Monday, December 30, 2013

The Long View

Tom Heiffner stood thoughtfully, breathing in the stale, dusty air and staring idly at the rolling hills that were his destiny. The hills were his only friends, as much as he hated them. They brought the rain his crops desperately needed. Sometimes they sent storms that left him standing, smelling ozone, and marveling, yet again, that a man's work - a year's worth of sweat - could be obliterated in one night. One night of frost at the wrong time and it was all for nothing. These thoughts tumbled over each other in Tom's brain. But that was nothing unusual, these circular thoughts were his constant companions. The one thing he could count on. Besides the hills.

The sun was dropping fast as it is wont to do in places where the horizon is a long way off. There were splashes of gold, pink, and a deep red that reached down inside him, twisting, forcing his hand. He turned a plug over in his cheek and spit a long stream toward the hills. Folks called them mountains. Folks were wrong. Tom had seen mountains in Colorado. The years had done little to diminish the impression they'd left him with. Grandeur. He knew that was what the mountains wanted him to see, but he only saw something huge that he couldn't control. There was enough of that at home. Even if the mountains were really just hills.

A man gets to where his stomach is his wristwatch when there isn't anything but work. Tom's stomach was telling him that it was time. His stomach had yet to accept the fact that Myra wouldn't be banging the dinner bell. That he would fill the empty hole with coffee, whiskey and corn pone. Myra. Tom squinted at the hills while he pulled a pouch of tobacco out of his overalls ... he'd been stretching it with chaw, it was about through. He spit out the plug and rolled a smoke without thinking, lit it with a thumbnail match. He pulled the smoke in deep and thought about Myra.

He should have known. Love can only do so much. She'd loved him - he never doubted that. And he'd loved her with everything he had, every bit of his understanding of love, however distorted it was. He chuckled. Damn fool, that's what he was. When he had first seen Myra, she'd been dancing up a storm. He was holed up in the biggest town he had ever seen, and she was the most beautiful woman there. He'd watched her all night. And the next. And the next. Finally, she approached him. Fire in her eyes, dress tight and damp - he wasn't sure if she was going to hit him or ask him to dance. She did neither. She led him upstairs. Days passed. Her expressions grew softer. Her lips more welcoming. And then he'd told her that he intended to marry her and take her back home with him. And she'd smiled like she'd won a beauty pageant - which she had. They were married that Sunday, and they left for the farm the next day, Myra sitting shotgun on the old wagon.

Myra hated the farm as much as Tom loved it and for the same reasons. He thought about that now and felt like a chump. She'd left just about the time he'd started to settle into the thing - he was just figuring out what a husband did when she left. He'd waited for days before he realized that he had made the worst mistake a man can make. Worse than planting early. A damn sight worse than planting late. He'd tried to make a flower grow in the desert. He'd let the lights and the music and the glint off Myra's smile convince him that he could turn her into what he needed - a partner. Hell, she was pretty, though. He'd never seen teeth so white. And she'd had this smell ... a little bit of perfume and womanly magic. He didn't know what it was, but some nights he remembered that smell and the hangover the next day was always worse.

The old dog stirred in the dust. Tom slapped his thigh and the dog sat at his feet. He held the big, rough head in his hands and smiled. The dog would never leave. Myra was gone and the weather was a gamble ... the bank already owned his land, but they would never take his dog. God would do that, and he figured he'd follow pretty close behind, the way the dog had followed him for almost ten years now.

"We're in for it now, Dog. You know that, boy? The worst of it. Ain't nothing left to lose. Ain't nothing to worry about neither. This is the finish line ... well, nearly. We got this land and we'll make it pay somehow. Or we won't. You and me don't got fancy notions, Dog. I should have known. Damn fool."

The dog made a keen heartbreak sound and the old man cuffed him gently.

"I sure didn't mean my whining to catch on, Dog. You and me'll be alright. Near dark, now - get up and move, boy. Let's go get us a drink and something for our bellies."

The dog loped slowly, keeping up with the man's long strides. From a distance, they might have looked downright respectable. Had to be something in a man that walked with such purpose, didn't there? Had to be something in a dog that would watch his man like that. It was like the whole damn place didn't exist, just Tom. The dog rumbled happily, his throaty acceptance. It was just exactly like that. Like the man said.  He'd never liked the way that woman had smelled anyway. And he hadn't liked what he did to their land, their home. It wasn't natural, no matter how you looked at it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

4 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have FOUR minutes. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

We unwrapped it, and now it's time to wrap it all back up. All those genuine emotions. I feel as naked as a Christmas pass out prank. The good cheer and smiles stripped me down like cheap electrical.

Every year, collective memory loss and craziness. One drunken uncle, two DUIs, and that chick you knew in High School writes you a schizo email.

I'm not knocking it, and I wasn't knocked by it. I like it. It's like hitting the reset button. Or, maybe it's like you have to unplug life and leave it unplugged for fifteen seconds like the Comcast folks say. They say lots of shit though.

It's grey and a little chilly and I feel lucky to have two tiny people to remind me that it wasn't just one day. Or it shouldn't have been.

We will move forward. Can't go back, and I'm done going sideways. Never trusted those crab scuttles. I'm happy for the righteous and glad that burritos exist. Does anything else really matter. You know, besides friends and family and all that stuff I tamped down with leftover fruitcake.

Friday, December 20, 2013

3 minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have THREE minutes. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

You open your eyes and everything is different. Don't don't know what you've gotten yourself into. The sliding world brings familiar things to you. Your smell is acute. You smell carne asada cooking somewhere. You think about your life and question its legitimacy.

You stand up and get up and what else are you going to do? But the toothpaste isn't where it usually is and, when you find it, you realize it tastes salty, gritty. It does not taste like peppermint. 

You stand and lean against the wall, trying to make sense of it. There is a distinct taste of copper in your mouth.

You want a drink, but you don't know why. You want a shield, a barrier, something to protect you from the newness of the world. You need to relearn everything. Now seems like a pretty good time to start. Or stop as the case may be.

You take the pills that are put in the little boxes. You never forget. They have told you that the pills will fix things. Set them right. You're not sure what you believe, but what do you have to lose?

Friday, December 13, 2013

2 minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have TWO minutes. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

Oh shit, I have to do the Friday free write. Don't do it. They'll understand. You're sick. And what, you're gonna disappoint three people? Is it ego or guilt, man? Or a sweet cocktail of the two. All I know is that coughing is like taking a few hard ones to the ribs. And shit's still a little dizzy, which sounds entertaining, but it the absolute opposite.

Oh well, I can do my two minutes. If the settlers could tame this country, if men can climb Everest, if women can give birth - well, I can write two shitty minutes worth of whining before I go back to bed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Did you bring it?"

"You said you'd be there."

"Christ, Susan. Alright, I'm the asshole again. I suppose it doesn't make any difference..."

"No! Don't do that bullshit martyr thing. Be fucking honest."

"You want honest? Real honest? You think I wanted to go to fucking Washington? You think I wanted to sit in the airport for four hours while the fucking baggers jerked off and..."

"You seriously don't get it, do you?"

"What? I was telling..."

"Fuck the delay. Fuck Washington. Why would you even cut it so close? Why did you even go? Why the hell do we have this conversation all the time?"

"I don't think we have this conver..."

"Oh, just shut the hell up. You're trying to get off on a technicality again. It's fucked up. Maybe we don't deal with this exact situation, but it's always something."


"And stop fucking saying my name. What, is that from one of your 'How to Be The Alpha Suit' monkey books? Make eye contact and always use your colleague's first names when you speak to them. I bet you didn't even bring it. You didn't did you?"

"I, uh...we're not colleagues, Susan."

"I know, you're nice to them."


"Wow, you are such an asshole! Do you even remember what you were supposed to bring?"


"It was your whole justification for this nonsense in the first place. I mean, of course I knew that you just had to schedule a meeting, but you said it was the reason. You told him..."

"OK, fine. Make me a dick. What did I forget?"

"Was the flight full?"

"What? You call me an asshole and then ask about the flight? What the fuck, Susan?"

"Did you eat? Do you want a snack? I can make you a sandwich."

"Why are you twitching your eye like that? What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you drunk?"

