Trifextra Week 103: Of Heroes Hirsute

Trifecta Tricycle ImageI’m not sure what you’re working on currently, but I’m treading in the realms of realism again these days.

This week’s Trifextra 33-word flash-fiction challenge freights you to the end of the line with this one: “That wasn’t what I meant.”

Being the linguistics-backgrounded word-nerd that I am, I had scads of fabness deciding where to put the accent in the terminal sentence: that, wasn’t, I, or meant. And working backward to form the oyster around the hoped-for pearl. (Hey, can a story be a back formation)?

In any case, I hope I give you an unusual prism to ponder.

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Of Heroes Hirsute

Shelter-Misc. 012

Many wonderful companions (like this one, adopted several years ago) await your love at a shelter or rescue group. If you are in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, please visit Petfinder to learn more about adoption in your area. Photograph ©Leigh Ward-Smith

A sandpaper sensation woke me. Then I tried to whistle for Pep, but my left side wouldn’t move.

Gravel pop-rocked all around. Was I being herded?

My last confused command had been sit-climb-jump.

That wasn’t what I meant.”

Language Lessons with Vincent Price

I’ve got Michael Jackson on my mind a lot lately; I’m not sure why, and no matter what I do, he just won’t beat it. In any case, you have him to thank or curse for this latest writing effort, a short fiction piece that plays with denotations: namely, the word funk (noun), third definition, meaning “a slump.”

It is loosely based on a prompt for the Trifecta writing challenge, which asks for 33 to 333 words on funk. Mine falls outside the word count, at just past 500 words, and I won’t have time to shave it down before the deadline, but here’s a light, fluffy piece for a change of pace. I hope you enjoy it, especially in a week filled with so much negative world news.

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FICTION, HUMOR

Language Lessons with Vincent Price

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Gwen Marsh didn’t know how she’d get past the gargoyle at the gate—weather-bitten Mrs. Brainerd. She of the Oil of Olay stench and inky fingers.

VincentPricefromTheBat-greggorysshocktheatertumblr

This is a publicity still from the movie The Bat (1959), starring Vincent Price. Obtained at GreGGory’s Shock Theater site.

She pressed the brittle-boned paperback closer to truant cleavage as if it were a secret Valentine. Or, in this case, a vile-entine. Gwen could nearly hear Ashley’s breathy words from yesterday: D’ya really think so? I guess we could ask an older kid. Push play again. More hushed giggles.

She glanced down and let the book fall away from her chest: The Totally Bawdy Book of Hickory-Switch Humor, Putrid Put-Downs, and Salacious Slang.

Mom would tan my hide if she knew I had this book, not to mention how I’d gotten it. It was marked for check-out by adults only, in Mrs. Brainerd’s precise hand—and lovingly sealed with twine besides.

I’ve got to go through with this! Gwen pumped herself up to do the unthinkable.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Brainerd was stamping away, going one-by-one through a stack of returns. Every so often, she’d squint and wrinkle her upper lip like Elvis’ evil clone, close the cover harshly, and audibly humph.

Gwen needed some kind of diversion. Pulling the fire alarm lever might work, but then if it didn’t, she’d be in even deeper doo.

Oh, for the love of Michael Jackson! Gwen imagined the pink leather jacket shimmering in the closet she shared with her little sister. It wasn’t the signature look, but it was the best her parents could afford.

“What the . . . funk?” she whispered, letting the forbidden word coil around her conscience. Maybe it doesn’t mean what we think it means. Ashley’s a Southern Baptist, so how would she know? She isn’t even allowed to watch TV, much less buy a cassette. “Devil music,” her parents would probably say.

Gwen strained to remember all the lyrics. I’m sure the spooky old dude in the song says “funk.” She had slipped back to a table near the bathrooms. It was almost closing time. In a few minutes, the plucked vulture would flap her wings, circle through the library, and catch Gwen red-faced.

She dug in her backpack and fished out fingernail clippers. After two clips, she was in, with fingers sprinting to salacious slang.

There it was! But, then, no. This word has no n. She scratched at her black curls, but after a few moments thought to race to the open dictionary at the end of the reference section stacks.

