Friday, February 13, 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. 

There are limp thoughts scraping at her brain, ideas - forgotten as they are born - they flutter away like smoke wisps from a funeral pyre. She is frightened by everything. The doorbell rings and she tries to tell herself - probably the girl scouts ... the Mormons ... the postman ...

Everything ends soon enough if you ignore it. And she can't hold any of it - even the memories that erupt briefly and that she swears she will hold gently like a royal jewel. It's all runoff. It's all lost, regardless.

Time was when she was strong in mind and body. Time was when she was old enough to get through the day. Now, she sits rocking, pretending it's all child's play

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. Post your pieces on your blogs, telephone poles, passing pedestrians, etc. if you like...it's a fun web o' writing.

#2minutesgo

213 comments:

  1. They all woke up bright and early that morning. Over big cups of coffee and tall cans of Rockstar, they ironed out the details. Luanne readily took charge: “Okay, DeShawn, Robby,” she indicated two of the handsome young men who arrived the day before from Atlanta, “I need you guarding the loading dock.”

    “Aw, really gurl? We came all this way for that?”

    “Yeah, we need extra hands, and that’s what we need ‘em for. Y’all can just chill out there with your vests and guns, if anyone looks at you funny, deal with ‘em.”

    DeShawn and Robby smiled and inserted magazines into their AKs, as Luanne continued, “Tosh, Timmy, y’all get the back door. Brian, Mateo, Milton, Jacob, all y’all are coming in the front, into the lobby. Allison’s gonna try and charm her way into the control room; if her big brown eyes and perky titties fail, she got the silencer. Control the room, be loud, be mean, don’t bust shots without a particularly good reason. If they reach for the alarm, kick ‘em in the face. I’ll be in the van, Ray’s got my back, and we got yours if shit gets real.”

    She plotted this out thoughtfully, and they all knew the general plan, already, she was just reiterating and clarifying. They only had one silencer and one gun with a threaded barrel to accept it, and Allison was the one carrying it because she was the thin, pretty white girl who had the best odds of quietly subduing the guard in the control room. DeShawn and Robby were in the loading dock, guarding the exit route and the van, because they were big, mean looking dudes with Kevlar vests and AKs. Odds were, anyone who happened along would be intimidated, shut up, and keep walking.

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    1. Sounds like shit's gonna get real, regardless. The details and voice make this piece for me. The specific details lend authenticity. The voice is neither over or under played. The matter-of-factness makes it so strong. Well done.

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    2. You set up situations so very powerfully, and the lingo is spot on. Whenever I read one of your pieces, my heart races faster, but I'm left with the question of how they feel about each other. Is there resentment? Acquiesence? You give us great insight into their thoughts that are focused on self, but I wonder what connects them, does that make sense? Thanks for my morning adrenalin rush!

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    3. Right. The tone is so controlled and perfect.

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    4. And it makes you want the next page!

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  2. wow. beauty in so few words, and pain. I like the way you make us FEEL it in our bones as we read it... well done.

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  3. Do you remember that spring our hands first met, fitting together like long lost puzzle pieces? How I thanked the gods that you were left-handed and I was right-? How later the sweat ran from our bodies in rivulets like the snow melting from the mountain peaks, one into another until rivulet grew to brook grew to river? How we watched the aspen leaves unfold, like pieces of origami come undone?
    Do you remember that summer? The heat of our passion turning the rivers to sand, burning deeply into the landscape, a perpetual flame of love? How I called you to watch the chrysalis open as the monarch, transformed, broke free of his prison? How your eyelashes fluttered close to mine, butterfly wings beating together?
    Do you remember the autumn of well-intentioned lies? How you said, “No, I’m fine,” and I said, “It’ll be all right”? How our hands still touched, still fit, even worn smooth by the many times they’d met, like sea glass polished by the sand? Not shiny so much as translucent, glowing with the power of our love?
    It is winter as I arise from kneeling beside your grave, a winter whose ice stabs my heart, a winter for which there is no spring, a winter for a single puzzle piece.

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    1. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing.I love it that somehow, the love is bigger even than the loss.

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    2. You are very, very kind. Thank you so much!

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    3. Wow. That is just plain beautiful. I love the way you lead up to that killer last image. A winter for a single puzzle piece. That would make a dope title for a collection of flash fiction pieces (hint hint).

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    4. Nancy DeCilio GauthierFebruary 13, 2015 at 9:35 AM

      Memories and love are enduring.

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    5. Thanks and I should consider that collection of flash fiction....

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    6. So beautiful, so sad, so lovely. Yes, and you should.

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    7. As good as it is in all the ways described above, the image I took away from rhis is of the aspen leaf unfolding. Origami come undone! Brilliant.

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    8. This is very good. It's very raw and full of passion. It also lays emotions bare without any embarrassment. I love it cos it goes there. Unmistakably honest.

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    9. Thanks! I am honored by your kind words!

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  4. You’re in the car. The windows are starting to steam over and it’s cold. You don’t want to start the engine because you don’t want to draw anyone’s attention. You sit. You wait. Occasionally, you wipe a little spot of the window so you can see the house. The house he lives in.
    All you want is a glimpse. A chance to see him in person. You’re tired of the photographs. There weren’t enough of them, anyway. The blinds upstairs open. You can see shadows. Correction, a shadow. His shadow? Maybe. You grow excited at the prospect.
    The blinds close. Probably checking the weather. You hope he didn’t see you through the tiny hole you’ve rubbed into the window’s vapor. You check the time. Five minutes. Ten. Fifteen. Maybe he’s not going into work today. Maybe you will have to come back tomorrow. You’re not sure you have the strength to do that.
    Twenty minutes, and your hand reaches for the key. You realize how futile all of this was. Ridiculous. Like a kid waiting for Santa.
    Then the front door opens. A man struggles with keys and a briefcase and a brown paper bag. You wonder if he packs his own lunch. He turns around. You hold your breath to keep from steaming up the window again.
    And for the first time in twenty-two years, you see the face of your son.

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    1. Man, this one is awesome. You know what smacked me in the face. The lunch. What a perfect thing to wonder. And it sets the ending up so well. Awesome.

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    2. Ahhhh! It's a great Prologue for a book. Love. I thought it was going to be an old flame. suckered in!

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  5. First had come the flowers. A single daisy, petals drooping from being closed up in her mailbox for who knows how long. Then a bloom from a day lily, once even a bouquet of dandelions tied with string. A random offering from nature, okay, she could understand a nice neighbor walking by and performing an impulsive act to brighten up her day, but the dandelions sent another message altogether. The string implied intention. Forethought. It made her smile, but also troubled her. Aside from the postal carrier, a grumbly older man who railed on her for not clearing the snow away from the box fast enough after storms, one suspect remained: Wendell. He lived four houses up in the Victorian he’d shared with his wife, who’d left him several years back. Every so often, usually around major holidays when he was probably feeling lonely, he’d make a play for her, which she’d dodge. Not her type, she wasn’t ready for another man in her life, but he was just so nice that she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Not on Christmas. Or New Year’s. Or the Fourth of July. Now she’d have to have an uncomfortable discussion with him on Valentine’s Day. Because the offerings had grown more…more. There were homemade cookies. Banana bread. And the topper: a heart-shaped box of chocolates. That’s it, she told herself, slamming the mailbox door. She zipped up her coat, tightened her scarf, and trudged off up the hill to set this man straight.

