Stephanie’s Scrap Bin

As a writer–still an amateur writer, but a writer nonetheless–I have more than my fair share of projects that have never seen the light of day. Also like your typical writer, I almost never throw these projects away. I instead place them in a variety of “scrap bins,” from virtual files to scraps of paper and notebook strewn around the house. Here you will get a glimpse into my personal scrap bin, the part of my mind where many unfinished and unpublished projects temporarily lay to rest.


Image retrieved from Shutterstock
Warning: All pieces posted on “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin” are the original work and property of Stephanie Hoogstad, owner, operator, and lead writer of The Writer’s Scrap Bin. As such, any copying and/or distribution of this work without prior consent and acknowledgement of the source will result in legal action being taken against the offending party or parties.

My Scrapped Poetry

As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m no poet. However, I have taken courses on writing poetry and tried my hand at it before. A couple of my poems have been published on a website called Medusa’s Kitchen (you can learn more about that on the Writing Resources page). Others, however, I did not feel confident enough to submit, were rejected, or I never wanted them to see the light of day.

I have posted a couple of these poems under a series called “Revisiting My Old Work”. You can find them here, here, and here.

I’ll be continuing this series, but I will also be tossing some of these poems here in the scrap bin:

Poem 1

On the Silhouettes of Main Street

Bronze cowboys chasing

bronze cattle, frozen

in a past that might

have been, in

a ghost town

still populated,

growing

Poem 2

I Spy

One Starbucks—

An apartment building

with flower pots on window sills

and children playing in the street.

And there’s a burger place

with someone’s home on top;

And another apartment building

and another.

That’s a Motel 6,

and there used to be townhouses.

A second Starbucks—

These buildings have fresher paint

and fewer plants—most are concealed

behind spotless glass—

and fewer cracks, more street lamps

that will come alive

when twilight hits,

more men in stainless suits

and women, power dressed in blazers;

There are children, too, dragged by business,

Or selling papers and shining shoes

and snatching recyclable cans.

Toys ‘R’ Us! The world’s largest—

Three stories tall, they fit

a Ferris wheel inside;

people of every age and race and size

rush to give it a try.

Down the street is Broadway

Now playing: The Lion King,

And across the way, the liquor store.

After one tonight, the actors will meet

And flood the streets and dodge through traffic

And duck into the liquor store

to contemplate the honor

in dressing as grass and gazelles.

Now there’s a McDonald’s—

That’s the last place

where women and children

settle. After the show

their men will part,

then far, far, far past McDonald’s

with collars raised high, hands deep in pockets,

flashlight on then off again, iPhone out

then in then out and in again

at the slightest sound, they will meet

girls in pleather skirts and silver glitter.

More apartments—

Dirty, cracked, hidden, falling

apart at the seams—

Home to the girls in pleather skirts

and the grass from The Lion King.

Poem 3

Degrees of Permanence

a road submerged

in yellow-brown water

algae overgrown, painting

asphalt slimy green, slick

under toes of swimmers

standing on it just

to say they did

while others float,

oblivious

to what’s beneath

a mining town

in ruins, revived:

grass foundations, walls

of tumbling brick and

crawling vines,

a bakery, a courthouse—

forgeries with electric fires

and robotic prisoners—

a people’s last attempt

at molding an identity

an ancient city

mummified in ash—

weapons, pottery,

mosaics, whole houses—

such productive destruction,

a portrait of antiquity

beheld and admired

as archaeologists stitch

the holes torn by

displacement in time

a temple erect

on a limestone base

and marble columns, once

crumbling from neglect,

wars and invaders,

now conserved, guarded,

hoarded, speculations made

on faded color, missing metopes,

a stolen goddess statue,

replicas made far away

mere shadows, decorative

misinterpretations

of Classical Greece,

expanding echoes

Poem 4

And Comedy Killed the Soap Opera Star

We watch them drop in threes (the most I usually see is in June)

We stalk the web waiting, waiting, waiting

TMZ feeds our obsession (now it is a Hydra—swelling, multiplying with every strike against it)

“I bet he doesn’t make it past thirty” “She’s the hardiest bitch I’ve ever seen; she’ll make it to a hundred easy” “He’s already older than Adam and Eve”

This one from drugs, only thirty-two (what a shame; always troubled, I knew)

