Friday, March 27, 2015

2 Minutes. Go!


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.

Inside the bunker, there is stasis. The believers sit with legs crossed in soft linen; they are in a state of bliss - nothing matters now. They will live in the bunker for the next year. They are prepared. When they emerge, they know the world will be reborn - they will take their birthright. That's what the Leader said. In singsong voice, eyes kind and bright - the Leader has very white teeth.

They do not speak. There is nothing to say that hasn't been said before with more eloquence. The Leader does most of the talking anyway - he is, after all, the enlightened one. They are just grateful for the whole thing. For the bunker with it's rich, wet smell. Thankful for the provisions they collected. Not counting the leader, there are ten women and four men.

While they sit, the Leader breathes deeply - this is the culmination of years of planning, years of shaded lies and sanguine promises. The men will be easy to poison. The bunker is soundproof and the rest will live there as long as they can. Then, the women will die, too. The Leader will live on to preach again. He will leave when they are sleeping and lock the bunker from the outside.

He will live.

Thanks for stopping by! Post your pieces on your blogs, telephone poles, passing pedestrians, etc. if you's a fun web o' writing.



  1. Oh, nice and light for a wedding day. But I do like the writing, and all the sensory clues.

    1. Nancy DeCilio GauthierMarch 27, 2015 at 9:15 AM

      Dan - really scary. The way the world is today, one can truly believe there is a Leader like that lurking around with just that plan in mind.

    2. Man that's creepy. Great job capturing both sides, Dan.

    3. Yeah, I was wondering where I could find the b-stardo first! Happy Weddy Day!

  2. They’re called complications. All the things a watch does besides the basic time. Moon phase, chimes, calendar. Complications. Beautiful complications.
    He’d been making watches and clocks for nearly all his life, and that was still one of his favorite things about it.
    At 7:17 pm, on June 21, a Wednesday, on a full moon, he folded his wife’s hands across her chest. Translucent skin, brittle bones. The cancer had eaten her from within. At 87, she’d decided she wasn’t interested in the radiation and the mastectomy and the chemicals. She’d tried, they’d both tried, to avoid all of that during World War II, she said, why would she invite it into her body now?
    On the dresser that her parents had given them as a wedding gift sat a clock. An anniversary clock, they called it. It was his gift to her on their first anniversary. A little spinny thing twirled first one way, then the other, keeping perfect time under a glass dome. There was so little friction in the clock that it only needed to be wound once a year. On their wedding anniversary.
    Their anniversary. For 67 years, they’d celebrated their anniversary the same way. Before he sat down to the beautiful dinner she’d made, he’d remove the dome from the clock and he would wind it.
    As he replaced the dome, she’d say, “May time always be on our side.”
    And for 67 years, he’d answered the same thing, “May I always be at your side.”
    He sat on the bed, his side of the bed, and took a drink from the same glass that had been on his nightstand for almost seven decades.
    He snuggled close to his Ruth, one last time. He closed his eyes. The bitter poison he’d taken from the glass shouldn’t take so very long to work now. “May I always be at your side,” he muttered. “Always.”
    And when the time was right, the anniversary clock stopped its movement. The anniversary clock, you see, has no complications.

    1. Nancy DeCilio GauthierMarch 27, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      Just realized I entered that under comment instead of reply...shakes head.

    2. Wow. Those aren't tears, really. There's just a lot of pollen in the air. Beautiful, Leland.

    3. Thanks! this one feels intriguing enough that it gets scratched on the "maybe a novel someday" board.... and I'm sorry about the pollen :-)

    4. Poignant, well composed, emotive... with so many possibilities.

    5. Love time and death. All the things good novels are made of!

    6. Thanks so much! Now if I can just get the next four novels out the door....

    7. Dammit. You made me cry at work.

      Well done. Sweet and sad and beautiful.

    8. Thanks! we should probably rate the stories that are NSFW, right?

    9. Ahhhhhh. So sweet and lots of background.

    10. Oh. Just breaks my heart to pieces. Beautifully done.

    11. I'm a big fan of short fiction, and therefore I agree with Nancy: This is perfect. Don't tinker with it and introduce *complications*. Just my opinion, of course.

    12. Thank you! I appreciate that a lot!

  3. "Come with me, please," Kait said quietly. "I need to speak with you. Privately."

    Liam looked up from his book in surprise. He simply nodded, setting the volume aside and rising to follow her.

    Kait led him out into the greeting hall, across it into another large room. It was open and airy, even with the dusk outside. The lighting was muted. Not all the candles were lit, just enough to be able to see by.

