Posts tagged ‘canadian-american writers’

April 20, 2011

Sticky in August

sticky-in-august-adrian-brijbassi-short-storyThe time for the affair was now. Carol reaffirmed the fact in her mind as she drove to New York on an August weekend so hot and sticky that to breathe or concentrate became a chore. She wanted it before she turned forty and before she and Greg had kids, which, given that she was thirty-seven, would be soon. The affair, Carol hoped as she sat in midtown traffic congested by steam and bodies drizzled in sweat, would be like the ones she read about in books, with the women perching themselves in place to be approached. The seductions in paperback were quick, the affairs torrid and brief, the men discarded like old dolls, grins intact. Having gotten away with it — or not — the women returned to their sedate lives thrilled with the act. The rare regret had an existence as deep and long as a hangover.

Carol’s affair, were it to happen, would have to be fit in around the convention schedule, a busy one packed with seminars and lectures, beginning with the opening reception and four-course dinner. Twenty tables filled an ornate ballroom occupied by librarians, who, like the books and periodicals they file, were organized by commonality and last name. Carol was seated with seven others from the state’s capital region and, as she expected, the women outnumbered the men. The two males at the table, like most of the others in the room, looked plain and bookish, clearly embedded in mid-career goals for money and respect. Their lack of attractiveness, though disappointing in a basic aesthetic sense, didn’t bother Carol; she was almost certain the affair wouldn’t be with another librarian.

For one thing, she might see him again, at one of these conventions, or worse, one of her colleagues might run across him. He, this would-be lover, would say, “Oh, do you know Carol? Second to the chief librarian in Albany?” and they would make chit-chat and discuss how he knew her and if he were a gentleman he would lie. Librarians were good at spotting lies, though; novels are filled with them.

read more »

June 11, 2009

New York Sunset

I stare across the Hudson
to small, rectangular buildings
with the character of concrete
and feel sorry for the sun
My usual spot extends near the railing,
West Side pier off Christopher Street,
roller-bladers and bike riders pause for breaks,
a trove of gay people congregate
under the shale sky
Couples hold hands and whisper endearments
or embrace to kiss as tour boats drift,
gulls squawk like gossips
A passing Circle Line ferry ambles below the horizon
I cannon imaginary pennies into the river,
flicking fingers against thumb,
listening to water clap the underside of planks
Parsippany and Hoboken and Newark
all claim pieces of the dying sun

April 30, 2009

Canada Geese Mate for Life

[Published in “Confrontation”, 2003]

Men hit on me all the time. On the train, when I’m grocery shopping, out for a jog. The first time Paul hit on me was two years ago, on his first day at Mansfield, the ad agency I’ve worked at for three years without receiving a raise, promotion or any attention that doesn’t involve men watching me walk away. When we were introduced, Paul smiled too wide and shook my hand too long, rubbing his thumb over my fingers as if he had just met the office pet. I was told he was joining our team of graphic designers and was being stationed in the cubicle directly across from me. Upon that news, my stomach knotted as if it had been wrung.

cover_confrontation1Paul, on the other hand, seemed very satisfied with all aspects of his new job, with the exceptions of the tall, beige divider separating us and the picture of Matt on my desk. Unfortunately, neither was a deterrent for his nerve. As the morning continued, he kept needing help with his computer, asking me repeatedly if I could come over and take a look at his screen to make sure he had the correct page template or his color settings were calibrated with the printer or he was using the proper style sheet. The first few times were understandable; after that, I was simply being called upon for his enjoyment. He began to touch, putting a hand that resembled a kind of butcher’s cut on my elbow when he said thanks and squeezing my shoulder when I had to sit in his chair to fix whatever problem he couldn’t diagnose.

At lunch, he wanted to know if there was a good place to eat in the area. “There’s probably some spot hidden away you all go to, right?” He sounded as if he’d found himself stuck in a village of mosques on Ramadan, when we were in fact in the middle of SoHo.

read more »

November 19, 2008

The Prince

[Published in the East Hampton Star, May, 2002]

