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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NOVEL THAT WAS TURNED DOWN BY N.Y. WINS THREE “BEST” AWARDS | Christopher Meeks | Blog Post | Red Room

NOVEL THAT WAS TURNED DOWN BY N.Y. WINS THREE “BEST” AWARDS | Christopher Meeks | Blog Post | Red Room

Red Roomers Blog About Self-Reinvention | Red Room Well Red | Blog Post | Red Room

Red Roomers Blog About Self-Reinvention | Red Room Well Red | Blog Post | Red Room

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Red Underwear ... a Sample

Originally Published in Story Magazine Spring 1998









I ran this ad, you see, because I was tired of being a lonely guy.  For the last couple of years, since my wife ran away with her dance teacher, I've regretted the days because they catch me in their desolate clutches.  I know I don't exist by myself on some vast island, but I am alone.  Sure there is the mailman who drops envelopes through the slot in my door; there is the upstairs neighbor's dog who whines every night at the wind; and there are the boys on my job at Zippy Delivery who aren't too deep.  I asked one of them, “What is life?”  He said that life was pussy.  That's all he could think of.  So despite all of that stimulation along with the animal sounds of the city and   the man and woman next door who beat on and love on each other until dawn, I was still lonely.
I went to the bars.  But bar people try too hard to be cool and sultry, as if they're owners of the universe and their silk clothes and gold neck chains are vestments of royalty.  I found myself silently berating them.
“Hi. My name is Henry,” I'd say to some sleepy-eyed woman. I'd get a blank stare as if I was the smoke that they had just blown from their cigarette.  “Probably just a Hospital shit toter,” I'd say to myself.  But those negative thoughts only made me more bitter.
No, bars aren't good places to meet people if you are down to earth and sincere.  Besides they sound like garbage can factories--”CRASH BAM BAM BOOM!”  I don't have a loud voice so I had to get real close to talk.  I worried about my breath, so I always suffered from anxiety when I approached a chick.  You see, I'm not too handsome either and the girls get righteously indignant if an ugly guy comes too close.  I'm 5'4”, skinny and bowlegged--I look like a wishbone when I'm naked. These glasses make me look owlish.  If I were a Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington, women would have welcomed me to run my tongue over their eyelids.  But for a guy like me, bars do more harm than good.
So I ran an ad in a local magazine.  It said:

LONELY GUY 5' 7”, SLENDER-BUILT, VERY NICE BROWN EYES, JUST WON
$1000 WRITING PRIZE--SEEKS SINCERE TRIM LADY TO HELP HIM PARTY AND
CELEBRATE HIS GOOD FORTUNE.  MUST BE SLENDER.  PHONE 881-LOVE.

Yes, I placed this ad.  I meant to put a comma between nice and brown.  I kind of worried about that.  I didn't want to confuse anyone as to whether I was saying I was nice or had nice brown eyes.  There is a difference.  Lots of guys have nice brown eyes but will put their fist in a woman's mouth before she can say “I do.”  Me, I am nice with brown eyes.  And that phone number, I thought it was clever.  Now the money deal may have been a bit of a come-on, but I really hoped that when the dough ran out, I'd be left with a nice girl, kind of by default.
I'm a great believer in default.  We are alive by default.  We are the eggs that didn't die and wash out in our Mother's blood.  We are the ones who survived the pill or leaked out of a busted condom.  And even if our parents planned us, we weren't the ones they wanted.  We are what they got.  So there's lot of validity in the principle of default.  That's why I was applying it in my quest for a nice girl.
Lots of girls called 881-LOVE.  Even a few guys--the husky voice: “Hello, I'm Tiger. I give heavenly massages . . . “Of course I hung up on them.  But Like I said, a lot of girls called. A few were only interested in my American Express number. One lady said she was a Pentecostal Minister, had six children, was trying to start her own church, and the Lord put it in her heart to call my number.  I told her that the person I wanted had already answered my ad.  The lady broke out in heaves of sobs.   She swore, when she caught her breath, to wring the devil's neck for putting rocks in her path of righteousness. The woman cried until I promised to send her a donation.   She kept calling me and asking had I given God his share.  I sent her a hundred dollars and never heard from her again.
Let me say this--It's strange the feelings you get when you run a personal ad.  You're giddy with power and confidence.  You dream of luscious women who are going to call, cry into the telephone, and say “I've been waiting to meet you all of my life!”  All of that is what you imagine.  You don't feel your own desperation until you see your ad surrounded by boxes of SWF's, SBF's, SBM's, and SWM's--all of those initials seeking love, and your own ad sticks out like a gout infested toe.  You get mad because you had to resort to this.  You had to beg for love and friendship.  But you try to have hope.  You make yourself believe you've done the normal thing and you will meet the right person.  Or so you think.

