there was only about one six-word line and one seven-word line.  Looking at other poems in this year's edition of Backroads (my school's lit mag), my lines are characteristically short and fast.  One poem from the 2016 edition had similar line lengths, and about two from the 2015 edition followed suit.  I don't mean to make any comment on line length from this.  Different line lengths work not only for different poets, but also for different poems.  I find it interesting though that the style that I've been developing is somewhat peculiar.

The second aspect of my style that I've noticed is: stark images.  Some of my thought process on this subject may be bias.  I can obviously see the images well because I wrote the poems and carried the images in my head.  But I do think that there is some truth to my analysis.  I like to use words that either illicit physical impressions or visual photographs.  My images are not always concrete (as in rendering in the same way to everyone), but they are images that can be felt or seen without much straining.  I use metaphors as much as the next guy/girl, yet I try to make my metaphors as "seeable" and "feelable" as possible.

The last aspect of my style does not appear in all of my poems, but does seem to be developing.  It is a tendency to stretch out the last part of my poems.  I like to close with a long comment on the subject that the poem has been dealing with.  These comments are not precisely my own.  They are born out of the poem in question.  One of my poems in particular expresses an idea that I do not believe in, but that I thought could be used in a good poem.  I'm not sure that I like the "dishonesty" of it.  I must admit though that I did find it very interesting, and the full poem could be interpreted as satire if stretched enough.

These aspects to my style may very well change in coming months and years.  I haven't developed very far as a poet quite yet.  But I think, for now, that I enjoy this writing style and will continue using it when appropriate.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Rejuvenation Potion of Antioch

        The viscous green fluid in Cassandra’s cauldron flashed white as she dropped a pig’s ear into her brew.  Her hands trembled.  She groped the table behind her for a handful of newt eyes.  She didn’t turn.  There wasn’t time.
        Rat tail.  Molasses.  Three extra-large pepperoni pizzas—though anchovy would have been better.
        Cassandra wafted her potion, eyes watering.  Not right.  What was she missing?  She yanked the phone from her pocket.
        “Joey.  Urgent.  Last ingredient in the rejuvenation potion of Antioch?”
        “Of Antioch?  Well—”
        “Please, Joey.  My dog is about to keel over.”
        “The feather of a hawk.  It must be from the—”
        Cassandra knocked her supply table nearly clean.  Her right hand brushed a tiny stack of feathers.  She plucked a brown one up, tossed it in the pot, stirred her mixture, and dipped an ancient bucket down into it.  She plopped it down before her shepherd, then hoisted her head into the potion.
        Gulp.  Gulp.  Thud.
        Cassandra’s phone rang.  She let it ring.  “From the tail,” he was about to say.  A feather from anywhere else will make a poison.
        Her dog.  Poisoned.  Twice.  By her.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Long Throw That Made It

(Note: A prior version of this post stated that many of the best male players play in the Premier League.  I completely mixed that up with the players of Wales.  I've corrected my mistake.)

There is an island at the north-west corner of Europe measuring 40,000 square miles.  Its size is not diminutive--not for European standards--but its cold volcanic landscape can be hard and rugged, lending itself to only a third of a million people.

The people of Iceland have long been acquainted with the soccer played in the neighboring United Kingdom, having watched British soccer in their youth.  Most of the players play for Scandinavian clubs, however.  Iceland's highest soccer league, Úrvalsdeild, is ranked 36th among all European leagues for men's soccer.  Yet Iceland's men's team not only qualified for the UEFA Champion's League tournament this year, they made it to the Quarterfinals, the final eight teams.

Iceland is not known for the strength of its individual players.  There are very few famous names from the history of Icelandic soccer.  This year, and in the qualifying campaign before the tournament proper opened, it was the heart of the Icelandic team that became famous.

In many years to come, soccer fans will exchange comments regarding Iceland's run in the 2016 European Championships.  They will speak of the cannon-fired throw-ins, the sturdy challenges, and the relentless, organized defense.  It will be the collective pride and passion, I believe, that will be noted above all else.  The Year of our Lord 2016 was the year Iceland decided that they would play their game and they would triumph until the giants at last broke them down.

Eight percent of the population of Iceland traveled to France to cheer on their beloved team.  Weeks later, at the Quarterfinal match against France on July 3rd, eight thousand remained, about a third of the prior total.  They made a mighty sound from the stands, supporting their team even after going down 4-0 to France after the first half of play.  Iceland battled back through great fatigue to end the match at 5-2.  Both of Iceland's goals were scored in open play.  France had conceded only two goals in their four preceding games, and both of them were scored on penalty kicks.

In the Group Stage, Iceland drew Portugal--winner of the first Quarterfinal match of the tournament-- and Hungary and defeated Austria to take second-place in their group.  From there they faced off against England, makers of the Laws of the Game.  They beat them by a score of 2-1 even after conceding a penalty kick goal in the fourth minute of the game.  It may have been a poor performance by the English team, but by all accounts, it was a masterful match for Iceland.

This Icelandic team is a testament to what dedication, teamwork, and organization can grant.  The people of Iceland can stand in unified pride, celebrating today, and longing even more for future success.  All those involved in this historic feat have done a service to their nation and to all the nations of the world of meager population and influence.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sports Posts to Come

I've been intending to post something to this blog for a while now, but I just haven't gotten the motivation to go ahead with any particular topic.  A lot of my time the last few weeks has been spent on sports (watching and reading about), so I've decided to write a few posts on sports topics.

The Copa America Centenario tournament just ended a few days ago.  The European Championships are still raging.  (Those are soccer tournaments, by the way.)  I have watched many, many matches from these tournaments.  There are several things I would like to say about what I've been seeing.  I'm not sure how many posts I'll be writing, but I imagine there will be at least two, possibly a bunch.

I listened to the audiobook for Kevin Hearne's Hounded and really liked it, so I might post a literary criticism in the next few days as well.  Hopefully, through some sort of posts, I will get some lifeblood back into this blog.