Friday, December 19, 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. 

The backs of her thighs are glued to a stippled, blue plastic chair. Around her, the grind of classic rock accosts the bleeping machine monotony she has gotten used to. Shift must have changed. Deb takes a sip of her vending machine coffee and swallows without tasting. Not that there's much to taste.

She stares at the window and watches streaks of rain smear the bright raincoats, umbrellas, and headlights into fantastic mosaics, beautiful glimpses of the world she now lives in - a world where nothing is in focus and everything seems to be running in fast forward ... between pauses.

When the nurse steps out, bearing her clipboard like a shield, Deb stands and nods. She picks up her purse and, feeling the sweat dry on her dimpled legs, she adjusts her coat and opens the door. 

"Miss ... Ma'am?"

The words fall like dead cartoon ducks. Deb keeps walking.



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.

155 comments:

  1. What makes right-handedness superior to left-handedness? Is it majority rule since only 10% of the population are left-handed? I thought America celebrated diversity. I suppose that only applies to race, creed, and ethnicity. The etymologies of the words “right” and “left” seem to support this bias. One is “the rule”; the other is “the sinister.” I would imagine that when the Angel of Death comes to claim souls, he points left for the condemned and right for the heaven bound.

    When I was a child Papa insisted I hold the pencil in my right hand and I dutifully obeyed but I did not fully acquiesce. He would leave the kitchen where I doodled stick figures at the table and I'd switch hands.

    Even later on when I’d try my best to defend world left-handedness by informing him that Napoleon Bonaparte, Isaac Newton, Alexander the Great, Mozart, and a long historical line of others were left-handed, Papa would sweep his right hand in the air, the gesture roughly interpreted as “So what! Not so great. No big deal,” and then proceed to ask, “And what about Garibaldi, Washington, King Solomon ––” I would raise my left hand to stop his roll call.

    With Papa there was no winning. He was right and that was it. Like some unfortunate courtroom attorney who loses every case, I was always left feeling glum and defeated. There were even times I left envying those who were right.

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    1. Man, I love this piece. I've watched a lot of kids struggle with this situation, that's part of it. But the rendering? Damn. Such deft writing. Do you ever write anything that sucks? ;)

      I'm saluting with my left hand.

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    2. I'm using my left hand right now, too. To type! lol

      And yes, I'm a southpaw, so I get this piece. That feeling of being slightly snubbed, excluded.

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    3. HA! He was always "Right," good one. I, too, know this pain. I always took great solace in knowing that I could take a device into my left hand--that was made for a right hand--and make it function flawlessly. Scissors, can openers, my hundred pound compound bow, you name it.

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    4. I'm a lefty! The stock answer I give is " I am in my right mind".

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  2. Wow. "The words fall like dead cartoon ducks." That line alone is priceless, but when added to the rest of the story, friggin' brilliant.

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    1. I love that image of the unfocused mosaic behind rainstreaked windows. Clipboard as shield too. It's the fine details. (Am I writing this comment in the right place?)

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    2. Everyplace is the right place. And thanks brother. ;)

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    3. Now I got a Radiohead song stuck in my head, lol.

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  3. There are a thousand ways to walk a road. I picked this one. Judge me when I reach the end of mine.

    There's a universe in every abandoned lot, every weed patch, all derelict things. Go deeper. Go deeper.

    We dreamed of a universe that dreamed us first.

    She laughs at me when I cry. And rightly so. This is wretched comedy not noble tragedy, slapstick not cataclysm. I should know better. Like hers, my road is crooked, has wound through thorns, thickets, prairies, caverns, and starfields. We have seen some things; some we rendered unto Caesar, some we stomped into pulp while we danced.

    Yes, the tornado loves you. Yes, we drank moonshine out of cracked mason jars, somewhere outside of Baton Rouge, in a flat black El Camino. Yes, we smelled the trees rotting. Heard the pitiful whimpers of ruined children. Picked through the ooze of the world, its loathsome glue. Watched them scrape fetuses into ziplock bags. Cried forsaken uterine prayers at the world's drab rim. Fucked until we forgot ourselves.

    Your iris a limned nebula encircling a black hole. Mars isn't the red planet. Earth is. Drenched in blood from the primordial brawl onward, its deceptively placid unblinking eye in the tenebrous void the subterfuge of a demiurge.

    How far from yesterday? Too far? Go now. Go. Write that reptilian western, that larval horrortale. Hear the cries of the interstate off-ramps, each one distinct as the lamentations of Jeremiah. Feel the scalding dark arterial blood spraying from my tear ducts.

    We're not mad. How can we be? We've done all this together, again and again, felt bug-crawl sands squirm between our splayed fingers and twitching legs. If I am mad then she is too. We've traveled a billion parsecs inside the pungent lurching atrium of a monster's heart, a living sarsen so ancient Stonehenge weeps in shame and the big bang itself is chastened and goes forever silent.

    I hold her tender face and search those nebular eyes, feel myself pulled toward her event horizon, and I care not. The vacuum can take me, the nullity enjoy its empty triumph.

    "What was it all for? Was it a dream?"