He was ninety-three, a Tinsel Town legend

and of course he died—did you see that god awful remake? (Comedy always kills Soap Opera stars)

page after page—pneumonia, cancer, car crash, suicide, alcohol, over dose, natural causes—they’re all having breakfast in the Brady kitchen

dabbling in drinks outside the Viper Room

spinning wildly with cartoon rabbits or dueling with Peter Pan

haunting the megaplex, finally free of hoodoo curses—

free to laugh too loud, to sing off-key, to dance like a donkey with four left hooves,

to gather where friendly ghosts come out to socialize

I sit alone in a darkened room, scrolling through the obituaries (the first to notify Facebook)

and play their movies, their songs, their whatever in the background (I don’t even hear)

and wonder if that after life

really is so elite

Poem 5

I am

a  hypocrite

naughty and nice

right and wrong

scared and brave

weak and strong

I am

a mass

of contradictions

reserved and loud

boisterous and shy

conservative and radical

left and right

I am

complex

I am

yin and yang

I am

me

Unapologetic

Uncensored

Unchained

I am me

Poem 6

I am

but one

in this cacophony

of voices

But if just one

hears me

perhaps I’ll make a difference

My Scrapped Fiction

I am a fiction writer, so it only makes sense that I have some fiction to add to my scrap bin. Most of it is far too long to post here. However, I do have a few pieces of very short flash fiction which I haven’t shared because, frankly, they’re experimental and I don’t know if it’d be accepted anywhere. Those pieces are prime candidates for “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin”.

Flash Fiction 1

Love Can’t Fix Everything

Don’t puke, I tell myself. Don’t you dare—

“Are you ok?” Rafael calls from the living room.

“Fine,” I croak. He won’t understand. He’s never had a migraine.

The acidic taste of vomit gathers in my mouth. Swirling shadows cloud my sight, puffs and tentacles obscuring the light and blurring my vision. And the pounding—

“You sure?”

Shut up for one minute—

I collapse to my knees in the hallway. A brown mush of pizza chunks and chocolate spews from my mouth. My eyes shut tightly. I beg the darkness behind my lids to take the pain away.

My trembling limbs drag me into the bathroom and across the icy linoleum. The sanctuary of the snug corner between the tub and the toilet welcomes me home.

Silence strokes my aching ears. Dimness cools my burning eyes when tears failed to do so. In the desperate hope of relieving the throbbing, my palms press into my eye sockets. Still the pounding but if I get just one minute—

“You don’t look good.”

Rafael steps over me and squats on the edge of the tub, his bony knees digging into my shoulder blades.

I lunge for the toilet; he throws the lid open with an echoing clang. Green bile hurtles from my stomach.

He holds my hair and strokes my back.

“Shh, I’m here. I’ll take care of you.” He’ll never understand.

Go away. I cover my ears and force back the vomit. You can’t fix this.

Flash Fiction 2

This House, That House

In a small town off of I-5 North, one budding family sold its first home to another. The first family had four sons and was expecting their fifth; the second had two sons and a bouncing baby girl. The first family moved to a richer street a couple blocks down as the other moved into their sloppy seconds.

In a new-build, the first family settled into a comfortable life. The mother stayed at home with her energetic boys, and the father worked as a UPS driver. It wasn’t a glamorous job but for that rural town it was the best you could to with a high school diploma.

In the first home, the second family did the best they could. The mother was loved as a social worker and as the operator of a small daycare before she resigned to full-time motherhood. She loved her children and her children loved her, but she wanted a better example for her daughter. The father worked as a garbage man, just a stone’s throw from being a UPS driver. What should have been decent money dwindled with union fees, retirement, and slowly-disappearing benefits before it could reach the family’s pockets. It wasn’t much but it was the second best you could do there with a high school diploma.

The first family grew up nuclear, eating together every night in a large, rectangular house behind a white picket fence and neatly-trimmed lawn. Friends of the children played on the grass while friends of the parents gathered on the patio, but never did a strange foot step into the immaculate house.

The second family grew up in shards. The father was exhausted and angry each day after work, and harassment from his first wife blared at him from the answering machine. The two sons stuck to their sports and separate groups of friends and the daughter, very much the sons’ junior, sequestered herself to her schoolwork and other girls her age. The lawn was unkempt, the bushes were overgrown, and paint chipped off the exterior but always the home was filled with friends and family, the neighbors and their children among the most welcomed visitors.

