Teacher Writer Life

I’m scribbling away on a chapter and all of a sudden this comes out. And it’s only the first week of September 🙂

I want to be on the Emerald Isle, with a Starbucks, a notebook and pens, my camera, and nowhere else to be. ☘️☘️☘️❤️❤️❤️

Introduction to We’re Never Really Gone – a paranormal fantasy by. Tara A. Lesko

Setting yet another goal to be more consistent with this blog! 😉

This is the beginning of my novel as it stands. Constructive thoughts and feedback are greatly appreciated. This is very much a work in progress, but I am trying to meet an October 1st manuscript deadline. Thanks and enjoy 🙂 ❤

 Emerald 

March 30th 2019 – a total reset 

Dear Cerridwen, 

This is a letter I would love to share with the world if I could – yeah, yeah, another “if only…” rant. Sometimes I can’t  help it. 

Dear World,

I’m not supposed to give away any information about “heaven” (big air quotes), but let me assure you, you have nothing to worry about. It friggin rocks, actually. But it has its moments. If you want a purple unicorn, go ahead and draw up the one you have in mind. If you want a fountain that endlessly pours Sunny D with a sculpture of a nude Ryan Gosling at the top, get thirsty. Everything the movies have told you about what heaven is all about is true…

Well, almost. Very, very almost. But that’s a story for another time.  I can’t throw all of what I know at you because it will feel like you took a flying anvil to the face. 

So here is what I can’t figure out. How the hell am I still alive on this Earth as if nothing ever happened to my head? Why do I get to continue on with this so-called life when so many others would have died? 

They caught up with me. They were inches away from beating me. I survived, but I failed. Even though I am afraid, I will do all I can not to let anyone down again. 

This is all I can write at this moment, so until next time.

Ah  Dineen Sian (May the Great Spirit be with You) ~ Emerald  

 

Emerald Sage brought her beloved, leather bound journal with her everywhere, even to work. She named it Cerridwen, and writing on her was the only time she could be completely free. It’s easy to be honest where no one else will read or listen. If Chayton, the maven boss man, ever knew she left Cerridwen lying around while she stocked shelves or sketched in a quiet corner, he would have a heart attack, even though he really didn’t have a heart. 

Cerridwen was the only place Emerald could express her  doubts about taking on another task so soon. She hoped she could stick to working in the shop for a while – decorating for the fast-approaching holidays, rearranging some shelves, and grabbing her favorite bologna sandwiches from Pete’s deli across the street. She could be a random, middle class, Jerseyite for a spell. Fat chance, but she liked to daydream. 

Her pain was nowhere near as horrific, but somehow counting the money in the register became more of a chore than it used to be. A persistent, depleted feeling followed her like an overbearing mother though she had no idea what an overbearing mother felt like. 

On the night that started the mental Drano, Em drove home late from the store. Something she did many times before without incident. It was a perfect night for open-window driving. She thought the breeze hitting her face would be enough to keep her on high alert. 

They’re usually not on the road so late. They’re usually not anywhere so late. The havoc they wreak never required too much travel, especially on the road. 

The moon was immense, making the asphalt look coated with ice. The weather was perfect according to Emerald – unseasonably cool for early June. The winds carried the scent of bonfires and cut grass. Summer is not Em’s favorite season, but she did all she could to embrace it, like everything else that comes back year after year without fail. 

The head injuries from the crash left dull, throbbing pains on her left side, right above the ear. She tried not to think about how the accident changed her – how every thing she saw and every thing she sensed felt distorted like a dream she could  remember but never explain. Oddly, she wondered if she had a tumor growing in her skull – a spongy mass like the capsules she’d drop in water as a kid, so she could watch them grow into animal shapes. Mr. Dinworth sold those things at the bookstore at one point, along with Silly Putties, Pop Rocks, Garbage Pail Kids, and Big League Chews – his idea to get more kids interested in the shop.

“It has been a bit slow these last few months,” Mr. Dinworth sighed. He arranged some new arrivals on the front table near the counter, random James Patterson-type novels and trendy diet books that end up in a Goodwill store if he doesn’t get his hands on them first. 

