Tag Archives: fiction

Tiger Eyes

My Goodreads feed has seen a lot of action lately. In recent weeks I’ve finished The Good House by Tananarive Due, Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older, and Freeman by Leonard Pitts. These represent a pretty significant departure from the type of fiction I usually read, yet I enjoyed them all.

1981 Tiger Eyes cover artNow I am on to Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I thought I had read all of her juvenile/YA fiction growing up, but somehow I missed this offering. These days I’m “reading like a writer,” meaning I’m paying more attention to the structure and craft of the writing I read.

Although I’m not very far into the book, I was swept into the action on page one. There’s a reason I devoured Judy’s books growing up. What I notice and appreciate in these opening pages is Judy’s clear, direct and economical style of storytelling. I’m not getting lost in a huge cast of characters or a sprawling universe. I’m learning about and empathizing with Davey. Period.

I’m doing a lot of reading these days because one, I love a good book, and two, because I’m working my way through new ideas for short stories and novels. These stories provide inspiration, clarity and craft lessons.

Do you have some time to read this summer? What’s on your summer reading list?

Healing. An excerpt.

This is stream of consciousness from my efforts at NaNoWriMo last fall. This is fiction. I wrote 1,000 words a day for 30 days. This excerpt was selected at random this afternoon. This is raw data. For better or for worse, it’s unedited.


I finally arrive and set up as close to the ocean as possible. Only a few people are out. I stretch out my sheet and lay my belongings on top. I quickly strip down to my suit. It’s a simple black bikini this time, and I’m aware of a few appraising eyes glancing at my glutes. I tie my hair in a messy knot atop my head and stride toward the ocean. I sigh as my feet, right first, then left, touch the cool, clear water. The bottoms of my feet barely register the little shells underneath.

I walk on.

atlantic-ocean-103084_640The water is to my ankles. My calves. I stretch my hands out, beckoning the water to me. Beckoning my spirit to it. I keep walking. My hips are underwater now. I stop and slide down, until the water is at my neck. On my knees, I am still. I play a game with the water, keeping my abs tight, trying not to move my body. It’s good exercise.

Once fatigue sets in I stand up and walk a little deeper into the water. The waves come toward me and I draw them to me with big sweeping gestures to pull the water in. a little ritual.  I say a little prayer – I welcome all the blessings and love of the universe into my heart, into my life. I turn around, facing the shore. Starting at my chest, I push outward, pushing the water away. I say another prayer – I expel all of the thoughts and doubts and sadness that no longer serve me. I pray that all the negativity is transmuted for the good of all mankind.

I turn around and repeat this ritual several times. Then I just play in the water for awhile. Spying the few people in the ocean with me. Admiring the sun. I swat at the schools of fish to see what they’ll do. They change direction and keep moving. There’s a lesson in that.

After about 20 minutes, I decide it’s nap time. I stroll back to the beach and begin untying my hair. I towel off and spray the Banana Boat liberally on my exposed skin. I add sunblock to my face and don my floppy beach hat. I stretch out on my back and begin dozing to my favorite sound in the world.

sungoddessI wake up a few times and turn over. Don’t wanna be too brown on one side. Eventually I can no longer ignore the gnawing in my stomach. It’s lunch time. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten alone. I tell myself it’ll be fun. Like old times. Relearning to enjoy singledom and solitude?

I guess.

I begin driving along the causeway just looking for someplace that might have some good fried oysters. I eventually stop at a Green Iguana. I know for sure they have good turkey burgers, and that would be yummy too.

How many? Asks the host. His spiked Mohawk just cool enough.

… Just one.

He begins to lead me to a table when I ask to go outside.  I sit at one of the tall tables, remembering the last time I was here. Sophia and I met in person for the first time. She was a friend of a friend who thought it would be nice if we connected. It was. We did. Although I never saw her again after that. Our lives simply weren’t in sync.

I ordered the turkey burger I wanted. Avocado and pepper jack cheese. Lettuce, tomato. No onion. Fries. Yummy indulgences. I brush away tears from time to time. I savor each bite although I secretly want to wolf it down and get out of there as quickly as possible. Another round of tears I hide as those darn allergies. I even pull out a book to read. Zora Neal Hurston keeps me company. Probably not the most upbeat book in places, although it’s one of my favorites. Maybe I need to get a comedy or something more neutral that doesn’t involve relationships at all.

