Thursday, October 28, 2010
The revised and updated edition of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner is now on sale! To celebrate, we have a copy for the winner of the contest!
Writing contest: tell me a story in 100 or fewer words.
One entry per person. Mulligans or do-overs are acceptable but I take the LAST entry you post (I use the date stamp to verify)
Include the following words:
Bonus points if you tell me what the words have in common.
Paste your entry in the comments column of this blog post.
Contest starts NOW!
Contest ends at midnight Friday 10/29/2010.
All times are EST: Eastern Shark Time
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I am loathing Cullens, Sam I Am.
I do not like them in Rome or Paris, I do not like them. I don't care-is.
I do not worship them like a temple. I think that Edward is a pimple.
I do not like them Cullen kids,
Now, Henry James is who I digs.
I returned from Paris with a Cullen plant on my lap; a gift for the kids. It did little to ease the loathing in my heart. I had to explain to them that their mother was dead. Our unassailable temple to the American Family has now rubble beside a foreign sea. The worst part, I was not even going home.
“Why the hell is everyone so obsessed with the Cullens?” I said, my voice filled with loathing.
“Edwards so freaking hot,” Lissette said with a sigh. “Did you hear about those kids in Paris that built a temple for them?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I rolled my eyes.
“Rob Pattinson is going to be there. I’m taking a week off of work to go.”
“What does your husband think of that?” I scoffed and raised my glass to my lips.
“He’s coming. He thinks Jacob is pretty hot too.”
Water sprayed out of my mouth as I choked.
The bus slowed in front of Le Temple and opened its doors.
“C’mon, kids,” the Contiki guide grunted. She lit a cigarette and raised her yellow flag. She’d spent twenty years escorting spoiled American college students around the City of Lights. She was done.
The boy hopped down. “You’re pleasant,” he smiled. “It’s like Fear and Loathing in Paris up in here.”
The girl behind him sighed. “Have you read the book? It’s nothing like that. You’re so uncultured.”
“Whatever. Those who wear ‘Future Mrs. Cullen’ t-shirts shouldn’t throw stones.”
Would she get fired for impaling him with her flag?
The reference is from Breaking Dawn and those awful kids, including young Mr. and Ms. Cullen, who went to Paris, one out of self-loathing, to that stupid temple.
But that's not my entry. This is.
Self-loathing drove me to Paris. Disbelief I’d done it, cheated on Cullen, didn’t erase my shame. I cashed our accounts, left the kids with Mom, and fled. Once settled in my posh hotel with it’s view of the Eiffel, peace descended at last. In the textural luxury of the suite, tension leaked from behind my temples and beneath my neck like water draining off leaves after a hard rain. Perhaps I could misplace my guilt here, like a lost scarf. I’d return home confident, facing my abuser bold as any diva when I asked for divorce. I hoped.
Paris' Cullen-loathing kids pranked their hometown of Temple, Texas by handing out fanged, sparkly apples for Halloween. They all dressed as werewolves.
The moment I arrive in Paris, the loathing I feel for Yo Gabba Gabba melts away like butter on a cob of corn. I sigh. A deep sigh. Five days without my kids singing “There’s a party in my tummy”. Five days eating croissants outside Le Temple. Five days dreaming of Chanel and Edward Cullen.
As I look around, I try to resist the urge to let my forehead crinkle. But I can’t help it. Dammit! Nobody told me The Shark would be here. Now I’ll never get the chance to lure Johhny Depp into the Louvre.
Rick toyed with the couch cushion. “DVD?” he asked bashfully.
I shrugged, “Sure. Temple of Doom or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?” The first date had been okay, but the second? Not so much. At least he was good looking.
“You don’t have Troy do you? Where Orlando Bloom played Paris?”
I shook my head.
“The one with the Cullen kids that everyone is talking about?”
“Twilight, New Moon or Eclipse?”
“The one about vampires. I might nibble your neck,” he grinned.
I decided there would be a third date. I snuggled in and we promptly forgot about movies.
I am still haunted by your lips upon the nape of my neck. Though we were kids, loathing the windy weather and rainy days, I still dance with you a borrowed moment each time the breeze rolls right. Don't you ask yourself what could have been? Your memory remains a temple I visit often.
If words were kisses, your spine would shiver. Forever yours,
Before the service, several kids ducked behind the temple and made a bet: who sparkles more, Paris Hilton or Edward Cullen? They felt justified, knowing the sermon would overflow with loathing directed at everything worthwhile about being a youth today. The bet provided a pleasant distraction, and to every word directed at them they responded with a polite smile, totally uncomprehending.
After the service, they regrouped to decide on a winner, the final verdict being decided by the tail of a coin. In the end, the winners felt like losers for engaging in such an absurd wager to begin with.
Lindsey packed her bags in silence, not bothering to wipe the tears that ran down her face. She was loathing the whole moving thing. Paris? What would she do there? Go to snotty shops, see some tower and visit a bunch of churches and temples? Her label-addicted mother thought it sounded glamorous. But the truth was she preferred to be in her old American hometown, surrounded by all the other kids obsessed with Edward Cullen and Harry Potter, just like her. Unfortunately, that was not an option.
It was quiet in the temple, but Cullen could still hear the screaming: Paris, summertime, kids. Everyone outside having terrific, sunlit, times, while she sat, hiding.
The temple belonged to the Reformed Church of France, and as she sat there she thought of that word, réformée; moved it around in her mouth, tasting it. Réformée. She would like to. Given the chance. But it was probably too late. Soon, de police would come for her. Would cart her through the piazza, past the throngs of squealing children.
She deserved it, she thought, as she sat there, loathing, waiting, praying.
2007: It was a contest in the Kube Hotel that was similar to the Kevin Bacon game.
I was nervously up at bat. I was one of the kids who was a huge fan of Shirley Temple and I adored Bill Cullen. I wore nostalgia better than Lady Gaga wore red meat.
I referenced a super bowl game, an old movie, and the quiz show host who loved trivia. But, I was eliminated because I referenced the wrong "Heidi."
Years later, I wrote about the weekend in a book called, "Fear and Loathing in Paris." The experience was one big knock-off.
All of the words are from the book, "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."
