Friday, April 25, 2014

2 Minutes. GO!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free-write. No reason. Just ending the week in style.

You can write whatever you want in the comments section. You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. 
So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play. 

Have a good weekend!

He stepped into the old saloon and everything stopped. It was not that they knew him - no, it was in the way he carried himself. The way he stopped and surveyed the room, checking the angles, realizing he was right in the middle. He knew how it would go down, though. He held all the cards. 

They were afraid. It was in the way his hands hung, calm, nary a tremor - the hands rested by two six-shooters. No one wants to mess with a man who wears two guns and a poker face. 

He stepped up to the bar and ordered, turning his back on them. Let them shoot him in the back if they wanted. He wasn't leaving the saloon alive anyway. He tossed back the whiskey - it tasted like turpentine and rot. No matter. 

The dynamite was under his coat. He knew it had to be this way. His head had a price on it anyway and, warranted or not, someone would collect the prize sooner or later - you can't outrun a name. He struck a match and lit a smoke he had rolled without anyone noticing. He took a few drags and then touched the orange tip to the fuse that he had pulled through his pocket. 

By the time he smiled, it was too late - a cloud of dust and some charred wood would be his legacy.

They rebuilt the saloon and found a new bartender. Life carried on, peaceably now that the Stern gang was taken care of, and he was remembered as something of a hero. He wasn't a hero, but heroism is never cut and dried in the west.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The water is cool against his skin, it balances out the hot rage that has been building. Why? That's the fuck all of it. Why? There is no easy answer, so he dives deeper, pressure building, wondering if he can hold his breath long enough to go as deep as he needs to go. Until the pressure crushes him like an old, faded beer can.

The depth is important because he is not a shallow man and his problems are like tiny buds that flower into giant, florid disasters.

He looks up and sees sunlight pushing against the water, the water pushes back - it is always like this. Briefly, he wonders if it has always been this way. If everything is just a result of the friction between opposing forces.

The rip-tear of depleted oxygen causes a brief panic, but it passes quickly. He sees images now. Flashes of light. The why is not as important. It has been eclipsed by thoughts and memories long abandoned - they rise now, filling his head with a dim slide show of his life. He had always hoped it wouldn't end with a cliche, but there is no longer a choice. There is nothing to do but watch the show.

Friday, April 18, 2014

2 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free-write. No reason. Just ending the week in style.

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. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play. 

Have a good weekend!

It's like a caricature of disaster. My eyes won't cooperate, the bastards - or maybe they know more than me? Maybe there is more humanity in those two little orbs than there is in the whole rest of this fucked up world. What a load of crap. I'll punch myself later.

Me? I just want to look. Just for a second. I want to watch the slow fall that took you so long to build up to. America, you filled my head with bullshit lies and false optimism. Now, the piper gets paid. I may get screwed in the process, but at least now I can see you for what you really are. And no, I don't mean anything crazy - rest easy, CIA. I just mean that we're about to reap what we sowed. I'm afraid it's gonna be rather ugly. You get what you pay for, feel me? I'm just an observer, though. I don't pick sides because every side is populated by sycophants and assholes.

It's a battle, see. The fat, slick, suit and tie bastards have their own agenda and you're part of it, but you don't want to know what part - trust me. The poor folks are too worried about silly things like food and phone bills and getting shot. The people in the middle are just worried about how many brambles they will catch on the way down. They inch their way up, but it's like one of those horrible math problems. A snail climbs a wall 4.3 inches every five minutes, but every 1.3 hours he slips back one inch and loses ground and the world turns and who gives a fuck anyway. I mean, I like snails. Not so much when they crunch under my bare feet. I like them, though. I just don't like their ecosystem.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP - from the latest Matt Stark novel ...

Jo lay on the couch naked, twitching, dreaming of things that even he couldn't understand. His body was pale, constructed of acute angles - sharp elbows and ribs that pushed against the skin - his face was like a painted skull, a halloween ghoul mask. It was a heartbreaking sight. For Matt, but for the others as well. Even if they hadn't known him before, they understood ... they were looking at a broken man.

At first, they worked slowly. They did not want to wake him, frighten him. Maria had been right, of course - Jo would be confused regardless - perhaps the transition to reality would be easier if he woke up without the reminders of his misery. At least the ones that could be washed away.

It didn't make the task more pleasant.

Hannigan dipped three sponges in the bucket of suds. He handed one to Matt. He hesitated, holding the third sponge like it was some alien thing, like it had suddenly appeared in his hand - he looked at Matt, but Maria took the sponge and wiped it gently across the old man's damp brow.

"Maria, you don't have to ..."

Her eyes were hard, she stared at the men without speaking.

Matt blinked hard and a tear escaped, dashing down the side of his face. Hannigan tried to smile, but the smile got stuck somewhere between grimace and smirk. He could feel it on his face, hidden behind the white beard. He was glad for the beard.

