Sunday, September 18, 2011

What happened to the drabbles?

So, you may have noticed that I have totally fallen off the wagon. There are a couple reasons for this. One is that I've started reading compulsively, all the Arthurian legend I can find. Right now I'm sitting next to a pile of books that is at least a foot and a half high, and it is staring at me with big doe eyes and saying "Why aren't you reeeeeading meeee?"

The idea was that I was going to use Arthurian legend in a story I was writing, and for that reason I should really know more about King Arthur than can be conveyed in the musicals "Camelot" and "Spamalot". But I appear to have gone overboard (me? Go overboard? Never!) on the research. When (if) I get out from under the pile, and actually write something, it'll be up here. I promise. And it'll be longer than 100 words.

In the meantime, I'm also making a corset! And teaching myself embroidery! It will be fantastic, or maybe awful, but it will be a corset! You can read about the first day of work here!

In other news, I think maybe I need to scale back on the grandiose plans. Maybe? Or would that be no fun at all?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Drabble: Inculcate

I liked the "repetition" part of the definition most. This sort of works, I think.
Abby didn't really like the poem her teacher had chosen for her, a complicated tangle of words that she could barely pronounce, much less understand. But she liked the way her teacher had smiled upon handing her the script, whispering “I saved the best one for you.” And so Abby dutifully forced her mouth into awkward positions that would yield the knots of language until the clots tripped off the end of her tongue lightly. 
Years later, whenever she heard the poem, she would smile with proprietary pride, her nostalgia making up for the obvious and plentiful textual shortcomings.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Drabble: Aplomb

You can tell I'm tired because this is almost entirely based on a pun. Better tomorrow?

“Oh no, I'm sure I can handle it,” was his continual reprise. First, when the drain was clogged. Then, when the caustic chemicals he was using began bubbling back up towards the kitchen. Again when the floor was covered in lime, eating through the mop he was trying to use to clean it up. You couldn't fault his confidence, or his collected nature, simply the results of his actions. 
“Stop it,” you would say. “We should call a professional.” 
“Oh, no, we don't need to pay a plumber for this. I'm sure I can handle it.”

Drabble: Gammon

Oh no! I'm super late, because work today was a nightmare and a half, and then Ceili lasted until they kicked us out of the Gelato shop. The latter totally made up for the former, of course.

But! Here is a drabble about lies and ham, because Gammon means a lie, but it sounds like ham.
The ham gleamed in the center of the table, succulent and golden. Christopher's mouth watered. This was his favorite part of Christmas: the ham. And better, his cousins were visiting their other grandparents. 
Christopher only had to share with his parents and his father's friend, who had nowhere else to go. 
“You don't keep kosher, do you?” Christopher's father asked. “Chris loves ham. Insists on it.” This was too good to be true! 
And then the reply: “It's fine. It looks delicious.” 
Christopher's heart fell, but not far. One old man was still better than four cousins.
I know, I know, no four people could eat a whole ham in one sitting, especially if one of them is Jewish and another a small child. But this is America, land of excess, so they'd certainly try.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Drabble: Paralipsis

Percy checked again to make certain that all his things were properly packed. If something was amiss, it was an excuse to repack. He hated disorder. And every moment packing was another moment not fighting monsters. It was safer here. 
The message from the king had been very clear on one thing: all able-bodied young men were to go the northern border. It hadn't mentioned what they would be fighting. 
The rumors were not particularly comforting. “Apart from the usual dangers,” a soldier had said at the inn last night, “I hear there's another dragon to contend with.”

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Drabble: Braird

Rightly, this should be about zombies climbing out of graves or something. That'd be even better. Maybe I'll write that one later. But zombies don't really /sprout/, they grow, so I had to include a plant in the first one.
“That's not what bell peppers look like.” He meant it as a warning, but I heard an attack.
“My peppers are lovely,” I bit. 
“Your peppers are black. Are they rotten?” 
“Rotten! They're delicious.” He looked at the plant dubiously. “Taste it,” I insisted, picking a particularly dark pepper. “It's safe.” 
Hesitantly, he took a bite. His suspicion melted away, but nothing replaced it. “Oh,” he said. “Can I have another?” 
He'd be back to criticism all too soon. But in the meantime... 
“Water,” I said. 
He picked up the hose.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Craft blog: blue jean bustle

So, a while back Paula (who is awesome) and I decided to start a blog full of the things we make. And I finally wrote up a post, from the pictures I took while making a bustle inspired by one of hers. (A shameless ploy to get her to post? Maaayyyybe...)

