Squeeee II, The Squeequal


 
My short fiction, “You Had Me At Blue Hair.” has been published by Bending Genres.

The above is a screenshot. For the cover to issue 11, click here. For the story, click here.

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box]

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

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Behind the Photo

Photo by Meg McKinney

I had planned a long post detailing my modeling ordeal [My New Author Photo]. Come the day, it was simple.

We discussed what I would wear (casual). Make-up (not happening). Meg suggested sitting on a haybale. I loved this idea, on brand but not overly horsey, thus useful for non-equine outlets.

Meg reminded me that an animal in a photo would draw the viewer’s eye to the animal, not to mention complicating the shoot itself.

Initially, I wore Rodney’s dark green show shirt. I brought extras. She liked the red of Milton’s show shirt instead.

She took hundreds of photos from half a dozen locations with several poses in each location. Slick hair back. Pull wrinkles out of shirt. Smile. Look over here. Look thoughtful. Click. Click. Click.

You might think it went well because Meg and I are friends. No. I might know you for 20 years. You pick up a camera. You point it at me. I will still look like a gaffed fish.

It went well because I trust Meg as a photographer. I’ve seen enough of her work to know that she wouldn’t make me look like a dork. If she has a twenty-double-zero expertise it is in capturing the moment. Her candid photo-journalism work is outstanding. If anyone could make me look good, it would be she.

This is why one hires a professional.

Now, to find uses for my new author photo.

Meg head

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[Crossposted]

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

Where Are They Now? Fiction Sketch

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box]

Another one that started as a question on a blog. In Millennial Life Crisis: Solo Road-Tripping the ‘Highway Thru Hell’, the author ponders initials and names carved on a bridge, “I can’t help but wonder if Abby and Brad ever worked out.”

No. They didn’t.
~~~
The Old Bridge
by Katherine Walcott

My neighbor Vicky and I were on our way into town. I was driving. She was recounting her most recent adventures with online dating. The stories made me thankful to be married. When I turned off Mill Road, she interrupted herself, “Why are you going this way?”

“Family habit,” I said. “We always go this way.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Vicky turning to stare at me. “It’s got to be 10 miles out of the way”

“11.4.” I said.

“What?”

“11.4 miles. I’ve measured it.”

“Then why?”

“My grandmother used to drive to this way. She said it was prettier.”

We drove in silence for a few miles.

After a few more miles of trees, Vicky said. You know the old bridge is perfectly safe, don’t you. All the important bits have been replaced. The wooden parts are strictly decorative. I mean, I’m all for highway scenery, but at this speed, that’s 25 minutes. With the return trip, that’s almost an hour of your life. Was your grandmother that into trees?”

“My Mom has a theory. You know how the wooden slats of the old bridge have names and initials on them? On the upstream side someone carved “Abby & Brad.” You can see it from the car if you know where to look. Well, my grandmother’s name was Abby. My grandfather’s name was not Brad.”

I paused for dramatic effect. I glanced at Vicky. She looked suitable impressed.

“My mom thinks my grandmother drove this way so she didn’t have to go over the bridge and pass those names.”

“Did she ever ask?” Vicky wondered.

“Sure. She said every time she asked, Grammy told her not to be silly and then changed the subject.”

“It’s weird to think of your grandparents as young enough to date.”

“I know, right?”

“Do you think she loved Brad all those years? If she were truly over him, she’d be indifferent. She would have no trouble driving right past.

“Maybe it wasn’t heartache,” I said. “Maybe they broke up after a huge public fight at the Homecoming game. From then on the sight of his name filled her with with righteous rage at the memory of finding him under the bleachers with another woman.”

Vicky countered. “Maybe it was a forbidden romance. Brad was visiting from downstate for the summer. They fell in love. He was heir to the Kwik Loc fortune. He would never be allowed to marry an upstater.”

“Kwik Loc?”

“Yeah, those little thingies that keep bread bags closed,” she explained. “Somebody has to be making money from them. Those things are everywhere.”

“Maybe Brad was charming but old-fashioned.” I said. “He proposed but she wanted to marry someone who would treat her more as an equal. Each time she saw their names together she was overcome with melancholy for what might have been, but she knows she made the right decision. People can have conflicting reasons for what they do.”

Vicky began ranting, “Maybe he was a jerk and she was sorry that she ever saw anything in him and now she can’t stand to drive by his name and she hates herself for thinking he was ever worth wasting time on.”

I glanced at her, “Over-identify much?”

“We all make mistakes. Moving on.” Vicky changed the subject. “Do you know what happened to Brad?”

I shrugged. “History does not record.”

“Imagine if she’d married him instead of your grandfather. Then your inheritance would have been substantially more than questionable driving choices.”

“But then I would never know if anyone liked me for myself or for my bread bag fortune.”

“Bread bag CLOSURE fortune.” she corrected. “Bread BAG money takes their vacations in the islands. They’re kind of snobby.”

I paused to negotiate a tricky corner.

“But seriously, I think Brad was a perfectly normal guy.” I said. “They had a teen romance that didn’t work out. He grew up to be a nice person. He married that other woman and they had 2.3 kids and a station wagon. He spent his life taking the bridge up by the highway, driving 10 miles out of his way in the other direction to avoid the wooden mill bridge. I imagine them constantly circling in opposing orbits with the Abby & Brad bridge at the center.

I considered the scenery. “So I drive this way and think about my grandmother.”

Vicky considered the scenery. “It is a pretty road.”
===

Accepted!

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box]
~~~
“Congratulations! We love ‘You Had Me At Blue Hair’ and would like to publish it in issue eleven of Bending Genres, which will launch in October, 2019.”