Never an argument could be heard from the first family. The occasional glare from the mother or clenched fist from the father betrayed some unrest but it never took long to resolve. The sons claimed to never hear a foul word from either parent.

Yelling echoed from the second family to the end of the street as a regular weekend ritual. Most often the father, although sometimes the sons, was at the heart of the turmoil. Disturbances were more frequent when money was tight or the father’s first wife pretended to still be his or when one son would steal or beat the other. Barbecue nights were especially popular. The daughter, all the while, huddled in corners until she learned to stay with her friend a few houses down as the rumblings carried on.

The first family stayed local, never spreading too far. The sons became firemen and police officers, one coached the softball team. Their parents had bred hometown heroes.

The second family scattered like cockroaches startled by a kitchen light. The oldest son managed a golf course in Florida, a land so strange to Californians it was like an entirely different world. The second son fell into drug abuse, egged on by his high school friends. Only when he had a son and overdosed with the boy under his care did he get help. The father forced him into rehab and then the marines, and the son never voluntarily set foot at home again. The daughter went off to college and moved to LA, trying out city life and writing. They were hometown flakes, even the proud serviceman, and their parents were failures for not containing them.

The father killed the mother, and the first family’s illusions dissolved. Blood covered the dust-free shades and white carpet, some dots splattered on the books the wife had gotten for nursing school. More demons crawled from their closet as a son was arrested for molesting the girls he coached. Another son was there both days, once when they took his father away and once when they took his brother, and all he could do was watch in dismay and allow the shame and depression to seep into his core.

The second father and mother packed up only months after the murder. They heard the truth, finally, of the first father’s temper and how he controlled his wife, breaking down her self-worth until the empty husk which remained was his to manipulate. When that no longer worked, he resorted to shouting and violence, despite claims that he would never do so. Those same claims against violence echoed in the second father, and they knew they had to leave. They knew they had to join their daughter, their sons, someone anywhere but there. They knew they had to leave before the darkness left in that house by the first family engulfed them as well.

And so, to this day, both houses remain empty. This house, so well-preserved, and that house, so neglected, now gather dust and spider webs at a steady rate, locked in a race which neither will win and neither can lose, an endless race only to cease when another family walks into the domestic trap.

Flash Fiction 3

The Fairies in Walt’s Window

In the apartment above the firehouse on Main Street, U.S.A., a little light is always burning. Every day and night since Walt Disney’s death, the light has waved and winked at adoring crowds entering the park. Employees have tried to turn it off but to no avail; someone always turns it back on once the door has closed.

Some say it’s the ghost of Uncle Walt, making sure the children passing under his window never doubt the magic within. Others say it’s some sort of short or a prankster amongst the staff. They’re the ones who don’t get to see the shadows at night, dancing behind the window long after the park has closed and that light is the only light to remain for the entire square mile.

Those impish figures, daunting but playful, welcome all who see them to join in their eternal dance, but no one is around to answer the invitation—no one with stories to tell. We can only speculate what awaits the one to answer their call.

One janitor, it is said, received such a chance, never to be seen again.

Rumor has it he was cleaning late one night, after all the patrons were gone and only custodians like him remained, when he came across Walt’s window and saw the shadows dancing on the glass. Like little fairies, they say, thin, distorted, fragile pixies prancing gracefully without a care. He was so moved by the fairies’ dance that he opened the door and climbed up the stairs forthwith.

What he saw nobody knows, but the other janitors from that night swear this: never once did they hear a scream or cry for help, no indication of trouble at all. All they found was the door unlocked and his cart abandoned by the wall. No blood, no prints, no trace at all to indicate where the man had gone.

But the day right after and every day since, guests report seeing the oddest things in that window. Figures, they proclaim, two different men standing by the light. One, they swear, is the mustached Walt with his charming grin and eyes that sparkle so bright. The other, well, that all depends on whom you ask; some claim to see a tall young man with dark hair and a baseball cap, others a stooped old gentleman with wisps of gray protruding from his scalp and chin, but all of them say the second figure wears a janitor’s coveralls, heavy gardening gloves, and the world’s broadest smile.

