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Dennis Higgins, author, father

This installment of Finding Your Writer hits close to home for me. Dennis is an author of light, fizzing, and youthful novels concerning time travel and murder. Dennis is also my father.

His novels, boarding pastism surreal science fiction, are far less concerned, to my joy, in presenting a grand addition to human literature, as they are in indulging us with a revelation into the author himself. Reading him, the feel is unmistakable that Dennis writes in order to understand himself better, a long tradition of artists grappling with their craft. Dennis writes to find his voice, to wrestle out distinctions of a blurry past, and as a means to self discovery. Biased or not, I love him for that; I believe in him for that.

The day he announced to our family he was publishing a novel, we had questions. Could he write? Did he always have an interest in literature? I remember his joy of journaling long ago, but here it was, a stack of fresh and glossy novels laid open in brown boxes at the foot of his stairs. It felt like Christmas. I reach in to grab one. It was this exact moment, in my confusion and wonder, that I felt I knew the very least about my father, that I had a world yet to know, and the day my copy arrived in the mail I began by reading though the inscription into chapter one, into a whole new insight of him, of me, of us.

Amongst other similarly cerebral novels he has written, for his work in Steampunk Alice, Dennis’s take on Alice in Wonderland, a naive young Alice is whisked away to a mechanical, leather strapped, 1900’s industrial revolution styled, Steam Punk alternate universe, and must find her way back home. Campy, fun, thrilling and brilliant. What else can I say?

Now, will Dennis write the next great American novella? Not in the next few years I suspect, but this was never the point for him, for me, and for my family.

Dennis writes novels of exploration into the human condition simply by writing himself, his fears, his joys and interests into each book. And so I have gotten to know him, that is, the universe expanding in his head, his heart, more than I ever have been able, as neither kid nor adult, and that is the true point.

My father writes.

Writing to find ones self.

Because perhaps, in an unfinished world, creation is far less about the art we sculpt, and more about the men we become at the kiln.

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Home is Where the Mind is

“I really like it here.”

“I know you do,” he replied. “I like it, too.”

“The last time I came here, I was happy—you wouldn’t believe it. Going back was…” I looked away from his knowing gaze and snorted bitterly as I recalled leaving the only place I considered home. “I felt really—everything was just really different and…wrong,” I finished meekly.

I thought he stopped listening after my snort which was why, when I looked back, I was startled to see him still focused on me so intently. For three breathes, he said nothing—just watched me the way you’d watch someone after they describe to you every wax and wane of the calla lily they keep locked away in their heart, every curve of its single petal, every kind of bow to its bending stem.

“I see it in you,” he said and before I could ask him what it is he saw, he was already telling me. “The sadness, I see it in your eyes. The struggle to—“

“—happiness takes work,“ I interrupted defensively, trying to justify what he saw.

“—I know it does. But, you know, happiness isn’t about the place you’re in.” He tapped my temple gently with his index and middle fingers before saying, “It’s in here.”

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The Biographer

Writer’s Block
A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

(Prompt: Escaparate / shopfront by ~juanmadiaz, via writeworld)

I sat down to write a scandal because I'd grown altogether tired of just living one.

At first, I admit some trepidation. I mean, there are limits to self-indulgence, and fiction is a step beyond my usual line. Wine in the early afternoon, dancing in the early morning, breakfast at any sinful time of day... these, I can do. But to set my meager set of words to page?

Vanity has its limits. Then again, limits are for the limited. I can fake my life to the contrary.

Oh, the best-seller I could write! Not because of any particular talents at prose nor any death-defying feats I've managed, unless you consider brunches defy death. (And why wouldn't you?) No, I simply believe that I have a market aged to tap for a little nest egg to fund my silver years.

You see, I'm going to write about them. You, really. I'm going to write your fake biography.

Oh, yes. I'm going to put down words that may speak the faintest truths about my life - over-dramatized and with a cheater's sort of polish  - but that's not the big trick. No, no, no. The big trick is that I'm going to make my largely-imaginary narrative into a mirror. Into yours, in fact.

Every time I'll admit to crying, I'll put your heart onto crisp, clean paper and squeeze out ink.

Every time I'll triumph, that same heart will pump and thump out their own imaginary memories.

Every lover that I'll have taken, you'll have a fictional nibble at. Most of them, I'd recommend.

Every lover that I've lost? Oh, you'll lose them, too. For some of them? Good freaking riddance...

And for my last great scandal? I'll promise you that every word is true. And you'll believe me.

It will be sweet. It will be bitter. It will be savory, but most of all? It must be marvelous.

Oh, and it will be marvelous. I mean, I know I've certainly enjoyed it.

And what little I didn't? You'll never know.

writeworld:

Writer’s Block

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

It's odd. My most noted pieces generally are gpoys of the TWC as a whole. Writers. Go fig...

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Always looking for prompts, review requests, or random questions.

