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sort of the journey of two women making the leap from college students to authors in a month

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August 2003
November 2003
February 2004


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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I just "completed" this story. Most likely it will have changes...but for now I'd like to post it...enjoy!

Birds
By Colleen McCollough

“Inside.”
“Get your hands off of me.”
“Watch your mouth pretty boy…do as I say and move it.”
We are pests. We are rodents.
“What about a phone call?”
“Not tonight.”
“It’s my right!”
Hard soles hitting the cement floor moving slowly and methodically. A laugh.
“Prove it.”
Metal clashes against metal, and a figure remains unmoving.
“It’s my right.”
“Welcome to America.”
A pause. Blankets are thrown inside.
We were surrounded.

“So strange it seems that the world in which we live is the one were taught to love. I thought that this was the land of the free and the brave…”
“Well, it’s not anymore, it’s Nazism…”
“Quit whining! It could be worse. We could live in Iraq.”

Someone hits me.
“Ryan, where’d you go?”
“What…I was, listening to them…”
“You’re kidding, right?”
The three figures disappear as quickly as they had come. Aaron has a cigarette and shakes his head. Laughter rises to my throat as I speak, “yeah.”
Unaffected, he looks at me.
“Got a lighter?”
“No.”
“Anyone in here got a lighter?”
“Fuck you hippie!” Laughter from everywhere.
“Fuck man, I could really use a smoke now. This is fucking bullshit, I mean, what the fuck did we do?” Aaron waits for a response.
“I…I don’t know, don’t know.” It was all I knew to say.
“This is shit,” a sigh. Aaron pulls his blanket close to him and sits down on his bed. “Are you going to sleep now?” He asks as he puts his body on his mattress, tucking his blanket under his arms.
“I don’t know,”
“Well, I am, goodnight,” his voice trails off. Coughs and mutters were all that was left of the evening. Someone pissing in a steel urinal was enough to be mistaken for music. Each person’s piss had the same pitch. It was as if they were all tuned to the same note. In my head I heard the pledge of allegiance and saw myself; hand on my heart, blonde hair, plaid sweater-vest, navy pants. My eyes focused on a mass of colors and objects. I was told that this was a grand old flag, that this was the star spangled banner that still waved, that it stood for one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Justice. For all.

“For who?”
“You know, all of those that make enough money, all of those who agree with their politics, all of those that weren’t born with a darker skin color…”
“Would you stop? This isn’t fucking Bosnia, I mean, count yourselves blessed, we could live in Cuba!” The three figures are back. One is smoking a cigarette. Another one is pacing and looks angry. A third looks down at the floor. The pacing one speaks.
“You know what’s bullshit? There is no such thing as democracy; the only people running this country are all those Wall Street pricks. And, they’re running the fucking world too. It’s just gonna get worse.”
The smoking one puts out his cigarette.
“You don’t know that man. Shit always gets better. It has to.”
They all look down at the floor.

Bombs. Bombs everywhere. A helicopter just went down. A bomb crashes into it. I run to it. A soldier pulls me back. “There’s no point now, they’re dead, leave them and save yourself.” I run back to my tent. There I am, sent to the border of Kuwait and Iraq. I see the line that divides them. Bombs. I hear machine guns, never stopping. The same soldier comes to my tent. I cover him to keep him safe. His helmet keeps popping out from the safety of the canvas. Machine-guns, bombs. The earth is convulsing, the music, the sounds, they all have the same pitch. It’s dark, except for the flames. It’s loud. I tremble. It’s the border, I thought it was supposed to be safe. Why is the war crossing the border? The soldier leaves. Machine guns. He’s not safe anymore. Bombs. The symphony never ceases.

I am shaken.
“Wake up dude, they’re letting us use the phone.”
I sit up and blink. My face swimming with grease and dirt. My armpits wet, my breath rancid.
“What happened?” I am still blinking.
“That asshole isn’t here this morning, some other guy is and he said we could use the phone,” Aaron pulls out a box and strikes up a match, he shakes the fire until it is gone, disposing the carbon wood on the floor. Breathing in he puts his head against the cinder block wall. He is silent. His eyes closed. He releases the scent of cigarette into the air I breathe in. I feel smoke clinging to me. Opening his eyes he looks at me. “You go first dude.”
Nodding I stand up. In front of me is another police officer. His hair is gray.
“You may call anyone you wish,”
The black box protrudes from the wall. More cinder blocks covered in white paint. The punched numbers play a familiar tune.
Three rings.
“Hello?”
“Hi, it’s me.”
“Ryan…”
A pause.
“This isn’t a good time,”
A voice in the background.
“Oh, ok.”
“Bye Ryan.”
“Bye Mike.”