C-D-F. She moved her finger down the page.“Funk . . .” she read the definitions quietly to herself.

Dang, don’t I feel like a fool! Michael, how could you trick me? I am most definitely not thrilled!

Even as Gwen was lamenting her luck, she ceased to be aware of her surroundings. Only the click-click-click brought her back, and she turned to face Mrs. Brainerd . . . and her Fate.

Talk about a funk! I have a feeling I’m gonna be in one long, grounded slump by the time she’s done talking to my mom about this “unfortunate incident.”

THE END

The Language of Love: A Write Tribe Challenge

'Love is Blind' by M. Flores http://mflores5.wordpress.com/

“Love is Blind” by M. Flores  (please show his/her photography some love, because it is stunning).

In honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week, as well as Valentine’s Day and love (about which I’ve waxed in another flash-fiction post this week), Write Tribe is sponsoring a contest about the “language of love.”

Specifically, this quote by Rumi is to flow through the fiction piece of no more than 600 words:

“Listen with the ears of tolerance! See through the eyes of compassion! Speak with the language of love!”

Therefore, I offer my paean, in fiction form, to tolerance and love of all humanity.

Also, please note: all handles and tweeted content* are entirely from my imagination and not meant to correspond to a real person, real quote, real time, or real place (except for Pope Francis’ quote, which is verified, and the Michael Jackson data). Typos are intentional. AND—this story might contain objectionable content that is NSFW or for children.

Let me know what you think; thanks for reading; and be kind to one another!

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FICTION

A Bird of Eternity

For Jason: You Left Too Soon

Sadly, it fell to me to sift through the remainder of my friend J.M.’s (@TheJManfromETown*) digital signature. This all reminds me of English Romantic poet John Keats, who died aged 25 years. His epitaph says: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’

J.M. drifted away from our hometown years ago, but I will miss his many roomed heart, veined in invisible ink though it might be. I offer you this pulsing Polaroid of his online life.

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Nov. 11: @GinaBeanaQueena: Girl, your rockin’ those jeans. It’s been years since theater! DM me.

Nov. 18: @BigBlondBeastXXX:  You look so frikken HOT! Do they call you B-cubed?

Nov. 21:  @LoveBigStrongMenXXX: Post them all. Aint afraid to beg.

Nov. 25: @TheJManfromETown checked into @HopeSprings Oncology at 1:40 p.m.

Nov. 27: @LoveBigStrongMenXXX: So sorry to hear about problems at work. But psyked your naked.

Nov. 27: @BigBlondBeastXXX : It is B-cubed, isn’t it? Have a great day, Stud! 😉

Nov. 28: @HomophobesSuckIt: Yeah, counts are up. Goin in for another treatment. Chemo bites.

Nov. 28: @BigBlondBeastXXX: Whadda I gotta do to get a follow? I have all your vids.

Nov. 29: @Man-LoveisBlind: Yup, I’m voice of experience. The South = Kentucky Fried Homophobia.

Nov. 30: Michael Jackson’s Thriller released 2day in 1982. I maybe old, but I know some1 who can still rock the zippered look–@BrandinTfromPhillyXXX #sexybeast #hot

Dec. 1: Don’t forget those who fell prey to a terrible disease–and their survivors. AIDS is one four-letter word that should die out of the dictionary. Support World AIDS Day, No H8. #lgbt

Dec. 2: @BigBlondBeastXXX: Happy birthday, B3! Rising the wine glass to you.

Dec. 5: @LoveGodNotFags4ever: Do I know you? John Stewart said some cool stuff abt being #gay, google it. Don’t H8.

Dec. 5:  @LoveGodNotFags4ever:  In yr honor my boxers R purple. RT @AlltheCoolPeopleAreLGBT: Wear purple to show yr supt 4 gay, lesbian, bisexual, & trans youth vs bullying.

Dec. 5: @LoveGodNotFags4ever: It’s a free country. More power to you.

Dec. 6: @FriendsofEltotheGtotheBtotheT: Zane, yr new baby is just gorgeous. She has yr dimples.

