Friday, December 11, 2015

2 Minutes. Go!

First things first. I have been without internet the last two weeks. HUGE thanks to Laurie Boris for hosting in my absence! You're aces, lady. And I'm glad everyone kept playing. I missed playing, but I'm back! So...

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. 

He says good morning like he's chewing rocks, and I smile - I know what 'good morning' means. It means 'I'd like to smash your teeth in with this wrench, but I got rent to pay..." and sometimes, just it's just 'fuck you.' It's never good though - it's like when the cold water from the shower surprises you. It's a shock every time, even though it shouldn't be. 

But I smile and nod and simper and say something sort of like 'good morning' which actually means 'what the hell, man?' I realize life shit in your backyard, but that didn't have nothing to do with me. I'm just trying to get through the day. I got rent to pay.

But, mostly, I ignore it. It's like the smell you can never place, but have to live with. It's like the folks who honk their horn .3 seconds after the light turns green. It's like cancer. It's like banana bruises. You live with that shit, because, well, no one ever offered you a choice. 

There might not even be one.




  1. You don't want to play by the rules, but you don't mind making them. And they're always changing, and you always got some kind of slick answer for that - it makes me feel sad. I bet you didn't know that because my sad looks angry.

    Everything has got to be as important as you make it, but I don't think bullshit is that important. Sorry. Throw up a yellow card, I'll take one for the team.

    There are trees that are older than you. Shit, I own boxer shorts older than you. I probably shit older than you. But you're stoop-shouldered, worried about the problems of the world. Man, your world is about three miles square.

    So, sniff back the outrage. Buck up and stiffen that lip and try to smile and fail and try again. Someday you'll have a rulebook so heavy you won't be able to walk. Sure as hell won't be able to dance. And that's when I'll grab my six gun, start shooting at the floor.

    "You know what to do, motherfucker..."

  2. The sun claws its way through the fog like a frightened animal - you can almost feel the desperation. But it's wonderful. It's like a hawk silhouette. It's like Russian Roulette. It's a game where no one wins, no one loses. The sun eats the fog, but the fog never sets.

    And don't get it twisted. It's beautiful. Struggle doesn't mean ugly, it means challenge - it means not giving up. It means following sweeps of red-winged blackbirds with your red-rimmed eyes.

    These are the days when you should sit back, kick your feet up, try to relax. Forget about old loves and income tax. Forget about the creeping pain in your back. Watch the sun eat the fog. The sun ain't about to quit and you ain't either.

    1. This sentence: "It means following sweeps of red-winged blackbirds with your red-rimmed eyes." It blows me away.

    2. Me too! I have always been weakened by the red-winged blackbird's cry! It reminds me of being 6 in Texas. :)

    3. Gorgeous! I woke up to fog, which after 10 years in the desert is gorgeous, but still, a fight for the light!

    4. "Watch the sun eat the fog." Oooh.

  3. Ah, your first piece sums up so much of life so brilliantly... we go on... we got rent to pay. Thanks!

  4. She wears her pain like Superman wears his cape, a protection against more hurt. She calls the boy’s name when she wakes up each morning, until she remembers. When it’s time for laundry, she reaches into the hamper and wonders why there aren’t more clothes. When she is at the grocer’s, she lingers in the cereal aisle, trying to remember if he likes Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms.

    She dares not look in mirrors; her x-ray vision will reveal her emptiness. Her leaps across the gullies of grief take more and more energy. The school bus that doesn’t stop at their door any more. The floor that requires almost no sweeping.

    At nights, she pulls out a cardboard box, wherein lies her kryptonite: the pictures of a son, forever five, the boy-shaped hole in her heart.

    1. Oof. This one hurts. Brilliant writing, though. I love the construction. Almost like every sentence could be it's own flash.

    2. Big tears...trying not to bring out box of Kryptonite...

    3. Oh god...
      If you've ever lost one? Don't ask me to read that again, okay?

    4. They looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear, the kind of smile only a little brother can give to a big sister.
      They both had that "double-dog dare ya" look flash in their eyes.
      This is going to be great!
      This is going to be amazing!
      This is going to be the best adventure that they ever had!
      They ran and ran!
      Fast and hard!
      They ran and they jumped and they smiled and laughed.
      They flew without wings.
      They ran so hard and fast they thought their hearts would burst from the joy of it!
      This was fun!
      This was going to be a great night!
      The moonlight sparkled on the crisp grass.
      The pavement looked like a mirror of the stars above.

