Friday, January 9, 2015

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. 

I suppose you want to hear about it; they all do. They all spit out little flecks of small talk, eyes flared and restless, waiting. I can smell it on them. Tell me. Oh God, please... I ain't God, and if I was I wouldn't tell you nothing. So, you got conflicting gossip. You got theories. You got a little curious bird who lives inside your brain with slick black feathers, yellow eyes.

I know how it must look, but it's not my job to help you through your restless nights. You can't sleep? Take a fucking sleeping pill. Have a nightcap. Stop worrying about us, we'll be just fine. Find another family to use for your dose of reality when the TV's broke. You think we're the only ones with a secret? Hell, you got some of your own. Mull those over.

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.

#2minutesgo

212 comments:

  1. Best phrase: curious bird who lives inside your brain with slick black feathers, yellow eyes... you rock, and Brother Raven agrees.

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    1. Strong last sentence. So apparently simple, yet so deftly delivered. Sleight of hand, brother.

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  2. (More than two minutes - I couldn't stop)

    He stood on the sidewalk, the chill wind cutting right through his coat and gloves and scarf, and looked up at the window—second floor, third from the east end of the building. There was a light on, but the blinds were closed. It was just as well; he had no desire to see who now lived in his old room, the one he’d shared with Gina for so long.

    He didn’t miss the apartment. It had been a shit-hole. They’d had constant problems with the heat and the hot water, the neighbors had been loud and annoying, and the neighborhood itself had been on the verge of becoming a ghetto-gangland-warzone. It still was, actually, which made it doubly stupid for him to be standing in the building’s parking lot at two in the morning when he should be continuing on his long, drunken walk home. Or maybe hailing a cab.

    But…

    He might not miss the old apartment, but he missed the way things were back then. He and Gina had been happy, more often than not, even though they had very little in the way of money. Or furniture. They’d shared a mattress on the floor, and they’d made a lot of happy memories there. Far more than they had in the bedroom of the condo they now shared across town.

    Back then, he’d have wanted nothing more than to spend the night tucked up with Gina, sharing popcorn while they watched a movie and then heading to bed to keep each other awake all night with lust and love and laughter. Now, the dive bars in the old ‘hood were his home away from home, his refuge from the fights and the disappointment.

    What had gone wrong? And could they ever make it right? They’d made it through a lot of hard times, so why weren’t the easier times actually easier?

    Maybe, he thought, it was because they’d given up on so many dreams. They’d let so very many things fall by the wayside on the way to becoming more financially stable. Maybe it was time to pick those dreams up again and to let go of some of the things that didn’t matter…things like money and status and fancy-pants condominiums and overpriced cars. Maybe it was time to get back to the basics and see if he and Gina could manage to fall in love again.

    He turned away from the window and looked up at the stars. Like he had many times in the past, when he and Gina hadn’t been sure how they’d make rent or keep the lights on, he spoke a heartfelt plea.

    “If there’s anybody out there, could you please help me figure this shit out? Thanks.”

    He fumbled out his cell phone with fingers numb with whiskey and cold and debated for a moment before he called home.

    “I’m sorry I woke you, baby,” he told Gina. “I can’t drive. Can you come get me?”

    He wasn’t sure which of them was more surprised when she said “yes.” He took it as a sign. Things were going to get better between him and Gina, even if they had to get worse in other ways. He was willing to make that trade, though. They’d fought too hard to back down now. And Gina was worth more than all the riches in all the world.

    He just hoped she still felt the same way about him.





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    1. A modern day romance recovered... I like it! And as always, you give us good details to be able to picture the whole thing.

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    2. Man, I'm glad you kept going. This is a dope piece. Such a universal experience, but so personal. You do that so well. It's quite amazing. And this line SLAMS: "Maybe it was time to get back to the basics and see if he and Gina could manage to fall in love again." - perfect.

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    3. Such a familiar scenario. Well done. you captured it.

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    4. My turn to be a dittohead. Twice over. Great comments, guys!

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    5. I love the way he calls home and he sees a sign. Sweet. Lots of details and you can feel him.

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    6. Oh, I love this. All the details. All the emotion. Yes!

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    7. I might not be able to say this right, but there's a quiet dignity to this piece I like a lot.

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  3. "Why you have to axe me that?"
    "The kids at school... they talked... and I just wanted to know."
    "Well, some dogs oughta be left sleepin'. That was a long time ago."
    "So it's true."
    "Sweetie, I tell you truth ain't always what it looks like. Yeah, I was a hooker."
    "That the same thing as a whore?"
    Mama sighed. "Not zactly, but close enough."
    "Why'd you do it?"
    Mama looked at me in the eyes for a long minute before she answered, "Because you needed to eat. Because we needed a place to live."
    I didn't say anything.
    "You gonna hate me?"
    "Nah. I just didn't like being surprised. Did you kiss them?"
    "They never got my real kisses. You be the only one who got the real kisses, baby."
    And I watched as she put her Wal Mart greeter vest on. "Why'd you give it up?"
    "Because, baby, I never wanted to have to answer that question you done asked."
    And she kissed me on the forehead and turned aside before the tears I saw in her eyes could fall.
    All I could say was, "Thanks, Mama."

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    1. This is an amazing piece. Beautiful. Sad. I've been on the sidelines of discoveries like this. You nailed it. The distinction between hooker and whore? Fucking genius. Says volumes and makes the whole thing uber authentic.

      This is ace. To convey so much with dialogue? Bravo.

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    2. <3 Beautiful and heartbreaking and real.

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    3. So touching. brought tears to my eyes.

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    4. Yep and it's so sad he hears from the kids at school, but you know he's going to rise above what they say. She's cool and tough.