Anyway, you should check it out!

My blue-jean bustle!

Drabble: Nebulize

Hey, an early one. And one that I rather like. I've finally told enough of a story that I feel like it has a beginning, middle, and end. So that's something. It still feels like the beginning of something longer, and there's still more things open at the end than resolved, but it's a drabble so I feel like there are allowances made.

“There are… things in the fog!”  His voice is shrill; almost crazed.
“Stop crying like a scared child,” you chide. There are always shapes in the fog, little shadows and depths. Fog is never a uniform white blanket.  You see it every day. 
But you’ve never felt it before. There’s a thickening in the fog around you. Your vision clouds. You can still hear him, but muffled as though someone was covering your ears. You can feel a tendril of the fog – an individual tendril – as it fills your mouth. 
“Don’t ssscream,” it whispers. “Thisss will only hurt a little.”

And it's early enough; maybe I'll have time for another one today. Or a post about something else. That'd be crazy.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Drabble: Darkle

Let me first say that really, there shouldn't be a word that means "darken" and rhymes with "sparkle". But there is. Because life is just that wonderful. And, secondly, another drabble that sounds like the introduction to a story rather than something that stands on its own. I'm working on it. I feel like I could have pared the beginning down even more, but that it would lose any voice it had, and that wouldn't be as good. This is at least better, because it gets to the punchline, kinda. Maybe.

The pool shone darkly in the moonlight. Caitlynn dipped a toe in experimentally, half expecting it to be solid as glass, or thick as molasses. It wasn’t. The ripples shivered away from her foot, blotting out the image of the moon, and then they were subsumed as she waded in. She leaned back and closed her eyes, floating. Peaceful. She didn’t notice clouds washing in, until the stars were gone and the moon was a faint light patch. The pool had turned velvety-black. It clung to her skin. 
She dried herself with a towel, but the shadow wouldn’t come off. 

(EDIT: I totally thought that setting the "Published on" time for sometime, like, six hours from now would hold this for six hours. No such luck. Either I'll figure out a way to do that or I'll just know in my heart that I'm one ahead on drabbles for the month.)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Drabble: Substrate

For some reason this took me back to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, with "An audience! Perfect! A lucky thing we came along."

Weird, huh? You'd think I would be all Michaelis-Menten with this one, but no, I chose Stoppard. Let this be a lesson to you: I will always, always choose Stoppard. Of course, now that it's written, I'm not sure I got across what I wanted to.

The cart trundled sadly into town; its uneven wheels making up for the cement roads and giving it a suitably lopsided, lurching appearance. The banner was barely legible: “Carnival Veronica.” I remembered it being painted in crisp, bright colors, trailing flags that glittered in the sunlight, but now it just all seemed brown and gray and decrepit. Crumbling. Sad. 
“Daddy! Daddy! A circus!” cried Bethany, and she tugged on my hand. “Let's go see the circus, can we, daddy? Can we go?” 
“Of course,” I answered, seeing my memory reflected in the glow of her face.  

What I was going for was a magical carnival, one where what you see is a reflection of your imagination/innocence/expectations. But it feels a little bit more like "Kids like the silliest stuff, don't they?" which is totally not where I was going. Suggestions?

Drabble: Metaphrastic

Turns out I used yesterday's word of the day. And although Metaphrastic describes a piece of writing that's been changed from one form to another - and hence I was tempted to find some non-drabble to turn into a drabble - the idea that stuck with me was about gestures that are beyond phrasing, or structure, or language. Or something like that.

The canceled flight should not be a big deal. Any other trip, you would smile and find a seat that isn't horribly uncomfortable. But it's early, or late – you can't tell, you've been traveling for sixteen hours – and you need a shower and a bed.

