How The Weighty May Fall

(photo courtesy of http://www.sjvgeology.org/)

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A teamster at Kern River field on the east side of the valley at the turn of the century getting ready to haul a tank of oil into Bakersfield, CA. (photo courtesy of http://www.sjvgeology.org/)

How the Weighty May Fall

by Aaron M. Green

“I’m a lifelong parishioner, and I’ve always tithed. Always, Reverend. Why would anyone who says they’re dedicated to the mission of the church not give to help her? I’ve never understood these newer people who’ve been coming here over the years,” Jerry said. He leaned forward to speak more quietly. “You know, the migrants who come to eat our food, listen to our sermons and take our communion all without giving to help the ministry.” Continue reading “How The Weighty May Fall”

Degenerative Disc Disease

“Well, doctor, I think you lied to me,” she said, the quality of her voice slightly altered by the subtle sandpaper tone of the telephone.

Dr. Leroy Church was just closing his office when Patty Hanks called. The sun had been on its way toward setting and he was ready to go home. He held the phone to his ear. “Now Patty, come now. Why would I do that?” Continue reading “Degenerative Disc Disease”

The Miler

This second-person short is dedicated to my old running coach, Jeremy Mattern, a man who believed one school’s program could be great and has been making it such for almost fifteen years. You’re an animal, J-town. 

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“Pre” circa sometime 1970’s (disclaimer: this story has nothing to do with Steve Prefontaine)

 

It starts in the chest. It swirls around the abdomen, out toward the fingertips and into your feet and toes. It is brought on by the senses. You take a deep breath and look around. It is you and eleven others. They are going through their rhythms. They’ve applied the icy-hot and have sipped from water bottles. They are readjusting their headbands, re-tying their shoes, stretching and massaging their quads.

Continue reading “The Miler”

To Make It Happen Now, Or To Make It Happen Well: Revising My Book and My Life, PART TWO

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This is the second part of two posts. I recommend you read the post I wrote just prior before moving on to this one.

Allowing a book, or any external event, to represent something as hefty as entering into a new chapter of life puts an extreme amount of pressure upon its success. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder: What if the book doesn’t fulfill my dreams and what if I still feel like my life is full of fear and wandering?  I wonder if I’ve allowed the publication of my writing to define me; I wonder: has WE WERE LIKE SONS become a little god? Continue reading “To Make It Happen Now, Or To Make It Happen Well: Revising My Book and My Life, PART TWO”

To Make It Happen Now, Or To Make It Happen Well: Revising My Book and My Life, PART ONE

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This is the first part of two posts. The second part will be published shortly. Stay tuned!

Six summers ago I rode my bicycle across America with my friend Les. It was a life-changing adventure. I remember exactly where I was when I knew not just that I wanted to write a book about it, but that I needed to. Continue reading “To Make It Happen Now, Or To Make It Happen Well: Revising My Book and My Life, PART ONE”