The three figures are there again. Just staring, silent. The weight of their bodies supported by the strength of the steel bars. One laughs.
“Bush, fuck him man,”
“He’s just living off of that asshole Reagan. This country makes me sick. All that flag waving crap. My little sister came home from school one day singing all sorts of America shit. They had a rally. It was Flag Day at their school. It makes me sick. I fucking want to puke on the flag.” He pauses. One starts smoking, the other looks sad. The angry one continues.
“Reaganites man, those leftover assholes collecting on Wall Street and running everything in the White House. Bush man, he is Reagan. They’re the same goddamn guy. We haven’t had a new president in a fucking decade. And now all those hypocrites are making everyone love them because they are fighting for liberty while they kill off the homeless and the gays, and the blacks, and the Hispanics, and any white person that lives in a bad neighborhood.”
The smoking one laughs.
“Stop being so cynical man, it’ll be over soon enough. This war will finish, Kuwait will be ok, and everything will go back to normal.” He pulls a new cigarette out of his shirt pocket.
“Normal?” The listening one says.
The angry one continues. “It hasn’t stopped being normal. It’s normal that we’re just gonna be run by assholes until every last one of them dies. They’ll just keep coming back like goddamn cockroaches. They’ve been lingering since fucking Nixon and now they won’t go away. Bush will be done and then they’ll tell some other asshole what to do.”
They all stop and think. The listening one talks.
“Is there anyone in politics who isn’t an asshole?”
“Yeah” the smoking one says. “The goddamn statue of fucking liberty!”
They all laugh.

“I called my dad. He’s calling some lawyer friend…are you listening Ryan?”
“Huh…oh, oh yeah.” The three men are gone.
A long pause. Another cigarette is lit.
“Does your family know?” Aaron waits for an answer.
“No.”
“Fuck. I’m sorry dude.” He touches me and than continues. “Well, I don’t know man, I’ve never heard of anyone going to jail for, for…well, you know.” I nod. “It’s just now, you know how fucked up everything is. All these pigs think that they’re all gods now,”
“Yeah.” The air reeks of smoke.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,”
“No.”
Aaron’s eyes are looking straight ahead. “It’s gonna be a long day.”

The soldier returns to me. The noise has stopped. “Come on out, it’s over.” Relief. We’re in an open area, surrounded by trees. A group of people start coming into it. “Those are Iraqis.” They are scared. Music. I hear music. I don’t recognize the tune. It gets louder. One starts dancing. I hear laughter. I see smiles. They’re dancing. They hug, they cry. They feel free. I smile and turn, walking toward another country. The soldiers follow me.

“Ryan, wake up.”
Saliva on my cheek.
“We have to go talk to a judge.”
Keys clang together. The door opens. A lawyer greets us and talks. I hear nothing, Aaron listens.
Hours pass.
The courtroom. Wood, it is all wood. The chairs are wood, the bench is wood. Doors, window frames, all of it. The judge sits and ritual is performed. Aaron and I perform our part.
“Aaron Porter, you are charged with sodomy, how do you plead?”
“Not guilty your honor.”
“Ryan Silverman, you are charged with sodomy, how do you plead?”
“Not guilty.”
Our crime is given a dollar value. We are taken back to the jail cell.

I am standing. The three men reappear and join me. All four of us lean on the steel bars, staring outside. The angry one looking down, the smoking one putting a cigarette to his mouth, the listening one smiling in my direction. He speaks.
“Do you think that things are gonna change?”
All three look at me. They are waiting for my answer when two men on the outside walk by us. They wear suits and hold briefcases. They are talking.
“Did you see the footage from Baghdad this morning?”
“Yes. Watching them pull down the statue…it gave me chills.”
“Can you imagine what it must be like to live under such a dictator. To not have basic freedoms?”
“It must be terrible. It makes me appreciate being an American.”
They pass us. The wind they create makes my hair move. I stare ahead at the phone by the cinderblock wall. The three men still stare at me, hoping for an answer.
“Someday. But not today,” I answer. They nod and disappear.
“Fuck,” I hear Aaron say, “I ran out of matches, which officer is out there?”




posted by Colleen on 7:39 PM

Friday, May 16, 2003

"Obsession"

*an old short story I wrote, but figured I'd post



Amherst, New York
November 22, 2001
11:57 pm

One lone candle flickering.

I sat Indian-style in the middle of the room, fervently rubbing my hands together, trying to keep some warmth in my body. Everyone had left the building - to stay in hotel rooms, to stay with relatives - with the exception of me. I decided to stay in my own apartment tonight.

