Tiles

I remember the mahjong tiles
clickety-clack, clack, clack, clack
Never ending, all through the night
Always going even after first light

I remember the money chips
going click click click!
I remember that argument
over the missing money clip

I remember the buttered toast
your friend told me to make
with sprinkled sugar on top
Don’t you make a mistake.

I remember your friends
though they were no friends of yours
only there to play a game
just a bunch of well-dressed boors

I remember the tiles
clickety-clack, clack, clack clack
I heard it every day,
even on a Sunday.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Blog Your Block

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The little boy pressed the button on the console, stepped on the pedal and grinned as the fire truck moved forward.  It was about time, he thought.  He’d been waiting all day for this, and he didn’t like having to wait till they were all home before he could actually ride around the neighborhood with it.

He may be only four, he thought, but he still had much to do.  So many people to see, so many places to go – that sort of thing.

Mom could have done it any time in the afternoon, but she was too busy.  And when she finally did have time, she was too grumpy.  The little boy hated grumpy dispositions.  He couldn’t abide by it.

But she was the boss of the house – of that he was clear.  She knew the rules and even set them herself.  Everyone else just had to follow them.

So, while she could have accompanied him as he made his rounds through the neighborhood, he’d much rather wait for daddy to come home.  He was more fun.  He had more patience with all the starts and stops, and all the things he loved to do that it had now become a ritual.

First, drive around the block, maybe check out some plants along the way.  Then off to see where the ants marched in a straight line towards the anthill at Old Bill’s house in the corner.  They were all made of wrought iron, but to the little boy, they were real.  Ants in a row all heading for the anthill,  and overlooking them was the big kahuna ant, on his tricycle.  The little boy had a tricycle, too, and sometimes he rode that.  But the fire truck was more noticeable.  Less work, too.

Then there was the Buddha, or little Buddi, as he liked to call him.  Set in front of a tree trunk and fenced in with the cutest picket fence he’d ever seen, he’d ask daddy for some change so he could add it to the pile that was now growing.  Offerings, mom had said one day. She had little buddis of her own around the house but she never put coins in front of them. That was okay though, the little boy thought.  He hid all the coins behind the headboard anyway.

Then there was the little house at the base of a tree a few houses down.  He’d stop his fire truck, and crouching on his knees, he’d knock three times and ask, “is anyone home?”

Of course no one was home.  If mom were with him, she’d roll her eyes and tell him that.  But then her voice would soften and she’d ask, “Do you think they’re all asleep, love?  Or do you think they’ll answer the door?”

There was a hobbit house to the right as well, situated in a rock.  Sometimes he noticed it and sometimes he didn’t.  For it was time to head for the fire station.

At the fire station where Batman oversaw everything from the roof, the little boy would stop his little fire truck away from the path of the three red garage doors.  Then daddy would lift the little boy up so they could peek through the garage windows and knock on each door to see if anyone was home.  Sometimes they were and they’d let him climb up the fire truck and stare at everything in amazement.  The firefighters would even let him press a few buttons.  Sometimes they’d even let him wear the hat, too, though it was too heavy for him.  He preferred the one that mom got him, the one he wore now.  It was his fireman helmet, she said.

When the round around the block was over, the little boy would drive home, with mom walking ahead of him, and daddy at the rear.   Even the little doggie, Truffles, would come with them.  That was the way he liked it  – with everyone around him.

Weekly Writing Challenge

 

Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

In this challenge, tell us how you fell in love with books and writing.

In my childhood bedroom, a shelf hung over my bed, and on this shelf were the classic titles such as Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and even a collection of limericks.   My mother was a fan of Readers’ Digest books, and she may have bought every single one advertised in the mail.  My bedroom served as the storage area for all these books that she kept buying, and there was even a locked wall cabinet where she stored all of them – encyclopedias, abridged story collections and more.  Sometimes I’d sneak the key and open it, and read about supernatural hauntings from one book, and how to make fondant from another.

One day, either my mother ordered me to dust the shelf or I was  grounded for something I’d done that I have no recollection of, but something made me reach for the top of that shelf.  And at the top of it where only dust resided, one well-worn book had been tucked away, its corners bent, and without a cover to tell me what it was.  I was ten or eleven years old then, and this book would shape the way I preferred my stories and even the way I write them now.

The epilogue of this cover-less book talked about a man people had long forgotten in a country called Corteguay (fictional, of course).  His name was Diogenes Alejandro Xenos, a name which would be shortened to Dax as he gets older, and how, as the story opens and he is a child, bandits come upon their family home, kill his mother and sister, and he escapes into the jungle.  He grows up to become an outlaw, a playboy and even a powerful generalismo of his country.

