Friday, June 27, 2008

Belly: Chapter Two

After a much longer than expected delay, here's chapter two of my short story "Belly" (read Chapter One if you missed it). It's still very much a work in progress, so I appreciate all feed back.

Further back, and forward
By Francis Scudellari

"Where does a circle begin and end?"

"Wherever we choose to slice it ..."

"What if I place the blade randomly … here?"

"Go ahead … you'll see. We'll capture something important."

The train leaves the station and Jonah's stomach knots. A trailing memory of suggestive whispers causes Jonah to shift uneasily on the vinyl-covered cushion. Their words were spoken abruptly. The full conversation floated by in the short time it took him to find his accustomed seat.

Needing distraction, Jonah thumbs through the indexed list of songs displayed on the sleek, white device with a recall more agile than his own. A small pointer travels the recollected streams of sappy ballads and bouncy anthems. The blunt arrow settles on a track he hopes will mask the lingering echoes of those voices that slipped in uninvited on his morning train.

Jonah presses play and this time the expected words are piped through his inserted ear phones: "I was born in a cross-fire hurricane …"

Jonah drums his fingers to the catchy beat. The dull thud of his flesh against the briefcase's faux leather shell is strangely soothing. The rhythmic vibrations carry up his arm and down his leg. Before, so lulled, his once obedient thoughts would have steered him on a meandering but sure course toward slumber. Now, recently turned mutinous, these same thoughts scatter to unruly corners. Unmanned and tempest-tossed, their containing vessel is set adrift over uncharted, black depths.

After a few short verses, the calming fog of music is pushed aside, and the hallucinatory dialogue's dark-tinged drone looms again on a shortening horizon. Elusive shadows, impossible to grasp, flit across his mind's eye. Words stacked on top of words swirl in a gathering swarm that Jonah can only glimpse as a blur of rapid movement.

The hiss of stale heat pours from a vent below the seat. A drop of sweat trickles down from Jonah's left temple. It drips a crooked path across his cheek and soaks into his well-starched collar.

Jonah, cramped and ill-at-ease, loosens his red silk neck tie. Beige, geometric shapes spin hypnotically from its center. Still restless, he cracks the window. The gush of icy air gives him a moment's relief, but it can't chase away one lingering question: "What will I see and hear today?"

Jonah is certain that his brain is being hacked.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Muted tongues

This is the first in a series of illustrations I promised to Hanna for a self-published poetry book she is planning to release in the fall. If I seem periodically absent from the blog over the next few weeks, it's because I'm diligently working to create more of these drawings (among other things).

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Guest Post: The Sequel

Ever a man of my words, here's an excerpt from my latest poem Television, which is being hosted on Jena Isle's Gewgaw Writings site.
Careless he falls into ritual pose
Do dropped, down before this mothering knot;
Her gathering brown limbs, machine-carved smooth
In hollow, molded arc, to cradle him;
If that first stanza has you seated on edge, be sure to visit Gewgaw Writings to read the full poem.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My bauble of a guest post

The very talented and prolific Jena Isle asked me to do a guest post on her Gewgaw Writings site. In keeping with my usual two-step process, I've created a new drawing and a companion poem that she's graciously agreed to feature over two days.

You may have noticed the tease of a detail from the drawing at left. To see the full piece, please visit Gewgaw Writings, which also includes a very flattering profile of yours truly. While you're there, be sure to check out the first five chapters of Jena's compelling story Umma Ayam Sinsana (Where Are You Now?).

Stay tuned for the accompanying verse, which I'll preview here with an excerpt once it's available on Jena's blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Squeezing The Toothpaste

Continuing my very recent series of comment-inspired posts (see Interactive Exercise and A cryptic script: My answered exercise), today I riff on the title Squeezing the Toothpaste suggested by Mark at neOnbubble.

It's an unusual phrase to build a poem around, so I decided to try something different and write a haiku. As an extra bonus, I also created a companion drawing that better captures my conception of a squeezed tube of paste.