Tonight was an exceptionally cold night. You see, an ice storm had blown through the region, all by paralyzing the entire town. Sheets of ice covered everything that wasn't breathing, and howling winds through the night guaranteed that things wouldn't get better if and when the sun came up the next morning. People were simply afraid to go anywhere, for fear of being stuck somewhere outside in the cold. Me? I just didn't have anywhere to go.

I sat in my empty apartment. I mean, I had a mattress, a small refrigerator, and a lamp in the studio I currently inhabited, with a candle shedding very little light onto the thousands of pictures I was staring at, as they encompassed me into my own little circle, isolating me in my own world. The silence was almost deafening, setting the hair on the back of my neck on edge.

I could hear the wind rattling the shingles on the side of the building. I could feel the cold seeping in through the windows, languidly consuming the entire room. The only warmth in the entire room was within a radius of only a few inches around the candle. I folded my arms, tucking my hands up into my armpits.

But the aching cold was no longer an issue. Even though I knew these pictures inside and out, I needed to see them. I hopped to my feet, tip toed through the pictures scattered around the floor, and fumbled for more candles.

After stumbling upon two more candles, the room seemed much brighter. A smile crept across my face as I saw the face that graced every single one of those pictures. I sat back down on the floor, in the same position I had been sitting in before. Suddenly the room seemed warmer, my fingers no longer too numb to move.


1:14 am

The last candle was about to burn out. But I could still see them. All of those pictures - my love, my life, my obsession. Most of the pictures were taken without him knowing (he never took pictures...he hated the fact that someone would know where he's been), but some of them he knew I was taking, and for that split second in time, allowed his picture to be taken. Those were the ones I treasured most.

As the flame slowly flickered away, I ran my fingers over my favorite picture, and gingerly picked it up off the floor. The picture itself felt different; not because it was printed on a different material, but because I was in it. We were together.

Stockholm, 1997. It had just snowed the first real snow of the season, so it was still clumped onto the tree branches. The glow reflecting from the city lights on the clouds above was illuminating the entire season, and people were out enjoying the gorgeous, albeit cold, evening. A man was walking around takng picture of vacationers, so we decided to get a picture of us, together.

We stood by the dormant fountain, ready to take the picture - savor it for all time - when he wrapped his arms around my shoulders. I was beyond surprised, the goofy grin on my face made that clear. But I was so happy. I never wanted that moment to end.


I picked up another photo, and sighed heavily.

Prague, 1996. The first picture. I was there in Prague, simply passing through on a backpacking excursion with my college friends. I was only 19 at the time - no set plans for the future - and I wasn't expecting anything like him.

I spotted him in a bar, sitting by himself and sipping straight vodka. The first thing that caught my attention were his eyes. They were an extremely bright green - like a Crayola crayon, almost electric - I was completely mesmorized. I didn't even notice him staring back at me.

He waited outside the bar for me, which I'll have to admit is kind of creepy, but he was so beautiful I just didn't care. We walked around virtually all night, talking and simply getting to know one another. But I was falling in love. Fast.

We ended up going back to where he was staying, and we slept together. It was my first time - not exactly the way I had pictured it, but special nevertheless. I was seriously in love with him, never knowing it wouldn't last.


The candle finally blows out, and I'm left alone in complete darkness.

Darkness. He always moved under the cover of darkness. From Prague, to Moscow, to Stockholm, to London, even back to the States. But always when it was dark.

He was more beautiful in the dark. His features were almost highlighted by the darkness; I had memorized every single one of them. I memorized how his skin was so cold it was almost frozen under my fingertips, his lips were like ice until I kissed him. I was his warmth, he told me. I was the candle that lit his way.

My eyes were beginning to adjust to the lack of light and focusing on the natural light pouring in from the reflection of the big city lights on the clouds. Everything outside had an eerie pink aura to it. And still my eyes didn't shift from the pictures.

My neighbors upstairs had a portable generator for situations like this. I could hear a television - barely - spewing news of the ice storm that had almost crushed this little town, and I chuckled to myself. My breath was extremely visible inside, as I figured that the temperature outside had dropped well below freezing, and the temperature inside would soon follow. Even though I knew I needed more to keep me warm, I knew the pictures were all I'd really need.

Amherst, New York
Three months ago

It was very early morning. Close to dawn, as I could see the sky begin to lighten with the promise of the sun. I was laying in bed, bundled up in the fleece blanket - the one thing we owned collectively - and I noticed that he wasn't there. I sat up immediately, and saw him sitting at the end of the bed.

"I knew I'd wake you."