The sound was almost inaudible. A small toe shuffling on thick Berber carpet, softer even than the scruffling of the birds that made nests in the eaves. He turned slowly and looked down at the small face, expectant above long pajamas - the pajamas he had brought back last time. They were worn now and he could barely make out the dinosaurs his son loved so much. He wore the pajamas every night.

"Did you bring it, Dadda?"

It came back to him with a resounding crash. He'd promised he'd bring something else back from the Museum of Natural History - something with a dinosaur on it. He'd forgotten it the minute he said it. Now, he felt his eyes begin to swim as he looked at the boy's face, lower lip trembling.

"It's OK, Dadda. I know you were really busy. And Momma told me the plane was late."

He looked at the moving lips, but he couldn't hear a thing. There was a rage of static in his ears, he felt a bit dizzy, steadied himself with a hand on the wall. He tried to speak, but there were no words. He knew if he opened his mouth that it would all come out. All the shame. All the fucked up excuses he used. He looked at the boy and thought what he always thought. I am ruining you, and I don't know how to stop.

The boy looked concerned now, and the wide eyes broke his heart.

"Don't be sad, Dadda. I have lots of dinosaur stuff. We saved you a piece of cake! A middle piece like you like."

The boy was smiling now. He reached out with a small hand. John looked behind him, but Susan was long gone. He felt himself slipping away - he wanted to run, abandon them, cut the cancer out of the family. He was the problem. He knew it. Instead, he took the tiny hand in his.

He ate his cake without speaking. He could barely choke it past the thickness in his throat. It tasted like cardboard. The boy was talking about his presents. The games. All the people - names he did not recognize. John chewed and nodded and tried not to think about how many of the other fathers had been at his son's birthday party.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Saloon

You can sit at the saloon, sideways, eye cocked just right. Careful, bar stools are slippery things. You'll hear strips of conversation, let them wash over you. Don't listen to the words themselves, hear the cringe and jab and sweat of it. Let the tone color your lens. It's been amber for so long. A dark coursing amber that you can swim in, it's so thick. When you hear people clapping, clap. It's the sensible thing to do. It lets the mouth corner booth busters know you're there.

You will smell the sickening sweetness. You'll come to love it. A smell that can't be reproduced. Old beer, spent dreams, epiphanies, and love stories...they make a fascinating perfume. You don't need to think about it. Soon, it will fit you, the smell, like your Grandpa's aftershave.

You'll stop feeling awkward. Conserve words. Another pint. Then: Again. Soon, you only need tap the bar. You tip a dollar a drink. Don't flirt with the bartender. She'll probably appreciate it. Your wife probably will, too - dead or not.

Time passes. You'll know people, but you won't know anything about them. You'll talk about the same things all the time. It's scripted. You play the game and you get your prescription. It comes in a thick glass and, if you hold it up to the light just right, hell - the whole goddamn world is in there.

Sometimes memories will fall on you out of nowhere, leaving you gasping, laughing, wondering...

You can sit at the saloon. That is a guarantee. That is a promise. You won't have to wait for the young bankers to get their drinks. The bartender has no idea what a gimlet is. You do, but you pretend not to. You drink whiskey and leave when you are sated, coated in laughter and the sound of billiard balls cracking. You'll go home then. You'll try not to sway when you walk, which never works. You can't think about it. It's like carrying a drink. You look at it and you're fucked. You look ahead and walk, hell, you won't spill a drop.

The years will pass so quickly. That's the whole point of the saloon. It is a time machine. You pump quarters in and pull hangovers out. You talk about a lot of shit you'll never remember. Sometimes you think about the look on your father's face when he'd take off his belt. You wonder what kind of psychosis it was. He always looked happy, wolf lip-licked and excited. You'll think about that and fucking cry. And cry. And no one will say shit because the saloon was made for sadness.

Hard days add up. Work makes you tired. You'll start calling in sick. You'll be shocked when they tell you how many days you've missed. The time machine, remember?

Sometimes you just got to own your choices, good and bad, man. You need to smile and nod when people suggest skipping a night at the rail. You need to embrace that shit. You've disconnected. You've reached the finish line. Most mornings you'll wake up and wonder why everything hurts so badly.

There is a woman who comes to the saloon and she always stares. You probably had a night. A conversation. Something. It is important that you avert your eyes and embrace the lost memory. She will only bring you humanity - sadness, honestly, love, empathy - and that goes counter to your whole plan. It's a disgrace to the saloon itself.

Years evaporate and you won't even tap the bar anymore. Your glass fills up without you even noticing. You'll give the bartender handfuls of cash. It doesn't matter.

You can sit in a saloon any motherfucking way you want. This is not a wine bar. This is not church. This is yours and you deserve to enjoy it or not on your terms. Don't let them sway you. Don't let them give you the meaningful look. Stop making eye contact.

They'll talk about you after you're gone. Your family will cry acid tears and blame themselves, but they will get over it. The folks at the saloon, they'll remember. In drunken bursts. Remember when he was drunk enough, he'd sing those stupid Russian songs? Remember when his mother died? Shit, I've never seen anyone that angry. They won't remember you, but they'll remember the stories and you will live in some twisted immortality that you never saw coming. Because the stories are you.

There are even some of the old crew who will never sit on your stool. And they'll be angry when other people do. They'll grumble. Look at that kid, it ain't right. It just ain't right. 

The saloon is bigger than anything. It is a place of worship, a refuge, a place to space the pace of life - too fast. That's the one thing everyone in the saloon can agree on. Life moves too damn fast. Sometimes the booze speeds it up. Mostly, it slows things down.

You buy your ticket, you take your chance. Bar stools are slippery motherfuckers. Don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, December 6, 2013

3 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have ONE minute. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

Wide awake with copper taste in mouth. You roll over. Grab the blanket. Think. Just think. From the expanse of blackness, small lights shine through. Shooting stars and snaps, blist, fronks of recognition. You see her face. You wonder how it ended. You look in the mirror, searching evidence. Your eyes are tired. Low. Puffy. You step back and feel your muscles, your arms. Nothing seems to be out of place. You check your cell phone. No drunken texts. No missed calls. This was a missed call, you think. A close call. One that could have been closer.

You smell the cigarette legacy on your denim jacket and you remember the laughing. Your throat aches with it. You want to see it all. A lump forms in your throat and you look yourself dagger deep. YOU did this. No one else. You chose it. And you will choose it again until the days of choice pile up and your ability to choose is revoked.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

He Needed To Die

He tried to open his eyes, but they were glued shut - sand and sweat and blood. He rose to one knee and the pain between his temples took his breath. Sudden. Shocking. It was a color he did not recognize, bright and vibrant in the darkness. He rotated his neck slowly; it sounded like broken glass. He could feel the sun, deadly hot. What the fuck? Then, everything slowed down. He remembered. He was supposed to be dead. He was close to it, now. Not close enough. He pictured the man's face and wished he'd chosen the bullet. His optimism had been folly. The desert does not empathize. The desert takes what it wants.

He tried to spit into his hand, but there was no moisture. He rubbed his eyes, but it ground the grit deeper. Sandpaper madness. Fuck. Where was the man with the bullet? Why had he been so stupid? Hubris. That's what they called it, right? He flashed to a college classroom: girl in the front, always dressed nice, pretty, perfect posture. He'd never spoken to her. Something about heroes. He couldn't remember.

The gun had freaked him the fuck out. That's what it was. The man smirking. I can shoot you or leave you here. He could hear himself begging: Don't shoot me. Just don't shoot me. The big man had looked almost shocked at his choice...which made sense, bullets are fast. But the gun. He'd looked at the end of the gun and just lost it. And there had been some hope in the decision, hadn't there? Stay alive ... it seemed ridiculous now.

He didn't understand. That was the injustice. Why him? What had he done? He tried to remember, but he was so thirsty. His head was so big. So fucking loud. Oh, Jesus. He was going to die, blind, in the desert. He wanted to rise and walk. He wanted to be the man who comes out of the desert. Louis L'Amour revenge fantasies blossomed. But this wasn't a book.

He had done bad things, sure. There was no denying that. But bad enough to die for? He searched through the slideshow in his mind. Some of the slides were blurry. Maybe he had done something during one of the black nights. Maybe it was mistaken identity. It didn't matter.

It was over. He knew it, but he couldn't accept it. Couldn't make it right in his mind. If only the man had explained. He'd asked and he could still hear the laughter. Does it fucking matter? No, it didn't matter. That was clear.

