Following the journey of award winning author, Alex Azar, as he travels the publishing world and all things interesting. To reproduce or publish any material found within this blog, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, February 17, 2012
Winter is over. It’s this belief that damned Sophie Ting. She’s not used to the difference in seasons from Japan to Jersey. Growing up in Japan the passing of winter was immediately followed by the sprouting of new flowers, and blooming of trees. She didn’t know that in New Jersey you can still wear a t-shirt through November, and that April showers sometimes turn into snowfall.
That very same snow caused Sophie to lose track of the path in the woods that led to her awaiting friends. Thinking she’s headed in the right direction, Sophie quickens her pace, but the realization she was heading the wrong way sets in when she comes to a brook, rapid with fresh melted snow, a brook that she didn’t cross when heading into the woods to go to relieve herself.
Turning to return in the direction she came, she sees a figure move behind a tree. A figure much too large to be any of her girlfriends who have more than likely stopped smoking up just long enough to ask if Sophie returned from taking a piss. She calls to the wind and the mystery figure she’s no longer sure she even saw, but there’s no response. Deciding it best to not to find out, she begins to follow the bank of the brook assuming she’ll eventually come to some landmark of significance.
After half an hour of following the river, Sophie's jeans and hoodie sweatshirt no longer suffice in fighting off the cold. Again she can swear she sees a shadow move behind a tree to her left. Already scared of the impending nightfall this is enough to push Sophie as she breaks into a run as fast as her cold bones allow her to move.
Five minutes of this brings Sophie to a patch of grass devoid of any snow. Figuring she's put enough distance between her and the shadow, Sophie takes a seat on a relatively dry stone. Just as she gets in a comfortable position, she hears a branch break. Without a second thought Sophie's in another full sprint yelling for help. Scared beyond all reason, Sophie decides to cross the brook at a point she feels is thin enough to jump across. On any other day if her legs were working up to par, Sophie may have made the jump; unfortunately, her jump is just short and she lands near the opposite bank and slips on a stone beneath the water.
No longer able to run, Sophie goes to hide within the trees. Rounding a tree she trips over a root that in a week’s time would surely have been visible, but as it stands today is mostly covered with snow. She lands head first into a tree bending her neck at an awkward position, not hard enough to break her neck, but it's guaranteed to be sore if she regains consciousness. During her fall a low hanging branch catches on the hood of her thin sweatshirt, ripping it down the back in jagged fashion.
Revealed on the back of her limp body, is the upper portion of an elaborate tiger tattoo. A tattoo that suggests more of her past than any of her stoned friends know about. A tattoo that may hold clues as to Sophie's paranoia and fear of being followed, or simply a tattoo that will entice the possible stranger in the shadows.
I owe the origin to this story entirely on my trip to Florida in the summer of 2010. While there, I attended a tattoo/comic convention that was mediocre at best. However, my friend’s tattoo booth was next to an old Asian man who had a lot of ‘tattoo art’ on display. They were mostly Asian girls with elaborate tattoos.
One painting in particular caught my eye, of a girl crouched on one knee in the middle of a snow covered field, with dead trees and rocks around her. She was only barely covered by a blanket, and revealed on her back was the majority of a large tiger tattoo.
But what struck out the most were the streaks of mascara running down her face from tears as she stared at the ground. I couldn’t help but wonder how she came to this situation, but even more so what happened next.
Admittedly, I altered some of the aspects of the painting to fit the story. I submitted this in for a seasonal anthology calling for stories set in spring. Ultimately, the story was rejected, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I started this story while at the airport waiting to fly to Tampa. This piece was a long time in the making in that I took a several month hiatus after “Kinetic Art”. At the airport I decided to continue the project by completing another entry by the time I landed back in Jersey. As it turns out the story was completed mere minutes after the plane took off; essentially the piece was completed less than two hours and really invigorated me on finishing the Alphabet Project.
by Alex Azar
“Don’t worry baby, you heard the lady from Off*Moon. We have about an hour of air and they know where we are. She’s sending rescue people now.” Lauren tries to comforting her five year old son, Lester.
The truth of the matter is that she’s just as scared as her son, if not more. Still not sure what happened, all she remembers is driving along the coast and suddenly her car being surrounded by mud blacking out her windows.
Lester was in his ‘big boys’ seat playing with his action figures and didn’t notice what was happening until it was over. This helped delay his reaction, but siting in the buried car for fifteen minutes has pushed him to the limit. “But mom, we’re going to be late and miss dad at the airport. Can’t you just drive?”
“Baby, the car is surrounded right now.” Wanting to save what air they do have, Lauren doesn’t want to talk too much. “Go to sleep and I’ll wake you up when the get here to help us out.”
Lester quiets down, but she can tell that he’s not comforted at all, “Daddy will wait for us, I promise. Come sit up here with me, we’ll nap together.
Fifteen minutes later Lauren is woken up by Lester shifting in his seat. “Baby what’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry mommy, I have to make pee-pee.” Squirming some more Lester explains, “I don’t want to mess your new car.”
Laughing Lauren is surprised she’s able to find any humor in this situation. “Baby, I don’t think we have to worry about that anymore.” Reaching into the back seat she asks, “Did you finish your sippy-cup?”
“No, there’s still some.”
Finding the cup, Lauren can tell it’s just less than half filled, “Why don’t you drink what you can, then go pee-pee in it.”
Shaking his head violently, Lester nearly shouts, “I can’t mommy.”
Seeing the pain on his face, she bites the bullet and drinks the juice even though she has to go herself. “Go in the back and be sure to hold the cup steady.”