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    1. AND THEN WHAT? DAMMIT! You've set a perfect stage and you're making me the reader finish the story? OH CRUELTY, thy name is writer! But seriously, this is wonderful... and i do want to listen to her telling him no... as he offers her a piece of butter pound cake.

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    2. Love it. I was talking with a student yesterday about why Steinbeck is the bomb because he has such faith in his readers. You, too. It takes a lot of confidence, swagger, and talent lady. Let everyone write the end.

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    3. Oh... I like that... "faith in his readers..." and yeah, Laurie has that.

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    4. Nancy DeCilio GauthierFebruary 13, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      Bet when she reaches him - a lot happens she didn't expect.

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    5. Thanks! Maybe I'll finish the story later. :D

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    6. Finish it, yes! I bet it won't play out in any way we'd expect. ;)

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    7. What Mader says! Ah, I've written books with open endings - readers hate it! I love when you can write the ending in your head. She's gonna turn up at his house and wham bam, they're gonna be shut up in his bedroom the whole weekend :) That's my version anyway. I like her. She's a great character.

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  6. The Moon in Capricorn conveys a loveless mother and a child it is said, with a grudge against the world. But Capricorn at least loves history, and that much was true in my father’s case. The world had changed since he'd been born in ways he sometimes found hard to imagine. He rode his first escalator in 1965, with an awestruck expression and a little boy’s excitement at the magic in the world, then insisted on doing it again, to the embarrassment of us all. And yet he kept his history close,my father, full as it was of secrets. He showed us its ways. One afternoon at my grandfather’s farm he hauled us out and made us pick cotton in one of the last fields left around. My brothers protested and refused to go, but to me, the enterprise was entirely too novel to seem like cruelty, And he and I alone worked our way through the rows of red dirt and gathering that fluffy treasure as we went.
    Afterwards, we had watermelon and sweet tea and he drank a little which eased the tightness of his memory enough to tell the story.
    “Back then,” He said. “Back then they’d take us out of school to work the fields. I didn’t like school but I liked work even less. So me and Bobby Stinton sat in the back of the bus throwing kitchen matches out the window. We had it in our heads that if they put us off the bus, we wouldn’t have to do either one.”
    It was 1936, he told me. A Friday. And the bus went the whole long route without their being discovered, tracing a 30 mile line along the lower lip of the great Dust Bowl, trailing lit matches all the way.
    “We were well off, compared to some. We had hogs and the garden. And the crop. Daddy knew about how the cotton wore out the ground. But a lot of the rest didn’t believe him. It wasn’t until Monday morning that I saw what we’d done, and that bus rolled past the burned out fields and picked up kids with blackened faces and blistered hands, like they’d been to the end of the world.. They fell asleep at their desks andwhen the teacher made us pray, I ran out and vomited in a corner of the yard. I was just a kid, you know? Playing with matches.”

    And 30 years later, he put his face in his hands and cried.

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    1. ohmigosh... this rips at my heart... what a powerful beginning, ending and middle. And the reality of it all rips at my heart. thank you.

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    2. Damn. This is a piece with amazing power. Vivid imagery, regret and palpable sadness. And so real. Brilliant.

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    3. Again. What Dan said. These images pulse with heat and power.

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    4. Genuinely authentic voice, and filled with sadness and nostalgia and raw pain.

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    5. It's great. There's a confident, unrushed voice in there. It carries you along with and you have faith in it.

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  7. Jacob made his way through the club purposefully, climbing the stairs and telling the two huge black men in suits, “yo, I’m here to see Mr. Gibson.”

    “You Jacob Rodgers?”

    “Yeah!”

    “C’mon in.”

    They opened the door and ushered him into the office. It was better lit than the dancefloor, but that wasn’t saying a lot. It still looked pretty much like you would expect the manager’s office of a seedy West Oakland nightclub to look: ‘tasteful’ portraits of naked women, flyers from recent events, old school Bay Area hip hop beats throbbing in the background, the boss reclining behind a big stained-oak desk, feet up, puffing on a cigar, a glass of cognac on the desk.

    Mr. Gibson was a modestly-attractive black man, older, maybe late thirties or early forties, well-groomed and sharp-dressed, although the retro style of his pinstripe suit suggested that he took his style cues from 1930s bootleggers. He favored Jacob with a smile and glance as he greeted him, “Welcome to my little party house, son,” he puffed on his robusto, his voice a bit higher than one might expect, but with an easy, endearing quality to it, “How can Mister Gibson help you this evening, youngblood?”

    “Just seein’ if you got any odd jobs you need done, sir.”

    “Yea, I know you from around the way, brother. You be squattin’ that big ol’ house on Wood Street, with ya li’l sister and brother, and them white kids and shit, right?”

    “That’s right. You know, money’s tight, we tryina stay upright, so I’m tryina make a few bucks.”

    “Yeah, I hear you, son. One of my salesmen, Louie, he say they some of his best customers. Those white boys come round like two, three times a week to cop from him, even though his shit’s been stepped on more than the sidewalk on 7th Street. You ridin’ that horse?”

    “No sir. I’ll smoke a little weed here and there, but I ain’t doing heroin. My daddy died with a needle in his arm, I ain’t goin’ out like that.”

    “Respect.” Mr. Gibson puffed on his cigar and continued, “You know that’s why they made dope illegal, right? Shit’s poison, but fiends will give they first born, they blood, they’ll give you they right nut for a fix. And GOD FORBID, that racket should be controlled by a black man. Just like the pimp game: it’s not like a white man CAN’T be a pimp, but nobody gives a shit.”

    Mr. Gibson smiled and continued with a humbly self-deprecating tone, “I could go on, but I know you ain’t tryina hear all that shit right now. You need a job, son, and I’ma give you one. I got a couple keys that need a body to bring ‘em over to the city. You got a car?”

    “No sir…” Jacob fondly remembered all the blunts he smoked with Tim Callahan and Mateo Jimenez, in the front seat of Tim’s ’89 Chevy Lumina. But that car got towed almost 2 years ago; Tim was mostly just mad because he had a quarter ounce in the center console, and some bangin’ CDs in the glovebox.

    “That’s okay, you can take the shit on BART. But I don’t want you running around alone, with all that gear. Get a homie or two to run with you, and all y’all should be comin’ strapped. I’m trusting you with ten grand worth of gear here, kid. If anyone tries to jack you, you fuckin’ blast them, dig? If that shit doesn’t get where it’s supposed to go, it’s your ass.”

    “And if I do get it where it’s supposed to go?”

    “Ehh, if you get it where it’s supposed to go, no complications, no hassles, no bullshit… I can cut you in for two grand, maybe two grand and a hundred so you and your boys can split it evenly three ways. And if you don’t fuck this up, there may be more for you later on. You need a gun?”

    “Naw, that’s cool, me and my boys all be strapped.” Jacob indicated the stainless steel .45 he carried in his jacket.

    Mr. Gibson smiled, “that’s cool, man. Trey, give youngblood the gear and the info. You got until noon tomorrow, so get your potnas together in the morning.”

