Friday, September 25, 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 window sill supported her elbow, propped up her head - the sill was covered in mildew and old cigarette butts, but she didn't notice. If she had noticed, she wouldn't have cared. This was much more important than mildew or cigarette butts. He had not come. Or he was late, but he was never late.

She pulled a long, white cigarette from her pack and kissed it - lit the end and pulled the smoke down into her small lungs. She was dying. That's important to know. She was wasting away - hadn't been outside the apartment in weeks. She watched pigeons stamp and squabble. She watched children play and posture. And she watched the man who delivered her mail, not because he was especially attractive, he wasn't - he had a smile that never left his face. It was a smile that could tear the roof off the world. It was the highlight of her day.

A woman in blue shorts and a polo shirt that vaguely resembled USPS regulation huffed around the corner, and the woman felt a clutch of terror in her heart. She dropped her cigarette and ground it out on the carpet with the toe of a filthy slipper.

The man did not come the next day, and she did not eat. He did not come for two weeks. When he did return, he was tan and smiling a "brighter than regulation" smile.

But no one watched him.

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

136 comments:

  1. Wow.... what a great tale of the impact we have on people's lives without even realizing it... and how dependent we are on external phenomena to keep going. The tale is well-told, and gritty, and good.

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    1. Oooh. Gritty and kind of sinister. And I love this line: "It was a smile that could tear the roof off the world."

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    2. very cool. I like "brighter than regulation smile".

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    3. The visceral emotion here - I love it.

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    4. Yay, I can reply now! Stupid work computer...

      This was so sad. At first, I wondered whether she really was dying, or was just a drama queen. And then I realized it didn't matter, because she depended on him to be there, to keep her going.

      Thanks for the punch in the gut, dude. Nice job.

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  2. (This poem inspired by a photo that Lynne shared on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=997337520317854&set=a.584439394941004.1073741825.100001248460879&type=3&theater

    One day a year
    So the gods decried
    He met his brilliant lover
    Never to be his bride

    Her heat, her color
    Set his frigid heart afire
    One day a year
    No time to amorously conspire

    They met at sunrise
    His breath came out as steam
    She shuddered as he touched her
    Fulfillment of her dream

    Winter, he rued the day
    His lover he found
    One last kiss he gave her
    As Autumn’s lips fluttered to the ground.

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    1. This is a great testament. Lots of beauty in here. You always stick the last line, how do you do that?

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    2. So lovely. Beautiful last line like it was sealed with a kiss!

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    3. It was beautiful. And a little sad.

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    4. "As Autumn's lips fluttered to the ground" -- what a great line. Glad that photo inspired you. :)

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    5. thanks! and thanks to Lynne for the photo inspiration!

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    6. Saw the photo, Love the story, Like Persephone's kiss good by as she sank into the underworld..

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  3. The dreams come when I least expect them. When I can’t sleep for days then fall into a coma. At first, I thought they were healing. But they are not that. Not that at all.

    They began with images of my childhood. The house I grew up in. The dog that went everywhere with me. The tree I climbed and fell out of. Then they progressed to present day, through grade school, and high school, and university. When the dreams of my wedding began, something didn’t feel right. The minister kept saying “Till death do us part.” Over and over again. When I lifted Susan’s veil to kiss her, her mouth was covered in blood. And she was smiling.

    When we turned to walk out of the church, all of the guests had knives. Machetes really. The ones closest to the aisle were aiming at us; those further away hacked at each other and there was maniacal laughter.

    When the cold sweats woke me from the wedding dreams, I tried to find a reason for them. What in my present life would change one of the most beautiful memories I had to one of the most horrific nightmares I’d ever experienced? It wasn’t the job… that was going well. It wasn’t Susan. She’d never been happier. Our sex life had never been better.
    So good, in fact, that we were expecting: a daughter, and only four weeks to go.

    I fell into a restless sleep again, without finding any answers. And the dream that followed… I think it was a dream… it couldn’t have been real… Susan was in the hospital, the maternity ward, and they had her strapped down because she was struggling… from pain? Her screams were deafening.

    I watched, waiting for our little daughter to enter the world… and instead, knives, long knives cut Susan’s stomach, from the inside. The sharp blade hacked its way through her alabaster skin until there was room for a demon head to poke out. My own screams joined Susan’s.

    I jumped out of bed, not caring if I woke her or not. But she was still. And the bed was wet. Had her water broken? I reached to turn on the lamp, and found the knife on the table. The bed was soaked in blood. And Susan was dead. I was dreaming… wasn’t I?

    [thanks to a certain author who gave me a nightmarish tale about cannibalism for inspiring this]

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    1. Holy SHIT! Now, THAT is creepy. A lesser man would steal this piece from you. ;) Awesome and terrifying. :)

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    2. I've had similar dreams, while pregnant. It's creepy enough to have lived through, but you brought it all roaring back along with chills and certain queasy feeling. Well done.

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    3. Fun times! I actually laughed in places Leland which is my only defense against nightmares.

