Friday, July 31, 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. 

Don't look at me like that. I swear to God - you better stop, it's not fair. Not one bit fair. Just because you have storms brewing in your eyes, just because of that one chip of green - it doesn't work anymore. You used those eyes too many times. I have become accustomed to the bitter yearning they spark. Your eyes cannot hold me.

And I will yammer and stall, but don't think you can scale this wall. I've built shoddy ones before, I admit, but this one? This one is so tall you can't see the top. Not even with magic eyes.

In a second, I'll get up and leave, and that will be the last we ever see of each other. And the funniest part? I'd bet all the money I used to have that you don't even know what color my eyes are.




  1. Thank god for your not-dead-ness... and this is a good story.... and I've always wondered, too, how many of my exes could tell you what color my eyes are... a cool concept and brilliantly executed... "Your eyes cannot hold me" is my favorite phrase...

    1. Heartbreaking. I've wondered the same thing.

    2. "all the money I used to have" made me laugh. A story within the story. Well played, brother.

    3. Mader. Mader, Mader. You zone in on the "magic eyes" and never let us go!

    4. Speak to the eye and it will speak back to you. Love it.

  2. His back was killing him. Why was he sleeping on the floor anyway? And why was it so dark? Wait, was it the floor? He had carpet, and what he felt was smooth and cold. He blinked. Dark. But his eyes were open. And the silence. Unearthly. He used his right hand to slap the floor or whatever he rested on just to see that he could still hear. Hear, yes, but there was no echo. And the smell, slightly dank, unlike the soundscape, something earthly. He knew the smell from before, but where?

    Something skittered across his stomach and it was this way he realized he was naked, without even a blanket.

    Had he been drinking last night? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d had too much. But he never drank alone. A nightmare, maybe. Yes, that was it. He was in a nightmare. He’d wake up soon enough. But it remained dark, and silent, and the smell…

    He sat up.

    “Ah, you’re awake,” a voice announced from the corner. A soft click. The lights came on, but he cast no shadow. The man in the corner wore a white doctor’s jacket and an alarming smile. “Welcome to the Dunhill Morgue, my boy, welcome to the morgue.”

    1. Holy cats. Creepy twist at the end. Really sucked me in.

    2. Ugh! *Shivers.
      That was creepy-cool!

    3. Thanks! I don't do that kind of thing normally, so it was fun to play with!

    4. Hey you're scaring me brother. I don't mind waking up on the floor or even being nake (much), but the guy in the white jacket is freaking me out. Nicely done.

    5. In this kind of heat, being nake is the only thing.

  3. "How did this happen? How did you end up nearly dead on a cold slab, bleeding out hope?"

    "You watch her walking away into that mercury heat shimmer, and you start to lose her outline, her hip sway, and you see your heart abandon your chest forever."

    The scream of a jet in a cathedral dome. Frozen outposts dreaming of mammalian warmth. The quiet sanctuary of a woman's breasts. The rise and fall of her breath. Boys running on rooftops. A dark ocean gone silent. Desolate acres of shallow graves: the aftermath of massacre. The brief smile of a refugee. Someone waiting for news. What comfort lies in such imaginings?

    We enter this room, thrown awry by the greenery alongside the cold, diagrammatic walls, annotated accounts of serial murders, bad dreams curling at their corners, pinpricked, while yellow drafts press their round flesh like thick, dewy petals.

    Breathe. Again. You'll need it.

    There's a ceiling fan spinning like a galaxy over my head—gut check, head check, jumbo jet—and I await today's first customer in the paltry shade of a giant cactus and a joshua tree while silver orbs dart across the horizon, feigning alienation, dreaming of escape from the sizzling planetary heat, futile, and the surpassingly cool demeanour of a woman throwing shade in a clean white shirt and crow-black pencil skirt and sheer assassin heels who steps poised into the growling lowslung roadster while dry electric arpeggios repeat along street vision fantasies of idealized love, greedy with ancient holes and sucking choirs of lupine need and sound into sandstorm cradles all incensed and drowned by wrath, as those compelled seek skittering arachnid lairs black and glossy as shoes shined by nineteen fifties negro boys, struggling in nests, squirming in holes, while caucasian voices tell one grey slanted side of a tedious and endless tale, clutching authenticity as if entitled, sucking pearl mists of motel ozone from superheated air both blessed and tainted by secret refinery cravings and deep essential sin, grasped by the emerald stem of a sunflower or a late August cornstalk, a harrowing green both yearning and sheathing yellow as it ought to, and we see this and follow it, seeking a trail, while orange detour signs coax us blinking and brokenhearted and sobbing from the interstate through dark unraveling rural tales all hazed with sundown rays and aglow with glimpses of our own possible ruin, take me, feel me, don't lose the spinning thread of our black, shining wreckage, our blighted horror, our love, our hankering, don't you fucking ever.

