Koren Shaw

Lliam Conway was Koren’s longest-term boyfriend to date. He had started at Wharin High School at the beginning of the fall semester, a victim of a subtle and yet controversial adjustment of the border between the Wharin School District and their hated rivals of Lower Christopher River. Unlike the twelve other new students, who had tended to keep their heads down at first, Lliam stood out like a bright light in the darkness. A head taller than most of the boys around him, Lliam had long brown hair and piercing hazel eyes. Very careful about his appearance, he always dressed a notch above the usual t-shirt and denim pants or shorts. In addition, he carried himself with a confidence and maturity that made all the other boys in school seem like, well like schoolboys in comparison. As soon as he’d appeared at school, every girl melted and every boy hated. Very quickly, the competition for his attention was on and, of course, Izzy was right there in the forefront of the pack.

However, Koren had found that she possessed a secret weapon, an advantage that Judith quickly and wholeheartedly urged Koren to press. As it turned out, Koren happened to be on the Dance Committee for the Fall Harvest Dance and knew that the dance would be a rare “girl’s choice.” Therefore, right before the posters went up, Koren managed to get Lliam alone and let slip the secret, asking him to the dance. 

He accepted. 

Right after the announcement of the dance’s theme, Izzy immediately went in for the kill, only to discover that sweet Koren Shaw had slipped in before her. Izzy, to say the least, was furious. Still, she couldn’t do a thing about it, but vent to her minions and vow her vengeance.

Well, the dance turned into dating and dating turned into Koren’s first truly long-term, romantic relationship. Then Koren found herself in the privileged position of being the most envied girl in school. In the past, on and off since she began dating; Koren had been involved with other so-called boyfriends. After all, she was both pretty and bright. So plenty of boys flocked around her, and she always had her pick when she wanted the attention. However, those relationships were mostly childish crushes with some handholding and kissing. This was the perfect match. Everyone who wasn’t busy hating commented on how good the two looked together and what a cute couple they made. She and Lliam never seemed to argue, never had a serious disagreement. They shared the same thoughts and attitudes about life and school. Therefore, as far as Koren was concerned, what existed between her and Lliam was love.

Meanwhile, Izzy waited for her opportunity and, apparently, one came over the weekend. Koren and Lliam had their usual Saturday night date, a little dinner, and a movie. Everything seemed copasetic. They had fun and enjoyed some good kissing and a few laughs during the slow parts of the movie. Then Sunday evening, while she and her dad were grilling dinner, a series of text messages screamed across Koren’s phone. Each text, from a half-a-dozen different friends, demanded that she look up Izzy’s social page and personal photo-wall.

With a forced disdain, Koren brought the social site up on the kitchen computer and clicked on Izzy’s page. Posted on her photo-wall was a series of photos showing Lliam at some party dancing and chatting up Becky Sheerer, one of Izzy’s skaggy girlfriends. Apparently, the party pictures were from that very afternoon. Lliam was to have been with Koren and her dad that afternoon, a further attempt on Koren’s part to get her dad “comfortable” with Lliam. However, Lliam had begged off at the last moment due to some sudden “family thing” he had to go to

The title of the photo series was “Always the Last to Find Out.” With “poor, poor Koren” tagged to each photo.

Koren ended up dashing to the privacy of her bedroom, slamming her door so hard that the house shuddered, and recklessly calling Izzy. Thus began a ten-minute screaming match. Or rather, Koren screamed while Izzy smugly soothed and commiserated, without denying the photos, which just made Koren angrier and louder. Ultimately, the phone call ended with Izzy suggesting calmly that Koren put her money where her mouth was, and Koren roaring, “Fine!” and hanging up.

She spent the rest of the evening trying to call Lliam, getting only his voicemail. Eventually she received a text from Lliam that informed her that his phone was screwing up, that he could only text, and that he would see her Monday morning. His text ended with his usual “luv ya babe,” so she felt a little better.

