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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Gill’s: A Short Story

    “Make sure you take out the garbage before you leave, Marcel,” his mother said.

    “Okay,” he said.

    Marcel tied the two drawstrings together after he closed the bag of smelly trash and placed the new bag in the garbage can before he went out the back door of the house. He waved at one of his neighbors who lived two houses over, and he opened the back gate and dumped the bag in the outside trash can. He then saw one of his childhood friends washing his car down the alley and decided to walk in that direction.

    It was shaping up to be a hot day on an early Saturday afternoon in late May, and Marcel had some time to kill before his college roommate Dave and his boy Trent stopped by to pick him up. He gave Melvin some dap and said, “You got the new ride looking all fresh and shit.”

    “You know me,” Melvin said. “I can’t be driving around in a dirty-ass ride.”

    “What you got going on today?”

    “I’m hanging out with Sheryl for a little while after I finish waxing my car.”

    “Sounds like a plan.”

    “What about you?”

    “My boy Dave just hit me up, and he and his boy Trent are coming by to scoop me up in a few minutes,” Marcel said as Melvin continued to wipe the wax off of his brand new black 1989 Chevy Z24. “We’re heading on over to Gill’s and hit the beach afterward.”

    “Word? What beach are y’all going to?”

    “Probably La Rabida or maybe Rainbow…shit, I don’t know.”

    “Maybe me and Sheryl will come up there later after we get something to eat.”

    “Cool, I’ll let you know where we end up.”

    “Alright.”

    There was brief silence before Melvin asked, “What’s Dave’s crazy ass been up to?”

    “Same old shit. I don’t think he’s going back to Prairie View next semester, though.”

    “Why not?”

    “I think his ass flunked out because he had been ditching class all semester. Now, I’m probably gonna have to find another damn roommate.”

    “Damn, he basically wasted his parents’ money down there.”

    “Yeah, and the sad part about it is he’s smart as hell but lazy as hell at the same time.”

    “That’s crazy.”

    A brown 1984 Buick Cutlass turned the corner at 85th Street off Jeffery Boulevard and stopped at the entrance of the alley. Trent was bumping Heavy D’s new album Big Tyme loud enough to serenade the whole neighborhood. He backed up slightly and entered the alley before pulling up in front of Melvin’s car, and Dave and Trent got out with the car still running and music blaring.

    “You got that bass bumpin’, homeboy,” Marcel said, giving Trent dap.

    “What’s up, roomie?” Dave asked Marcel, giving him a fist bump.

    “Nothing much,” Marcel said, “just ready to get buzzed.”

    “Yeah, man,” Trent said, “that’s the plan.”

    “What’s up, bro?” Dave gave Melvin a fist bump.

    “Just tightening up the ride,” Melvin answered.      

    “This is my boy Melvin, Trent,” Marcel said.

    “I know Melvin,” Trent gave Melvin a fist bump. “Hell, the whole neighborhood knows Superstar right here. Are you gonna enter the draft?”

    “I don’t know yet,” Melvin answered. “I don’t have an agent because I wanna see how I do in the pre-draft camp next week.”

    “Everybody’s saying you’re a lottery pick,” Dave stated. “The Bulls need a point guard as bad as Oran Juice Jones needs another hit record.”

    “I doubt if Chicago drafts me,” Melvin affirmed. “I think they have the sixth pick and the eighteenth pick, and I know for a fact that they’re looking to draft a big man first.”

    “Well, I for one, hope that you stay home, bro,” Marcel added.

    “We’ll see,” Melvin said.

    “Y’all ready to roll?” Trent asked.

    “Yeah, let’s jet,” Marcel said.

    “Yo, wait,” Melvin said abruptly.

    “What’s up?” Trent asked.

    “What beach are y’all going to?” Melvin asked.

    “La Rabida first,” Trent answered. “If we can’t get no action over there, then 31st Street.”