      A terribly bright light...

      an undefinable sound...

      "I see a bridge!" said the little brother.
      "I see it too!" said the big sister.
      "and I hear barking and laughing,
      and *so* many dogs playing!"

      They looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear, the kind of smile only a little brother can give to a big sister.
      They both had that "double-dog dare ya" look flash in their eyes.
      This is going to be great!
      This is going to be amazing!
      This is going to be the best adventure that they ever had!

      This was going to be the best night of their lives!

      And it probably was.

      Don't know if this is to late for the day, but I'm posting it as kind of a gift to a friend, who asked me to come out and play. Thank you kind sir.

    5. And Mister Dirks, you still owe me a box of kleenex from last week!

    6. Thanks for sharing your piece! and I'll work on the Kleenex!

    7. Hmph! You owe me two from the above story! And a dang hug! :)
      Thanks for having me.

  5. The chrome and glass lobby nearly blinded his 84-year-old eyes. Still, he smiled, the medical complex bore his name, a right purchased with a billion dollars in donations. If his scientists were right, this was going to be his most profitable venture yet.

    Immortality. The fountain of youth. Regenerating a tired old body. How much would the elite of the world pay for that? He had every intention of finding out.

    “Mr. Jacobsen,” the obsequious lead researcher greeted him in the polished lab. “We’ve done it. The serum has rejuvenated a nearly dead orangutan and taken him back to adolescence. The mice trials are even more amazing…”

    “Excellent news, Howard. Where is this serum? Where are these mice? You must show me!”

    “Here, sir.” The white-coated scientist held a vial of sky-blue liquid.

    Jacobsen looked longingly at the vial, and then grabbed it from the researcher, and drank it.

    “Sir, there are… minor side-effects. I’m certain they are manageable, but….”

    Jacobsen felt a glow… a warmth all over his body. He could feel his skin tightening, his joints loosening. “Where is the men’s room? I must see!”

    Howard led him to the facilities. Jacobsen stared at himself in the mirror… the wrinkles disappeared, even his teeth were whiter, straighter. Suddenly, he felt the need to pee, and walked up to a urinal. He unzipped and looked down, took the familiar piece of flesh in his hands. “Howard! What the….”

    “Ah, yes, sir. One of those side effects we’re working on. All of the research subjects…”

    Jacobsen held up the bloody organ.

    “…Became female. It seems the immortality genes are only on the X—the female—chromosome.”

    1. Cool twist. Sometimes caution is a wise course. :)

    2. and mortality ain't bad, if that's the trade-off!

    3. Hmmm. I could comment and it's a great uhmmm piece. But I'm feeling like I might get into trouble, here. Anyway, dude. Here's to your anima!

    4. This would make a great Twilight Zone episode! The original with Rod, it needs to be black and white! Ohhh with Richard Harrison maybe?

  6. To his annoyance, Rufus did end up listening to Charlie and Lucy fuck, on the floor, in the opposite end of the train car, as it cruised through the New Mexico desert. He couldn’t get that mad at them, it was colder than he expected the desert to be, at night.

    And moreso, not only did they not mind him watching, but after they were, or rather, Charlie was, finished, she looked over at him, right in the eyes, and said, “you can have a turn too.” Rufus only hesitated for maybe a second before taking her up on the offer. He tried to show off for his buddy, but didn’t want to piss him off too much. At first Rufus thought he could strong-arm Charlie, if he had to, but that seemingly sheltered white boy had already made it clear that he wasn’t afraid to kill. He’d already shot three guys at the camp in Lubbock, so Rufus didn’t want to push his luck.

    Which is not to say he didn’t fuck with him, at all. Rufus had always had a penchant for messing with him, a little. Typically, he’d randomly hiss at Charlie, “psst, ayo, yo, Charlie…” When Charlie answered, “Yeah…?”, Rufus would whisper something like, “suckanigga’sdick!” and snicker uncontrollably, because he knew Charlie found his liberal use of the word ‘nigga’ a bit off-putting. Rufus liked to exaggerate his eccentric, occasionally unstable personality, to keep people on their toes. He also exaggerated how tough and impoverished his upbringing was; he generally either omitted, or outright lied about, his black father and white mother both being well-regarded professors of African-American Studies and biochemistry, respectively, at Ole Miss. He tended to tell people his sister lived in a shotgun shack with four kids by three dads, rather than that she was in her final year of law school at Hastings.