So now two figures join in the fairies’ nightly dance, Uncle Walt to watch over his park and his mysterious custodial companion. And they will stand and the fairies will prance until heaven knows when—until the park closes its doors, until the whole industry burns to the ground, until that light finally submits to the darkness, they will still be there, Uncle Walt, the janitor, and their fairy friends.

Flash Fiction 4

The Feud

For many years there sat two empty lots at the corner of a sidewalk, facing each other from opposite sides of the road. One rolled with uneven ground and a little ditch of trickling water, power lines running overhead and a communal mailbox flagging down the occasional guest; the other stretched flat and dry with no structure of man to obscure its neglected beauty. For years they sat peacefully, continuously watching each other like older lovers, content in their existence.

As time went by the lots accepted visitors, children whose parents had no clue where they had gone but immediately stopped their fussing upon seeing them just down the street. At the flat lot the children played catch and slid down slip-n-slides jerry-rigged from black garbage bags and hoses and flew their kites with a tight grip on the handles, their feet firmly planted on the ground. At the rolling lot they stumbled and fell, laughing with carefree abandon, as they chased their dogs and raced remote-controlled cars over mini-hills and fearlessly climbed into the ditch to splash in the water, not minding the mud or bugs or thousands of shards of glass left from a drunk’s broken beer bottles. Not a malicious word could be heard from either lot until parents came and demanded that their children come home for dinner.

Then the construction began. A time came when too many people wanted to live in that tiny rural town, and these lots were recruited to fill the need. Townhouses went up on the rolling lot, just far enough from the power lines to not be struck and far enough from the ditch that the new residents didn’t fall in. Apartments that looked like small houses went up on the flat lot, spread out just enough that no child could fly a kit there ever again. Plain buildings, all of them, decorated in earthy tones that somehow had fallen into fashion that year, they were more of a scar than a facelift.

With these new growths building and no children to ease the tension, tempers flared between the two lots. Their new residents could feel it, and more than once a hairy bodybuilder in a muscle shirt would shout from his spot on the rolling lot at a businessman with slicked-back hair, or a woman in the shortest shorts anyone’s ever squeezed thick thighs into would flip off a woman in a pantsuit.

For years this animosity continued, passing from one community of tenants to the next, the two lots glaring at each other from opposite sides of the road like wrinkled old ninnies who had forgotten what they were fighting over long ago but refused to give up the ghost. Then came a cluster of dark-gray clouds so fierce that the rolling lot concocted a plan to end the feud once and for all.

That day, when no one walked on the street due to the brewing storm, a bolt of lightning struck the legs of a precarious power line on the rolling lot. The legs, weakened by rotted wood which was said to have been replaced that year but never was, buckled under the stress of the strike and collapsed across the narrow road. Cut power lines flung and hissed like dancing snakes until they found their thirst quenched in a pool of oil from a damaged truck that had never been cleaned up.

The fire spread across the flat lot from one apartment to the next, not slowing down for the screaming residents that rushed out of their homes to keep their hides from frying. Then it spread to each of the lot’s brethren, not stopping or discerning its victims until it reached the other end of the street, and only then to momentarily catch its breath.

A mile of homes and land burned before the fire department could contain it. The flat lot and its neighbors were, once more, empty lots, only this time charred and signed with blackened debris scattered across the dead grass. No parents would allow their children to play in that mess.

The rolling lot and its friends across the road stared at the carnage, unscathed, and glared at the lots with condescension that pierced the ashy remains. And though the flat lot may rise again like a Phoenix and the rolling lot may one day be destroyed as well, the rolling lot has satisfaction in knowing that, for not, it has gotten the last laugh.

Uncategorized

Honestly, I don’t know if this would be considered prose poetry or what. It’s not all that good but I’m rather fond of it, so it deserves a place in my scrap bin.

Ghost Town

Beneath the lake, this sparkling tourist trap, lies a town built on mining and whiskey.

Beneath the lake, an oasis within this hellish heat, a town sleeps, unaware of its own crumbling beneath the swimmers’ feet.

Beneath the lake, a lifeline for the current city, a town waits for residents who never can return.

Beneath this creek, a small offshoot of the lake, runs a stretch of highway, the final testament to man’s sacrifice, the return of man’s triumphs to nature. Above this highway treads the locals, dragging their feet through the water and along the surface of the buried road, imagining how things once were and how things could have been.

This page will change as I decide to add or remove work. Check back often to see what I throw into the scrap bin next!


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011