If you like to read, and enjoy quirky, welcome. There are about 30 random things here for you. After you read a short story you may even find some personal comments/insights! The main purpose of creating this blog is for writers. I see so much written about writer's block, and honestly, I don't have it. Occasionally, I write short stories, longer stories, books, plays, one act plays, monologues, and sometimes I even think one is good enough to submit somewhere. Of course, when you submit a story to a magazine that receives 200 stories a month and publishes five, you'd better enjoy the process of writing. I'm not suggesting that I'm a good writer, merely that I can sit down and just start writing.

It is important to write, to constantly be working on your art. If you are constantly plagued by writer's block, perhaps you are being too selective in what you write about. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some examples of my writing, from someone who can write all the time. Occasionally the topics are a bit strange, but I don't let that slow me down, I love to write and get to a finished product. Hopefully, by looking at some examples, you will say to yourself that phrase that all artists who visit MOMA in NYC say: "Well, I can do this!" That would be good, because you can! One of my posts is about a talking tomato. (You have to be able to do better than that!)

In part I'm trying to get some of my stuff in one place, so keep in mind I never claimed it was going to be an incredible read. You can decide that. I will tell you that occasionally I have a story in me that seems to fit the goal of a publication, and I try to write specifically with that goal in mind. Lately I've been considering publications that publish nonfiction memoirs, so some of the entries you'll find here will have that flavor. Perhaps this is a way to get past writer's block - find a publication looking for something that you'd like to write. It seems like memoir-based publications may be a good place to start, because we're all experts in our own families. I'm using a blog here to share some of the things I've written; the blog format is not ideal, so you need to poke around a little at old posts, to see if you can find a story or something else that may interest you.

Two last items. None of these are finished products. I usually get to a point where I have something written, and then stop. If it is something I may decide to submit for some reason, I'll finish formatting, following the specific rules of the magazine or organization (the rules are alwaysdifferent). If you do see something in here that you may be interested in using, don't hesitate to contact me.

So welcome to my blog. Welcome to my writing. Write, people, write! It feels good.

Please also consider getting a copy of my first book, Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's. All Royalties go to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. Please check out the book's blog at:

Thank you!

© 2012 John Allison

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Copper Pipe/Living with Ecedro

