Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 28, 2011 in Fiction
, Flash fiction
Painting by Vicky Stonebridge
The two men looked down at the smoldering wreckage that was left.
When the alarm rings, they never know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s when they see the flames that they get a good idea of what’s in store. They can tell which
fires are guaranteed to have causalities and which aren’t. The one they just put out was, by all measures, bound to back up the undertaker’s queue.
They were wrong. Every civilian was saved, every man on their team made it out alive. Some were severely injured, but nothing life threatening. Any florist orders would be for Get Well Soon arrangements, not mourning wreaths.
The two men didn’t pretend this was the result of skill or practice or anything any of them did. It was just a miracle. By now they’d learned when one of those came along you stay humble, thank the universe and take a moment to enjoy the hell out of life. That night their food would taste better, their families’ laughs would sound sweeter and their sleep would be restful.
Tomorrow things will go back to normal. Today, it was all a miracle.
This flash fiction was inspired by Vicky Stonebridge’s painting and the online literary magazine With Painted Words.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 25, 2011 in Non-fiction
If an alien race got access to the Internet and nothing else to inform them about humans, this is what they’d think of us:
1) Humans really, really love watching and reading about sex.
2) Cats are always saying and doing funny things.
3) Half of the humans hate everything (except sex).
4) The other half are altruistic geniuses who spend all their time writing advice columns.
I want to talk about that last one.
I have spent way too much time on the Internet and it came to my attention that for any subject there are tens of thousands of websites telling you “how to be awesome at this!” It even slips into “news” when “reporters” elaborate on how they would have handled a situation. It makes me wonder if these folks are so awesome at doing something, why are they not doing that instead of blogging about how to do it?
You know how to be a successful writer? Go write. You know how to run the country? Become a politician. You know how to make the best movies? Start making movies.You know how to make the best computer? Start programming.
Sure, there are a million perfectly good excuses not to do things. It involves a lot of hustling to work your way up the Hollywood ladder. It takes a lot of fundraising to run for office. But at the end of the day, if you have not achieved the goal, you have no business telling others how it should be done.
Why do people do this? What’s the underlying trait we all share that makes this so common? I’m going to paraphrase Denny O’Neil‘s description of “the best kind of writer to be,” because I believe it stems from the same phenomenon:
“I knew a guy who always had ‘the greatest idea.’ A year later he hadn’t done anything with it. That’s the best kind of writer to be. You get to have all the greatest ideas but never deal with the gut wrenching fear of writing it and handing it over to someone who might read it and say it’s sucks.”
It’s very easy to say you know how to do something and tell others how to do it. Let them be your guinea pigs. Let them do the hard work and face the fear of miserable failure. If they do, you can say they just didn’t follow your advice (exactly) the right way. If they happen to succeed, you can take all the credit and pat yourself on the back for being so smart.
By all means, do seek out advice. After all, we have come so far as a species because we learn from those who came before us. But find people with a proven track record of success. For instance, seek relationship advice from people who already have the kind of relationship you want. When Napoleon Hill wrote the first modern self help book, Think and Grow Rich, he didn’t just sit down and start scribbling from his own experiences. He’d never succeeded at anything. He spent years researching and interviewing some of the most successful people of his time: Henry Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Clarence Darrow to name a few. In what I think is a hilarious way to prove his point, Think and Grow Rich is still a best-seller 70 years after its initial publication. If there’s a secret or repeatable pattern for success, the way to find it will be by listening to those who have succeeded. And those who have succeeded are far, far fewer than the millions of advice givers out there.
I’ll leave you with this fortune we got last night. It’s appropriate for so many reasons:
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 21, 2011 in Fiction
, Short story
This is the final part of this short story. Parts 1 and 2 are on this site or you can download the whole thing as a free PDF here (right click to save). Thanks for reading!
- Photo by Amanda Norman
I saved Harold, hoping that would be the last. Walking back from work, I stopped by the cemetery to check. There it stood.
What I found out next came as no surprise. Michelle was buried there by Harold, who found her dead when he arrived to propose. Her neck broke in a fall down the stairs. Back I went to April 24, 1956 this time to save Michelle.