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    1. And then...? ;)

      Nicely poised, but I really want to see how this pans out.

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  8. Nancy DeCilio GauthierFebruary 13, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    You've been up for at least 36 hours straight. You have taken care of everything. You got mom home from the hospital, set her up in the bed so generously sent by Hospice. You talked to the doctors to get the scrips necessary to fulfill her wishes. She wanted to be asleep and unaware at this time. You promised, so you slogged through the visit to the Doctor's office, the trip to the pharmacy, argued when they didn't have the right gauge needle to go with the scrip - almost had to beg them to call the doctor's office to change the order to whatever needle gauge they did have - you couldn't wait for them get the right needle in a 'day or two'. You made it back home telling mom it was all set they way she wanted. The hospice nurse promised she would follow orders - even though the hospice director had warned you that that particular nurse would be a hardass and give you a problem adminstering enough meds. But you are strong and you are righteous. You made sure the hospice nurse showed you how to adminster an injection and TOLD her to load up a syringe so you could step in if necessary. You and mom said goodbye - she is now asleep - her final sleep. Your husband and hospice nurse begged you to get some rest - yeah up for 36 hours. You reluctantly go off to bed. Suddenly you awake - something has passed through the room. You shudder and smile at the same time - you get up - make your way down the hall to where mom is set up. Your husband jumps up, meets you half way and gently tells you : mom has passed. You look up at him and quietly say: I know. The hospice nurse rears back in disbelief (screw you bitch you think). You go to mom, kiss her forehead - murmer words in Italian. It is done - it is good.

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    1. Ahhh... what a sad, yet peaceful story. I was there with the narrator... or maybe I was the narrator. And that's what good fiction does. Thank you.

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    2. This is an awesome piece. I'm in awe. Seriously. This: "screw you bitch" is SO strong. And it ties the whole piece so tight. And the Italian. Deftly played.

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    3. I was right there with you: "You are strong and you are righteous." Fabulous.

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    4. Yeah, that ending. It has a rhythm ll its own, the rhythm of thought—contemplative, sad, steeled.

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  9. Johnny's a troublemaker. Johnny can't sit still. Johnny gets too close to kids and it fills them with an anxious dread.

    Johnny flinches when you say his name. Johnny doesn't eat much and, when he does, the food doesn't make sense. Breakfast for dinner. Dinner at 5am. Leftover blasphemy rotting in the bottom of his backpack.

    Johnny is cautious, and he is a mystery. His parents never come to the events that all the other parents slog though. But Johnny smiles. And he always wants to stay after school, detention or cleaning the windows or something. Anything. Johnny has one friend, the music teacher, old and kind.

    Johnny never wants to go home. Johnny smells funny, but he knows it. He knows all the things they say about him and he wonders if they're all true.

    And fuck, if there aren't a lot of Johnny's out there.

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    1. Dammit. This is good, and there are, and you make us all want to look for them. Well done. And this line, "Leftover blasphemy rotting in the bottom of his backpack," will be with me all day.

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    2. Nancy DeCilio GauthierFebruary 13, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      Did we not all know a Johnny or Joanna in our lives - sure. They are the ones who stick with you - leave you wondering.

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    3. Thanks y'all. I've known a lot of kids like this.

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    4. Aw, poor kid. "Leftover blasphemy rotting in the bottom of his backpack." Oh.

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    5. There are way too many of them. Well played, brother.

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    6. I like Johnny. He's genuine. He's got heart and soul and feeling, and he's gonna be somebody. He's a broken dreamer but he'll rise above it all. Laurie picked out my favourite line :)

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  10. Maybe someday, when the sun doesn't shine so low in the sky and the sound of traffic, splashing water and giggling children meld into a nostalgic moment of perfection, the fog will lift and she’ll see things clearly. Someday, when a trifecta of salt spray, wet-suits and sailboats jostle against the pier or while eating shellfish dipped in butter on a paper tablecloth and the wet beer bottle sweats in her hand-- she’ll hear happy seals lifting their heads, singing-- reminding her to forget the painful paranoia and her requiem of solitude. Perhaps someday, when summer comes, her heart will feel peace.

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    1. Well done... you make us not only write the ending, but the beginning in our own minds... wondering what started it, and how it will all end. Thank you for sharing!

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    2. Thanks Leland. I kind of took Dan's sad heroine....

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    3. Wow, this piece is an explosion for the senses. Such rich detail and imagery. Just outstanding. It's like someone said, 'explain what 'show don't tell' means' - you nailed it.

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    4. Agree. It's full of richness. Poetic :)

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  11. She loves to dance. Dying is another matter. From her makeshift bed on the sofa she watches him set the ‘78 upon the felt and then the needled armature at the starting groove. When the record begins, his contrived smile seems to lift with the melody, his eyes soft as the gentle strains of the Channels singing “The Closer You Are.”

    Daniel walks towards her lying her, sits on the edge of the sofa and rests his hand on her pale, paper-thin fingers. “Remember this one?” he asks her, voice struggling to free itself from his throat. Linnie’s brown eyes glisten.

    Now, along with the Channels, he sings to her. “The closer you are, the brighter, the stars in the sky, and darling, I realize you're the one in my life, for my heart skips a beat every time you and I meet. My life, my love, my dear.” But he cannot sing it beyond a whisper. Linnie is dying. Inside his head he shouts it to the world. Linnie is dying.

    She touches his face, palming the wetness away. “The closer you are, the brighter, the flames in my heart, and darling,” sing the Channels, and the two of them mouth the line, “We'll never part. We'll always be in love.”

    Her head turns towards him. She stares into his eyes without blinking. The room is still without her presence. A soul winged its way from him. He can stop being brave. Chin at his chest he lets the waves of anguish crash and he cries in that room now lonely and empty except for him and sorrow.

    On the record player the song skips again and again. “The closer, the closer, the closer...”

    Daniel covers her open eyes with a trembling hand.

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    1. Well. Damn. Sal, I am amazed by your pieces every week. I love the way you use language. And there is a matter of fact, but wondrous, authenticity. Every time. Rain or shine. Wonderful.

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    2. What an achingly beautiful piece... this breaks my heart. Beautiful.

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    3. This: "voice struggling to free itself from his throat" is a perfect capture.

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  12. "Yeah, everybody's got a story about a girl like that, pal. She might've had red hair or black or been Mexican or who the fuck knows. Doesn't matter. All the same girl."

    The bartender launches a stream of cancer into the copper pot.

    "No, she was different, she was..."

    "Bullshit. Don't give me that. I don't care if she was Jewish, had three heads, spoke in tongues - you're telling me a story I've heard a million times and I'm done with it. Boy meets girl. Girls seems too good to be true. Go figure. You get fucked."

    "Hey man..."

    "Hey, nothing. I'm fucking sick of it. Talk about something else. Shut up and drink. But don't tell me about your goddamn lost love and how it all should've been different. It's retarded. Go outside. Stop living a memory that you've twisted to suit your needs."

    The man in the suit is sober(ish) now. He stands, glaring.

    "I'll never come here again."

    The bartender chuckles and pours himself another bourbon.

    "Good. Ya fuck! Go watch Oprah. Come back when you want to talk about reality."

