Writers of fiction, poetry, lyrics, screenplays and life stories come from diverse backgrounds. For the past three years a small group has met weekly to write together, offering criticism and support to whoever stopped by. Over 200 different people have dropped by; we learned something from each one of them. Most of the people who found us had already written for years- some even published.

If this is something that interests you, join us! We meet every Wednesday, from 9 AM - 10:30 at the Jesus Center on Park Avenue.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Email to a Lesbian Friend

So, weird story:
I sometimes look at the dating ads on Craigslist and even posted one or two
Mostly I receive scams trying to get personal info and credit card #
Did meet one very nice woman from Cottonwood a couple years ago, we had lunch in Chico
Met a woman from Brazil, I don't speak Portuguese and she didn't speak English
She was very pretty
Recently a woman from Shasta County started talking, then went silent
But I read a news item and connected it to some information she shared and I realized that she had to leave California and never return (Warrants, but not for being bad herself)
A person from Chico answered me as well, told me she is well known in town and didn't want to send a picture.
I sent her the UTube up above and she loved it, said the nicest things about Dad.
So I sent my picture, nothing ever since.
But her name is on her email and I Googled her, found a Chico person with that name
And a picture.
I recognized her at once and she probably recognized me.
We don't know each other but she is at a public event each week, very well known
And very beautiful, in my opinion
We go to the same coffee bar
Before I saw her pic I said we should have coffee,
Sadly I'm not going to the public event this week
Since she did not respond to me I guess I can't say anything to her without being pushy and creepy
But it is interesting to see that there are indeed real people cruising those posts
Actually, last year I saw one of the young women that works at a local store had an ad
Alas, all the ones that slip away...

I have a fantasy involving you but don't worry
I goes that you meet a cool bisexual woman, bring her here on a visit, she and I fall in love
You drive home alone
Now you've heard that you'll never bring a girlfriend around

Peace and love,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cardomon II: Sketches for Chapter Seven

Colonist’s hostility toward Leon was high, Hermione made a command decision for his safety: “We’ll escort him to Firstown and secure him for trial.”
Luenda was ready to secure him that moment, hand rested upon her knife hilt, eyes rested upon the prisoner: “Waste of time, we know what he’s done. Savaged our community and murdered Chowder! We finished Jason’s life, let’s do the logical thing… ” fingers curled around the weapon handle.
“I don’t know you, you seem a fine woman, but if you touch that man I will shoot you.” Hermione’s grip settled upon her sidearm.
Luenda stared with incredulous rage, stifled an outburst. Hunter’s eyes studied the merchant’s and saw affinity. Each had a long cast to her view, knit brows rimmed deep sockets, return looks flashed.
Not angry, proud and determined.
She liked the older woman and recognized superior experience and knowledge—wisdom.
Luenda relaxed, her hand dropped away from the knife: “He is going to pay… ”
“Yes—we’ll render justice. Appropriately.”
“You’re the new space trader?”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cardomon: Conceiving Sunrah

One week later:
Gardul went to the kitchen for the tea while Synoveh, Achen and Marcus settled into the conversation nook. Young Luvin slept in his father’s lap.
Achen: “Well, we’re finally here,” he made a shy smile: “I feel like I’m on a first date.”
Marcus: “Don’t be nervous.”
Gardul brought the tea and cookies, poured, then joined Achen. They shared a love seat.
Synoveh stood up and went to the front corner by the door, Marcus’s bass stood there, her violin lay beside. She took if from its case and tuned it then stood with it on her chin, eyes closed, body relaxed and her face was contented. She played a light melody at a walking tempo.
Marcus: “Mood music.” He watched his wife and listened, his mug in his hands.
It worked. Gardul and Achen put their tea aside and held each other, made tongueful kisses and soulful eyes. Hands explored friendly flesh and soon the lovers went to their private bedroom.
Marcus finished his tea and stretched Luvin on the love seat. He went to his bass and got it from its cover, wiped it down with a soft cloth and adjusted the tuning. Over to Synoveh's side, they made a familiar duet.
Fifteen minutes later Achen and Gardul returned. They wore bedrobes and warm, satisfied looks. Gardul had an arm over Achen’s shoulder and Achen held Gardul’s hip. Achen’s free hand carried a long, thin, glass tube, he capped one end with his thumb—milky white fluid filled the last few inches opposite.
Synoveh stopped playing and set the violin aside. Marcus used his bow and launched into a lengthy improvisation. He watched:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cardomon II: More Interesting Than Murder

