ARIES: Short Fiction Romance Edition
Keeping time ...
In this issue:
~ Fantasy Romance: “Clock Dancing”
In step with the stars of synchronicity.
~ Scenes for the Senses: Aries Emerging
A 5-minute video escape into the process of painting the original art for our Aries Short Fiction Romance feature.
~ Poet-Tree: “Love on Mars”
From guest contributor and Substack neighbor:
Short Fiction Romance by L.J. Longo
Read time: 3 minutes
There is no time to do it all.
He has to leave for the train by 7:40 a.m. so that he can get to the office by 8:30 a.m. so that he can start doing the budget reports before everyone else starts their day at 9:30 a.m. and interrupts with requests about when the payroll is due and what is the soonest this next batch of new hires will be onboarded and when is the latest they can send him data for those budget reports and at noon he can meet with his boss and at 1:30 p.m. he can meet with the director of training and then at 2:45 grab a quick lunch before his 3:00 p.m. meeting with marketing where he will help edit copy because he has an eye for details and a friendly panache … for an HR guy.
If he’s lucky, at 4:30 p.m. he can leave work—not early exactly, but it always feels like he’s cheating somehow even though he never takes a lunch, and no one has ever accused him of not working hard enough or long enough.
If he times it right, he can meet her at the base of the clock tower.
They greet each other first with smiles as they close the distance between them. Their hands are the first things to touch, then lips. She nestles into his arms and they both sigh as the crush of deadlines dissipates for now.
When they sway together, it annoys other commuters. Maybe those people are lonely. Maybe they missed their express train. Maybe seeing two people dancing in public seems like a waste of time and precious space.
But they will sit or stand together on the homeward train, half-floating as they walk arm in arm talking about their plans for their honeymoon and the days when they will have nothing but time together.
Then suddenly it’s 10 p.m. and there’s work in the morning and they say goodnight so they can wake up early and do it all again tomorrow.
There is no time to do it all.
The kids need breakfast on the table, and their homework and lunches in their backpacks by 7:00 a.m. so that when he leaves for work at 7:30, she just has to get them on the right bus which comes between 7:40 and 7:50 depending on the driver, and he thinks about this on the train as he rushes to the office by 8:30 where thinking of his schedule of deadlines and meetings exhausts him, but he will finish his day by 4:30 p.m. because he needs to pick the youngest from daycare at 5:10 and meet the eldest right as they finish soccer practice at 5:30, then they will be home in time for dinner at 6-ish.
If they time it right, they can all meet at the base of the clock tower.
The greetings have changed over the years. Squeals and running to be swung over Dad’s head has turned into lackluster waves and unenthused grunts, but the hug remains, sometimes perfunctory, sometimes on very difficult days held a little bit longer.
They will sit or stand together on the train home discussing the triumphs and hardships of the day, and planning for the weekend when they will have more time to do something great together as a family.
Then suddenly it’s 9 p.m. and school is in the morning, and they have to say goodnight so they can wake up early and do it all over again tomorrow.
There was no time to do it all.
He spends most days at the base of the clock tower now, sitting in the public park, watching the trains go by and the grandchildren play in the park. On her good days she used to, but then good days became rarer and briefer and a walk down to the train stop was too taxing. And then she had no more days at all, and he found himself with nothing but time to sit and watch the train and listen to the big clock ticking away his time. The hours of the day don’t mean so much anymore, because they either pass so quickly or crawl unnoticed.
When the time is right, they will meet again at the base of the clock tower.
He expects that she will be young and beautiful again and that he will be able to swing her around and dance the salsa with her. He doesn’t know yet, that she will be herself at every moment they met over the years. The shy girl waiting for her date, the mother of his children, the old woman who would separate from him in the park just so that they could meet here again.
There is no time to do it all.
But there’s still time to have it all.
In the 2022 Aries issue of Dharma Direction, LJ wrote “Springtime in Hell” … about an Aries girl named Honey, determined to take on supernatural beings, witches, and the gates of hell, to bring her boyfriend back. It is Honey’s birthday, after all.
