Friday, December 18, 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. 

When the old lady woke up, the only thing she thought was: "I'm cold." She should not have thought that. She should have wondered why she was in a small apartment. She should have wondered about the mildew growing like storm clouds. She should have wondered about the strange smells and the dust and the fact that she wasn't worried about anything. You'd think when you spend your whole life with worry, that fickle companion will stick with you in your golden years. 

The old lady's daughter picked up the phone. Put it down. Picked it up. Put it down. It was an old rotary phone, part pretension, part melancholy remembrance - ivory colored and heavy. The younger old lady was thinking: "It's disrespectful. It's not my place." But not really. In a small blip of her brain that she would not acknowledge, she was thinking: "What the fuck good is it going to do?"

The people who lived in the apartments abutting both ladies didn't give two shits. They had their own things to worry about. They had their own lives to wonder on. They had their own shames to ignore - they were being people, too. They were, some of them, worried about silly things like Christmas, weather, and terrorism. A weird collection to be sure, but weird because they cannot be stopped. None of them, whether we want them gone or not.

You are reading this, and your brain trips over some of the words, but some of them get in, sly. And that's cool. Maybe one of them will burrow into you. Live its life in some part of you. Start deconstructing you from the inside. Leave you wondering how mildew works. 

You never know.




  1. I don't have enough left. You can look at me with those wheedling sad eyes, but it don't matter a damn. When you're holding, you're holding. When you got nothing left to give, ain't no fancy smiles going to inspire a second wind. When you're done you're done.

    Just like ravens can recognize your face. You think they don't know you? They fucking know.

    So, out or not, does it really matter. Not to you. Everything about you matters to you because you're you. But you're nothing. I'm nothing. I don't put as much beauty into the world as does a Great Blue Heron, and nothing is ever going to change that. And I have none for you.

    Go ask the heron.

    1. There's so much discovery going on here, Dan. Bitter truth being uncovered and shared. And when I finished reading this, I thought maybe this could be someone speaking into a mirror.

    2. Heart. And that first piece busted mine open. Love the line about the rotary phone.

    3. Yes, the phone line was my favorite too. Plus I think a lot about mold and mildew because someone I love lives in a house full of it. Deadly.

  2. Water carves through stone, it won't leave that shit alone, but we don't see it so we smile at our science teachers and say: "I guess that makes sense." I'm not saying it's not true, it certainly is. I'm just saying.

    More people in India live without electricity than the population of the United States and Canada. I'm pretty sure that's right. Feel free to look it up. Don't matter, anyways. I'm just saying.

    For all your brittle, crystal smiles, there will always be suffering. For all your desperate fears and depressions there will always be baby chuckles. I don't know what that means or how to make sense of it. I'm just saying.

    It's time for me to get ready for work. Find clean pants. Try not to die on my motorcycle. I probably won't, but it could happen. I'm just saying.

    I'm just saying, that's all.

    1. This is so sweet and sour, so rhythmic... and you sure as hell better not die on that motorcycle. Make sure you're wearing clean underwear, too.

    2. "For all your desperate fears and depressions there will always be baby chuckles." Yeah. What Leland said.

  3. “Mornings are all about hope and possibility,” or so Mama always said. As he walks, the crescent moon rises ahead of the sun, but not fast enough to catch Venus and Jupiter, at least not today.

    It is not yet Christmas, but he hums “O Tannenbaum,” his late grandfather’s favorite Christmas carol. Though he speaks only English, he hears the German words in his grandfather’s voice. Grandfather was a man of exuberance. Other men snored or mumbled in their sleep. Grandfather sang hymns.

    His breath makes a fog in the cold mountain air.

    The voice in his head is joined by the tenor of a brother, long lost, gone forty years this Christmas. Images from the funeral in the church dressed for Christmas, evergreen boughs and purple candles of Advent joining the sad farewell.

    What he thought was memory becomes the real scent of the pines as his walk takes him further and further into the woods.

    And Mama’s tentative soprano joins in the song. Gone more recently, she was the glue that held the ragtag family together. Her voice was not strong, never loud, always gentle. The whispers of the pines are louder than she, but still she sings.

