Venting (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“You’re awful cocky, considering it’s only luck we’re in a no-fault state and I didn’t hang you out to dry instead of the other way around,” Allan says sweetly, handing her this month’s check. “Luck and ancient housing design.”

Torrey narrows her eyes at him.

“Oh, Torrey, baby, I knew you were screwing around from the the day it started. Your obsession with that old dump of a house, I’da thought you’d know not to have private phone conversations sitting next to the heater vent.”

Torrey feels her eyes widen before she can stop them, turns her face to try to hide the flush flaming up to her hairline, but Allan’s already walking back to his car, laughing and slapping his knee theatrically.

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Photo: 3dman_eu

Every week, Denise at Girlie on the Edge hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s cue was VENT. Fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Come join the fun!

 

The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint (Book Review)

The Wind in His HeartThe Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: urban-fantasy, made-me-homesick, mysticism, native-american-lore, fantasy, coming-of-age, multiple-povs, religion-sort-of, magic, supernatural

The fates of several very different people meet when a troubled teenager with an attitude is dumped on the rez from her father’s car, and a desert rat steps in to help against his better judgment, as the young girl makes a play for money by trying to expose the desert rat’s hidden identity. A blogger/journalist shows up right in time to be caught up in the showdown between the modern and the traditionalist members of the tribe and the fallout from the trophy-hunt killing of a shapeshifter.

This is a suck-you-right-in tale, rural-fantasy rather than urban-fantasy because of the setting. The characters are compelling, the plot rich, with lots of interwoven threads.

My only complaint was that throughout the teaching moments, when the tribal elders or the shaman would talk about principles of Native belief, the younger tribe members never knew what they were talking about, didn’t understand, had to have it explained again. If they grew up as traditionalist tribal members, they’d surely had exposure to and grasp of the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of the Red Road…wouldn’t they? They all acted as if they’d never heard of shapeshifting or sympathetic magic or spirit animals or dreamwalking. I surmise it was the author’s way to incorporate exposition, but it left me feeling like these people just weren’t all that bright. I found it awkward.

That aside, though, very good read. The real jewel here is the setting, a fictional Native reservation in Arizona, reminiscent of Chelly Canyon. Under de Lint’s pen, the Painted Lands come alive in all the stunning glory that is the desert, and made me incredibly homesick for my own desert home.

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Follow Your Dreams (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Jane jerks awake, the dream still strong. She’s scraped her fingertips against the rough concrete floor before she remembers there is no lamp. No bed, no matching nightstand, no electricity at all. Just her sleeping bag on the cold floor of the abandoned house she squats in.

The dream had felt so real. Safe in her bed. Her roses outside the window. Her house.

Follow your dreams, they said; it makes life rich. Except when you end up losing it all. She’d moved here with such high hopes. Now she knows that sometimes what’s over the horizon should stay there.

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Photo: 44833

Every week at the Ranch, Charli hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme ‘follow your dreams.'” More great flashes from other writers are at the link.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry (Book Review)

 

The Night She DisappearedThe Night She Disappeared by April Henry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: ya, those-meddling-kids, mystery, crime, thriller, multiple-povs, epistolary, pnw

I got some pretty heavy heebie-jeebies from this story of a bright, pretty, spirited young girl named Kayla who is abducted one night while working at her job at a pizza place in the Pacific Northwest. As it happens, my own wonderful, bright, pretty, amazing young daughter is named Kayla and she works at a pizza place in the Pacific Northwest.

Yeah, that totally wasn’t creepy or anything.

It’s a testament to the author’s talent that I kept reading. This is a fast-paced YA mystery-crime story that adults can get into as well. I read the whole book in a single day. I like books with multiple pov’s. I like epistolary bits. Good plotting, well-drawn characters, page-turning pacing. Good stuff.

The extra helping of weird was totally not the author’s fault. I will read more of her books, as I quite liked this one and I’m happy to have discovered another author I enjoy. Unless, of course, the next Henry book I read somehow has something awful happening to a devastatingly handsome young librarian who’s preparing to defend his master’s thesis and has the same name as my son. I mean, I like it when things get weird, but there are limits. 😉

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Carrot Cake (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

The mindless chatter of two dozen people washes over Jane’s head, normally a wall of sound to hide behind but today, something to navigate. She balances her paper plate of cake – carrot, with cream cheese frosting, a favorite – careful not to jostle as she makes her way to where Barbara sits, queenlike, amid bona fide paralegals.