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    4. Holy cats. That was quite the twist at the end there. O.o

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    5. Yes, I laugh at nightmares, too... and Ann, that's interesting... I wondered about whether women had nightmares like that... I know I would! Thanks for the kind words!

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    6. Dreams and nightmares most definitely the psychic axis of the moment. Great job!

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  4. Don't talk at me, talk to me. I'm not your fucking kid - you're not a scout leader. I'm fucking older than you for one thing. And I'm not an asshole, so age ain't the only thing I got going for me. And I ain't putting on airs. I don't think old means wise, I just think you're a pontificating piece of worthless shit.

    Sure, it's harsh. Life is harsh. What do you want - I don't speak in your jargon because it's coated in lies. And I may be old, but I'm no liar.

    Tell me again about the mortgage payments. Your kids. Your wife. And I'll keep imagining how it would all change if they found out what you do when you're out of the house. The lies you tell and the young women you con.

    But go ahead, keep talking at me.

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    1. Heh. I think I have worked for that pontificating slime.

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    2. I might have, too. Too bad we can't say this sort of thing to the guy's face, isn't it?

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  5. A purple finch is angry - right outside the window, could be the sparrows or the noise or a bad morning. Surely, birds have bad mornings, too. Maybe ate a windfall nectarine fermented a little too long. Someone give that bird a Gatorade.

    Or maybe it's the heat. Everybody's cranky. Maybe the bird is worried about the drought. While we 'ah jeez, what a shame, well ... shorter showers...' the bird knows. Taking dust baths and straight freaking out. The sky is falling motherfuckers! Chicken Little is already dead. And there ain't nothing falling from the sky except wildfire smoke.

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    1. Dust baths for all! and yeah, the sky IS falling.

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    2. "Someone give that bird a Gatorade." Loved this little aviary ditty.

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    3. Poor birds... Hopefully you guys are getting some rain now.

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    4. Cranks the angst. But what if the birds really do know? Not like the canary in the coal mine was some sort of fluke...But I'm in a mood today....

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  6. She took the lid off the pot and used the wooden spoon her mother had given her to taste the stew. Hmm. Not bad. She was glad she started the stew early. The cut of meat she used was plenty tough. The things she had to do to stretch a dollar. Could use a little salt, no, wait, Old Bay Seasoning! The celery in the spice would make the stew perfect! The carrots were almost done, which was her way of knowing when the whole stew was ready.

    She looked at the clock. A half hour till the kids would be home. Forty-five minutes until her husband would walk through the door. She retreated to their bedroom to change clothes and freshen up her make-up. She might not be Donna Reed, but she was a good cook, and she DID wear pearls when they were having a special dinner. She skipped the perfume. It would interfere with the delicious smell of dinner.

    Sally and Mike walked through the door. She didn’t even have to scold them about running in the house.

    “Is she here yet? Is she?”

    “Now, now, let’s use our indoor voices. How was school today? What did you learn?”

    Binomial expressions? Truth tables? My goodness, what were they teaching children these days? As they summarized their days, she fixed a martini—dry—for her beloved husband. She’d just plopped the olive into the glass when he walked through the door. Such a handsome man, and hers! All hers! He kissed her on the cheek, and she kissed him back.

    “I’m starved, and whatever we’re having for dinner smells delicious!”

    “Why don’t you all go wash your hands, and we’ll get started.”

    When they returned, she’d dished up the stew in their finest china, and everyone looked at the empty place setting. So unlike Grandma to be late!

    Husband dearest took a bit of the stew and pronounced it the best he’d had. So did Sally and Mike. Sally, however, grimaced as she bit down. She stuck her fingers into her mouth.

    “Darling, when removing something from one’s mouth, one uses whatever put it in. You can use the spoon to retrieve it.”

    Sally was having none of it. In her fingers, something shiny. Her eyes opened wide in recognition. “You said we were having Grandmother for dinner!”

    “Yes, darling. Isn’t she delicious!”

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    1. Oh no, what have I done... ;) This is a great piece. I was expecting the ending, but that actually made the build up stronger, I think. I love the small details, forgoing perfume...

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    2. I'm thinking a Cannibal Cookbook would be a good idea for a collection of horror flash...

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    3. Sneaky...I think it's almost a cultural archetype. That June Cleaver thing gone wild.I occasionally have Martha Stewart fantasies where I off the DH with high cholesterol and saturated fats....But it's DELICIOUS!

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    4. Another O.o from me. You guys are having too much fun with this stuff. :D

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    5. Bad influences... that's what I blame it on.

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  7. Jacob was bitter, very bitter. He was this close to escaping poverty, that vicious cycle he was stuck in, because his dad was born poor and black in San Francisco’s Western Addition, and only avoided getting chewed up and spit out by the crack game because he joined the Army and got chewed up and spit out by war instead, and his mom was born poor and black in Columbus, Georgia, and her best chance of a reasonably stable lower-middle class life was to marry one of the soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Benning.

