Liftoff Leitmotif

20 Oct

100 words for Madison Woods‘ Friday Fictioneers, which is how I’m always going to think of it, despite the fact that Madison is passing the torch of leadership and the task of herding all the FF cats to my good friend, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Madison, you’ve helped me by providing an incentive to work on my craft and I appreciate it more than you will ever know. I have learned much and, to use a golf analogy, have added many new shots to my bag. In addition, I have met a slew of good writers and made lots of new friends, both gifts to be treasured and never to be taken for granted. I look forward, as always, to reading your stories in the future. They are imaginative and rich, peopled with interesting characters through whose thoughts and words I hear your unique voice. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To the rest of the FF gang, we have been led by the best and if we owe her anything besides out heartfelt thanks, it is to be good stewards to her vision and enthusiastic supporters of Rochelle as she takes the driver’s seat on, as she so eloquently put it in her offering to us this week, Friday’s Bus.

Not sorry for being long winded this time. Had to be said. And having been, here’s my story, Liftoff Leitmotif, inspired by the photo prompt from Ron Pruitt. (Thanks, Ron.)

His name hadn’t helped, he reflected, but he’d always felt like an alien in this podunk town. He couldn’t wait to go. Was this how astronauts felt before departure?

Growing early large he’d dismayed everyone by eschewing sports for music. Cruel jokes fueled his passion and an eventual scholarship to Julliard mystified all save his teachers.

“’Luck at cooking school, Lenny,” someone shouted. Holding his acceptance letter close to his heart, he took a seat, fastened an imaginary safety harness and put on a pair of headphones.

The engine roared and, lifted by the sublime power of Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite, The Planets, Leonard Grishkin took off for another world.

59 Responses to “Liftoff Leitmotif”

  1. tedstrutz October 20, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    You are never winded, because you always have something worth saying to listen to. Today no exception, especially.

    Of course, your story is beautiful as always. (did you mean ‘growing large early’ instead) Listening to Gustav as we speak…

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 1:46 am #

      Hi Ted,

      Thanks for your kind comments. No, I wrote it that way to try to convey a bit of Leonard’s unique way of thinking. He’s not a creature of the herd. Thanks for dropping by.



  2. Madison Woods October 20, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    Your stories are always full of rich imagery. And like Ted already said, never winded. Your prefaces are as welcome as the stories themselves.

    In this story even the *anticipated* sounds of music and food are present.

    I think we’ve been travelling “full speed ahead” on the writerly front for a couple years now, haven’t we? So now I guess it’s time for warp speed ahead 😉

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 1:51 am #

      Dear Madison,

      You are a pearl beyond price. Just making sure you hear that:)

      Thank you for stopping in to read and comment. Warp Speed Ahead!
      Make it so, Number One.



      P.S. Great choice with Rochelle. I’d have been on the list somewhere. Glad you had better sense and she less. (Just kidding, Rochelle! i know you’re reading these comments:) Aloha, D.

      • rochellewisoff October 20, 2012 at 10:29 am #

        Of course I’m reading. Comment junkie, remember? 😉

  3. rochellewisoff October 20, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    Dear Doug,
    This story struck a cord (pun always intended) with me.
    Good luck at cooking school? Probably said by some athlete with over-inflated pecs and a brain that fits through a pea-shooter. How often the artists of the world are unappreciated and picked on for being different as children. Genius never goes unpunished.
    Another stellar piece of writing, my friend.

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 2:03 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Thank you for saying so. Moving to the back of the bus now.



  4. janet October 20, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Gosh, I didn’t even realize Julliard had a cooking school! 🙂 And you, as always, were cooking, too. Congrats to Lenny on his escape and good luck to him.

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 2:15 am #

      Hi Janet,

      That’s the Julliard Child School of Cooking or something like that. Vague and obscure redneck references are my speciality.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  5. newpillowbook October 20, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Excellent presentation of his maddening outer world and his inner refuge! At least he has an escape route open and is able to use it.

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 4:58 am #

      Thank you for noticing all the details. Was a bit much to this story for the 100 word limit. Thought about going long, but decided to pare what I could. I appreciate you reading and commenting.



  6. rich October 20, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    i need help here. this sentence: Was this how astronauts felt before departure? – makes me think he’s not an astronaut. but then there’s a rocket taking off. i wasn’t sure what to think he was for sure.

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 4:54 am #

      Dear Rich,

      100 words pulled some meat off the bones. Leonard is the big guy in black with the cowboy boots and hat, clutching his acceptance letter to his chest. Just a big kid fresh out of high school whose looks belie the genius within, off to school and gone from his home town like a dog’s dinner. Sort of a meditation on expectations and the old ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ theme.

      Thanks for reading, my friend.



      • rich October 20, 2012 at 5:12 am #

        thanks for writing. in the first mention about astronauts, it seemed metaphoric, which is why i was confused at the end. but i can easily accept that i didn’t read it carefully enough.