“I’m so sorry to hear Marianne is leaving,” Jane plunges in as Barbara glances up. “Are you accepting applications for her position?” She smiles brightly even as Becca’s eyes shoot daggers from across the room.

One woman’s going-away cake is another woman’s chance.

caro_oe92
Photo: caro_oe92

Every week at the Ranch, Charli hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.”

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (Book Review)

The Anubis GatesThe Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: everyone-loved-it-but-me, abandoned, time-travel, magic, sci-fi, monsters-and-such, fantasy, merry-olde-england, reading-challenge

I selected this for my 2017 Reading Challenge (yes, I know we’re well into 2018; I’ve been busy) because I like steampunk and wanted to read the book credited with starting it all. Plus, I love love love time travel.

I am very disappointed, and I feel like I shouldn’t be, which is why I read as far as I did. There’s a lot packed in here–time travel, Egyptian gods and magic, gypsies, a combination bodysnatcher/werewolf, the girl-dressed-as-a-boy (romantic interest later on, no doubt), Coleridge and Lord Byron, homunculi, organized rival bands of beggars like Oliver Twist meets West Side Story, a demented clown on stilts. But for all that, there’s no urgency, nothing compelling. I don’t care about the characters.

Having our hero stuck in Regency England could be fun, but there’s no related conflict. No figuring out how to make tea in an 1810 kitchen, no trying to explain his Gore-Tex and Ray-Bans–the author gives him convenient little saves that keep him from all that (he comes through in period costume and is promptly robbed of his clothes anyway; he is given the almost deus ex machina disguise of a deaf-mute beggar so no one will hear his modern, educated, American speech). He doesn’t even seem to want to go home all that much. He’s a gamepiece being moved about a board, no feeling, no desire.

I see no steampunk elements at all beyond, possibly, a pair of springloaded shoes. There is no science or technology; the time travel and the homunculi are accomplished with magic. Shoes are not enough. I was expecting steampunk.

I’m bored.

Plus, I hate clowns.

DNF-ing at 37%.

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Me and Manny McMansplainer

I never gave all that much thought to mansplaining until recently. I’d picked up on the word and knew what it meant but that was about it. I couldn’t even remember running into it all that much with the notable exception of a then-husband (who shortly became an ex-husband) telling me that giving birth can’t possibly hurt all that much and I should stop making a big deal out of it. But we didn’t even have the term “mansplain” back then. He was just a horse’s ass.

Until Manny McMansplainer came to work for me a few weeks ago, not hired by me but under my direction and my training, in what is now a two-person office. You have no idea how much I wish for a third person now, as both a foil and a witness.

And just in case you’ve been living in a cave (which sounds marvellous and I’m jealous), or you pay zero attention to the latest buzzwords (very sensible), mansplaining is when a man explains something to a woman in a manner that is condescending, patronizing, and often about which she knows as much or more than he does. Examples include a man telling a woman something about her own body or experiences as a woman, or explaining a basic principle of motion to a woman, because a pretty little thing like her would certainly know nothing about that, no matter that the pretty little thing has a doctorate in astrophysics.

little-lady-you-dont-understand-let-me-mansplain-it-to-you

SCENE ONE

HIM (THE NEWBIE): We can hook up this other computer and get it working. I’ll go ahead and do that for you.

ME (THE OFFICE MANAGER): We can’t hook it up yet. We need another switch. I’ve ordered one.

HIM: There’s one in that spare box of cables and stuff.

ME: That’s a router. I’ve discussed it with I.T. and have ordered a switch.

HIM: [without warning, unplugs my network thus zapping my unsaved spreadsheet out of existence, rummages through the McGuyver box, bangs around under my desk, unplugging things and plugging them in again, for several minutes]

ME: [sits back from my desk, arms folded tightly across my chest, sipping tea, tapping my foot, watching in amused and  judgmental silence]

HIM: [backs out from under my desk, bumping his head hard enough that I hope for blood]: Huh. This isn’t a switch. It’s a router. We need a switch.

ME: Yes. I know.

HIM: Well. Huh.

ME: Fucking wanker. [I didn’t actually say that.]