He let his head fall back and he could see the sun, just a redness through his eyelids. He could feel his skin burning. He tried to yell, but his throat was shredded. The sound that came out was something close to a howl. Pain. Fear. He smelled sweat and dry-heaved, gasping as he remembered the broken ribs.

The calm came slowly. Like an opiate ascent. Warmth. Not heat. Not the burning of the sun. A warmth from inside. Some kind of benevolent tranquility. He felt his muscles relax. He was relieved. Confused. Scared. He could feel death coming. He wanted it more than anything. He also wanted to live.

Pieces of the conversation came back to him. He remembered his pleading tone. The disgust on the man's face. Hell, he was disgusted with himself. He didn't know why. It was irrelevant. He did not know where he was. The man would not have left him an out. The desert promised death. And he couldn't even accelerate it. In his mind, he was on his knees, begging. Please. Please come back and bring the bullet. Bring the gun. I won't say a word. I promise. Jesus Christ! I promise!

The smells were strange. He had been lost in the labyrinth of his smells. Now, with the calm, other smells emerged. Some plant baking in the dust and sun. Sage? It was a sweet smell. It turned his stomach and made him shudder. Quick flashes. Christmas morning. His grandmother's peppermints. Acolyte candles. Altoid kisses behind the bleachers. There was also a smell of decay. He wondered if there were vultures circling.

His body was wet. A special slickness composed of sweat and blood. He had soiled himself. He could feel that, too. Smell it. He could smell his body becoming a part of the desert. Hot sand. The smell of wreaths and old wax. Resignation.

His brain was sluggish, still stuttering over the question. Why? In some velvet crease of the brain, he knew. Just as the man had said. It didn't matter. It was what it was. Everyone has a job to do. He fell on the hot sand and watched stars and cartoon faces explode behind his matted eyelids. The man had done his job. Now, to hold up his end of the bargain, he need only do the simplest thing in the world, let go. He needed to finish it.

He needed to die. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

2 minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have ONE minute. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

Sometimes I wonder how much of me is me. How much of me is a patchwork of anecdotes I've heard, books I've read ... things that I have forgotten did not belong to me. I think we are all like this. Maybe that is the reality of the collective unconscious. We are all feeding off each other's first day of school stories. First love stories. The elemental stories that define the miasma of life. Its glory and its decadent oblivion. Sadness. The bite of joy on a cold winter morning. We are all deep in it. We all share it. Some of us put it into words. Some pictures. Some people build vast machines that I can't begin to comprehend. I like words, myself.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


It wasn't that he found it. He'd known where it was for years, hidden beneath piles of attic treasure. He'd put it there himself. No, it was his decision to climb the ladder, find it, hold it. That was was the thing. That was what he said when his wife got home. Hold this for a few minutes. She was upset. Get that away from me! And he'd stood, it seemed like hours, wondering why he couldn't let it go.

He didn't know why he had finally decided to exhume the thing, but it was done. Dinner was a bland, vast silence. After dinner was no better. He listened to her night time sounds. Water running. Tooth brush bristles. Still, he sat in the living room. He couldn't put it down.

There are some things that hurt so badly that they transcend pain. They are too big to process. Then, there are the small triumphs. The occasional true victory. All these things spice up the routine. And without the spice, things get simple. Simple is not always good. Sometimes it is merely simple.

He turned it in his hands, and his mind went blank. The room was now near-dark. His wife was snoring softly. Shadows flitted around corners. He had that uncomfortable feeling that things were darting right in front of his face. That he was missing them, whatever they were.

He stood and looked out the window, turning it slowly. Feeling the scuffed edges. His focus shifted between the street and his reflection. The street was quiet, festooned with old fast food bags and cigarette butts. He was him. Thin. Everything was thin. Thin hair, thin arms ... his face was painfully thin. It wasn't his fault. Food didn't taste the same as it used to.

He was lonely ... lonely in a way that he could not explain, even to her. He was lonely at parties, with his friends, in his wife's embrace. He knew it. He tried to fix it. Internal monologue that was so loud he was sure everyone could hear: She's your wife! She loves you. She's holding you. You're supposed to feel comfort! You're supposed to feel fucking something! 

He played his role. Sometimes, he caught himself chuckling at jokes he hadn't heard. He agreed with everything that was said to him because the words took too long. They could never catch up with his pre-emptive self-loathing. So, he nodded. Right. Right. Certainly. Yes, yes. Never understanding.

It was time to sleep. He knew that. He had to work in the morning. But he could work tired, bleary-eyed, sometimes fatigue made the day go faster. Sometimes it didn't matter. Most of the time it didn't matter.

He couldn't even walk down the street. Strangers' innocent glances became assaults, insinuations, sly winks, looks of pity. Don't look at me! You don't know. Let me explain it to you so this will all make sense. So you will suck that look of sadness back inside your face. There was no point in explaining something he himself did not understand. He knew that.

When the phone rang, he jumped. Finally. He had known ... there was a reason that he'd gone spelunking in the attic. He reached for the phone with shaking hands. He knew that the person on the other end of the line would make it all sensible again. His hello wavered slightly, a gut-shot deer trembling before the fall. Is Michael there? A woman's voice. He didn't know what to say. He said nothing. Hello? Hello? I'm sorry, I must have the wrong number. 

The phone clicked to the dial tone and still he stared at it, gripped it with all his might. Wrong number? Wrong fucking number? You were supposed to explain. The phone never rings and tonight of all nights ... damn. Damn, damn, damn.

He wondered what a "man" would have done with all this. That was drilled so far into his brain. His father, long dead. Broken leg? Be a man. Broken heart? Be a man. Failure, ache, longing, pain? Be a fucking man, Nancy! But he wasn't a man. Not the kind of man his father had wanted him to be. He was a man, perhaps, in gender only. Or, as he had long suspected, his father had merely simplified the rule book. He'd taken a different approach. He had never told his son to be a man and, perhaps, it would have made a difference. He had his doubts.

The phone was still ringing in his ears as he slowly scanned the apartment. Everything was bright, crisp, defined. Even through the haze of half-light. It wasn't right. Was he drunk? He hadn't had a drink in years. What was it? A stroke? A hallucination? He blinked hard, letting his eyes rest in the closed position. When he opened them again, the room was back to normal. The pounding in his chest settled to a trot.

He realized that he was still holding it. Where would he put it? The mantle? The dining room table? He scouted places of honor inside small, dark rooms ... places where it could finally rest ... his hands began to shake again, and he was afraid he would drop it. And with the fear came the knowledge of his folly. It had been in the attic for a reason.

He climbed the fold-down ladder carefully, one hand on the rungs. He pulled the ball-chain, and angry light fell on boxes of Christmas decorations. His fishing gear. Her sewing machine. Piles of clothes and mystery. Things they hadn't touched in years. With a wavering confusion, he put it back where he'd found it. He walked slowly down the ladder and then to the garage where he grabbed his hammer and four long nails. The pounding sound woke his wife. He did not know this.

He brushed his teeth and washed his face. The harsh light of the bathroom made him feel silly, romantic, foolish, ashamed, angry. He turned the light off and pissed in the dark.

He climbed into the bed. He had never understood why the bed had to be so high. It was something he used to give her grief about: the high bed, the fancy pillows that they weren't allowed to actually use - he had stopped hassling her years ago. She wanted a tall bed with fancy pillows. A bed that always looked 'bed and breakfast' sharp. Maybe it was the one thing she could control. He didn't fault her for it. He did not try to make her feel small.

She was asleep on her side. He thought so, at least. He curled around the back of her, his arm draped across her hip. He felt her move slightly, an adjustment that, somehow, made for a closer fit. Did you put it away? He didn't have to answer. What were you hammering? There was no need to answer that one either. He knew she knew.

He kissed her gently on the back of her neck. He held her close until her breathing was slow and regular, plodding. He held her while she dreamt, sometimes lashing out with her arms ... sleep fighting. He held her until the sun wiggled through the curtain. The curtain that matched the pillows.

She woke, but she did not move. And neither did he. They stayed together. What else was there to do, really? Just hold on and hope that holding on is enough. They did not go to work that day. They did not speak. The words had been spoken a million times before. He thought about the attic door. The nails smartly embedded in the old, dry wood. He wondered how long he would be able to keep his promise. The one he'd broken so many times. Let bygones be bygones. He didn't know if it was possible, but he would try.

