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BY Fyrefly

11/01 Direct Link
This woman worked at my local record store in the early 1980s. She seemed old then but was probably in her early 20s. She reminded me of Janice Joplin, that same toughness and hippie aura. Once I was sitting on the edge of the record racks, flipping through a stack, and she yelled to me (not at me, mind you) that since I come in all the time I know better than to lean on those racks and I should help her make sure others never leaned on them too. I thought, what a cool tact to changing someone’s behavior.
11/02 Direct Link
Today I said this phrase out loud in a conversation about my ongoing practice of approaching people in a positive way: “Today they might not be bringing me their best day.” In fact, someone I talk to in a store, let’s say, might be bringing his worst day, or one of her more frustrating days, which presumably has nothing to do with me. I am just a stranger in a random moment (unless you believe that nothing is random), and since this person might be burdened with worries and fears, I can at the very least approach people with compassion.
11/03 Direct Link
If I could proofread for a living, I would. I can’t, because I’d end up starving and homeless, but if it weren’t so, I’d do it. I love scrutinizing the typesetting, reading carefully against the edited manuscript, checking indents and page lengths, watching for stacks and bad breaks, all in hopes of catching that one egregious error that a careful reader would have identified and bragged about finding to her book club next Thursday night. But most of all, I love those edited manuscript pages, learning what I can, seeing if I would have edited the book the same way.
11/04 Direct Link
I am supposed to be writing fiction: Say a woman is fascinated (the word obsessed is too clinical, too textbook for her, so she’s stopped using it) with oak trees to the point that every day she searches the Internet for any new information that may crop up, scans the photo sites for any recent images, looks for their thick trunks and long, pointy leaves when she takes a walk in the park, even takes note if she passes an Oak Street while driving. Now let’s say that the oak is not an oak. Can you guess what it is?
11/05 Direct Link
It always happens. We have a few days off from work but we can’t think where we would want to go within striking distance, can’t decide between some city excursions and farmland touring, between upstate New York romping and touring the state. We’ve got to come up with something for the end of the week turns into political discussions over dinner and how we have to remember to vote because the legislature can’t be allowed to turn over, else the districts might be redrawn, and so then we’re still still stuck on where to go and what to see. Drat.
11/06 Direct Link
She could remember in high-definition detail each best thing she had ever eaten. The best ribs from her neighbor’s smoker in the corner of the backyard. The best brownies at her friend’s baby shower. And the best soup: a rich carrot and cauliflower blend, its thick crown almost overflowing the rounded rim of the brown crockery bowl, a real surprise from such a small local café, where if you stood outside its front door on the edge of the winding road, you could look straight up to see the Old Man of the Mountain looking out over the Granite State.
11/07 Direct Link
She could remember in high-definition detail each best thing she had ever eaten. The best ribs from her neighbor’s smoker in the corner of the backyard. The best brownies at her friend’s baby shower. And the best soup: a rich carrot and cauliflower blend, its thick crown almost overflowing the rounded rim of the brown crockery bowl, a real surprise from such a small local café, where if you stood outside its front door on the edge of the winding road, you could look straight up to see the Old Man of the Mountain looking out over the Granite State.
11/08 Direct Link
In case you think I am cheating on 100 Words and repeated the two entries in a fit of lazy, be notified that the November listings are off by one day for some reason, so I couldn’t enter Nov. 6th on the 6th and I carried it over to the 7th, when I entered it. Then I could not enter the 7th, so I waited until the 8th. Then today I saw that the 6th was on file but couldn’t see the actual entry, so I entered the paragraph I thought was still not up and duplicated it. Damn technology.
11/09 Direct Link
She went to the local museum on a quiet autumn Friday at noon, which was within the museum’s small window for free admission, and she did feel guilty about that, not usually avoiding donations and charity and such, but at this particular time in her life, every penny saved meant that she might be able to own a house sooner and stop giving her money to a landlord, all so that she could turn over this admission price along with her life savings and then really need to check on how to avoid things like admission and fees and tolls.
11/10 Direct Link
Approaching a busy local intersection late at night, the road very dark, I drove slowly. If my husband had not breathed deep in surprise, I might not have applied the brake as quickly. He had seen it jump from the bushes on the other side of the street and lope into the road, but I caught sight of it only as it brought its large silver body into the path of our headlights and jogged to the other side: a large coyote, its pointed snout very determined, its coat thick and jagged, its small eyes and nose black as tar.