    Just shy of completing his second year at the very respectable Northwestern University, he could almost taste the comforts of a white collar job, tantalized by the HR reps from prominent marketing firms in Chicago and New York giving him their business cards and urging him to call them when he graduated. His father was already dead by then, but he honestly didn’t care all that much, that fool was dead inside for years before that. But when his mother died, not only did that get to him a great deal more, but to add insult to injury, it necessitated him leaving college to come home and look after his younger sister and brother. And since he couldn’t find a job that paid a living wage in the insatiably-expensive Bay Area, they soon resorted to crime.

    So it became something of a sore spot for Jacob, when conservative news media insinuated that crime came naturally to black men, when ‘thug’ was used as an implied racial slur. He would grouse, “yeah, no shit I got to be a thug. Y’all think I’m doin’ this shit for fun?”, take another slug of King Cobra, and add, “fuck all y’all.”

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    1. I really like this piece, D. And it's got legs, for sure. I want more. And this is fucking awesome: "only avoided getting chewed up and spit out by the crack game because he joined the Army and got chewed up and spit out by war instead"

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    2. ^^^Yeah I liked that line too and it set up the rhythm for the rest nicely.

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    3. I especially like the sense of this character who does everything" right" only to have the world as they know it, crumble, almost beneath their feet. I think its what a lot of folks are feeling now, so keep writing to it.

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  8. At first, all I saw was a leaf on the warm, late summer sidewalk. But then the leaf spoke.

    "Chilly enough for you?" it said in a rich contralto, parting along the spine to form lips.

    To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. "I..." I could manage nothing more. But as I stared at the apparition, a sharp breeze blew across my knees, revealing black eyes slanted in merriment, a hint of a nose, curls the color of aspens in the fall.

    Her mouth parted again. "Just wait," the leaf said. "It will get colder." And indeed, the crimson lips were now tinged with black. Frost rimed her golden curls.

    "Who are you?" I managed at last.

    But she didn't reply. Instead, she laughed and said, "Stay warm." And as I crossed my arms against a sudden chill, a gust blew the leaf away.

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    1. Woah, I like this one a lot. I have goosebumps and it's like 90 degrees. No joke. Well played!

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    2. Well done! and perfect for the photo you shared!

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    3. You put me in mind of the Fae who hide all around us, revealing themselves in little ways that no one else would believe.

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    4. Lovely piece. The imagery was compelling.

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    5. Thanks! Ann, I think you're right -- she must have been fae.

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    6. BEautifully, yet subtly done. Both captures the wonder and fear of a change of season.The magic of Nature and our kinda primal fear of it.

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  9. Go ahead and hit me. Go ahead and yell, scream as loud as you can - screams to bring the sirens - I want to hear the handcuff clink. So, it's worth it. Hit me again and I'll laugh louder. Call me a whore and I'll smile, waiting for the knuckles, baring teeth.

    It doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't. This can go on for eternity, but it won't. Surely, someone will hear, and someone will care. And if not, fuck them. It doesn't matter.

    Your face. I wish you could see your face. You try to twist it fierce, but you look like a petulant child. And I am enjoying this. You are not, and that makes it all the more worthwhile. The tables have been turned, fuck the other cheek. I can take it. As long as it takes. Until cuff clink becomes cell clank - you'll die in there, and you'll have me to thank.

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    1. Classic MaderRap, with violence, and a dash of hope thrown in...

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    2. Abusee turned abuser... interesting twist of mind.

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    3. "Until cuff clink becomes cell clank" -- great line!

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  10. When four-year-old Carlo Azzari came to Ellis Island from Italy, he saw from out on the Atlantic, the Lady in the Harbor taller than any village woman he had ever seen before.

    He stood next to his mother, both of them anxious to leave ship and touch terra firma again.

    Suddenly he began to cry, not in fear, but for the Lady with the torch.

    His mother asked, “Carlo, what is wrong?” And her pride and joy replied,. “The poor signora, doesn’t she get tired of holding up her arm?”

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    1. I love the balance of tension, hope, and empathy here. Brilliant conservation of language. Spare and strong!

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    2. And I love the innocence of the sweet little boy, worried for Lady Liberty... beautiful.

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  11. The man on her front stoop looks confused, like he has suddenly discovered that he’s at the wrong house, or in the wrong century, or that he needs to use the telephone to let someone know the bus he’d planned on taking was the wrong one all along. He has a broken down face, flesh loose on the bone, age spots she longs to bleach away with lemon juice or a magic eraser. But she’d always been the retoucher of things, the one to make things lovely, cutting away the blemishes on the apples and spinning bad tidings into opportunities, much to the eye-rolling of her sarcastic grandchildren.

    “May I help you?” she asks, but he seems beyond all mortal help, his eyes lost in that wrong century, his mind already on that misbegotten bus.

    He glances at a piece of paper in a wobbling hand, then at her. “I’m sorry.”

    She tries for a soothing grin, a softening of her brow, a few slow blinks to put him at ease. “Beg pardon?”

