Story Time: A New Kind of Moleskine

Like always, first draft (blah blah blah). This is the story that’s been poking at me for a couple of weeks and keeps getting narrated by Peter Lewis in my head. 833 words, so it’s a short one.


 

A New Kind of Moleskine

 I am a bookbinder; I make books. Various sizes and thickness. You may have seen my work on etsy.

Bookbinding has always been a fascination of mine. The calming of searching for the perfect paper, basing each piece around the texture and colour; choosing between clear, sharp edging and jagged, uneven ripples that would be the the first thing noticed after opening a brand-new book. Finding the perfect thread for sewing the folded sections to one another and deciding whether or not to use that same colour of thread when pulling all the sections together. Coming to the realization that calm, muted colours were the best to bring people a subtle happiness. This helped me decide early on to ignore the stark-white thread that I would keep coming across when searching for supplies.

You’d think that the paper that I would meticulously search for would be the determining factor of the size of the book I would make, especially since I had also decided that working with clean, blank pages would be the best. I know people do prefer pre-lined pages to write on, but there’s something so…calming about a completely blank page.

However, I had found that working with leather was going to be my determining factor for size and shape. I had grown up with a family member who sold leather pieces on the side. Large swaths of leather, scraps of leather, strings of leather you could use as bootstraps of braid for belt-making. He had many different sizes in thickness and colour and was a well of information every time I had a question.

Getting in touch with a small group of leather workers helped with any other questions that I couldn’t find answers to. The best ways to shave down the thickness, the best materials to help stretch the leather, the best glues to work with, the best place to find shears and how to keep them sharp enough to cut the leather.

At one point, I found myself in the middle of the woods, standing in front of a strung-up deer with a knife in my hand and a buddy of mine laughing himself sick. Sometimes the best way to learn a thing is to start exactly at the beginning. For me, it was going through the motions of skinning and tanning a hide. It was a great experience, but I decided to stick with my contacts.

I found that sticking with these guys helped with staying away from having to actually skin anything. I’d receive various sizes of leather. Pieces where I’d be able to make at least two average size books, with very little scraps; pieces where I could make small picture-book-sized sketch or memo pads. Thin scraps that I had left over would be set aside and put together later on to make a modern Prometheus styled notebook, which became very popular when Halloween rolled around.

I found ways to dye the leather, creating beautiful blues and greens. I thought the darker the colours, the better. Some of my clients preferred the more bleach-white that I could work with on occasion, using some old Native American recipes to get the leather as close to white as possible. Every once in a while, I’d receive an email stating that I was a murderer for working with mutilated animals. I’d reiterate what I have on my etsy store page: All leather is ethically sourced. If you are uncomfortable with this, then I urge you to find your gifts elsewhere.

Murderer? Hardly.

I’d usually shake my head and go back to my workroom, turn on some light music, and get to work on the latest piece. Measure twice, cut once. Measure once, cut once, and work around the mishap. Each book as unique as a finger print.

Thinking on unique—I received my latest batch of leather earlier. Always hand-delivered since my clients like to have their items fast thanks to this modern age of gimmegimmegimme nownownow.

The box is about the size of a milk crate and stuffed with pieces of leather. Different colours, varying sizes, but the same shapes over and over again. Long, fat cresent shapes and wide, curvy triangles. I’ll have to separate them later as I spot a few pieces with hints of freckles. Freckled leather always goes in the dyed pile. It’s simpler to hide the freckles than have to make excuses that it’s a genetic thing that happens in certain strains of rabbits.

I could call the collection of books that come out of this new delivery my “Face Book” collection. They could be diary-thick to give an air of sharing. I chuckled to myself, mulling over the idea.

Like I said, my leather is ethically sourced. Sourced from bodies donated to science and executed by whatever method their state determined. Sourced from others who are hired to go after murderers and rapists, even animal abusers. This collection comes from the latter while one of my contacts moves to another county.