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    5. Yeah, know this world too, and you nailed it. So tempting to go full maudlin but you held back, which is what gives it its power. Okay, if hooker and whore are different, what is a sex trade worker? lol

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  4. He didn't understand it. He did not have any friends he could ask. He went to school and tried to stay small and quiet. The rest of the boys spent recess in one continual howl, chasing footballs and finding bugs to squish. The girls talked about rubber bracelets and Barbies and who had the coolest hair. They played games that were born in the brain, and that was all he wanted. He wanted to play with the girls, but they wouldn't let him.

    The boys laughed and teased him, but they didn't understand - much like he didn't. The girls knew. Not in any real sense, but there was a vague comprehension. Years would pass and everyone would figure it out, and it wouldn't be a problem. It would just be. And he would be glad he lived in San Francisco and not the midwest.

    He would graduate one of the most popular kids in school. Loved by the teachers and his peers. But when you're little, that vast, hopeful future is a long way off. So, he spent recess talking with the teachers who passed, the playground monitors - he wrote poems that he tore up when the bell rang.

    He wondered.

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    1. Gah.... this is good stuff. I know that boy from the inside out. "tried to stay small and quiet. " knocked my socks off.

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    2. People underestimate the crap that kids go through. We all like to pretend that childhood is a magical time of no worries and no problems. I love that you showed the other side. And I love that you let us know it turns out okay for him in the end. :)

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    3. Yeah, made me think of me as a young teen in some ways. The outsider thing.

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    4. Yeah, can relate. Not in the same way, but to the feelings. I think childhood is both: it's magical and it's terrifying. One thing, though: I'm very grateful I grew up somewhere you didn't get called a faggot for writing a poem.

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  5. You should leave your body to science, the amazing invisible woman, floating unnoticed through an alternate dimension in your yoga pants and pink boa. They are young, these beings who don’t see you, have no use for you, even if they are lost and hungry and can’t find where they sell the coffee. Your dimension has others, more conservatively attired, and they also aim their gazes over your shoulder as you pass in the hall. And then you see one. An older one. Short, stooped, and like you, draped in the air of forgotten. He nods as your trajectories cross. And then you feel him stop, and turn, like the motion has created a dip in the web of time and space. “Nice ass,” he says. And you say, “thank you.”

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    1. Wow. This is so awesome. You cram so much into so little. It's magic.

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    2. You kill me with your ability to cross genres at will... and "Nice ass" was absolutely the last thing I expected in the end. Well done!

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    3. What they said. :) love how you captured the moment when two "outsiders" cross paths. And I loved how real and unromantic that moment is. :D

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    4. Perfect ending. Unexpected and game changing.

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    5. Yeah, the ending made me laugh. Cute and sassy. And then there's a fantasy element playing like there's two worlds. Or that might be my night mind!

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    6. Yoga pants again! Will always get my attention, even the written kind, lol.

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  6. His head didn't feel right that morning. Not exactly a migraine, not exactly sinuses. He didn't know what. But he needed to get to work, No work, no pay, the bossman said.

    It wasn't until he got outside and was blasted by all the billboards and signs that he knew he had a problem. He couldn't read any of them. Gibberish, every one. He started breathing heavy. A stroke? He should get to a hospital! He should get help!

    The black lab at the corner news stand looked up at him with golden eyes, sad eyes, just as she had every day for the last three years. He'd never noticed how the dog's muzzle was turning white. "You're gonna be all right, man. No stroke. It's just the world got fucked up over night. Should be fixed by lunch time."

    He shook his head. Black labs don't talk. This one did.

    "It's gonna be okay. Trust me."

    And the dog was right. Everything was back to normal at lunch. Except that all the dogs he saw in the park talked to him. Told him jokes. Made him laugh.

    They didn't take him to the asylum until that afternoon.

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    1. I love this piece. Magical realism feel with a heartbreaking close. Awesome.

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    2. Oh no, I thought he'd met Kiwi and learned to talk to animals. This is sad. It should be okay to believe in miracles. Hell, talking to dogs SHOULD happen! :) Cool!

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    3. Thanks! and don't tell anyone, but Angelo and Maggie and Misty talk and I listen...

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    4. Love this. Yeah, I always wanted to hear what dogs had to say. Suspected they had a sense of humour, too. Okay, why's there a van drawing up in front of my place? Are those white coats I see...?

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    5. David, you'll look good in long sleeve jackets... the kind with the sleeves that buckle in back. Thanks for the kind words!

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    6. They might actually improve my fashion sense. :)

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  7. Brother, I ain't got the time. Sister, I ain't got a dime. Things are rough all over, and I spend my days in gut-clench fury, wishing I could put all the corporate parasites in a kiln. Tell em it's a skin rejuvenation therapy and then listen to the screams.

    You want compassion? What the fuck is that, some kind of fancy coffee drink? Never mind, I told you, ain't got the time. Back at home there's stasis, and I got to drown myself in it or I'll never float.

    I'll take your pamphlet, I'll nod and pretend I'm listening. I'll even wear the colors for the cause as soon as you figure out which one is worth your blood money.

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    1. MaderRap™ brings home the truth again. "pretend I'm listening"... we all do it... we all know everyone does it. and "got to drown myself in it or I'll never float" is awesome.

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    2. Thanks, man. That drowning line made me stoked. Good brain. ;)

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    3. Yeah the drowning in stasis jumped out at me too. And the parasites... those suckers. Great.