For the story, click [A Ring On The Table, A Fiction Sketch].

I should be all wordy and authorial and say something. Does “Squeeee!” count? Huge shout-out to rontuaru for recommending Bending Genres.

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott

A Ring On The Table

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box: A Ring On The Table, A Fiction Sketch]
~~~
An empty ring box on a table at McDonald’s. Romance Spinners: Now I wonder … saw this and asked for speculation. Here is mine.

(Pauses in trepidation.) May I emphasize the sketch-like nature of what follows? A sketch is only a step up from a doodle.

(Pauses again. Imagines fiction career as a tiny plant sending up first tentative shoots. Has images of weed whackers and lawnmowers.) Okay, here it is.
~~~
You Had Me At Blue Hair
by Katherine Walcott

What first caught my eye was her hair. She was sitting a few tables down from me at a late night McDonald’s. You couldn’t miss the hair. Screaming, neon, electric blue. I didn’t think you could get that color outside of a cartoon. I stared. You would have too.

She caught me looking. I looked away. I hadn’t missed the self-defense spray canister of Mace sitting on the table next to her left hand. Move along. Nothing to see. No one here but us harmless fellow french fry aficionados.

The hair said Notice Me! The Mace said ‘That’s close enough.’

I saw her again a few nights later. When you work the graveyard shift and work 80 hours a week, the choice of places to eat is limited. Sneer if you must at the health value of a Big Mac, lament the loss of local cuisine to an over-arching global corporate culture. Over-arching, see what I did there? I crack myself up. Anyway. At 2 am, on a cold night, hot greasy food is both warming and comforting.

So, it wasn’t a surprise to see her there again. There was a rotating cast of regulars who knew each other on sight. We’d nod. Maybe make a remark about the weather. General neighbors-in-the-big-city behavior.

What was a surprise was her hair. It was lime green.

A week later it was blond with red tips. As I walked out past her table, I gave a friendly smile and said, “Color-coordinated. Nice”

She gave me a flat stare. I left.

Shit.

Did she not get it? I mean, she’s sitting at McDonald’s with yellow and red hair, how could she not realize she matched the decor?

Shit.

Of course she realized. She just thought I was an idiot for pointing it out. I was going for clever and overshot. I obsessed about the Internet adage: “The failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’ ”

Shit.

It was a few days before I saw her again. When she came in, she ignored me. She sat down. Ate without looking at me. I tried to be encouraged that she chose a seat approximately the same distance away. At least I hadn’t caused her to retreat to the far side of the dining area.