Now, within sight of Lliam’s locker, Koren saw him standing there with several of his friends. He was smiling and laughing as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Yet he must have seen the photos! Koren tried to tell herself that his ease was a good sign. Still, the contents of her stomach seemed suddenly to congeal into something like lead. Koren began to regret the large breakfast that her dad had insisted she eat.

“Hey, babe,” greeted Koren with a smile, as she boldly stepped up to Lliam.

She coiled an arm around the back of his neck and tippy-toed up to kiss him. However, instead of leaning in and offering himself, Lliam turned his face away slightly so that her kiss met his cheek.

Instantly, everything in her stomach began to churn.

“I was thinking,” she said, trying very hard to ignore the platonic greeting they had just exchanged, “that we need to start planning for the Spring Social coming up.”

“Yeah, about that…since we really hadn’t made any plans, I wasn’t sure that you and I were going to go together…”

“What’re you talking about? Of course we’re going together!”

“Well, after…you know…how the last couple of weeks have been kinda rough…”

“Rough, rough how?”

“…I thought maybe it would be best that we, you know…we go our own ways?”

Koren let go of Lliam and backed off a step, her mouth open in shock. Her stomach, as his words sank in, began to boil like a kettle of acid. She could feel her throat and sinuses burning.

“So I asked Becky Sheerer to go to the dance with me.”

“How could you!”

“How? I thought you’d be fine with it.”

“Fine?”

“Look, it’s not like I totally didn’t take care of you. I hooked you up for the dance.”

“Hooked me up…who?”

Lliam reached out and pulled a boy forward. He was a tall, lean, ginger-haired boy with freckles. Koren recognized him as one of Lliam’s many friends.

“Hank! I told him all about you, and he’s eager to get to know you.”

Koren stared at the freckled-faced boy in disbelief.

“Hi!” said Hank, smiling broadly.

Koren opened her mouth to answer. However, the only thing to come out was a loud belch.

Later, how much later she wasn’t too sure, Koren found herself staring down into the bottom of a toilet. Suspiciously, the water was clean and clear, looking strangely refreshing. Yet Koren’s mouth still burned and had that metallic, acid taste of vomit. She looked up from the toilet to see Judith, back against the closed toilet stall door, watching her.

“I think I threw up.”

“Yep.”

“But there is no vomit in the water.”

“Nope.”

Koren instantly had a vision of emptying her stomach all over the front of the ginger-haired boy.

“Don’t tell me that I…

“Lliam’s boy, Hank.”

“Oh, my god!”

“Your aim was quite impressive.”

“Oh, my god!”

“What did you have for breakfast?”

“One of dad’s specials; couple of fried eggs on a piece of French toast, some bacon, a big glass of orange juice, a cup of coffee. No two cups.”

“Yum, though I imagine all that tasted better going in than coming out.”

“Har, har, very funny.”

Koren tried to push up off the toilet. Judith was there in an instant and helped her up, dropping the toilet seat ring so that Koren could sit. Then Judith stripped off and handed to Koren a large wad of toilet paper, which she used to dab her eyes and wipe her nose.

“For some reason I suddenly really miss my mom right now,” said Koren. “I’m so stupid! I thought it was love, you know?”

“I know, Kor.”

“I don’t know which is worse, being dumped or being handed off to his friend like an old doll.”

“And you were both.”

“An old, blow-up doll.”

“And you figure old Hank was eager to give the doll a poke, do you?”

“I could see it in his eyes! Lliam had told him everything.”

Then Koren snorted. “When my dad gave me, you know “The Talk” he said that a girl’s virginity is a very special gift that can only be given once. So make sure I don’t regret to whom I give it. I hate it when he’s right.”

“Typical male propaganda,” Judith said. “Look, kiddo, no regrets. What’d you expect? That Llaim was going to be the only boy you’d ever be with, that you were going to marry him, spend the rest of your life with him?”

“I had my dreams, I guess. Mainly, at least, I’d find out what love is. Jude, I want to know what love is! To know what it is to feel the kind of feelings that my mom and dad have…had.”

