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: saturdaynightatsarahjoys.blogspot.com.
© 2012 John Allison
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Old/Bored/Trouble/Dead - a one act play
Janine, an appropriately dressed, socially inept, outcast-type of teenage girl.
Grandmother, old, weak and infirmed, sweet, and feisty, with a sparkle in her eye.
Janine's Mother, only on stage briefly.
The play takes place in the Grandmother's bedroom. Grandmother is either bed-ridden, or in a chair, possibly a wheelchair, with a bed and window nearby.
Most parents have probably had a conversation with a teenager - who just refused to appreciate parental assistance given through love - a conversation that involved the comment "I never asked you to do anything for me". Finally, someone figured out how to respond - by dying.
(Lights up. The three characters are in Grandmother's bedroom. JANINE is looking out the window, her back turned to the other two and the audience. MOTHER has a purse and keys in her hand.)
MOTHER: I have to go to the drug store so I need you to watch over your grandmother, Janine.
JANINE: (detached) Whatever. She'll be fine. I don't need to "watch" her.
MOTHER: Well, "whatever" back at 'ya. That's what I want you to do. (cell phone rings) Hello? Oh, hi Sarah. Look, I'm just out the door to get to the pharmacy when they open. Here, say hello to Janine.
(MOTHER tries to hand the phone over to JANINE.)
JANINE: (hushed) No way!
(MOTHER tosses the phone to her daughter, who is forced to catch it, as the MOTHER exits stage left.)
MOTHER: (cheerfully) Bye!
JANINE: (painfully, without expression) Hello Aunt Sarah. Mom can't talk now she'll probably call you later (hangs up and puts the phone in her pocket).
GRANDMOTHER: (sweet, with just a touch of sarcasm) Oh, how sweet. You love your Aunt Sarah don't you?
JANINE: (short, not wanting to talk) She's OK. . . I don't know.
GRANDMOTHER: Honestly, when I was young we had some moody years, but today you kids set moody records.
JANINE: (still unable to look at her GRANDMOTHER) Yeah, well . . . I'll be in my room (starts to walk off, stage right).
GRANDMOTHER: Oh, I don't think so. You're not going to want to miss this.
(JANINE says nothing, stuck between leaving and not leaving. She finally breaks down to scowl at GRANDMOTHER.)
GRANDMOTHER: (quietly and seriously) I'm going to die, Dear.
JANINE: Yeah, aren't we all. . . . What are you bugging me about?
GRANDMOTHER: I'm shocked but, well, I just know. It's like everything went from 6 cylinders down to 1. That's an automobile analogy, Dear. Like I'm powering down. That's a computer analogy, Dear. It's amazing that your body tells you, but it does. Can you give me a civil goodbye, Janine?
JANINE: (panics, loudly) Look! You are not going to die! OK?
GRANDMOTHER: (even calmer) Well it has to happen sometime. I have diabetes, had a stroke, had breast cancer, I've lost feeling in my right leg. I'd call that going downhill. I'm not enjoying myself. (looks up at her grand-daughter) Just like you, Dear. So dying is OK with me.
JANINE: No! No! Not now! Mom!? Where's Mom? I gotta call her. (Pulls the phone out of her pocket and starts to call). Oh rats, this is her phone. Look, wait until she comes home, OK?
GRANDMOTHER: It's you and me kid.
JANINE: Don't do this to me!
GRANDMOTHER: Well, that's a bit self-centered. I'm the one dying! Do you have A-D-D or something?
JANINE: (stamps her feet) No! No! No! Arrrggghhh.
GRANDMOTHER: Could I get a couple of quiet, decent, loving last few moments here? Is that asking too much?
JANINE: Look, I'll be in my room. You'll be fine. Just hang on, Mom will be back soon. (she tries to walk away, hoping to be dismissed, but pauses) Got it?
GRANDMOTHER: You won't make my last 60 seconds (cough, cough) good ones?
(JANINE stares at her GRANDMOTHER).
GRANDMOTHER: (a bit irritated) After all I've done for you? I've been good to you your whole life. I never forgot a birthday, I've always been there for you. I bought you your first bike, snuck out with you to get your ears pierced when you were 8 . . .
JANINE: (angrily) I never asked you to do any of that.
GRANDMOTHER: (animated, almost brought back to life) What?
(JANINE shakes her head, waves it off.)
GRANDMOTHER: No, no, say it again. It's perfect. The perfect way to go. I'll make a deal with you, Dear. You don't have to make my last minute loving and caring, don't have to pretend to kiss old dead flesh, you just have to have an actual conversation with me about this one thing. And it's something that came out of your very own self-centered pie hole! OK?
(JANINE does not respond.)
GRANDMOTHER: I know you can hear me, Dear, I can see you.
JANINE: I . . . I don't want to talk. I don't want to talk to anybody. I want to be left alone. You can't understand.
GRANDMOTHER: (darkly) Be careful what you wish for, Dear. When you're old, you will be able to go many days without talking to anyone. I'm sure you'll find it . . . refreshing. The rest of us would give anything for human contact. (cheerily) But that's another story. Why don't you take a few minutes off from under your personal dark cloud; let it go. I won't tell anyone. What happens with Grandma stays with Grandma.
JANINE: That's Vegas.
GRANDMOTHER: Same difference.
(JANINE growls in frustration, but does not leave.)