I devoured that book from the first page to the last, not really understanding some parts but comprehending enough.  In an era before Facebook, YouTube and Google, I learned about sex, drugs, , death and power.  The book, if you haven’t guess it yet, was called The Adventurers and it was written by Harold Robbins.  I never knew who owned it, but after that first chapter, I did not care.  I ended up hiding the book myself, so that whoever stashed it away up there, would not find it when they came back.

Adventurers
The Adventurers by Harold Robbins from Glorious Trash

I would seek out all Robbins’ books after The Adventurers, though I had no problem doing so, for whoever had left that book on my shelf, had left a few more – The Pirate, Stiletto and A Stone for Danny Fisher. Who knows?  It could have been my mother, who didn’t think Harold Robbins was a good fit for all her Readers’ Digest Selected Book collection.

By the time I was 14, while my friends were enamored with Harlequin and Mills & Boon romances, I was into more adult fare – James A. Michener, James Clavell, and Robert Ludlum.  I also began writing – by hand on legal-sized sheets of paper that my grandfather still had long after he retired from his legal practice and then with a typewriter someone gave me (and probably regretted, since I typed till 3 am most days) for Christmas.  In high school, my stories found their audience among my classmates and one of them almost got me suspended because of its adult content.

Sometimes I yearn to find a copy of that book again – with its cover this time – though I really am in no rush.  I have the digital copy of it, and for now, should I ever lose that spark of writing, reading those first few pages should be enough to send me back in time, and back into my writing.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.

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Fleur by tcbflyr

Age is a double-edged sword.  Just this week, my client told me about Noah, and how he lived to be 900 years old.  She said that he also preached to the people for 150 years about how a flood was coming, even though they all laughed at him and thought him crazy.  I tolerate such talk in my sessions sometimes, because I know that in an hour or two, I’d forget about it.

Then tonight, I learned that someone I knew from high school, and who I probably rubbed elbows with during the last ‘reunion’ party I attended two years ago, passed away suddenly last month.  They held her memorial in a city just an hour away from me, but since I’ve been away from FB and haven’t really been in touch with high school friends, I never knew about it.  And while I may not have been close to her at all, the knowledge of her loss jarred me with its raw power.

It was like a poison, seeping through my bones, seeking permanent residence after waiting for a way in for so long.   And that’s when the reality hit me – even though my father died last year and I should have been thinking such thoughts then, but didn’t.

We’re all going to die.  The only question is when.

I may not live to be 900 years old like Noah, and regardless of my general optimism about such things, neither would I probably live as long as I’d really want to – which would be till my 4-year old is grown up and I know that he will be alright.  Once upon a time, I thought I was invincible, and that I had nothing to lose, and that I could do anything I wanted.  But things changed the moment my son was diagnosed with autism, even if it was downgraded to a mild case, or at best “autistic-like”.

Suddenly that idea that we all know about – that we are mortal  – became more real than anything else in the world.  Suddenly it had power – so much power that it has made everything I do tainted with that dreaded thought that I could die any time – even in my sleep.

And what would happen to my little prince then?  Who would take care of him?  Most of all, would he even remember me?  Would he even know that once upon a time he loved me or that I loved him with every fiber of my being?

Then I ask myself why I had a child so late in life – because having a child at 40 is late in life, no matter how much I sugar coat it and say it’s not. I ask myself why I didn’t think far ahead enough  – that when he’d turn 20, I’ll be in my 60’s.  But I just never did think about it then.  I was probably too immature to think things through the way I think and worry about them now, simply because age, when paired with mortality, is no longer just a number.

It’s a state of mind.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes

In this week’s writing challenge, you’ll write a post using three photographs for inspiration.

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Photo by Velvet Madrid

It was her regular haunt, a place where she could sit beneath the hanging flowers and listen to the tiny frogs splashing in the water in the nearby pond.  No one knew of this place – at least not her friends.  This was her secret place, a haven where she could enjoy her cappuccino, power up her macbook and just write.

Write till her cappuccino grew cold and she’d need another cup along with something else to fight off the caffeine shakes if she waited too long.  Maybe a muffin, if she wasn’t feeling like having an omelet or fried eggs and ham, for the latter usually left her stomach feeling weird.

The cats would watch her as they lounged on the steps, doing what cats did best beneath the shade of the hanging flowers.  They did nothing else, the languid heat seeming to melt them onto the cement steps where they’d stay for most of the morning.  By the time the sun would steal into their shady spot, it was time for them – and her – to go.  Back to the hustle and bustle of her real world, where most days except for the days she found herself here, she could barely hear her thoughts.

But this was a treat – yes, it was.  And as she sipped her cappuccino, smelling the sweet scent of hanging flowers all around her, she smiled.  She still had some time.  Yes, a little bit of time to herself.

