Friday, July 3, 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. 

"Son, you ain't showing no kindness dawdling. You gotta pull the trigger."

Nightmare flashes, serge-scratch madness. Everything is dark. Open your eyes. Just tell him. He'll understand.

"I ... can't do it, Dad. I'm sorry. It's -"

"Son, I never have hit you, and I never will, but if you don't pull that trigger, I'll never look at you the same way again. You eat bacon like you're starving. You know where it comes from. You're old enough now. You can help with the killing. And you'll help with the rest - I'll teach you that knives aren't made for goddamn mumblety-peg. Next time we won't even waste a bullet. I'm doing you a kindness"

Sweat darts down between your shoulder blades. Looking into big, deep eyes and everyone knows. Everyone can smell the blood soaked into the dirt. Years of it. Everyone knows what the hook is for, hanging from the high beam. Even the fucking pig. Those big eyes: Christ, kid. Don't drag this out. 


"Dad, I really don't-"

"You won't eat. I'm goddamn sick of it. You won't eat meat in my house again until you stop this bullshit and act like a man. This is how we live. I ain't killing your meat for you anymore. You're old enough to help."


Look at the set eyes. Fair eyes, but cold. Always been that way. Always will be. Your arm heavy, pistol pendulum. Shot that gun a million times. Hell, it can tear a tree in half. Calling it a pistol is silly. Red face. Tired of feeling like the girl no one wants to dance with. Sister's upstairs reading and ain't no one ever gonna dance with her. This is important. This moment will change the trajectory of everything.

The gun is shaking, but you grit your teeth and hold it with both hands and start to squeeze. Gently. Slowly. There is love in this. There is so much. The whole damn world collapses and all the wars and all the kindness, all the mercy, all the mincemeat pies and mockingbird cries - everything in the world gets sucked in by the force of the explosion. The world implodes. Life explodes from the back of the beast's head. Thick, red slime. That's what life is. Really. You look up at the smiling face. Strong jaw, stubble. Sad eyes, even smiling.

"I'm proud of you, son. Let's go inside. It's a hot one, and I reckon Mother's made some iced tea. We can do the ugly part after the bleeding."

Slow turn. Broad back. Love there, but suddenly there's your cyclone brain. All the chatter. When's it gonna rain? Jesus died for you. Suzy doesn't love you, she loves Randy because he's old enough to drive. The kids at school are going to find out. He's going to find out. It's getting harder to hide. Whatever it is. This ... softness. 


Impulsive. Always impulsive. They'll say it for the rest of their lives. Try to make sense of it. It was just that goddamned pig. Something snapped. Let them think that. It will be simpler.

The old man will spend the rest of his life wondering if he even heard the second shot. He'll remember the sound of his own scream, but it will be a hollow roar. He'll never sleep right again. And he'll pay a neighbor to kill his meat. And everyone will understand. Finally.


That's called legacy. 

Thanks for stopping by! Gonna be a busy day, but, rest assured, I'll be reading everything and commenting as I have time, so check back. Post your pieces on your blogs, telephone poles, passing pedestrians, etc. if you like...it's a fun web o' writing.

#2minutesgo

130 comments:

  1. ohmigod... Dan.... I don't know what to say other than this is amazing... painful, beautiful, aching... I am in awe.

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    1. and on second read, it's even more awesome... you totally nailed this... and the last line... brilliant.

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    2. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

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    3. Holy crap. That was amazing.

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    4. I Love you and you know that. And the writing is beautiful. But as somebody with enough life on the farm experience to know where pork chops come from? Pistol? Uh-uh. quick slit to the jugular. Just don't want to get you thrown out of 4-H, dude.

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    5. Thanks, T. And I agree. Check the 4th P. Still a stretch, but I'm hoping the 4-H is understanding. ;)

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    6. Huh... I wonder if that's a regional thing? An uncle who butchered hogs shot them first... or maybe he saw that as more humane? Also, googling, there are a number of sites, including Mother Earth, that reference shooting the hog.

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    7. well if they do shoot 'em these days, okay by me. But in grandad land, livestock is product, is family food, is livelihood. You use it all, don't risk damaging the meat, even make head cheese. Blecch. And don't even talk to me about chittlins...Shudder.

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    8. All I can say is this: tender rage. This is now one of my favourites of your flash pieces, brother.

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  2. I look at your picture now, and I can see you were not classically handsome. I don’t think you ever saw the inside of a gym. But the black and white photo belies the magic of your sky blue eyes. When I first saw them, I fell in love with not only you, but the universe they reflected.

    You weren’t gay, you said. You just liked kissing guys. And more. But you weren’t gay.
    Your mustache tickled me in all the right places. Our bodies fit together like a well-made cabinet.

    And then, one day, you said you were done. You’d found a girl you wanted to date. I said congratulations but inside my head, I said other things, things best left unsaid. I told you about a party I was throwing. Told you you should bring her along.

    You did.

    But when you left the party late that night, you left with Steve. And I was left to comfort the girl.

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    1. Oh, damn. This one hurts. Really strong piece. That opening paragraph is absolutely beautiful! I don't know how you packed such a big story into such a small space, but I envy it.

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    2. Very well done. Been that girl once. Mama said: "Oh honey, them that swing both ways like that? You don't want 'em. They just don't have real hot pants."
      She may have had something there...:)

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    3. Encapsulates all the sad complexity of human sexuality so adeptly.

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    4. Heartbreaking. I was that girl, too.

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  3. Here is a secret. I grew up watching Batman on TV. I wanted to be Robin. I wanted to wear tights and a cape. I wanted Bruce Wayne to teach me how to dress for dinner. I wanted him to tuck me in every night, and I wanted him to kiss me as he turned out the light. I wanted a utility belt with a bat-compass and bat-knives and bat-ropes and bat-everything else.