    With each swoosh his feet make through the fresh powdery snow, another voice is added to the choir, friends who have left this plane, some too soon, some too late. Accidents, viruses, old age, broken hearts.

    By the time he gets to the tree, the singers are loud enough to fill a cathedral, and yet, only he can hear them. The cottontail rabbit is startled by his foot breaking a twig, not by celestial choruses.

    The tree. The too-symmetrical-for-nature tree. Thirty feet it rises into the air, perfect, like something out of a Nordstrom’s catalog, but only he knows this tree. No one else would be fool enough to hike this far back.

    Once he’d visited it in summer, and saw a mother bear and her two cubs playing beneath it. They looked up at him, as if inviting him into the game, but he stood back, apart, away. This was their tree, their frolic. When they tired, they curled up close to Mama Bear and slept. He held his breath and left.

    The tree. Now its branches are weighted with snow; no tinsel garland ever had such sparkle. And there… on a branch midway up, an owl.

    “O Tannenbaum” … oh Christmas tree. As he dares to speak the words aloud, the sun bursts over the horizon, and from where he stands, it looks like it is sitting on the topmost branch of the tree, brighter than any Christmas star. The sky turns pink and mauve and magenta, and for just a moment, so does all the snow around him.

    He falls on his knees in the snow, mindless of how wet he’ll be after, how cold. His hands, in mittens, meet each other in midair, and before he knows it, he is praying and singing and the German words pour from him and the voices leave his head and echo from unseen canyon walls.

    His eyes close, but the brightness only increases, like a fire, or a nebula. The voices grow louder, more harmonic, and sing in so many languages, and he can understand them all!

    And then the voices begin to fade; the light dims. At last, there is only his grandfather’s voice, and he dares open his eyes.

    Under the boughs of the tree, a deer and her two fauns, grooming one another. The mother watches him, eyes full of trust and wonderment.

    He smiles at the deer, wishes them a happy solstice, and starts on his way home. The tree shakes the snow off a branch and bids him farewell, but he does not see.

    Mornings are all about hope and possibility.

    1. Magical RealLeland. I love this piece. And I was hearing it in German right before you said it. For real.

    2. Apparently someone didn't sign out of their email. ;) frefre is me

    3. Thank you... and JD will forever be "Frefre" to me...

  4. Some mornings, Jack Daniels whispers in my ear, “That was a great night last night. You were awesome.”

    And I reach across the bed and put my hand on his smooth as glass skin. “You, too. You made me see things I’d never seen before.”

    “Think we have time for a quick one, before you go into work?”

    “I’d like to, I really would. But I’ve got a headache. You’re not going in to work?”

    “They pay me to just hang out and age. Rough life, huh?”

    “But you’ll be here for me, when I get home?”

    “I’m always here for you. Even when you don’t know you want me.”

    I love when he whispers in my ear.

    1. Wry, inventive, cool and just enough sadness to complete the circle, Leland.

    2. Agreed. There is so much beneath the surface, too.

  5. Monochrome dreams suited him. His world was all in black and white, right and wrong, inside and out. She floated to him in a polka dot bikini, winking, smiling, licking her lips. Then she floated on by. He saw himself seated at a desk, like a banker, and when he opened the drawer, he saw a white revolver and a black handkerchief. Seated across from him was his boss’s boss, the one who’d said he was stupid. He watched his dream doppelganger put his hand on the white gun, almost feeling the cold metal in his own hand, take aim at the sneering old man. And then he watched the old man’s head shatter into slivers of dark chocolate and vanilla, ice cream confetti.

    His dream-self laughed and floated from the desk, through the ether, and into an apartment of gray flannel and chrome and leather, vintage photos on the wall, purchased at antique stores, an apartment empty of heart.

    He watched his shadow merge into his black and white body, opened his eyes, and wondered which gray tie he ought to wear to the office today, and where he could buy a white gun.

    1. Wow. One of the things I like about brilliant and inventive short-short fiction like this is the powerful "What?" or "What now?" at the end. Mission accomplished, Leland. In white spades.