Once again Roxie assisted Jepson eat. They shared a seat, listened to the band and dozed away.
Roxie woke when a hand clamped over her mouth and Bobol whispered into her ear: “Stay quiet, we’re taking a walk.”
Roxie tried to question him and made puzzled moans. He lifted her, arms under knees and shoulders.
It was later than midnight and the Village was asleep. Limping but silent, Bobol carried her to the pond side opening in the picket wall. T’Hortz stood watch under full red and quarter blue moons. When not defending his community he collected reeds, wove mats and baskets, there was a particular fiber that made strong slick ropes popular all over Homestead.
The sentry was twenty feet away, faced the night, never heard or saw Bobol and Roxie.
She was sleeping again, still coming off the drugs and other excitements.
When Bobol didn’t kill her immediately she had concluded that he wanted to sneak away and get sexy with her. She liked the idea, it helped her sense of calm, so she slept until he was ready.
He only wanted a private conversation.
Roxie opened her eyes again when he lay her on sandy ground near one of the tiny creeks. She started to undress and he dropped a hand over hers: “Don’t do that—not what I need… ” He squatted by her shoulders.
She didn’t believe him: “Your all tense—relax… ” Fingers worked buttons, she offered perky petite breasts.
Bobol had eyes only for her face: “Why did you say I pushed Chowder?”
She eased her spine, let her chest settle down: “I had to, for Cal.”
“Cal told me… I do what he says, he’s Cal. I have to.”
“Are you in love with the guy?”
She nodded ‘Yes’: “Uh-huh… And I love you, but Cal is first—he’s an artist!” She opened the blouse again: “C’mon… lie down.”
He’d used herbs for the pain, but the abused toe raged in his shoe, he needed to take the weight off.
Roxie took his arm and pulled him to her side, he looked at the sky.
She rolled atop, astraddle his hips, started to open his pants.
He blocked her hands: “Wait ‘til morning—I’m beat.”
She stretched at his flank, across his left shoulder and put a tender kiss upon his cheek: “Poor Bobol—Roxie can help you… ” Hand rested under his shirt.
They slept.

Cal rolled against a thorny lemon branch and got stabbed. He woke.

Hungry again, raided the beds and stayed on T’Hortz’s blind side eating another walking salad.
Then thirsty and wanting drugs, he went to find Chattagong.
Down the ravine trail and followed the stream upways.
A little patch of beach and Bobol lay with Roxie, sleeping.
The perfect opportunity, Cal drew his knife.
Before he reached Bobol’s throat he stopped, distracted by sounds of moving men. Looked around and saw skulking forms along the further bank. Low in the brush, somehow oblivious to his presence.
More interesting than murder, he sheathed his blade and crept along behind.

