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fiction

Books, Guest Posts, writing

Scheherazade’s Call.

December 26, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Laraine Herring.

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of those magic stories that saved my life. I remember the line drawings of the Bunny all alone on the hill, splashes of muted pastel colors behind him. The Bunny was so loved by the Boy that his fur was rubbed away and he was no longer new and pretty, but it didn’t matter because the Boy loved him. But then the Boy got sick and he was taken away and the Bunny was left alone.

This was the part of the story that began to take root inside of me. My dad contracted polio in the 1940s when he was the same age as the Boy, and even though the diseases were different, the story helped awaken empathy in me for the experiences of another. How scared my dad must have been to have suddenly found himself so sick! What treasured toys of his were taken away? I empathized with both the Boy and the Bunny, and I wanted more than anything for the Bunny to become real—to become loved alive—and if that could happen, maybe—even though my father’s right leg was shorter than his left leg, and even though his gaze often rested on distant things I couldn’t see—I could love my dad back alive too.

That 1922 edition of Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit was my version of the book. My rabbit. My boy. My playroom and wise old Skin Horse. William Nicholson’s illustrations helped make it mine. When later editions hit the shelves, the new illustrations (lovely though they were) were jarring. That’s not my bunny! That’s not my story.

This seems ludicrous on the surface, but talk to a fan of a book when the movie comes out and you’ll get a step-by-step guide of what didn’t match up and how the actors didn’t fit the images the reader had put in her head. Readers claim ownership of the fictional worlds they inhabit, and rightfully so—they helped to create those worlds using the signposts the author provided through text. The reader’s experience with the story is so intimate and so real that it comes as a shock when another reader has a different relationship with the same story. No one can enter the web of words the same way, and no one comes out the other side unchanged either.

Why do books matter? Why do fiction writers matter? Why is fiction reading still relevant? The world changes, evolves, and by necessity leaves behind what no longer fits. The thing is, stories always fit. They take us by the hand and pull us into worlds we didn’t know existed—not the world of the writer, but the world that was within us. Our hidden interior world, on the trigger of a turn of phrase, can expand into new ways of being in and relating to the world. Our experiences with characters and adventures on the page make us move in surprising ways. They give us a window into a way of life we’d never know or a belief system that challenges us and stretches our capacity to care. The author might have been writing five hundred years ago or just yesterday. It doesn’t matter. The readers are the wild card. Each reader co-creates her own story and makes it personally relevant and then engages with the world from that new, changed place.

Our lives are very different from when that first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit captured hearts. Much of what fuels our economy is not a physical product that we can ship and store. Our productivity is intellectual. It’s artistic. It’s creative. And it doesn’t always sit on a shelf. It isn’t warehoused and it isn’t collecting dust. This is an economy of ideas and of inventions based not on a combustible engine, but rather a combustible spirit. As Seth Godin tells us in The Icarus Deception, this is the time of the creatives, the artists, the dreamers and imaginers. This is the time for magic. But it’s hard to put magic in a spreadsheet. It’s hard to make a pie chart or a PowerPoint slide about its benefits. But make no mistake. Our modern age runs on magic. It runs on someone alone in a room with an idea to make the world a little bit better. Innovation and invention start with imagination—the world of fiction.

Who would have thought we’d go to the moon, or store our documents in a cloud, or type a manuscript from across the room from the computer? Who would have thought, until someone did, and then what had once been purely fiction became the norm. Then the standard. But before it became the standard, it was inconceivable. It was impossible and then someone dreamed it. Someone shook the fairy dust and came up with an electric car, solar power, Apple computers, airplanes and stories. Continue Reading…

Converse-Station, writing

The Converse-Station: Joelle Renstrom Interviews Terry Persun.

July 31, 2014

Hey there, Jen Pastiloff here. I’m the founder of The Manifest-Station! Welcome to the newest installment- The Converse-Station: A place where writers interview writers. Today’s interview is between authors Joelle Renstrom and Terry Persun. I hope you are as inspired as I am by this series. Enjoy the interview! 

Sometimes the Magic Works: Challenging the One-Genre Myth by Joelle Renstrom.

About six months ago, something fairly unusual happened to me: I received an email from Terry Persun, someone who had stumbled across my science and science fiction blog. He complimented my work and offered to write a guest post, which he later did. As an emerging writer, I was happy to have a new follower and potential guest blogger. It wasn’t until I visited Persun’s website that I learned he is much more than that.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sex

Children’s Toys.

June 24, 2014

Children’s Toys. A Short Story by Fiona George.