Face down on a luxurious, five-star bed, I rub my temple. No thoughts about kids that refuse to materialize. Just relaxation and rejuvenation.
This past year was filled with surgeries and infertility treatments, hesitant hope and overwhelming disappointment. We feared our present as much as our future. Would not having children be the worst thing, or not having each other?
The loathing came. I hated doctors, my husband, and myself. When Cullen suggested a getaway to Paris, I packed faster than the Tasmanian devil.
Lying here, I hope again. The City of Love will be repair the damage.
I'm can't be more specific but I'm guessing the words all have something to do with the poet, Countee Cullen.
My name's Edward Cullen. Yeah, I know. Don't get me mixed up with that Twilight BS. My kids think the coincidence is amazing. So I lost my job and decided to get away from my self-loathing, and fly to Paris for a weekend. I think the trip is working; I was sitting at a cafe, talking with a French man when he said, "Want to hear a joke?"
"Did you know Lincoln was Jewish?"
I squinted my eyes; thinking. "No, no. I didn't."
"Yeah," said the Frenchman with a smirk, "he was shot in the temple."
“Noooooo, we don’t want to goooooo to Paris!” The two kids, seated on either side of me, took turns shouting their hateful ditty.
I sighed, couldn’t even lift my head to ask the flight attendant for a cup of water. I could feel the loathing from the other passengers. My head pounded. I bit down on a couple of aspirin. Someone tapped my shoulder. “Headache?” asked the man across the aisle. “Rub your temple. Like this.” He demonstrated, and I recognized him. “I’m Cullen,” he said, and I went cold, wondering how he found us.
For immediate release: [Oct 15 2019] Paris Hilton announced today her imminent divorce from Twilight character Edward Cullen. “Yeah,” she said, “He was better in the book. He’s still hung up on Bella and those vampire Kids of his.” Hilton is said to have converted to Mormonism and has retreated to a Temple her father built in her honor. Hilton’s latest film project, “Fear and Loathing in Rio,” has been placed on hold. Cullen could not be reached for comment.
"The poetry of Countee Cullen always reminds me of Paris," she said. "Not modern Paris, you know. But Paris when I was a child. And of Marie Antoinette, when I knew her-- before she lost her head, of course. She used to play shepherdess, unaware that what she was herding were not lambs but kids." She wrinkled her nose with loathing. "In that ridiculous rococo getup, she always reminded me of Shirley Temple."
I dislike correcting a woman over 300 years old. But I had to say it. "Shirley Temple hadn't been born yet. And Countee Cullen was American."
"From Cullen?" It was all in the girl’s tone, demeaning with a simple query.
Catherine shrugged herself into the jacket. Rude stereotypes, xenophobes loathing anyone who doesn’t speak fluently. And here she was, worshiping at the temple of youth, trying to buy an outfit that fit. Why the hell did I come to Paris for my fortieth birthday?
"Yes, Cullen. Like the vampires."
Kids understood Twilight even if they didn't understand aging.
Glass houses, Cat thought tugging off the too tight jacket before stalking out the door emotionally sucked dry. Should've said damn vampires.
Paris looked with loathing at the Cullen’s Kids day care as she drove through Temple, Texas. She wanted to stop and burn it down, but it was unlikely her parole officer would accept “That bitch stole my taffy and ruined my life. I saw the chance to set light to her business, I couldn’t resist.” as an excuse for lateness. When that pink striped taffy box--the signal meant to identify Paris as the fence--fell into Carey Cullen’s hands so did the fortune that rightfully belonged to Paris.
Jerry and his kids rode the Paris Metro because of his loathing for the crowded city traffic driving conditions. Bet you didn’t know the Temple Metro stop is the location of the 13th century medieval fortress known as the Temple built by the Knights Templar that was demolished in 1808.
After France their final European vacation destination was Scotland where they visited more ruins, namely the small village of Cullen. The original village was demolished in 1822 but was later rebuilt about a half mile away. This town had notably been the setting for several romantic novels and plays.
The plane trip to Paris was hell. It was my first time alone with my dad since the divorce and I was loathing every minute of it.
“What are you reading?” he asked, peeking over to glimpse the cover of the book I was hiding behind.
“Twilight.” I answered.
“Isn’t that about a vampire named Edward Killer? I’m not sure I want you reading that kind of stuff.” He said.
“Edward Cullen.” I pressed my fingers to my temple. I was already getting a headache.
“You kids read the strangest things.” He said. I slouched farther down into my seat.
“What are those pale kids supposed to be?” Mother wondered, tapping her finger to her temple.
“Vampires.” I responded, loathing this wretched holiday and wishing I were in Paris.
“But they don’t have any fangs! You can’t be a vampire without any fangs!”
“They are probably from the Cullen clan; the ones from those wildly popular but highly criticized books. They don’t have fangs.”
Mother opens the door and steps outside.
“What are you doing?” I yelled at her.
“Getting my candy back! That is an incomplete costume! You can’t pretend to be a vampire without any fangs.”
Loathing this time of year for three months wasn’t long enough--starting earlier next year. I dig my fingers into my temple. I still can’t get the sound of screaming kids out of my head. I never realized that the pitter patter of tiny feet, and too many Toy Story costumes to count, spurred deafening migraines. I roll my eyes. My neighbor stumbles over, yelling something about Cullen.
“Hi Marianne”, I groan.
“Ain’t you heard me cullin’ you for five minutes?”
I sulk over. Why couldn’t I send the kids to Paris with the nanny like a Beverly Hills housewife?
It was a strange night, new moon dark and calm. I didn’t sleep much, and when I did I dreamt of Paris. The kids, loathing quiet would soon be awake and the familiar pain would start, first a dull ache in my right temple then I’d have to retreat to the twilight of my own room and rest until the pain stopped. My heart was breaking.
Dawn called, she said the tickets were ready for pick-up, the bonus we’d be there during the eclipse, the downside, Cullen couldn’t go because he needed a transfusion…again.
It’s no Paris, our Cullen.
The Old Church Road a poor Scotsman’s answer to the Rue du Temple.
A rough North Sea will never share the refined Seine’s loathing of the bateau mouche,
and our meager strand kids itself to think it has ever been kissed by a true summer sun.