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    4. This one's tight. Bravo, you absolute motherfucker! ;)

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  8. You open the New Yorker, pretend you're reading it for the articles, but you know you're only checking out the cartoons, 'cause you need a laugh. And you do. You laugh your ass off. And you actually do read a story, about some cartoonist in France getting his head blown off because he made fun of Mohammed. And all your boyhood dreams about what courage and guts and bravery mean spill out of your guts because they all involved guns and knives and bows and arrows. It's taken you thirty-two years to realize that a pen, a pencil, a keyboard are the way that wars are won, ideas are shared, and hope goes on. A cartoon or a story might make you laugh, but it plants the seed of knowing something in you, too.
    And you whisper to yourself, Je suis Charlie.
    On the way back to the office, you buy a sketchpad and a pencil. And you begin a different kind of battle.

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    1. Word. The pen is mightier than the sword, indeed.

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    2. <3 You made me cry at work, but that's okay. This was too beautiful for words.

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    3. Love it. That's one to share :) The pen is mightier than the sword, ditto!

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  9. They just weren't quick enough, Mateo thought as he lowered his rifle. Those two pigs just waltzed right into his crosshairs, like they thought they still controlled the streets. He might have looked the other way, had they behaved better. But when they started harassing Jeanette, that cute little black girl from down the street, he wasn't having it.

    Mateo watched through the scope, as they shoved her against the rough wooden fence, groping her under the pretense of "stop and frisk". He could almost hear their growled slurs and threats, until he decided enough was enough. All that practice paid off, as each squeeze of the trigger, each deafening CRACK dropped a man where he stood. Mateo saw himself as a soldier, and this was war: war against authority, against corruption, against oppression. He didn't spend hours every day looking out the window and cuddling an AR-10 just for laughs, after all.

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    1. This is well depicted. Heartbreaking, but reality is often heartbreaking. This is also a brave piece. Fiction can shine a light on truth, and that is why I find it so powerful. Perhaps moreso than actual "truth" - if that exists....

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    2. I sometimes share that kind of sentiment.

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    3. Straight off the front pages and you bring it to life. Real nice.

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  10. He stands by, shaking his stiff arms, rod put away and backpack packed. He will stay for the last drop of sun. It is warm and the sun falls like honey. He stares at the orange orb as it dips behind the hills and wonders if he is ruining his eyes. But he doesn't care. The sunset is a warm hug, an affirmation.

    When the last snatch of light it gone, it is COLD. Just like that. The second the sun is gone. He smiles. No hug can last forever. The lake isn't going anywhere. At home, there is hot coffee and hugs that are not subject to the laws of the universe - just the mandates of love.

    The car is still warm and his back is grateful. It's time to go home.

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    1. This is beautiful... "hugs that are not subject to the laws of the universe--just the mandates of love." And you colored the whole sunset perfectly. Thank you.

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    2. Love the rhythm and the music of this.

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    3. Yup. The idea of the sun as a liquid gets nicely sustained. Life-giving. But then there's love, which is stronger yet (we hope). Lovely.

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    4. Thank you. The orange orb makes me want to punch myself in the face, but well, fucking two minutes and shit. ;)

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  11. Awake half the previous night in hypervigilant fervor at each noise the old Victorian made when the wind blew, Shelly felt justified indulging in an afternoon nap. Then the pounding jolted her up and out of bed. At first she thought it was the old furnace, a quirk her brother had not left in his notes, but then she realized it was coming from the overhang at the front of the house. Irritation piled on annoyance with a dollop of more irritation, she whipped open the door. A ladder stretched from the base of the leaf-strewn rhododendron to the roof. Wrapping her sweater snug around her waist, she stepped out, shielding her eyes from the sun with the flat of her palm. An old man crouched on the gable, one hand bracing himself against the shingles and the other, holding a hammer that just gone into a backswing.

    “Excuse me?” she called up to him.

    Thump.

    “Excuse me!”

    Thump.

    “Hey!”

    The man turned. “Oh,” he said, crinkled, bewhiskered face crinkling more as he smirked. “Good morning.”

    The sarcasm at the time of day was implied.

    “What are you doing on my roof?”

    “It’s nice to meet you, too, and I’m fixing it. In case you didn’t notice, some of the shingles blew off during the night.”

    Ah. That explained the noise. Actually, a bunch of noises. And, upon further exploration, it explained the pile of shingles scattered around the front lawn.

    Her hands balled into fists. “You can’t just…go around fixing other people’s roofs without their permission.”

    He cocked his head, mouth flattening. “Sure can. If it’s your roof.”

    “I think you’re mistaken. This is my brother’s house. He got a new job as a pitching coach in California, and I’m staying here for…well, a while.”

    He took up another shingle and fit it into place. “Nice work if you can get it,” he said. “But lady, I think you and me have a problem.”

    “You’re damned well right about that,” she said, swirling toward the door. “I’m going to call him.”

    “You do that,” he said, chuckling.

    With a huff, she pushed at the door and let it slap behind her. She grabbed the phone but there was no answer at the number Ben had given her. A quick perusal of the manual he’d left on the care and feeding of touchy old Victorians did not reveal that there was any other owner, caretaker, or handyman other than Ben—although he could fix anyone’s fastball, you couldn’t exactly call Ben a handyman, but still. The law put her in the right. She strode back to the porch to tell the old man that, but when she opened the door, the ladder was gone. The man was gone. His tools were gone. The roof was whole, the shingles arranged in perfect, overlapping rows. And nothing lay scattered among the grass of her brother’s front lawn except the fallen leaves, dancing on the remnants of the wind.

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    1. ohhhhh..... I have shivers up and down my spine. Rod Serling would be proud of this piece!

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    2. I honestly can't think of anything to say except I fucking love this piece. There are so many voices in your head, lady. In the best possible sense. Each one strong, pure and true.