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    1. I know that bartender! This one every bartender in the world would cheer at.

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    2. Oh yeah. Read on my friend. Women are treacherous that way....: VERY nicely done!

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  13. Millions watched, as the video clip aired over international news networks, from Fox News to Al-Jazeera. It was purported to be a brief interview, between a particularly intrepid journalist, and two key members of a now-dreaded domestic terrorist organization, billing itself simply as “the Resistance”. Their voices were electronically distorted; one wore a creepy mask, resembling a hockey goalkeeper’s helmet with a grimy mop of dreadlocks, the other simply a bandana and sunglasses.

    The interview was introduced by a snippet of footage, shot handheld from a consumer-grade digital video camera. It depicted the reporter, Sheila Pilanian, a nice-looking Armenian-American woman of maybe 32 in a sensible skirt suit, approaching a large, rundown Victorian house, the house number, and most of the street signs, digitally blurred. She and the cameraman were let into the house by a teenaged black boy in sunglasses with a very guarded, cagey quality to his posture. Sheila was frankly rather scared by this assignment; she knew that if she said or did the wrong thing here, it could get her killed.

    Although once she was inside, and seated in a shabby-chic living room, the terrorists she was there to speak with made an obvious effort to put their guest at ease. They entered the room without masks; the two spokespeople were fairly obviously in their late teens, but prematurely jaded, callous, hardened by their difficult lives, like child soldiers. One, a slim white boy with shaggy blonde hair and what Sheila found to be an unsettling hardness in his blue eyes, sporting a black hoodie, jeans, and knock-off sneakers. The other, a petite black girl, her hair cut boyishly short, was dressed the same way, save a Raiders jersey. They removed the magazines from their pistols, ejected the cartridges in the chambers, and set them on the battered Ikea coffee table, actions open, the remains of a blunt still smoldering in the ashtray.

    The girl took one look at the cameraman and snapped, “Is that shit rolling?”

    The cameraman swallowed nervously and said, “No…”

    “If my face gets seen in this footage, you know that I will make things very unpleasant for you, right?”

    “Of course. I’m only here as a journalist, not an informant. It would be unethical for me, as a journalist, to betray your trust.”

    Still, they put on their masks and replied, “Well, get on with it. Start rolling, make with the questions.”

    Luanne did most of the talking, as she told the reporter about her group: a collective of angry, disillusioned young people who had given up on achieving meaningful positive change through passive resistance, and so were engaging in strategic acts of terrorism with the goal of breaking down what they considered a fundamentally corrupt power structure. She explained that it was now open season on those they considered enemies, including: the uppermost upper class and the corporations they hid behind, whose insatiable greed was destroying the world, the politicians who did their bidding, and the law enforcement officials who did the dirty work. At the same time, Luanne stressed that she and her compatriots meant only to help the general populace, and that they were fighting for a more equitable society for everyone. “The First American Revolution couldn’t have succeeded without the support of non-combatants. If you feel like we feel, we accept donations and volunteers.”

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    1. Is it me or do this week's stories feel even more like glimpses into worlds that already exist? How do you people make me feel a backstory that isn't overtly stated? Really good stuff.

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    2. Cheers. I'm obviously aiming for gritty realism, with sparing dashes of embellishment and artistic license. (Think of National Geographic's series "Drugs Inc.", especially the 'Cokeland' episode. The balls it takes for a journalist to venture into the criminal underworld.)

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  14. Why he still drove this 1970 Dodge Charger he could never figure. Wasn't he a little old for muscle cars? Especially right now. Now he had a kid an' all. Maybe 'cause he never much cottoned to kids, though he felt as scared and lost as one right now.

    It's like the world had conspired to trap him: Podunk town, the only main industry collapsing the moment he left high school, football injury eighty-sixing his scholarship dream, prom queen high school sweetheart turning into a queen bitch, escalating fights fed by liquor or worse, initially indulgent visits from the sheriff (sorta friend of his sorta family) turning more sobering, dead-end jobs, couple petty crime arrests (drugs, bar fights he never hardly won), and earnest-sounding assurances he would walk a straighter line, sir, ma'am, Your Honor. And now, after a decade of this, he was a dad. Which scared him more than all the rest combined.

    Hell, he was a walking, talking cliché.

    But if Buttfuck Central was so bound and determined to trap him in its stifling grip, he knew a trick or two that spelled out a big defiant g-o f-u-c-k y-o-u-r-s-e-l-f to all he'd ever known. Far as he was concerned, both were better options than the status quo. But which one, was the question.

    Earlier, as the sun had flattened itself against the western horizon and bled out its gaudy fluids like bloody yolk behind the smoke-blue haze of the Crazy Hills, he'd gone and stood on the field by his old high school and looked up at the first stars in the deep blue penumbral sky and tried to imagine (or recall) the crowds cheering him on, but try as he might he simply couldn't. After a while he dropped his foolish arms and skulked away in the gathering darkness, grateful for its camouflage.

    Now it was full dark and he sat behind his wheel by the roadside—fast food, gas bar, and beer ad neons lighting his face in sequence (red, white, blue), the deep engine murmur the only damn lullaby he could ever recall—and he couldn't tell if it was rage or sorrow he felt, just wished it was neither, and that it might soon resolve itself into numbness, godwilling.

    Seconds ticked by.

    He gunned the 440 Six Pack, and headed for Main Street, lulled by the low, languid growl of the engine. His earlier idea had taken on form, become a plan even. Here it was. He'd turn right on Main and he'd watch for the traffic lights at the first intersection, at Commerce, and if they were green he'd drive on out of this shithole, follow the sun's bloodtrail west… but, if they were on red he'd break into Jimmy's auto shop (he'd done it before), fix a hose to his tailpipe, close the door for the last time, and await his own version of the American dream.

    Either way he'd beat his goddamn fate.

    He turned right. Sighed like a slashed tire, then barked a laugh without a shred of humor. The light was on yellow.

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    1. Oh man, this is so good, D. "Hell, he was a walking, talking cliché." - love that. And the yellow light. Fucking genius. This is a dope piece.

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    2. Ditto, and the near juxtaposition of "walking, talking cliché" with "Sighed like a slashed tire" made me laugh, too. But with a shred of humor. Maybe even two shreds.

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    3. Holy Moly Antrobus. I got a whopper case of writer's envy from this one.The deep engine murmur the only lullabye" etc etc etc. Bravo!

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    4. Ha, yes. Thanks, all. The irony is that we're laughing, even if he's not. Also, maybe (just maybe) this dude will figure there's a third way, and that it's actually the opposite of yellow.

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    5. I think Buttfuck Central made me laugh most. Funny how he is hanging his fate on the turn of the lights and so bored with himself and everything that he's going to choose a path based on that. I want it to go purple! It's like when you were a kid and threw screwed up pieces of paper at the bin - if it goes in aka Singles film - and this raises the ante. Like to see him doing that through a book, just riding his decisions according to the change of the lights :)

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    6. Ooh, nice idea, Vickie! Or a collection of separate stories with others doing something similar.