Ten Bucks to Meet a Writer

He approached the register. “Yes sir,” I said. “Can I help you with anything?”
He said he was borrowing his daughter’s bike for the week and that it was making funny noises and not shifting right. His accent came from his side of the country. The way he wore his glasses and how said “I’ll give ya ten doll-ahs” made me think I was on the set of a Woody Allen movie. I pointed him over to our work station and came out from behind the register.
“See the way it don’t shift,” he said, pointing at his rear wheel’s cassette.
I’d placed his bike on the repair stand. I’d kneeled and looked at his derailure to make sure it wasn’t bent. I flexed his thumb shifters across each gear and found the problem. Slight adjustment needed to the limit screws—a ten-second fix. “See these two, tiny screws?” I said, pointing with a fine tipped screwdriver.
He leaned in. “Uh huh, oh right. Yeah I see ‘em.”
“Just need a slight adjustment, that’s all. Have you on the road in no time,” I said, beginning to turn the screws a quarter turn until I felt his gears fall into the right place. Bike fixed.
“So you must be some kinda racer judgin’ by the size of those calfs,” he pointed at my legs.
“I wish,” I said. “I just commute by bike. Haven’t owned a car in years. Maybe three or four years.”
“It’s betta’ by bike, wouldn’t you say?”
“It is. I love it too.”
“Betta’ for the environment, betta’ for the roads, betta’ for ya health.”
“That’s right, sure is.”
“You know, I always wish I’d done more about the environment. I’m a retired journalist. Always wish I’d of cared a little more. My kids they went to the West coast. Son in L-A, dwoughta here in Portland. I’m trying to get more in touch with my progressive side, I really am. I’m thinking about moving out this way now, seeing as how all the kids they wanted to get the hell off the East coast soon as they could and all.”
“L-A,” I say, nodding.
“Oh yeah, son was living downtown, one of those posh lofts. Paying something crazy. Something like twenny-two hunded doll-ahs for a studio downtown. Says he can’t even ride his bike anywhere. Says it’s getting betta though.”
“Oh I bet. I lived there in downtown before I lived here.”
“Oh so you know! You know what I’m twalkin’ about. What bwought you here then, to Portland I mean?”
“I’m actually here to study writing, actually. Taking some classes, trying to learn the craft. You know.”
“No kiddin’ eh. What kinda writing?”
“Well, I’ve thought about journalism actually, but I’d like to be a fiction writer. I don’t know though. There’s a lot I’d like to do. I’m writing a memoir right now about a bike trip I took actually, from L-A to New York.”
“No kiddin’ again. Hey now, tell me the truth, did ya take it easy, enjoy the ride, or did ya do it up all fast like the young guys.”
“Fast. Too fast actually. I only wish I wouldn’t have wanted to take that job I had lined up, or to be home with that girlfriend I had. I was twenty-three. I was so young.”
“I know it, I know it. I bet you flew that bike across, got home and wanted to get right back out there.”
“That’s right, I did.”
“So you’re here now. You’re a bike man. You’re becoming a writah. Hey let me tell you a couple pieces of advice. This is coming from my journalism perspective okay. Best writers are journalists anyway, you know. Don’t let ‘em tell you different!”
“I bet. Those deadlines. I bet!”
“Tell you a story. The day I wanted to be a writah, you know what I did? I found a newspaper. I found the firm’s address and I walked right in and took the elevatah up to the fourth floor. I walked in and looked the receptionist dead in the eye, I said, ‘Hi, my name is Bud, I’m a writah, and I’m good. I want to speak to your editah right now.’ As luck would have it, the editah’s office door was open and there he was with his feet up on the desk looking at me. He says to the receptionist, ’Send him in!’”
“No way!”
“I’m tellin’ ya, resume’s don’t mean shit in this industry. You send a resume to a magazine, a newspaper or whatever, and you might as well have never tried. Those go to H-R and those folks are only looking for people wantin’ to follow the rules. They want clean-cut, by-the-book individuals who’ll stay in line. They don’t know what a writah is. But they get so many applicants they hardly have time to call anyone. Go straight to the editor, tell him what I did. Tell him you’re good. What the hell do ya have to lose anyway? Get up the courage, get that confidence up, muster it from somewhere, even if you don’t have it. Tell ‘em to give you a shot. Watch what happens.”
“So you just… I mean just get the confidence. Get it and stand in front of the people who know the craft, who know the business. And just tell ‘em.”
“Exactly. Like I say, what do you got to lose? Look, in the writing world it’s hard, and you gotta be brave and sure. You gotta know what you’re saying. The world is reading what you say. You’re the authority. Believe in yourself, kid. Okay, here’s one more thing: find the watering hole. You wanna succeed as a writah? Find the writahs. Go up to the Oregonian building, go right up to the door and then stop and turn around. Look up and down the street and find the bar. Go in the bar and order up a beer and wait. Just wait ’til you see someone. Start asking questions to everyone until you find a writah. When you find him, tell him you’re a writah and that you want to learn from him. And there you have it, you’ve made a contact. Somebody knows you now, a foot in the dwoor. Then email him. Journalists are obligated to respond to every email.”
“Really? Is that right? Every email?”
“Every, damn, email, even if it’s an auto-response that says they’re outta town. It’s their job to respond. Email the one you know. He’ll write you back. Make human contact in this industry and you’ll go far, trust me on this one.”
“Wow, I… I don’t know what to say.”
“Hey, look kid. Name’s Bud.”
“Bud, I’m Aaron. Nice to meet you.”
“Take this ten doll-ahs.”
“No, Bud. No way. Seriously I didn’t do anything, the bike is great.”
“Aaron, look. Don’t insult me. I’m a journalist. I get insulted all the time. Look, take the money, buy yourself a beer. First one’s on me. Go find the writahs. Go find them and in the meantime just keep writing. That’s all you need to do.”

El Pueblo De Nuestra Señora La Reina De Los Angeles De Porciuncula

This story, while written by me, belongs to and originally appears in the “Los Angeles 8th Edition” collection at LOVE NAIL TREE. Check it out here.

Los Angeles 8th Edition

They say LA is Dodger, Bruin, shoreline, sky, and levi-cutoff blue. Say cheese! Generations have been smiling here for more than two centuries.

Mi Corazon siempre soñará para las olas calorosas y las playas demasiado llena de gente en Los Angeles.

Behind the guise of a single season and incessant sunshine, though, the city of angels has features any foreigner would double-take. It is smog and sunset (that is, “smogset”) flavored pink—on any given evening there is a fire cooking in the sky. Hollywood is chaos the color of gold, land of dreams, pills and enemies. The beach is beige (the counterfeited color of imported sand, in case you didn’t know), and the history of south county has seen more bullets soaring the skies than birds.

Le sangrará para su cultura y sus oportunidades.

Still, 1 in every 3.8 Californians lives between LA County lines, and 2 of the remaining 2.8 want to. Why? We are experts at turning spoil into splendor, that’s why. We make misfits and migrants into prophets and kings. Land of the free, home of more than a billion American Dreams: come proudly with pennies to your name and at least you’ll get to bronze your skin for free. We are the melting pot of grit, sweat, fashion, ethnic cooking, a million freeway ramps, and failed audition after failed audition after failed audition after failed audition… and we revel in it. When on our deathbeds when we breathe our last we’ll say: “oh yes, oh yes, LA, best days of my life.”

