Follow “The Pack”

The Pack

Posted by TERESA

You might have heard about The Pack in passing through various mentions on this blog or on my Twitter or Facebook, but consider this the official introduction…  🙂  The Pack is a web series I’m writing, playing a supporting role in, and producing along with Commune Cohorts MAYO and ALEX, who have recently formed Pareidolia Films.

Anne (Marsha Martinez) is a 30-year-old New Yorker who has finally found her Mr. Right (Christopher Yustin). Everything seems perfect…

…until Mr. Right accidentally bites her during sex and turns her into a werewolf.

The Pack is set in a world where humans and Unhumans (werewolves, vampires, zombies and more) have always lived side by side. That doesn’t mean they don’t cause trouble for humans…or each other.

As Anne navigates her complicated love life, she will also need to make a choice. Will she be ashamed of what she has become? Or will she find werewolf pride and join The Pack?

Also starring: Kelly Mayo, Patrick Shearer, and ME.

Teresa and clapboard

Me holding the clapboard on the first day of shooting for The Pack

We filmed three episodes of it over the summer, but have since decided that it could be much better with a few improvements.  Namely, I’ll be writing the entire season of about 10-12 episodes all in one shot before shooting, and Pareidolia Films will be buying a new camera that will allow Alex to make the series look exactly how he wants it to look (ie: way better).  I’m going to be spending the next month scribbling away, and we’re going to spend the winter fundraising for a camera and the production, figuring out a production schedule, and getting everything together for what will hopefully be a spring shoot.  I’m very excited!

Alex and camera

Alex sets up a shot on the set of The Pack

I’m hoping to get you excited, too!  Because we’re going to need your help in order to make this happen.  Yes, we’ll probably be asking you for money eventually.  But we’ll also be asking you to keep up with what we’re doing and helping us spread the word.  A web series is only as successful as how many people click on the website and watch the episodes.  I’m hoping that that number will be…um…a LOT.  We’ve got what I think is an interesting story, a wonderful cast, and an amazing, knowledgeable, and hardworking crew (led by DP, Matthew Golub).  Everyone’s already done amazing work on the episodes we’ve already shot.  Once we have the equipment we want, and have the funds we need, we’ll be able to do even better work, and deliver a show that’s a hell of a lot of fun!

Liz and yogurt

Producer, Liz Mayo, remaining chipper during an early morning Pack shoot

Wanna get in on the ground floor? You can definitely stay tuned to this blog for news.  You can also check out our opening credits on our IMDB page.

And of course, there’s our websitewww.thepackseries.com – which currently contains not only a synopsis of the show, but a “Donate” button where you can donate toward our production.  Every little bit helps.  This will also be where you will eventually be able to watch the completed episodes of The Pack, so bookmark it!

Lastly, you can Follow The Pack on Twitter: @ThePackSeries.  In fact, as an added incentive…IF YOU FOLLOW THE PACK ON TWITTER BETWEEN NOW AND DECEMBER 15TH, YOU WILL BE ENTERED IN A RANDOM DRAWING TO BE SENT MY LAST REMAINING GOOGLE WAVE INVITATION. If you’ve geeky enough to be hankering after a Google Wave invitation, you’re probably geeky enough to love our show!  🙂  Follow The Pack @ThePackSeries, for your chance to ride the Google Wave!

And now, some photos from the first shooting days for The Pack:

Chris and Marsha

Christopher Yustin as Dave and Marsha Martinez as Anne on the set of The Pack

chess scene

AD, Sam Teichman, sets the scene as Chris and Marsha look on

Liz supervises the production, Sam sets a light, and Alex ponders his next shot

Matt and Alex

DP, Matthew Golub, discusses his thoughts on a shot with Alex

The ladies of The Pack

The Ladies of The Pack: Kelly Mayo as Laurie, Me as Maureen, and Marsha as Anne

This is just the beginning people!  We’re aiming for 2010 to be The Year of The Pack! With your help and support, it will be!  Stay tuned!

werewolf bite

The bite that starts it all! Make-up effects by Amanda Oliveras

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Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 4:47 AM  Comments (4)  
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What do we want? EQUALITY! When do we want it? NOW!

Me and my new friend from the Westboro Baptist Crazyhouse.  I liked her signs SO MUCH that I decided to take a picture with her!

Me and my new friend from the Westboro Baptist Crazyhouse. I liked her signs SO MUCH that I decided to take a picture with her!

Posted by TERESA

I have returned from Washington DC after having spent the night and participated in the National Equality March!  I stayed with ELLYS in her new apartment (with her fabulous roomie, Jackie) that I now covet SO HARD.  Seriously, if there were a way for me to magically transport her place to Astoria (and pay the same rent), I totally would.  Alas, I don’t want to move to DC, so awesome and less expensive places like that remain out of reach…  Anyway, it was so great to hang out with Ellys.  It was the first time we’d really hung out just the two of us – she’s good people, that one.

I’m so glad I decided to participate in this march.  It’s the kind of thing that I always want to do, but always find an excuse not to.  This time, even though I was exhausted from a really difficult week, I decided to go.  And because I went, four other people (namely, Ellys, Jackie, and their friends, Christine and Michael) decided to march, too!  That’s all it takes, sometimes.  No one ever wants to be the first person to do anything, but very often, if you’re willing to take that first step, people will be willing to follow.

It was a beautiful day to be marching, and the vibe in the crowd was great.  And WHAT A CROWD!  It was enormous.  When we got to the already-crowded mall at the Capitol, the incoming crowd was still 7 blocks deep!  Anyway, here are some of my favorite shots from the day:

This picture was SUCH an accident, but I love it. Everyone is pointing up at something - and even the traffic lights are pointing up! What's everyone looking at???