    1. I really like the way you subvert the beginning premise of this one.

  7. It was almost all over, except for the shouting. Simon reloaded his rifle; thankfully, by the time he served in Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, they’d retired all those notoriously-shit L85A1s and replaced them with the far more reliable German-redesigned A2s. “How many left, mate?”

    “Reckon two or three more, maybe one upstairs.” “How many is it, two or three?” “Well, call it three.” “Right. On two?” Sergeant Smith bashed the door in, rifle raised, shouting in his coarse Cockney accent, “All of you, on the floor, right fuckin’ now! Hands behind your heads or I’ll fuckin’ plug the lot of ya!”

    Once the terrified family of Iraqi civilians were all in compliance, Smith roughly grabbed one, a nice-looking teenaged girl in a plain calf-length dress and hijab, and shoved her at Simon. “Here, have a human shield, mate. Go upstairs, the man of the house is probably hiding up there, the fucking coward. I want his face on this floor, dead or alive.”

    Simon felt a bit guilty, as he marched the girl up the stairs, the muzzle of his rifle pointed almost directly at where he’d guess her anus was. He hissed in Arabic, despite knowing he was probably mangling the language, “tell your dad to lie down on the floor, face down, with his hands behind his head, or else I’ll shoot you in the arsehole.” What she said sounded like that, but Simon didn’t hear any weapons clunk to the floor, so he added, “just fucking get up there, you deal with the cunt, or you’re both dead.”

    Just as he got to the top of the stairs, a burst of automatic weapon fire, a 1960s vintage Kalashnikov from the sound of it, strafed the corridor. The girl dropped to the floor, hit at least once; if she wasn’t already dead, she would be in seconds. Startled, Simon jumped back, struggling to both raise his rifle to the ready and not fall down the stairs, barking “you fuckin’ maniac!” At least in hindsight, he understood; that bloke would rather kill his own daughter than risk being captured. But Simon had just the thing for him: a hand grenade, lobbed three-fourths of the way down the hall. Even if it didn’t actually take him out, the noise and shock would stun him momentarily, allowing Simon to quickly sweep the upper floor, find the cunt, and put a couple bullets in him.

    Then he would drag his dead, or mortally wounded, body back down the stairs, and casually report to Smith, “Got the fucker. The girl’s hit, probably dead.” But then they’d have to do it all over again: another house, another family, another set of casualties to report. Simon couldn’t decide if he hated the violence or the monotony more, but he still had about two years and eight months on his four year enlistment, and he didn’t reckon they’d let him leave early without a crippling injury or psychological trauma. On the plus side, at least he wasn’t back home, drinking his life away with the other dole bludgers.

    1. This is a bleak piece, but it rings with authenticity for sure. Less fictional than I'd like. :(

  8. I open my eyes in the dark and I see the glow of other eyes. I know it’s impossible because eyes don’t glow, they only reflect light, but still I see them. The moon is new, the clouds are heavy, no stars this night. I know whose eyes they are, too, but I won’t say the name out loud, because saying a name gives it power. I just stare it down as long as I can, till my eyes are dry from not blinking, and I finally blink and they’re gone. For now.

    I should never have opened the door. No, not the metaphorical door, the real one. Then he wouldn’t have come in. Wouldn’t have charmed me with beguiling eyes, wouldn’t have said the words I longed for and dreaded all at once.

    I shouldn’t have listened to him speak. He was wily in his honesty. Honesty is a trick, don’t ever forget that. The best liars are the ones who believe what they tell.

    There really wasn’t a choice, no other way out. I offered to make him breakfast the next morning, in my mother’s old cast iron pan. He smiled and said thanks. Manners. Manners must have been what made me open the door.

    When we were done eating, he offered to help with dishes. And that’s when the cast iron skillet hit his head. You never wash cast iron. It rusts. He should have known that if he knew all that other stuff.

    I need sleep. If I close my eyes, maybe he’ll go away. Maybe the eyes won’t glow again. If they do, Ill dig him up and gouge out those scary windows to the soul. I got a right to sleep.