    My Uncle G lived alone in a farmhouse that didn't have plumbing. My mother told me that when he came back from the war, he didn't like to be around people any more.

    Sometimes, when my parents had to go wherever adults go without kids, he'd watch us. Never babysit. Watch. He said we weren't babies. I liked that.

    One time I was with him and we went into town to buy groceries. He never worried about whether this was a good deal or if that was cheaper than this. He just walked up and down the aisles of the store and put what he wanted in the cart.

    We got to the cereal aisle and he asked me to pick a cereal for him. I grabbed a box of Cheerios and glanced at the back of the box. I froze. They were offering a utility belt for five dollars and an astronomical number of box tops.

    "You want that?" Uncle G asked.

    I nodded, knowing it was impossible.

    He took the box of cereal from me, put it in the cart, and then added more and more boxes.

    "What are you doing?"

    "Getting enough box tops for the belt."

    I almost fainted. When we got back to his house, we carefully tore box tops off, he wrote a check, and we addressed an envelope for it all to fit into.

    "It says, 'Allow four to six weeks for shipping.'"

    I checked the mailbox at the end of our country driveway every day for weeks, imagining what it would be like to be a superhero.

    When it came, it needed batteries for the bat-light. The bat-decoder was a piece of red cellophane. And the belt itself was red plastic.

    I was Robin, but without Batman, the belt didn't hold the magic I imagined it would. Uncle G and I sent coded messages back and forth a few times, and then I returned to my everyday, mild-mannered bookworm mode.

    Uncle G ate Cheerios for breakfast and dinner for many, many months.

    Sometimes being an uncle is its own superpower.

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    1. Oh, man. This is an awesome piece. I love it. I totally remember that mail order sadness. So much heart in this one, Leland.

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    2. Aww. I love this. And that mail-order sadness. And uncles.

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    3. Rumor has it that some aunts are awesome, too (like you)... thanks!

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  4. Johnny had been lied to all his life. His dad, who used him as a punch bag for most it, was a mean son-of-a-bitch.
    Johnny swore he would never, ever turn out like his old man but the way he’d acted lately….well they say the apple don’t fall far from the tree.
    He’d finally had enough 6 months ago when the Johnny senior came home as pissed as a fart. Starting in on him as soon as he walked through the door, he left handed him up the side of his face. This time, Johnny J went and slapped him right back and he didn’t stop at a slap either. He beat up on the old bastard good and proper.
    He left that night and never went back. Splitsville, buddy.
    He bunked up at the YMCA, and got a loading job down at the fish market. The work was hard and the men were harder but now he could hold his own with anyone who was dumb enough to try. He had a combustible temper, thanks dad.
    He got himself a reputation and he fought dirty. Only way he knew how. One night a Russian who came in on one of the trawlers sliced him in his belly. Johnny’s reign had ended but he was stitched up at the local hospital and wavered between life and death for five nights.
    When he woke up he saw the face of an angel. Sweet Jesus he must have made it to heaven after all.
    Turned out, the angels name was Maria and she was the attending nurse who had been assigned to care for him and Heaven didn’t want him but then neither did Hell so he wasn’t complaining.
    Man, she was beautiful. You know the old cliché, beautiful inside and out. That was Maria.
    She spoke to him in soft tones which were kind and encouraging. Her voice had a musical quality and he never tired of listening to it. When he was stronger she walked in the hospital grounds with him and she listened to all he had to say. Really listened. No one had ever listened to him before.
    He was different when he was with her. Softer, kinder and he almost liked who he was. He was gutted the day they discharged him. He didn’t want to go back to his old life, his old ways. He wanted to be around Maria who made the birds sing in key again, who looked beyond his beat up exterior and brought forth his vulnerability. Being his nurse was one thing. Could she ever be his girl?
    He faced the hardest fight of his life when he asked her if she would see him outside of work. He was shaking and sweating but he asked her if she could ever look past his scars and take a chance on him. He’d leave the Fish Market and get a better job, hell, he’d do anything if only she would give him a chance, just one date….
    You know what she said? She said, “Even the moon had to take a lot of pounding before it became Earth’s beautiful companion, Johnny. I’ll go on a date with you if you promise me you’ll ignore all those meteorites which are sure to come along.”
    Last I heard, Johnny J had met her folks and is real happy now he lets those rocks bounce right off him. Guess it’s a lesson to us all.

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    1. Oh wow.... A classic and beautiful love story... Love CAN conquer all, and you gave us that lesson in spades!

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    2. This has an awesome fable-quality to it, and I love the tone. Kind of conversational and conspiratorial. Fits the piece perfectly. Glad to see you here this week, and way to start off with a bang!

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    3. I LOVE this. I was just thinking this morning there's too much dying in flash. We need more happy endings!

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    4. This is gorgeous, Audrey. My favourite piece of yours so far. What's with everyone pulling out the stops today? Some instant classics already.

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  5. They tell you slow and steady wins the race. Then, they tell you that you gotta hustle - lazy, that's a sin. You'll never get anywhere without good SAT scores. But be the turtle, he'll win in the end. You sprint for that goddamn line drive, boy. Stop to smell the roses, sometimes.

    They say to treat others as you want to be treated and then judge you for leaving everyone the hell alone. Be nice to your cousins. Be sweet to old Ms. Johnson. She's dying. It's a blessing. She's been so sick. What a tragedy.

    They tell you so much and shove so much bullshit into your throat you can barely breathe, but you can buy a cheap mic to go with your cheap guitar. You already got an amp that sounds like shit, but LOUD shit.

    They say you should wear ear plugs. Fuck them.

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    1. Yep. Be who you are. A stitch in time saves nine and haste makes waste adds up to do what you want. Turn up the amp. Be immortal while you can.