A coiled plastic snake
Desperately squeezed till flat
Splatters its venom

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writers Offering Our Finest - 13 June 2008 Edition

I've submitted last week's post "Belly: Chapter One" to be part of this week's WOOF. There are four other featured pieces by some very talented writers. Please check them out using the links below. I promise to get the next chapter of "Belly" up soon.

PlotDog Press WOOF

Presenting the finest of the writer’s blogs by the bloggers who write them. Highlighting the top 5 posts as chosen by the June 13, 2008 WOOF Contest participants. Want to join the next WOOF? Submit a link to your best writing post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the link list within a week and you’re all set.

Top 5 Picks:

About Writing/Grammar
Kimota (Jonathan Crossfield) - "Grammar Wars"
Catherine @ Sharp Words - "Do Dreams Influence Your Writing?"

Jennifer M Scott - "One More Time"

Flash Fiction / Fiction
Jennifer M Scott - "Last Request"
Francis Scudellari - "Belly: Chapter One"

A Novel Approach Series: "A Prologue to a Prologue"

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I'm sure this drawing will elicit some interesting interpretations, so have at it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Terminal sigh

As promised in my A Cryptic Script post two weeks ago, this is the first of a planned series of comment-inspired poems. The title was suggested by Hanna, with a very slight change — not to mention my own mangled interpretation of the phrase.

Terminal sigh
By Francis Scudellari

Mortally minded, his own skull
He bloodless cracks, painfully pries;
With fleshy fingered forceps pulls
Splintered thoughts, fragmented feeling;
Disconnected, forgotten bits
Re-moves to neatly etched pathways;
Liquid memories suctions off,
Coiling feeds through light, fibrous tubes;
Essence transfused: flesh to ether,
Life's flow dripping off in slow leaks;
A mist of dream-refracting drops
He exhales: his terminal sigh

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Belly: Chapter One

Today, I begin my second serialized short story. It's an extensive re-write of a piece I first attempted many years ago. The story and character at the core of it have sat dormant but never left me, waiting for the proper moment to re-emerge. I believe that moment has come. All feedback is appreciated and will be amply rewarded with my undying gratitude.

Prologue: A Circular Journey Repeated
by Francis Scudellari

Jonah Tannin's too heavy head jumps skyward as if tugged by a puppeteer's ungraceful twitch. The force of the commuter train's unexpected stop punches his jaw backward; it pulls his mind from the murky depths of a dreamless sleep.

Eyes of limpid blue, framed by new-pried, black-lashed lids, strain against the sudden flood of pallid, yellow light. Ears, rudely reconnected, receive the crashing waves sent out as the mechanical beast slowly regains its stride: screech, rattle, and rumble. Nostrils, at first flared to gulp the fueling air, now spit back the pungent smell of perspiration mixed with wet wool.

"What time is it?"

Jonah's left arm, too long wedged against the wall, refuses the command to lift up. The right hand, eager to revive its mate, quickly heeds the master's call and leaps the lapped divide to massage the deadened flesh. Blood gradually returns and brings with it the prick of tiny needles. Jonah clenches the waking fingers into a tight fist and then stretches them outward. He repeats this exercise -- grasp, release, and grasp again at nothing -- until the dull ache subsides and the stubborn arm rises to its proper position.

His mind starts to catch up with his senses. Words, an idea, and old feelings follow in lockstep with the sighted abstraction of two silver strips spread like open scissors against the plain white disk.

"Seven o'clock again, but that can't be."

Time's usually steady gait had limped to a halt and then reversed path back to the moment icy winds ushered Jonah onto this circular route. Jonah taps the glass crystal, but it offers no sign of life.

He peers out the frosted train window, but his vision can't pierce the confounding darkness that blankets the world outside. The uniform, black cover conceals from him the objects whose outlines reveal clues to his place in this ever-repeated journey.

"It doesn't matter."

A willing captive, Jonah nestles back into his accustomed spot in the belly of the speeding beast. Suspended inanimate within its vibrating walls, he lets the wash of artificial light and heat coax him back to unconsciousness. The troubling city sprawled out below him fades further into the early winter morning. His once sharp calling recedes to the indistinct mumble of words spoken far away in a forgotten tongue.

