Tag Archives: Chris’ Writing

Lemon Tree Love

His eyes focused, for a moment, on the contrast of her otherwise pale skin with the flush of her cheeks as she walked towards the spot where he was leaning on a fire hydrant.

“Hello, handsome,” she said.

“Hello, gorgeous,” he said as he extended his hand, palm up, and revealed a bright yellow lemon. “I snuck this from the corner tree for you.” She looked over her shoulder, checking to see if the lonesome housewife that planted the tree last spring had seen, or was seeing, their exchange, and then she took the lemon from him and clutched it in her small hand. It was firm and cooler than the muggy Foggy Bottom air that choked the city this time of year.

“Thank you,” she said. Then she kissed him, and kept kissing him until it felt, again, like the lonely housewife was watching. There was more love in her lips than he could hold in his heart. He broke away and smiled at her – at the old row houses – at the poorly parked cars and the cracked cement sidewalks.

Written from 1:10 pm to 1:32 pm on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 in my office in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Fine Horizon Underfoot

“Look,” he said as he pointed at the distant lake shore where the early-morning mist lingered, depressing the plump tangerine lines of sunlight on the placid surface water. She turned and looked as they walked through the dew-covered bluegrass. “Indistinguishable,” she said. “Which would you choose?” He stopped them from going further and placed his arm on her shoulder so that his finger tips could caress her collarbone. And he pulled her slight frame closer to his, and leaned his head against hers. “I will always choose you, and then, while both will remain indistinguishable, it will not be from one another, but from life without you.” His eyes welled with tears because his eyes often welled with tears when he let his mind wander to the future – to what he would or would not receive from her – to dreams of dreams coming true – to the moments he’d never choose to miss, but sometimes would because that’s what happens when life is folded in two or multiplied by half. “We are, and forever will be, standing on a fine horizon underfoot.”

Written from 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 in my office in Traverse City, Michigan.

OneWord: Adopt, Maze, Clue, Flirt

Adopt: We learn to adopt at a young age. Oh, wait, scratch that. I was thinking that you said, “adapt.” Well let’s adopt a new direction to this post and think about it for a little bit before we get ourselves in more trouble.

Maze: The fog set in and our pace quickened. “We’re going the wrong way,” John said. “The moss on the tree indicates we’re going south. Camp is north.” We’d been hiking for three hours and none of us knew where north was, let alone camp. I kept thinking that I could smell Lindsey’s cooking – camp roast, mashed potatoes, and caramelized carrots – but my mind was playing tricks. Edna tripped on a root, and screamed. My head whipped around to see the commotion. As the maze of hysteria set in midst the evergreens, taller now than their fading shadows, a discord . . .

Clue: “I have no clue what she wants for Valentine’s day!”
“Really? You have NO clue? I barely hang out with you two, and, man, I can tell you she’s been dropping hints like they’re the sun setting in December.”
“Well, nothing. Get your ass to the flower store, make a reservation at Amical and think of something interesting to talk about for an hour other than golf clubs. And get the bracelet at the jewelry store downtown – the one in the window.”

Flirt: She flirted with me like it was her middle name. Like it was the sun. Like there was a bookshelf full of books and a fresh pot of coffee. Like a dog barks at cars. Like when a President of the United States of America dies and there’s a special report on TV. Like she is something beautiful captured in something cold – like a ripe red cherry in an icicle. Like she was being graded by God. Like her parents weren’t watching.

