14 comments

  1. Ke11y

    So you came! It’s an unearthly hour for creativity, don’t you think? It’s what he does, says he enjoys the quiet, works better…more creatively. I’ve only just been given a point of view, yesterday I was no more intellectual than a doorknob! I apologize for my nakedness. Anyway, at the moment my name is Alf. Doesn’t mean to say that when he decides to complete me, you know, make me a full blown character, I’ll be called by that name. In the first draft, I was Tom. In the second, Frank. Truthfully, Marlene…it is Marlene, right? You’re the one suggested ‘In the middle of the night’ as a writing prompt. Okay…good…good…anyway, welcome. So this is where we come for completion, mostly in the middle of the night. It can seem like a war zone at times, all of us yelling to be finished, put on the page, bound, complete with our emotions and opinions. Some of us are thieves, others heroes, lovers…yep he’s never short on ideas about lovers. That’s why I’m so hopeful…be one of them. Listen…okay, thought that was him…he leaves his bed at odd hours, we never know. We just have to be ready…or as ready as he left us.

    Before he left this evening, my face was seen by the reader pushed against the icy wind coming in off the ocean, which should go some way to explaining why I’m naked. I’m forced to remain this way until he comes back to the damned chair, and finishes the paragraph. That’s the Bentley twins, over there. They are furious, having been brought to life a year ago, with still no space for them on the page, let alone a bookshelf. The guy in the corner, that’s Tom Schofield. So perfect has my creator written him down, and so easy has he come to the page; the reader gets him instantly: his anguish, the depth of the dry well that was once filled with his pride, his love for her.

    No matter that I stand here mute. This evening, maybe tomorrow, he will again come to the chair. For now I must remain nothing more than an idea waiting to be finished. Two hundred miles to the east, one hundred to the north snow is falling. Seventy-two hours to the west, Christmas. He leaves him, as my life does not yet weigh enough to keep me anchored to the storyline.

    “Where the hell have you been, Tom?” asks one of the Bentley twins, Sid Bentley.

    “Alf, my name is Alf.”

    “Okay, keep your shirt on…oh, no shirt…no anything, aren’t you cold?”

    “You ain’t so funny!”

    “It’s damn funny! Have you no sense of humor? Oh, that’s right, you ain’t complete yet! Still, I see he left you with those craggy, almost prune-like features.”

    “Well, to be honest, I’d rather be incomplete, than a complete you; the twin recognized from his other only by a mole on the back his neck, from which two red hairs grow!”

    “Sid sits back in the chair, flopping his feet disrespectfully onto the desk.”

    “It won’t work, Sid. You can sit in our creator’s chair, and think you’ll nudge his memory that you and your brother are buried in an inch of dust, but I’m the guy right now. You are a lost idea. And you might as well face the facts, your creator is pretty much done with you. Oh, sorry, did I introduce you to Marlene. She’s visiting from Petaluma.”

    Sid Bentley belches, and the aroma of last night’s drinking washes over me.

    “You’re disgusting!” Alf complains, slightly gagging and turning my head away to avoid inhaling anything more.

    “Even if our creator is having a bad night, Marlene will throw him a prompt. However, such energies, have to connect with readers, and it’s evident that such distasteful characters, such as yourselves, often allow the reader to receive many kinds of information. Energy is the key. You Bentleys have energy alright. Sulphuric energy!”

    “Oh look, here’s Gwyneth. She’s from an incomplete story about elves, little angels, and holy beings. It’s been four years, and she doesn’t look a day older. You’ll see there are lots of notes left on the computer, this one here for instance. Bill Leggett. Our creator writes in the margins that Bill is a basic human need; an imaginative idea, he could be a monster, any creature, or fictive entity, but was created only to categorize the vision and is, what does that say: ‘only of the imagination.’ Thanks.

    So, Marlene, the man we need to complete us is not a man of physics and science. Our fate can only be determined by a creator, someone who has the ability to control happenings, literarily. Sometimes it’s really easy for a gifted person to do, and sometimes it’s not that easy. But whenever our creator, finds that space in the middle of the night, we all enjoy the feeling that we are controlled, and will do exactly as he wants. I have been controlled a number of times. At the last stage, as I said, he could think of the wind and it would come, and I would be standing naked on the shore, waiting. A week ago he enjoyed making the wind swirl around me in a clockwise direction. How am I going to convince a scientist, a man of physics, or chemistry, that he can manipulate the visualizations and dreams of the reader, control the music they love, and somewhere while a song is playing, change the course of their lives, their destiny, or deaths.

    No, there can only be our creator, offered a prompt in the middle of the night, come to sit in the chair and just imagine what series of sounds he wants to hear next. Random noises appearing out of nowhere, or maybe change the direction of smoke. That he can sit looking out the same window, across the universal darkness, and light it up come morning.

    So here I am, Marlene, a figment of his imagination, half complete, naked, willing him to make me as real as I can be. See things that were shared before his memory stretched elsewhere, and is dazed: You see, Marlene, my creator knows how good the time was, and how I laughed, but times have changed, I can’t complain, I had my chances, he wrote that for me, but they slipped through my hands-like so much sand; maybe I’ll never know if I can dance like I used to. My destiny lies with my past, in his willingness to go beyond science, beyond physics, beyond doubt and give me another chance.