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    3. Another piece of magical magic realism. Love it.

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    4. Cooool. I like stuff like this that's shivery but not sinister. Well done. :)

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    5. Ghost stories can be so effective when done well. And this is one instance of that. Really excellent stuff.

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  12. He heard it secondhand that she would leave him, an echo of an echo of farewell. A reflection of lips in falling mirror dominoes lip-syncing diminishing goodbyes.

    Her eyes once placid blue seas upon which he sailed were now perilous swirling eddies
    swallowing the flotsam of failed love. She could not face him, refusing to witness the sorrow sounds of a heart she condemned to a dark loneliness.

    He heard it secondhand, the verbatim farewell address of a lover turned villain. He heard it from a go-between who relayed another’s parting without emotion or discussion, a closed door behind which he was left to ponder an overwhelming emptiness.

    She was long gone towards a new firsthand love.

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    1. Wow. WOW. Sal, you outdo yourself every week. These words dance. Sad and lovely. I would highlight my favorite lines, but I'm not copying and pasting the whole damn thing. ;)

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    2. Truly... these words DO dance.... I love the echoes, I love the emptiness, and the filling.

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  13. He was out of bed in the huge silent house. He found himself in one of the many living rooms, though not the one with the coal fire, the one beside the impossible kitchen built for dwarves. No, this one was chillier, yet smelled of burnt dust, of old cigarettes, and even older socks. Turned low at this hour, the single electric fire with its three bars could not hold back the spectre of the damp.

    He lay full length on a couch, not leather but cold plastic, and felt one of its many thin cracks on his cheek, and listened to the brittle sounds of the house settling, sounds which never ended.

    In a room where the dim backs of furniture were hunched like the aftermath of a slaughter, ponderous curtains hung on all windows like the butchered skins of pachyderms.

    Darkness this dark was a rarity for him, and he liked it in its way.

    He crossed a hallway into another room filled with sombre, sly antiques that faked sleep, and felt for the crackly wrappings of boiled sweets, the leftover prizes from the evening's bingo game.

    Back in the hallway, a threadbare carpet led to an old wall-mounted Bakelite phone, complete with earpiece, as if in a Hitchcock film, while a right turn led to the cellar. Standing at the cellar door, he stopped breathing, and listened for the movements of the tigers he knew were down there: tremendous, restless, and sharply rank. When he needed to draw breath, he knew he was pushing his luck, and that it was time to return to bed before he was caught wandering this silent anomaly of a house, with its ceilings so high he could barely wait for first light, when the anticipated gift of a Spider-Man suit would help him scale those thin-papered walls to the dim crown-moulded heights above. With their own spidery worlds. From which cobweb voices whispered.

    "What mad things will befall you? What horrors and thrills await you in the forest of the long night, where grim trolls and ruined maidens dwell, where all doomed lovers and itinerant lionhearts meet their ends?"

    As he climbed the wide staircase, his heart beating too fast, a diesel train went by outside and its darks and lights tracked across every dim shape, scaring him witless with stripes of light and sound, as if a tiger had indeed escaped and was here, here now. A beat. Two. A further climb led to a cheerless attic, but no, here was his room.

    In this house, with its whispered cellar of dread, its unloved attic of utter gloom, a quiet battle was being fought between cold and damp and tiny islands of warmth. And though the first two seemed to be allies and were winning, the latter had smuggled in love, cradled and petted it, and one day it might come up the rails on the final stretch and surprise everyone.

    In his room at last, amid the snores and sniffles of the others, even the bulging pillowcases were imbued with eldritch import, and before he drifted into mostly harmless dreams of plastic ferryboats and ancient gold-inlaid hardcovers, fresh-peeled tangerines and the dry-earth taste of hazelnuts, he—a mote of coal dust in the great chimneyed northern realms of England, where the air itself was grainier—paused to wonder for a perplexing heartbeat or two why he felt so much like sinking to his knees on the numb, hard floor and crying.

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    1. gah...... you knock the ball right out of the park so many times with this piece... reading what you write is like watching words make love to each other... eldritch import.... whispered cellar of dread... yep, this is awesome.

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    2. Magical. I wish I had your facility with our language. Just phenomenal.

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    3. There is an unrealness about this that kept me going into and out of reality. Very cleverly done.

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    4. Yeah, I got nothing. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

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    5. True story, in a way. Albeit embellished with that surreality Yvonne alludes to. Thanks for commenting, guys. As you know, it's all part of this great thing we do each Friday.

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  14. Oooh...that last paragraph knocked me out. So did the rest of it. But that. Yeah.

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    1. Assuming this is to me, Laurie. If not, apologies! But this is so gratifying, in that I debated chopping that last paragraph into two or even three sentences, but went with the one long one, in some ways to see if I could sustain its rhythm yet preserve readability, since we're experimenting and playing with such things as rhythm and melody here, right? LOL, I just nearly did it again, didn't I?

      Again, really appreciate your thoughts. :)

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    2. Yeah, I agree. I especially love this reading it again and contrasting past weeks' pieces. Painting with a different palette. You do it all so well.

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  15. She looked at the toothbrush in her hand as if it was an alien object. Why was it there? Why had she bothered to put toothpaste on it? For that matter why had she bothered to go into the bathroom at all. Meaningless, useless routines. They would not change her tomorrow. They would not promise new beginnings, or bring renewed hope. Even the escape of sleep evaded her. Invisible, that's what she was - always had been. the only exceptions - when someone was angry at her. And then they would not listen, would not let her speak, only blamed her for the conflict. How long would she endure it? She looked at the face in the mirror and saw pale expressionless eyes stare back. Dead eyes. Like her dead soul. A soul without hope is dead, isn't it? But the alternative? Real death? Did she really want that permanent oblivion? There were so many "what ifs". Did the answers to those matter? Or was the pain simply too much? No answers came from the image in the mirror. She lifted the brush to her mouth, mechanical movements, long practiced, needing no thought or intent. Brush, rinse, spit, make the slow walk to bed, and wait for the dark to comfort her - if only sleep would claim her - if only....

