I’ve Got a New Blog: Therewasthistime.com

Hi! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted any new short stories on Rough Draft. But, I’ve got a good excuse: I was writing a YA novel called The Soundtrack.

The novel is finished and is being edited by an editor who I feel will help to make it a success. In the mean time, however, I’ve started a new blog which I hope will be entertaining: http://therewasthistime.com/

I’ll be posting on it faithfully every Monday and Thursday. Please visit! Happy reading!

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Relax, seriously

I’m tired. I think we all are. It feels like we’ve been going and going nonstop for about fifty years now, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it feel like every vacation we have, every day off we get, is never long enough? It feels like that for me and I’m sure you feel like that too.

For the most part I know we’re all working hard or stressing out about how to get ahead just a little bit. For most of the people reading this, you’re probably worried about getting old too fast. You’re probably wishing that you were at a certain point in your life by now. Maybe it has to do with making more money. Maybe it has to do with finding that special someone who you think will make your life complete.  Maybe it has to do with wishing that you’d done more of the fun stuff while you had the chance when you were just a few years younger. Maybe you wish you were able to travel more and live your life like one of those movies where they seem to hop continents like they’re riding a bus from Jersey to New York City; as though it’s no big deal and doesn’t cost much.

I’m stressed. I won’t deny it. I feel like I’m constantly having to tell myself to let the muscles in my face relax because I’m constantly either frowning or wrinkling my brow in concentration (For everyone around me, it probably looks like I’m always constipated) . You know what I mean. You feel it too, don’t you?

I bet you wish you could take about a year off from your life or at least a year off from working. I know. I feel like that too. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen any time soon.

Even though most of us aren’t lucky enough to have that much time off to just chill, I think we have to take an evening off now and then. I think we need to relax sometimes and not think about what’s missing in our lives. I think we need to just sit back and breathe. We need some time to just close our eyes, relax our shoulders, and feel the breeze. I think we need to just be.

I’m doing that tonight. I have a glass of a delicious bottle of sangiovese I was lucky enough to pick up for just thirteen dollars at a wine store nearby. The owner of the store joked with me that he’d never been able to let this wine decant properly because it’s so delicious that he drinks it all as soon as he opens a bottle. I must agree with him.

I’m trying not to think about work. I’m trying not to think about anything really. I’m not even going to edit this post. I’m just going to sip this wine, enjoy the cool breeze coming through the windows, listen to band of horses play in the background, and just breathe.

I hope you’re able to find time to do the same if only for an evening.

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In my mind, I can still smell the hot breeze blowing the smell of fish up from the village to the school where I lived and worked in one of the towns surrounding Qingdao. When I looked out my apartment room window, I could see the bay where the fishermen docked their old, rattling boats. To me, it was a wonder any of those boats actually made it farther than a few hundred yards out into the ocean before splitting at the seams. The hills surrounding the bay towered over the little village and made the whole area feel as though it were in a realm all its own. The school I taught at was built on the side of a hill with the peak rising just behind our campus. I had always planned to climb it but just couldn’t summon the courage or energy.

When it was discovered that one of the younger students at the school had been molested by a foreign teacher, we all felt a crushing sense of shame. It felt the way it might when you find out that one of your relatives has been convicted for murder. It was true that none of us foreign English teachers had known Alistair very well and those that had known him hadn’t much cared for him. But we knew that many of the Chinese students and teachers lumped all of us foreigners in the same category to a certain degree.  We felt sure that there would be a “guilt by association” mentality from their point of view. After all, when we saw a Chinese person spit in the street, cut in line, or speak very loudly in public, didn’t we shake our heads and mutter, “these Chinese people?”

Since he was Australian, the other Americans and I gossiped about, “those Australian bastards” and assured each other that Americans would never do a thing like that.

The girl I was dating at the time was one of the native Chinese teachers at the school. She taught one of the third grade classes. A few weeks after everyone found out about it, we were taking a walk and I asked her about the situation and if it changed her opinion of me since I was also a foreigner. She thought for a minute.

“Of course I don’t think you are guilty along with that animal. I know that you would never do anything terrible like he did. But I think that some of the others may look at your group of foreigners a little differently now.”

Her voice had that northern accent which I found charming. I loved how she emphasized different words than a native English speaker would. I unconsciously listened for it, and in this case she emphasized “you,”  “with,” and “differently,” in those sentences.

“What I hate the most about that man,” she paused for a moment and I could see that she was starting to get emotional. Her eyes began to water a little bit. “Is that it seems he came to China only because he knows that our country is weaker and that he can do this kind of crime here without being punished.”

“Hey, come on,” I said softly. “China isn’t weak. It’s one of the most powerful countries in the world. Anyway, I’m sure he’ll be punished.” It was a weak attempt at consolation and it sounded fake when the words left my mouth.

She shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. Many foreigners come here just to do things like that and are never punished. They can just go back home or go to another school. They are taking advantage of us.” She pronounced her words carefully and each syllable sounded like it had been preplanned. She swept her hair away from her face and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Her eye shadow smeared a little under her left eye. The tears were due to a sense of helplessness, I realized, and not only because she was sad for the molested student.