"You, you didn't wake me. I was just..." He slumped his head down, and his shoulders seemed to heave as if he were crying. "You okay?" He was dressed, and I knew that that meant. "You're leaving."

"I...I promise this is the last time." At that moment he turned around, and looked right at me, his bright Crayola eyes staring into mine. He crept back up the bed and lay down next to me. "I, I hate running Ali." He curled his fingers around my head, up behind my ears, and kissed me. I reached up and stroked my fingers through his hair, knowing this kiss would be short lived.

"Are, are you coming back?" I asked. He nodded, and almost smiled. "W...When?" He didn't answer, only kissed my forehead and slid off of the bed.

Four hours later he returned, weak and bloody. "Micah! Oh my God, what..."

He collapsed to his knees, shrieking in pain as his knees hit the floor. I ran to his side, cradling him in my arms as he slowly stretched his legs out in front of him.

All he could do is whisper, "S...Shot..." I almost panicked, as I pulled his jacket away from his stomach, revealing a bullet hole, gushing with blood every time he tried to take a breath.

"Why'd you come back here, Micah? Why didn't you go..."

"I...promised you I'd...be back." I knew I shouldn't have, but I couldn't help but smile. In other words, he'd rather die in my arms than in some emergency room. "Alison I...I want to...tell you that..."

I shook my head. "Not a word. Save your breath."

He looked up at me, his beautiful green eyes starting to lose their luster. "Alison, I...I love you."

Tears were starting to roll down my cheeks. My entire body had gone numb, and I couldn't feel anything but the saline on my face. I tried to blink the rest of them out of my eyes, but I couldn't even blink. I could feel death's cold breath on the back of my neck and, sitting there among pictures of him, I knew I had nothing to live for. "Micah," I whispered, my tears now flowing with more intensity. "Micah I'm sorry. I'm, I'm sorry for doing this to you."

"Ali, it's not your fault." I looked up as saw him standing there, smiling down at me. I started to shiver, and looked down at the floor right in front of me. "You know, you're going to die if you don't warm yourself up soon."

I just shook my head. "Micah, I'm already dead." I reached up to brush my hand along his cheek. He seemed to nuzzle my hand as my blue fingers made contact with his face, and he reached up and held my hand close to his face. "I miss you."

"Ali, I miss you so much." He kissed my palm, and gave me back my hand. "I have to go."

"No!" I shouted. "Micah..." I could see my breath as I struggled to breathe through gentle coughs. "Take me with you." His lips touched mine, as I slowly closed my eyes, feeling a sudden warmth rush over me.

In the morning the power would come back on, and everything would begin to thaw. The landlord would knock on my door, knowing that I was in the apartment all night without any heat or electricity, and after about ten minutes of knocking, probably key himself in. And Mrs. Friedell from next door would peer in, along with Nana from upstairs - who invited me to come in with them and keep warm - and they'd see me sitting in the middle of the floor, my eyes closed and my pictures all around me, frozen.
posted by Amanda L. on 8:31 PM

Saturday, May 10, 2003

I found this on my parents computer...it is a story I wrote about my first recital when I was 15. I just liked it...and wanted to share it with y'all since it is extremely autobiographical!