As I saw your body into small and disposable bits, I wonder if a simple vacation might have saved us from this outcome.
“Miss Temple! Miss Temple! Cullen punched me!”
She suppressed a shudder of loathing. These awful kids. She could have been in Paris. She should have been in Paris, but no, she’d taken the teaching job in Auckland instead. She’d thought, stupidly, that at least she spoke the language.
“Cullen, miss! He punched me!”
“He punched you?” She looked down at the little face full of indignation and snot.
“No, miss! Punched me!”
“Oh, Colin pinched you.” She sighed and held out her hand. “C’est la vie, Emily. Let's get you to the office.”
“We’d have a better time in Paris if we didn’t have to drag the kids,” Wendy said, as she drove past the temple on Santa Monica Boulevard.
“Well, since we have to take the kids with us, why not go to Cullen instead?” Erik said.
“Because Cullen is a godforsaken village in the middle of nowhere,” Wendy replied angrily, “and I have zero interest in spending my precious vacation time listening to your mother wax on about eating disorders, self-loathing, or whatever else Dr. Phil discussed on his last talk show.”
“Paris it is,” Erik said defeated. “Paris it is.”
I drank in the breaking dawn at the cozy bed and breakfast we found for our dalliance. I think the little Scottish town was called Cullen. My kiltless friend still dozed peacefully on his back. His Eiffel Tower reminded me of Paris. Perhaps I would venture there next for a loaf. Or sacrifice my body to a saint in a Roman temple.
I finally felt cleansed of my loathing for my kids three thousand miles away. Free of the monotony of a mundane life. Here I was a stranger, even to myself. Uninhibited.
"Is it a sin to follow Betsy Lerner's tweets while at Temple? She's in Paris . . . OMG—she just stole a croissant!"
"I don't think there's anything in the Torah about Twitter, but Ruby's gonna tell Dad, just wait."
"Narc. What did I ever do to her?"
"You told Paris Shorr she sleeps with her Edward Cullen doll. Now the whole Schul knows."
"She does. She's obsessed---she wants to be sparkly, weird-haired, stalker Edward's food source."
"Kids," said our mother.
Ruby threw me a look of loathing.
For the extra points, which I hope I wasn't supposed to put into the story: Betsy Lerner wrote Food and Loathing. She represents Dave Cullen, who won the Edgar for Columbine, and Patti Smith, whose book Just Kids is being launched in France, which is why Betsy is in Paris. One of Betsy's tweets a while back asked if it was a sin to tweet in Temple. According to my Friend the Rabbi, it isn't a sin by the letter of rabbinical law, but it isn't exactly kosher, either.
On the flight to Paris with the kids, my twelve year old daughter, Sally, wearing her Edward Cullen “I'll sparkle for you” top that shimmered in the direct sunlight that shone through the cabin window, snored loudly in her seat. Her older brother, Edward, loathing the endless teasing he endured for bearing the same name as a sparkling vampire, donned his Stone Temple Pilots t-shirt, depicting skin-inked hippies. Eddie elbowed Sally in an attempt to stop the embarrassing noise and caught her in the eye instead. The chaos that ensued only emphasized why some people don't have children.
The original plan had been Paris, leaving the kids with my folks. But no. “It’s my birthday,” she said. “I know what I want.”
I did too. Our basement had become a shrine to what she loved most, and her temple needed an idol.
Ever wonder how much self-loathing a man can cope with? Try riding the subway with a life-sized Twilight cutout. Imagine my surprise when she nearly slapped me as I presented her gift. “What? Jacob Cullen, just like you wanted.”
“Jacob isn’t a Cullen,” she said. “Take it back.”
Lesson? Never sleep through your wife’s favorite movie.
Word Count: 96 Words
Title: Refusing Motherhood.
Two weeks since the test and I haven’t told Cullen yet. Kids running, diving under the slide, digging in the mulch. They treated all the wood on the swing set with arsenic, I’ll bet the parents didn’t know about that.
Even this playground, this outdoor temple, now my temple of loathing.
I refuse this role.
I want Egypt and its stars. I want Panama and all its colors. I want Paris.
I am selfish and I am unfinished. I love myself and a child will only grow to hate me.
Is that not a reason too?
And Kudos to Sarah W! Dang!
The local kids from Cullen, Scotland used to treat their hometown with loathing. According to them, it was nothing more than an embarrassingly small village with no movie theaters.
That was before they found ME living in a rundown, ancient temple just outside town. I'll admit my 'lesson' was a little extreme, but they survived and, believe me, those kids will never see Cullen the same way again. Why, to hear them now you'd think they lived in Paris, France.
Hmm, I might have done my job just a little too well...
"Loathing your name hurts." Temple glanced in my direction before finishing the answer to the reporter's question.
She'd known since we were kids in the tiny town of Paris, Idaho, how much it bothered me that our classmates snickered when I raised my hand.
"Those kids are just jealous they don't have a famous namesake like William Cullen Bryant," she'd say.
Somewhere in the midst of Temple's acceptance, I decided my name was almost as special as she was.
So today, I raised my hand. "Madam President?"
"Good to see you, Billy. You're with the LA Times now, aren't you?"
Temple monkeys sprawl in the sun, unaware of anything but the growling of bellies and the chirping of their broods. A quick jolt of fear by something stirring nearby dissipates as the search for carnal needs takes hold. They do not know that right now, abused kids around the world cry in corners and bleed, models starve in Paris fashion houses to fit into the latest throwaway trends, while in America, teenage girls are either lusting or loathing Edward Cullen while popping pimples and dreaming. Instead, they eat fallen fruit on forest floors in the warmth of ancient temple climbs.
Paris Cullen had a deep loathing of kids, it dated back to that time he was hiding out behind a temple.
Filled with loathing, I knew I'd have to go to Paris. Paris. Kids. I hated them both. I had Ms. Cullen transmit my security clearance information. Then I headed to Temple for one last visit to the No-Kill shelter housing my children. Well, the children someone said were mine. I had no recollection. Probably had something to do with Paris. Why did I have to go to Paris. No bonus points for me; that's for sure.