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Rising Action

In my fantasies and little frissons, it's never that last kiss - it's the shared breath between former strangers.

When I imagine my idea of victory, it's never the end of the road - it's the wall's first bright crack.

When I don armor and draw chimeric steel, I never dream of the killing blow, but of suiting up.

When I imagine your arms around me, it's not a wedding day or the twirling in the air at airports.

I live on waiting for, "Hey."

I ache and fight and train for the day when I say, "Hey," back? You really get it.

I'm in love with that first capital letter. I mean, who knows how the sentence will

 

Prompt: Anonymous asked you:

Write about what you value the most

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins - Submit prompts, requests for advice, or items for review to prompts@aprompripost.com.

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Riding

I got a call at work. It was busy and cold. I didn’t hear the message until I got off work. Dad wrecked his bike. He’s in the hospital. I took vacation days and went up to LA. He had been going into a turn and hit some gravel. Lost control of the Harley and slipped out. Woke up in UCLA Medical. I spent a week up in LA taking care of him. Cooking and cleaning. Watching Kurosawa movies.

When I got back I told my wife I wanted a motorcycle and she was understandably confused. I fellow at work had an old Yamaha he was trying to get rid of. An ‘82 XJ-550. All I had to do was pick it up and he’d let me take it for free. I spent the next 8 months creeping around my neighborhood on the thing, riding in to work. I finally got my license and secretly bought  a brand new Triumph Thruxton.

Called up my buddy McInnes. “Toothless” Nick McInnes from Vancouver, WA whom I’d met in Mechanic’s school in Pensacola. I was waiting for a taxi at the base roundabout and he was wearing this Union-jack shirt with the sleeves cut off and tall boots. He stuck out and we’ve been in touch ever since.

We go riding up to Lake Henshaw. I’m loving it but it gets cold. Hypothermic. I think warm thoughts, nothing doing. I hit a 90 degree corner going too fast. I lay it down into the loamy embankment. He notices I’m gone and comes back finding me all fucked up. We manage to get the bike running and I get out of the mountains stuck in 4th gear. Drop it off at the shop and have to ride on the back of his ‘79 Honda CB-350 to my house. I’m mortified and try to leave as much space between him and me without falling off the back. At this point my wife doesn’t even know I have a new motorcycle, let alone that I wrecked it. I confess the entire thing as I clean out the wounds with iodine.

I still ride.

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Disgusting

I’m out replacing pH probes on the waste pit. Rotting cells rush through the Parshall flume. I wallow in the wafting vomitous stink.

The new EHS director walks out with the Environmental Specialist. Not much older than me. First impression: head full of big idea, not much real experience. The specialist is an old hand. We get along ok.

The director wrinkles her nose, “Oh my god. It smells nauseating. (dry heaves) It’s making me sick.”

I stare into the pit without emotion.

“Is it always like this?”she asks.

The specialist laughs and makes a show of breathing deep. “Yup. This is the smell of money. No waste, no product.”

“It’s disgusting,” she gags.

“You get used to it,” I grimace. They leave me there in the oppressive sun, awash in the stench.

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Stir crazy inside the house. The kids are screaming and I’m trying to clean. The wife is overwhelmed with tasks and hides, crying. Things are untenable here. We get ready to go hiking.

Driving, crying baby, panting dog, stagnant heat. We arrive at the dusty trail and set out. I’m carrying the baby in a backpack designed for the purpose. Goldbrick. He must eat baby bowling balls. We find a river bank and the dog splashes around. The boy takes pictures. It’s tough with all this gear and the heat, but the creek is beautiful. If you get just the right angle there’s no powerlines or houses.

We march on through the dust, over steep banks. I’m sweating so much and breathing hard. My hair is dripping. The baby pulls my hat off and throws it on the ground. He pulls my hair. I pick it up with the big gut welder’s bend and put it in my pocket. Now the sun is melting my brain with its death rays.

“Hey, you guys look tired,” I gasp. “Maybe you (wheeze) feel like (choke) turning around up here.”

“You look really bad,” she says.

“No, no (panting), I’m worried about you guys,” I lean against a tree. The kids laugh. I don’t remember much except seeing stars.

“I used to (gasp) hike with way more (dying) weight than this. (sucks wind) I’m totally cool,” the sweat runs down my fingers and earlobes like faucets.

“When you were in the Marines, right dad?” the kid asks.

“What? (disoriented) oh yeah, machine guns and tanks (not making sense),” I manage to fake my body back to the car and lean against the steering wheel.

“Just gimme minute,” I croak.

At least we got out of the goddamn house.

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Your Muses Never Asked

First, I told her that I loved her. She understood the words, but not the meaning.

So I wrote her a song. I pored over rhymes, beat myself bloody to work up the rhythm. I borrowed what I could, stole what I needed, and I put my heart and soul into bridges, choruses, and verse.

She couldn't quite make out the words and made up her own meaning.