Dec. 7: Tweeps, I know times are hard, but if I can donate a few boxes to @EdenTreeFoodPantryNFP, so can you. #stophunger

Dec. 7: @XTCWiththeBoyz: Lookin’ good. Gotta admit, love me a man in a (tight) uniform.

Dec. 7: @LoveGodNotFags4ever: Look, buddy, you tweeted me 1st. Gonna have to block you now. Buh-bye.

Dec. 8: Raise your hand if you’re still up this late. I can’t sleep.

Dec. 9: Why is it ppl in Priuses speed their asses off? Just wondrin, doesn’t that negate your fuel mpg?

Dec. 9: Awesomeness! MT @LoveFrancisQuotes2013: Today, the thought that a gr8 many children do not have food 2 eat is not news.  . . . We cannot become starched Christians . . .

Dec. 11: Bummed . . .  With mamaw at the hospital. Think she broke a hip. 😦

Dec. 12: @BigBlondBeastXXX: I’m just glad 2 take pressure off kids who R being bullied or teased. Damn shame.

Dec. 15: Anyone know where to take an injured raccoon? Yes, im serious.

Dec. 17: @GinaBeanaQueena: Yeah, found Wildlife Rehab place for it, on Ash Street. They were real nice. Picked up a volunteer app.

Dec. 17: @GinaBeanaQueena: Mamaw’s doin OK. She’s staying with me, but goes 2 rehab. How RU?

Dec. 18: Tell me, what DO you get for the man who has everything . . . except a boyfriend?

Dec. 18: @TheJManfromETown checked into @BroadCreekPTRehab

Dec. 24:  Feeling like shizz today yall. Any1 know some silly songs I should put on iPod? #lonely #cheermeup #please

Friday Fictioneers: 100 Words on Lamps (Flash Fiction)

LampsbyDawnM.Miller_FridayFictioneers7Feb2014

This photograph was taken by Dawn M. Miller.

Another week has almost passed, dear readers, and that has brought more ruminating and writing and more editing and brainstorming. Please bear with me as I suss out the scope and schedule of this blog so it’s not so irregularly themed and timed.

For now, I’ll leave you with another brief piece submitted for a different flash fiction writing prompt challenge I discovered today, called Friday Fictioneers. Using the photograph by photographer Dawn M. Miller, which was posted on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple blog, challengers are to write a fully realized 100-word story with an end, beginning, and middle. I am not sure if the deadline is Friday or if it is posted by Fridays; however, the light bulb for the story crackled to life in my mind (pardon the pun), so I decided to take a stab at it even though I’m late for Friday.

This microfiction piece was challenging in that I couldn’t just plate up a solitary slice of time-pie, but I had to give you the whole, big (she)bang of the story arc in a mere century. I’m not terribly confident I succeeded with a real, flesh-and-blood flash-fiction story, but it was a fun springboard in any case. As ever, please feel free to offer suggestions or share your submissions, or both. In the meantime, happy writing and I’ll be back soon with some fiction not submitted for challenges!

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White Shadows

Genre: Microfiction/flash fiction; possibly suspense

© Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

“What should we do, Luci?”

The tortoiseshell purred plaintively.

“I can’t believe the shed collapsed on our bulbs! And Fiat Lux is all out; I e-mailed,” David spoke aloud. He lived alone, so there was no reason to hide his words under a basket.

During a morning spent triple-checking lamps and locks, he had looked out the window and spied the damage.

As each lamp died that day, he chanted Nothing’s gonna take my last light. Come night, the survivors’ shadows weren’t enough to barricade him against the formlessness where his father took shape and sinewy arms wouldn’t let go.

Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red

Embarrassment, I embrace you. Wilkommen! Image from http://drafthouse.com/movies/the_sound_of_music_mothers_day_brunch_feast/austin

Embarrassment, I embrace you. Wilkommen! Image from http://drafthouse.com/movies/the_sound_of_music_mothers_day_brunch_feast/austin (now go buy or rent the movie if you want some moving pictures)

Red is a lucky color in some cultures, you know. Not so much, however, when it commandeers your body.