Friday, November 22, 2013

One minute. GO!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have ONE minute. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

Sometimes I take a vacation outside. Strange place, that. Lots of people. Trees that reach toward an endless sky. Smells are different out there. I find myself wondering what the world smells like to a dog. Either wonderful or horrible. Has to be.

I am not a dog. I will taste wind. I will feel the falling sun, catch it on my shoulders. Fuck Atlas. He can keep the earth.

Friday, November 15, 2013

5 Minutes. GO!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free write. Basically, you can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have 5 minutes. Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So tell a friend. If you have one. If not, tell your enemies. 

His fingers bent in odd directions, splayed on the felt that was, at one time, green. Now it was a patchwork quilt. There were cigarette burns and livid splotches of angry brown. There were sticky spots where the eight ball sometimes just stopped. And it pissed us all off, it pissed him off most of all.

He never said anything. He'd just put his quarter on the table. He was a rich dude, see? It wasn't a rich dude bar. It was a bar for tweakers and drunks and all the riff-raff that washed down from the nice, wood-stained bars up the street.

I only played him once. Or I should say, he only played me once. The game was over so fast I barely blinked. I ground my butt on the floor and went and got him his drink. He drank wine and the bartenders were always pissed. But he paid six bucks for his glass of Gallo and we paid a buck twenty five for pints of piss. It worked.

The day the bar burned down, no one really gave a shit. There were other bars. Plenty of other bars. No one was hurt. It didn't matter. No one was invested.

And then one day, the bar was rebuilt. No one knew how. Not until we went inside and saw the brand new, splotched and burned pool tables. Not until we saw the cigarette butts on the floor. We wondered for a while. How much money had it taken? How long to collect the butts. How artistic the pool table spills?

He never talked about it. He hit that cue ball and drank his wine and never mentioned the fire. Not once.

Friday, November 8, 2013

3 Minutes. Go!

It's FLASH FICTION FRIDAY again. Basically, all writers are invited to do a free write for five minutes in the comments section. It is definitely more fun when we have thirty people playing instead of five, so tell a friend (and have a lovely weekend from the folk at ;)

How do you judge a good man when he's done wrong? So much tragedy can spill from a simple mistake. But that only gets you so far. You can wrap yourself in "there but for the graces of God's," but, really, you're just terrified that things like this go down. It makes your skin itch. It makes your eyes feel gritty.

I imagine the smell of terror. It certainly has a smell, and it speaks to us like Pheromones  I close my eyes and flex the muscles in my legs. I put my fist in my teeth to stop the shaking.  I don't have any simple answers for you. Them? Broken. Done. Everybody. And there are years ahead, years that will unfold with everyone looking for a better answer than, "what a terrible thing," and failing. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Accident

I hear it, even in empty rooms. I will always hear it. I will always grit my teeth and curl my toes inside my shoes, cringing. 

I can no longer remember sharp images. Everything has blurred itself into a frightful oblivion. I never thought anything could be worse than seeing it. I was wrong. Knowing that it is all still in there, somewhere ... that I am denied access. It is a warm, creeping anxiety.

I taste the blood. I still smell the burning.

My body remembers. The shock. Thrown ragged. My body is reminded by the pain. The pain will never go away.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Finally Bagged One

When I was young, the woods were my playground. I fished, burned things, made slingshots and bows. I used my scout knife to whittle absurdly sharp arrows that flew sideways and broke with astonishing ease. Which was cool. Because I liked whittling arrows.

I was a strange kid, which is kind of like saying 'I am a person who eats food', but it is true. I was a strange kid. I wanted, more than anything, to be rooted to a place. To not move all the time. And yet I was obsessed with birds. So, perhaps I just wanted to be untethered, but led by my own capriciousness, not the whim of the United States Government. 

I read about birds obsessively. I spent hours looking through my mom's old field guides and I looked for hawks everywhere I went. And I always saw them first. And my folks called me 'eagle eye'. And they were right. 

Raptors were my favorite. I stared at glossy pictures for hours. I can't remember what I thought about when I looked at the birds. Maybe I thought about nothing, which would certainly have been a relief. In hindsight, I worshipped hawks. They were beautiful, but strong. They were agile, but deadly. They were free to fly wherever they wanted, soaring on updrafts. They did not worry about where they would be moving next. They did not need friends. They were probably the closest thing to being free that my mind could comprehend at six years old. They were my heroes.

As I got older, I got better at making bows. I learned to make thicker arrows that flew straight because I notched feathers into the butt ends. When I was ten or so, I asked Santa Claus for a real bow. A compound bow that would send arrows into the heavens, straight and fast, plunging back to earth like a Peregrine Falcon.

My Dad bought me a BB gun. I don't know why. I really wanted a bow, but I was not disappointed for long. I was too young to understand that guns could be anything other than fun. And I was a good shot. Eagle eye, they called me, remember? I made a shooting range in our garage and it was a good BB gun. Pretty soon, I could shoot the flame off a candle. 

My sister was older than I was and she did not want to fly; she wanted to find a book that never ended. A wonderful book that would stay with her, day after day. Year after year. She did not understand that her spastic brother, four years junior, just wanted to talk to someone. She was the only one who was experiencing anything close to what I felt. But she did not want to talk. She wanted to read and to be left alone.

There were many things that I considered a game that my sister did not. I wanted someone to play with. She did not. I wanted someone to tell me that it sucked that we had to move so much. She wouldn't. I was annoying. She knew how to stop it. Fast. My stomach still clenches when I think about it. 

I loved the gun. I loved the gun because I was a good shot. I loved the gun in that way young boys have of imagining things that will never be. Things that I didn't even want. Things I thought I should want. 

I shot through BBs by the hundred. I also clipped Q-tips in half so I could shoot the gun inside. Tamped down the end of the barrel, ten pumps, that Q-tip would fly a good twenty feet. And it would fly straight, especially when wetted with Juicy Fruit spit. 

So, I shot Q-tips at my sister. It wasn't a cool thing to do. It didn't hurt, but it violated a lot of things. It involved pointing a gun at my sister. It was wasteful. It was immature. It was everything that I was not supposed to be. It was careless.

I don't think my sister ever said anything because I don't remember getting in trouble, and I still have the gun. It would have been taken. No doubt. I don't know why my sister didn't tell anyone. Maybe for the same reason I never said that every argument ended with me in the fetal position crying, the ache inside me spreading.

Things escalate. That would be a pretty good subtitle for the autobiography I will never write. The story of JD Mader - "Things Escalate". 

I never had a pet when I was a kid and I didn't really like animals without wings. I mean, I didn't dislike them, but I also didn't feel bad shooting my neighbor's cat in the ass. One pump. Cat took off like a bottle rocket. I never would have hurt an animal. I shot myself point blank with one pump all the time. In the foot. The stomach. Sometimes the temple. The eyelid, once. I knew the cat would be fine. It's not one of my prouder moments, but I wasn't one of those kids who tortured animals. There was enough torture going around.

I don't remember when I started shooting at the grackles and black birds that sat in the top of pine trees, level with my bedroom window on the second floor. I shot at them with Q-tips and they rarely moved. Sometimes, I would get close enough that they would flap away, indignant. I only did this when my parents were gone. I'd smoke cigarettes on the roof and shoot Q-tips out my window. 

I have no idea what compelled me to load the gun with BBs. I suppose, since I had never come close with a Q-tip ... maybe I didn't make the connection. Maybe the candle flames had been snuffed in my mind as they had been in the garage. All I know is that, one day, I loaded the BB gun, pumped it ten times, aimed at a black bird high in the tree and barely visible - an impossible shot - and I pulled the trigger. Just as I had been taught to do. Just how I'd practiced. I held my breath with one eye closed and gently squeezed.

When the bird fell, I was dumfounded. It spiraled to earth like the ducks on Duck Hunt. My heart stopped. I dropped the gun and ran to the yard as fast as I could. The bird was still alive. I had hit it in the eye, and it was bloody, gasping. Suddenly, the boy that I thought I was evaporated. Because the boy that I thought I was would never have shot a bird. And if he did, and it didn't die, he would have put it out of its misery. Like a man.

