Pleather


Pleather

by L.P. Stribling

    There was wind, light wind, upon the hillock that night. Wisps and whips of it at least. Yet, in the middle of the near-lightless twilight. The only color to the distant sky was a slow-waking maroon. Both women held each other clenched in the an unbroken gaze, unaffected but bonded by that wind.

    Holsters were hollow, their contents barren as the tempered steel of the women’s barrels languidly locked on the center points of the other’s face. Cobra revolvers – the starry glints of each hollow-point tip hugging the triggers faded slowly with the passing seconds

    With her free hand, Kumiko flicked her head and repositioned the long stray tuft of black trail hair that stood apart from the rest of her buzzed brethren. Before jumping behind her, it ran down the glossy full-body red pleather she wore opposite her enemy.

    “Smoke?” she asked.

    Maiyu shook her head, a slow concentrated shake. “Nah. But please, take what you need.”  Maiyu’s eyes were an almost-emerald dark as she motioned her gun for the girl to proceed.

    Kumiko holstered her gun, took out a worn packet of cigarettes and, after a moment of selection, lit one before scrunching the pack back into her leg pocket. A lighter appeared out of nowhere, served its purpose, then vanished.

    The girl drew, blew a burn of smoke into the air and looked back at her rival.

    “Why didn’t you shoot?”

    Maiyu cocked her head with the girl in her sights. “Excuse me?”

    “You could have shot me. Plain and simple. Reasons?” She took another drag as if giving the girl a chance to answer.

    “Do I need reasons?” Maiyu said. “Regardless of what happens here, the cycle is broken. All you need to know before one of us dies, Siranes and her people will be loosened from your shackles and there will be no repeat this time.”

    Kumiko took a drag and nodded in easy understanding. “I see,” she said, exhaling into the night. “And you’re certain this time will be far different from every attempt in the past century? You were sure of yourself countless times before. Well, no matter. That’s my opinion, anyway.” Another drag she took then, easy, calm.

    “I know some things,” Maiyu said.

    “Like?”

    “Like what will happen to you if you return to your lord empty-handed.”

    Kumiko thought about this and exhaled. “Mmm,” she nodded. “You’re right . I don’t know exactly what he would do, and yes, the consequences would be disastrous. That’s why I’ve ensured that I will not be going home empty-handed.”

    Maiyu cocked an eyebrow and steadied her aim on the woman. Lightening pulsed behind the overcast evening and in a matching of drums, the neon ashen end of Kumiko’s cigarette spewed her opponent in a fiery burst of orange trails. Maiyu’s lithe body dropped in quick reaction, and she rolled as quickly as she could, but she wasn’t fast enough. She felt the irate claws of the liquid fire before the smoke had a chance to rise from the glossy pleather of her suit.

    The streams of lava roared into her skin and Maiyu cried out. Tears rushed from her face and began streaming downwards as though they were racing one another in competition.

    Maiyu continued to roll – her only attempt to stop the burn, somehow managing still to hold the Cobra in her hand. The hillock sloped and after the initial tumble, she managed to slow herself, dragging herself painfully toward wide boulder – one of the night’s black giants, one quiet and without judgement.

    The steel of the gun tip clanked on the rock before she scooted behind it. She ducked then, evading another wave of heat.

    “I thought you were so sure of yourself?” She heard Kumiko’s voice, it had risen as the woman stepped toward in a lazy obligatory approach. How many more waves within that cigarette did she have? Why did I allow her a smoke? How many times had they fought? How many times had she lost, been killed of her own folly? She was always so sure of herself. Why continue to trust “always?”

    There would not be another chance. The time was now. She peeked around the stone wall of her cover, her head shaking. Kumiko’s mini molten glow still hung between her fingers as she approached. The sky was darkening. Dark misty swirls high above began to fall. Rain. How long until I feel it? Kumiko pulled up the cigarette again and flung it at Maiyu.

    “How’s that for some confidence in the end?” Her tone was pretentious. Cocky. She strutted as if she knew she had won.

    No. This would not be the way of it. The true way had already been spoken for, had been foretold. All she needed was a window. And there, through the haze, the blur of it all, she saw it. Kumiko brought the cigarette to her mouth and Maiyu crouched to brace for another shower of lava. But no. She just wanted to take one more victory drag. She saw Kumiko pull her head back and empty the smoke into the air. It seemed as though the puff of her own smoke was going up to meet with the rain clouds that were coming down. When will I feel the rain? It must be soon.

