Chapter 7 Financial Alchemy

“And you’re working for no one but me”
–George Harrison, Taxman

“Let me tell you something about money, Mickey. It ain’t real. It doesn’t even exist. If you know this, you can have as much of it as you want.”

achWe were making breakfast. I have a flat top griddle on my stove and I take every opportunity to use it; I love that thing. We were making sausage and pancakes. Jack Cade wasn’t much of a father, but he taught me to cook – and we made most everything from scratch since we were usually broke.

“That’s bullshit,” Michael said, “you wouldn’t have your privilege if you didn’t have money. Money is power, kiddo. And you know it.”

Michael thinks I inherited my wealth. I have never told him that I use the electronic banking system to syphon money. He isn’t ready to graduate to full-blown pirate. He thinks we are just playing. I allow it, but someday soon I will raise the curtain. For now, I am laying a broad foundation, showing him a little here and a little there.

He was manning the spatula, the ham-handed fool. I said, “See the little holes on the pancakes, Mickey? That means it’s time to flip those suckers.” He dropped one half on, half off the griddle.

“Oh, sorry. I’ll clean it up.” He went in search of paper towels.

I flipped the others, checked the sausage, and salvaged the flopped one, wiping the stainless around the stovetop with a rag I keep on the warming shelf. One of Jack’s frequent odd jobs was line-cook in a busy lunch joint. He taught me to multitask on an eight burner. “Don’t hassle over it,” I called, “I got ‘em.” Michael was rooting around in the pantry.

I checked the toast in the salamander and said, “What the hell are you doing in there?”

He returned with an empty towel tube and a porcelain cream pitcher in the shape of a dairy cow. “This is cute, where’d you get it?”

I said, “Be careful with that, it’s rare.” I lied about finding it in a curiosity shop in Seattle. It was actually one of the few items that Jack gave me. I bet he found it in someone’s garbage or stole it. I said, “I don’t use it; it’s too fragile. Put it back, ‘k?”

We ate and lounged. Snow drifted by the uncurtained industrial windows near the kitchen table. The city sky looked like a dirty steel pot; the snow would probably turn to sleet in a few minutes: fucking New York winters. I poured more coffee. Michael read on his laptop. I said, “Here, give me that, have you ever heard of an ACH file?”

He folded the last pancake, poured syrup on it, and stuffed it in his mouth. Licking the excess from his fingers, he spoke around the mouthful, “Nope.”

“ACH stands for Automated Clearing House.” I opened a text file from one of my cloud drives and spun the screen toward him. “It’s just a text file.” I pointed at a line. “The funds come from here, and flow there. This is the amount, and this is the bank. The rest is a description. Files like this move all the money in the world.”

He was chewing. “Hmmm.”

I said, “You have to be a bank to upload one– but it’s easy to hack in and insert extra lines into an existing file. They upload them every night and download return files in the morning. That’s it. That’s all money is. Numbers in a text file.”

He wiped his mouth and finished the last drips of his coffee, tipping the mug over his opened mouth and smacking his lips. Michael had some peculiar, yet endearing habits. He said, “Show me.”

I lifted my sweatshirt and stuck out my tongue.

“Very nice,” he said, “but that’s not what I mean. Yeah, no, do something. Show me how money moves. For real.”

“Ok smart-ass. But I have to set things up, and it’s Sunday, so we have to wait. If you really want to see an ACH hack in action, we’ll do it Thursday when the most deposits are made. Files drop at midnight; Friday morning is the best time to withdraw funds.” He was standing behind me now with his hand inside my sweatshirt, massaging my left tit. I leaned my head back against him.

“So,” he said, “We can do it later? Good. That leaves this morning free.”

Michael is such a horn dog. That’s part of the reason I keep him around.

*

Making an ACH file is cake. As I told Michael, it’s just a simple processor file, like the ones the SUXNET virus infiltrated to take control of Iranian centrifuges. As long as you give the processor proper instructions, money moves. If there are insufficient funds the transaction comes back in a return file.