After doing his business, Lester hands his mother the cup, nearly filled to the brim, but spills most of it after he steps on one of his action figures. “I’m sorry mommy.” Crying before Lauren can even react, he throws his face into the cushion of the back seat.
“Baby, Lester, it’s okay. I’m going to have to get a new car anyway.” Reaching back with both arms, “Come back to the front.”
Picking up her son, Lauren exclaims “Wow, you’re a big boy now, huh? Soon you’ll be able to sit up front with me, and we’ll make daddy sit in the back.” As soon as the words left her mouth she knew it was a mistake.
“Daddy is at the airport now, isn’t he?” Lester barely whispers as he nuzzles his head into his mom’s bosom.
Finding no other options but to tell the truth, “Yes he is already waiting for us, and don’t you think he’s going to be surprised at the story we tell him when we get there?”
Petting Lester’s head Lauren is able to lull him back to sleep, but the panic of the situation is weighing too heavily on her to sleep again.
Its been half an hour since she spoke to the Off*Moon representative, and Lauren has figured there’s other cars trapped as well; after all she wasn’t the only one on the road. She thinks to herself, ‘What if there’s a car with a toddler also trapped, or more than one baby? They’d have to save them first.’ Panic sets in, and although she doesn’t want to wake Lester, she’s compelled to call Off*Moon and check on the status of Lester’s rescue.
As a lifelong career woman, Lauren never wanted kids, but due to a reversal in her husband’s vasectomy, Lester, most definitely a mistake, was brought into this world and she’s been thankful every day since. It’s these events from five short years ago that has caused Lauren to care more for Lester’s survival than she thought was possible.
Connecting the line with Off*Moon Lauren can’t take her eyes off of Lester. With tears running down her cheeks, she asks “Are you going to be able to save us?”
Without any pause for thought the faceless voice replies, “Ma’am, rescue workers are on scene and we have every confidence you’ll be safe long before air runs out. Off*Moon has reports of three other cars in your immediate area, and you are each a priority.”
Scared of the situation, Lauren takes out her frustration on the monotone voice, “You say we’re all priorities, but have any of the other cars been rescued yet?”
“Ma’am, I understand the situation you’re in, but…”
Once again cutting her off, Lauren screams “No you don’t! I don’t know where you are, but I know you’re not trapped in your car with your five year old son!”
The exchange wakes Lester, but his young instincts tell him to keep quiet while his mom vents. Instead he silently shifts from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.
Lauren sees that Lester is trying to be brave but her yelling didn’t help the situation. She looks in his eyes, but can’t find any words to comfort him.
Lester breaks the silence by asking “Why do you and the lady keep talking about the air?”
Unable to answer his question without further frightening her son, instead Lauren deflects and suggests “Why don’t w play twenty questions? You think of something or someone and I’ll ask questions.”
Already thinking of someone, Lester just nods his head, so Lauren asks, “Are you a person?”
“Are you famous?”
Knowing who her son picked, Lauren draws the game out for his benefit as well as hers “Are you someone in this car?”
“Are you someone I spoke to today?”
“Do you work for Off*Moon?”
“Mom, I said I’m not someone in the car.”
“Okay, okay. She’s not really someone in the car anyway. Are you flying on an airplane today?”
“Are you dad?”
Excited he thought of someone that took his mother so many questions to answer, Lester exclaims, “Yes, your turn.”
Seeing the smile on her son’s face Lauren can’t help but take a moment to wonder how she brought something so precious into the world. She questions how she ever thought about not having children. Then she sees the time, and notices there’s only ten minutes until she was told she’d run out of air. “OK one more game, then let’s take another nap.”
“Are you a person?”
“Are you something famous?”
“More like infamous, but no, 18.”
“Are you something hard?”
“Do you smell?”
“Do you smell bad?”
“Are you a kind of water?”
“You mean a liquid? Yes, 14.”
“Are you pee-pee?”
“Be more specific.”
“Mom you can’t be my pee-pee in the car. I said I was sorry.”
Laughing together, “You’re very smart to get that so quickly.” Patting Lester’s head, she continues, “Now let’s get some sleep.” The smile and mirth leaves her face when she sees that the game ate up five more minutes, and there’s still no sign of rescue.”
Watching Lester slowly drift back to sleep, Lauren whispers nearly inaudibly, “There’s no one else I’d rather be with.”
Lester’s sleepy response is little more than a mumble before the silence is disturbed by the Off*Moon chime. “Mrs. Lancaster, are you still with me?”
Not wanting to get her hopes up Lauren calmly responds, “Yes, we’re here.”
“Good, I’ve been informed that responders have reached the block your car is trapped on. I have notified them of your current air situation and they will be there momentarily.”
Lauren whispers a “thank you” that belies her joy. Lester has fallen asleep and she would like the next sounds he hears be his rescue.
After drifting in and out of sleep Lauren notices that it’s now one minute until they run out of air. She confirms the time on her watch and anxiously presses the Off*Moon button.
The limited air has made it difficult for Lester to breath. What begins as a low whine builds to a full blown cry. Lauren can only shed tears of her own as she hears the whirring machines of the nearby rescue workers. As the air dissipates so does Lester’s energy, as well as his cry.
Understanding the urgency of the situation the voice on the other end begins explaining immediately, “I’m sorry I can’t be certain, however responders are currently digging a car out now with a child screaming. I believe they have found your car, can you confirm this?” with no response the voice questions, “Mrs. Lancaster are you there?... Mrs. Lancaster?”
Sorry for the delay, but I plan on continuing this project until it's completion and to avoid needing to take another lengthy hiatus, I aim to post the next story in a month, and hopefully continue every month until 'Z' has been completed and posted. Thank you for sticking with it, and you can expect 'M' in a month.