SCENARIO TWO

ME: Please feed documents in the scanner in groups of no more than 10. There’s a glitch in the FTP that means I often have to manually correct dozens of them after they’re scanned in. Feeding small batches is a good workaround for that.

HIM: But the paper feeder takes up to 50 pages.

ME: The paper feeder isn’t the issue. The FTP is the issue. It glitches with large batches of papers and takes me a lot of time to fix manually. I need papers scanned in bunches of 10 so it doesn’t do that.

HIM: FTP?

ME: File Transfer Protocol. If papers are scanned in smaller batches it’s less likely to glitch and I spend much less time making manual corrections.

HIM: Well, I don’t see why. The paper feeder takes 50. [puts a bonkzillion papers in feeder and presses the start button]

ME: [presses the cancel button and pulls papers out] I. Said. Scan. Them. In. Batches. Of. Ten. That’s how I want it done.

HIM: [sulks rest of day]

ME: What are you, six? [Okay, I didn’t really say that either]

SCENE THREE

HIM: This subpoena came back from skip trace asking you if we can serve this guy at this local address if the resident has power of attorney, but the guy actually lives in another state.

ME: I don’t believe we can. Please email in-house counsel and explain the problem, see what he says.

HIM: Well, I think we can serve it.

ME: Why do you believe that?

HIM: Well, whenever service members are deployed–deployed is when you’re sent from your home base to actual action–

ME: I know what deployed means.

HIM: Oh, good. They have to sign a power of attorney before they ship out.

ME: Okay.

HIM: And part of my job in the Army was to pull power of attorney from soldiers’ files and transmit then to JAG. JAG is the legal department.

ME: I know what JAG is.

HIM: [in aren’t-you-a-clever-girl tone] Excellent!

ME: And?

HIM: That’s what I did.

ME: One issue we have here is venue. Generally collections cases have to be filed in the jurisdiction where the defendant lives. If this guy doesn’t live in this state, the plaintiff’s attorney may have to dismiss the case and refile it in the proper court.

HIM: Well, if he’s in the military, he might not live where his home of record is.

ME: Correct. Serving someone on active duty has special procedures. My process servers have good relationships with the base legal departments. But we don’t even know if this defendant is in the military, and we don’t know what powers this POA grants.

HIM: Power of attorney gives the person power to do anything the person themselves could do. We can serve this on the POA.

ME : Of course. Please, allow me to bow down to your superior expertise, since you used to pull documents out of a drawer and mail them somewhere else and now you’ve worked here for five whole weeks.

[Okay, that’s something else I didn’t really say]

ME: [dead stare]

ME: Well, Mr. Manny McMansplainer. I’ve been a certified paralegal for more than 20 years. I’ve drawn up and worked extensively with estate planning and powers of attorney, including general ones, durable ones, durable general ones, health care ones, limited ones, special ones, and springing ones. I’ve worked on contracts and on breach of contract and money damages cases, both plaintiff and defense. I’ve arranged for service of process for hundreds of cases and ascertained it was done correctly. I’m well-versed in the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, and state law on process service. I’ve run this branch office of our litigation services company by myself, with glowing reviews, for several years. And with all that, I am still not expert to make the call on this situation. It needs to be handled by someone who’s actually licensed to practice law. Please kick it up to in-house counsel.

HIM: Fine.

ME: I hate you.

[Okay, I didn’t actually say that either. But I thought it REALLY REALLY REALLY LOUD.]

mansplain_magazine

And then there’s general rudeness, which may be misogyny or may be simple douchiness but given his other propensities, I’m going with more mansplaining. He talks over me when I’m conversing with one of my process servers. When I’m on the phone with someone, he comes over and leans in close to the mouthpiece and starts talking very loudly, interjecting himself into a conversation he could only hear one side of.

I have not simply put up with it. I have been assertive and direct. “Please don’t do that” and “Actually, that’s not correct” and “I was talking, and I’m going to finish what I was saying” do not penetrate beyond the moment.

My dutiful and devoted son, Monster, has promised that in the event I snap , he will establish a GoFundMe for my legal defense.

Please be generous, dear readers.

I love this mansplaining skit with Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Kimmel. Hillary, you have a fun, sharp sense of humor and I wonder if you’d have appealed more if you’d let it show more. Really. You should smile more, hon.