This picture was SUCH an accident, but I love it. Everyone is pointing up at something - and even the traffic lights are pointing up! What's everyone looking at???

They're looking at this. :) An honest-to-goodness RAINBOW in the sky. It hadn't rained since the day before, so there was no real reason for a rainbow to be out at all. Oh, and there are also little birds flying overhead in the sun. Seriously, if ever there were a sign that I was doing the right thing by participating in this march, this is it. After all, rainbows usually mean God feels bad and is making a promise not to be angry with us or hurt us. At least, they did that ONE time.... :)

They're looking at this. 🙂 An honest-to-goodness RAINBOW in the sky. It hadn't rained since the day before, so there was no real reason for a rainbow to be out at all. Oh, and there are also little birds flying overhead in the sun. Seriously, if ever there were a sign that I was doing the right thing by participating in this march, this is it. After all, rainbows usually mean God feels bad and is making a promise not to be angry with us or hurt us. At least, they did that ONE time.... 🙂

Ellys and me at the march.  She couldn't BELIEVE she was in a pink article of clothing!  :)

Ellys and me at the march. She couldn't BELIEVE she was in a pink article of clothing! 🙂

Michael and Ellys

Michael and Ellys

Jackie, Ellys, and Christine

Jackie, Ellys, and Christine

Bringing the march to the White House

Bringing the march to the White House

Michael, Jackie, Ellys, and Christine bring the march to the Capitol

Michael, Jackie, Ellys, and Christine bring the march to the Capitol

The crowd at the Capitol

The crowd at the Capitol

This sign was so beautiful and simple.  I loved it.

This sign was so beautiful and simple. I loved it. "My wife is fighting for peace in the Middle East. I'm fighting for her."

Obama made a lot of big promises in his speech this weekend to the Human Rights Campaign.  He said he is going to be the one to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  He said he promised Matthew Shepard’s mother that he would pass hate crimes legislation.  He said he was an advocate for the LGBT community.  I believe he really means that.  I just hope he has the courage to follow through.  There are many, many people –  gay, straight, and bi; male, female, and trans; citizens – who will not let up until he does.

Special thanks to SWiSH for organizing a group to march.  If any of you are looking for a way to get involved in the fight for equality, this org. would be a great place to start.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 2:08 AM  Comments (4)  
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Representin’ the Heteros!

nationalequalitymarch

Posted by TERESA

Shhh.  Come here.  *looks over both shoulders*  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Are you ready?  Here it is:

You don’t have to be gay to support gay rights.

I know, right?  Isn’t that insane?!  But it’s TRUE!  In fact, it makes a strong statement if you’re NOT gay and support gay rights, because you’re making the point that civil rights belong to everyone, and that if one group’s rights are not being honored, it’s everyone’s problem.

If you have gay/lesbian/bi friends or family and you think it’s high time they had the same rights to get married, be employed, be protected from violent crimes, and serve in the military that you do; or if you  don’t, but just believe that American citizens should not be denied rights based solely on who they decide to sleep with, join me this weekend as I march in the National Equality March in Washington D.C.

I’m going with a wonderful organization called SWiSH (Straight Women in Support of Homos!), a gay-straight alliance that works toward LGBT equality.  I’ll be staying with the lovely ELLYS at her new place in D.C. tomorrow night, and we’ll be participating in preparatory events tomorrow night leading up to the march on Sunday!  If you’d like to go with me, and you have my info, contact me.  Otherwise, visit the SWiSH website and email them directly for info on how you can participate.

And if you can’t come to Washington this weekend, support SWiSH and organizations like it with your money and your time.  Talk up the cause to anyone and everyone you know.  Be brave.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for a group of which you’re not a part.  Do that, and it’s more likely that people will stand up for you when you need it.

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 6:05 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Guilt-Free Trash Talk

loser

Posted by TERESA

Well, it’s well after midnight, and I’ve just learned that I didn’t place in the NYC Midnight flash fiction contest.  Ah, well.  I sort of knew it would be a long shot.  Such is the way when there are 40 writers and only 4 prizes.  Still, it was fun, it got me writing more fiction than I had been doing in a while, and I really think my final story could be something in a longer version.  The seeds of something are there.  I’ll put them in a drawer and plant them in the spring.

To those of you who wished me luck and thought good thoughts for me, THANK YOU.  🙂  It was nice to feel rooted for, and I’m lucky that I know so many people who root for me every day.

And now…some guilt-free, unadulterated trash-talk. You didn’t think I was going to lose gracefully, did you?  😉

This actually has less to do with the contest and more to do with my frustration with the randomness and subjectivity inherent in submitting to publications/journals/contests – getting rejected – submitting again.  The NYC Midnight contest does this great thing where they send you feedback on each of the stories you submitted with notes from the judges.  I love that they do this.  It’s very helpful, and when I got the comments back on my first story, I thought they were on the money.  I thought “Yes!  If I had more than a weekend to write this, and weren’t under the pressure of a contest, that’s exactly what I’d fix/change/work on!”

Today, I got the feedback for my second story, The New KidAnd it made me want to rip my hair out. But that’s because this story and I have a history.  Now, this is the story I whittled down from another, longer story I wrote years ago called The Sandbox.  It wasn’t a perfect story, but I’m still very proud of it.  At the time, I showed it to several people for feedback before I started sending it out, and they mostly told me that I was beating people over the head with the political symbolism and needed to be more subtle.  I agonized over that.  Maybe people will think the story simplistic because I’m being too obvious about the political undertone.  Maybe they’ll think that the politics is a gimmick.  I mean, naming the American kid SAM? Come on! Then, every journal to which I submitted it wrote me back saying “This is a great story about children, but it’s not what we’re looking for” without acknowledging the political aspect at all.

