People, Places, and Activites

It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design.

What people, places, and activities do you indulge in to stimulate your creativity? Your current hobbies don’t count. You need to experience things that are foreign to you and you need to do it on a regular basis. It won’t just happen by circumstance, you have to plan for it and then do it.

I don’t ever plan to make a career out of writing fiction, but I took a fiction writing course anyway. Why? I already told you; to experience something different.

The instructor said “take your inspiration from where ever you find it, no matter how ridiculous.”

Five minutes later I was playing with one of my toys. It gave me an idea of how I should write my fiction assignment.

Here is the first fiction that I have ever wrote.

Clifford’s Day

I was glad I had finally met my mother.

Death being inevitable, this was the final thought flash-frozen in my mind. My entire life did not flash before my eyes as others have attested. No vintage home movie marathon for me. Only a single Polaroid filled my thoughts.

Only now, 278 days later, have I instituted enough courage to read my own words. I share with you my experience of that awful, wonderful, humbling day. I am not even sure why I have decided to share this experience. Perhaps it might……well, never mind. These are my exact words as I wrote them that day.


The ground vanished like the ass end of a roaring Ferrari.  Wind howling downward over my head and shoulders towards my feet. I could see my house rapidly shrink into all of Clarksville. Then Clarksville dissolved into something unrecognizable before every detail was blurred away. Nothing left to see but my feet trembling above a distant green-brown quilt.

Just a moment earlier I was enjoying my morning walk. The same walk I take every day to sort things out, sing with the sparrows, watch park kids ascend the splotch, and of course pet Harley. Simple things to keep me sane.

This is my time to relax. But not today.

I had no idea what was happening to me.

An eternity passed before I remembered to breath.

But when I tried, I couldn’t.

It was harder than the hike to the peak of Mt. Chickaree. I was being squeezed from both sides. I could see my feet below me, but could not move my head, arms or legs.

This Sumu-side squeeze was hard to explain. It was nothing like anything I had felt before. Not like the one from Jennifer on prom night or the one from my Aunt Carol at the Tijuana reunion. This squeeze was heavy, but not in a bad way really. Slightly painful, but at the same time… somehow comfortable. A female hug is the only experience I can relate this feeling to. As I write these words, I know this makes no sense. Being completely helpless, this was my only comforting thought.

In a camera flash the pressure disappeared. The wind furiously switched direction like a Mad Hatter’s Tea Cup Ride. The wind was now screaming past the bottom of my feet. I bent my knees in a fetal position and hugged my legs to keep the wind out of my eyes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what was next, but closing my eyes made it worse.

The blue-brown quilt below me was instantaneously replaced with an unfamiliar view. It was a landscape of pinkish type sand dunes with metallic chrome caps. Mixed about the dunes were long, sharp, black stick-like objects. These black things were in stark contrast to the pink dunes. Then the black sticks vanished and the chrome cap dunes became less obvious as I continued to fall. Or was I really falling? Just because the wind was howling from my feet to my eyes meant nothing. I could be going any direction.

The white flash was the next thing I remembered.

Was I dead?

Impulsively my body gulped a cloud of air bigger than the day Tommy Rimes tried to drown me. Four more short rapid breaths and I realized I was lying on my right side. I leaned over to put my hand on the ground and tried to stand up.

But I realized instantly my hand was not touching grass or dirt. It was something else. Something different than I had ever felt before. It was more like a trampoline’s surface, but not as smooth or as tight. That is the best I can describe it.

The surface appeared to look the same in all directions. As far as I could see anyway. There was nothing that resembled dirt, grass, trees or flowers. Nothing similar to Clarksville.

The ground tilted violently and I began to slide across the pink sand dune surface. I tumbled over 4 or 5 dunes before I saw the edge. There was no denying it; it was a cliff ahead. I scratched and clawed at the surface to try and get a grip. The surface was slightly slippery which made it nearly impossible to grasp. I tried to brace myself knowing I was going to fly over the edge. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to know what was next.


I hit something so hard I swear I must have bounced up 2 feet from the surface. My neck cracked on the 2nd impact like the snapping of a branch.

This surface was different now. Cold, rock like with blue and white swirls. I still had no idea what was happening to me. Was this a crazy dream? If not, then let’s put an end to this quick. I can’t tolerate any more flinging, flying, flipping and falling.

The light kicked on like flicking the switch at 2:00 am. It was a very bright light, with an aquamarine hue. But this blue sunlight was not hot, nor was it cold. Actually it was a comfortable temperature.

Peek-a-boo eyes, drenched with fear not sparkled with play.  Peering upward though the slots, I could now see the light source. Eight huge disks of light separated into 2 curves of four. Arched like one banana next to a twin mirror image.

For what seemed like hours (but I am sure it was only a minute or so) nothing else seemed to happen. I was just elated all the violent movement had apparently ended.

Then it occurred to me I might still be alive. In all this horror I had not encountered anyone or anything face to face. Nothing standing in front of me that I could fight. Then just like that, my kitten confidence became a lion.

Struggling to stand, “My aim is true” tattoo on my left ankle gave me the mental support I needed. I stared at the two blue-light semicircles. Then it occurred to me they appeared to be about the same size as the moon appears in the nighttime sky. Only much brighter than the flashlight image of the moon.

Then I saw something move in the center of the light circle. It was not a person. It looked like black crisscrossed twigs, like that of a bluebird’s nest, but it was so faint it might be my imagination.