  7. billgncs October 20, 2012 at 4:49 am #

    subtle. Perhaps Julia Child, Julliard ? Today the planets lifted my spirits. Thanks for a fine post

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 4:56 am #

      Dear Bill,

      Yep, it’s The Julliard Child School of Redneck Cookin’ the shouter was referrring to, becasue he hadn’t a clue what the real Julliard School was all about. You nailed it.

      Thanks for stopping in and reading.



  8. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) October 20, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    Leonard Griskin? He used to beat me up in 5th grade.

    Him along with his sister. (Neither of them had grown that much yet.)

    Nice little story, you can really feel for the guy!

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 5:32 am #

      Dear Perry,

      That Griskin guy sounds like an asshole. Luckily my guy is named Grishkin. I took one of the ‘h’s that Rochelle is always being given to beef up her anemic name and made sure Leonard made good use of it.

      Thanks for reading, Perry.



      • rochellewisoff October 20, 2012 at 10:27 am #

        Anemic name? Thanks heaps. Glad I could lend you an “H”.

      • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

        Did I type anemic? I must have meant poetic. I think those keys are close by each other….yeah, that’s the ticket.



  9. valeriedavies October 20, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    listening to the Planets as I write… not one of your writing circle but loved it and all the unspoken layers of meaning…

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      Dear Valerie,

      You are part of my writing circle for I am part of yours. Thank you for reading and commenting….and for seeing all the layers.

      Aloha ka kou!


  10. Lora October 20, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    From Julliard to cooking school. I hope he returns and becomes a famous chef, owning his Five Star Restaurant at Lincoln Center across the street from Julliard. That will show them!!!

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 7:54 am #

      Dear Lora,

      I’m jumping backwards in time a bit, but I want to thank you for being so open and frank re your last submission and my comments about it. I am going to revisit the subject as soon as I get some ducks in a row. My input is only about flow and tone for I know little else about the language.

      Thank you also for reading and commenting on Leonard’s blast off for Julliard. I appreciate the time you took and look forward to exchanging correspondence soon.



  11. Sandra October 20, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Never judge a book by the cover they say, you never know what sensitive soul lurks beneath. Nicely captured and another truly orginal take on the prompt Doug.

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 7:57 am #

      Dear Sandra,

      I learned that lesson the hard way when I saw a tiny Chinese man wipe the floor of a Hotel Street bar with two Torpedomen from our submarine. No matter what I may think based on appearances, I never make assumptions. You just never know who or what you are dealing with.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Au revoir,


  12. Joanna (Lazuli Portals) October 20, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    I love Holst, I love Grishkin’s transition into his preferred world, and I love the theme of your story! Follow your dreams indeed, because otherwise regret will follow you like a shadow.

    To save you searching for us, we’re here:

    • dmmacilroy October 20, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Dear Joanna,

      Thank you for visiting, reading, enjoying and commenting. I’m glad you like Holst. I listen to him a lot on the summit. Was nice to be able to share that snippet. That you saw the theme means a lot to me. Hard to pack in all the necessary verbiage in just a hundred words.
      Headed your way now.



  13. bridgesareforburning October 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    Glad he escaped his podunk world. Many do not. I puzzled over “his name hadn’t helped” for a while and had to dig into it and, should have known, you were referencing T.S. Eliot. You knowledge of literature is impressive. Ron

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

      Dear Ron,

      Was actually referencing Lenny of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Been Googling T.S. Elliot for a while now. Who’s the character you thought I was referring to? Thank you for reading, Ron, and for the enigmatic photo for this week’s prompt.



  14. The Writers Village October 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Aloha Doug,

    Liftoff Leitmotif? Pretty fancy title for an overgrown redneck athlete about to turn chef from a Podunk town taking off for new and better places on a greyhound.

    Great story. Like Sandra, we can never judge a book by its cover – or judge what is inside of someone – know someone’s heart.

    But I am here to report to you that Leonard Grishkin, after becoming a Child graduate, opened up the latest in chic restaurants in Jefferson County called “The Largesse Podunk Out-of-This-World Bar-B-Que Grill and Sports Bar.” Best ribs, and we all love his specialty, “The Rough Boeuf”, which is French, you know.



    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

      Dear Randy,

      So he dropped out of Julliard, eh? You pulling my leg?

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. See you next week.



  15. unspywriter October 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Anything new we try can always seem like venturing into a new world, and it seems all the towns we leave are podunk ones. Good capture of the emotions of such a liftoff.

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      Dear Maggie,

      I wonder if there really is a ‘Podunk’ somewhere? Thank you for commenting. Off to Google as we speak.



  16. Kathy McClure October 21, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    It took a second, but Julliard — Julienne! I GOT IT! It’s a heck of a place, too. I’ll wave at it for you and Lenny, in two weeks.