Earlier today (technically yesterday at the time of this writing), I asked the colleague who shares the office space with my boss – completely without giving him any context – “If you read a short story about an Arab kid, a Jewish kid, and an American kid, and it ended with the American kid befriending the Jewish kid, giving him money, and alienating the Arab kid, what would you think it was about?”  And he said “Well, you could probably see it as an allegory about the situation in the Middle East, right?”   RIGHT.

I asked him that question after receiving the following feedback from NYC Midnight about The New Kid:

”The New Kid” by Teresa Jusino – WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT – This piece works strongest during the debate about the hamburger – when we see simultaneously how alike and different these boys are, all at once.  ……Well-written.  Well-drawn characters.  Interesting story…………………….

………………………………………   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – The narrative voice and even the boys’ discussion doesn’t feel believable for a seven year old’s world.  Chlidren do not recognize differences so easily – it is our parents who point this out, delineate a line between ‘us’ and ‘them’.  That these children are so aware rings a little false to me.  I think ……While very well written, this is not a political satire.  It does not satirize anything………………………………….……..

First of all, if you’re going to criticize someone else’s writing, you’d better make damn sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your critique.  Secondly, children don’t notice differences??  They’re only taught them by their parents???  Since when?  Also, just about every bit about what the boys believe in the story is prefaced by them saying “My mom says that….”

And third?  Apparently I have really smart friends, and EVERYONE IN THE BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING OR JUDGING SHORT STORIES IS AN IDIOT.  WHY WON’T ANYONE LET ME BE GEORGE ORWELL??!! 🙂  You want to criticize the way I tell my story?  Fine.  I welcome that!  You want to suggest elements that will help me get my point across better?  By all means!  But if I spell something out with billboard-sized letters, surround it in neon lighting, and provide you an English to English dictionary and you don’t understand my story when everyone else I show it to does, without my saying anything to them ahead of time, it leads me to believe that there’s less wrong with my story and more wrong with how someone is reading it.

A friend I told about this feedback emailed me back, saying:

This is why whenever somebody says, “You don’t need to hit your readers over the head with this point, readers are smart” and getting that one point is crucial to understanding the entire story, I always err on the side of beating them over the head until their brains run out their ears.

Readers are idiots.

What do you all think?  I’d love your comments on this.  Are readers idiots?  Where does the responsibility of the reader end and the writer begin?  And vice versa?  And is there any way to actually figure that out?

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 2:18 AM  Comments (1)  
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Countdown to Midnight #4: Good Girl

Posted by TERESA

Well, it’s October 8th.  By 11:59PM ET tonight, I will know whether I’ve won the NYC Midnight flash fiction contest in any way, shape or form.  And so, I give you the final story I submitted for the contest, entitled GOOD GIRLThe one I submitted when it was down to me and 39 other writers. Location?  A car wash.  Genre?  Fantasy. Object?  A kitten. I’m actually very proud of this one.  I spent a lot of time on it, but in a good way – it was inspired and I spent most of my time honing it, as opposed to coming up with an idea.  I love the main character, and would love to do a longer version of this sometime, regardless of its fate in this particular contest.  So, in a way, I’ve already won.  (Though a cash prize would be nice.)

Special thanks to Neil Gaiman, whom I ripped off a LOT in this (who, I’m sure, has ripped off a million other writers, right Neil?).  If you don’t know how I’m ripping him off here….well….forget I mentioned it.

kitten in dress

GOOD GIRL

Only eight weeks old, and she knew how it felt to be unloved.  Her mother would allow Kitten and her siblings to suckle, but she wouldn’t look at them.

Then the first of Kitten’s siblings was taken.  A small person, a girl, put her face up against the glass and showed her teeth. Kitten watched her brother make the mistake of stalking, then pouncing at Girl’s face, clawing at nothing. The next thing Kitten knew, someone reached in and took her brother out of their glass box, placing him in Girl’s hands.  The same happened to the others until only Kitten and her mother remained.  She promised herself that she would never approach the glass and be taken away, leaving her mother alone.

One day, a woman peered into the glass.  She, too, showed her teeth. Kitten did what she usually did – mewed over her shoulder.  Move along.  Nothing more to see here.

Suddenly, someone took the mesh cover off the glass box and reached for her.  She clawed at the hand, but her tiny claws didn’t do much damage.  She looked to her mother for help, but her mother sighed and turned her head, exhausted by the whole world.

Kitten was handed to Woman, who cupped one hand under her rump and held her under her shoulders with the other. Kitten’s heart beat like a hummingbird’s wings, but Woman held her close, tightly, giving Kitten the warm contact her mother never did. Kitten purred. Woman said, “All better now.”

There was a man who lived with Woman.  They touched faces a lot. Kitten learned many new things.  She learned that when the people said ANABELLE, they meant her. She learned that people showed their teeth when they were happy and said GOOD GIRL.  And she learned that people liked it very much when kittens climbed into their laps and purred. Kitten was happy.  For the first time, she was regularly nuzzled and cared for.

Then things changed. Woman began pushing Kitten away whenever she’d jump in her lap.  Water came out of her eyes a lot. Man started yelling at Kitten more often.  He spent a lot of time holding Woman close.

Woman would say, “All I’ve ever wanted was a little girl of my own.”

Man would say, “It’ll happen for us, honey.  You’ll see.”

Kitten didn’t like seeing her people sad or angry.  As Kitten fell asleep one night, she prayed to The Cat God and asked for her people’s happiness…

In Kitten’s dream, The Cat God was all black, except for his paws and his snout, which glowed white.