Colleen McCollough

Ok, it’s the ninth person, three more to go. Just calm down, don’t be nervous, you have played forever. My thoughts raced through my head, but they couldn’t stop the loud beating of my heart or the cold sweat forming on my hands. I nervously took deep breaths and impatiently watched each performer take their seat and play. My eyes wandered around the room. So many people would watch me. I could just picture them now, criticizing every mistake that I allowed. My ears took in the noise that was created from each performer, sadistically rejoicing in their faults. No one has been perfect, I’ll be ok, it won’t be that bad.
Applause interrupted my thoughts. Looking down at my program I saw my name, one more to go, than it would be my turn. My stomach turned over and over. I saw no escape from the wooden floors and aluminum chairs. Too many people in suits and dresses blocked the way. My parents sat next to me, not aware of my tension. They were ready to be proud of me, their musician.
The name in front of mine was nearing a completion. I started to review my songs over and over in my mind; first the Kulauh piece, then the Rollin. I had never been more nervous in my life. Once again, applause disrupted my thinking.
I watched in terror as the girl acknowledged the crowd and returned to her seat. The moment of horror had inevitably come. Reaching for some miracle, for some courage, I stood up. Finding my way through the row of people I came face to face with the piano that I was expected to be a master of. I couldn’t conceive how playing today would sound anything like the carefree song I played yesterday and the day before. I could only imagine striking that first chord, and playing it wrong. Then, I would forget everything and have to leave in shame.
I pulled out the wooden bench and sat down. Looking for an instance at the keys, trying to calm my shaky hands, I sat. With a motion, my hands moved and struck that first chord strongly and perfectly, my hands remembering the notes I had spent so much time learning. Each run up and down the keys managed to escape from my brain in perfect memorization. My hands even stopped sweating and trembling, as I became involved in the piece that I was performing. I could feel the notes turn into music as I touched the piano. For some moments, I was able to forget the hundreds of eyes that stared at me, critiquing my every move. The wooden walls became oblivious in the whirlwind of the song and emotions that I was bringing to life. Someone else’s story, someone else’s emotions, someone else’s life being resurrected through me. I could sense the crowd of eyes and their more important ears forging me on. They were listening to a tale spun without words. They cared how it ended. Each mind picturing their own character, but it was I, the narrator that made their characters appear. I felt their stories unfold around them and wrap them into a world that I wanted so much for them to know. The final chord was pushed, and the crowd was silent.
Once again my thoughts returned to that small wooden room and the people that critiqued me and would remember me for my mistakes. Once again my hands were no longer mine own. Once again I felt the urge to race out of the room. Once again I trembled, yet once again I moved forward as anxiety once again engulfed me.
Staring at the piano, I found the right keys to start my new song. Gently, I pushed the melody through to the audience, letting the characters they saw be in love. My hands gently and gracefully played the simple tune. My mind was soon wandering as the notes were lifted from the pages and a story unfolded.
I finished that last piece with a gentle chord. A great applause awakened my senses as I shyly stood from the wooden bench. I could still feel the loud thumping of my heart and the trembling of my body. My brain told me to return to my seat without a real acknowledgement of the people. I had tensely stood and smiled toward the ground, pausing for only a moment before returning to my anonymous aluminum chair.
The recital came to a close. I was left to face rooms of people that had been witness to every note that I allowed to be part of their collective memory. After I had eaten all that my tense stomach would allow, I walked into a room that was less crowded.
“Miss,” I heard a voice say.
“Yes?” I answered, dread I felt.
“I just wanted to say that I loved your performance,” she began, “and it was very encouraging to hear you play how you did. I have two young kids who played today and now I see that it will be worth all those lessons that we take them to.”
“Thank you,” I answered, allowing my face to let loose a bewildered smile. I felt my dread become pride. I felt my awkwardness become joy. The trembling of my hands and body were smashed to pieces and left for good. Most remarkable of all, the continual gaze on the floor became gazes into the faces of all those that I had told my story to.
Maybe it was my fear defeated, maybe it was sharing my passion for music with the crowd, or maybe it was simply playing well, but I left the wooden room happy. It was the kind of happy that only comes when a soul is happy. An inner joy that can not be traced, and that stays forever.




posted by Colleen on 12:09 AM

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Gunmetal grey.
Does that mean anything
to anyone?
Means a lot to me.
It's my favourite colour,
next to your eyes,
but I've always had a thing for blue eyes.
My stomach churns in knots
when I see your face.
I memorize the way you tilt your head
ever so slightly,
and the way your eyes sparkle
illuminated by the silver in your hair.
The hair's all I need to see.
One glance, and I'm hooked,
like a giant marlin,
unable to move or get myself free from the fisherman's netting,
and it gets so hard to breathe
I find myself squealing like a Britney Spears fan
just to get air into my lungs.
Yep. Does it everytime.
Gunmetal grey.
posted by Amanda L. on 11:13 PM

A Woman's Recipe
by Colleen McCollough

Nope.
Sorry,
Let me take that back,
No need for me to apologize,
See, I don’t care anymore
Your mistake
It was you who lied.
Now I am wise.
Get out!
I say
And give me my pride.
It is time you tried
A piece of my pie.

A bit of sass I put in the crust
With sprinklings of womankind to the touch.
The filling you ask?
Well, that’s all of my best stuff.
My brains,
My power,
And anger enough
Don’t like it??

Tough!

Get out!
I yell
Don’t give me that look.
See, I learned the secret of your spell,
And as you can tell
Things are going to be different round here
I’m going to take myself to heaven
And send you to hell.

So let me rephrase
What I’ve been trying to say
Get out for good
And get out of my way.

posted by Colleen on 11:09 PM

The Anthology

I started this freshman year and thought it needed to be posted online. Enjoy reading!
posted by Amanda L. on 2:27 PM

Monday, May 05, 2003

Greetings! And welcome to Anaheim's Finest -- a collection of short works of fiction, some poetry, and maybe a play or two. The idea behind this is, if you're a writer and want to publish your stuff on the Internet for the world to see, give a holler and we can hook you up.
posted by Amanda L. on 10:10 PM

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