It was warm outside and the back of my shirt was starting to become a little damp. I patted her back gently and felt a little wetness seep through her shirt onto my hand also. I quickly pulled my hand away as we continued walking in silence for a while.

“Are you here for the same thing?” she asked me suddenly. I stopped abruptly and turned toward her. She faced me and looked a little defiant.

“Lucy, you know I would never do anything like that!” I protested. “I thought you just said you didn’t think that I was the same as Alistair!”

“No, I mean are you here to take advantage of us? I know you won’t do that kind of thing to the children but are you here only to date Chinese girls for fun and then return to America when you want to find a real wife?”

Shocked, my mouth worked but no words came out.

“Of course, not,” I finally managed to get out

“So you are taking me seriously then?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said weakly.

We finally started walking again and stopped at a juice bar where I got a strawberry and kiwi juice. She had pineapple and orange juice.  We walked back toward our apartments when it started to get dark.


After we had broken up and I returned to America and found a “real” job in Seattle, I gradually forgot Lucy. My teaching years in China had been a fun experience but it wasn’t anything more than that, I thought.  I sat in a coffee shop one night enjoying the jazz guitarist playing to the half full room. He stopped every once in a while to tell the story of the song he was about to play.

“My next song is a personal one,” the guitarist said into the microphone. “I actually wrote it after a girlfriend broke up with me. She was Australian, and I guess she just wanted some American boy to have fun with while she visited our fair city. She went back to kangaroo country because she said she didn’t like the rain here. But it’s all good because we don’t want people here who can’t handle a little rain. Am I right?”

The audience clapped and laughed as he began his song. As he strummed the first few chords, I remembered how after Lucy and I had started walking back to our apartments after having juice that one day, she apologized and said she didn’t mean what she had said earlier.

“Don’t worry about it,” I replied. “You were upset.” I smiled at her. Just then, it started to rain lightly. We had to hurry back before we got soaked to skin.

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Which Story is Best?

Hi all!

Thanks so much for reading the stories I’ve posted.

I have a huge favor to ask: I’m planning to enter a couple different versions of one of the stories on this blog in a short story contest. Would you please let me know which story you like best and why (If you choose one of the stories with two parts, please include both parts in your consideration.)? Simply add a comment to this post for your vote.

Want to look over the stories again before voting? Just click on this link: https://joshsuds.wordpress.com/category/stories-stories-stories/

I can’t wait to get your feedback. Thanks again for reading and for your vote!


Posted in Random Poetry, short stories, Stories Stories Stories!, Uncategorized, Wannabe Deep Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

No Answer

The boy hunched over his desk protectively like a prisoner guarding his lunch tray. Quickly, he glanced up toward the front of the room to make sure that Miss Hendricks was not watching as he put the finishing touches on the note. He read it twice to make sure it was perfect. His face was flushed and his heart felt as though it would jump out of his shirt.

“Thomas, I’d like you to give us an example of a prepositional phrase, please,” Miss Hendricks said, looking at the classmate seated directly behind him. She stood next to the blackboard holding a piece of chalk, ready to copy down Thomas’s answer. The boy’s chair jumped slightly.

“Hey, Peter, give me the answer,” Thomas whispered harshly. His breath smelled like eggs and Peter pinched his nose shut as Thomas kicked his chair from behind once more.

“She’s looking right at you, I can’t give you the answer,” he whispered back.

“Thomas, we’re waiting.” Miss Hendrick’s rapped the chalkboard with her knuckles. Some of the other kids in the class stared and giggled at Thomas. He hardly ever knew the answers. He answered questions by repeating whatever someone else gave him.

“Hurry up!” Thomas whispered angrily at the back of Peter’s neck. Peter did not respond and instead began folding the note. He would give it to Livia after class was over.

Thinking about her answer made his heart pound so hard he could hear the pulse in his head. She sat at the front of his row and twisted around in her chair to stare at Thomas along with the other kids. She smiled at Peter when she saw him looking at her. It was the most beautiful smile in the world. Instead of smiling back, he looked down shyly.

Peter rehearsed mentally exactly what he would say when giving the note.

“Livia, would you please read this when you have time?” That didn’t sound right. He pursed his lips.

Suddenly, the paper was snatched from his hands. Thomas waved it over his head.

“Miss Hendricks, Peter is passing notes in class,” Thomas said loudly. He grinned menacingly at Peter. Some of the other boys in class hooted. A few girls laughed. Livia looked toward Peter but he dared not meet her eyes.

“Give it back!” Peter said through clenched teeth. He grabbed for it. Thomas danced out of his reach and opened the paper.

“No, don’t read it!” Peter said, jumping toward Thomas. Miss Hendricks clapped her hands for attention.

“Class, settle down! Thomas, give me the note!”

Thomas held the paper out of Peter’s reach and began reading loudly.

“Dear, Livia.”

Some of the kids laughed and clapped. Peter once again grabbed at the paper and missed. Livia got up quickly from her desk and ran from the room.