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  15. Johnny walks home from school. Not exactly home, but where he’s sleeping this week. It’s a ways, and the streets are quiet. His backpack is heavy. It has everything he owns. One book: Huckleberry Finn. His knife. They’d take from him at school if they found it. And the iPod that the old teacher had given him, filled with classical music. Not much else but what food he could scrounge for the night.
    His stomach growled as he heard a lone car on the street behind him. It slowed and drew up next to him. Big old limo. A window rolled down.
    “You’re Johnny?”
    “Yeah, waddya want?”
    The old guy looked like a fa—like a gay guy. He remembered Mr. Collins told him not to call people fags. If he was, maybe he could make some money. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d turned a trick for dinner.
    “Mr. Collins told me about you.”
    Home run. Dinner, maybe even a place to sleep.
    “Yeah?”
    “He said we might have some interests in common. Would you like to have dinner with me and we’ll see?”
    “Why the hell not.” Maybe the guy’d let him shower first.
    The ride was silent except for the sound of the old guy breathing. Probably pneumonia. Maybe emphysema. Johnny was glad he didn’t smoke. When they got to the old guy’s house, Johnny kept saying “wow.” Wow out loud and wow inside his head. The butler offered to take his backpack, but Johnny refused.
    “I don’t even know your name, Mr.—”
    “Dexter.”
    “Thanks, Mr. Dexter.”
    “Would you like to freshen up before dinner? James will show you to the bath, fresh towels and all.”
    “Sure.” Johnny screwed up his courage. He could do this. Shower. Dinner. A bed. If he had a soul, he’d sell that, too, but all the guy wanted was his body.”
    The shower was huge. Hot water forever. Johnny tried to sear every moment into his memory for the days when there’d be no shower. When he got out, there were new clothes waiting for him. Nothing expensive, but not cheap either. Maybe if he was good, he’d be invited back.
    Dinner was more wow. Johnny was afraid he’d be sick from how much he’d eaten. Mr. Dexter watched and smiled, smart enough not to try conversation with a gluttonous boy. Finally, Johnny was full.
    “I think we’ll wait a while for dessert. Let things settle a bit. Maybe work off a little of dinner, if that’s okay?”
    “Whatever you want.” Johnny rose from the table and started unbuttoning his new jeans.
    “Whoa. Button up, please. Follow me, please. James,” he called to the butler, “Please bring us coffee in the music room.”
    Why couldn’t they just get it over with? Johnny hated waiting, hated not being in control.
    The grand piano took up most of the music room. Leaning against it was a cello. Johnny touched it adoringly, its red glow reflecting on his face.
    Mr. Dexter cleared his throat. “Now, let me tell you a story about Pablo Casals…”
    There should be more Mr. Dexters, more Mr. Collinses, in the world.

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    1. Yes there should, my friend. There really should. Thanks for looking out for Johnny. :)

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    2. The Johnny in your story inspired it... I just couldn't let him sit there all alone...

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    3. That's part of the reason I like you. :)

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    4. Sweet. He's an old soul in a young body, but there's hope for him if only he'll keep bumping into okay people :)

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    5. It's also real sad, without having to be said. Touching where he hopes he's allowed to shower first, as though it's rare, and such a simple thing/request. Also, how he has to be in control.. but that's a denial thing.

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  16. You take what you can get when you can get it, son. Grab it and run. It's not supposed to be easy and it sure ain't fun. It's called survival.

    The boy stares lazily at the shimmer of oil on the street. He listens to the monotone monologue and nods and thinks what he always thinks: "Shut the fuck up, old man."

    He never says it because he likes his teeth. But he knows the old man is wrong. He knows he's trapped in a hot-house misery, teeth clenched, smelling old blood. Hearing shouts and epithets. He will always live in that place.

    The boy looks at his fingers and counts the years until he can leave.

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    1. Real and mournful. You surprised me with "old blood" when I expected "urine" ... blood gives it a far more believable, less cliched feel.

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    2. Ditto. particularly like the monotone monologue play - you can just hear it. And the boy already planning his escape. And you know he'll leave with all of his teeth.

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  17. It seemed to her as if love was no kindness. As if his desire was some kind of trick. His ideals made her anxious, fidgeting with some need to be who she was. Some part of her remained convinced that for all his declarations she would only disappoint him, once he learned the one he loved was not at all who he believed. And yet she’d played the mirror, amused at first by his reflection, hesitant to spoil the dream. She chose the blue dress because he liked it, and the shoes that pinched and shaped the curve of her calf. She swept up her hair to show off his mother’s pearls and fussed over the steaks they’d have for dinner. He’d come home full of romance, armed with flowers, maybe some chocolates in a heart shaped box. There might be a perfume or a bracelet or two. He had learned well the lessons of romance that preached what every woman should want. And from her lonely pedestal she would smile and ooh and ahh, keeping her distance as mirrors must. He would be satisfied with his reflection, sure in the knowledge of himself as a lover, certain of his faith in his loving wife. Never really knowing the woman inside her, or hearing the things she could not say. Love was strange, the poets told her, but the rituals would be fulfilled. Valentine’s day would soon be over. They would toast to their future with expensive champagne. And the man and his mirror would live like strangers, locked in a love undoubtedly blind.
    Maybe someday she’d step from behind the mirror and show him what love was, that it was not kind.

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    1. wow... great imagery, great contradiction... strong strong ending... and this knocked my socks off: "keeping her distance as mirrors must."

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    2. Holy Jesus, I love this piece. Insightful, full ... brilliant, Teresa.

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    3. Love it. Again, strong endings always do it for me, and this is no exception.

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  18. The sun’s first rays awakened him. He opened his eyes slowly. Today was the day.
    He’d given away as much as he could. Made sure his accounts were in order. Made sure the laundry was done and the dishes were clean. He’d even asked a neighbor to watch his dog for a week, with the lie that he’d be out of town.
    He pulled the terry cloth robe over his shoulders, plods to the bathroom, performs his ablutions, and steps into the shower.
    How had it come to this? He was sure he’d die young and leave a beautiful corpse. Instead, he watched the water run over shriveled, yellow skin. He was careful to dry off completely when he was clean. As clean as old flesh can get, anyway.
    Clean clothes. Jeans, worn for years. A white snap shirt, in honor of his days as a cowboy. And the belt with the belt buckle he’d won at the Frontier Days rodeo in Cheyenne so many years ago.
    He could do this. He would do this. He removed the pistol from the safe. Took out the gun cleaning supplies. If he was doing this, it would be with a clean gun.

    The next morning, they found him, head down on the table. The coroner says it was a heart attack. The old cowboy had a smile on his face. Cleanliness is next to godliness, he used to say. Now he could ask God if that was true.

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    1. Man. I wish I could convey how much I respect this piece. But I can't. Not without writing an essay. God never meant for cowboys to get old, huh? Love it.

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    2. Died with his boots on, as they say.

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    3. Yeah, it's great. So he didn't need to shoot himself - he died naturally at the time that he wanted to, and everything was in order.

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    4. Thanks! Where I grew up, there were a lot of "gun cleaning accidents" involving people who were in situations in which some might have committed suicide.

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    5. The purity of the cowboy must be maintained, such as it is!

