Friday, December 12, 2014

2 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON'T IDENTIFY AS 'WRITERS' - all are welcome here. Every Friday we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the comments section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! 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. 

She walks through the department stores, auburn hair tossed over one shoulder, tips tickling the soft skin of her ribcage beneath softer silk. She has a route for every store. Every time it's the same, especially near Christmas. She can get everything she needs from every store in the mall without passing the toys. She is not prepared for the elf that jumps out at her as she skirts 'sporting goods'.

"Picture with Santa? Not just for kids, Ma'am!"

She stops, and she can feel her heart thump, her hand open - feels the bag full of knick knacks and office presents fall to the ground. The elf drops to his knees, apologizing.

"It's OK ... I ... I don't need any of this ..."

She turns, but feels a hand squeezing the top of her arm.

"Ma'am, I'm so sorry. How about a free picture? Front of the line."

She looks into his glowing eyes, hovering above a desperate smile. Stephen would have been about the same age.

"Get the fuck away from me. Don't you ever fucking touch me again."

"Ma'am?"

The elf is scared, but he will soon forget. She won't. She won't hang the small stocking when she gets home. She won't try to brace herself. She won't look at old pictures and cry. She will get drunk. For weeks. Maybe until the new year.

Thanks for stopping by! I will be in and out all day but, rest assured, I'll be reading everything and commenting as I have time, so check back.

193 comments:

  1. ohmigosh.... that's heartbreaking, and well-written!

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    1. :(

      awesome bit, but dammit, Dan!

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    2. I know several people who have lost a child. heartbreaking. And you captured it so well.

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    3. Thanks, guys. This is pretty much my worst nightmare. :(

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    4. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      Hits you right in the solar plexus.

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  2. She's been feeling down for days and sick for longer, her heart beating slow then fast, the arrhythmia becoming increasingly annoying even though it didn't worsen.

    The she hears his voice, for the first time in far too long. Just a casual conversation, a lot of laughter and silliness. She suddenly isn't down anymore.

    And when the illness lessens the next day, she is somehow not surprised. Logically she knows that it has just run it's course, but a tiny, irrational part of her insists that she her heart was beating wrong because it was breaking...and that it's better now that he's mended it.

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    1. Indeed. I'm gonna be a dittohead because my actual head is pounding. Life. Well presented.

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    2. "...her heart was beating wrong because it was breaking..." Love that.

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    3. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      She hasn't lived long enough yet to know you do not give someone that much power over you - LOL.

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    5. Yep, this is brilliant: her heart was beating wrong because it was breaking...

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    6. Nicely written. I could feel her frustration and then calm.

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    7. The power we give others over ourselves is often subtle and unrecognizable. Well done.

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  3. Drying under domes of silver, the elderly blue-coiffed women –– some with hair orange as pumpkins –– sat in the conclave of Zaza’s Hair-porium. Hard-of-hearing, they strained to raise their delicate voices in a babel of sounds which told in bits and pieces the events of their day, their petty concerns, but most of all, remembrances of times past.

    Anthony moved from dome to dome, checking the dials and clicking to off those close to completion. The word was he was gay. Weren’t all men who snipped at hair? Consequently, the old women shared with him even the secrets reserved for coffee klatches. Anthony had pretended not to overhear their assumptions. He snipped away, offered small talk, and they wondered, Where were the signs of his gayness? He was not at all typical. He did not bend his wrists, flitter about like a butterfly recently liberated from the cocoon, speak in that valley-girl la-di-da voice, or roll his baby-blue eyes.

    The joke was on them, thought Anthony. He wished he could confess the truth. How he was halfway to being included in the Guinness Book of Records for loving a new woman every day. A hetero wonder. A macho hero. A magnet that attracted women and did not release them until daybreak. The only gay he would claim was the elated feeling conquistadors felt when they discovered gold. Women were Anthony’s treasure. They made him deliriously happy and gay.

    Still, despite their wonder, the old ladies with their crisp permanents decided Anthony was a gay man under cover and deserved their dollar tips. Anthony, always gracious, thanked them profusely.

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    1. You do have a way with words - and I did not see that coming.

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    2. You always subvert the narrative in such a cool way. There are so many questions in here. I love your writing for that reason. Thank you, Sal.

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    3. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      He is filling a service and getting his tips - it's all good.

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    4. I know an Anthony. You nailed it, so to speak.

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  4. Soon enough, everyone would know what Diane had done. But for this moment, the yes-or-no hung like vapor over her eyes, surrounding her body like a shield. She absorbed the details of the small town she had lived in for the last thirty years, mentally snapping images to be pulled up for later: the kid at the market, hosing off the sidewalk; the guys unloading fresh-baked croissants from the back of the panel truck into the bakery; the woman unfurling the metal cage over the magazine stand. The small, soft woman had been so kind to her over the years, spotting her a newspaper when she didn’t have the change, cluing her in to opportunities she’d picked up on the wind. Luckily, Eva had her back turned, so she didn’t see Diane pass by. Easier that way. The others didn’t appear to notice her. Had she already vanished? Was intention enough to throw veil of invisibility over her as she drifted down the street? Soon, though, it would not matter. Because everyone would know what she had done. They would find the body. There would only be one suspect. And she would be gone.