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    2. Love the last line. And eat dessert first.

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  6. A tiny finger poked my shoulder. “What are you doing?”

    I’d been as still as one of the stones in the courtyard for so long that it took a moment to remember. An even longer moment to explain it to the pixie-faced girl who’d asked the question, then come around front to peer at my camera. “Watching the world go by.”

    She wrinkled her small nose. Obviously, I’d chosen the wrong words. “I’m taking pictures.”

    “Why?”

    I pegged the girl at about five, the perfect age for her spongy brain to fill up on information about the big issues, even if she couldn’t catalog and analyze them yet. I didn’t think she’d be interested in knowing that it made me feel connected to humanity, or reduced my stress level by giving me an outlet for my frustrated creative impulses, or even because I liked the way the waning sunlight played on the reflecting pool and the smooth, polished metal surrounding it. Or because I couldn’t bear to be in the house when he came by for his things so he could move in with his new girlfriend. “Because it’s fun,” I said.

    “But why is it fun?”

    That one stopped me. What was “fun” about staring into a postage-stamp-sized pane of glass, lining up a shot, waiting for the right moment when the beautiful man turns his head just so as he walks beside the sentry of streetlights guarding the pool? Satisfying, maybe? But fun?

    “Do you want to take a picture?” I asked, making room for her to slip between me and the tripod.

    Her eyes swept to the cobblestone, a finger pressed to her lower lip. Of course. She might think I’m some kind of freak. Stranger danger. “Or not,” I said.

    She glanced up at me, and I could imagine the calculations going on in that spongy mind. If I was safe. If taking pictures of essentially nothing looked like fun.

    “Can I take a picture of you?” she asked.

    I looked like crap; I’d escaped the house to make way for him, so I was still wearing ripped jeans, grubby old flip-flops, and a stained T-shirt, my hair in the roughest excuse of a ponytail I could beat it into as I walked from the subway stop to the Christian Science Center reflecting pool. But the light in the giant eyes made me melt a little, gave me a glimmer of hope that the world I’d been watching through my viewfinder still had some life in it.

    Adorably self-important, like she was a miniature Hollywood director, she told me where to stand and how to hold my arms. I did everything she asked. And as I was waiting for the shot, she tightened her hands on the camera and tripod and took off at a dead run.

    Fuck.

    I sprinted off after her, but in my ratty flip-flops, I couldn’t keep up, and she disappeared.

    I stopped, staring off in the distance, my shoulders sagging forward. Oh, well, I thought after a while. At least it wasn’t mine. And knowing that was kind of fun.

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    1. Wow. My mind is so twisted. This is a dope piece, Laurie. The ending is so unexpected, but right. I hate to keep highlighting whole paragraphs, but you guys gotta stop writing fucking perfect ones like this :) :

      I pegged the girl at about five, the perfect age for her spongy brain to fill up on information about the big issues, even if she couldn’t catalog and analyze them yet. I didn’t think she’d be interested in knowing that it made me feel connected to humanity, or reduced my stress level by giving me an outlet for my frustrated creative impulses, or even because I liked the way the waning sunlight played on the reflecting pool and the smooth, polished metal surrounding it. Or because I couldn’t bear to be in the house when he came by for his things so he could move in with his new girlfriend. “Because it’s fun,” I said.

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    2. Gorgeous descriptions, told like a photographer would tell them... sweet little girl... perfect twist at the end. And then another twist. You, Ms. Boris, are a master.

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    3. Yes, this is gorgeously constructed, and cinematic too in its way.

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  7. Her eyes are pretty. I want to tell her, but that's fucking stupid. Expected. But I can't help the fact that she's pretty: nice hair, gentle smile. It's gonna sound trite. I'm reaching for something. Anything. You're really good at charades? You wear cool shoes? I fucking love you?

    And I know it doesn't matter what I say as long as I pass the mirror while I'm saying it.

    And that begs the question. How much of this is real? I mean, it's all real, but how much of it is honest? How pretty are those eyes, really? How can I even think about shoes when my jaw's so tight?

    And more important, what's all this gonna look like come morning light?

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    1. An exquisite fear... captured well. I especially like this: "You wear cool shoes? I fucking love you?"

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    2. I Like, "as long as I pass the mirror" who will be the pretty one in the morning?

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    3. I refuse to ditto (for a change), so Imma choose the last line. I love last lines, and this one's a doozy. :)

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  8. The moon rose over a nearly smooth sea that night. Her orange light reflected on the corduroy water. We stood on deck together, our muscled arms holding the small of each others’ backs.
    “Think we’ll catch anything tomorrow?”
    “Dunno… that cloud bank kinda has me worried.” He pointed to the west. “We might want to head back early.”
    “Ahhh,” I said.
    “I know, you needed this quiet time. But there will be others.”
    I nodded. The ocean does give me peace.
    The next morning, the clouds came. The winds. We fought it as best we could, but a sailboat is meant to go with the wind more than against it.
    When we capsized, I lost him. I screamed for hours. The tears in my eyes had exactly the same salinity as the sea.
    The ocean. She gives what we need. She takes what she wants.

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    1. I really like the wave-rhythm of this piece and corduroy water! Damn. Love it.

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    2. A sad tale simply told. No histrionics. Just vulnerability.

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    3. thanks! sometimes I feel slightly sociopathic, when I look at such things so factually... but I also think it lets the skeletal beauty of a situation show through.

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    4. It might sound odd given my love of words and more words, but I do love spare understatement. It can often be more emotionally effective than melodrama.

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    5. Not at all... you appreciate both fine dining and simple cuisine

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    6. Ha, one of my exes literally said that about me! I always thought it was normal, lol.