    She turned suddenly, her hands rising to his face to firmly hold his jaws. He was startled to say the least and froze. She pulled him to her, went up on her toes and kissed him. Her lips pressed to his and something inside melted.

    He wrapped his arms around her tightly, pulling her against him, letting his lips part to play his tongue against her lips.

    She sighed into his mouth, giving him full access.

    They stood that way for several moments, locked against one another. Her arms slithered around his neck. He raised one hand to the back of her neck, holding her there, not letting go.

    A minute passed and another. There was no sound in that room other than their breathing and that kiss.

    When it broke, she tried to push away from him, but he held her fast.

    "What the hell was that all about?" he asked.

    "I had to know," she said boldly. "I had to know what you tasted like."

    1. Mushy stuff, I know. Catharsis, too.

    2. Mush and catharsis are good... and so is good writing! well done!

    3. You tapped into my fantasies, to be sure.

    4. Nice, love the way ALL the senses are tied into lust, don't you?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. They all sat together, each one of them stony-faced and unflinching. Red-headed Jane was scowling; her eyes staring bleakly ahead, disapprovingly silent, her mouth furled like a fist. And Sarah with the large breasts, in the middle of the back row, wedged between blue-haired Hilary and hatted Barbara, looked surly as ever, muttering to herself; her voice buzzing in my head like a band-saw hitting several good summers’ layers of hard wood one after another, its tone rising and falling as annoyingly as ever it did.

    Standing back, I took them all in, all twelve of them. One for every month; although it’d taken me more than a year to gather the whole coven together. Penny had been my first – she’d been the first to reject me too – and I’d gathered her in more than eighteen months ago, with Annaliese and Carmen following on quickly after. After that, I’d had a run, cold-storage not being a problem until I got to Fenella and Rachel, Rachel being the first I’d had to disassemble to get into the freezer locker.

    And now I had them all. Each one of them that’d turned me away. But they still all seemed to be disapproving of me.

    1. ohhhhhh.... dark and gory! but the way you used the single words to describe them.... genius...Red-headed Jane, blue-haired Hilary, and hatted Barbara.... Um, please tell me you don't REALLY have a freezer locker....

    2. Mark, I adore you right this second. This is awesome.

    3. As long as you don't annoy me or sniff my rag, you'll both be fine. As for the freezer locker, I'd be happy to show you it...

    4. Not today, thanks :) I have a job to start.

    5. I'm with Leland. It was SO real, it giveth me pause...

  6. "How can you not see it from his side?" Felicia asked Rachel.

    "I'm sorry, aren't you supposed to be my friend?" Rachel shot back. "I didn't call you to hear that Todd was right."

    "No, you called me to go shopping," Felicia replied. "And we are, in fact, shopping. I am your friend, honey. That's why I'm telling you that he's right. You have to fight this."

    "It's not an invading army," Rachel grumbled. "It's freaking cancer. I'd fight an army. I'd fight an intruder. I'd fight for custody of my kids. Because those are fights I can win. This isn't."

    "How do you know?" Felicia asked. "The doctor said you had a good chance of beating it."

    "For how long?" Rachel asked. "And at what cost? And to whom? How many months or years would I be in pain? How long would they have to watch me suffer? How long would they have to put their lives on hold to take care of me? How can I do that to them?"

    "How can you leave them without trying?" her friend asked, softly. "I know you're scared. Anyone would be. But you need to fight your fear by fighting this disease. It is an invading army, hon. And you are the only one who has a chance of stopping it from getting in."

    1. aw, this breaks my heart... but I'm glad Rachel has Felicia to make her think it through... and you made me care for Rachel in such a short few paragraphs... well done.

    2. Good pep-talk. The interplay between the women glows with both fear and hope.

    3. A lot of people worry about catastrophic illness and collateral damage; this is the internal struggle externalized, and rendered quite well. Exceptional dialogue makes this sound like the real deal. Kudos.

    4. What's so striking to me about this one is how the woman in question externalizes the struggle/battle onto her loved ones--what will THEY have to go through? I a gal who thinks just like that, but I'm doing better at being about ME, honest...:)

    5. What they said. Awesome piece.

  7. The President casually leaned forward over his big ornate mahogany desk, stuck a rolled-up hundred dollar bill up his right nostril, and huffed a big line of cocaine. There were three Secret Service agents in the room, standing stoically at attention, as well as two prominent Cabinet members and a press attache from the Washington Post, in the room watching. He did that in the middle of a conversation, after asking if they wanted any. When they politely declined, he said, “More for me, suckas,” before snorting that line.