    Window.

    Maiyu raised the snake and took aim. Kumiko’s face in her sights was unnoticing.

    The first drops of rain fell upon her skin just before she pulled the nickel-plated trigger of the snake. A blessing in black.

    If there were stars out then, they would have burned out.

    The lift from the gun almost lifted her prone body off the blackened earth. Her eyes shut with an automation that came from her body’s (her spirit’s) desire for protection. She would look back at the moment as a small fraction of a bliss she would have loved to indulge in – the frame-by-frame of the red-pleathered body going limp as its command center shattered and fed the dark grass with the nutrients of blood, cranium meat, and a fragmented globe of haughtiness.

    Nor did she hear any of it. Maiyu simply remembered her body’s confusion in the thoughts of almost. It was just as it was destined to be. It almost wasn’t. It almost was me.

    The rain sheltered her then. That was the next thought, the only thought that she was able to carry into her future – the beautiful dark rain, feathering her there in the field, easing the lava away from her wounds, lending good-night kisses to her skin.

    It was there that she melted. Looking up in blinks, the sky was dark. She lay there in a field of pain and falling angels. She no longer felt the wind.

WWW. LPSTRIBLING.COM – Switching to the Dark Side…and a bit on writing


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I’ve been writing on my own blog since somewhere around 2008, though WordPress has been the carrier of that writing since somewhere around 2010, I guess. In that time I’ve been able to get a couple of poems and a short story out there, but more importantly I’ve been fortunate enough to have all of you out there reading at least something that I’ve written. This is extraordinarily meaningful to me.

Writing is a very scary activity; many of us either don’t understand this, or we forget. I’m speaking of course from the standpoint of someone who stands by choice in front of many people, metaphorically, of course. I guess what I mean is it’s always easier to be part of the crowd than apart from it. It’s easier to be a student in the classroom than the teacher. It’s easier to point the finger than to have the fingers pointed at you… it’s easy to be a critic.

When one writes, especially on a public platform, one is choosing to enter into a world of judgment – a very lonely world of judgment. Whether good or bad, the judgment is real. One is choosing to take on work for which there is no real support. There are no cheerleaders here. There are no badges, no leveling up, no trophies. There’s no tax break, no insurance benefits, no discounts, no free t-shirts, no extra credit. There are no deadlines except those you set for yourself, and there usually aren’t any raises. In fact, when you look around, you can spot all the reasons in the world NOT to write, and you have to make the daily drive through all of the countless reasons your mind comes up with to distract you from the task.

dog-humping-legYou may even have a dog, but odds are it’s already gotten used to what you do there, and none of that includes petting it, giving treats, taking it for walks or agreeing to let it hump your lower leg into oblivion.

When you tell people that you write, most tend to quietly snort, scoff, or give that look of dismissal, or if you’re brazen enough to call yourself a writer in conversation, they may even want to test it out.

“Really?” they ask. “What do you write?”

“Science fiction and fantasy,” you may say.

“Ahh,” they say, or “Mm hmm.”

Writing, in all honesty, is most probably the loneliest task I’ve chosen. One which only a fellow writer can understand.

…well, wait. Let me back up. ‘Lonely’ carries too negative a meaning. It’s too woe-is-me. Fuck that. Autonomous is better.

DO OVER!

Writing is the most autonomous task I’ve ever taken on. And let’s put it into perspective – no, most of the time people aren’t cheering you on, but it’s not their fault. People are used to cheering on athletes, football players, or track stars, or golfers (which I cannot believe. C’mon, you’re cheering for people wear Polo shirts and walk casually across finely mowed lawns). Most people have no concept of how grueling the writerly life is, how much of a grind, how much of a push it really is.

And the dog? Well, can you blame him? It’s a dog. If you’re not petting it, giving it food, or providing a means of furry foreplay, what good are you?

Writers, if they know anything at all, are aware of all the judgmental potential that awaits them. We’re going to write stuff, and some of you may agree, some of you may not. Most of you won’t care. Some of you will enjoy my words, some of you will not. Most of you won’t care. The average reader out there will say, “They’re just words. What can you possibly say that can piss people off?”

Others know better. The sounds of our words provide the audible impressions of ourselves to others. Wars are started over words. People lose jobs over words. People are killed, arson is committed, shots are fired, and nations are bombed over words. By that same token wounds are mended, hearts are healed, and rejuvenation is possible…because of words.