Following the barks of raised voices, I walked through the front screen door and up the stairs to my bedroom where I found a man with a penis much larger than mine, and a short woman1 whose body has never met a razor, in a heated discussion.  But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.
It's 7 PM and I'm out of the office a bit early.  On the walk to the station, wrestling to keep my computer bag on my raincoat shoulder, I thought about what line I would use today when I get tired of looking for an open seat on Amtrak Regional 170, save the one seat next to the woman who is feigning sleep2. I was also thinking about why in the world I still wear a raincoat when it rains.  Today was what many would give a right arm for - or a right leg.  I was promoted, literally "upstairs", to a corner office with more windows - the envy of my peers.  I did not do the happy dance in the lobby, because I've learned to be humble during the highs of life and tolerant of the lows, and that maintaining an "even keel", even though I'm sailboat free, is practical and sensible.  You see, I have apparently been in training because I share a house with a man named Ecedro.
I don't have to explain, but I will tell you that it's not a romantic relationship or anything like that.  I saw a sign on a phone pole.  It said
"Need a place to live?
Lets share a place.
Good life.
Cook across the street."
Much to the annoyance of the diner's manager, I asked to speak to Ecedro the cook, and we decided to spend a few Saturdays together looking for a house to rent together - two strangers who seemed to feel comfortable with each other.  Actually, that wasn't the case.  I felt comfortable with Ecedro, and he would never even think about how he was feeling.  He assumes everything will work out.  His internal tattoo probably says just that.  "Everything will work out.  Hang loose baby." Surely we looked to all like one odd couple, since I only owned business shirts and he only wife-beaters.
It was 8:22 when I walked in the door and met the naked pair in my bedroom.  We exchanged pleasantries, which mostly consisted of repetition.
"Who are you?"
"Who are you?"
Quickly realizing that the dangling schlong had no particular problem with me, or with standing naked before strangers, I explained that the bed they had been using was mine.  They expressed gratitude that Ecedro gave them a "place to crash".  I had thought that "hitchhiking across the country" was eliminated from our vocabulary in 1980, but either I was wrong, or they just stepped out of a time warp.  Here I considered either possibility equally likely3. They smiled and walked out of my room, home, and life with their clothes draped over one arm (each)4.  As they passed I uncontrollably stared at her beautiful left nipple; she paused and kissed my lips.  At that instant, I understood that body hair is irrelevant in life; for that instant I would have died for her.
I took off my tie and pants before heading downstairs, because this is a house tradition of sorts.  Ecedro always wears a flowered shirt and boxers in the house, and I liked the look, so I joined him on the boxer part.  I could hear him puttering in the basement, whistling and clattering.  He's been trying to figure out how a hot water heater, house heater, and washer/dryer could somehow be combined for more efficiency.
"Always thinking about the planet," he'd proclaim, "plus, there's nothing more sweet than copper pipe and melting solder.  It's a beautiful thing." 
To him, life is a beautiful thing, and I have to take him at his word, because he says it as if he knows for certain.
By the looks of the kitchen, he probably already had his favorite recipe, cup-of-chili, for dinner.  He has a set of open cans on the counter at all times, each with foil on top, and 3 baggies in the fridge - six components to cup-of-chili that get scooped into a cup that he puts directly on the burner.
Cup-of-Chili Recipe
one tablespoon black beans
one tablespoon tangy chopped tomatoes with jalapenos
one tablespoon chickpeas
one tablespoon green enchilada sauce
one tablespoon chopped onions
one teaspoon chopped jalapenos
If you'd met the cup in its previous life, you'd know it had MSU in green block letters on one side and a cartoonish Spartan character on the other, but such decorations have mostly been erased by fire except for the top of Sparty's helmet.  You might think it strange to even consider cooking in a cup, then picking it up to eat out of, but when you live in the world of Ecedro, "strange" would not be found in the S's of the house dictionary, probably in the E's.  OK, that was a stupid line.  "Strange" would not be found at all, because anything you do is what you do and requires no additional labels, I've learned.  I also learned that there is a 99.8% probability that the dirty cup currently sits on the bathroom sink - if nothing else, Ecedro is efficient in the use of his time.
We've not discussed it, but mostly we cook for ourselves - split house expenses but keep food and TP as individual purchases5. 