    The shuffling of bare feet quiets the room, the door cracks open.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Omigosh . . . this is brilliant, entertaining and funny, too! No wait, it’s also riveting, encouraging and inspired. No wait, it’s creative, engaging and hilarious. Oh, this is Just Great!

  2. Ke11y

    Evenings, like forever, start fleeting; going fast. It was then I saw her at some distance, appearing in the mist, ending the need for a mass of fondled faces imagined in a lifetime. I expected every spring to bring her to my arms, to my side, but autumns came thick and firm and fast. I never gave up believing she’d arrive with each winters passing, be here as the moon fell, and the sun rose, clasping hands, our bodies closing that gap between the nightline and the noon.

    Is this it? Is this what every human being is looking for? Is this why we are never closed to the idea of being found? I’ve lived a life of transparent failings, so you must forgive my need to marvel. I crave the sound of her voice, the moisture of her mouth as it speaks to me, the overwhelming desire to kiss it quiet when it speaks to anyone else but me! I am her Rimbaud, Verlain, Baudelaire, or any other member of that whole crew who wondered poetically about shoulder blades, the curdling juices between lovers, the battering submissions, and the scars of false perceptions.

    I lie beside her not understanding the language of sleep, content to drown in the warmth of her breasts, her body pulling me in, the quicksilver mind with all its glittering, shimmering pools of ideas and thoughts. Has she no mercy; has she no compassion for a man lost in the beauty of tender intelligence and member moving eroticism? I cannot lay my head down without her; seeing only the edge of wonder, not content to sleep in some interstellar space between her and what is real. I love her from my nerve ends to my brain cells, and I’m damned if she shouldn’t accept the blame of all that she is, all that I fear, and all she shall yet mean to me.

    1. mcullen Post author

      The beginning of this piece draws me in right away. “Evenings, like forever, start fleeting; going fast” sets the tone of this piece – thoughtful, introspective and by that I mean, it causes me to contemplate and wonder briefly if this is true and I realize I, too, am in that stage of life. And so, there is a moment of nostalgia and recognition of the truth of this and a very brief moment of a sad resignation. But then, the next line is full of such hope, that my feelings make a 180 degree turn and I feel that lively spring step morphing into the autumnal hope and satisfaction of winter’s peace and comfort. Another lovely piece, Kelly.

  3. mcullen Post author

    Dedicated to all who get scared in the middle of the night and to all the lives that ended too soon.

    Things seem scarier, in the middle of the night.
    Sounds are louder, the dark is darker.
    My breath stops, lingers, when I hear an unusual sound,
    in the middle of the night.

    Fears pop up, in the middle of the night.
    No dormant, satisfied dogs.
    Worries grow and magnify until they burst out the doors and windows.

    The house, the walls and ceilings cannot, do not, contain these mystery ailments that spill over into the next county and threaten to close off my windpipe, to suffocate as surely as if a pillow were put over my face, in the middle of the night.

    How many suicides are planned and executed in the middle of the night?

    How many babies are made, promises made and broken, in the middle of the night?

    The good thing about the middle of the night — it’s not forever. Morning comes and with light comes new promises, a whole new day — 18 hours until the middle of the night. Eighteen hours to undo the mysteries of the night, unravel the kinks and hit refresh and start over, until the next middle of the night, and then the mundane of the old stories, the old worries and perhaps, if we’re lucky, something new surfaces to worry about and if we’re real lucky, solutions pop up, but I wouldn’t know about that, in the middle of the night.

    1. Ke11y

      Good morning, Marlene:

      How beautifully you’ve described the human dilemmas associated with the dark. What tricks it can play with our minds:

      Sounds are louder, the dark is darker.

      And how I admire your idea that our fears become so real, so tactile, intruders that can at any moment:

      …burst out the doors and windows.

      Then in your last paragraph allow us to awaken, and with daylight comes new perspectives:

      …unravel the kinks and hit refresh and start over

      And then the cheeky little morning time confidence:

      …something new surfaces to worry about and if we’re real lucky, solutions pop up, but I wouldn’t know about that, in the middle of the night.

      Thank you, Marlene.

      1. mcullen Post author

        And I love “cheeky little morning.” Mutual Admiration Society. . . 🙂

    2. Jennie Butler

      Rich, diverse imagery, dear Marlene, and shimmering with the shivery feelings that can lurk in the dark of a night.

      1. mcullen Post author

        Great caption for this photo, Jennie.

        1. Jennie Butler

          Oooh, how lovely, Marlene!

  4. Jennie Butler

    IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
    By Jennie Frost Butler

    In the middle of the night, tectonic plates I’d failed to wash before retiring, set up such a clatter, that I, barefoot and in my nightie, was forced to tiptoe into the kitchen and try to shush them before they woke up neighbors, revealing my slovenly habits.

    Still quaking slightly, I stepped out onto the lawn, but failed to see any passing tremors or feel the earth moving beneath my feet (or anywhere else). Back inside, I carefully dried each foot, and, leaving those tectonic plates to their own devices, shuffled sleepily back to bed.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Very clever, Jennie. Thanks for the smile and thanks for posting!

      1. Jennie Butler

        Thank you , Marlene. Never know will come out of that private alone place that Pearl Buck mentioned>

        1. mcullen Post author

          Indeed. It’s true. . . when we get quiet and let ourselves travel amongst the “nothingness” . . . it’s surprising what comes of it.

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