✧ ✧ ✧
Charlie, Eileen, Rob, Maria, Alejandro, Jenny — those are a few of the names I remember. After a while I had become the foremost expert on saving people from bizarre, often violent, always lonely deaths: train tracks, falling furniture, stray bullets… you name it.
But every time I came home that goddamn tombstone was there, a new victim buried six feet under DEAR LOVE. The words ceased to be romantic, or even sad. They just mocked me. They infuriated me. I hated that tombstone as much as I loved Lenore.
One night, on the way to work, I made a trip to visit my tormentor. A young man, Mikey, was buried in the plot by his fiancée, who never got to wear her dress. I’d go back, I’d save him and then she’d probably be the one underground. I knew the game this stupid tombstone was playing with me by now.
“Why?” I screamed at it. “Why won’t YOU die?” Then it hit me like lightning. I laughed the whole way to work. The answer was so obvious I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. I guess that’s why I’m the janitor, not the scientist.
✧ ✧ ✧
My last visit to April 24, 1956 began like the rest. I saved Mikey from an unfortunate death. I disappeared before he could thank me. But this time I didn’t come directly back to my time. Not yet.
✧ ✧ ✧
The monument mason looked at me like I was crazy.
“You want me to make a gravestone but no one is dead?”
“And all you want it to say is DEAR LOVE?”
“Is this some bullshit art project?”
I laughed. “Sure.”
“I don’t like that bullshit.”
“I’ll pay you extra.”
I took off the gold watch and handed it over. He inspected it closely.
“One more thing. I’m going to be back shortly with something. I want you to make sure it’s buried in the plot.”
✧ ✧ ✧
In a few minutes I’ll head back to the cemetery and hand over this account. It will be buried in the familiar plot. I expect if anyone reads this they will think it’s the ramblings of a madman or a “bullshit art project.” I don’t care. Better than the decomposing body of a lover lost too soon.
See, what I realized is that the tombstone meant no harm. It just wanted to live, the way we want our lovers to live. Every time I saved someone, I took away its life. And it found a way to take it back, the way I took back Lenore’s.
DEAR LOVE, here’s my offer to you: existence.
This short story was inspired by Amanda Norman’s photograph and the online literary magazine With Painted Words.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 18, 2011 in Fiction
, Short story
The last part will be posted on Monday. If you don’t want to wait, you can download the whole thing right now as a free PDF here (right click to save).
- Photo by Amanda Norman
I arrived back at the lab moments after I left. Within seconds I was running home.
I burst through the front door of our tenement, shaking and unsure what to expect. I feared the whole thing had been a crazy hallucination. I also feared that it may not have been.
I fumbled with the light switch, finally turning them on. I heard someone moving in the bedroom. The door opened and I found myself face to face with Lenore. Read more…
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 14, 2011 in Fiction
, Short story
The next two parts will be posted on Friday and Monday. If you don’t want to wait, you can download the whole thing right now as a free PDF here (right click to save).
Photo by Amanda Norman
Some things demand to exist.
My wife, Lenore, first died on April 24, 1956. She was hit by a bus after work. I wasn’t there with her.
We didn’t have a lot of money. She worked days as a teacher and I worked nights as a janitor at a government facility. I was sleeping when she died.
I couldn’t afford a decent funeral. I put all my money towards her tombstone. Something unique that I knew she would find beautiful in a sad, romantic way like all her favorite novels. It read DEAR LOVE. Now I wonder if I was the first to commission it, or the last in a long line of heartbroken lovers.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 11, 2011 in Non-fiction
Lloyd Dobler. For many men of my generation and socio-economic class he is a role model. The idea is that if you’re like Lloyd, you’ll inevitably wind up in the backseat of a car having hot, sweaty sex with an improbably hot smart girl. Wait, let me rephrase that: would-be Lloyds want to “make a meaningful connection with someone.” It just so happens that someone is an improbably hot smart girl and making a meaningful connection involves hot, sweaty, backseat sex.
Take a long, hard look at this picture:
If this were real life and a dude is standing in front of a girl’s house wearing a trenchcoat and sweatpants, while blaring a love song from a boombox, he is either (a) so self involved he believes an embarrassing, grand gesture could be taken seriously or, (b) a deranged stalker.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 11, 2011 in Email
I’ll be dropping two small posts today. Enjoy this and come back at lunch for “Everything I Have to Say About Lloyd Dobler.”