Thomas continued reading out loud. Miss Hendricks was yelling now. Peter grabbed at Thomas’s arms and tried to snatch the note back; not that it would do any good now. He halfheartedly shoved Thomas and sat down. He stared at his desk.

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Sorry for the blog’s appearance. I’m trying to make it more organized and hopefully a little more visually appealing. All the widgets should be in the right places soon! Bear with me.


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Relief – part 2

“He told us through Kenneth that we should each pick a girl from the group. To tell you the truth, I was pretty nervous. It’s not every day that a big group of girls looks you up and down at the same time,” Alex said.

Alex turned to Ray, who also seemed slightly nervous.

“Which one are you choosing, Ray?” he said quickly.

“Man, I don’t know, does it even matter which one you choose? I have no idea how this works. I thought I was getting my hair cut. I hope I don’t pick the strongest girl who leaves me with a bunch of bruises.” He fidgeted with his watch.

Kenneth quickly chose a girl. She slowly stood up and took short deliberate steps over to him. Kenneth seemed indifferent. The manager looked impatiently at Alex as Ray then pointed at a girl. Apparently tired of waiting, the manager then motioned for the girl at the end of the couch to come over to Alex. She walked over and the three young men followed the girls up a set of stairs to a large, dimly lit room with two rows of massage tables. Only one or two of the other tables seemed to have people on them.

Kenneth said something quickly to his masseuse and they walked to a table toward the back of the room. Since they were nervous, when their masseuses tried to take Ray and Alex to tables on opposite sides of the room, they motioned that they wanted tables next to each other. The girls laughed and Alex and Ray climbed onto the tables.

“Here goes nothing,” Ray said.

“If you hear me scream, come over and rescue me,” Alex replied.Their masseuses closed hospital-like curtains around each of the individual tables.

“Alex, you’ve never had a real massage before right? Is this what they usually do?” Ray’s voice came from the next table. The masseuse with Alex motioned for him to lie on his stomach. She wore a shiny, silver colored dress which struck him as a little unusual for a masseuse. Oh well. When in Rome, he thought to himself.

“I don’t know, man. I guess this is how it works,” he said back to the curtain. The girl began rubbing his back and Alex closed his eyes. Her hands moved from his upper back to his lower back and from side to side. Then she closed her hands into fists and began to pummel his back. She roughly rubbed his upper back and then his lower back then she quickly moved her hands down to knead his buttocks and his legs all the way down to his calves. This is a little rougher and more rushed than I thought a massage was supposed to be, but it’s not terrible, he thought.

After only a couple of minutes or so, she motioned for him to turn over. He rolled over onto his back and she said something to him in Chinese and motioned for him to take off his shirt. She looked a little bored but smiled at him. He took off his shirt and she placed it on a chair. As he lay back down, she again began massaging him. This time, however, she seemed to take her time rubbing his shoulders, and then his arms and then his chest, and then his stomach. Her hands moved expertly back up to his chest and she glided her hands back and forth, applying a little pressure now and then. Then she moved down to his legs. He laughed as she rubbed his feet since he was ticklish. Then she quickly massaged his calves and thighs. Something was a little bit fishy, he thought to himself as she massaged his thighs. She looked at him and smiled.

Should I tell her to stop? He wondered. Perhaps I should ask Ray what he thinks. He turned to say something through the curtain as the girl continued to squeeze his thighs.

“Oh wow! Uh,” he heard suddenly from Ray’s side of the curtain. At that moment the girl placed one hand on his most sensitive area and smiled at him.

“Yao bu yao?” she asked. She smiled at him again. Alex froze

“Hey….man, is something weird happening over there?” he heard Ray ask.

“Uh, yes,” Alex replied.

Ray’s face appeared as the curtain parted. He looked down at Alex’s waist and then at Alex.
“Oh, yeah, looks like the same thing that’s going on over here,” he said. The masseuse working on Ray appeared also and said something to Alex’s masseuse. She shrugged and looked a little puzzled.

“What do you think, man? Time to go?” Alex said.

“I think so. I’m not in the mood for a disease,” Ray replied. He jumped off his massage table as Alex did the same. Each grabbed their shirts and threw them on as the girls said something to them. They seemed a little annoyed.

“Kenneth!” Alex called down the row of tables to the one at the end covered by a curtain. There was no answer. A sound of a muffled giggle drifted to them from behind the curtain, however. Alex and Ray looked at each other.

“Okay, let’s just go,” Ray said. Alex followed him down the stairs to the lobby area. They quickly paid the man at the front and hurried out the door, leaving Kenneth behind. When they were out on the street, Ray stopped and looked at Alex without saying anything.

“Man,” he finally said. Then they both laughed.

“That’s one of those experiences I’ll always remember and be able to laugh about,” he said with a smile. I shook my head and chuckled. Our cups of coffee had long since become cold.

“That’s pretty crazy man. So what happened to Kenneth?” I leaned back in my chair. The other customers in the coffee shop were gathering up their belongings and I wondered whether it was too late to order another cup.

“I’m not entirely sure since I never brought it up with him again. But I think I can guess,” he laughed. It was the first time I’d seen him laugh that night.

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