Category Archives: Theme Thursdays

Theme Thursday: Fast food

**Special Note**

I have changed the comment settings on NQOKD in order to reduce the number of “anonymous” posts and the need for administrator moderation. If you would prefer to post anonymously, send your post to me via email, facebook, or twitter.

**

In homage to my link of the first In-N-Out in Dallas getting 12 comments where my post about Mark Twain’s finally released autobiography got 1, I’ve decided to let you write about what you OBVIOUSLY want to talk about: Fast food. You loyalties, your disgusting stories, your thoughts. Write them in the comments below.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

The Original:

N/A

The remix:

My sister wrote me a letter where she talked about her relationship. We talk less than once a year, but she wants to correspond, preferably by writing. She’s a firebrand, a fighter; by my theory of personal overcompensation, her focus on peace and the idea of namaste highlights her ability and willingness to fight. Writing keeps things at a distance, helps keep the remove in place. She probably doesn’t like that she’s as prone to fighting as she is; I imagine hysteria itches at the back of her throat at the beginning of any conversation with an intimate, a little prod threatening to bruise if she doesn’t let loose the torrent. And she does, with skill; but still, I think it’s something she dislikes about herself.

She wrote about smoking and how she wants to quit. It’s always a struggle, and it helps to have friends on your side. The kind who want you to quit but will let you do so at your own pace, because really a person can’t do anything other than at their own pace. Even if you want to quit, if someone pulls you along faster than you can go, it builds resentment and entrenches the habit.

But I have a habit that I like but is prone to criticism from those around me, particularly my family and significant others if not my friends in general: I play video games. On occasion, I play them far too much. As a preteen, I would hide myself away in the computer room to play Doom 2 all night. I resented family meals, where (in my memory) my sister hogged all the attention and I only spoke to be told I spoke too loudly. After eating too much, I would go back upstairs and play games until I had to go to bed, sometimes until my father had to come upstairs. I liked videogames, perhaps better than my own life, and my preference has stayed true through some other rough patches.

During my relationship with Sarah, for example, after getting laid off and losing most of the connection that we had shared as friends, I sunk into World of Warcraft, well known as a life-stealing time-suck. But I didn’t have many friends in Boston, and the few I had I lost as I sunk deeper into depression, fueled by being unemployed and unhappy in love. The more depressed I got, the more World of Warcraft I played, which Sarah began to resent as much as I resented her play Solitaire all the time, which worsened the relationship, which depressed me, which had me play more World of Warcraft. Yes, like a snail with its shell, but that’s me. We can’t all be superheroes who handle all of our problems cavalierly and correctly, eeking a smile from all those around us, and I had no idea how to solve the problems of our relationship, and neither did Sarah, and to this day I don’t know whether we tried to salvage it or not. I can list our attempts on my fingers, but their utter lack of effect on the whole debacle tempts me to discount them.

And yet I like this part of myself, the part that can disconnect from what’s going on and have a good time for a little while. It’s not my most noble aspect, but it is a moment utterly human. Constant engagement without break leads to psychosis, and I thank video games and other releases for giving me moments of rest, even moreso on occasion than sleep (I have apnea, have never and never will sleep well).

People who love you will always try to knock those parts of you that they consider weak away because they want you always strong all the time. But people aren’t like that; we have flaws and virtues, and sometimes we have parts of ourselves that are large enough to encompass both. Video games are escapism and an exercise of the mind; procrastination and catharsis. But we are full of moments and forces like that, moments and forces of blessings and curses.

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Filed under Criticism, Features, Humanistic, Personal essay, Theme Thursdays, Writing

Theme Thursday: Curses and Blessings

This site is undergoing a renovation in my mind. In that vein, I’m beginning to post anew even if it’s totally minimal to see what followers still show up to take part. So here’s a Theme Thursday with no other buffer. Please participate! 🙂

This week’s theme: Curses and Blessings

Attempt to isolate that one moment that was both a curse and a blessing, and write a snippet about it in the comments below!

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

Leave a comment

Filed under Features, Theme Thursdays

Theme Thursday: Hatred

I may have misread Hazlitt’s “On the Pleasure of Hating,” a homework assignment for my nonfiction literature course. It’s not a unique experience for me, but since one dimension by which I can track my philosophic pursuits is the systematic deletion of my hatreds, the message I missed surprised me.

