Philip mclaren@magna.com.au Thu Dec 19 12:25:17 PST 1996

THE LIGHTNING MINE
(Continued)

San Francisco, U.S.A.
One month earlier.


Every morning, even on weekends, Lee Shoemaker rose before Aaron, put coffee on, took a shower, dried her hair, wrapped herself in a towel, loaded the toaster then shouted to him from the kitchen. Sometimes she had to go back to the bedroom and physically pull him from his morning dream.
Lee thought it a mystical coincidence that they were the same age; they were both born on Monday, 21 July, 1969, the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. (Aaron illegally purchased a moon rock the size of a silver dollar from a friend from NASA - it cost him three thousand dollars - and sat it on his desk in his study). Aaron was embarrassed by their birth-date fluke, he said Lee made too big a thing of it. Once in a while, when she harped on it at parties, he joked that they weren't the same age, she was older by an hour and he'd call her an old biddy; her line then was to ask him to respect his elders.
'Aaron get up!' she yelled from the kitchen.
Aaron practically fell out of bed, yawned and flexed his firm, naked body. He was a tall, athletic, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fourth generation German-American. He had been a long distance track star at college, and was proud that he still contested the San Francisco marathon; this year's event would be his seventh consecutive race. Even though his times were gradually worsening he was pleased he could still break three hours: last year he clocked two hours fifty-one minutes (his personal best time for the twenty-six miles was two hours twenty-nine). On a yachting holiday in the Bahamas his father - a stockbroker - died suddenly at fifty-five from heart failure leaving him and his younger brother, Todd, an inheritance of eight hundred thousand dollars to divide. Nancy, their mother, received almost three million dollars, the family house, the holiday cabin at Lake Tahoe and the Picasso.
When Lee married Aaron four years ago she was well aware she was marrying into a wealthy family. She was from a middle class Catholic family from Oakland, one of six children - her mother lost the seventh and had the operation - there were four girls and two boys. Her father operated his own small printing business from an abandoned toy shop. Wrongly, as a very young girl, Lee never forgave him for putting the local toy shop out of business.
Her childhood memories were mostly of her convent school, church and the people who ran those places, people who indoctrinated her and her friends, instilling faith in a belief system based on miracles and mysticism. She used to shiver and shake at the thought of Satan and Hades; of God knowing her every thought and action. But even as a child she dared to query the ferociousness of the so-called civilised people of the Bible; and of new born infants who would endure eternity in Hell for being born out of wedlock, or worse, never christened. The psychological torture felt from a debasing faith in adulthood, hurt her deeply. She had resolutely, even neatly incorporated it all into her personality. The frayed Christian tapestry aside, she continued to believe in the power of prayer, uncertain as to why or how it worked.
On a whim, Lee changed her long, brown hair to the colour of pitch and had it cut into a short, geometric form. She was thin and angular, her movements tantalisingly fluent, her skin chalk white. Her charm: unique. Her deep-set, dark eyes flashed from behind large lids with long lashes and she wore scarlet lip paint.

'Come on darling, please,' she pleaded emphasising every word separately.
Aaron raised his head and chirped at the ceiling. 'Yep, coming!' He tried to sound as if he were wide awake. 'Coming right now.'

Lee worked as a photographer and shared a studio above a record store in the shopping village at Berkeley. Her work days were mainly taken up doing retail product shots for catalogues, culinary pictures for magazines, some work for a baby apparel shopping chain and sometimes she would be called out on an industrial shoot. She liked industrial photography it gave her an opportunity for real expression, she said. The shots were used in well-produced annual reports; it seemed money was no barrier when it came to satisfying nosy investors. Some industrial jobs she received from Aaron's contacts, others were referrals from satisfied clients.
Last winter she spent a week on assignment on an oil rig in the frozen seas of the Baffin Basin near northern Greenland with twenty-nine men. When she got back she framed her prized 24x20 colour blowup from that trip and hung it on the wall above her desk at the studio. That picture teemed with atmosphere, it was special: a clear, cobalt-blue sky; white ice with pale-blue shadows contrasted against the orange, man-made, steel rig. As well, there was a huge, foreshortened tangerine sun resting on the horizon and her Richard commanding the right-hand foreground.
From the moment she saw him, Lee was compelled to sleep with Richard. On her last night, suspended above the icy Arctic seas, she cared nothing for the consequences. It was the first time she'd slept with a man other than Aaron in six years. And it wasn't as though there weren't opportunities or suitors testing her resolve throughout that time. The bitter-sweet taste of adulterer's guilt still lingered in her mouth; she kept her secret safely locked away, vowing never to share it.


Mon Dec 2 18:26:41 PST 1996

Now that my posting problem is resolved, thought I'd lt you see the whol story this time. Please remember--this was written about 10 years ago or more--I've improved, they tell me.

Canadian Canoeing
It rained the day we arrived at camp. It rained the day we left camp for Canada. It rained the day we reached Canada. It rained again the fourth day, and the fifth day, and the sixth day. But it didn't rain on the seventh day. On the seventh day, it hailed! Finally, a break in the weather.
We didn't really mind the pea-sized balls of hail because, by the seventh day, we had already gone over the edge. We had survived soggy hardtack, bathing in 40 lake water, and chest-high marshes in the middle of what used to be portage trails. Maybe it was the six breakfasts of generic instant oatmeal. Maybe it was grilling and eating the Northern that overturned Rich's canoe. Maybe it was shooting the rapids -- upside down.
Whatever it was, by the seventh day we weren't about to let a little hail make us run for cover. We huddled closer around the fire and watched Anne stir dehydrated cheese sauce into rehydrated potato slices. Laughing and catching ice balls, Dave had tears running down his face. He said he felt so good it scared him half to death. Jeff just shook his head and said, "I'm getting too old for this." (I don't think he was when we started.)
Maybe I just read the clothing list wrong; I brought hiking boots instead of hip boots. Although, the hiking boots did come in handy on that mountain portage. 60 angled up, 60 angled down -- naturally geometrical. That was on the same day I developed a new steering technique in Dave's canoe, sort of a jay/rudder stroke. Poor Dave.
We sang around the fire that night. When my turn came, I wanted to sing, "How Dry I Am," but no seemed to like my selection. Anne tried to talk them into it, but they were quick to discount the opinion of someone who took a daily swim in ice water.
On the eighth day we saw a bear, changed our minds about where to camp, and got sunburned! Jeff and I got into a paddle-splash fight until Anne told us she preferred swimming in the lake, not in the middle of a canoe. We also found out why Tom never wore his boots. He was using them to transport "moose berries" so he could make paperweights.
On the ninth day, it rained again. I'd heard summer doesn't last very long in Canada. A wind storm kicked up as we crossed the last lake to get to Crown Park headquarters. Roller coasters used to make me sick. Rich, my canoe mate for the day, was glad to learn I'd outgrown that.
We had time for a hot shower before we crammed into the van for the trip home. It was reassuring to know that any offensive odors came from our damp, moldy clothes (and possibly Tom's "moose berries"), and not from us.
As we crossed back over the border, we filled out evaluation forms for the camp. Under the section labelled "Other Remarks" I wrote: "You should have warned us to bring our own sunshine." But the part that scared me, the thing that really has me worried, is my answer to the question "Would you go again?" I am in awe that, even now, I can still write it down. My answer is -- "In a minute!"


Deb Borys dborys@juno.com Fri Nov 29 18:12:24 PST 1996


We didn't really mind the pea-sized balls of hail because, by the seventh day, we had already gone over the edge. We had survived soggy hardtack, bathing in 40 lake water, and chest-high marshes in the middle of what used to be portage trails. Maybe it was the six breakfasts of generic instant oatmeal. Maybe it was grilling and eating the Northern that overturned Rich's canoe. Maybe it was shooting the rapids -- upside down.
Whatever it was, by the seventh day we weren't about to let a little hail make us run for cover. We huddled closer around the fire an


Deb Borys dborys@juno.com Fri Nov 29 17:35:35 PST 1996


Canadian Canoeing
It rained the day we arrived at camp. It rained the day we left camp for Canada. It rained the day we reached Canada. It rained again the fourth day, and the fifth day, and the sixth day. But it didn't rain on the seventh day. On the seventh day, it hailed! Finally, a break in the weather.
We didn't really mind the pea-sized balls of hail because, by the seventh day, we had already gone over the edge. We had survived soggy hardtack, bathing in 40 lake water, and chest-high marshes in the middle of what used to be portage t


Wed Nov 27 16:32:08 PST 1996

This is something I wrote ages ago and haven't even proofread before copying it from my word processor and pasting in here. This is actually a test to see if I can post correctly to this page, since I can't to the other--but if you happen to get a chuckle out of the following, I won't mind.

It rained the day we arrived at camp. It rained the day we left camp for Canada. It rained the day we reached Canada. It rained again the fourth day, and the fifth day, and the sixth day. But it didn't rain on the seventh day. On the seventh day, it hailed! Finally, a break in the weather.


Ben Woestenburg Nittritz@netcom.ca Mon Nov 25 21:47:03 PST 1996

"I couldn't believe it was happenin' t' me!" he was saying with a slow shake of his head. He looked down at the drink in his hands, and I noticed how his knuckles had turned white from holding the cup so tightly. He looked up at me with a pleading look in his eyes, and I wondered how long it would be before he actually asked me for help. But he didn't. He simply squared his shoulders and looked out of the space port, his mind a million lightyears away, dancing in the clouds of some nebulae somewhere...

"So what'd ya do next?" I finally asked, prompting the story from him before he drifted away for good.

"Next?" he asked, shrugging slowly and turning back to look at me. He had a cold stare, and I noticed his good eye didn't blink as often as I thought it should. The other one just sort of drifted off to the left somewhere, and I kept wanting to look over my shoulder, thinking someone was coming up behind me.

"Yeah. Next?" I asked again. I was beginning to realize the old man at the bar had been right about him: Trying to get a whole story out of Willinton was like trying to pull teeth.

"What makes you think I did anything at all?" he asked slowly. He sort of knitted his brow, and shook his head. "Everyone seems t' think I should've reacted differently," he went on. "That maybe, just maybe, I should've killed the son of a bitch and brought 'im back dead, instead of tryin' t' bring 'im in alive an' goin' for the whole reward."

"You don't think that wouldn't have been the easiest way?" I asked, calling the droid over and buying us both another drink.

"Easy?" he half laughed. "Kid, there ain't nothin' in the way of easy when you go after a guy like Silverdare. You ever seen 'im? You even know what he looks like?"

"I've heard of people who've seen him," I said quickly, giving my chit to the droid and taking the drinks. He was looking pretty scared, just thinking about the man, and I knew I had to be careful with whatever I said. I didn't want to embarrass him, or piss him off either. I had to know where to find the man.

He just laughed at me though, scoffing me as he shook his head and took the drink anyway. He stared out of the space port again, watching a huge tanker coming in for refueling.

"Yoy ever seen one of those things go up?" he asked as he slowly took a drink.

I looked at the tanker and shook my head.

"Silverdare took one o' those things out singlehanded -- got past all the security systems, droids, bugs -- you name it. He got t' it an' planted somethin' on it. Timed device I s'pose. Then he got into his ship and left. I doubt if he ever looked back. Took out an entire space port. Six hundred people. All dead. An' do you know why? Do you wanna know why he did it?"