 

(In case the video doesn’t stay embedded, which happens to me all the time in WordPress, here’s the link.)

Crane (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

Becca finishes her lunch, reluctant to go back to the office and forsake the cool, green quiet of the cemetery, when movement stops her short.

Workmen are returning to the scene of the funeral, the mourners long gone to someone’s house, gone to vegetarian quiche and cake and punch and discreet nips of whiskey. Becca peers through the trees as the workmen load stands and vases of flowers into a van, followed by the slender podium they surrounded, then return to the graveside, a small, right-orange earth-mover waiting behind them.

She hears the squawk of machinery, sees one of the men operating a lever, the casket moving lower, then stopping, the man gathering straps that had been hidden under the casket, misstepping at one point to sacrilegiously stand on the coffin, flowers sliding off as he wobbles for balance.

Well, no wonder they rush everyone off before they actually lower the casket into the ground–how very industrial burial has become, with its cranes and backhoes! Definitely cremation when her time comes.

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Photo: carolynabooth

The Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop has been handed off to Girlie on the Edge.  Many thanks to Ivy for the work she’s done hosting SSS, and I’m hoping she’ll now have time to write some sixes! I’ve had a blast with Ivy and I’m looking forward to Girlie. Feel free to join us; we have a lot of fun. (This week’s cue was “crane.” I know my take on it is a little weird but that’s what happens when you have a weird dream after trying to write something all evening. Go where the Muse takes you.)

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin (Book Review)

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty HearstAmerican Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: americana, journalistic, as-seen-on-tv, true-crime, non-fiction, social-commentary

I knew very little about this case going in to this book. I was 12 when Patricia Hearst was kidnapped and all I remember of anything political during that pre-CSPAN era was being extremely put out when the Watergate hearings preempted my favorite TV shows for, like, ever.

The basic facts: In 1974, heiress Patricia Hearst was kidnapped by a radical guerrilla organization calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army, appeared to begin sympathizing with them and joined them as a soldier, committed numerous crimes as their member, then defended herself at trial by claiming she had been brainwashed and went along with them because she feared for her life.

The basic question: Was Patricia Hearst, in truth, a victim of Stockholm Syndrome?

In the nomenclature of the times, what a trip. This exhaustively researched, unputdownable analysis of the entire case is a vibrant portrait of 70’s San Francisco and the Berkeley counterculture well-set in historical context. Factoid 1: The police shootout with the SLA in Los Angeles remains one of the biggest in American history and was the first instance of a live broadcast of breaking news. Factoid 2: The 2010’s and the 1970’s share similar sociopolitical goings-on, including economic woes, highly active movements for gender and racial equality, mistrust of the government, wealth, and the “Establishment.” The years 1972, 1973, and 1974 averaged 1,987 domestic bombings per year with an average of 24 people killed each year. Now we don’t have bombings; we have mass shootings. I’m not saying they’re directly parallel, but I think it’s interesting and would like to know more about it.

The drawback is that Patricia herself refused to cooperate with Toobin as he researched and wrote the book, but I feel he did his best to present her claims regardless and to keep his account judicious. Toobin used not only Patricia’s own memoir Every Secret Thing as source material, but transcripts of hours and hours of interviews she gave to others, interviews with hundreds of officials, witnesses, and people who knew her personally, FBI and police case documents, attorneys’ papers, private investigators’ reports, and court testimony to fill in what Patricia herself would not tell him.

If you don’t know much about the case and want to draw your own conclusions, stop reading this review and read the book instead. I recommend it highly. My own opinion follows.

So. Was Patricia Hearst brainwashed? Only she will ever know for sure, but I seriously doubt it.

I think she was a rich-girl rebel. At 16, she hooked up with her 23-year-old teacher, who turned out to be the fiance possessed of such incredible dickheadedness during the kidnapping and aftermath. I think that once she realized the SLA did not intend to kill her, that they were willing to accept her as one of their own, she took the whole thing as a lark. I think Toobin nailed it when he wrote that Patricia Hearst was sensible to the moment and always saw exactly where the butter on her bread was. I call bullshit, Patty, for the simple reason that I would have been the same way. I was also a self-centered, rebellious twit, easily blown by any wind, a sucker for the glamorous and the shocking, and embracing what was most expedient for me at any given time. For a period of roughly four days when I was 19, I thought Scientology was cool. Revolutionaries do have a romantic draw, and Che Guevara was hot. I get it. So, I see you, Patty, because if I’d been in your shoes, I might well have done everything you did, and for all your wrong reasons. At least I can admit it.