So I wrote poetry. I found the perfect metaphor, a fitting framework. I made a romance and an abuse of form, grammar, and imagery. I confused a couple of similes, but that was intentional.

Love never quite makes sense, does it? She said that it was beautiful, but wasn't about her.

So I wrote a novel. I made cookie-cutter frames of us and threw them into white space. I invented wars and high stakes, made a fiction out the idea that there's always a conflict, always a rise, always a climax that we share together...then an afterglow. Then an epilogue. And always a lesson.

She wept and understood the meaning, but the words didn't reflect us anymore.

So I just kissed her. She slapped me, as she should, and then she walked away.

You can't make someone understand a goddamned thing.

But it's worth it when you don't have to.

(Prompt: from twcwelcomecenter

That about sums up who I've been for the last couple of years.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins

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Drop Out

We're rushing through San Francisco to get to the airport. We stop in Haight-Ashbury to try and eat.  I’m walking with a box of pizza. Two crust punks are sitting on the ground, one eating a burrito. He looks up and says, “Hey man, can I have some pizza?” I grimace as I blow past. I’m standing outside a cafe and a filthy old hippie comes up to me. Long hair, far out of shape, dirtiest San Francisco Giants jacket on earth, pants half zipped, grubby warty hands, long, dirty yellow fingernails.

Instantly, first thought, this could have been my father if he had tuned in and dropped out after his Army summer camp at Fort Ord. He had hung out in the area and called himself a hippie with short hair,  but when his time was up he came back to LA.

“Hey friend, are you, uh, new in the neighborhood?” he queries cautiously.

“Just passing through man,” I tell him. I imagine he’s heard that more times than he could count. It must have been a ritual utterance even among those who ended up staying. “You look like an old hand.”

“Oh yes. I’ve been here since, oh, um, ‘68. Except for a short stint in LA, but I’ve been here mostly. Supporting myself largely on the sales of the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal. Interested in purchasing a copy?” he pulls out a stack of yellowed newspapers. But I will say, he lucked out and found his mark. I was interested in purchasing a literary journal. I could be sold on it.

I pull out a couple of wadded up bills, “What can i get for two buck.”

His dull eyes light up, “Ah yes, for two dollars I can give you this back issue. ‘93, this is a good one. We publish two issues a year, though regrettably we didn’t get a copy out last year.”

“Are you in it?” I ask, pushing back my hat.

“I’ve been published in this journal seven times,” he issues without emotional commitment or pride.

“I’m something of a writer myself,” I say, just killing time.

“Ah, there’s a mail in address here for submissions,” he says, looking around.

The family comes out of the cafe with their goods. “That’s me man. Nice talking,” I walk off. He found his mark alright, my father’s alter ego, and traded a commodity for cash. A stack of papers lifted from a bookstore and an invented story served him well, and I was willing to listen a moment and believe enough to buy. There were a couple of decent poems in the thing.

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Sun-Dreams-Dying

Sun-Dreams-Dying

I’m so worn out from walking with the kids along the wharf all afternoon. Legs throbbing, feet beating with my heart. The sun is so bright, its rays lash my corneas like whips.

 

I’m driving through San Francisco. At every intersection I wait behind thrumming exhausts and red brake-lights. My head dips from fatigue.

 

The kids are thirsty, the baby’s crying. Everyone’s sweaty. We’re out of water. My god we’re like sailors lost at urban sea. Sticky tank-tops and dank wind. Fabric seats soak up our exuded liquids.

A grocery!

I u-turn and park. She takes the baby inside. The boys are passed out and sweaty strands of hair cover their faces. I sit in the car and lean against the window. My eyes close.

 

I’m so worn out from walking with the kids along the wharf all afternoon. Legs throbbing, feet beating with my heart. The sun is so bright, its rays lash my corneas like whips.

 

I’m driving through San Francisco. At every intersection I wait behind thrumming exhausts and red brake-lights. My head dips from fatigue.

 

The kids are thirsty, the baby’s crying. Everyone’s sweaty. We’re out of water. My god we’re like sailors lost at urban sea. Sticky tank-tops and dank wind. Fabric seats soak up our exuded liquids.

 

I’m at a light. The engine drones. I look down at my lap. My eyes close, just for a second.

I wake up, I WAS ASLEEP I FELL ASLEEP FUCK I FELL ASLEEP DRIVING OH MY GOD I’M DEAD I’M DEAD.

 

No, I’m alive. I’m parked. I look around. I’m in a parking lot. I’m ok. I’m ok. It’s ok. I grab my chest. I put my face on the wheel.

Dreams, terror,
I dream of life and death,
dying in dreams indistinguishable from life

and waking to living death.

The sun is on my face,
UV rays blocked by glass;


people are stocking up for Pride weekend
and to celebrate DOMA’s demise.

 

I’m dead as well,

in this steel, plastic, aluminum, glass sarcophagus.

The celebrations erupt.