Cardomon: Spaceport Battle

          Jason was the forward gunner, with a seat in front of the motor compartment. The chamfered armor sides of the tractor gave no headroom over the catwalk and he crawled to take the position. Chattagong wqas supposed to ride at the turret gun but when Nubieber got tired of standing and fighting the lurches he commandeered the seat. Chattagong stood behind his commander's shoulder with his head rising from the open top hatch. Ricardo operated the machine.
The tractor rolled in a halo of artificial brilliance from lights mounted around the exterior. Over the flat terrain of the farm the glow broadcast for miles in every direction. Ruts and dips formed wavering pools of shadow as the light source bounced across the landscape. There was ten miles of perimeter fence they patrolled. The view never changed, monotony was the worst hazard of overnight rounds.
Four miles out and they approached the northwest corner, the site of the old equipment yard, now relocated far from the ravine. The tractor crew edged up to a sharper alertness. But the long wet winter was quiet, the farm was virtually an island for three months. There was no Actionist movement the entire time and vigilance dulled.
One of the shadows directly ahead of the tractor concealed a foxhole. Three figures emerged and stood in front of the machine.
Nubieber was nodding sleepily before he saw them, he jolted awake when Ricardo applied the brakes. The commander recognized Bobol and Hildy, the third man was a colonist and unknown. But runaways were designated targets. Nubieber’s hands went to the gun and swiveled it to cover the trio, he squeezed the trigger. The gun fired a two-second burst before Chattagong put his hands around Nubieber’s neck and started to throttle the manager.
Seized from behind and restrained by the safety belt, Nubieber was helpless. Chattagong bore down on his collar and clutched his throat tighter and tighter. There was no choice but to die.
Ricardo twisted around and looked up at the strangler: “What’d you do that for?”
“You wanted him to shoot Bobol and Hildy?”
“No. But now we can’t go back.”
“Now we’re free.”
Ricardo went silent and Jason crawled from the passage to the front: “What’s going on?” When he stood up behind Ricardo his eyes were level with Chattagong’s belt.
“I killed Nubieber. We’re going to use this machine and break out everybody.”
“Are we?” Jason went to the ladder into the turret, climbed up to Chattagong’s side and put his head out through the hatch. The top of the tractor was a spot of darkness amid the flood of light glaring from its flanks.
Chattagong: “My Karin died. Yesterday. Somebody was playing too roughly… One of her cribmates told me she turned into that purple dust and disappeared. This fucking planet’s too weird for me.”
“Too bad, she was a good lay.” Jason paid little attention, watched the landscape outside.
He saw Hildy, crouched over a prone figure—it looked like the colonist Jody—administering first aid. Bobol stood in the foxhole and pointed a crossbow at the tractor, blinded by the lights.
Jason shouted: “It’s okay. We killed him.”
Bobol: “Killed who?”
“Nubieber—he was supervising the patrol. Corman’s getting wise to us.”
Hildy lifted his eyes to the machine: “Jody has a bullet in his shoulder, he’s bleeding badly. I need to get him into camp.”
Chattagong: “You take him. We’re going to liberate the women.”
“You can’t attack the spaceport. Corman will torch the barracks. You’ll start a massacre.”
“Karin’s dead. I’m getting the rest of them out of there. They can either die tonight in a sudden massacre or keep dying from a slow one. Anybody that dies will be better off anyway, you know that.”
Jason: “We’ve been on half rations all winter. Now we killed Nubieber, can’t go back. We got to make this move, prove we still got balls.”
Chattagong: “You got balls, Hildy? Or have you given them to colonist babes?”
“You look kind of fat.”
The barbs were effective, triggered self-conscious guilt. Abandoning his loyalties to Glatz meant turning his back on a barracks full of comrades, but Hildy’s new life was sweet and precious, connecting in love with Jody polished everyday experience, it shined brilliantly for him. Ashamed for leaving his old friends, though, the shine had tarnish already.
“All right,” he shouted at the tractor. “We got a small army out here. Not a lotta guns but plenty of crossbows—remember Merlo? They work. Let me get Jody to camp and then we’ll bring the troops. Give us three or four hours and we’ll rendezvous at the entrance to the farm.”
Chattagong: “That’s a long time waiting.”
“You won’t take the spaceport with just that tractor. I’ll bring the troops. We can do it. Only a few hours to rally them all.”
Jason: “Okay. Three hours. Get your people, we’ll be ready.”
Chattagong took the headset radio from Nubieber’s ear. He put it on: “Hello? Anybody there?”
Corman’s voice came through: “Yeah. Who is this?”
“Chattagong. Did you hear Nubieber die?”
“You’re next.” He took off the radio and threw it out of the hatch.

Cardomonas is an aerobic organism. In the symbiotic phase of its life cycle it obtains oxygen from its host. If the host should expire from anoxia, as in drowning or strangulation, the resident portion of the fungus dies as well—there is no eruption of purple disks, other decay processes take over. Luenda was clever about inventing strangulation traps for her fur harvesting, making crafty nooses from leather and gut. Poor throttled Nubieber’s body remained for his killers to deal with.