    He drummed his open hands on the desk, took a sip from a glass of Woodford Reserve, and continued, “now, where was I? Oh, yeah, sorry, that fuckin’ guy, that fuckin’ BP shill. I let that little bitch think he has the inside track, so I could make an example of him in front of you. Owens, he’s waiting outside, right?”

    “Last I saw, he was in the green room, Mister President.”

    “Show him in, real cordial like.”

    One of the Secret Service men sidled out of the Oval Office, and returned momentarily with another man. Young-ish, maybe early or mid thirties, clean cut, in a nice Italian suit. The President rose from his seat to greet him with a smile. The lobbyist smiled back and shook the President’s hand, gushing, “it is an honor to meet you, sir.”

    His enthusiasm was not matched. Within two seconds, the President had wrenched his hand around in a painfully abrupt manner and twisted his arm into a hammerlock, forcing him to his knees. The lobbyist barely could articulate his pain and confusion, as the President snapped, “you little motherfucker! What did you think was gonna happen? You could just waltz in here and tell me what’s what? I ain’t no softy Jimmy Carter, boy, I take my cues from Ol’ Hickory, a president who killed more men than you’ve ever met. I don’t care about anything you have to say. You can run along and tell your boss, he’s gonna toe the fucking line, or I will make things very unpleasant for him.”

    The lobbyist gasped, “Okay!”

    “Now if I let you go, are you gonna do anything stupid?”


    “Are you sure? If you do, all these Secret Service dudes are strapped, as am I. You WILL get shot, probably more than once, and we’re not gonna call an ambulance in time for them to save you.”

    “I’m sure!”

    “Okay.” The President helped the lobbyist to his feet with a smile, playfully slapped him across the face, and added, “I’m done with you. Beat it, faggot.”

    1. You pulled me into the story despite myself. This is kinda scary, but great. I had to wonder what it would be like to have a President like that. In this day of toeing the middle ground it would be a shock to the system.

    2. That would pretty much be me, if, by some bizarro fluke, I got in the Oval Office: on one hand, passionately progressive, but on the other, drunk, high, and aggressive. The kind who gets quoted in the papers saying shit like "Ted Cruz can suck an armadillo's dick with barbeque sauce", then takes a foreign dignitary out for lap dances and tacos.

    3. I'm having a flashback...Nixon on cocaine. In it's way, it's beautiful...

  8. Cowboys got morals, cowboys got needs. Finding where the two balance is what makes bein’ a cowboy interesting.

    They’d been on the trail a week and were getting close to Cheyenne. Another day or two and they’d go their separate ways. Cody finally broke the silence around that night’s campfire. “So Slim, you gonna get married some day?”
    The wind filled the silence.
    “I don’t rightly know.”
    A flash of lightning on the horizon lent an exclamation mark.
    Slim slurped some coffee from his blue enamel cup. “Why you askin’?”
    The wind fell silent, as if it were waiting for an answer, too.
    “I dunno. I guess I just don’t see me settlin’ down. I guess I wanna die in the saddle.”
    The wind stayed silent, wondering if there were more.
    “Women don’t do much for me, Slim.”
    “Don’t do much for me, neither, Cody. I reckon I like the trail, too. Just me and my buddy, the horses, maybe a dog.”
    Slim put his hand on Cody’s shoulder. It moved to his neck. Then it drew him in close enough to smell the mix of chewing tobacco and camp coffee and sweat that came from Slim’s lips.
    When the kiss finally happened, the clouds wept with joy.

    1. What is up with all you people trying to put me in a romantic mood? This is really sweet, great job.

    2. It's the universe, tellin' you to get out there and DANCE....

    3. Romance is what makes the sap and other things rise. Spring's here and a new world's waiting for us, Erin!

    4. Chewing tobacco, camp coffee, and sweat? It must be true love.

      Good, clean writing. Plenty of images and movement to break up the dialogue. Very well done.

  9. The blog will only let me do this in two part one.

    You’re a suburban girl in clean sneakers whose most harrowing run-in with wildlife has been a raccoon that got trapped in the garage, but into your startled hands the biggest man you’ve ever seen thrusts a rifle. It’s heavier than you thought, the metal colder as it bites into your tender, sheltered palms, and you’ve barely wrapped your quiet upbringing around the thought of what your father might say about this situation when the big man mutters something and laughs. The accent puzzles you; you’ve studied linguistics in your sheltered, quiet, unarmed classes, and as you’re running through the development of the mountain twang, the boy next to you in the back of the truck says, “Shotgun. Means you got shotgun.” This did not clear up the mystery. Shotgun in your world means dibs on the passenger seat. When you turn a question on him, he merely says, “Bear.”