"I'm almost afraid to ask," I said truthfully enough.

"He heard someone was lookin' for 'im."

"What?" I asked, knitting my brows and wondering what kind of an animal blows up an entire space port simply because he thinks, or suspects, that someone is looking for him.

He smiled and shook his head slowly. "You don't want to find this man. Hell, he ain't even a man. Ya knew that, didn't ya?"

"I nooded slowly. "Yea. He's supposed to be the last of the Chattatti or something like that."

"Not the last, but one of 'em. But you wouldn't know a Chattatti if you walked past one in a space port, would you?"

"I've seen pictures of them."

"Pictures?" He laughed again, quickly finished his drink and smashed it down on the table. "An' these pictures," he said, leaning closer to me, "do they show ya how tall these guys are? Can you smell 'em? Ya wanna know what they smell like? Cause it ain't pretty."

"I've heard some people say that they never look the same way twice," I said as I studied my cup and finally took a last swallow. "Is that true?"

"Only for the ones tryin' t' hunt 'em down. Like you say you're tryin' t' do," he added with a slow grin.

"I'm not hunting him," I said defensively. "I just want to find him."

"For the reward?"

I shook my head. "The reward's got nothing to do with it."

"Well, he's out there," Willington said with a sigh, nodding out at the vast expanse of darkness beyond the space port. I could see thousands of stars, and even a few galaxies twinkling in the distance. It would be impossible to find one ship and one man in an ocean that large I knew, but I had to start. People were counting on me; a world depended on it.


KGW misty@shore.net Sun Nov 24 12:45:52 PST 1996

After reading everyone else's work on here, I just thought add some of my own. This is the very beginning of one of my short stories.

Adrianna gazed up at the night sky, alive with glittering stars. With her long fingers, she reached into her pocket, automatically searching for her marble. The perfectly round, green object had been her most treasured possession ever since her mother had given it to her- the night of her death.
Adrianna's solemn thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening.
Out burst Gloria, Adrianna's step-sister. "Hey Ade! What're you doing out here?" Her cheery voice broke the silence of the cool fall night.
"Nothing," Adrianna replied softly.
Gloria- bubbly, friendly, outgoing- was the total opposite of Adrianna.
"I'm off on a date with Mark," Gloria called, hopping into her car.
Before her mother's death, Adrianna had been just as friendly as Gloria. But after... She had hidden from the world, like a turtle retreating into its shell.
Adrianna watched the convertible disappear down the street, wishing she could disappear too.
Bending her head, he long, black hair cascaded down, covering her face like a shield. Clutching her marble, she sobbed, salty tears streaming out of her green eyes. "Mom, she whimpered, so quietly it sounded like the whisper of leaves rustling in the wind, "why did you leave me?"

Kind of depressing, isn't it? I wasn't in the greatest mood when I wrote it.

KGW :)


Christine F cforrest@nimbus.temple.edu http://nimbus.ocis.temple.edu/~cforrest Fri Nov 22 08:15:14 PST 1996

After reading all of the writing, my eyes water for the fluency.. My GOD.. Where have you people been all of my life.. Right now I am overwhelmed with the artistic genre's established and exploited on this page.. What genious.. I amost feel embarrassed to put my beginning chapter on this page.. However, I must begin to get criticism some day and now is a good a time as ever... Here it goes.. The beginning of the novel entitled Windows..

Chapter One

The wind was blowing furiously that night. It was as if all nature was angry at
the little town of Harvard City and had decided to let it know its horrid side.
The rain seemed to continually beat on the buildings as if in a drowning rhythm
and the lightning cracked against an endless sky, searching for an unsuspecting
tree or bush. As time progressed, each house's own lights dimmed to nothing
and occupants were left with stale, dank air saturated with the smell of burning
candle wax.

So it was for Kaylar, as she sat in her darkened room. She was laying on her
bed, trying to go to sleep, tossing and turning. It was on her mind, that day.
Her walking down the street and seeing...........

"No!!!!" The window opened. Air blew through and blew out the candle.
Darkness shadowed the interior of the room. The moon silhouette the figure as
it crept through the window towards the bed.

"Baby, it's only me," the figure spoke,"We have to talk." Kaylar recognized the
voice and sat up.

"Kareem! What in the world are you doing here?"

"I told you. We have to talk." He sat on the bed.

"Kareem, it's 2 o'clock in the morning. What could be so important that it
couldn't wait 'till tomorrow?"

"What happened today. You know. You saw."

How could she forget? It had been on her mind ever since that afternoon.

"It was only a good-bye kiss. She didn't mean anything by it."

"Oh Kareem, come on. Karen's been on you ever since I've known you. I knew
she liked you but how could she do this to me?"

The tears Kaylar had tried to hold back now rolled over her cheeks. Kareem
tried to wipe them away, but his hand was rejected by the personified jealousy
sitting next to him.

"I want you to leave my house, now!" Kaylar ordered.

"It's a storm outside. You'd really send me out there?"

"You got here, didn't you?"

The sky crackled and glowed just then. Electricity shot from the clouds near the
house and suddenly the house was ignited. Kaylar, Kareem, and Kaylar's
family were out of the house in a flash. The fire department was notified. By
5:12 am, the small kitchen fire was out. The storm stopped.

The fire department chief addressed the shaken family.

"In storms like this, fires, no matter how big or small, are common. There's
nothing to worry about. No real damage. Fire insurance should cover it."

"Can we go in?" Kaylar's mother Tanzy asked.

"You can look around. But I'd stay somewhere else today."

Kareem touched Kaylar's shoulder.

"You can stay with me today if you want."

"I'm not sure if that's such a good idea."

"Look. I know we've had some difficulties, but I'm still here for you. Besides,
you need me right now."

Kareem moved closer and embraced Kaylar. At first she didn't respond, but as
the emotions welled up inside her, she held on to him for support.

Soon, the fact that Kareem had been unfaithful to her was pushed to the back of
her mind. Not because of the fire, but because of the love she'd shared with him
for the last seven months.

Denial set in, and she accepted the fact that it was only a good bye kiss. It was
nothing, she continually told herself. I know he still loves me. He has to.

Just then, Kaylar's father approached the two.

"So, Kay. Are you alright?"

"Yea, I guess so," she answered, turning to him.

Ben looked at Kareem, questioning him being there in the first place, but only
in his thoughts. Kaylar picked up on his confusion and quickly spoke up.

"Daddy, Kareem and I are going out today. I'll be back around 7:00 tonight."

"But it's 5:30 in the morning. Where are you going to go.... with him?" he
asked, looking at Kareem.

"She's coming over my house before we go to the movies." Kareem stated,
looking at Ben proudly.

"I'm not so sure-"

"Bye daddy," Kaylar sang as she kissed her father's cheek. Then she turned and
walked away.

Kaylar and Kareem approached Kareem's black and gold Lexus. Before
entering, Kareem wiped the hood of his car to make sure it wasn't dirty.

"Sometimes I think you care more about this car than you do about me," Kaylar
joked.

Kareem just smiled, only because he could not argue with the truth.

You see for him, the last couple of months weren't all that great. College, his
job, his girl; they were all beginning to tumble down on him in his confusion.
There was no way out. But he knew he couldn't stay in the situation he was in.
He would deal with the problem easiest to get rid of, Kaylar.

"So what do you want for your birthday?" Kareem asked, driving off.

"You know what I want!" she responded seductively. "Besides that. You know
you can have that anytime."

"Well, can I think about it?"

"How long do you want? You birthday is only-"

"Two months away," Kaylar interrupted, "Don't worry. I'll make sure you
know in time."

There was dead silence. Both looked straight forward onto the damp streets. A
mist covered the green lawns and sidewalk. Each was thinking of the some
thing, but in different ways.

Kareem lived alone. Ever since his mother died two years ago, he'd been forced
to live on his own. She left him her house, her car, and all of her valuables. But
he would rather have her than all the money in the world.

He never knew his father; he found no reason to know him either.

They arrived at the quaint town house after riding around for some time.
Kareem got out of the car, let Kaylar out, and they both ventured inside the
house.

Kaylar sat comfortably on the couch while Kareem got the newspaper to find out
when the movie started. He opened the paper and laid down with his head on
her lap. He placed her hand on his shiny forehead and attempted to massage it.

"So since when could I have it anytime?"

"What are you talking about?" Kareem asked, looking up.

"In the car, remember?"

"Oh. Since always. I told you. I'm always ready. I'm waiting for you when
you're ready."

"You've really waited all this time, without-- you know."

Kareem hesitated.

"Yea. I only love you. Who else could I be with?"

"Do we have to go to the list?"

"I keep telling you. There is no list!"

There was silence between the two. Kaylar pondered her statement before she
spoke. Her voice was sharp and strong.

"Are you sure it was just a goodbye kiss?" she asked.

"Yes. For the last time, it was nothing at all. This is what you should worry
about."

And he pressed his lips against hers, maneuvering them in a way he knew she
liked. His hands caressed her leg and teased her curves like magic. Then, he
stopped abruptly, leaving Kaylar out of breath.

"I'm not worried," she said finally.

"You're in my house, and we're the only ones here. It's 6:00 in the morning.
Don't be worried. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid!"

Kareem then resumed his comfortable position on his girlfriend's lap.


Robert Smith bsmith@andrews.edu www.geocities.com/Area51/9826 Thu Nov 21 13:36:20 PST 1996

Hello. I am very new to the world of writing, but that does not stop me from making stories. I need a little info on what to do if I want to ever publish a book or short story. I am making several short stories on my own time, (About 180 words each) they are called "The Chronicles of Cretopia". Cretopia is a fantasy planet in which creatures rule the world.


Thu Oct 31 21:56:57 PST 1996


Ben Woestenburg Nittritz@netcom.ca Thu Oct 31 21:56:52 PST 1996

'Then as the battle lines now fell
And we all looked about,
A voice cried from the castle walls
And echoed with the shout.

'And there at last, we saw him stand,
In finery, the Duke,
Who called aloud for Scatheloke Will,
No voicing his rebuke.

' "Good Scathelocke!" now he cried aloud,
"Your daughter for your life,"
And there he hung her by the hair:
"I need another wife!"
or
"And stabbed her with a knife.


Jack Beslanwitch top@webwitch.com Tue Oct 29 02:32:27 PST 1996

by Jack Beslanwitch, Philip Mclaren, Ben Woestenburg, Bob Hanford, Trish and Lisa Nickles (if I missed anyone let me know
and I'll them here)



A steam powered passenger train with gas lights and plush velvet seats is chugging it’s way west. There are spittoons on
the floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey permeates. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting
where you are. And you don’t know who you are. That thought seems almost to comfort. As if knowing would make this all
harder. Looking around, you see an assortment of people dressed in Victorian, Tudor English as well as someone in blue jean
cut offs, tank top and a green mohawk. Gas light glints off his pierced gold ear and nose rings. Just then someone taps you on
the shoulder and asks what time it is. Only, there are no hands on your watch when you look at it. Looking up to tell this to the
stranger you realize it is Elvis Presley. Your heart pounds as a wave of panic spreads through you.