    1. Oooh. That last paragraph... I want to read it over and over. Kick-ass images. "Breath. Again. You'll need it." - the timing on that is amazing.

    2. Week after week, I TRY to figure out how you perform this sorcery... and each time I read your work (and I read it multiple times), I just get caught up in the writing.... well done...

    3. Thank you, Laurie and Leland. It's always fun distilling my nightmares and inflicting them on my friends. ;)

    4. I'm always left feeling like there's more to the story and I HAVE to read it again...and again. Superb!

    5. I have the feels David. There's nothing like going half crazy with the heat and you can't get FOCUSED , centered, etc because everything is spinning FANS.

    6. "There's a ceiling fan spinning like a galaxy over my head—gut check, head check,jumbo jet" I honestly thought that was going to be my favorite line until I kept reading. Yeah I used to wonder how you did it too. Now I just go for the ride and don't look back.

    7. It's a ride on a crazy train. :)

      (But thank you, my friends, for reading.)

    8. Ah, they took my answers! ;) Late and stuck in ditto-land. This is a dope piece, G.

  4. The question lingers like dead fish baking in the sun. “Mrs. Gunderson, why did you kill your husband?”

    The lawyer the court had appointed for her had asked her when she’d done it, how she’d done it, who had helped her hide the body in the bank of reeds beside the river. But until now, nobody had asked her why. Her insides trembled, the pain in her gut as if she’d driven the chef’s knife through her own flesh.

    His suit smelled fresh from the dry cleaner’s, the chemicals mingling with the scent of expensive aftershave. He leaned closer and, fixing her with an earnest smile, dropped his voice. “It’s just us, Mrs. Gunderson. If I’m going to defend you, you need to be honest with me.”

    Days and nights in that jail cell should have given her time to think this through. But she’d spent most of it curled into a ball on her bunk, eyes burning from silent tears, willing her heart to stop rather than face a life haunted by what she’d done.

    “He…” She gulped, swiped a hand across her forehead. “Made me dinner.”

    The earnest young man’s earnest eyebrows popped north. “Made you dinner? But isn’t that…kind of a nice thing? To make dinner for someone?”

    “Not with canned tomatoes!” A sob escaped her throat, and a muddle of confusion on his face smoothed into a blank stare. She began to reach for him, to crush the starch out of that stiff jacket, but her hand halted in midair, trembling before she dropped it back to the table, clenching into a fist. “What did I do to make him hate me that much? We grow lovely heirloom tomatoes in our garden, marinara is the easiest thing in the world to make. When we were newlyweds, he’d make me the loveliest meals, with fresh herbs and…and now he…he…can’t even be bothered to…” She sniffed. “When I got mad, he laughed at me. Laughed! Then said he was leaving. For…for a woman who doesn’t even know how to boil water! That’s when I…yeah. I didn’t expect you to understand.”

    He cleared his throat. “It’s not my job to understand, Mrs. Gunderson.”

    Of course not. She lifted one side of her mouth. So young. “You’re not married, are you?”

    He shook his head.

    “When you do, take care what you promise her. You start with fresh tomatoes, you damned well better keep using them.”

    1. So much truth... in such a delightfully humorous form... thank you

    2. Hooked from the first two sentences. Brilliant, Laurie.

    3. A promise is a promise even if it's non-verbal and served on a plate. Well done Laurie.

    4. This is an awesome piece, Laurie. Really well played.

  5. Not just any morning. This morning. Not a morning of yellow or blue or magenta skies, but this morning of apocalyptic red. Not a morning of snow or rain or wind or smoke, but this morning of skies set ablaze in clarity.