11/11 Direct Link
There is nothing more annoying than catching a cold virus from your husband. Not only do you go through his sickness – his moans and chills and endless napping and nose blowing and soup with crackers – but then you get to go through it all again yourself. In this case, it was even more annoying because he took a vacation so we could go away, but his being sick made us stay at home. Now I am sick and late on all my work, and when one works at home there are no sick days … yes, this is most annoying.
11/12 Direct Link
Sometimes when I would get real angry and started cursing and stomping and slamming things down, she’d lean back against the edge of the counter and squint her one eye and laugh with the other, and then I knew it was coming -- knew like I knew I’d die of cancer one day, and she’d say it: "Fox-fire dares not meet real fire." And just like always I’d yell “What the hell does that mean?” and storm out to the rickety balcony, pull out the Camels, and smoke one halfway, then flick it lit onto the old soft top of her car.
11/13 Direct Link
Darwin said, “It is most difficult always to remember that the increase of every creature is constantly being checked by unperceived hostile agencies; and that these same unperceived agencies are amply sufficient to cause rarity, and finally extinction,” but I don’t think enough people are seriously thinking that this applies to us, the apelike menaces running all over the planet, being greedy, stupid, wasteful, filthy. Makes me want to watch 2001 all over again. Or at least distract myself by all the beauty that we have made: the “Dixit Maria”s, the Canterbury Cathedrals, the thick blooms of the white peony.
11/14 Direct Link
She sat in her rusted blue Nova in the mall lot taking up a parking spot on the end of an aisle, new BMWs driving by slowly, seeing her sitting, smoking, and hoping she would back out, but after three minutes realizing she wouldn’t and then driving away, slowly again. She got some strange satisfaction out of taking up that spot in the dark of that night, out of pulling the old cigarette lighter from the broken dash and staring at the perfect bright-red swirl, a tight caterpillar or a fiery galaxy. Really wanting to scream but not doing it.
11/15 Direct Link
She reads Anna Karenina every time she feels like cheating on her boyfriend. She reads Hamlet when she wants to fill the bathtub and then stay under. She reads Great Expectations when she gets dumped. She reads The Turn of the Screw when she senses evil around her, which is rather often so she knows this one by heart. She reads Man Plus when the dentist fills a new cavity. She reads Rebecca before she takes her dad’s boat out fishing. She reads “The Cask of Amontillado” before her girlfriends’ city wine tastings. Today she’s reading “Hills Like White Elephants.”
11/16 Direct Link
Sometimes when she would wake from one of her vivid dreams she would insist the dream had been real and stomp around angry that someone had stolen something from her and then she could not find it, or she would tear up all day because something important hadn’t happened that should have happened and perhaps it was her fault, but this morning she is quiet and sometimes smiling slightly because she thinks that the bright color and beautifully real dream from last night means that after all this time, this month especially, they really do still care for each other.
11/17 Direct Link
I get the most frustrated when I feel I should be able to do something well but just can’t seem to get over that hump of being just decent enough and move on to being pretty damn good. Bowling, for example. I know I could be very good at it, really. I’m certain that if I could be learn to turn over my wrist, practice a little more, I would end up with respectable scores, but as it stands, as it is now, with me using different fingers because I taught myself, I am simply fine, decent, okay. Good enough.
11/18 Direct Link
She insists on taking her poison in fine amounts, a bit here and there, sometimes on the rainiest of days when the damp and gray reminded her of a certain time, all so she could hope to become immune so that every time she exposed herself to it she wouldn’t feel the same questions and what ifs and memories bubble up, and don’t think she got the idea from that trick in The Princess Bride, because she didn’t. This idea is as old as dark matter and the light that cuts through it, and now she’s made it her own.
11/19 Direct Link
Random first-line iPod cut-up:

I once hurt a girl, or should I say, she once hurt me. Dreamtime begins. Good enough, it’s not good enough. Must the show go on? I have always been here. Hey you, out there in the cold, getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me? Muskrat, muskrat, candlelight. Cross the ocean deep. I wanted to be with you alone and talk about the weather. All alone or in twos. We’ve got crazy diamond and a heart with a very tall string. For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. It’s funny you know.
11/20 Direct Link
And after the students left the classroom and after the last bell sounded and after she gathered and straightened the pop-quiz papers and after the thick white chalk numbers and operators had been trapped within the two fat black erasers and after she opened and pulled toward her the dirty rectangle panes of the four low windows and after she felt the warm May breeze blow her floral skirt across her thighs and after she pushed her hard wood chair under her desk she watched the new calculus teacher walk to his car in the parking lot, right on time.