"Don’t worry about him, dear," the old lady sitting behind you observes. "He has a personality problem. Yap, he can’t quite
believe he’s here. That one. I’ve seen him before, though. But you’re new aren’t you?"

"What?" you bark at the woman and frown as you glance over your shoulder.

"We all know each other on this train, passengers rarely change on the 10:45."

The carriage rushes into a tunnel: smoke and cinders find a way into the darkened cabin. Music can be heard up ahead; a man
sings a slow ballad. You know the lyric and recognize the voice: it is Elvis!

"I said you’re new here, aren’t you?" she says again, a little more insistently.

"That depends where here is," you say looking at her carefully. She is dressed like someone you saw in movies a dozen times –
Debbie Reynolds in Molly Brown, or Daisy Miller. It makes no sense at all and until it did you don’t want to say the wrong
thing. Even as you think this, you realize, movies, you remembered movies, and not who you are.

"Bit confusing isn’t it?" she said with a smile.

"Took the words right out of my mouth," you say with half a laugh, trying to sound sure of yourself; failing. "What is this place?"

"You mean you really don’t know?"

"Should I?"

"You shouldn’t be here if you don’t know where we’re going," she said with a friendly smile.

"Couldn’t you just tell me? It’d save a lot of time."

"Time?" she cackles. It seemed to echo through the carriage and you look around to see if any of the other passengers might
have noticed her, but they seem oblivious to anything you or she were talking about.

"Honey?" she is saying, catching her breath, which draws your gaze back to her, "We don’t have nothing but time. This train is
taking us nowhere. Look at your watch," she said quickly, reaching over the seat and grabbing your arm, drawing your
attention to the Rolex, "it doesn’t tell you anything. See? No hands?"

"What does this mean? Please, tell me…"

"You never heard of time standing still?"

"Well, sure, but…"

"We go in one direction," she smiles. "Nowhere. Now that could be anywhere, but it isn’t. This is the 10:45. We leave at 10:45
and we arrive at 10:45, but we don’t go anywhere."

"But we’re moving," you point out. "I can hear that guy singing – I know that guy singing. Not personally, of course. But I know
who he is."

"Well, that’s nice. Do you know who I am?"

"Should I?"

"I was just as famous as he was in my day, as he was in his."

"And what was your day?"

"Why, honey, I’m Lilly!"

"Lilly?"

"Lilly Langtree!"

Before you can respond, she stands, a look of resignation and just a touch of fear on her face. "I can’t talk right now," she says.
"I must go before he finishes. It’s his last song and I’m next. Did they tell you? No, of course they didn’t. Still, you must
perform, you know." She pulls her shoulders back and lifts her head, an almost manic laughter now in her eyes. "You must
perform, you know. You must perform."

Startled, you gaze out the window into the blackness of the tunnel. You can make out a thick gray haze swirling against the total
darkness outside. As you look around once more, the reality of your situation sinks in. Sighing, you lean your head back against
the plush seat and close your eyes. Suddenly, questions begin to form in your mind. Why had the woman mentioned seeing
Elvis here before. Could he come and go at will? And why was he concerned with the time in a place where time stood still?
Did this explain all the seemingly random Elvis sightings at Burger King and 7-11. The thought, so out of place, seems to bring
a measure of comfort, as if a tabloid headline could fashion a measure of normalcy that was beyond your grasp at the moment.

You look back in the direction Lilly had gone. Watch as he sashays down the aisle toward the lunge, waits at the door patiently
as the conductor pulls it open for her. You have to figure out what is going on here. Hell, who was going on here, for that
matter. Looking about at the few passengers seated around you, you wonder who they were and where they had come from.
He certainly knew where they were. Nowhere. Like you.

The landscape seems to float outside the window. The heavy gray clouds against a dark sky and your reflection stares back at
you, lulled into a quick nap by the gentle rocking of the car and the constant clickety-clack of the tracks underneath. You want
to sleep though, thinking maybe when you wake you will find this nightmare over. You wonder, even as you reach the point
where dreams and reality mix together and wonder fills all those voids in between, you wonder what sort of dreams will haunt
your moist mind. But none does.

You are awakened by a gentle nudge on the shoulders as the conductor looks down at you, beaming happily and winking as
you nod.

"yer on, kid," he is saying.

"on?"

"It’s yer turn. Everyone’s waitin’ fer you," he adds as he gently lifts you by the arm and guides you to the lounge ahead. You
feel your head to see if it is still there - God it felt so fuzzy. You are confused. You look down at the kid with the green
mohawk and wonder if he had been up to perform yet. Then you laugh, wondering what you could possibly do to offset the
image of your own self. Still, they say everyone has talent. You guess in your case that would have to be "had". Now where
had that come from?


"But what am I supposed to sing?"

"Whaddya feel like singing?"

"I suppose it doesn’t matter much, does it?"

"You could sing ‘Jingle Bells’ an’ it’d be all right."

"Jingle Bells?" you think with a wry smile. Now that was a thought. But he couldn’t do that tonight. It seemed too out of place –
even more out of place than you feel with yourself.

The lounge seems to open in front of you, like a stage that goes on for miles. You look through the door behind you, but it is
gone. It was as if it had never been there. The sky is a deep blue for some reason and you think, "that’s neat. How’d I get
outside?" You could see your guitar leaning gently on its rest and wondered how they knew it was yours. You'’ lost it years
ago, doing that gig down in Frisco. Someone stole it you thought and yet, here it was. The thought is a shock, memories flowing
back, threatening to overwhelm. The who with the what. As soon as you pick the guitar up everything else leaves you. It didn’t
feel uncomfortable or out of place. It was as if you’d never left the stage. You could feel the heat from the stage lights and
shield your eyes as you try to search the crowd in front of you. You couldn’t see them, of course, just like the last time you
were on stage, but you knew they were there.

You strum the strings and nod your head, let the gentle melody take you with it as you seem to sift through the strings
themselves. You were lost in it. You played and sang and waited for the roar of the crowd below you, know they were into it,
but all you meet is silence. It is complete, too. Vacuous; vacant; vapid. It was like you are alone in your bedroom and then you
realize that you are.

Your guitar is a gun and you are alone in your room. You hear someone pounding on the door, but when you turn the door
isn’t even there. You pull the trigger and all you hear is the crowd screaming for more. They were actually calling your name,
pounding their feet, some of them crying – though you couldn’t figure out if it was tears of joy or not – you just hear them
scream your name: "Kurt! Kurt! Kurt!"

And all the time you are listening to it, wondering how you are are going to get out of here and back onto the train, you keep
singing that same song, repeating the same line…"No Apologies."

Your eyes closed, you fear to open them. Still strumming the guitar, still mouthing the lyrics. A strident brash angry cascade of
chords from an electric guitar sweeps away every thought. You know….your eyes open. Hell, man, you think to yourself, he
doesn’t even have a guitar. The Star Spangled Banner with an attitude, the bombs bursting in air coming from an electric guitar.
It was a cliché. A Woodstock cliché. And the best damn guitar player in a generation. He’s standing in front of you in the
gathering shadows and fog, a black man in psychedelic sixties Edwardian coat and rose dark granny glasses. "It’s time to go
back," he says simply.

"Jimi…Jimi Hendrix," you say slowly.

"You’ll have the time," he said seriously after a moment.

"What?"

"This is all about forgiveness. Someday, someway, you have to learn how to forgive yourself, the world, the universe. All of it.
And move on. Mostly it’s about ourselves. None of us are quite there, but we got the time to get it right."

You shake your head, try to clear the confusion and look. He’s still there. "Are you ready?"

Your mouth opens, closes, opens. "Yes," you say after a while, "Yes, I think I am."



Epilogue



A steam powered passenger train with gas lights and plush velvet seats is chugging it’s way west. There are spittoons on the
floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey pervades. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting
where you are. You look around and see an assortment of people dressed in everything from Tudor to modern. You look at
your watch and curse thinking you forgot to get batteries for it. The display is blank on your cheap digital. Only, just then, Elvis
Presley taps you on the should and asks what time it is. You open your mouth but no words come out and before you can think
of some he is gone.

"Don’t worry about him deary," the old lady sitting behind you was observing, "He has a personality problem that young man.
Far back as I first saw him come in here. But you’re new aren’t you?"

"What?" you bark at the woman and frown as you glance over your shoulder.

"We all know each other on this train, passengers rarely change on the 10:45."

The carriage rushes into a tunnel; smoke and cinders find a way into the cabin. Musci can be heard up ahead. A man is singing
a slow ballad. You know the lyrics and recognize the voice: it is Elvis!

You wince. You never really did like his music; but strangely, you find yourself listening-almost feeding-on the melodies. The
only semblance of familiarity around you.

"You will forgive me my forwardness, of course." Comments on dark suited man, "We certainly did not appreciate the tone you
used with the lady."

"Indeed," continued a matching man in light colored attire, "We must never speak harshly to one another here." His tone of
voice is stern and he seems to glare at you.

You try to think how to respond to these two unlikely apparitions when a wiry long haired man who is somehow familiar
intervenes. "Cut the girl some slack. She just got here. Hi, maybe we can be friends. My name’s Kurt."


Ben Woestenburg Nittritz@netcom.ca Sun Oct 27 21:42:34 PST 1996

Seems nobody's written anything here for a while, so I'll just dabble a little bit with a story I was working on a little earlier.

CINDERELLA AND HER SISTERS

"It would be nice if this story could start off with a 'once upon a time', or something, but life isn't like that, is it? There are no Sleeping Beauties or Snow Whites -- and there certainly are no 'happily ever afters',' he added with a quick laugh, stirring his hot cocoa as he looked out over the balcony. He levelled his gaze back at me and went on, as if he was talking to himself instead of me. "Life's an endless toil...a progression if you want to put it that way. You grow up and struggle, then you become aware -- I guess they call it maturity -- but we seldom realize it until it's too late. It doesn't matter if you're born into the embarassment of riches or the squalor of poverty; everyone's happiness comes from within.

"And it's the simple things that make us happy, too," he added as he took a sip, the foam hanging on his thick moustaches like a quiet fog. There was a sparkle in his eyes, which seemed to dance beneath the heavy brows as he nodded, putting the small cup down as he went on with his soliloquy."A first loves as exciting as a first snowfall to a child. The birth of our children, their successes: that first step, their first words, their first love...they all mirror our own lives, and hopefully not our shortcomings. But there's always someone else's death to remind us of our own mortality," he said looking at me as if he expected me to reply. So I did.

"And you know this for a fact?" I asked weakly, not knowing what else to say, or what he wanted me to say.

He smiled. "This I know for a fact," he said as he held up a finger to emphasize his point. "Eveybody dies. Nothing else matters."

"There's no secret to that," I smiled, sitting back in my chair, watching the sailboats in the distance.

"No there isn't, is there?" he added morosely.

We were sitting on the terrace of the Club Neptune, along the Franz-Joseph Kai with a view of the Donau Canal. I enjoyed these days more than any others, what with the time away from my jobs at the newspaper, and the endless stories he told me about the old days. I could listen to him and watch the women as they walked by on the avenue below; stare out at the canal and the floundering weekend sailors; the barges and tugboats with their billowing plumes of black smoke. I was grateful to be seated above it all, with a view of the marvellous Spring day -- the first good day of a new season after all the rain we'd had over the last few weeks -- but I was more grateful to be seated up here with him. Even so, there's something about the city of Vienna that appeals to the Romantic in all of us.