“You pray for others but not for yourself?” asked The Cat God.

“I like being able to make my people happy.  Now, nothing does that.”

The Cat God smiled.  “You have a kind heart, so I shall give you a gift.  Tomorrow, your people will take you on a trip.  They will put you in a fabric carrier and place you on the backseat of their car.  Once there, claw your way out of the front of the carrier.  I will give you the strength to do it.  Hide on the floor of the backseat.  You must not let them see you.  If you do this, you will be able to make them happy again…”

The next morning, everything happened as The Cat God foretold.  Her people announced a big trip – something about a vee-eee-tee – and put her in a carrier.  She was placed in the back seat, and quickly set to work.  She was able to fit one paw through the mesh, then two.  She tumbled out of the hole and onto the floor of the backseat, curling up into a ball.

The car stopped moving, and the people exited. Man opened the back door and removed the carrier without looking.  The people rolled up the windows and closed the doors. Kitten sat in silence for a moment wondering what would happen next.

Suddenly, the car moved forward on its own. Kitten looked up and noticed that there was soap and water shooting all over the windows. Then something even stranger happened.  She began to grow and change.  Her fur fell out.  Her hind legs grew long and became something very different.  Her front paws grew, but not as long as her hind ones.  No more walking on all fours.  Her nose got bigger, her tail fell off. Kitten was afraid. She beat the doors with her paws that weren’t paws anymore as water started shooting at the windows with increasing force. Kitten didn’t like the noise.  She opened the car door fumbling with a metal bit and slid out of the car. Hot water hit her bare skin, and it hurt.  She looked at herself through squinted eyes and realized she was a person.  She stood on only two legs, crying, trying to dodge the jets of water.  She heard a commotion, and noticed Woman looking at her through a window, flailing her arms, screaming.  The water was shut off, and three men came in and rushed Kitten out the door and into the office where Man and Woman stood, shocked.

Woman rushed to Kitten, held her and said “Someone get this poor girl a blanket or towel or something?!”

Kitten understood!

Woman knelt before her and asked, “How did you get in there?  Where’s your mommy and daddy?  Where are your clothes?”

“I dunno” Kitten said, using words she didn’t know she had.

“What’s your name?” Woman asked.

Only one name came to her lips.

“Anabelle” she replied.

Woman stared into Anabelle’s eyes, shocked.

“Honey,” Woman said to Man.  “Check the cat carrier.”

“What do you mean…?” asked Man as he glanced at the carrier.  He saw the front torn out and panicked.  “Oh no!  Anabelle’s gone!”

Woman wrapped Anabelle in a towel one of the car wash employees brought her.

“No.  I don’t think she is…” Woman said.

Anabelle put her head on her mother’s shoulder and nuzzled her neck.

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 6:37 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Countdown to Midnight #3: Newbies

Posted by TERESA

Special thanks for this third story (of four) needs to go to LINDSAY.  I wrote NEWBIES during the weekend of Alana and Rob’s wedding in Chicago, after having discussed my assignment (Location – A factory.  Genre – Open.  Object: A stick of butter.) with her.  She started riffing on a story idea after I told her my original idea (which was inspired by Last Tango in Paris. Yeah, you heard me.).  I kept her general idea, but updated the setting (she would have set it during The Great Depression) and the characters (she thought of hobos, I went with semi-hipsters), and made the object less of a focal point than she would have.  Still, her riffing allowed me to riff a lot more than my original idea did.  So, thanks Lindsay!  Also, I suppose I also owe a special thank you to a certain threesome who had a…well…threesome.  Had I not been so annoyed by being in the same hotel suite as three people who chose to make me an unwilling auditory participant in their sexcapades, I would not have gone down to the hotel lobby to check my email, I would have missed my assignment entirely, and I wouldn’t have decided to stay in the hotel lobby until 5AM to work on it.  So, thanks to them, too, I suppose.  However, the fact remains: not everyone wants to listen to you have sex.  Especially if they’re not invited to participate.  That’s just rude.

Anywho, here’s the story:

homeless hipster

NEWBIES


“Let’s duck in here!” he said as the rain began to pour.

He was able to pull the metal door of the factory open just wide enough for them to squeeze inside despite the lock and chain holding it closed.  In that part of Long Island City, everything was a little slipshod, including security.

She followed the way she always did, not by choice, but because he never left room for discussion.  He spoke, then acted, dissenting opinions be damned.  This annoyed her.

“This place creeps me out” she said as she squeezed through the door.  She stood by it as he felt around for a light switch.  When he found it, she wished he hadn’t.

Textile factories aren’t particularly inviting during business hours, let alone at night.  They were in what looked like the main factory floor, and the room had a sickly green tint.  She wasn’t sure if the lighting caused it, or the paint on the walls, though the paint was so grimy she wasn’t sure it was even a color at all.  Rows of silent machines sat with fabric still in their jaws, and the fluorescent lights hummed eerily.  She didn’t like this, but they couldn’t afford better.  Friends and roommates, they’d both been dealt a blow by hard economic times.  He was a writer who, after being laid off from his day job hadn’t had luck finding even temp work for over five months.  His “novel” did nothing but take up folders and space on his laptop.

She, well, she didn’t know what she wanted to be.  The fact that she’d only completed two years of college before she couldn’t afford to attend anymore didn’t help.  Her parents had passed away years ago, and her savings had run out.  His parents were still alive in Wisconsin, but he was too proud and stubborn to ask them for help.  Eviction from their apartment forced them onto the street.  They were the Newly Homeless, and they didn’t know what to do.

