Friday, July 17, 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. 

The house was always quiet, but there was something about this particular quiet - unnatural, like the silence that follows a crash of thunder. It was a potent silence. You dropped your backpack by the front door and called out. Mom? Mom!

Cold pop in hand, you ascended the stairs to your room. The door was wide open. You never left the door open. The cold from the can slammed through your whole body and, sure enough, she was sitting on the bed. You took the whole picture in. Mom, pissed and crying, glass of red wine shaking. The bag of weed and the wooden pipe. That means she'd found the box. 

"I can't believe this. Cigarettes and marijuana. Your Grandmother died from lung cancer. You can't pass a goddamn class at school, but you can get drugs..."

"Mom, hold on -"

"Hold on nothing! Drugs! You brought drugs into our house. Why? Tell me. Are you mad at me?"

A million thoughts in your skittering brain, none will be your salvation.


"It calms me down, Mom. Sometimes, I can't sleep. I know ... I understand why you're mad, but you've never done it. It just makes me feel like things aren't spinning crazy, its -"

"I've never smoked crack either, Gerald! Should I try that?"


Surely there is something you could say, but then you realize it doesn't matter. You could talk for days and it would be like talking to a wall. Maybe worse. Talking to a plant. At least you can't be mad at a wall for being alive, yet ... empty. 

"I'm sorry, Mom. I know. No drugs. I hear you. It won't happen again."

The change is so fast and so dramatic is hurts. Too fake. Too practiced. It makes you look at the bag and wonder what she's going to do with it. Your chest aches with a tight frustration.

"Good boy. You're a good boy. Now, don't forget to take your Adderall. You have a history project to finish, and the Johnsons are coming over. I don't think I need to tell you what that means. He works in Admissions, Gerald. Admissions! Do I need to explain how important it is that you're at your best?"

Shadows flicker and you wonder at it, turn it in your mind and smile because there's nothing else to do. Smile and take your pills. Smile and shake hands. If you can't sleep, that's more time for homework anyway.

"No, Mom. I think I get it."

Grind your teeth and try to smile.

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

138 comments:

  1. Yep, I'm in. Good description, good gut punch, good social commentary. Shut up and pay the pharma companies. Get rid of that weed. Sigh. It's all about money. It's all about appearances.

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    1. Like Leland said, good gut punch. Sadly accurate. People suck, but this piece is great.

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    2. " Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed, modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual's internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable." Just had to throw in that quote from the unabomber....Nailed it, Dan.

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  2. I was going to ask you to marry me, you know. That night.

    I had the ring in my pocket. The jeweler smiled when I asked him to engrave “H2O,” the symbol for water, inside the ring, but he asked no questions.

    I made the reservations at our restaurant. La Colonna, surely you remember it. Marco asked if I wanted our usual table, and whether spumante would be required. I answered yes, and he laughed, wishing me, wishing us, the best.

    The shirt I wore that night was the color of your eyes, not mine; I was so sure our faces would be this close together.

    I waited outside your apartment for an hour, wondering why you didn’t answer the door or your phone. I waited another hour, wondering if I’d done something wrong, if I’d enraged you or the gods.

    I went to the beach, to walk, to listen, to cry. It was the same beach where you and I talked about our grandfathers, where we told stories of the drunk old men who spoiled us, who taught us to dream.

    “Water calls to water,” I told you. “One of my grandfather’s favorite sayings.”

    Your eyes lit up. “My grandfather’s, too!”

    “Do you suppose they knew?”

    “Grandfathers know all.”

    I remembered watching your feet caress the beach, toes punctuating the sand. You explained the magic of bare feet and leaps of faith and peanut butter/banana sandwiches. The ocean roared with laughter.

    When I got home that night, the phone was ringing. It was your mother. She was sobbing. The bridge, she said. Loved him, she said. Like a fallen sparrow, she said. Thought you should know, she said.

    Water calls to water. Tears call to tears.

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    1. Man, I was wondering when we'd see the water to water. This is a heartbreaking and strong piece. The beauty of your pieces like this - not maybe people could write this story without crossing over into sentimentality. The almost clinical tone cinches it. Makes it more painful. And I love this detail: "The shirt I wore that night was the color of your eyes, not mine..."

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    2. Oh, Leland, this is so beautiful and sad. Water to water... Loved this: "The shirt I wore that night was the color of your eyes, not mine; I was so sure our faces would be this close together." And this: "I remembered watching your feet caress the beach, toes punctuating the sand. You explained the magic of bare feet and leaps of faith and peanut butter/banana sandwiches. The ocean roared with laughter." And...all of it.

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    3. Thank you both... and I love that you both picked one of the same lines. I don't think I'm done with the water-calls-to-water theme yet... somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder what a book of short stories based on a single proverb like that would be like... each story different, but inspired by the same phrase. Anyway... thank you. Your kind words mean a lot.

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    4. This pieces moves, stirs the soul just like water. I like your idea, too!

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    5. Oh, god. This is brilliantly done! I Love the idea of the themed short stories. I have not personally heard the maxim about water to water, but I did hear the one about how Love can't help but seek it's own level.

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    6. Thank you so much.... yes, so much to play with..."Water calls to water" seems to be the most common, but people are saying they also know, "blood calls to blood," "depth calls untto depth," and "love calls to love." we shall see Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. BY WRITING, SHE COULD SURVIVE

    She dove through the fiery hoops of her o’s. Died on her t’s. Swam down to the depths of her u’s. Writing was her everything. A playground. A garden. A house of mourning. The world to which she withdrew when the baby was delivered into a life denied her. The world of sorrow when Daniel did all he was capable of to rally her back to the laughter, to the love they had sworn would be strong enough to fight all shades of demons.