Embarrassment—the skull-and-crossbones flagship of all things red—and I have a long and twisted history. Some say I was born, no, not blue-skinned, but bright, bawling red. (Ohmigod, I’m naked in front of all these strange people in white clothes! And why the heck is that huge one spanking me?)

Throughout life, any indignities or embarrassments channeled right to my elfin-sized ears. Sometimes it would even seep to my cheeks.

But that’s me; sheepishly entering the red room of embarrassment from time to time has not left me without some worldly treasures in the coffers, burgled as they were from the King. (Whose book on writing I highly recommend, incidentally.)

Inexplicably, I was in a singing mood while working this whole embarrassment equation out long-handedly and -windedly, so I cadged an existing tune and mashed up the lyrics a little.

And now for your reading Schadenfreude, here’s a quick cavalcade of the (now mostly humorous) face-flushing moments.

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My Mem’rable Slips

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Glasses on noses and mud-stains on cord jeans
Giant teenage face-pocks and bad-perm in my tweens
Peach sequined prom-dresses ruined by my trips
These are a few of my mem’rable slips

Small rounded green peas and big bullies’ harsh words
“Four-eyes” and “dork-face” and pill’ried as the nerd
“Cool” kids lack the wit, but still bring the whips
These are a few of my mem’rable slips

Mean boys in blue jeans with stoned acid washes
Hard falls in puddles, absent galoshes
Rainbow color Froot Loops burst forth from my lips
These are a few of my funniest slips

When that kid bullies
When this kid falls
When I’m feeling low
I simply recall my more mem’rable slips
And then I don’t feel, I grow.

Written in response to the Daily Prompt of 5 February 2014

100 Words on Saturday: A Write Tribe Challenge

Well, it’s submission 100 Words on Saturday - Write TribeSaturday, folks. I found another challenge with which to sharpen my writing on a whetstone of words (try saying that fast). This one is the Write Tribe 100-word challenge (the 2014-5 incarnation). Give it a go, fiction f(r)iends! As always, feedback will feed you back—in other words, your comments are appreciated and I’ll do my best to reciprocate.

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Genre: Microfiction

A doppelgänger of the mind

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

As Melanie Yelton trained cornflower eyes on the microwave carousel, she tried to ignore the coil slipping closer to her sternum.

Silently, like many times before, she logged the revolutions of the russet, pirouetting oblongly. 265.

Giggles cartwheeled down the hallway, which made her bring the blood.

When the time comes, how do I tell her about you? Melanie chewed a lip as she drummed hangnail-ragged fingers in a 3-3-3-2-2 pattern. My constant companion. My damaged doppelgänger.

The familiar viper of fear sliding through her ribs told her that soon it would be time to check the window latches again.

Crotalus basiliscus by Dr. Holger Krisp of Ulm, Germany. This photo was obtained via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Crotalus basiliscus (Mexican west coast rattlesnake) by Dr. Holger Krisp of Ulm, Germany. This photo was obtained via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Camera Lucida: A Micro-Flash for The Trifextra Challenge

Hello, all. This week I fortuitously stumbled on a new writing Web site called The Trifecta Writing Challenge. Basically, every week they have a different three-themed challenge, toggling between a 33-word microfiction challenge (called the Trifextra challenge) and one that sends writers to the dictionary for the third definition of a certain word (the Trifecta challenge). I first read about the challenge while cruising through the Polysyllabic Profundities blog; please do peruse Susan’s site for some creative inspiration and impassioned prose as well.

This week’s Trifextra is based upon the amaztastic art of Thomas Leuthard. He dubs it “street photography,” and it is stunningly masterful in black-and-white. For the purpose of this writing challenge, the particular photograph we must focus on, as used above, is “Studying in Starbucks,” which is viewable in Mr. Leuthard’s portfolio on his Web site or on flickr.

Finally, I enjoy, and have enjoyed, the obstacle that is flash fiction or microfiction, because it forces condensation. It begs succinct-ion. And as brevity is the soul of wit, I humbly submit my first short fiction (a.k.a., micro-flash or micro-micro flash?) for the Trifextra challenge and await the feedback therefrom. Check out the other writers on this challenge when you visit the Trifecta site; it’s well worth your time.