He threw his duffel bags down, triumphant in the middle of the floor as if this were the World’s Best Plan.

“See?” he said.  “I told you we’d be able to get into one of them.”

She hated him when he was smug, which was often.

“I’m hungry” she said.  “What are we gonna do about food? I have, like, ten dollars in my bank account which I can’t get out until tomorrow ’cause I need to get it out at a fucking teller window.”

“What about your debit card?”

“I left it in the apartment. It was on my dresser…”

“You left it on your dresser?!”

“When someone’s hurrying to pack everything they own into a wheelie suitcase because they were fucking kicked out of their fucking apartment, they might not be thinking too clearly, OK?!”

“Hey, hey.  I’m sorry, all right?”  He approached her, eased her duffel bag from off her shoulder, and put his arm around her.  “It’s just that my bank account was closed because of that last overdraft fee, and…well, we’ll think of something. We’re gonna be OK, OK?”

She wasn’t sure about that, but she appreciated his effort.

“Sure” she said.

They found the least dirty portion of the floor and began setting up a makeshift camp, laying out towels and clothing on which to lie down.  Her stomach was in knots from hunger – they hadn’t eaten that day – when an idea struck her.

“Hey!  There might be a kitchen!”

“This is a factory” he replied.  “Why would there be a kitchen?”

“For the workers” she said, jumping to her feet.  “For their lunch breaks or whatever.  Every workplace usually has some kind of kitchen area.  There might be a fridge with food!  I’ll go check it out!”

She summoned her courage and went down the one available corridor and into the darkness. As her eyes adjusted, she noticed a large room on her right from which emanated a greenish glow.  She followed it and was relieved when she saw that it was the clock display on a microwave. She squealed with delight and found a lightswitch.

Sure enough, there was a mini-fridge. She rushed over to it, but was immediately disappointed. In it was nothing but a lone stick of butter.

It was then that she noticed the sign on the cabinet above the fridge:

PLEASE NOTE: ALL FOOD ITEMS WILL BE CLEANED OUT AT THE END OF EACH WORK WEEK.

It was Friday.

She trudged back to the factory floor, where he was waiting with a snack size bag of potato chips.

“I found this in my bag. Snagged it from that picnic we passed in Astoria Park. Want some?”

She took a handful, but after eating them only felt more hungry. The chips just warmed up her appetite for something that wasn’t coming. She felt miserable, and it was raining outside, and cold in the factory, and she couldn’t think of any friends who had room for them to crash or money to spare. She had never felt so low in her life.

“Don’t worry!  Tomorrow, we’ll take out your ten dollars, go to a supermarket, and get whatever groceries we can.  We’ll have breakfast, and figure out what to do about sleeping. It’ll be an adventure!”

Anger surged through her.  Her ten dollars? Was that his Master Plan?  He let his account be overdrawn and now he was claiming a right to her ten dollars?

“An adventure?” Her voice was ice.  “Is this fun for you? You’re volunteering my last ten dollars in the whole fucking world when you’re not even willing to ask your comfortable fucking parents in the Midwest for help?”

“Hey. I’m not running home to Mommy and Daddy…”

“Argh!”

She only meant to shove him.  Knock some sense into him.  She didn’t think she would be able to knock into him that hard. She didn’t think he’d stumble back that far.  She certainly didn’t plan on him hitting his head on the edge of a machine.

She heard his head crack twice; once on the metal, and then again on the concrete floor. Blood began to seep from his skull in twin rivers.

“Omigodomigodomigodomigod” she began muttering as her heart began to pound. As tears began coming.

For a moment, she forgot she was hungry.

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 12:47 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Countdown to Midnight #2: The New Kid

Posted by TERESA

My second story was called THE NEW KID, and in it, I plagiarized MYSELF!  🙂  When I got the assignment (Location – A perfume shop.  Genre – Political.  Object – A hamburger.), I immediately thought of an old short story I wrote years ago called The Sandbox.  I reworked it into a 1,000 word version, and I incorporated all the necessary elements.  It’s not wrong if I’m ripping myself off, right?

flea-market

THE NEW KID

Abdul wasn’t sure what to think of it.  It wasn’t a perfume shop so much as a perfume stand, though they did manage to provide the appearance of walls with plastic piping and brightly colored fabric so that it could generously be referred to as a perfume booth.  On one hand, his mother’s perfumes were always a hit at Crescent Elementary’s PTA flea market.  For as long as his family lived in the neighborhood, and his older siblings attended the school, his mother was involved in school fundraisers.  However, more than a way to ensure her children’s welfare, her booths had also proved an intelligent business decision.  Abdul’s father had to acknowledge his wife’s ingenuity when he saw that her stands at various school functions drove business to their perfume shop downtown. Women from all over the neighborhood flocked to her booth when they saw it and marveled at her selection and professionalism in the face of their homemade handicrafts and baked goods.

On the other hand, there was something about the way they talked about her items that disturbed Abdul.  Very often, customers’ comments would grate his seven-year-old sensibility.  Oh! This scent is so exotic! they’d say.  Where’s it from?

A factory in New Jersey, Abdul wanted to say.  It was the truth, after all.  But he never did.

However, he never understood why even return customers commented on the foreignness of his mother’s wares.  His family had lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years.  His mother had been born one town over.  Yet whenever his mother was behind the counter of her perfume stand, booth, shop, his family was treated as other.  As if they didn’t share the same history as the non-brown, Christian people in town.

But Abdul never said anything.  He knew it wasn’t his place.

He was usually bored at these functions, where it seemed mothers and daughters ruled and everyone seemed a little too interested in things like knit caps and tea cozies, but this one was different.  A family he’d never seen was setting up a booth next to his, and they had a little boy with them.