    He’d read and written enough books to recognize an ending. This was one. The pages grew thin, as thin as his ability to hope, to believe in the possibility of continuity. It’d been a good run. He’d lived twice as many lives as he’d imagined. Reinvented himself over and over. And now, now he waited for the last page to turn. Perhaps he’d write an epilogue, perhaps not. The choice was not his, but that of a Divine Author.

    He put a sandwich into his backpack, filled a bottle with water, checked that he had a pen and a notebook, and set off toward the mountain. Not just a mountain, but this mountain, the mountain that had watched over him all these years, the mountain he’d never climbed. Until now.

    The dog gazed into his eye, understanding. Not just any dog, but this dog, the dog of his soul. As the man and dog crossed the horizon, the promise of thunder awaited them and invited them in. This mountain. This morning. This man. This dog. This end.

    1. Sniff. Lovely, melancholy images. "...the dog of his soul."

    2. One of my very favourites of yours, Leland. This is lovely (to steal Laurie's word), so adept at using repetition to paint sorrow and acceptance. Beautiful.

    3. Sad and beautifully written.

    4. Man, I hate that I have to ditto this one. But I do agree with all of the above. Just lovely.


    She's holding onto the tail of the year, riding it like a fiery comet, but 2015 ignores her regrets. It’s got an appointment to keep with the trash heap of history. It's got to arrive there on that final midnight. Dive its days and nights into Time’s burning barrel.

    She insists 2015 has been a very good year. She found love nestled in its spring. And no malice nor disease nor heartache demanded her to submit to the cruelty of those autumn winds, those frigid winters, the falling leaves, the descending blizzard snows.

    In the wings the new 2016 bides its time. It stands there stirring the pot, turning up the fingered flames, boasting how it'll be a better year, the best she’s seen so far, but she goes on defending what she knows about the wisdom of these passing twelve months. She wraps them around her waist like a comforting belt.

    “During this year each sand grain dazzled with wisdom,” she explains. “My steps never faltered. I was not once a victim of some treacherous lie. I felt safe in those temporal arms, hovering above the waves, dancing with white clouds, unafraid of thunder and lightening. Content.

    But the approaching new year called from the pleated curtain, “I know how you feel, Sweetheart, but even a year just does what it can.”


    1. This made me smile. I always dread to see a new year coming. I get so comfortable with the old one.

    2. This is a really interesting piece, Sal. The feelings and the language. Well played.

  7. 'Till Death We're Apart'

    Karen-Anne hoisted her skirt higher, lifting the hem clear from the floor. The Countessa was displeased; her marriage today was going exactly as planned. But at least her parents were pleased.

    Raking her head around, she surveyed the church. So many people and all of them expecting today to go flawlessly. Mumsie's money could buy almost everything. But it couldn't buy her compliance.

    The door to the side chapel creaked and Thomas' beard pushed through, the gap barely wide enough to admit it without it bushing out again as it came through. Time to go.

    Turning sharply, she pulled away from her father, his face collapsing in on itself when he recognised the intent in her eyes. Of course one of her heels collapsed, the crack echoing across the nave as the organist's playing faltered, so she slipped off the shoes, whispered a brief heartfelt 'sorry' and then ran.

    1. Always follow your heart... and good for Karen-Anne for doing just that... nice story, and I love the detail of the heel cracking....

    2. Yes, I agree with Leland. That detail brought it fully to life.

    3. Having been a bridesmaid at a wedding such as this, you chose the perfect moment---goes from the father, kicks off the shoes and the bridesmaids get her out the window!Well done!

    4. Witty and complete. I've always wanted to really know someone who used the term Mumsie.

    5. Awesome piece. And I agree about the heel.

  8. The silence echoes against the trees.
    A soft warm breeze whispers secrets of longing to a lonely heart.
    Distant mountains, made small by the vast expanse of sky, shimmer darkly across the horizon as if made by termites.
    Did we climb the tallest of them once upon a memory? I recall quite clearly grasping your hand as we pushed and pulled in unison till we reached the summit.
    Falling back to earth, the view is unchanged.
    But wait…..
    See there? A glimmer, a glowing sphere of sapphire magic is making its ascent.
    Watch how it sparkles with confident ease. Sure of its own power to transcend the highest peak.
    Observe how it floats from the East to West.
    Close your eyes and make a wish.
    This is how dreams are born, Once upon a Blue Moon…..

    1. wow... poetry and a story and beauty.... I love this...