Evening at the corner of Paris and Cullen. I wait beneath the street sign for headlights, standing ankle-deep in reverent flakes, at peace in the darkening temple of God.
Footsteps from behind. A tug on my sleeve.
I look down and listen to his exaggerated panting with patience.
"Momma say quit loathing awound an' come in where it's wawm." My kid brother lost his teeth for Christmas.
I shake my head. Acknowledgment. Disagreement. "Loafing, not loathing."
"Whatevew." He remains at my side, sneaking a gloved hand into my cold fingers, and together we do not hope as we watch the road.
Libby pointed to a plant with broad green petals and yellow, whisker-like anthers. “Paris polyphylla, a relative of Trillium. Notice the perfect symmetry of sepals.” She gently lifted a leaf. “Only the passionflower is its equal in symmetry.”
Andrew massaged his temples. “Grandma, this is serious. A woman is dead!”
She wiped her hands and reached for a pair of black kidskin gloves. “The elder dames, thy haughty peers, admire and hate thy blooming years.”
“William Cullen Bryant,” she said blithely. “Good god, boy. Don’t you know poetry?”
“I have a great loathing for questions.”
“Cullen? Like Edward?”
“No, Kullen, like Swedish.” My roommate corrects.
“Ah of course.” We have been trekking through Ikea for two hours now. Long enough to go from kids in a candy shop to embittered adults, loathing this interior decorating hell and everything in it, including the anthropomorphically named furniture. What demented store names a bookshelf Billy? Or a desk Vikka Alex?
When we moved to Paris I was envisioning antique furnished Latin Quarter properties. Unfortunately we are students and so, instead of overlooking the Pantheon, we are here, worshiping in this temple of cheap deals and stupidly named nightstands.
That entry is based on the real life trip my roomate and I took to Ikea to furnish our new apartment when we moved in together earlier this month, except it was at the Ikea in London not Paris ;). And for the record, we do in fact now own a nightstand which is named Kullen.
His neighbor’s kids said he worshipped at the Temple of Loathing, his heart brimming with malice. We met in Paris, and I found his hedonistic throttles irresistible.
In two days’ time, his hypothetical morals were the architects of my breakdown. I fell to the clouds with dirt in my eyes, passing through their liquid silver linings. A false ambience of peace seduced me; his cicatrix of apathy invisible until it was too late. As poisoned in mind as his acid stained words, Cullen’s jagged consonants impaled my entropy.
Death never tasted so good - except that time with honey.
Cullen had a squiggly vein on each temple.
I wondered if pressing the muzzle of the P35 to a squiggle would change it somehow. Make it pulse. Alter its flow.
It did not.
He strained. He rocked. He grunted. The duct tape tented as he poked it with his tongue.
In the eye I hadn’t put out yet, the left one: loathing. No fear. No pain. All hate.
“It is important to me,” I said, “that you know your kids are dead.”
“Your wife too.”
“If it’s any comfort,” I said, squeezing, “we’ll always have Paris.”
“Mom, I caught a fairy.” Paris clutched the pickle jar to her chest.
“That’s nice.” Margureta Temple-Smith met her husband’s eyes. Kids. She turned to their papers. “Make sure it’s happy. Eddie, you spelled it Cullen again.”
“Another mistake? Damn.” Edmund winced. “How can I shut them down if I can’t even spell culling right?” His face filled with loathing as he rewrote the phrase factory farm.
Paris slipped upstairs. Soon the jar sat empty, the lid in her hands. Wind from the open window dried her disappointed tears. The jar bottom glowed with a faint trace of dust.
Deke Cullen avoided, for the moment, looking at the body on the bed. He scanned the girl's bedroom. It was plastered with Paris Hilton posters, collages and memorabilia. He'd never understood the fascination kids had with Paris - who, as far as he could tell, was famous for nothing more than being famous. Sad that this murdered teen was so obsessed with something so empty.
Sadder still was that the dead girl was physically the antithesis of her sleek blonde idol. It made her room a temple of self-loathing, a denial of herself.
Shaking his head, Deke set to work.
“Paris! Isn’t that the most darling name for a developing embryo?!” Cullen cooed up at me through delicate eyelashes that encased the gooey yolks of her chocolate eyes.
My temple quivered, and I held back stomach bile with a restraint that is only learned through a stubborn patience of living with the wildly insane.
“Definitely,” the word thrusting clenched teeth. “That sounds wonderful. With the exception that our kids will harbor a loathing for us that would rival the offspring of Hitler.”
The horror of my delicious sarcasm slid across her face; a writhing snake twisting her pronounced features.
Drats! Just bought a copy (on your previous recommendation) at the SiWC last week. But the good news is I don't have to wait to read it! I can dig in now! Thanks for the recommendation.
I looked at those there kids with loathing. I coulda been in Paris, see'n some temple or muse'e'um. But no, I got to be cullen' me the damn goats.
"You dun yet?"
Damn wife. Always yelling. I should be cullen' me some uh her. Start with the one with the bum leg. Won't make the winter anyways.
She walked out, arm all slung up. Right then, I knew, I could be see'n those temples if I gotten rid of the dead weight. "Just about. Give me a hand and it'll be right done."
“I worship at the Temple of Cullen.” Jill said.
Her mother groaned. What could possibly be appealing about a pasty teenager who drinks blood? She hoped moving to Paris would refocus Jill onto more healthy pursuits, like art. Jill was a talented artist before Twilight came into her life. But not now.
“Are you excited about Paris?”
“Yes, the kids don’t like me. I overheard a conversation and heard the words “loathing”, “Twilight”, and “Jill.”
The phone rang. A short conversation and her mom slowly hung up the phone.
“We aren’t moving. The transfer fell through.”
Jill burst into tears.
Thirty feet high and burnished gold, the largest Buddha in Europe gazes down at us. In his face I read loathing: we don’t belong here, in this temple in Paris, surrounded by Cambodian expatriates busy with prayer and offerings. Lily sinks to her knees, and I know what must be going through her mind: kids, the unexpected end to her last pregnancy. I recall the deep red stain around her navel: Cullen’s sign, a portent of ectopic pregnancy.
After a long moment she looks up at me, her eyes bright. Something has lifted. Above us, Buddha’s lips curl upward.