His name was Benjamin, and he was The New Kid.  He’d been placed in Abdul’s class, but he’d never had a chance to talk to him before.  Benjamin had arrived two weeks earlier, and Abdul thought it odd that his parents were already getting involved in a PTA function.  Benjamin was quiet and kept to himself, and so the rest of the second grade had spent the time since his arrival filling in the blanks of his story for themselves.  Abdul watched as Benjamin’s parents set up what looked like a craft table.  Benjamin stood off by himself backed up against the school gym wall, occasionally fiddling with his glasses, but otherwise seeming to want no part in his parents’ efforts.  He seemed skittish, and the one time he caught Abdul’s eye he immediately looked the other way, terrified.

Sam had heard rumors about Benjamin, but he wanted to know for himself.  He was never one to be swayed by the other second graders.  He left his mother sitting at the planning committee table and bounded over to Benjamin’s side.

“What are you doing standing all by yourself?”

“I don’t think anyone here likes me.”  Benjamin stole a quick glance at Abdul.  “Everybody’s looking at me funny.”

“I’m not.”
They continued to talk, and Benjamin felt more at ease.  He was amazed that someone like Sam, jovial, popular, and confident, would take an interest in him.  At his other school, his diminutive stature had gotten him into trouble, and he got beat up often.

Sam was moved by him.  While he had no concept of skittishness, he felt for this poor boy, backed up against the wall by his own shyness.  Sam became determined to be Benjamin’s friend. I’ll make him popular, too!  He’s gonna thank me!

Sam took Benjamin by the wrist and pulled him toward Abdul.

“Hey, Abdul!” Sam called out.

Abdul had seen them coming, and his stomach had immediately knotted itself.

“Abdul, this is Ben,” Sam said.  “Ben, this is Abdul.”

Benjamin’s heart flooded with joy.  He called him Ben!  Ben!  A cool, shortened nickname, like Sam for Samuel!

“How do you like it here so far?”

“It’s OK,” Ben replied.  “I haven’t been here that long…”

“Do you wanna hang out and have lunch?” Sam interjected.

“Sure,” Abdul replied.

Ben glanced at Sam, who glanced at Ben and smiled.  Abdul caught their silent exchange and felt a pang of jealousy.  Sam barely knew this boy, and already they were standing together like old friends.  It had taken Abdul all of first grade to establish a rapport with Sam, and even then their relationship was mostly based on lunchtime trade.  Sam hated the lunches his mother packed for him every day.  The constant barrage of ham-and-American-cheese-mayo-on-white-bread sandwiches was too common for a boy with Sam’s adventurous spirit.  And so their relationship began.  Falafel for American cheese.  Baba ghanoush for peanut butter and jelly.

“Let’s go get bacon cheeseburgers!” Sam said.  “The guy with the truck is already outside, and my mom will give us money.”

“My mom already made me something to eat,” said Abdul.  “She says they charge too much for food here…”

Sam looked at Ben, who seemed suddenly uncomfortable.

“I can’t eat those,” Ben said.

“Why not?” Sam asked, concerned that his hanging out plan might unravel.

“Well, my mom says that I’m not supposed to eat anything made from pig, ’cause it’s against our religion.”

“Us, too!” Abdul exclaimed, suddenly more interested.  “‘Cause pigs are unclean animals, right?”

“Yeah.  And they have cheese on them,” Ben continued.  “My mom says that we can’t eat meat and dairy stuff at the same time.  So, bacon cheeseburgers are like, a double whammy.”

For the first time, Sam felt left out.  He couldn’t think of any dietary restrictions to bring to the table.  His parents didn’t talk to him about their religion much.  But he brushed his insecurity aside.

“We can just get plain hamburgers then,” he said.  “They have those, too!”

Ben smiled.  “Yeah!  I can do that!”

Abdul glanced at his mother, who had carefully packed his lunch for him in a cooler on the floor beside her chair.

“I can’t guys,” he reminded them.  “My mom already made me something to eat.  She’ll be mad if I don’t eat it.”

Sam shrugged, and looked at Ben.

“I guess it’s just you and me,” he said.

Abdul watched them walk away toward Sam’s mother.  He watched as she supplied them with money, and he watched as they walked, chatting the whole way, out the gym doors and toward the hamburger truck.  He felt forgotten.  He felt annoyed.  He wondered what school would be like on Monday.

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 5:55 PM  Comments (1)  
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Countdown to Midnight #1: Prowler

Posted by TERESA

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been taking part in a flash fiction contest being held by NYC Midnight.  In each round, we were given a location, an object, and a genre, and had a weekend to write a story using all three in no more than 1,000 words.  Well, the contest is over, I made it to the final round, and I’ve submitted my final story!  Winners will be announced on Thursday, the 8th.  As a lead-up to finding out whether I will be winning money for my words, or whether I will be a big ol’ loser, I thought I’d share the three stories I wrote for the contest with you in the order they were written.

PROWLER was my first story, and in my opinion, my least successful.  To tell you the truth, I’m surprised I got anywhere after this one!  To be fair, I had to write this the same weekend I was away in Philadelphia for Wizard World, which is why I only managed a little over 500 words.  I just had no time to write.  Location I was given?  The trunk of a car. Object?  A candle. Genre?  Horror. Here’s what I did with it…

woman looks at trunk

PROWLER

My name is Delilah Scher.  I’m 27 years old.  I’m from Rego Park, New York.  I currently live at 21-49 37th Street, Apt 4B in Astoria.  My parents are Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Scher of Rego Park.  Call them in case of emergency.  My name is Delilah Scher.  I’m 5’8″ tall.  I have brown hair that isn’t usually caked with dirt and sweat.  I’m shivering.  I don’t know where we’re going.  My name is Delilah Scher.  I have brown eyes.  I wear a size nine shoe.  I have a stomach that’s in knots.