11/21 Direct Link
When the cloudburst hit they were caught without an umbrella (he was not in the frame of mind that day to have cared about the weather of course and she had not expected to see him there let alone sit with him for coffee between viewings) walking from the café back to the funeral home, and he caught her right arm in his left, guiding her under the pharmacist’s old green-and-white striped awning just before the hard sheets came down, and she felt his firm bicep tight against her and smiled at how he’d changed since they’d last been together.
11/22 Direct Link
I tried to write it down for him. At first I thought he wanted me to write about the farm and the way the evening sun coated the treetops and let its rosy light slant over the old kitchen wallpaper and the stump in the back where Grandmere would kill the chickens, but he shook his head. So I wrote about the lake and the flat stones he used to skip and the black flies that bit our legs until they bled, and when he saw me writing about the blood he nodded, and I knew I was getting closer.
11/23 Direct Link
The day before she was working on the Caspier BN4300 platform in the middle of the Red Sea, desperately trying to figure out how to reduce the amount of brine after desalination, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders, and now she was on the ship, whisked away by the team, heading to the private launch site, one of a few scientists selected. She’d always wondered what space flight would be like, if it would feel the same as when she went freediving, stretching her lungs out, relaxing as the pressure squeezed her and she became less buoyant.
11/24 Direct Link
So the woman sitting next to me at Panera tells the guy she’s lunching with that she knew this Guy from when she worked at Mercedes, and then the guy she’s lunching with says that this Guy from Mercedes is the same Guy who used to date Kathleen and he used to date Kathleen, and when he dated Kathleen she said things had been pretty serious with this Guy but they broke up and she hadn’t talked to the Guy since, and the guy she’s lunching with says he isn’t dating Kathleen anymore anyway. I wonder what happened to Kathleen.
11/25 Direct Link
What are the odds—seriously, tell me—what are the exact freakin’ mathematical, astronomical, scientific, Einsteinium odds (ratio of denominator of probability to numerator of probability) that the people who just moved in downstairs would bring an upright piano (as their young son bangs incessantly on the keys somewhere in the middle octaves) and the people who moved out would leave with an upright piano (played all hours of the week and weekend, although he was a skilled teenager planning to study music when he went to college and so was very good; I loved when he played Dave Brubeck)?
11/26 Direct Link
Only the most tenacious of little yellow maple leaves hold on to the branches in this cold autumn drizzle, where thick clear raindrops hang to the ends of the twigs like spring buds waiting to burst. Every house from my window is a beige-sided box. I am tempted to turn up the heat here but the monthly costs are high enough, so I grab a gray fleece cardigan and fuzzy socks. Only one more journal article to finish today before tackling the children’s book editing. He left me chicken for lunch, but wouldn’t soup go better with this cold rain?
11/27 Direct Link
The local roller rink was razed to build
a(nother) townhouse complex. Do I sound like Chrissie Hynde? I miss rollerskating. In seventh grade we went to a rink farther away, one with a great arcade – Battlezone, Ms. Pacman, Galaga, Donkey Kong. I remember one guy who lived there – maybe 17, trim with dark hair, in good shape, the best skater at the place. You never had to watch for him because he cut around you like a hockey player. He owned that almost-empty middle area, where only the very experienced dared to go, where I never skated, not even once.
11/28 Direct Link
Every winding road should have a wide red barn at its side, one with large old windows and big white doors and a worn dirt path leading right up to it. A barn that looks as though soft, gray field mice must be darting around inside, looking for bits of grain or thin straw or tufts of hair from the old chestnut mare that used to come through for shoeing. A barn with a rusting black rooster, pointing the way of the wind from the roof. A barn that has peeling paint, or not. As long as the barn is red.
11/29 Direct Link
Near Kittatinny Point, a long train of freight cars is the backyard for a row of small capes, their dull brick chimneys puffing thin streams of smoke into the late autumn evening. The sunset turns the sky over the mountains to a streaky plum. The wide river takes its rocky bed slowly; some boulders break the surface with their smooth backs. At the bottom of my coffee cup, a sugar sludge swirls by my hand. A flock of thirty birds flies west, their legs out behind them, and I wonder if they are herons, but so many at one time?
11/30 Direct Link
A thick jealousy bubbled inside her like the two insolubles of a lava lamp, so much so that she decided to stop attending to everything going on in the world—any Saint Barts vacations or quick foreign adoptions or New York shopping sprees by the upper celebrity echelon, any old classmates with their pretty lives on Facebook. She no longer watched television or answered her phone, or even looked into other people's amber-lit windows at night, as she once had been prone to do, while driving home from dinner parties at friends' homes, at which she had also been jealous.