    Your heart nearly flies out of your mouth. “Bear. I have to shoot…this thing…at a bear.” Smokey the Bear comes to mind. Yogi. The teddy bear sitting on your bed at your parents’ house. The boy laughs as the truck doors clunk and the ratty vehicle that smells like wet dog and raw honey rumbles across the meadow.

    “Or maybe just scare him a bit,” the boy says. “We gotta keep ‘em away from the hives.”

    That…sort of makes sense. If someone’s livelihood depends on extracting and selling what the bees make, they won’t want Winnie the Pooh in the honey pot. You try not to think about the cute little pooh-bear and the steel in your lap and instead concentrate on the beauty of the land. The wildflowers, the mountains in the distance…and the boy. That’s why you agreed to come, first and foremost. Because he asked, and you are accustomed to doing what boys ask. Especially when they have blue eyes and charming smiles.

  10. Part two...

    There are no bears at the first hive, and you sag with relief. The boy’s uncle checks the hive and returns to the truck. After a while of this, you wish you’d stayed back at camp with the boy’s aunt. Because the boy hasn’t said much more and the sun bites into your shoulders and at least at camp you could be cooking and talking to people and not have to hold a gun.

    Then you see a flash of movement in your peripheral vision and the truck screeches to a halt, throwing you against the boy. His hand clamps on the barrel of the gun to keep your startled grip from letting it go. His mouth is next to your ear and he whispers, “Bear.” Alarm thrums through you and before you even see the creature, you see giant men spilling from the front of the truck. Then the bear.

    “Looks like an old momma,” one of the men says, his words grinding through his chewing tobacco. His giant head swivels toward you and on his mouth is a bit of a smirk. “Go on, Shotgun.”

    Your stomach turns to jelly. “I…you want…I can’t.”

    “Told you she weren’t right,” the other man says. “Don’t bring no downstate girl up here. Didn’t I say so?”

    “Quit it,” the boy says. “Y’all suck.”

    “Shut up, boy.”

    Then you see what’s behind Old Momma. It’s a cub. You know very little about bears, but this is one of those things you have learned from all those library books and nature shows. And she’s coming closer, raising up higher on her haunches. You can feel your blood draining into your clean, white sneakers.

    The big man with the tobacco begins to snatch the gun out of your hands but then a young, strong hand grips it, young but already callused, young and pale against his.

    “Fine, ya little pissant, think you can do the job, have it.” The bigger hand lets go.

    Your impulse is to run, carry those shopping mall sneakers as far away as you can, but you can do more than quiver in the corner of the truck bed, the sight of the angry bear freezing you to the spot. “Don’t hurt her,” you mutter, head down, between your knees to keep from puking.

    “Don’t worry, I just…I’ll just scare her a bit, I…hey? Uncle Abe, quit it.” You only look up when the explosion and an animal roar rock the truck.

    A heap of bear lies next to the hive. The mountain of Uncle Abe, shotgun still smoking, smirks at the boy.

    “Always were a pussy kid. Now, get the hell down from there and help me put her in.”

    1. Gah.... you made ME cry... for the girl, and for the cub. I love your descriptions always... and your story lines.

    2. I posted, did it? Loved it captured a certain mindset perfectly. Nature's all well and good until some animal wants your stuff!

  11. “I’ve never done this before…”
    “Hunting? It’s fun!”
    “Yeah, but their sad little eyes…”
    “They know the game, they know how to play it.”
    “Yeah, but they look kinda sad…”
    “Ha. We’ve been hunting forever. As long as humans have walked upright.”
    “I know, but…”
    “If you don’t hunt, how do you survive?”
    “I trap…”
    “There’s a difference?”
    “Yeah, I don’t have to watch…”
    “Here we are… kinda try to blend into the surroundings… local watering holes are good.”
    They settled in, camouflaged but able to watch. Their conversation turned to whispers.
    “So what do you use as bait when you’re trapping?”
    “The usual… money, booze, sex…”
    “Here comes the five o’clock crowd. Easy as shooting souls in a barrel. We’ll get our limit today, buddy.”
    Their eyes glowed red in the dark bar and no one noticed.

    1. This piece owned me with three short lines:
      “I trap…”
      “There’s a difference?”
      “Yeah, I don’t have to watch…”
      Just great.

    2. Ha! Awesome twist kicker. Well played.

  12. Yosef’s favorite day was Tuesday: Family Night. He could feast and feast, fill his belly without a care or concern for the meals of the next three or four days. After the gorging, somewhere in the barn he could stretch his body atop a hay bale and dream Technicolor scenes of his rite of passage, that feverish night on his deathbed and the subsequent first bite that carried with it his uncle’s promise he would never die.