I understand the theory of Stockholm Syndrome and don’t deny it out of hand. I remained open-minded throughout the descriptions of Patricia’s time with the SLA and tried to put myself in her shoes. The entire time I read I kept asking myself, was she brainwashed? I doubt the SLA capable of it, honestly; they reminded me of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. They were led by a black man who fancied himself the general of a black army but managed to recruit no black members, they had no clear agenda, they were so whack that other radical left organizations shunned them, they didn’t even know what they intended to do with Patricia once they had her. Months later, as she fled the manhunt during a cross-country drive with sympathetic people unrelated to the SLA, Patricia steadfastly refused their offers to help her get home. She refused to go home when the SLA told her she should go home. I laughed out loud when one kidnapper compared holding Patricia hostage to O. Henry’s The Ransom of Red Chief.

But…was she brainwashed? In fear for her life?

I can buy it through the Hibernia bank robbery. That could have been the test Patricia said it was, the first time since being taken that she was out in sunshine and fresh air, surrounded by armed kidnappers who said they’d kill her if she looked at them cross-eyed. The problems come up after that, when she was no longer under watchful and unblinking eyes, out and about buying groceries and stealing purses and casing banks on her own like any normal urban guerrilla does all day.

The turning point for me was the shootout at Mel’s Sporting Goods, when two comrades went in to shop and Patricia was left alone in the car, with a crapton of weapons and the keys in the ignition, and she chose not only to stay but to narrowly miss killing at least two bystanders while providing covering fire for her comrades.

The clincher was that her Stockholm Syndrome seems to have magically cured itself virtually overnight once she was arrested, looking down the barrel of life in prison and realizing how much she’d missed mascara and not eating horsemeat. Only then did she say she was terrified and browbeaten the whole time and start referring to the SLA as “them” instead of “us” and drop her brother-in-arms-lover like a hot rock. Turns out the life of a revolutionary is not really all that glamorous, I guess.

And I’m not angry that she came out of her trial pretty sweet or that her lawyer got her immunity for a second bank robbery that included murder. The lawyer is supposed to get the best deal possible for the client, and that’s what her lawyer did. But it’s galling to hear her claim she was persecuted because her name is Hearst and the “fascist pigs” were only after her, and then to remember that only the bourgeoisie she claimed to despise have access to top-drawer lawyers and two presidents, one for a sentence commutation and the other for a full pardon.

Brainwashed? Under duress? Ultimately, the only evidence I saw that Patricia was not doing what she wanted to do is her own say-so; every single other circumstance and witness says otherwise.

I considered reading Patricia’s book for balance but then I watched (painfully, because I cannot stand Larry King) a lengthy interview where in her country-club-eye-rolling-I’m-so-terribly-bored-by-all-this-daahling diction, she brushed off her own actions and refused to take a single iota of responsibility for anything while lambasting other SLA members for exactly the same thing. I think that anyone with the introspection capacity of a gnat, who had taken part in the things she did, would feel bad, feel guilty, feel ashamed, feel terrible about it, whether they were under duress or not. She doesn’t. She is completely without affect and shows not a whit of remorse. Victim all the way. Ugh. I still might read her book at some point, but right now I feel I’ve heard enough.

YMMV of course, and if you believe her story, I don’t blame you. Patricia Hearst is a chameleon, if nothing else. Read it.

Join me on Goodreads: View all my reviews

Quoth the Raven (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Jane bends to scatter crumbs from her morning muffin. Will Edgar come today?

Ravens. Birds of Apollo and Odin, messengers from these gods of prophecy. Harbingers of death and loss. She can’t lose much more. She’ll feed her raven instead; give him a name.

Flapping heralds Edgar’s arrival. He pecks his breakfast, fixes his unnerving gaze on her. He hops aside and she sees it.

She edges forward but Edgar has already retreated, perching on the fence. She stoops closer, in awe. A ring, gold in color only, plated finish well-scraped.

“Yes, Edgar,” she laughs. “I love you, too.”

Alexas_Fotos Raven
Photo: Alexas-Fotos

Every week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts a flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.”