Overcome again by sleep, Jonah's shoulders slump down and his head nods forward. His controlling strings are severed anew.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Eight questions: An unauthorized autobiography

I was tagged with a meme by Jane Doe at Insanity Personified. It's a pretty simple exercise: answer eight questions. So, here it goes ...

1) What was the best moment of your life?

I have a shocking confession to make. I am in fact a Tralfamadorian, and I don't really get the human conception of time that divides existence into past, present and future. To answer the question more directly, all I can say is that the best moment in my life will occur in approximately 1,661 days as measured from your today. I don't want to spoil the "future" for the rest of you, so I'll just leave it at that.

2) If you could pick a superpower what would it be?

I've actually been working pretty hard the past few years to cultivate one very specific power. I can best describe it as inter-dimensional travel, or a type of omnipresence. I'm not sure, however, if that's something one of the popular superheroes can do. It might be more the purview of minor deities, fictive computer operating systems, and Las Vegas magicians.

3) If there was one thing you could do, with no limits of any kind, what would it be?

I'd travel, hence the need to work on the superpower of question 2.

4) What's the weirdest dream you've ever had?

The dream that I'll always remember, and that I hope to one day write more about, occurred when I was a wee lad with a mind full of strange and scary ideas (the only change now being I'm not so wee). I'll give you the broadest sketch of the plot as I want to keep your appetite whetted for a possible future post. It involved the discovery that I had a colony of tiny insects living inside my body. The little buggers threatened to take control of my motor skills, like tiny little puppet masters.

5) What's the weirdest thing about you?

See the answer to question one. Next best weirdness: I cut my own hair.

6) What's your favorite self made philosophy?

I don't claim to have ever had an original thought, let alone a self-made philosophy, but I do hold dear an amalgam of strange borrowed ideas. One such concept is that we humans are unavoidably barreling ahead toward a technological singularity that will either prove to be the precipitate of our eventual downfall or the first step down a new evolutionary path.

7) What (if any) question has been the most annoying unanswered question of your life?

This one.

8) Why do you blog?

I blog to interact with the world, and I've been happy to discover that the world has an ample supply of smart, funny and creative bloggers willing to engage me in a continuing conversation. Speaking of which, I'll do my usual universal tag: if you're reading this and would like to play along, you're it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A cryptic script: My answered exercise

It's time to reveal the inspiration behind my last drawing (see Interactive Exercise to catch up). I did my best to pick an obscure subject in order to provoke a wide range of responses, and the comments didn't disappoint. In fact, I like many of the suggested titles better than my own.

A couple weeks ago I received a very curious piece of mail. It arrived in a wax-sealed envelope, and consisted of a single small sheet with a message composed in an ancient script. Only after some Internet-based research was I able to identify the computer-generated font as a cuneiform alphabet. After several fruitless hours spent trying to translate it, I discovered by reading a few other blogs that it was most likely part of a promotion for an upcoming HBO series.

The drawing was my attempt to replicate in typically fractured style one of the letters found on that mysterious missive (you can see images of the four-different mailings that went out on this site named after the Japanese word for blood ... the one I received is on the far right). As it turned out, the words held much more sway over my imagination while their likely meaning and origin remained unkown, and I think that speaks on some level to the power of art, language and myth. I haven't pursued the mailing's meaning any further out of a desire to maintain some sense of lingering uncertainty.

I really appreciate all of the very creative titles offered up, and to show my gratitude I'll be writing a series of poems inspired by each participant's take on the drawing's meaning (with a fitting attribution and dedication to their authors). To get the ball rolling, here's the piece I built around the phrase initially on my mind.

A cryptic script

By Francis Scudellari

A cryptic script
By unknown hand
Knowingly penned

Aged symbols dusted,
New-pulled from yawning gaps
Of a bookish slumber

Inky smooth, slithering lines capped
With ever hungry heads, feeding
On preyed-upon partners' trailed ends

Intricately cut keys
Unchained, distance-scattered
From forgetting's locked vault

Treasured meaning
Now only found
In not knowing