It doesn’t feel right, having him here. Doesn’t feel right to call him by the same name I screamed in bed, now that he’s my ex. Doesn’t feel right to call him by any name, not yet. We’ve only been apart two weeks. Apart isn’t the right word, because he’s here with me on my couch. We’re apart like we’re not fucking, like we don’t say I love you.

People always asked how I loved him. How a little doll of a girl loved a big, fat man. It was never hard. When I fell out of love, it wasn’t because he was fat. I outgrew him. He was my giant teddy bear, the kind of overstuffed, oversized teddy bears people buy their girlfriends on Valentines Day. His eyes, big blue eyes glossed like the plastic eyes of stuffed toys. But I never knew a teddy bear to down almost a whole bottle of champagne.

He brought the bottle to share. I only got a little. But that’s okay, an empty stomach and a lack of sleep fill in the blanks of my drunk. Give up love, and I give up food and sleep, too.

We both knew my love would run out, I never had enough love to stagnate in our own sweat and saliva and cum and call it happily ever after. It was only the first time I fell in love, that pulse through me saying nothing can be better than this, even though I knew better. But he’d been there. Done that. He was in it for forever.

Then I changed my mind.

No, I didn’t change my mind. My heart went and changed on me. It’s my mind that keeps changing now, got no idea what it wants. It’s my mind going back and forth that’s gonna yank us around tonight.

All the love I ever had for him isn’t enough for my heart to change back. Not enough to call him by his name, or even look him straight on, to look anywhere but at our reflections on the blank TV screen in front of us. He’s got his black leather jacket on and it makes his body disappear on the black screen. All there is on the couch next to me is a floating Cheshire cat head. Red lips and his teeth, straight and white except one snaggle tooth in his front top. His smile too big. I don’t remember what one of us just said to make him smile.

But there’s a lot more of him than his floating grin. The rest of him takes up half the couch. All the way up to the crack in the cushions, the line between us. My unspoken rule, he stays on his side and I stay on mine.

The weight of him makes a valley on his side of the couch. I have to hold on to the arm on my side if I don’t want to slip, slowly, into it. I almost want him to stay over, but I don’t want to fuck him. But without those big blue eyes on me, all their adoration at every little thing I do, I feel worthless. I want to slip into his valley, the same way I did when he used to make that valley in my bed.

“Do you want to stay over?” I hear myself ask, my words weak, thin and slow as I feel.

His face, his eyes. I finally turn to look. I haven’t looked into his eyes since I broke up with him. His features so big, blue eyes, red lips, his nose with a little bit of a bump near the bridge. But it’s always been his eyes, those big pale blue eyes that always got me. They’re empty now, empty and happy like a teddy bears should be.

I want him to leave.

“Never mind,” I say, “I shouldn’t have asked. It would be a bad idea.”

His face doesn’t move, but it’s all different. Like a snapshot of when he was happy for a second, eyes extra glossy with tears. If you pull his string, he talks. Says the words he said when I left him. Prerecorded nicknames, prerecorded love.

“Whatever you want, buttercup, I just want you to be happy.”

Words that sound like the end of the conversation.

It wasn’t the end then, and it’s not the end now. His face right in mine, his bar breath of cigarettes and booze fill the space between us, his recorded words soaked with champagne.

“But what if, and feel free to say no,” He says, “what if I just cuddle with you till you fall asleep?”

Just what I want, all the comfort and none of the sex. But I know I’d wake up sticky with him, a couple glasses of champagne burning in my stomach like undeserved adoration. He used to light a fire in my panties, I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe those eyes. But for the last year, sex had my little sacrifice to his self-esteem. I’d do it again if we were in the same bed.

“I’d have to wake up to lock the door anyway,” I say, “you should probably leave.”

His knees creak to lift all his weight, all that might seem like soft fluffy stuffing is so much heavier. When he talks again, he faces the door and his words don’t sound recorded, the little voice box at the end of the string crushed and it’s all my fault.

“Fuck, fine.” He says, “You asked me to stay. But whatever.”

I don’t leave the couch, I pull myself into myself. Knees to my chest with my hands clasped around them, head on my knees. Small as I can be. I wait for him to leave so I can cry. He doesn’t leave, he’s back in front of me, his leather jacket zipped up like he’s ready to go. Me, small as I can be folded in on myself, his jacket would fit all of me.

He doesn’t leave. The pop pop of his weak knees when he bends over me. All I can see is him. Right now, he could lay down on me, fall on me, smother me, crush me. I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing.

His voice is a recording again, sing song sweet and all fake.