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      Dear Kathy,

      You visiting New York in two weeks? Enjoy! And thank you for commenting.



  17. elmowrites October 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Well, Doug, you have us all firmly rooting for Lenny while we listen to one of the world’s favourite orchestral pieces of music. How could this be any better? I love the astronaut analogy, and the fact that you leave me firmly feeling Lenny comes out as winner in spite of the small-minded nature of his classmates. So much said in 100 words – this is one of my favourites from you ever.
    Also, hear hear re Madison and Rochelle’s handover.

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

      Dear Jen,

      I’m glad you like this one. I had a devil of a time paring it down and put it out there feeling I hadn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Thanks for loving my ugly baby.



  18. Paul October 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Maybe not an alien but, growing up, I always felt I was adopted. Still do, at times. And the other kids at school were no help. Anyway, this weekend catching up on my reading and, it seems, memories. Loved yours. It really hit a nerve. I just don’t feel that Leonard Grishkin is very different from any other name in such a podunk town. And I enjoyed your choice of “Growing early large”. Describing him like that does set him off from everyone else. Loved it! And Holst? A perfect choice!

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Dear Paul,

      Thanks for appreciating the use of ‘growing early large’. And for leaving such a nice set of comments. (Glad you liked my choice of Holst, too.)



  19. Tom Poet October 22, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    I didn’t see your link on Madison page so I thought I would take a look on my own. Sure enough your story was there or here… As always a fine piece of work. A little different from your normal style. Not sure if I can pinpoint why.

    We often judge a book by it cover and that is a shame indeed. Well done.


    • Tom Poet October 22, 2012 at 1:33 am #

      You were later in the week…I missed you some how #41……

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

      Dear Tom,

      Thanks for commenting. The Leonard Grishkins of the world have it hard at the hands of all the rest of the drones. Still, no progress seems to spring from the herd, only hate. Strange world we live in.



  20. EmmaMc October 22, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    So hard growing up! I’m rooting for Lenny, can just imagine him, sitting on the bus feeling lonely as hell. I have a feeling he’ll have the last laugh though.

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

      Dear Emma,

      Especially hard growing up looking or sounding different. Thanks for stopping in.



  21. vb holmes October 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    “The engine roared and, lifted by the sublime power of Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite, The Planets, Leonard Grishkin took off for another world.” And how true! The hefty young man with the strange-sounding name leaves behind the world of Hatfields and McCoys and enters the magical realm of Antonin Dvorak, Camille Saint-Saens and Pytor Tchaikovsky.

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

      Dear VB,

      I think I confused a great many of my readers with this one, but perhaps Leonard has found his first fan in you. Thank you for reading and commenting.



      • vb holmes October 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

        A fan I am. Perhaps I should have said “Juilliard’s magical musical realm….” Good story.

  22. singleworkingmomswm October 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    What a wonderful piece! I love the imaginary safety harness. I need one of those, myself. 😉 XOXO-SWM

    • dmmacilroy October 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      Dear Kasey,

      Thanks for stopping in to visit and read. I’ll send you an imaginary Mercedes equipped with one of those harnesses. Enjoy.



      • singleworkingmomswm October 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

        Oh, Doug, thank you sooooo much! I had a blast strapping myself into that baby! 🙂 The joys of imagination! XOXO-SWM

  23. Debra Elliott October 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Loved it! Thanks so much for stopping by and your comment.

    • dmmacilroy October 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Thanks Debra,

      I appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment.



  24. Parul October 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    It seemed metaphorical at the beginning, but browsing through some of the comments helped.
    You are a whiz with words, I like the surprise bundle that your protagonist is. Not fitting in is never easy. I will be spending some time imagining his journey ahead.

    • Douglas MacIlroy October 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Dearest Parul,

      Thank you for such a nice couple of comments. You never know about people until you’ve walked the proverbial mile in their shoes. Enjoy the journey.



  25. Russell October 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I think Leonard might have felt less like a misfit on my bus. In fact, he would become quite popular once they learn of his cooking skills.

    You continually amaze me with the amount of story, back story, references, metaphors, and scientific or historical information you can cram into 100 words. Enjoyed the music and preface too.
    Well done.

    • Douglas MacIlroy October 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      Wait until you read the upcoming story for FF. I’m trying to give you some competition (for one week.) I know you’ll bring your ‘A’ game as always.

      Thanks for the kind comments, buddy. Welcome back. How was the weekend?



  26. Sheila October 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    I love the juxtaposition of the classical music with this podunk town. It really helps to show how he doesn’t fit in, but it also shows that he’s bound for something better. I couldn’t think of anything for this one (or this week’s) but will keep checking in.

  27. glossarch October 27, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    Gotta say since I grew up in a small town where I didn’t fit either, I know exactly how that feels…well done!

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