    2. I want to put this to music.

    3. I'm kinda tired and full mooned out. But please accept emoticon. :) I.m wishing right along with you.

    4. Lovely ode to the Blue Moon yesterday. Hopeful piece, very nice.

  9. Please excuse any typos! :)

    The rain pattering against his window seemed as loud as gunshots, and thunder cleaved through his brain like a knife through cheesecloth, leaving frayed edges behind.
    “You’re weird.”
    That’s what the girl in 7th period math had said as he arranged his pencils and calculator just so on the battle-scarred desk.
    The word echoed in his head, adding to Brian’s discomfort from the raging storm. He flung himself on the bed, pulling the comforter tight around his thin, adolescent body.
    Brian took a few deep breaths, willing his body into a more peaceful state before the stimming could start.
    His eyes traveled around the room, lighting here and there on his favorite things: history and science books arranged in neat rows, a framed poster of Albert Einstein with crazy hair and wide eyes, the gleaming microscope and slides…
    There were no CD’s of bubble-gum pop bands, no trendy clothes lying in heaps on the floor, no leftover pizza boxes or discarded McDonald’s cups. Nothing at all that would indicate a 13 year old inhabited this space.
    Brian was an old soul in a young body plagued with autism. He sighed and tucked his head under the warm blankets.
    “Maybe if you tried a little harder to fit in…”
    “Why not join some clubs at school? I bet you’d make more friends…”
    “Boys hunt … and fish. They don’t sit around all day with their noses stuck in books.”
    But he liked books. He loved knowledge. He hated chaos and disorder. Just the thought of stepping into his little sister’s cyclone of a room with the toybox that looked like it vomited its contents on the floor and crooked posters of unicorns shooting rainbows out of their asses made him cringe.
    “Some new shoes, a stylish haircut, and the girls will notice you.”
    “You’re weird…”
    Brian listened for the sound of the rain, but it had stopped. He pushed his long hair from his eyes and smiled at the quiet.
    “Don’t try to fix me,” he mumbled. “I’m not broken.”

    1. And this is beautiful... and he's right... he's not broken... he just IS... well done story!

    2. Yeah, ditto again. Especially that last line. Love the understated power of that.

    3. Brian is my kind of people. Loved meeting him.

    4. This is an awesome piece. Especially wonderful for me because I have known many Brians (male and female). I'm surprised no one grabbed this: "leaving frayed edges behind" - perfect.

  10. Listen up.
    There was a young fella a heck of a lot of years ago who had a massive crush on a beautiful woman.
    He was a good looking lad if yer taste ran to long and scrawny. He didn’t have no pimples and he had a head full of thick curly hair.
    Only trouble was he was shy as a stag in hunting season. When he found himself in close proximity to the lady in question he plain became tongue tied or came out with words, so to speak.
    This lady, she worked in an antique shop up in Coral County. Young Jake, as he was known, drove a beat up truck and often had to make pick- ups or deliveries from the shop.
    He always looked forward to those days and took extra care with his appearance but more often than not he left the shop with his face glowing redder than horse shoe in a Blacksmiths forge.
    One time he had to pick up some antique brass jugs for delivery to the big house up yonder. As usual he arrived early so as to give himself more time with this lady.
    He stands there all shy, searching his stupid brain for something pleasant and intelligent to say, while the lady is holding the objects preparing to pack them all nice like.
    He looks at her and says, “That’s a lovely pair of jugs you got there, miss.” Of course he immediately realises what that sounded like and he could feel his cheeks starting to burn like a summer day in hell.
    Well, miss Lucinda, as she was called just stared at him and without batting an eyelid said, “Why thank you, Jake. I’m sure Mr Parsons at the big house will agree.
    Jake left with the finely wrapped parcel and drove off. He cussed at himself all the way up to the house for being such a gormless dipshit. “A lovely pair of fucking jugs?? You god damn moron!” Well you can imagine how the conversation with himself carried on. Though just to make my point, Miss Lucinda did have herself a mighty fine pair, hehe.
    Any hows, another time he was down there and Miss Lucinda was hefting a big bag ready to be packed up.
    “Can I help you with that, miss?”
    “Oh could you Jake, thank you,” she smiled.
    Encouraged she was still speaking to him after his last little faux pas, Jake piped up, “It would be my pleasure to fill your box, Miss Lucinda, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. I also heard you needed a bit of help with your vegetable patch and I’d be happy to plant carrots in your garden.”
    Well, the poor fella almost died of embarrassment when he replayed that conversation. He muttered his apologies and made some cockamamie excuse about how he’d forgotten that he had to be somewhere else and scarpered quicker than a March Hare.
    A week or two later it was there was a dance at the village hall. Jake was standing in a corner trying his best to look invisible, when who should walk over to him and ask him to dance? You got it. Miss Lucinda herself. Her being such a lovely lady and all, with no airs and graces whatsoever, she soon put Jake at ease. That evening they kissed under the moon. It was a Blue Moon as I recall and she told Jake that if you made your wish under it then that wish would surely come true.
    Who would have thought that that shy, tongue-tied young fella could get himself a fine young woman like Lucinda. She had something special, a sense of humour and compassion for that young man. Don’t believe me?
    It’s true you know. I can vouch for it. Me and my Cindy have been together ever since that night forty years ago and there’s not a man walking who could be happier than old Jacob, as my Cindy calls me.