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  19. Gravity is a funny thing. A funny thing to be thinking about when you’re vertical one second and horizontal the next. With no memory of how you got from one plane to the next. A certain lack of coefficient of friction had been involved, that much you know, and should have known based on the spilled coffee that lay next to the patch of ice on the path leading up from the faculty parking lot. But the principles of physics had not been upmost in your mind during the trip. Only upon landing. As you lay on your side, taking inventory of the points of impact and specific gravity versus mass versus momentum versus the lack of students willing to stop to help you up, you decide to make that today’s lesson.

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    1. That'll teach those students. I like the physics and the mathematics of this, and how it all describes something immeasurable: feelings. Good stuff! It's all about Sliding Past Vertical... I think I know a book by that name...

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    2. I love the way this unfolds. I read a short story a long time ago where the entire story takes place between a bullet entering the skull and then leaving it. I've been trying to find that story forever because it was such a cool concept. Much less intense, but same cool effect.

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    3. Excellent. Somehow both meanings of gravity are at work here.

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    4. Hmmm... this one by Tobias Wolff? It's not the entire story, but a significant portion of it: http://pov.imv.au.dk/Issue_27/section_1/artc2A.html

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    5. It's funny in a way. Been there so many times. The trip. And you wonder how you were so clumsy, but it's simple physics. And funny.

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  20. Matt stood alone at the school bus stop, watching his breath form smoky white clouds in the freezing Midwestern morning air. He learned at a fairly young age, to listen to his mother when she insisted on bundling him up; he disliked dressing like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story", but not as much as he didn't want to literally freeze his balls off. Especially now that he was fourteen years old and starting to grow hair on them.

    He prayed to God that the bus picked him up before Todd Matkowski happened to arrive. Todd was an archetypal adolescent bully and juvenile delinquent, and crossing paths with him usually meant, at the least, getting shoved around and called various uninventive homophobic slurs.

    More than once, while Matt waited patiently for the bus, a freight train blew its horn and chugged down the railroad tracks, visible from the avenue. During the summer, that view was obscured by tall cornstalks. In a way, he slightly envied the steers he could hear lowing and grunting in the distance. They may be destined to be slaughtered and eaten, but they didn't have to go to school and sit through tedious lectures about geometry and world history.

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    1. I like this! I like how we get to see inside his head and feel what he's thinking!

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    2. Thank you! For me, it's just as much about the setting. I'm from California, so the Midwest is, in a way, an exotic locale to me.

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    3. Yeah, I agree with Leland. You nailed the resignation and apathy - great, relatable piece.

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    4. I love the Midwestern setting too. That landscape fascinates me. And yes, it's relatable indeed.

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    5. Think, like, around the Wisconsin / Illinois state line, the exurbs of Chicago and Milwaukee. Not SUPER rural, but small town, lots of cornfields, dairy farms, a few factories and food processing plants, some folks enduring long commutes into the city so their families can have that idyllic small-town Middle American lifestyle, shoveling the driveway instead of trudging through the snow to the El.

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  21. "I’m open to your suggestion," I said to the sky. And the wind replied with a sigh, giving me the cold shoulder and a shivering, withering brush-off.

    "I’m willing to look at things in a new light," I told low winter sun. She blinked behind a wisp, a sky-borne snow scarf, ducked behind a gray curtain, making shadow puppets of the passing clouds.

    “C’mon, Nature, fill me with inspiration,” I whispered to the cardinals, these pennants adorning skeleton maples. An empty mitten oak leaf scurried across virgin snowpack to its slushy demise.

    And Nature said, “I just did.”

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    1. This is wonderful in its haiku-like simplicity. I really like it!

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    2. I love it. Such beautiful language - and I like the fable vibe. And this is astoundingly pretty: "She blinked behind a wisp, a sky-borne snow scarf, ducked behind a gray curtain, making shadow puppets of the passing clouds."

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    3. I also loved the imagery of cardinals as fluttering pennants in the skeletal winter maples.

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    4. Yeah, me too. Really, there are no wasted words here. And so many lovely phrasings.

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    5. Agree. Particularly like the empty mitten :)

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  22. Helene writhed, the tips of the demon's barbed flail pulling tiny pecks of flesh from her side.

    “You're liking that, I can tell. Damn you.” The demon shrugged, putting his discipliner down. “Although, you've already been damned. We all have.”

    His willing victim turned to look back at him, tugging at her manacles to get enough slack on her chains. “Now, look here,” she said, blood sheeting down her torso. “You promised me eternal torture. I signed away my soul for this. You're slacking and if you don't start flogging me pronto, I'm gonna be talking to your supervisor.”

    Celanor slumped to his knees, his chitinous carapace dulled despite the steadily glowing coals that studded the cavern. “Once upon a long time ago,” he grumbled, flicking the flail so that the barbed tips tinkled together. “When I was an imp,” he continued, “there was little of this BDSM. You could get some satisfaction in your work. Whipping, flailing, suffocating people: they all used to struggle so much. You could get a bit of a glow on, knowing they were hurting. Suffering. And then E. L. James wrote that book...”

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  23. You roam the aisles of the too-pink store wondering what in hell you’re supposed to buy, what will make her happy this year, where there doesn’t seem anything that will break through that stone barrier she’s constructed. Over silent coffee and dismal side by side routines, you sense her slipping further to the back of life, a washed-out version of the bright-eyed girl in the wedding photo downstairs, and you wonder if even a physical object could do anything to chip away at the casing. You pull out your wallet and once again count the crumpled bills, wishing there were more, always wishing there were more, when you are stopped by a kind-faced older woman who reminds you of an aunt who died too young. She wears a nametag: Dorothy. It feels like a name you can trust, and just as you’re making up your mind to ask what the heck you’re supposed to do, because although the name feels comforting, you don’t feel comfortable enough to swear in her presence, even though those are half the words running through your mind right now, she speaks. “Can I help you find something, hon?” You shrug and mumble and the word “wife” and “valentine” are in there somewhere, and she steers you away from the filmy underthings and to something that looks sensible but nice, something warm but not like you’d buy your grandmother, and it feels soft and perfect and like you want to feel next to you. God knows how this is supposed to knock her doors down, but maybe if she had something like this, she might feel some kind of happy, some kind of thoughtfulness, some kind of special.

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    1. I love this, Laurie. "reminds you of an aunt who died too young--Dorothy, the whole deal. Great stuff!

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    2. Made me misty-eyed. I love the bit about aunt-like Dorothy, too.

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    3. Truly lovely... and thank god for the Dorothys of the world... the softness of this piece feels as good as a comfortable flannel nightshirt... and it's some kind of special in itself.

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    4. Ditto. This is a lovely piece. I'm even stealing Leland's word cause I can't think of a better one. Leaning sad, but so pretty.

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    5. Yeah, it's sad because there's a wall between the couple and the wife sounds depressed and sunk into herself, and he wants to reach in there and bring her out somehow. So he tries this little gesture, yet it's almost as if he doesn't know her enough to know what to buy - that really touched me, that he doesn't know what the right gift is. And then I thought maybe Dorothy has been there or is there, like his wife. Love.