    Now Kiev was far away in space and time. Still, Josef dreamed of the before-and-after days which at first he treasured but now despised. Had he died those centuries ago, he would have found peace, but Uncle Lon out of pity for his dying nephew had bitten his shoulder and since then, as in the woods of Kiev, he hid in the woods of everywhere, venturing forth at nightfall in search of sustenance. Sometimes a hapless sheep, a snarling dog, a malodorous swine, but the ravishing satisfied the day’s hunger.

    But Tuesday was a night of Big Deals at McDonald’s, Popeye’s, Burger King, Chuckie Cheese’s –– he loved Tuesdays. Family night out. So from under cover he let his eyes first stalk them, then hooves and claws raced towards them howling in anticipation of a happy meal: two adults and a child. One adult and two teens. A mother and son –– a decrepit grandmother to pass up. Oh, Tuesdays kept Yosef’s regrets at bay. He would wear his wolfdom like a charm, that young boy good as dead in a fever, his home in Kiev an old picture-book story, this long good life of his worth it all.

    Set back on his haunces, Josef licked the long bones so clean he could see his hairy snout in the light of the Tuesday night moon.

    1. I like the darkness of this... and how it takes fast food and gives it a whole new meaning!

    2. Morph those metaphors, babe. How advertising becomes metaphor.Family night, fast food...brilliant!

  13. You’ve watched each other for as long as you can remember, as long as you’ve been coming to this stream. He sits on one side, skiddish, wary of any sudden movements. You sit on the other, with a book in hand.
    You were a child when you came here first. “I’m running away from home!” you shouted at your mother. Your mother, wise and wonderful, let you run. She knew you knew to watch for dangers. She knew many things you wish you could ask about now.
    That first time, he sat farther back, into the woods, nearly invisible, but your five-year-old self saw him when he sneezed. You laughed, and he laughed too, from his distance. As the sun began to set, he came out of the woods a bit, and you thought to follow, but had no way to ford the stream.
    He jumped across easily, and you ran after him, and found too late that he led you home before he disappeared. The book you forgot showed up on the porch in the morning, only a little worse for the wear.
    Now you’re home from your first year in college, and you can’t wait to get to the stream. He’s older now, moves slower, but he’s there, as if he’s been waiting for you. Perhaps he has. He no longer jumps across the stream. He’s found a set of rocks to use in fording it. His grace has moved from his feet to his eyes, which linger on you.
    You sit, still as a tree, and he comes to you, lays his head on your lap, nudging your book from its place. Until the sun starts to go down, you sit and dare not move. And when you do move, you discover the light has left his eyes as well as the sky.
    Your friend the wolf waited for you to come home before he left for his own home, somewhere in the Wyoming sky.

  14. “Sweet Baby Jesus, what’s this?” Nurse Brenda Jarvis said as two 300-pound men in tracksuits lumbered through the swooshing sliding double-doorway of the hospital emergency entrance.

    “The bell, the bell,” roared the one whose right eye was swollen shut in what looked like an impression of a purple and red desert sunset and who seemed a little wobbly on his feet.

    “You’ll have to pardon my friend, he caught himself a terrible shot — well, I actually I caught him a terrible shot, my bad — downtown tonight and I’m afraid he’s a little loopy and been ranting like this since he looked at his phone,” said the other behemoth. He sported a bruised cheek, scarred forehead, and swollen hands with which he held his friend steady as best he could a ranting bull.

    As Nurse Jarvis took the arm of the injured man, with an assist from his wingman, to lead him to Treatment Room 6, he jerked free from both and bolted for the stairwell, roaring, “Coming, baby!”

    Fifteen minutes of frantic, lock-down searching later, security found Mickey Karpinski, who wrestled under the name Awesome Dawson Dare, in the room of his wife Cathy, tenderly holding their hours' old, pink-swaddled firstborn, Bella.

    1. Aw, I love this! and it took a completely unexpected twist!

  15. “We’ll go fishing!” he said.
    “I’ve never done it.” you said.
    “It’s easy.”
    “Not on the worms.”
    “Aw, come on.”
    You compromise, and bring a book to read while he casts for dinner. You look up from your story, and you see his reflection, mirrored in water. In that moment, you know he’s caught you. You didn’t choose to be with him, it just is. You’re a trophy on his wall.
    You close your eyes. Was it always this way? Did he use bait to lure you into his world? You know the answer is yes.
    “Will I ever be free?” you mutter to yourself, just as you feel a hand on your shoulder.
    “No,” he answers, and pushes you into the water.
    You fool him, and swim upstream, hiding under the logs before you leap for the sky.
    You are dead, and he is wrong. You are free and you will never fall for a shiny lure again.