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  9. It's a weird thing, so I don't ever mention it, but I also can't make sense of it. I get emails from people on the other side of the goddamn world. And I'm not claiming that makes me some kind of superstar because it sure as shit doesn't. What I am claiming is that it's weird. Someone I've never met wants me to write more and more and faster and faster while the people I grew up with, the people I eat family dinners with, the people who've known me my whole life don't know whether I write about unicorns or midget porn. Maybe they're afraid to find out. And I'm not butthurt, I swear. I'm honestly just curious. Because if I found out that the girl I loved in 7th grade wrote a novel, I'd fucking read it. Just for plain curiosity's sake.

    But maybe that's just me.

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    1. Perfect... and yeah, I would, too. Midget porn? Hmmm....

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    2. We only deliver a message, we never. ever know how it's received...

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  10. I was old enough to know that I shouldn't be afraid of the dark and that boys don't cry. When the nightmares came, I clutched at the sheets my mother ironed before she made my bed. Their crispness was real and gave me something to hold on to. If the dreams were very bad, I'd get up in the dark and find my teddy bear or my stuffed Bugs Bunny.

    I learned to stare into the darkness, to wait, to wonder. I developed a dreadful patience. The nights the moon was bright, those were the nights I felt safest.

    The dreams were about strange things. Snakes slithering in and out of my mouth. Swimming, though I didn't know how. Being held under water. Whispers too quiet to hear the words.

    Sometimes I heard the words "our little secret" come from the snakes' mouths.

    Darkness was never my friend, but sometimes when the moon was a shadow, I counted the stars.

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    1. I had nights like these. You gave me a shiver!

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    2. This is straight awesome.

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    3. The snakes, the secret. You vividly illustrate through those symbols what actually went on, but you never TELL it.Brilliant example of SHOW, don't Tell.

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    4. Something about this feels menacing to me. Maybe I had similar dreams.

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    5. Thank you.... this just might be a piece of something larger... I'm experimenting...

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  11. The market was crowded in spite of the hot weather. The drone of voices, people catching up on gossip, haggling, hawking wares, coughing from the dust, and yelling to and at one another made for a noisy backdrop. Then there was the livestock, what animals were allowed in this market, that made even more noise with the bleats and squawks and honks and snorts. If it was the size of a hunting dog or smaller, it was here, adding to the cacophony. Some enterprising soul even had cages of cats, both mousers and meat.

    Kait shuddered at the prospect. She was very happy that the palace cats stuck to the palace and the wharf cats stuck to the docks. The thought of one of those sleek hunters of the hallways of her home winding up down here as butchered meat brought on an involuntary shudder.

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    1. and it gave ME a shudder, too... this is good... is it going to be part of a bigger piece? because if it is, I wanna read it!

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    2. Me too. I love the phrase mousers or meat. The whole thing is awesome. I definitely want more of this.

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    3. This one feels alive (sort of ironically, if you love cats)!

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  12. The rain was getting thick, and Trevor hauled his mother’s old Dodge to the side of the road.

    “Dude,” Donny said. “What the hell?”

    “You drive in this shit, then.” Trevor snapped the ignition off and glared at the waterfall of pop-up downpour streaming over the windshield. “I can’t see a goddamn thing, and we got precious cargo back there.”

    Donny snorted. “Yeah. Precious fucking cargo that’s gonna be worthless if we don’t get it back to New York in time for the Fourth. Keep going, man. You know these things don’t last long. It’s training north; that line of red and yellow cells will blow on out of here soon.”

    “What are you, the fucking weatherman all of a sudden?” Trevor gestured out the window. “Something happens, Ma can’t afford to bring this to the body shop. Not after the last time. So we’re gonna wait it out.”

    That shut Donny up for a couple of seconds. “We got any beer left?”

    “Trunk,” Trevor snapped. Donny clicked his door open and Trevor yelled, “Just don’t get the ‘works wet.”

    The trunk flipped up in the rearview mirror, stayed up far too long before Donny slapped it closed, but not all the way. Asshole, Trevor thought, shaking his head. But he didn’t get back in the car. Instead, the dude cracked open a Bud, slugged deep, and raised his hands to the sky, whooping about some shit or other. Thunder growled in the distance.

    Oh, for God’s sake. Trevor flung himself out of the driver’s side. “What the hell are you doing?”

    Donny was dancing around like Gene fucking Kelly, his big fat Doc Martin soles splatting up runoff. “Singin’ in the rain, dude.” To his scowl, Donny said, “Lighten up, man. This is LIFE, you know?” He tipped his face to the sky. Rain streamed over it, plastering his red curls dark as he shoved both hands in the air. “King of the wooooooorld!”

    A car sped by, splashing them both with grit and cold water. That was it. Trevor stabbed a finger back to the Dodge. “In. Now.”

    “Buzzkill.” Lightning flashed, highlighting the trees, the mountains in the distance, the utter emptiness of the drop-off into the ravine beyond the shoulder. “Dude. Cloud-to-ground. That’s the most fucking beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Wait. Wait for it. One Mississippi, two Mississippi…”

    Thunder shook the asphalt beneath their feet and Donny let out a howl like he’d suddenly become a werewolf or something. “Yeah. I’m cuttin’ you off,” Trevor said. “Now, come on. Get in the car.”

    Donny reached for the trunk. “Just one more for the road, man.”

    Trevor was about to tell him to quit it, but lightning crackled and the next thing he knew, he was on his back, gazing up into the rain, a hum rolling over everything in his head. He smelled something burning. Donny. Shit. He tried calling out but wasn’t sure if he was making words. He was only able to roll over enough to see a lump of something in the middle of the road. Something with really big-ass shoes. Then through the hum in his head, he thought he heard hissing. Popping. Whistling. The car shook. As their Fourth of July payoff blasted into the sky, his mother’s Dodge rocked sideways, hovered for a moment, and then tumbled into the ravine.

