"You're up in a minute, Peter."
She slipped out of the waiting room and merged back into her duties on the oncology floor. Her black-beaded rosary caught a chair edge. It yanked the beads from her pocket. They rolled to the floor. She didn’t notice.
Peter snapped open the morphine bottle and slipped out a little brown pill. He placed it on his tongue and grabbed his cup of cooled cappuccino—the only drink he could swallow passed the Berlin Wall in his throat. He gulped down the pill. Now, he waited for relief.
He always waited.
--Key to Heaven by T. Fox Dunham
--Live at This Zine Will Change Your Life
Please leave a comment if you'd like. . .
Tolya, Peter, Willy, Nurse Wolfe, Doctor Helsinki, can often be found in my fiction, tooling around in the patient waiting room of the radiation-oncology ward of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. They are characters featured in many of my stories published and pending, and they are the subjects of one of my upcoming novels. They represent aspects of my experience, my perception of what I suffered. The trauma of treatment wears you down, shatters you, and my eyes split into several pairs to see the world, several spirits to endure the pain. I scribe and scratch and gouge my words detailing life with cancer—and death after cancer—not through a desire to write: I struggle for catharsis and perhaps forgiveness. I survived. So many of my classmates did not.
Places exist that you can never leave. Roots grow up backwards inside you, burrowing through your feet and hands, piercing your eyes. Roots dig for your mind, and when you rip away from these lead-heavy domains, chunks of your soul tear free, leaving you but a shard of a person. Shamans know that places have spirits with the same character qualities as a person, and these locked spirits get up inside of you just as much as you leave parts of your soul behind to join and merge with energies of the place.
So much of me never left that private patient waiting room—still waiting to be led down the hall to lay on that ice table, have my head strapped down with tape and that wax tongue driven into my mouth to hold my head still while they burn me four times across my head, neck and chest. Every day for six months, I sat in the waiting room, separated from the families and caregivers of patients. No windows allowed light. No loved ones were there to hold my hand. I sat alone with the other dying. We waited. Always waiting in that purgatory, to suffer then enter our heavens, our hells, or be lucky enough to return to the living world.
Learning the spirit of a place is how authors compose compelling setting. A setting is more than a collection of details where the characters dwell. A setting is a character that interacts with your characters. More than just a repository of physical details, a place pulsates with emotion provoking nuances that are selected and described to create mood, atmosphere. A castle illuminated by a wild night-shattering thunderstorm compels a gothic atmosphere. A white castle decorated by blooming roses on the vine speak of old love legends. Settings can also depict themes.
I climbed the sand dune back to the holy dive, Judgment Comes Motel, where I’m booked under the name of Father Butch Handy. Most of the self-righteousness holy men guests pray during the day and sneak chubby hookers up to their rooms at night. I dropped Moses, a disgraced Rabbi who watches the front desk after midnight, a few bills to keep his eyes on his magazine.
--Love Always Comes for You by T. Fox Dunham
--Live at Pulp Metal Magazine
Please leave a comment after the story you mugs. . .
Love Always Comes for You is the sequel to my story Reflexes, also published at the mad abomination of a literary journal, Pulp Metal Magazine. Frank is an ex-hitman on the run. You’ll find out why if you read Reflexes. He decides to stay at said hotel for the ordained under the name of one of his victims. He sees himself as a kind of priest, preaching and practicing a faith to which so many subscribe while perfunctorily spending their Saturdays or Sundays at a house of worship, paying their dues to an afterlife just in case there’s something beyond death. The true practices of the hotel guests represent the dark side of humanity, the maggots under the rug, which illustrate the hard-boiled theme and atmosphere of the story.
Reflexes by T. Fox Dunham
Revenge is the theme of this issue of Pulp Metal Press, including work from some amazing authors. Give it a read. Go on! You didn't want to be an optimist forever?
Fox in the Mountains
So much published in the last two weeks, and I accumulated another ten acceptances for the month of July, tallying 40 so far for the summer. My literary work is picking up. I’ve been focusing more energy on my literary prose, trying to balance the field. I am pausing from fiction writing for a short time to rest, renew and feed my Awen—my creative spirit. I am getting back into roleplaying, D&D, the tossing of dice on tabletops, and I’ve founded a new rpg group at Royal Comics in Lansdale where I live. We have begun the game, and it is refreshing and will aid my writing. So much of my writing comes from my years behind a Game Master’s screen and rolling dice to tales I generated as we played. This is a beneficial art that shouldn’t be lost to online mmorpgs. I enjoy playing online games, but they are static and lack the improvised personal interaction of friends sitting around a table.
Salutations to all of you from the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania where I’m enjoying the fresh air and fishing over the next week. Check out my Facebook page for pics. It thunder-stormed this morning, and we sat out on the screened porch and enjoyed the wind and the rain.
FOLLOW ME @ TWITTER: @TFoxDunahm