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    1. So apt for this time of year. And, as usual, you captured it perfectly.

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    2. Oooh. Interesting. Makes me wonder what happened. And add usual you sucked me right inn to the world you created.

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    3. Yep. I imagine there being a folder in your brain that is like 8" thick and labeled "awesome fucking descriptive prose" - I'd like to borrow it sometime. :)

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    4. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Wonder who the body is and did she get away completly.

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    5. Why, Miss Laurie, I do believe you've got something there :-)

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    6. I want to borrow that folder, too... this is amazing....

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  5. It was the music that always captured her heart this time of year. Maybe it was because she loved to sing and the carols and songs were all so singable. Now she cringes most of the time at what she hears. The murdered most of the standards and massacred the rest. Where had the melodies gone? What was that dirge with the lyrics that used to be so gay, so lively - so...happy. And the new songs, all dragged out, no melody, either shouted or droned. You could tell even the singers are bored. There's no life there. Maybe there's no life in their souls any more either.

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    1. I feel this way often when listening to the piped-in "music" as work.

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    2. I TOTALLY feel this way. So much manufactured music is bereft of heart - you captured it perfectly. Well in, Yvonne!

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    3. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      I can totally relate. They don't make music like the used to - with heart warming or heart wrenching stories and melodic - sigh.

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    4. It's like they have a meat grinder that removes the heart and soul of the music, and then it spews forth the remnants... sigh. Yeah, you nailed this one.

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    5. Oh yeah. Make room for me on your bandwagon too. Give me the old classics any day.

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    6. Agreed. Empty shell music. Nice picture, Yvonne.

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  6. You can't be late to a boat. You realize that and anxiety blossoms like wildflowers after a spring rain - bright, vivid, ferocious in their sublime malignancy. Fuck the flowers. You gotta catch that boat, man. They sure ain't waiting, and you sure don't want to swim.

    Don't miss the boat - heard it a million times, but now it's fucking legit. You imagine yourself standing on the pier waving, sadly, as you watch the future disappear into the ink-black night, parting fog and water - they will not hear your cries. The boat WILL leave without you.

    You better fucking hurry.

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    1. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      Don't miss the boat - that says it all.

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    2. Saw this happen when I was on the Queen Mary in II's inaugural season.... Two folks made it to the dock about three minutes too late.... I never knew people could scream so loud....

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    3. I think most of us feel that way a lot of the time.

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    4. Word. Screaming into the future lost...

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    5. So many things that could be going on here. I love that. :D

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    6. Lots of layers. Wow-- you guys are kickin it here. Well done!

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    7. #2minutes go is EPIC. :) (and thanks!)

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    8. Literal or metaphorical — I never know with you. Either way, it gives me a lot to think about.

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  7. It’s never about the rum cake. It’s never about the pattern on the wrapping paper she had chosen, or the budget she makes out, painstaking to the last dollar what gets spent on whom. It’s never about which ornaments had gotten broken over the winter when the cat got into the attic and whose fault that was. No. But these are the easiest handles to grasp when the real words are so jagged and difficult that even breathing them, even thinking them, is like getting raked with broken glass. So, bleeding internally, they pour another glass of wine and watch the commercials with the wealthy couples gifting each other expensive cars topped with giant red bows and think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

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    1. Oh shit. I love this one so much.

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    2. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      and the differences are what makes the world go round.

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    3. That grabbed me right in the gut. I think that a lot of the time I live in that space.

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  8. There is a mosaic of cast off chewing gum on the hard concrete floor. It never starts out black, but always ends up that way. Funny, but I seldom see anyone actually chewing gum anymore. It must come from the Others. I think they live here in the parking garage. You can't see them. They are the fleeting shadows that dart around the columns. They make the sharp hollow echos in the stairwell. They try to touch me. I'm afraid that some day I won't be fast enough. Then I will be an Other.

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    1. Damn! I love this one too. I often look at the gum mosaics myself. Dope piece, man.

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    2. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Something or someone trying to make sure things stay the same - gum on the floor because it's expected - but what's really going on.

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    3. Wow, this started out one way and then ended up as something completely different, all in a very brief space. Deftly done!

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  9. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Anna and Wendy met up in Anna's driveway. So what are we going to do today they asked each other. How about we go back to that old cemetery and look for more interesting tombstones and take more rubbings. When your husbands are stationed at a Fort in Louisiana which seems to be the back end of a horse's ass - you look for things to do - ANYTHING !!!!
    They wandered around for awhile looking in an area they hadn't been in before. Hey, shouted Wendy, here's one. They started reading what was carved into the surface of the tombstone:

    Here lies Henry's wife. All his life - she caused him nothing but strife. Look to the right and you will see where one night, Henry died of fright
    .
    The next tombstone over was Henry's with a date just a few days after his wife's passing. Seems Henry saw his wife's ghost and had a heart attack. Guess she wanted to keep annoying him into eternity.

    After taking the rubbings, the women now had to decide what to do the rest of the afternoon. How about we look up that new 2nd. Lt's wife and invite her to the Officer Wive's luncheon. As wives of the Capt and 1st. LT. the did have a duty to meet her and make her feel welcome. Great idea and I got her address from the Col.'s wife. The girl lives in that trailer park about two miles from here. Blue trailer - number 42. So off they went. They found the entrance to the trailer park. Anna drove carefully, avoiding pot holes and a score of little ones playing by the trailers. Wendy was looking for Blue trailer, number 42. All of a sudden, Wendy gasped and yelled at Anna to keep going, don't slow down, don't stop. Anna figured Wendy saw something to make her react like that; so she took three right turns and exited the trailer park without question. Once they were far enough away; Anna pulled into the lot of a convenience store and turned to Wendy: What the heck was that all about. Wendy stopped laughing long enough to exclaim: Seems Spidey struck again. Anna blinked and said - what's that, twice in the past month. Yeah, said Wendy - at least twice that we KNOW about having seen his car where it shouldn't be. Seems Major Spidell was also welcoming new wives to the area.


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    1. Nice twist. AND, my dad was a career navy man. My mom LOVES cemetaries. This is a great piece and an interesting glimpse into the culture for those who don't know.

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    2. LOL! I didn't see that one coming.

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  10. He hated this place; hated coming here, especially at this time of year. Oak Haven. Who came up with names like that? There wasn't a tree, let alone an oak, anywhere on the property. He turned the engine off, and braced himself. Christmas Eve. Every year for what, the last fifteen? no, sixteen.

    And for what? To see the husk of a body that once carried his mother's soul? Still, he owed it to her, to whatever tiny bit of her might remain in the few brain cells she still had left. Massive stroke. On that Christmas Eve, when he should have been with her, but was in Cabo instead. She was there, on the floor, when he came home days later.

    He walked into the sanitized, deodorized warehouse of weary bodies. Fake smiles on the staff. But they always remembered him.

    Bad timing on his part this year. The occupants of the home were gathering in the solarium, a euphemism for a room with some windows. One of the nurses was at the piano. He saw his mother before the tinny sound of the instrument began, and he went to her wheelchair; leaned down to kiss her on her powdered cheek. Who applied makeup to these poor bodies? He put his hand on her shoulder and the piano playing nurse began.
    Silent Night. He couldn't help but join in. It was, after all, his mother's favorite Christmas carol.
    He looked down at her, and was surprised that she looked up at him.
    "Bobby. Thanks for coming."
    Bobby. His father's name. A Christmas ghost come home.

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    1. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      Oh so true to life - gives you shivers.

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    2. Oh, man. This one hurt me. I can't comment except to say I hear you. Man, do I hear ya. Great piece.

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    3. Darn it, Leland, you really hit home with this one.

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  11. "There's no Santa, dipshit."

    "The hell there isn't! Just because he never brings you anything ..."

    "That's what I'm saying. I'm not an angel, but Jimmy Thompkins is a fucking dick and he gets crazy presents from Santa."

    "Maybe Santa hates poor kids?"

    "You're poor as me and you at least get something."

    "Maybe Santa's afraid to come to your house 'cause you're Dad's always drunk and yelling at people."

    He tries to laugh. Pulls it off. Almost. Because he knows, somehow this IS the reason. You'd think Santa would suck it up, but maybe he's just like everyone else - scared to shit of the old man. The boy shrugs.

    "Fuck Santa. I just hope Dad passes out early. That'll be enough present for me."

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    1. I only wish that this weren't a scene played out in real life a million times... thanks for giving the story a voice.

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    2. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      What Leland said.

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    3. Poor kid... And yeah, I wish it weren't so believable.

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  12. I was eight years old. It was almost Christmas. You said you had something special to show me. Something that would be our little secret. Couldn't tell anyone. And there, on the couch, while Mom and Dad were shopping, you showed me. Told me what to do and how. I was confused. It hurt. I was scared. I still remember our shadows from the flashing lights on the Christmas tree.

    We had a lot of those special, secret times over the next few years. I kept the secret, first because you told me to, then because I was ashamed. And then, one day, you told Mom and Dad that I was coming on to you. That I was a faggot.

    They kicked me out. In December. On Christmas Eve. I've never forgotten. I've tried to forgive. But that's what I remember on Christmas Eve. That, and your voice from the pulpit, encouraging folks to love their neighbors.

    Merry fucking Christmas.

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    1. Holy shit, dude. It's like you climbed inside my brain today. This is such a painful, true, sad, beautiful piece. My lord, man. It's exactly like that. EXACTLY.

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    2. Everything Dan said, because I have no words.

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    3. Merry fucking Christmas, indeed. :|

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    4. Nancy DeCilio GauthierDecember 12, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      Same like Laurie said: everything Dan said because I also have no words.

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    5. Man, I don't know what to say, so...yeah, what they all said. ^^^^

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  13. He pinged onto her GPS screen; she put the hot toddies on the burner to warm, and made herself comfortable in the recliner by the window to wait for her. She’d been thinking. She’d been thinking for months. Every year, he went out a little less enthusiastically. Every year, he returned more broken then ever. Grateful, yes, for what he’d been charged with, but she could see the toll it had taken. The stoop in his back, the lines around her eyes that were oh-so-merry, the color drained from the lips that were red as a cherry. When she heard the distant tinkle of sleigh bells, she eased out of the chair and filled two mugs, grinding nutmeg atop her secret potion that each year proved less effective at restoring his strength—even though secretly she’d been upping the dosage since that Kardashian woman tried to get her claws into him. Finally, the door opened. His shoulders drooped; his lovely suit was smeared with chimney ash, and the round, rosy cheeks had faded to a dull, pinkish-gray. With a deep breath, she brought the beverages into the living room and said, “Honey, it’s time. I want to move to Florida.”

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    1. The last line made me think of one of my favorite Christmas songs (Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum). :)

      Beyond that, great little story with an amazing amount of emotional punch. I need to take lessons from you, for reals.

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    2. Hey, he's been at it long enough. They both deserve to retire to Florida. :)

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  14. Sweet and sad at the same time. Well in. :)

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  15. Holly closed her eyes and felt her way through.

    Immediately, she felt the momentary sense of deja-vecu as she fell between worlds. The 'fall' that lasted forever but took no time at all. She never knew how it was for anyone else – 'fallers' often spoke about it with one another and no two seemed to experience 'the between' the same – but every time she did it she vowed she'd never do it again.

    At least until the next time.

    Obviously, most 'fallers' felt that they had a 'home' reality, although a few claimed to be equally happy whichever one they were in, but Holly definitely felt more comfortable in what she called World Zero. Her original world. Most of the realities were virtually indistinguishable from one another – the parallelism between them made them all identical until their change points occurred – but everyone knew which their World Zero world was. It was like you felt more in sync there; whatever the scientists said about 'falling' and 'fallers'.

    Although no-one had ever proved it existed for real. It was only when over a tenth of the population reported that they'd experienced it that the governments were prepared to acknowledge it at all, claiming it was a side effect of a fungus endemic in natural foods and pressing for everyone to eat the safer GMO foods exclusively, so as to avoid the hysteria they claimed it brought on. Of course, it took some time to come to that but when it began to affect some of the most respected people in the community, world governments had to cede to the demands of the public.

    Of course this meant little to Holly.

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    1. It's another of those ideas that sprung out almost fully formed. I think I've another WIP to add to the multitude..

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    2. sign me up for more, too! I like!

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    3. Word. This one has legs, man. Excellent.

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    4. It's a whole new slant on the multiverse idea too. And an explanation for deja vu too.

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    5. Awesome, and I love the twist that GMO foods are the only safe thing to eat. :D

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    6. At least that's what the Government were saying!

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  16. If you want to know bittersweet, go visit a gay bar in Atlanta on Christmas day. There's festive. There's sad. There's forlorn. There's drunken laughter.

    There's my friend, Crystal DeCanter. Never seen her outta drag. And I've never seen a woman more beautiful. Flawless makeup. Eyelashes that reach to eternity. And today, on Christmas, her waterproof mascara is making a valiant effort at staying put.

    "Honey! Merry Christmas!" she says as she gives me air kisses.
    "Merry Christmas, Crystal," I say back. She lost her boyfriend last month. OD'd on some new concoction of drugs that had way too many initials for me to understand.
    "You wanna buy me a drink, sweetie? Mama could use a drink."
    And I buy her a drink. We cry together, all the men we'd loved, all the men who were gone. The initial widows, we called ourselves on any day other than Christmas. We'd lost our boyfriends to drugs and diseases that had initials only.

    And when closing time came, I walked Crystal to her car. A pink Cadillac, of course, complete with little fringe dice on the rear view mirrors.

    "Merry Christmas, Darling," she said as she turned the key. "Merry Christmas, Darling," said Karen Carpenter as the eight track tape player warmed up.

    "We'll do this again next year," I said, wondering all the while, what new horrors the alphabet would bring.

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    1. Life, in two minutes. Beautiful, sad, sweet, and not entirely without hope.

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    2. Wow. This is awesome. This: "We'd lost our boyfriends to drugs and diseases that had initials only." and the tie-in at the end are heartbreaking and you should be proud. You encapsulated so much with this.

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    3. Thanks.... sometimes leading an interesting life does lead to interesting fiction...

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    4. Holy crap. This is amazing. And what everyone else said.

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    5. You are all very sweet Thank you!

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  17. You drive four hours, through the remnants of a blizzard, behind a snowplow, and you finally make it to your brother's house. You carry the bag of carefully wrapped, carefully selected gifts in. More than you could afford, but it's Christmas, right?
    Your sister-in-law looks at you like you have three heads, but the other guests are arriving so you don't have time to ask what's up. You see her add another plate to the table, already crowded.
    Your brother has good friends. Nice people. You even recognize some of them from high school. Good talk, good times, good remembrances of Christmases past. The kids love the gifts you brought them. Matchbox cars, just like you and their dad used to play with when you were their age.
    It's getting late, and you've got another four hours to drive to get home. Maybe only three if the roads are clear. You say your goodbyes, hugs all around, and you realize you really didn't talk to your brother or his wife. Oh well, it's rough being a host and hostess to so many.
    You get home. You check email. You see an email from your brother, sent at almost exactly the same time you left, early this morning, to make sure you made it there. You open it. And your heart stops.
    "We'd rather you didn't come to Christmas. We don't want the boys to have a bad influence like you in their lives. Until you repent of your sins, please don't darken our door again."
    And you're embarrassed. And you're sad. And you say goodbye in your head to the last of your nuclear family. Your finger is poised over the delete key to erase the message. But you don't delete it. It's probably the last contact you'll have. You save it, with all its bitterness, with all its sadness.
    You close the computer down. You go for a walk. And you're glad that you have a dog who is less judgmental than your brother.

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    1. Jesus, you're going to break my fucking heart, Leland. This is so achingly sad and wonderful. Like tarnished silver. I don't know what you ate for breakfast, but it is all you should eat forever.

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    2. Oh... I'm running out of words around here. This is like a punch in the chest, and I'm grateful for the dog.

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    3. Oh God, Leland you are in rare form this week!

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    4. Thank you for the encouraging words!

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    5. Well, fuck. (And if you know me, you know I don't say that very often.) Thank God for dogs.

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    6. Maggie, I'm counting this as a red-letter day in my writing career. If I can get you to say that.... my work may be done.

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  18. I was sitting silently when he appeared. He spoke, and planets aligned and stars exploded, showering us with the dust of eons. He folded time like a blanket, showing me how. I looked in his eyes and saw the universe. There's so much more, he said. You're limitless.

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    1. Agreed. This is a lovely piece. So much with so little, always impresses me. Thanks for sharing it.

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    2. "He folded time like a blanket..." Love that line.

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    3. Thanks, guys. After reading all of you scribes's amazing stuff, I'm verklempt...and apparently a realllllly slow writer :-D

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  19. In the middle of Oklahoma, near some forgotten town, there is an RV campground. Not exclusive enough to be a KOA, it has all the essentials: Water, electrical, and sewer hookups. That's hard to find in December.

    I connect all the essentials, including the heat tape for the water so it doesn't freeze up, and I look around. Not many trees, but a surprising number of campers for Christmas Eve. Why aren't these people home with their families?

    I get the dog out of the van, and we go for a walk. We meet the Yoders from Minnesota, on their second honeymoon at 75. We meet the Jones traveling at their own pace to visit their daughter in Salt Lake City. I may be shy, but Suki has never met a stranger she didn't like.

    We meet Bob, a single guy about my age, traveling with his husky, named Loki. The pings on my gadar go off. The dogs get along, and when we get back to my RV, I know I should invite him in, but I just can't. So I say good night. He looks disappointed. I explain that I need to be up early in the morning to hit the road... off to Key West. He gives Suki a skritch behind the ears. I do the same for Loki.

    And the night is quiet. And I feel bad that Bob is going to spend Christmas Eve alone. And I do what I always do when I need to play caregiver. I pull out the baking supplies and I make a loaf of bread for Bob. It takes most of the night. I'm glad my camper has the little oven.

    At about 5 am, I wrap the bread, and put it in a bag. I put the leash on Suki, and I grab my coat. We walk. Suki marks a spot in the snow by Bob's RV. Leaving postcards for Loki, I guess. I quietly hang the bag on his door. I hear Loki whimper once on the other side of the door.

    Suki and I disconnect the camper, and as I climb in the driver's seat, I look at Bob's camper. There, in the window, he is eating bread, waving, and looking very alone.

    It was a long way to Key West.

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    1. Key West is better with someone to share it with. So is Christmas.

      *sighs*

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    2. I do hope they find each other again...

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  20. I love it when you give me hell, teasing just because you can. I love how you can always make me laugh and your knack for always saying what I need to hear even when it isn't what I want to hear. I love you smile and your laugh and the way your eyes sparkle like a kid's on Christmas morning. Sometimes you laugh at me when I wish you'd cry with me, and sometimes you worry when there's no cause;I love that, too.

    And I love, too, those precious, rare moments when the walls come down and you let me see the secret part of you that you hide from the world, the part of you that gets lonely and scared and angry and confused. In a way, that's what I love best of all, because I know it's true and not some mask or act. I know it's you, and it's you that I love--not just the face you wear for the masses, but all of you.

    Every.

    Single.

    Bit.

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    1. Every. Single. Bit. (love that part)

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    2. Ah love...warts and all. Ain't it grand? :)

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    3. "I love it when you give me hell, teasing just because you can."

      Noted. It will likely come back to haunt you. :P

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    4. You captured the elemental cult of the vulnerable angst - I don't know what that means exactly, but I typed it so I'm leaving it. ;)

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    5. lol. Not intended to have anything to do with angst, but thank you. I think. ;)

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    6. lol. Sorry. Commented on the wrong piece. Stupid blog. ;) (I was half asleep)

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  21. Mom had one of the babies in her lap. Already she looked exhausted. Dad had hit the eggnog early after doing the last Christmas Eve shift at the Post Office. He hadn't been to bed. Phil and Laura and Marky huddled under a mound of blankets on the sofa, slit-eyed, spotty and feverish, looking as miserable as the Holy Family must have been, Every one of them was down with the measles but me. I circled those shiny packages under the tree like a wrestler, picking at bows and trying to read the tags. I could almost read, but not quite. Finally I picked one up and looked at Mom.
    That one's for Phil." she said. I brought it over.
    "Open it, " he said.
    I ripped it open as fast as I could. "wow! A Tonka truck!"
    The next was Laura's. It felt like a book."just rip it, " she said.
    And so it went. I got to open every single one of those presents under the tree. I shouted and laughed and oohed and ahhed, admiring each one as if it were my own.
    By the time I was done, everybody was smiling, at least a little.
    And it was indeed, Christmas, after all.

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    1. I love the hint of joy and hope here. Nice story, well told. :)

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    2. Very, very sweet vignette! Thank you!

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    3. Agreed, feel like you're right in the room.

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  22. Dusk comes with a slow dimming, as if the world's sorrowing.

    The people move delicately, their motions precise and penumbral, campfire noises distinct. The world seems formed from grainy points that swirl like quenched lightning bugs. The cough of a burro. A deterrent growl. Cast iron pots. The reek of smoke. Human warmth.

    The girl, forgotten a moment, rests on a low wall on the edge of the settlement, waiting for the light to leave the violent rim of the sky. Through the trees, the squat sun spasms and the girl gazes at faraway realms, the serried distant hills like hunched triassic beasts.

    Always from new aspects she has craved and surmised great wondrous lands, and now another lies above the horizon, canted over this very world, our sunset cumulus their doomed archipelagos in a bloodsea.

    She wonders if they'll come for her. Her people. If they even remember. Her people of phosphorescence in this darkling land. Mayhap their recall is receded into fable, or fashioned into yearning auguries. Unrequited in this life.

    A rough hand clasps her arm, drags her campward, and hope rolls back into the sultry vaults of her heart like eyes into a blinded head.

    One of these nights, the coyote people will carry the day in this place of wolves, she no longer thinks.

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    1. You pack power into phrases in a way that I envy deeply... "their motions precise and penumbral" and "people of phosphorescence in this darkling land" are my favorites in this wonderful piece.... it's just gorgeous.

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    2. The language...I just want to let this flow over me.

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    3. Y'all know I feel that same way about all a y'alls? Ha, but seriously, even if I can't find the time to comment, you know it. I hope so. :)

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    4. Yeah, you gotta chew on the Antrobus. Well played.

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  23. Joe was halfway done decorating the living room with seasonal touches—nothing religious, of course, that’s what he and Sally had agreed to when the children came along—when his wife of twelve years slunk into the space, her mouth a flutter of worry. Hands shaking and a blush creeping into her cheeks, she held out a book for his inspection and said she’d found it in their son’s gym bag.

    A stone of apprehension landed in Joe’s gut. He knew this day would come. But so soon? Kids, these days. So much more mature than when he was their age.

    “I see,” he muttered, suddenly focused intently on a string of five-year-old shellacked popcorn and cranberries.

    “We can’t put it off any longer. The discussion.” She swallowed. “You know.”

    With a sigh, he straightened, and hand on the back of his wife’s shoulder, they trundled off to Bill’s room.

    The boy’s eyes widened when he saw them in his doorway, color tinging his cheeks when they eased into the room. Sally carefully lowered her slender body to sit on the edge of the bed; Joe took his desk chair and began the uncomfortable conversation.

    “Son…” He cleared his throat. “We know at your age it’s perfectly natural to be curious.” He took the volume from his wife’s hands and gently set it on the bedspread in front of their son, the way the pamphlet said, in order to be clear about the intent of the discussion. “We just want to let you know that if you have any questions, it’s okay to come to us first.”

    The boy’s face froze, only his eyes darting from parent to parent.

    “So…” Joe steepled his fingers together in his lap. “We’re good? Is there anything you want to ask?”