    1. Ha ha, awesome! This has the feel of a fable, almost.

    2. Adorable story! Since I'm from the south, I could see this in my mind. The words were as comfortable as my favorite T-shirt. :)

    3. I love it, I love it, I love it! The voice, it's wonderful!

    4. So fantastic! Loved every bit of this. An even better ode to the blue moon than the last.

    5. Ditto all. Definitely a fable vibe. I love fables. :)

  11. Two Parter this week, ain't been too flashy, lately.
    “Now, if you were smart…”
    Bethie closed her eyes, never in the longest reaches of her memory had Nana Gracie failed to address her thus.
    “…youda taken up with that nice Pickett boy when you had the chance.”
    Bethie struggled to focus. “Pickett? You mean Jimmy Pickett? God, that was a hundred years ago, Nana.”
    “Nothing wrong with a girl settling down, making a home for a man. Too good for you, I reckon.”
    “Mama, please. “ her mother’s voice intervened. “You really think this is the moment?”
    Gracie raised a careless shoulder. “Don’t give me that. Bethie knows what I’m talking about. A woman oughta know men don’t just need catching, they need keeping. Otherwise she wouldn’t be in the fix she’s in now.”
    Her mother’s eyes flicked to the cupboard where she kept the bourbon. She inhaled audibly, giving Bethie’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “Never mind that, honey. I’m sure Frank has his reasons.”
    Bethie blinked against helpless tears. “You think, Mama?” she asked weakly.
    Nana Gracie snorted. “Well of course he has reasons, Lizanne . A man likes to feel he’s a got a home to come to, don’t he? A place to put down roots. With family. Ain’t that right, Bethie?”
    “ Mama,” Lizanne said more firmly. “Leave her alone, she drove all the way from Chicago.”
    “Leave her alone? What about poor Frank? He’s here and where was she? That’s what I want to know.” The old woman’s eyes flashed, enormous and accusatory behind her glasses and she clicked her dentures for emphasis. “Timbuktu?”
    Fuck you, you old bitch. Bethie pasted on a pleasant smile and sipped at her tea. “I was in Tibet, Nana. On a retreat. I—well we--had an audience with the Dalai Llama. I went with my yoga group.”
    Nana Gracie pointed a threatening finger. “Don’t you talk down to me! I got a television same as everybody. You think some chinaman in a red cape is holier than Jesus? You think he knows more about being alive than your own grandma? Think again, Miss Bethie. Think again!”

  12. pt 2.

