Author: chancechambers

Junmai or Daiginjo?

When the sake starts to take hold, when I’m staring back at the random kimono lady in the crowd in the pictures on the wall behind the Jack Daniels and Hennessy bottles, that’s when it begins.

That’s when the paper wall begins to tear, when the memories drift together, equally foggy with angles and lines that push against my consciousness like a morning spine against a waking side.

Dream or real? Junmai or daiginjo?

I’m not sure anymore as the room with the table where I made love to you after ten years of almond-eyed resignation feels as real as the college party acoustic flesh jukebox playing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” while the Clash fights the law at the bar. I still feel you, skin to skin and breath to ear, and I still stare down at streets like seams through the bottom of my glass.

Junmai or daiginjo?

I don’t know. I do know how you felt. I do know how you tasted.

And I’ll never forget the loneliness of waking.

A Pretty Good Day

1 May 1967

My Dearest Darling,

Will write you again today to tell you I love you and miss you so much that it hurts. I hope this finds you alright. As for me I am doing ok.

I went on MEDCAP this morning. That is where doctors go into a village and treat the sick. I went along as guard. I really enjoyed it. The kids are all hustlers. They either want to shine your shoes or sell you something. They had some real pretty things for women and I am going to get you some of these things before I come home. I would get them now, but, darling you don’t know the trouble it is to send things home over here. You have to wait in line for so long that it is awful.

I am going to send you the $100.00 the 5th of this month. I will send it by money order. Pat, may have your allotment increased by $100.00 for it is a bitch to get a money order every month. I will let you know more about it if I decide to do it.

How is your father and mother and the kids doing? Tell them I said hello and I wish I could see all of them.

Pat, I am writing this letter with a towel spread across the paper where my hand lays for it is so hot that I am sitting here with sweat dropping off of me. If I didn’t use the towel, the paper would be soaking wet. I never seen anything like this country and its weather.

Well, Darling every time a new month comes in that means we are getting close to being together. I can hardly wait till that day.

How is my Lobo doing? Give him a little loving for me and don’t be too rough on him for he is a pretty good dog.

Has it begun to get warm there yet? I wish I was there so we could grill hamburgers and steaks like we used to do. Someday we will do these things again.

Baby, I swear every time I start writing I can’t think of anything to write. It happens every time.

In the village this morning, I just had one shoe on and I got it shined twice. I also bought me a switch-blade knife for three dollars. It is a fairly good knife. This one little boy came up to me and shined my boot and then he sat down by me and said, “I like you. You’re my friend.” He put his arm around me and just kept sitting by me. Course I was watching for Charlie for today was a big communist holiday and they expected us to get sniper fire but we didn’t. This one kid that I said I was his friend was nine years old and Pat, I swear his size was about that of a four or five year old in the states. This one little boy that I bought my knife from he was sure enough a hustler for whatever you wanted he could get it for you in about ten minutes. He was a sharp operator. After I bought the knife from him he brought me a Coca-Cola. I would enjoy it over here a lot more if we went into more often and try to help the people for if you could see them you would say they sure needed help.

Well, Darling I am going to close for I have run out of things to say; like I said before it is so hot I can’t concentrate on anything. Remember I love you and miss you so much. I will always love you and I am just living for the day that I get home to you and my son. Bye for now and I love you very, very much. I love you.

Love you always,

Your husband,
Jim

James Wayne Chambers
December 26, 1942 – September 17, 1967
Casualty Country: South Vietnam
Casualty Province: Binh Duong


Ten Years

As dawn surrendered to full luminous morning, I dreamed I saw photographs of my father’s body taken after a rifle-propelled grenade found him and a nineteen-year-old private first class in the Ho Bo Woods near Cu Chi, Vietnam. The images, even in the ethereal setting of a dream, rattled me. But I didn’t look away; I wanted to see them.

When I finally rolled out of bed and stumbled into my hallway, I wondered: why this dream; why now? Then I remembered the date.

Ten years ago today, I learned who I would call first when the world ends.

I made another call to friends visiting from France to suggest they stay inside. I wasn’t sure how some people would react to heavy accents that day.

At work, I watched everything unfold and collapse online and on a conference room television while a dear friend lay in a coma, her hospital room television likely on and looping the same scenes.

Ten years ago today, the smoke and smell didn’t make it to my sky, blue and empty and so quiet with no distraction from the endless news chatter and whisper-wind of nearly three thousand souls departed.

For almost ten years I’ve not watched the footage of that day. I’ve turned away from the images. I’ve changed the channel from documentaries. On anniversaries, I haven’t watched the videos posted in news stories.

Today, a decade later, on the anniversary of the personal apocalypses of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and lovers who had to say or pray goodbye to someone suddenly, I was delivered a reminder that sometimes we must look squarely and steadily at the consequences of the human capacity for hate and brutality. We must never look away completely from the images of war, death and destruction that have for so long, too long, stained the thread of human existence. We must keep our eyes open to the pain and loss that are everyday truths for so many in this world, that became a sudden reality for nearly three thousand souls on an early autumn day ten years ago.

When we look away, we forget. When we forget, nothing changes.

“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s Almost September 2nd and Where Is Your Fracas?

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
— Leonard Cohen

Sometimes an episode doesn’t wrap with closure and the perfect song poignantly playing out the scene. There’s always a soundtrack, but sometimes the music is dissonant and the beauty of a moment is woven deep into the fabric of the smoke-stained jackets and tattered dresses of characters who walk, sleep, eat and drink beyond the clean streets of mainstream suburbia. Often, through the honesty and perspective of such souls living on the periphery of society, we learn the most about ourselves and our world.