    1. This is very nicely done. You maintain the extended metaphor well, which can be difficult even in such a short piece. The "leap" is an incredibly triumphant image.
      I wonder if that line--the "leap for the sky" line--should be the last? It's such a powerful image, and the summary in the last line seems to rob it of a little of its power. Just a thought.
      Great stuff!

    2. Thanks for the feedback! I think you're likely right!

    3. Something's got your blood up, Leland? Hunting, fishing? Spring?

    4. LOL... the HOPE of spring... I know we'll still have a few more big snowstorms up here...

  16. Hiya! Title is a prompt line from JD's first story -

    There is nothing to say that hasn't been said before

    Nothing left to say
    Or do
    If no-one asks
    You cannot defend
    The sun sets
    Upon nothing
    An emptiness creeping
    From anger seeping
    A stasis
    Substance stopped
    An effigy
    Of the person blinds
    Living in denial
    In a bid to ignore
    Each and every day
    The things heard
    The things spread
    The lies
    Burning like a candle
    Carried like a mantle
    Dying in forever
    Drifting on the wind
    The words
    Carried far
    Until despair lingers
    Turning light to dark
    White to grey
    Stealing hope
    Confidence even
    Without grace
    No one asks
    No one questions
    Lifts a mirror up
    To stark reality
    Or even stops to think
    It might not be true
    To ask is too easy
    And would deny
    The rumour maker.

    1. The rumor maker is now a whole new character in my head!

    2. your poetry always, always, always takes me places I wouldn't go on my own. Thank you.

    3. Thank you!!! The rumour maker is a real person. Unfortunately.

  17. Cut Off

    She sits on the stony earth beside the wagon in the glow of the lantern, knife in hand. The ground is hard, but she won’t allow herself to wish for home. She’s too old for that now. Besides, with Mama gone, there’s no one to tend to things while Papa drives the herd north.
    The cattle have settled for the night, and the men and boys are telling lies around the fire. They are twenty feet away; it could be a thousand miles.
    She has propped a pie tin against the wagon’s wheel. Peering into its battered surface, she sees a distorted face not quite her own, a misshapen girl-thing with a thick braid dangling from the left side of its head.
    The other braid lies in the dirt at her feet.
    She clutches the remaining braid in her left hand and brings the knife up, sawing back and forth, feeling more than hearing the blade whisper through the strands. She closes her eyes and imagines how she will look when it’s done, with Papa’s old hat screwed down over her head. She will look just like him. Like them.
    When it’s done, the second twist of dark hair joins the first. She makes her way toward the sounds of camaraderie, her boots clumping on the prairie grass. She stops just inside the glow of the firelight. At the edge of the circle, she waits.
    One of the younger men notices her first. He sees her hair. He considers her shoulders, now innocent of those ropes of sable, but only briefly. His gaze moves downward to the swell beneath her simple blouse. A slantwise, snaky smile crosses his face as he pokes his elbow into the ribs of the man beside him. Too late, she realizes she hasn’t cut off enough. It can never be enough.

  18. I open the front door and hear some country guy singing about old dogs, children, and watermelon wine and I know something’s wrong. I drop my briefcase on the couch and walk into the kitchen, and Maggie’s sitting at the table, with sad eyes.
    “Dave, we need to talk.”
    I sit down at the table, not saying a word.
    “Dave, we’ve been together, what, six years? And I’ve never complained. Until now. Really, I’m at my limit.”
    There are times a guy knows when to keep his mouth shut.
    “I’m tired of living like we do. You go off in the morning almost every day, and most evenings, too. What am I supposed to do? You know I can’t drive.”
    I feel my eyes dropping lower and lower, afraid to look at her directly. Maybe distraction will work. “Hey, who’s this singing on the radio?”
    “Nice try, Dave. Tom T. Hall. And that’s another thing. From now on, I’m in charge of music and what’s on the television. I’ve hidden the remote.”
    Suddenly I feel emasculated. “But…”
    “I’m not done yet, Dave. Don’t interrupt. Our eating habits are going to change, too. I’ve been hearing about this paleo diet, all sorts of meat, and I think it sounds like a good idea. We’re going to try it. More raw things.”
    “Okay.” The traitorous word slips out of my mouth. What can I do? If I say anything else, she’ll threaten to leave, and I couldn’t bear that.
    She reaches across the table. “Do you love me, Dave?”
    And I put my hand over her paw and look into her black Lab eyes, and whisper, “Yes.”
    “I’m glad we had this talk, Dave. Now, could you get me a steak from the freezer? And let's go for a walk."