I had first come to this city about ten years ago, and I hope I never have to leave. I love these people as much as I love the city itself. They are an impossible cross between impulsive Balkans and the stiff Teutonic, and with their centuries of intermingling peoples and beliefs they have a strong tendency towards pomposity, while at the same time, their is an irresistable urge for self-mockery. Their language shows it as much as their music and their art. And as much as I may love this city and her people, I know there is so much more. I think when anyone is asked what they know about this city, they always reply: the music. Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and of course, Strauss; they all lived here at one time or another. It was one of the first things that came into my mind when I was asked if I would be interseted in taking a posting in the city.

But I don't want to bore you with all the details of my life here, so let me get to the point.

I first met George three years ago. He struck me as an interesting man because of the uncompromising standards he set for himself, and the total lack of expectations he set on everyone else. He was seventy-two, and I was barely forty.


Philip mclaren@magna.com.au Wed Oct 23 17:41:10 PDT 1996

I picked these biog's up from the Notebook and collated them originally for myself. I printed out a hard copy. My wife has read them and was really pleased see real, thinking, active people come to life on the Net. You will see they are not complete, so if you're not here you can be in Part Two by posting about 200 words about yourself in the Notebook. Jack will of course be thinking of Parts Three, Four, Five and on...

PART ONE

OUR GROUP

Jack Beslanwitch top@webwitch.com

I am a native of Montana now living in Seattle. I am 44 years old and mad passionately in like with wife :-). After eleven years it still is a joy to know how much in love I am. I wrote my one and only completed novel when I was 16. Believe me, the fact that I somehow lost it was no loss. Academia and pursuit of a degree in Psychology prompted me to write a variety of stodgy essays. This was followed by several short stories and a novelette. Other than winning an essay contest for Walden Book's Science Fiction newsletter about fourteen years ago, I have not published anything in fiction. After attending a panel about Writers Workshops about seven years or so ago at a Science Fiction Convention, we started a writers group called Writer's Cramp. Subsequently several members have gone on to become Writers of the Future and several others are Clarion or Clarion West Graduates. Unfortunately, considerably less fiction got written in the last two years or so as I got into website creation. I am the vice chair of the Northwest Science Fiction Society I have a rather involved time travel novel idea that I have been dithering over, researching and trying
to get past my writers block to do something with. I have a fantasy novel in mind, as well. Another computer related non fiction project may loom large in my life in the near future depending on an
editor's decision. The rest can be picked up from my personal website

Sherrie sdl@srv.net

I'm 40 years old and work, by day, as the health & safety officer for my office building and 3 projects researching the treatability of radioactive/hazardous waste. By night, I write. I freelanced for a few magazines and the local paper for four years but grabbed my tax-deductible status and ran (it don't pay, folks) about a year ago, to devote all my spare attention to my second novel. The first one was a good apprenticeship--NOT publishable--but I think this one will make it. Anyway, it's
in the hands of my agent, whom I acquired three weeks ago.
Have to admit, I'm a little touchy these days--scared to death the book won't sell . . . and scared to death it will. After so many years of wanting, this is all coming together with lightning speed, but I'm not certain I know how to function with success. Not sure I deserve it. What if I can't do it again? What if this was a fluke? What if they discover I don't really have any talent--I just sold myself well? Since I'll be up against a deadline, I'm stepping out in faith in December by cutting back to 30 hr/week,
and that's scary, too. Anyone relate? Anyone who can help? I KNOW it's not PMS, but it feels the same. I was out with a sick teenager (my son. After 7 hours of dry-heaves, the poor boy/man (191 lb) was reduced to sobbing in his mother's lap. Better, now, though.

Philip mclaren@magna.com.au

I'm at the wrong end of forty, married to Roz - my English rose - who is
also a writer. I have a daughter, Tanya who is 18, and a son, James, who is 11. I live in a very old fisherman's cottage, renovated, at Newport Beach 30 minutes drive from downtown Sydney, Australia. I'm a full time novelist onto my fifth book, Deputy Chair of the Sydney Writers Festival. My
background is in fine art, illustration, TV and film set design, advertising art, animation, bus boy, waiter, labourer, carpet cleaner, telephone solicitor, golf course green keeper, life guard etc. A former sportsman: swimmer, runner, golfer, rugby and tennis player. I lived away from Australia for 12 years, travelling the world as a single man. I married Roz in London. I'm a left-over hippy and still wear my curly, black hair to my shoulders. I vary my writing: my first book was rigidly set in 1869, an
historical thriller; my second was in the crime genre and set in the present, next a thriller about the corruption surrounding multi-national mining of sacred Aboriginal land, then a socio-realism story set in the 50's and 60's and now I'm 16,000 words into my first non fiction crime story. I write from 7:30 am to 1:00 or 2:00 pm - usually seven days a week.

trish trishm@iswt.com

I'm 28 yr old wife and mother of a 2 yr. old. I no longer work (just 6 hrs a week), but still have little time for writing. I find it hard to justify taking my daughter to the babysitter when I am home and capable of taking care of her myself. I have a BS degree in dental hygiene and now wish I
had taken more literature and such in my elective courses, rather than focusing on math. But math came easier to me and I needed to devote my active mind to the sciences, no time to study much else. I need to talk less about writing and write more.

Tobin tkelliott@speedline.ca

Have I really been gone to the land of puke and diapers that long? My God! 400 new names, a new site, and about four hours worth of catching up to do! Have a kid - fall out of the loop. Okay, I'm going to try to be a little bit more of a regular again. Everything has suffered since Hunter
was born, because I can't do that sit down at midnight for a few hours thingie anymore, but I'm gonna try. But I'm NOT complaining, he and my daughter and my wife are the light of my life

Ben Woestenburg nittritz@netcom.ca

I'm thrity-eight years old, live out here in Lotusland -- that's Vancouver, B.C., as we so fondly call it -- work in a sawmill by day (Or I should say a lot of nights lately) and write as much as I can everyday. I've been distracted since I've gotten my hands on this computer, and the guy that lent it to me said that I would have a hard time giving it back to him. I can say right now that he's certainly hit the nail on the head with that one! I have two kids, a wife, a dog, live in a townhouse surrounded by books, movie posters, movie P.R. headshots (Gable, Vivien Liegh, Taylor and James Dean) The room's full of toys and the usual things one accumulates with kids, but hey, it's home. It also explains why I have to do my writing either early in the morning or late at night.

Britomart s333289@student.uq.edu.au

I'm 26, female, using the pseudonym Britomart from my favourite 16th century epic poem (10 points for anybody who can name the poem and its author). I live in Australia. My first novel is being published July 1997 by Random House - it's gothic-historical-supernatural-horror with loads of sex and violence. Now I'm trying to get my stuff together to write the follow-up, which is about pain, pleasure, death and desire. Mmmm. As well as writing, I'm a student of English literature, and have a poem in my
head for almost every occasion (ie. comforting the smokers and alienated souls of this world) though I don't write poetry myself.

Jennifer

I've been writing stories since childhood and had a couple of articles publishes. I'm a Paralegal and until recently spent most my time
in Federal Court rep. folks against the goverment. I raised my children and at forty-seven I feel now is the time to do what I enjoy. I like writing short stories of all sorts. I love reading.

trudy trudan@mi.net

I am an advertorial writer for a daily newspaper and do some freelancing (non-fiction) on the side. I also write short fiction and children's stories. Still waiting to hear from the publisher regarding my most recent children's book attempt (and only attempt I've sent to a publisher in this genre). Like every writer I am working on a novel, though it is something I pick up only now and then; guess it's still writing itself in my head! And I dabble in poetry. Gee, have I missed anything? Sounds like I just love to write eh? Later.

Bob Hanford 2hanford@itech.net

I'm 52, two kids: Sean 26 and Maria Elena 17. Sean's with me. Maria Elena is with her mom in San Antonio, Texas. She'll be with me after graduation to go to college. I'm father first, writer second. Because of my
adult ADD, I prefer writing columns, bursts of 800-1000 words. Have had one column or another past five years. Working on young adult novel that will take readers inside a raptor rehabilitation facility. How do you take an owl's temperature? Eventually want to write long novel about the siege of Leningrad. I freelance for regional mags. Downsized my life, ride bike instead of car, don't buy or want anything. Do carpentry four to five hrs per day to pay for existence. Coming out of fourth long depression and impatient to re-establish contact with my emotions so I can write.

Kitty Dwyer edwyer@spherent

I am an American (from the South) married to a Canadian (we met at
university). We have two bright and beautiful children, Caitlin and Jack. Our four-legged companions are Nanny, the 10 year old Great Dane, and T.C. the neurotic Dalmatian. We live in the country. My husband is in computer graphics, high-tech cutting edge stuff. My children are in school. I now have the time to return to writing.

What a wonderful collection we make!



Amy Sterling Casil ASterling@aol.com http://members.aol.com/asterling/amypage.htm Mon Oct 21 14:44:05 PDT 1996

Thanks to curious e-mail sent to Jack, I am reading this fantastic area and wanted to respond to Bob: what an incredible message. Thank you to Jack for inviting me to visit this area. I have no snippets 'o anything right now . . . but as I begin again on my fungal infection of a novel, perhaps I shall. It was a joy and a pleasure reading everyone's messages.
> Amy :)


Bob Hanford 2hanford@itech.net Thu Oct 17 10:01:18 PDT 1996

A letter to my daughter

My dearest Maria Elena,

I am nearing the end of my pregnancy and it is a joyful, wonderfully scared thing. The story of the siege of Leningrad which has grown inside of me for more than ten years, insists on being born as a novel. I know already that I won't want to give it away, to allow it to be adopted by foster parents who can never reproduce the father's love. It will be as meticulously tended, as carefully nurtured, as painful to wean from the breast as you and Sean were.
Already I am grieving the eventual moment of completion when I will have to say good-bye, to find another child. I feel now that I will never get pregnant again or that the months and years of gestation will never equal the excitement, the paternal feelings, the selfishness I have about the siege of that lovely city.
It is as it should be and of course I will fall in love again and be delighted and excited again. But I mourn the end even as I begin the first page. I plan the crying of saying good-bye in Russian to my characters. I feel the emptiness of the room when the manuscript has been dropped coldly, into the blue greedy mailbox. I will walk up and down the rooms and think about a sequel to keep my characters alive, to keep them with me. It is selfish but I am family-oriented and for the next year I will have a family here in my chair, my bed, and walking with me along the river.
It is scary as I said. I hesitate to begin because beginning implies ending. If I don't start, I won't have to say good-bye.
It is a bittersweet day, a day of strange tastes on the tongue, smells that tease the saliva glands, a day of seven-minute cigarettes. I write to you to avoid the eventual funeral, to give my characters an extra few hours of life, to share with you the extreme emotions of giving birth and dying all wrapped up in the same swaddling clothes.
I am going to the bastard-child city of Leningrad, September 8, 1941. The weather is unusually warm. The trees have already choked off the chlorophyll to the leaves. One small section of the city is still open to the mainland but that will change by nightfall.
I must go.

