I used to have a rule: never throw away writing. For some reason, I believed that the writing of yesteryear was more important than just about anything else. So, if I dig through the boxes that still remain from college, high school, and elementary schools, what remains is lots and lots of writing.

Last night I was stricken by a need to organize and to downsize, so I hauled two boxes down the attic stairs and rifled through a strange amalgam of stuff. I’d say it was half art and half writing. Most of the art was Tolkien-inspired. Lots, and lots, and lots… and lots of hobbits. And if it wasn’t hobbits, it was Beatles. That pretty much sums me up in high school.

But the writing. Heh. Well, let’s say that my romantic notion was a little premature. Or something. I know that when I was in high school, I really thought I was the shit. Writing wise, anyway. I didn’t have confidence in anything else, and I wrote compulsively. Obsessively. All. The. Time. I carried notebooks around with me everywhere I went, and filled floppy disks with horrible, terrible, embarrassing stories that really, honestly, should have been left in the dark. The only feasible reason I have for keeping these any longer is, perhaps, to show them to my son when he’s that age, so he knows what his mom was up to at that point in her life.

Anyway. There was one particular gem, entitled “Milky Red”. It was written during a pretty heavy X-Files obsession, late in high school. And remember Titanic was around at the time. I suffered, in high school, from acute seriousness; everything I did was serious. And precious. And IMPORTANT.

So, to embarrass the 16 year old in me, I thought I would share a bit of the gem that is “Milky Red”.


We were sitting on the beach, right at the place where the we sand ended and the dry sand began. Suddenly DiMarco noticed a movement in the water. He looked to me, and I crouched down lower. Even though I didn’t see it, I saw what he saw in his eyes. (That sentence deserves an award for utter redundancy and crazy talk) They were almost on fire with excitement. (OMG EYES ON FIRE! WATCH OUT! Is he a super hero? Cyclops huh?)

DiMarco put his hand on his .45, and I felt his arm tremble next to mine. (Maybe I’m a sick person, but this sounds so laughingly erotic to me) His long trench coat was getting wet in the water and the 40s style hate he wore was covering most of his face. Looking at him, you would have thought the year was 1945. But it was 2012. (TEH FUTURE IS HERE! And yes, looking at Jack DiMarco you would have immediately thought the year was exactly 1945. Just that year. None other. He made the whole world feel 1945. Because, apparently, fedoras covered most of one’s face… in the year 1945.)

“Hey McCaffery,” he whispered. “I think we have a winner.” (Cliche dialogue! DING!)

I stared at the water about ten meters in front of me as it began to bubble. The bubbles were a deep green, glowing under the moonlight. (What other color would they be? This is sci-fi. Everything glows green.) I squinted and listened hard. I could hear a hissing from somewhere. Probably the bubbles. (Do bubbles hiss? I don’t really think so.) It was cold, and there was a salty breeze that blew through the air. It stunk. It turned my stomach.

“DiMarco,” I said as I put my hand lightly on his shoulder. He flinched, stared at the water, then turned slowly to me.(I don’t think DiMarco likes girls. Or else, McCaffery is really nasty.)


“What the hell is that?” (Welcome, friends, to the Joy of Italics. It only gets better from here.)

He smiled. “Just what we’re looking for.”

Sometimes I couldn’t stand DiMarco. He always answered things like that, like he thought we were in some episode of the “X-Files”. I think he thought that I was Sculley and he was Mulder. I rolled my eyes. He was so childish sometimes. (No, it’s childish to write something that is clearly a rip-off, and yet cite the source in your short story, and somehow think you’re clever about it. Really, kidd0.)

He knew I had no idea what he was talking about so he continued, “Okay, we’re investigators, right? So we’re investigating.” (Hi italics. What are we highlighting here? Oh, vests for emphasis. Okay, so are these investigators wearing vests? Or are they… invested in their project? Is this a vested interest? What? Oh, it just sounded “cool”. Right.)

We’re investigators and we’re investigating. That was an ingenious remark. I could tell he was preoccupied. (She could tell.) He wasn’t listening to me. (Not listening.) I could tell. (She could tell.) Whenever he made a statement as ridiculous as that he wasn’t listening. (Not listening.) He was looking at the water as it bubbled and turned. I was getting scared. (What? I missed that. You could tell, right? I wasn’t listening.)

I shook him. “Jack.” (OH! Proper NAME. She has the hots for him alright.)

He blinked his sea-water eyes. “What, McCaffery!” (So, he has sea-water eyes. That catch fire when he gets excited. Sounds like a catch.)

“What is that?”

DiMarco looked at me with that look. The one that said “how stupid can you be?” He sighed and turned his face from the water to make that look. It was such a sacrifice for him. (He sacrificed… his look? His sigh? His soul? I prefer soul.)

….(really painful crap about how they had gone to investigate a murder where there was a bunch of milky red seaweed left on the ground. Apparently the seaweed only grows in Liverpool. I don’t even pretend to get it at this point)…

“DiMarco,” I said. “Don’t play me stupid. I know that. The seaweed only grows in Liverpool. That’s why we’re here. It connects the murder…”

“Nuh-uh,” he said snidedly. “You don’t get it.” (Huzzah for the adverbial turn.)

“You haven’t told me something, I suggest now is a good time.” (It’s not really a good time, but you’ll suggest that it is. You pansy!)

“Okay, this is the spot that the ship, the Titanic was launched in April of 1912. As we all know, it sunk.” (WAIT! The TITANIC SUNK!?! OMG! OMG! I didn’t know this… I’m crushed.)

...(Really, it just goes downhill from there. The murders are all direct descendants of the six survivors of the Titanic. Six. There were over seven hundred. Then come the aliens. No, seriously. Aliens in “Liverpool Harbor”… okay, one last bit)…

Jack DiMarco never ceased to amaze me. This time he was convinced that there were aliens living at the bottom of the Liverpool harbor. He was really funny sometimes. (Funny haha?) But something about the tone of his voice scared me. Though I didn’t want to admit it–he had a point.

“What about the pink seaweed?” I asked.

“Maybe it’s not seaweed.”

“What do you mean?”

“My theory is that it’s something those aliens give off. Like skin–maybe they’re molting.”

Molting?! Molting aliens!?” (Funny, that was my response, too.)

“Shh!” he said. “Not so loud!” (The bubbles will hear you. The alien bubbles.)

I was getting frustrated, “For goodness sakes, Jack–you’re being ridiculous.”

“Am I?”

I didn’t feel like giving him the pleasure of answering him so I kept shut and said, “We have to move back, the tide’s coming in now.” (The tide of molted alien skin seaweed bubbles)

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  1. I remember the stories I wrote when I was young, full of intrigue and impossible situations. But you kept on writing and I gave up. I had an art instructor who taught that a person has 200 bad drawings in them. They can draw them all this week or take a lifetime. I feel it’s too late for me but I do all I can to make sure my girls have encouragement to live creatively , to explore their interests, to do their 200 drawings. They are 22, 16 and 11. they are writers (22 and 11), artists (11 and 16)and performers ( the 11 yo). I hope I am giving them the tools to succeed . I know one thing, they are way smarter them their mom. Although ,I can make a really cool Halloween costume.

    1. @Jill Absolutely! There’s a theory that you have to dedicate 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, which is right along those same lines. We do have to grow, and maybe I’m a little more harsh on myself than I ought to be. I sometimes think I had a little too much encouragement! But, I suppose there’s a reason that most writers don’t find success until at least their thirties. Art of any kind is always worth working at, in my opinion. It’s all from the same root! 🙂

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