The children of men are kids, the children of goats are sacrifices, offerings to wash away our loathing.
You sacrifice to what you love best. Did Paris honor the goddesses when he chose the most beautiful? His god was himself.
Upon the daily altar is time and money and love. Your icons are Ringo and Cullen and Obama, your temple is education and money and sex.
The temple is happiness and to the altar you bring the children of goats and the children of men. And I, I don’t look far to find your god.
Colleen stood on the Temple steps that overlooked the sea of Cullen and watched the waves pound the rocks. Her dreams extended across the sea in the city of Paris, her only desire.
From the time she and her sisters were kids, she had dreamed of modeling and being a part of high fashion, but her deep fear and loathing of the water hindered her escape from the small village in Scotland. She couldn’t find the courage to cross the sea, by air or boat. Instead she watched as the waves buried her dreams, one wave at a time.
As we passed France's famous Temple Of The Holy Jumping Up And Down Cullen, the van we'd rented—an old, worn-out Johnson I loathed—crashed into a fence. I had swerved to avoid some kids.
I was with my first love, Elizabeth, a beautiful, raven-haired tailor from my hometown in the states.
I was charged with reckless driving. While shivering outside the red van as the policeman wrote out the ticket, I caught pneumonia.
They took me away.
It was the last time I saw Paris.
London, Paris, Athens and the Mahabodi Temple in India, no kids and as far as frequent flyer miles could take us to celebrate twenty years of marriage. I still felt alone.
Grimacing, I watched my soon to be ex-husbands face in the dim light. He was still incredibly handsome.
Some days I felt we might make it. Too many were carbon copies of tonight. Dressed in our finest and filled with loathing, pretending we still loved each other.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen?"
Edward nodded, following the Maitre D, while I turned without a backward glance towards the exit and freedom.
The Cullen drifts under a Paris bridge. The sunlight withdraws from Francois’ face slowly. There, as the sun’s glare diminishes, I see his loving expression, the one that helps me slip into peaceful dreams at night. Soon, it may not.
Francois shifts his weight forward to kiss me, but the Seine has other plans for us. A breeze disturbs the calm water. Our noses touch. He laughs, but I’m thinking of other things like praying in Temple with the other kids.
If I see a glimmer of loathing in his eyes, my heart will break.
“Francois, I am not Catholic.”
When he invited me to Paris, I pictured France. And when he mentioned prime, I thought rib.
So how did I end up in Texas at a mathematicians’ convention? And why did he think I’d be as excited as my kids in the toy store during the lively discussion on the discovery of a large Cullen prime number?
I thought I’d be eating baguettes at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, sipping wine at Montmartre, strolling along the Seine.
I rub my temple. I’m loathing our next trip. He’s taking me to Florence.
He had nothing but loathing for the denizens of Paris. Recognizing one of the kids rushing by, he flicked his cigarette and followed her. He was sloppy, but Temple wouldn’t expect him. She didn’t know what her father did or whose blood paid her tuition.
He tailed her to the library and hid on the stairs up to the stacks. Waiting at the top, he heard her footsteps. Something popped. He was thrown back abruptly. Warmth dripped down his chest. Looking at the gun, he wondered what she knew. She explained, the stereotypical villain's soliloquy, but he was gone.
Loathing you is so easy. You brought me to Paris in the middle of a garbage strike. Cursed at a lady in the vegetable market. Said you couldn’t believe Muslims were trying to build a temple near the Eiffel Tower.
I’d rather be outside, suffocating in the smell of spoiled Brie and used diapers, than in this hotel room with you, Cullen.
Kids below us play street soccer, using overfilled trash cans as goal posts.
“Why can’t they play a real sport?” you ask.
“Try some wild mushrooms, honey,” I say. You stretch out a hand. I always loved Babar.
Paris, 2099. Two decades since the Eiffel Tower fell. Matt Cullen viewed the temple that replaced it, and he barely remembered the once-great, metal-laced landmark. Kids threw rocks in the pits where studded concrete bared ambition, greed, and glorified decadence. He considered the good times when people cared, but those days were done. Now, just a loathing of anything capital drew societal nods. In a few short years, the world had plunged from the heights of private self-sufficiency to the lower depths of state-run depravity. But the reavers in the street didn’t mind. Their time had come.
“S’cullen, s’cullen.” The stupid chant started out small, picking up steam as one person, then two, and then fifty picked up the cry. I glared at my drink, not even trying to hide my loathing as I ignored the screaming parasites. Or was it parisites? I never could remember.
Kidson shifted closer, sliming over me while he tried—again—to stare down my dress. Slowly, ever so slowly, I stretched out my hand and picked up the shot glass. My other hand shook as I raised it to massage my temple.
I smiled. And threw the vodka in Kidson’s face.
Despite her best efforts, Temple’s walk did nothing to ease her sense of self-loathing. Usually, the woods calmed even her strongest emotions. Their failure to do so today added greatly to her unease.
Why couldn’t she get those kids’ faces out of her head? Clearly, Cullen had known this would happen when he’d asked her about Paris. He’d chosen precisely the right moment to mention it, knowing her thoughts would immediately fall on those kids - knowing she would decide not to go.
Temple had left in a hurry then, silently damning Cullen’s clever planning.
David Cullen and the kids had gone to Paris to visit the Golden Temple. However David was disappointed upon arrival into Paris to be told that the Golden Temple wasn’t there. In fact it was in India. He looked in his pocket and pulled out all the Euros he had. “No,” he said, “There is not enough here for a flight to India.”
David told the kids that they weren’t going to see the Golden Temple and their faces filled with loathing.
David was distraught. But he took the kids to EuroDisney and they forgot all about the Golden Temple.
Paris in a temple is as rare as kids loathing Cullens/
I rub my temple. I long for a trip to Paris where surely the kids have more sense than to scream for sparkling vampires and cause my headaches. I am loathing any mention of the name Cullen.
I’d have preferred to die in Paris, Rome, or even Afghanistan, but here it is. In Cullen, death by self-loathing is as abundant as repossessed houses. Homeless kids and syringes block the storm drains when it rains. The bloated bodies are easier to look at than a bathroom mirror, or the wedding photo she left behind.