I think about going to Barnes and Noble to find another book. Then I remember, that’s where I met Daniel. I have a library card. I can go there instead. Or I can go home and download some ebooks.

I tell myself it’s okay. I’ll be okay. Today it’s just an exercise to prove to myself that I can be alone. That I can continue. Tomorrow I’ll do something similar. Go to my favorite dinner spot. Maybe I’ll even cook by the end of the week.

And one day, I’ll even remember what happiness feels like.


I posted a fiction excerpt one other time. Check it out here.

Six years ago

Once upon a time, I drafted some ideas for a story. I wrote a few pieces as the characters began introducing themselves to me. I’ve never edited nor even really revisited those pieces in all these years. I simply wrote them and went on with life – which was graduate school at the time. That’s my disclaimer. This is one ’em. *shivers*
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Laysha stands on the damp grass, watching, waiting, eyes trained on Casey. Though the fans gathered are talking and laughing, she hears nothing. She barely feels Yogi’s chin against her shoulder. Yogi’s voice, miles away, registers “Four hundred. Your girl’s up.” ‘Laysha nods, distractedly. “Umm-hmm” she breathes. She thinks to herself, This should be good. See what she’s really made of. Hmmm. They put her in the right place. Slow poke lane way on the outside.

The shot rings out interrupting ‘Laysha from her thoughts. Arms crossed, her eyes follow Casey who quickly gets up to full speed. Casey rounds the first curve looking pretty even with the other girls. Her slight forward lean and wide, quick stride are almost regal. She’s running on her toes the way many sprinters do. It’s obvious she has some skills, but this isn’t your ordinary sprint.

She’s startin’ off kinda fast. Too fast really. I know she can’t keep that pace.

Into the first stretch, Casey is still striding, but losing pace with the faster, more experienced runners.

“Dang,” says Yogi, under her breath. ‘Laysha gently shakes away. Yogi, fully engaged, does not mind the brush off.

Dang is right. The 400 is no joke. She’s trying, gotta give her credit for that.

Casey is still at it, but all grace is gone. Three quarters around the track, she is demolished. Her feet pound the cushioned track as though each slap will somehow keep her going. Her chin in her chest, her eyes in her forehead, her face clouded with determination and pain. Entering the back curve she’s been left behind. Yanking her arms forward and back, her face is a grimace. She desperately gasps for breath, and silently prays for energy. She’s where no runner wants to be, but where every runner ends up sooner or later – nearing the end of the race with the bear on her back.

Engrossed, ‘Laysha thinks she hears Yogi, “Don’t give up Case!” She steals a glance to see Yogi clapping, waving her arms like she’s flagging the last bus of the night.

No longer able to feign disinterest, ‘Laysha leans forward shaking her head, “The bear really sucks,” she whispers. She realizes her heart is racing. She nibbles on her thumb then snatches it away. She might be a trooper Laysha concedes. She sucks in a deep breath, relaxing her shoulders while nibbling again on her thumb. She strolls toward the finish, apparently not caring how the race turns out. The other girls are staring at Casey, cheering her on like good teammates should. ‘Laysha keeps walking, peeking over her shoulder to see the grueling end. Just finish, she thinks. Just finish, her thumbnail starting to splinter under her teeth.

The race is over. Casey, last, out of breath, red from exertion and running in slow motion, finally passes everyone. She leans over the finish, almost toppling forward. She comes to an abrupt halt, clutching the stitch in her side and burying her face in her knees. “No, keep going!” Someone yells. “Jog it out Casey, don’t just stop!” She musters the strength to stand up straight and start moving again. Exhausted yet embarrassed, she is grateful for a reason to move a few feet away.

‘Laysha finds herself in step with Casey, whose arms are now skyward, beckoning air to once again fill her burning lungs. Body cooling from the ordeal, a few drops of sweat start to slide down her temples. Casey suddenly notices ‘Laysha on her left. Too winded to care, she whips her face back forward. Breathing is the only thing that matters right now. Breathing and mourning. Warm tears begin to slide down her damp face.

“It wasn’t as bad as you think.” No hint of the usual sarcasm. No snide remark. “Everyone knows that’s the hardest race. You held your ground. Keep your head up.”

Just as quickly as she appeared, ‘Laysha left Casey’s side, leaving the still breathless runner to consider the race, the team, and most of all the enigma ‘Laysha had just shown herself to be.