I ain’t out of no game. Fuck with my iPad again, Jobs, and I’ll start dropping rhymes like gangsters commit crimes.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 7, 2011 in Fiction
Here’s another springboard draft I’m contemplating for my class assignment. Feedback is welcomed and encourage, as before.
In the year 2018, Jack lives with his fiancée, Callie and their cat Freddy in the same apartment with the same half-busted window he’s had since he was single. Despite the happy life at home, he can’t help but question how much better it could be. He’s a brilliant physicist working for a secret project on temporal movement (aka time travel) but because of a mistake on his calendar in 2011 he missed an interview for a promotion.
Jack gets home from work one evening to find Callie devastated. Freddy escaped through the half-broken window and was hit by a car. Years of self-hate come boiling to the surface. Jack breaks into his office at night and fires up the experimental machine.
In 2011, Present Jack sneaks into his apartment, a big mess since he’s still a bachelor, and changes his calendar.
When Jack returns to the present his life is altered. He got promoted, which lead to a lucrative career. But when he looks up Callie she’s engaged to someone else with no interest in Jack. Poor Freddy wasn’t saved by them from the shelter and put to sleep.
Distraught, Jack goes back to 2011 and jams his apartment’s door so that 2011 Jack can’t get out. The frustrated 2011 Jack shatters the half-broken window to get out. “I’ll actually fix that now,” 2011 Jack tells himself… but he still misses the interview.
Back in 2018, Jack comes home and crawls into bed with Callie. The next morning he’s woken up by something jumping on his chest. It’s Freddy! Since 2011 Jack had to fix the window, Freddy never got out. Jack’s little family is reunited once again.
If you’re in the dark about what a springboard is, check out Friday’s post.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 4, 2011 in Announcement
The votes have been tallied and you fine people chose to split the bounty! The ASPCA, Wounded Warrior Project and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will each receive one $250 voucher for use on American Airlines. Thanks to everyone who took part and thanks to American Airlines for doing the right thing.
For those of you out of the loop read the original complaint and the call to vote.
Posted by Rolando Garcia on Mar 4, 2011 in Fiction
“A springboard is a short–no more than 1/4 or 1/3 of a page–summary of your story, designed to give the key story points and what the story is thematically about. It’s designed to sell your story to an editor (not a consumer), so therefore you must give away the story’s secrets and twists. You must do this as intriguingly and entertainingly–and as briefly–as possible.”
That’s Danny Fingeroth’s definition of springboards. I learned it from my current professor and freakin’ legendary Batman writer, Dennis O’Neil. I wish I could spend every Wednesday for more than just nine weeks listening to him talk. His lectures are full of thoughtful wisdom, riveting anecdotes and absolutely, positively no bullshit. Between O’Neil’s class and Pete Hamill‘s memoirs, I’ve discovered a kinship with the generation of writers born in the years between the Great Depression and World War II. But that’s a story for another day.
Today I’m going to share an early draft of a springboard I will eventually hand in for class. This is the story I’m leaning towards turning into a full script for my final assignment. Those of you who followed 30Characters may actually remember this guy. Any feedback is welcomed.
CLAYTON’S CHOICE (Springboard Edition)
Three bandits ride into the desert followed by Sheriff Clayton. A gunfight ensues. The bandits are killed and Clayton is hit bad. As he lays dying, he remembers: his wife, their son, her death. Before he can join her, a man stands over him, silhouetted by the sun.
In town, everyone is gathered outside including Clayton’s son. A fourth bandit rides in. He becomes enraged when he hear his friends have been driven out. He unholsters his gun.
Back in the desert, the man makes Clayton an offer: his mortal wound healed in exchange for his immortal soul. “You wouldn’t want your son to be an orphan,” he goads. Clayton accepts then passes out. When he wakes he is healed and the man is gone.
Clayton rides back into town. Five men have restrained the fourth bandit. The morose crowd parts and we see that the struggle wasn’t without casualties. The bodies of innocents are laid out in a row.
The last one is Clayton’s son.