GRANDMOTHER: Good, I'll take that as a yes. So, I want you to be good and loving to me, now, because I've been good to you your whole life. Your response is that you never asked me to do anything for you. So is that answer designed to make me feel stupid for being nice, or do you think it's some magic phrase that makes obligations disappear?
JANINE: (frustrated, blurts out) You can't force someone to be obligated to you!
GRANDMOTHER: Is expecting decency the same as forcing someone? I don't see any force. I still think I can take you, but I haven't even twisted your arm. Yet. But it's obviously there, so you're telling me that you feel forced. That's interesting. I really want to understand this. I'm going to ask you a few questions and I promise they'll all be yes or no answers. (clears her throat, and pretends to be reading from a list) Question 1: Have I been nice to you your whole young life?
JANINE: I guess.
GRANDMOTHER: I'm sorry, that wasn't an option.
JANINE: (sarcastically) What is "yes", Alex?
GRANDMOTHER: You are so clever at conversation. I'm really sad you gave it up.
(back to "reading") Question 2: Did the birthday cards from grandma make you happy?
JANINE: Well sure, when I was little, I mean . . .
(GRANDMOTHER stares her down.)
JANINE: What is yes? I guess.
GRANDMOTHER: Ever send the $5 back? Ever keep a card?
JANINE: Whoop-dee-doo. Five whole freaking dollars. No.
GRANDMOTHER: Part 2? Ever keep a card that I sent you?
(JANINE won't answer.)
GRANDMOTHER: That's a yes. So what, child, is the big freaking deal? Doesn't "I never asked you to be nice to me" seem, as you kids would say, a pretty lame reason for not giving me a few moments of your warm attention?
JANINE: Well, I never did ask.
GRANDMOTHER: That fact has nothing to do with the price of eggs. Children don't ask for someone else's love. You couldn't have forced me to love you, Dear. I didn't have any choice. You were my very own granddaughter. And you used to be so cute! My loving you doesn't have to be judged as right or wrong, doesn't have to be debated. It just is. You just can't stand the fact that the appropriate emotion is happiness - you should be happy when someone loves you. I know that, these days, you hate happiness. But love is the best, kiddo - even when it's from someone old and wrinkled. I'll tell you, it's better than nothing. Some things aren't to be fought over, just . . . accepted.
JANINE: (staring off, speaks quietly) Sorry.
GRANDMOTHER: Wow! More than I ever hoped for! This is big. So just tell me, tell me what happened here and you're dismissed.
JANINE: Look, I said I'm sorry. Drop it.
GRANDMOTHER: Oh, no, no. Just a summary of how you went from "I never asked" to "sorry". Last assignment. Please tell me what thoughts went through your head.
JANINE: (huffs and puffs) OK, OK, well I guess I didn't, like, want to be bothered, and I don't like to be forced to do anything, OK? I gotta be me.
GRANDMOTHER: Sammy Davis Jr.
JANINE: (incredulous that she's being interrupted when she's trying to talk) What? . . . And, well, it's true that I never asked you to be nice to me, but it's true that I guess I did appreciate it all when it was happening. (pause) I'm not an idiot, you know - and I know how to be nice to people too. I guess you sorta made me realize I, I sorta forgot or just didn't want to. But I do want to (starting to cry, whispers) I just don't want you to die.
(JANINE stands over her GRANDMOTHER, still not able to actually touch her, but close. A teardrop falls on GRANDMOTHER's hand, who feels it and looks up at JANINE.)
GRANDMOTHER: Well . . . you know the Bible says that a teardrop from a Phoenix can cause miracles.
JANINE: That's Harry Potter, Grandma.
GRANDMOTHER: Same difference. And you're certainly a Phoenix, having risen out of your very own ashes as a human being, for me, for the moment. And you know, the Sammy Davis Junior thing is good. Do you know the song "I gotta be me"? It says "I want to live, not merely survive. And I won't give up this dream of life that keeps me alive. I gotta be me." That's all your missing dear. It's really all so simple.
JANINE: What am I missing, grandma.
GRANDMOTHER: A dream, dear. So work on that for me, will you? Go to your room and work on your dream. It's more fun than staring at the wall. You're dismissed.
JANINE: It's OK. I'll stay.
GRANDMOTHER: No, really. I'm doing OK.
JANINE: No you're not, you're dying.
GRANDMOTHER: I don't know. Maybe not today. Probably not. Let me check. No. I don't think so.
JANINE: (stares at her) What happened to "You won't make my last 60 seconds (cough, cough) good ones?" Was I just scammed?
GRANDMOTHER: Oh, my dear sweet child, I was bored. (cheerily, wide eyed) Don't you think the time went fast? I think I hear you mother's car!
JANINE: (continues to stare at her GRANDMOTHER, walking around her, points at her as she speaks) I promise grandma, I promise that some day I'm going to be just like you. A difficult old lady.
GRANDMOTHER: And when I do go, I'm going to make sure that your promise is my last thought, my last memory. Thank you so much, Dear. And remember one thing that your grandfather always used to say. When it comes to family, surrender. Surrender. But don't give yourself away.
JANINE: (stares in disbelief) Grandma, that was Cheap Trick.
GRANDMOTHER: A nice bunch of young men, and talented too! Remind me to tell you about them some day.
JANINE: Text message me, grandma, OK? (shakes her head, rolls her eyes as she exits stage left, and yells) Mom - you left your phone!
END OF PLAY
© 2012 John Allison