    1. Nancy DeCilio GauthierMarch 27, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      Absolutely enjoyed this and no surprise coming from you !! ...."get me a steak from the freezer".... apropos.

    2. ahh, that everlasting struggle for domestic appreciation. ...great job!

    3. Thanks and Maggie wags her tail in appreciation, too.

    4. you are so sweet.... thank you!

  19. God Watched the Eagles

    play the Cowboys last Sunday.
    He was to my right, in front of me,
    in row C, seat nineteen. Beside him
    a disciple or some lesser prophet
    spent the whole game answering
    a cell phone, muttering and nodding,
    jotting in a tablet (legal pad, pair
    of pens, nothing set in stone).

    A group of whooping fans
    in white and green sat
    between me and the deity;
    they nearly drowned me out, but
    in the third quarter, I shouted,
    loud, and asked the Almighty
    who He was rooting for. Then
    Sproles made a short dash
    in from the one, and Romo
    hit Dez on the run, and in the end,
    I had no doubt who had won,

    and why. I found myself
    shuffling to the gate with God
    two steps ahead. Alongside
    that busy aide, I glimpsed the names
    on the call-back list he’d made,
    scratched through in red.

    1. I think God likes baseball, and I know he likes baseball poetry. This is great!

    2. Footsball, Leland. :)

      James, this was incredibly fun to read. "Nothing set in stone" called me up.

    3. That line got me too. The whole thing is fun and fast paced. Love it.

  20. There were seven different ways to walk to her new school. Penny had mapped them all out, practicing over the summer for the big day, counting the steps, memorizing the colors of the houses and the flowers in the gardens and the names on the mailboxes. Six of those ways didn’t take her past Bryan Ellsworth’s house, so she liked the seventh one best, even though it wasn’t the fastest route or the prettiest. He waited for her on the steps, elbow on his knee, chin in his hand. When she passed, he rose and nodded, falling into step next to her as if their meeting had been accidental. For a while that was kind of fun and mysterious, and she could pretend they were spies or a modern version of Romeo and Juliet, needing to keep their love a secret from their disapproving families. She felt proud to walk beside him, sneaking sidelong glances at his broadening shoulders and strengthening jawline. She’d never dare say those words though. She didn’t say much at all, and neither did he, and when she chanced a question, he’d answer with a flick of his eyes and a lock of brown hair falling across his forehead and something that might have resembled a full sentence on another planet. But when the leaves began to turn, he stopped waiting for her. Three, four, five days she walked past the empty stairs, and with a sigh, continued on to school. Too sad to see nothing in front of his house except fading flowers and dried leaves stuck in the pickets of the Ellsworth’s white fence, she began taking each of the different ways in turn. One and two were dull. Three and four were possible contenders, but she wanted to try five first. When she rounded the second corner, her heart fluttered when she saw Bryan walking ahead of her, the same golden glints in his curls but a slight hitch in the long, bluejeaned lope that she hadn’t noticed before when she’d walked beside him. But then he slowed in front of a house. All she could see were a pair of legs and sneakers on the stairs, the rest of the body hidden by a hedge. And the body rose, falling into step next to Bryan, now two sets of broad shoulders ahead of her, arms occasionally brushing against each other as they walked.

    1. That cursed two-timer... thanks for taking me back to younger days of crushes and hopes and dreams... and this: "...when she chanced a question, he’d answer with a flick of his eyes and a lock of brown hair falling across his forehead and something that might have resembled a full sentence on another planet" that's just brilliant...

    2. The excitement and let-down are tangible things. The openish ending is a nice touch. I want to know more about all of them.