    "No, all that's passed was a nightmare. This, this is a dream."

    "And tomorrow?"

    "A wish. A vision. A maybe. A probably not."

    Her climb is up, and so is mine. Her moon's limb is coughed into rock salt. What can you obliterate for relief from this? Whose throat can you tear from its hot bubbling strings? Wherefore rage? Why do we continue laughing like a jester whose court is no more, whose joke runs far beyond its own flat and desolate punchline?

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    1. You put words together like the finest jeweler strings pearls, seeing the nuances in size and color and luster that only become apparent en masse. Thank you.

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    2. DAMN, son. Not that I'm surprised, but this is some amazing writing. I won't highlight everything I liked because I liked it all. I love this line: "Cried forsaken uterine prayers at the world's drab rim."

      This is an epic horrorland you're creating. And your words dance as always.

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    3. And it isn't empty platitudes when I say this thing you do on Fridays has been a huge motivator. Without it (and the amazing examples from both you guys and many others) I doubt I'd have written most of these pieces. I wonder if I could anthologize them now, whether I have enough. I mean, there really is a theme, pretty much. Apocalypse and misery! lol

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    4. You should totally anthologize them. No doubt. And thanks man, 2 minutes helps everyone. :)

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    5. I kept wanting to copy words and paste them in here but it almost felt like the whole thing. Damn.

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    6. Definitely anthologize... if not now, then after another couple Fridays. I echo what you say about #2minutesgo being a huge motivator!

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    7. Isn't it? And thanks again, folks. The feedback is part of that motivation, too. If only to counter the awful little judge in our heads. You guys have that too, right?

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    8. This grabbed me from the first line, and the brilliant thing is that it tells a great story but also has these memorable lines here and there. It's like seeing a perfect night sky with meteor showers here and there. Fantastic.

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    9. I love those meteor shower nights! Erin, you are a sweetheart for saying this. :)

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  4. "Adopted? I'm ADOPTED?"
    "There's no need to shout, honey," said the woman in the red sweater.
    "Don't you think you could have told me when I was ten or twelve? Like 30 years ago?"
    "I just didn't want to cause you any stress honey. Stress like you're feeling now. You've always been a little high strung... and with your heart...."
    "Yeah, my heart... the one it looks like I'll need a transplant for... good thing I found out about this now..."
    "Honey, they do all sorts of tests before they do a transplant. It'll be okay."
    Calming down just a little, the son put his white hand on the table, and the mother put her black hand over his. She couldn't help but smile. This, finally, was a post-racial America.

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    1. Alright, you got me choked up! Didn't see the ending coming. I hope I see it more and more - in art and in real life. Well played.

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    2. Aw. Make it happen, dammit! Nice.

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    3. Our job as artists to help the world imagine it and make it happen.... thanks for the kind words.

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  5. Ben counted the change in his pocket. That, plus a few crumpled bills, would buy his mother the special candy she liked from the gourmet market. Marzipan, she called it, and it was shaped and painted to look like little pieces of fruit. The walk was tough, because he had to cross the highway and climb the big, curving hill to the mall, its driveway penned in by giant boulders that felt like they’d roll in and crush him any second, but he made it. Cars darted through the too-small section of parking lot the market used, one that had a bow attached to its grille nearly grazing him, making him gasp and blow out a breath. The white vapor hung in the cold air, and he reminded himself to be extra careful on his way toward the entrance, because every time he got hurt, his mother cried first and then hit him, cursing at him that he had to be more careful. After all, remember what happened to your brother, she’d say, slam her bedroom door, and he wouldn’t see her for the rest of the night. Finally he reached the glass sliders. The bell rang loud and he noticed it came from a weird man dressed in raggedy clothes standing near the stack of firewood beneath the overhang. He had a black pot next to him, and it read “Salvation Army” on the side. He knew from school that “salvation” meant “saving.” But the man didn’t look like the soldiers he’d seen on TV. Maybe he was helping the army save people? He liked the idea of that, and pictured a man in a uniform stopping his mother when she got mad enough to hit. “Merry Christmas, little dude,” the man with the bell said, and Ben took one last look at the money in his fist before dropping it into the black pot and disappearing inside the store. The box the marzipan came in was small, and probably nobody would notice if he slipped one in his pocket.

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    1. Ahhhh.... redemption and damnation in a single story... beautiful.

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    2. Oh man, I like this piece so much. I was gonna be bummed if you went whole happy at the end, but the donation/shoplifting is ACE. There is so much heartache, resignation, despair, humanity in here. And so much lovely detail. I don't know how you do it.

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    3. A whole world in a single paragraph. Love it.

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  6. An old locust tree, the only one of its kind on the prairie, cast the only shade for a mile or two. The little boy walked toward it. Little in size, perhaps in age, his overalls marked him as a native to the grasslands.

    He stumbled every once in a while and, if anyone looked close, they'd notice that one leg was shorter than the other. But no one looked close. No one looked at all. He had spent a lot of time and energy to become invisible and was proud to have accomplished that.