    Under her arm she carried her box of storylines and developing stories like new children. She climbed the heights of her l’s. Walked the meandering roads of her s’s. Like a little girl kissed by Peter Pan, untouched by time, she swung from the monkey bars of all those letters, learned the secret of stringing them into words until they danced across the keyboard, flew to the white screen and stories materialized.

    By writing, she could survive it all, even Daniel’s departure. That last kiss empty of passion, the embrace that once so tightly close had tried to meld the two of them into one. The way he had mastered at last to shut the door without slamming. From a slit in the window curtains she watched the shape and form of Daniel diminish, diminish, diminish, until way out there Daniel in his dark Calvin Klein suit had, like their love, decreased to a black speck before the afternoon landscape devoured him. She imagined him the dot high above her i’s.

    “I will survive. I will. I will,” she said aloud. Then stoically she took her place before the blank screen and began to tap away. She imagined herself sitting on the seat of her a’s. Rolling with the waves of her m’s. Blocking out life’s throbbing wounds with her x’s.

    It was surprising that her short story ended on such a pleasant last sentence. Characters did their tug war –– protagonist, antagonist, each pulling the resolution inches forward, inches back, sliding in the warm muddy waters. She sat reading the finished piece, one more constructed out of the chest of letters and words she kept stored in the treasure house of her imagination.

    Looking back on Baby, on Daniel, on the cruel hand life had dealt her, she could take to her bed and cry uncontrollably till the moon changed places with the sun. Till the heavy predicted rains came teeming down on her blues. Instead, she creaked open her heart and summoned all the words she could muster.

    And she started another story.


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    1. This is a writer's lament, well rendered. I love the play with the letters. The crucifixion 't' is brilliant. Pulls you right in. Really creative and engaging, Sal.

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    2. This really is creative... and the use of the alphabet as simile and metaphor is a streak of genius. And we DO write to live, don't we? Thanks for sharing!

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    3. Really like this, the trip up and over and around the letters. Nice interplay!

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    4. Writing to escape and create. Yes, I think we all can relate on some level. Brilliant!

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    5. Y'know? Once lost a child to stillbirth and practically a husband, too. Though bless him, he hung in. But for all the sympathy, the help, the "you can have another?" A really good group of really good friends got me writing again. Saved my life. Absolutely spot on. That you observed the process for what it is? Makes you extraordinary! Great!

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    6. Thanks! All I know is each day needs to be seasoned with an attempt at writing a poem or a story or I don't feel alive enough. We writers are puppets on strings of our own imagination: we dance to the tune of words dying to spill out of us. I'm not complaining. I thank God for all things, including this drive to imitate Him in a very tiny way by stringing words together and "creating" what was not there before. And I thank Him for great writers like you who come to this place and share the writing gifts of your own.

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    7. Thanks! All I know is each day needs to be seasoned with an attempt at writing a poem or a story or I don't feel alive enough. We writers are puppets on strings of our own imagination: we dance to the tune of words dying to spill out of us. I'm not complaining. I thank God for all things, including this drive to imitate Him in a very tiny way by stringing words together and "creating" what was not there before. And I thank Him for great writers like you who come to this place and share the writing gifts of your own.

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  4. They’ve just finished buying sensible things, adult things, and loaded them into their sensible vehicle when once again the flash of bright colors in the window catches something un-adult in her heart.

    To his what’s-wrong eyebrow, she says she feels like walking home, and with a shrug, he turns the key and pulls out of the parking lot. She waits until he’s gone and swings the action-hero door wide, chimes announcing her approach. The smell is the same, of ink and packing crates and boys with questionable hygiene or the desperation of body sprays, but everything else is different.

    The man behind the counter asks if he can help her as if maybe she is lost or has forgotten where she lives. “Just…looking,” she says. To ask a question would feel pathetic, like one of those dismal conversations with young people that begin and end with telling them what it was like when you were their age.

    “So what’s new?” she asks. Remembering the heft of the monthly subscription package she’d pick up, the joy of running it home and sinking into the latest installments. And what she gave up for that: coffee, subway fare, movie tickets, new clothes. Until adulthood caught up with her and she had to spend the money for other things, until it dawned on her that smile from Vijay the manager was more about commerce than anything else.

    This new dude, who thankfully looks nothing like Vijay, points to a wall of graphic novels. Assuming this is now her speed. Or her price range. Thank God he knows better than to ask if she’s buying presents for her kids. Or worse, her grandchildren.

    But he’s still looking at her as if she’s a plot twist he didn’t see coming. “Tell me,” she says. “It’s been a while. What’s Spider-Man been up to?”

    And then he smiles, like he’s been waiting all day for someone to ask.

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    1. Ah, this I love.... I can smell the ink... and the questionable hygiene of boys... you nailed this one.

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    2. Yup agreed. You killed it with this one. Love it.

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    3. The moral: You're never too old to enjoy things from your childhood - especially comics. I felt like I was there!

