Give me books to talk about!

Hey all,

If you have a book, I’d like to read it and talk about it on my site. There are times like today where I can’t think of anything to say on here, so why not talk about your work? If you have a book available and you’d like me to review/comment on it (at some point) on here, refer to my contact page and tell me something interesting about your work.

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Flash Fiction Thursday–Random Plot Generator

Here’s my latest piece of flash fiction. Prompt once again from terrible minds:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/07/19/flash-fiction-challenge-the-plot-scenario-generator/

Here’s the random plot I received from a plot generation website that I’ll use in the future for sure : http://www.archetypewriting.com/muse/generators/plot.htm

Plot Generator

Remorseful Savior

Kevin flipped through the Tuesday Denver post while waiting on the 35 bus route to take him four miles down Colfax. A Marlboro light protruded from his index and middle fingers on his right hand. His left gripped the edge of the sports page as his eyes worked their way down in hopes of finding out if his Fantasy football team took the weekly crown.

Out of the corner of his right eye, he saw a boy of about eleven years old walking past him.

Kevin paused, setting down the paper onto his quad muscles as he watched the peculiar look of angst and confusion spreading across the boy’s face.

The kid’s stature put him at around eleven years old, but he had the stare of a much older person, perhaps even a man. The scowl on the boy’s face doubled his perceived age.

The boy noticed Kevin staring as he walked past the strange man on the bench. He wheeled to his right and started to cross the street.

Kevin’s cigarette—that had already been dangling from his fingertips—dropped to the ground all at once. When he saw the kid walk onto the busy street, he bolted from this seated position on the bench and ran toward the obviously confused child.

He snatched the boy by his black t-shirt, throwing him backwards before he had the opportunity to encroach on the busy street.

“What the hell are you doing, kid? You’re gonna get yourself killed,” he said through loud wheezes.

Kevin gasped for breath as the young child stood there staring, not at Kevin, but through him.

Although Kevin didn’t have to run any more than ten yards to hold the kid back from the street, his lungs thirst for the already thin, Mile High air. Sixteen long years of chain-smoking suffocated his lungs if he moved in a pace faster than walking for more than a few seconds.

When his gaze failed to intimidate the kid into talking, Kevin tried again. “Kid, what’s the matter with you?”

No answer.

“Where the hell are your parents?”

“Not alive,” the boy said, with zero hesitation.

Kevin found it strange that the boy said, ‘not alive’ instead of ‘dead’. But he shook off the idea and persisted with his quasi-parental questioning.

“Well who’s taking care of you, young fellow?”

No answer yet again.

Kevin felt blood rush to his face due to both embarrassment and impatience.

“Look, kid. I don’t have all day to stand around here and play twenty questions with you. Either you tell me where I can find your guardian or I’ll let the police find out.”

“You can’t save them. Nobody can save them,” the boy replied.

Kevin hesitated, not really wanting to believe what he heard. “Come on kid. Let’s go in here and grab a soda then you can tell me all about it. Cool?”

“Cool?” The boy questioned as if he’d never heard the expression.

Kevin rocked his head back and looked up toward the sky, “Jesus Christ!” he said aloud–more to himself than to either the boy or the pedestrians walking by.

He grabbed the boy’s arm. His grip wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but plenty hard to let the kid know he was in control of the situation. He dragged the young boy into the nearby 7-Eleven and pulled him to the refrigerated section where the store held all of its soft drinks.

“What kind do you like kid?”

The boy studied the wall of bright labels in utter amazement. His eyes fixated on a large bottle with a bright red label.

“Coke guy? Good man,” Kevin said, while opening the door to grab two colas for him and the boy.

When the pair made it up to the counter, the clerk gave Kevin a funny look. He scanned the two items. “That’s gonna be three thirty-six,” he managed.

Kevin felt in his pocket and only managed to bring out two dollars—which most of that, he had saved for the bus.

“You got any cash on you little man?” he asked the boy.

The boy responded with the slightest of nods, then reached into his back pocket to retrieve his wallet. He took out a single bill that, at first glance, didn’t look right to the clerk.

Kevin snatched it from his hands and studied its artwork. Instead of the usual green tint that U.S. currency has, this bill had a reddish-pink hue to it.

Is that who I think it is? Kevin thought to himself.