Because Hazlitt spews bile, I carried the preconception that he discussed hatred as a means of moving forward even as he stated contrary cases. For example, we should hate organized religion because organized religion preaches love while providing a worn-smooth channel for the expression of hatred.

This circular argument disappoints me primarily because it spits in the face of perennial philosophic and mystic traditions. While I have no love of organized religion, I do cherish criticism, but only as a tool of love. We give attention to those things that we love, and our attention natural slips not into hatred but into criticism; when we take criticism past its logical purpose, it becomes judgment, and judgment begets hate.

However, perhaps the lesson of the essay serves as a primer to the examined life. If I can recognize that I hate, I can recognize my existence and begin to temper my actions. If I can recognize my loss of self under the guise of partisan tyranny, I can reclaim myself. And I am a wrathful person. I harbor hate even to this day.

This week’s theme: Hatred

I despise pop culture, everything from gossip to television to commercials; another way to say it is that I loath shallowness and those who are shallow. I disparage politics and politicians, and I scorn any understanding of social progress even as I fight for moderation and an adoption of humanistic equivalence. I resent my sister. Even as we’ve grown closer over the years, I bear a grudge that shows itself as plainly as any scar when I attempt to write about her and our relationship, and anyone could witness tension build in me even as I talk about our past.

I know that I carry these with me. They continue to exist despite my protest against them, for what vice flees before mere desire? The first step to cleansing myself of them is a recognition that I have them, and thank God that step is done with for these, though they are hardly the sum total. The next step is to wrestle with them and attempt to understand or even subdue them. I call this ongoing process maturation.

Let’s live up to this interpretation of Hazlitt’s call and write a story about our hatreds. I know that emotion is hard to control when we start talking about our fragile core, but spiritual growth necessitates vulnerability.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Criticism, Features, Humanistic, Theme Thursdays

Theme Thursday: Job interviews

Lots of stuff happens in the early fall, two of which impact most of us (the NQOKD community, or even people in general) directly: school begins and companies across the board ramp up for the busy season to come. Fall 2009 @ Emerson is shaping up to be a blast, and I have a job interview tomorrow, about which I am very excited. I know a lot of you are teachers or students, and the rest of you work in publishing, a field that is well known for taking the summer pretty lightly in preparation for it’s hectic fall. When I think about that in combination with my lack of advertising over all throughout the last week (or two), and I’m not disappointed about how few Theme Thursday submissions we received last week. You (like me) have enough on your plate.

In that mode, no remix this week. All of the entries were excellent, and thank you so much for playing! But like most of you, I’m prepping for everything else. However, the emphasis of this game is on building community specifically to remove my ego from the main purpose of the site. Therefore, I will give you a new theme. 🙂

This week’s theme: Job interviews

Tell about your best or your worst, the before or the after, the misrepresentations or the fulfilled dreams; tell about the mediocre, those that lead you to the minimum success of middle class mediocrity, or those that left you wanting a source of hope. Let’s hear some of you get lofty about your career and professional ambitions and others get down and dirty about social satire or commentary!

I will have a new post for you Friday. 🙂

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

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Filed under Features, Theme Thursdays

Theme Thursday: Cleanliness

I know that school is starting up and that it puts a crunch on readership both to see the site and too contribute. The majority of readers are either students or teachers at one level of education or another (and I, myself, am a student). Participate when you can, and no hard feelings if you miss a week or five.

Also remember, though, that this is not a commercial publication and that while around three hundred people may see your entry, it doesn’t have to consistently be your best. I won’t chew you out for posting something raw one week, and the entries–as some were two weeks ago–can be as short as a sentence or as long as a fully flushed-out essay. There’s no structure to this game other than theme, and you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with making sure that your submission is crystal clear and flawless.

Thank you for all of the new entries, contributors, and I look forward to this new week of posts!

This week’s theme: Cleanliness

It’s next to godliness. Perhaps I could’ve saved it for spring, but now seems as good a time as any!

Also, a narrative follows, to make you feel a little dirty.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

**

The original (authored by Mani):

I had sex in public, and the police officer told me that it was a felony of the the third degree. Homedepot ended up throwing away the mattress and we were never allowed to return.

The remix:

I held her right hand with my left and carried the bag over my shoulder. The heat in the Texas parking lot made the air shiver with energy. My palm sweated against hers, but that wasn’t what had me excited.

Some of the store clerks looked at us oddly as we passed, but they must’ve assumed the bag was a return since they went back about their business. Her middle finger tickled my palm, and as I looked over at her, she smiled. Her head tucked down, and she used her other hand to pull her long brown hair back. The shame excited her, I could tell, but I didn’t feel ashamed. We were about to put on a hell of a show.