ACH transfers are internal bank to bank transactions, and normally banks are the only ones who use them. But banks give FedWire network access to certain non-banks. They call themselves financial services; collection agencies, check recovery firms, and the like. I have access to everyone, but these companies are easier to hack than a bank. Unfortunately, stealing from a bank is a one shot deal; you can never do it the same way again. I’d been planning a project for months that I would initiate on Thursday. Michael and I would craft a file to move small amounts from several sources. These transfers have to be masked through many accounts to avoid detection long enough cover erase our tracks. I’d to show Michael a map of the transfers, he likes graphics. ACH hacking is more art than science; it’s a slight of hand.

I told him I was busy until Thursday so I’d have enough time to get everything ready. The file we made would syphon off a few thousand micro-amounts and aggregate them in forty other accounts around the world. No one would notice, and even if they did, unauthorized debits are always refunded. The complexity makes them impossible to trace.

From there I’d shuffle them around over a couple days. Bellagio called it crossing. Eventually they will be posted in an off-shore account and withdrawn. We’d end up with ten thousand or so, but Michael would be suitably impressed. I would put his transactions my insert for the check recovery company and his tests would upload at the same time as my attack. I never burn a bridge without making it worth my while.

My project will involve much larger sums and have bigger consequences. It makes me wet just thinking about it.

fin

Chapter 6 A Mouse and a Strawberry Mark

“Most people don’t realize that two large pieces of coral painted brown, and attached to his skull with common wood screws can make a child look like a deer.”
–Kurt Cobain, I Hate Myself and I Want to Die

I have a misshapen body. I know, I know, I should love myself. But society is completely greeneyefucked, and there’s more urgent shit to worry about. At least that’s what I tell myself. My Russian swim trainer, Bella, told me when I was a kid, “People in your society hate themselves, Theodora. They’re taught to despise their bodies.” I knew what she was talking about.  Everything in my life from TVs to billboards told me my body was wrong, and that everything would be fine if I’d just buy the right deodorant, eat the right cereal, or wear the right fucking shoes. I spent my entire life trying to block that bullshit out.

Jack said I was born in the ocean, but he never said more. I was a water craving geek, and geeks like me live inside our heads; we ignore our bodies anyway. So I dealt with it by not dealing with it.

Looking in the mirror, my eye is drawn to these freakishly wide shoulders, a broad torso made to look even wider by my large breasts: a swimmer’s back exaggerated by a little waist and generous hips. “Proud mama hips,” Bella called them. And after years of swimming, my thighs and biceps are muscled and large. I look like a cartoon.

I stand there and wonder, who the hell are you? Where did you come from? My body looks alien; not the Theodora in my mind. Bella sniffed when I said these things. She’d say, “You have strong arms and legs, smooth olive skin, thick, healthy hair. You will never be a great swimmer, but great is overrated. You’re a big, fast, beautiful girl, pchelka.” I didn’t buy it, I was never anyone’s little bee.

I have too many freckles; my checks are covered with them. You don’t even see my nose and lips; melanin spots dominate. And my eyebrows are always trying to grow together into one. I’d curse out loud when I tweezed them; but it was a losing battle. I gave up. My eyes are my redeeming feature. Jack called them Seven-Up bottle green; they are large and almond shaped.

When I turn profile to the mirror, my belly sticks out too much. My hair, which grows like kudzu, needs to be cut again; the damn braid is always in my way. In this evening light I look like an unfinished charcoal sketch, distorted, out of proportion. Dark smudges for my brows and pubes, and that braid snaking over my shoulder, curling at my hip, impossible to brush out, bound so it won’t escape.

My hair is dark but not flat black like Michael’s. Even right after he shaves his face and bald head are a shadow against his pale Irish complexion; like his hair absorbs the light. Together we look interracial.