And she would make every second count, she thought, just as the tiny frog that had been hiding beneath the shade of the lily pad emerged, and hopped into the water for a swim.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Object

The clock is loud, its tick-tock echoing somewhere in the room.  When I find it, it’s inside the entertainment cabinet, its battery slowly running out for the digital readout for the fourth city – now unnamed for its label peeled off a long time ago – is blinking, like a light about to go out.

Hoping that the battery compartment hasn’t rusted, for it’s probably been at least four years since I’ve replaced it, I flip up the lid and sigh, relieved, that the compartment is fine.  When I change the battery – it takes only one – the tick tock becomes louder, and I remember one night long ago when I had a lover over and he complained that he could not sleep because of the damn clock that kept on going and going and going.

It’s my father’s clock, I told him.  He got it as a business gift or something a long, long time ago.  I was probably only a teen.

Well, it’s too noisy, he grumbled.  I can’t believe how you can sleep through that.

Well, I can, I said.

Well, I can’t, he said.

Well, you can go then, I said.

Well, I will, then, he said.

Well, good-bye then, I said.

And so he left at around 3 am.  I remember, because that’s what my father’s clock said.

It’s a small thing, about 6 inches wide by 3 or so inches high.  It has a square face that tells the current time, while on either side of it are digital times for Paris, San Francisco, New York, and if I remember correctly, for the one whose sticker came off, Tokyo. It was a gift to my father by some one who worked for Evergreen Line, a “unified common trade name for the four shipping companies of the Evergreen Group,” or so says their current website.

I remember seeing it on my father’s desk when his company was still very successful, when he owned not just a gentleman’s club, but also a gas station, and during Christmas morning, we’d get into his Mercedes and his driver would take us through the city where people waited for him at certain places to give them their Christmas presents – money and a sack of rice.  And I’d like to believe because I must have heard it somewhere as a child, that he also once owned an island that disappeared when the tide came up – hey, the Philippines has over 7,100 islands.  The story could very well be true for I have memories of him taking us along with all his business friends and I was so excited that when I slipped off the inner tube, I thought I could just go down onto the bottom of the ocean, and walk to the shore.  And I’d like to believe that for one minute, when he was truly powerful, when people really did look up to him because he was, at one time, rich, that he really did own that island, that he really did business with the Japanese – and that one of them bothered to give him a little token of their gratitude.

And that now, I have that token.

It’s the only thing I have left of my father, really.  He died last year, poor and surrounded only by very distant relatives, with none of his children close by –  and I was so lost in writing and fangirl politics to really allow myself to grieve the loss of the man I really loved, no matter how flawed he was.

I still haven’t done all the grieving.  I haven’t even started.

Next week, he turns would have turned 70-something, I don’t even remember his age because in my mind, he’s never aged.  In my mind he’s always smiling, always telling me to not worry about the small things, to always do good any way I could because there was always someone worse off than I was.  And that though he may not have anything to leave me in money or property any longer, now that the days of wealth for him were long over, he did his best to give me an education, whether I took advantage of that gift or not.

Most of all, his greatest lesson for me was to listen; he said that it was the hardest thing to learn in the world.  And he’s right, it still is, especially for me.

And so I like the tick-tock that I hear through the house.  I may have kept it hidden for over four years, but this morning, I pulled it out of its hiding place, relieved to hear it still ticking, replaced its battery so I can keep on hearing it.

So I can keep on listening.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

I wish I could make things better, and make your pain go away
I wish I could tell the people who never stop to think before they speak
that they hurt more than they claim to help
With words about things that they don’t even know the details of
With callous opinions of the same things that they have no clue of

I wish we didn’t feel like we have to have to have to belong somewhere
because we already are part of something much bigger
than this collective we’ve found ourselves in
But maybe it’s human nature to want to belong
Maybe it’s in our bones to want to sing the same song

But even I’m not too daft to see how everything has changed
I’m not so naive not to recognize that things will never be the same again
that the time has come for us to move along
The rift has widened, just like you said
It’s time to move on.  This place is dead.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Get Out The Map

Music is powerful: it conjures memories, emotions, and people and things of the past. It’s not only a trigger, but an outlet to express who we are. For this challenge, pick one song and write about it — or use it as inspiration for a post. The track may be personally meaningful, or remind you of something, someone, or some event you can look back on. Or maybe you’re drawn to a song’s lyrics and want to use them as a springboard for a short piece of fiction. Or a poem. Or a free-write.