###
End of Sample


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Cheeseburger Sample

Selected by Joyce Carol Oates for the 1987 PEN/Discovery Prize
Also Published in the Ontario Review (Winter Fall 1988)






I mean, I know Cheeseburger and Polo Mack, they some bad boys. Cause that’s what my Mama say they is. She call them “Northern Rats” ‘cause they hang around here in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on the corner of 30th Avenue and Jefferson Street, where I live. “Come down here to thaw out in the sun,” Mama say. They draw ugly things on my Mama ‘s white picket fence. They and some more boys call themself the “Folks.” They draw moons and stars and pitchforks all over her fence. She don’t say nothin’ to them. She just give them her hot eyes as she slaps fresh paint over their drawins on her fence. But she yells at me ever’ time they come around.
“They ain’t never said nothin’ to me, Mama. And I ain’t never said nothin’ to them,” I plead with her.
“They hang around here ‘cause you a gal,” my Mama say.
  Even when I walk quickly by them with my head down in my shoulders like a broke-neck chicken, my Mama don’t be no happier. She says if I was a son instead of a daughter, I would run them wild nigguhs away from her picket fence.
But there is somethin’ else too. I don’t know if Mama knows it or not, but I am in love with Cheeseburger. He is tall and skinny and the color of Mama’s mahogany dinin’ room table. He’s got a long thin neck that I want to hug. His eyes make me cry ‘cause they so sad and dreamy lookin’ . I want him to be dreamin’ about me. My Cheeseburger’s got a short square haircut like my boy cousin who’s in the army. Cheeseburger wears a small diamond earring. He reminds me of my best girlfriend, Thelma, who’s willowy like a black weed. Sometimes I don’t know why I love Cheeseburger. One day I love his eyes. Next week it’s his chest. Then later, the sight of his thighs sends me to heaven. I wonder if my Mama knows how much I love Cheeseburger. Wish she would say, “That boy make you a good husband, Della.” But then I probably wouldn’t want him no more.
Here’s what I really wish. I wish he wouldn’t hang around with that dude called “Polo Mack.” That dude is sloppy and ugly. He wears an old goofy red cap that he sets way back on his head. He got a big ugly nose like a dog. And he’s black as burnt toast. Polo Mack grabs girls by their arms and calls them bitches. He grabbed me by my arm. My Cheeseburger looked the other way. I was mad at Cheeseburger for a whole week ‘cause he didn’t take up for me. Then I saw Cheeseburger in some new red shorts and a half of a blue Mickey Mouse sweatshirt that showed off his stomach, and I fell in love with him all over.
The week that I wasn’t in love with Cheeseburger ‘ called him and them other boys dogs, and Mama seemed happy with me. We talked about what a shame it was them thugs from up north were comin’ down south, bringin’ that dope with ‘em, and breakin’ into people’s houses. Everybody on the block was gettin’ burglar bars and bad dogs. Hattiesburg was hirin’ more police. It was just a shame, me and Mama agreed.
Then I saw Cheeseburger’s navel and fell back in love with him. And Mama started fussin’ at me ‘cause I was a girl and not a boy. She said I was drawin’ them nigguhs to her fence like shit draws flies. My Mama said that to me. And no matter how much I looked like I was ignorin’ those boys (I really was ignorin’ ol’ Polo Mack), she fussed more. Even when they didn’t paint the moon and stars on her fence, she fussed.
So I say to myself, if my Mama don’t love me, I know Cheeseburger do. Cheeseburger, who never look in my direction, even when I wear tight jeans, purple jelly sandals, and my own Mickey Mouse T-shirt cut off at the navel, even when I wear this outfit with my hair swept back from my face, back to my shoulders--Cheeseburger never say nothin’ to me. But I still imagine he love me. I dream about him kissin’ me. I dream he touched my titties, like those so-called “good boys” Mama was always tryin’ to get me hooked on. But Cheeseburger touch me so much better, like he know what he’s doin’. Like he know I ain’t gonna slap his hand away.
I ain’t never did it with nobody. My skinny girlfriend Thelma have. She say it hurt. I tell her my Cheeseburger don’t hurt me. She say all boys hurt you. I say not Cheeseburger. She say Cheeseburger is ugly and he’s a punk. I tell her Cheeseburger ain’t no punk. I tell her this lie: I tell her I was out one night in the backyard throwin’ away some garbage. It was real dark. I heard somebody leap over the fence and whisper my name.
“Della. Della, baby.” The voice was like a soft wind lickin’ my neck. I wasn’t scared ‘cause I knew it was Cheeseburger.
Thelma interrupts my lie. “How you know it was Cheeseburger? You ain’t never heard his voice. It might have been ol’ Polo Mack.”
“You think I’m a fool, Girl,” I say. “I know it was Cheeseburger ‘cause I heard him talkin’ to some other boys one day. He talked real cool, like a northern boy, like that Leroy boy on Fame. And besides that, I found out it really was Cheeseburger ‘cause he kissed me.”
Thelma goes back to swoonin’ over Prince’s picture on the cover of People. Thelma thinks Prince is her little angel. Any light-skinned boy is Thelma’s angel. One tine Thelma tol’ me she liked me ‘cause I look like Prince. She said she wish I was a boy. She said she just love yellow people. I tol’ her, I said, “Woman, you crazy.”
There must be somethin’ to being light-skinned. Mama said I could be like Vanessa Williams. That was before them pictures came out in that magazine. Now Mama just shakes her head whenever anybody talks about Vanessa. Me, I like brown people. Especially brown boys. I like the way the sun makes them glow. My Cheeseburger glows.
Anyway, I go back to tellin’ Thelma my lie about me and Cheeseburger. I tell her about how he carried me behind Mama’s big ol’ palmetto plant, how he kissed me, and how he pulled off my bra and played with me. We both stood behind that plant in the dark with our clothes off, and he put his hands on my behind, and I had my hands on him, and we did it three times, and now I’m goin’ to have Cheeseburger’s baby.
 “Stop lyin’!” Thelma yelled. “Boys don’t do it but once!
I tell her again, my Cheeseburger did it three times. Thelma calls me a liar again. I call her a bitch, and tell her to get out of my house, and leave my magazine. Thelma turns around on the porch and tells me, she says, “If you gonna have a baby, I’ll bet it’s Polo Mack’s.” I slam the door. Open it and slam it again. I slam it until the wood frame cracks.
###
End of Sample