    “I was—trying—“ Bethies fingers skittered towards her mother’s across the table top, but Lizzane was watching to bourbon cupboard, an open sesame in her eyes. “To---find—myself,” she finished lamely.
    “Well, well. “ Gracie sat back, her fat rolls spilling over the kitchen chair on either side. “Find yourself?” she mocked. “Find yourself? Is that what you call running away from your husband. Seems to damn me you’da been better off trying to find Frank.”
    Lizanne sighed heavily, placing her forehead against the coolish tile of the kitchen table. She peered up at her daughter, mute apology in her eyes.
    And Bethie too, bowed her head, defeated. A little flutter of guilt swam around in her guts like a live goldfish in a too-small bowl. And in that moment, the whole world filled up with everything she didn’t know about Frank.
    “Separate vacations,” she mumbled. “He said he was fine with it.”
    “What men say and what they do is two different things,” countered Gracie. “Love ain’t supposed to get a vacation. My sweet savior, you suppose I ever gave my Mister a separate vacation? Hell, no! I’d catch his eye wandering to some girl down at the hardware store and I’d haul him to church and make him another baby! Give him something he could raise up and be proud of. Something to make him add on to the house and get a better job and feel like a MAN! That’s LOVE! You little ninny. If you were smart, either one of you, you’da figured that much out!”
    A silence ensued as Lizanne and her child struggled to find themselves in the avalanche of their regrets d the ceiling fan humming an incantation against the gathering twilight.
    Gracie rose and tottered to the screen door perched on her cane, every portion of her sending jiggling shadows across the floor. For the first time, her voice dropped to a level that was almost gentle, something very near to kind.
    “What’s done is done. This is what he wanted, “ she said reverently. “Let’s get to it.”
    Lizanne rose wearily to her feet. “C’mon honey. You want me to—carry him?”
    “No, I can do it.” Bethie picked up the black box of ashes and clutched it to her chest, seeing the words of his suicide note in that cramped, backward hand. Under the roses in Gracie’s garden, back at the home where our lives used to be.
    A light breeze ruffled the landscape; the chicadas and crickets began their dirge.
    Bethie set the black box of ashes down on the grass and her spade broke the earth with a shattering crash.
    Damn you, Frank. She thought as she dug.
    Just—damn you.

    1. This grabbed me and didn't let go, and I kept wondering how you were going to end it. Then you ended it perfectly.

    2. Grabbed. Held. Entranced. I love these characters. I was hanging on your every word. So well done.

    3. Wonderful writing, every character a winner even Frank. Especially loved the transition into this foreboding line: "
      And in that moment, the whole world filled up with everything she didn’t know about Frank."

    4. Yup. Agreed. This is an epic piece.

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  14. This was just torture. He’d come in here because the light was dim and it was quiet. She must know she was driving him crazy and she kept doing it anyway.

    “Moon. Mooooon. MOOOOOOOON.” The girl said, while shining the light from her bright metal flashlight on the ceiling.

    “Hey, can you cut it out?”

    His tone was sharper than he intended. He didn’t want to get in trouble with his teacher but he also had a splitting headache from not wearing his glasses all day at school. It had been an experiment. He’d read an optometry magazine at the doctor’s office. There was an article that said eyes can get better but they needed exercise like any other part of the body.


    The girl sat up from where she was lying on the floor to look at him. From the look on her face he suspected she didn’t know he’d been sitting in the chair at the other side of the room for quite some time.

    “Who are you?”

    “Your mom is my French tutor.”

    “How do you know who I am?”

    “Because you look exactly like Miss Girard. Well, not exactly like her. Your eyes and hair are different. And I’ve never seen Miss Girard wear anything that crazy and pink.”

    The girl didn’t like what he said. He could tell by the way she jumped up to her feet and stamped her foot, which was also when he realized that the ringing he’d heard when she entered the room earlier, came from the bells attached to her sneaker laces. It completed the loud, strange ensemble she wore perfectly.

    “Look I’m sorry if I offended you but I was here first.”

    “You’re mean,” Miss Girard’s spawn stomped over to him, the large pink tulle she wore over the fushia corduroy pants and red sequined shirt flouncing with every step she took, “and you’re stupid. I live here. I’m always here first.”

    Headache forgotten, his eyes narrowed. It wasn’t often he was bested in a war of words with someone, especially someone almost a decade younger than him.

    “I meant I was first in the room today, before you came in. I came in to wait for my appointment with your mother.”

    “Say what you mean. Mean what you say.”

    He sighed.

    “Where’d you learn that from – a cartoon?”

    “No, my dad. He was gonna be a lawyer. He passed a bar and everything.”

    “The bar.” He corrected.

    “That’s what I said.”

    “Okay, I’m going to sit back and close my eyes a minute. Do whatever you want but please try to be a little quieter, okay?

    He heard the telltale sound of her shoe bells as she tiptoed toward him. When he felt her leaning closer to him, he stayed perfectly still.

    “Can I know your name?” She whispered loudly near his ear.