    At last he reached the tree. He knew just where to dig, not very deep, and his hand hit the metal of the box he'd buried last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. He removed the lid reverently. There, inside, was buried treasure of a sort. There, inside, was a book. There, inside, was the only gift he ever received from his father. A book of poems. Leaves of Grass.

    And the grass around him rustled when he said the words aloud. A raven landed in the tree to hear him recite the words about a body electric. An eagle soared on the breath of his words.

    The boy watched the shadows lengthen, and he knew when it was time to return home. He returned the sacred book to the metal box for safekeeping, and covered it once again with soil.

    When he walked home, he didn't stumble.

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    1. This is beautiful. Lovely prose and sentiment - this one really got me. 'Anchors' to the past are so important. And books are the best kind. Loving this one.

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    2. Felt this one, yes. Whitman. And a book of poems is indeed sacred. I swore my Canadian citizenship on a copy of Ted Hughes's Crow. lol

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    3. My god, this is gorgeous. Love that he left invisible but didn't stumble when he walked home.

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    4. Thank you so much... your kind words touch my heart.

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  7. Oh, your leg hurts, too? Poor baby. Poor little baby. Don't tell me you're not a little baby because boys don't cry and they don't piss their pants when they get in trouble. You think this is funny? You think I don't feel ashamed? You think the other Moms don't know? You think the other BOYS don't know. Damn straight they know. And they should. They should know they go to school with a little fucking baby who can't control himself.

    Yeah, yeah, Cry. Cry harder. Maybe if you cry hard enough you'll cry all the baby fucking bullshit out and be a goddamn man. But no, you'll be like your old man. That piece of shit - not that we'll ever hear from him. He's a pussy just like you. Probably crying and pissing himself in some whorehouse somewhere.

    Now, change. And stop crying. It's time to go to Grandma's and you're not ruining Christmas Eve this year. Not if I can help it.

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    1. oh and ouch. And I wanna rescue that kid.... Good writing does that to a reader.

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    2. The cruelest barbs can come from those closest of all. Amazing how we feel his pain while you don't describe it once.

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    3. Oh, so painful. And what Leland and David said.

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    4. :(

      And yeah, what they all said.

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    5. And everyone who ever had that dad, no matter what flavor he came in will read this a think, "Yeah, I remember that. One of the reasons I hate the bloody holidays. Or any other day ending in the letter y when my supposed parent was in a bad mood." Great description, bro :)

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  8. The package came with no return address. Bella turned it around in her fingers, the lightness of it surprising her. Figuring it was a gift from one of her clients, or the scads of far-flung relatives who could not make the trip to her house, she set it underneath the tree and, busying herself with last-minute preparations, forgot about it until the kids and her husband had gone through the rest of the gifts on Christmas morning. George reached for it, examined it for tags, and passed Bella a questioning look. She shrugged, and worked the box open. Her cheeks flushed with heat and she sputtered a few words. It was enough for the kids to look up from the new toys they would soon forget. It was enough to pull her husband’s attention from the torn wrappings he was plucking up from the carpet. “Hon?” George turned toward her. “What is it?”

    “Nothing.” She tried to push it behind her, but her youngest ambled over, nabbing it from her back. His face screwed up with he pulled the garment out. The red lace teddy, not as interesting to him as a new Matchbox or a thingamabob that lit up and buzzed, slipped between his fingers and pooled onto the carpet.

    George’s gaze fixated on it, and the unfamiliar handwriting on the card that spilled out, his own face coloring. His fist tightened around the wad of paper in his hand. Then, with a small shake of his head and an exhale, he released the wrapping, imprinted with Disney figures, rose slowly and walked out of the room.

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    1. Woah, this is a dope snapshot. The tension is palpable. I want to know more about this. And not just the sexy underpants part. ;)

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    2. My goodness, my goodness. I want more. Was it an accidental delivery to the wrong address? An old paramour? a NEW paramour? This is good stuff...

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    3. Ouch. And yes, I want to know more, too. :D

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  9. Four--year-old hands had trouble with the shovel, even the small one. But he wanted to do it himself. Didn't want mom's help. The rain yesterday made the dirt easier to dig, but he didn't know that, had nothing to compare it to.

    His tears, falling on the dirt may have softened it up a little, too, but he pretended they weren't there. Didn't look anywhere but at the hole he was digging.

    When he thought it was deep enough, he went into the house, and when he came out, he had his mother and a small box. His mother was crying, too. The boy put the box gently in the hole, and stood.

    "Ashes to ashes, sawdust to sawdust, we commit our friend Homer to a journey through the stars."

    And his mother knew then, that he would grow up to be a preacher; a preacher of love.

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    1. This is such a tender piece. A scene that has played out a million times in a million different ways. I like this way a lot.

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    2. The little details make this. So touching.

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    3. Thanks... the kid grew up and was drummed out of his church for teaching all that love shit....

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  10. Red bulbs line the room - college bullshit. The room is full of lights and construction signs and empty beer cans and small, orange bibles. He is staring vacantly at the halos around the lights. His nose is full of the smell of her. His mind is mired in a benevolent confusion. The beer is wearing off.

    He wonders what will happen when she wakes up. He imagines the look of shock on her face ... isn't that he guy from my Chem class? She'll make some excuse and he'll smile and shrug. After she leaves? Who knows.

    She wakes slowly, stretches. He pretends to be asleep.

    "You're not asleep."

    He opens one eye.

    "No."

    "Good."

    Her kiss is soft and gentle, the red lights and knick knacks disappear as he dives into the dark redemption of her lips.

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    1. Benevolent confusion to dark redemption. Love that.

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    2. What Laurie said... damned fine writing.

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    3. Jesus, I thought this was gonna be a date rape story and then, it's like hope smiles on them.

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  11. Rob got home late--12:30am. His heart sank as he swung open the door. The place had been ransacked. The thieves had even taken his CD collection. His eyes panned around the living room, and stopped short on the triangularly folded flag above the couch. From the center of the flag dangled a small chain, and from that...nothing. A lump swelled in his throat as he realized the tiny vial had been stolen. He was on the verge of throwing a full blown conniption fit, Just then, he felt a wash of calm, like something had sucked the rage out through his ears, and a curl of a smile formed on his face as he thought. "I wish I could see their faces after these dumbfuck junkies snort my dad's ashes..."

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    1. Man, being robbed is such a violation. Especially music. I remember when my best friend (pre net) got all his CDs (500?) stolen from his car. He was crushed. This is a dope piece. The idea of snorting ashes made me throw up a little, but they deserve it.

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    2. Yep, as the victim of a few robberies when I lived in the city, I can vouch for that violation feeling... but the vial of ashes is genius...

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  12. She lay on her belly against the cool tiles of her grandmother’s Florida room, spinning the plastic dreidel that had been one of her gifts. The colors caught the sunlight, casting flashing bits of red, green, and blue against the walls. As it slowed and fell over, she pinched the handle for another go but stopped when she heard her father’s voice rising over the top of her mother’s from the kitchen. She couldn’t hear all of what they said, but he sounded angry, the words hunched and like they could reach out and poke someone in the face. There was something about a tree. How they couldn’t have a tree. That it was all bullshit. Her eyes flew open wide, because that was something they weren’t supposed to say at home. Her mother said something soft in return, but she was still thinking about the bad word. She repeated the two syllables in her mind as she spun the dreidel again, until they faded into the changing colors on the walls, all the while wondering what was so bad about a tree.

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    1. Another great piece. Personifying the words is genius. Also, the detail of pinching the top of the dreidel. Such careful description. It's gift, lady. The kind you have to work really hard for.

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    2. "the words hunched and like they could reach out and poke someone in the face".... who else can write such full prose?

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  13. I don't want to buy your paper. I don't want to support your cause. No, I don't live in California. Look at me skeptically, I don't give a shit. I'm late and there's more than enough propaganda lining the streets, what makes you so special?

    And I've done it, kid. I've approached strangers with a clipboard hoping it would change the world. It changed me. It taught me a lot. About people. About hypocrisy. About the lies the "good guys" tell.

    So, sorry kid. I feel your pain. You're getting screwed, and I'd be happy to hip you to the lowdown, but I ain't signing shit and I have all the magazines I need.

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    1. Wow. Palpable anger and how the narrator became jaded. You nailed it.

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  14. Goddamn it, set the fucking drums up! You pace and take deep pulls off your second forty and try to stem the fear flood rising inside you. The dude with the pony tail is like thirty and that's old as fuck. He keeps yapping. You're not gonna break the mics, right? Don't break the mics!

    The mics? Fuck the mics, dude! We gotta get the drums set up and do a sound check and get drunk and smoke like 17 cigarettes. We got a schedule, and it doesn't involve talking to some stoned old man about mics.

    So, you play the show. You break the mics. Not on purpose. Probably. Whatever, you made almost a hundred bucks. Split that shit four ways. But no, it's not your style. You give the old dude the money. Not enough to cover the mics, but fuck it. It was never about the mics anyway. Or the money.

    It was about not caring about any of that shit. If only for one set.

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  15. "Christ, what a fookin' mess," Stanley thought as he set his plastic caddy of cleaning supplies on the dirty beige carpet. This job seemed a bit more unpleasant than usual: in addition the the huge pool of blood soaked into the carpet, the off white walls of the council house living room were streaked with gore. Thankfully, the Merseyside Police Service had already taken the victim to the morgue: probably a homicide, likely drug related. A relatively common event in this gritty south Liverpool council estate, but still a bit grim. Stanley sighed and started scrubbing the blood and brain tissue from the wall. He would try to clean the carpet, but not very hard: the council would probably just replace it before letting the place to the next tenant.

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    1. God bless those who clean up after the horrors, and who see the very worst of humanity. thanks for a well-written reminder!

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    2. Agreed. The specificity of detail, ie, Merseyside Police Service make this piece so real - it's really well done. The detail both advances and normalizes the horror. Awesome piece.

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    3. Cheers! I'm a bit obsessed with that sort of thing, alongside how criminal businesses are conducted.

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    4. Dirty beige carpet and off white walls. Those details sucked me in. I bet the carpet is scratchy too.

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  16. The line rolls back over his shoulder before gently pouring forward, shooting the thin leader under the overhang of an old bedraggled tree. Fucking perfect. This is a cast that will catch a monster. He watches the fly float in the riffles and begin to sink. Oh well.

    Frustrated, he rips the line back, flubs the next cast. The fly loops over a branch. He pulls and it falls to the water - line, fly, and four inches of timber. Goddamn it.

    He'll tell the story for the rest of his life, and, sometimes, people will believe him. It's a good story. The worst cast and best fish of his life all in one fell swoop.

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    1. I like it... I like it a lot, and I don't even fish!

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  17. Matt Stark pushed through the swinging doors and shook the rain off. His right elbow was looped through his helmet, and he ran his fingers through thick, black hair - it didn't cooperate.

    He sat down next to a man with very good posture. The man was wearing a dark blue suit and his face was shaved almost to the bone. He was drinking a glass of white wine. He turned when Matt sat, smiling.

    "Wet day for a ride, huh?"

    "You got it, brother."

    "This one's on me, what'll you have?"

    Matt smiled.

    "Mick knows. Thanks brother. I hope you're not planning on leaving."

    "In this weather? Perish the thought."

    The man made a fluttering rain motion with his immaculately manicured nails. They both laughed.

    "Brother, you got some beautiful fingers. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but I don't see many nails that aren't full of grease."

    "Thank you, friend. I am fussy, fastidious, and proud of it."

    The drink clunked down, and Matt raised his glass.

    "To fingernails ... dirty, clean, goddamn they're handy things."

    The man in the suit smiled. They drank for several hours, trading stories. When the rain stopped, neither wanted to say goodbye. The man in the suit extended a delicate hand, but Matt pulled him into a hug.

    "Brother, I've always thought rain brings out the best in people. If they let it. It was nice talking with ya."

    They walked out the door together. The man in the suit waved from the window of his Lexus as Matt kicked his bike to life. They took off in different directions, but they both knew they'd meet again. It was bound to rain again soon. And Mick was the best rainy day bartender in the City.

    Everyone knew that.

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    1. I've missed Matt... and Mick... and this reminds me of some of the best rainy days I ever spent in San Francisco... thanks for the journey back in time.

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    2. You're welcome, amigo. Thank you. :)

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    3. I love this. The differences, and sameness, of the two men...you showcased that so perfectly.

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    4. Thanks! I may have to put this in the novel now. I was just futzing around, but I'm kind of digging it, too.

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  18. Grace took his hand, holding it to her cheek, enjoying the feel of his fingertips upon her skin. He was her man, the one she'd chosen. The other half that made her whole.

    Laying up next to him, she snuggled closer, enjoying his heat, relishing his smell and the way that he pressed against and into her. He'd been everything she'd ever wanted for so long. She'd known it the first time they'd met - before even then, to be honest. She'd been thinking of how they'd be together immediately after she'd seen him.

    And more so after she'd him walk and smile in her direction.
    She closed her eyes and drifted away, dreaming of his arms around her.

    -----------------------------------------

    “Ma'am? Excuse me. I'm afraid you'll have to move!”
    Grace opened her eyes, feeling cold and feeling her age. The nurse was so young: did they really qualify so quickly? He barely looked old enough to shave.

    He was kind though.

    She took his offered hand and stumbled to her feet; a little embarrassed and suddenly feeling very lonely.

    And then the nurse pulled the sheet up over Danny's face.

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    1. Aw, this breaks my heart.... beautifully written...

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    2. Woah. This is an awesome piece. I might take the line break out, but that might fuck it up. I don't know. I do know this is all kinds of awesome. Actually gave me chills, and it wasn't from the flu. Well in, brother.

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    3. Thanks, guys. It's a simple little piece. It could do with a bit of a polish but that's how these things go here - two minutes(ish) and no edits..

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    4. Honest, real, evocative, heartbreaking.

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    5. Nice. The rhythm of the piece leads the reader beautifully to that stark ending.

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  19. No matter how many times you say it, they're not going to believe you. Can you blame them? No matter how many times you apologize, they're not going to accept it. Would you? No matter how many times you cry culpable, it's not going to excuse a goddamn thing. And it shouldn't.

    Your soul could use a good spit shine. I'll do the spitting if you shine.

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    1. Notes from a confessional. Nice second person.

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    2. This could be a song. It's kind of Dylanesque. Not to embarrass you or anything, bro. ;)

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    3. Thanks fellas. It could totally be a Dylan song. Or a punk rock anthem. :)

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  20. So much had changed in just one year. Last Christmas, she hadn't even had a boyfriend, and now here she was, curled up on the sofa next to her husband who was cooing at their first grandchild. Technically the little bundle of sunshine was her great-nephew, her niece's son, but sometimes lines get blurred. The line between aunt and mom or great-aunt and grandma, yes, but also the line between friend and lover. It was hard to believe she'd ever thought those lines were immutable, uncrossable, but the world often seems to be black and white with few shades of grey, particularly to the young. Life is better this way, she decides as she rests her head on her husband's shoulder. The world is better in soft-focus, viewed through a rain-coated window. Some lines are meant to be blurred.

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    1. This line: "The world is better in soft-focus, viewed through a rain-coated window. Some lines are meant to be blurred." wow wow wow.

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    2. What is it with you Americans spelling grey our way? ;)

      Like Leland, I like those last two sentences especially, delivered without histrionics. Powerful feelings are so often best expressed through understatement.

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    3. Agreed, although the whole fucking thing is awesome. It's like a ball of existentialism.

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  21. I know your secrets,
    your thoughts devoid of all light.
    Except for that one.

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    1. Ha! This is awesome. I was writing some of these little guys myself recently. Haiku is an awesome form to fuck around with. I especially like this one.

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    2. Haiku i love well
      with heart and soul held tightly
      story between lines

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    3. I like the forced need to economize. Without that, my monkey mind wanders all over the place.

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    4. These little poems
      Tell you a simple story
      In five-seven-five

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  22. When he was a boy, too young to fully realize the danger, he'd loved to ride his Huffy down the incline behind Uncle Joe's house. He'd pedal as hard as he could until he reached across the plateau at the top of the hill, then pitch his bike nose first over the edge, lifting his feet off the petals as the wheels turned faster and faster, the wind whipping through his shaggy, dark hair. Sometimes he would close his eyes and stretch out his arms and pretend that he was flying.

    Later, when he'd discovered motorcycles, he'd driven them with the same reckless abandon. And sometimes--rarely, but sometimes, when he was on a long straightaway--he'd stretch his arms out into the wind and close his eyes and pretend, again, that he could fly.

    Now he knew, though. He knew it was all just silly imaginings. Riding a bike was nothing like flying. Nothing he'd experienced could have readied him for this.

    Eyes wide open, he stretched out his arms, caught the wind, and soared.

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    1. Loving this. You could probably guess that. ;) I used to do the arms wide flying thing on my MC a lot. Or drop my arms to let em rest. A few weeks ago, I got the beginnings of what could very easily have been a VERY ugly tank slapper. So, now I will fly vicariously through your piece.

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    2. This is beautiful... and I'm going to interpret it in two ways.... that he's skydiving or that he's jumped... either one works, and I'm glad you didn't provide a definite ending.

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    3. This reawakens my urge to sky-dive. Beautiful, and I love the fact that it comes across as joyful and wistful at the same time.

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  23. The cold rain of Colorado made him long for the warm rain of southern California, but it wasn't just the rain. Lightning, thunder, brighter and louder than in San Diego, too. But what really made him homesick was the memory of someone who made his own thunder, who carried his own lightning.

    Empty heart. Streaks of cold rain running down his cheeks. Or were they tears?

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    1. I could actually copy and paste my last comment on one of Laura's pieces right here! Understatement can be so much more emotional.

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    2. Yes. A million times yes. I know this feeling well.

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    3. Oh, I like this. The last three sentences could be a story unto themselves.

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    4. Thanks! I remember the first time I experienced a rainstorm in southern California... I'd never experienced warm rain before...

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. Small town America. A village Christmas tree, lit with a hodge podge ofdonated lights. A drifter, in tattered bits of old BDUs, with a backpack worn and full brushes the snow off a bench and sits down.

    For the moment, the noise of the memories of a war once fought is silenced. He reaches for his canteen. Some of the water is frozen, some is still drinkable. No family, no home but a sleeping bag.

    He'd be okay. He'd faced worse. He was still alive.

    The church on the square, stained glass windows went from bright to dark. The church bells rang. The doors opened moments later, and a few dozen people spilled out. Still the man sat on the bench.

    A mother and a child walked by him, eyes politely looking ahead. Five steps later, the child looks back at him, and pulls at his mother's arm. "Mom, I think that guy needs a place to sleep."

    Shushing him, mother tried to pull him along, but the child would not cooperate. Wrenching his hand from his mother's, he came up to the drifter. "Are you okay, Mister?"

    "I'm fine... your mom is waiting for you. Merry Christmas!"

    The boy shuffled back to his mother, and they continued on their way. Their home was also on the square, and the man noted which house it was.

    When its lights went out, when only the flashing lights of a Christmas tree remained, he got up from the bench. He walked to their house. He removed something from his neck, and hung it on their doorknob, and then continued on his way.

    When the mother went to shovel the sidewalk the next morning, she found the dog tags. Sanchez, Christopher. She swallowed. She wondered if she would ever tell her son that in the snow, near a church, on Christmas Eve, he'd met his father.

    And then she shoveled the walk.

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    1. Holy SHIT epic ending. Wow, I did not see that coming at all. Super vivid imagery, too. Wow again.

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    2. Thanks, my friend... thank you very much.

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    3. I really like this one, Leland. Please forgive my poor attempt at imitation.

      I saw you one day
      With your mother on the street
      I did one thing right

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    4. Imitation is
      sincerest flattery known
      grateful am I now.

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    5. Holy crap. Epic ending is right. What a powerful, painful story.

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    6. That was just amazing. The ending packed a punch, but the whole thing was solid and grabbed your attention.