All my love,
Dad



Philip mcalern@magna.com.au Thu Oct 17 00:16:25 PDT 1996

In reply to CHARLES in his info search on TREATMENTS for film (or TV) scripts, I post the following necessary three phases I went through recently. There are some great books published on the form and help in various ways. I can't recall title or author just now of the best one I came across, will post it later but know that it was published in the early fifties. Rather than send this to his email I thought I'd share it with everyone.

SCREAM BLACK MURDER

FROM THE ORIGINAL BOOK - Third person past tense.


The two rookies slowly followed the unmarked coroner's van. It turned into a laneway, stopping at the rear entrance to the New South Wales Morgue. Someone opened the rolling metal door to the delivery bay; the van nosed inside.

Gary stepped out of the car. 'Wait here. I'll check it out,' he said to Lisa.

He hurried through the heavy rain into the delivery dock. Two men were lifting the blue plastic bags containing the dead bodies. Each bag had a zipper which ran across the bottom, up one side and across the top. They look like my sleeping bag, Gary thought. He could see the heavy movement of an arm as a bag was lifted onto a stainless steel stretcher which sat on top of a trolley. He walked beside the trolley as it was wheeled into a receiving area. Three bodies were being processed as they entered the room; the two new arrivals made five. Six policemen waited by the corpses as a large book containing information about the dead was hastily filled in.

'Where can I park?' Gary asked the short, moustached man who looked to be in charge.

'You fellas have to park around the front,' he replied as he pointed out the route.

The smell wafting from the tiled rooms was something Gary would never forget. The back of his throat picked up the acrid odour; gagging he choked back the distinctive smell of decaying human flesh. It was like no other smell he could recall.

***************************************

NOW THE FILM TREATMENT - Third person present tense.


CUT to Gary and Lisa as they drive behind the unmarked coroner's van. It turns into a laneway, stopping at the rear entrance to the New South Wales Morgue. Someone opens the rolling metal door to the delivery bay; the van noses inside.

MEDIUM SHOT of Gary as he steps out of his car. 'Wait here. I'll check it out,' he says.
He hurries through the heavy rain into the delivery dock where two men are lifting the blue plastic bags containing the dead bodies. Each bag has a zipper which runs across the bottom, up one side and across the top.

From Gary's POV we see the heavy movement of an arm as a bag is lifted onto a stainless steel stretcher which sits on top of a trolley. He walks beside the trolley as it's wheeled into a large receiving area. Three bodies are being processed as they enter the room; the two new arrivals make five. Six policemen wait by the corpses as a large book containing information about the dead is hastily filled in.

SERIES OF CLOSE SHOTS
'Where can I park?' Gary asks the short, heavily moustached man who seems to be in charge.
'You fellas have to park around the front,' he replies and points out the route.

MEDIUM LONG SHOT of Gary as he gags while walking along a corridor; the back of his throat picks up an acrid odour; he chokes back the distinctive smell of decaying human flesh.

*******************************************

NOW THE SCREENPLAY - Always in present tense.


SCENE 24
EXT. CITY ROAD. LATER THE SAME DAY.
GARY and LISA are driving behind the unmarked coroner's van. It eventually turns into a laneway, stopping at the rear entrance to the New South Wales Morgue. Someone opens the rolling metal door to the delivery bay; the van noses inside. GARY steps out of the car.

GARY
Wait here. I'll check it out.

GARY hurries through the heavy rain into the delivery dock.

SCENE 25
INT. DELIVERY DOCK. LATER THE SAME DAY.
Two men are lifting the blue plastic bags containing the dead bodies. Each bag has a zipper which runs across the bottom, up one side and across the top.

From GARY'S POV we see the heavy movement of an arm as a bag is lifted onto a stainless steel stretcher which sits on top of a trolley. He walks beside the trolley as it's wheeled into a large receiving area. Three bodies are being processed as they enter the room; the two new arrivals make five. Six policemen wait by the corpses as a large book containing information about the dead is hastily filled in. Gary walks up to a short, moustached man - Dr COLIN RICHARDS who looks to be in charge.

GARY
Where can I park?


RICHARDS
You fellas have to park around the front.
(He points)

MEDIUM SHOT of GARY gagging as he walks along a corridor; he holds a hand to his mouth; his throat is picking up an acrid odour; we deduce he is choking back the smell of decaying human flesh.


There it is, for what it's worth. Back soon - Philip.


******************************************


Philip mclaren@magna.com.au Mon Oct 14 15:48:22 PDT 1996

Hello All: following is a the beginning of a story for anyone to add to. Please move it along: introduce characters, places, plots and subplots but using the outline provided by Kitty in the Notebook.

*THE SHAMAN*

In the near future in a new town in Mid America after Independence Day 1996, three roudy men wearing tight leather gear and shaven heads are walking, kicking cans, joking , pushing at each other as they approach a converted corner store that is converted to offices; the lights are on inside. The rain soaked streets reflect the street lights and those of passing cars. The men stop and lean in a huddle and speak in whispers.

One of the men, the tallest, continues forward to the offices while the other two fall into the shadows, pushing themselves flat against a wall. A chorus of barking dogs can be heard echoing up the dark empty streets. The tallest hairless man peers into the offices through a jagged scratch in the painted logotype which covers the front window.

Inside the office five Native American people are concluding a meeting, gathering papers, coffee cups and rearranging chairs. They are a happy, joking group. One them, David Robinson, stands and is about to leave by the front door but he's forgotten a file and goes back to retrieve it. He puts the file into his bag and goes to the front door again.

As he steps from the offices he looks both ways. The streets are empty and the local dogs are still barking. He hunches his shoulders and hurries off. As he reaches the narrow lane that runs behind the old shop he is rushed by the three men with shaven heads and pulled into the shadows. It is difficult to see in the shadows of the darkened alley but the sounds of a scuffle, broken bottles, shouting and thumping are clear enough.

Then all is quiet except for the dogs. The three shaven men run from the
shadows and up the street in the direction from where they came.

The remaining people leave the office, the lights are turned off, they lock the front door and walk up the street away from where David lies bleeding.

Much later all is perfectly quiet as a slow moving Police car
prowls the area.

The next morning David is surrounded by six policemen. In the harsh daylight he is lying flat on his stomach, flies are buzzing about his badly cut face and a nearby ant colony has also found his dead body. Two evidence technicians in white coats approach him carrying equipment.

Two miles away, seven of the Robinson family are crowded into their living room. They are all very distressed, grieving. David's mother, Liza, and father, Alf, are sitting with members of their immediate family.

"We should bring him back here and let him lay in our front room before the burial." Liza says sobbing.

"Oh, Mum people don't do that anymore. Can't we just call the funeral home. That's what they're there for," Ruby, the eldest daughter says. Her cheeks are wet with tears.

Silence prevails as everyone gathers their thoughts then Alf speaks up.

"We'll do as your mother wants," he says.

"But Dad... " Ruby starts.

"Quiet Ruby, gees... for Heaven's sake," Bruce says.

"That's what we're doing. David can lay here for a night in this room... that's the way our family did it back home and that's what we're gonna do here," Alf says and pauses."Later we'll have a service and bury him properly out on our lands at Kutoonga beside his grandparents."


It is a warm, summer night far in the distance we see a loud group of hairless people, men and women conducting a ritualistic ceremony. Several of the group are shaving the bodies of others as they lay flat on bench-like altars. Everyone is naked - it is a scene of shocking debauchery.


In the Robinson kitchen Alf and Liza sit drinking coffee. The other members of the family have gone to bed.

"Who could have done it Alf? Everyone liked David." Liza whispers.

"Senseless..." he shakes his head. "It's eating away at my insides. Can't stop thinking about it. We've got to do something," Alf says.

"The police said there is no hope of finding who's responsible. What can we do?"

"We can bring in a Cleverman."

His wife looks at him with a deep frown.

"What do we know about Clevermen?

"I heard lots about the Shaman. Fellas from up north used to talk about 'em all the time and what they could do with the old wilderness magic."

"But what can they do down here in the city... for us? "

"I don't know but I want to find out."


To be continued by you...

Best Wishes - Philip.


Bob Hanford 2hanford@itech.net Wed Oct 9 18:17:00 PDT 1996

Philip: Got me as I figured you would. Thoroughly enjoyed it. More. Please.

I'm taking off for five days at Assateague Island in MD.
Talk to everyone when I get back.
Peace. Bob


Philip mclaren@magna.com.au Tue Oct 8 05:19:42 PDT 1996

I'm not sure if I'm really permitted to post this, the work is contracted to HarperCollins publishers but if it comes back to me I'll say it is purely for discussion purposes - which it is.

It's the first thousand words of my next novel due for release in March next year. You could say our workbook has a world premier :-)

All comments and criticisms welcomed.

THE LIGHTNING MINE

CHAPTER I

Northern Territory, Australia.
February.

Aaron Shoemaker, an American mining surveyor, had lost his survival pack, had no water or food and sat for hours, nearly naked, in the centre of the northern Australian highway. With both hands he clutched a satchel filled with small stones and plants that hung from his shoulder, his skin was festered, blackened and burned but he was alive. Speaking incoherent nonsense, he watched flies swarming on his open wounds as a semi-trailer slid to a stop on the rust-coloured road in front of him. The driver and his offsider quickly lifted him onto the back seat of their air-conditioned cabin and sped him away toward Oenpelli, in the direction from which the delirious man had just walked.
Shoemaker mumbled, his tongue swollen, before he fell face-down across the cool vinyl seat, unconscious.
'Don di of lee... lee... God!' he said before he fell.
'Jees-us!... what'd ya reckon happened here?' asked the thin, red-haired driver of his mate.
The fat one thought for a while before answering.
'Fucked if I know,' he said. 'I'm radioing the cops.'
He took the CB radio handset from its cradle with the authority of a Qantas pilot and called the township ahead using the emergency band.