    He said this mostly to see what she would do. He could almost feel the heat of her ire but he kept his eyes closed anyway, despite the precarious position it left him in. There was nothing but silence for almost 20 seconds and for that respite he was grateful.

  15. Soft. His. The soft thing Dada moves around to make the colors. So close to me on the floor. I’m not supposed to. I’m not supposed to touch. But I do. It smells like Dada, like his tickly beard when he hugs me and rubs it against my face. I can just fit my fingers around the skinny part, and I lift the soft end to my nose. Smells like Dada, too. Bristles, Mama said they’re called, and I’m not allowed to touch. The colors are too hard to wash off, she said. But no colors on this. Maybe they are inside. I paint my arm, hoping they will come out. That I’ll be green or blue or yellow, but it doesn’t work. I start to paint the other arm, and the door creaks. A squeak comes out of my mouth. I drop the soft thing. It goes bonk on the floor. Dada will be mad. Grownup room, he’d said. No touching. Only babies cry, Mama said, but I can’t help it. His eyes open wide. He sits next to me, pulls me onto his lap. Dada smells like the soft thing only more, and his hands are scratchy on my arms. One of them picks up soft thing and he smiles. Rubs the bristle part down my nose. “I’m going to paint you pretty colors, pretty girl,” he says, and I stop crying.

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  17. Most of the guests had arrived and were getting into buzzy beat of Jen and Phil’s Valentine’s Day Eve party when the dull pounding started.

    “What the hell is that?” Jen’s friend Laurie said, raising her eyes to the ceiling.

    Jen said, “Oh, that’s old Manny Blue, the guy upstairs. Whenever we have some get together, or put on some music to…”

    “Get busy,” Phil jumped into the conversation, laughing.

    “Phil! You know what I mean Laurie. Whenever we’re what Manny thinks is loud, he bangs on his floor and we turn our music lower. Sometimes actually hear him saying ‘Turn it down.’ But not tonight. Tonight, we’re here to celebrate Valentine’s Day with our friends and if Manny has a problem, he can damn well come down to the party and tell us. Maybe loosen up the old crank.”

    Nevertheless, Phil turned the stereo down just a notch, which none of their friends seemed to notice, and the pounding slowed and then stopped. After that, the party continued until past midnight.

    In the morning, as Jen and Phil picked their way through orange juice, leftover pizza and aspirin for breakfast, they heard it. Above their living room they heard a dull thump…thump..thump.

    “What the fuh..?” Phil said.

    “We’re not playing the stereo and the TV’s off, God knows,” Jen said and rubbed her temples. “What’s his problem?”

    “I don’t know, but I’m going to go up and settle this with the old bastard once and for all. Shoulda talked about this long ago, if he’d ever come out of his damn apartment.”

    Phil climbed the stairs two at a time to the floor above, with Jen slowly following behind him.

    When they reached Old Man Blue’s apartment door, they heard the sound of music coming from inside. An electric guitar picked single notes and a quavering voice sang, "Without your love, I'm nothing at all. Like an empty hall, it's a lonely fall…"

    And then they heard thump…thump…thump and a low moaning and plaintive, “Turn it down, make it stop.”

    Phil knocked on the door and said, “Manny” Mr. Blue? It’s Phil Hoover from down in 2B. We gotta talk."

    From inside came the sound of a chorus singing, "And the sun don't shine anymore. And the rains fall down on my door." Then, thump…thump, and “Please turn it down. Please go away.”

    “Phil, something’s wrong in there,” Jen said. “Try the door. Try the door.”

    Phil turned the knob and found it unlocked. When he opened the door, he saw the back of a sofa, an old stereo like his dad’s beside it, a disc of black vinyl spinning away on its turntable. As they moved into the room, they saw a hand with bloody fingers lift the arm and place it back down onto the record with a scratchy buzz and thup.

    Hurrying toward the sofa, they looked over its back and saw the cardboard sleeve that read Northern Lights - Southern Cross, a circle of letters, cards and old photos on the hardwood floor and, in the middle of it all, Manny Blue, kneeling, his forehead bleeding.

    For the sixth time since the preceding night, a man named Rick Danko began to sing "It makes no difference where I turn. I can't get over you and the flame still burns. It makes no difference, night or day. The shadow never seems to fade away…"

    Manny Blue, a lonely man who once knew love, lowered his head to the floor one, two, three times. Then he whispered, “Please make it go away.”