    When all quieted except for the patter of the storm coming to an end, Donny began to laugh. A choking, aching sound. “Dude. Singin’ in the rain.” Then he went still.

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    1. You are rockin' and rollin'... this is an AWESOME story for the weekend.... and I felt like I was right there with them.... right up, until, you know, the lightning. Then I ran away.

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    2. Mad power, Boris. Mad power.

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    3. Yikes! I love how quickly I get drawn into your short fiction.

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  13. Her name was Vanessa. Her hair was like none I’d ever seen before. She had an odd laugh. Like she was out of practice. She was quiet. We had that in common. The second grade playground was a noisy yet lonely place. She was new to the school. Another thing we shared.

    We sat on the swings, next to each other. As the school year went on, we started swinging, not just sitting there. We talked. She liked to read. So did I.

    We tried to time our swings so that we could talk without shouting even as we went back and forth, higher and higher. Eventually we got so good at it, that when she extended her hand, I extended mine, and we held hands. Up and down, back and forth. It was freedom and friendship and glory and fun. We laughed.

    We only did that once. The playground went silent as the others noticed. We dropped our hands, and we stopped swinging. She looked at the others; so did I. They stared back.
    The chant began with one voice. I don’t know whose. I’d never heard the word. But I knew I should tell her I was sorry. I wish I had.

    She left school not long after. Her family left town. I don’t know where they went. No one did.

    Second grade was a very long time ago, yet even now, when I hear the word “nigger,” hers is the face I see. And it still makes me angry that one hateful word stole my friend away from me.

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    1. Oh, man. Heartbreaking. And this: Like she was out of practice.= brilliant.

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    2. She had an odd laugh, like she was out of practice? Killer! And you just Bring it for the rest! Whew!

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    3. Thanks... this, sadly, was a bit of non-fiction from my childhood... and her name really was Vanessa.

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    4. I hear you, brother. I had something similar, and her name was Lorraine, but we weren't as mean as America, so it was cool. I was like five.

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    5. I'm picturing a five-year-old Antrobus.... what was his vocabulary like? Was he bookish? Social? Running and jumping? Hmmm.... and I'm glad you weren't as mean...

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    6. Ha, I was a quiet kid, but fairly "normal," whatever that means. I loved stories back then, for sure, but I also loved running and jumping. Not massively social, and a little bit sad. :)

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  14. It was the summer we lost Curly Thompson, just shy of the Fourth of July. Jimmy Paige awoke to the ceaseless mourning of Curly’s dog, howling for his master half an acre away. He was sprawled in the hayloft, coming to consciousness with a blistering hangover and a terrible thirst. He slitted one eye open, gasping at the glare, and for a moment thought it was Curly himself looking down on him, shaking his head at Jimmy’s perdition.
    But it was only his sister Louise, kicking at his foot with the toe of her sneaker.
    Painfully he opened his other eye. “Quit.”
    “Mama says y’all c’mon” she told him and turned casually away, giggling and singing softly in her little girl’s voice, “You are my moonshine, my only moonshine…”
    In the distance, the dog still howled. Jimmy sat up; wondering if he’d have to shoot it to stop that sound.
    Amazed at himself, he struggled to his feet, marveling at the way his body obeyed him as he stumbled up the pasture toward home, piecing together treacherous bits of the night before.
    Curly was Jimmy’s best friend. So when they heard, his mother dispatched him to the widow Thompson’s with a bowl of her potato salad, figuring he was best equipped to offer their condolences.

    She was still in her bathrobe when she came to the door, her hair long around her shoulders, as if she’d just bathed in whiskey and tears. Her shattered eyes flicked over him as she poured him a glass and pointed at the telegram spread out on the table. “We regret to inform you…”
    “They ain’t got no body,” she whispered. “We can’t even get him back.”
    He couldn’t make himself focus on the rest. Just leaned his head on his arms, drinking and trying to fill the hole in his chest. She’d come and leaned against him, her tears falling hot on his hair. She lifted his bewildered hand and put it to her breast. And the ripe perfection of it held him in its spell. Then and without thought or meaning they went to her bed, still weeping. As if that melding of muscle and madness, of fluid and flesh, could banish the darkness within.

    At the back of the house he pumped water over his head and drank of silky coolness of it until he was pretty sure he would vomit or drown. He gazed unsteadily out over the pasture; the long grasses in the breeze sent a ripple through his blood. And Curly’s dog howled again from the ridge, mourning a master dead in a jungle a million miles from home. The whole world breathed with his every breath and the thought that it was all somehow connected, filled his heart with a curious peace.

    His mother turned as he came through the screen door, nodding at him with the same miserly affection she reserved for all living things. She set a cup of coffee down and withdrew an envelope from her apron, shoving it at him across the table.
    “Now you’ve done it,” she said bitterly as if the world were somehow his fault.
    “You’ve been drafted, too. Got to report on the 25th.”
    Jimmy stared at the paper, saying nothing. And that mournful howling came again from the ridge, carried on the breath of a rippling breeze.
    His mother stared out the back door screen, crossing her skinny arms over her chest.
    “Somebody ought to shoot that poor dog, “ she said, reading his mind.
    “It’d be a kindness, I expect.”

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    1. This line: "...her hair long around her shoulders, as if she’d just bathed in whiskey and tears." It knocked my socks off.

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    2. Man, the line that grabbed me was vomit or drown. Great piece, T.

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    3. And for me it was "drinking and trying to fill the hole in his chest," which could cover a lot of ground in general. Damn, everyone bringing their A game today.