Story Time! A Migraine Story

The working title is “A Migraine Story,” as I have no idea what to call it just yet. Idea comes from a post on the NoSleep Facebook Fanpage where someone asked why isn’t there any stories about migraines? So far, the word count is 2268, which is awesome because it beats my word-count goal for this story, so yay.


A Migraine Story

I didn’t start getting the migraines until I had gone down to the Bahamas with my family. My sister, Michaela, had convinced me to get my hair braided by one of the women hawking the service. It took a while, but eventually I caved and let one of them do a “headband” style of cornrows since my hair was just past my ears.

The woman was quiet as I sat on a rickety chair, holding a large Tupperware box of colourful plastic beads. She slathered some sort of goo on my head before starting to pull as hard as she could. Stabbing into my scalp with the comb and angrily braiding before shoving a bead into place and snapping a small rubber band behind it. It felt like every bead and every rubber band was an inconvenience as it smashed into my scalp.

I remember, at one point, she gave me shit for complaining about the pain. She demanded to know if I had ever had my “hair did before, y’know, by a professional.” After I had told her no, I’d never done anything like this before, she scoffed and pulled harder, telling me I “don’t know what pain is.” When she was done, she had added on an extra $30 to the original request of $25. Michaela and I couldn’t do anything except pay the woman and leave Michaela laughed the whole way from the little rickety, faded red chair to the beach where the rest of our family had situated themselves about half a mile away. Michaela apologized with buying a Rum Punch from the little bar on the edge of the beach.

The rest of the trip went through without any problems that I was aware of. Being on a cruise ship that had 8 bars in various areas that were practically open 24/7 tends to help keep most problems at bay. But that was a few months ago and now having a migraine is a constant problem. It’s not so much a “hey, I have a bit of a headache” once in a while, it’s more like “when is this going to happen and how bad will it be this time.”

Normally it feels as though someone has punched me right behind my left ear. I can put my fist behind my ear and cover the area with my fingers and knuckles.

I ended up going to a doctor, who basically told me that there was nothing wrong with me. I was informed to “drink more liquids” and “get some rest.” I went to a different doctor for a second opinion. That doctor hemmed and hawed, nodding a little bit, and didn’t really seem to care what I said. The old man wrote a note on an RX pad, his thick glasses reflecting the harsh light, and handed me a prescription for Tylenol 3. I had had this before, years ago. It was an extra-strength Tylenol with something else added to it. I sighed and asked for a referral for a neurologist or something. He shook his head and told me to give the script a chance. He seemed convinced the Tylenol would work just fine.

I ended up turning to the internet to look for ways to ease up the issue. I began making a list of what might help and whittle it down until I had a nice small list of things to do that I could mentally tally up when the migraines started. Chocolate, caffeine, food, water. Simple things. Sometimes it helped, most times it didn’t.

I went back to the second doctor, who seemed to be disappointed that I had come back, complaining of something so trivial. I got a new prescription and a referral to a neurologist. The doctor acted as though it wasn’t worth even referring me to someone else. But, I got it and all I had to do was wait 2 weeks. Just two, long weeks.

I had the worst migraine of my life. I was hunched over the toilet, waiting to vomit, in the pitch black of my bathroom. I couldn’t deal with sound, smell, or, well, much of anything. I wanted to die. I wanted to pop my eyeballs out. I wanted to crawl to my small toolbox and bash my skull apart with hammer.

I had to slowly text my boss to let her know I couldn’t come in while lying on the cold tile. I couldn’t call—god no. I couldn’t hand the thought of listening to the ringing, let alone the sound of someone else’s voice.

My phone buzzed, sending spikes of pain through my head and face.

Michaela: What’s up yo
Me: I feel like I’m dying.

I somehow managed to respond, squinting at the darkened screen.

Michaela: What’s wrong?
Me: Migraine from hell
Michaela: I’m coming over.

Michaela was stubborn. I couldn’t stop her no matter how much I would ask her not to do something. I stayed on the floor.

Floor is nice. I thought about staying on the cold tile forever. I didn’t know if I could make my way to my bed, even with all the black-out curtains I’d recently purchased and had closed. The bed was maybe 20 or 25 feet away, but I just…couldn’t. The pain behind my ear was unbearable. It was pounding and felt like it was growing.