“For one thing,” said a male voice from other side of the toilet stall door, “it’s a song by Foreigner.”

A Wounded World is available at Amazon.com.

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Mrs. Reynolds

His granny gave Normal a smile and turned back to Robert, who was paging through one of the romance novels that had become a guilty pleasure in her life.

“Let’s see, ‘Chapter Eighteen—The Jungles of South America.’ Well, Rachel, I wonder if our hero and heroine will finally find time to profess their love and relieve all that sexual tension.”

Robert lifted and crossed his feet onto the corner of the bed as he relaxed with the book.

“Though personally, I can’t imagine a more uncomfortable spot to have sex than the sweaty, bug-infested jungles of South America.”

Normal’s granny rolled her eyes upward and shook her head just enough to show her exasperation at Robert’s outrageousness. Robert laughed, giving Normal a playful wink. Normal wondered briefly who the better actor was.

Normal had been thinking about Mrs. Reynolds ever since he’d heard that she was on deathwatch, especially after Robert’s observation about her seemingly waiting for something. As he strolled across the lawn toward the willow, Normal allowed his thoughts to rise above his own problems and consider the problem of Mrs. Reynolds.

Originally, a stroke had brought Mrs. Reynolds to River Gate, which had left half her body paralyzed and the rest severely weakened. Normal sat with her after school and sometimes on the weekends, helping her write letters to friends and family who never seemed to visit, and very rarely wrote back. Normal did what he did best, listened. She talked mostly about her grown daughter, a grand ballet dancer studying and working in Europe and Russia. Mrs. Reynolds talked endlessly about the schools, recitals, dance companies, and performances, boasting of all the rave reviews and accolades that the daughter had accumulated over her career. Apparently, as Normal read between the lines of Mrs. Reynold’s stories, the higher the daughter’s talent took her, the farther from the mother she travelled—physically, as well as emotionally. Normal suspected that Mrs. Reynolds had been the worst kind of stage mother.

What made Mrs. Reynolds difficult for Normal, trying to get an image of the woman in his head, was that not one of her stories was about herself. They all centered on her daughter’s journey to dance stardom. Then Normal had an idea. Maybe Mrs. Reynolds was telling him stories about herself. For whatever reason, lack of opportunity, ability, or courage, maybe Mrs. Reynolds was never able to live her own dreams. So, all the child’s triumphs became the mother’s.

As Normal drew close to the old willow, an image of Mrs. Reynolds quickly built and solidified in the art part of his mind. He crossed under the hanging limbs and into the secluded world underneath the leaves. He sat down on his favorite spot, took out his art pad, the pen and pencil box, and began to work. 

Under his confident hand and sure style, the image of Mrs. Reynolds in his mind developed on the page. For almost two hours he drew, so focused that all but the work was real to him. Then he stopped, the study finished. He looked up and wasn’t surprised to see that he wasn’t alone.

Mrs. Reynolds stood near. Not the woman Normal had come to know, half-dead and alone with only the memories of her absent daughter’s achievements for solace. Yet the woman as she saw herself, and as Normal drew her, tall, long-legged and beautiful. She had her hair pulled back into a tight bun, as a delicate, brightly jeweled tiara sparkled on her brow. She wore a white dance leotard with a modest skirt of a material that almost floated on the air, and a pair of elongated pointe shoes with ribbons that crisscrossed her ankles. Mrs. Reynolds stood, examining and stretching her long, lean, muscled arms as if she’d just awakened from a long sleep. Then she paused, her eyes turning to Normal without moving her head, and smiled mischievously.

Then she danced.

Normal sat mesmerized! Her every step and movement so confident, studied, and practiced, that he felt that the dance needed no music because the music was in the movement of the dance. For fifteen joy-filled minutes, Mrs. Reynolds danced for Normal, making Normal wonder whether the daughter was able to dance as perfectly as the mother did.