Dirty blond, that’s me, with a tinge of red. Irish? Greek? Russian? I have no idea; Jack changed the subject when I asked. I have no real birth certificate or social security number, only forgeries.  During a rebellious phase, before I realized there was nothing to rebel against, that Jack would let me do anything I wanted, I shaved off my hair. Once gone I noticed a mark on the back of my head. At first I thought it was a birthmark, an oval port wine stain about the size of a lemon. But I snapped a picture with my phone and made a Photoshop enlargement. The characters look vaguely oriental, but I can’t figure out what they mean. They may be the key to my past, but so far, Internet searches lead nowhere. If Jack knew anything, he wouldn’t tell me. And since we lived such a transient life, there are no records. I remain a misshapen mystery. I have that one hidden mark and a small scar the shape of a mouse that I can’t remember getting. But, only my most intimate relations will ever get a glimpse my little mouse.

fin

The entire story so far can be found on the Theodora Smith page

Chapter 5 Brazilian Dreams

“Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
— Maya Angelou

I woke up in my bed. My head felt huge, I could hardly open my eyes, like a hangover from a week long binge drunk, except, I haven’t binged on alcohol since I was sixteen. The light spelled evening. I couldn’t find my phone. Trying to sit up made every muscle scream. Though my mouth felt filled with kitty litter, I didn’t dare try to find a drink. Instead, I laid still and breathed slow. The technique helps me focus on healing. I needed to escape long enough to build up some strength.

I drifted into a half dream, still aware of the pain, but one step behind it. I thought about Mr. Carver and his message, and I knew I needed to check on Michael, and survey the damage to my loft, but all of those prospects were too far away. I had slept as much as I needed so I floated on my mattress listening to my breathing, punctuated by horns on Crosby three stories below.

Images bubbled up and faded: drinking wine with Michael, the black snow and ice splashed in front of us walking back from Starbucks, Mr. Carver and his friends Faulkner and Wolfe, Mari, an escort from Abalone Group. Her face wavering before my inner vision. Mari worked for the service nights, and took classes at Columbia days. I met her by chance, if you believe in that sort of thing.

I had forged an invitation to a fundraising dinner for Sam Bastion’s reelection campaign which required a plus one to complete my cover. I picked Mari up in a rented limo; she was dressed in an indigo silk gown with candy apple red stilettos. A midnight blue page boy framed her face. I told the Abalone that she would accompany Jay Smyth, but I didn’t specify Jay’s gender. Mari was surprised when she slipped in beside me. I wore a linen button down with a Lorenzo Cana tie and a pinstripe Brooks Brother’s three piece with my ostrich boots. My hair was tied up in a twisted braid. That was before I cut it and it was very long. I told her she was perfect. She blushed.

I told Mari that I was attending to get the measure of the candidate and that when I introduced her she should distract him with her cleavage so I could get a good look at him without him noticing. “Men reveal their secrets more clearly when they don’t know you are looking at them,” I said.

“Don’t I know it,” She replied.

We had a great time. $10,000 a plate dinners are a gas, especially if you aren’t paying. I strolled around during the cocktail portion of the evening like an oil tycoon with Mari draped on my arm. She played the role like she was born to it. I glad handed Bastion and slipped a Bluetooth bug into his pocket. Mari distracted him by standing too close while I assured him of his success. He was looking at her nipples, and hardly acknowledged me.

Mari and I spent the rest of the evening after dinner hanging out in the City Club library, drinking Lagavulin and talking about her dreams. I got her number and told her we should get coffee sometime. She tried to kiss my cheek when the limo stopped to drop her, but I pressed my body to hers, held her face with both hands and kissed her long and hard before she left.

I said, “Goodnight, Mari.”

She said, “Wow,” as the doorman closed me in.

I was pleasantly buzzed for the rest of my night.

When I returned home, I activated the bug. It gave me a satisfactory GPS location and an audio link, later I would break the security of Bastion’s local computer network and gain complete access. Satisfied that I was connected, I shut down my system and went to bed. I dreamed of spooning naked with Mari, my hand draped over her, fingering the delicate skin between hip and thigh. In the morning I took a cold shower; I felt teased and horny all day.

But that was not the last I saw of Mari. Some weeks later I followed Sarah Cargill to a nightclub as part of the surveillance on her husband, Citifund CEO, Brunner Cargill, but lost her on the dance floor. Heading to the ladies, I saw Mari with a client, a broad shouldered guy with a bald head. I caught her eye; we didn’t speak.