Hildy took off his jacket and shredded it with a knife then packed a compress for Jody’s wound as best he could and tied it on with long strips lashed around the torso. The patient continued to bleed, it seeped through bandages, but the Actionist camp was only a mile away with a complete field medicine station.
They helped Jody to unsteady feet and he used Hildy’s left arm for a buttress. Passage under the fence was the worst of it, the access trench was narrow, intended to be wormed through with a lot of shoulder action. Jody went on his backside, pushed with his lower legs, Hildy was directly ahead clearing rocks from the path and he lifted Jody’s collar, helped him move and kept the wound off of the ground.
When they emerged on the surface the tractor was rolling away with their light source. They hurried across the cleared ground and into the brush.
Chowder and Gardul were in camp and took charge of the casualty. They were good field surgeons and had a complete dressing station. They put Jody on a backboard on the ground and squatted over him as they worked. They removed the bullet and patched him up, gave him a pain killer and fluids. Afterward, Jody’s arm felt swaddled and hot but comfortable enough, he could barely wriggle the fingers.
Meanwhile, Hildy and Bobol explained the situation and there was a conference, Actionists gathered in a crowd around the aid station.
Gardul looked up from his work: “I’m ready for it, I’m tired of running around these camps and doing nothing. You guys say the security there is really thin.”
Hildy shook his head: “Corman knows that. The whole crew there are his hostages. Barracks and the brothel are packed with flammables ready for a torch.”
“Jason and Chattagong don’t care.”
Leon: “They’re crazy. Everybody at the farm’s going whacked. We’re out here to take the place—maybe this isn’t the slickest move, but it is a move. They make a half-assed play with that tractor and they got no back-up, it will be a disaster. I won’t let my buddies go in there alone.” There were other, unvoiced, thoughts in his mind. Life with the colonists was pleasant, but he craved exotic excitements not available in the free world.
Hildy nodded: “It looks like a disaster whichever way… Bobol, what do you think?”
He looked from Hildy to Leon, then regarded the dozen colonists with them, his head shook: “Good people die, it’s a shame. Most you folks never been in a fight. Crossbows… they have machine guns. I don’t want to chicken out, but this looks stupid—Corman will burn that brothel, everyone in it. But Chattagong was right, they’re all dying in there anyway. Maybe this is their only chance… I don’t know… don’t like it. But if we’re gonna go—let’s go.” He looked down at his toes and went silent.
It was Brenda’s turn: “We shouldn’t even be talking about this. We call ourselves Actionists, it’s time to make that real, do some Action. That farm doesn’t belong here on our world and those workers need us. I don’t want Rajin growing up on a slave planet so we have to do this.”
The voice went around the circle, nobody expressed restraint, nobody was going to be the coward.

Weak from blood loss, Jody slept the rest of the night away, but in his dreams he went to that other space: It was there and used her green eyes, Jody walked with his memories from the physician and he healed.

A dozen Actionists dispersed from the main camp to assemble the forces. Scattered across the plains and marsh, eight field camps, more than seventy people, surrounded farm and spaceport.

After throwing his body out the side hatch Jason and Chattagong tied Nubieber to the front of the tractor beneath the armor housing for the forward gun. They spread his wrists and ankles, formed the corpse as a large ‘X’. Ricardo turned the machine about and drove it back to the farm’s main gate. They waited. Jason had a few doses of a popular stimulant—flush—and they shared the drug to help bring up the fighting edge.

There was no plan, no organization of forces. Forty Actionists rendezvoused with the tractor. Others moved across the countryside almost randomly, converged on the spaceport gate, they gathered wood as they traveled. Further back, the stragglers and latecomers filtered over the landscape, unclear of their objective.

Nubieber led the advance, angry foot soldiers in his wake. With floodlights, engine noise and agitated mob, stealth was impossible. They crossed the half-mile of road and turned right at the wall. Under the security lamps they expected hostile artillery raining down at any moment and the infantry stayed out in the shadows. But no attack came. They arrived near the midpoint of the wall and stopped. The tractor turned about to face it, moved back for space to build momentum before impact. Nubieber was still on point.
They waited, anticipating a diversion, if one were possible. To the east the first silhouette of the horizon tokened the coming day.

Tamborak was asleep when Brenda came around, but he roused quickly and they called a dozen people awake. The crowd went for the spaceport gate, their only idea for a diversion was to light a bonfire. They gathered wood and brush as they went and rallied any other troops they found, assembled a mound of fuel nearly as high as the wall. The damp materials smoldered and smoked before blazing up. There was no response from within.