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  5. You watch gold and pink paint the clouds as the sun disappears over the mountain behind your back windows, and the languid depth of your sigh settles into your foundation. You became a living, breathing thing beneath that man’s hands as you grew from a twinkle in his old eye to a blueprint to the first tree cleared to make way for the shovel, the backhoe, the concrete, the steel beams. At the end of each day, as he inspected his progress then patted the same vertical support, you shivered with pride and anticipation, awaiting the moment when he and his wife would move in and complete your picture and let you fully encircle them in love, in safety. This sustained you, comforted you through the night as the familiar sounds of them, still living in the house next door, drifted across the property line. Baseball games. Laughter. How he teased her, told her to stay out of the living room, because every time she came in, his team would start losing. How she teased him back and brought him a lemonade, maybe a bit of grappa. And you waited. He’d come by, build a set of shelves where she asked him to. She’d come by, making sure he did it right. And you waited. You were so excited the day the trucks pulled up outside, when you felt the pleasant weight of the furnishings, the people running in and out, and finally, them. The two of them.

    Then one of them.

    For a long while in the evenings, he’d stand in the same spot where he used to say goodbye to you when you were nothing but a foundation and a bit of scaffolding. He’d press his hand to the wallpaper and his old eye went vacant, maybe dreaming of baseball games and the smell of her cooking, maybe a vague feeling that someone else used to be here, but he can’t see her face anymore.

    Then they took him, too.

    But your job now is to remember, to stand, to wait. For the next person to fall in love with the sunset out your back windows, to press a hand to that spot on the wall and puzzle over why that one in particular looks so worn.

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    1. I love this house.... and its heart... and the heart of the author who told its story. This is so sweet...

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    2. It really is. And I've always been intrigued by the things houses know. I've lived so many different places. I've often hoped that the places cared or might remember. Well in, Laurie.

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    3. I'm with Dan - I've lived in many houses and felt that I left a part of myself in each one. I hope they remember me.

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    4. Gorgeous, Laurie.Kudos, big time! I SO relate because we're renovating what could have been a tear down right now, and seeing it come back to life? Every day's work--it's like its working with us!

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    5. Thank you! The real story behind this makes me so sad. My neighbors' beautiful dream home is standing vacant, both of them now in assisted living and probably never coming back.

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  6. It’s not so much that a child shouldn’t see his parents fight—it’s how they fight. Is it respectful? Vindictive? Do they talk and listen? Or is it all just preaching? When it’s all done, do they apologize and make up? Or do they hold grudges, like acid in their guts, waiting to spill over the next time?

    A little boy saw his father leave the house, slam the door, and stride to the garage. He turned to his mother, who was crying uncontrollably, and tried to console her. She told him it’d be all right, and walked slowly, fearfully, out the same door, and into the garage. The boy followed.

    His father had locked himself into the red car; the windows were rolled up. His mother was on her knees on the rough concrete floor, begging through the glass for his father to come out, to forgive her.

    He finally came out. Whether to eat or piss or what, I do not know.

    The weeklong silence that followed killed something in his mother. The light in her eyes wasn’t as bright.

    That was the day, that was the scene that transformed a little boy into a peacemaker. He would do anything to avoid conflict. Anything.

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    1. Woah. Yep, I know all about that boy. And silence. God, there's nothing worse than being frozen out by someone you think is supposed to love you. Really well captured. And brutal, in a good way.

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    2. The good thing is that the light can be rekindled...in time. Well done!

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  7. Tommy don't got eat his vegetables, and he watches as much TV as he wants. He eats cookies for breakfast. You're lucky if you get a cookie after church on Sunday. Tommy, man, he's got it all. His dad is always gone, and his mom has that nervous condition. She's like a sculpture. One that sometimes drops bags of Chips Ahoy, absentmindedly, before returning to whatever book she is using as her moat.

    Tommy doesn't go to school half the time. Doesn't feel like it. And no one cares. You can't even stay home when you have the flu. You went to school coughing so hard it made you see spots, but Tommy doesn't even have to go to church.

    Unfair. No other word for it. You look at the window. You can see the back of Tommy's porch and he's sitting, smoking a cigarette. You hear the clang of game shows and your Dad laughing his horse laugh downstairs. The house smells like vanilla and that makes you feel like you live in some cheesy magazine.

    What you wouldn't give to be on that porch smoking. Tommy. Lucky fucker.

    From the window you can't see his tears.

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    1. Oh yeah.... this has the feel of a short movie... filmed all from one point of view... until the very last sentence, when another camera zooms in on Tommy... The extended buildup of the scene is letter perfect. The book as moat caught my ear, too. I like it.

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    2. Whoa. And this: "She's like a sculpture. One that sometimes drops bags of Chips Ahoy, absentmindedly, before returning to whatever book she is using as her moat."

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    3. Beautiful! Especially captures that peculiar envy of childhood.Them who feel those restrictions and those who wish for them.

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  8. God painted the sky December gray and then colored outside the lines on the eastern horizon with His reddest red crayon. The creature beneath the bridge came awake slowly. He wondered if the girl would come again today.

    He knew he shouldn’t grow dependent on the food she brought, but his bones ached with the centuries of grief he carried. The pain was worse with winter’s cold and damp, sharper than the throbs he felt in humid summer. It was a relief not to have to search for food. He hoped she’d come.

    He closed his eyes, not to sleep, but to begin his prayers.

    *****

    She was sixteen. Too old to be too excited this Christmas morning, but too young to do what she was doing. She was making breakfast burritos. Not to sell on the street corner like others, but to give to the less fortunate.

    Not that she and her mama had much, but they believed in sharing. Her mama had made the tortillas last night, and now, it was up to Marta to make them into a Christmas morning feast. She scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and—because it was a special day—she cut pieces of ham.