Applebottom, Alberta

The average annual snowfall for a small village just north of a long forgotten two-track in western Canada is just over 346 inches. This past summer, the road crew for the village went to the trouble of installing fans 20 feet in diameter along its three-block long main street. The intended effect of the fans was to blow the snow up and away from the village’s main city blocks and onto the rooftops and back alleys. That way, for the six-month-long winter, the residents of the village could walk or snowmobile their way to and from the local market, pharmacy or saloon. However, the fans quickly became overwhelmed by the snow, created two heaping mounds of snow – one covering each of the two rows of buildings – and froze in place. The result, as was discovered by the local stunt helicopter pilot on his bi-weekly trip south for emergency medical provisions for the village’s residents, was the transformation of its main street into a gluteal-like cleft between two enormous pale cheek-like heaps of snow. The pilot snapped a blurry photograph with his iPhone and sent it to his ex-girlfriend Lola, the head anchor for the not-so-local TV 17 & 4 studio. The village main street was featured on that evening’s news and shared throughout Canada for the rest of the week. What many Canadians had long believed to be a fleck of pepper from the national cartographer’s pastrami sandwich was now dubbed “Applebottom, Alberta.”

Written from 11:23 pm to 11:43 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.

OneWord: Ticket, Ill, Lightning, Root, Brick, Bulb, Answers, Discovery

Ticket: The ticket to the show fell from my pocket and drifted down to the grate on the ground. It rested there for a moment – paused to give me hope – and then slipped through the opening.

Ill: The dog became ill from eating off the dusty garage floor, which the home owner had neglected to sweep since she purchased the home nearly ten years ago.

Lightning: The lightning shot down to the forged steel head of Jack’s three iron. The charge traveled through the shaft to his hands and then to his heart. And this all happened before he knew what hit him.

Root: The root of my happiness can be found in the often overlooked wrinkles at the edges of her smile and the way her eyes look at me so intently when she knows I’m watching.

Brick: There lay a brick, slightly out of place. Its edges softened from decades of sleepy-headed students shuffling their tennis shoes along the paths.

Bulb: The bulb hung from its fraying cord. It emitted a butter-yellow light that dripped thick on the damp pale green walls.

Answers: He didn’t have all the answers. But he had some, and he tried on the rest. That was the best he could do under any circumstances – try his best, that is. Success is in the preparation, not necessarily in the execution.

Discovery: The discovery that she made early that morning in the daisy patch of her mother’s garden changed her life forever. There, buried in the dirt, lay something that . . .

Year In Rear-View Mirror

Images of my smile and yours
Not smaller than they appear
It must be broken ’cause
Everything we need is close
What I feel when I hug
Is what I see in my head
The prisms in my eyes
Multiply the memories
That I circle when I sleep
A kiss on New Years Eve
Then proposal in the woods
Every moment memory
Where we want to be

OneWord: Adapt, Helping, Certain, Materials, Market

Adapt: I’ve tried, many times, to adapt to what’s around me. And the only thing I have learned is that I should worry less about adapting to the world and worry more about adapting the world to myself. I’m here for a blink. I’ve gotta breath my air and fill my space.

Helping: The helping hand swept down from the vacant blue sky and wrapped its mile-long fingers ’round the dusty earth and squeezed it until rivers fell and mountains grew.

Certain: To be certain of something is, at once, to lock one’s mind in jail and toss away the key…

Materials: The materials with which I a forced to work are nothing more than a steel hammer, dinged and dented from 22 years of pounding, and a solid oak workbench that was given to me at the death of my grandfather.

Market: My dog and I walked north along Union to the Farmer’s Market last Saturday. It bright, crisp, and fresh outside. The streets were filled with …

The Mighty Shake

When he stands, it is as a mighty lion stands – a deliberate struggle of a beast battered by carnivorous dreams. Restless and cold, he shifts through the monochrome darkness of night. With each step his paw lands with the thrust of an uncalibrated pile driver trying to beat down the house in which he lives. His good master does not wake; not so for the neighbor girl tumbling beyond the pale green drywall.

He reaches his mirage and begins his inarticulate laps from the cool stainless steel bowl. Water splashes on the wall and the floor and his crusty black nose. When the struggle is over, strands of sinewy slobber drape his mug. The “mighty shake” is coming. The walls recoil in terror. The picture frames fall flat. The clean – the spotless – the untouched – they all post their guard – ready and waiting. His great brute box head turns violently and sets in motion a furious chain reaction of jowl to drool to mid-air acrobats of gelatin-like mouth droppings seeking out the clean – the spotless – the untouched.