Then, as suddenly as she had started, Mrs. Reynolds stopped. She stood frozen in place, a sad expression on her face. Without looking at Normal, she spun on her toe, pirouette after pirouette, until she came to the edge of the willow. Then, with hardly a pause, she swept aside the leaves and limbs of the tree, as if parting a curtain, and disappeared beyond. Normal quickly packed his art bag and followed after.

As he emerged from under the willow, Normal saw no sign of Mrs. Reynolds. However, he could feel the steady gaze and anger of the little boy that haunted the garden. Normal looked around for him, suddenly feeling lost and alone. As if, something was gone, something stolen from him. Instead of the usual nausea, he felt tremendous anger and resentment. He felt hatred for the world, for everything it had taken from him. He hated how he had to live his life.

Normal trotted along the path, drawn toward the garden wall. As he approached, he saw that the garden gate was open and Mrs. Reynolds still standing in the opening. Here was his opportunity! 

However, as he ran up, Mrs. Reynolds held out a hand, and Normal skidded to a stop. Her command rooted him in place. He was at war with himself. This wasn’t a simple desire to know what was beyond the gate, to solve a mystery. This was more! He needed to leave through the gate, to go wherever the gate led!

Mrs. Reynolds sighed sadly and shook her head. Then she stepped through, disappearing into the twilight world on the other side. As the gate swung closed behind her, Normal reached out to grasp the handle.

“Normal?” called a girl’s voice, distant yet familiar.

At the call of his name, the art part of his mind seemed to awaken again. An image filled his thoughts. The image of a girl with ebony hair and mahogany eyes, sad, lost and needing him.

Suddenly, the memory of Mrs. Reynolds was vague and indistinct. Did it really happen? Did he really see her dance? Only Koren Shaw’s face remained firmly fixed in his mind, his thoughts working out the mechanics as if he were going to paint her portrait.

Normal turned from the gate and froze. The little boy stood at the intersection of the two garden paths, just in the shadow of the towers. Normal could barely see the boy with the last remaining sunlight still in his eyes. However, Normal could feel the boy’s gaze, his anger. A thought, same as that morning, a choice entered his thinking as if communicated from the boy. No living person can open that gate, only the dead.

Normal closed his eyes and concentrated on the image of Koren building obsessively in the art part of his mind. As he concentrated, the warmth of the sun on his face cooled. He opened his eyes and saw that the sun had set behind the towers and that he, the wall, and the garden gate, were in the shadow. 

The boy was gone.

For more information on my novel A Wounded World, go to the A Wounded World page on this site or go to Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IJB8RIE/

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Interview

Look I did an interview! Check it out!

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The Two Devils

06/09/2018

The political parties in this country are like two devils, each standing on a shoulder, right and left, whispering into our ears lies, half truths, or truths tainted by racial, gender, sexual, cultural biases. When you listen to one, following it mindlessly as a false angel, you are taught to hate the other and those who mindlessly follow their false angel.

Until we brush these devils off our shoulders; until we can listen, discuss and debate without being demeaning and dehumanizing, there will always be hate and division in this country. This is because it is hate and division that feeds and nourishes BOTH these devils.

A voice crying in the wilderness.

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I am a Writer

05/20/2018

This is an older blog, written for the first version of this site, and since I am starting up again I think it is a significant post for me.