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    1. An excellent study in what happens when we question rituals... or when life disrupts them. I hope she sleeps.

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    2. This is an amazing piece, Yvonne. You've captured something that is very elusive. Really, this is so good.

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    3. This feels like depression to me. Very evocative.

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  16. On Pet Heaven’s cloudy roads, frisky as once in kittenhood, my Curaggiu leaves behind in the dust an endless clutter of cats, an implicit show of her speed and agility. 

    But I recall those times I’d reprimand her for spilling my hot cup of coffee or for meowing down my authority that fate struck to unspoken sorrow when the darkening days hung over us, the cancer boiling inside her belly.Brave Curaggiu with feline pride dragged her dying self into hiding within the dark closet far from my lap and the touch of my hand.
    Then in her defense I had her put to sleep, certain one day on new ground the two of us would meet again, young and refreshed, in the house of our Master.

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    1. As one who has had to do that, I hope you're right. :)

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    2. I did it too recently to contribute anything constructive, but thank you for writing this.

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  17. One of the things she liked least about living in Hawaii was the locals' virtual worship of Spam: that meat-like substance of ground-up bits and bobs and who-knows-what, stuffed into a can with some sort of arcane substance that made it all stick together in a loaf. She remembered trips with her parents, when her mother would pull a can of the stuff out of the trunk of the car along with a loaf of white bread ("builds strong bodies 12 ways!") and a jar of mustard, and proceed to make sandwiches for their lunch. The cold, thick slab tasted vaguely of meat, and the gel around the edges horrified her. Plus she hated mustard.

    She had endured enough Spam sandwiches in her childhood to have vowed never to eat the stuff again. And now, here she was, living in a society that treated Spam like caviar. It was divine retribution for something she had done wrong, she was sure. And she'd fix it, if only she could figure out what it was.

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    1. I'll send you some candied spam

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    2. :D Your description of Spam and the horror it caused in my childhood is spot-on. And I can't imagine living somewhere where Spam is so revered (though the scenery MIGHT make up for it.) :)

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    3. Oooh, creeping out at the gel around the edges...

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    4. Love it. And I agree with Laurie. I have a soft spot for SPAM, but I would never eat that shit cold. Urg... :)

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    5. Spam karma, lol! Growing up in England back then, there were even worse things than Spam, trust me! :D

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  19. Actually on time today -- Infact, had to wait for "challenge" today...
    http://tainiwrites.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/a-tap-on-the-shoulder-2-minutes-go/

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    1. I left a comment on your blog, Tena. :)

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  20. Harriet closed her eyes and leant into his embrace, his musk rising into her nostrils. He was such an ass sometimes but he always knew how to give a woman a hug. The two of them remained together for at least twenty seconds; too long for 'just good friends' but not enough for romance, she felt. The precise degree of wrongness that was exactly right for them right now. Stiffening in his arms, she resisted his hold, opening her eyes to check if his were still closed. They were. “George,” she said. “It's no good. I'm just not in the mood.”

    George sighed, dropping his arms. “You only asked my opinion. How was I to know you didn't want me to answer?” His mouth turned down at the corners, his lips rolling across each other, feeling unused.

    “It's not that I didn't want an answer. I wanted the 'right' answer. Honestly. Men. Totally clueless about everything.” Unfastening the three buttons at the top, she shrugged, turning her back to him. Zip, please!”

    Obediently, he pulled the zipper down so that the dress gaped open, revealing a pair of pale shoulders, a freckled back and the familiar mole he'd not be kissing later tonight. He shrugged. “I..” he began.

    But Harriet had already gone, disappearing back into the changing room...

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    1. It is so good. This line: The precise degree of wrongness that was exactly right for them right now.

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    2. Yep, totally agree. That is an awesome mouthful of a line. Whole piece is great and so accessible.

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    3. There is no right answer in this situation, other than "You look beautiful" or "That dress doesn't do you justice."

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    4. LOL... and this is why every straight male should have at least one gay male friend.

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    5. LOL, Leland!

      I don't know why, but "feeling unused" made me laugh out loud for real. And "revealing a pair of pale..." before the line break was so serendipitous in terms of timing and anticipation!

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  21. "The precise degree of wrongness that was exactly right for them right now. "
    "“It's not that I didn't want an answer. I wanted the 'right' answer.""

    Great stuff. Not sure what else to say as I'm at work and have work-brain. :)

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    1. Thank you, LB. Now you know why men don't like to go clothes shopping! :)

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  22. Luanne drummed her red painted fingernails on the rough wooden cable-spool tabletop nervously. She didn't normally drink like this, having watched her father slowly succumb to addiction as a child, but she was worried enough that she found herself nursing the bottle of cheap bourbon with her best friend, Allison.

    They seemed like polar opposites, at a glance. Luanne was a petite, short-haired black girl from Hunters Point, Allison a tall, curvaceous, fair-skinned brunette from suburban San Mateo. Luanne doubted they'd be friends if they went to high school together, but circumstances pushed them together. Not much was said. It didn't need to be said. Luanne's little brother and Allison's boyfriend were out together, with a couple of other boys, doing some dangerous shit. Luanne tried to stop her brother. He was only 14, for Gods sake, and more than ever before, the streets were unforgiving to lippy black boys like him. The older boys assured her, that if he wanted to go, they would get his back, try not to let him get hurt. But they thought it was real funny to watch him shake down yuppies, intimidating grown men with his big mouth and the .38 he took from Daddy's closet before the body was cold. "Daddy's gone, I gotta be the man of the house now," he said as he slipped cartridges into the chambers, "and the police ain't shit. I gotta take out anybody who steps to you."