    She knew that some of the homeless could not tolerate the spicy heat of her cuisine, so she did not add in jalapeños. She sautéed red and green bell peppers instead. A little salt and she began the wrapping it all together in the tortillas. Her hands had done this many times, remembered on their own how to fold. Her mind wandered as her hands did the work.

    She wondered if he’d be there today. His ancient bones were so close to the skin, she could see the places they’d been broken and then healed without being properly set. She’d come to think of him as her troll because of the stories she’d read as a child about the trolls beneath bridges, her own personal troll in black and white. His age seemed to have drained all color from him. She half worried that if he washed the dirt away, he would become invisible.

    Now to wrap them in foil, and put them in the insulated box to keep them warm.
    The sky was red in the east when she closed the door behind her and put the box of little Christmas miracles into the Radio Flyer wagon she’d had since she was a child.

    *****

    He was not the first to hear the clackety-clack of the rusty old wagon’s wheels bumping across the cracks in the sidewalk. The others, more mobile, more nimble than he, greeted her by name, and wished her a merry Christmas or a Feliz Navidad if they were savvy enough to know her heritage.

    But he waited where he was; only his rheumy eyes tracked her as she came closer and closer to him.

    “Merry Christmas, my beloved troll!”

    He stared at her.

    “I brought you something special. Yours has more meat than the others. More eggs, too. You look thin. I worry about you.”

    He sniffed at the burrito’s odors as she unwrapped it from the foil.

    “I was careful not to put anything in that would upset your stomach.”

    He ate silently, politely, delicately.

    “I wish you talked. I would love to hear your story. To hear about why you stay under this bridge, apart from everything.”

    He cleared his throat.

    She stared in disbelief.

    A voice unaccustomed to speech explained, “To pray. Without ceasing and without words.”
    He looked into her eyes. “In days of old, your kind prayed, too.” He placed his paw upon her hand, and let his black and white head rest in her lap. His tail stilled.

    God repainted the sky, from December gray to sanguine red, and She only colored outside the lines.

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    1. Wow. This one is so intimate. And the ending ... this story certainly stands alone, but I also feel like there are a million stories poking out. Great stuff.

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    2. I don't have words. Beautiful.

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    3. Thanks! we'll see where this one fits... it needs some more work, if it's gonna stick, but that's what I love about this Friday get-together. We get to experiment and play!

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  9. I am so great. How come no one sees that? Hell, you see the paint on my car? You know how much a paint job like that costs? Shit, you can see into the paint, man! This fucking car ... stereo alone cost three G's. You should hear that shit.

    I'm fucking going places, man. It's destiny. Fuck this town. I've already screwed all the girls worth screwing. Think of all the screwable girls in other towns, cities, countries. I'm gonna see it. You want to know why? You know how much my watch cost?

    Come here, and I'll show you my collection. Shit's going to be worth a mint someday. So, I got that going, too. You'll see. You may be making fries all your life, but not me. You see that fucking car?

    Sure, laugh. You'll see. For now, shut up and pass me a hairnet. If you understood, you might have a chance.

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    1. Big dreams at Mickey D's... and you brought us all along... the hope and unspoken despair is palpable. Well done.

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    2. Oh, what Leland said. So compact and perfect.

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    3. Ah, the hopes and dreams of youth... even when it is burning out.

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    4. I could see this guy in my mind - a little on the thin side, patch if hair on his chin, think lips, and eyes bright as flames.

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    5. Beautiful. Makes me want to add something I was gonna leave out this week, but dang, I may do it!

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  10. From the bookstore to the waterfront, Joey had an itch that needed to be scratched. The reading he’d been to—Ginsberg—talked about the crazy stuff, stuff that ran in Joey’s head, and he thought he was the only one. Saintly motorcyclists, sailor seraphim, yeah…
    Joey took a breath as he pushed the door open, the door he had walked by a hundred times, intending to go in but surrendering to fear and going home. The darkness wrapped around him like swaddling clothes, the sweat and testosterone like incense to his soul.
    One stool open at the bar and he pretended confidence as he walked up to it.

    “Whatcha pleasure?” the leathered man on the next stool over asked him.

    “A beer.” Joey’s voice sounded like a parakeet.

    “A beer for my buddy here. First time here,” the leathered guy said more than asked, and then put his arm around Joey.

    Tonight a saintly motorcyclist. The sailor seraphim might have to wait till tomorrow.

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    1. This is awesome. Makes me want to go to North Beach and sit in one of the old bars.

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    2. I just reread "Howl" by Ginsberg... and that phrase, "saintly motorcyclist"... is amazing...

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    3. Darkly appropriate for the fears of "coming out".

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    4. You had me at 'sailor seraphim.' Loved it!

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    5. Sweat and testosterone and wait--what was the scent of that cologne?

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  11. The sounds of evening slip in through the cracks in the cracked window. There are wind-whipped shouts of third-beer revelry. The buskers have made enough to get their fix, and there is less desperation in the music. Children run, laugh, yell - defy the sun to set, convince themselves that the day won't end if they don't let it.

    Upstairs, she sits and runs her fingers over the bedspread. She looks at the old pictures on the wall and wonders. She is not dead, but she life left behind her long ago. She exists in a parallel universe, perhaps. Maybe she is like a dream, real only if you want her to be real.

    She craves the dark. This passing hour is beautiful pain, but the darkness will take it all away. The smell of BBQ's and the glittering drops of hope that seem to cling to everything.