    “Exactly.” He clears his throat, stands up straighter, adjusts the hitch of his trousers that top out above his waist. Or where his waist once was. “I’m here to beg your forgiveness.”

    His eyes are pale blue, spider-webbed with burst capillaries, and something in them touches an old file drawer of unresolved complaints. Her mouth tightens. “That,” she says, “Is between you and your conscience. Don’t you think?”

    His lips work together, as does his thick hedge of white eyebrow, and words don’t form. Perhaps knowing this, he nods, and she returns the gesture.

    “How long,” she says.

    He shrugs, eyes lifted, as if counting the months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, then gives up. “A few months, six if I’m lucky. Look.” He taps the paper, lips pursing as if the tasks written upon them are her fault. “I have a lot of stops to make, and this isn’t easy.”

    She shakes her head. “Asking forgiveness is not supposed to be easy.”

    “But you were the nice one. Always the nice one.”

    Too nice, she thinks. Always too nice. She could make him suffer. Make him quote her chapter and verse, take inventory of all the things he has done, like a Roman emperor vote thumbs up or down on each act, each disappointment, each cruelty. Each time he criticized her or blamed her for his mistakes; each time he made her stay late or work on the Sabbath to cover for his failings, his sins. But on this day, she has her own list, her own need to forgive, and he is there now, a footnote growing larger.

    She mentally dusts those old files, corrects the punctuation, tidies up the papers in the folders, and slides the drawer closed. “Come inside,” she says. “We’ll talk.”

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    1. I love your characterization. You make these people so real!

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    2. What you can do with a meeting between two characters... ANY two characters... knocks my socks off. Dammit, I already care about them both!

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    3. Agreed. They jump off the page. Awesome.

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    4. This was a striking piece. Wanted more. loved her sympathy in the beginning..."a few slow blinks to put him at ease."

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    5. What everybody else said. I wanna hear the rest of the story! :)

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    6. Exactly! Who ARE they? Enquiring minds want to know!

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  12. Norman raised his head, the dull glow of his eyes brightening. “I suppose 'Sir' needs yet more time to consider his order,” he said, his monotone barely masking his contempt. “Not that you haven't already had time enough for me to calculate the total number of molecules in the space-time continuum and then postulate and develop a system of quantitative mathematics to unify their interrelating forces.”

    The leader of the Balthusian choir at sitting at table nine nodded vaguely, his elbows stickily sliding backward and forward on the Transplex surface. “Yesssh,” he said. “More time. If you pleash.” He eructated noisily and the robot retreated, rolling beyond the limits of the gas cloud billowing around the choir-master.

    “If 'Sir would prefer, I can recommend an activated-carbon wafer to chew upon,” Norman suggested, wondering how soon he could book himself in for a fresh facial anodization. “Or maybe I could fetch your coats,” he said, looking hopefully toward the door.

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    1. let's hear it for robot rebellion! and fast food servers deserve respect! thanks for this... it made me smile... in a sad way...

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    2. Word. Really enjoyed this one. I like the way you subvert genre while maintaining a level of respect. Leaves us wondering...

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    3. Douglas Adams would approve, I think. :)

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    4. Thanks so very much, folks! I really loved the H2G2 books. I'm sure you can tell that!

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  13. Something has changed in the world; the hallucinatory sunsets began to scream.

    There might have been a soul or two on that beach with an inkling as to what that change was exactly, but right now, at that precise moment, I didn't care. I was sprawled beside one of the many beach fires that sparked like neutrinos in a dark collider against a starfield backdrop that would make a dead man gasp. Best of all, I was sprawled beside Athena, the most charming and alluring woman I'd ever known.

    The bleached beige sand was racetrack flat and disappeared into a darkening charcoal distance, while occasional black rock promontories tumbled haphazardly into the sea. Everywhere across the gently curving bay, beachwood sparks danced and lunged in the light breeze like firefly wars. A moderate surf broke and rumbled over the sand, hissing as it ebbed, leaving grey skeins of its cool breath along the tideline.

    A warm fall day had cooled quickly, some kind of belated portent, we guessed.

    "They saw orcas in the harbour this week." Athena was still and her shadowed face seemed sculpted.

    "Th-that's not all that unusual."

    "No. But grey whales last week. Some of the guys on the boats saw walrus on the rocks. Walrus! In the sound! Yet the sockeye? They're ghosts this year."

    I sighed. Tried to find her eyes with mine, to see. But she was looking down, watching the fire and its primal quantum dance.

    Someone a few fires down strummed an acoustic six string, sang a gentle song I couldn't quite make out as the breeze carried it to us then whipped it away like a tease, like someone stuttering.

    "Blaze, something's incredibly wrong."

    Suddenly I didn't want this conversation.

    The power had gone out a while back. We all knew how to live without extravagance on this sly and gentle coast—prided ourselves on it, in fact—but our carefree grid-free days had stretched well beyond the worst-case forty-eight hours we normally contended with out here in our happy isolation. Power out. Internet gone. Phones dead. Radio silent. Most of us feigned serenity, and many had generators and the disaster supplies you'd expect in earthquake and tsunami country, yet we were becoming ever more unnerved. Most of the tourists had already left—no one was coming this way, including deliveries—but a carload of our people had followed the visitors out, heading for Port Argyll, to see if they could get word of the world.