The contributing authors of Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction walk these same streets beside the struggling, lost, disenfranchised and tormented in stories that explore the dark, often to stumble upon a sliver of light.

As the official release date for this anthology comes to a close, take a walk over to Amazon.com and check out Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction. Share it with your friends; add it to your collection. Read some really great stories by some very talented new writers.

“It has to be pretty. Everything should be pretty.”
— Lee Geum-ja in Park Chan-Wook’s Lady Vengeance

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – “Perfume River Deep”

It was the time of afternoon in Huế when pagoda shadows start their surrender to the beginnings of dusk, when a broken ribbon of golden light falls on the Perfume River from a candle lantern sun hanging low in a hazy silk sky. For a third time, he would miss the slow, sweaty fade to grey, passing time in a small, incense thick room with no windows in a wing of Huong Giang Hotel.

“Let’s do it again.”

Thi’s enthusiasm surprised him.

“Okay.”

They breathed together, staring up at the ceiling. The massage table was just wide enough for both of them, side to side on their backs and heads tilted together, as long as nobody shifted or wiggled. Some of Thi’s straight, coal hair had fallen across his shoulder.

He started.

“Do I love you, my, oh my?”

Thi’s voice was sweet, almost a sigh, as she followed his gravelly lead, singing the riff covered by horns and strings in Ike and Tina’s version.

“Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-bum.”

That made him smile for his turn.

“River deep, mountain high…”

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…”

With a dowser’s instinct for harmony, Thi shone when they sang the mid-chorus yeah’s together.

“If I lost you, would I cry?”

“Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-bum.”

“Oh how I love you, baby…”

Softly, they ended together.

“Baby, baby, baby.”

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – My Novel?

While lamenting my failure to stop the world and melt with anyone, I spotted a Sunday afternoon bargirl lying on a patio table, her boots pointed toward a rare blue moment in the Nashville sky. She spoke to a man who stood near her head and I imagined they were preparing to practice some sort of shot. Whatever was in progress, time and space were taking a breather on that patio.

If she stayed there, on that table, there would eventually be stars for staring. Stars like the ones Kacy put on her ceiling. Tiny, shiny stickers over us on those nights we fell asleep, wet and catching our breaths, on our backs and looking up at the clear night sky Kacy had created for us.

One Wedding and Three Bottles of Sake – or – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Write a Sex Scene

Tuxedo shirt half-tucked, jacket still on, tie loosened and collar open, bottle of Crown grasped around the neck and at my hip. That’s how I crossed the hotel lobby and that’s how my friends’ wedding weekend began to end for me.

“You look like a villain, the Penguin or something,” commented Brian, another friend in the wedding party.

His observation may have proven to be somewhat prophetic. I would soon journey into personal realms uncharted, or at least step just across the border.

The wedding was beautiful and unique, creatively and lovingly planned by the bride and groom as a representation of themselves and their friends. Baseball motif, a theme song for each member of the wedding party. My friends pulled off an original, sincere occasion they’ll cherish as they grow old together.

As is the nature of these events, family and friends were grown beyond the immediate trees of the bride and groom. Lives were connected and paths crossed.

One of my connections and new friends from the weekend is writer J. Travis Grundon. Travis, whose work includes bold, edgy and sometimes horror-themed fiction, has been a contributor and editor for multiple anthologies.

As we travelled the matrimony periphery of the weekend, Travis and I discussed our writing. He mentioned an anthology he had in the works, a collection of transgressive fiction entitled Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction. I wasn’t familiar with transgressive fiction. Travis explained to me that the genre casts characters who often act contrary, sometimes to the extreme, to social norms and deals with extreme, at times taboo, topics. Then he mentioned he was still looking for stories for the collection and invited me to submit something. I appreciated the suggestion, but wondered if I actually had anything that would be a good fit.

A couple of weeks passed and I settled into the thought that I likely had nothing that would work in Travis’ anthology. Then something funny happened on the way to another weekend of sake-buzzed Facebook status updates.

On a Thursday, I noticed a Facebook post that a story by the recent groom, Todd Theroff, would be appearing in Fracas. Then there was a comment by Todd that he had heard I was going to have a story in the collection. Next, Travis’ sent me a text asking if I would be submitting something. By now, it was Saturday.

“How long do I have?” I asked.

“Three days.”

“I’ll do my best.”

I packed up my laptop and headed to one of my favorite sake serving bars. With the Hakutsuru Draft poured, I gathered up a few random, rogue paragraphs, collected overheard bits of conversation and tried to sink into places of my consciousness opened by the sake and general contemplation. It had to be different than my other writing. It had to push the envelope, at least for me.

I’m not exactly a prude. I’m definitely no saint. My optimism is tempered with caution and realism. I like my art, music and film flavored with a bit of darkness. Still, I knew I needed to go at least a little further for this piece.

Three bottles of sake later, I had a solid start on something a little different for me. I also had a direction for the rest of the story. The next two days, around sleep and work on Monday, I finished a first draft to submit to Travis. A first draft that included the first sex scene I’ve ever written. Sort of.

I qualify that last declaration because my first sex scene is pretty tame by today’s standards. But, fact is, believe or not, I had never really gone there in my writing. With the impetus to get together something to submit for the collection, I opened myself up to ideas and scenes outside of my usual writing box. I stretched a bit in my writing. For that, and including me in Fracas, I have Travis to thank.

I have a feeling that, in the context of the finished anthology, my story will seem like Jimmy Olsen stumbled onto the street where Charles Bukowski lives in an apartment over William Burroughs’ garage. Just the same, I’m excited to be included and am very much looking forward to sharing pages with several talented writers creative and courageous enough to write beyond the many still existing social boundaries, challenging us all to examine, from different angles and on multiple levels, our lives, our world and ourselves.