The boy that I was did something I will never forgive him for. He ran inside and got two plastic bags. He put the bird in the bags. He watched it open and close its beak, making intricate patterns in the blood that smeared the inside of the plastic. 

The bird wouldn't die. 

I didn't know what to do. The gun was upstairs. I was in the yard, tears streaming down my face, a dying bird suffocating in my hand. I remember thinking how beautiful the ink black feathers were. 

I dug in the dirt with my hands, frantic. I tore my fingernails and pulled roots and stones from beneath my mother's favorite bush. I put the bird inside the grave, still alive when I put it in the ground. Still alive when I scooped handfuls of dirt on it. Still alive when I went upstairs and washed my hands and put the BB gun in the back of my closet. I knew I would not get caught and that was the worst part. 

I know the bird died eventually, but in my mind, it will always be under eight inches of dirt, gasping, eyeless, with it's head pressed against bloody Zip-Lock.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm Glad I "Knew" You.

You came in right before closing, stumbling that stoned, blinky walk. Staring at all the shiny stuff. You didn't know I was watching. If you had known, you would have felt awkward, but there was no reason to feel anything. You wore a heavy coat and rainbow gloves and the flurries outside had anointed you. The flakes were melting to slow trickles that darkened the gold in your hair.

I didn't see you again for weeks. I wasn't looking, really - I'm not a stalker - you were on my mind, though. One of those snapshots that won't go away - a soft moment that you are allowed to witness with no recrimination. No forced hellos. No teeth-grinding small talk. I saw you like a vision: the snow princess.

When I saw you the second time, you were sitting at a table, eating. There was a guy with you. You were sitting at a ninety degree angle to him. He looked like a nice guy. He was handsome, but he just looked nice. He had one of those wool coats with the barrel wooden buttons and a hood. He seemed like the kind of guy who could sit in on drums and not make a big deal about it. You held hands. I was happy for both of you; I was sad for me.

I started seeing you around more after that. And I saw him, too. Then, I started feeling like a stalker. Not because I was, but because I had built a whole life for the two of you. I'm sure that neither of you noticed me, you had no reason to. But I thought about you. I'd see you at Dolores Park and think stupid things. I should buy them pastries. I never did. I imagined your weekend jaunts and smiled some kind of smile.

I knew when you broke up - it was pretty obvious. I felt like I should say something, do something, make some kind of gesture. I also thought that would creep you the fuck out. I thought, briefly, about making some kind of play. Trying to make you mine. But you were his, whether you were or not. It didn't feel right. I knew it would never feel right. And I didn't want to destroy my creation.

It was all so long ago. You can't help but wonder sometimes, no one can. I can still see your face so clearly. And it is perfect. That face. Eyes deep, lost in wonderment and chill. I owe you, and I hope that things worked out well. I'm happy with the way things worked out, myself. I'm glad that I never had to see those eyes flash anger. I'm glad that we never had a disagreement over coffee. I'm glad I met you, even though you never met me. I'm glad I knew you, even if it wasn't really you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

2 minutes. Go!

It's FLASH FICTION FRIDAY again. Basically, all writers are invited to do a free write for five minutes in the comments section. It is definitely more fun when we have thirty people playing instead of five, so tell a friend (and have a lovely weekend from the folk at, ;)

You got to make sure you're playing in the right key. That's the most important thing. Otherwise it's going to sound like shit. Otherwise, you won't be hitting it right and it will sound like cats fighting.

You don't want things to sound like cats fighting do you? It's an even worse sound than cats getting it on. Cats can make some Godawful noises, that's for sure. I know, I saw them one time on Broadway making the most sentimental racket you ever heard. 

I stepped in vomit on the way out of the theater. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Green Sweater

You wore that green sweater all the time. I remember wondering if it was your favorite or your only. I wanted to be both, see. Your favorite and your only. Not really. In that way that twelve year old boys have, knowing they can outman the compromised adults they see around them if only given the chance.

We rode the bus. Nothing special about that. Except it was special. Because I could see glimpses of your smile, your hair. I rode in the back, of course. You sat right at the front, backpack still on, like you were ready to hit the ground at a dead sprint to get the jump on learning. Straight back, green sweater. You smelled like flowers.

No one spoke to you. I wonder, now, if that hurt? Did you feel snubbed? Did you not realize that the other girls feared you and the boys were terrified? We were content to get our short glimpses. They kept us going for weeks. The girls just wanted to be you and some of them took it hard. I hope to hell you didn't think it was because no one liked you. You were just a different species, and we couldn't relate.

The weird thing about time, the part I can never understand is this: I have no idea where you are. What you're doing. You're a few years older than me. We wouldn't recognize each other on the street. But I would instantly recognize that green sweater. No doubt. And sometimes when I walk through grocery stores, I realize that you smelled like laundry detergent, not flowers.

Friday, October 18, 2013

5 Minutes. Go!

It's FLASH FICTION FRIDAY again. Basically, all writers are invited to do a free write for five minutes in the comments section. It is definitely more fun when we have thirty people playing instead of five, so tell a friend (and have a lovely weekend from the folk at, ;)

I stand, watching the police officer as he methodically tickets a line of cars. The sun glints off the polyester creases of his uniform, badge bright, hair short and efficient. His shoes shine, too. And his cuffs. Look like they've never been used, those cuffs.

I wonder if I ever look as shiny and put together, but I know I don't. I don't look that efficient and shiny on my best day. On my best day, I might shave.

The sun is high in the sky, but the breeze is kind and soft. The type of weather where you just have time to register the thought: I'm a little warm. Then the gentle wind sweeps the heat away, dabbing and the sweat on your forehead. The damp spot between your shoulder blades.

The cop does not seem to notice the heat and I wonder at it. How much of my heat comes from inside. From pounding heart and repetitive jackhammer thoughts that bang, bang, bang, bang...

It starts me sweating more. I'm a little drunk and a little stoned and I smile at the cop and wave. And his look is everything. It is the look I give my daughter when she is acting childish. It is a look that says a real man can stand in a polyester suit and not sweat. I walk home with a clammy wetness coating my body. Sliding, slug like, hoping no one pours any more salt on me today. Beer? OK. It might kill me, but I'll take that risk.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Other Me

You make the call, I'll show my cards. I'll let them fall over both of us like giant snowflakes, licking the soft air in their descent. We will cock our necks and twist our minds and dance around each other, courting trust.

I am soaked in blood on the inside. Filled up with it. I let it out in small, controlled pulses. Thin rivers that run down the arm, slowing time. I watch the slithering blood and smile, feeling peace. You want to know the serenity that I feel, but it is not available to all. You have to pay your dues.

My arms and legs, fingers: foreign things. They do not feel a part of me. Like someone switched them in the night. Replaced my arms with these dead things that hang as if weighted. My fingers are frostbitten, blackening; I am waiting for them to fall off.

You were not there when I needed you. And you held your attentions (or lack thereof) above my head like a cursing cousin. I jumped, and you always pulled just out of reach, laughing at my futile attempts.

We were something, weren't we? Before the decay. Before the disease. We were spritely, playful. We did not buy into the system because we did not understand it. We still don't. I do understand that thumbing my nose at it was not a good idea. Or, perhaps it was the perfect idea, and you pay for perfection.

We pay in sweat and fear and twisted guts and end-of-day sighs that escape when we lay down our heads. Did that sound just come from me? It is a frightening prospect because we never wanted to be the kind of people who made those soft, sad sighs.

I say we, but I mean me, of course. Me and the other me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Four Minutes. Go!

There are a lot of things you can do in four minutes and a lot you can't. And a lot you can do in four that will seem like one or feel like hours. We all just muddy the waters, waiting for showers. Cause they bring mayflowers, which wasn't a real good thing for a lot of people, but what's done is done.

I feel the crispness in the air and panic starts to rise. I don't know why. The next few months will hit me hard. They always do. In the past they have meant trips to the ER and embarrassing breakdowns. This year, I don't know. Tis the magic of the season, I guess.

I want to be so many things that I can't keep track, so I end up covered in mud, spinning my wheels. I even throw my share. And I get muddied myself. The world is a fucked up place. It's hard to figure out who's right when everyone is.

Ignorance is a strange adventure. I know all about it. I am ignorant of so many things. And for someone who prides himself on characterization, I have been feeling real ignorant about real people lately. Or maybe disappointed is a better word. I'm disappointed in all of us.