    That was nine days ago and none had returned.

    Two days after the big darkness had come, two men had taken a boat southeast down the forty kilometre spit of land on which we made our home, to the only other small settlement here, Coal Inlet. They came back with hollow eyes and told us that, aside from the odd baying dog—one of whom they'd brought along out of pity—and the slick black crows and the dream-white herring gulls lined up on the stunted coastal trees and the shit-bespattered rooftops like the precursors to some strange board game, the entire village was empty of life.

    From the dark, a burgeoning silhouette against the heavenly splash of our galaxy materialized into a man, and he squatted between us. His name was William Tom, or Billy T to his friends, a Nuu-chah-nulth man who'd helped us construct our home and taken no payment but daily food and water back when we decided to drop our shallow roots into a land on which living trees—great Western red cedar, stately Sitka spruce, and solemn Douglas fir—had been mere saplings when the stubborn Nazarene was hung on a tree of his own.

    "Some say it's the saltchuck," he said quietly. "She rebels. Me, I don't think so. At least, the great ocean is only a part of it, and not the full tale."

    Athena nodded at him and said, "It's time we talked openly about this."

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    1. To be continued, I hope. (This one wants to keep going.)

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    2. It's phenomenally good. But that's the norm for you!

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    3. Intriguing... This had better keep going! :D

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    4. Yep, up to the usual Antrobus standards... and also I beg you to continue...

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    5. Yeah, terrifying as the prospect is, this one needs to keep going for sure. Really well played, DA.

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    6. If this one does want to keep going, you had better listen to it. Nice job, David.

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  14. I sit and watch him gather his stuff, seething inside, hating his other family, and in that deep dark place that I don't talk about, wondering if he will come back this time. I want to cry, or yell at him, or hit him. Something. Anything to get him to stay. To get him to open up to me.

    But I've done it all. Tried it all. I hate him, and I love him, and he's my whole damn world. But he's pulling farther away by the second. And I don't know how to stop it. So I do nothing. I sit on the hood of his beat-up truck and watch him get ready to go out with them. His people. His gang. The people who have come between us. Cut my lifeline.

    I can feel myself slipping away, into the void of his world. I can't bring myself to get angry any more. It just makes things worse; fractures our world that much more. But sitting here like a good little girl makes me feel weak. And he's still slipping away. Now I'm just passively accepting it.

    He comes over to kiss me, and I let him. I just can't bring myself to kiss him back. He looks at me funny, but doesn't say anything. He just shakes his head and leaves. And I burst into tears.

    A few minutes later I hear our little boy calling for me. A few deep breaths and I'm calm again. Sure I'm screaming inside, but there's no reason our kids need to know that.

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    1. Ah, the struggle between what we feel and what we let people see... this beautifully illustrates that....

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    2. Yup, I agree. There is a special sadness in hiding your pain from your kids. You captured it well.

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    3. And the non-parent (me) always asks... why do parents hide the pain? Isn't it good for kids to know that their parents have feelings like love and fear?

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    4. Yeah, to a point. It's a weird balancing act, for sure.

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    5. What a sad, frustrating place to be. Nice job, Erin.

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    6. I talk to my daughter about this all the time. How weirdly enouhg, we somehow depend on our men to "get it" and wind up having to define relationship for ourselves before we can try to define to anyone else. It can be a lonely place, even in a partnership.

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  15. I didn't plan on being a hooker. Julia said it best in that ridiculous fairy tale movie. No little girl dreams of being a girl of the night when she grows up. It's not so bad, though. My folks were druggies and the system isn't so nice to cute little girls. At least as a streetwalker I choose who I sleep with, and I get paid.

    But it's lonely sometimes. I can't bear having a John, and sometimes the clients take advantage of the fact that they're stronger than me. That's when it's the worst. But there are other times, too. I miss being around normal people. Even in the subway and on the street they avoid me. It's like that scarlet "A" is tattooed on my forehead. I don't dress like a tramp when I'm off the clock. Maybe that's one of the reasons I stand out. Most of the teens do dress like utter sluts these days.

    I like to read, too. So few people like to read anymore. They prefer TV, or endlessly staring at their phones or tablets. I miss the good old days.

    I know that selling sex for money isn't considered an honorable profession, and maybe that's why he did it. Maybe that's why the man in the mask shot me in the chest as he ran by. Because he didn't respect me. The cops chasing him didn't even slow down to check on me or help.

    So my life ended at 25. There are worse things, I suppose. The only thing I could think of as I watched the pool of blood grow larger was that I'd never finish "War and Peace". I'd been reading that book, off and on since I was ten. I was a hundred or so pages from the end, and I'd never get to know how it ended.

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    1. Ahhh... a sweet tale from the other side... and heaven has a special place for those who do their best... and there's a library, where you can read War and Peace in the original Russian. Thanks for sharing this sweet story.

