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The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “Dancing With The Angels,” by Huda Orfali

“Is this my cause? Should I have a cause in life or can I just paint because I want to paint?” he thought, staring at the unfinished portrait. An old woman with noticeable wrinkles on her face was bending down to pick up a piece of bread.

He decided to change the bread into something smaller but less valuable, a coin maybe.

“This stirred the French Revolution,” he thought. “I need something to stir the heart. Perhaps a drop of rain! A pill maybe,” he tittered as the alarm went off, reminding him that it was time to take one of his anti-cancer pills.

“I’m ordained dead, perhaps I should act dead. This is the cause, or is it the result?”

He poured a glass of wine, sipped it slowly and lit a cigarette.

He watched the smoke spiral in white circles, took a deep breath and puffed the smoke. The first puff caused a bout of coughing.

He stood in front of the mirror and watched his sallow face; wrinkles were beginning to form. He was too young to have wrinkles; he was too young to die.

He picked up the brush and changed the painting again; he drew a match. The old woman lit the match. He watched the smoke spiral in circles and engulf the room. The smoke caused a bout of coughing until he couldn’t breathe. Bread, rain, smoke and fire!

The flames danced around the room in circles. The colors looked enchanting and he dropped the brush; they were the colors of revolution, the colors of life.

The flames looked like angels dancing to a divine tune.

The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “The Flamenco Painter,” by Shawna R. Van Arum

“What are you doing with all these cans?” Miguel ran his fingers through his graying hair. “You live like a pig. No, worse than a pig.” He shook his head and looked around the camper where his son lived. “Where do you go to the bathroom?” Miguel mumbled, probably not sure he wanted to know the answer. “What a mess.”

The airplane-lavatory-sized bathroom next to the front door had been converted into an aluminum storage closet. Silver beer cans were compacted so tightly Emilio couldn’t fit one more and still shut the door.

The sunlight pushing its way through a muddy window in the front door created a dirt haze. A countertop suffocated in greasy fast food packaging and cans. Across from the countertop stood a booth style table. The seats were also covered in cans and garbage, except for a small space for Emilio to sit. The table was a collage of ashes, cigarette butts and cans. At the peak of a slippery aluminum mountain laid a twin-size bed. The aroma of sour beer-rot singed Miguel’s sinuses.

“Who’s gonna see it?” Emilio stood, pulled his torn black T-shirt over his bulging gut and swiped his hand across the seat to clear another spot at the table. Cans clinked to the floor and drops of beer oozed out.

“It has nothing to do with people seeing it.” Miguel didn’t budge from the door. “How can you live this way?”

“I’m not home much.” Emilio shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me.”

“You’re not home much? How did you drink so much beer in here then?” Miguel kicked a can across the floor. “Your mother would cry if she saw this.”

Emilio lit a cigarette. “You’ve been threatening me with her ghost for years.”

“Christmas is in two days. Are you coming over?”

Emilio flicked ashes on the floor. “Are you inviting me?”

The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Bank, Montana,” by Bill Wetzel

I was soaking wet as I walked into the West End Town Pump on Main Street. I pondered the notion of walking in the casino to have a few beers, but I lost my wallet and didn’t recognize anyone I could bum a dollar from to play nickel machines and get free drinks. It was freezing, but more from the inner chill that comes with being a lost soul on a lonely night than actual evening temperatures. The lights glared at me the way a grandmother glares at the bad little kids down the street, who keep throwing baseballs, footballs and other children’s junk into her garden.
Walking into the store I was already getting a headache from the glare of overhead lights, the incandescent glowing ones that move at a different speed than every other light on earth. Adequate illumination, I thought. These people need to learn about adequate illumination.

The kid behind the counter kept staring at me as I walked past the aisles of overpriced Nibs, corn nuts, and Juicy Fruit gum; back to a table near the frozen pizza section and sat down to wait for awhile. I’d wait all night if need be. He had sandy hair, freckles and a tight fitting blue shirt with the generic “Town Pump” logo on the front. I couldn’t decide if he was staring because he knew me or if it was the trail of mud I slopped all over the floor. A couple other customers stared at me indiscreetly, but a few hard looks in their directions let them know I didn’t exactly appreciate that shit. I can play the part of savage Indian if the need arises. I was in a foul mood as I evaluated the situations I always seem to get myself into.

The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “The 23rd Of August,” by Timothy Morris Taylor

Ana Maria Flores was standing in the doorway of her home on the twenty-third of August, looking through her purse for her keys, when the phone rang. She was known as Ana to everyone she knew and she liked her name. When she answered the phone, Jonathan Morris was there on the other end, and the sound of his voice made her smile. Ever since they met, two weeks previously, Jonathan had made her smile almost every time they spoke or even when she just thought of him.

Today was Ana’s birthday, the twenty-third of August, and Jonathan wanted to come see her. One week ago to this very day, the two of them had a conversation that had brought them closer than either had expected and now they were falling into new territory. At least, Jonathan hoped so on this particular day.

“Come on over, Jonathan,” said Ana, calmly and sweetly.

“All right, I’ll be right there,” said Jonathan, trying to hide his joy as much as humanly possible. He didn’t want to seem too anxious. He had his reasons.

When they met, it had been a very unexpected encounter of two very different but very alike people. They both had recognized a certain uniqueness in each other on that very first day when, because of a simple little encounter, they began to talk to each other more than strangers usually do at first glance.

Jonathan, a young man of 33, and Ana, a young woman of 27, met at a run-of-the-mill, average grocery store. It was really nothing special or out of the ordinary, just a grocery store where you buy light bulbs, dog food, and groceries.