I hope heaven has a temple, a priest, and a son . . .
Cullen in the skink.
Yeah, Paris thought. Funny very ha. Doubled over the basin, her stomach heaving and her temple pounding, she wondered who had originally thought smoked haddock, potatoes and onions would ever be best friends.
Paris straightened her glasses, grinning at the mirror. Contacts? No chance. Glasses were great. Every guy figured little geek girls were pushovers. Like the two kids in the bed behind her had. Then they found Paris. The wolf in geek’s clothing.
The moon rose. Paris thought of the fish with loathing. Then she howled. Screw the Cullen. It was time to feed.
I haven’t seen Alicia Temple since middle school, the three years of my life she made utterly miserable. Here she is, fox-faced unchanged, at my book-signing. Simpering.
“You wrote a book!”
Hello, you crock of shit. “Alice, isn’t it? I vaguely remember you.”
If she’s hurt, her stiletto eyes don’t show it. “It has been a while. I heard you moved to Paris.”
“You heard right.”
“And you’re a writer. For kids. Who’d have thunk it?” She slaps my novel onto the table. “Make it out to Alicia?”
I write: To Alicia, world’s biggest bitch. With loathing, Sarah Cullen.
Reading crap like Twilight is no way to spend a vacation in a city like Paris.
“If you’re going to keep your nose in a book here, kids, at least make it a guidebook, or something by Victor Hugo.”
As I watched my daughter clutch at the pages detailing the exploits of the Cullen family, a spasm of loathing seized me. It coursed hot through my veins, and I snatched the book from her hands and hurled it into the murky waters of the Seine.
“Your mind is a temple, Jill,” I said to her horrified expression. “Keep it pristine.”
“I’m thinking either Cullen or Rice.”
“In Texas? Surely, Temple’s a better school.”
“Why, because you went there?”
“Me and both my real kids. Just because you’re—”
“I’m not going.”
“But I already sent your acceptance.”
“What?! I hate you, you know that? I hate you!”
“With family, love is unconditional. Loathing’s optional.”
“What the—? You sound like a fortune cookie. Are you drunk?”
“Yes you are. Dad! Mom’s drinking again!”
“Is that true, dear?”
“Jesus! You’re plastered, Paris! And stop telling our adopted daughter she’s attending Temple. I’ve already sent her acceptance to Purdue.”
“I just heard that the kids will be visiting a temple while they’re in Paris; some are loathing the idea, but I think it’s totally Cullen!”
I sighed, loathing the trip across town to where the body was found. Hacked and dumped behind the church on Essex Street. Maxine Cullen, all thirty-two years of her, now rotting away. And her husband on the run. Why was it always the husband?
“The priest is waiting to hear your confession,” a patrolman kids. Paris, Texas – home of the comedy cops. I rubbed my temple to fend off a budding migraine.
The body lay bare, and a crowd was building. “Cover her up,” I shouted, though not before lingering my gaze. Maybe the priest wasn’t such a bad idea.
The limestone ascended to the temple entrance.
Empty pockets. Loathing. Mutiny was coming.
Jackson wiped a cloth across his forehead. Each step tugged taut the strings vibrating in his belly.
Entering, he saw light ahead. Beyond, dozens of kids gathered around a statue, a small figure playing a wind instrument.
Jackson placed a hand on a small boy’s shoulder. “What’s your name?”
The boy whispered, dream-like: “Cullen.”
“Where are you from?”
The boy shrugged, turning back to statue playing an unheard song.
Locals called it “Temple of Lost Children.”
Never thought it a literal translation until now.
Cullen lingered over the BUY NOW button on the ticket to Paris.
"It's true," Mom said. "Edward is the only man I want."
Cullen regarded her mother with loathing. "And Dad?"
"I don't love him with the way I love Edward."
Cullen snorted in disgust. The woman lived in a temple of Twi-hard delusion. Everyone else had gotten over their obsession with that book before Cullen was even born. And who named their kids after mediocre characters anyway?
Cullen hit BUY. She'd had enough. "You're a grown woman. And you're crazy."
First ‘to-do’ in France: change her name to Darcy.
Paris is not a place to loose yourself. It is deceivingly elegant, but if you do not fit in, if you only feel loathing for yourself, then it is a death trap.
Kids with Edward Cullen’s Face on are looking at me, contempt in their eyes.
“What are you looking at?” No, I did not scream at them. I lowered my head, and walked on.
I am the fat girl. My body is not a temple. It is a dumping ground.
I sigh, reaching for another candy bar. I will start dieting next week.
“Where are you from, son?” The cop pulled his hat low across his temple and glared at the white-faced teenager.
“What’s it to ya?” The teen’s jaw set in a mutinous line and his eyes positively glowed with loathing.
“Boy, I don’t know what they teach you kids in them big cities, but here in Paris, you show respect to your elders. Now, answer the question.”
Blowing out an angry breath, the kid relented. “Louisville. But I ain’t goin’ back.”
“Yeah,” the cop scoffed. “I imagine they’d be happy cullen’ someone like you from their ranks.”
The girl belonged to the Wind-Song clan of the Cullen Star Galaxy. She hated the place and all its sounds and lights and joy.
Listless and loathing of all things colorful, Paris Wind-Song jogged around the things called “kids” and entered the Charbroken Temple.
Cloaked in near darkness and cool air, the girl sunk down on the last wooden bench. Watching and waiting.
Watching the line progress, and waiting her turn.
The download was quick, as usual, and the girl that belonged to the Wind-Song clan of the Cullen Star Galaxy finally felt free of her demons. For now.
The mere sight of the orphans consumed Sister Felicity with sadistic loathing. She stalked them in shadows, eavesdropping – then she’d emerge, eyes shut in a trance, rubbing her temples, delivering one of her crushing rants.
“Unwanted kids are the scourge of the Devil…”
Hard to believe men once found her irresistible. One smitten lover even proposed in Paris but she never made it down the aisle. She’d discovered a vicious contusion above her navel – Cullen’s Sign - indicating a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. He fled after that for she was no longer fertile and fanaticism welcomed her vulnerable heart.
Our kids, Chatter Box and Chubby, met Cullen, the English kid, near the Eiffel Tower.