Es donde yo, y millones más, trabajará, jugará, comerá, descansará y morirá, porque no hay otra cuidad que es mi hogar.

 

Prompt: “Up In My Tree” – 11 min

Up, way up, way, way up is where my brother sits. He bends back branches and leaps from tree to tree at will. He has always been more adventurous than me. Below him are my friends, Raymond and Louis, themselves in different trees but often hanging into mine upon their own sturdy branches. They drop down, into my tree to say “hello.” I always look surprised, and I want to ask what brings them by, but before we can begin to climb together they have leapt back to their trees, often without waving goodbye.

I sit somewhere in the middle of the tree, not too high so as to avoid the better chance of slipping from weaker branches, but not too low that I may never have the chance to change a branch’s direction. Right in the middle I have built my bedroom. I have a bed made of leaves, and a dresser to hold what I wear made from high-up branches. I’ve nailed my life together here. I can’t lie, though, I yearn for the sky about as much as I yearn for the firm foundation of this tree from the earth. To be somewhere in between feels boring, noncommittal. But it’s also where I choose to be, my hands have never been tied.

“Bon Courage”

This story, while written by me, belongs to and originally appears in the “Bon Courage” collection at LOVE NAIL TREE. Check it out here.

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“Bon courage!” yelled people in the crowd. “Bon courage… bon courage… bon courage…” the cyclists were saying around her, smiling and nodding at one another. Bon courage, Angie whispered to herself. It was a phrase she first heard on a talk-show on a hotel television while she waited for Steven to finish showering. That was one year and four days ago. This year she’d come alone. This year was her first cat 1 race.

Categories (i.e. “cat”) in cycling are based on experience and/or placement in a number of races. Female cyclists start in cat 4. From cat 4 they can move into cat 3 either by scoring points with top-ten finishes, or simply by experiencing at least 25 races in a 12-month period. From cat 3 they must score at least 25 points by placing within the top ten in a 12-month period in order to move into cat 2. The same goes for going from cat 2 to cat 1.

The course was Tomblaine to La Panche des Belles Filles, a 199 km medium-mountain stage, otherwise known as what would be stage 7 of the 2012 Tour de France, a race that takes place across the sunny month of July. Angie’s race was for women, and so it was in February, and it was cold and rainy.

250 women in brightly colored jerseys and matching shorts—some heavy with sponsorship logos, and some with only few—were huddled within the starting corral. Elbows pressed to elbows, thighs to thighs; most riders were already clipped in, the mass was one great organism leaning upon itself. Each woman had a bib with a number between 1 and 250, and it varied based on how many points she had scored in races recognized by the International Cycling Association throughout the year. Somewhere near the center of the pack, with an already irritatingly pinned bib to the middle of her back, was Angie. Her number was 108.

The race official was speaking French into a megaphone. She’d taken French in college, and she figured this would help, but the crowd was so loud that she couldn’t make out what he was saying. Riders around her looked tense and some were shaking out their arms and jiggling their legs. Others just stared forward. When the mass began to move it was slow, and it took Angie twenty-eight seconds just to cross the starting line. They were a faucet draining out of Tomblaine, single droplets and dense pelatons of riders alike drenching the north-eastern suburbs of France.

Bon courage, she thought to herself every time she made a move and clicked a gear higher to leave a pelaton behind. She loved hearing the wish-wish-wish of her tires on the wet and narrow pavement.

She’d read several translations of the ancient phrase. Her favorite was: “take heart—don’t give up. Hang in there. Have courage in the difficulty you are enduring.” Every move she made was her telling herself that she was courageous; every rider she passed was an emblem of her taking heart.

Bon courage, she thought again as she began the initial climb just outside of Grandvillers, and when she came into view of the lead pelaton during the middle of the climb in Gerardmer.

“Bon courage,” she whispered softly as she sucked down water at the peak of Col de Grosse Pierre and while gripping her handlebars for the 14 km descent that followed.

“Bon courage,” she moaned as she felt the heavy lactic acid build-up in her quads as she climbed toward Col du Mont de Fourche.

“Bon courage!” she cried as she caught tailing riders from the front pelaton in Ecromagny, and as she pulled well within the pack at 30 km to go.

“Bon courage!” She screamed aloud when she felt her body crying for relief at the base of the final climb.

The outskirts of La Planche Des Belles Filles now in sight, she screamed “bon courage!” and heard groups of spectators yell it back to her. “Bon courage,” she called to bib 35 and then to bib 42, knowing there was a chance they might resent her for it. The final 2 km took everything from her, somehow managing to crank while knowing there was nothing left. Her body ached and her lungs were ablaze.

Bon courage, she whispered as she pulled beyond the 10th place rider, securing herself placement. Bon courage, she whispered again as she pushed hard on her pedals. Ten… nine… eight… seven… She heaved into her last stroke and dipped her head for a flashy finish.

She felt the cool rain water mixing with the warmth from her face. She looked at the sky, feeling the familiar elation of her heavy-pounding heart, and she smiled.