The front door opened and sounded like a steel door being slammed as hard as possible, even though I’m pretty sure it was shut as quiet as could be. Michaela and I had keys to each other’s apartments, which was a godsend right now. I heard her shuffle towards me, trying so hard to not make noise. I couldn’t tell her that the shuffling of her feet on the carpet sounded like glass marbles being shaken vigorously inside a tin can.

She bent down, “are you alright?”

Her voice was swelled with concern. I grunted and covered my head with the towel I’d managed to pull off the rack.

“Lizzie, you need to answer me.”

She was as quiet as she could be despite the screaming bouncing around my head that it sounded like to me. She put her hand on my shoulder.

“Lizzie, I’m serious.”

I grumbled and rolled over so she’d be able to hear me. “I feel like I’m dying. Nothing helps.”

“Has it ever been this bad before?” I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine the look of concern she was giving me.

“I want a hammer.”

“Why?”

“If I smash the hammer against my head, maybe it’ll go away.”

She sighed and patted my arm. “I’ll be right back.”

She stood and left the area. Tile flooring without any padding did not help my head at all, so I moved an arm under my head. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than being curled up in a ball on my side. I felt Michaela come back and begin doing something to my foot.

“What—“

“Stuff it, Liz. I’m getting your shoes on. We’re going to the hospital.”

“No.” it was a weak protest.

“No? Really, Liz, I’m tired of you bitching about your headaches and you not getting anything done with it.”

“Got appointment,” I mumbled as she helped me sit up and lean against the wall.

Michaela had gotten a tea towel damp and put it in my hand. She pulled the towel off my head, took the tea towel, and pressed it against my eyes. The shock of cold pulled me out of the enormous pain long enough to stand up and take the zip-up jacket she stuffed in my free hand. She started walking me towards the door before plopping me down on the couch. She disappeared for some time, I’m not sure how long it took, and eventually came back to haul my ass up.
“Lean on me,” Michaela grabbed my arm and threw it over a shoulder. “We are going on an adventure.”

All I remember is beeping. Christ, the beeping. Each beep stabbing itself into my head. I groaned and moved my head slowly back and forth.

“Turn it off,” I whined. My own voice ricocheting against my skull. God, I’d kill to make this stop.

“Can’t turn it off,” a cheerful voice boomed somewhere near me. “Got to keep you hooked up, sweetie.”

I wanted to scream, I wanted to jump up and punch this person in the face, but all I could do was grunt and weakly flip the room off.

“Lizzie, be nice,” my sister piped up. “You’re lucky we got you here in time.”

In time. That’s an odd phrase. In Time. Sounds like something from a time when horses were a main source of transportation. In Time sounded like something a doctor would say before locking a loved one up in a padded room.

“You’re going to feel something cold and then you’ll feel like you’re peeing yourself, but don’t worry. You won’t be peeing and the pain will start to go down.”

“Bullshit,” I didn’t believe it. The only way this pain would go away is if someone could release the pressure in my head.

Wasn’t that a lobotomy? I could get behind that. Maybe not the whole ice pick beside the eyeball thing, but the whole small hole drilled out of your skull thing. I wonder if I could get them to do a lobotomy on me.

I felt a weird and cold sensation go through my right arm before the sudden warm sensation of peeing myself. “Ew.”

The cheerful voice laughed, “You’re fine. Someone will check on you in about 10 or 20 minutes and see how you’re doing. If you have any feeling like you can’t breathe, the emergency button is right beside you.”

I’d still rather someone cracked open my skull to get rid of the never-ending pain. It was all I could think about until I realized I had been lulled into a strange middle ground. The huge spike of pain was still there, but as a background throb. It was as though I’d fallen into a nice dark haze of half-asleep apathy.

“How’s the patient doing?” a soft, new voice asked.

“I’ve died and gone to hell,” I answered without moving.

“Looks like you’re livelier now that we’ve gotten some morphine into you.” The voice sounded amused. “Are you able to answer some questions?”

