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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ben There

I can't relive the details, I’m sorry, but my little brother Ben had a genetic disorder, which made him increasingly frail with every year, and doctors agreed - he would probably not see his 15th birthday.  At times it was disabling, and he couldn't get out of bed.  Whenever he was sick he would always expect a full report from me when I returned from wherever.  He’d usually get what he asked for.

We lived in the foothills of some beautiful mountains. One Saturday my friends and I drove up the highest peak as far as we could, then climbed the rest of the way, to within about 500 feet of the actual stark, rocky top.  We'd planned the trip for a while, purchased minimal climbing equipment and did our best to try to understand how to use it.  It was a stupid thing for us to do.

The air at the top of the peak filled our lungs with a freshness and clarity we had never experienced before.  It was a moment to remember for all of our lives.  And when we looked up there from our mundane lives, we could remember, we could feel the air in our lungs again, it was always there for us, almost always in full view, eager to provide a special memory.

After making Ben swear to silence, I shared the story of that Saturday with him.  He had a million questions - I could see his little brain working, just trying to get to that point where he could actually feel it for himself.

It started as asking.  He never asked much of me, but he wanted me to give him this one thing, to take him to Monarch Peak.  He was persistent.  He had just come off of a bad bout of illness and was back to his normal self.  He knew it was a good time to strike, so he begged me to give him this one thing, while he could still appreciate it.

We looked out over the valley below.  I tried to help him locate our subdivision, way down there.  It had taken us hours to get here.  Ben did it all beside me, more nimble than some of my friends.  No, my parents didn't know, but it was a gift I had to give him.  We had grins so broad that I'm sure they could have seen us from the valley!

The cool fall breeze carried a gust of winter, and 60 seconds of snow swirled around the two of us – just for us.  It felt great. Then he was gone.

His foot hit a slippery rock and he fell.  He fell badly, and rolled.  I could see his pain in his eyes, which briefly caught mine, but he was silent.  He was silent!  He rolled and he bounced and his body disappeared over the edge of the cliff-like side of the bluff where we stood.

Why didn’t he scream?

 There is no shortage of “fall-off-a-cliff” scenes in movies.  One person slips, the other person grabs for them.  Their hands and arms lock.  The weight of the person hanging over the precipice forces their grips to slip, and slip, and slip away.  Then there is the fading sound of that scream as they drop.  Why didn’t I at least have a chance to hold him, to try to save him?  I wouldn’t have let go, Ben.  I wouldn’t have.

I stood there, watching the sun being pulled closer to the horizon.  I didn’t care.  There was no right thing to do.  I had to tell my parents that I killed their son.  Some things can't be undone; some things you have to live with forever.  Just being there reminds them every day that the son they loved so much was dead because of me.

I wrapped my cell phone in my hat, dropped it off the peak, and watched it fall down in his general direction.  I knew that the GPS chip in it would help me at least get close to where his body should be, once I got back to the car and fired up my laptop.  I decided to tell no one, but to first find him.  It was a selfish thing.  My own tears would come first, because the tears that followed that evening, I knew, would sting very much more.  I wasn’t wrong.  It would have been easier if I’d just killed my parents.  Instead I brought them much greater pain.

As I searched for his crushed body, I convinced myself that his silence meant something. The poor kid just couldn’t take any more of this disease and found a way to make it stop.  If I could just get home, there would be a note, explaining it all.  It would make it all different. 

There was no note. 

Late at night when I hear my mother sniffle, sitting by herself in the living room with the TV off, and everyone else is in bed, in our new house far from any hills, I can feel that mountain.  It tugs on me, to take that trip one more time, to follow those footsteps one last time.  Ben’s footsteps.


The therapist broke his long silence. 

“You’ve been seeing me for almost a year, Jake, and where have we gotten?” he asked.  “You keep telling me the same story and only that story, from every angle.  You always get to the same point.  If you are trying to describe guilt that leads to suicide, I doubt that many would contemplate suicide seriously for a whole year.”

Jake shrugged.

“So you loved your brother but you’ve never talked about how his illness was painful to you.  Was it hard to watch him suffer?” he asked.

“I would have done anything to take it away,” Jake said.

“So you’re finally going to say something new to me?  Tell me,” he said with a deadly serious look on his face.

“I’m not sure,” Jake said.  “Did … did I … did I push him?”

“I don’t know, did you?”

“Did I?” Jake asked, astonished.  “I must have.  I know he was gone, I don’t remember enough details. Did I do this all for him?”

“Jake,” he said, moving closer, “are you telling me you killed your brother?”

“I think I am.  It’s all a blur, but it explains so much.  I must have.  It all fits.  Oh, God, what did I do?” Jake broke down and the tears started to flow.  His body convulsed.  He slid out of the chair onto the floor and turned, kneeling, burying his face in the seat.

“Now what?” Jake sobbed.

“Now we finish out our hour,” the doctor said, coldly.  “It’s been awhile now, Jake, that I’ve asked you to talk to your parents about Ben, to find out how they feel.  I’m still waiting.  Either you never talked to them, or you just won’t tell me what your parents have said to you.  It’s time for you to tell me what’s going on with you and them.”

“Now?” Jake asked, shocked at his change of topic.  “Doctor, the truth is, my parents are dead.  It was always just Ben and I.  I had to take care of him.  I was only a teenager, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“Jake, I’ve talked to your parents,” he said.  “They’re not dead.”

“Well, doctor,” Jake sighed, “truth is there was no Ben.  I guess I’m, what do they call it, a habitual liar?”

“We’ll make this your last appointment, Jake.  I think we’re both done for now,” he said, as he got up and opened his door.

Jake hung my head and started to walk out.  “But can you tell me what the truth is, doctor.  Can you tell me?”

“Yes I could,” he said.


After the psychiatrist's last comment, with his hand on the door knob and Jake’s body half way out the door, they both stopped and high-fived each other.  They turned to the class and accepted their enthusiastic applause.

The professor stood up and looked at the class.  "OK, folks," he said, "comments?"

He pointed to the first hand.

"They did a really nice job, very plausible, very realistic.  Unfortunately it was a monologue.  Jake talked the whole time.  The assignment was for an engaging dialogue. Since this is an acting class, I think Jake can be pretty good, but we really need to see more of, uh, the guy who played the shrink before we can evaluate him.  I'm sorry, what's your name?"

The fake psychiatrist said, "Ben, my name's Ben."

The professor jotted down some notes in his book.  It was a creative line, improvised on the spot.  He'd done an interesting thing in just a few words. Apparently only the professor in this new class knew that his real name was Joseph.

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