He confirmed this when he looked down at the banner in front of the picture that read Clinton. Based on the former president’s shit-eating grin, Kevin secretly imagined a certain intern present under his desk during the snapshot. He glanced to the top-right corner of the bill and noted it claimed to be worth three-hundred dollars.

 “What the hell is this, monopoly money?” Kevin asked.

The boy stared back at him, looking both shocked and confused.

Kevin glanced down at the bill one more time. When he saw the obvious, he dropped it through his trembling hands.

“If you’re not gonna pay, get the hell out of my store,” the clerk shouted.

Kevin paid him no mind. His eyes fixated on the boy.

Not alive, he remembered. Understanding why the boy said it. He meant his parents weren’t alive yet.

“That bill says 2072. Please tell me you’re not from—”

“The future?” the boy finished. Then he nodded.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Kevin asked. Not in disbelief, but in genuine curiosity.

“Stop the war.”

Kevin glanced at the clerk, raising an eyebrow to the man.

“What war?” he finally asked after turning toward the boy again. “And what the hell are you gonna do about a war–you’re like ten?”

Kevin reached over to grab the boy’s wrist once again until he was flung back by a force that didn’t originate from the boy’s physical body.

Living the Dream

Whenever people ask me how I’m doing, I try my best to avoid answering in the usual predictable way.

Fine
Good
Okay
Etc.

I often go with the more unconventional: “living the dream.”
The unnecessary backlash I get after is baffling to me. Often people respond with the condescending :

 

“Whatever.”

 

Or the always predictable *obviously sarcastic voice*: “okay…”

 

And sometimes even: “You’re so full of shit.”

 

Why? What’s the deal? Apparently I’m missing something here—I thought happiness was a good thing. I didn’t realize showing enthusiasm stomps on other people’s ambitions of being miserable.

 

If our main goal in life is to be miserable, then what’s the f***ing point of living? Do I really need to apologize for not wanting to take a bath with a toaster?

 

I don’t think so.

 

Life is hard for everyone at times. That much is for sure. We all deal with death, fear, pain, sickness, loneliness, etc. Those things won’t go away regardless of who you are, where you live or what you do. Those parts of life undoubtedly suck the big one… no argument here.

 

What they also do, however, is show us the many things we should be thankful for. One of my favorite quotes from my all-time favorite story is this: “It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.”  (Stephen King, Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla). In the context of the story, it doesn’t have the exact meaning that I’m giving it. I interpret it as meaning: it’s the bad things in life that make the good seem that much sweeter.

 
So why not feel overwhelming joy when life seems to be going okay?

 
I’m probably like a lot of the readers of my blog. Middle class, good job, live in a ‘free country’ (whatever that means), etc. Why not be happy about where I’m at when there are millions of people in the country I live in struggling to keep a roof over their head? Why not do whatever I can to help my community? Why not proclaim that ‘I’m living the dream’?

 
Hell, I’m living somebody’s dream—I’m living my dream.

 
As humans, we’re hard wired to want more than what we have; more money, power, recognition, etc. What we often fail to do is appreciate the (relatively) great lives we’re able to live. In America, we have one day of the year devoted to that. The fourth Thursday of November we kick back and appreciate what we have for twenty-four hours. Ironically, the next day, as a country, we go out and buy a bunch of crap that we don’t need. But that’s a story for another day.

 
The point I’m getting at is that we need to stop looking at people like they’re full of shit when they decide to appreciate what they have. Yes, everyone wants more—I’d be a liar to say I wouldn’t want a million dollars to show up on my doorstep. But that’s not going to happen. For the time being, I’ll be appreciative of the people that have decided to stick with me this entire time. I’ll be happy with my job and the things it allows me to do. And Finally, I’ll be happy for my laptop that allows me to go on rants on my blog.

20130720_103323
Park where I get to go on long runs (i.e. another reason to be thankful).

Flash Fiction Thursday–First Line of a Story

Here’s another attempt at flash fiction. The prompt I used was once again from terribleminds.com:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/07/12/flash-fiction-challenge-last-lines-first/

I chose the line “Truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are actually dead” to start my story. I had a ton of fun with this zombie/pet cemetery mash-up.

Enjoy

Morphed

“Truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are actually dead,” Shawn said.