You can't tell how you look, crumpled against the wall, exhausted. But you're brought out of your misery by a tiny hand on your shoulder. A child anxiously offering a stuffed toy. It takes all of your strength, but you smile gamely, shake your head, and try to find a cup of coffee.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Drabble: Ice Cream

I had risotto for dinner, and it was glorious. Fabrics + risotto + Doctor Who + a hammock make for a very happy Elizabeth. And the best part is I cleaned my kitchen in the process, so I can go back to mopped floors and only a few dishes.

No, actually, the best part was eating risotto in a hammock as the sun set. The clean kitchen is just a bonus.

Tonight was a night for macaroni and cheese. Something gooey and fattening – food that went straight to your hips, but on the way it felt like a warm blanket. Emily stared at the e-mail from her boss. “Needs to be rewritten. See me.” Attached, her life's work. The few comments were ambiguous except for their negativity: “Wrong,” “Awful,” and “You write like a drunk preschooler.”

Her phone buzzed, Malcolm checking in with some witty remark. Emily smiled for a moment. “Texting on company time, Emily?” her boss asked, behind her.

Maybe ice cream, too.

Return of the Drabbles?

Don't get your hopes up, but here's one.

Sara watched the sky, silent, while Nathan drove. The stars, once so bright, were fading; drowned out by the aurora of civilization. “Everything seemed so much brighter out there,” Sara said quietly. “Cleaner, or simpler, or something. I don't know.”

Nathan didn't respond.

“I suppose if we lived there, it'd be just as bleak as home.” For a moment, it sounded deep. “It's the routine that destroys it, maybe.”

“Maybe,” Nathan agreed. Tomorrow there would be coffee, and work, and the gray normalcy of life. But tonight there were still stars left. Sara watched them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


What's this, a drabble? Came to me on the train. Initially I wanted to do this with 100 characters, and not 100 words, but then I wasn't sure if spaces counted and so I just did the lazy thing and wrote it as a drabble instead.

When you left, I planted a tree. I would sit under it every day, and cry. My tears watered it. I thought of Cinderella, and the spirit of her mother. Maybe the spirit of our love would come back to me some day, if I tended faithfully to its remains. I promised I would never forget, never listen to the friends who told me to just get over it.

But trees need a lot of water, and a girl can only cry so much.

I met him before it had grown stout. And it withered, and died. I’m not sorry.

And the 100-characters (counting spaces and punctuation) version:

I planted a tree when you left. My tears watered it. But it was thirsty, and I can only cry so much.

The other idea I had on the train, this one does work with 100 characters, counting spaces:

His most serene highness, the emperor Ferdinand Archibald Van Hooferschteinen III, slept peacefully.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Belated Circus Video

What my mother has been waiting for:

Of course, when I look at it now all I see is the fumbles I make, the time I spend thinking "Wait, what now?" and so on. Advantages over the previous act: I have a character. Disadvantages: the song isn't as good for an act, and the moves don't go as well to the song.

I think those parts are a function of how I choreographed, which is to say that I chose the song (and in certain ways the character) because I was performing in two weeks and hadn't yet found anything better. I had a few sequences I wanted to fit in, and I cut stuff out to fit the music. It worked, and the act is okay, but it could be way better. And although I like the fact that the character came semi-first, and the music came later, I think that it probably works best to spend enough time playing around with the music that they really flow. So next time, before I start stringing tricks together, I'll find some music.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


My mother, I am certain, wants to see circus videos (last week was notable for two end-of-session showcases). But instead I will bother her with something no one but me cares about: pictures from my garden.

This is the garden that Amy and I planted. It is badly in need of weeding, but otherwise looks good. I think we should start eating some of the leafy greens, otherwise they will be altogether too much. Or something like that.
Especially the arugula. It's taking over the raised bed as if there's nothing else growing there, which shortly there won't be because it will all be arugula.

Which, honestly, won't be all that bad. There are a lot of worse things than arugula. I love it's spicy, bitter bite. None of this is news. What is news is that I finally tried some of the arugula growing in my garden. And let me tell you - it was like store bought arugula only about a hundred times more potent. I don't know what they do to remove all the flavor from the stuff I get in the produce section, but I was shocked, and impressed.