The unsealed road, the main highway across the top end of Australia, was ploughed regularly back to the hard seam of clay but the red, powdery dirt found its way back onto the surface making traction difficult for vehicular traffic of any sort. The truck carried liquor supplies to stores in the small towns from Darwin to Gove; on the way back they usually carried mining company goods, furniture and Aboriginal artifacts. In the wet season the roads were unpassable so the drivers became marooned for days in whatever town was near which is one of the reasons they didn't carry perishables. In any event, the drivers knew they would soon be made redundant, everything would be flown in and out: economics demonstrated the profit-to-cost ratios of transporting goods by road were now equal to those of air freight; and air was much quicker.
The heavily weighted trailer swayed from side to side on the dry slippery surface and the red-haired, freckly man fought hard to counter each movement. These drivers earned their wages, it was a difficult job keeping the big rigs on the dirt roads.
'See if he'll drink,' the driver said.
The fat man pulled a bottle of water from a chilled box on the floor in front of the rear seat and pushed at Shoemaker's shoulder. He didn't react at all.
'He's out for the fuckin' count,' the fat man said, falling back into his seat and facing the front.
The men sat in silence asking questions of themselves, listening to the random rhythms of the rig. Ahead the sky was clear, blue and bright; behind rolling, white clouds were filling with moisture from the tropical waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, forming distinct shapes: cartoon faces, chickens, nude women. Suddenly, Aaron Shoemaker sat upright and shouted.
'Stop! Pick them up. Pick them up!'
The startled men looked to where Aaron was pointing but could see no one.
'Hey you! Sit down, you're not too fuckin good in the head mate. Here... have some water,' the fat man insisted.
He offered the chilled water to Aaron who took it and drank thirstily. Then, as they negotiated a turn in the road, Aaron leaned forward again pointing and shouting.
'There!... there they are. Pick them up!'
A hundred metres ahead, at the side of the road in the shade of a small leafy tree, sat two Aborigines: a man and a woman. Traditional blacks they were, naked, with their swags beside them.
'Pick them up!'
'No fuckin' way,' the fat man said. 'We don't pick no one up. You're different, you're one of us. Can't see leaving you out there to fuckin' die, could we? No... we don't pick up no fuckin' blacks, that's it.' Then he turned to his work mate for confirmation. 'Right Blue?'
'Fuckin' right!' the driver said pushing on the accelerator. 'Don't worry about them mate, they know how to live out there. They'll be okay.'
'No... stop!' Aaron shrieked and pulled at the steering wheel.
The driver jumped on the brake pedal and the high-pitched shrill of the air brakes screamed across the plain. The steel of the heavy trailer clanged as the truck skidded and jack-knifed, making a vee shape behind the cabin. Dust spewed high in the air and the Aborigines stood in fright as the rig and trailer dug a deep trough into the high ridge of red dirt at the side of the road and began rolling.
Debris flew about the cabin. The ice box spilled its contents; bottles and plastic lunch containers burst open spilling food everywhere. The glove box had jarred open; maps, cigarettes, a flashlight, can opener and other smaller objects hit the men as they were propelled forward onto the windscreen. Aaron's face was pressed against the fat man's back as they flew forward hitting the glass windshield and became airborne, leaving the cabin together. The freckle-skinned driver locked his arms straight and pushed against the steering wheel until it snapped away then he also flew, head first, through the windshield opening.
The truck rolled one more time then stopped. The trailer had twisted at the joint to the driver's cabin, the inverted cabin rocked slowly, balancing precariously as the wheels continued to whirl.
Within seconds everything was quiet again on the grassy expanse. Soft breezes swept past the tangled wreck and its disgorged cargo. Viewed from a distance, the red dust - rising high in the blue sky - was like the smoke from some mystical, sorcerer's fire. Suddenly, an almighty explosion sent a shock wave across the spinifex plain. The truck's fuel tank had ignited.

Night had already fallen by the time the Oenpelli police could send a helicopter in search of the truck and the men who'd called them earlier. When the police landed beside the road next to the burnt-out wreck they found two men - the red-haired driver and the fat man - their flesh was reduced to a charred mass that had grotesquely fused to their skeletal remains.

Aaron Shoemaker was nowhere to be seen


ben woestenburg nittritz@netcom.ca Tue Oct 1 22:26:20 PDT 1996

I just wanted to write a few quick lines to see if it's as readable as I think it is:

THE PROLOGUE TO THE TALE OF LYTTLE MOCHE

The morning came on wings of light,
The birds sang out in song;
The servants all awoke at dawn
To move the day along.

The ladies took their toilette first
Down by the river bank,
Behind a copse of trees they walked
Close where the river sank.

Now, Malcolm watched the ladies leave
And saw them coming back,
But Antoinette did not return
Upon the well-worn track;

Nor was she at the river's edge
As he hoped she would be --
So, quickly he began his day
And slipped off through the trees.

He thought about the tale last night;
That love found, unprovoked,
Then thought how like himself it was
And how his love awoke.

And then he saw her, Antoinette,
Now standing in the light,
In a meadow full of lowers,
A vision of delight.

His first thought was to run to her
And take her in his arms --
Sing her praises, and her glories --
Imprisoned by her charms.

"Is this how I should feel with love?"
He thought now in his mind.
"Do all men suffer as I do?
Are all in love so blind?"

But this would be no simple task;
He had no claim on lands.
So, would she take him as he was
Right now, a simple man?

His mind was fighting with his heart,
His soul broke down his will --
He came to her beyond the rise,
A specter on the hill.

She started as she saw his shape
Walk slowly down the rise,
Then held a hand up to her brow;
The sun was in her eyes.

And softly, as he came to her,
His mind was ill at ease;
He sat beside he silently,
His hands upon her knees.

"What is it you would have of me?"
She asked him with a smile.
"Is breakfast waiting to be served,
Or can it wait a while?"

But Malcolm did not say a word,
He drew his knees up high,
Then wrapped his arms about them tight
And voiced a heavy sigh.

He dared not look into her eyes
But silently sat still;
His heart near burst within his breast.
She thought he must be ill.

It seemed like such an overt act
To speak to Antoinette;
The love that he held deep inside
Remanied unvoiced as yet.

"I've come to you, sweet Antoinette,
In hopes that I might speak --
To lay my love before you now
And so an answer seek.

"An answer I now seek in glee
And cry to God above:
Eternal Spirit! Restless Soul!
Help me to free my love."

And when he saw the blushes come
And saw her tearstained face,
He felt his heart then all but snap,
But went ahead in grace.

"Please, do not fear for what I say:
I have not said the words.
I only wish to say to you
How much my heart has stirred."....

That's all I dare write for now. The length of the remainder for this particular piece is another twenty-five stanzas. I don't know what to expect from anyone, but hey, I'm open to anything anyone has to say. I just have to get off my ass and finish this. I think it's publishable because of the different structures involved in it, but it is poetry, and poetry of this length may make it more difficult for me to sell.
Anyway, thanks for listening.


Jennifer Tue Oct 1 20:28:08 PDT 1996

In the company of my blue devils,each moments dark as midnight.
When all I feel is tormenting phantoms from the past.
Death beckons me with the promise of peaceful tranquillity.
I eagerly reach out my arms for a final embrace.

Somewhere in the tender place of my soul she calls to me.
My child of innocents, the keeper of our mother's smiles,and gentle kisses.
She holds the smell of her and warmth of her breasts.
My child has no remembrance of our separation or mother's tears.
She never felt the sting of the caretaker's hands.
Her slumber is serene, burden free.
She wants to stay and join me as I grow old, but I must resist her comfort.
She must stay deep within my heart where the walls are lined with warmfuzzies and the memories always sweet.


Lisa Nickles lnickles@geocities.com Tue Oct 1 19:44:58 PDT 1996

A steam powered Northern Pacific passenger train with gas lights and plush purple velvet seats is chugging it's way west. There are spitoons on the floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey pervades. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting where you are. You look around and see an assortment of people dressed in Victorian, Tudor English as well as someone in blue jean cut offs, tank top and a green mohawk. Gas light glints off his pierced gold ear and nose ring. Just then Elvis Presley taps you on the shoulder and asks what time it is. Only,
there are no hands on your watch when you look at it. Your mouth falls open in disbelief and when you look back he's gone.
There is no obvious explanation as to how you arrived at this place. Your heart pounds as the panic wave within spreads to all your extremities.
'Don't worry about him dear,' the old lady sitting behind you was observing. 'He has a personality problem that young man I've seen him here before. But you're new aren't you?'
'What?' you bark at the woman and frown as you glance over your shoulder.
'We all know each other on this train, passengers rarely change on the 10:45.'
The carriage rushes into a tunnel; smoke and cinders find a way into the cabin. Music can be heard up ahead; a man is singing a slow ballad. You know the lyric and recognise the voice: it is Elvis!
You wince. You never really did like his style of music; but strangely, you find yourself listening- almost feeding- on the melodies. The only semblance of familiarity around you.
'You will forgive me my forwardness, of course.' commented one dark suited man, 'We certainly did not appreciate the tone you used with the lady.'
'Indeed.' continued a matching man in light colored attire, 'We must never speak harshly to one another here.'


Philip mclaren@com.au Sun Sep 29 16:56:45 PDT 1996

Hello All: following is a the beginning of a film script. Please move it to wherever you want, introduce characters, places, plots and subplots.



*THE SHAMAN*

Set in New York in the near future about an avenging Shaman who appears to be superhuman.

SCENE 1
EXT. NEW YORK STREET- 2034. NIGHT.
Three roudy men *The Hairless* wearing tight leather gear and shaven heads are walking, kicking cans, joking , pushing at each other as they inadvertently approach the offices of the First Nation Arts Organisation - a converted corner store. The lights are on inside.

The three men stop and lean in a huddle as they speak in whispers.

One of the men, the tallest, continues forward to the offices while the other two fall into the shadows, pushing themselves flat against a wall. A chorus of barking dogs can be heard echoing up the dark empty streets.

SCENE 2
EXT. ARTS OFFICES. NIGHT.
The tallest *Hairless* man peers into the offices through a jagged scratch in the painted Arts logotype which covers the front window. From his point of view (POV) we see the activity in the offices.

Five Native American people are concluding a meeting, gathering papers, coffee cups and rearranging chairs. They are a happy, joking group.

They are saying their good nights. DAVID is about to leave by the front door, he's forgotten a file and goes back to retrieve it. He puts the file into his bag and goes to the front door again.

SCENE 3
EXT. NEW YORK STREET. NIGHT.
From a high, roof-top position we watch as DAVID steps from the offices and looks both ways. The streets are empty but the local dogs sound out their warning. DAVID hunches his shoulders and hurries off. As he reaches the narrow lane that runs behind the old shop he is rushed by the three men with shaven heads and pulled into the shadows. We can't see in the darkened alley but can easily hear the scuffle, broken bottles, shouting and thumping, and even more thumping. Then all is quiet except for the dogs. The three shaven men run from the shadows and up the street in the direction from where they came.

The camera pans across to the door of the Arts Office to find the remaining people leaving, the lights are turned off, they lock the front door and walk up the street away from our camera.

The OPENING TITLES are superimposed over this quietened scene.

Dissolve to the same scene much later - all is perfectly quiet as a slow moving POLICE CAR prowls by.

HARD CUT TO
SCENE 5
EXT. NEW YORK ALLEY. EARLY NEXT MORNING.
Close shot of DAVID lying flat out in the lane, flies are buzzing about his badly cut face and a nearby ant colony has also found his dead body. As the camera pulls back we see he is surrounded by about six police as two evidence technicians in white coats approach with equipment.

SCENE 6
INT. ROBINSON'S HOUSE. NIGHT.
The ROBINSON FAMILY (seven adults) are crowded into their living room. They are all very distressed, grieving. David's mother, LIZA, and Father, ALF, are sitting with members of their immediate family.

LIZA
We should bring him back here and let him lay in
our front room before the burial.

RUBY (Tearful)
Oh, Mum people don't do that anymore. Can't we just
call the funeral home. That's what they're there for.

Silence prevails as everyone gathers their thoughts then ALF speaks up.

ALF
We'll do as your mother wants.

RUBY
But Dad...

BARRY
Quiet Ruby, gees...

BRUCE
Yeah, Ruby for Heaven's sake shut up.