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    2. This is a sad piece. That War&Peace tie in works so well. Illustrates the futility perfectly.

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  16. The last day of summer, the last cutting of hay. Chaff, or maybe a bug falls across Chuck’s chest, pecs he’d worked on all year and for what? He leaves for college on Monday, and his best buddy Jeff leaves for San Diego. Jeff. A Marine. Who would have guessed?

    The last bale is stacked, and they head back to the barn, fast side-eyes given from one to the other and back again. When Levi Strauss invented 501s, he must have had these two boys in mind.

    “So, you nervous?” Chuck asked Jeff.

    “About basic? Nah. Coach worked us harder than they could ever try. You nervous?”

    “About college? Hell, no. Walk in the park. I’m a genius,” Chuck’s smile lifted Jeff’s heart.

    The hay under their boots swished as they walked, katydids and crickets sang in the dusk.

    “Ma says you should stay for dinner.”

    “That’d be nice.”

    “Hey…” They both turned at the same time, both said at the same time. “You go first,” again in unison and then they laughed. It’d been like this since kindergarten, when they met.

    Chuck started. “I’ve got one question. One question only. If I’d ever had the guts to ask…”

    Jeff interrupted, “… me to kiss you? Hell yeah.”

    “How’d you…”

    But Jeff put his hand behind Chuck’s head, and silenced him in the best way possible.

    Fourth of July came late that year, but the fireworks were awesome.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, I love this one. The 501s and another landing stuck perfectly.

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    2. I had to do something to get the bad taste of cannibalism out of my mouth.

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    3. Awww. Nice. And I love that second paragraph so hard.

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    4. Yeah, the line about the 501s is gold. Nice job.

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  17. He hung his head and tried to rub the pain out of his shoulders, probably making it worse. Death. That was all he wanted. So simple, yet it wasn't. Not now. And that was part of the ache. There were so many opportunities he'd let pass him by. And now it was too late to die.

    It didn't even have to be death - any kind of blankness would work. But it couldn't be his doing, so he knew he would have to wait until the doctors came in with their grim faces - he wondered if he'd have the strength left to dance a jig.

    Life is precious. Life is a gift. Only problem is if all gifts end up making you sad - perhaps the only wisdom Holden gave us. The things we expect to make us happy will always let us down. But time would do it if he could hold on. And he would enter the void blameless, guilt free. Perhaps a martyr. Maybe not. It wouldn't matter - finally, nothing would matter.

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    1. Sigh... now looking for sharp objects.... but seriously, this is dark, sad, and thoughtful...

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    2. Man, I hope those docs have some good news for this guy...

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  18. Time is the gesticulating joker - the push/pull of sadness, a prelude to madness. Time is a rider who never spares the whip. Time speaks like a sledgehammer with the rare insightful quip. Time is my nightmare fear, the metronomic torture that everyone can hear.

    Every day takes a little more away, energy, hope, empathy. They are noble in their way, but time opens and closes the day. And dark to light and back again, you can fight and hope somehow you'll win. And you might, but time wins - harmony to your throat, clutched tight.

    Heartbeat and head throb, take your medicine, do your job. There will come a day when there's no more time to rob. Take your chances, enjoy the spontaneous dances.

    Be glad you don't know time yet, there's still a few years to enjoy your debt.

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    1. Word. I want to be that young again, to not know time.

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    2. So little time, so much debt... and I loved "metronomic"... whatever happened to all those metronomes that used to sit atop the pianos? Does anyone besides musicians still have pianos?

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    3. No, because they're too freaking expensive to move. :D Everybody has electronic keyboards now.

      I like this as a counterpoint to the dying guy: Take your chances, even though all gifts suck in the end. :)

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  19. Clouds sit in the windless blue, they are frozen - stymied by the heat and silence. You watch them hover, motionless, and your eyes ache. It is a sad and wonderful ache, the soundtrack to a day which will someday be forgotten like the rest.

    Beneath the sun and clouds, children play games that adults will never understand. Adults drag themselves around with a weight that seems silly to skipping feet. Young lovers avert their eyes, watching everything but the obvious. It is hard to stare at something so bright. The heat burns your eyes.

    There is a smell of spice dancing through the stillness. You pull the brim of your hat down and smile a rueful smile. You are thinking about a girl you used to know. How you once thought, 'you're ruining this for both of us' - you realize, now, that she made the right choice.

    You fret and worry. You laugh maniacally. You sit and stew and cry and you want to see something grand. An explosion. A butterfly migration - something to stunt the gleaming stagnation.

    You feel the sweat down the center of your back and smile. Some things never change.

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    1. Ah, true love... this is really, really good.

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  20. Another stick on the fire. Sparks shot up to meet the falling stars. Two shadows on opposite sides of the campfire.

    “I’m sorry you don’t want to be here.”

    “I didn’t say I didn’t want to be here.”

    “You said you weren’t having fun.”

    “Not everything is fun, you know?”