She finished her meal – grilled chicken, double fries, water – gathered her garbage and rose to leave. Passing in front of my table, she stopped. Without looking at me, she said, “Originally, the chairs were designed so you would hunch over your food and eat faster.” Then she walked on, dumped her tray, and left.

The next time, she was there before me. I sat a few tables away from her. A little closer than previously but nothing that would qualify as stalker distance. As the mandatory unwrapping and meal preparation commenced, I held up a fry. “McDonald’s uses an average of 250 pounds of potatoes per day per store.”

She nodded. We ate in silence.

A few minutes later, she held up one of her fries and regarded it. “I wonder if their potato chopping machine is big enough to chop up a person.” She looked over at me. “A night-shift worker could have a side hustle of disposing of bodies in between fry batches.”

I probably should have looked horrified. A normal person would have looked horrified. Seven years of working in an ER does strange things to your brain.

I shook my head. “Wouldn’t help. You’d still have the same amount of material when you were done, just sliced. A proper body disposable service would reduce the amount to be disposed of. Dissolution. Combustion. One of those methods.”

She nodded. We finished our meals in silence and left.

I wish I could say that I sensed her deep kindness. Or I that sensed her pain and knew she must be approached as one would approach a wounded bird or some other condescending animal trainer bullshit. The truth was simple. I was bored. I was lonely. And I really wanted to know what was up with that hair.

I didn’t see her for a few weeks. Changed jobs? Changed McDonald’s? I was surprised at how much I missed her. We had not exchanged more than a few words. Yet I was starting to count her as a friend.

Which says something about our mutual attraction, and about my limited social life.

She came back. Her hair was jet black with a wide, white stripe. As she walked over carrying her tray, I nodded and raised my eyebrows.

‘Business trip.” She paused. “Long one.”

I nodded again. “Did they have a McDonald’s?”

She smiled. She sat down at my table.
~~~
A few months later, we were sitting at our table.

“If we got married, we could have the wedding catered by McDonald’s,” I said.

She sat back in her seat, “We are getting married?”

I held up an admonishing finger. “If, IF, two people, who had meet at a McDonald’s, were to get married, hypothetically, it is amusing to envision a wedding reception with burgers and heat lamps.”

She leaned forward. “The cake would be a fortress made of apple pies.”

“You would wear a – I paused to check her current hair color – magenta taffeta gown.”

“What would you wear?”

“Oh that’s easy.” I gestured at myself. “Matching scrubs.”

“The wedding favors would be in Happy Meal boxes.”

We both paused to imagine the uproar this would cause. We both smiled.

And that is why I proposed to her at McDonald’s.
====finis====

Best Laid Plans, Writing Accountability, August 2019

Crossposted [Virtual Brush Box: Best Laid Plans, Writing Accountability, August 2019]

I need a new plan.

In August, I signed up with 750 Words, an online writing site. Does one need a computer site to write? No. Does it help me? Yes. I talked about it earlier [A Place To Write].

Writing for the blog happens in the morning. I like to get the next day’s post done and scheduled. Writing for work happens when it needs to. So, the plan was to write my 750 fiction words at night. Freewheeling creative work right before bed would fire up my resting neurons to worry about plot details rather than letting my brain gnaw on itself.

It was a great plan. Thinking about fiction allowed me to separate from the activities of the day and put me in a better place to get to sleep. I came up with some cool ideas. I even wrote an entry that might charitably be called a sketch. Another time I started with a fiction idea and ended up with a blog post.

So, it worked great. When I got to it. The plan utterly failed to take into account the fact that I crash like a falling tree immediately after dinner.

Yes, yes, if I really wanted, I would do it. Fiction writing is like exercise. I should do it. It would be good for me to do it. I enjoy it when I can – metaphorically – drag my ass of the couch. I certainly enjoy having done it. Alas, as with exercise, I am full of good intentions.

August stats. I wrote anything at all on 8 out of 31 days. I wrote over 750 words on 4 of those days. This is ridiculous. I can bang out a 1,000 word blog post without breaking a sweat. I am capable of generating a cover letter that is longer than the article I am submitting. Surely, I should be able to write 3 pages of fictional nonsense. But then, I should be able to exercise for 30 minutes a day as well.

How are you doing with your projects?

See you on my book tour,
Katherine Walcott