    She does not hate them for their revelry. Nor their hope. She hates the light that comes before the waiting night.

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    1. I love the rhythm in this, the music, the desperation... and "wind-whipped shouts of third=beer revelry."

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    2. agreed.... desperation... and third-beer revelry IS genius... and makes me want to ask you to write something about third-beer cavalry.... (sorry, my mind works weird sometimes).... the last line, contrasting with the children hoping against darkness... just so good.

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    3. Maybe she is like a dream, real only if you want her to be.
      I want to read more about THAT!

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  12. He scrubbed. He cleaned. The skin on his hands first withered, then thickened as he persevered. There was grease and dirt, flour, fat, fries, and God only knew what outside dirt caked up on surfaces that should have been kept clean long before he came on board.

    Once, he had loved the product. All of the products. Now he knew the greasy, nasty truth behind the scene in the kitchen. The manager gave orders for the work to be done, but his predecessors had been lazy lumps of shit, to the point of seeming to have left bits of themselves in the corners behind the fryers.

    This mess is what he had walked into. He, who had to to wear 2 hair nets - one on his hair and one on his beard. He, who had scrubbed years of accumulated grime and gunk away into the drain before the next health inspection. How in hell they had passed inspections before he came along, he would never understand. Someone somewhere was getting paid off, or their dick sucked, or something tangible and secret to keep the place open.

    With a sigh, he sat up from scrubbing the baseboards in another area. There was no way he would be allowed to handle food today without a shower and a change of clothes. No way. No...

    "We need you up front," the manager told him sternly. He looked down at his glove covered hands and garbage seared knees. "Well, come on, hurry up! That crazy bitch didn't show up again and we are short handed!"

    And you, he thought to himself, can't pick up some slack shy, again?

    With a sigh, he picked himself up, put his tools away, scrubbed his hands to the elbow, and made his way up to the counter. he was sure the patrons could smell the disinfectant and grossness that clung to him, even as they decided which basket or bucket to order. He shuddered at the thought of having ever been one of the masses on the other side of that counter.

    He adjusted the little red and white paper hat they made him wear and plastered a fake smile on his face.

    "Welcome! May I take your order?"

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    1. Wow, this is written with truth and knowledge of what goes on in back... I may never eat fast food again! But seriously, great descriptions, and a lot of reals.

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    2. I feel dirty, inside and out. Damn, and I really wanted some take-out fried chicken today, too. LOL!

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    3. Yup this is good and absolutely authentic. And a very large part of the reason I don't eat out much. Too many years working in food service and you see things you can't ever forget. Awesome piece.

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    4. Wonderfully depicted. Gives me the crawls...

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    5. What they all said. I've been there, too, and had to run, not walk, away.

      Also, I hope someone reported that place to the health department. :D

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  13. Lil snip from the WIP. back later for comments and maybe more. Y'all on ON today!

    It all started on a Sunday; that’s all you need to know. A Sunday in the summertime; hot and sultry, long and slow; the kind of afternoon that makes you feel like it’s never going to end. A day so still you can almost hear the earth spinning in its orbit, or the dangerous hiss of the grass growing punctuated only by the senseless thudding of bugs against the window screens. The kind where time is suspended and you find yourself thinking on all your dead relations and life in general and wondering just where the hell everything went while you weren’t paying attention. God makes a lot of Sundays like that, probably on purpose. They can make you despair if you let them. The Bible wants you to think it’s a day of rest, but rest isn’t the half of it; it’s more a reminder of everything you will never know.

    It was about the time of day when the churchgoers were done with whatever they do there and the cars were baking in the Walmart lots. Behind the well-kept facades of the houses, along the broad, tree lined streets of countless towns, the pious prayed on the Rapture if only to break up the routine while the kids were hoping on the ice cream trucks, and the dogs were snoozing in the shade. It might have been 1966 or sometime yesterday. It could have happened anywhere, any year, that Sunday afternoon. But it didn’t, it was here.

    Here, Jewel Emerson had just set the table for a late lunch and was dishing up plates of cold ham, potato salad and sweet tea. At least that’s how I remember it, but it could have been anything. Nobody cared; it was too hot to eat. I’d only come out of politeness anyhow. She was some distant relation, once or twice removed and I’d never laid eyes on her before that day. She’d hunted me up through one of those geneaology places and extended her invitation so often that it got more embarrassing to say no than yes, so I finally agreed to that Sunday lunch, figuring once she got her curiosity satisfied, she might just leave me in peace. She hugged me hard as I got out of my car and told me I had her Uncle Eddie’s eyes. I’ never met him, either.

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    1. You made me feel those languorous Sunday afternoons... well done.... now I think I want a mint julep....

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    2. ...and I think I can't wait to read more of this!

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    3. Yeah, I want more, too. And this is so lush. Such vivid detail and well balanced. Brilliant.

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  14. My very first entry. Be gentle with me! LOL!

    Working like a dog ain’t what ya for now…

    The lyric from the song played in her head like a loop as Laura scrubbed the brown ring from the bathtub. Up, down, up down, her hand growing sweaty inside the rubber glove.

    She thought about the weeds that needed clearing from the flower bed and the mound of unwashed laundry in the hamper. What her mother would say if she came over and saw the spider’s web in the corner dancing lazily on the currents from AC. The way her lips would purse, face twisted as if she’d discovered a pile of dog shit instead of lace and gossamer.
    “Got to get that down,” Laura mumbled. A drop of sweat rolled from her brow and plopped unceremoniously into the sparklingly tub.