Em knew Mr. Dinworth’s birthday, but she never pressed him on how old he was. Part of her didn’t want to know. With his slow gait, swollen joints, and his pacemaker twice replaced, she only hoped he would hang in long enough to do all he wanted to do in this world. To Emerald, nobody on the planet deserved more longevity than Charles Dinworth.  

“It’s so nice to have you back Em, and healthy and safe. I held this dear thing every day you were gone.” He dragged his moccasins across the carpet and reached over to touch his Medicine Buddha that sat near the register. He was the happiest and saddest Bohemian she knew. Then again, Em didn’t know many people.

“Thanks Din, it feels good to be back to some sense of normalcy. I guess.” She smiled at the father she never had but would rarely call by his first name. The fact he was doing work and she wasn’t made her creep out of her fog and concentrate on her to-do list.  

“Now that the summer is ending, we should pick up again. We always have our back-to-school kids, our holiday crafters, and our newbie readers looking for bits of inspiration,” He laughed as jovially as his energy allowed. 

“We’ll be okay. Now that I am back in commission I can do more work on the website and the Facebook page. I’m going to start making some killer displays too. This is going to be Dinworth’s Books best Autumn ever. Even Jambhala the God of Wealth will pee his pants, if he actually wears any.” 

She reassured the old man, smilingly, as she took his opaque hands into hers. Em had not been the most active and enthusiastic bookstore manager. Her steady stream of assignments often got in the way. But she was back from an unbearably long medical leave, and she wanted to do more to bring steady business to the bookshop that was her second home. She wanted more normalcy for his sake. 

She wanted to be who she wanted to be, isolated for a little while at least. The brain fog made her feel useless to other places or people in need. The shop felt safe no matter how good or how bad she felt.

“Well, well, someone has been doing some research.” He smiled back at her. 

“I had a lot of time on my hands. And someone who insisted on having me read Buddhism for Dummies?” She gave him a playful, quizzical brow, making sure he knew she was kidding. Suddenly she’s distracted by a big blotch of dim green on the wall near the window behind him – a welcomed sign of contentment. 

“Oh, my dear girl, I was just trying to match your patented jokester ways. You didn’t have to actually read it.” 

“Don’t be silly. I loved it,” she responded after a pensive  pause. The green disappeared. 

Em kissed him on his warm, wrinkled cheek and headed back to the general fiction section. Warped cardboard boxes full of paperbacks and hardcovers needed homes on the shelves. She reached into the first box and ran her fingers across the tattered spines, suddenly forgetting what she was going to do. She didn’t know where to start. Her vision subtlety blurred, and the colors that stretched from floor to ceiling changed, from light to dark then back again. 

When she was home-bound, she had weird moments of funky vision and brain drivel. Nothing as jarring as what she was experiencing in the store. She saw a doctor a couple of weeks earlier about the fogginess and the vision worries, and nothing in her tests gave him cause for concern. No surprise. He figured it was the same persistent psych issues and suggested an adjustment in her meds which Em refused. As long as she didn’t have anything screwed up inside that thick skull of hers, she decided not to think about it. 

She pulled out an old, yellowed copy of Through the Looking Glass, took out the pencil tucked safely on her ear, and marked the title page with a 5 and a dash. She thought about making it two dollars, but they still owed money to the electric company. Underselling wasn’t an option. 

Angela’s Ashes had a slight rip in the cover and dog-eared pages – 6 bucks – required reading in a lot of English classes so it would definitely sell. A hardcover copy of The DaVinci Code minus its book jacket, 5. The Feminine Mystique with slight water damage, 6. She sauntered slowly up and down the aisle and scanned the shelves, searching for where her newly priced books needed to be. But again, she forgot what she was doing and gazed at a series of books titled Skinny Bitch, and she wondered why the world needed books called Skinny Bitch. 

An older gentleman wearing a Members Only jacket and tinted lenses turned the corner into her aisle. She could tell he wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so she didn’t ask if he needed help. She doubted she would be much help to him anyway, so she simply smiled and gave a quick “Hello” to which he didn’t respond. But once he moved past her, there was an all too familiar sight – a grey shadow that looked like finely ground pepper on the shelf beside him. Swirling slowly, the gray formed some odd shapes then dissolved. Em dropped her books onto her feet and snapped out of it. He wasn’t one of them, but he could be one day. He had the right coloring. 