But it's time to string lights and put up scary pictures. Won't that be fun.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


"You said that just to hurt me."

John stared into the wall, trying to decide. He had known it would hurt, but he considered it an act of kindness and desperation. Better to hurt a little bit then to let things get worse ... to make the pain more acute had to be better than letting it fester. His eyes bored into the wall and he tried to decide how he could always be wrong. Because he was. She said it. She was usually right ...

"Now you're not even going to say anything?"

"I'm trying to think."

He could feel the tightness in his throat. Why don't asteroids ever fall on people when they should? Not her. Him. He wanted to kiss the asteroid. He'd gladly become the asteroid. Floating in some black void of nothingness. Goddamn, he wanted that fucking asteroid.

"You're mean. I can't believe you would do this."

He pressed his thumbs into his eyes and watched the light show, worms of neon sparkling in the black.

"What should I do?"

The tears were coming. John wondered why he placed so much more importance on her tears than his own. Wasn't he the one that was dying? Wasn't he the one grasping for straws? Reaching and always falling short. Trying to keep the anger from destroying them. Somehow it had all become his fault again. It was a neat trick and he didn't fault her for it. He respected it. A novel skill.

"You're probably right. I'm probably the asshole. This is why I didn't even want to talk about it."

"Don't give me that bullshit!"

"You can't have it both ways. Either I'm an asshole or I'm not. I just ..."

"You just what?"


"No, just fucking say it. You said it before. Is there someone else?"

"What?! No. No, there is no one else."

"You're a fucking liar."

"Believe what you want."

Silence elbowed its way back into the room. John sank back in his chair. He sat and listened to her cry. He picked at a cuticle and chewed the inside of his lip. Why was it always so goddamn complicated. How did it work? He needed help. He'd needed help for years. But instead of help he'd gotten angry tears, accusations, and then a sly return to the status quo.

"You're telling me that ..."

"I'm not telling you anything."

"You sure as hell ..."

"I told you what I had to say. You don't want to hear it. I'm not gonna say it again."

"That's convenient."

"Yeah, just like 7-11."

John stood slowly before he turned and began the trudge up the stairs.

"Now you're just going to walk away?"

"What else can I do?"

"Whatever, John. Walk away."

He hesitated for a moment and then continued his ascent of the stairs. Downstairs was thick with confused rage. Upstairs, his thoughts could unfold. Upstairs, there were books. A shotgun. A bottle of scotch someone had given him years ago. John didn't drink, but it sounded more appealing than the shotgun, and he was too tired to read.

He sat in his office chair and pulled the heavy bottle out of the drawer. It looked expensive. It probably was. He opened it and took a drink straight from the bottle. It made his mouth fall in on itself. It brought the mouth sweat, and he was convinced he would vomit, but he didn't.

John sat in his lonely office and sipped from the bottle. His thoughts were like a scared animal, skittish. He listened to the cabinets being slammed in the bathroom. He heard the water run, stop. He waited until he was sure she was asleep, and then he sighed.

He had not realized how drunk he was. Standing was difficult. But he was tired of standing. He had made his stand. And failed. Again. He lowered himself to the floor, feeling the scratch of the cheap carpet. The scotch had been the only thing they'd had that wasn't cheap. And now it was opened. Ruined. Half empty, half full, it didn't matter. It was a stupid fucking bottle, and he didn't need any wisdom from it.

He loved her. She didn't believe it, but it was true. He needed help. He was scared. But there was no one to talk to. No friends. He couldn't talk to her. He felt sudden nausea and turned his head, launching scotch flavored bile onto the cheap carpet. And then everything was black.

When he awoke, she was towering above him.

"So, I was up all night waiting for you to come to bed and you got drunk?"


"And I suppose you want me to clean this shit up?"


"Is that all you have to say?"


She left the office, slamming the door, which sent bright bolts of pain through John's head. Everything made sense in his head. He could think of the right words. They seemed reasonable. But when they were out in the world they squirmed and scuttled under furniture.

It would take a week or so, but things would return to "normal". Nothing would be resolved. Except for one thing. John had resolved himself to it. He would not try to argue anymore. It would get easier. Injustice was killing him, but he knew if he accepted it, stopped thinking about it ...

John rolled over on his side and wondered if these things happened in their neighbors' houses. He wondered if it was all his fault. He decided to assume it was. It would make things simpler. And he was halfway there. In a few more decades it wouldn't matter. He could nod and grin for a few decades. He'd done it before. It was like riding a bike. You never forget how to push your emotions down until they live in you like a cancer. You never forget the pain of self-inflicted guilt. You never forget the freedom of apathy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Eat Your Peas

Tim Duluth was six years old. He was a small boy, tall, but thin with bad posture. He was the kind of kid who was equally happy playing in the park or in his imagination. Not many things angered Timmy. But he was angry. And he was not going to eat his peas. No matter what. He'd rather die.

Dinner had been over for hours. It was getting close to Timmy's bedtime, and the showdown was approaching. His mother was making more trips to the kitchen. Timmy could almost hear her biting her tongue. He felt a little bit guilty. He had no problem with his mom. He loved her. But he hated pees. But it wasn't about the peas.

There was something inside Timmy that made him want to do the exact opposite of whatever he was told to do. Years later, shifty eyed 'specialists' would give it fancy names. Oppositional Defiance Disorder, which sounded like a special ops army unit - or a punk band. There were others, too. The reality was that Timmy was stubborn, did not like peas, and, therefore, was not going to eat the stupid, crap shit peas.

His mother walked behind him and stopped. He felt her hands on his shoulders.

"Timmy. I understand, but those peas will make you strong."

"I'm not going to eat them."

And then Tim had an idea. Without a word, he began to shovel peas in his mouth until they were all gone and his mouth was packed full. He reached for his warm milk.

"Tim! Stop, you'll choke!"

Timmy smiled as he took a small sip of milk, all that would fit. Then he grabbed the edge of the table and swallowed. It was like swallowing a ping pong ball, but he didn't choke. His mother sighed.

"Timmy. What are we going to do with you?"

Leaping down, Timmy smiled.

"Whatever. Fine. Brush your teeth and wash up. It's bedtime."

Timmy ran to the bathroom and stuck his finger down his throat. The peas and milk came up in a warm rush. He flushed the toilet, but only half the peas went down. He flushed again and a few more went, while the rest floated back to the surface. He was about to flush for the third time when he heard the knob to the bathroom door turning.

Friday, October 4, 2013

2 minutes! Go!

It's flash Friday again. All writers and non writers are welcome to put their two minute free write in the comments section on this post. Tell a friend. The more the merrier. Play as many times as you like. :)

Man, I wish I had an old Nash Rambler. I wish I was a high rolling gambler. I wish I was a six-gun slung ambler. Most of all, I wish that that I could go back to sleep.

Sleep is a weird drug. I like it. The comedown's a bitch, though. But I like drugs and I like bitches. I don't like thugs and I don't like snitches. 

Two minutes is hella short. Just saying. You can judge all you want. I wrote this one handed while standing on my head guzzling Everclear. Clear as day.

That sucked, so I'm going twice. Haha!

You didn't have to say it. I even said, "you don't have to fucking say it." But you said it anyway - I knew you would. You needed to throw some pebbles down from the pedestal. It ain't lost on me. This blatant disregard for decency. Emotions aren't cards and you can't poke 'em. And even if you could, you'd bust and I have a straight. So, let's get one thing settled. You can whine and sure, it nettles. But I don't give a shit, 'cause there's tea in the tea kettle. And I still have a few seconds left to tell you...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kick Start

Her mind was struggling, gasping; she snatched thoughts, discarded them - they were flighty and filled with strange wanderlust. She was in an old barn. She knew the smell. She could see shafts of straw-soaked sunlight between the old warped boards.

She couldn't move, and, as her mind stretched, she realized that this was cause for serious alarm. It started slowly. The engine wouldn't turn over. Something wrong. My legs. Numb. I can't move. Why can't I move?!

The panic kick-started her mind. She felt the fog slipping away under new rays of understanding. She was supposed to be in a meeting with the new client. Super important. They needed it. What the fuck was going on?