Ricardo drove the tractor, Chattagong rode at the turret gun and Jason followed on foot, carrying a rifle. When they saw flames and sparks rising from afar they moved forward. The tractor had fifty yards before hitting the wall.
Nubieber exploded on impact. The wall bowed inwards and cracked at the section joints. Part of the top rail fell, pulled down the tangle wire and the exterior floodlights went out.
The tractor backed up for another run and more lights came on inside the wall. A harsh metallic horn brayed deafeningly. The tractor charged and rammed a second time, a wide slab of concrete collapsed in front of it leaving jagged rebar teeth rising from the footings. Arching over the gap, heavy lintel blocks dangled from reinforcing wire—the broken teeth of the upper jaw.
The forward armor on the tractor had crumpled, folded over the remnants of Nubieber and the gunner’s seat had merged with the radiator, clouds of steam shrouded the front end. But it still operated and Ricardo guided the machine up onto the rubble, foot soldiers swarmed alongside. Blinded by the vapors and the lights they passed through the mouth.
Chattagong started shooting, aimed short bursts at the spotlights. The defenders returned fire and the first wave of attackers fell down. Some were shot but most scrambled for cover beneath fragments of the wall. Jason and a handful of others stayed close behind the tractor, crouched low, shooting around its flanks.
          The front tires went flat but the drive wheels were metal and the machine continued onward, scarcely under control. Chattagong had good aim, the lights were systematically extinguished and opposing fire steadily diminished.
          Just as the last spotlight died there were two fiery explosions in the darkness somewhere ahead of the attack. Flames and oily black smoke roiled into the dawning sky, the sound of agonized screams arose.
The defending gunfire ceased, but the tractor stopped as well when the front wheels buckled and it nosed into the ground. Attacking forces clambered through the breach in the wall.

The bonfire roared, brushy green tinder smoked and sparked, belched orange and black flickers.
Sounds of battle came from afar.
Most Actionists at the gate ran toward the gunfire and alarms and joined the main combat.
Brenda and Tamborak stayed, anticipated a break-out. Brenda carried a pistol, Tamborak had a crossbow, a few others stood at their side.
The explosions: two fireballs flamed up behind the wall, there was a roar of a heavy motor.
The gate burst open with force that scattered the bonfire fifty yards.
A second armored tractor rolled through the opening, its machine guns blazed.
The Actionists had no chance, Brenda, Tamborak and four others were raked with slugs, dead before they reached the ground.
The tractor turned onto the main road and accelerated, attackers came behind, ducked machine gun fire. It continued to gain speed and pulled away toward the hills. Two miles from the spaceport the top-heavy vehicle sped into a hairpin turn and lost balance. It tilted against the embankment, skidded along the road cut for two hundred yards and then rolled onto its left side when the berm ran out into a creekbed. The machine slid another dozen yards and slammed to a halt at the bottom of the gully.
The turret hatch flew open and five persons, bruised and battered, emerged. Corman was the first to crawl out, rifle ahead, his right leg limped. Another man rubbed a massive bruise under his left ribs, breathed with obvious pain, stiff hips and rigid spine, he moaned involuntarily, loudly.
Sounds of pursuit came from the direction of the spaceport. They fled toward Firstown, a slow, grim, struggle. It was nearly sunrise and garish colors glowed off of buttermilk clouds.
Around a bend and across the final flat, spanned by the fence: gate locked.
They attacked the barrier, threw their weight at one point and rocked a support post, it gradually loosened in the mud and lay down.
Back to the road and away from the chase…

Gardul and Hildy carried crossbows and entered the spaceport with the first assault, dived to the ground when the gunfire erupted. Hildy found shelter behind the broken wall, Gardul fell dead. Hildy didn’t see, he crept forward in the wake of the tractor, weapon at the ready, but with no target. When the explosions flared out he fell face to the ground.
The gunfire went silent and people came up from behind. Hildy rose and ran toward rising flames. He heard screams ahead.
The brothel and the barracks burned. Both structures were locked from the outside, the windows were barred. People trapped inside beat at the doors, screaming and choking and dying. All the attackers could do was stand back from the intense heat. Hildy ran for a firehose, only to discover the water pressure turned off.
Sun came up, the battle was over. Actionists had complete control of the spaceport and their objective was in flames. For ten minutes all they could do was stand clear and listen to agony.
Somebody ran to an equipment yard and returned with a tractor. He used the earth moving blade to knock a corner support from the brothel, then he peeled a wall away from it’s columns.
A rescue access.
He moved the tractor to the main barracks and repeated the demolition.
Hildy found the power switches and turned the water pumps on, turned the alarms off.
Actionists wet down blankets and moved in with hoses. The scene inside was grim. Both structures were littered with corpses: burn victims and smoke asphyxiation, some were crushed in panicked mobs. Smoke and heat killed fungus too, there were few piles of purple dust within.
But there were a handful of people still alive.
Nine women and two eunuch boys survived the brothel fire, twenty men escaped the barracks. But the flames claimed two hundred twenty-four others. Additionally, twenty four spaceport security officers died from gunshot or crossbow, ten more surrendered.
Ricardo died at the controls of the tractor, besides Tamborak, Brenda and Gardul, eleven other Actionists fell.
Old friends Chattagong and Leon used the opportunity to liberate certain pharmacological materials.