    2. Damn straight. And the confetti image is astoundingly good. I'd frame that shit.

    3. Holy cats. I'd frame that, too. So powerful.

  6. As I recall, it started at that Christmas party. I was the guest of Angela, a new girl I’d met in the food court during breaks at the mall. She said she worked at the toy store. And believe me, this chick looked like the angel you’d want perched on the tippy-top of your Christmas tree,

    “Try some of our wassail, David,” said Mr. Caligari, who Angie ID’d as her manager. Now, I’m usually a Miller Light guy, but hey, it was the holidays and I was his guest and all. Plus, with a chick as fine as Angie, I needed a little extra courage.

    After a couple of those spicy punches—okay, six—was when a spinning sensation hit me. There was a flash of light and then…nothing. Not black nor darkness. Nothing.

    Some time later, the tickle and chill of cold crystals upon my face brought some hazy lucidity back to me. I saw a pair of black boots walk by me, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why they were walking up the cold wall upon which I was resting. That was when I discovered my point of view was skewed by ninety degrees. I lifted myself off the snow-dusted sidewalk to get a better view of where I was and who belonged to those lovely limbs stuffed into clicking-along black leather.

    Once on my feet, I staggered with the wooziness of a landlubber his first time at sea and I couldn’t quite catch my bearings. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the snow cast this neighborhood in a twinkling cloud, a disguise behind which I couldn’t tell if I was in Albany or Albania, Arbor Hill or Ann Arbor.

    I felt a little steadier on my feet, so I peered through the snow at what appeared to be Angie, my angel with the seriously articulating architecture, striding sinuously up the street. The girl moved like she was on rails. I recognized those boots, but then split my gaze from the mesmerizing seesaw of her denim-hugged seat and the hypnotically spinning umbrella she carried on her shoulder.

    My uncertainty with the surroundings and hazy grasp on everything in general urged my feet to take chase after Angela, follow her tracks and get some idea if a truck had hit me or some of her boss’ wassail.

    But my feet wouldn’t work. Well, that’s not exactly true. I could spin them like crazy but I could move forward only a foot or two, like I was treading water.

    “Angela,” I called, “What the heck’s going on? Where are we?”

    But she just kept walking, but not walking. Her feet moved, but she wasn’t going too far either, despite the footprints that trailed her like my once-hungry-now-frightened eyes.

    It was just about that time I felt the ground rise up under me, and the light got brighter. The entire neighborhood started spinning and quaking like Magnitude 7 or 8 SoCal temblor. Then everything stopped. Just like that. Well except for the snow, which was swirling a blizzard, even though I couldn’t feel all that much cold nor wind.

    “Angela,” I called once more. "Where the hell are we?" Then I heard it. A ratcheting metallic sound, then chimes, followed by a muffled voice.

    “Oh, Mommy, it’s the beautifullest snow globe ever!” the voice said.

    That’s when I looked up and saw this little girl's face in the clouds.

    1. Wow! this is awesome, and a wonderfully spooky Christmas story!

    2. Hell yes, it is. And if this makes sense, I have a feeling that Vonnegut would have loved this one.

  7. “How many days has it been?”

    The Harvard biologist Melchior Plith, his colleague, the geologist Jasper Nolan, and Plith’s protégé, the young freedman botanist Woodbury Balthazar, had been on the run in the New Mexico desert for three hot days and four freezing nights. They were hoping to reach the town of Belén around the first of the year, 1853.

    “We shall never make it to Belén at this rate,” Nolan said. “We’ve been forced more west than south since that damned fool guide Barlow told us those were hostiles back there. Lipan Apaches, he said, at the least.” Once more, Nolan jerked around at the the sun-sparked glint that their scout Eustace Barlow noted might be a war party’s weapons.

    “Maybe we should just see if they really are hostiles,” Plith said.

    “We already know that fool Barlow was the worst guide in the territory, always drunk and then letting his horse step in that hole, breaking both their necks and running off our pack mules and equipment in the bargain,” young Balthazar said.

    “No one but hostile Indians would be following us, dogging us, torturing us like this for days,” Nolan said.

    Professor Plith sighed, wiped the inside the salt-stained brim of his once-fine Boston-made hat and said, “Why don’t we just stop running and see?”