She was not tied up. She closed her eyes and it felt like she could move, but she couldn't. Her heart began to pound and that accelerated her brain. Old barn. Can't move. The meeting. Who cares about the fucking meeting?! She needed to be outside. She needed strength and movement.

She tried to hold her thoughts still, and she saw flashbulb revelations that made her breath catch. Then she heard the creaking of an old, rusty hinge and it all came back. The meeting. She almost laughed. She'd missed the meeting years ago.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


He dove into the darkness, tethered by wires from his headphones. They were old and huge and looked like they should be atop a crew cut, directing airplanes. They blocked out everything. Fast drum beats drilled into his skull. Carefully, he dipped a safety pin in ink and continued the permanent doodle he was adding to his arm.

Jake had never been poor. He felt poor, but he wasn't. Poor is lack of potable water. Poor is digging through dumpsters. Rich made enough money to live. When he wasn't inside the valet booth, he was inside his headphones, and he was happy.

The other valets wore short sleeved shirts in the tropical heat. Jake wore a long sleeve shirt to hide the scribbling and notes and reminders he had spent years giving himself. The scars and the tattoos wouldn't fly at work.

Being a valet was cool. Jake liked it. He had found some interesting things in cars he parked. Money. A watch. Necklaces and earrings. He took them. All the valets did. No one could ever prove anything and his manager didn't care. He knew he'd be fired eventually. The only thing he ever found and didn't take was an envelope.

It was one of those big envelopes that people call "vanilla" when talking to people who are too embarrassed to correct them. Inside, there was a .38 and a bag of white powder. Jake had thought for a second, and then he'd put everything back the way he'd found it. Heart in his throat. That night he had listened to The Velvet Underground and wondered who was waiting for their man. And he smiled when he thought how pissed they would have been if he'd taken the stuff.

The room was still dark, but Rich was stoned and the cherry on the end of his blunt was fire orange. He stared at it and waved it lightly, writing his name like he had done with a thousand sparklers. In his former life.

On the cusp of sleep (and between songs), Jake heard a pounding on his apartment door. He'd been waiting for it. He smiled and didn't move. They could break the door in. He thumbed his phone and put on an old GBH album. He turned up the volume.

When the cops splintered into his apartment, knocking the door to pieces, Jake was still in his room, lost in the music. The first cop he saw was holding a flashlight and his gun. Jake laughed. The cop was yelling, but he couldn't hear a word he said. He tried to picture the other cops in the living room, the blood on the walls. The cop with the flashlight was joined by two more officers. Jake smiled at their purple faces.

He couldn't hear what they were saying, but he knew. In a flash, he grabbed the phone and pointed it through the murky light and lingering pot smoke. The first bullet took half his face. The rest were for good measure, he supposed. He closed his eyes and listened to the music and waited to die. It did not take long.

Friday, September 27, 2013

4 Minutes. Go!

It's flash Friday again. All writers and non writers are welcome to put their three minute free write in the comments section on this post. Tell a friend. The more the merrier. :)

You place the fingers on the right keys, and I don't mean Alicia. Shit's not even spelled the same, and the wife wouldn't like it. But this isn't about that. This is about nothing. I thought of some good writing advice last night. People ask for it sometimes and I never have anything simple to say. Now, I do. KEEP YOUR NAILS NICE. I spend a lot of time looking at my fingers. It helps if I have decent looking nails.

Which makes me realize something. I finally learned to type while looking at the screen. Sometimes I look at my fingers anyway. But that's something. I've improved myself. I used to watch my mom type and it would blow my mind.

I had a dream last night. That's kind of unusual for me. I don't remember much of it, but it was a howling, lonely thing. I didn't enjoy it. I wished for another night of blackness.

I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday and I felt happy. I felt good to be spending time with my neighbors. I was happy to buy fresh peaches, gently stroking the fuzz and squeezing them ever so softly. My time is almost up. This time. It is time to go back to the editing that my Friday will be made of. I'm not complaining though. It could be made of worse things.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Find

Margaret walked slowly through the living room, waiting for her mother to yell at her. Or to ignore her. She lucked out and got the latter. She could feel it hidden under her shirt, an old soccer jersey that was too big for a seven year old girl - it had belonged to Jason. Jason was dead. 

She forced herself to do everything as "normally" as she could. She closed the door to her room with just the right amount of force and gently lifted her shirt. And there it was. Amazing. Her eyes were searchlights, scanning the room ... what would she need? There was also a trilling exuberance in the back of her mind that told her she didn't need anything else. Not anymore. 

Margaret's mother was a stern woman. She was not cruel, but her rules were absolutes. 'No' meant 'don't ask again unless you want the paddle'. Margaret loved her mother, with good reason. She knew what Jason's death had done. She forgave her mother for almost everything. And, now, she would have to lie. Not just one lie. Many lies. A mountain of lies ... if she built it high enough she was sure she'd be able to see over the morass that her life had become.

Hiding it from her father would be easy. He had always focused on Jason, anyway. Now that Jason was gone, he was largely silent. A man-shaped sculpture that lurched around the living room bumping into things and then apologizing to them. She was not convinced the ottoman warranted an apology, but she did not have to worry about her father. He did not see her. Not really.

Her mother. Her mother would take it from her. Her mother would turn red and grow several inches taller and she would take it. And then she would make Margaret apologize, which she would, even as her heart was breaking. Because she knew it was wrong. She was wrong.

She knew it, and she didn't care. She had tried to understand that losing your son changes you. She still struggled to accept it. Her parents were not the same people they had been a year ago. She spent so much time trying not to remind them, trying to be in the background, silent - she often forgot to think that she had lost something, too. 

Jason had been her champion in all causes. Her protector. He had shown her the secret joys that lived in the industrial wasteland behind their house. Where everything was freedom. She had never been scared when Jason stood beside her. He had taught her to curse. To skip smooth stones. He had taught her everything.

She often felt like there was something missing from the house, now. Jason. Of course. She did not realize that he had taken all of the love with him as well, though. His death had built a cathedral of sadness. Love was no longer welcome.

But now, she would have love. Now, she would feel joy again. She watched the small orange kitten stomp around her comforter. It swatted at her hand and she laughed, her mind chirping through the things they would do. She would not have to sleep alone. Whether she was having the nightmares or not. She would have an ally. Something she could protect.

She heard her mother coming up the hallway, quick strides. She didn't knock, but Margaret had just enough time to put the kitten in the closet. Safe. She forced herself to breathe. 

"Margaret. It's almost time to eat."

"OK, Mother. I'll wash up."

"That's a good girl. How was school today?"


"Did you pass your..."

Margaret's mother did not finish her sentence because she was distracted by a sound. They both heard it. A high pitched whine. Then, the tumbling song of fallen toys. Margaret's mother grabbed her by the arm and pulled her in front of the closet. She could see their reflections in the mirrored doors.

"Margaret, open the closet."

And time stopped. Margaret looked at her mother's face in the mirror and saw a befuddled rage building. She scrambled for excuses in her mind. She wanted to run. She looked at her own face and, for the first time, recognized the visage of resigned horror that Jason had left behind.

Friday, September 20, 2013

3 minutes. Go!

It's flash Friday again. All writers and non writers are welcome to put their three minute free write in the comments section on this post. Tell a friend. The more the merrier. :)

The wind outside the window is doing that thing. That thing it does. With the soft invitation and swoops through sunbeams. I am inside drinking tea. I wish that the wind was inside drinking tea and writing and that I was dancing through sun beams.

A breeze. Not a wind, per se. It would be nice to be a breeze. Everyone loves a breeze. It was a breeze. Yes, that's it. I have decided to be the breeze. Lifter of hawks and butterflies. Friend to the bee and the forest. Sometimes I can't see it though, for the trees. 

Things change and sometimes I do, too. But not all that much. No more than anyone else. I suppose I shall continue to be what I am and have been. A man who, like many men, wishes he was more like the wind. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sneak peak: "Hannigan's Fight" - on sale now.