    “Okay, cool. Page me and let me know where y’all at, Marcel.”

    “I got you, bro,” Marcel said.

    The three of them hopped in Trent’s ride, and Trent backed out the alley before he cranked up the sound even louder. The track Big Tyme was erupting out of the woofers and subwoofers in his trunk that were worth almost as much as the car itself.

    Flowin like water you oughta, get your tape recorder So you can sorta sporta, the new order From the Overweight Lord of, Lovers Brothers get respect because I give respect to brothers And others on the agenda, try to remember I can rock a party from September to September Meaning all year round, I can throw down Sound for sound, round for round, pound for pound Now~! I'ma take charge, still "Living Large" I'm not soft, soft as the moth, soft is DeBarge I'm a giant, a major, apply it to the industry…

    Neither of them said a word as they cruised down Jeffery Boulevard on the way to Gill’s liquor store in Hyde Park―they were entranced by the sound of the booming bass of Heavy D’s featured track, who had one of the hottest albums of that summer. Dave lit a joint and took a couple of puffs before he passed it to Trent.

    “You wanna hit this, Marcel?” Trent asked.

    “Nah, I’m good,” Marcel said. “They do randoms at the job, so I gotta be careful.”

    “Word?” Trent asked rhetorically.

    “Yeah, and I haven’t smoked since I landed my internship last summer,” Marcel said.

    “More for us then,” Dave added, taking another puff after Trent passed the joint back to him.

    They entered Lake Shore Drive, and the hot air circulated throughout the car as the Drive opened up to three lanes. People were jogging and riding bikes along the bike path to the right, and the color of Lake Michigan was a rich, dark blue.

    Almost ten minutes had passed before they pulled up at Gill’s and parked. Marcel reached in his pocket and pulled out a twenty.

    “First round is on me, boys,” Marcel said.

    “I knew it was a reason why I liked you,” Dave said jokingly.

    Trent popped the trunk and said, “Grab one of those empty bottles.”

    They each grabbed a recyclable gallon jug and walked inside. One of the cashiers took the bottles to be filled, and Marcel paid $11.50 for the beer. A few minutes later, they placed two of the bottles in the trunk and popped open the first bottle of beer before they headed over to the parking lot next to the La Rabida Children’s Hospital that was several yards away from the lakefront. Gill’s had also supplied them with several paper cups free of charge. Marcel found a payphone along the bike path and paged Melvin. Melvin called him back a minute later.

    “What’s up?” Melvin asked.

    “This is Marcel…we’re at La Rabida.”

    “Okay, cool.”

    “Where you at?”

    “We’re at the Pancake House off 87th and Cottage Grove.”

    “Oh, okay.”

    “I’ll see y’all in a few.”

    “Okay, later.”

    “Later.”

    There were still a lot of empty parking spaces in the lot, but they were starting to fill up fast. A block party type of atmosphere was forming, and Trent had opened his trunk so that the music could reach its full decibel level. Marcel poured himself another cup of beer, and it was then that he noticed a beautiful young lady standing a few feet away next to the car parked a space from Trent’s car.

    “She’s fine as hell,” Marcel said as he filled Trent’s empty cup.

    “Yeah, and her friends are just as fine,” Trent said. “Damn.”

    Dave took the lead and introduced himself to the group of women. Trent and Marcel followed his lead as the introductions took several seconds. Marcel sparked the conversation with the girl he liked while Dave and Trent conversed with the three other women of the clique.

    “So, what do you do, Marcel?” Cynthia asked.

    “I’m a senior at Prairie View, and I’m an intern this summer at IBM,” he answered.

    “Prairie View?” Where’s that at?”

    “Texas…near Houston.”

    “Oh, okay. You like it?”

    “Yeah, it’s cool.”

    “Computer science major?”

    “Yeah.”

    There was a pause, and then he asked, “Are you in school?”

    “Not at the moment,” she answered. “I still have sixty credit hours to go after sitting out a year.”