Earlier that day, on a whim, I’d gone in for a pedicure to get waxed. I was a swimmer when I was a kid, and I prefer bare legs, arms and pits. Call me old fashioned; call me colonized. The Works, essentially removing all the hair on my body in one shot, was cheaper. I had never gone full Brazilian before, but figured, what the hell. What could it hurt? Hair grows back, right?

Fuck me, never again. Besides the momentary pain of having the hair ripped out of my most delicate spots, raw naked pubes made me excruciatingly aware of my sex. The slight friction of my panties left me throbbing, wet and horny.

After I lost Sarah, I went to pee, and passed Mari on my way. In the bathroom I had to squeeze around a lesbian couple, lip locked with their hands up each other’s skirts. Once in the stall and relieved, I wiped, but continued rubbing, thinking I would have a quick orgasm and bolt.

The couple finished and left. I pictured their flushed faces, imagining I was one of them; my breathing grew deep and husky; this wasn’t going to take long. Just before I came, the door slammed open. I watched through the stall crack as the bald dude shoved Mari against the wall. She said, “Owe. Fuck you Simon, not so rough!”

Simon back handed her face and spun her around to the sinks, out of sight. My orgasm dissolved, I exploded out of the stall and lunged at him. He had pressed her face onto the counter, and ripped her underwear off. He gripped her hips, banging into her. I carry a rechargeable Taser the size of a disposable lighter. It’s tiny, but delivers 10,000 volts. I grabbed his shoulder, turning him away from her, and Tased his crotch. While he was convulsing on the filthy floor, gripping his balls with his pants around his ankles, I kicked him three times with my steel-toed Timberlines: one to the gut, one to the groin and one to the face. I heard his jaw brake.

I slipped a bug into Simon’s pocket and helped Mari wipe her bloody nose. She leaned on me and said, “Theo, you smell like vagina, and your panties are around your ankle.” I stuffed them in Simon’s mouth and left him moaning and shivering in fetal position. Mari I dropped at Mount Sinai Emergency and went home.

Michael had left a voice mail about coming over and I texted him a thumbs up. Between the adrenalin from Mari’s rape, being Brazilian hot and bothered, and my interrupted orgasm, I was energized to say the least. He didn’t want to have sex with me for a week after that.

The memory dissolved as I opened my eyes to the dusk filled room. Breathing didn’t hurt as badly. Replaying these events got my heart pumping. I almost forgot about the exploding door and being gassed in that cell. I got out of bed carefully, and peed like a racehorse. My phone was where I left it on the glass table in the living room. Any blast damage had been cleaned. There was no trace, and no wine stain on my cheap-ass Ikea rug. I checked my messages. There were several from Michael within the past few hours. Three days had passed.

fin

The entire story so far can be found on the Theodora Smith page

The Journal of Theodora Smith

money-skull-2

Welcome to the world of Let Them Eat the Rich.

Installments will come out about once a week and will be posted on this blog only. The wordpress blog named for the journal will no longer be updated.

All past installments, including the prologue and the about page, can be found here. 

Enjoy!

Prologue

I dreamed I was a huge dark bird, drifting the thermals above the world. With my raptors sight I saw the suffering and horror covering the earth below and it broke my heart; I heard her shatter. Tinkling shards fell like snow, my heart forever gone. But a monstrous power filled the void, and flushed me with towering anger. A voice poured from the raw wound where my beautiful heart once beat, and pumped its hot acid throughout my body. This screaming, silent wave of reason uncloaked the future. And as the rolling vision blossomed, I watched as the death covering our world burned away like wildfire until nothing remained but light.

When I woke, the Truth was mine and I dedicated my life to it. I was ten years old.

–The journal of Theodora Smith – May 2020 NYC

 

The Hokey Pokey

lisamitchell

Someone posted poems about sex

It didn’t make me want to read them

That’s not because I am too old to care

I didn’t want to be a voyeur

It’s her sex, after all

I didn’t feel invited for that,

And even if, I wouldn’t have gone

And it’s not because it’s risky

for me to talk about sex in public

Sex is common

Everybody has one

Or two

Everybody

There isn’t anything special about sex

It’s only exciting because of

conditioning

Sex is just a word

that’s pretty disconnected

I crave attachment, connection

Like this…

The way I feel about you

When we are intimate, love

About us

Our bodies together

Hands.Lips.Ears.Eyes

That is what it’s about

END

Lessons from the Road

New Post on the writer’s Road Trip by Karen.