Before the age of iPhones, my friends always knew better than to write down my address in pen.  I moved around a lot and loved it.  They called me the wanderer because I simply just wanted to go places, even though I couldn’t afford it most of the time.  I’d get in my car and drive 500 miles if the mood struck me because it was a Friday and I had enough gas in my car, and someone would be waiting for me when I got there with a cup of coffee, a warm bed and a few days spent laughing.

When I first heard this song, I was in New Mexico and asking myself if I was willing to move and make my home in Alburquerque for the doctor I had fallen head over heels over had asked me to.  For some reason, many of the Indigo Girls’ music returned me to me at that time and many of them, through the course of our relationship, symbolized where we stood, as we transitioned from one point of the relationship to the next.  From elation and joy to pain and despair, the Indigo Girls captured them all, though this, Get Out the Map, was the start of it.  For it was to be the beginning of an adventure that I’d never forget.

And though in the end, our love didn’t last – and I never ended up in New Mexico permanently (something my clients admitted later on they were secretly hoping would never happen) – the songs and their meaning remain strong.  Just as this one is as strong as the first time I heard it, when I rolled the windows down and sang at the top of my lungs, knowing that with this man to whom I had fallen in love with, who never ceased to tell me how much he loved me, the lines “I’m going to love you good and strong while our love is good and young” rang so true it hurt.

Get Out the Map – Indigo Girls

The saddest sight my eyes can see is that big ball of orange sinking slyly down the trees
Sitting in a broken circle while you rest upon my knee this perfect moment will soon be leaving me
Suzanne calls from Boston the coffee’s hot the corn is high
And that same sun that warms your heart will suck the good earth dry
With everything it’s opposite enough to keep you crying or keep this old world spinning with a twinkle in its eye
Get out the map get out the map and lay your finger anywhere down
We’ll leave the figuring to those we pass on our way out of town
Don’t drink the water there seems to be something ailing everyone I’m gonna clear my head
I’m gonna drink that sun I’m gonna love you good and strong
while our love is good and young
Joni left for South Africa a few years ago and then

Beth took a job all the way over on the West Coast
And me I’m still trying to live half a life on the road
I’m heavier by the year and heavier by the load.
Why do we hurtle ourselves through every inch of time and space
I must say around some corner

I can sense a resting place
With every lesson learned a line upon your beautiful face
We’ll amuse ourselves one day with these memories we’ll trace
Get out the map get out the map and lay your finger anywhere down
We’ll leave the figuring to those we pass on our way out of town
Don’t drink the water there seems to be something ailing everyone
I’m gonna clear my head I’m gonna drink the sun
I’m gonna love you good and strong while our love is good and young

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Girl At the Top of the Stairs

Go for a classic genre of suspense: write a horror story, using the break to build tension as your readers move to the next page.

Papa was stupid.

That was all I could think of as I lay in bed thinking of what people were saying about him now that he was dead and buried. And the woman who had been in the car with him buried, too, though none of us knew who she was. Just some random woman maybe. Or his mistress. For all dads had their mistresses. For wasn’t that that how the world worked?

I rolled onto my belly, letting my back cool off as sweat had soaked the sheets beneath me. I had been napping when the overhead fan simply stopped working, but downstairs, I could hear the stand fan keep going as the neighbor’s dog barked outside. I sighed. Just another quirk of this new apartment we had moved into since papa’s unexpected death. We had been forced to move out of the house we’d lived in for years to help pay for his mounting debts, and now here we were in a small apartment in a cul-de-sac, a place that never seemed to get any sunlight.

And yet it was damn hot.

Papa had gone out that night, not planning on returning till the following morning. He and mama had had another argument, like they always did. It was always about the women. He simply could not get his hands off them. And they couldn’t get their hands off his money.

But that morning, he didn’t return. By afternoon, we learned the news long after everyone else did. One of my aunts had been the one brave enough to go to the morgue to identify him, as no one else dared to do it. Even mama could not do it.

He’d been in a car accident just outside of the city. The car was speeding along the darkened roads, and it swerved, wrapping around a balete tree, a form of a ficus that grew abundantly along the countryside. Papa and the woman did not survive, but the stories still being told of how their bodies were found could still be heard throughout the days following his death. I could not listen to them. He was my papa after all, no matter what a bastard he’d been to us.

Mama had found the apartment through a friend of a friend though we could no longer remember who. It was only a few blocks from our closest relatives, and it was cheap. It was also available on such short notice and that was what mattered, for the bank was quick to kick us out and take over their property.

And so we moved in, despite the worried stares of the neighbors who shut their doors and peered at us through their windows, their hands to their mouths. And each time we caught their gaze, they’d look up at the second story window, before looking away.

But that was two weeks ago, and each morning since then they’d say hello and ask us how our night went, whether we were all okay. But of course we were fine.

Why wouldn’t we be?