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Camera Lucida: Time in Focus

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

In the darkroom’s womb, Zabe first realized the contraption had worked.

Foreground: The student, her femaleness fogged.

Background: The flash rolling-pins time into a flatline, exposing links to his mother, had she survived.

Runners Do LSD Weekly–Mostly Without Tripping

running-is-crazyYet another week of 2014 has passed, and still I write. The “assignment,” as I have chosen to accept it, is part of the weekly writing challenge at the WordPress Daily Post. “Gonzo” journalism, not to be confused with Gonzo Muppetism, is the name of this writing game. And it doesn’t even involve taking shots (or dropping acid, for that matter) every time someone uses the word trope, metaphor, meme, or even allusion.

So-called gonzo journalism was popularized by writer Hunter S. Thompson and features stream-of-consciousness, first-person narrative jam-packed with slang-laced dialogue and over-the-top descriptions often limning drug scenarios. This form makes no pretense of objectivity as in traditional journalism.

In defense of what you are about to read; fall asleep during reading; or partially read then tear your hair out in utter frustration over, then abandon, I picked up Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I’m pretty sure, my freshman year of college, which was a long time ago now.

I wish I could say I remember the book with crystalline precision, but I do not. Nonetheless, I think the writing imprinted upon my younger subconscious. It must be said that, although I am not a drug-user, I appreciate Thompson’s writing style and will attempt in my paltry way to do it homage, minus the, erm, chemical stimulus. I apologize that it’s once again late for the weekly challenge deadline, so, alas, I get no pingbacks. One of these days, I’m going to get fully in gear and get some serious blocks of writing done, on time, for these WP challenges! So many projects, so little time.

And now, for something completely different. A gonzo take on the “recreational” runner’s peripatetic life going to shoe seminars and such, viewed through the prism of a . . . Well, you should be the judge of that. (Owing to the lengthiness of this post, I’ve decided to break it into two parts. I’ll share the next part, which is already done, by the end of the weekend, if not earlier, so people can have adequate time to read it.)

*****

Weekly Writing Challenge:

Runners Do LSD Weekly–Mostly Without Tripping

by Leigh Ward-Smith, ©2014

“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” — From Confessions of a Story Writer, by Paul Gallico

PART ONE

For starters, the parking lot was full of cones. Not pleasant waffle-wrapped or chocolate-topped ones either. Garish orange, even in the night, with reflective swirls all over. Really, it was a series of shared parking lots for several businesses–“city” life makes for strange bedfellows or parking buddies as the case may be–and most of the spaces were filled. They seemed filled almost without reason, whenever I would travel by. So much so, that I’m going to comically imagine the biggest parking-lot hogger: Our Lady of Perpetual Movement. In this created world, there’s a nearby church devoted to the worship of motoring and the concomitant sins of self-ambulation (via walking, running, cycling), misplaced ambulation (as through carpooling or public transportation), and nonambulation (staying at home). And, as I am deep in the corn belt, just adjacent to the nation’s bread basket, you’d better believe these ideals are worshipped. I just don’t know what to call the priest. Reverend Newton would particularly apply to the unfolding story/event, but that ideal would extol the virtues of motion. So, maybe I’ll call him Father Ford instead. You can decide whether he goes by Edsel or Henry or some other gleaming name that rises from the hood, called a “bonnet” in the UK, from what I understand, in the form of a naked woman-goddess or swan or the Mercury of Greco-Roman myth or any other form.

In any case, the logic of a delivery pizza ship a few paces down from a pizza restaurant . . . flees me. But, hey, again, the whole bready-corny issue. It is a small town, population mushroomed up to about 18,000 or so, that the husband and I lovingly abbreviate as “E’ville” when we’re feeling beneficent, but jokingly “E’vil” otherwise. It is a nice place in a lot of ways, especially in just the ways that you might posit: low crime, generally high hospitality, a rugged sense of work ethic, and so on. It has even been called a “bedroom community” in recent years, and not for the fact that it mildly itches with the dull lustre of looking into an old bureau mirror in an antique shop.