But if you’re still with me, willing to wade through the palimpsest and the drivel I sneeze out there into the digital ether, then please know that I am grateful for it; I am glad. And if you’ve read this far, you’ve honored me and I thank you.

I’ve moved digital spaces; I’ve gained a new parking space, so to speak – one which seems to suit me better. I’m still customizing, of course, so we’ll have to be patient. As Billy Shakespeare said, “How poor are they that have not patience? What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” (Othello: Act II. Scene III).

Here – the address of my new space: www.lpstribling.com

Come one, come all. Subscribe. Read. Post. Ask questions. Bring the dog.

Again, for all your support and your continued friendship, my heartfelt thanks.

-LP

Miss my family in HK


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It’s been too long. The last time Kerrie and I were in HK was in July of 2014. Yeah, a year ago, but still, it seems like yesterday. The trouble with being so close with people all over the world is that they’re all over the world. I wonder how big of a house I’d have to have to throw a house party with every single friend and family member I had.

Hmm.

Albuquerque


Albuquerque

July 2nd, 2015: It’s been two to three years at least, and now that I’m back, it’s just not the same. It’s more like one of my childhood’s favorite toys that sits in the corner of the back yard, now mossy, lifeless, and whose batteries were long handed over to some other distraction of finer merit.

July 7th, 2015: Albuquerque is nearly two thousand miles away from me now and I’m writing this from my dining room table at the far end of Long Island. 

    It was a short trip, ten days, but one which allowed me to revisit my childhood home. I moved to Albuquerque from Iowa somewhere between 3 and 4. My memories of that time are only vague now and come to me in flashes when called forth. I grew up with my two cousins at my grandmother’s house down in an area of town called the north valley. We played and played, and before I knew it, I was eighteen and I had graduated high school. 

In that time I had swum in the Rio Grande on multiple occasions, learned the rudimentary linguistic set of Spanish (after having reconsidered from French my first day of 6th Grade – thanks for the reasoning, Dad), and I ate enough green chile to need a tongue transplant. The stuff is good. 

OC12RioGrandWildRiverPD

I only recognized a few streets. The names of the streets were very familiar, and I recognized them right away. But when it came to getting there and working my way around town, it just wasn’t working. That’s okay. But it is weird. It’s weird because this place occupied a mammoth chapter in my life. It was the stage of my formative years. I knew the streets, I had a girlfriend, friends, school, soccer, weekends, a personal schedule…I had a life, a rhythm. And then I left. 

And now when I look back, the time hits me. That was 20 years ago. 

As an adolescent growing up in New Mexico, I wasn’t too fond of the place. Perhaps like many teenagers, I wanted my name in lights. I wanted to exist somewhere famous, where there was stuff to do. No, no, not stuff like hiking or desert; that doesn’t count as stuff. I wanted to live in a town where there was a famous basketball team, like the Yankees, or the Dodgers (*yes – these are baseball teams. A friend pointed this out. Oops.), or something like that. I wanted to live in a place where famous people lived, where popular music was being written and played, where people went to race, or eat famous food. I wanted to live in a place that was…not where I was. Don’t get me wrong; this wasn’t some desire that consumed me. It was just me being a teenager, I suppose. I used to think it was weird that I wore the athletic hats of certain sports teams when I wasn’t from those places. How could I really call myself a Minnesota Twins fan when I was neither from Minnesota nor a twin?

I don’t know. That was what the 18-year old me thought, or at least the 16-year old me. 

But again, that was twenty years ago. It’s amazing the lessons life teaches you in that amount of time. It seems like a long time, doesn’t it, twenty years? But it’s not. That’s the smoke and mirrors Father Time plays on us. 

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Looking back, New Mexico was a beautiful place with its own spirit and color to it. Still is. It’s not the New Mexico I grew up with, but then again, why would it be? No one ever steps in the same river twice. 

Some of the same people are there – my family’s still there (most of them, at least), and just as in the first paragraph of every one of Jordan‘s Wheel of Time books, “The Wheel of Time turns…leaving memories that become legend.” Well, it’s not that dramatic. It’s Albuquerque, not Tar Valon. It’s still there, very alive, and very real. It’s still the heart of the Southwest, full of cowboy legends and Navajo whispers. It’s still where you go for terrific green chile, and the Rio Grande is still a rio, though sadly, it seems to have lost a bit too much of its ‘Grande.’ It’s all these things, It’s just not my Albuquerque anymore. 