And I only have one more thing to say:

I'm looking forward to the tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ask a Geneticist, again!

I have another "Ask a Geneticist" answer posted. This one was very interesting to write. Hopefully I did an okay job.

I want to do something in this space, but I've been distracted from drabbles. Maybe I'll go back to them but on a less demanding schedule. Maybe I'll write longer stories less frequently. Maybe I'll start trying my hand at some science writing. Maybe some combination of those. If you have opinions, share them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Not happy with this one. But I didn't have any better ideas. I just automatically go for jargon when I see that word, and I had to fight against it - awkwardly, at best.

They met in late August, at the height of a scorching heat wave tearing through the Midwest; bumped into each other between pool parties and barbecues. Each regarded the other with a mixture of respect and distance. A rival.

By September their similarities could not go unnoticed, and they happened upon an awkward friendship. The leaves turned, and pool parties were exchanged for movie nights, and they seemed to merge. Maybe the changed happened on Halloween, and maybe Thanksgiving, but before the first snow, they were best friends. But they always insisted it was temporary: “Just wait until the summer.”

Monday, April 25, 2011


The[O1] derivation of[O3] the formula[O4] being simple, it is left as an exercise[O9] for the student[O11] .

[O1]The derivation of your mom is simple[O2].[O10]

[O2]And left as an exercise for the student.[O10]

[O3]Calculus sucks!

[O4]Mary Jacobson <3 Trent Adams [O5]

[O5]Garrison Hopkins[O6]

[O6]James McDaniel [O7]

[O7]Noah Czernowitz [O8]

[O8]Every boy in school

[O9]I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.[O10]

[O10]Thinks he’s cleverer than the rest of us, but probably can’t figure out the three line proof. Joke’s on him.

[O11]Actually, it’s in appendix three.

[O12]Who checks appendix three? [O12]

[O13]Who writes in a library book?[O13]

Friday, April 22, 2011


Technically, a voodoo doll isn't a homunculus, I don't think. Especially one that doesn't work. Oh well.

Phoebe huddled over the little clay doll, clenching it in her hands and hoping that he felt the constricting tightness of her grip. She wanted to crush him. To boil his blood and grind his bones to dust and dance on his ashes, naked from head to toe, feet blackened with soot and dirt. Nothing short of that would be suitable punishment. Nothing short of that would assuage her anger.

She squeezed the doll until it cracked and crumbled in her hand, turning to dust. She threw the dust on the fire, and watched it flame out. But nothing happened.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The ship ran on a state-of-the-art technobabble drive. So long as there was a semi-plausible but ultimately meaningless explanation, accepted by the crew on faith, everything was fine. The life support used ultra-dense biomimetic arrays to replenish oxygen. They were propelled either by solar sails or nuclear fusion. Maybe both. No one cared to question it. Everyone knew what happened when someone doubted; they had seen the Perseus fall out of the sky. All it took was one word to punch a hole through the hull faster than you could say “I do believe in fairies.” One traitorous word: “Why?”

Initially, this was going to be a string of technobabble trying to explain something. I like this better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It means "Behind" but it reminds me of "Abashed" because I'm a terrible person and that's how someone with a lisp would pronounce "Abashed".

She wanted to interrupt, to shout something impetuous but ultimately futile. Or even just the truth. But he had warned her about it, had expressly prohibited it, and he had always looked out for her best interests. “This isn’t about what’s true,” he’d said. “This is about damage control. I’ll take care of it, you just stand behind me and look abashed. It’s what they want; they’ll lap it right up. And then we can go back to not giving a crap about them. Okay?”

So she stood, and stared at her shoes. It would all be over soon enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The poster on the wall showed Superman, chin up, arms akimbo, sun making a halo behind his head in posterized art deco glory. Whenever Jeremy felt overwhelmed, he adopted that pose. Or tried to, at least. His narrow shoulders could never quite match the man of steel’s comically proportioned frame. It was a pose, nonetheless, of determination and power. He brushed his hands together. He couldn’t see the floor, covered in a six-inch deep layer of dirty laundry and schoolwork. And his mom had said: no laser tag until the room was clean.