    Two weeks later, the Plith Expedition, all three of them, pulled into Belén along with the shunned Mormon tinker Joseph Carpenter, whose wagon glimmered in the sun with pots and pans strung on its sides. Beside him, sat his wife, the half-breed Navaho girl Mariateresa and their son Joshua Melchior.

    The baby had been born in an abandoned barn just outside of this, his mother’s hometown — a town whose name was Spanish for Bethlehem.

    (I hope Leland knows the territory. LOL)

    1. He does... and this is beautiful scene setting AND writing! thanks for sharing!

    2. Joe, there's something about the way you write...I can't figure out how to say it. It feels good to read.

    3. Apparently someone didn't sign out of their email. ;) frefre is me

  8. The wind scoured her face and her feet felt like wood. It was just another day, one in an endless series, the winter progressively tightening its hold on her.

    The pipes had burst days ago but she hadn't noticed until mid-day on the first day when the cellar flooded and the lights went out. The refrigerator stopped then too but that'd been the least of her problems. The meat and the other frozen food could stand outside: it'd not thaw for days-or maybe even months. The main problem was losing the electricity; the paraffin lights were romantic for a while but she had to venture out when the fumes built up, opening the doors and windows to let the fug out again. Which let the cold back in again.

    And so here she was, stamping her feet, searching for the freshest of snow, knowing that any impurities might kill her. Feeling beyond her age, she filled the bucket again.

    If only it would thaw.

    1. The flow is so strong in this one, Mark. And the imagery. Your pieces just keep getting stronger.

    2. Apparently someone didn't sign out of their email. ;) frefre is me

  9. The sigil blazed.

    "I don't care what you say," the rotund courier said. "If you're on the 'naughty' list you get nothing but a piece of anthracite."

    "What the F... !" Bertie Bubb cursed, spittle and green ichor rolling out from between his jaws like a water spout. "I never spent the whole year corrupting souls. I took a week off in March. Doesn't that count for something?"

    The bearded delivery man shook his head, looking at the glowing furnaces about him. "You must use a lot of coal. Surely it'll help." He turned and whistled. "You've a Sodom IV! They rip through coke like no-one's business. Surely you're going to retire that soon?"

    Bubb glowered. "I've only had it three millenia. It's got an eon or two's use left in it." He threw the lump of coal into the grate, dusted off his hands and grinned. "You know your furnaces, old man. How'd YOU learn about them? You're not the type I'd associate with demonic accoutrements!"

    Santa laughed, his huge stomach rumbling. "I like my roast chestnuts a little too much. How'd you think I ever get enough of those to maintain my figure?" He patted his pot-belly almost lovingly. "Besides," he continued. "Have you never wondered what my name might become if you rearranged the last three letters a little?"

    Bertie looked blank for a moment but then his usual leering grin returned. "Ah ha!" he said. "I thought I knew your face!"

    1. Well played. Pithy, but not trite. And great images.

  10. "Of course I'd like to have a man," Phyllida said, exhaling a dense plume of smoke. "As long as he'd been properly house-trained. But, I'm a busy woman. I've neither got the time or the patience to break one in."

    Closing her eyes, she visibly sagged, her cheeks falling as she relaxed. Freed of the need to perform or to assume a facade, she drew into herself.

    "This is in confidence, right?"

    I nodded. sensing she was beginning to open up to me.

    "Okay. I'm forty eight. Not forty one." She gazed beyond me, her eyes unfocused. "Plus, I suppose I'm also a mother. At least biologically. I don't know what happened to it. My sister - you don't know her - she took care of it for a while and then found someone to look after it more permanently. I think they wanted a child: I certainly didn't want the responsibility. Money changed hands and it...disappeared. It'd be seven or eight now, I guess."

    "So you don't see it? He? She? Did it ever have a name?"

    "No. Why should it? I wasn't going to have anything to do with it. I suppose the people who took charge of it gave it a name. How would it know you were shouting at it if it didn't know what it was called?"

    I turned the recorder off.

    "You're an animal," I said. "Inhuman. You'd make me ashamed to be a woman otherwise." I shook my head. "Surely you have some feelings for your child?"