I opened the kitchen cabinet and reached for a plate, not yet knowing what said plate would eventually hold.  The cabinet was empty, as was the fridge, except for beer.  Our mismatched but extensive collection of plates, bowls, cups and saucers seem to have found a new home.
"Ecedro," I yelled down the steps, "where did you put the dishes?"
"Uh, the dishes are gone.  Sorry man.  Don't come down, OK?"
"Relax.  I won't come down.  The dishes - they grew feet?  Learn to drive?"
"We hired a new cook," he stated, as though the conversation was disrupting his concentration.
"Excuse me?"
"We hired a new cook at work.  He's Guatamalan.  Illegal.  He has two kids and a wife and nothing.  I gave the dishes to them from us.  I made sure to tell them about you.  They need to know Americans are good people.  Plates are nothing.  I'll steal plates from work.  Show love, man, eh?"
"Right, Ecedro," I respond, wearily but authentically, "Show love."
"You are my brother," he replied, followed by the scrape of a striker as he lit his blowtorch back up.
That was Ecedro's way of saying "thank you for understanding me" - you are my brother.  He tries to say it straight and simply, but he understands the consequences of the things he does, so it usually serves, at least partly, as a request as well as a statement.  Often the sentence ends not with a period but a lower case question mark.
Ecedro spent most of the night in the basement and I didn't actually see him.  I watched some American Idol as I did a little work I brought home on my laptop, and fielded two phone calls on our dirty little house phone6.  The first was some guy who told me to stay away from his sister, and before I could ask what her phone number was, he hung up.  The second was a squeaky woman's voice who asked if I still had dishes for sale.  I told her, for some reason that "Elvis had already left the building."  Now, I'd never say anything that deconvoluted to anyone at work or in my family, but in this house, I feel like I'm just visiting in Ecedroland , so I can be free and silly without bounds and no one particularly thinks anything of it.  It is wonderfully liberating, but sometime it's hard to keep this side of me suppressed when I'm with the straights.
The next set of interruptions for the evening was two different people who stopped by.  Neither seemed to notice the boxers.  The first was a girl in a green tank top and denim miniskirt.  I'm pretty sure she said her name was Bejewel, but I wasn't about to ask her to repeat it.  She said she stopped by to "return this plant".  I hadn't recalled seeing "this plant" before, but asking for more information in such situations, I've learned, only digs the hole deeper.  At 10 PM, on the dot7, the second visitor knocked or landed or whatever and, I kid you not, pointed a bandaged finger on a bandaged hand at the African violet I had sat on the TV an hour earlier and said "I came by to see if you were done with the plant yet."  I suppressed the urge to ask if I was being Punk'd, motioned that he help himself, and went back to my database with no further words spoken.
At 4:32 AM, I was awakened by a loud crack - hopefully not a gunshot.  I listen.  Silence lulls me back to sleepy-bye land.
At 4:56 AM, I swear that, as I awoke, I heard someone "shushing" someone else.  Nothing follows.
At 6 AM my alarm goes off and I sense, while my eyes are still closed, that I'm not alone.  Ecedro is sitting on the corner of my bed.  With his head cocked to see my face, his curls rest on his flannel shoulder. 
"Wake up sleepy head" he says, like a comfortable wife.  He hands me a very nice omelet, and toast.  It is a beautiful thing.  It's served in a hubcap, which has obviously been extensively scrubbed, at least on the inside.  As I stare at the omelet I detect black beans, chickpeas, onion, and at least a pepper or two.
"Sorry about the plates, Bud," he said, "but I had to do it.  I know the red plate was a favorite of yours.  We OK?"
Almost a mantra for me now, I said, "Sure, Bud, we're OK."
Then two things happened, at the same place and the same time, or so close that I can't tell you which happened first.  The one thing that happened was that I remembered looking into the fridge last night and there were no eggs in there.  The second thing that happened was that some big thing jumped out from under my bed into the hallway.
"Oh yeah," Ecedro happily said, "I traded our African violet for two chickens.  Good deal, huh?  Now eat up, you're gonna be late for work, and so am I!"
A touching moment8; life with Ecedro is always a surprise.  I share this breakfast-in-bed story because, for some reason, my mind has tried to accurately replay that moment in time repeatedly.  Was I thinking about the empty fridge when cluck popped out from under my bed, or did the picture of the empty Frigidaire shelves just happen to have decided to form right after the fluttering began?  We can neither understand nor control what our minds do with their free time, and it certainly seemed unimportant, but the brain returns to the scene often.  One night, Ecedro and I were swatting skeeters, sitting on the front porch with two cold ones, and I told him about how this instant had become my mind's recent obsession - replacing the "I'd like to teach the world to sing" soft drink commercial.  Ecedro turned away from me, to try and seriously think about this.  Silent minutes passed.  Then he turned back with a decision formulated. 