“I guess.”

“I can help if need be,” I heard my sister answer.

“That will be great. Now, Elizabeth, how long have you been having these headaches…”

The questions seemed to go on forever. When did you first notice them? How long do they normally last? Do they generate in any specific area? What did you use to treat them? Do you do drugs? Have you been seen for any psychiatric illnesses? Do you remember who you saw for the headaches?

Headaches.

That’s what the doctor called them. He kept refusing to use the term “migraine” and seemed to be more likely determined to prove that I was either coming down from something or simply had the worst hangover ever. I heard him mutter something about an extra saline bag.

Headaches don’t feel like this. A headache is a dull throb that shows up every once in a while and the headache pills knock it out within an hour or so. Migraines are a deep, painful, screwdriver lodged in your skull. Sometimes pills help, sometimes sleep helps. And sometimes you find yourself sprawled on your bathroom floor wishing for a swift death.

The doctor added something else to my IV, talking about “just waiting for the bloodwork to come back.” I sank back into the fuzzy dark world between asleep and awake while Michaela made a remark about some drama on Facebook.

I woke up to the face of the doctor. The small cloth Michaela had put over my eyes to block as much light out as possible was gone. The doctor had a concerned look on his face.

“I’m glad you’re awake. I need you as coherent as possible. We’re going to wheel you over to the MRI and see what’s going on.”

The machine was boring. I kept my eyes closed as the technician spoke calmly. It felt like no time at all and, before I knew it, I was being wheeled back to the ER room I’d first woken up in. the short doctor was staring at the images of my brain looking confused.

“You said you went on vacation to the Bahamas, right?”

Michaela nodded, “Yeah. We went on a cruise.”

“Did anything strange happen?” he’d turned to her as I put the cloth back over my eyes. I could easily answer the questions without seeing things.

“No. We had fun. We drank a bit, went on excursions, hung out on the beach.”

“Did you hit your head on anything?”

“No,” I grumbled.

“Did you have anything done to your head?”

“She got her hair braided,” Michaela replied. “Y’know, it’s like those island braids that a lot of girls get when they go on cruises and stuff.”

I could hear the pause before the doctor made up his mind to speak.

“We need to prep you for surgery.”

I heard the chair scrape as Michaela jumped up. “What! Why?”

He tapped the glass where the scans of my brain were and I pulled the cloth off my eyes. “Your sister, and you have to understand that this is rare.”

He looked towards me, “We believe that you may have a worm lodged in your brain.”

making things

+ I finished the Combo Breaker blanket, it is folded up and sitting on a shelf until Jamie remembers to take it to work to give it to the parent. lol

+ I made Jamie a Bear Hat. It is a smidge too small, but he thinks it’s awesome. So, I’m working on making another one (I have the yarn so why not?) I still have a few more months before it gets cold enough for him to wear a hat, so I have the time to work on it.

+ I keep staring at the same documents doing nothing.

  • Weird Granddad story is just…there. I am at a point where I don’t remember exactly where I was going with it
  • Attempted Novelette is at a standstill. I’m at the point where I can’t remember whose name is for which character except for one, and that’s mainly because I keep making terrible jokes about it.
  • I’ve been jotting down notes for another story idea to try to get bits together with it

+ Nothing is finished and I don’t know if I’m fine with that. I don’t know if it’s an epic brain fart or just extreme apathy.

+ Bug and Firefly got into it the other day and Firefly needs to learn that Bug is getting her back for when they were younger and Firefly got Bug because Bug was too nice. Now Bug is a tank of a dog and has power behind her snaps.

Firefly is fine, we carted her butt to the vet, where her head was cleaned and parts were shaved. I insisted we take her because of the puncture under her jaw (which is fine, just squicky) and we learned that she’s got a couple more punctures than I had originally thought. She’s on antibiotics and has been happily spoiled by getting to sleep on the couch, getting various pieces of human food (cheese, peanut butter, things like that), and snoring on the bed.