    "No." Phyllida drew on her cigarette again, her pale cheeks dimpling as she pulled hard on it. "Why should I? It was only like a growth I had removed."

    1. Wow. This is really, really good. (Today was the last day of school. My brain can't think of smart things - graded too many essays). This is deadly.

  11. I'm a old man now and dont ever ask me to recall that frail clapboard home dwarfed by the vast yellow prairie that was never warm even when sunny, I oughta be able to remember summers but I dont, only the moan and shriek of many winters, no real windbreaks other than some scraggy poplars, distant mountains a bluish smudge on the horizon, barely even looked like mountains they were so far, pa hurtin momma month in month out and one day momma killin pa with a hatchet when he was passed out drunk, blood dripping still warm from the finger she held to her lips her huge eyes on me and her tremblin voice sayin, look after your brother now, you hear? be a good boy, while a crackly old radio played in the dim corner of a bare room, big band, maybe even glenn miller in the mood, I can almost recall the label in the middle of the disc, blue with a dog listenin to a phonograph, although that might be my subconscious funnin me, we all know what happened to glenn miller after all, although we dont really do we?

    Ask me about that, or about what became of little bobby, and I wont tell you, now git away from the bars I been known to react poorly to bein stared at.

    1. This is both familiar and feels totally new. The details of the record - I mean, it's all killer, but that is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

    2. Apparently someone didn't sign out of their email. ;) frefre is me

    3. Ha ha, I thought we had a new playmate! But yeah, I keep circling and worrying the same themes. Maybe I should write a comedy, help blow the cobwebs away!

    4. There's something different to this one though. Usually, I'd know your writing blindfolded. This one? I would have been pretty sure. And I mean that as a total compliment. And the lowercase? I literally imagine your inner editor beating your inner writer with a bar stool. ;)

    5. LOL, he was! I put in so many damn commas, even though a whole shitload are still missing. Oh, and worse, there's a factual mistake: should be gramophone not radio, since no one ever played an actual record on a radio, lol. D'oh.

  12. It's too much, the contrast. You're used to a certain level of murkiness. This, it's like jumping between hot tub and snow. It's all good and all bad. It's fucking terrifying. You try to smooth the edges of it, to blend it like a crayon-smear, to raise it to the heavens for examination, but you - fall short, are not. Capable.

    You see an ocean of bliss and towering mountains of loss. Your head says one thing while your guts churn and boast, bitch. Fuck. Anxiety. Even the fucking word sounds frantic.

    There is a small woman. Little red pumps. Not sexy. Forced. Coerced. Divorced. You can smell the divorce. It drips like expensive perfume and fear smell. She is hunting. See the small boy, lost, can't find his parents. Dumb. Shit.

    I don't even know what you can do about it. What you can say about it. You'll waylay days about it. Not. Know. Shit.

    There will be a fat man. You will shake his hand and his fingers will feel like a package of wet dicks. Literally. And you will think 'I never thought I was one of those guys who judged other people by their hand shake?"

    You will fuck up. Fuck up. Everyone look at the fuck up. He's gonna fuck up.


    1. Damn, I can't unfeel that handshake. Thanks, brother, that's my weekend ruined. ;)

      But seriously, I wish I could get to all the pieces today, but at least I'm glad to have gotten to this one.

    2. I feel the anxiety. That is awesome Dan.

  13. Suzy had worried the small, wrapped package in her fingers for so long that the tape on one side began to become unglued. It was silly, really. She hardly knew the guy. How well could you know someone you sat across the aisle from on the train to and from the city? Granted, it had been at least a year that they’d been riding the same train, the six-fifteen in the morning and the five forty-five in the evening, and they’d barely exchanged a handful of words, maybe a few sentences here and there, idle small talk, but she couldn’t help shake the feeling that there was something of significance in those brief transactions. The way he listened, the way his eyes lingered on her, the way he always let her exit first when the train pulled into Grand Central Station. That he always had a smile for her when she walked into the car at the end of the day.