    1. Wow. What an awesome and complex piece. Really sly, too. I like this one a lot, Joe.

  18. Tabbi licks her finger, then presses the grain of sand to the middle of her bedroom window. In the distance, the blue-green sea lumbers along, rolling peacefully under the gaze of a setting sun. She takes a few steps back and admires her work. From where she stands, the tiny speck reflects the dying light and floats like a star, riding the currents, unsinkable. A compass to lead him back home.

    Sixteen days and counting. The man in the sharp, pressed suit and shiny badge looked uncomfortable and out of place on their small, weathered porch. Tabbi caught sight of him speaking with her mom and Nana on her way back from her best girlfriend’s house, and slipped into the waiting arms of a cedar tree by the front walk to listen. She caught phrases such as “distress signal” and “lost at sea” on the wind while the man rocked on his heels and her mother twisted a dishtowel in her hands. He left quickly, face flaming red, he didn’t even notice Tabbi as he brushed by close enough for her to touch.

    Now, people talked behind raw, calloused hands when she goes to the market.
    “It was a horrible squall,” Chester Binks tells another local fisherman as Tabbi reaches for a box of pasta. “Ain’t no way Pete and his crew survived.”
    “You’d think they’d go ahead and declare him dead. I know for a fact that Pamela could use the insurance money.”
    “They probably would if there was any sign of the wreckage, but the coast guard ain’t found so much as a stick of wood from The Griffin.”
    Their whispers wrap around Tabbi, infiltrating her mind, squeezing her soul, threatening to crush her resolve and send her spiraling into blackness. Instead, she throws her shoulders back, takes her bags from the pimply-faced cashier, and leaves with dignity.

    They didn’t know Pete Smith like she does.

    The speck of sand sparkles like a diamond, reminding Tabbi of The Griffin on its way back to port – the way the sun shines on its many windows as it carries her father home.

    1. Oh, I like this piece a lot. The contrasting hope and despair, the calculated reveals. Really well done.

  19. It didn’t take but a couple of moments.

    Heartbeats, really.

    In the passenger seat Alison cussed me out for being such a Man and poured on the drama with the stabby exclamation point, “I wish I’d never met you and I wish you were dead!”

    I reached to calm her, tell her I was sorry for being such a jerk, and took my eyes from the road for just a moment, the time it takes a sleepy trucker to drift his rig to our side of the road.

    So that’s how we got here – a flash of light – two heartbeats.

    1. Whoa. That's heavy, tragic.

    2. Agreed. Super impressed with the economy of this piece, too.

  20. The fires had died down in near the soldiers. There was no enemies combatants within hundred meters of the camp.

    As I stood watch over my comrades while they slept, I pondered what my family back home felt. I have been away for six months now fighting in the war that seems like it will never end.

    My Kingdom was many leagues away from where we were currently fighting. I honestly thought there was no point in the army being here but my King insisted that we send troops to fight in the war against Tyranny.

    I heard a slight rustle about 50 yards directly in front of me that sounded as if someone had just withdrew their sword from the sheath. I looked around to see if I could possible see any movement in the direction I heard the noise from but couldn't see anything. The trees around me swayed with breeze that was coming through the valley.

    Then I heard the same rustling noise of a sword being withdrawn just a couple hundred feet to my left and right.

    I thought this can't be happening. I can't die tonight. I was bound to be sent back home after the battle planned for tomorrow.

    Just as I turned to warn my brethren who was at his post fifty feet to my right, I witnessed him getting chopped down by a man clothed in only a loin cloth and carrying a scythe-like sword. Just then, I began to withdraw my sword from the sheath at my side to fight off the attackers baring down on me and my fellow countrymen. I blocked the first swing made towards me by the bare chested man in front of me. The second swing of his sword missed me by mere inches, whereas my broadsword made full contact with his abdomen slicing him in half and catching his buddy who was right behind him in the leg.

    I will not die tonight. I will not be taken on this night. I kept repeating those two sentences in my head as I fought for my life on this dark and breezy night............

    1. Really vivid imagery. This is a well balanced piece. It would be easy to go overboard with the time/scene setting, but you nailed it.

    2. Thanks JD. Been wanting to write something like this for awhile now. May even want to make this into a book.


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