“What kind of temple is this?” Chatter Box asked. My wife is Balinese and the kids have been to the island many times so Chatter Box refers to every strange construction as a temple.
“It’s a Tower silly, not a temple,” Chubby corrected her.
Cullen just laughed at the two of them. He didn’t have a sibling. He loathed being an only child, and he was loathing this Paris holiday.
“Where are you chaps from?” Cullen asked.
“Chaps,” that’s funny, Chatter Box said giggling.
If loathing were a sport, she’d be an Olympian. It all began in Mr. Temple’s backyard when we were kids. He’d let us pick apricots from his tree but if we stepped even an inch into Mrs. Cullen’s yard, she would chase us out along the driveway and into the street. Supposedly, Mrs. Cullen was a model in Paris when she was young. I guess that means she wasn’t born a hunchback. Anyway, one day, I climbed the tree while my sister got chased into the street and broke her arm. She’s hated me ever since. My own sister.
"Paris Hilton is one of the Cullen kids."
"She's pale. She sparkles. And you never see her eat."
"That's normal for starlets."
"Not the pale part; she should be orange. Know that temple she built to her dog?"
"I can feel your celebrity-loathing from here. She's just rich and weird, okay?"
"Werewolf repellent. Pomeranians scare the crap out of werewolves."
"And the world's anti-meritocracy scares the crap out of you."
"She loves the paparazzi because she can't see her own image in a mirror."
"That's a fetching tin-foil hat you have on, my friend."
The kids were doubled over in the back, vomiting. We’d arrived in Paris that morning, only to discover that my loathing of a child’s griping is eclipsed only by the stench of half-digested Roquefort, which was having a soggy rendezvous with the rear floorboards. The rented Peugot, a name which now seemed quite appropriate, transformed from fuel-efficient adventure-temple into a mobile bastille of whine and cheese, while I knew, like the Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen knew, that I must “hide the heart that bleeds, and wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.”
Eddie Cullen lives in a temple of self-loathing out by the airport—a gray little studio above a porn store that still stinks from the dumpster fire some kids lit last week for no reason at all. He lies in bed most days, listening to the jets clawing their way, turbines screaming, up into the sky. There’s a poster of Paris on the wall. He hung it there when he first moved in, when this was just a temporary stop. It was important to him once, but now, lighting his last cigarette, he can’t remember why.
“I only wanted—” she stopped, sighing in a way that filled me with loathing. Her eyes were closed, as if she was sleeping again, dreaming when she was supposed to be taking care of the kids.
Now Cullen was dead. She was dreaming of Paris when he fell from the tree and broke his neck.
I eyed the lamp next to her. Just one blow, I thought. One blow and―
I stopped. Shaking, afraid of what I might do. I put on my coat and walked to the temple, taking cold comfort from the solitude.
Paris Cullen, the twelve year old daughter of Patricia and John Cullen, was walking home with her friend Brittany Shea from the matinee screening of ‘Food and Loathing’ when she was kidnapped. Brittany reported seeing a black Grand Am parked at the curb, or a white van, or two men in a potato chip delivery truck. John Cullen worked as a projectionist at the movie theatre and gave his daughter and her friend free passes to Saw IV, but they chose instead to watch Food and Loathing, which Cullen described as surprising. Brittany reported that Paris was excited during the screening, and spoke of her new boyfriend, whom she alternately called Jurgen and Temple and Grady. Patricia Cullen found her daughter’s body four days later, in the dumpster outside of the McCallister Construction office on West Elm Street, where Mrs. Cullen worked part-time as an accountant. When Paris was found, her body showed signs of strangulation, with a fracture of the hyoid bone. She had been anally and vaginally raped. There were cigarette burns on the back of her neck and the palm of her left hand. She was fully dressed except for her red lowtop Converse sneakers, which were found on the ground outside the dumpster.
Cullen walked into his personal temple of loathing. Disneyland Paris was packed.
The big eared headband was already digging into his headache when the first tantrum of the day approached.
One chainsaw would be one too many and much too few. The tipping point for Cullen was that it would be just as noisy.
So instead of starting a massacre, he handed over a cone that brought temporary peace. The kid would never know how much she owed to Jack Daniel's.
Paris dropped her kids off at the Cullen Street Loathing Temple in such a hurry that she neglected to get a receipt in exchange for them. She didn’t know how or even if the temple recycled their donations, and she didn’t much care. She was just thrilled to be rid of those damn children and their relentless demands for food, for clothing, for electronic gizmos. Sadly, her joy would only last until April, then she’d realize that in her haste, she had forgotten to get the documentation necessary for a deduction.
Make it lemon meringue, says Dave.
Got none, says Rhonda. Youngest Cullen kid stole it. Right outta the pie case.
An entire pie?
Yep. Hopped up on drugs. Thinks lemon meringue will cure whatever ails him. Rhonda slaps her ordering pad down onto cracked formica.
Kids, says Dave and eyes up the glass pie case revolving at the end of the counter, a sweet pastry temple.
Bloated raisins. Dave is filled with loathing. Just coffee, black.
Small town sheriff in hot pursuit of pie thief, thinks Dave and wonders if he’ll ever get out of Paris, Texas.
It was a rainy evening as Edward and Bella Cullen looked down at their sleeping kids. The hotel was close enough to look out over the square and see the most famous landmark of Paris, the Eiffel Tower.
When Alice got back from Temple to watch the kids they could go out for a romantic dinner.
There would be no loathing of the French cuisine out of respect for the country they were visiting. They would pretend to eat all the gourmet food put before them and then they would dance the night away under the stars.
It was funny her mother named her Paris since she’d never traveled They'd stayed in this same small town for their whole lives, although they both loathed it.
Tommy Cullen swore in their youth he'd swipe her off her feet and carrying her far away. Whispering sweetly on those hot nights of how he wanted kids and everything. That was a lifetime ago.
Now she spends much of her time at the temple praying for having ever succumbed to the charms of such a snake, which is the reason she decided to rename herself, “Eve.”