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  15. They arrived from someplace else when we had all but given up on seeing them at all this season. The sun—that relentless scourge of the day—was mostly down, its last nacreous light diffuse and struggling to impress above the western hills, when the still air carried to our ears the hollow leather and iron sound of wagons, arcane things of magic swinging from their frames in the surrounding quiet, the soft murmurs of the carnies hoping not to disturb us townsfolk this first evening, at least. Thoughtful guests.

    Summer itself had been a poor guest, boorish and truculent, overstaying its welcome, and all our fields were burned, our wells mostly dry.

    It was impossible to tell whether the land had become larger or we had been reduced these last years. Things had changed in the world. It seemed a long time since we'd heard the distant fretful assemblage of a night freight or the horizon-spanning roar of a jet, let alone traffic on the highway. Yet the traveling carnival—also reduced—met its loose itinerary most of the time, it seemed.

    Glances passed between us like dry lightning in the foothills.

    While they set up in a hollow on the west side of town in the encroaching darkness, the cool silver sound of cicadas commenced, and three dogs barked in succession from three different places, like they were describing our location, our dimensions, like they were considering treachery.

    It was a recalcitrant darkness that fell that night.

    We gathered in the gloom, nobody speaking, listening to the carnies set up. Listening to the cicadas. Listening to the hush. Listening to a sudden muffled sound like someone coughing into the crook of their arm. Listening to the prolonged inhale of the world. Listening. And waiting.

    Some of us no doubt thinking about providence.

    Not sure they were expecting any kind of welcome that night, and surely not the one they got, but by then we were hungrier than a pack of slat-ribbed coy-dogs, and we descended on them silently under a starless sky, each of us carrying something heavy and bladed, and we played our ineluctable part as soundlessly and tenderly as possible given such wretched, sorrowful circumstances.

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    1. Wow. I seem to be saying that a lot today, but wow. This ended in a whole different way than I expected. The language, good heavens, the language... You carry a lexicological palette with a billion billion colors, and you use them wisely and carefully. "...the cool silver sound of cicadas..." and "nacreous" and... I could go on... this is good stuff and it makes me ask my perennial question: When is the book coming out?

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    2. Yep. This is one of your best. I always say that. Fuck me. Actually fuck you! ;) Seriously, though, this is amazing. I love the triangulate dogs. And Leland's right. Not fair that you get to play with a better dictionary. :)

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    3. Now returning to my own palette of red, blue, yellow, and brown... lots of brown... Someday, I wanna be like David and have the BIG palette.

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    4. Love me some language, but makes me wonder: Leaves me wanting to know. Who is this narrator? And where did he learn to talk like this?

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    5. Thanks, y'alls. You make me want to keep doing this when you say the kind things.

      Teresa, these are impressionistic pieces, all kind of related moodwise. They're not literal or photorealistic. I can't do background character-building stuff for someone who only lives for two or three hundred words! But let me take a stab: the narrator is a word-lover who liked to eat word salads before she/he was forced to dine on carnies. ;)

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    6. Oh, Dan, I think triangulated was the word I was searching for!

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    7. I love the way it builds, like a scent on the wind. And the words. The words. And the carnies. And the triangulated dogs. I don't see good things ahead for those carnies.

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    9. (Laurie, I couldn't resist playing with the association carnie/carnivore, lol.)

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    10. Ha ha! Cool that you assumed it was a dude, though, yeah? I didn't even know myself. :)

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  16. The cellophane crinkled as I broke the seal and wound the wrapping off the traders' box pack. Inside there were scores of cases of peanuts and crisps and beef jerky and those packets of pork scratchings I'd never seen anyone buy.

    “You open?”

    I looked up to see a grizzled man with an earring, his mouth filled with two uneven rows of teeth. Jagged and cracked and with a gold crown in the middle. I pushed the box cutter I'd been using aside and stepped up to the bar.

    “What're you drinking, bud?” I pulled the towels off the pump handles, surveying my customer. He fancied he looked like a whisky drinker: neat and without ice; doubles and plenty of them.

    The guy studied me back, his smile becoming more certain the longer we matched gazes. I began to feel uncomfortable, wishing I'd not volunteered to open up shop on my own today.

    “You got Wild Turkey? I don't wanna fuss with a glass though; a bottle and seat's all I need.”

    “Wild Turkey? I think we have that.” I turned away, keeping an eye on the man as I studied the shelves beside the optics. We'd got Beam, Knob Creek, Haydens, Maker's Mark and - gathering dust in the corner – the familiar slope-shouldered bottle I was needing. I pulled a couple of other brands out, standing them on the counter in front of the shelf ready to put back after I'd taken the guy's money. “You're in luck, bud,” I turned back...

    The box-cutter pierced my throat, the cardboard shrapnel soaking up the trickle of blood that welled out from the cut. Shallow and short at the moment but with every chance to grow deeper and longer as the man's arm curled around my back, pushing me forward while I was trying to lean away from the blade, the bottles behind me hitting the glass panels fronting the shelves as my available space disappeared. His eyes closed on mine, his whites veined and yellowed, his unwashed odours rising to sting my eyes.

    “You're Grace's boy, aren't you? Your father got killed twenty three years ago. You picked me out from a line-up. You remember?”

    I choked back on the dryness that had suddenly filled my mouth. It'd been a long, long time and more sleepless nights than I could care to remember. But this was him, Grant Walker; my daytime nightmare and the man I'd helped convict.

    How I wished I'd called in sick today.

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    1. Well, that escalated quickly, and in a direction I didn't see! Good rhythm and plotting on this one...

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    2. Thanks, Leland. It's just something I was toying with. It's got serious potential though. I'm very pleased with how I'm improving as a writer - if that doesn't sound too swell-headed!

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    3. Well placed confidence is not anywhere near the same thing as swell-headed... you're growing as a writer, with every word you commit to a story! It's a pleasure to see that happening!