"You have a mind that is old and deep and knows to focus on the highest issues of man," he proclaimed.
This is when I got this the scar that you see across my lips, the same lips that beautiful nipple had earlier kissed.  I can't tell you which of us fell first - probably at the same time, but maybe me first.  We both fell off of the porch and onto the concrete below, laughing as little ones whose tummies would soon ache from laughing pains, as he explained it all to me.
"I don't know why you can't figure it out, bro.  Your mind saw this as the opportunity to determine absolutely which came first . . . (wait for it) . . . the chicken or the egg."
Reader, "I am sorry" seems so inadequate.  But as I stand here before you, I can swear on a stack of hubcaps that I kid you not.  After laughing and bleeding for almost 20 minutes, Ecedro drove me to the emergency room for my stitches.
The next day, the managers met with me to outline my new job responsibilities.  It was a perfect day except that I was really hoping to wear my one gold tie, which I love, but when I left in the morning, Ecedro was asleep on the sofa, and had it tied around his forehead.  Peace, baby.
Anyway, the managers explained that I should expect a few bumpy moments in the next few weeks, because I wasn't exactly "next in line" for a promotion, but they needed me because of my talents.  They used words like "level-headed".  They really did need me, particularly at executive meetings, because they've seen me in action.  They know that, when voices became raised, I'd not get caught up in the emotions, but could treat all people, words, and ideas with the respect that drains out of the strainer called anger9.  I don't think anyone at work knows I was a problem throughout school.  I had seriously hurt a kid in 8th grade because I didn't like him, and was destined for probably a not-so-good life.
But then I met a phone pole.
That night, when I walked up the front walk, home at last, I saw something new - Ecedro standing at the front door waiting for me.  I'd never seen him out of his wheelchair before, but from the smile as big as the serving plate that I used to have, I could sense that the wheelchair wasn't local, and he was somehow wireless.  There he was - standing.  I never knew he was taller than I.  As I opened the screen door, I was struck10 by the lengths, elbows, and tees, of shiny copper.
"Well, what say you?" he asked as he smirked.
All I could do was look.  He had constructed, with copper pipe, extensions for both legs, copper "feet", and an interesting pair of things that might be called crutches11.
"I love copper," Ecedro said (possibly editing his inner tattoo), as a chicken crashed out the front door.
"Well go get him!"  It was the only thing I could think to say.  Lame.
I dropped my computer bag on the porch and ran to get two cold ones.  Within minutes . . . OK, tens of minutes . . . we figured out how the Ecedro/bionic man could be configured from a standing position to a sitting-on-the-porch position.  (Note to self: buy four hinges.)  This was when my cell phone rang, with the ring tone announcing that it was my mother.
"Hi, Ma, what's up?"
"Well, first I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed Ecedro's phone call today (?) and I am happy that you live with such a nice roommate.  Your father and I did discuss your12  request (?, or better yet, huh ?) and we have decided that we will loan you the money for a new hot water heater."
By the time I tried to formulate a scowl for Ecedro, he had started rolling down the porch.  The rhythmic sound, alternating copper and boxers against paint-bare wood, almost reminded me of a steam engine.  It was a shame to be scuffing up all of that polished metal so early in the evening.
Fortunately, I'm still, at least for the moment, faster than he is.
1.  She had thick black hair that flipped up on the ends.  The hair alone reminded me of a style I had seen on an old pornographic post-card.  The fact that she was naked may also have contributed.
2. Yesterday the line I used was "If I don't sit down soon, I'm going to hurl."
3. This would be a good place to apologize for the excessive use of quotation marks.
4. I never had the chance to explain to them that the wallpaper was there before we moved in.
5. I don't know what prompted me to point that out, but there you go.
6. That's what it is, and that's what we call it.
7. That's what we call the digital clock.
8.  Ignoring the "our" that preceded "African Violet" . . .
9. Pretty good, eh?  You're right - sophomoric.  For the phrase "with the respect that drains out of the strainer called anger", cross out everything but "with" and "respect".
10.  figuratively
11. These things could surely be patented.  If you're a patent lawyer, call me!
12.  your (pleural)!  You may be asking how I can distinguish in a conversation between your (singular) and your (pleural) and, well, I just can.

© 2012 John Allison

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