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    1. A scene repeated all to often. You hit it.

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    2. Yep. Right on the head of the nail. This is a powerful piece of writing.

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    3. What JD said. I want to know more about these characters. Follow them around and keep them safe.

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    4. The others said it. But yeah, you give them life, a backstory even, in so few words.

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    5. Thank you all very much. I was going for "sympathetic, but not cuddly". Mostly good-natured kids who've been hardened by street life, and unified across intersections (race, sex, etc) to aggressively resist a corrupt, oppressive power structure.

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    6. Sounds like the kids I used to work with on the streets and in the shelters.

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  23. She’d been sleeping with one ear open since the 70s. Since the first time he had an attack. Her husband snored through it, men were like that then and she could not blame him, but she stayed up, holding the baby the way the doctor taught her, singing soft lullabies in Yiddish, matching her breathing to his own. Even when he was in the hospital and she in her own bed, bathed in the moonlight, she skated on the edge of sleep, as if he would wake in distress miles away and need her. As a teenager he outgrew it, mostly, and then he moved out, but the habit of insomnia stayed. She’d pace the hallways of her small, immaculate house, hunting for imaginary things to clean. “Come back to bed,” her husband called from upstairs. Why bother, she thought. Three minutes and he’d be snoring again, and she’d resume her upside-down life, stalking the lint on the carpet, blowing cigarette smoke out the window at the stars, humming the Yiddish lullabies in a vain attempt to comfort herself into sleep.

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  24. Wanted: A young man. Not too young. Must be able to lift heavy objects, and fix things, and do so without complaint or sarcasm or pity. Compassion for those who are a little slower at getting around a requirement; knowledge of elephant jokes and Monty Python movies a plus. Submit application to the house on the corner with the falling down roof and the small, broken electronic appliances strewn across the front yard. No smokers, please.

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  25. The Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared to Manuel Cortez on October the 15th. She was perched on the hood of a 2001 Escort at the Ugly But Honest Used car lot at 17th and Ajo. Heat shimmered up in waves from the peeling white paint and you didn't need to be Catholic to see the clear coat was gone. He made the sign of the Cross hastily and fell to his knees, The Lady smiled at him and her bottomless gaze convinced him of his smallness, snatching him from his troubles and buoying him up on some wave of an unfamiliar compassion.
    He squeezed his eyes against the sun, sure she would be gone when he opened them again.
    "Manuel" And it was a sound but not a sound, a whisper, an echo, a prayer.
    Tears of gratitude streaked his face and he fumbled for the milagro that hung from a silver chain on his neck. He tried to recall the words to a prayer, but the ecstasy had taken him and the Lady's power pulsed like the blood in his ears.
    He waited, surrendering utterly to that heavenly light.
    "Take the Camry, my child." she told him."This will never make the border."

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    1. Irreverent and funny and real. I like this more than I can say!

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    2. Yeah, this is a shitty one to ditto on, but I pretty much was going to say exactly what Leland said. Absolutely love it.

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    3. Muchos Gracias. We never actually think about the folks trying to get out, do we?

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    4. My god, this one slayed me. Funny and yet beyond funny. This former Catholic gives this four thumbs up. Everything is carried on a building wave to that last brilliant line.

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  26. She stepped purposefully into the freezing night.
    Several inches of snow had covered the ground and was still falling though softly now.
    She hunched against the biting wind that whipped around her sparrow-like legs which didn’t touch the sides of her wellington boots. Wild grey hair and a map of wrinkles peeked from beneath a woollen scarf as she made her way across the bleak landscape toward the hill, dragging a heavy shovel behind her.
    It was her birthday and with Lars long gone and no family to speak of, her loneliness had reached unbearable proportions. She had tried to remember the last time she had felt happy.
    Like a sign from the Gods the photo of her and her mother had fluttered from behind the tea caddy and landed on the counter in front of her and she knew there and then what she must do.
    A bright clear moon, had escorted her like a faithful friend and cast a silver glow over the graveyard.
    Mother was buried on the north side facing a low wall which gave a splendid view of the distant fjord.
    “Hello mama,” she said as she set to work with the shovel, “ I remembered the happiest day of my life so I’ve come to spend my birthday with you.”

    Bjorg, the old caretaker scratched his head in puzzlement when he came across the scene the next day. Ola lay curled atop her mother’s grave her smile frozen in death. Her hand clutched the photograph of a beautiful woman and a young girl standing in the snow grinning happily at the camera showing proudly showing off a snowman they had built.
    A snowman, identical to the one in the photo, stood against the backdrop of the majestic fjord.

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    1. Me too. This is an awesome piece, Audrey. The final image is so strong.

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    2. Wow. Yes. Really powerful. The language of sadness and the language of letting go. The image of her legs not even close to touching the sides of her gumboots is heartbreakingly vulnerable.

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  27. He'd stood in this exact spot a hundred times before, but this time...
    He'd proposed marriage, on bended knee, in this spot, but this time...
    She'd told him about their first child coming, in this spot, but this time...
    The mountains surrounded him, embracing him but with cold granite.
    He faced east, and saw the full moon rise above the foothills... but this time, he stood alone, a widower, forgotten by children, contemplating the likelihood of getting out of the sleeping bag tomorrow. Was this time the last time?
    The trees whispered, the mountains watched.