    “If it isn’t, it oughta be.”

    “Such a little boy attitude.”

    His resentment was nearly as hot as the fire.

    She moved to his side of the fire. Stood behind him. Massaged his shoulders.

    “Out of body experiences aren’t necessarily fun.”

    “That’s what you’re having?”

    “None of this seems real. I mean, look at that.” She pointed to the stars. “I never even believed the Milky Way existed. Never thought I’d be camping under it, anyway.”

    “But it’s good?”

    “It’s great. It’s more than fun. That’s what I was trying to say. Better than fun.”

    He felt only one hand on his shoulders now.

    “But this,” she said as she drew the knife across his throat. “This is fun.”

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    Replies
    1. Holy cats, I did not see that coming. Well played, with your dreamy dialogue.

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    2. I didn't see it coming, either. You're full of twists today, Leland -- yikes!

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    3. ::sharpening knives:: you think so?

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    4. Oh. I like this one. Blindsided.

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  21. A few more than two minutes, but something I wanted to share:

    Dear author, confidentially,
    I’ve had the opportunity
    To peruse your latest tome
    About the final sack of Rome
    Or was it romance in the air
    Between two alpha billionaires?
    A clone of the latest big bestseller
    Paranormal fortuneteller?
    A steampunk Valley of the Dolls?
    Amish gangsters and their molls?
    While it’s brilliant, shows such pluck
    It won’t help me make a buck.
    Sorry for the frank report
    There’s just too much mail to sort.
    So thanks but no thanks, author friend,
    And with this query I will send
    My suggestion you self-publish
    Check out Facebook, Twitter, Bublish
    If you do well, please advise
    Because I’d like to cut my ties.
    See, there’s a novel in my head.
    (Seinfeld meets The Walking Dead.)
    I’m dying to get out of here.
    Publish more than once a year.
    Write the book I damn well please
    And get bigger royalties.

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  22. "Allow me to illuminate you as to the precarious situation which you are currently experiencing. On your present course, it will not disperse. It will only grow more intense, worse nigh unto your ruination if you do not act change your ways." She stood solidly before the merchant, no sign of unease in her mien.

    "How might I do that?" he asked, clearly not taking her seriously.

    "Leave the matter of the slave market alone. Your monarch will appreciate your support," she said firmly, calmly.

    "And if I choose not to comply?"

    "You may find yourself removed from the equation altogether, your family along with you, and your properties seized by the Crown to be placed in the hands of a caretaker until it might be properly dealt with."

    "Properly?" he asked at her seeming audacity. "Dealt with?"

    "Auctioned off to the highest bidders, I would imagine, down to the last candlestick and the last chicken."

    "He would not dare!" Outrage flared toward the messenger. His hands slammed down against his desk, his body rising menacingly from the chair.

    "You underestimate the power of the Crown - "

    "That pirate is a madman!" he spat at her.

    "- or overestimate your own." She took a breath, giving him a moment to collect himself.Her own voice remained cold and calm. "And, no, sir. That privateer was elevated to monarch, in part by your own hand. Too bad he turned out to be so good at the job. The island flourishes under his ministration."

    "I intend to support that growth by creating new commerce!" He thumped heavily back into the chair. The wood groaned under his weight.

    "You intend to drag us down to the dogs." A light of impatience flared in her eyes.

    "You presume too much!" he shouted.

    "Indeed not. I follow my orders."

    "You are one of them, then! One of that odious crew of his!"

    "Guess again. Unlike you I may be employed by this monarchy, but I am not part of that 'odious crew' by any means. And I have it on excellent authority that they all bathe regularly."

    "What?" Good. She had thrown him off balance.

    "Merely pointing out another fallacy in your logic. Now, will you accede to the terms, or will you be... dealt with?"

    "I will consider it," he said, his thoughts whirling dizzingly through his brain, plots and counter plots swelling and receding as he gnawed on the issue.

    Like a striking snake, her hand flashed out toward his face. A thin line of blood appeared high on his cheekbone.

    "I hope this will aid you in some small way to bear up under the strain of the torrent you face."

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    1. Some days, 2 minutes kinda gets carried away...

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    2. Wow! I can almost taste the blood!

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    3. Ooh, awesome scene. I want more of this story. :)