Written from 11:05 pm to 11:25 pm on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.

Remembering Summer

Gaze about from where you stand. Spin in circles ’til you’re dizzy as a child exiting the best merry-go-round ride she’s ever had. Look up at the humongous sky above and wonder aloud what’s beyond the antique clouds and shimmering stars. Watch the yellow leaves fall and remember it was a hot and dry and brilliant summer that left us with more than a handful of memories. And then, in good time, when the wind blows hard down the paths that we happen upon and the warmth has dissipated, take another moment to wrap the textures of life all around you like a hundred blankets quilted from everything that’s so much bigger than any single one of us could ever imagine. Remember summer. Enjoy fall. And look forward to all that is to come.

CNN International

Watching the international CNN station anchored by a woman with a vague British accent at 1am when I should be sleeping, but can’t because the temperature in the room I’m subletting is swealtering and the Chicago humidity hasn’t been rained out yet by the thunderstorms rolling through daily, is comforting. Comforting like being in your bed at home. Comforting like walking into an air conditioned room on a hot day. Comforting like kissing someone you’ve kissed ten thousand times.

The woman’s accent, the cricket highlights and the semi-canned clips that remind me of a windowless hotel room in Shanghai combine to remind me that some intangible force that is exponentially larger than anything I could ever dream of comprehending comes and goes with each passing day.

Yet, here I am, sitting at my desk above the shadows of street lights lining up the minutiae of my daily life like dominoes.

Written from 6:25pm to 6:45pm on Monday, June 29th, 2009 at the new Starbucks on Halsted Street north of Greektown, Chicago, IL.

OneWord: Vow, Spaces, Classic, Vulture, Keypad

OneWord.com gives you a random word and 60 seconds to write. Following are my submissions for the past week.

Vow: Dressed in his tux, looking at his beautiful bride, he vowed to love her for the rest of his life – for the rest of her life. Were they now one?

Spaces: The spaces in his teeth made me laugh. I remarked, “Who don’t he get braces for those spaces?” Then I laughed harder. Maybe spaces are endearing. So I’ve been told.

Classic: There’s a classic car in his garage. I couldn’t give you any more detail, except that it was red and well kept. I never got a better look than from my tip toes through the high filthy window. He’d chase me away before…

Vulture: The vulture circled above, waiting to swoop down to the man marooned on the island the instant his life expired. The man eyed the vulture above knowingly.

Keypad: There is no keypad on my cellular! It’s just a flat glass screen. Like looking through a window at a digital world that changes when I want it to.

The Empathy of Critical Thinking

Marissa Mayer, the V.P. of Search Product and User Experience at Google made an interesting point during the last ten minutes of her interview on the Charlie Rose show. (link)

Charlie Rose: Why did you choose computer science at the beginning?

Marissa Mayer: I grew up thinking I was going to be a doctor. And I started off as a biochem double major at Stanford. And at the end of my freshman year, I realized I loved chemistry, was very good at it, but it’s a lot of memorization, right? It’s a lot of memorize this chemical equation. And when I went home, I realized that all my friends who were at other schools studying biology and chemistry were learning the exact same material. In the exact same way. And I thought, well what could I do that would be unique to Stanford, that Stanford does really well and also would teach me not just facts but how to think better, how to be a better critical thinker, how to be a better problem solver. And that’s when computer science came in because in computer science, they have one of the best programs in the country, and you get to working on a new problem every day. So it’s not so of what you know or what you’ve memorized, but it’s more how do you think about problems.

Marissa’s comment regarding wanting to challenge her thoughts struck a nerve with me and made me realize that most of my post-secondary education has been the type that encourages rigorous and critical thinking.