Actionists came upon the overturned tractor, broke off pursuit to examine the hulk. Inside the machine they discovered two piles of purple dust, presumably human remains.

Corman’s fugitive party staggered through the hills and approached the farms as the first colonists came to work. Startled by the sight of armed men, the laborers spun around, ran back to town and raised an alarm.
Up the hill, into Old Firstown.
Homer and Charlene stood in the road.
Homer: “What’s going on?”
Corman’s gun leveled on Homer’s belly: “Leave us pass and there won’t be trouble.”
The couple stood back.
No other words exchanged.
Fugitives worked the road and brandished arms at any approach.
Colonists followed at a safe distance.
A mile past the Hospice Lucy’s house stood behind its wall. Corman and his group let themselves within, bolted the gate behind them.
A confused crowd gathered outside.

Cardomon: Flood and Murder

Flood: the Mud Yard drowned. Heavy storms pummeled the foothills, overwhelmed streams. A diversion ditch starts with the millrace from the Sanchez sawyard, at normal flows up to half of the creek makes the detour loop, irrigates Ruben and Bokassa’s clay mine, runs into a settling pond and empties back via a concrete spillway. A sluice gate is supposed to be closed in extreme weather specifically to prevent a washout.
Ruben was working at the farms that day and Bokassa watched the shop. When the storm came in he went up to shut the sluice. Owen Sanchez greeted him there with an opened whiskey bottle, just a nip to warm up from the rain.
Ducked under the sawdeck to get out of the weather, passed the bottle a few times, Paul Jones sauntered in, it became a carouse.
The clouds opened up, the waters raged, rose quickly in the millrace and the alcoholics scrambled away from the current. They climbed up to the roofed over sawdeck and resumed proceedings.
Bokassa forgot the sluice gate: it washed out in the first hour of the flood.

Two tractors stood in a field with mud to their axles. First the one got stuck, the second tried to tow it out and bogged down in its turn. Water rising from the marsh filled rutted tire tracks and pooled across flat ground. By the time the tractor operators got down it was ankle deep. They splashed and slopped a quarter mile to a berm higher than the flood, ran its length to the row of buildings.
The crew were all inside the lunch shed. It was deafening: rain pounded the metal roof with a nonstop rattle.

Cardomon: Drunkard's Den

Noon the next:
After a frosty morning Peter and Mellisa went out. Down to the pond, left at the junction, one trail circles the entire water body, the lower end crosses a marshy expanse and a split-log causeway atop trestles spans muddy streams. They took the other spur, up the Vale.
Traversed a low peninsula above pond and marsh, descended to the alluvial valley floor.
Trail forked: main path to the left. Turned onto the less traveled route, a gentle downhill for another mile. Deep riparian woods rose around the path, traded spaces with patches of dry meadow, gravel hummocks and low swales broke up the flats, turned the country confusing.
Around the point of an ancient river bar, beneath a pair of leaning trees that buttressed each other and formed a wooden arch, gateway to a small clearing. At one edge stood a tiny A-frame cabin with a metal flue pipe rising from the peak, it smoked. Sour atmosphere reeked of alcohol and something fermenting. Surrounding the shed lay a jumble of decrepit furniture: ratty sofas, tattered chairs, cabinets, a bed, all scavenged out of Old Firstown.
It was a cold day, still icy in the shadows.
Peter: “Here it is, Drunkard’s Den. Nobody’s home. Kinda early fer this crowd.”
“There’s smoke in the chimney.”