“Can I get one kiss before I go?” He asks, “Just a peck, I promise.”

I want to tell him no, but I want him to go. Maybe this one bit of affection will be enough and he’ll be out the door, happy to get what he did. So I bob my head in voiceless consent.

He holds himself up with one hand on the back of the couch, the other is drunk hot and sweaty on my cheek. He leans close, closer, his plushy soft red lips on mine. My knees between us, push into his chest. His stomach curls around the little rock I’ve made myself, swallowing me up. I feel safe, like the last two weeks never happened.

That was just the peck, and if he left right then that would be okay. I might even miss him.

But that isn’t it, his tongue pushes past my closed lips, my brick wall of teeth, reaches down deep in my throat for the part of me that still wants him. He runs me over, three hundred pounds of him crushing my bent legs into me until I can’t breathe. Hot hands reach into the little rock of me to my breasts beneath a pink sweater.

He steps back and stands up straight but not to leave, to pull my legs out and apart. I let him. I don’t fight. He has me opened he wants me naked, naked as I am under all my pink. My sweater gone and so am I, close my eyes and imagine someone else. But there is no one else, no one I would want to do this. But I’m going to let him, I’m going to fake one more orgasm for him, scream everything but his name.

Then maybe he’ll leave.

His hand on the back of the couch grips my hair, the other moves down the naked top of me. The humid hot of his palms. Chubby-soft fingers feel hard. His nails unclipped on my breast, he pulls to hurt, to bruise the softest part of me. Pop pop means he’s on his knees, both his hands go to the elastic top of my sweat pants. Fingers slipping in pants and panties pull both down in the same motion.

My eyes, closed in a black nowhere trying not to let tears leak out when I feel two chubby fingers. Two of his drunk hot fingers inside me with the word he’s said so many times in two years, the word that used to get my panties wet and make my heart do circus tricks. Now all it does is bring the champagne in my stomach to a boil. His low smokers voice, that one word that held all his power.

“Mine.”

Two years, all the time he’d called me his, two years of my body as his. Two years and I would never say no, because I didn’t want to say no at first, then because I didn’t want to hurt him. All that time. Wasn’t until right there on my side of the couch, the other side of the line he crossed. Wasn’t till I was stripped with two of his big fingers in and out of me and his mine that I knew I had my one word, too. My word with all the power.

When it comes out, it’s almost a whisper.

“No.”

Almost a whisper, but he heard me. He stops. His fingers still inside me but they don’t move anymore. My eyes open and his plastic eyes up at me. He doesn’t take his hand out, more like it falls out. His hands, his face, fall down. Each word out of his mouth, one little tear drop.

“I’m sorry,” He says, “I just want to be close to you, I’m sorry.”

Kisses at my thighs, lips gone soft. I’d never seen him look so weak, and all I wanted to do was kick him in the face. I don’t kick, I run. Pull my legs from where they’re spread around him, into small as I can be again. I roll onto his side of the couch, spread myself out in a jump off the couch, run to the only door in the apartment that locks.

Behind the fake wood bathroom door before he can lift himself off the ground. Maybe he’ll leave, he can’t get to me behind the door, so maybe he’ll leave. But just seconds later his knock on the door bounces off bathroom tiles, into the cold white porcelain tub I’ve curled myself up in, small as I can be. This door between us, sounds hollow. Breakable.

My tears, fill the bathtub one drip from my chin at a time. He screams from the other side of the door, the only thing I hear is selfish slut, everything else just sounds like anger, like hurt and tears. I’m crying loud in my head, bite my lip to keep silent. He won’t hear me cry. Tears run into my mouth, bite my lip and taste salt and iron.

All I want right then is my giant teddy bear, to roll into his valley and be wrapped in warm, soft first love. To lay on top of him, feel okay about ever loving him. But he isn’t my teddy bear anymore, he isn’t mine. I’m not his.

He shakes the apartment, the stomp stomp stomp of heavy footsteps.

He’s gone.

The slam of the door.

He’s really gone.

2014-05-24 19.33.33

Fiona George is a non-collegiate high school dropout who loves to learn, especially when it comes to writing. She is conquering a fear of her own words and putting them out in the world. She’s had one other story published in Nailed Magazine. She feels lucky for the opportunities she’s had to learn from writers whose presence makes her a little nervous, in Tom Spanbauers weekly Dangerous Writing workshops, and in The Writers Voice workshop with Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello, where she met Jen. (Jen thinks she is the most badass 20 year old she knows.)

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation workshop is London July 6. Book here.

 

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