Even through tears and the deliriums of half-consciousness, Larry saw the smoke from the gun, heard the deafening sound from it, and the mad screams that rose upon each shot. The shooter continued to walk up the aisle and Larry watched the man’s wide back while sinking to the floor of the subway car. This lowering of self was not done out of will. Larry’s legs had gone numb and when he slid down, his pants rolled up, exposing shins and the gray hairs on his bony legs. He slumped against a pole and remembered he was an old man. His hand stuck to one palm-sized portion of his chest as blood gushed through fingers in thick waves, rolling over knuckles and falling onto his sweater, a cable-knit recently bought by his wife. He perspired and wanted badly to reach into his breast pocket for his handkerchief, but he wouldn’t dare take his hand away. Besides, sitting in place seemed to ease the hurt. The pain was either dissipating or he was getting accustomed to it like the fit of new clothes.

east_hampton_star2He closed his eyes and took several long breaths and exhaled each slowly. Words came to his mind, despite the cacophony of his surroundings. Panicking passengers shouted and slapped at the subway doors and windows, trying to force them open. Several ran over him without consideration. They were the most bothersome to Larry, because he was ruminating while some of these people kicked his feet as they leapt, costing him his train of thought.

The gun fell with a loud thud and Larry turned toward the sound. He winced when he shifted his head and shoulders, and also when he saw the gunman being smothered by a group of purposeful men, who battered him with blows that looked painful to the extreme. Despite this man’s capture, people still screamed and scurried about. A large woman heading to the far end of the car stumbled after she nearly tripped over Larry’s size 10 Clark’s. His toes pointed right back up, like pieces of hard rubber, and he found it curious, not feeling pain when kicked. The woman was the last to pass him and the voices quelled in a matter of seconds, a change of volume Larry was grateful for.

With one wet hand still on his chest, he raised himself up a little, making it easier to breathe and concentrate. He coughed and began.

“Death,” he said. It was a murmur and wouldn’t do. He propped himself up some more, pressing his loose hand to the coarse floor and pushing his spine against the metal pole. He winced, coughed, and did his best to clear his throat.

“Death -.” The weary drone in his voice stunned him. It was a typical, sick, old man sound, but it would have to do. “Death,” he said again, “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn” -he paused to cough – “No traveller returns, puzzles the will, And makes us rather . . . rather . . .” -he coughed, without needing to this time, raising a clenched fist a few inches from his mouth – “rather bear those ills we have, Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

read more »

November 9, 2008

Slang Can Save a Story, Just Don’t Go Ballistic With It

A newspaper editor I know once told me about an adventurous photojournalist he worked with who had found himself in a dangerous situation while on assignment in Central America. The photojournalist, a New Yorker, was working on an article about the drug trade and he had hired a translator to help him locate sources for the story. Unfortunately, the photojournalist and the translator were kidnapped by gang members and ordered into the back of a van. The gang had already taken their money and everything of potential value in their wallets. So, being driven to who knows where could only end badly, the photojournalist thought. And so did the translator, who began to converse with his captors.

read more »

September 11, 2008

Choose Your Words With Care and Your Writing Will Improve

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is “the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain turned that phrase 120 years ago and it’s still applicable. In fact, many writers will tell you the hardest part of the job is finding the most appropriate noun or verb for a given sentence. The reason is because we aim to avoid clichés, meaning we’re constantly challenging ourselves to be inventive in ways beyond concocting plots and characters.

Whether you’re a journalist, public relations professional or author of literary fiction, expanding your vocabulary is fundamental to improving the quality of your work. If you believe writing involves craftsmanship then language is the toolbox to accomplishment. As with any field, the practitioners who best know how to use their tools will be able to differentiate themselves. Besides the thesaurus, other reference books that will help you grow as a wordsmith include The Flip Dictionary, Word and Phrase Origins and Roget’s Super Thesaurus. These texts go beyond dictionary definitions, giving you etymological information as well as colloquial phrases in addition to traditional synonyms.

read more »

August 11, 2008

Baltimore

[Published in Proteus, Spring 2003]

We ordered Maryland Blue Crabs in the Inner Harbor,
And tried to eat them as the water taxis sped by,
A man next to us said we didn’t have a clue,
He picked up a crab and opened it as if it were a knot
We said, Now we see, and continued to stare
The man showed us again and said, Welcome, come again
We ruminated on the sky with our Blue Crabs,
And the new trick to open them in our minds
Later, you said it was the best vacation you ever had

We went to Fells Point and strolled down Shakespeare Street
We bought a newspaper and studied the real estate ads
We visited Edgar Allan Poe place and you said
What a great place for a writer to be
I said, Yeah, or to be your husband in
Years later, when we were richer and more well fed,
We ate Maryland Blue Crabs again,
You said you didn’t have the patience for it,
You preferred picked-apart King Crab instead.