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    1. So lovely and poignant... love the repetition.

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    2. Agreed. And the last line is perfect. In fact, that last line is a beautiful bit of flash in and of itself. Well in.

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    3. Damn, dude I had a very fortunate/unfortunate cousin. Ex marine won the lottery. Honest! Married his childhood sweetheart. Actually shot her when she freaked and the money ran out. They got into drugs and coke. It took a SWAT team, a statewide manhunt, pulling his 85 yr old mom off to custody and a media storm of more than 3 weeks to discover his body at the site in a local park,where they had their first date. I am not far enough away to write that story. But maybe you could.

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    4. Thank you! And Teresa, wow, what a story!

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    5. Between Leland's piece and Teresa's true life story I got shivers now, no lie.

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  28. The first night in 47 years she'd be sleeping alone. She was exhausted. But the bedroom felt off-limits. Dark. Haunted.
    She knew she was being silly. Superstitious, even. But it felt wrong. When she'd gotten home from the hospital, her son had offered to stay, but that was ridiculous. She was an old woman. She could face anything and had faced nearly everything, but always with him at her side.
    She got up from the sofa, turned the television off, went to the bathroom to brush her teeth, and took a deep breath.
    She opened the bedroom door. She could swear she heard the house sigh. One step into the room, pink against his better judgement, two steps in. She made it to the bed and pulled back the comforter. She sat on the bed. Its coolness made her shiver.
    She lay down and closed her eyes. The prayers of decades past came to the surface, and she moved her lips to their words.
    She didn't know what to do with her arms. At last she grabbed his pillow and held it like a baby, like the baby they'd never had, and breathed in. The smell of his cigarettes and his cologne released from the feathers in the pillow. She wept.
    And when she awoke, she wept again, until she felt his arms around her. His arms, along with the rest of his body, had spent the night alone in the mortuary.

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    1. You are determined to break my heart, amigo. And I wouldn't have it any other way. This is great writing, and also the reason I hope to God I die before Karen.

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    2. Thank you... and neither you nor Karen better be anywhere near that time....

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    3. Never. Maders don't die. ;)

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    4. Oh. My. Heart. Broken. And what JD said. I've been saying that a lot lately.

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    5. Thanks! and dittoing Mr. Mader is a good thing!

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    6. "...like the baby they'd never had" leapt out at me.

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  29. "Do you think you need to feel idolized? Ego?"

    He thought momentarily. Then he thought some more. The room throbbed with a sudden heat. No, that wasn't it. That wasn't it at all. He needed love, and when he found safe people, he opened himself. His tank was empty. The love that children should get, the comfort - he knew nothing of it. Not even enough to know what he was missing. He knew only that he would take all the love he could get. He would hug his friends and he would hold girls gently and he would try to make up for the years when his insides were scrambled, heart hollow. He would kill the anger with love. Pedestals had nothing to do with it.

    "Well?"

    The question hung in the air, and he stared at it - cowboy squint, mouth twisted into a grin that damned the flood of tears. He knew; he was no Narcissus - he was just a boy who had been raised on guilt and cold, empty formalities. Stand straight and make sure everyone knows what a good boy you are. Then they'll know what a great family you came from. Check your mask before you leave for school. Do what you were trained to do. Do it right, and there will be no cracks for the light to shine through.

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    1. That one's sad. A good intro for a story. I get him and want to know him. Hoping he doesn't turn into a serial killer! And defo not a dentist.

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    2. This sentence reaches in and twists: "He would hug his friends and he would hold girls gently and he would try to make up for the years when his insides were scrambled, heart hollow."

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    3. Ha, dude, you used that line from last week! Brilliant. I love how you ended with the grim stuff here, the background to his eventual (possible) escape/redemption.

      Oh, and what Laurie said. ;)

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    4. Did I? I don't remember which line. lol. Thanks y'all

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  30. The chase

    Slipping her fingers
    Through his mane
    She urges him forth
    Feeling the warm beat
    The pounding within
    Her own blood roars
    Like a tide in her ears
    As she is swept
    Upon the icy wind
    Chasing the night
    As far as it allows
    Shattering time itself
    Into rays of glass
    Among tripping stars.
    This dew of welcome
    Lights the storm now
    Thunder rears its head
    Casting a magic stroke
    Yet he charges on
    Soaring across the sky
    Knowing no man or boy
    Only this slight girl
    Hanging on to life itself
    As he gallops high

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    Replies
    1. A lot of lovely imagery here. I love this: "Shattering time itself
      Into rays of glass"

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    2. Thanks. It's kind of an outpouring!

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    3. Your poetry is always amazing to me... such tiny groupings of words, such huge meanings...

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    4. Agreed. (Sorry for dittohead.)

      Love your rhythms, Vickie.

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  31. okay, 4 minutes. Couldn't do 2.

    When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, but old man Johnson was going nowhere. Not yet anyways. He fought the gloomy dark one with his mega scythe (he was seriously overcompensating for something) like a rabid dog with toothache. Screw his dicky heart, creaking legs, stinking feet (lord knows what was wrong with them) and back bent like a racing track. Screw the lot of them, including those mangy crawlers waiting for whatever he left behind. Hell, they’d lick the crumbs off his table. Nope, he was staying. There was no way he was ever leaving this darn house unless it was to take a trip. He stopped as the thought slowly blossomed. A trip. An adventure. Something that would take him out of himself, make him forget these frigging aches and pains, and his crazy arsed family. Yep, that’s what he needed. Turning on his heels, he slumped his dear old rear end into his favourite patched-over chair and picked up the paper. Classifieds, holidays... Peruse, peruse. Joker! He spat the word and laughed at himself. There was no way he was going anywhere. He hadn’t left this house in years and no one was going to trick him into it now. He laughed at the window, imaging old Scythy himself chuckling among the trees while he took a welcome leak. Screw adventure.