"The smell getting to ya, mate?"


Maria's eye's softened for a moment. She smiled at the old man. She would have smiled at Matt, but his eyes darted like swallows, impossible to catch. She put a hand on his shoulder and he flinched.

They worked quickly after that. No talking. They turned Jo as needed. Each discovery was a new horror. The back of his thighs were covered in old scars. The kind of scars that come from a thick, leather belt with a big steel buckle. His spine belonged in the Natural History Museum - next to the bones of extinct reptilian giants. There were scars from the war, sculptures of torn flesh, frozen. There were burn marks, too. These were fresh. They were small and round, oozing disease and sadness - no mystery in them - there was only a kind of restless anger. They all knew that Jo would not have burned himself.

As Matt's sponge sopped up the grime, revealing clean white flesh, Maria wondered at the kind of person who would burn a homeless man with cigarettes. Matt and Hannigan knew - kids, probably fifteen or so - proving their courage. Or so they thought. But it doesn't take courage to hurt someone who can't fight back. Both Matt and Hannigan swallowed the recognition deep inside. There was nothing else to do. It burned almost as bad as the cigarettes must have.

When they had finished brushing Jo's gray teeth, they stood uneasily. Matt looked like a man on the verge of imploding, like he wished he was a black hole that could suck up the entire universe - they stood awkwardly, not because there was nothing to say, but because there was too much, and none of them had the heart to say it.

Matt stood quickly, and his long legs carried him through the door and outside before Maria or Hannigan could get a word out. Maria rose to follow, but Hannigan's rough, calloused hand on her arm stopped her.

"Let him go."

"But ..."

"Trust me. He needs to be alone."

"You're right. It just seems so hopeless. How can people be so cruel? How can it be that I have seen so much cruelty, but I am always surprised?"

"Darlin', I'm surprised, too. Every time. If you weren't surprised, I'd worry about you. You know it's okay to cry, right? Hell, I've been a hair away from bawling since we found him. Sometimes you need to cry ... otherwise things get messy. If you don't release the pressure every once in a while ..."

"It wasn't supposed to be like this ..."

Hannigan turned slowly.

"Maria ... you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Next to my wife, of course. Matt is my friend. I'm an old man, and I was raised in a world where old men didn't hug the beautiful women who loved their friends. But the world has changed. I'd like to give you a hug if that's alright ..."

Maria stepped toward the old man, feeling his strong arms around her. His skin was rough like old parchment. She was surprised when tears did come. Hannigan squeezed her too hard, and she almost laughed. Just like Matt, unaware of his strength. He held her at arm's length and looked into her eyes.

"He needs us now more than ever. You know that?"

She looked down at the skeleton on the couch and wondered what they would find when the drink wore off. She wondered how long it would take. Weeks? Months?

"Yes. He needs us. And we will help him."

"I'm talking about Matt. He can't fix this with his fists. There is a storm brewing in that man. One with clouds so dark that the sun will run in fear."

"Striker told me the same thing."

"You disagree?"

Maria closed her eyes and took slow steady breaths.

"No. You're both right and I'm scared. It's funny. We got Luis, we crossed the border ... we could have been killed. We almost were. I am never afraid when I'm with Matt. But right now, I am terrified."

"He'll be back soon."

"I'm glad you believe that. I will believe it, too."

"Fair play. You're right. Pretend that the Matt you know is on vacation and he left a robot in his place. Pretend whatever you have to, but have faith. We will bring Jo back, and then your Matt will return - and he will be a better man for it."

"And until then?"

"Until then, we hope the storm passes quickly and doesn't destroy the village."

"I was angry at you, do you know that? When you asked us to come back ..."

"You have every right to be angry at me still ... I'm angry at myself. Old men get foolish sometimes. I'm sorry, Maria."

"Don't be sorry. Things like this happen for a reason."

They stared out the window in silence. Jo mumbled the occasional bit of nonsense. Soon, Striker returned with Jo's clothes folded neatly and tucked under his arm. As deep as he probed his brain, he could find nothing witty to say. His brain was a hurricane of worry, anger, and a kind of irrational apathy. They were stuck, all of them, waiting to see what disaster awaited. They waited in silence until they heard the doorknob turn.

Matt was back.

This is a passage from my work in progress, the next Matt Stark novel (yet to be named). If you haven't met Matt and his friends, you can find them HERE. 'The Biker' is first, followed by 'Hannigan's Fight' (and whatever I end up calling this one) ;)

Friday, April 11, 2014

2 mintues. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free-write. No reason. Just ending the week in style.

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. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play. 

Have a good weekend!

We'd sit on the roof and throw handfuls of rocks at the MUNI busses, jump the gap between the old victorians. Just a few feet, but it was a lot more of those feet to get to the ground. Got the adrenaline pumping. Parkour for drunk kids.