It was dark, but not stormy–thank you for the line, Snoopy, borrowing from Bulwer-Lytton for the wording. The gravel skittered and gritted its tiny teeth under the tires of our small, white compact car, a Nissan Versa purchased through the largesse of the government in the so-called “Cash for Clunkers” program of 2009. I should say it was rather like a confused zebra, with an upper exterior of white paint but whose nether regions featured blackened bands and tendrils plashed up by road detritus and ice-busting chemicals. The zebra could call to mind a cartoon horse who’d dropped its black drawers, in tatters, around its belly, legs, and hooves (aka tires and undercarriage)

Finally, in the last row, I locate it. The Holy Grail of parking spaces. I passed up one spot next to a set of two cones cordoning off two parking spaces, unsure whether to chance parking next to the work area. My negative-focus mind’s eye could just see some neon work truck dumping debris on the formerly white car or dinging it or crashing into it. As I will elaborate somewhere later, practically everything to do with driving traumatizes me at some point.

DANTE’S CROSSING

I can’t believe the lot is still under construction, though it looks like it’s at least nearing completion. I’m coming around to thinking of it as the Nine-Years’ influenza. It causes brain-ache; is never finished; and is very, very, very, very hyperbolic! I think it was November, maybe earlier, when I’d last taken our four-year-old to the public library across from the lot running parallel. Miffed I had to park on the other side of the library, across a much busier street, I remember waiting–and waiting and watching and waiting on waiting and waiting just to be at the point at which I could be classified as waiting–to cross the road, wiggly child desperately clasped in spindly arms. It was only two lanes (with a short third only for turn-offs), but even two lanes with a darty and cranky (that day) preschooler . . . let’s just say we waited for probably 7 or 8 minutes to cross. Talk about the eighth level of traffic hell and we weren’t anywhere near Los Angeles. Abandon all hope, ye who wait here at the “do not walk” electronic sign in E’vil. Finally, I got tired of standing there and pushing the black rubbery button to get the “walk” signal, which began to feel like it’d be a sighting, however fleeting, of Shangri-La or El Dorado, if it ever did come. “Let me go! Let me go!” he had begun to squirm-scream by the end-point, gnashing itty-bitty, perfectly white but gapped teeth, whose spaces were probably lengthened by a serious thumb-sucking habit that first surfaced in the womb. We’re working with him on some recent acting-out tendencies, but still he began to rain small blows on my shoulders and arms as I walked farther down the street. Most of his abdomen was now exposed to the chilly air as he attempted to touch feet to concrete–to be free, at long last. Though I was devoted to him, at that moment I was no less a warden than if I’d been the super of Sing-Sing.

So, we walked about 50 meters down and waited only about a minute then ran across, one carrying the other. In this case, fortunately, I carried him. Ironically, given that one of my favored avocations is running, I resented that I had to walk “so far” with a preschooler who ending up kicking off a well-worn black Cars tennis shoe in the miasma of babytoddlerkidangst. Thank goodness that was only in the drugstore parking lot as we waited for the second time to cross. I sure wasn’t prepared to dart into the road to retrieve the shoe.

And yet, here I am tonight, at the running seminar–wondering how many people can wedge into the store as I negotiate a full parking lot, having driven the half-hour drive from home under the threat of later snow. I hated night driving almost more than anything, but I had kicked myself in the rear and gotten out of the house, if only to pick up some magnets at the craft store so my husband could help my daughter finish her Pinewood Derby car.

NO SPRING CHICKEN

I only complain about the drugstore parking lot to library walk because I’m a chicken. A prairie chicken these days, I guess, but a thin-armed, earth-bound critter skittishly pecking at things, nevertheless. A sort of Middle-America ostrich am I. I can run decently pacey, at a good clip in most race situations, but I suffer with pull-ups and push-ups. Or practically any exercise involving “ups.” I snicker now thinking about it; this scenario could be because I sure am a downer at times.

I don’t have bicep bags (yet), but it’s only because I make up for them with the raccoon canals under my eyes and the stretch marks on my thighs and stomach. As to the eyes, allergic shiners, yes, but I like people to think I’m up late every night, slaving over . . . what, I don’t know; just so long as they know I’m suffering for my art or something.