    Working like a dog ain’t what ya for now…

    She thought about the bills, the school clothes that needed to be purchased, the microwave that took five minutes to heat a can of soup. It would need to be replaced soon.
    “Got to find more time to write.” Money was always dwindling commodity. Maybe she could get some freelance jobs on the side.

    On her way back to the kitchen, she thought about the dishes that needed to be washed, the banisters on the front porch that needed painting, the oil that leaked from her car and spotted the garage floor like a Rorschach test, and wondered what she might see in the pictures if she had the time to study them.
    “Got to get that fixed.” She pushed a lock of hair that had escaped her messy pony tail out of her eyes.

    Scattered papers littered the breakfast table, each one a measured result of time her daughter spent while Laura cleaned, cooked, and worried. A board game, set up and forgotten, mocked her with its shiny silver pieces.
    “Mom, can you play with me?”
    She’d been too damn tired.

    She thought about missed trips to the pool, the movie her little girl wanted to see that was no longer playing at the Cinema 10, the fairy tale with the wizard on the cover that was never read before bedtime.

    Laura fingered the ratty dishcloth on the counter, hands itching to reach for cleanser underneath the counter.

    Stilted steps led her to a door with a faded pink heart and tarnished gold knob. From inside came the muffled sound of music and a small, encouraging voice, instructing invisible friends to fly – higher…higher!
    A small smile played on Laura’s lips.

    Working like a dog ain’t what ya for now…

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    1. This is sweet... this is beautiful! and welcome to the asylum! There's no need to worry about us being kind or gentle... this is a beautiful sandbox, where we get to play, without any heavy criticism....

      I really like this

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    2. Nice to see you here, Nickie! Very sweet, and I love the repetition of the song lyric.

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    3. Welcome!

      Nicely written. Been there, had that motivation sprung on me when I least expected it.

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    4. Yeah, glad to see you here! I love this piece. The repetition of the lyric works well. And so many good small details. The sweat inside the rubber glove. Locked me right into the story. And the sense of worry is palpable. Really well done, NSB.

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    5. I Love it,the struggle with worry, the voices in her head juxtaposed against the beautiful little moments that define "Quality of life"

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    6. Thanks! I wish I could edit it. I caught a few typos. :)

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    7. nope nope nope... no editing... this exercise is about writing fast, to help our brains work faster with our fingers and keyboards and pens.... get the story out there... and you did that beautifully!

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    8. So glad you came to play! This is a beautiful piece. You managed to capture what so many people feel, and do it so well. And the epiphany at the end is just perfect.

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  15. He was supposed to be the one, the dream, the love supreme that all the songs on the radio warbled about, the girls in the locker room whispered of when sharing their eyeliner and lipstick and bad information. Too bad he never knew that. Too bad he couldn’t read your mind and stay where he was supposed to, the jaw-dropping blue-eyed blond, pristine and painless when adored from a distance. It’s a cruel, beautiful filter, adoration, a permanent airbrush over the rods and cones, blinding you to the flawed humanity that crawled out when he fell off his pedestal and shattered.

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    1. Love this! I think all girls have been in this same place at least once - when they discover Prince Charming is actually an ass wrapped in tinfoil. LOL!

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    2. Yeah, powerful piece. I love the cruel, beautiful filter so much.

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    3. Yep, this IS powerful. We should superglue our idols to their pedestals. And I loved this phrase: "sharing their eyeliner and lipstick and bad information"

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    4. Oh, Laurie! Who kicked you? We can hunt him down and eviscerate hm with our prose for you...

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  16. The Censor

    Winfield downloaded another book onto his tablet, routinely running it through the word-monitor app, searching the document for forbidden words. As usual, it quickly found a host of the common expletives, automatically substituting the approved alternatives, but it also flashed up a rash of ‘moderation required’ highlights, the reader buzzing with annoyance as it discovered each one.

    He sighed. “Winfield # 12874,” he began, verbalising his log-in to the device. “Editing manuscript #75450 written by Erika Mitchell. Notable collapse of narrative throughout the document. Literary content negligible and this Censor recommends deletion in totality.” He jabbed in his unique passcode, waited for five seconds and then smiled when the file disappeared from the screen; permanently deleted throughout the whole of the world’s literary archive.

    The next document flashed onto the screen; its identifier manuscript #45476, this one having been penned by someone called Stephanie Morgan. Once more he ran it through the monitor, the software replacing each of the characters’ names with a randomly chosen gender-specific one from the fifty approved names list the Library produced. Then, he analysed, revised and reparsed every single sentence until finally the document was suitable for uploading back onto the Library’s server.

    Feeling satisfied for the first time today, Winfield mouthed the opening sentence. “I’d never given much thought to how I would die,” he began.

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    1. Scary! Praying out world never comes to this.

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    2. This is a really cool piece, man. I feel like you're circling around something, getting closer every time. It's awesome. The themes you're playing with and the writing. Stellar.

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    3. Agreed... this is strong, and sadly, plausible. Agree with Dan.... your writing lately feels like it's coalescing around a larger story... One I can't wait to read.

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    4. Thank you so much, guys. I love my dystopian themes. As for improvement; maybe I'm finding my voice at last.

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    5. Whew! Soylent Green is writers! GREAT idea and so relevant to the era!

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    6. Beyond creepy. Great piece, as usual. :)

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  17. The club was poppin’ when Jacob came back. For once he wasn’t in the minority, as he made his way through a throng of mostly-black youths drinking and lustily gyrating to house, pop, and hip hop hits booming through the PA. The security guards upstairs were expecting him, so they let him into the manager’s office.