Once she emptied one box, she gave up and returned to the counter to look at the ledgers. Mr. Dinworth insisted on using old school record books and shunned spreadsheets or any form of technology. Before opening one, she whispered a quick prayer for them to be up-to-date and in-order. They were not. The thought of looking over six weeks worth of discombobulated sales records made her woozy. No more fart-brain, and for the love of all that is holy, no more random, wacky swirls of color that don’t make sense, please!  She thought to herself. 

“Oh, I can’t believe I almost forgot to tell you. I have another photographer coming in today to interview for the job. This one seems promising…somewhat,” Dinworth added under his breath. 

“That’s what you said about the last seven you brought to the house, Din. Forget it, I’m just going to tell Chayton that I can’t do any assignments for a while. It’s too much, and it’s going to take a long time to find the best replacement. Whoever this person may be, will have to fill Marnie’s shoes and that is no easy feat,” Em shuffled through pages of numbers without reading any of them.

“Emerald, the best thing you can do right now is get back to mediating,” he unfolded his weathered map of the northeastern United States sprinkled with red dot stickers in various locations. “There are plenty of new places that need you, my dear, and the other readers are being spread out quite thinly. Nobody expects you to jump right back into normal ol’ Em right away.” He surveyed the people in the store before pulling out his leather bound journal from the book shelf behind the counter. Like Cerridwen, that book was Din’s best friend. Except Emerald wasn’t sure if he had a name for his journal. She thought if he did, it was probably Kwan Yin or Tara. 

“I’m sure that’s what Chayton thinks,” Em rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I still think we should stay local and try to get this bookstore thriving again before people start to wonder how we stay in business.”

“My dear, you will continue to get through these stumbling blocks as you always do,” he began in his soft, grandfatherly voice, placing his hands on her shoulders. “With ferocity and a remarkable flood of color and light. That’s who you are, Emerald.” 

She rubbed the back of my neck, looked down at the floor, and solemnly considered his words as he turned back to his journal. Any derivative of the word “ferocious” seemed so distant to Emerald. The sounds were there, so were the colors and shapes, but they were distorted, worse than the screen on the puke-colored, rabbit-eared television her grandmother refused to retire. The TV still sat on Em’s kitchen counter even though it stopped working in 1999. That is where she wanted it to stay.

“I guess you’re right,” she tried to turn her attention back to the ledgers. “It’s not fair to the others who have covered for me longer than they should have,” not truly believing her own words.

“That a girl. I’m going to make some phone calls. Yell, if you need me. I mean, really yell. My hearing aid batteries are dying,” he winked. She smiled back at him as he made his way to their back office. 

The handful of customers in the shop quietly read or skimmed the shelves. Occasionally, somebody bought something. They seemed content, so she decided to sketch out a marketing display for April, National Poetry Month, which she found ridiculous because she wanted every month of the year to be National Poetry Month. 

She grabbed her sketchbook out of her backpack and got to work when a man wearing dark sunglasses, messy hair, and a Pink Floyd T-shirt stumbled toward the counter, slamming his hand on the surface to catch himself from falling face first into the polished oak. The counter shook, making Emerald mess up her lines of ink. He righted himself and gave her a tight-lipped smile. It was obvious he had not shaved in days, and he smelled like whiskey. Em wasn’t sure if he was going for a Jack Kerouac’s On the Road look or a James Dean after-a-fight look. Either way, he seemed more like a wannabe hipster with questionable hygiene.

“Can I help you?” Em asked before she tore the sheet out of her sketchbook and crumpled it loudly. 

“I’m early.” His voice sounded like it was the first time he’d spoken in a week. 

“Okaaay?” 

“I’m looking for somebody by the name of Dinman or Dimwith. Sorry, I had it written down,” he searched his pockets and pulled out a lighter, crumpled receipts, gum wrappers, and pennies. He scattered his mess onto the counter. 

“You mean Mr. Dinworth, yes, he is in the back. Who shall I say is calling?”

“I’m Kyan.” 

“Yeah?” 

“I’m here because I guess he needs a photographer.” He looked annoyed. Like she was the one intruding on his time. 

“What?!” 