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  26. You can't nominate yourself for sainthood. I don't think. I'm no God boy, but I don't think it works that way. You can ingratiate yourself and whine and bitch and complain and tell everyone how much you do and how great it is and how fucked everyone would be without you. You CAN do that. I don't think SAINTS do that, though.

    But what the fuck do I know? I'm just a washed up Lutheran who tries to do his best without waving a banner. Under heaven or over. Sorry, Krakauer. It had to be done. What was I trying to say? Oh, yeah. Your shit smells just as bad as everyone else's ya hypocritical, hypercritical motherfucker. Not you, Jon, you're aces brother. You just got mixed in for a little low grade word play.

    Back to ranting.

    Let me know when they start selling locks of your hair in Rome.

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    1. This is great... and some of my best friends are washed-up Lutherans. Who aren't saints, but who have good hearts.

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    2. Yeah. I know those self-nominating types. Feh.

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  27. As the last of the wine is meted out and the older boys fight for the remaining turkey and mashed potatoes, you glance across the table, painfully aware that the man sitting there is not the one you brought the year before, and even more painfully aware that your family likes this one no better. You think about upturning your glass and making it look like an accident, just to give you an excuse to leave. “Must put some soda water on this, before the stain sets.” But you are not the kind to pull that off, and it would be a damned shame to waste the wine. So underneath the table, you knock your elbow into your brother’s, because you know he will tip his glass into yours, because a different woman was sitting across from him last year as well.

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    1. What a great situation you've set up, and what great interplay with the brother... ALL IN SECOND PERSON... you are GOOD.

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    2. Bravo. That's epic flash right there.

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  28. She came home after a long day, surrounded by too many bodies and way too many voices, and queued up the song as she changed out of the clothes that ill-fitted her. This song, her song, felt as good as the jeans she slipped over her legs. She knew ever line, every chord, every emotion. Listening to her song was coming home for her. Before her man or her kids reminded her that she was a wife and mother, after her coworkers and students beat into her that she was a woman who earned her living, this one song reminded her who she was inside.

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    1. Beautiful... and I love that music does that for us.... thanks for the beautifully written reminder!

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    2. Dope. I absolutely love this phrase: : "the clothes that ill-fitted her" - it's a phrase to be reckoned with. Like granite. It stands out. Clunky and lovely.

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  29. I look around and see so many people who know their worth, and I wonder how they got to that place. What would I be with self-assurance? What would the world look like if I tried to see it only through my own eyes?

    Did these people get hugs and kisses every night from their parents? Did their teachers dote on them? Where they beloved by their peers? Did they feel like they fit in more than they didn't?

    I can't believe that so many people had such a normal existence. It happens so rarely. The truth is that most of us suffer some sort of trauma before the age of ten. We have fucked up families and even more disturbing romantic relationships. We are not our successes or our failures. No, we are what we do with our successes and failures.

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    1. Love those last two lines. Well said.

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    2. Yup agreed. Just the right amount of light.

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  30. She ran down the sidewalk, and watched as those around her raced to get...somewhere. Panting and gasping for breath, she finally reached her destination. Dodging the cars that stood between her and her goal was the hardest part of getting there. The streets were a mess.

    Courtney finally dodged her last car and walked down the rocky entrance to the beach. She went straight for her favorite jetty and went right to the end. Sitting down on one of the flatter rocks she thought about the conversation she'd had with her friend before she left the house.

    "Why are you going to the beach, of all places?" Her friend Glenda asked.

    "Why not?" Courtney retorted.

    "They world is ending, haven't you heard? Why not spend this time with your family, or with me?" Glenda said.

    "The world is coming to an end," Courtney said with a smirk. "The apocalypse is finally here. Believe me, I've heard. The sky is on fire. The ocean is swallowing the beach. The four horsemen have come. That's why I'm going to the beach."

    "Again, I ask why you wouldn't rather spend this time with people you love?" Glenda said.

    "I don't love anything as much as I love the ocean," Courtney said with a smile. "I have no doubt that I'll see some of you on the other side, but does it really matter who you are with when you die? You'll still die alone. I'd rather die alone in a place I love that brings me peace." With that she hugged her friend and walked out the door.

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  31. Coffee’s fresh and the computers are down. Break room chatter circles around what everyone wants for Christmas. You are at the bottom of the pecking order, a temp only in a week out of the month, and hold your input until the regulars go first. The tall blond guy jumps in, the guy who never shuts up about how wonderful he is, and everybody knows what he wants: a new pair of Rossingnols and a supermodel to steer them by. Soon, bored that the temps are not worshipful enough, he tops off his mug and stalks off. When nearly everyone else has found other ways to amuse themselves until the network is back online, one of the temps, one of the few you like, lets out a deep sigh and leans back in the rickety plastic chair. She looks like the oxygen has been sucked from her world, and pushes a hand through her long black hair. “I want my virginity back,” she says. You smirk but soon realize it’s no joke, and you see a kind of wisdom in her plea to start over. You think about it for yourself; two letters of the alphabet on a puff of an exhale—no—could have set you on an entirely different direction. Your life doesn’t totally suck, but given a different choice, you might be speaking Italian. Or married off to a rich sultan, wrapped in a burka, unable to bare your limbs or your opinions in public. But she is close to tears now, your temp friend of the misspent hymen, and you fill her cup and yours and sit a while, thinking that all you want for Christmas is for her to have her wish, and her chance to find a new path.