I used to be smart

I have spent the past hour looking up bits of history that I should already know.  I used to know all kinds of weird little tidbits about Bolsheviks, Leninism, Marxism, and the…sheer utter lunacy of Stalin’s reign of terror, including the name of the guy who portrayed him in all those fantastical films (Mikheil Gelovani).

I used to know these things. I used to get into arguments with history teachers over Leninism. I remember that part, but fuck if I can remember anything when I need to use my knowledge for writing things. Even going through to to make sure that what I remember is the correct bit of history, I find myself going through the rabbit hole of the internet looking up stuff as if I’d never been taught it (or even taught a bastardized version of it).

The reasoning I’m looking up bits of Russian history is for research for a story that I only intend to make references to. The whole thing is intended to be a paragraph or two, not the whole basis of the story itself.

I don’t even know if most of what I’m double checking and researching is going to be in the story itself.

It’s weird doing research for a story. I’ve got some bits and peices written down for this particular story, but my story teller references various historical aspects and I need to make sure I get my facts straight.

Just Delicious

Short story, flash fiction (possibly, word count says it’s 246 words), and as usual a first draft. I wouldn’t consider it a second draft because all I did was type up what I wrote in my notebook.

I like it, it’s got a good oomph.


 

Just Delicious

“Dinner was a great idea.”

A fork scraped against the bottom of the bowl she held. Light music filtered through the room as she looked around the candle-lit kitchen.

She nodded, “Y’know, I think you were right. Salt makes it weird.”

She got up, bowl in hand, and walked to a cabinet by the sink. “Should I go for just regular pepper or the Old Bay seasoning?”

Looking over towards her companion, she realized his mouth was full and couldn’t answer her. She paused for a moment before grabbing the bright yellow tin of Old Bay seasoning, sprinkled a bit into her bowl, did a quick stir with her fork, and took a tentative bite.

She nodded, “Old Bay seems to be the best flavoring.”

Sitting back down, she set the tin beside her companion’s nearly empty bowl. “You should try it. Gives the dish a whole new zing.”

A wheezing grunt came from her dinner mate in a response as she grabbed for the serving spoon. She smiled warmly at him.

“You’re drooling a bit,” she grabbed a napkin to dab at the corner of his gagged mouth.

She re-positioned his fingers so they had a better hold of his chin.

“Now now, we don’t want dinner to spill onto the floor.”

His eyes blinked slowly, not really focusing on anything. She dabbed at a line of blood on his forehead before setting the napkin on the plate that held a chunk of his skull.


 

+ Word says “repositioned” is a correct word, however, wordpress says that it should be “re-positioned.” Strange.

+ I’m totally keeping the working title (“Just Delicious”) because it cracks me up and reminds me of the Alvin Schwartz retellings. But, instead of Just Delicious being about a butcher and his sausages, it’s just a fucked up little story about a woman and her dinner companion.

+ Old Bay seasoning is awesome on popcorn.

The neighborhood

Story! Like the others, this is a first draft. Honestly, I don’t know what else to do with it.

**

The Neighborhood

“Oh great, there’s a neighborhood,” he muttered to himself.

He turned off the main road, clogged with afternoon traffic, and on to a smaller road. He wanted to make a small short-cut in order to bypass the congestion.

He sighed, “There must be a wreck or something.”

He switched the radio off and continued down the road. It was a small, paved road, with no median marker and he began to feel as though he was riding down a country path. Large trees bent over the road to shade it with vines and shrubs growing up between them up to the edge of the asphalt.

“Looks like I’m the only one who thought of this.”

The road began to curve slightly to the left and he continued on. The trees looked as though they’d backed off from their original positions. A small field started on the right, edged up against a cluster of trees covered in kudzu, and a small house on the left.

“Good. I thought I was going to end up in some hidden industrial park.”

Another small curve revealed a small neighborhood. Mid-sized houses, painted white or beige, settled onto large yards. He hit a stop sign at a fork.

“Might as well go left. It’ll take me back to the main road.”