ALF
That's what we're doing. David can lay here for a night
in this room... that's the way our family did it back
home and that's what we're gonna do here.
(Pause)
Later we'll have a service and bury him properly out on our
lands at Kutoonga beside his grandparents.

SCENE 7
EXT. BUSHLANDS. NIGHT.
The *Hairless* are conducting their weekly coven where everyone has their whole body shaved in ritualistic fashion. Everyone is naked; it is a scene of shocking debauchery.

SCENE 8
INT. ROBINSON KITCHEN. LATER SAME NIGHT.
ALF and LIZA are in the kitchen drinking coffee. Everyone has gone to bed.

LIZA
Who could have done it Alf?
(Pause)
Everyone liked our David.

ALF
Senseless... (he shakes his head).
It's eating away at my insides.
Can't stop thinking about it...
(Pause)
We've got to do something.

LIZA
The police said there is no hope of finding
who's responsible. What can we do?

ALF
We can bring in a Cleverman.

His wife looks at him with a deep frown.

LIZA
What do we know about Clevermen?

ALF
I heard lots about the Shaman. Fellas from up north
used to talk about 'em all the time and what they could do
with the old wilderness magic.

LIZA
But what can they do down here in the city... for us?

ALF
I don't know but I want to find out.

SCENE 9
(???? ??????????? ?????)



Best Wishes - Philip


Jennifer allan@psln.com Sat Sep 28 14:22:44 PDT 1996

Clara screeched and came to a complete halt. " What in the world Clara ?" Betty demanded as she firmly tugged on her daughter's hand. " Come along we don't have time for any of your foolishness to-day." " Mama does it hurt?" Clara asked as if on the verge of tears. Her eyes were looking at the ground in front of her. " What are you talking about?" Betty asked with impatience. " That!" Clara pointed, " i'm stepping on it does it hurt?" Betty laughed, Clara thats just your shadow it doesn't hurt to step on your shadow honey, now come along." Picking up her pace Clara laughed. "I think I'll call it Oscar."


ben woestenburg Nittritz@netcom.ca Sat Sep 28 01:49:23 PDT 1996

I watched her as she sashayed down the aisle toward the lounge, waitng at the door patiently as the conductor pulled it open for her. I had to try and figure out what was going on here. Looking about at the few passengers seated around me, I wondered who they were and where they had come from. I certainly knew where they were going. Nowhere. Like me, I guess.

The landscape seemed to float outside the window.The heavy grey clouds against a dark sky, and my reflection staring back at me, I was lulled into a quick nap by the gentle rocking of the car and the constant clackety-clack of the tracks underneath. I wanted to sleep though, thinking maybe I would wake up and find out it had all been a dream in the first place. I wondered, even as I reached that point where dreams and reality mix together and wonder fills all those voids in between, I wondered what sort of dreams would haunt my moist mind. But there were none.

I was awakened by a gentle nudge on the shoulders as the conductor looked down at me, beaming happily and winking as he nodded.

"Yer on, kid," he was saying.

"On?"

"It's yer turn. Everyone's waitin' fer ya," he added as he gently lifted me by the arm and guided me to the lounge ahead. I felt my head to see if it was still there -- God it felt so fuzzy. I was confused. I looked down at the kid with the green mohawk and wondered if he had been up to perform yet. Then I laughed to myself, wondering what he could possibly do to offset the image of his own self. Stil, they say everyone has a talent. I guess in my case that would have to be "had".

"But what am I supposed to sing?"

"Whaddya feel like singin'?"

"I suppose it doesn't matter much, does it?"

"You could sing "Jingle Bells" an' it'd be all right."

"Jingle Bells?" I thought with with a wry smile. Now that was a thought. But I couldn't do that tonight. It seemed too out of place -- even more out of place than I felt myself.

The lounge seemed to open in front of me, like a stage that went out for miles. I looked through the door behind me, but it was gone. It was as if it had never been there. The sky was a deep blue for some reason, and I thought, "That's neat. How'd I get outside?" I could see my guitar leaning gently on its rest and wondered how they knew it was mine. I mean, I'd lost it years ago, doing a gig down in Frisco. Someone stole I'd always thought, and yet, here it was. As soon as I picked it up everything left me. I mean, I didn't feel uncomfortable, or out of place. It was as if I'd never left the stage. I could feel the heat from the stage lights, and shielded my eyes as I tried to search the crowd in front of me. I couldn't see them of course, just like the last time I was on stage, but I knew they were there.

I strummed the strings and nodded my head, letting the gentle melody take me with it as I seemed to sift through the strings themselves. I was lost in it, man. I mean, I played, and sang, and waited for the roar of the crowd below me, knowing they were into it, but all I was met with was silence. It was complete, too. Vacuous; vacant; vapid. It was like I was alone in my bedroom, and then I realized I was.

My guitar was a gun and I was alone in my room. I couls hear someone pounding on the door, but when I turned, the door wasn't even there. I pulled the trigger and all I hear hear was the crowd screaming for more. There were actually calling me name, pounding their feet, some of them crying -- though I couldn't figure out if it was tears of joy or not -- I just heard them screaming my name: "Kurt! Kurt! Kurt!"

And all the time I was listening to it, wondering how I was going to get out of here and back onto the train, I kept singing that same song, repeating the same line..."No Apologies."


TamLin Fri Sep 27 06:07:09 PDT 1996

He watched fromt he edge fo his parapet, overlooking the expanse without name. A sprawling darkness, a broken infinity, without definition or border, spanning away on the tendril threads of reality.
He leaned back. He was weary, tired. So God damned tired. He had come far, without travelling, seen much without opening his eyes, touched the lives of million without a breathe, journeying.
Now, perhaps, it was time to rest. Not that it meant much, a bed, some food and a little warmth. Such sparison condition were his natural encounter, and he disliked to upset the balance.
Along the way, he sold his goods, barter at each stop as he drew closer to the hub, and gateway. Excahnging the trinkets of one world for the possessions of another. Treading across forgotten caravan routes, so old the treads of the path scoured the lands like canyons, traversing wild mountain, the edges of the lands, across great oceans and plentiful lands.
So many earths he had tread, that they all seemed as once. In the darkness before him, he felt he could reach out, and touch some tangible, the memories and images all vivid in the void.
It seemed also an archaic paradoy that this stone cropping into the void even existed. It was not a product of equation, stone upon stone, mortar between the carved bricks. No, rather it merely was, with definition or age, standing mute in testiment to some glory against the howling waste.
Whatever it origins, Johhann was merely grateful for refuge, a place to rest for a while. Tommorrow he would journey on, on into bowels of the darkness, searching as others before.


Philip mclaren@magna.co.au Wed Sep 25 21:17:22 PDT 1996

Hello All: I wonder if there is anyone out there who knows the Japanese contemporary writer of Shakespeare, Bashõ. I got tuned into him years ago. Recently I had another look at his work because it was influenced by Zen Buddhism and mostly because it was written in the strict traditional Haiku form, the seventeen syllables poetry style that still flourishes in Japan. I find this minimalist style very arresting. Bob, your writing in minimalism reminded me of this form of poetry.

I became fascinated with Haiku and recently produced some pieces of my own. I post some now for anyone to improve on, or to get you started in this form.


HAIKU:
The art of Japanese seventeen syllable poetry


1

A CITY BEACH IN WINTER

Aqua waves the water
Hard sand underfoot
Overcast, cold and peopleless.


2

DRIVING RAIN

Water swept by gales
Flying bushes, falling trees
Filling drains, flooding.


3

SOUTH TO SYDNEY AT RUSH HOUR

Trains, buses and cars
Empty from the city
As I walk in on the bridge.


Best Wishes - Philip.


Philip mclaren@magna.com.au Wed Sep 25 18:05:05 PDT 1996

Dear Bob: I had the audacity to jump in and take a hard look at your piece bravely placed here for all to see. Please take my critiscm in the caring, fellowship of spirit in which it is given.

I felt the piece was too short so I doubled it's size. I carped away at the essence of your very fine work and expanded it. I filled out the characters you invented and indulged myself in some vintage Hemmingway in the process.

And I can tell you I've come away a little intoxicated my friend.

With your permission I will send out your original piece to some people in Australia. No promises but we must venture forth.....








Writing Under the Influence

by Bob Hanaford


I should have known better. But, when Gloria, a well-published writer friend of mine, invited me to stop by her house on my way home for a modicum of vintage Steinbeck, I accepted. I was having the usual beginning-writer's problem of finding and trusting my own voice. Poetry and my Germanic love of drama were the demons that possessed every first draft I'd written for years. Maybe Steinbeck would be the exorcist I needed.

When I arrived, Gloria welcomed me with a long lingering hug, too long. It gave me the impression that she felt sorry for me, pitied me. Gloria was a little older than myself, forty-two, she wore long, blonde hair that fell onto her shoulders, blue jeans, sweater and mostly went shoeless. We were both left over hippies. But now we were both powered by more than flowers.

Once inside, settled near the fire with a coffee, she began, softly, firm, direct, sure: "She picked up the fork and combed the boiling grease and brought out a curl of crisp pork. And she set the pot of tumbling coffee on the back of the stove."

I groaned with pleasure. "Couldn't we have eased into it?" I asked. "Did we have to start with The Grapes of Wrath?"

"I was afraid if I told you, you'd make up an excuse and not come over," she replied. "It is Friday evening; you don't have to work tomorrow. You could even listen to the opening lines of Cannery Row."

As she rifled with the pages, I got up and headed past her to the door then I turned.

"I'm sorry," I said to the back of her head. "I'm just not as experienced at this as you are. Thanks anyway."

She deliberately ignored me and read even louder: "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."

"I'm leaving Gloria, thank you but it just doesn't feel right, I can't take it like I used to," I confessed.

She thought she knew better. She rose out of her sofa and followed me to the car. All the while she kept on reading: "Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots..."

The chill from the night air felt fresh on my face. My ears and nose gave the signal of early winter and despair coursed through my veins. I turned the ignition and rolled up my window. Like a city-corner preacher Gloria continued with her book in hand beneath the bluish light of a street lamp. Much louder now and people came to their doors to investigate the commotion.



I felt flushed in front of my computer a little later, I knew what was wrong with my rejected stories. I needed more unexpected verbs and adjectives. I needed more "ands", more rhythm, longer sentences punctuated by short, choppy ones and much more attention to detail. It was amazing how obvious everything became after a little Steinbeck. I would have to do total rewrites but my stories would never sell in their present form.

A little voice snuck into the right side of my brain: "What about finding your own voice?" it asked. "Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing?" But I'd already had too much; perhaps if Gloria had stopped after one short piece...


My wife, Susan, an accountant in a law firm, arrived home at exactly the same time every day. She and I met at an art show in New York ten years ago this March and were married two months later. As you might expect, her parents were mortified with her marrying an unpublished writer. I enveloped her, her friends said. But I didn't care, I had fallen in love with and taken my chance by marrying my once-in-a-lifetime beauty queen: Susan possessed the naive voluptuousness of a Norma Jean, still does. The front door slammed and I knew that any second now she'd call out.

'Hi honey, I'm home.'

There she did it. It was her joke, she was paraphrasing the whole of society in that one daily gesture of mirth. She said she knew millions of people all over the world said that same line as they arrived home every day and it was usually delivered with no more feeling than the short release of silent flatulence.

"Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes," she sang melodically at the top end of her range.

I called back down the stairs to her and told her I wouldn't be eating dinner, that I had a lot of rewriting to do.

That was my mistake. She stormed upstairs through the partly open door to my secret cave - my place - stepping across the sacred threshold into what she laughingly tells our friends is my playpen.

"You don't want to eat?" she asked in disbelief.

"No, but it's okay,' I tried to placate her immediately. "Everything's really going to be okay now,'I started to giggle like a nervous schoolgirl. 'In just a few months, checks will be piling up in the mailbox."

"What's changed? Where's all this money going to come from? she wanted to know.

"I stopped at Gloria's and we shared a little Steinbeck."

Her hand rushed to her mouth, she frowned and turned away.

"Honestly baby, it was just a little, and now I understand why editors don't like my stories," I told her this and wished she would leave so I could get started.

"Don't you remember what happened last time?' she reminded me.

"Then it was Hemmingway. That you two could actually grasp the delicacy of vintage Hemingway at sunrise is beyond belief anyway, remember?"

I didn't want to tell her that I remembered the whole episode perfectly, I sat back as she launched into her sermon. That whole night was wonderful, we sat on Gloria's front lawn and she read slowly from that piece from To Have and Have Not:


'I like her , you know,' said Richard Gordon. 'She interests me both as a woman and as a social phenomenom.'

'Gee,' said Mrs Laughton. 'You can talk as educated as the Professor.'

'Don't strut your illiteracy, dear,' said Laughton.

'Do people go to bed with a social phenonenom?' asked Helen Gordon looking out the door.

'Don't talk rot,' said Richard Gordon.

'I mean is it part of the homework of a writer?' Helen asked.

'A writer has to know about everything,' Richard Gordon said. 'He can't restrict his experience to conform to bourgeois standards.'

'Oh,' said Helen Gordon. 'And what does a writer's wife do?'

'Plenty, I guess,' Mrs Laughton said. 'Say, you ought to have seen the man who was just in here and insulted me and James. He was terrific.

'I should have hit him,' Laughton said.

'He was really terrific,' said Mrs Laughton.

'I'm going home,' said Helen Gordon. 'Are you coming, Dick?'

'I thought I'd stay down town for a while,' Richard Gordon said.



Beverely's voice grew louder. "You rewrote everything then and the editors fell off their chairs laughing."

"That's why I only really listened to two sentences this time. She read the beginning of Cannery Row, but I didn't listen."

"Sweetheart, I know you want me to leave so you can write but we have to talk about our relationship; this can't continue. You said you'd do anything for me because you love me. Well, it's Friday night, which means there's a meeting of Writers Anonymous at the library. I want you to go, please, for me...for us."

I fought with her awhile, telling her I wasn't going to just copy Steinbeck's style. But love prevailed.



It has now been six months of Friday night WA meetings. I'm not allowed to read Steinbeck at all, though I do carry a paperback version of Cannery Row with me to avoid panic attacks. I don't go by Gloria's house anymore. And when I stopped calling her altogether, she thought she ought to talk to my wife. Susan told her about my low Steinbeck tolerance and the previous Hemingway fiasco, and that I just hadn't been writing in such large measures for very long.

"Oh, I feel so guilty," Gloria said. "I thought he'd done a lot of writing in college. I should have taken the keys and let him sleep it off here on the couch."



Best Wishes - Philip.


Bob Hanford 2hanford@itech.net Wed Sep 25 13:15:16 PDT 1996

OK. I'll take the plunge first. I'm looking for help in placing this piece. Up front, neither Writer or Writers' Digest wants it. Doesn't have to be a paying market but that is always nice.

Writing Under the Influence

Of course I should have known better. But, when Gloria, an accomplished writer friend, invited me to stop by for just a little vintage Steinbeck on my way home, I accepted. I was having the usual new-writer's problem of finding and trusting my own voice. Poetry and my Germanic love of drama kept overwhelming my first drafts.
Steinbeck would not be the exorcist I needed.
When I arrived, Gloria welcomed me and began reading:
"She picked up the fork and combed the boiling grease and brought out a curl of crisp pork. And she set the pot of tumbling coffee on the back of the stove."
"Couldn't we have eased into it?" I asked. "Did we have to start with The Grapes of Wrath?"
"I was afraid if I told you, you'd make up an excuse and not stop," she replied. "It's Friday evening; you don't have to work tomorrow. You could even listen to the opening lines of Cannery Row."
I got up and headed to the door as she turned the pages. "I'm sorry," I said to the back of her head. "I'm just not as experienced at this as you are. Thanks anyway."
She ignored me and read even louder:
"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."
She followed me to the car, reading:
"Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered tin and iron
and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots..."
I rolled up my window. I felt flushed. In front of my computer a little later, I knew what was wrong with my rejected stories. I needed more unexpected verbs and adjectives. I needed more "ands", more rhythm, longer sentences punctuated by short, choppy ones and much more attention to detail. It was amazing how obvious everything became after a little Steinbeck.
I would have to do total rewrites but my stories would never sell in their present form.
A little voice snuck into the right side of my brain. "What about finding your own voice?" it asked. "Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing?" But I'd already had too much; perhaps if I'd stopped after one sentence...
When my wife came home, I told her I wouldn't be eating dinner. I had a lot of rewriting to do. "Everything's going to be okay now. In just a few months, checks will be piling up in the mailbox."
She stepped across the threshold of my playpen, as she calls it. "What's changed? Where's all this money going to come from? she asked.
"I stopped at Gloria's and we shared a little Steinbeck. Just a little, but now I understand why editors don't like my stories," I told her wishing she would leave so I could get started.
"Don't you remember what happened the last time you two read Hemingway till early in the morning? You rewrote everything then and the editors fell off their chairs laughing."
"That's why I only really listened to two sentences this time. She read the beginning of Cannery Row, but I didn't listen."
"Sweetheart, I know you want me to leave so you can write but we have to talk about our relationship; this can't continue. You said you'd do anything for me because you love me. Well, it's Friday night, which means there's a meeting of Writers Anonymous at the library. I want you to go, please, for me...for us."
I fought with her awhile, telling her I wasn't going to just copy Steinbeck's style. But love prevailed.
It has now been six months of Friday night meetings. I'm not allowed to read Steinbeck at all, though I do carry a paperback version of Cannery Row with me to avoid panic attacks. I don't stop by Gloria's anymore. When I didn't call her that weekend, she talked to my wife. Susan told her about my low tolerance, the Hemingway fiasco, and that I just hadn't been writing for very long.
"Oh, I feel so guilty," Gloria said. "I thought he'd done a lot of writing in college. I should have taken the keys and let him sleep it off here on the couch."


trish trishm@iswt.com Tue Sep 24 12:52:36 PDT 1996

Startled, you gaze out the window into the blackness of the tunnel. You can make out a thick grey haze swirling against the total darkness outside. As you look around once more, the reality of your situation sinks in. Sighing, you lean your head back against the plush seat and close your eyes. Suddenly, questions begin to form in your mind. Why had the woman mentioned seeing Elvis here before. Could he come and go at will? And why was he concerned with the time in a place where time stood still? Did this explain all the semingly reandom Elvis sightings at Burger King and 7-11?


Bob Hanford 2hanford@itech.net Tue Sep 24 07:22:20 PDT 1996

Before I could respond, she stood up, a look of resignation and just a touch of fear on her face. "I can't talk to you just now," she said. "I must perform. Its his last song and I'm next. Did they tell you? You must perform, you know." She pulled her shoulders back and lifted her head, an almost manic laughter now in her eyes. "You must perform, you know. You must perform."


Ben Woestenburg Nittritz@netcom.ca Tue Sep 24 00:27:18 PDT 1996

'I said you're new here, aren't you?' she said again.
'That depends where here is,' I said looking at her carefully. She was dressed like someone I'd seen in movies a dozen times -- Debbie Reynolds in Molly Brown, or Daisy Miller -- it made no sense at all, and until it did, I didn't want to say the wrong thing.
'Bit confusing isn't it?' she said with a smile.
'Took the words right out of my mouth,' I said with a half laugh, trying to sound confident, but knowing I wasn't convincing her at all. 'What is this place?'
'You mean you really don't know?'
'Should I?'
'You shouldn't be here if you don't know where we're going,' she said with a friendly smile.
'Couldn't you just tell me? It'd save a lot of time.'
'Time?' she said with a laugh. Her laughter seemed to echo through the carriage, and I looked around to see if any of the other passengers might have noticed us, but they seemed oblivious to anything we were talking about.
'Honey,' she went on saying, 'we don't have nothing but time. This train is taking us nowhere. Look at your watch,' she said quickly, reaching over the seat and grabbing my hand. 'It doesn't tell you anyhting. See? No hands!'
'What does that mean?'
'You never heard of time standing still?'
'Well, sure, but...'
'We go in one direction,' she smiled. 'Nowhere. Now that could be anywhere, but it isn't. This is the 10:45. We leave at 10:45, and we arrive at 10:45, but we don't go anywhere.'
'But we're moving,' I pointed out. 'I can hear that guy singing -- I know that guy singing. Not personally, of course. But I know who he is.'
'Well, ithat's nice. Do you know who I am?'
'Should I?'
'I was just as famous as he was in my day, as he was in his.'
'And what was your day?'
'Why honey, I'm Lilly!'
'Lilly?'
'Lilly Langtree!'


Philip mclaren@magna.com.au Mon Sep 23 21:18:25 PDT 1996

A steam powered Northern Pacific passenger train with gas lights and plush purple velvet seats is chugging it's way west. There are spitoons on the floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey pervades. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting where you are. You look around and see an assortment of people dressed in Victorian, Tudor English as well as someone in blue jean cut offs, tank top and a green mohawk. Gas light glints off his pierced gold ear and nose ring. Just then Elvis Presley taps you on the shoulder and asks what time it is. Only, there are no hands on your watch when you look at it. Your mouth falls open in disbelief and when you look back he's gone.
There is no obvious explanation as to how you arrived at this place. Your heart pounds as the panic wave within spreads to all your extremities.
'Don't worry about him dear,' the old lady sitting behind you was observing. 'He has a personality problem that young man I've seen him here before. But you're new aren't you?'
'What?' you bark at the woman and frown as you glance over your shoulder.
'We all know each other on this train, passengers rarely change on the 10:45.'
The carriage rushes into a tunnel; smoke and cinders find a way into the cabin. Music can be heard up ahead; a man is singing a slow ballad. You know the lyric and recognise the voice: it is Elvis!


Jack Mon Sep 23 19:29:24 PDT 1996

A steam powered Northern Pacific passenger train with gas lights and plusch purple velvet seats is chugging it's way west. There are spitoons on the floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey pervades. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting where you are. you look around and see an assortment of people dressed in Victorian, Tudor English as well as someone in blue jean cut offs, tank top and a green mohawk. Gas light glints off his pierced gold ear and nose ring. Just then Elvis Presley taps you on the shoulder and asks what time it is. Only, there are no hands on your watch when you look at it.

(I leave this here if anyone wants to pick it up and drop anything on this ... have fun)


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