He flipped over the cold body that resembled what used to be some sort of dog—a mastiff perhaps. Its already sharp canine teeth grew into vampire fangs. Their needle sharp edges had already punctured both Via and Shawn. Shawn wore his wound just below his left collar bone while Via bled through the bottom of her pant-leg.

Shawn pulled the dagger out of the beast’s neck. Via cringed at the suction sound the blade made when slopping out of the deep wound.

“Let’s get out of here before he wakes up,” Shawn said, knocking Via out of the paralysis brought on by disgust.

“Wakes up?”

“Yeah—I’ve seen it twice already. The last time was yesterday, right before I picked you up. I saw a dead hawk lose its feathers and morph into some kind of monster. Luckily he couldn’t keep up with ole’ Betsy.” Shawn tapped on his Mustang convertible that had seen better days. The hawk tore off ‘Betsy’s’ rag top just before Shawn was able to make his escape.

“Define morph.”

“You know—like transformers or something. You know how their tiny cars morph into ginormous robots, defying all laws of physics?”

Via nodded.

“Yeah, it’s like that. Animals are turning into bigger more vicious versions of themselves.”

Shawn saw the panic grow in her eyes and suddenly wished he hadn’t added that last part.

“But their eyes,” she mumbled under her breath. She didn’t expect Shawn to hear the fear in her voice, but he did nonetheless.

“What—you’ve never seen fiery red eyes before?” He chuckled at his question in hopes Via would recognize it as a joke. “It’s not that bad, it takes a whil—” Shawn broke off when he saw Via covering her mouth with her eyes focused behind him.

Without making any sudden move, Shawn wheeled around to see what he thought would be a giant bear, resembling Shardik from a story he once read, standing beside him.

Instead, what he saw was much worse.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said. He proceeded to jump into the driver’s seat without opening the door to the convertible, then pretended to be a gentleman and opened the passenger door from the inside.

She watched the beast approach, then shook her head as if to clear her mind of the danger. Via hopped in the car, locked her door, and put her seat-belt on as if either would be of any use against the demon galloping toward them.

Its eyes were the same crimson color as the other beasts. Its mouth foamed in a reddish-brown discharge that seemed to be a mix of its bowels and its blood. Skin and hair hung off of the beast’s torso.

The only animal Via thought to compare it to was a horse that seemed to break through the folds of hell and morph into a creature twice its original size.

Shawn cranked the Mustang into first gear and peeled away from the still-twitching dog-like beast.

Shawn knew it would rise again in minutes; growing into something even more fierce.

He shook his head to banish the terrifying thoughts as he shifted the car into fourth gear, pushing the sports car to 55mph.

Yet the beast still gained.

Apparently twice a regular horse’s speed too, Via thought, watching the red eyes close in on them.

The beast’s red eyes pierced through the darkness. Now that the two sped far away from the streetlight that was once overhead, they couldn’t see its body—just the eyes. They reminded Via of the creepy blue horse at Denver International Airport.

“What do we do?” She asked. She knew they wouldn’t be able to outrun the creature—they both did.

“I got a gun in the glove. Grab it for me will ya?”

She gave him an inquisitive look as if to ask him why he hadn’t used it on the dog-like creature.

“Hurry!” He yelled.

Via opened the glove and brought out a large silver revolver with a wooden grip. She turned the weapon over in her hands to examine the artwork inscribed all over the barrel, until he snatched it from her grip.

“No time for that.”

She recoiled back thinking he meant to shoot her.

“Grab the wheel,” he said.

She obliged, but it didn’t matter. They both found themselves gawking at the approaching horse with red eyes. Via stole just enough looks toward the road to keep the pair from careening off into a ditch.

Shawn thumbed the hammer and pulled the trigger of the pistol, releasing a deafening crash of gunpowder.

The round struck the demon horse in the abdomen. It slowed briefly, then galloped to a speed that Shawn thought was perhaps faster than it ran before.

“Hold it steady!” Shawn commanded Via, when the car started to fade to the right.

He pulled the hammer one more time, and shot the galloping spawn of Satan in its left eye. The horse collapsed to the ground all at once, face-planting into the cold cement.

“Did you get him?” Via asked.

Her panicked voice tickled the corner of Shawn’s lips into a smile. “Yep—he’s toast.”

She exhaled when Shawn turned to face the steering wheel again. He smiled at her before grabbing the wheel.

“I don’t know what you think is so funny,” she said.