  9. I am winter’s child, born in a blizzard, dressed in swaddling snow. The cold of my heart is well-earned, from that January night, and from all the nights that followed. It is not hatred, not lack of love. It is a conservation of what little I have, saving it for when it matters. Whenever that might be.

    I need not show my teeth to smile; a millimeter of lip can move and be enough, if you’re paying attention, and if you’re not, well, it doesn’t matter then. And tears need not run like rivers to be tears; an eye can glisten from an unfallen tear.

    You say I seem chilly in my relations with others. You are correct. A candle’s job is to light, not to heat. And if you’ve got shadows, brother, I’ll light them, even if you want to keep them dark.

    I am winter’s child, and when my last snow falls, when they find me In a drift, look for the glistening eye. It might be frozen, but it’s still a tear.

  10. Toshio generally, if not always, enjoyed hanging out with his younger sister. They had always been tight, even for siblings, especially after the government took their parents away. She was at least as smart as he was, pretty goddamn tough for a 15 year old Japanese girl, with a hilariously caustic sense of humor; white people often thought she was doing schtick, a comedic impression of how rude East Asians can seem to Westerners. But there wasn’t really that much deliberateness about it: she really did regard most people with contempt, and wasn’t shy about it. Shina did generally go to school, and maintained admirable academic performance, but had a reputation as a hard case: she did skip school if she had a particular reason, was notoriously profane and aggressive, even when speaking to her teachers, and didn’t hesitate to defend herself against anyone who laid an unwelcome hand on her. In fact, she proudly described herself as “128 pounds of bony-fisted fury.”

    So it bummed him out, a little, that she was getting old enough to start wanting to date. She’d come home and either gush about boys she liked at school, or complain that a boy she used to like did something to earn her disfavor, like tell shitty jokes, mistreat other girls, or merely date other girls.

    What really hammered it home, though, was when, after a really nice Mexican dinner in Rockridge, Shina bailed on him to get on the back of a scooter with some white boy in skinny jeans. He tried to dissuade her, because that kid looked like a punk-ass, but she retorted, “yeah, so you don’t have to worry about him fucking with me, because you know I’ll cut him if he acts outta pocket.” And just like that, she hopped on the back of the scooter and gave Toshio the finger, adding “don’t wait up!”, as they started rolling down the avenue, leaving him to take the train home alone.

    1. There is momentum in this piece, D. And, as usual, dialogue is on point.

  11. There is a tribe in New Zealand that has only three words for colors: black, white, and red. They live in a tropical place where green is so common, so ubiquitous, that it does not need a name. When an outsider comes, and points to a rainbow, they nod, smile, and say “red.”

    They do not fight, they do not kill. And I wonder, if one of them were speared, and bled on the ground, if they might not say, “Look! The color of the rainbow was within me.”

    In the psychedelic sixties, they used to talk about how the Eskimos had fifty words for snow and how we should have as many for love. It was a lie, but an interesting argument.

    I think the tribe in New Zealand has a better idea. Make love like the greens that envelope them. Make so much love that it does not need a name at all.

    1. Lovely in thought and presentation, Leland. My heart learned as much as my head with this piece.

    2. Yeah, this is lovely. I'm stealing Joe's word because I can't think of a better one.

    3. thanks dittoheads are welcomed and embraced!

    4. I've been ordering these gorgeous Pashmina and silk shawls for gifts. DH says: WTF is pashmina? I said, my new word. It's a noun, it's a verb. It's all purpose!

  12. Over the boom of the juke box playing Dean Martin’s version “Ave Maria,” Don the bartender yelled, “Hey, Chet, don’t you think you should be seeing to your reindeer instead of coming into some bar?” as Chester Bonaparte swayed and limped into The Palais on Broadway on Christmas Eve afternoon.

    The whole joint erupted in laughter. Even Chet laughed, his chubby cheeks red as the gin blossom nose that provided the pivot point for a face lit by his jolly, if runny, blue eyes, and anchored by his white scruffy beard.

    Four hours later, Don tossed Chet for getting humbuggingly belligerent, though still chuckling, with three wise guys from the uptown Brockley Gang. Don said, “It’s for your own good, Chester, so you can go home in one piece and make merry, go to Mass, maybe sleep it off and see what Santy brings.”

    When Chester stumbled off the bus and then down the stairs to the dark doorway of his basement apartment on Sherman Street, he fell against a jingling package left by his sister Katie, an American Airlines stewardess on the Albany to Chicago run.