    Inside, two other security guards were restraining an obviously-terrified man, while Mr. Gibson worked him over. “I ain’t gonna ask you again: where’s my fuckin’ money?!” When he didn’t receive a satisfactory answer, he swung a fat-headed golf club at the man’s face, knocking two teeth out onto the polished wood floor with a spatter of blood. He then took his victim’s jaw in hand and told him, “You got seven days to come up with that twenty grand, or you’re gonna lose a lot more than…”

    He paused and picked up one of the teeth, considered it, and held it up, before continuing, “your left canines, from the look of it.” But when the man defiantly spat blood in Mr. Gibson’s face, his fate was sealed. Gibson paused and wiped the blood off with a silk handkerchief, before remarking, “Really? You really don’t think you can pay your debts? Fine. Antoine, Philip, take this nigga out somewhere and make him disappear.”

    The two men dragged the man out of the room, presumably someplace more isolated, where they could shoot him. Mr. Gibson then turned his attention to Jacob. “Oh, there you are, young blood! Sorry you had to see all that, you know how these simple-ass niggas be trippin’, thinking they can get over on ol’ Joe Gibson, when I really ain’t havin’ none of that shit. But you’re a savvy one, I can tell, brother. You know I ain’t no gorilla pimp, I seen plenty of them niggas come and go. I got where I am cuz I know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, you dig?”

    Partly out of genuine respect, and partly just playing along, Jacob replied, “Absolutely, sir. Everything went okay with that drop, right?”

    “Oh, yeah, sure, you did good, son. Where ya boys at?”

    “They back at home, waiting on me.” By that, Jacob meant Tim and Mateo were probably sitting around drinking beer and smoking joints, watching TV and saying raunchy shit about sitcom actresses.

    “Well, you did the job, so it’s payday for you, son.” Mr. Gibson produced a fat roll of hundred-dollar bills and counted out a stack of twenty-one, paused, then added, “A little bonus for you, cuz you the one running that show. Get yaself some new threads, kid. You got a girl?”

    “Naw, not right now…”

    “Get you one. Every baller needs a good woman at his back… just not all the time, right?”

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    1. Very visual and real. Good job!

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    2. Man, the authenticity of this piece is outstanding. The dialogue is spot on. The whole thing. You nailed this one, G.

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  18. Someone's gotta pick up the legos on the floor. Someone check the bank account, maybe now there's more. Maybe someone ripped you off, but they sure won't get much. You find the stone, ash pedestal and grab a half-puffed crutch.

    The liquor stores close early, and that just don't seem right. You go to bed when the sun comes up, cause you stay up all night. And you wake with empty pockets, dog-eared pants rolled up tight. It may seem like a scam, but brother, I didn't start this fight.

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    1. Awesome second person. And this, "you wake with empty pockets, dog-eared pants rolled up tight," will be with me a long while.

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    2. I'm in love with the rhythm.

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    3. I always get a Bob Dylan vibe when you write like this. :D

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    4. That is quite a compliment. Thank you.

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  19. The fog eats the heat from the wetlands and you inhale deeply, the smell of life, brine, death, and everything in between. Herons stalk and hawks stoop and SUVs roll by, kids in the back watching a DVD. You look back 30 years and think, 'goddamn, I'm glad we didn't have TV in our cars, I would have missed so many red-tails...'

    The night covers the fog and the wetlands change. The noises still the dry that comes before brief summer rain. You stood beside the road and watched the sunset paint the sky. Trying not to think about why the wetlands seem so dry.

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    1. Angst. Visceral. Sensory. This one is truth.

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    2. There is this thing that weather does to us on that visceral level. As though we remember somewhere in the dna just how dependent on this planet we really are. I think that's the real reason people talk about weather all the time! Gorgeous, dude.

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    3. I just want to BE there, you know?

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  20. (Note: I have no idea what I'm doing here. Sorry my timer broke.)



    The map crinkled in Polly’s hands as she wound her way through the campsite, and she shushed it and smoothed the paper into silence. Although it wouldn’t have mattered; he reported in his last blog post “from somewhere in the depths of the wilderness” but which was only about ten miles out of town, that most of his hearing was shot after all these years. But maybe that, too, was a lie, along with his fabricated backstory. His sanitized “About Me” that romanticized him to mythic, Hemingway-esque status and left off all reference to the lives he’d shattered and the women he’d fucked over and the poison and children he’d left behind. So she didn’t take any chances. She knew his game, all his moves. He’d bragged about them, during those long trips hitchhiking across New England, a way to pass the time and amuse her, perhaps, but she’d been filing away the subtext for someday. She’d sat on her outrage and humiliation all these years, attempting to exorcise it from her body with Shamanistic rituals, the burning of sage, feminist retreats meant to heal. But she could never get to the roots, so the scraping off of the surface cells only allowed for new growth to spring up and take hold.

    She’d found him by accident, one of those nights when alcohol and outrage met opportunity—Anna, a mutual friend Polly had guilted into coughing up his contact info.

    The gun came later.

    Now Polly was going hunting.

    He lived out of a blue pickup, made his living wherever he decided to land. That much she’d gotten out of Anna before she chickened out and went home to her husband. “Give it up,” Anna said. “I’m not gonna be your Louise, Thelma.” And that was the last Polly had seen of her.

    Little wimp. He’d fucked Anna too, and left her with a kid; Polly thought she’d have a stake in seeing him cower, but her safe suburban life was too tidy to upend.