L.J. Longo is an award-winning Romance author, a queer geek, and feminist writing a medley of dark romance (which can be found through Evernight Publishing), magical realism, weird sci-fi/fantasy, and very implausible creative non-fiction. She recently received Third Place recognition for her submission to the Writer’s Digest Annual Short Story Fiction Contest with her entry titled, "To Harvest Lavender." Coming Soon: LJs queer fiction, “The Stranded Sky Castle” will be featured in the Alpha Male anthologies from Evernight Publishing.
Scenes for the Senses… audio/visual art
Each month, Read Gallo treats us to a mesmerizing few minutes in the dreamy world of a free-flowing watercolor brush. Relax and let your mind wander as our artist-in-residence captures a moment from this edition’s Short Fiction Romance, “Clock Dancing,” by LJ Longo.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Aries birth date: April 4, 1928
[Angelou] also recorded spoken albums of her poetry, including “On the Pulse of the Morning,” for which she won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. The poem was originally written for and delivered at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She also won a Grammy in 1995, and again in 2002, for her spoken albums of poetry. (womenshistory.org)
Welcome back Hattie Jean Hayes!
Our fellow Substack friend,returns to grace us with some far-out views on love’s survival. A nebulous gravitation, love pushes and pulls human emotions to the far reaches of time and space.
Read time: under 2 minutes
“Love on Mars”
The ways I pass these lengthened days seem so unlike me. I re-settle the dust that has negotiated its way out of craters and corners, I watch the sky beneath the shadows of two satellites, I do my best to clear a space for evidence of growth. They told me that can happen here. I leave the silence better than I found it. I take back all that stuff I said about the moon landing. I want to believe, and I'm finally willing. My blood has become used to the endless shades of red. During the first days, my heart beat fast enough I'd mistake it for anger. I'd failed to notice its spinning. They lured me here on the shallow promise of civilization. They were fools. I am here to rewild a planet and stay untamed. And yes, there was a miracle, and yes, I was the only one to witness it. In my season of emergence and eruption, I had a victory garden. Tulips and honeysuckle blazed starbright against their backdrop of blood-dust. It lasted sixty seconds, maybe less, but it happened. I am junebugging relentlessly against the idea of again. And of course, I planted the flowers to bloom, like me, at your arrival. On a distant planet, I planned for love – how can anyone think about anything else? Lights from impossible distances tell me you're coming, but I am on my own calendar. I can only mark the seasons by the changes in myself. It is six months from my birthday. Here, and in all the other places I've loved you. I am equally between the woman I was and the woman I'd like to be. I only wanted the world so I could give it to you. Time brings us nearer, the steady tick of my ready heart. I am on Mars. It is almost April, and I have always been in love.
~ Original poem by Hattie Jean Hayes
Hattie Jean Hayes is a writer and comedian, originally from a small town in Missouri, who is now living the dream in NYC. She is Interviews Editor at the word west revue. Her work has appeared in Old Pal Magazine, Janus Literary, The Puritan, and others. Her writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Hattie completed a SAFTA residency in September 2022, has a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Bullshit Lit in 2023, and is working on her first novel.
You can read Hattie’s newsletter on her Substack platform that includes weekly lessons about poetry, musings on life, and ill-advised shopping recommendations. You can also connect with @queenhattiejean on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Next up: Taurus, the Bull
April 21 - May 21
Coming Friday, 4/14… The Angel Edition by Debbie Abbott
Ruling the Bull’s season is Asmodel, Angel of Creativity who moonlights as a Demon of Punishment. An oxymoronic mix of light and dark, this angel’s energy rises from the pragmatic depths of a theosophical conviction.
Fighting the Clock …
We all do it every day. Probably many, many times over. A silly concept: Fighting time. Rushing to beat its second hand with both of ours tied behind our backs by the twisted bonds of fate and destiny. Fighting to avoid one as we focus on the other is like trying to walk up a downward moving escalator.
Wasted energy. Time lost.
Attempts to go “the hard way” come with hard lessons. Stepping onto the correct escalator, however, allows fate and destiny to work together instead of against one another. Then the clock no longer matters … because as Pedro Pascal, fellow Aries and Mandalorian, knows: “This is the way.”
I hope everyone enjoyed some (if not most) of the 2023 Aries editions of Dharma Direction. Watch for our contributors’ posts on their social media platforms throughout Aries season as they share their stories and visions of the Dharma motto:
~ Debbie Abbott, publisher/editor