Ana was at the store with her young son, Brian, and her little daughter, Regina. They were there to simply pick up a few things for what would become Ana’s brother Andy’s own birthday party, when the three of them walked over to the store’s run-of-the-mill canned vegetables aisle.

As she and her kids walked around the corner of that particular aisle, there was Jonathan. It was as simple as that on that day. He was just standing there, right in front of them, holding a can of beans. They were green beans, to be exact. The funny thing about it was that Jonathan didn’t even really like green beans. He had picked up that can on accident a few minutes earlier, mistaking it for a can of corn.

The only reason he was even in that exact spot in that aisle when he met Ana and her kids was that he had to take back those beans for the corn. At least, that seemed like the only reason at the time. Moments earlier, Jonathan had discovered his error and had simply set out to correct it when fate stepped in in the form of Ana.

The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “Fat Diary,” by Duane Simolke

January 20, 2001
Dear Fat Diary,
My nutritionist told me to write in you every day, until I can come to terms about why I’m not happy with my weight, and why I want to change. I’m supposed to call you my “love diary,” but I’m not trying to get rid of love; I’m trying to get rid of fat. We’ll talk about love later.

No, on second thought, we’ll talk about love now. I don’t have love because I have fat. If I didn’t weigh 260 pounds, I might be writing a love diary, and teenage girls would read it and swoon, while listening to the latest boybands and dreaming of that guy who sits in the second row of their American history class. Wait, that’s what I did at the University of Texas in Austin.

My name is Pamela Mae Willard, named after my Aunt Mae and my father, Samuel Carsons (yes, as in “Carsons Furniture, Acorn’s best-kept secret”). He wanted a Samuel Carsons, Jr. He had to settle with a Pamuel, which became Pamela, due to the mercy of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and my passive-aggressive mom. She kept “accidentally” referring to my father as “Samueluel,” and when that bothered him, she said she “didn’t give a damnuel,” and when he wanted supper, she said he could fry some “Spamuel,” and if he wanted someone to keep him warm, he could “buy a cocker spaniel.” Even though she never actually said how much she hated the name “Pamuel,” the message came through clearly enough, and he eventually asked if Pamela Mae would be all right.

Pamela Mae sounded sufficiently dignified and Southern for a member of Acorn’s beloved Carsons family, so she consented, and soon began cooking meals that weren’t primarily composed of meat byproducts. Harmony soon returned to our home, and my parents adopted an unwanted newborn baby just over a year later, naming him Samuel, of course, but calling him “Sam.” If they were going to go through all of that just to call someone “Sam,” they probably could have named me Samantha! Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite in a position to impart my keen sense of logic at the time.

My parents were very happy with Sam, who would eventually join the Air Force. I taught Sunday school for a time and, after returning from college in Austin, managed the library.

Our childhood went by with very little trauma or disaster. Meteorites, tornadoes, and general flying debris never hit our house, unless you count acorns, pecans, and the occasional dust storm. Daddy wasn’t a drunk, though he always liked touring the wineries that keep popping up around West Texas. Mom didn’t have a secret past, unless it’s still Acorn’s best-kept secret, to use that tired catch phrase I mentioned before, the one Daddy’s store shares with most of Acorn’s local advertisers. And my adopted brother didn’t turn out to be a space alien, despite my early suspicions; in fact, he and I remain the best of friends. Regardless of how some people around here make it sound, the sky isn’t always falling in Acorn, at least not for our family. I had loving parents and a happy, well-rounded childhood.

“Well-rounded.” Bad word choice.

I grew taller fast during my early teens, so much so that my mom worried I might have some sort of thyroid disorder, and it seemed like I needed to eat a lot for my body to keep up with its own growth. But then I stopped growing. Upward, that is. Then I got fat, and I stayed fat. So here I am, writing in my fat diary. Worst of all, I’ll probably wind up writing about my joke of a short-lived marriage.

I’m supposed to examine key moments from any of my amazing thirty-something years, and find reasons to love myself, all the while congratulating myself for the conclusions I reach.

Do I get a lollipop for that?

The Acorn Gathering Excerpt: From “The Seedling,” by Janice Chandler

Becky twisted a blonde lock around her finger as she studied the two orders she’d printed up. Both were for the latest painting she’d put on her website, She carefully removed the first print from the shelf, rolled it up and inserted it into a sturdy cylindrical mailer.

The second print she stopped to admire, brushing her fingertips across the rough matting that gave texture to the copy. Blues and greens whirled in a vortex of iridescent light and a nebulous being stretched out his arms as he was sucked into the maelstrom. The lighting techniques she’d picked up at that seminar in Austin were starting to show up in her work. She traced the elongated arms, wondering which techniques might better bring out the subtleties in the reproductions.

It had taken months to find the right reproduction company to handle her work, weeks to study the various sample prints and many sleepless nights agonizing over how she and Kyle were going to cover the start-up costs. She initially chose her ten best paintings for digitization, but quickly reduced that number to five when confronted with the cost estimate. As digital reproductions could be ordered in batches of five to 500 and reordered with no problem, she was able to lower the start-up costs by keeping her initial inventory low. Now, she had committed herself to adding one new print a month to the collection. It turned out to be a good decision as the additions kept her website fresh.

Still, at only one or two orders a week, it was going to take months to cover the initial investment. If she didn’t find a way to increase sales, she was going to have to find a second part-time job. The art gallery paid pretty good, but Keith didn’t need her full-time. She thought about going back to Chuck’s and grimaced. Between the gallery, her art, housework and maintaining the website, she didn’t have the time or energy to stand on her feet for four hours a day.