    So Polly was on her own.

    Technology was her friend and by a little deduction and a little Google, she’d found the campsite he’d just reported in from. The narcissist in him just could not be repressed, could not keep him from returning to the scene of the crime. Now she was closing in on site #4. The blue pickup parked on the dirt road nearby.

    She hovered outside the flap, stilling her breath, listening. The sound…like soft sobbing. Polly smirked. Karma catch up with you, you bastard? About time. Someone piss in your Cheerios, take your teddy bear, hurt your precious little feelings?

    She worked the flashlight out of her coat and gripped it one hand. The gun with the other. Oh, how she wanted him to see her face when she pointed that thing at him.

    Polly elbowed open the flap, steeling herself to see him again. Words? Words didn’t matter now. But then her breath froze in her chest with a squeak. She hadn’t counted on the blood. Or Anna. Clutching her own gun, standing over him, naked, tears running down her cheeks.

    “Get in the car, Thelma,” she said over her shoulder.

    “Come on, Louise.” Polly touched her arm. “Let’s fix you up and take you home.”

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    1. OMD.... that TOTALLY went to a place I wouldn't have guessed.... dark, nicely written, and a killer twist at the end...

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    2. What Leland said. I love unexpected endings. :D (Also, I'm highly amused by Polly and Anna as names, as neither character could even remotely be a Pollyanna. :D :D)

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    3. Whoo-Hoo!!!! So awesome! I can still smell the gun powder.

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  21. Does it exist, the place they say you go when you go? Or is it another con to keep the masses in line, because the laws of Man aren’t enough to keep the dirty, hungry, needy you and I from becoming just another mammal, feeding our children the milk that likely is the only kindness they’re likely to feel from other humans unless they believe fabulous (if not fabled) prizes, await for doing the right thing?

    Is it that important that we need some Over-Us Being and a minion of winged, haloed, glowing, enrobed, stern, gentle, even immaculately impregnated, come-from-above with the Keys to the Kingdom of a happily forever-after life? We hold the real key from the time we are born, kept within that other readily accepted fable, the loving heart — the soul.

    It is simple and sanguine, not ornate and gold. It is a Rule Golden that makes desert, forest, jungle, prairie, all Heaven on Earth.

    Do for me as you would do for yourself...if you ever loved yourself.

    Someone else does,I hear.

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    1. So powerful. This: "Is it that important that we need some Over-Us Being and a minion of winged, haloed, glowing, enrobed, stern, gentle, even immaculately impregnated, come-from-above with the Keys to the Kingdom of a happily forever-after life?"

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    2. wow.... powerful, powerful stuff, and Laurie picked out the same line I did.

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    3. Yup, mad power. Really cool word choice and phrasings, too. That same line grabbed me. And this one. "It is simple and sanguine, not ornate and gold. It is a Rule Golden that makes desert, forest, jungle, prairie, all Heaven on Earth."

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    4. That's the line that got me, as well. Moving, and a powerful lesson.

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  22. A true story of CL. Just for fun.Some things you just can't make up! :)

    For sale: Extraordinary antique hand woven antique Sarouk runner.$800.
    Generously sized at 2'8" X 11'5" (approx) the rug shows almost NO sign of wear, save for some shortening of the end fringe. The pile is excellent, the colors vivid, and the intricacy of the pattern is truly something to behold. We believe this to be a Sarouk, though we are not entirely certain, may be Hammadan. Appraised at 1200-1500. As you can see from the photos it is VERY finely woven of 100 percent wool with upwards of 90 line and maybe as much as 130.
    Elegant, beautiful and VERY rare, I repeat, almost NO signs of wear. Serious inquiries ONLY Please. No scammers.

    Email: I am wanting to purchase your rug for $300.
    Answer: Wow, I don’t blame you. But that’s not what I’m asking.

    “ I am involved in this industry and wish to purchase your rug for resale. You will understand I must make a profit.”

    Appraised value 1300, asking 800. I see a profit.

    “ Why are you being so unreasonable? My offer is only good for 48 hours. Please get back to me as soon as possible!”

    “ Have I mentioned it can fly?”

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    1. lol... I suspect there are MANY such delicious Craig's List stories... you told this one well.

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    2. I need a laugh! This is perfect!

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  23. Julie A. DuxburyJuly 17, 2015 at 4:36 PM

    Protection, not projection
    "I didn't ask for it to happen! It took two of us, so don't blame me!"
    "It was your responsibility to have protection-"
    "My responsibility? It takes two to tango and now you're saying none of this is your responsibility? That's not gonna cut it, bucko!"
    "Don't you 'bucko' me! I asked you if you had protection and you said 'yes'!"
    "I thought you asked if I had 'done the projections'! I thought you were talking about work!"
    "Like I'd be talking about work at a time like that?"
    "You talk about work all the time! Now look where it's got us!"
    Silence fell.

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    1. Oh ouch. And shame on the one talking about work at such a time. This made me laugh, in a kind of sad way. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. I'm a little twisted, but I found this hilarious in the karma-biting-someone's-ass kind of way. Nicely carried in the narrative, too.

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    3. I agree. And I really like the abrupt close. Really works with the piece. Dialogue is darkly humorous and spot on. Well done!

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    4. I hate to be a dittohead, but they all said it first. Love wry humor. Nicely done.

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    5. OMG! Now I'm trying to figure out if they're coworkers, both married (or not), and what happened next. LOL!

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