Picking Marbles From Dirt

Blaze Bernstein


When I write, the world around me stops, and the gears in my head turn at a million miles per second. I write until I can’t write anymore, until the page is bursting with so many words and letters and syllables that if I were to fit one more period onto the end of a sentence the entire page might just burst and send missiles of consonants and vowels flying through the air, right back to where they came from. I have to choose what I put down on the page carefully, how the words roll off the tongue, how they mesh with their environment to create cohesive thoughts and sentences that drive forward the story towards its grand or garish denouement. The decision between brief and attaché or serene and halcyon lies only in the moment. I can always go back and edit and tweak what I have written, but it’s those first words that lick the paper that truly determine the story’s ultimate fate.

The majority of what I write enters the Abyss, the river Styx, the belly of the beast, and it never comes back from its journey to find the edge of the world. It gets swallowed whole by my trashcan or the pile of papers labeled “save for later.” These papers may seem fine, but “fine” alone can’t save their fate. Among the fallen are stories about a siren coming back from the dead to find her one true love, a road trip to meet a demon or a god (which, we may never know), and a light switch that has the power to turn off the sun. There is no way to predict a story’s fate, but to the members of this stack, I can only bow my head and say a few last words before they join their brethren.

Every once in a while, something I write finds its way into no-man’s-land and then back again. I won’t touch it or glance at it, but it sits there and waits, begging and taunting and pleading, waiting for one last final stand, knowing it will either publish or perish. And then, when I least expect it, I’ll sit at my desk and suddenly the story will unfurl its feathers to the world and the showdown starts with a pop and a bang: the devil paying a visit to collect her leather moccasins, a coin trick that makes the world come alive, or a year in the life of a freak show with Electra the eel woman and Crystal the girl with clear skin. These stories get frozen in time and space, colored marbles in dirt waiting for me to pick them out and make them whole.

Maybe if the gears in my head didn’t turn so fast and the words didn’t pile up on the paper like snow on mountain tops, it wouldn’t take me so long to finish a story. But then again, it wouldn’t be something I had written because the stories that I finish are never actually done. I want to write amorphous, ever-changing, mercurial beings that dig deep and stay there, that burrow into the reader and leave him without knowing what to say because he has never read anything like that before.

Writing gives me my voice, which is why my stories are in a constant state of flux. Even if I don’t change a word or a single letter, they move with me-down corridors of memory, through seas of emotion, and into worlds both real and imaginary. As I change, they change, but even after days or months or years I can still find a version of myself (a time traveler from the past, present, or future) sitting there in the text and waiting to speak to me. And I hope that my readers will find versions of themselves waiting to speak to them too.


Blaze Bernstein was born in Orange County, California and has lived there all his life.  When he's not busy writing, he enjoys photography and playing the piano.  His writing has been published in several other places, including the Bangalore Review and Inkblot Literary Magazine.