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    1. This is just a big cup of awesome. I love the way you spin this so we all want to think about our first time. <3

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    2. Or where our own path might lead. Very fitting for the end of the year/beginning of a new one. :)

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    3. This one twists the reader in such a cool way. I don't even know where it happens. It's brilliant.

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  32. George was sweating profusely, despite the chill of the unheated basement he sat in. He had been sitting there for maybe an hour, both wrists and ankles handcuffed to the cheap metal folding chair. A masked man with a gun had carjacked him, as he was about to climb into his Lexus after a long day at work. The masked man crept up on him just as he opened the door, cracked him over the head with the butt of his gun, and growled, "get in the passenger seat and don't say a fucking word." Frightened, he complied, as the masked man hastily tied a handkerchief over his eyes and drove off. He felt the car stop, and the masked man pay a bridge toll, so he supposed he wasn't in Manhattan anymore, probably Brooklyn, Queens, or somewhere in New Jersey. Eventually the car stopped, and multiple hands removed him from the car, and carried him to his current location: a cold, dank basement. Finally, his captors showed themselves: a fair-skinned woman with short dark hair and slim, athletic build; a tall, wiry young white man with shaggy blond hair and patchy facial hair; and a heavier-built black man, his shaven head gleaming under the one harsh light of the cement-floored basement. They all had guns: the woman a revolver at her hip, the wiry white guy an Uzi, the black man a pump-action shotgun.

    The men stood there silently, hands on their guns, as the woman approached George. When she spoke, she had a slight Russian accent: "Good evening, Mister... McLuhan?"

    He tried not to stutter when he replied, "That's my name."

    "Good. Now, do you know why we have brought you here?"

    "No. If it's money you want, take it. I have billions of dollars."

    "Oh, we know. That is the, eh, crux. We don't want your money, you have more than we'd ever know what to do with. And one doesn't become so wealthy by working hard and being a kind, honest person. You get that wealthy by being a snake-in-the-grass motherFUCKER!" The woman's level tone grew louder and angrier with that last sentence.

    She continued, "So, consider this your wake-up call. You have one week to trickle your 4.9 billion dollars down to the people. You may keep 20 million, but everything else must go."

    George gulped nervously, his tie suddenly feeling very tight around his thick neck, and asked, "What if I don't accede to your demands?"

    "Oh, I trust you will. Let's play a little game, shall we?" The woman drew the revolver at her hip, and continued, "This is a .357 Magnum. Not so great if you are compensating for your penis, but it will put a hole in you." She showed George a single cartridge. "This is one hollow point. I'm sure you know the rules of Russian Roulette. I will spin the cylinder, cock the hammer, and point it at some part of your body. Every time you refuse, I pull the trigger."

    She flipped the cylinder back into battery, pointed the gun at George's left kneecap, and said, "Will you humble yourself and do as I asked?"

    "...no." George cringed, she pulled the trigger, only to hear a quiet click. "Pressink your luck, eh? I admire your chutzpah, but this is not a game you can win." She cocked the hammer again, and rested the muzzle on George's temple. He paused, and asked, "What if I lie?"

    "Oh, I'm not worried. I trust you. We know where you live, where your wife likes to shop, where your mistress lives, where your kids go to school. You will do as you're told, if you don't want to receive emails of links to videos of my comrades," she indicated the other two men, "say, stickink a hot curling iron in your daughter's vagina."

    The men interrupted, "Whoa, whoa, I dunno if I'm cool with that." "FINE, you pussies. Chop off some fingers?" "... okay!"

    "So if you don't want us to mail you severed fingers, you'll do the right thing."

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    1. Interesting twist on Sherwood Forest. The beginning section has incredible motion to it. It's a well played effect. Sets the tension well.

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  33. Wear the sweater Grandma got you last year. No one will notice a thing. They'll just be happy about the fucking sweater. They won't see the circles, charcoal smudges under the eyes. They won't notice the rapidity of wine consumption - they will, but you'll convince yourself they won't. Extra deodorant. Look for some cologne in the bathroom. You'll look in the medicine cabinet for too long.

    Look, here's the way it shakes out. Everyone knows on some level, but no one's going to say anything because that would make them complicit. That would rope them into it and they don't want to be involved - they want cocktails and witticisms. You'll come up with a few zingers. And that's what they'll remember. Most of them.

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  34. The complexities and ambiguities of a man's life are seldom known to anyone but the man himself. The "why" and "what if" of myriad circumstances are a swirling whirlpool of recrimination and blinded hindsight.

    Sit unblinking on the edge of the couch. Tear off a match. Strike it. Relish the sibilant sound and sulphur odor. Let it burn down. Closer, ever closer to flesh. Drop it to the pile at your feet. Have to replace the burned carpet eventually, unless some day you succeed at not dropping the match.

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