Then I lost my confidence as quickly as I had found it. I ran as fast as I could away from the lights. Looking back I was thrilled to realize the light circle was not following me. I was getting away. I wanted to live.


I ran straight into something and was now lying on my side again. Breathless. What the hell did I run into? I did not see anything in front of me. There was nothing there.

In the distance I saw the formation of lights flying rapidly towards me. Damn it!

There they were, flying in a tight Blue Angel formation. Three gasps of breath before they were directly centered over me again. How could they move that fast?


Now there was no running from it.

Screw it.

Let them have their way with me.

Scared isn’t the right way to explain it. That is what I expected, but not what I felt. This reaction was a complete surprise to me. I can not explain the emotion I felt. It was much more like anger or disappointment than fear. 

There were so many things left to do.

Death dealt its final hand at a most inopportune time, I said to myself trying to think witty thoughts.

Why had I put off so many things? Why had I not taking those chances?

Now it was too late.

Again it was anger I felt, not fear. Why didn’t we just buy that restaurant on Benson Beach? We could have afforded to get that loan. Sure the job at Stinson’s paid less than Muldoon’s, but the perks would have been worth it. Wow…the perks. I guess I’ll never know.

What if I had gone back that night at Melinda’s party? She really wanted me to but I was too hard headed. I had my pride you know. How stupid it seems after all these years to have let my ego get in the way. Young boy stupidity is obvious when you’re no longer one.

Hundreds of choices a day. How can we know which ones are right?

I should have never taken it out on Mike’s dog. I love dogs, but I hated Mike. I hated myself for what I did. Oh I wish I could take it back.

I wish it were easy to tell my dad I love him. It’s just ……wow!

The blue flash lights flicked off. The air was replaced with a brownish haze. I looked up and could see the moon like circles overhead. They were not illuminated anymore but they were still there. All my attention was back on these persistent circles. For a moment there I guess I forgot I was dying.

Then the moon circles in lock-step formation flew rapidly away from me. Not horizontal like before, but rocketing straight up, vertically away from me.

Was I a fool to try and run away again?

I jumped to my feet and ran like hunted Beveren. I could feel a wall of pressure coming towards me. I could not see anything but could certainly feel it.

Then I saw it.

It appeared to be a new wave of ground flying towards me about 6 inches above the existing one. I hurdled over the edge nearly loosing my right foot in the process. Thankfully its movement froze just before my feet landed.

An instant rush of wind hit me from the right side. The horizon was swaying back and forth like a slow moving seesaw. I dug my hands into the ground. This surface was different than before, It had large tube like ropes twisted around each other that ran as far as I could see. I could get both arms around these ropes to stabilize myself. The wind was strong but not forceful enough to pull me loose.

Just as I was starting to feel relatively safe the entire ground jolted downward with my head way below my feet. My feet flipped over my head and I slammed my knees into the ground. I could barely hold on.

Then a violent vibration shook me like a paint mixer. I bit clear through my tongue and could feel the numb warm river of blood in my mouth. In an instant the shaking intensified and threw me straight into the air.

Again I was falling.


I could not move. Surely my back was broken.

I must have been passed out for some time. The blood from my tongue had spilled out of the side of my mouth. It felt like dirt stuck to the side of my face.


I rubbed my eyes and begged for them to see. Everything was a blur. Then finally I started to get my vision back.

Oh my god! Is that Margaret’s tree? It is the only tree I have ever seen with a clover shaped branch. It looked just like her tree back in Clarksville.

It can’t be it.

The lion was back. I somehow found the strength to get to my feet and make it to the base of the tree. I hugged it, not just to hold me up, but to fake myself into thinking I was home.

Then I saw it. Wilson park was right in front of me. I snapped my head to the left and saw the old Emerson building. This place looks just like Clarksville. Was I home?

Was this just a horrible dream?

Wilson park was only a couple of miles from my house. I started to hobble towards it.

The clock on top of the Chyten building read 8:10. How could that be? I left my house at 8:10?

To this day I can’t explain why at that point I no longer felt I was in danger. Certainly the ground could disappear again just as easily as it did before. Were the blue moon lights coming back? My gut said no. Having no rational reason to believe this, I did anyway.

Why did this happen to me? No one will believe me when I tell them. Should I just keep my mouth shut? Everyone accuses me of exaggerating anyway; they will never believe what happened.

I could have died today but I didn’t. I should have died but I didn’t. Why didn’t this thing kill me?

It is a small front porch, but it is ours. So are the wicker chairs. The cool afternoon breeze always combs you with coolness at the end of the day. Grandma was angry when I put in the rail for her. She needed it but didn’t want to admit it. I guess we all feel that way sometimes. I love the flowers as much as the Yellow Jackets do. Most folks are afraid of them, but they don’t bother me.

I wish Ashlee was still with us.

“What happened? Why is there blood on your face?”


Mark L. Fox

About admin

Mark L. Fox is a leading authority on teaching practical creative thinking techniques for business. Mark was the youngest Chief Engineer ever on the Space Shuttle program at the age of 31. He received NASA’s highest recognition of “Launch Honoree” at the age of 23. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering with an MBA. Having held top management positions in Rocket Science, Aircraft Hydraulics, Engineering Services, Customer Service, Software, and e-Business, Mark has an extremely diversified background.


  1. Not sure that this is true:), but thanks for a post.
    Thank you

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    I am not sure what you mean by “not sure this is true”….what part are you reffering to that is not true ?

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