    Aware all of a sudden that the presence of the boy’s mother might be a discouraging factor, Joe glanced at Sally and tipped his head toward the hall. She took the hint, made some excuse about cookies in the oven, and left, easing the door closed behind her.

    “Well,” Joe said. “If that makes it easier…”

    “It’s not even mine,” Bill blurted out, shoving the book out of his view.

    A bit of relief washed over Joe, as he nodded his head and waited for his son to continue.

    “There’s this girl at school…”

    Oh, crap, Joe thought. The conversation just went from uncomfortable to awkward to the seventh power. How would he explain…?

    “So if I like her, are we supposed to, you know, read it together? Talk about it?”

    Joe shifted in the chair. He should have been paying closer attention when he and Sally saw that pre-wedding counselor. “I don’t…if you’re both ready, I guess…”

    “’Cause it’s super boring,” Bill said, snapping a hand toward the bible on his bedspread. “I don’t understand half of it, and the other half is just…dumb.”

    Joe crooked a smile and patted Bill’s knee. That’s my boy. He rose. “Sounds like you’ve got a handle on this,” he said as he prepared to leave. He couldn’t wait to find Sally and tell her the good news.

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  24. This was the year. He was tired of keeping it a secret, of living a lie. He was going to do it. No matter what. These were the words he repeated to himself as he got out of the car and walked up to his parents' house.

    The deep ring of the doorbell brought his father to the door. "What, you are afraid to walk into your own home? Just because you have an apartment in the city, you don't have to feel like a stranger here!"

    The tree was as beautiful as ever... maybe more so, without the help of imperfect hands hanging ornaments where they weren't esthetically pleasing. In fact, the whole house was perfectly decorated.

    Father poured the wine into the crystal goblets on the table that Martha Stewart wished she had set. The table was full of relatives who were better dressed than Norman Rockwell models. Football scores, politics, even a little religion made it into the conversation. At last there was a lull, a lull he had expected.

    "So," his father asked, "when will you be bringing home someone of marriageable age, Henry?"

    All eyes were upon him. He waited for one second, then two. Now or never. Now. "Just as soon as I meet him, Dad."

    Five seconds of silence, while the guests waited for his father to react.

    "There's a new attorney at the office. His name is Clay. I should introduce the two of you. How's school going?"

    And the imagined apocalypse was over. His dad smiled at him, and they shared a moment in a liberated, honest, twenty-first century.

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  25. A site where I'm a moderator is having a drabble contest — 100 words precisely, and stories must begin with one of the following:
    • "It's not what it looks like," he/she said...
    • She/he really hated the Holidays…
    • The Christmas present ticked…
    • "Not guilty, Your Honor..."
    • "You got what for my mother?"
    • She/he woke up ecstatic…
    Of course, I'm not allowed to enter the contest, but that didn't stop me from writing a drabble. And for good measure, I upped the challenge for myself and used all six prompts instead of just one...

    ------------------------------------
    A LITTLE DRAB'LL DO YA

    She woke up ecstatic at the thought of the joyful preparations ahead. She really loved the holidays.

    Then she caught sight of a printout her husband had left on the table. The Christmas present ticked her off mightily.

    "You got what for my mother?”

    "It's not what it looks like," he said.

    “Good, ’cause it looks like a ticket to Timbuktu!”

    “That’s where I’d like to send her,” he muttered. It was the wrong thing to say.

    *

    “The defendant is charged with manslaughter in the second degree. How do you plead?”

    "Not guilty, Your Honor."

    She really hated the holidays…

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    1. LoL. Okay, I usually dislike drabbles, but this one rocks. Well done. :)

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    2. and I'd never heard of drabbles before!

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    3. Neither had I, but I'm digging it.

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  26. Going to the Christmas party hadn't been her idea. As usual, she'd gone against her instincts and let her friends and her sense of nostalgia drag her into a situation that she was ill suited for. Fancy that.

    She stayed on the edge of the main room, holding up a wall, watching everyone else get sloppy drunk and talk about things that no longer interested her--who was doing who, the latest online multiplayer game phenomenon, how drunk they'd gotten at the the party last weekend. How had she ever been one of them? It was all so...boring.

    Of course, they likely think her boring, too. Her thoughts whirl too fast these days for her to be any good at small talk, and she seems to need more time to process thoughts than most people have patience for. They don't understand how she can be happy in a world so tragically flawed.

    Her school-day friends are stuck, she realizes. They have stagnated, lost forever in the miasma of twenty-somethingdom, even though most of them are pushing forty now.

    She glances at the time on her phone. She's been at the party long enough, and if she hurries she can still take advantage of the hotel's hot tub before it closes for the night.

    Maybe, she thinks, she is as boring as everyone seems to believe she is. But at least she's boring and sober and happy. Better, so much better, than being mired forever in the drunken, angsty days of youth.

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    1. Nicely written, as always. Sober, maybe, but not boring. it' the drunks who are dead boring!

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    2. Yeah, I totally get that feeling. Well done.