I’m in the trunk of a man’s car.

Calm down, Delilah.  Stop talking to yourself.  You’re going to get through this.  He is not going to be the end of you.

I can’t help it.  I’m scared.  And when I’m scared I talk to myself – well, in my head anyway – and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Where are we going?  We must be on the Grand Central.  We’ve been going really fast without stopping for a while.  Or are we on the Triboro Bridge?  We’ve definitely left the borough.  Where are we going?

There’s something in this trunk with me.  It’s moist and cold.  Something long and fuzzy like a rolled-up rug or a blanket.  There could be another body in here for all I know.  I’m going to throw up.  Oh, God.  I’m going to throw up.  Where are we going?

Tears are sticking to my face.  I don’t want to cry, but I have to.  There’s nothing else to do.  My face is dirty.  The rope feels like it’s cutting into my wrists.  This trunk smells like mold, and dirt, and sawdust, and death.

He is not going to be the end of you.

You can get through this.  You can get through this and when it’s all over, you’ll be a stronger person.  Every time he changes lanes, my head knocks into the side of the car.  My head is bleeding.  It hurts.  Oh, God.  Why are we slowing down?

Breathe, Delilah.  Breathe.  Where are we?  My heart is racing.  How long do I wait?  He’s getting bags out of the back seat.  That’s probably the groceries.  The candles.  He promised her a meal.  I heard him on the phone.  He promised her a gourmet, candlelit meal.

He’s been so wrapped up in his date planning that he didn’t even realize that I destroyed the lock to his car.  He’s been so busy talking to her on the phone that he didn’t even notice that the trunk is being held shut by this rope I’ve got wrapped around my wrist.

He probably won’t notice me sneaking in his back door, which he always leaves open because he’s a moron and thinks he lives in a safe neighborhood.  He won’t notice when I slip into the closet in the living room with my can of kerosene.  He won’t notice when I take one of those romantic candles he put on the table for that bitch, the ones he never lit for me, and set his place aflame.

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 11:41 PM  Comments (2)  
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Hey Mama: Kanye West, Neil Gaiman, and Grief Made Manifest

What awards?  The MTV VMAs this year were all about Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

What awards? The MTV VMAs this year were all about Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

Posted by TERESA

Let’s get one thing straight.  I don’t watch MTV.  I haven’t watched MTV in years.  Sure, it might be because I’m too old to enjoy MTV.  OR, as I think is more accurate, the younger people who watch MTV don’t know any better – and certainly don’t know enough to know that the “M” in MTV stands for MUSIC.

But I digress…

I don’t watch MTV, and I’m not really keen on awards shows, either.  I usually only watch the Oscars every year, if that.  As for the rest, I’m perfectly content to look up the winners the next day and go “Oh, that’s nice.”  So, I wasn’t watching the VMAs this week – I was on my computer trying to write a little, and G-chatting with friends.  All of a sudden, Facebook and Twitter started blowing up about Kanye West, and not in a good way.  They were blowing up about this:

I was so angry after watching this.  To see someone whose music I enjoy and whose talent I respect so much stoop to something like this was appalling.  It would have been bad enough if he had interrupted the winner of an award for which he was nominated.  At least that would have made some sense.  But to interrupt someone on stage – a 19 year old winning her first VMA at that! – to “defend” someone who never asked to be defended in order to right some perceived award show wrong?  It was the fact that this act was so inexplicable that made people furious.  It made me upset, too.

It proceeded to be the watercooler topic of choice the next day as people debated what his act meant.  Whether it was premeditated, or merely the spontaneous, drunken act of a rude, irresponsible douche.  Whether it had to do with race.  Whether it was actually spontaneous, or whether it was staged to garner Kanye, or Taylor, or both publicity.  My stance?  One look at Taylor Swift’s face, and you could tell it wasn’t staged.  At least, not for her benefit.  No matter what’s going on with you, once you lash out at other people, you need to be severely reined in. I thought what he did was inexcusable.  I still do.

Yet, the more I talked about it, the more I realized that there had to be a reason.  People just don’t do things like that.  And then it hit me. Kanye West’s mother passed away a little less than two years ago.  Suddenly, it all made sense to me, because I’ve been thinking about grief a lot in recent years.  But first, watch this:

My own mother passed away 3 1/2 years ago, and it’s only within the past year that I realized exactly what that’s meant for me.

Dad, Me, Mom

Dad, Me, Mom

It’s funny, I started seriously thinking about it after going to my first Neil Gaiman signing here in NYC, when he was signing copies of Blueberry Girl at Books of Wonder.  He was late to the signing, and I discovered later that night that the reason he’d been late was that he got a phone call that his father had passed away in England.  I was both amazed and touched that he’d decided to go on with the signing anyway; to pay us the respect of rewarding us for our time standing in line, and also to allow us to help him feel a little better, which he said on his blog we did.  I was so touched that I wanted to do something, write him something as someone who’d also lost a parent…but I didn’t know what to say.  This set the thoughts in motion, though.  I realized that if I were going to tell him anything (I never did, by the way, and I still have half a letter somewhere that was never sent), the main things I would tell him would be:

Little Neil Gaiman with his grandfather and his father

Little Neil Gaiman with his grandfather and his father

1) Don’t feel guilty about forgetting.  You will.  There will be days when you don’t even think about the person you lost at all.  You eventually won’t be able to remember their face, and will need photos to remind you.  That’s OK.  It’s your mind’s way of saying Hold on to yourself.  Live your life.  Move on.

and

2) Your grief will manifest in ways you never expected.  It won’t always be clawing-your-eyes-out, sobbing grief.  It won’t always be stoic, honorable grief either.  Sometimes, it will be you yelling at the person behind the counter at Dunkin Donuts, because they accidentally didn’t give you the right change.  Other times, it will be you ignoring your friends, or snapping at them just for being near you whilst having fun and joking around.  You might do something incredibly risky just to see if you can, just to see if you’ll come out of it alive.  This won’t all happen neatly immediately after the death, either.  It will sneak up on you a year later after you’ve quit seeing a therapist because you thought you were all better and really why shell out the money for something you don’t need anymore.