There was something about the roof. The Mission winds slipped into our mouths, and the words that came out were flighty, but not weightless. The ladder to get to the roof was the most dangerous part. It was broken and old and it didn't fuck around. We were whole, and young, and we didn't fuck around either. Or we fucked around constantly. Depends on which roof you sit on.

The view changes...

I got distracted by a small child talking at me. I'm going for round two straight out the gate. 

You were so sure that it would all work out. Why? Because everyone told you everything would work out. That's a con. That's 'find the marble underneath the walnut shell' shit. But everyone ends up saying the same thing and it gets ingrained ... it digs into your brain like a parasitic worm and soon you're telling people that everything is going to be alright even though you know different. And it feels wrong.

It feels like you're a billboard or some cheap advertisement for spray-on-hair. And then you think, holy hell, I live in a world where bald men can spray fake hair on their heads and not feel ridiculous. You judge people too much, you know that? I forget who we're even talking about, and I don't have time to check, but I do know there is a whole lot more judgment being doled out than we really need.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Swamp

He held the shoe box high above his head, swamp water up to his armpits. His spine tingled with the fear of the water, snakes, gators ... hell, who knew what all was in there? Cypress knees began to look like dinosaurs and, worse, like the things that lived only in his mind. The light was fading, and John was beginning to think he wouldn't make it. He didn't really care. Still, it was hard to be brave while shoulder deep in thick, green mystery.

He walked steadily. He put one foot in front of the other, making sure that each step was secure before shifting his weight. John had grown up in the swamp. He had been more sure-footed in his youth, however. Less fearful. Funny what the years do.

Seventy years, give or take. He wasn't quite sure, but he knew he was at least seventy. Doreen had always been the one who remembered. They had been the same age. John was always more concerned with people, with his work, with family - numbers annoyed him. He didn't like locking anything down. Can we keep this turtle, Daddy? The memory rose slowly in his mind. Anne. She was all power suits and business jargon, now, but back then she had been his partner, sun-kissed and always laughing. Daddy's girl. That sure changed.

He'd told her no. No, they couldn't keep the turtle. No way. It wasn't right. He tried to tell her how he didn't like locking things in. Like the numbers. No freedom in numbers. No safety either. He couldn't let her lock the turtle up. The turtle belonged in the swamp, not chewing lettuce in a cage. She had tried to smile in that tight-lipped way that almost concealed the quivering. Ok, Daddy. It had broken his heart. He wondered if that had been the beginning of it.

The sounds of the swamp were the sounds of his own heart. He didn't hear them anymore. Or they were all he heard. Something. They were a part of him. He knew that. They lived in him. The swamp ran through his veins. Sometimes, he wondered who had been in charge all those years. The trapper? The hunter? The fisherman? Or the place that made it all possible?

They had lived a good life for a long time. When Anne started to pull away, it seemed to loosen the bonds of everything. The swamp wasn't the same anymore. Money was killing it. Greed. Anne did not call him Daddy once she hit middle school. He'd spoken of it once to his sister, who had grown up in upstate New York with their mother. She didn't understand the big deal. And it wouldn't have been a big deal up north. But it is hard to accept that when you hear a girl yell for her Daddy, there is no longer a need to turn around. Dad smacked of distance. Which is exactly what it was.

The distance grew. Anne read books in her room and rolled her eyes at the things John loved. He didn't fault her for it. The world was changing.

He had talked to her not a week before. She couldn't come down, she said. Things were just crazy - she was so busy. John wondered if it would have been different if the roles were reversed. If Doreen had called about him.

Lost in his thoughts, John stepped into a sinkhole. He tried to pull his foot free. Tried to balance. To stay calm. He did not have the strength to pull himself up, and he began to sink slowly. He held the box as high above his head as he could - his chin went under and he held his breath. Slowly, the sun-cured arm descended into the thick murk beneath the surface.

No one was there to see it. An Arthurian perversion. The old man of the swamp. The sun dropped and the box hit the water, ashes spreading out on the surface in a thin film. Beneath, John was dying, but he was happy. He knew Anne would be fine. Better than fine. She always had been. He had always belonged to the swamp. And he had always belonged to Doreen.

There are many mysteries in the swamp, they say. Folks from up north smile and nod. The locals blanch and shake their heads.

Everyone has something buried in the swamp.

Friday, April 4, 2014

2 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. Every Friday we do a fun free-write. No reason. Just ending the week in style.

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. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play. 

Have a good weekend!

The red turns to black. Or a kind of rusty, dark brown. Give it enough time and it'll turn black. Let it build up. When there are puddles ... that's when it happens. It's a tough thing to see the first couple of times. But you get ... what's the word the news yuppies use? Desensitized? Something like that. Me, I sense everything because I am the one the dark thing chose. It is a burden. I don't sleep well. I am always working, doing his bidding because  there's no doubt in my mind that if I didn't it would be terror, horror, red, then black. I can see it now. I have seen it.