Friday, February 20, 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. 

Smug ain't sophisticated, they aren't even related - and you're not always right, just because it feels so. And the wind doesn't always bring rain, it won't always bring snow. You got yourself tied up in these grand presumptions, and you wear them like armor. What's the harm?

You stand at the top of a cliff and 'oh shit' at the wonder of it, rainbow crevasses, but you're lying if you say there isn't a tiny bit of you thinking: but what if I ... "slipped."


Smile at the sodden cruelty, grin at the sly delusions. You want narrative? You bastard ... we have a problem, Houston.

Hands in the air, you step into the wind - hot tear of it against your face - you are flight, freedom, fuck-all. This is a BBQ smoke baptism.

There is soft music from the other side of the neighborhood, and you wish you lived there.

The brain moves so fast in free-fall. You are holding hands in the back seat while Tommy's Mom drives you home from the dance. You are standing on a stage, taking a certificate while you try to smile and everyone claps and you think: "I'm only nine and even I know this is ridiculous." 


You are standing by your grandmother, knowing she can't hear you, but desperate for the right words, regardless. You are wondering how divorce can drain the color from everything - turn everything black and white. You are miles away, but you are also present. 

The splash when you hit the water is rebirth. 

Thanks for stopping by! I'll be out a lot of today 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

207 comments:

  1. Jessamyn followed his gaze, her eyes settling on the huge disk in the sky; a world filled with memories, some happy and some sad.

    “It was for the best,” Darryl urged, his voice insistent and urgent. “We had to come here. There was nothing else we could do.”

    She nodded, grim-faced. “I know, but...” Her face turned downward and she fell silent, the unspoken words ringing out loud in both their heads. It'd been a hard decision to make and eventually the choice had made itself, the Gene Police sweeping through the few remaining settlements, pushing survivors into shuttle-ships, the fertile and the viable being given no choice; the perpetuation of the species their uppermost priority. Nobody had been warned, they'd been ruthless like that. Everybody here had just been taken. No arguments. The taser-equipped defence forces shot first and left the chosen to ask their questions later.

    The two of them stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder now, coupled by necessity. “I only wish...” Jess began again, haltingly, hugging the small leather-bound valise to her chest. “My daughter, Grace. She never got this. She never had a chance...”

    The dying planet above them said nothing. The moon would have to be kinder.

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    1. Ooh, that last line is killer. I like this take on the "last left standing" - strong, consistent voice. Well played.

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    2. INCREDIBLE last paragraph. "The moon would have to be kinder." GAHHHH... that's a line that makes me envious. Well done!

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    3. ::copying line into 'must be plagiarized' notebook:: crediting it to "wildly talented anonymous writer" just to avoid lawsuits, you understand.

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    4. Thanks so much, both of you. Sometimes these lines just come to you. I'm just the conduit! ;)

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    5. Well, thanks for being the conduit and for carrying the lines pure and simple and beautiful. Sometimes our job as writers is just to get out of the way, and make sure there's enough paper...

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    6. Frightening and redemptive, all in one. Nice job, Mark.

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    7. Yes, that paragraph says it all and the last line puts the period on it..

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    8. SO good. Yes. Last paragraph, last line. Killer.

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    9. ditto, also. Ditto what _everyone_ said. :)

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  2. And there is always rebirth... thanks for a poignant, beautifully written reminder.... This is gorgeous: "The splash when you hit the water is rebirth." ... and perhaps "The splash when you hit the water" would be a good title for another collection of your stories!

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    1. And I love this: "Hands in the air, you step into the wind - hot tear of it against your face - you are flight, freedom, fuck-all. This is a BBQ smoke baptism. "

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    2. That IS a good title. And thanks, brother.

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    3. I love this piece. "I'm only nine and even I know this is ridiculous." Essence.

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    4. Sometimes you've gotta jump. I love the rebirth at the end. And I swear I didn't read this before I wrote mine. ;)

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    5. I love it. I'd quote a favorite line but then I'd have to re-post the whole shebang.

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    6. This is such a strong piece. Something ineffable here.

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  3. Lightning struck the windmill the summer I turned 17, the summer I first fell in love. It took Daddy a week to fix the damage. He said you had to be a jack-of-all-trades to live on a farm. He could fix anything—tractors, calves, water pumps—anything except a son who fell in love with a guy.
    My brother was a Marine in those days, and he was bringing his best buddy to the farm. They were both on leave before heading overseas in the days of the Vietnam War that wasn’t a war. Walter Cronkite cried a tear when he read the casualty numbers every night on the news and I knew my brother was invincible, I didn’t know about his buddy, a guy named Monty.
    When they got off the Greyhound bus in our little town, I was sipping a root beer float, and the ice cream almost gave me a brain freeze. But the two of them stepping off the bus made my body heat up in a way I’d never known before, even when I dreamed. My brother looked like a muscled up version of me. Tall and lanky, sun-bleached hair. Monty was shorter, and wore his muscles like a well-tailored suit. His hair was dark and short in a military cut, but the tuft of hair that stuck out above his t-shirt promised a reckless spirit.
    I didn’t say much as Mom drove us back to the farm. Monty was polite and quiet in the backseat he shared with me. The candy apple red Ford Galaxy sliced through the dust on the backroads as Mom promised meals of steak and gravy and lemon meringue pies. She couldn’t stop looking at her boy, now a man.
    I couldn’t stop looking at Monty. He smiled shyly at me, and I blushed.
    “What’s that over there?” he asked, his one hand on my shoulder as the other pointed to a herd of buffalo.
    “Buffalo. Bison, to be technically correct.” My adolescent voice sounded high pitched even to me.
    “Have you ever been to Nebraska before, Monty?” asked my mother’s voice from the front seat.
    “Never, ma’am. I’ve spent most of my life in California. My folks moved there from New Jersey before I was born.”
    I closed my eyes and wondered if there would be blisters where his hand had touched my shoulder.

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    1. Another killer last line. What really strikes me about this piece is the judicious and awesome use of really specific detail. The red Ford, the brain freeze - and, book end wise, you nailed it. First sentence is dope as the last. Great piece.

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    2. It ended way too soon. Such unfulfilled promise.

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    3. The heat in this piece is palpable. Good job!

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    4. And the nostalgia is heart-crushing. The clash of memory now and hope then.

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    5. Wow. What everyone else said and then some. Excellent. Now I want to know more.

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    6. I love the way you manage to make me feel like I'm there, living in the moment with them. And the line about how his dad could fix anything except a son who fell in love with a guy--heartbreaking.

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    7. Thank you all... this will some day find its way into a novel.... which one, I am not yet sure... but one day... I appreciate your kind words!

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  4. On the almost-desert of the Nebraska panhandle, thunderhead clouds build quickly and out of nothing. The rain is torrential or non-existent on the dartboard of the plains. Thunder there echoes for miles through the dry air, promising rain and sometimes delivering.
    Love is like that in this place, too. The church socials, the pep rallies for the high school football team, the unauthorized beer parties on the backroads; all promises of love everlasting, sometimes broken, sometimes kept.
    Sometimes when the beer flows freely and the air is perfumed with cannabis, the unexpected happens, and a spark is formed from two pairs of lips that touch in summer starlight—just often enough to make you believe that some day, some summer night, under the Milky Way’s influence, such a spark might light on you.

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    1. This is lovely. You have a real knack for making places I've never seen seem completely real, like I've been there before.

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    2. Oooh, love it. The sense of anticipation, the waiting, and longing is palpable.

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    3. Gorgeous sense of place.I really love the relative "smallness" of their lives against the giant back drop of Nature. Been there, seen it. And yet those sparks? Like the dang Milky Way.

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    4. You've transported this old city gal twenty-five years back to a place I've never been. Excellent.

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    5. Yeah, you do "place" really well, Leland.

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    6. Gorgeous, palpable. "Dartboard of the plains." Love that.

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    7. Thanks... I've been lucky to be many places... maybe that helps! I appreciate your kind words!

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  5. We got off the bike, my legs still trying to hold onto the metal rocket carrying us through the heart of America, my nose still full of the leather of his jacket, a jacket well worn and worn well.
    The parking lot is nearly empty. We stretch. We hobble, then walk toward the visitor’s center. I point to the reason we’re here, the crystalline hexagons that form the Devil’s Tower. As far as I know, there’s no other reason to be here.
    “Do you remember the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?” I ask him.
    He nods.
    “This is that tower.”
    He’s a man of few words and nods again.
    “When I saw it, I finally knew I wasn’t alone. I don’t mean I was an alien or waiting for an alien, but I was an alien of sorts, and I knew one day I’d be rescued, found by others like me.”
    He cocks his head, trying to understand.
    “Even now, when I feel lost, I hum those five notes, five notes that got me through puberty and high school.”
    He sang the notes to me. “Doot doot doot doot dooooo”
    “Yeah, those are the ones. They should make a hymn from that.”
    “You’re not alone man.” He put his hand on my shoulder and we walked into the building.
    I sang the notes to myself, but under my breath. “Doot doot doot doot dooooo”

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    1. Man, I HAVE been to this place. And I have hummed those notes myself. And this: well worn and worn well - dope.

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    2. I haven't been there but I imagine the same response if I were. :)

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    3. Don't want to spam Dan's blog, but I wrote about that place too, in a very different way. I like the way you wrote about it.

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    4. This did something to my heart and my eyes. They don't seem to be working quite right, now.

      Beautiful.

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    5. It's a very, very special place... something very ancient happened there... and you can feel it... very eerie... but in a good way. David, I don't remember why, but I did think of you with Devil's Tower? Could I have read it?

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    6. Okay, since you asked... ;)

      It was quite a personal piece, so be gentle with me!

      Devil's Tower May Have Caused My Lover's Furrowed Brow

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  6. The man at table three has a look you’ve seen before, a kind of gray and sagging look like someone has just deflated his last tire, pulled the rug out one too many times, tipped his garbage cans, and misdelivered his mail. You’ve seen that expression on your own face in the mirror, so unhappy and defeated, and wondered: who the hell is that old broad? You refill his coffee mug and give your best “fuck February” smile. It doesn’t refill his tires or shovel his walk, but it does lift his smile a few degrees, and sometimes that’s enough.

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    1. Indeed. Sometimes it is. Sometimes even one degree helps. This is a piece that would get into the heart of every cold person in America right now... and more than a few north of the border, too.

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    2. Loving the 'fuck february smile' - and the whole piece, but man that's a perfect description. And I agree, small gestures - so important. Really amazing flash.

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    3. True. Just that tiniest connection can help us through. Super.

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    4. Yup, what they said. I could do with one of those smiles from anybody right about now. Great piece!

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    5. Yes! Never hurts to help someone's day, even a tiny notch.

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    6. Oh, and I'm smiling a "fuck February" smile at Jen right now. :)

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  7. Borders, circles, lines. Us and them. Me and you. Sometimes enemies, sometimes friends. Can't look into each other's eyes if we aren't facing off. I see east, you see west. Beginnings of days and the end of days. You wanna send me to hell and some days I think going there would be a great trip. Let me look in your eyes, lean against me, lean into me. Let's cross the borders, let's fuck the lines, let's unravel the circle. Tomorrow, we'll start all over again, if there is a tomorrow, if the idiots don't spoil it all.

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    1. Good This was an homage to you and your style.

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    2. I didn't want to presume, but yeah. If you'd slipped into the pocket of an old jacket, I totally would have thought I wrote it. ;)

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    3. slipped *this* - I don't think you'd fit in my jacket pocket...

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    4. LOL, yeah, and when I do slip into pockets... well... we're not goin' there... It was fun to imitate, though mine was far less successful in MaderRap mode... imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

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  8. You got your once upon a time, I got mine. Yours is heavy on sleeping princesses, mine's a little more cowboys into the sunset. But the bottom line is we both love, we both know that you can go it alone or travel together for a while and the mirror never answers who the fairest of them all is. They talk about procreating and recruiting and corruption and all we wanna do is dance and sing the words of love and pain and joy and sorrow. Let the colors blend together like a Colorado sunset or sunrise if you like your beginnings in the early part of day. I got the bacon if you'll bring the eggs, they'll both taste better in the clean mountain air with wood smoke and ashes taking the place of pepper which we left on the counter at home but who cares. Wash the plates in the creek where moments ago a raccoon bathed and pretend it's all clean like the slate of an unblemished tomorrow like an empty yesterday.
    Happily ever after? Maybe just happy, maybe just after, but rignt now is the moment before Humpty falls and we don't even hear all the King's men and all the King's horses because they are tin soldiers on a battlefield a long, long ways away.

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    1. Oh, man. I love this one. So rich. Wood smoke pepper? That's brilliant.

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    2. Yeah, love the stream of consciousness feel of this.

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    3. Oh, ditto ditto and ditto. Love this so hard.

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    4. Thanks Steam of consciousness is hard for me... but I practice here, and that makes it easier... thanks for keeping me going with it!

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    5. Hmmm... or STREAM of conciousness... I suppose steam of consciousness would be steampunk, and I've never written that.

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  9. She is all alone, but in that brave way that makes younger people smile and nod some kind of pity that pisses her right the fuck off. She doesn't say anything. Just smiles back. The same way she tries to smile when she explains to the bank that they should stop sending letters to a man who has been dead for 10 years.

    She is alone, but it is not a burden. It is merely happenstance. She might even be able to sit and enjoy a meal if they'd stop with their dripping smiles. If the mail would wise the fuck up. If the waiter would - goddamn it - the waiter is flirting with everything wearing tits.

    She steps out into the cool evening and thinks, 'hell, there's food at home.' And there is. And she's reading a good book. And home smells like honey and firewood. And home is a silent place, or a loud place - it is any kind of place she wants it to be.

    She almost skips the three blocks, giggling. Going home.

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    1. Oh, I like her... and I like the smell of her home and what she's created. This woman could be a friend of mine, and you've let me get to know her in only four short paragraphs. Well done! (and I love the smell of honey and firewood... )

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    2. Sometimes alone is far less lonely.

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    3. This is a great piece, Mader.

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    4. Sounds familiar. I know a few women like this. Some guys, too. :)

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    5. I appreciate it - I wanted to do this story justice. Stoked it worked.

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  10. You wake up and your head explodes. There is brain matter on the ceiling, pieces of your frontal lobe fall like confetti. You brace yourself and try to think, but that's hard when your thinking muscle is in pieces on the wall. You take a sip of water and swirl it in your mouth, dying.

    You try to think. The party after work. Drink after the party? Sure. Why not. You never do things like that. Try a new cocktail? Tastes like chocolate? Why, sure! Why not? And goddamn if it doesn't taste just like chocolate. Delicious. One more...

    You feel something brush your leg and realize there is someone in the bed. You turn and you see stars and you also disturb the condom wrapper that lies between you. Straight up lies. Condoms don't know truth.

    You look at the back of a head that could be anyone's and hope to God...

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    1. That morning after feeling when you know it wasn't worth it. Great.

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    2. Ouch! I can almost smell the regret.

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    3. Hangover *and* shameover! The worst. :(

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    4. "Condoms don't know truth." Oh yeah... and "You look at the back of a head that could be anyone's and hope to God..." I seem to remember a few mornings like this... but none were as well-written.

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  11. An English teacher. This was not where her daydreams would have sent her, but it was a way to make a living. The money sucked, but she lived for the moment when she saw recognition dawn in a student's eyes.
    She saw her students, for the most part, as punctuation. The whisperer was a parenthesis. The boy who interrupted himself was an ellipsis. The pregnant 15-year-old was a set of very curvaceous brackets.
    The ones who brought her joy, though, were the question marks, and the exclamation points. And the boy reading "To be or not to be...," he was both.

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  12. She turns her head slightly and beautiful turns to breathtaking. Your breath catches. It always does. There is a certain angle, sometimes it is the way the light twinges, sometimes it is merely the throbbing of your heart.

    She is always a stabbing pain of love.

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    1. I know this feeling. You captured it well.

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    2. The light twinges... THAT phrase alone makes this beautiful, but the whole thing works so well in its beautiful brevity.

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  13. I can try to tell you the story, but I can't remember how it started. If you're cool with that, I am. I remember how it ended and, well, that's the story really. That's the important part. The crux of the matter, if you will.

    Yeah, I know, that sounds pretentious. I don't want to tell you the story. I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job of showing you that, but you're not picking up what I'm laying down. You just sit smiling and, God, I wish you'd frown.

    Just let me tell the story about when I busted my tooth at the park. That one's much easier. I know the whole damn thing. Every boring detail.

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    1. Last three words are essential. They "tie the room together," to quote the Dude.

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    2. "I know the whole damn thing." ... that resonates... and makes us realize what we don't know.... and maybe what the narrator doesn't know.... good deal.

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  14. Knife edge, precipice edge. Been here all my life. One step forward -- over the brink. One step back -- blood will flow. Teetering along the edge, walking that thin line that's sometimes obscured, sometimes clear as day. It's the iffy days that make me want to jump either way: chaos or pain. Neither is perfect -- either for me or for you. And I have to make myself remember that this edge, this balancing act, was always the only choice.

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    1. Oh. This one cuts like a knife. Pun not intended, but it does. What can I say? Lovely word play.

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    2. What Dan said. Such a familiar feeling.

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    3. That sounds like a painful way to live. :(

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    4. Chaos or pain... perfect... and I love the whole story for the reminder of how binary we as humans tend to be, always either/or, never stopping to consider that the only rational path is the knife edge that separates them... a third choice. Well done in terms of craft and in terms of message.

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  15. I got this drum and I'm gonna pound the shit out of it. You're going to need a fife the size of Texas. But we'll get it done. Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum.

    I had a boil, but it turned out to be nothing. Doctor said it was just a simmer. Preacher said it was 'cause I'm a sinner. Momma said, 'shut the hell up and eat your dinner!'

    Once, I lived in the moment - I swear I did. The moment wasn't that great. Now, I live in chaff and slate.

    Clock hands are so gently abusive. Like your kindness, so effusive. So intrusive.

    I will sit on this stump until I'm done being stumped.

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    1. The makings of a good song here. Is there music?

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    2. Excellent wordplay. That ain't a boil, it's a simmer. Might steal that one! :)

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    3. I hadn't thought of it as music, no. Now, I might. ;) Thanks.

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    4. I love this wordplay, too... and I've sat on that stump for a long, long time... Curiosity question... you always have great rhythm and alliteration and rhyme... do you hear them in your head, or do you read them aloud? Very smooth...

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    5. That's just how it comes out. It's rarely what you'd call conscious. Definitely don't hear it or even construct it. I used to. Now, it just comes. I honestly don't understand it completely, but I try not to question it. ;)

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  16. You can’t touch his tools. She doesn’t even know what they’re called, the thingamabobs and whatchamacallits that he uses to scrape the stone away from the statues underneath, but when she’s summoned in to clean, she’s careful to leave them be. Even the one time she knocked a thing that looked like a buttonhook askew, and put it back exactly as she remembered it, all the handles facing in the same direction and as parallel as one can make them without engineering devices, he knew, somehow. He’d glowered at her, whiskbroom eyebrows crunching together, as if a mental attachment had grown between that odd garble of stuff in his head and the devices he operates. “Must have been a mouse,” she said, and that’s why she’d been summoned back this time, to set traps and sweep up the crumbs from his many meals taken while he worked. As she was reaching ever so carefully to place a baited trap at the back of his work table, her foot slipped and she tumbled forward, skimming the surface and scattering his implements, one of which rolled, in slow motion it seemed, before clattering to the floor along with her. The moment, eyes widening, that she realized her offense, the door to the studio swung open, his towering heft filling the space. She opened her mouth, not knowing what would come out, what kind of excuses she could make, but no words came. Instead, she was transfixed by the sudden softness of his face, the laser focus of his eyes to where she was sprawled on the hardwood planks beneath the skylight. “You…” She shrank back, heart pounding, afraid to reach for the fallen tool or leave well enough alone. “My god. You. You will be my next project.”

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    1. Woah. This is awesome and intense. Part of me wants more, part of me thinks that you nailed the landing so perfectly. "whiskbroom eyebrows" - damn, that's good.

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    2. Yes, as Dan said. Plus it leaves me hanging, holding my breath. Is this a good or bad thing - to be his next project?

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    3. Amazing to be able to build such tension in so short a piece. Loved it.

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    4. What they all said. Love the open ending that would let it fall out different ways. :D

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    5. I think this tells us so much about both of them... about the artist's openness to the moment, and about her fear of it, her practicality.... I think you're a genius.

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  17. Woe is me, sweet misery. I wrap myself in it, twisting - clutch blankets to my chest. The weight of it is real, and real is good. Isn't it? Fuck if I know. It's all so much. It's all so dark. It's all so hopeless. The sky is falling.

    Little chicken's don't know. This pop-up ad might change your life. You want more lean muscle and increased energy levels? More lethal erections? You want to gaze at these soundbite confections? You can't gaze at sound. You rube.

    But I can fix all of it. I got the magic potion. I got all kinds of fancy notions. Snake oil? Hell yeah, I got some. That shit'll fix every problem you got. What scent do you prefer? Resignation or despair? It matters not.

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    1. I'll take one of those lethal erections, please. ;-)

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    2. (Ha ha! It was Jen's "please" that made me laugh.)

      Nice flow, bro.

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    3. I love it... sometimes I feel like the world would make more sense if we wrote copy before inventing the product to sell... this little piece would sell a lot of lethal erectile lotions.... and coming in the flavors of resignation or despair? choice... I'm buying stock in this manufacturer right now.

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  18. “Naw, fuck that shit. Fuck your Eurocentric beauty standards.” Luanne smiled and puffed on the blunt, as she curtly rebuffed the suggestion that she take a flatiron or chemical relaxers to her hair. She watched her mother do such things to her own kinky hair throughout her childhood, and it never seemed like fun. It was just one of those things she did because she felt she had to make herself “presentable”. Luanne had kept her own hair buzzed short for years, so she wouldn’t have to deal with that, and only now was starting to feel confident enough to let it grow out. That was six months ago, and by now she was sporting about three inches of untamed Afro; she had never felt more liberated, powerful, or sexy. She didn’t even think twice, the last time some dipshit white person touched her hair on BART, before snapping, “Ay! Who the fuck said you could touch me? Step off!”

    She was far more accommodating, though, to people she knew and liked, who politely asked permission first. Tim was one of her favorite white boys; when he noticed she was growing her hair out, he casually remarked, “whoa… Luanne, you’re starting to get some serious Afro going on. Do you mind if I touch it? Like, it’s totally okay if you say no, but I’ve never touched like, natural black hair.”

    Luanne smiled and said, “Sure, pet me,” and leaned in a little to let him stroke her thick, nappy hair. She couldn’t really get mad at that; when he got sick of his shaggy dishwater-blond mop and shaved it down to boot-camp stubble, she rubbed his bristly cranium and giggled, “it’s like a little newborn puppy!” He yipped and playfully snapped at her fingers, as his girlfriend looked on jealously.

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    1. There is so much going on in this piece. Really digging it. You touch on so many things in a deceptively simple story. Social dynamics, self awareness, societal floundering. Dope.

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    2. Cheers. Based on a true story: I have had a black female acquaintance touch my short-clipped straight white-boy hair and say it felt like puppy fur. Later, after asking and being granted permission, of course. I touched her unstraightened hair and giggled about how it felt like sheep's wool. (And living in West Oakland, I like how natural African-American hair is becoming more fashionable, or at least accepted. I refuse to deliberately tan my pale hide, for the same reasons.)

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    3. Ditto what Dan said. Great job!

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    4. Really human story, full of the good kind of awkwardness. Sweet. Right down to a perfect ending.

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    5. Great piece. On top of everything everyone else said, I love the relationship dynamic in that last sentence, how it can be read as a brief statement about how people don't understand male-female platonic friendships. Or can be read as the two of them not realizing that maybe their feelings aren't so platonic. :)

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    6. That is intentionally ambiguous. ;)

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    7. Ditto... it's all been said, and they're right!

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  19. The screen stared back at me, blank, white, empty. Nothing. No thoughts, no ideas, no inspiration. Nothing. Sparkling scintillations danced on the screen. My eyes grew heavy, drooped, closed. A new landscape. Red serpents undulated across the vista in front of a background of oranges, golds, yellows interspersed with flashes of blinding white. Black spots competed with the white. A thought. This is how they describe Hell. All fire, heat and brimstone. But this did not burn. It carried no heat. It was beautiful, mesmerizing, hypnotic. I watched the dance across the screen until it faded to black. I slept.

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    1. Oh man, I like this one so much. A writer's lament, to be sure. And wonderfully done.

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    2. You've perfectly captured a day at the office for me, when even hellish images fail to inspire. Very good.

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    3. When nothing comes, describe the "nothing." Works for me. :)

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    4. Nothingness. In the end, it's all there is. And you nailed it.

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  20. "You look like cold chicken skin, son."

    "Thanks. That's helpful."

    "Well, shit boy - it ain't supposed to be a band aid - it's supposed to be an observation. I don't fault you for it, but you look like shit."

    "Again. Thanks."

    "It's the booze, kid. You know that. Hell, you're 27 and you look like you're halfway to the grave. I ain't telling you how to live -"

    "Right. You're just telling me I look like shit ..."

    "You want me to lie?"

    "Maybe."

    "Alright. You look fresh as a pile of daisies. Really, the sunken eyes bring out the yellow in your teeth. And you know how they say red wine is good for ya? Imagine how good Wild Turkey must be. Shit, that's practically medicine."

    "Funny."

    "And Santa Claus? They lied, that bastard is real as you or me. Tooth Fairy, too. Easter Bunny. God. Human compassion. Hope. Colorful ribbons for colorful causes. They're all real and they're gonna save everyone. It's gonna be a game changer. A world shake up. The Rapture's coming. Lord A'Mighty."

    "Please. Just stop. I get it, OK?"

    "Yeah, you get it, chicken skin. You get it. Until it's afternoon."

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    1. "Until this afternoon." That says it all.

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    2. Sigh... all of it, true. And this, "Colorful ribbons for colorful causes. They're all real and they're gonna save everyone. It's gonna be a game changer. A world shake up. The Rapture's coming. " well, that just nails it all.

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  21. The handful of lobby customers were rattled from the get-go, when four masked men with assault rifles barged into the corporate headquarters branch of Wells Fargo, shouting, “hit the deck, motherfuckers, this is a robbery! Lie down on the floor, with your hands behind your heads, shut up, and it’ll all be over in a minute or two.”

    While three of them forced their way behind the counter, striking any teller they thought were even thinking about reaching for the silent alarm, one jumped up on an island and announced, “Bank customers, you are not the ones we’re here to rob. We’re here to take a cut from the billionaire financiers who tanked the economy and stuck you with the bill. Do not be a hero. These usurers are not your friends.”

    Meanwhile, the guard who monitored the cameras wasn’t paying attention. He tried to get rid of the pretty young brunette in snug cutoffs, Doc Martens, and a baby-blue tank top who knocked on the door, but he was not getting paid enough to risk his life. So when she pointed a suppressed pistol at him, he backed away from the door. “WHOA, let’s not do anything crazy, girl…” She pushed into the room, the gun pointed right at his face. She ziptied his ankles and wrists together, but let him sit in a chair and join her in watching her confederates rob the bank with an easy, almost flirtatious smile.

    Down on the main floor, Tim and Mateo were keeping the customers and employees down, menacing them with their guns while Milton grabbed the manager from his office, and Jacob cleaned out the cash drawers. But after that, Milton pressed the muzzle of his rifle to the manager’s head and said, “Open the vault or I will blow your brains out right here in front of everyone.”

    The manager, a balding Asian man in a grey suit, stuttered an agreement, and Milton frog-marched him over to punch the combination into the keypad. Jacob yelped, “The fuck are you doing, man?”

    “Takin’ these muthafuckas for every dime, fool, what does it look like?”

    “Nigga is you crazy?! We ain’t got time for that shit! We got like 20 large already, let’s get the fuck outta here before the cops show!”

    “Chill out! Ain’t no cops coming! You, did you make a call?”

    “N-n-no, sir, I hid under my desk.”

    “See?”

    “…. Aight, but if we get jammed up because you had to get greedy, you’re the first one getting shot.”

    Milton smiled under his aviators and said, “That’s totally reasonable.”

    Once the vault was open, Jacob pushed the bank manager out and forced him to his knees behind the counter, while Milton stuffed additional stacks of crisp new currency into a duffel bag. He knew better than to trust a bank employee to bag up the money; one of those ink capsules exploding in his face would have made him so furious, that he would’ve come back and methodically executed every single soul in the building.

    Sacks of loot in tow, the robbers fled into the loading dock, guns raised. When they saw no cops, they and the two men who had been guarding their escape route all piled into a plain white Ford cargo van, which pulled out into the streets. The ten-mile-per-hour traffic approaching and on the Bay Bridge made Luanne sweat and swear profusely, but they made it home.

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    1. So much happening. It's tight. Plus, I'm always happy when someone spells "duffel" right.

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  22. They’re burning our books. Pages curling dark corners like autumn’s last leaves. Teary-eyed we watch black boots fracture the spines of revered works which the galactic oppressors toss like broken birds into the fiery cauldron.

    Punctilious to the ritual of the Five Concentric Circles, they gaze upward at the first ring, their adopted moon suspended in the Milky Way’s night sky. From it beam golden rays into the second ring, the voracious mouth of the giant steel cauldron whose blue-yellow flames leap to welcome our books.

    The third ring, the hovering Council of Six Oligarks, step sideways encircling the cauldron, talons linked and cloven hooves above the ground. Together they sing Macabrian death chants in their alien Medusian tongues.

    The rich spice merchants and the hired space marauders comprise the fourth ring. At their waists hang cinctured the weaponry that quell insurrections with deadly precision. Effortlessly they maintain the peace. We who are the fifth ring, though most populous, dare not challenge these usurpers from Phobos, one of the Martian moons. We dance to their chants round and round until only cinders remain of our books.

    Telepathically, the gifted among us wordlessly converse about what we have memorized.

    “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” flashes E.S. Peterson.

    A hint of a smile lifts the ends of my lips like tiny tics and I reply, “ It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

    Somewhere in the fifth ring a voice thinks inside my head. “God is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

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    1. Yep. There's really nothing else I can add. Surgically precise. Cheers.

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    2. Apocalyptically bibliophilic. I approve. And I like it.

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  23. She sat down on a dusty settee in the sun-brightened living room and listened to the old house settle itself around her. Her mind tried to organize the sounds into known categories, like plumbing and heating ducts, tried to conjure the wind speed as reported hastily that morning by some has-been radio jock anxious to get on with the golden oldies - hits that she’d remembered as new some yesteryear before fifty years had crept up on her in the form of spider veins, constipation, and frown lines. She tried to remember when or why she’d begun to frown all the time and couldn’t. Didn’t even feel happening year after year what should have been as plain as the nose on her face, which had somehow grown bigger as the decades swooped her along. But there, the evidence presented itself to her in the mirror she couldn’t avoid since it was right over the damned bathroom sink. Why was that a standard feature, she’d wondered, thinking it as cruel as all the other impossible standards of human life, like wealth, thinness, and success at anything.

    As she honed in now on the ticking clock on the mantle she no longer cared to dust, she thought of the sweet relief that would come shortly, the giving up and letting go: no more decades, no more lines to etch into a face that would simply cease to be. Tick-tock, tick-tock. The clock was in no hurry, nor did it lag. It just kept time in the usual way, dispassionate and nonjudgmental. It had no feeling at all about the intrusion of wires haphazardly twisted up inside its works like a kinky perm gone awry. It would march along, doing its job right up until the very end, if she’d rigged it correctly, if YouTube hadn’t steered her wrong.

    A moment of doubt – no, less than a full moment because the clock had struck noon and obliterated the mind that had begun a thought that it would never have time to complete.

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    1. Holy shit. You build this one perfectly. I didn't have an inkling until the moment I did and it was a heartbreaker when it came.

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    2. Yeah, I didn't see it coming, either. lol

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    3. Oh, holy shit. That really snuck up on me. So good.

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    4. Every time I read something you write I wish I you'd write more. ;) Dope.

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    5. Wow. You took me from sweet little old lady to pyrotechnics in three paragraphs, and it all felt perfectly real and believable. That's good work, and a good story! And ditto to what Dan said... MORE.

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  24. Calliopes and carousels. Prancing ponies chasing themselves or maybe chasing me. Always the frenetic music in the background. It's supposed to be happy music but I've always thought it creepy. Don't look at the carved horses too long or you will see them begin to grimace. Begin to show their teeth.

    "Step right up, folks!" The fat man with the megaphone cajoles. "You'll see things better left unseen. Ghoulish images fit only for nightmares"

    I hand him my two dollars and enter the tent. Nothing but a room full of mirrors. Well, I was warned.

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    1. This is an impressive piece, totally agree with Antrobus. It's a perfect example of the importance of craft. Not a wasted beat.

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    2. Thank you. It feels good to be praised by people as talented as you two.

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    3. What a story... and what craft, indeed. I really like this!

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  25. Allison felt sick to her stomach. She never should have agreed to this. She stood in the plush Woodside living room of Bill Watson, a billionaire hedge fund manager, watching Brian and Luanne. It was, in a way, funny to watch her roughneck squatter friends do a sort of Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega act. The suit and tie Brian wore were very nice, considering they were from a thrift store, and he even tied his shaggy blond hair back in a short little ponytail, while Luanne and Allison wore conservative skirt suits stolen from a different house, the former with a snappy fedora on her almost-bald head. They all had pistols in shoulder rigs, and Allison was hanging back with a 12 gauge. Partly because, in the back of her mind, she knew this outing may go to places she wasn’t okay with, and partly just because, apart from being on the tall side for a 17 year old girl, she was not very intimidating.

    Whereas Brian, even though they were at least fond acquaintances if not friends, scared her a bit, even though he had a slight Canadian accent, and was very polite for a guy who supported himself by stealing cars and sometimes selling drugs. He had been a small-time professional criminal specializing in grand theft auto for years, and the only reason he didn’t sell dope in Oakland like he did in Vancouver was because the turf was already staked, and he claimed he didn’t want to have to kill anyone over that. Luanne wasn’t as overtly scary, but Allison didn’t doubt that, if she did something to piss Luanne off badly enough, she would end up dead.

    No, Allison was no stranger to criminal behavior, but she felt uncomfortable with how her friends toyed with their prey. Brian had already punched him a couple of times before zip-tying his wrists and ankles to a chair, and Luanne rounded up his wife and three children from their bedrooms. His wife was a well-preserved specimen, with her hair done in a stylish blonde bob, though she was continually fighting back tears. His oldest was maybe 17, slim and blonde and obviously terrified like her mother; the boy was maybe 13 or 14, his sandy hair clipped short, and the youngest couldn’t have been older than 10.

    Luanne asked the assembled family, “Lemme ask you somethin’, folks. How do you think daddy pays for all this shit?”

    The man started to speak, but Brian punched him in the face again, and Luanne interrupted, “Sir, when I want to hear from you, I will take my dick out of your mouth and speak to you.”

    The wife replied, “He’s just a hedge fund manager. Bill, that’s all, right? You’re just a banker. You don’t know these people, do you? Are you involved with drugs or something? That’s got to be it. These people are drug dealers, you have a suitcase full of cocaine stashed somewhere, just give it back to them….”

    Brian chuckled, as Luanne replied, “Oh, no, ma’am, your husband isn’t in the dope game. If he was, he’d probably have gotten himself killed, already. But this is about him. He pays for this lavish lifestyle you enjoy by fleecing people, and we’re here to show him and the world what happens to rich white assholes who actively work to broaden the socioeconomic gap.”

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    1. Companion piece to the bank heist? You could collect these, under some kind of contemporary Robin Hood banner, maybe.

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    2. Related, definitely. I suppose this narrative could be classified as a contemporary iteration of the Robin Hood myth. There's no one specific leader, but I can definitely see the parallel: a bunch of disgruntled, alienated nobodies hiding out in isolation and rebelliously striking out at a grossly inequitable social order. If anything, Luanne Rodgers might be the Robin Hood: a bisexual genderqueer black woman who, to a considerable extent, is the mastermind of this outfit.

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    3. Yeah, you're onto something there. I love that! Title of the collection: Robin of Oakland. :) (Robin of the Bay?)

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    4. Mm, that suggests that it's a specifically local thing. These cats are just the local branch of what coalesces into a national network of activists, whose tactics are aggressive enough to get labeled as "terrorism" by the Powers That Be. Hence they're networking, through the deep web, with likeminded individuals; scoring weapons and equipment from people in states with looser gun control laws, recruiting help, sharing information, etc. But the spirit is the same, and arguably, Robin Hood was a proto-socialist.

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    5. Robin of Socialist Woods. Well done.

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  26. She glanced at Brian. He was already sizing up the older girl. “What’s your name, little lady?”

    “T-t-taylor…”

    “Yeah? That’s a real cute name. You’re a pretty young thing. You’re, what, 18 years old?”

    “In December.”

    “Ooh, only 17? Nice. You ever been fucked by a real man? Not one of those prep school pussies you let fingerblast you in the backseat of his old man’s Bentley. A real grown-ass man with a big fuckin’ cock, who made you scream like you were possessed by the devil?”

    The girl looked into Brian’s eyes and started crying again, mumbling and bawling pleas, as her father struggled and barked, “You keep your hands off my daughter, you son of a bitch!”

    Brian told Taylor, “Just a second, please,” before stepping back over and belting Bill in the face again and shouting, “What’s so hard to understand? You are not in charge here! You speak when you are spoken to, got it?” His tone lightened dramatically as he continued in a far more affable timbre, “Shut the fuck up, I’m tryina get my dick wet here, eh?” Which only made Bill even more livid, staring daggers at Brian as he took Taylor by the wrist and said, “let’s go, bitch, I’m gonna show you a real good time.”

    As Brian pulled the girl back upstairs to her bedroom, Luanne smirked and said, “Well, that’s happening. I honestly don’t know what he’s gonna do. That guy is kiiiind of a dick. I dunno if he’s a rapist-caliber dick, but I know he’s gonna try and make you think that he is.”

    When muffled shouting and thumping could be heard, Luanne continued, “Yup, there he goes. He might be just making her put on a show to fuck with your head. Or he might be raping the shit out of her. I haven’t fucked him, myself, but I hear he does have a big dick, which might be getting shoved into any and all of her orifices.”

    “What’s the POINT of all this?!”

    “Well, for starters, we’re just being vindictive. More to the point, we’re giving you a lesson, in what it feels like to be powerless. In the greater scheme of things, you’re the big shot, here. You’re worth, what, a couple billion? You could buy and sell all of us thousands and thousands of times over. But right now, we have you by the balls. If you fuck this up, we could make you watch your whole family die.

    “Which raises another question.” Luanne drew the Glock from her shoulder rig and pointed it at Bill’s face. “Would you rather I shoot you, or watch me, say, shoot your other daughter?” She casually swung her arm around to point the gun at the other girl, who cowered in a fetal position beside her mother.

    Bill flinched and gasped, “For Christ’s sake, do what you want with me, but don’t hurt Ashley.”

    Luanne smiled and admitted, “Okay, maybe you have a shred of value as a human being. I’m gonna let you live, this time. But we’ll be watching you, and if you don’t change your rapacious ways, shit is gonna get REAL ugly. You’re going to start funneling all that money back into the economy. I’d like it if you, say, blew like half a billion on affordable housing. Also, I know you’re more in the financial sector than manufacturing, but I highly recommend you look into bringing outsourced jobs back to the US, and paying a proper living wage.

    “And if you don’t, we’ll be back. You’ll be in the same position, but next time, you’ll get to watch a few of my homeboys rape your daughters and wife, beat your little boy to death, and by the end of the night, this fine house of yours will be ransacked, and you will all be dead.”

    Somehow, Bill’s son found the nerve to snap, “Try it! I’ll fucking kill all of you bitches!”

    Luanne glanced over at Allison, who stepped over to the boy, racked the slide on her shotgun, put it directly to his head, and told him, “Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines. I’d watch my mouth if I were you, kid.”

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  27. If there’s a break in your defenses, the wind will find it. That sucker will slam you, not only with sheer force but with the hiss of a snake, slithering in to bite the back of your neck with ice and needles of snow. Muscles shrink and tender skin shrivels and as a race of people you have all become a hundred years old overnight, all doddering forward with tremulous steps to keep from slipping on ice. In the locker room you trade war stories and compare bruises, make the same feeble jokes about running away to Florida, console your weary bodies with rationed hot water and then, with the same worn expressions and shrugs, you re-mummify yourselves, duck your head into the teeth of that relentless creature and dream about the rapture of autumn, the greening of the underbrush, the sound of melting snow.

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    1. You hit that nail right on the head. Well done.

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    2. I love the cadence of that last sentence. I freaking *love* well-constructed long sentences, lol. (Also, sorry about your weather; you eastern peeps need to move west. We've been averaging 14 degrees lately, which is just under 60 American.)

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    3. This whole piece... makes me gaga... but this phrase "the rapture of autumn" is my favorite.

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  28. See him. He is the walker.

    The kinked arrow of his wending takes him past the fitful sleep of murky settlements, past the stitched brows of crepuscular forests, his gaunt and stringlike frame a hauntscape for the murmurs of night guilt and uncompromising schemes.

    No one has ever seen him in the glare of sunlight, and even during the darkest hours most sense him only as a vagueness, like they might a brief visit by a lone black hummingbird in some forgotten back field, by nectar neglected, by nature abandoned.

    His kindred, his compañeros, whose fugitive paths he here and there crosses and even more rarely shares, are lonesome castoffs too, exiled coyotes bereft of their pack, silent, unmoored, whether from fear or shame no one knows. Or likely cares.

    "I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
    And all my pleasures are like yesterday"

    says the poet.

    "That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
    with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
    and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
    and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the
    night"

    says another.

    Yet there is more. Under clear Iowan skies he's a mere whisper, a momentary flash when a sunflower blinks. Beside dire mangrove swamps his brows tangle amid roots. Along lovers lanes he watches expressionless from shadows, awaiting the puzzle word. In lost caverns where the world's heartbeat can be heard (after which you will hear no other sound), he licks the slime from shuddering walls. He climbs towers of ancient books in forgotten libraries and recites random fragments. He interprets the dreams of bats so marauders might understand.

    He enters your towns and your villages, his jointed shadow angling over facades, his elongated head bowed, and wherever cracks and crevices present themselves, he slips inside, breathless in your hallways and corridors, caressing the handles of silent bedrooms…

    …where upon entering he places the spatulate tips of his long arthritic fingers on the velvety lips of sleeping children to hush their unspeakable dreams, though he be their source.

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    1. Damn. So creepy. So good. Love this line: "Under clear Iowan skies he's a mere whisper, a momentary flash when a sunflower blinks."

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    2. I sort of cheated by quoting actual poems. The risk is that Neruda's writing, in contrast, will make my own pale into nothing.

      Thanks for reading :)

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    3. Stop, you're killing me, dude! I may just cave for this week after this one. I have a fried Friday brain, a number of clients who think I am their personal creature and instant gratification is their due and a number of family members who shall we say, take their drama to their Mama....Maybe I'll try again after a cocktail and a slice of pizza....Whew! But good job!

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    4. Neruda can bite me, and so can you for thinking your writing can pale in contrast to another's. You are your own writer, dammit. Don't make me come up there!

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    5. Exceedingly creepy, but couched in such beautiful, poetic words. Interesting combination. :)

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    6. Ditto, and I would love to have a time machine and access to Ian Anderson. The flow. So good. He could rock. it. ;) Double ditto

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    7. Your writing is a perfect companion to Neruda's... I could read this: "by nectar neglected, by nature abandoned." all day long.

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  29. It was a tremendous relief, to at least make it home in one piece, especially with the loot in tow. They couldn’t be bothered counting individual bills, but going by the labels on the stacks, they made off with about $54,000 in unmarked bills. Quite a haul, but the heist involved ten people, so that divvied out to $5,400 each. Well worth it, though: given the hardscrabble lifestyle they were accustomed to, that was still a decent wad of money, considering nobody got hurt or arrested. By 1 PM, they were all back at the fort in Oakland, celebrating. They blew several hundred dollars on an epic feast: fried chicken, steaks, garden salad, collard greens in a piquant onion-cayenne pot liquor, garlic bread, French fries, handles of top-shelf liquor, two cases of beer and several magnums of decent Sonoma wine, a half ounce of some dank, sticky-icky purple weed, and several eight-balls of the finest Colombian cocaine Louie had for sale.

    Jacob didn’t fancy the yay, but he was kicked back on the well-worn sofa with a cold beer in hand, talking about, “Yo, I gotta give you props, Milton. I thought you was straight trippin’, tryina get at the vault. But you pulled that shit off like a bowss, playa. Much respect.”

    Milton leaned forward to blow a line off the dirty coffee table, and take a sip of his Sailor Jerry and Coke, before replying in his heavy New Orleans drawl, “Naw, ain’t no thang, son. I wouldn’a done that if I didn’t know exactly what the fuck I was doin’. All y’all niggas trusted me, even though ya don’t know me, and that counts fo’ a lot, you feel me? I may be crazy, but I ain’t stupid.”

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    1. Danimal, you've invented *serial* flash fiction!

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    2. Cheers. I'm a novelist at heart, a detail-obsessed narrator. The short stories are just the basis of something bigger.

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    3. Thanks, again! I openly cop to being a bit morbid, obsessed with the grim stuff, the violence, suffering, brutality, death and destruction. But I want to balance that a bit by also depicting the better times, and the humanity of it.

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    4. Antrobus knows what he's talking about. Most of the time.

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    5. Maybe half of the time in a good week. lol

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  30. Hers was no ordinary blanket fort, no halfhearted concoction of couch cushions and quilts stolen from her mother’s linen closet. No. Evangeline’s was indestructible, could withstand her brothers’ wrestling matches and the cat’s fervent attempts to pull it down. She modeled it after the Egyptian pyramids, weight piled upon weight; she’d read about them in school and not very long after, knew more than the teacher. A worried expression on her face, her mother suggested a different activity, maybe a break to play outside and get some fresh air, but nothing would take Evangeline from her task, from building Fort Blanket, Coliseum Blankosity, The Monument of Blanketude. She’ll never play in my blanket fort, Evangeline thought, crossing her arms over her chest and admiring the sturdy walls that were still soft and let just enough light in to read by. Maybe I’ll charge admission. Write about its construction. Even after I’m gone, the world will know of it. Then she realized the flaw in her plan. Not the fact that there was no door; that was a bonus, because it kept her brothers out. But she was on the inside and her books were stacked in a neat pile on the coffee table, which was decidedly outside of her blanketudinous structure. With a world-weary sigh, Evangeline dismantled one wall and the whole stupendous quilt-tastic creation came tumbling to the carpet. It would take the rest of the afternoon to rebuild, but it was worth every moment to have her books in there with her. And maybe the cat, too.

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    1. Ha, isn't it? Captures the secret world of children so well (and some of them will be mad it's not so secret, after all).

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    2. I think blanketudinous is my new favorite word... and I loved my blanket forts when I was growing up...

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. She stood, paralyzed, in the hair care aisle at Walgreen’s. Caramel Blonde? Light Amber Brown? Brandywine might be good, or make her look like a human eggplant. Rustic Red? Some farmer’s wife? Glorious Ginger? Thirty minutes later, a Golden, Gilded, 14- carat bombshell. Titian Titan? Ashy Moonglow? In search of transformation, doe she seek something Permanent or Natural Wonder? Henna or ammonia- free? Better living through chemistry. She’d asked the ones who lived around her: What if I let just-- it go? Grew it out, let it out. All my 50 shades of grey. “You mean like Paula Deen? Her daughter asked. Or maybe Kathy Bates? “Then make up would be more important“ and upgrade the wardrobe, too. ” They whispered to her gently. “You can’t be you, unless you care for you.”

    “Fuck y’all” she told them. “The only difference between me and them? With money a woman can get away with getting old. And the rest of us just rage.” So she snatched up the Titian Titan and held it in her hand. Maybe it wasn’t permanent and maybe not natural too. But women like me have to keep it up, appearances, waistlines, and all that stuff. And 50 shades is not enough to let your color shine through.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, this is so good. I love the rhythm and internal rhyme schemes.

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    2. Yes, Poetry from hair colouring! :)

      So many cultural references in this piece. I like.

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    3. And I love how you use such poetry to show us the unrealistic expectations that we all, but especially women, have to face when we watch the clock tick. Why the hell can't we just accept and love our bodies and the stories that time has written in the wrinkles? Thanks for great writing!

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