This, too, is OK.  Expect it, so it doesn’t blindside you, but know that you won’t be able to control it no matter what you do.  Your mind, and your body, and your heart are going to demand that you grieve, whether you let it or not.  And if you’re someone like me, who doesn’t like to cry in front of people, who doesn’t like being a burden on those she loves, and who tends to go about things with a stiff upper lip and a “suck it up and deal” attitude, the demands of your grieving will force you to grieve whether you want to or not.  And sometimes, you’ll do very stupid things indeed.

Kanye West and his mother

Kanye West and his mother

It became crystal clear to me what was happening when Jay Leno brought up his mother, and Kanye said “Obviously, I deal with hurt….and so many celebrities they never take the time off…I’ve never taken the time off to really…you know, music after music, and tour after tour…it’s just a shame that my hurt caused someone else’s hurt, my dream of what award shows were supposed to be caused…and I don’t try to justify it, because I was just in the wrong, that’s period.  But I need to, after this, take some time off and just analyze how I’m gonna make it through the rest of this life, how I’m gonna improve.  Because I am a celebrity and that’s something I have to deal with.”

He was going through exactly what I was going through – not making time for grief, perhaps getting more drunk than usual more often, lashing out at people who not only didn’t deserve it, but had nothing to do with anything – except he had the added bonus of having a camera turned on him when he did it.

I’ll say it again.  Kanye West’s mother passed away a little less than two years ago.

Two years went by before I went to that Blueberry Girl event and only started to be able to articulate exactly what I’d been doing and what had been happening to me since my mother’s passing.  It seems as though Kanye’s just received his wake-up moment, too, and hopefully he will take that much needed time off and take the time to grieve.

We all wish and hope to go the Neil Gaiman route: be gracious and together in public, grieve in private, and keep our personal grief separate from the way we treat people.  Perhaps it’s something that comes with age?  Gaiman is in his late 40s, and while that’s still young to be losing a parent, one might be more emotionally equipped to deal with it when it happens at that age.  Kanye and I are both in our early 30s and at a time in our lives when we are just starting to do the things that we hope will make our parents proud of us.  To not have them around to see it can truly be devastating.

So while the act itself remains inexcusable, its motivation is understandable.  At least to me.  And I hope the internet will die down a little bit, and not continue to be hard on Kanye.  Because just as it’s inexcusable to lash out at the expense of a 19 year old girl’s feelings, it’s equally inexcusable to get your internet jollies by electronically stoning a man in pain.

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 12:09 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Writer Round-Up!

hot blogger

Posted by TERESA

Just because we haven’t been writing here, doesn’t mean we haven’t been writing at ALL!  Here are some links to work by me and some other Commune Cohorts that you might have missed!

TERESA (that would be me!):

Here are my most recent contributions to Pink Raygun and PopMatters!

** Pink Raygun Post – GEEK THEATER: “VIRAL” – review of the wonderful off-off Broadway play by Mac Rogers, which has currently added performances through the end of September (see comments at the bottom of the article).

** PopMatters Post – Wizard World Philly #1: The Death Rattle and Wizard World Philly #2: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – two blog posts I wrote for PM summing up the LAMENESS that was Wizard World Philly this year.  However, I was there for a very good cause!

PENDARD:

Pendard’s Geeky Sex blog is still going strong!  Here’s some of the posts you might have missed:

FET LIFE INTERVIEW – where Pendard discovers that the founder of the Fet Life community is a kindred spirit in more than the obvious ways.

THE STACKS: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – Pendard talks about the short story, the film, and Annie Proulx’s difficulty with fan fiction

DEFENDING VANILLA SEX – a thoughtful piece on vanilla sex and its place in the kink community, which is also a response to a column by Mistress Matisse in The Stranger.

AUNT MAY IN LOVE – old people have sex, and young people need to get over it!  Because one day, they’ll be old, too!

APPARENTLY, I’M SOME KIND OF POLYAMORY EXPERT – Pendard as advice columnist?  Sounds like a great idea to me!

SUSIE BRIGHT ON “BLOODBALLING” AND OTHER FUN ACTIVITIES – Like Margaret Cho said, “There’s this weird correlation between people who like Star Trek, S&M, and the Rennaisance Faire.”  Susie Bright (and Pendard) explain why.

ANNABELLE RIVER:

Check out Annabelle’s latest posts to SexGenderBody:

THE MASOCHIST NEXT DOOR – Annabelle explains just how it is that a good girl from a stable home who always got good grades and had never been abused gets turned on by being bound, gagged, and spanked.  I’d actually read this elsewhere, and I’m so glad she reposted it.

BRIDEZILLA AND BACK FROM THE DEAD – Where ARE all the groom magazines, anyway?  And who says women are the only ones who care about weddings, or that they care at all?  Annabelle discusses the stereotypes she encountered in planning her recent wedding.

Happy reading, everyone!  🙂

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 2:37 PM  Leave a Comment  
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