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  27. She laid her head into my hand, purring softly. My other hand sneaked over to skritch her ears. We sat like that for a moment or two before she picked herself up and wandered off.

    I set out the travel kennel, figuring I would let her see it for a while before trying to entice her into it. While my back was turned, she walked into that box as calmly as if she did it all the time and made herself at home. It was as if she knew a trip to vet was in the offing and that she would go to it on her own terms.

    The trip to the vet was quiet, peaceful. Unusual for her.

    She was clam through out all the prep for various tests, and rested quietly while we waited for results. There was hope all around for something good, some respite from making a hard decision.

    The vet came to talk to us. the health issues all pointed ot my furry child suffering form cancer. I couldn't speak. Tears flowed down my cheeks and into her fur. The decision was no longer mine.

    After 15 years, it was time.

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  28. The screen flashed with a movie few of her friends appreciated, much less enjoyed. Words poured from her into the word processor that had nothing to do with the plot or atmosphere of the movie. the air was still and the cats were snoozing peacefully all around the room, furry lumps of warmth in the chill.

    Everything was peaceful in wild contrast to the movie and the written words. she pounded long, trying to squeeze as much out as possible. as soon as someone walked through the door, it would all come crashing down. The inspiration she was riding would gallop off into some dark recess, the animals would all wake up and go into motion, there would be a loving kiss on her forehead.

    She dreaded the interruption as much as she yearned for it.

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    1. Ahhh... beautiful description of the tension in which we writers exist.... thanks for sharing!

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    2. What Leland said. I know the feeling very well (minus the movie and cats ;) ).

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    3. Yup, sorry to be a ditto head, I'm tired. What Leland said. :)

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  29. She spun around and around on the new morning grass, enjoying the feel of dew on her bare feet. The world spun and swam before her. The sky was the robin's egg blue that it only ever was in the early morning. The bite of the wind was softened by the warmth of the sun. Trees and bushes and grass and creek became a blur of green and brown and blue. And then she fell down in the chilly, wet grass, and she laughed the whole time.

    Nick and Aria came into view and she bit back her laughter as soon as she saw them.

    "Our parents and awake, and they want to know why,' Nick said. "What would you like us to tell them, you ungrateful little whelp?"

    "Whatever it is will be worth ten lashes at least," Aria added with a smirk. "How dare you laugh and play. How dare you think that you have the right."

    "You have no rights," Nick sneered. "You never have. You never will. That's what comes of being a bastard."

    Jenny wasn't laughing now. But she would never let them see her cry. She stood, glared at them, and walked away. Away from them, away from their horrid house. How she hated them. Not nearly as much as she hated their sanctimonious parents. They always did this. They always did whatever they could to take away her joy. They found every opportunity to steal her pleasure. What their kids were saying when they said "how dare you do this or how dare you do that," was really how dare you forget, even for one second that you aren't normal.

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    1. Wow. Just wow. That first paragraph sucks you right into the moment...and then you're right there with Jenny when the moment is destroyed. Awesome writing.

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  30. Awesome work displayed here by everyone, as always.

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  31. She sat in the quad and watched the students hustling to and from classes and dorms and the like. How much had changed since she had gone to this school. How different these hallowed halls looked after a decade.

    There were adults here who were obviously students. There were people who might not look old, but who had clearly lived before they committed to furthering their education. It was a different world now. The recession had changed things. Enron had changed things. 9/11 had changed things.

    The question was, had these changes been good or bad? Seeing people other than silly, lost, confused eighteen-year-old kids going after their dreams made her smile. These people had gone out into the world, and then found they courage to try to do more with their lives, or at least with their minds. Was that bad?

    Then again, how many of these people were here because they couldn't find a job out there? The working world was colder, harder, not what it was.

    She left the bench that she'd been perched on while trying to kill time, and walked into the Administration building, wondering how anyone could see just one side of things. Nothing was black and white, she thought as she knocked on the door to Dean Herman's office. "Well," she thought as she waited for the door to open, "I wonder if I'll get a chance to find out what shades of grey come with being a professor, or if I'll continue the experience the joys of unemployment for a while longer."

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    1. Nice piece. Captures...well, everything. And does it well.

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    2. Agreed, a nice gradual unfurling.

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  32. The gulls drift and fall through tendril mist, fog spindles. The gulls are clean here, off the shore, away from dumpsters and Safeway and misguided tourists. There are dolphins cresting just enough to break the surface. You wonder at the mysterious world beneath you.

    The air is cold and wet and you can taste salt and you think that Jack London must have known something, that you could fucking do this, that it could be you and the sea and a few worn notebooks - a bunch of wool clothing.

    But the sun drops and after you ooh and aah, it gets damn cold and you think, well, fuck, maybe the sea life ain't for me. Maybe I'm a land lubber after all.

    The important thing is that the gulls still soar, flashes of white against the smudge of a storm front cloud, the dolphins still slip through the chop, and somewhere there is a boat headed somewhere. There always is.

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