            Hannigan sat his elbows on the old, wooden bar. He could see himself through the amber bottles. His beard was full. Grey. He looked like Santa Claus. A starving Santa Claus. He smiled at his friend Mick behind the bar. Mick splashed another dose of Jameson’s into his glass.
            The Shannon Arms was crowded. Saturday night, so the college kids were there. Hannigan sighed and threw back the whiskey in front of him. It went down smoothly and landed with a thump in his subconscious.
            He was trying to ignore the argument going on at one of the tables. Everyone was trying to ignore it. It was getting harder. Hannigan craned his neck and got a quick glimpse of them in the mirror. Young. They were in their mid-twenties – maybe. The girl was dressed far too fancy for an old Irish bar. The boy was dressed in jeans and a wrinkled shirt. The kind you have professionally wrinkled. He oozed money. And he was getting louder.
            “You think you’re something, you stupid bitch? You’re nothing. After tonight, I will never see you again. And you won’t see me.”
            Her voice was soft.
            “It’s not over … I’ll …”
            His laugh was mean-spirited, an elbow to the ribs. He smiled at his friends leaning on a booth.
            “It’s over when I say it’s over, whore. I go back to my mansion, and you can go back to sucking dick at the club, and it will be like none of this ever happened. You’re nothing. You’re trash. I should never have associated with someone like you. You’re nothing but a gold-digging bitch. And that’s all you’ll ever be.”
            Hannigan felt the eyes on him. The regulars at the bar knew. He could also feel his jaw muscles tightening. Ah, well … another resolution broken. He flexed his fingers and stood up slowly. He was not a huge man, but his arms were knots of muscle. He was wearing work pants and an old plaid shirt. His face was not like Santa’s now.
            When he saw Hannigan, the boy looked up and smirked. Hannigan forced a smile. He was a big kid. He looked strong. He smelled strong. Like expensive cologne and money.
            “Evening, kids.”
            The girl had a gentle plea dancing in the corners of her eyes. The boy was like so many Hannigan had known. He was what happened when you never have to work. When everything is given to you and life is a continual party. He was gym-strong, but his hands looked soft.
            “Good evening, old man. Very polite. Now, please go back into your alcoholic hole, you old fuck.”
Hannigan felt the surge and smiled a little.
            “Well, here’s the thing, lad. This is my bar … our bar. My brothers on the rail and I consider this place home. We don’t like people disrespecting our home. And I sure as hell don’t like hearing someone talk to a woman like that. I sure don’t.”
            The boy stood up. He was several inches taller than Hannigan and broad shouldered. His skin was baby pink.
            “There are no women here. Just some old, drunk bitches and this whore I fed for a little while. I’m done with her now … as I was just explaining … she’s used up. She’s only fit for niggers and old faggots like you, now.”
            Hannigan looked into the boy’s blue eyes. Every muscle in his body ached for blood. He looked through the boy’s eyes and saw the privilege, the things that had been given to him. Things he did not deserve. Things that had turned him into a parasite. There was complete silence in the bar. Hannigan broke it.
            “Touch me.”
            “What the fuck did you just say, faggot?”
            “I said ‘touch me’ … push me, punch me, slap me … whatever it is that pathetic, pussy little rich boys like you do. Do it. Now.”
            The punch was loopy and wide, but Hannigan didn’t duck. He took it on the cheek and smiled at the boy. Then he drove a straight right into the boy’s face. It sent him sliding across the bar floor. He stood up slowly. Hannigan’s hands were by his side. The boy adopted a boxer’s stance and grimaced hate through his bloody teeth.
            “You just made the biggest mistake of your life, old man.”
            “Possibly …”
            The boy charged and Hannigan waited until just the right second to step aside. Momentum carried the boy almost to the door. He stood up fuming, laughter pounding in his ears. He reached for the holster at the small of his back, but someone behind him neatly plucked the gun from his hand. He stood, confused for a moment, then he charged again.
            This time Hannigan planted his feet and put everything he had into another straight right. Then a left jab. Then an uppercut that knocked the boy over a table. He stood up unsteadily.
            “We don’t have to keep this going … you can apologize and leave. We’ll make sure the lass gets home.”
            The boy blinked and shook his head. His nose was swollen and blood streamed down his face.
            “Fuck you.”
            He grabbed the girl roughly by the arm and pulled her up. Hannigan’s grip on his forearm was a vise. The boy’s friends were starting to look around nervously.
            “That wasn’t one of your options, son.”
            The kick surprised Hannigan. His ankle buckled a bit, but it surprised him more than anything. He’d given the boy a chance. A chance he was too stupid to take.
            The thick, rough fist that wasn’t holding onto the boy’s forearm smashed him in the ear. Blood began to trickle out. Hannigan grabbed the front of the designer shirt and hammered six hard lefts into the kid’s stomach. He let go and the boy fell – conscious, but unable to stand. Hannigan lifted him off the floor with one hand.
            “I know talking is going to be hard for a while. Hopefully, you can listen. You don’t talk to a woman – any woman – the way you spoke to this pretty girl here. And you don’t ever come back here. This is my bar. Your friends, who did an excellent job watching you get your ass beat, by the way, can drag you out. Next time I see you, the paramedics will take you out.”
            With a shove, Hannigan sent the boy sailing toward his friends. They held him up. They obviously did not know what to do. Hannigan took a step toward them, and they all flinched. Then they dragged their blood-soaked friend out of the swinging doors.
            Hannigan looked at the young girl.
            “Do you need help?”
            She stood silently, looking at Hannigan with wide eyes. Then, she picked up her purse and left. Hannigan went back to his bar stool and sat down. There was a fresh drink waiting, and Mick was smiling.
            “That was a good one, you old mucker. You think it’ll take?”
            “Probably not.”
            “Well, you done good, mate. Adds a little excitement to the evening.”
            Hannigan smiled.
            “Same old shit.”
He drank his drink and took the towel-wrapped ice cubes for his knuckles. An hour later it seemed like a dream. Then, it was.

            The dream was nonsensical, but vivid. Beneath the veil of color and noise, he could see himself. There was a haze of cigarette smoke … faces, blurry, floated through the miasma. He could see himself, but he didn’t recognize.
            The Hannigan in the dream was scared. His shoulders were slumped. He looked tired, like he was reaching for a rope and falling short. He was lifeless.
            There were shuffling sounds from somewhere. Then the world tilted, and he was looking into a face he had only seen a few times, the first time when Matt had beaten him in the alley. The last time when he had stood on Bernal Hill and watched a man die: the man who had killed Matt’s father. Still, he could see the face clear as day. Matt Stark. He did not look afraid. He looked like he was carved from stone. Then everything turned a very blood red. Hannigan opened his eyes and saw Mick smiling at him.
            “You dreaming of the devil, mate?”
            “Argh … nah, mate. Dreaming of a good friend. Why?”
            “You were shaking and twitching something awful.”
            Hannigan looked around him and saw a clean, empty bar. He looked at the clock. 3 a.m.
            “Shit. Sorry, mate … I must be getting old. What do I owe ya?”
            “Nothing you haven’t paid a hundred times over.”
            Hannigan smiled, rapped a sore knuckle on the bar, and headed for the door. 
            The fog had set in, and the air was cool. It took the edge off the hangover that had been steadily building. He looked at the sky. He thought about the dream and shrugged it off. He flexed his aching hands and cursed.
            He saw a quarter on the ground and stooped to pick it up. Then, screeching tires, and a bus stop exploded behind him, scattering glass. Hannigan hit the ground hard and rolled. He saw the back of a red corvette just as it rounded the corner. Then, Mick was beside him.
            “What the fuck was that, mate?!”
            “You’ve got me, Mick …”
            “You know who it was?”
            “Well, judging by the phallic nature of the car in question, I could take a guess.”
            “I’ll call the cops, mate … come back inside.”
            Hannigan stood up and dusted himself off.
            “No, brother. Thanks. If that was him, the bar needs no part of it. I’d guess he’s done.”
            “For tonight, maybe.”
            “Maybe … never can tell about these kinds of things.”
            Hannigan didn’t tell Mick that he wanted to be alone. He had been fighting his whole life, but he had never been shot at. Until now. He looked at the bus stop, pulled his collar up and walked home.

            The next day, there was a call to The Shannon Arms. A warning. Get lost or get dead. The rich boy had enough money to get it done. He had said as much. Hannigan thought long and hard, and then he did the only thing he could think of: he kissed his wife, went to the post office, and then got himself lost. He found a furnished apartment in Daly City and started drinking.

Hannigan's Fight is the sequel to The Biker. They don't have to be read in order, but it wouldn't hurt. The Biker is also available in paperback HERE. Thanks for your support!