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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Writing Tips 7 and Happy New Year!

To The $.99 Book Buyers and Readers
 

I thank you for trying me out. You’ve stepped up and put your 99 cents out on a limb. I desire to be a good investment of your money and time. I may be a short read, but I desire to be the best that I can be. But here is what you can do to make our relationship better.

1.  Do not buy me in bulk
2.  Read my product description
3.  Review me fairly

I think the reason why you’re disappointed is because you didn’t choose carefully. My product description and cover gives a good indication of what my book is about. It also clues you in on my writing skills. You also most likely will have an excerpt in the description. That will give you a sample of the type of story you’re going to encounter. If you were just clicking on all of the $.99  books and free books, it means you bought me in bulk like someone buying a bushel of apples. Some will be rotten, misshapen, and bruised. However do you castigate all apples from here on? Of course not. You just choose more carefully.

If you’ve chosen carefully and you’re still disappointed, and you desire to write a review of your experience with me, please be balanced and tell why I didn’t work for you. If it’s “not your taste” or “not your kind of book,” why did you buy me? To say I’m “boring” doesn’t help either. A Shakespeare play probably “bores” the heck out of seventy percent of the population in the U.S. But the other thirty percent are on the edge of their seats eating up every word. Express how you found the book unappealing. That will help me grow as a writer and give you a richer experience as a reader even if I do remain cheap.

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