The Writer's Road Trip

DSC_0228It’s been a year since our summer road trip. We’ve covered thousands of miles since then, punctuated by two frigid cross-country, storm-eluding, highway-closing for Wyoming wind, driving the snow-covered-dirt-road-detour for miles, turn-the-car-on-in-the-middle-of-the-night to warm our metal tent parked at countless rest areas, fast-red-road-country[1]  crisscrossing moves to the farm; all the while remembering, whom this land once nourished.

It’s almost as if it’s taken half the year to catch our breath! Soaking in our rural sanctuary for recovery; and perhaps, to also forget, for a short while, how long and large this beautiful country really is. But even with the hardships of the road, there has been a depth of value to traveling that has settled into our lives, a bit like muscle memory becoming stronger, turning micro trauma into awakened conviction.

We’re living in a socially constructed world of never-stopping and never-ending production. This supreme disconnection from our…

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Putting Away Childish Things

cowsWhitey Roy mopped sweat from his forehead with a gear oil-stained red bandana. Everybody knew that the ancient gas pump at Dunnavant’s service station ran slower as the temperature climbed. Though the faded printing on the oversized disk thermometer, nailed crooked to the side of the office door, topped out at 105, its rusty red needle was pinned far beyond that. Whitey figured it was at least 110 degrees.

Across Pigeon Roost Road, Mac Murphy’s hay field wavered like smoke, as though the landscape was smoldering in the late afternoon sun. A few dun-colored cattle stood still as statues, except for the occasional fly-swatting swish of a tail. A puff of breeze raised dust on the gas station’s buckled pavement. It felt more like an open pizza oven than wind. All the while, the faded numbers on the pump rolled slowly. At this rate, he thought, it’ll take an hour to fill this five gallon can.

The pump said: “Klackity-chuff, squeeek. Klackity-chuff, squeeek. Klackity-chuff, DING.” From the tired sound of the thing, Whitey could definitely tell it was running down. He wanted a cigarette and a beer. If the damn gas nozzle still had the auto-clip on it he would have left it stuck in his battered red gas can and lit one up in the shade of the scraggly hackberry tree at the edge of the parking lot. Whitey Roy knew he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, but, as he repeated often, “My momma didn’t raise no dummy.” He could smell the fumes from the 97 octane like he had his face right there in the can. He mopped ineffectively at the sweat running into his eyes and squinted at the hay barely shifting in the blast furnace air. “Ker-poof,” he said, imitating the last sound he would likely hear if he lit a match near that pump.

Everything looked burned around the edges; a comic book portrayal of some rural hell where all the colors were washed out. The grinding innards of the pump slowed noticeably. It was too hot to get excited, but Whitey considered it. He could have gone to the Phillips 66 further up 31 at the end of Buford’s Station, but that would have taken another half hour and he was already behind in raking his hay. He sighed.

A shadow poured quickly like paint, spilled over the station, plunging him into shade. The relief was overwhelming. Before he could look up at the cloud that caused it, the pump squealed to a halt. The numbers stood frozen at three point three gallons. He clicked the handle twice and looked into the nozzle end, shook the thing a few times, and said, “Aw, c’mon!” That’s when he felt it.

At first the rumble seemed to be in the air around him. After a moment, he dropped the pump handle and clapped his hands over his ears, but it didn’t help much. Charley Spits’ beagles started howling and yapping next door. It got darker, and cooler, and the wind rose and threw candy wrappers, empty beer cans, and small stones around the lot in spirals.

“Mus’ be a tornada,” he murmured.

Something hard smacked him on the shoulder and the vibration in his legs felt like an earthquake. The rumble became a violent shaking.