Paris at Twilight
“Damn kids,” I muttered, loathing Paris for a moment. It used to be my temple, but now it’s a playground for every American kid abroad. Now that I think about it, they don’t give a shit about banquettes and croissants, they just want to see Edward Cullen. Maybe it’s him they want to take a bite out of. Now, that I think about it, I’ll take a quick bite too.
I’d given much thought how I would vomit but doing so in the face of a Cullen--priceless. I'm leaving the snowiest place in I don't know the universe and heading to Paris to find myself and do...plenty of shopping and hopefully to gain a personality from my coach Janet Reid. I watched as the wolf sauntered towards me would I, could I, shall I die in the place of the one that caused me so much nausea... The kids who I barely liked waved to me their face filled with so much dollar store glitter I'm going to miss this freaking town where the plot heightened then flopped and a temple was built in honor of the froze ones. The loathing that tightened my throat.
I was returning to Hong Kong when I saw Cullen at the Paris Temple. I hadn’t seen her in three years and didn’t want to see her now. I turned away afraid of the loathing I’d see in her eyes. Unexpectedly, a gaggle of kids from the nearby Ecole de Jeanne d’Arc came running through the garden giggling as they went by. Cullen turned to watch them and our eyes met over their heads. She smiled. I saw love and tenderness. My heart broke once again. I turned away.
I took this magazine test about loser guys and Cullen was a ten. Only not a perfect-ten ten.
Two on romance: promises Paris, delivers Omaha.
Three on etiquette: no shirt, no utensils, no problem.
Two for sex: I never come, he always does.
Three for life goals: I want our kids to go to temple, he wants me to lose weight.
My self-loathing skyrockets. I guess my only options are the road, the .22, or the bridge.
I imagine he says, “But, baby, you might orgasm tomorrow.” Then he’d be a twelve. And twelve ain’t such a bad number.
Paris wanted to go to Paris from the moment we met and married.
“A woman named Paris should definitely have been to Paris,” she’d whine.
Loathing travel and everything French, I put her off. Because of my work. The kids. And the tumor growing at my temple.
“Tumor-Flumor,” she yelled. “I want Paris.” Two red spots dotted her cheeks; she looked like an angry clown. “I’m leaving you. I’ll have Paris … with Cullen.”
“SullenKILLCullen,” I taunted. Paris would never see Paris. I spotted the case of poly-mailer bags. Or would she?
With her at my side, it’s easier to come back to the Midwestern town I grew up loathing. Kids here grow up in shoebox homes on narrow streets, biking to the Dairy-Freez and summer blockbusters, morphing into teens who drink Bud at field parties.
Lucy is different. A city girl, she wears heavy eyeliner, has an affinity for scarves that she picked up during a summer in Paris, recites Countee Cullen poems for fun. My mother still isn’t speaking to me in full sentences.
I kiss the soft skin of her temple to wake her.
“Morning, Alanna,” she whispers, smiling.
She didn't know why she'd imagined things would be different here.
They were the best things in her life, largely because they'd undermined every other source of pleasure.
He wanted to strip her from the straightjacket of her marriage, to cradle her in his brown hands.
He didn't understand that in the slanted light of the illicit afternoons, his wrists were buckles and his fingers straps.
She would recite the mourner's kaddish and light a yarzeit candle. She would pretend the person she mourned was already dead.
Word Count: 100
I tucked my daughter, Cullen in to bed for the night as a blur scampered past.
"Granny," I whispered.
I caught up with her by the front door.
"Dahling, I’ve got a plane to catch for Paris.”
“Don't be insolent with me! I'll have you fired!"
I began rubbing my temple, loathing the start of a long night of reasoning with my grandmother, Kathryn Pearl Hildegard.
I reached for her hand, hoping the gesture would bring her back to now. Instead, left in my hand was her silk robe as she slid out the door, into the darkness.
Margaret opened the envelope. “Paris? But what about the kids?”
“My mother said she’d watch them.”
“No. Not your mother.” With her index finger, Margaret made crazy circles at her temple.
Cullen poured a scotch. “Forget it, then.” He tossed the drink down, but it could not numb his loathing.
Her deep-rooted loathing for Cullen’s stories of Paris could no longer be restrained. Even a stop at temple could not soothe the rash-like feeling that crept over her skin each time he described yet another escapade involving French bread and a ‘rented bicyclette’ in his syrupy voice. The corner of her mouth crept upward when one of Cullen’s own kids feigned a yawn behind him, and Ellen instinctually pounced…
The tiny wisps of guilt regarding any possible physical harm to his groin (and the shameful waste of caffeine) were assuaged by the brilliance of the silence that followed his yelp.
I entered the Cullen Street Temple.
I was looking for Quemaduras, who, Victoria reported, got swept-up by the Moonies. Quemaduras squatted in the same flophouse as us - always crocked. Evenings he would stand on the top landing and yell, “Veetoria, comb here. Eet horts, please, touch eet.” Victoria lived on the second floor. Her feeling toward Quemaduras was unvarnished loathing.
I was ushered into a circle of clean-cut kids, mostly Asian, watching Quemaduras, sober, clean-shaven, stuffed into somebody’s suit, singing “Spreengtime een Paris...”.
The next week Quemaduras was back, drunk. His scheme to “get” Asian chicks had gang agley.
Paris Cullen raced up the temple steps and pushed open the heavy wooden doors. A loud creak resonated through the silent night. She cringed and stood motionless, her wide eyes staring at the sprawling village behind her. Torches glowed in the distance. The dull roar of angry villagers reached her ears. A bright light lit up the sky. They had set her cottage ablaze - all for teaching the kids to think for themselves. Anger and loathing filled her. She shut the door of her sanctuary behind her and marched down the steps. She refused to hide anymore.
She sighed, again.
“Told ya—those damn kids are always last ones out. Greedy sonsobitches, too, grabbing two handfuls.” The old man coughed, and his chest tightened. His temple throbbed. “Why the rush? I’m the one got a deadline comin’ up.”
She saw the loathing in his eyes, and the fear. Pitiful...but she needed him, like he needed the twins. Paris and Cullen Forrest.
“Here they come.” He held the large bowl out. “They’ll get their treat, alright. Then I’ll get my trick.”
A life for a life. Two souls for the one brokering the deal. She smiled. Happy Halloween
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