Orange metal framed our experience as we worked deeper into the store. The stale, conditioned air settled in around, making the moisture in my hand tingle. I could also trace goosebumps rolling along the nape of her neck, all the way up under the sensitive skin of her earlobe.

I resisted the temptation to look at the wares as we walked past saws, and I had to pull her past the home decoration section. My hand tugged on hers, and in our briefly connected eyes I saw her desire to escape, to check it out at least before we did the deed. But I wasn’t having any of her guff; we were here for a chore, and by God we were goin’ to do it.

The smell of cedar protected the wood section from the harsh sterile scent of the store. My chest swelled with invigoration and pride, and I gripped her hand a little tighter. A small unsure smile curved her lips. She wouldn’t be so shy in a minute, not after I had my hands on her hips.

I threw down the air mattress and got to work. Pump in, pull out, pump in, etc. At first she looked around to make sure no one was coming–she even giggled, probably at the funny little thought of getting caught. She slipped into boredom as I checked the firmness of the half-full mattress. She looked this way and that, wondering when I’d finish.

I looked her up and down as I continued to pump. The cheap and efficient white lights hung so far overhead flattened out her features, made her look like a model for any of the company’s photo advertisements. I could see the skin of her stomach complaining about the coolness of the store, much like her neck had done. The daisy dukes revealed her legs the same, her muscles dimpled with tiny bumps. Flat and bumpy, that’s how she looked.

When she leaned back against the wood-covered rack, I decided that enough was enough. I grunted at her and held out my right hand, which she took in hers. I pulled her into me and gave her a rough kiss that nearly consumed her gentle lips. She pushed against me with her hands, straining to get away and not to kiss me back; I had known it wasn’t what she wanted, but fuck what she wants. This is about me.

She started to curse when she finally got away, but the tough yank as her shirt pulled tight against her back shut her up quick. The fabric didn’t tear at the seams like I had expected but rather down the front, exposing her black bra and tight stomach. She gasped as I wrestled the rest off as if it were a vest, her arms yielding in surprise as the jersey fabric tugged down her arms.

My left hand had already penetrated her shorts, and she fell to the ground, her legs limp with shock. Instead of moaning, she ground her teeth and looked away. Well, fuck it: this isn’t about her anyway.

I bit the nape of her neck hard, perhaps too hard in my excitement: I tasted blood. Heedless, my left hand pushed aside loose skin and rough hair as my right fumbled for the button of her shorts and I bit my way down her chest. I clenched my teeth on the front-clasp of her bra until it unlocked, slapping me in the nose after pulling at my lips.

I could feel fear set in as her skin cooled under my touch. She had agreed to this, but I had seen her wavering all the way from the car, from when I had first picked her up. Perhaps a movie, she had said. I could invite a friend to come film it. I scoffed a grunt as I finally undid her shorts, and then I ripped them off.

“Hey!” I heard a male voice scream. My head snapped up in his direction, and I saw surprise paint his face. He turned to the side and yelled, “Get security!” before turning back to me and saying, “You can’t do that here, man. This isn’t that kind of shop.”

“Why do you think I’m here?” I snarled. The girl reached for her bra and tried to pry her shorts from my hand.

“Seriously, you can’t–” he started, but we never finished.

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Theme Thursday: A seasonal affair

In some ways, projects mirror conversation. In particular, if you put your hands on either in an attempt to force it to go your way, you will most certainly fail. Words may be said, items may get checked, but in the end either your partner or your underling will resent you, breaking the human connection of conversation and productivity, respectively.

The temptation the first week was to beg people I know to contribute, which I largely avoided. (Should the admission that I didn’t wholly avoid it embarrass me, here? Probably not.) The temptation the second week was to fear that I had made the game too hard by raising the bar a notch.

I want to promote this project. I don’t want to constrain friends and fans. I want people to contribute, but I don’t want them to feel compelled to do so. These Theme Thursdays should be games, should be fun! And we’re (here in the north hemisphere) wrapping up our summer, which means it’s prime time for fun!

Therefore, a broad and unrestrained topic, rich in both memory and metaphor:

This week’s theme: Summer

Have fun. 🙂 Remember, all forms of narrative are fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry, along with photos.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

**

Now for the first remixing of my chosen story from the game two weeks ago (one week for them to write the comment, one week for me to write the remix). The new piece is entirely fiction and not fed by the author except by the original post. Here goes!