    At midnight, the bells of St. Patrick's pealed around the corner on Central Avenue. Chester lifted his head from the pillow and snorted a jolly little laugh. He briefly marveled at how festive the now-empty mini-bottles of Canadian Club, Johnny Walker Red and Smirnoff vodka hanging from the bush he'd stolen from Washington Park sparkled in the flames from his burning kitchen.

    1. Wow... that went in a totally different direction than I would have guessed... and i love all the descriptive language...

    2. Damn straight. Agree with Leland, brother.

  13. It was a mild December Friday, still in the 50s come the second week, but what Jenkins saw gave him chills like a three-night blizzard in a cold water basement flat.

    Of course, that’s where he lived, a basement apartment in Plattsburgh, so close to Quebec that some locals sounded half-French. But to find old Mrs. Scheinblum waiting at the stairwell with a cop froze him from heels to hairline. Old habits died hard and getting the business end of a billy club was a habit he’d been trying to break since he got out of Dannemora in September.

    “Uh, something wrong, Mrs. Scheinblum?” Jenkins trained a kind of tunnel vision on his landlady. You develop this the same time you grow eyes in the back of your head in a max joint like Dannemora. The last time Jenkins looked at a uniform-type, even from the corner of his eye, said uniformed-type and eye met at the end of a blue-sleeved fist.

    “You had a visitor today, Mr. Jenkins, and I’m letting you now that I want you out of here by the end of the month. I don’t need that kind of riffraff dirtying up my property, do I Ronny…um, Officer Laroque?”

    Jenkins felt the chill again, even though beads of sweat formed at his temples.

    “You heard the lady, pal. And I think I want you out of here, hell, out of this town, by the end of this weekend. Don’t make me come back to find your sorry ass in my aunt’s place on Monday,” the cop said, stepping into Jenkins’ line of sight, close enough to spit on Jenkins cheek with his North Country-accented “pal” and “place”.

    “C’mon, I just got a job at the Bouyea Bakery this week. I’ve been clean and kept this rathole even cleaner since I moved in last month. You can check with my PO,” Jenkins said, as he curled his fingernails into the palms of his hands. That was a painful trick he taught himself his second week in Tryon, the youth detention center, as a reminder and deterrent to his temper getting the better of him. He was fifteen.

    Laroque pushed Jenkins against the damp brick wall of old lady Scheinblum’s place, his forearm against Jenkins’ neck.

    “I said by Sunday, punk. And I’ll be by to check.”

    Jenkins’ hand brushed against one of the rusty bars that failed to keep out the irony from his soon-to-be old apartment. He wanted to rip it out and beat the cop’s French pumpkin dome with it, and then stick the old lady’s head between two of the remaining ones.

    “Okay, okay, I’m leavin’,” he said. “But can you at least tell me who stopped by that brought all this on?”

    “He didn’t give a name, but I don’t need no long-haired, sandle-wearing freaks knocking on my door asking for the likes of YOU. Obviously high on something. Never stopped smiling. So phony with his ‘thank you’s’ and ‘bless you’s’,” the old lady said.

    And Jenkins felt a chill again, only it was different this time. The kind he’d get when his grandfather’d come to the house and bring him to the amusement park or a ball game. He was the temporary answer to his prayers. And then the old man died.

    Jenkins knew, though. He said he’d come and he’s come, he thought.

    “What’re you smilin’ at, shithead?” the cop said, pushing him back again.

    “Nothin’ really. I just wanted to know who stopped by.”

    “He better not come by again, understand?”

    “You won’t see him,” Jenkins said, his heart pounding. He could barely wait to run downstairs and get ready.

    That night, Jenkins sat at the old kitchen table, picking at the cracked Formica top with his fingernail. It still had blood beneath it from his palm. He jumped at the gentle knock at the door.

    “Who is it?” he said.

    “Time to go, my friend,” came the soft voice from the other side of the door. “We’re waiting for you.”

    “Be there in a sec,” Jenkins said, picking up the knife in the middle of the table and slashing once, twice, three times at his right wrist. Then he took the slippery handle in his right hand and carved four more into his left.

    The last one was a bloody underline to the long tat he got in Dannemora last Christmas that read: Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.


    1. wow... amazingly painful and beautiful... wow...