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    4. Yep. Agreed. I like this piece a lot. But I have to know. Wild Turkey? We talking 80 proof or the real stuff. ;) Well in, Mark

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    5. So what happens next? :)

      Well played, my friend. Even the whiskey/whisky pun: Grant + Walker, lol!

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  17. It was early in the morning of the 4th of the July, that Averett Watson, climbed up on a chair and mounted the Star and Bars from his wide front porch as he had every year for the past twenty-three.

    “You’ll wish you hadn’t,” called his wife from the living room. “We’ll have the danged neighbors over here before noon.”

    Averett ignored her, though, as with most things, it seemed she was right. And so he was not especially surprised when Leland Holmes, Aggie Truitt, and Dave Gomez came storming up his walk in a kind of delegation at a little past nine.
    “Mornin’” he greeted them pleasantly enough sending a string of tobacco juice into the bougainvillea. “Gonna be a hot one they say.”
    “Mr. Watson, “ Leland began. He was red under his collar, his brown skin flushed with indignation. He’d moved back home from Baltimore with a wife and 3 children three months previous to the old Baxter place a few doors down. They hadn’t exchanged a solid word since. “That—flag.” He began.
    Averett grinned. “What about it, son?”
    “ It’s—“
    “It’s racist is what it is, and offensive.” Aggie’s voice rose querulously. “On behalf of the neighborhood association, I have to insist you take it down.”
    Averett feigned surprise. “This? The symbol of southern pride? Why in the world would you want that?”
    Dave Gomez was a middle school teacher who tried to see both sides to every question, a strategy that succeeded only marginally well. “ Now Averett,” he said. “Thing of it is, times have changed. What seemed okay once just –isn’t anymore.”
    Averett considered it. “Not for me they haven’t. Besides, says who?”
    “ The government!” yelled Aggie, “We the people of the United States!”
    Averett came to the top of the steps, puffing his chest out and raising his arm. “This flag here was good enough for my daddy and for his daddy and his before him. And that’s good enough for me!”
    “Your people picked the wrong side then, and you’re picking the wrong one now, old man.” Leland yelled. “The war is over, you lost, okay?”
    Averett narrowed his eyes. “Let me tell you something, boy.” Leland drew back as if he’d been struck.
    “I don’t give a shit, about no war. I never messed in no colored business nor beaner business, or no woman’s business either. Now you folks better stop messing in mine.”
    “I’m calling the police, ” shouted Aggie, brandishing her phone.
    At that moment, Averett’s wife stepped out onto the porch, a shotgun balanced on her hip and aimed in his direction.
    He gaped at her.
    “What the hell’s got into you?”
    “Averett,” she said calmly. “Your daddy is dead and your granddaddy, too. You really think what’s good enough for them is good enough for you? Now take down that goddamned stupid flag and let these nice people go home to their barbeques.”
    He stared at her and back to his neighbors, frozen in a kind of astonished tableau.
    No matter what your rights nor history, the old man reckoned silently; it was funny how a woman could always change your mind.

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    1. This, also, is the awesome. :)

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    2. Ha ha! Hard to wring any humour out of this stuff right now, but this works nicely.

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  18. I saw a girl playing in the street.
    She was healthy and plump, bright eyed and laughing. Bursting with the boundless energy of which children are never depleted. Kicking a ball about with the boys and running after them shouting, “Tag, you’re it!” Self- assured, friendly and innocent.
    I saw that girl was me.

    I saw a girl walking to High school.
    She walked with head held high and wore her uniform with pride. The girl friends she met along her way, greeted her with smiles and compared their choice of satchels. They exuded a confidence which only teenaged girls seem to possess. Their life filled with hope and promise. Eyes wide open. Positive, accepted, comfortable.
    I saw that girl was me.

    I saw a young woman pushing a stroller.
    A blue eyed baby was gurgling and gazing with wonder at the world around them. A toddler skipped along beside her and she grasped his chubby hand tightly. The woman was alert and a little self-conscious, yet when she rested her eyes on her children, they glowed. Her smile held that loving warmth which only a mother can emit. She spoke softly to them and they giggled. She laughed also and walked a little taller when a passing lady coo’d, “what beautiful children!” She beamed proudly. Sure, secure, content.
    I saw that woman was me.

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    1. This is just lovely. I love the sentiment and the construction. But...You can't just stop! :)

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    2. There is more but I'm trying to limit my writing time! I always take way longer than 2 minutes. :)

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  19. I grew up in a place filled with illiterate people and filthy guns. Or so you would believe, given the number of accidental overdoses and gun cleaning accidents. I think it’s okay now to admit that there may have been problems beyond the inability to read or too many dirty guns.

    Small town America and her farms are a terrible place to experience depression. Everyone knows everything about you. When you go to visit your priest or minister to talk about your problems, people wonder why your car was parked in front of the church so long.
    If you’re dating someone, the entire population weighs in on the suitability of your match. Behind your back and to your face. Your father’s prize heifer and the neighbor’s bull have more privacy.

    God forbid if you’re unhappy in your marriage. The tsk-tsk-tsk-ing is louder than the cicadas that plague the fields. At least the cicadas eat it all. The whispermongers leave husks that rustle in the wind, husks that try to carry on, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

    We never found out why she did it. Maybe it was family, financial, mental, or physical woes, or maybe she loved someone she shouldn’t have, or didn’t love someone she should have.

    When you’re nine, you wonder why the directions on the pill bottles aren’t bigger, why they don’t make self-cleaning guns. You wonder, but you know there’s more to the story, and you know better than to ask what it is. I wonder what the adults would have told us if we’d dared.

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    1. Man, I love this one so much. The whole thing is ace. That being said, godDAMN that first P would make an awesome opening for a novel. You're killing it.

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    2. My first ditto of the day! But yes.