He made the turn, going up a small hill, noticing houses with classic cars in driveways and fences with “Beware of Dog” signs. He smiled and nodded, going down a gentle slope while passing a large, 3-storey white house. He hit another stop sign and took a right, realizing that a left would lead him right back to where he started. The foliage started up again as he continued down the quiet street. He had the opportunity to glance around and noted that a lot of the houses had their windows and doors open. The road began to curve slightly to the left as foliage began to take over the area from the houses.

“This must be a chill neighborhood,” he thought. “Doors open, screen doors keeping the bugs out, and no one playing anything loud.”

The trees began to rescind as the road straightened out, a small field began on the right and a small house on the left.

“Huh. Must’ve hit the wrong road.”

Soon, he was back at the first stop sign he had come across in the neighborhood. He decided to go right instead of left, which was straighter and didn’t go up a hill. A few of the houses, mostly painted beige, seemed to be a little closer together than the other houses he had seen. He decided to cut the radio back on, thinking that maybe he could catch the hourly news update. Static filled the interior.

Every station he turned to emitted nothing but static. He turned the radio back off and sighed. He must be in a spot with a lot of interference, he thought. There are a lot of trees around the area. He glanced around and saw someone walking along the edge of some of the yards. They were wearing a jacket with the hood up and looking down at the ground, so he couldn’t tell if they were a teenager or adult.

He shrugged and continued driving, eventually passing the walking figure. Another stop sign appeared at a T-junction and he went left. The houses looked a little bit closer together, some seeming to share lawns. A few had some simple little flags hanging out near the front porch. A flag with bumblebees on the right hand side while a flag with summer birds on the left a few houses down. A birdbath was off to a side, a swing-set peaked out from a backyard, and he noticed that all the windows and doors were wide open like the houses on the other street.

The road wound lazily, passing a small creek, and continued. He looked around as trees covered in kudzu started to creep closer to the edges of yards, slowly taking over the properties and tangles of wild honeysuckle made its way towards the pavement. It curved slowly to the left and he noticed that the same house was on the left hand side, just as the same field was on his right.

He groaned. “I’m going around in circles. It’s always circles. This town is nothing but freaken circles and I’m stuck in a little clusterfuck of them.”

He continued on, taking the right at the first stop sign. The person in the jacket was walking on the same side of the street but going in the opposite direction. Probably some kid going to a friend’s house or something, he reasoned with himself. The T-junction came up and he took a right, willing the small road to lead him out of the neighborhood.

He rolled the windows down, “Fresh air should help.”

The air was warm, like evening air at summertime but not humid. He heard no birds nor the cicadas which he had gotten used to going to sleep listening to the past month or two. He smelled no grill smoke nor the fresh scent of a log fire, which his neighborhood was filled with. Most of his neighbors had taken advantage of the nice weather in order to have friends around for hot dogs and roast marshmallows.

The road was straighter than the one he had taken when he went left, but it was starting to curve a bit. He passed a few more houses with “Beware of Dog” signs, but realized he hadn’t heard a single dog bark. Surely even dogs inside the houses would still bark loud enough to cause a muffled sound to waft through the open windows. The curving road started going left. The small house on the left came in to view as the field, surrounded by kudzu laden trees, appeared on the right.

**

Ok, I lied. It’s the second draft (just first draft digitally since the first bits are in a notebook)

The circles comment is a frequent here in Roanoke (it’s all damned circles!)

Stuck

The day before yesterday, I gave up and began typing up that short story that I’ve been working on. Just barely over 2,000 words. Yesterday, I got just over 600 words. Today, I’ve sat here for about an hour and have managed 3 sentences.

I told Jamie I was going to give up for the day. He said I should give up for just right now, and I told him listening to comedy probably isn’t helping. I figure yesterday I did fairly well while listening to M R James stuff and today I’m not getting anything written down because I’m listening to a Robin Williams routine.

I guess I’m having one of those stuck moments. Not a writer’s block, but more of a stuck moment. Writer’s block is just meh, I can easily go to another story and continue with that. Chances are, I just need to step away from this particular peice for a day or two and look at where I’m at with a fresh set of eyes.

Fresh set of eyes, now there’s an idea. (not for this story though).