    2. Mad power, Joe. And you let the reveal come out at just the right pace.

    3. The last time Jenkins looked at a uniform-type, even from the corner of his eye, said uniformed-type and eye met at the end of a blue-sleeved fist. - love it

  14. The voices began again.

    “I think he's losing it. I know he's tense. He hardly sleeps at night and he dozes during the day. I know his manager has noticed.”

    “Didn't you know? He's a writer. Least that what he tells himself. If you ask me, he's always been a little strange; noting things down all the time. He says it's only to jog his memory about stuff.”

    “My brother? He never fit in. Mind you, I blame his father.”

    “Driving out into the country and parking in the middle of nowhere. That's not normal. And him a married man. I wonder if she knows?”

    “He showed me something once. He's pretentious, if you ask me. Who reads that stuff anyway?”

    “It makes you wonder what he's writing about all the time. I bet he writes smut. He's got that way about him. Always with the quips. I wouldn't be surprised if he's writing about us. He's deranged, I tell you.”

    “A writer? Wouldn't it be funny if you saw him in the book store, sitting on his own waiting for someone to ask him to sign a book? It's not as if anyone ever makes money writing. Well, only that Rowling woman. The one who wrote Fifty Shades, wasn't it?”

    “I never trust anyone who doesn't like football. Or television. What would you do with yourself if you never watched TV? It's not like he's sociable either.”

    Shaking my head, I closed my ears, determined to listen to my own voices.

    1. Shut those voices out! YES, listen to your own voices! and this is a wonderful take on the fears and hopes and misunderstanding of writing... nicely done!

    2. It's not like anyone ever understands. At last not unless they're a writer too. It's no wonder we're a select and close group of hermits!

    3. I think you wonder correctly. ;) Great piece.

  15. Merry Christmas, #Donald Trump
    We are present, but not counted.
    We fought your wars and paid our dues and you maybe saw us on the daily news. When we hit the streets and rode the airwaves and believed in changing this world.
    We are angels; we are legion. We are the rocking soul of what was. We pledged allegiance before you could read and we believed what it said.
    Educated to equality, we are sensitive to less. An army of compassion who won’t get fooled again.
    We are the best of the country that made us; we are your worst dream.
    We are white and black and brown and yellow; we are red Indians, too.
    We know who you are and we know where you live, we laugh at your fears, played out online.
    Come for us, asshole, with your guns and your greed and watch just how fast your ratings decline.
    We share a heartbeat and passed it on. To husbands and children and grandchildren too. Ain’t no rug big enough to sweep us under. We have a family that’s bigger than you.
    We meditated, mediated, refused to preach your gospel. We ate hypocrites for breakfast and blowhards for tea. We too damn old to buy your bullshit and too damn smart to carry your load.
    So watch your back brother; keep your eyes wide open. We still wishin’ and we still hopin’. We’re still proud and we’re still brave and we’re all too hip to your lies.
    We got too wise for lullabyes and privilege lies. We got too big for compromise. We have a dream that cannot be stolen. We followed our bliss and we got wise.
    And you know, and I know, you sad motherfucker
    You cannot rule the rule with lies.

    1. Whoa... THIS is powerful... and it's well-written, besides!

    2. Agreed. And this line is fucking awesome: "We got too wise for lullabyes and privilege lies. We got too big for compromise."

    3. TYVM! and just in case I'm wrong and I get arrested for sedition? Bail money would be good! :)

  16. The smoke is thick in the room and you can barely see through it. Like being in a speakeasy, but no one's drunk and no one's talking. No jazz playing. No cute girls with bangs and funny hats. Nothing. Just a bunch of midwest nothing floating through shitty schwag smoke.

    It'll do, though. It's gotta do. Where you gonna go? What's out there but more smoke to blow?

    The stereo crackles, but that don't matter. The wall heater belches, but it makes the mice scatter. And outside ain't nothing but cold and rain. So, stay inside and nurse your pain. Let your throat burn and then put some bourbon down it. She left, lit the fire, so now you gotta drown it.

  17. Ever since he could remember, Billy hated men in suits. Women in long coats. Those gloves, always the leather gloves that dripped like gold off slender fingers. Billy imagined a hand sledge in one of his stumpy hands, turning those fingers to jelly.

    It never made sense, but it didn't have to. It just was. Ever since he could remember. The kids with the nice bikes made him angry.