This was going to take a while.

Monday, April 18, 2011


This is an awesome word that I didn't know until today. It means frantic or without restraint. It might be one of my new favorites.

“No, no, no!” the director shouted. “It’s flat, sagging, like a corpse on the far side of rigor mortis. It’s even letting off a putrescent stench.” The dancers scowled. None of them appreciated his metaphors, which seemed more likely to turn stomachs than clarify concepts. “You need to breathe life into the choreography. You need to commit, at least. Better to do something decisively wrong than pussyfoot around.” Another conspiratorial glance – there had been too many derisive lectures about footwork to forget.

“In fact, just forget it. Make something up. Improvise. Just don’t run into each other. From the top.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011


My computer died on Thursday, which is why I haven't been posting (for both of you who noticed).

And since it's been a while, I have a longer story. It's (obviously) the beginning to something longer, which I might or might not write. It feels a bit too much like too many of my other ideas, and I have no idea where the plot would go. At this point, it's just playing around with characters and trying to make them believable.

Wendy loved the rain; the soft percussion of water against her roof, the tense static charge released from the air, and the smell. Especially the smell. She loved sitting out on the balcony and watching the damp streets below, people scurrying by with umbrellas, collars upturned against the damp. There was something exceptionally romantic about rain. Something that Alice, standing just inside the sliding glass door, failed to see entirely. “You’ll catch your death,” she remarked dully. At least Wendy had made it obvious over the years that while she respected her friend and took her counsel on many things, Alice was not going to change Wendy’s love of a good rainstorm. Alice barely even tried anymore. “I was thinking,” she continued, gesturing with her martini so loudly that Wendy could hear it without turning. “I know you’re resolved to live in this hovel, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t at least look like a home. My friend Diane can fix you right up.”

“My apartment is just fine,” Wendy insisted. “And I don’t have the money for an interior decorator, anyway.” Wendy paused for half a moment – any longer and Alice would certainly cut in – before she continued. “And even if I had the money, I would use it for something else. Or even just save it. The last thing I need is an apartment’s worth of decorations and no apartment to put them in.”

Alice’s tone was frustrated and not a little condescending. “Wendy, darling, don’t think of the price. Let me pay. I want to – in fact, I insist. And Diane will be on strict orders to avoid extra expense. This isn’t about buying art for the walls; although you certainly could use something to bring interest to the place. This is about using what you already have to brighten your little corner of the world.”

“What I already have is a bed, two chairs, and a table.”

“Yes, well, in your case it might involve a trip to the flea market.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “Why are you doing this, Alice?”

“I just hate to –“


“Diane’s down on her luck, and my loft is already gorgeous.”

“You’ll pay?”

“Of course.”

“And she’ll stay out of my hair?”

“You have my word.”

“Fine, have at it.”

“Marvelous. When can we all sit down together to consult?”


“To plan. You understand.”

“You said she would stay out of my hair. Diane can do whatever she wants, so long as I don’t have to see her. You have a spare key.”

Alice sighed one of her trademarked sighs. This one said ‘You are being unbelievably difficult and I do not know why I put up with you.’ Alice had perfected the art of the sigh at a very young age. “I will never understand you, Wendy, dear,” she said.

Wendy shrugged. “You’re the baffling one,” she insisted.

They fell into a comfortable silence, the sound of the rain overtaking their conversation. Comfortable, at least, for Wendy, who was content to sit and listen to the rattling in the copper gutters. Alice fidgeted inside, playing with the venetian blinds and rearranging the bedspread.

“Are you going to sit there all night?” Alice asked.

“Of course not,” Wendy lied. She would stay out as long as it was raining, she thought. “I have work tomorrow.”

Alice chuckled, another one of her perfect expressions. This one somehow expressed her mixture of equal parts respect and disdain for Wendy’s job. “How are the little monsters?”

Alice never referred to Wendy’s students as children. It was as if, in Alice’s mind, children were mythical creatures, like unicorns or mermaids. The small, unruly people Wendy spent most of her day with were just runted adults, and rather disgusting examples of messiness and need. Little monsters, designed specifically to ruin a good designer pant suit.