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  20. You see the numbers on the clock, and they look so ripe. 3:33. But its not the threes. Fours would work, too. Even 12:34. You touch it with your finger like you're wiping something off the screen of your computer because, well, shit, you know it's fucking stupid. It's embarrassing. And as much as you tell yourself you don't give a fuck, it's hard to let old self loathings be.

    It grew with you, at times it wrapped itself around your neck like ivy. Sometimes it lurked in the background. Sometimes it got thrown out with the bottles of hand sanitizer that are supposed to last a lifetime, but merely make your hands feel like parchment.

    Sure, you can evict it. There are lots of ways and the ones that can kill you work best. It's a risk, sure. And you've taken that risk. And then some. And you didn't die. And that's funny as all shit. So, fuck it. Turn the lights off twice. Check the stove again. It's better than waking up with covered in blood and darkness.

    3:36 (and now you're a cheater, too). Luckily, you keep your knives for useful purposes now.

    And there are smaller fish to fry. Those smiles are the best medicine. You're not alone anymore. And the hangnails never heal, but when you're looking at beauty, it's easy not to pick at 'em.

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    1. This one snuck up on me and I got a little choked: "Sure, you can evict it. There are lots of ways and the ones that can kill you work best."

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    2. Yep... I love this one.... beauty is a great and wonderful distraction... this especially: "the hangnails never heal, but when you're looking at beauty, it's easy not to pick at 'em."

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    3. We need to have a long,long talk about 3:30 in the morning. The witching, bitching hour. I don't even check the time any more. I always KNOW it's THEN.

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  21. Steven was a boy no one even considered calling Steve. No way was that kid a Steve. Steven wasn't even enough. Sir Steven. That might have worked. The class was split. The 'he thinks his shit don't stink' crowd and the 'he's so INTERESTING' crowd. What they never considered, the true sadness, was that maybe it wasn't easy being Steven. If it was, Steve might have been alright.

    No, when the other kids went home and watched cartoons, Steven went home and tried to be invisible. He dodged hands, fists and more. The fists were OK. The gentle violence turned his stomach. Made him feel like a million showers wouldn't get the job done.

    Steven left home as soon as he could, and he never looked back. He moved to the closest city that had decent record stores. He was still regal. And people gravitated toward him. And they remembered him, weird or not. Everyone remembers the guy who claims no name.

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    1. For some reason I love the detail about the decent record stores!

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    2. I'm glad Steven made it... and doesn't have to be invisible any more....

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    3. I latched onto that detail too. The decent record stores.

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  22. Continued...........

    I saw a woman taking photographs.
    The subject was her grown up son in an army uniform. She joked with him from behind the view finder and her lips smiled beneath. Her eyes held real pride and although unshed tears brimmed, she held them in check. She eyed him with a mixture of love and concern, which only a mother has for her son who is soon to be sent to war. She hugged him for longer than he felt comfortable with till reluctantly, she let him go. An image imprinted on her heart, no camera necessary. Only feelings. Fear, anger, dread.
    I saw that woman was me.

    I saw a woman sat on a park bench.
    She was alone and her eyes flitted from the trees, to the flowers, to the children playing in the distance. Sadness enveloped her like a veil of gossamer in a way which only a woman who has been beaten down by her life can. She felt old but was still relatively young but she had lost her way. Confusion, loss, regret.
    I saw that woman was me.

    I saw a woman walking.
    She strode with purpose, head held high and a genuine smile adorned her youthful looking face. Like an apparition full of vim and vigour, she positively glowed with poise and aplomb. She touched people with her presence the way only a woman who is comfortable in her own skin can. Her faith in herself and the world around, flowed endlessly from within her like the waves on a sun-drenched shore. Trusting, courageous, conviction.
    I saw that woman was me.

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    1. Wow. Feels like a life lived, with plenty more to still live. Nice use of that repetition.

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    2. Both parts together are beautiful... well done!

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  23. Someone had the idea of a little bad writing.... here's my delivery on that promise.

    It was a dark and stormy night when Brad got stuck in the mud. He wandered up the driveway on foot, soaked to the bone by the time he reached the massive front door. He rang the doorbell. Five long moments later, the door squealed open, and a tall butler who looked just like Lurch answered.

    “Yes?”

    “I’m sorry, I’m wondering if I can use your phone. My car… it’s stuck in the mud, and it’s pouring out there.”

    Lurch—or whatever his name was—looked at the sky. “The forecasters were wrong again.” He followed with a sigh that sent his bad breath right to Brad’s nose. Then he began to close the door.

    “Wait! Can I use your phone?”

    Lurch re-opened the door. This time, he had a frightening smile. “Have you had dinner?”
    “No, but I just need the…”

    “Phone, yes. Master so hates eating alone. He would love to have you for dinner.” A most alarming laugh rose from the monster butler’s chest. “Wait here please.”

    At that moment, a Transylvanian transvestite entered the foyer. “Brad? Is that you?”

    “Frank! Thank God! Do you live here?”

    Frank smacked her lips. “In a manner of speaking. Please, join me in the dining room.”
    Lurch opened two ornate doors, behind which was a huge dining room, with a huge dining table. The lighting prevented Brad from seeing who was at the head of the table.

    “Lurch, could we have a little light here?”

    Lurch lit a few torches around the table and when Brad could see the figure at the head of the table, it was—JANET!

    She looked him in the eye, then turned to Frank. “Darling, if this is the best we can do for dinner, I’m afraid I’m going to have hunt next time.”

    Brad fainted.

    When he came to, he was on a silver platter, with an apple in his mouth. The last words he heard were Frank N. Furter’s “Darling, would you do the honors?” as he handed Janet, Brad’s once betrothed, the carving knife and fork.

    Would this time warp never end?

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