    It ain't easy being locked up. Everybody knows that. But at least there's no fancy cars, fur coats or cocktail bars. You know where you stand and you sleep where you fall. And Billy can be Billy. And there are lots of Billys and they all hate your privileged ass.

    That's all.

  18. Sometimes you find the words because you're stuck in vacuum sauces. Delicious vicious assonance, it finds us and accosts us.

    Sometimes you find the words because they're fucking true and no one else has the fucking decency to say them.

    Sometimes you find the words because you want to talk about something pretty and you can't draw and you aren't that great at guitar and you like stacking words like jenga slices.

    Sometimes you find the words because you're so fucking angry that something has to explode and it's probably best for everyone involved if the explosion takes place on paper.

    Sometimes you find the words because you want to tell people honest things. And that's the best because everything honest is beautiful.

    Sometimes you find the words because something was taken from you. Maybe you took it from yourself. Maybe both. But you want to fucking bitch about it and, lord knows, you've earned the right.

    Sometimes you find the words because you've experienced things most people haven't. And some of those things were fucking horrible. Some were lovely. All seem germane to our mission to explore the human condition.

    Sometimes, most times, you find the words because you think: ok words, it's time now, and then you sit back and watch the show and wonder how fingers can move so fast.

    I'd hate to think what would happen if I couldn't find the words. I'll never understand why people say that. Courage, I may lack. At times.

    I'm never at a loss for words.

    1. Heart. So hard. And stacking words like jenga slices.

  19. Abomination. She glared at the unblinking, painted eyes, the frozen mouth. Wondering what horrid thing she had done that prompted them to bring this into her world. For that was the only logical reason for the installation of the creature. Ears flattening, she gave it an experimental tap with her left front paw. An arm wobbled, then settled back in its original position. Curious. It seemed to have no movement of its own accord. And the face, if it could be called a face, never changed. Even when she slunk her body close to the twinkling tree and the sparkly things that dangled from it. Not a peep. For sure, that was its purpose. A watchdog, of sorts, to attempt to keep her in line. As if. Spiking with fury, she snapped a claw across its eye.


    She jumped back with a hiss, hair along her spine standing on end.

    But the thing merely continued to stare. When no more noise came from the too-red mouth, she inched closer and nosed it.

    “Take a picture, it’ll last longer!”

    She cocked her head. “You’re…a living thing?”

    “You bet I am. And I don’t like the way you’re looking at me.”

    “And I”—she sniffed—“don’t like the way you’re in my house. State your purpose and I won’t murder you.”

    “I make the children behave.”

    “Please. That is my job.” She extended a claw. “With the help of Lefty, here.”

    She swore the thing laughed. “You’ve gone soft,” it said. “You sleep in front of the fire half the day. And when was the last time you caught a mouse? You’re hardly earning your keep around here.”

    “And you are? An idiotically grinning bit of plastic and fluff?”

    “I don’t require feeding. Or veterinary bills. Or litter box changes. I’m what the humans call ‘cost-effective.’”

    “Hmpf,” she said. Licked a paw and swiped it over her ear. “I am self-cleaning, unlike you. You could use a good dusting. Here. Let me help you.” She pulled back and whacked him so hard he flew off the shelf and into the tree. It made a louder noise than she’d anticipated, a kind of crash-tinkle-jingle-thump, and she shrieked and scuttled underneath the couch. But not before the human’s door swung open.

    “Cat!” the male one yelled. “Crissakes. What are you up to out here? Oh. That. Good,” he grumbled, dropping his voice. “I hate that thing. It gives me the creeps.”

    The female one shuffled out after him. She was less angry, but the tone still spelled trouble. Last time she hurt the tree they put her outside, and the night noises were scary and she ate a bug that didn’t taste good. She wanted to stay inside, where she had crunchies and a clean litter box and a fireplace to sleep next to.

    And the thing said, “Outside. Outside.”

    “Probably a good idea,” the male one said, scooping her up and walking for the door. Her heart beat faster. “Tomorrow, we should get one of those things from the home improvement store. I saw in on Facebook. You attach the tree to the ceiling and…”

    And as she landed four paws down on the front stoop, she swore she saw the dog snickering. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him sliding a book titled “Ventrilo-something” underneath the couch.

    1. Super-creative and a holiday joy is this one, Laurie.

    2. Oh, I love this more than I can say... and NOW I know why you were asking about the creepy elf! Well done!

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