Whitey bent forward with an unavoidable wave of nausea and projectile vomited his turkey sandwich onto the oil-stained pavement. He fell to his knees, grinding skin into the tar and shredding his jeans. The low frequency pulsing was joined by a piercing high note that descended the tonal scale so rapidly that all the glass in his truck windows, the store front, and the face of the pumps exploded, spraying shards of glass .

The pressure grew inside his head; blood leaked from his ears. He opened his mouth to scream, but the sound was drowned out. A barn-sized disc shot out of the dark above him and descended over the hay field and stopped fifty feet above the small herd who did not seem to notice the commotion.

The rumble and squeal blinked out and the wind died. The resultant silence revealed a quieter purring sound that came from the direction of the disc. Cows lowed, tails swished. Whitey Roy tried to catch his breath. He couldn’t.

He was still on his bleeding hands and knees when he realized that the pavement was scorching hot. Jumping to his feet, he wiped at his runny nose and eyes with the sleeve of his dirty denim shirt. He tried to focus on the disc hovering above the cattle. It was at least two hundred feet across. The surface was dull, dark gray, like primer paint. There was no texture or marking on its smoothness.

Whitey wanted to run, but his legs refused to obey. He fought the urge to vomit and defecate simultaneously. The part of his mind that usually held a running commentary about things was mute, struck dumb by the enormity of the thing. His heart felt like a clogged drain. Not enough blood was getting to his head.

As though a vacuum cleaner were switched on, two of the four or five cows flew up into the sky disappearing into the bottom of the disk. One more followed, tumbling head over hind and mooing once just before vanishing. The last two evaporated similarly.

Whitey mumbled, “Cows…”

Without a sound, the disk swooped off at a forty-five degree angle and paused like a hummingbird several miles away. He looked up into the darkness and realized that the clouds he thought had covered the sun actually looked like the reflection of a city in the surface of a river. The disc shot into an opening in the face of this upside-down city. After a moment it began to move away slowly, growing smaller as it receded, the low rumbling was much quieter but still present. Soon it had become small enough for the afternoon sun to shine under it, illuminating the sides of buildings and the sparkling glass of a hundred million windows. Within a minute, it shrunk to a dark smudge in the sky’s bright blue field.

Whitey stood in the glaring sun, mouth agape, for a second. The pump began to gush gasoline, soaking his boots, cuffs and calves. He reached out toward the handle, but before he got it, the pump rang one final time and the flow ceased. The wind picked up again, slightly cooler now, though the sun was just as searing as it had been moments before the darkness approached.

Whitey shivered. His mind was as blank as a flat rock. A scrap of lined notebook paper blew against his chest and stuck there like it was glued to his shirt with paper hanger’s paste. He pealed the sheet off and looked at its surface. It was a brightly colored crayon drawing done by an unsteady child. The picture clearly showed a pink, four fingered hand reaching down toward five tan cows in a field of tall green grass. Whitey Roy’s arm dropped to his side, fingers relaxing. The wind snatched the page away. It shrank to a speck, finally disappearing into Mac Murphy’s field.

›š—

This story is included in my short story collection, Hey, This is it. I’m Going to Die,
published by Libros Igni in 2014.

You can get the book direct from me, or at Powell’s in Portland, OR and if you don’t mind supporting the evil empire, it is also available as a print on demand from Amazon.

Taking My Trauma to the Mountain

NOVEMBER 6, 2015

hoodI went to the mountains with the overwhelming burden of my failing financial life embedded in my chest. Foreclosure, eviction, overdrawn checking account —I owned the whole ball—and it wormed its way to my deeper places like an alien parasite that grew and waited to burst through my chest taking my last bit of life force with it. It didn’t matter if everything else was going well in my life, that I was in my first year of a Ph.D. program that was expanding my horizons in ways I had never dreamed, that my chronic health issues were fading away due to interventions that no one expected to work so well, that my beautiful family was helping one another in all the nonmonetary ways beyond a mother’s wildest reveries, filled with a love, and compassion that surpassed anything I ever felt growing up. These whole-hearted accomplishments didn’t matter in a world that measured everything by late fees and economic bottom lines, that cared little for my family, or my life… or the precious grandchildren who might become homeless if I didn’t handle things right.