    It had to mean something. When she told her office mate what she’d purchased on her lunch hour, the woman thought Suzy was nuts. “Do you even know his name?” Suzy had to admit that she didn’t. That was when the doubts crept in. All afternoon, she considered and reconsidered her decision. She even thought about taking a different train. But then in her mind she saw his warm brown eyes sweeping the length of their usual car, his thick eyebrows drooping with disappointment when he didn’t find her. “So, you’re doing this, aren’t you?” her office mate said as Suzy shut down her computer and grabbed her purse from the drawer. “He could be married. He could be a total asshole. You don’t know anything about this guy.”

    True. She knew nothing. He didn’t wear a ring, but that didn’t necessarily mean he was single. But still, here she was. She pressed the unstuck end of the tape to the wrapping paper and smoothed it with the back of her nail. Then checked her watch for the fifteenth time. Three minutes until the train left the platform and the seat across the aisle was still empty. It was a silly gift, really. Cufflinks with tiny locomotive engines. Maybe her uncle would like them. He loved trains. She tucked the box back into her purse, extracted a romance novel, and settled into her seat for the ride. Chiding herself for her misguided idea. Two minutes until the train left the station. The speaker crackled. Last call, the conductor said, express to Poughkeepsie, first stop 125th Street.

    She glanced up as the doors began to close. And a hand reached up to grab them. Then the warm, brown eyes found hers, and smiled.

    1. Oh that's so sweet and romantic. She took a chance! I love it.

    2. Agreed. :) And awesome character insight as always.


  14. Sugar Cube
    Eve Gaal

    Shock didn’t sum it up and wouldn’t register under the doctor mask anyway. “Nurse Lois, can you find out if Dr. Roman is still on call?”
    “Of course. You need him now?”
    “Affirmative. Hand me the scalpel before you leave.” He sounded serious and the nurse quickly ran to the intercom to page Dr. Roman.
    She returned to Dr. Brown’s side and asked about the patient. “Should I hook up the IV?
    “No, not yet. I think she’ll be fine after the removal. Little bed rest at home will do her good,” he replied, poking what he had thought was a tumor.
    Roman swung through the doors while tying on a mask and pulling on some rubber gloves. “Brown, you have a way of knowing about golf days. Two minutes and I would have been on my way to La Quinta.”
    “Check this out,” Dr. Brown said without laughing. “What do you think? Can you help me remove it?”
    Dr. Roman’s eyes took in the horrible white mass protruding out of the recumbent patient. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen one this bad.”
    “What is it?”
    “It’s sugar and salt. Probably fifty pounds right there--more than they allow a UPS driver to lift--but you and I together--should be able to get her free of it.”
    The nurse had to ask, “But how did it all become one big block?”
    Roman looked at Brown and answered, “Well she obviously over did the Halloween candy, Thanksgiving goodies and had too much fun at holiday parties in general. What this woman needs is some exercise and some green vegetables. I imagine she’ll love weighing fifty pounds less after this procedure.”
    Dr. Brown chimed in with his analysis while drilling a small crane-like apparatus onto the block. “It’s like a sugar cube that didn’t dissolve.”
    “Except,” Roman added, “this has to be the result of years’ worth of indulgences in sugary drinks, donuts and salt too....” Dr. Roman looked at her lovely face and wondered how the patient ended up in such a bad situation. “She looks like a nice person.”
    Dr. Brown began lifting the white chunk from her stomach. “Before you fall in love, I need your help here. Besides, she’s getting married. “
    Roman reached around and they both lifted it out and dumped the massive growth into the sink. The nurse wiped perspiration from Dr. Brown’s neck and forehead. “Thanks, that was heavy. Now go play golf and leave me alone while I sew her up.”
    Dr. Roman pulled his rubber gloves off and threw them into the trash. “But who is she?”
    “An heiress—some kind of sugar plantation in Hawaii.”
    Dr. Roman laughed. “Did you say sugar?” He continued laughing and Nurse Lois had to snicker under her mask but tried maintaining her professional attitude. When Dr. Roman exited the operating room, his laughter bounced along the hall out to the garage and into his Porsche.

    1. Interesting angle, and really intriguing characters. I want to know more about the docs. :)


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