He laughed harder at the scowl on her face. “Nothing, sweetheart. I don’t know why you’re so worried, it doesn’t matter anyway.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I’ve seen the disease—it spreads quick.”

He gestured to her left leg.

She looked down to see her leg had gotten big enough to trap her in the passenger’s seat. She’d be trapped until she gained all of the strength she needed to break out. By then, her eyes would be red, as well.

Five Ways ‘Giving Back’ Helps YOU

5k Pic
Random picture near the finish line at the CYAR 5k.

Okay, first off:

In no way am I claiming to be some kind of saint.

In no way am I suggesting that I have any moral superiority, either.

That being said, it baffles me how some people—people I work with on a day to day basis—have no desire to help out their fellow man. I asked my boss, “Hey do you think I can bring up this 5k event for the organization I do work for? They could use a few more volunteers for a couple of hours.”

“Yeah, no problem Ben.”

I brought up, said event, in the Wednesday meeting. I sent a follow up email. One month’s notice should be enough time, right?

Wrong. No response. Yes, as in none. Not a single person in the entire company.

Seriously?

It was pretty embarrassing considering that I told people from the organization I’d ask coworkers to help out—naively thinking a few would join in. I know they’re not opposed to doing company activities, hell; we do them all of the time.

I’m not suggesting they’re bad people, but I am saying their reluctance to help out shocked me.

Why is that? I have no idea. Perhaps because people believe that there’s nothing in it for them.

So I’ve taken the liberty to come up with a list of reasons how helping out your community can help you.

  • You meet GREAT people.

Yes, the caps were necessary on the word great. When you volunteer to do work for others, you get to mingle with a hodgepodge of awesome people from all walks of life. I’ve met everything from Real Estate Agents, IT consultants, Accountants, Denver Nuggets dancers, Teachers, Principals, Denver Broncos Players, Lead singers in popular bands, etc. The list goes on and on. What these people do for a living isn’t what makes them awesome—what does is the fact they care about others and take time out of their busy days to do something helpful for the community.

At the particular organization I work with, we mentor ‘at risk’ kids. It’s also pretty amazing to meet high school students who do great things despite dealing with obstacles others don’t have to face.

  • You get to make positive changes in your community.

Let’s face it. When people talk politics, local politics anyway, they talk about how voting for X candidate will bring the changes that they desire in city, state, or county Y. Should you vote? Yes. Will candidate X make a huge impact on your community? Probably not.  Sorry to everyone out there who feels that voting is the only way to change the world you live in.

I take that back, I’m not sorry—if you think a politician is going to make things that much better for you, then you might need to get checked out by a neurologist.

*looks down at notes*

Oh…yeah. There is a point to this. People make changes. Yes, people like you, me, the guy next to you, the random guy who cut you off in traffic, your nosy neighbor—whoever. You can’t expect anyone else to make the change that you want to see except the person you see in the mirror. Do you want something done?  By all means grab a few friends to help out–but you need to take the responsibility on yourself to get things done. Waiting around for some guy in office to fix things is like waiting for a friend to come over to pick dog crap off of your carpet—it’s probably not going to happen.

And no, I couldn’t come up with a better comparison.

  •  Opens lines of communication.

Community work opens communication to people you may not interact with on a regular basis. Like I said earlier, you have the opportunity to work with people in all walks of life.

Instead of taking a loaded weapon to ‘protect’ yourself from the people in your community, perhaps you could talk to them instead. I’m looking at you Zimmerman. No, I’m not trying to make a political statement about the case, but I think we can all agree that it was a messed up situation that never had to happen.

Misunderstandings/not having a voice are causes for violence.

  • Tax benefits.

Okay, so I don’t know too much about this topic. If you donate money, I know you get tax deductions for your troubles. You should ask a CPA if you want to take advantage of this, though. Don’t take my word for it.

  • That warm, fuzzy feeling.

We all like to pretend that we’re not total scumbags for a few hours each week.

*looks around*

Just me?

Oh well.

Nonetheless, doing positive things for others feels great! Seriously, it does…

So please, I urge you—go out and find an organization that you think you could rally behind and put in the hours. I promise that you won’t regret it.

My rant is over! Thanks for reading.

*Drops mic*

*Steps down from soapbox*

*Gets punched in the face by an angry coworker*