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    4. For real! I love the back and forth. This want wants to explode.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. She stared at the phone. She stared and stared as if a look could bring it to life. Shutting her eyes with a slight twist of her head, she sighed deeply. Then in a profound moment of sad acknowledgment she admitted something to herself. This was a foolish way to spend what could have been an interesting evening. If she’d gone with Linda to the Seawitch Bar, they could have laughed and talked about their lives and men, like the old days, before Cam. She liked the place because the gigantic aquarium provided an endless amount of eye entertainment like most fishy abodes. It reminded her of a movie. The camera would pan out and the aquarium behind the bar where the protagonist sat would house a large water dweller like a dolphin or a shark or perhaps even several girls in skimpy bikinis depending on the type of movie it was.
    Her eyes opened and drifted back to the phone. Nothing. She wondered if this was finally the end of her and Cam. He’d brought her home three nights ago after the party but never got out of the car. Never said a word. But she hadn’t expected him to. If Cam spent anytime at all discussing his anger openly it would have been completely out of character -- like a modern day circus clown in an black Armani suit instead of her Cam. Squeezing her bare thighs together she spoke out loud to herself, “Lord, I already miss him. How long is he going to punished me?” That her phone rang in that moment was such a deep relief she almost sobbed. She grabbed the phone then nearly dropped it, her hands were shaking so badly.
    It was him. Her lips were as dry as the Kalahari. Licking them, she took a breath, cleared her throat and answered the phone.
    “Hello?”
    “What are you wearing?”
    Rajene waited a beat. She didn’t believe that was a carnal inquiry but she still had to swallow the immediate eros she felt hearing his voice as well as her desperate need to know if they were over.
    “One of my sun dresses.”
    “Which one?”
    “The orange one.”
    His silence was nerve wracking.
    “I’d like you to change into something else and meet me downstairs in front of your building. Unless you have other plans.”
    “No, I don’t have other plans. But . . .”
    “Later. We’ll talk when I see you. Can you be ready in twenty minutes?”
    “Ye . . .yes but. . .but what should I wear?”
    “Something you don’t care about. Something you don’t mind getting dirty.”
    He didn’t say goodbye. He rarely did on the phone or in person. His goodbyes in person were so physical they often left her breathless. But in the case of three nights ago his muteness only left her warmly embarrassed and unsure of herself. Later she realized she felt invisible.
    She was glad he hadn’t ended it on the phone or in a message. Seeing him, talking to him again would help her deal with all of it better. Maybe.

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    1. WAIT! THEN what happens! I want to read the rest of it! You pulled me in!

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    2. I'm with Leland. That's a wicked trick to pull. :) Really tight.

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  25. Straight up from my semi-conscious, work beat, crisis management self. Seriously I should a keep a journal instead of subjecting others to this stuff. But the dream was SO fascinating to me. I couldn't shut up...Be kind...

    I had a dream about this Pope Francis, the common dude, insisting he walk through the crowds. And in my dream, we all thought it was about his blessing, never realizing that it was only by touch he could vanquish the darkness, never knowing his secret knowledge; that Satan was real and always incarnate, and only vanquished by the touch of one holy man.

    The Pontiff’s destiny had not made him unhappy; it was his time and it was it his job.

    Yet he had to find this ancient enemy; the prophecies were brutally clear about that. Unbeknownst to us of course, this was truly the world’s last chance. So he’d ventured forth to shake the hands of Senators and Presidents, made the speeches and said the words. Only to turn from the pomp and circumstance and give up the free Congressional luncheon to endure the endless, sloppy embraces of skinny children and weeping women and broken men; the homeless, unholy trinity of the poor and the weak and the truly diseased. It gave them hope and he was grateful. For if they knew the prophecies, they would surely hope no more.

    Within himself, Francis felt he was surely some imposter—one old man behind a curtain, the pawn of some impartial god. In that, he was like me and a little like you, just crying, fraud. Still he traveled, ever forward, seeking them; touching them, blessing and cursing them, always looking deeper than the tears in their eyes. We did not know he was seeking his enemy, that this was more than some photo opp, written by ancients, before we were born.

    Faith can be ignorant and utterly innocent, yet it is powerful. Fear is powerful, too. Somebody is selling the shoes of Leo the 13th, the first to hit the media on Pawn Stars tonight. The shoes of the Fisherman are up for sale, his hat and his mitre too. The experts can’t estimate whether or not, the value of these items is actually true.

    I ain’t especially Catholic but neither can I, and neither can you.
    Yet I had that dream, and I wrote it down. Where Francis took the hand of Satan incarnate and they were both just some guys who knew stuff we did not?

    Both of them burned to the ground in my dream and their ashes combined to form something new. Do you have the courage to wear those shoes, the hat or the mitre, Or are you hiding, too?


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    1. Wow.... that's a cool dream! and I like the questions you ask!

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    2. This is an amazing piece of writing, T. Love it.

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  26. I had that dream again. The one that ends with the whistle of a faraway train, lost and forlorn against the night.

    Sitting up in bed, soaked in cold sweat despite the heat of the night. Waiting for my heart to stop pounding.

    There had been a scream in the night. I listen, but there's nothing but the steady drum of rain against the roof tiles.

    I fumble in the dark for my flashlight. It's a comforting weight in my hand, the metal cool against my skin.

    That reassurance is lost as I crack open the door. The rain has almost washed the blood away, but there's still a trace on the doorstep, slowly swirling away. Lost.

    The darkness swallows the narrow beam of light, and I feel the night's predatory breath against the back of my neck.

    I jump back, slamming the door. Too late. It's already in here with me.

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    1. I really like this. This spacing plays a deceptive trick...you created so much story with so few words here. Really impressive.

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  27. As always, your brilliance amazes me!

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