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  24. My prompt word from Mader's story - Flutter

    Flutter goes the heart
    Goes the butterfly
    Flitting into the open blue
    Escaping the inevitable
    The everyday, the normal
    wishing to remember
    the special
    the singled-out time
    or is that me
    who wants to recall
    back to when we were small
    chasing and running idle
    always laughing
    joking, wondering
    seeking the meaning true
    in everything
    taking in every shape
    each bend
    the curve of the thing
    its essence
    what made it unique
    so here we are
    as the butterfly lifts
    staring into an orange sun
    wondering again
    as we did when we were kids
    because nothing changes
    ever changes
    it’s all rebeginning anew
    still as unfathomable
    still as unique.

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    1. This is beautiful. I'm so glad you've joined the fun. You're going to turn me into a poetry lover damn it! :)

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    2. LOL, I'll try!! I'm in pain with a bad back and I've just been to the pub and had 3 pints, so these little snippets are going to be interesting. Don't expect too much!

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    3. Yeah, I love Vickie's contributions here.

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  25. "Can you trust her voice?"

    The question hangs in the air like cigar smoke, mesmerizing - it stings the eyes. Suddenly, it is too hot. Sweat sprints down his back. His mind reaches, grasping, turning the question at different angles - he imagines that he has a jeweler's magnifying glass clenched between brow ridge and cheek. That he can hold it and look at the shine of it. The shame of it.

    "Trust that she has one, or that she can use it? They're not the same."

    "No. They're not."

    He casts into the dark corners of his mind and wonders. Can you trust anything? Is there anything that you can really count on? And what, he's supposed to have faith? Fuck faith.

    "I don't know. I know I don't want to watch her make the same mistakes I did. It's like watching the beginning of a movie when you know how it ends ... and it's a hard goddamn movie to watch, understand?"

    "Yes, I understand. So, can you?"

    He rubs the heels of his hands into dark eye sockets. He sees star flash and smells something close to gasoline. It doesn't make sense. None of it makes sense. It's a bluebird in Antarctica.

    "I don't know. I don't fucking know."

    They both stare at it now, and it grows, swells - pretty soon the room disappears and he is back on the road, wondering - did the bike always smell this much like gas? Did it always vibrate so much? Did the past ever make sense? Was he ever able to see a future that wasn't full of gut-twisted doubt and worry.

    The wind gets loud. Eighty, ninety - a hundred and the wind is everything and he decides he'll ride until the bike runs dry. Then call it done. Fuck faith. Fuck tricky questions with a million answers.

    For now.

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    1. it's a bluebird in Antarctica :)) It's funny how that sums it up for me and jumps out cos it's in contrast to everything else and every other image in there :) The shine and shame of it is interesting - had me wondering why shame?

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    2. I'm glad the bluebird worked. Calculated risk and all. Shame? Hell, the world's coated in shame. ;)

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    3. Yeah, and guilt. Everyone feels guilty about something or everything. The bluebird is cool.

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    4. Agree on the bluebird. And everything else. I felt this one somewhere deep that I don't wanna poke at too much.

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    5. This is one I had to come back and read again and again.... I felt the wind, I felt the running away.... the bluebird in antarctica was good, but so is the rest of this... this is stop and think good... and I'm with David... definitely poked at somewhere deep.

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    6. Thanks guys. It was pretty intense to write, frankly.

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  26. Tattered remnants of clothes hung out to dry some years ago flapped in the wind like Tibetan prayer flags. Thank God for polyester, he thought, as he pushed the door open. Cotton would have rotted. Moths would have eaten wool, But you don’t launder wool.
    Focus. Don’t let your mind wander. This matters.
    The door squeaked on its hinges as he pushed it open. Something moved. He reached for the gun he no longer wore. A rat, no doubt, or the way things were going in his life, a skunk.
    He kept his eyes on the floor. Rattlesnakes were not strangers to this part of the desert. One foot after the other, he made his way to the far end of the farmhouse, where the one-time bedroom opened off the big old kitchen. Thieves had taken the old cookstove, its indentations still marked its place of honor in the linoleum.
    He spit as a cobweb found its way to his mouth. Why were they called cobwebs when spiders made them?
    To his surprise, the old brass bed remained where it had always been. Standard-sized. Too small for the two egos that once shared it. He worked his way to the closet, where the door hung from a single hinge. He only now noticed the graffiti that someone had spray-painted on the wall. Unintelligible symbols of the illiterate ruffians that had infested the county after he left.
    The closet was empty. He only hoped… no time for hope right now, just find it and get out of here.
    He kicked at the floorboards, to warn or frighten any vermin there, but instead the noise startled him. He knelt down, and counted boards, from the back of the closet. The third one. Catch it on the end next the wall. It came up easy, just like it did twenty-four years ago.
    He cursed himself for not bringing a flashlight. Rats. Spiders. Snakes. Who knew what had taken the small box as its charge? He took a deep breath, plunged his hand into darkness and found the sharp metal edges immediately. It lifted easily. Had someone found and emptied it?
    He pulled it out and walked on his knees to the bedroom, to get the light. He still remembered the combination. 8-5-6-2, for the day Marilyn Monroe died. The lid popped open. It was still there. He was afraid to touch it, afraid it might shatter, afraid it might shock him with electricity.
    He placed it in the plastic bag he’d brought, kicked the box under the bed, and left.
    After all these years, his beloved Marilyn’s diary was going to see the light of day again.

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    1. This is a dope piece. You maintain the tension perfectly right up to the end.

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    2. Yeah, there's a lot packed in there. A lot going on. And you're with the character doing the actions. I don't know why but polyester made me laugh, I have no idea why, and then the tension came so it was cool. I was also wondering what he was going to touch in the dark... spiders... shivers! And neatly wrapped up.

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    3. :) Dope just means really, really good. Sorry. Yank slang.

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    4. I was meaning to ask ages ago!!!! Over here, dope either means drugs or stupid! :)

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    5. Oh, so cool...I want to know more...

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    6. Dope's the opposite of wack. And this is the former. :)

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    7. thanks ...I'm so glad to be unwack.

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  27. Small.

    The bare walls of the room fixed on her and she stared, feeling grief rise in her chest and harden, filling her like solid rock. This pain locked her, froze her. She didn’t move. Outside, in the garden, she knew what was happening, but she didn’t look out of the window, didn’t wish to; it was too much. They were moving, her family, to a bigger house in another part of the country and some things were in the way. She was still a child. No say. No will. No confidence to enforce her will. She lived in a house of bullies. They criticised, ridiculed, ignored; took out their anguish and bitterness in pink handprints splattering her body. It wasn’t artwork. It wasn’t poetic. The tears trickled down her face and she let them stay. She had helped to raise them since they were chicks, kept them as pets, fed them while they pecked eagerly at her hands, making her laugh, but they were no longer needed. There was nowhere for them in the new house and the journey too far. As an adult, she’d always remember. With hindsight, she’d wonder why they couldn’t just phone a farm or charity to take them. But no, her father killed all of the chickens with a brick while she stared weeping at the bare wall.

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    1. Wow. I'm not usually at a loss for words. I can relate to this in many ways. Even as a writer (jealous). ;) Awesome piece.

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    2. I agree... but I hate her father and what to protect her. And that probably tells more about the power of your writing than anything I could say.

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    3. Really? Thanks. It's not often I reap up stuff like that. It's too dark, but I just thought of it. Being a teenager is weird. You're almost adult, but you're not free. I'm thinking I should have changed the last line to 'while she stared at the weeping wall'.