A guy, Din? Really? A friggin guy? 

And out of all the guys in the world, this guy?

Since it was on the tip of her tongue, she wanted to say, “The position has been filled. Here, take a copy of The Four Agreements for your troubles.” But the words wouldn’t come out. Mr. Dinworth called this guy in, so she figured it should be up to him to tell him, “thanks, but no thanks.” Em already had a bad feeling that he wouldn’t. 

“You must be Emerald,” he laughed. “Great name, by the way.” 

She couldn’t tell if he was sincere or sarcastic, but either way, all around him was a chaotic cluster of colors. 

“Wait here, and don’t touch anything,” Em turned and flounced toward the back of the store. 

“Yes, ma’am.” 

Oh, this is not good. I can’t work with a guy? Well, I know Din is a guy. But that doesn’t count! 

 

 

 

The Bonfire – an excerpt from the in-progress continuation of my first book, Serotonin with a side of fries, please – Tara Lesko

…Still, trying to resume some semblance of normalcy was harder than finding enough change in my jeans’ pockets when I wasn’t expecting a toll. I was still determined to create this illusion that everything was status quo when in reality, my racing thoughts fed off every organ in my body like some unknown parasite – a mental tapeworm that started in the brain and worked it’s way down, colliding with whatever light traveled up from my ass chakra towards my skull.

Although I knew I was going to receive a lot of weird looks, I decided to bring a supply of Post-it notes and pens with me to the bonfire. Prior to this, I saw advertisements for stacks of cocktail napkin-size papers called flying wishes. These papers were meant for writing down dreams, desires, and everything that was best to let go. Once these things were written down, you were then expected to set them on fire, the rapidly burning paper supposedly posed little threat of setting a house ablaze. I never quite understood why anyone would want to set their dreams and wishes on fire. I mean, I get the symbolism of releasing these thoughts into the air and allowing nature to take its course with them – burn something solid, it turns into a gas, basic science. But perhaps the hidden pyro in me felt it made more sense, and it would be more fun, to torch the thoughts that needed to be destroyed leaving nothing to linger. It made no sense to spend money on paper to burn because someone decided to call it flying wish paper and stick it in a pretty package. Plus, I was flat broke at the time, so I settled on a stack of old Post-its to scribble negative dross then light up. I hoped that other bonfire participants would follow my example. February wasn’t too late to start a new year by letting shit go.

Surprisingly many did follow along with my impromptu ritual, or they were simply drunk or high enough to stare intensely at the slow burn of Post-its with “fuck it” written on them. Regardless, I made the most out of my own little release party. 

I can’t do my job. 

No more Add to Cart days.

I’m going to be an indefinite freeloader. 

All I want to do is sleep. 

There’s no Starbucks nearby. 

I won’t be able to feed my dog. 

I like cutting off my oxygen. 

Am I going to write anything else but this?

How am I going to get out of this? 

I failed another test.

Something along those lines. You get the point.

It got to a point where I forgot about the socialization around me and how I should probably involve myself. I eventually had to put the Post-Its away, pop open a can of piss water beer, and be normal. The remainder of the night went well. There were plenty of laughs and for a good hour or so, life seemed to right itself. John and I came home with sticky marshmallow fingers and campfire smoke embedded in the jeans we never wanted to wash. I got ready for bed, and John, being the vampire he is, looked for a background noise movie to play while he crafted. Then he received the text from my father – a brief message that would hurl my universe into a wood chipper that at least wasn’t turned on at that moment.

Mom was in the hospital. Her glucose was coma-level. There was something on her pancreas. I didn’t know where the hell the pancreas was or what it did. But I never imagined I would develop a violent hatred towards an internal organ no one really thinks or cares about…

Life is a Journey

If that is the case, I need to stop

handing out free boarding passes

to the flights of my mind.

There’s no more room

in my Samsonite soul,

bursting at the seams

with ripped kimonos,

cheap espresso stained

handwritten pages with

the legibility of a tired child,

the scent of cigarettes

and hot hard liquor.

Maybe I should walk the miles

instead of dream them,

with only a backpack full

of empty pages, a grey hoodie,

and a bottle of blackberry Merlot

with only a thin layer of condensation

on its body.

Available at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheForgottenWord