Friday, March 6, 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. 

"He recognize you?"

"I reckon."

The men folded themselves in silence, sealed themselves off. They smoked cigarettes that lingered, proffering ash like broken twigs. Grandma ash. That's what they'd called it. Back when they'd laughed about things.

"Well. Shit."

"Yup. Shit is about right."

There was a bottle of bourbon between them and the level dropped steadily, barometric. Their eyes stung and they squinted, but they did not move. They were lumps of plasma glued to old wooden stools and their backs ached, but they had long ago become accustomed to the ache.

"But I like the fucking guy!"

"You like him? Fucking hell. He coached Leroy's t-ball. Hell, I've BBQ'd with the motherfucker."

Inside the room, there were no clocks. No windows to admit the twinge of morning. They were in a void, and they did not want to leave. There are good and bad parts of any job. They were postponing one of the bad parts, but it was no longer possible. They had to act. If not, the boss would call and it would be them leaving kids with no Dad to throw the ball around with.

"We'll kind of take his boy under our wing, maybe? Not get him into the life - I mean, we should look out for him. Like Uncles or some shit. This is so fucked. You sure he saw you?"


"What, I'm retarded?"

Both men shook their heads slowly. They stood stiffly, checked the cold, black guns that would seal a man's fate. He would give his life because they'd make a mistake. That was the worst part. It dug at them like a deer tick. Their mouths were dry. The room smelled like a rodeo.

"We might as well fucking do it. You think he knows we're coming?"

"Yup. But he won't run. He'll be waiting. Maybe we'll tell him about how we're gonna look after the boy. God, but I wish I hadn't lifted that mask."

"Mistakes happen."

"I reckon you're right. I just don't like when I'm the one making them. Not like we got a choice. He's a good man, but that don't matter a damn. We've killed lots of good men. This one knows our names? He knows how we like our burgers? So what?"

The walk to the car was slow, as was the drive. The bullets were much faster, but they would never stop hearing the man's last words - that would be a low, grinding torture - one they deserved:

"I never would have suspected. Guess I'm a fool. But you stay the fuck away from my boy. You ain't doing anyone any favors, and I ain't taking the sting out of this for you. You want to do me a favor? You forget he exists. He don't need you. Nobody needs you. You're trash. Bastards."

Sure, the bullet was fast. As they drove away, they couldn't help thinking about bullets, though. Fast as they were, they were still too slow.


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

153 comments:

  1. Oh yeah... now THAT's what I'm talkin' about when I say good fiction... great character development in just a little bit of space. "they were still too slow..." perfect ending.

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    1. Brilliant. Sets the scene with effortless economy. Especially this: "Back when they'd laughed about things." And yeah, as Leland said, the ending is exactly right.

      I'll be back later to maybe write some more and definitely comment some more.

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    2. Well done, dude! The freaking ego of it all. Bust today, gonna try to get back. Later Y'all.

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  2. I came back to the hotel room, and the lights were off. The blackout curtains were drawn, too, but there was a beam of sunlight that entered the room where the curtains weren’t quite pulled together. It fell on his face.
    He spoke as I closed the door. “Do you see them? The little bits of dust and lint floating in the light?”
    I didn’t answer, but nodded, and somehow even in the dark, he knew.
    “They’re called ‘motes.’ When I was a boy, I thought they were angels, come to visit and to watch over me. Sometimes I still do.”
    I sat down on the bed, next to him, close enough to touch, but not touching.
    “When I was a boy, the angels had their hands full. It made sense that they had to send an army of them. Made sense, too, that when Tuck wagged his tail, more of the mote angels showed up. He was the source of all that was good in my life then.”
    Somehow my hand found its way to his shoulder, on its own. Maybe an angel guided it.
    “And now,” he said as his blue, sunlit eyes turned to me, “Now you have angels of your own. It’s not just me, any more. It’s okay for me to go.”
    “But…” my voice finally found purchase.
    “But nothing. When I die, I’ll just be one angel of many, watching over you and Lucky. You’re a lucky man, Dean, and we angels will make sure that luck stays around.”
    His head found its own way to my shoulder, and we sat in silence, my arm supporting him, until I felt him relax, until I felt his breathing stop, until I felt the light that was him leave the room, and I was left alone with the husk of a man I loved, and a thousand angels dancing in a beam of sunlight.

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    1. Oh, Jesus. This is so beautiful and painful. I love the way you can write pieces like this that are so emotive, but so real. Not sappy. Brave. Awesome piece. And yes, you made me cry.

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    2. Aw, I didn't mean to... but I admire the heck out of you for admitting it! Thank you!

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    3. This is so real. Thank you!

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  3. Every one of them was standing in the wrong place, playing the wrong role. The tall blond guy who should have been a hero was holding a gun and a bag of cash. The short, bald, beady-eyed guy was wearing a blue uniform. The woman who should have been a damsel in distress was laughing, mocking them both.
    “When we were kids, we played cops and robbers, and Bobby here, he was always the robber. Now I don’t need rescuing, and Bobby’s the cop, and Timmy’s the robber. Life’s got a sense of humor. Whatcha gonna do, boys?”
    And just like that, the situation resolved itself. Bobby and Timmy turned to the sneering woman with their guns drawn. Hard to tell which one of their bullets hit her first, but after both had done their damage, the boys looked at each other.
    “Finally,” they said in unison.
    Bobby asked Timmy, “Wanna play cowboys? The Wells Fargo coach oughta be along any minute.”

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    1. Holy Flash! This is awesome. Absolutely love it. Playing the wrong role... This is an epic piece. Don't forget about this one. It deserves to live on more than just my blog.

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    2. Are you kidding? this blog is like the Hollywood Walk of Stars!

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    3. With less gum stuck to it, too! ;)

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    4. Niiiiicccce. Well the writing was nice.... the shooting the girl part was awesome.

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  4. They say there’s no fool like an old fool, but some of us made pretty convincing young fools. A fool for love, a fool for hope, a fool for money. I played the fool in every way I could, and I wouldn’t do it any different now. My heart’s been broken so many times and into so many pieces that I ‘spect there’s a piece of it in every country, every state, every ocean, every lake. And that’s okay. I broke a few other hearts along the way. But sometimes, sometimes the pieces of hearts touched each other and grew a little bit. Sometimes some words were put down on paper. Sometimes a lonely night was a little less lonely for two souls in the dark. When dawn came, maybe we felt foolish, a little, but mostly, we felt alive. Till we were fools for money. Then we watched the little bits of souls burst into light, burn up, and leave only heavy black smoke and green cash behind. No heart in that, to be honest, just a lot of regret. And old fools, old fools are different from young fools, I guess, because they really do feel regret.

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    1. What the fuck did you eat for breakfast?!?! This is another amazing piece. I wouldn't change a word. Brilliant.

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    2. Thanks ... you're an inspiration!

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    3. Ran out of useful things to say, but know I'm reading every word because... words.

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    4. Words count. Words matter. Thank you.

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  5. You got problems. You got issues. I got a roomful of used up tissues. Your nose bleeds, but you laugh at it, let the aspirin taste slither down your throat. Snort a palmful of water to ease the burn. Then, it bleeds. The blood is everywhere. Pillows, clothes. Your whole life is marred with cigarette burns and you're drowning in blood.

    You got screwed, they played you wrong. God, I'm sick of that fucking song. This ain't a conspiracy. Columbia didn't shove that shit up your nose. You did. Seemed like a game 'til the rules changed.

    I'll keep cleaning up the blood, but I'm getting off the train. I know just where it's headed.

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    1. MaderRap™ excels again. That's the thing about trains... they have to stay on tracks, so you know where they're headed.

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    2. I'm braindead tonight, in terms of insights, but this is all such good stuff.

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  6. Don't think about it, read the words - stop reading the same sentence over and over. Stack those shits like blocks. You need 'em. They are subtle abutments.

    You keep circling it and you're going to get dizzy. The room will churn and your eyes will burn. You will smell bandaids and wonder why. You'll try to drink and find your mouth too dry.

    Oh, Jesus, let the book do what it's supposed to do. Turn off your brain. Stop replaying it. He's done saying it. He's got six feet of dirt on him and he ain't going nowhere. You still smell the incense. You still feel incensed. You still have the sense that there will be no recompense.

    You can't bring him back for one more talk. You'll never feel the tap, tap, tap on your knee. "This is what it feels like when a trout bites. Just a few light taps. You keep your finger on that line."

    You'll always remember those days, and you'll wish you could forget the end - when you sat, at the home, eating ice cream with a dying man. A man you loved. And everybody pretending to be excited about the ice cream. Awful.

    No, that wasn't him. That wasn't fair. It shouldn't have been like that. Remember the smell of cheap cigars and the hard, dry finger on your knee, tapping. Remember the smiles and the stories, oft repeated.

    Everything else can be deleted.

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    1. I love this piece more than I can say... for some reason, it reminds me a lot of my grandfather.... thank you for that!

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    2. My pleasure. And thank you!

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  7. The Strip in Las Vegas isn’t one place; it’s two. The one at night is Cinderella with her slipper; the one in morning is her hauling ashes. If you’ve ever slept with a drag queen, and seen her beauty as you begin to sleep, and then seen the makeup on the pillow in the morning, you know what I’m talking about.
    In dawn’s light, you see the dirt in the gutter, this year’s rain is months away. Used condoms, needles, some change too small for anyone to pick up.
    You remember when you were part of the nightlife, the winner, and dressed in a tux. This morning, looking up from the sidewalk, you wonder how your luck found dry storm drains, and you try to remember her name. No matter that you fail, soon enough, it’ll be nightfall again, praise be to MasterCard.

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    1. Oh man. This is dope. The whole thing rocks, but that first P? Wow.

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    2. Thanks! your kind words mean a lot!

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    3. The Cinderella line in particular is a heartbreaker.

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  8. Papa always said he was a writer, but he was and he wasn’t. Sometimes, I’d watch him through a crack in the door. I could see the fire in his face, tracing down his arms, and into the keyboard, but Papa was really more about water than he was about fire.
    Put a fishing pole in his hand, and you released him from the need to lock the words onto paper. He’d tell stories out loud that would make you laugh and cry and stand in awe. Words that like smoke floated over the water and then flew off to wherever smoke goes when it stops being beautiful.
    Some of those stories, I still hold in my heart. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the incense, the look on his face, the tales of Papa, king of fire and water.

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    1. You KNOW I love this one. Keep going brother, you're on fire!

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    2. This one is definitely for you.... inspired by you. And what your daughters will write about you one day....

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    3. Man, I hope so. It's beautiful. Thank you.

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  9. When she taught me to tie my shoes. I asked her why her fingers were so twisted. She said she had arthritis. I thought she said author-itis. I knew her fingers were gnarled from all the stories she told me. I had asked for so many.
    The cancer came for her not too long after. I knew I had to hold the stories in a safe place. So I could re-tell them to myself, without asking for any more. So her body wouldn’t suffer.
    They cut at her body, taking some of the stories from her. First one breast, then two. My job now was to be her mother, to walk her through the pain, out to the other side.
    When they said she died, I knew they were wrong. Oh sure, her heart stopped beating, but her stories, good Lord, her stories. They live on inside of me.

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    1. Ow. This one hurts. Not in a bad way. In an utterly authentic way.

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    2. Yup, the stories. I used to think my dad was the storyteller, but Mom had just as many, maybe even more. And yes, I saved 'em too! Lovely work.

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    3. I'm glad you did, Teresa, and thank you.

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    4. You're kind to say so! Thank you!

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  10. When I was young, I found such wondrous things. Small, simple treasures that lived in the pockets of jackets - always there, my fingers traced their contours. They were small things, but they were mine.

    I often wonder - small things are lost so easily. Where did they end up? A dark forest canopy? A trash can in some fast food wasteland? Were they ever there at all? Did I imagine them?

    See, I was small, too. There was no one to hold me. Not in the right way. And the memories get twisted, wet-towel locked. I can't be angry at it - I tried and it got me nowhere. At least nowhere good. ER's and squad cars. Squalid bars.

    There are new small things, now. Beautiful treasures who rain happiness with their open eyes, open hearts. I will hold them until they are too big to hold. But that won't ever happen.

    I'm not small anymore.

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    1. <3

      This is just made of awesome. Made my eyes a wee bit watery, in a good way.

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    2. You're almost merging that near rap style with short vignettes and creating a new hybrid, my friend. "ER's and squad cars. Squalid bars." But then we move to another level.

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    3. I'm headed for the next level. ;)

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    4. Ha, you're at the next level, I think. And I bet there's another one after that.

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  11. We met in the southwest, close to the border. She was silhouetted before a crime-scene sunset, blood and plasma seeping into a workshirt-blue sky darkening to ink. She smelled of road dust, weariness, and shallow-buried things.

    "So what's your name?"

    "Blanche. Blanche Warren."

    "Don't sound too Mexican."

    "No."

    "You live around here, Blanche Warren?"

    "For now." She poked the dry dirt with her toe. "What's yours?"

    "Huh?"

    "Your name."

    "Cole Franklin."

    "Don't sound Mexican neither."

    "It ain't."

    She lifted her head and met my eyes at the same moment, our heads cocked just so, like we was looking in a mirror, although to this day I can't rightly say which one was the person and which one was the reflection.

    Banished coyotes both, shunned by our own packs, we each crossed the high desert separately, assailed by solitude and the swirling grit of sandstorms and dust devils—those restless Navajo ghosts—only to stumble on each other by chance, my unraveled need snagging on her last want, her torn pack on my dying boxcar dreams.

    Drifting, meandering days turned fugitive nights, stark and pale afternoons now vagabond twilights. And because we had to eat, we robbed and then robbed some more. And sometimes we killed, I ain't proud to add. I could argue it was self-defense, but we all know better. They were the happiest weeks of my life.

    But all good things, right? It's the way of things. We had ourselves a falling out, and shit went bad faster'n I could keep track of. Then I was alone again.

    A special woman is her own climate, a world entire. If you allow that system near your own and have ever felt the mingle and skirmish of those latitudes and tropics, those calms and storms, sudden squalls and sultry airless nights, you can't imagine them ever being gone. Or how you'll feel when they go. Bereft as a moonless earth. Itself haunted by a dying star. Something as lost as that tends toward cataclysm.

    Had me a small campfire in a dry gulch somewhere north of Clovis, New Mexico, took some peyote I stole from an illegal just outside of El Paso, and she came in the night. Blanche did, I mean. Placed two fragile yellowish objects in my palm. Looked like a wishbone after it's been pulled. Funny, I didn't feel like giving no thanks nor celebrating nothing.

    "Make a wish," she said.

    "You can't be here." I backed away and held out my hand. "What is this?"

    "Called a hyoid bone. Kind of a throat bone. It's broken."

    "This ain't … You mean—?"

    "Yeah, it's mine. The one you broke. It's yours now, baby."

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    1. This is awesome. I love the way you can build such complex, intricate images - such rich passages, but you also kill with little snatches like "workshirt-blue sky" and "a special woman is her own climate" - just spot on.

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    2. Whoosh! That prose of yours Antrobus, ALWAYS has something that gives me a rush!

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    3. Truly amazing and haunting.... I learn a lot about the language from you... and am in awe how you put it all together. Thank you.

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    4. This: "A special woman is her own climate, a world entire." The entire paragraph...the description and emotion there is amazing.

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    5. Thank you, my good friends. Goes both ways, of course. :)

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    6. Laura, I'm happy you felt that, as that paragraph in particular was heartfelt enough to give me some real life feelz.

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  12. “Come sit beside me boy, no not in that plastic chair, on the bed.”
    Boy. He was the only one in the world who could call me that. His palsied hand telegraphed his infirmity.
    “I gotta tell you a story. The story of how your mama and me took the air and the fire and the earth and water and wrapped in the stars of the Milky Way we danced and we sang you into being. How her mouth grabbed mine and kissed my soul. How the Colorado snow melted under our sleeping bag from the heat of our love the night our halves became whole in you.”
    “You come from the stars, boy, you come from mud and ashes and light and dark. We felt it all swelling up into us, making us bigger than we were, and we knew you’d be special, knew you’d be you, the best of both of us.”
    Ah, Papa, always the words.
    “You gotta keep the fire alive, boy. Keep the music sung, the stories told, the water flowing. It’s all I can…”
    And the heart monitor sounded its alarm. Flat sound against the rapid beating of my heart, the heart given to me with the fire and music from two souls, on one Colorado winter night.

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  13. Mateo never went to college, or even graduated from high school. Neither he, nor his family of working-class Mexican immigrants, had the means, or the motivation. What good was that going to do? He’d be lucky to never get thrown in prison, or deported back to Mexico. He only achieved fluency in English in his early teens, and still tended to speak Spanglish, with an obvious Mexican accent. While he was born in Culiacan, Sinaloa, he mostly grew up in an East Oakland barrio, surrounded by a veritable multicultural rainbow: white, black, Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, et cetera. His father wasn’t a gangster, per se, but he had side hustles, connections. Mateo had several tios, who were definitely connected; muscly, heavily tattooed, tough looking cholos, but they were never anything but kindly and avuncular, ruffling his hair in their callused hands and greeting him, “oye, Mate’, como estas mi’jo?”

    So when his parents got deported, it was only natural that they would take him in. But they put him to work, using his youthful, innocent appearance to deflect suspicion as he muled backpacks full of drugs around the Bay Area, taking the afternoon trains to San Francisco, Concord, Richmond, and Fremont. Ironically, they were deported because of Mateo’s father’s involvement with organized crime, when he was only peripherally involved, and the relatives and friends who took in his children were much deeper in the game.

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    1. I've met him. Knew him well. You got it just right. Really well played, D.

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    2. This character sketch needs to be expanded.

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  14. Black dogs and queer boys, they hold the world together, but don’t get no credit. They’re the listeners, the kiss-and-make-it-all-better team that superglues the broken hearts and the broken hopes of the others. The last ones left at the shelter, bad luck and trouble, for sure they’re no good. Sad eyes and whimpers get no truck here, just leave ‘em alone and they’ll go home. Maybe they’ll mend a hole in a heart, maybe they’ll starve in a park. Black dogs and queer boys, they grow up to be angels, and they laugh and lick wounds together, but they never get in the way. They learned that kicks hurt.

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    1. Alright. Every single word is perfect. That first sentence. Jesus. So good. This is such a tight, powerful piece, L.

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    2. wonderful! And don't forget, black dogs (and cats) most suited to live in the Wild!

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    3. Because we're good at hiding in the shadows.... Thanks for the kind words, Teresa!

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    4. For some reason, "the last ones left at the shelter" caught in my throat.

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  15. She's singing to me. Can you hear her?

    I knew we were destined to be together, that time when we met. She'd been left alone in a clearing. Shamelessly abandoned. Waiting for me. Of course, she was showing signs of neglect; I had to rub her full length with wet and dry, smoothing her down; taking away all of her roughnesses and bringing her to life again.

    So now we're matched. Like partners. Fitting together like a bottle and a glass. But, she's demanding. Always wanting more; more of my attention; more of my respect. And more and more tributes to her Divine purpose.

    She's a beauty, though, isn't she? It's funny how when I whetted her head, she became both less AND more. Subtly smaller in size but more herself. More concentrated. Purer.

    But I'm betting you'll think I'm rambling. And I can't help but wonder how you'll be wondering where you come into this; my devotion to her, Eugenia's Divine aspirations and your being tied to that tree with my knotted kerchief filling your mouth.

    So, I'll tell you. But you won't like it. Not a bit.

    You see, Eugenia's an axe. The head of ALL the axes. And, what's more, the Axe of ALL the heads. Including yours.

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    1. Woah, the voice and tone are so strong here, Mark. This is fantastic piece. Manipulative in the good 'writing' way. Well in, sir.

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    2. Whoa! you wound up way far away from where I thought you were headed... and I like it!

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    3. I got my Friday Freak on... thanks, guys! ;)

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    4. You guys said it all. This one packed a nice dark surprise, damn near unraveling, in a good way.

      Careful with that axe, Eugenia? :)

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  16. She came in the late fall, not the season - it was summer. No, she came when I was holding on, but barely - it was goddamn confusing if you want to know the truth. I didn't want her there, but I knew I needed someone. I didn't want to be loved, but - hell - I didn't know what I wanted. I lived in a cement box that smelled like Nag Champa and wet cigarettes. The walls weeped, and I did too.

    It was a long summer. Hot. I shivered through most of it, clutching at the sheets on the bed, scratching my arms bloody. Sometimes, I wondered if she was real. Maybe I was hallucinating. Maybe I was dead. Certainly, I was dead.

    She left after the fall had passed. She left as I was standing strong, walking it off, shaking off the dust.

    I still wonder at it. What she got out of it. Why it happened and thank God it did. I'll never forget, and I'd say thanks, but I can't remember her name.

    It's been lifetimes.

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    1. Wow.... "The walls weeped, and I did too." Brilliant. Also "a cement box that smelled like Nag Champa and wet cigarettes" is brilliant... and the overall story, wonderful... I love how people show up when we need them (and when we are needed) and sometimes stay, and sometimes leave....

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    2. Agreed, weeped instead of wept makes that line.

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  17. And so we’re back on the road again. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever settle down, if we’ll ever find that place we’ll call home.
    It all started with “Jesus wept.” Bobby won the Bible verses contest at the church when he knew that was the shortest sentence in the Bible. Which was good.
    Until he kissed his friend Timmy. On the lips. For a minute or so. The church was quiet. In Kansas you don’t often see two little boys kissing with tongue.
    When the minister called Bobby a demon and a corrupter, Bobby called him a hypocrite. Bobby has a good vocabulary for an eight-year-old.
    When I questioned Bobby’s use f the term, he explained that Reverend Joe was pretty fond of being kissed in the same way.
    Reverend Joe sputtered, and the congregation forgot to breathe.
    I asked him how he knew. He said that Reverend Joe’s man parts got bigger, but not much bigger.
    Reverend Joe passed out, and knocked the candles on the altar over. That’s when the fire started.
    I told him he was right.
    He said, “About the word hypocrite?”
    I told him yes, that, and that the Reverend’s man parts didn’t get much bigger no matter what.
    We left. And so we’re back on the road again. I heard Reverend Joe is on the road, too.

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    1. Man, I keep tying things and deleting them. I think that says more than anything I keep trying to say.

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    2. Powerful 2-minutes here, Leland. With just the right amount of humor, too. :)

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    3. Thank you! Poor Reverend Joe is still getting chased by his wife and the deacons...

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    4. You almost need the humour to offset the rage/outrage. LOL, "but not much bigger" made me laugh, and now I'm going to hell.

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    5. Laughter and rage are good partners... and if you're going to hell, I know you'll be in good company...

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  18. Martin unlocked the doors, gave me keys and waited. It took a while until I opened it and went in. I looked around. Everything was tidied. Just our room was closed so subconsciously I skipped it and went straight to the kitchen. Also there everything was tidied, only two glasses were standing on the table. Glasses that we were using on our last night together. I took one of them, looked at it and all the memories just came back. A view of her body covered in blood and moment when I saw something in her clenched fist. That f.... pregnancy test that was possitive. Tears began flow on my face. My teeth and my hand clenched in one moment. The glass suddenly broke in a thousand pieces hurting my hand badly. I didn't feel the pain. I was squeezing it harder and harder not caring about blood on my clothes. In a moment i realized that Martin tried to stop me. I just loosened all muscles and sat down staring vacantly while my friend tried to bear my hand. After maybe one hour i went to take a shower to wash away all the blood. It wasn't helping. I couldn't think, just wanted to get sleep and It just happened. Without thinking i went to our bed. My legs buckled when I realized what i saw in that room. I grabbed a sweater that Ola was wearing that night and lay down nacked on the floor nestled to this piece of red cloth trying to touch the remains of her sweet scent.

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  19. It was the first and only time Naera felt it. A shadow of doubt that immediately sucked her in like the new air pump in the vacuum she'd saved up for and bought last week. It held on to her. It held on to her with the furry arms of a grizzly and made her feel her heart pulse. It swiftly brought on an abhorrent and mounting grief she never imagined she'd ever even begin to feel with David.

    She trusted him so much. He'd worked at this and her, steadily over time, with the tenacity of someone who'd never known or deserved defeat. It was his innocence and his authenticity among other enchantments, which had made him so appealing.

    And now she knew it without him having to say a word. He was lying to her.

    It was possible he was just omitting the truth but it didn't matter. Whatever it was, whatever way it eventually came out, she knew. It was a dangerous truth. Dangerous to the exhausting, challenging, and completely fantastic life they had together with their baby. If it wasn't dangerous he would have shared it with her, no matter what. And since he didn't, that had to mean it might end them.

    She felt sick. Sick and stupid. She also had the nearly uncontrollable and loathsome urge to slap him so hard, so fast -- over and over. Instead she stood immobile as David talked to his brother and the others who had come with him. They stood together in a protective huddle, their faces serious and watchful as they talked quietly -- away from her earshot.

    Naera watched them as she clasped their exhausted and sniffling child who began to doze off despite her mother's churning thoughts and rigid body. Before too long Naera let her mind wander past the problem, past the pain, whizzing away from the lie, whatever it was and towards the solution. The only solution befitting such betrayal.

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    1. Ohhh.... the places you can go with this.... nice set up!

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    2. Agreed, this opens so many roads...

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  20. COMPLAINING WITHOUT E’S

    “I don’t cotton to drawls from up North,” says old John Bob. “Can’t find much worth in that clap of wordin’.”

    Mamaw knows North folks talk a hill of cow dung, but John Bob’s a bulldog with a hunk of chow in its jaws. Giving up ain’t John Bob’s way.

    “No damn scam artists gonna cross my path is what I’m sayin’. Took on our boys in gray? Won that bloody war? What a load of ––”

    Mamaw cuts off John Bob.” Now you just quit your cussin’ or I’m gonna aim shot at that thick skull of yours and mow you down, brain and all.”

    John Bob pulls in and blows out what Mamaw calls “hot air” and lights a butt short as his mad ravings. “What’s for lunch, Wilma?”

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    1. Even removing a significant tool (E!), you capture it perfectly, Sal. Love the dialogue - really well done.

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    2. What a fun piece, and all the better for throwing away the most common letter in the English language!

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    3. Takes some skill and control to do that and tell a story too!

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  21. With a final flourish of his tentacles, Oscar finished telling the others of his adventure outside in the non-water part of the world. Ahab, half buried in the soft sand in the corner, turned away. Showoff, he thought. And oh, so enthralled, they were, at Oscar’s tale of how he’d yearned so terribly to know the ways beyond the surfaces that trapped them. So brave and curious, but mostly brave, that he’d mustered all his strength and sucker by sucker, scaled his way to a taste of freedom. They brought him back, of course, the big, shouting things with their nets, lowered him back in, even gave him extra fish! Like he deserved it. But how thrilling, how shining, how rapturous it was outside, Oscar said, and how the girls circled around him, their eyes glowing, stroking arms over his as if his joy and wonderment were contagious. Ahab was tempted to slither over and give Oscar a good peck with his beak. If they’d only known it was all Ahab’s idea. Ahab wanted to go over the wall. He’d been planning it forever. Just waiting for the right moment, when the big, shouting things were gone, when the walls had a nice, sticky growth of lichen he could grab onto. His mistake had been trusting Oscar, revealing his plans. Ahab grunted and folded his body into itself, nestling deeper into the muck. Next time, it would be his turn. And next time, he’d do Oscar one better. The big, shouting things would never get him with their nets, never.

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    1. What an intriguing piece. Love it. And I love the double meaning (intended or not) of 'sucker by sucker' - well played Boris!

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    2. Well-played indeed... nestling deeper into the muck... obviously a crew of politicians

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  22. Oh, it's horrific - look at those poor bastards with their shined up thrift store shoes. I don't want to even see it. Can't you remember, Claire? The way it used to be? People had self-respect. People treated each other with deference. Now, my gosh, I'm tempted to cuss at them. Just cuss right in their faces. We don't need to see your struggle! Don't we all have struggles? I keep mine private.

    Lord almighty. And there's always some drug addict coming to the door raising money to fix heathen children up - clean their teeth, give the little vermin some antibiotics so they can reproduce - make more bastards. It sure ain't proper and you know that as well as I do.

    I may have to speak on this come Sunday. It's getting out of control. Jesus wanted us to love our neighbor - he didn't say anything about any Godless folk in countries we can't even pronounce. The meek shall inherit the earth! That's what the man said. Damn begging folks are making me so angry, well, it's getting right hard to stay meek.

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    1. Sigh. Sometimes you just hit the nail right on the head. A lot of times, come to think of it. This is another one of those times.

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  23. Mama didn’t allow no crew cuts or guns. Every summer, legions of boys got the buzz; butches and flat tops, and new BB guns. But unlike so many, she remembered the war. Its images were stuck in her memory like a record that kept skipping. The slightest thing could send her back. Those brave dead boys in uniform; the shuffling skeletons freed from the camps. One side or another the hollow looks and tortured eyes might come flooding back at the sight of a five year old, sporting his summer hair.

    “It’s awful convenient,” Aunt Dot proclaimed. “Do it once and they’re good till school starts.”

    “To hell with that!” Mama shouted and she rarely did. “These are MY children! And I am NOT raising soldiers or convicts, or prisoners of war! Didn’t matter which side you were on, did it? They all had the same damned haircut! And I should do this to my sons?”

    Aunt Dot, not to be defeated, turned to me and smiled. She fingered my ringlets with something like lust. She’d just gotten her beautician’s license and was determined not to be outdone. “How ‘bout you, Sweetie? I can give you a Pixie. Just like Barbie’s.”

    When she was done, she twirled me around. Freed of the weight of my little girl’s locks, my curls gripped my head like some sort of helmet,dark and tight and unforgiving. Worse even than Mama’s imaginings had been.
    “Now,” said Dot brightly. “That will be nice and cool!” I stared uncomprehendingly in the mirror. I didn't look like Barbie. I didn't look like anyone anymore.
    “Sweet jesus, “ Said Mama as tears filled my eyes. “Don’t worry. It’ll grow.”

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    1. ohhhhh.... this is good stuff. Powerful images, and so intimate.

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  24. He pulled the box from the top of the shelf, sneezed into the cloud of dust - he wiped the top and put it on the bed between them. She was crying softly. The kind of cry that's born in fatigue and apathy.

    "We don't have to do it."

    "You know we do."

    Her hands fluttered as she touched the old, cracked cardboard. A whimper slipped out and she wiped both eyes on the back of her hands. She couldn't smell it, but she knew what it smelled like. Crying or not. The smell lived in her.

    He opened the box and pulled out an old baseball mitt. He dumped the cards onto the comforter that never left his room. His room. Of course it was still his room.

    They looked at each other, stricken, eyes wide with pain and fear. She was shaking now. He put a rough hand on her knee and tried to smile.

    "We don't have to sing it ... it's too much ..."

    But she had already started.

    When they were finished, he put the box back where there was a neat square on the dusty shelf. Once again, he wondered if they were doing the right thing. If it even mattered. He'd think about it next year.

    Next year. Maybe they'd make a cake...

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    1. This punches such a big hole in my heart... and that last line... that last line...

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    2. Exactly what Leland said. :(

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  25. Jacob walked briskly through the busy BART station. He wanted to get this job done quick and smooth, with no fuss. He looked back at two of his best friends trailing behind him, and snapped, “move it!”

    He had a backpack on, the same cheap, nondescript sort worn by high school students everywhere. But rather than books and gym clothes, his contained five kilograms of uncut cocaine. He didn’t even know exactly how much it was worth; more than his life was worth to the gangster who hired him to carry it from West Oakland to the Mission, undoubtedly. Hence they all had handguns, concealed under baggy clothes. They looked slightly disreputable, but no worse than the next trio of working class teenage boys from the East Bay. Mateo had been doing this sort of thing for years, he coached his boys on how to look tough enough to avoid getting jumped, but harmless enough to not get hassled by the cops.

    They walked through the streets of the Mission District, a stiff, cold breeze blowing through the streets as they passed mustachioed young men on fixed-gear bicycles and white women pushing expensive strollers. Mateo groused, “man, where’s all the Mexicans at? This used to be our hood, yo, we was here first. But once again, rich fuckin’ gringos took it over.” He pointed out a cute three story townhouse and continued, “that used to be my abuelita’s house, man. She lived there for hella years, back in the DAY, but they fuckin’ jacked up the rent, she had to move in my tia Pilar out in fuckin’ Stockton.”

    Finally, they arrived at the address: a smaller house on a side street, near the bottom of Potrero Hill. The door was answered by a cute, hippieish white girl with long red hair and a gauzy tie-dye dress, the scents of incense, cannabis, and curry wafting out. She smiled and greeted the three young men in a manner stereotypical of Californians; drawn-out vowel sounds, a slightly drawling accent, and upward inflections ending every sentence. “Heyyyy, guys, how’s it going?”

    Jacob smiled right back and turned on the charm, “It’s all good bae, we got a delivery from Mister Gibson.”

    “Oh, that’s greaaat, come on in. What are your names? I’m Casey.” She escorted them into the house, a comfortably lived-in hippie pad, and sat the three youths on the sofa, offering them tea and samosas, though they were perhaps a bit more interested in glimpses down her dress when she leaned over. Jacob set his backpack on the floor, unzipped the main compartment, pulled out a rumpled hoodie and handed it to Tim, who immediately put it on, as he had been stoically refraining from bitching about being cold the whole time. Next, Jacob produced the goods: cellophane and duct tape wrapped packets of that precious white powder. Mr. Gibson assured him that he was not to collect payment at the same time, for safety’s sake: the only thing riskier than trusting Jacob with all that product was trusting him with that much cash.

    Casey’s eyes widened a little, and she marveled, “oh man, that’s a lot of, um, stuff.”
    Jacob nodded, “Uh huh, and Mr. Gibson said not to worry about collecting the money, he don’t want us carrying all that cash around.”

    “Yeah, we have other arrangements made, I’m so glad you understand.”

    “So if you don’t mind, our job is done, so we’ll just be on our way.”

    “Okay, if you must. My husband isn’t gonna be home for at least an hour or two, so I wouldn’t mind a little company.”

    Jacob coerced his friends back on to the street; he wasn’t trying to dick around in the city longer than he had to, even though Tim insisted, all the way home, “dude, she was so giving you the eye! That chick was tryina get spit roasted and you just made us bounce!”

    “Ain’t you already got a girl, Timmy? Mateo, he trippin, right?”

    “I dunno, man…”

    “Whatever, this is business, y’all. I’m here tryina make some money, not stick my dick up in some hippie puss.”

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    1. Same as usual. Part of a world in the making, in the telling.

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    2. Yeah, I like this one a lot. Having been gentrified out of the mission myself, you handled that apathy/anger really well. This piece is tight as shit. And I love that they bounce. Makes the whole thing.

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  26. "Would you like to buy me a drink?" the man in well-fitting khakis suggested in lieu of a greeting.

    "Okay, why not?" the huntress replied.

    He ordered two fingers of The Macallan neat, giving the barkeep a wink as he motioned toward the woman to signal who would be paying his tab this evening. He stood facing her, positioned so the crowd’s view was blocked by his body and the bartender’s view was blocked by hers. When his drink arrived, he dropped his left hand lightly onto her right hip and leaned in to reach around her, brushing her stiffening nipple with practiced nonchalance as he retrieved the old-fashioned glass.

    "Thank you," he said, raising his glass in salute. "You’re no doubt aware that this 18-year-old single-malt Scotch is the single most expensive item on the menu. However shall I repay such a sizable debt?"

    A sly smile slid across her lips as she toyed with the ginger garnish in her drink.

    "I’m sure we can work something out."

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    1. My money is on the huntress.... that man is gonna be sorry.....

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    2. She got rid of the creep. This guy is one who caught her eye and followed her bait. Something tells me they'll both come out as winners in this little cat-and-mouse game they're playing. ;)

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    3. All your stories feel like pieces of a bigger puzzle that's playing out in the background.

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    4. I agree with Antrobus. And thanks for taking us back to the bar/hunt. I've missed it. :)

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  27. Phil stood there and felt the breeze come up the rise to where the redoubt was to have stood on the rolling terrain near Saratoga and thought he smelled cordite floating on it. Again.

    “Phil? Are you okay?” his wife Carrie asked. “You’ve got that same thousand-miles-away look you had when we visited Gettysburg.” She knew what was going through his head, so she stayed close.

    Phil blinked a pair of dewy blinks, rubbing his hand across his eyes as if they actually stung from the smoke that wasn’t really there. He knew it wasn’t, just as he knew the chatter of small arms fire and the swelling sounds of men in combat weren’t really there. His mind settled upon the wind-blown clatter of nearby birch and maple branches and the jabber of some kids from a school tour.

    “I’m okay, Carrie,” he said, wrapping his hand around her arm, pulling her closer. A flash of sunlight off the windshield of a passing car touring the battlefield site brought on a flinch, but no longer did he full-on duck when something broke through the dark blur the world had become. Indeed, he was improving since he left the VA and began his own form of immersion therapy, visiting battlefield sites up and down the East Coast.

    “What say we stop by the military cemetery on the way back to Albany? I want to pay my respects to a couple of guys there I knew,” Phil said, as they swung back to their car in the small lot near the touring roadway.

    “Sure, hon, we can do that. You just tell me their names and I’ll find them for you.” Carrie didn’t flinch as much anymore, either.

    Phil slid into the passenger seat and took one more long breath of air. He thought it smelled of autumn leaves and old, old memory, which he found interesting, since he hated History as a kid. He hated everything when he got back, including himself, Carrie, home and what they’d all become.

    As he buckled in and put on his sunglasses, Phil felt the warmth of his wife’s skin awakening the few hairs left among the expanse of scars on his right arm. He shivered. Not because he was cold, rather because once more he realized Afghanistan had wrecked his sight, but his vision was improving all the time.

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    1. that's one of the most beautiful, descriptive, heart-shattering pieces having to do with PTSD that I've read in a long, long time. It's beautiful and bitter and healing. Thanks for sharing."He thought it smelled of autumn leaves and old, old memory..." is one of my favorite lines in this well-written story.

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    2. Yeah, I saw it through a PTSD lens too. Which felt real and authentic (and I normally hate that word).

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    3. Yeah, this is real, real good. Controlled, but powerful. So much beauty and sadness in this prose. And for some reason, this line in particular made my heart flip a little: "Carrie didn’t flinch as much anymore, either."

      Excellent piece.

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  28. She stood at the end of the jetty, listening to the waves crash as the chill wind carried a mist of salt spray to her face and gazing up at the full moon, riding high and regal through the night sky. The moon, she thought, was at it's peak, it's pinnacle. Soon it would begin to shrink, to wither away like fruit left too long on the vine...or like the current phase of her life.

    In time, though, the moon would be reborn. She would blossom and grow until she once again reigned over the darkened heavens in all her glory.

    And, she realized as the moon slipped behind a gauzy cloud, her life could follow the same path--rebirth, growth, and a new summit. She had only to believe in herself and find the strength and courage to begin again.

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    1. Beautiful.... and yes... rebirth... rebirth... until there is no more rebirth... such a hopeful piece. Thank you!

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    2. Yeah, that circularity is so true. But phases might capture it even better.

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    3. I like the tone of your pieces so much. There is an urgency to the nonchalance. If that makes sense. Very confident writing. And I always like a Phoenix.

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  29. You AAALLL blow me away every week! Thank you!

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    1. Thank YOU for reading what we write!

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    2. For real! It's much appreciated. :)

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