It didn’t matter if I was a casualty of a still looming financial crisis created by others, or if my husband Ron accidentally pushed the wrong button when opening his Fidelity Retirement account that sucked the five thousand dollars that would’ve circumvented all the above personal problems. No, it didn’t matter to our modern world if this single momentary error had created a cascading effect from which there was no normal safety net.

Read more: Taking my trauma to the mountain

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There is something rotten in Denmark: transforming life, scholarship, and writing toward a more sustainable paradigm —or —you’ve got the craft skills, now what are you going to do with it?

DSC_0032By Karen Walasek
Anyone alive who is paying attention knows that we are on a crash course toward climate destruction and that the burning of fossil fuels is the key culprit. Any writer who is paying attention to the adjunct market post 2008 meltdown has noticed that adjuncts are not paid a living wage. There are a great many articles on the extractive crushing of the creative class, the war on education, non-whites, women and the environment. Our food is literally killing us as the militarized mindset of ever increasing pesticide use (let’s kill off the bad guys with bigger and bigger guns) is touted as the only way it can be done, but says who? Writers, of course. We are the ones making the culture, but do we take our role seriously enough? Have you thought about it? In what ways does your writing support or enable the paradigms of destruction that are racing us closer and closer to the tipping points of planetary collapse?

When I left Goddard with my MFA certificate in hand granting me all the rights and privileges associated with that degree, I had the gnawing sense that there was something rotten in Denmark. No offense to my Goddard colleagues, professors or even Shakespeare, but it bothered me that one could craft a beautifully articulated blueprint for a dying planet that could be considered a literary masterpiece that left its readers filled with remorse and hopelessness. It is as if in our esteemed postmodern world we were all subjects of some grand cultural machine that we inevitably had no control over. The only thing that mattered to this machine was how expertly we crafted our sentences while passively describing the rising waters of Anthropocene’s doom and gloom. Oops, stop! You used a cliché. You don’t want to use a cliché, that’s blasphemy! And yet the paradigms that promote a dying planet are not blasphemous? How did we get here and do we know what we are doing? Pardon me for drawing unsubstantiated conclusions, but something tells me there’s a disconnect in the mind of writers that has a heavy sprinkling of denial, and it’s not that we are creative dreamers and have our heads in the sky. It’s something far deeper and darker than that. Who among the numerous MFA programs out are there are talking about the responsibility of the writer in promoting social change?

What about that doom and gloom, no-way-out scenario? Is there something disingenuous and inherently passive in those action scenarios that promote a survival of the fittest paradigm, only to pull a bad sarcastic cosmic joke in the end with a “Guess what! Nobody is fittest, nor a hero, and we all die; hearty har, har.” And we call that believable, realistic, or noteworthy, while anything that falls outside this paradigm is Pollyanna, Mary Sue; or heavens forbid, idealistic or romantic chick lit!

In his book, Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff makes the point that the words and metaphors we choose shape how we think. My first stop post Goddard was a M.Ed. in education at Portland State University where I dabbled in rhetoric, conflict resolution, sustainability and indigenous nation’s studies. It was here that I also came across the work of LeAnn Bell in a Storytelling for Social Change class. Bell used storytelling as a tool for addressing racism. She categorized stories as dominant, concealed, resistance, and emerging (or transformative). Most of the stories in popular Western culture fall into the dominant story category. They tell us that those wolves on Wall Street control the world and that our planet is dying and we are helpless to do anything about it. They are the ones that say money is the only thing anyone cares about and life is nothing more than a complicated a con game. If we want to follow the plot twists, all we have to do is follow the money. The concealed stories, of course, if I dare get political here in my professional essay, the concealed stories include those like the ones that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are telling. The concealed story is the one that David Graeber tells in his book, Debt the First Five Thousand Years, where he reveals how monetary debt and true obligation are NOT the same thing. The resistance stories include those of Black Lives Matter or the ones about that tribe of brave indigenous people in Brazil who are literally fighting for their lives to stop the Bela Monte dam. (http://amazonwatch.org/work/belo-monte-dam

I think as a writer the most important question I can ask myself is “Whose story am I telling?”

Read More at: The Writer in the World