The original (authored by Claire):

My mother is the kitchen, her smooth edges and pillowy white skin, soft and yielding and warm. The kitchen is sensuality in form of mother-love, my youth and my upbringing, my salty tears boiling over, my dishpan hands longing to be held.

When I miss my mother, I go to my kitchen. I make tea, the whistling kettle becoming her voice, the steam her fingers on my own. I fix it the way she likes it, orange pekoe, condensed milk, only I slip in two teaspoons of white sugar, the colour of her inner arms. She’d cringe at the sacrilege, but I need the sweetness of her words to cut the harshness of her reality when she impresses upon me to sit up, to buck up, to not feel so sorry for myself, to not sit alone and cry, to be proctive! to smile! to make friends!

But I feel sorry for myself in the kitchen. I cower with mug in hand and stare into the murky liquid that is only the colour of tea and let it wash over me, warmth, comfort, soft, yielding. My mother. My kitchen. me.

The remix:

“Smile,” she says to me. “You wouldn’t have it so bad if you made some friends.” Her voice is harsh but falsely polished, like the linoleum floor. It reflects light sure enough, but it makes the incandescent bulb look cooly flourescent. “Smile, God damnit!” I close my eyes and lick my lips. My toes curl as my head sinks, chin falling to my breasts. “God damnit,” she sighs, turning back to her cutting board.

Her knife moves fluidly like quicksilver. You wouldn’t know it was steel if you hadn’t felt its cut. I can feel her eyes flicking between what she’s doing and her peripheral so she might see if I’ve regained my composure. I think she takes pleasure in breaking me down; she doesn’t bother insulting me if I’m visibly subdued.

Her teeth grind. “Smile.” The word hurtles her mouth quietly, like a sand storm. It corrodes my skin, could cut to the bone. Her voice recognizes no armor. I am nude in front of it and damaged in its wake.

Said. “Smile,” she said. My head shakes of its own accord, my hair shaking loosely like horsemane, and my eyes open to a different kitchen. My kitchen, suburban, with the bright windows and the pink marble countertops. Light in my mother’s house always seemed filtered; here it feels so clean. There it seemed dirty; here, sterile.

I can’t tell if this is helping, this psychological experiment of mine. I escaped my mother so long ago, but I want to remember her without the childhood fear. I make the tea, orange pekoe with condensed milk, just like she has it in my nightmares. The smell doesn’t bring back anything definite, but my muscles tense, making my head fall to my chest and my eyes close. I bear all the same reactions from my childhood. A friend called it emotional regression, but I like to think I’m moving forward.

She is my mother. I want to remember her without fear. I want to connect the encouragement I see now that she was giving me with those words from my memories. Make friends had sounded so cruel, nearly impossible, nearly a curse. What if I had made friends? Would I have heard her the same way?

No, that’s not where I want to go. I relax my muscles and let my head fall back so that I’m looking at the ceiling. I breathe, deeply. As I exhale, my chin falls to my chest again, and the tea kettle whistles in earnest.

She grabs the handle violently as I’ve felt her grab my write. That tight grip would’ve left bruises on me, still might. Hot water falls freely from the spout, filling her cup, which already contains the milk and the leaves. I look away, try not to imagine the difference in threshold between her sulfuric grip and the burns of hot water.

“Sit up,” she hisses, her voice only softly carried by the breath. “Your cringing makes me sick.” My eyes close again and my head jitters, a small flinch as I picture her dousing me in that steaming-hot tea, hitting me right in the vulnerable spot of neck exposed to her. The burn would turn my neck red, making my soft, untanned skin different from her ivory near-white. How I yearn to be different from her; give me the burns! I could scream it!

When I feel myself near tears with begging, I open my eyes, and her nose is mere inches from my cheek, cup poised to spill. “Sit up, stop cringing, and smile. You’re not making any friends over how cruel mommy abuses you at home.”

I hear the garage door open, and I’m back in suburbia. Shivers crawl down my body, and I touch the spot on my neck that mere moments before I had silently begged my long-dead mother to purge from my fair flesh. I feel the muscles loosen under my practiced fingers, grateful for their salvation. My husband, when he comes in, will ask me why I made the tea again. He’ll be angry, but I’ll tell him the memories are getting better. I can do this; I can overcome.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Features, Fiction, Theme Thursdays, Writing