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    1. This is an awesome piece. I want more...

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    2. haha, thanks!! He's very old, grouchy and stinky! I imagine his house would blow away and he'd hold on tight!

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    3. Fuck yes. This made me laugh and then some. Again, you use words in some kind of a unique way I can't fully articulate, but however you do it, keep on doing it.

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  32. 6 minutes.
    Clapper was a funny kind of duck. Neither bright nor funny nor healthy nor kind, he just was. But his mother loved him, as she adored all of her babies. It was only natural. The others were clever and sweet, and listened while Clapper always did his own thing. If everyone went right, he turned left. If everyone bounced down a step, he’d try to go up it. And so it happened one day that the entire brood were out on their daily waddle when the East Wind decided it was time to blow mighty hard. He hadn’t blown so hard (that’s rude to laugh) in years and he was extremely bored. Blowing hats off heads and making seagulls squawk at missing flying-off bread had long lost its novelty. Thus he blew, and blew some more. Heather Ducky and her cute brood waddled and wiggled and jiggled and bounced, trying to keep their little rubbery feet in contact with the ground. “Hop,” she quacked, knowing that one of her brood wouldn’t be listening. “You really must.” Sure enough, all of the little duckies began to hop, except for Clapper. Instead, he stood stark still and began to flap his tiny winglets fast, and faster still, until his closest brothers’ eyes crossed over in dizziness just watching. As he flapped, his little wings touched and touched again until he was clapping like a good un, making his whole body turn and turn like a rotating toy, his little feet stamping. Up above, East Wind couldn’t believe his eyes. What on earth was this little quacker doing? He had no idea, but it was darn funny. He chuckled and giggled and laughed and roared until his eyes watered. And then he laughed some more, so hard that his wind got trapped and he popped. Bang! Down below, the blowing gusts halted and the little duckies found their balance. They all turned to the clapping one and smiled the biggest grins. “Well done,” exclaimed Mother, hugging her mysterious child. “I am changing your name from Strange Brew to Clapper.”

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    1. I love this. It has a Roald Dahl lilt to it and that's a compliment of the highest order. Really brilliant.

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  33. It's not about the flowers in the vase by the casket. I don't have the answer, but you got a question? Ask it. We'll spin the world and blink and set the whole damn thing askew. What once was old, well, we'll make that sumbitch new.

    And we can't bring him back, don't be daft. He's gone off on another path. You can't save him and you can't redeem yourself. You can grin and smile and try to wrap your mind around the term: "good health."

    He died because that's what people do ... it had jack shit to do with you. But sit, boohoo the whole damn pew. We know what you're here for, and it's a crying shame - to mourn a man when you don't know his name. But you sure look noble with your feelings bare. I'd give a fuck, but I got none to spare.

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    1. That last parag could mould as a poem with that rhythm flowing. Love it.

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    2. I love how you can do this. The Mader-rap thing. My brain doesn't work that way; I couldn't do this if I tried. You always bring the emotion with it, which is what it's all about.

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    3. Thanks, G. That means a lot to me.

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    4. "He died because that's what people do..." yep, that's absolutely awesome. The whole piece is.

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  34. The bird in the brain
    Is one you can't train
    Black feathered and slick
    Never missing a trick
    He's you
    On a wretched trip
    Eyes popping
    Awe stopping
    Clenching fists
    When the pain hits
    See him there
    Say it isn't fair
    Gazing back
    Taunting the hack
    When you're turned
    They'll find you burned
    He's here
    Missing you
    Thanking you
    For being him
    In the mirror
    Where he curses
    Waiting
    For you to fall

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    1. I love the last line because there's a falling effect throughout the whole thing. Really cool.

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  35. I got halfway through reading everyone's stories and loved what I read so far, but it's late again here - midnight - and I've gotta get up at 8 for the vet, so I'll be back to read the rest tomorrow. And that's not a 1 minute story! LOL. Night.

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  36. They say there are monsters at the edge of the earth. John never had to travel that far. The monsters were inside him, and he controlled them by sheer willpower. One voice reminded him of how often he wet his bed when he was growing up. Another harped at what a wuss he was in grade school, letting the bullies get the better of him. But the biggest monster of all was the one that just showed him pictures in his brain, of the priest, in the confessional, with his cassock lifted up. That monster didn't even have a voice.

    The only time he lost control of his monsters was when he was tired or drunk. He'd given up drinking after the first time, after what he'd seen his unbridled fury could do. It was harder to keep well-rested. Sometimes the monsters conspired to keep him awake, as if they knew he would lose his tenuous control if they could just wear him down far enough.

    One night, after two nights without sleep, John walked home, past a church, and he broke. He walked into the sanctuary, unlocked as it was, and heard a priest in the confessional. He grabbed the first thing he could find as a weapon: A crucifix. The woman on the other side of the confessional screamed and ran out of the church.

    John wiped his hands on the priest's cassock and laughed with his monsters. Eventually he was tired enough to go home.

    The next day, he walked by the church. No police "do not cross" tape, no flashing red and blue lights. The newspaper had no story of the killing of an innocent priest.

    "You're going crazy, John. You didn't do anything. Just one more failed attempt, John. You're a loser." A new voice joined the echoes in his head. That night, John tried to dig a grave in the churchyard with only his hands.

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    Replies
    1. Wow. I have no words for this one. So powerful and so sad.

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    2. Thank you... I have no idea where this story came from. But there it is...

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    3. Holy shit fuckers. Yeah, man.

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