“You don’t want to know,” Wendy answered.

“It’s still polite to ask,” Alice insisted.

“If you say so.”

“You’re wasting your talents. You could be so much more than a third grade teacher.”

“I’m good with kids. I like them more than adults, usually, anyway.”

“But you could change the world.”

“Who says I won’t?”

“I just hate to see you squandering your life.”

“And I don’t see it that way.” There was another pause; this one tense enough that Wendy couldn’t drown it in the sound of the rain. This was another sticking point. Wendy didn’t know what Alice expected her to do. Alice herself was a hedge-fund manager at a local branch of a banking conglomerate. Wendy didn’t know exactly what she did all day, unless it was shuttling money between accounts and collecting a disgustingly large paycheck.

“I should be going.”


“You know how Clarence gets if I leave him to his own devices for too long.”

“He might start rearranging the furniture.”

“Oh! Don’t even joke about that! It isn’t funny.”

“See you next week?”

“Of course, darling. You know I love our talks. I’ll see myself out.”

Wendy heard the sound of Alice latching the door behind her, and nestled further into her chair. She was alone now; just her and the rain. She breathed in the smell of mist and mud, and breathed out. She finished her beer, and closed her eyes, and might have fallen asleep in her chair. She dreamed that a raven, feathers in disarray and with a clipped wing, flew up to her balcony. She felt like she should have been afraid, but she wasn’t. The bird just looked pitiful, like it had just been in a fight with a cat and had come out the worse for wear. It blinked its jet black eyes at her, and cawed. She thought she heard a plea in the caw, and she reached out to the bird, but it hopped away and flew, wobbling and dipping but never quite falling, into the night and the rain and the city.

She woke up in the middle of the night. The rain had stopped. She stood up, stretching her shoulders and yawning as she picked up her empty bottle. She took one last glance at the rain-drenched street, and saw him: collapsed under a streetlamp, drenched and in a pool of what she hoped was rain. She hurried inside to call an ambulance, and when she knew they were on their way she stepped into her galoshes and made her way down the stairs.

Up close, the pool wasn’t water. He had been badly beaten. She stayed two steps back, in case he was some kind of crazy person, and said, tentatively, “Mister?”

She thought he groaned.

“I called an ambulance. They’ll be here soon. What happened?”

He mumbled something that she couldn’t understand. Crazy, then, most likely. “Whoever it was beat you up real good,” she said. “I’ll stay with you until the EMTs get here.” In the distance, she heard sirens, and the cawing of crows.

And since I have a computer again, I'll resume posting drabbles tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Very quick, for better or worse. But it seemed appropriate.

“You want to build what kind of building on our campus?”


Dean Jordan sighed and ran his hands through the two strands of hair he had left. “Have you toured the University?”

“Yes, and there is no engineering building.” Jordan’s bespectacled interlocutor seemed undaunted, perhaps even oblivious.

“You’ve talked to the students?”

“Why would I do something like that? I can get the numbers from U.S. News and World Report. You’re ranked top ten in the country, even without an engineering building. The students are certainly smart enough.”

“Are they interested?”

“Why wouldn’t smart kids be interested in engineering?”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


“The esteemed senator from Colorado is mistaken,” intoned the speaker with a smug smile to the colleague to his right. As if to imply that their opponent from Colorado was a small child worthy only of condescension.

Something inside her snapped, and although she knew she would probably be kicked out of the proceedings for disorderly conduct, she interrupted. “Stop it,” she demanded. “Your fa├žade of respect is as sickening as it is false. We don’t esteem each other, and I’m not mistaken. You’re lying, about everything. You haven’t said a true word since you’ve been elected, if not longer.”

Another late night in lab, made better by the fact that this afternoon I had some time midair. Everyday is better with a little bit of circus. And possibly with a lot of science.

It's also possible that the disconnect between the "normal" Baker lab schedule and my own makes nights that wouldn't be late for any other graduate student seem later. Although I think 10 PM is late for most anyone, and it's looking like two of those in a row.