In undergrad, I studied economics – what we do with what we have. That simple summary leaves open many variables and a lot to think about. Beyond understanding the language necessary to be fluent in any field, the study of economics provides a student with a unique method of viewing each and every daily interaction. One of the basic assumptions is that we are rational beings. Moving from that assumption to the next, and trying to solve a problem takes on a step-by-step process. A chain is setup as the student realizes that shifting one variable may have an effect on many others. Once he’s thought long enough like this, it becomes difficult to make decisions because he realizes that everything can be rationalized. It’s just that some outcomes are better than others.

I studied creative writing as well, which was, and still is, to this day, the most challenging task I’ll ever undertake. Nothing is more intimidating than a blank page because it is completely on the writer to fill it. He can draw from his life, the news, stories friends tell, or nothing at all. But when it comes down to it, making something up for others to read is an incredibly frightening thing to do. It’s a narcissistic and selfish thing to do. To think that what he has to say is worth someone else’s time. Yet, writing is the single most freeing thing I do on any given day because it challenges and renews me. It is a way to order my thoughts, my perception of the world, and my understanding of my relationships.

And perhaps now, more than ever, critical thinking is a matter of my daily routine. The appeal of a law degree upon applying to law school was that the degree would have a wide application – law, business, entrepreneurship, teaching, etc. What I underestimated was what exactly would compose that degree. Now that I’m nearly finished with law school, I’ve come to group the value of my expected degree as follows. Primarily, I have learned a critical and logical method of thinking. This is a vague and fleeting tool, but significant nonetheless. Ancillary to the method of thinking is the day to day knowledge and experience – basically, how to find what I’m looking for – that comes with having attended law school for three years. While there is value in each of these things, only from critical thinking do I derive any personal satisfaction.

It’s only now, as I review my education, that I realize why I have pursued my chosen fields of study. Each one has challenged my thinking and opened my eyes to new things. Economics, writing and law have each allowed me to better make sense of the world around me. Not only can I attempt to answer life’s questions, but I can give answers with support and argue for my position. I can understand where others are coming from and empathize with their viewpoint. I can challenge them and be challenged, knowing full well that there may not be a definite answer.

A Cold Walk at Night

It was late and the main street was silent and empty except for a young man walking with his hands in his pockets. His breath was gray under the yellow streetlights. When the wind rushed down the cross-streets between the red brick buildings the young man’s eyes watered. Rather than wiping away the tears he let them roll down his numb cheeks and freeze as they thinned. The smell of Indian food came with the wind and he breathed deep until his lungs hurt with cold. Then he exhaled and forgot the smell before it made him hungry. The red neon blush of Vinnie’s Pizza was ahead.

Behind, up the hill, the young man could see only the soft glow of town compared to the darkness left and right of it. The moon hovered big and low and shone with a brightness by which he could read the fragile ticking hands on his watch. 3:40 a.m. There was no traffic on the narrow road. The people who drive this road go to Church at 9am or have families to put to bed and spouses to comfort.

Another hour of walking and town was no longer visible. The woods on either side of the young man faded from dark gray dirt to the white moon. The trees in the foreground silhouetted against the gradient looked like massive black stakes thrust into the ground. The young man drew his arms tighter around his core. He flexed every muscle he could still control to ward off the cold, but could not stop shivering. He held his breath then exhaled down the collar of his coat. The warm air comforted him momentarily, but was replaced with dampness. He shuddered.

The young man wanted to walk until he felt nothing, and now he felt nothing but the biting cold. The feeling was not as calming as he had wished it to be. Instead, with town more than an hour behind him he felt everything. The wind blew hard and didn’t let up for several minutes. His teeth were clattering together now. His cheeks felt firm and it hurt to open his eyes.

As dawn approached he crossed the faded double-yellow line on the narrow road and started walking back towards town. Into traffic. There was no traffic at this hour. The people who drive this road are finishing their dreams and snoring.

The low skyline of town came clear in front of the rising sun. Walking uphill was hard on the young man’s knees. He was stiff and tired and didn’t want to walk any longer. Vinnie’s Pizza was dark. The wind had died. The cross-streets were calm. The young man would go straight home now. He wanted to be warm and to sleep until it was dark again.