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    4. Thanks, Leland. I find it weird and unsettling the amount of violence in the everyday or the things ignored. I'd protect her too. And the chickens.

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    5. We kept fifty-six chickens at one point, so I get this. I only ever once had to kill one (it was sick and being attacked by the other hens) and I was seriously depressed for days and still don't like to think about it. And respectfully, I disagree, Vickie. I love the ending exactly how it is; the slightly unexpected word order works to disorient us, I think. And it's hella sad.

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  28. Something more cheerful :)

    Magic dust

    Upwards they soar and I follow
    On the breeze of awakening
    Magic dust
    In free air I paddle my legs
    Flipping feet and flying arms
    Not knowing why
    Or where am I going
    Will I fall?
    Catch me if you can in an open net
    Let me sit upon your floating carpet
    Flying through these towers drawn
    Between fairy tales we’ll weave
    Rewriting these stories of old
    Laughing at dragons blowing fire
    As we dip our carpet this way
    In awe as knights battle for fair maiden
    Magic dust
    Do I have enough of you to find
    Merlin pottering in his endless caves
    Or Rapunzel washing her lively hair
    These days are worn as dreams
    And in between I tiptoe lest I wake.

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    1. And I forgot the question mark after hair!

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    2. Fairy dust allows us to put the question mark in for you.... this is sweet!

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    3. Thanks. I was thinking imagine if you could take a trip through your favourite fairy tales, but you were always safe :)

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    4. Yes! I love this. I read a LOT of fairy tales.

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    5. I loved Stardust - fairytale for adults :) I tried to write one - The Sea Inside :)

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    6. You can't tell a soul, but I had a mad crush on the big bad wolf.

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    7. hahahaha!!!!! I was into the princes :) And the toad...

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    8. I liked the grandma... Kidding! Oh, that troll under the bridge was pretty hot, though.

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  29. Dang it, I'm late and out of time! Here's a retread that really did only take about two minutes to write...

    * * *
    The instructions said to wait, so she waited. It was something she did quite well; Lord knows she'd had plenty of practice. Sometimes it seemed she did little else besides wait.

    Just a few more minutes now. But how many minutes, hours, days, years of her life had she wasted waiting, hoping, praying — all for naught?

    Enough! Today it would stop. Today she would move forward, no matter what. Her phone played a marimba to celebrate her newfound resolve.

    She looked guardedly at the little white stick, and beamed: two blue lines — finally!

    It had been worth the wait.

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    Replies
    1. I like it, was hanging on wondering where it was going, but how did blue lines come from the white stick? I'm wondering!!

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    2. I'm told that's one of the longest moments in a hopeful mother's life.... well done.

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    3. Thanks, Leland! The penny didn't drop with me. Now I get it completely. Cool. :)

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    4. Oh wow. Yeah, took me a few seconds, but great payoff!

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  30. It was a sunny day. Smiles and chuckles. Birdsong and breeze that lifts the hair off your knuckles. Then, the sudden tightness. Damn allergies. Been getting worse. Spring. Better to be safe than sorry, though. They laughed. Quite the romantic picnic.

    The look in the doctor's eyes was as wooden as his clipboard. Friendly upon greeting, they were now set in grave ignominy - or something related. He spoke his piece and left; the room reverberated with the sudden silence.

    She was crying. His mind was a tsunami nightmare. No way. No way and not now and what the everloving fuck ... he'd never even smoked a joint, let alone a cigarette? It couldn't be. But it was. He'd seen everything the doctor had seen. Shit, a child could interpret an X-Ray like that. His children would have to.

    He tried to smile, but his face was broken. She was sobbing now, holding him. And he wanted to say he was sorry, but there was nothing to be sorry for. And he wanted to go back in time and say, "I don't feel like a picnic, let's stay in," as if that would have made some sort of difference.

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    1. Ahhh... so poignant, and again, so real. When confronted with such news, we all become superstitious in denial. This is heartbreakingly good.

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    2. Ditto. He tried to smile, but his face was broken. That's so real - he wanted to say he was sorry, because he felt guilty for being sick. Really sad.

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    3. God, that line. What Vickie said.

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    4. Yeah. Got tears here, for real. Ya douche. :)

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  31. I’m a wondering when wandering, the mind changing, mood switching. The heat of the sun tickles my skin and I know I’m here. Like a ghost I drift through my life of echoes; past, present and future moulding. In this moment I am here. In the next I may be lost. With a glance behind, I know the man I used to be. Stepping over this stream, I know who I am.

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    1. I love this. Reminds me of my Grandpa. A tough man with a love for poetry. This has a very Western swagger to it.

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    2. Ah, that's cool. Did he like TS Eliot? Dunno why I think he might. Maybe I been watching too much Hell on Wheels :))) Do love the whole cowboy thing.

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    3. A little of my grandpa and also my late father-in-law. This one had a little arrowhead made of feels.

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  32. That's me done. It's 12.45 am! Enjoyed reading all the stories! Cheers JD :)

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    1. Cheers! Sleep well. Awesome stuff today.

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    2. Thanks! Can't believe it's only just 5pm where you are. Funny!

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  33. When Wendell returned from Sally’s mailbox, he took in the whole of his Victorian from the vantage point of the street, alarm ringing through him when he imagined a potential visitor falling down the stairs. So he checked the oven timer, grabbed a shovel and went at them. He’d reached the third one from the landing when he heard footfalls squeak into the snow in his driveway. He knew her immediately by the long, lavender coat and prepared a smile, but it flagged at the determination of her step and the furrow of her brow. The red cardboard box he’d left for her clutched in one bare hand.

    “Wendell Alexander, we need to talk,” she said, waving the box at him. His stomach fluttered. But not in a bad way. It didn’t sound to him like one of those soul-crushing “We need to talks,” but kind of a plea. And she liked how she said his name, with that tiny bit of Boston accent softening his final “r.” It was cute. Like her.

    “Good afternoon to you, too.”

    Her indignation appeared to melt away. He leaned on his shovel. She huffed out a breath. “You can’t keep…” She seemed to be stretching out for something beyond her grasp. “The flowers, and now…”

    He grinned and, in hopes of hiding his flushed cheeks, returned to his shoveling. “Just thought you’d like it.”

    “I do. It’s nice. It’s very…neighborly. It’s just...too much.”

    “Didn’t exactly break the bank,” he said.

    “You know what I mean.”

    He stopped, planted the shovel into a mound of snow. “Yes. I’m aware.”

    “I’m not ready.”

    “Didn’t ask to marry you, Sally. I just thought, well, that you might like a little company now and again. In a neighborly sort of way.”

    The corners of her mouth turned down and she gazed at the box of chocolates. “You make me sound so hard. I’m not, really.”

    “Hard? No.” Her coat was unzipped, and in her apparent zeal to storm over to his house, she’d neglected her scarf, hat, and gloves. “Cold, maybe.”
    She glanced up at him. “Is that…?”

    “Pound cake.” He smiled. “Just about done.”

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    1. Yes! And now, more (ha ha, not demanding at all)! :)

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    2. I love it! and now I can sleep tonight, knowing they talked

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    3. An idea for you... have the bell of the timer go off somewhere near the end.

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