    “Where do you go?”

    “DePaul.”

    “What’s your major?”

    “Accounting.”

    “And what are you doing now?”

    “My mother got me on at the County, so I’ve been stacking my money ever since so that I can go back to school this fall.”

    “That’s great.”

    The flow of the conversation was awkward at best―Marcel’s game was a little weak. Luckily for him, Cynthia still found him very attractive.

    “So, do you have a girlfriend?” she asked curiously.

    “No…nobody to speak of. Do you have a man?”

    “No, I don’t have anyone.”

    “Would you like to go out sometime?” his mouth was dry, and he was beginning to sweat from the heat and alcohol.

    “Yes, I would love to go out with you.”

    The ice seemed to be broken after that―they knew everything there was to know about each other in the next couple of hours. The beer was now gone, and Dave and Trent were ready to make another run to Gill’s.

    “Yo, Marcel,” Dave shouted, “you coming?”

    “Yeah, give me a second,” he answered.

    “It’s okay,” Cynthia said. “Go with your friends.”

    “Are you gonna be here when we get back?”

    “Yeah, we should be. Let’s exchange phone numbers just in case because I’m not the one driving.”

    “Okay.”

    She reached in her purse for a pen and pad, and she wrote her number down before she tore off the small sheet of paper and handed it to him.

    “Here, write your number in my notepad,” she said.

    He wrote down his number and handed the notepad back to her.

    “I’ll be back,” he said, motioning toward the car.

    “Wait,” she said abruptly before she grabbed his waist and French kissed him. He placed his hands on the small of her back while she wrapped her arms around his neck, and they began to kiss passionately.

    “Come on, lover boy,” Dave said. “She’ll be here when you get back.”

    “I gotta go,” he let go of his embrace.

    “Bye, Marcel,” she said, pecking him on the lips.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Three Most Difficult Facets of Writing for Me

    Writing is something that has always come naturally to me. As an introvert, I’m able to express myself via script better than speech on many occasions. However, there are times when writing is an arduous task, and I would unsuccessfully fight through periods of being unproductive only to discover that pressing the issue was futile.

 Writer’s Block.

    Prior to 2018, writer’s block was something that I experienced on a regular basis. There were times when my energy level was high, and I was cranking out novels with ease. Subsequently, my motivation would wane when my book sales didn’t match the effort that I was making in writing. Everything came to a head in 2015―my personal life was in shambles, and I quit writing for two years afterward. My entire life changed from that point on, and I had to make a major adjustment to my writing style once I refocused and mapped out my short-term and long-term goals.

 Lack of Time and Energy.

    Life happens more often than not and juggling time between work, family, and writing is challenging at best. Finding the time to write after a five-day work week on top of maintaining family obligations can be very taxing, and fatigue will kill an author’s creativity. I’ve learned not to force things and ultimately pick my spots. I tend to be more productive when my mind is fresh, and my writing flows organically as opposed to everything being contrived.

 Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing.

    I sometimes wish that I could focus solely on creating stories that readers love and not have to worry about the marketing aspects of writing. Man, if it were only that simple. Unfortunately for the average author, marketing is a key component of being successful in the self-publishing world―you simply can’t sale books without a solid marketing plan. My problem isn’t finding topics to write fiction wise or on my blog―the Lord has downloaded into me enough themes or subjects to expound upon until kingdom come. The problem is finding a healthy balance between book promotion and composing fiction novels and/or valuable blog topics.

    Writing is something that I genuinely love―even if I didn’t make a dime doing it. I’ve learned to naturally incorporate writing into my daily life without neglecting my equally important work and family responsibilities, and though I may be faced with obstacles that derail my creative juices, I don’t allow those setbacks to deter me from reaching my goals as an author.

Terror Dome: A Short Story (Part 1)

     Jake West had awakened from a peculiar dream he had mid-morning on Sunday. In this dream, he was walking alone in what appeared to be t...