  21. “What’s a nice lil’ gal like you doing in a place like this? The bartender drawled, setting a second cocktail in front of her.
    “Looking for my voice,” she answered glumly. “They like the story see? But said it didn’t have a voice.”
    Father O’Flanagan glanced up from his beer. “Jaazus, Mary and Joseph!” he bellowed. “What, in the name of Saint Patrick is that supposed to mean?”
    She smiled thinly. “I’m a writer. A writer is supposed to have a unique narrative voice.”
    Just then a Mexican burst through the entrance, wielding a shiny machete that glinted in the light.
    “What the—“
    “Somebody called me. “
    “I said, Jaazus, not Haysoos!”
    “I don’t need no stinkin’ reason, priest” the Mexican answered darkly. He approached the writer and grinned displaying a gap between his grimy front teeth. He traced an imaginary line across the writer’s throat with the machete’s silver point. “You doan need no stinking voice, either” he said. “Tequila for everyone!”
    “Oy! Try not to be such a schmuck, Manuel.” The rabbi at the far end of the bar piped up. “ Every week, the same routine. You come in here like some meshugge. The problems of the writer cannot be solved with violence. Besides, tequila isn’t kosher. It’s the worm. The Torah expressly states--”
    “Torah, schmorah!” shouted Father O’Flanagan. “As a man of God, show some compassion. Can’t you see the poor girl’s beside herself?” He leaned over her sympathetically and patted her shoulder, his bright blue eyes swimming in a bloodshot sea. “Have ya been to confession, child? We have it Fridays, just before the fish fry.”
    “You got fish tacos?” The Mexican put in. “Mi abuela, she used to make the best ones. Oh, man? Back in Guadalajara, they called her the Patron Saint of Pescado.”
    “Blasphemy!” shouted the priest.
    “Seafood is forbidden,” yelled the rabbi. “Some nice chicken soup maybe? Maybe some matzoh balls? “ He glanced around suddenly, trying to see out the window. “Is it sunset yet, boychik? I gotta get back to Brooklyn. Esther said there’s brisket.”
    “You say anything against mi abuela man, I kill you.” The machete flashed.
    The rabbi mustered a condescending smile. “I’m certain she was a fine woman. For a Catholic.”
    At that, Father Flanagan leaped between them, fists flying and the three tumbled to the floor, cursing one another in a variety of languages.
    The writer stared at them, aghast.
    The bartender wiped the counter down. “We don’t get many writers in here, “ he said.
    She glanced away from the bodies tumbling over the floor. “I can see why.”
    “But you might want to stop round again sometime. Tell your friends. I mean, if you ain’t got no voice of yer own. It’s a hell of a place to find someone else’s.”

  22. Melody tilted her head backwards, eyeing the fan revolving above her. “It would seem to me that it'd be a good idea if we just stayed here a while. Waited to see who came in. Maybe drank a shot or two while we waited.”

    Carla shook her head, her permed tresses swirling about her face. “It would seem to me,” she began, aping her friend's words, “that one of us has already sorted out her entertainment for the evening. And, if we just indulged her like that, it'd be a dull night for the rest of us. You know well that the bars will all soon be full and that the tourists will be rampaging though the town by eight. How can the rest of us compete with the lure of casual sex with no questions asked? The men from ashore are all buffoons with no taste. They'd much rather hook up with another of their kind. Fewer inhibitions. An anonymous room. No family members to avoid. Perfect.”

    The woman in the pastel blue cocktail dress shrugged, her long straight hair brushing her perfectly powdered shoulders. “It seems to me that my friend is jealous. You never know, maybe Jacob might come in with his brother. He's free and single. And perhaps if you close your eyes and overlook his cologne, you could convince yourself he was Anton. Until you heard him smooching with me, at least.”

  23. The Huntress, Part 10

    The woman brushed an imaginary piece of lint from the man’s pants, stopping at his inner thigh.

    "Got it," she said.

    "Are you sure? It might bear closer inspection." Suddenly the man laughed, shaking his head. "Sorry, I’m not very good at this."

    "You’re doing fine," she reassured him. "Besides, it isn’t as though we both don’t know where this is headed."

    After a few more minutes of small talk and surreptitious fondling, she abruptly announced her intention to visit the ladies room.

    "I’ll save your seat," he offered.

    "Actually," she said, leaning in conspiratorially, "I’d rather you give me five minutes, then join me in there. And bring your drink." With that, she tossed back what remained of the ginger drop and vanished into the crowd.

    1. Oh man. I stuck to the two minutes and didn't even read this over before submitting it. Now I'm sitting here laughing. Why did she tell him to bring his drink into the RESTROOM? Ewww.

  24. You ever have one of those whiney periods of creative stasis?

    Your brain is listing to starboard, its hands in its pockets and eyes closed in I-don’t-care nod like a petulant teen on heroin.

    There, I said it. Not only won’t it pick up its socks and drawers, but it’s keeping an eight ball of good old-fashioned Afghan poppy powder behind its poster of Sharon Tate. (She hot!)

    Once your blob of breathing, knowing, moving and control leans against that occipital lobe, it’s a devil to get righted again. A devil to get writing. A devil to open those eyes and recognizing life goes on whether you choose to notice it or not.

    The only rehab is grabbing a pen and shooting ink into a page — the equivalent of a shot of Naloxone into your muse’s nose.

    *Snort* Just like this.

    1. The line that will stay with me will be this: "The only rehab is grabbing a pen and shooting ink into a page." But the whole thing is wonderful.

  25. What a roller coaster of writing. Well done, folks, well done!


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