I am someone who has come to realize that I have a voice again.  Many years ago, more than I am willing to consider but must face, as I approach my fiftieth birthday, I had a dream of becoming a writer.  I went to the University of Arizona where I studied drama, film, and then eventually poetry and fiction writing.  I studied under mentors like Buzz Poverman, and within a community of students that could both ground and exalt you between one breath and the next.  I graduated and, like many, tried to find a job to support my ambitions.  It had always been the idea to earn a paycheck while I developed and built up my writing career.  In the end I had to return home to my parents and go to Community College to learn a trade in order to earn a paycheck.  But always in my mind, I was a writer.  From that education I was able to seamlessly get a job and begin my life as a self-sustained adult.  But always in my mind, I was a writer.   Yet I stopped writing.  Not consciously, but I never could quite find the energy or determination to write.  I sustained the illusion of writing by studying the craft of writing.  I probably have collected and read just about every book on writing written.  I am not even sure now what I was looking for in those books; techniques, shortcuts, inspiration or just courage.  I have always had a book percolating, an idea that continuously evolved, mutating from one form to another within the womb of my mind but never quite able to be born. I think I lost courage, maybe because I had little faith in myself; I lost my voice, maybe because I did not know what I wanted to say.  I do know that, as the swift currents of time carried me relentlessly through each day of my life, at some point I stopped living in my imagination.  I stopped beinga writer.  That is an admission that I am just now willing to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not whining about my life.  It has been good.  By every conventional view, I have to say that I am successful.  And that I am pleased with my success and the maturity I have gained over the last twenty-two years.  I earn a good living that allows me to live comfortably and still put money aside for rainy days.  My job is such that I have been allowed to grow and advance professionally.  It is a job that provides both security and yet enough challenges to jolt me out of my comfort zone every now and then.  It is a job that grants me a certain respect from the people who work for me and the people I work for.  There is respect and trust, if also a certain reputation.  As a matter of fact the title of this blog I credit to my boss.  I had written an e-mail in my usual style and had him read it over to make sure it included everything he felt was needed.  He had me remove certain wording that, while wasn’t objectionable, left too much open for interpretation.  Actually he wanted me to cut the word ruckus, which was a shame because ruckus is one of those words I had always wanted to use.  But I absolutely had to agree with his reasons, to the point that I realized that not just the word but the whole paragraph, which echoed the context of the word, had to go.  I tried to explain, but he cheerfully waved me off and said; “Yes I know, you were just being Chris”.  Just being Chris!

A name is a funny thing.  I think in this modern world, we tend to forget the power that is in a name.  I was born Christopher, named after the writer Christopher Marlowe. But for the first half of my life I was Crit.  It was how I was known to my family, friends, teachers and schoolmates.  It was how I was introduced and how I introduced myself, without exception, all the way through my life until I graduated from the university. Then I entered the adult world of work and coworkers, paychecks and tax forms.  And I became Chris.  But I was not Chris, and I did not want to be Chris.  Yet, slowly, I was forced to except being Chris.  So Crit slept, while Chris grew up.  The problem though is that it was Crit who knew how to live in his imagination.  It was Crit who loved to live in stories and play with language.  Crit is the reader, the writer, the observer and the commenter; Chris is the mask for the world.  A strange duality, a strange contradiction, for it is Crit who has the voice and the stories, but it is Chris who, through the process of his professional life, has the energy, the courage and the discipline to speak.

So now we come to the mission of this blog.  Chris needs to become Crit again.  I need to learn how to be Crit and Crit needs the energy and discipline Chris has developed to do what I need to do, if I am to write.  Let us face the truth here; Crit is most definitely a lazy butt!  As an exercise, I started a journal over the holidays.  The effort was your typical new year’s resolution that pretty much failed right after inception.  Like I said, Crit is a lazy butt.  But, interestingly enough, I discovered that Chris is a bit of a narcissus.  The problem I found with a journal is that after all the effort of writing it, what then?  What was the point…no one was ever going to read it!  Even, most likely, myself!  Can we say epiphany?  A small one at least, for the problem I decided was that there was no obligation to continue the effort.  Who would know?  A writer needs to write, yes.  But a writer also needs to be read as well.  No one will read any journal I write, even accidently.  But chances are that maybe one person might come across this blog and stay long enough to read.  Having liked what was read, he or she might return to read again.  I hate to disappoint.  But again, how does this help me found the writer in me?  Well, for the last three hours, I have sat at my desk and composed my thoughts; fed those thoughts into a keyboard and spewed them out onto a monitor.  I free wrote just under twelve hundred words without looking back; expressing my thoughts, feelings and ideas fluidly and coherently.  And now, without hesitation, I will post and publish this article for the entire world, who is willing, to see.  Guess what…

I am a writer!

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