Until the AllerFlu Vortex of 2013-2014 smashed into our household, I was cross-training by doing light weights about two times a week, which didn’t include any sets or reps of preschooler-lifting. The holidays, of course, shredded the itinerary, but my arms didn’t carp about the break.

And so, carrying a 35-pound weight, no matter how adorable and semi-tow-headed in his “rawr” dinosaur long-sleeved henley, was no picnic. Mainly because it was not childless. True picnics should only be shared by consenting adults, sans children. Okay, young-childless at least.

MY FRIEND, AMY G. DALA

But, back to the present and back in the Versa, it was a headgear change to make Super-Man leap tall buildings in steely admiration. Do I leave on the reflective neon-orange and blue reflective baseball cap that I’d won at the bank giveaway or do I instead keep the red “12+ styles” headbandkerchiefaclavaneckgaiter at a hippie angle to cover up the stray grays? I opt for the ballcap alone and shoulder the pumpkin-and-black canvas bandolier-style workout bag (say that five times fast) with the single too-long cinch-strap. It slack-drag-scraped the ground and slapped nearby objects if I walked too “femininely” with a sashay of the hips, and I secretly feared it would conk a living being someday. It’s only a matter of time, you klutz! my socially anxious amygdala shrieks. Now there’s a great combo: clumsiness and running. I won’t even assault your senses with my one and only prom dress-wearing experience and how it relates.

I thumbed the “locked” symbol on the black, white, and red key fob. Bip, bip, booop. “Three locks. That’s a good number,” I think. The Versa’s head and tail lights flashed orange, but they were lighter than and thus didn’t match the hue of the Day-Glo cones in the lot.

Auditory assurance, check. Ready to face the crowd . . . nope.

GEAR LUST . . . OR BUST

I swiveled my head several times before setting out diagonally then straight, then heading right. This direction, you had to pass the dumpster in the mini-parking lot between the back of the building the running store shared with a photography business and the auto-parts store. The trash smelled vaguely like what I imagined a curdled-cheese pizza splashed with antifreeze and basted in cat’s piss would.

The sidewalk parallel to the side of the running store/photography shop makes me a tad nervous. It’s very close to the street–I’m thinking only about 4 to 5 feet–which causes me to glance over my left shoulder a couple times as I’m walking down toward the front of the store. My puffy, purply winter jacket shushes against itself as my arms work.

Had I chosen wisely and well? Even in a runner’s world (allusion intended), gear takes on a prominent role. I must admit, gear lust sometimes rises its ugly flashing LED headlamp-covered head even in me. Certainly this cash-poor hoofer could never hope to compete with the monied runner who’d no doubt make an appearance at the event. He or she was the one who always had the latest, “greatest” possession to “enhance” a hobby that was supposedly about getting back to the basics of Nature, getting down to the nitty-gritty and knocking back the miles, with a minimum of gear and expense and hoopla. This gal or guy had closets- or basements-full of running shoes to make Imelda Marcos either jealous or proud. Nonetheless, I basked in my own smugified essence, hoping I projected a not-giving-a-damnedness about others’ opinions of my gear or lack thereof. If anything could be said for me, I was a frugal shopper, out of both necessity and a weird thrill generated when ferreting out a bargain.

The side door to the running store wasn’t in use tonight. Drat. I couldn’t make a stealthy entrance. It was nearing a blacker dark by then, so I opted to continue to the front of the store. Normally, for community runs the side door would be ajar, with runners in various stages of personal renaissances egressing and entering. By and large the crowds, which ballooned up to probably about 35-40 during 10-kilometer training runs, were white, aged 30s to 50s, and presumably middle- to upper-class folks, which could be quite a drag to me sometimes. I fit within the not-too-buoyant curves all right, I suppose, but I craved a different diversity. I missed the African-American man who briefly chatted me up during one 10K run, but whom I seldom saw again. The hats hid my grays pretty well, but I still probably gave off the “old and married” vibe like crazy–and it wasn’t as if I was looking for a date. Hey, even I am permitted a few vain moments, aren’t I?!

PART TWO COMING SOON TO A SCREEN NEAR YOU