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Yet, it’s still a very warm place, and a place for which I am grateful. The energy of that town has shaped me, added, enhanced, and shaded my life, all in a beautiful mysterious way which, all the while I was there, was hidden from me. 

In so many words, I’ve appreciated my visit to the Southwest home of my younger self. I felt again its embrace of my return and its perennial contentment of my fondness for it. 

That’s a Whole ‘Nother’ Issue


I hate it when people say that.

Here’s the deal. There is no such word called ‘nother.’ There has never existed any such word. It’s not real. Doesn’t exist and likely (the gods help me) won’t. Yet, it’s omnipresent in colloquial speech, isn’t it? We hear it all the time in some sort of string of words like the above (title). They’ll say things like, “That’s a whole nother thing,” or “That’s a whole nother situation.”

Or, if you’re Snoop Dogg, you say “If it ain’t one thing, it’s a muthaf*ckin’ notha.*

My wife and I attended a soirée last evening with some friends, and at some point, a discussion related to English grammar emerged. Here’s the question: is there any English situation in which you can use the words ‘an’ and ‘other’ separately and it’s correct? A separate side question would be ‘if I use these two words separately in an essay or within a piece of formal writing, is it incorrect?

At the time, I didn’t have the magic of Google to help me in my linguistic side quest; that had to wait until later. But I was still intrigued by the question.

Historically, the word ‘another’ came from, you guessed it, ‘an other’ at some point in the 16th Century. I haven’t done the research, but I don’t think there’s a huge mystery as to why this happened. It’s the same reason why most literal amalgams occur, and that’s for easy of pronunciation. Even if you look at it separately (an other), you want to read it with a space or a lull in your words. No need, right?

I have since looked this question up and, though most voices out there are adamant in proclaiming the existence of a grammatically acceptable allowance for the separation of words, there are a couple voices out there which say otherwise. One entry said that if you were describing “a different one,” you could use ‘an other’, but if you were describing one more of the same, you would use ‘another.’

Much of what I landed upon was a football field of fora dedicated to the topic. Many who were voicing their opinions on whether or not it was correct, and if the separated term existed or not.

I simply find it interesting, and I’m willing to leave it at that.

But, please, whichever side you choose, I beg you to stop using the ‘a whole nother’ nonsensical phrase. It’s not something we need our progeny growing up with. Now, what we do give our progeny with regard to language education is a whole other matter..

LP

 

Gorra (5-minute story)


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I remember very clearly the day I found the hat in my grandfather’s attic. It was circular and it didn’t have a rim. It was blue and white and red.

“Grandpa?” I asked. “Where is this from?” My grandfather rushed over from the old linen chest he had been grumbling over and stood next to me looking down at what I had just found.

“Ah,” he said in his Castilian accent. “I see you have found my gorra. This is a special hat, you know?”

“Why?”

“Yes, a special hat that will take you to some many fanciful places.” Then he knelt down and spoke to me very softly. “Do you know what it means when I say the word ‘fanciful’?”

I didn’t know that my grandfather knew how to make his voice soft. He always spoke with a strong tone  – a voice of knowing things.

I shook my head.

“Well,” he went on. “It means something that belongs to more of a magical world – something unlike this world.” Then he began to say the names of items and beasts and spirits that I had only heard in my youth in stories that my mother used to read to me. He talked about how he had seen some of these creatures, had touched them.

My grandfather passed away ten or so years ago after I found that hat. He let me keep it. And just recently, at night, I swear that I have heard his soft voice again, whispering the names of fanciful beasts.

Jars


Jars
(a five-minute story by L.P. Stribling)

original

He collected them in a dark room, but they weren’t for sale. It’s not that there wasn’t a market. And it’s not that he couldn’t make a lot of money. There was, and he could. It was just that, in this particular realm of his life, he considered himself selfish.

“There we go,” he said. “One more friend in your circle.”

He spoke to them openly. He never heard their responses, but he knew that they spoke back to him.

When the police came to his house in early August, they did more than come with a warrant. They came with a team, each with ten persons or so. He was detained immediately. That was the easy part. They had to actually go through the house, with all of the rumors and stories weighing on their shoulders.

They found the doorway down into the dark after several hours of searching. They hesitated at first. They took deep breaths and full-charged flashlights, and they went down.

Their lights didn’t help from the horrors they found. Dead things hanging, rotten smells floating. Diseases, aches, and pains. Sicknesses of the word that were probably best kept from it.

And then, at some early hour of the morning, they found the jars.