Friday, January 8, 2016

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. 

She throws that look over her shoulder - brief pause, passes by. Your heart goes: "Oh shit!" Your brain is even more enraged. She is cut from velvet, carved from eternity - breathless, you watch her turn the corner and your eyes swim. You smell hot dogs and carcinogens. You hear sirens, laughter, arguments, car horns. She is gone again and your back aches. You age so rapidly, you start looking for a guy with a shovel. 

Just in case.

She saw you. You know she saw you. You wonder what she thought. You didn't want to talk either, but that is only because of the raw, sharp self-loathing you carry like a matador cape. Her reasons? No way to know for sure, but you can take a guess. 


A thousand snapshot memories swarm around you like wasps. 

You shake your head and reach for the cigarettes you quit smoking last year. The sky is dull and oppressive, the street is not large enough for you. Not because you are big, mind you - the street is not the problem. It never was. The problem was that you can't fill the street. You couldn't fill her heart with enough love. And you damn sure couldn't fill those shoes. 

The ones the guy before left. Hell, he's probably still looking for them.

ATTENTION, I WILL IN AND OUT MOST OF THE DAY. BREAK THE BLOG FOR ME! AND GIVE ME SOME STUFF TO READ! Get 'em! :)

#2minutesgo

90 comments:

  1. Okay this is awesome. Howled at "hot dogs and carcinogens" and had to stop reading briefly until I stopped.

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    1. Me, too. I LOVE this and I missed your words.

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    2. Self-loathing like a matador's cape!Self-loathing and all the vanity to go with it! Mucho Macho Metaphor!

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    3. I'm with Teresa on that allusion. It stopped me in my tracks. And take it from a guy who's supposed to be a poet, you ARE one.

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    4. Wow! That hit hard and fast!

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  2. agreed... and "thousand snapshot memories swarm around you like wasps" is beautiful...

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  3. You’re three years old and surrounded by golden flowers. Dandelions. Hundreds, thousands, millions of them. The ones in seed sprinkle their parachutes on every errant breeze. But it is the golden ones that dazzle you.

    Your eyes touch the sky, cerulean blue, with white clouds as punctuation. Is that a question mark over there? A dash? What if the clouds are sending Morse code and you can’t remember anything other than SOS.

    Dot dot dot. Dash dash dash. Dot dot dot.

    You hear a raven laughing. Everyone else says they make a cawing sound, but you know it’s “ha ha ha.” The raven swoops down and plucks the dandelion flower you hold in your hand. You feel the air from his wings. You close your eyes and imagine flying beside him, midair somersaults, but you will not eat the dead as he does. You won’t even eat broccoli.

    You hear your mother call your name. You don’t want to go in, but you don’t want a spanking, so you pick three more dandelions and you race into the house, holding the yellow flowers in front of you, a gift for your mother.

    Her sad eyes lighten for a moment, and she whispers thank you. And then her big girl voice returns. “You need to get cleaned up. It wouldn’t do to be late to your grandfather’s funeral.”

    And you don’t know what a funeral is, and you wonder if he will have books for you like he always does, and if you still have time to go pick some dandelions for him, too. And you see your mother crying. And you know you have no time left at all.

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    1. Oh, this one breaks my heart. Great piece. And this is SO good: "What if the clouds are sending Morse code and you can’t remember anything other than SOS."

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    2. Oh, so good! That childhood where nobody explains ANYTHING!

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    3. Heart. Broken. So many lovely phrases and moods. Thank you.

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    4. The Raven laughing, the not-understood messages of the clouds, the gut-punch reveal... This small piece has more rich layers than a buttermilk biscuit.

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    5. Wow Leland. I swear you just took me back to that afternoon when my mom came and picked up early from school. I was kinda mad. It was last recess, that was the best one all day! Little did I know, that my best friend in the whole world had gone to live in heaven. And my own world would never be the same. This was heartbreaking, but there were some bits of joy in there too.

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  4. I'll be back later. Meanwhile, here's one that will probably continue on my blog later, as it needs a little more.
    _____________________________

    I want to tell this story with all my truth but I don't know which order it happened in and which parts I dreamed and which parts I stole from another dreamer. They tell me to place one foot in front of the other then switch them up and keep doing that until my story's told, but it isn't like that, this didn't happen in the same way you might walk down a straight road, not even close. It's more like a bird flying between trees in a dense forest, only sometimes you jump between birds, between birds of the same type, but then from cardinal to woodpecker to crow, and then briefly into a squirrel or a raccoon… then the forest disintegrates and you're stood trembling in a desert as yourself again, only you wish you were a camel because the throat-scouring thirst is the worst thing you've ever felt and the gamma burst sun is burning a pencil light hole through your skull and you consider opening up your veins just so you can drink from them. And that's not even scratching the surface of why this story is so hard to tell. Perhaps it's impossible. Perhaps it's gone beyond story.

    That morning I woke without skin. The thing that had flayed me in my sleep was slouching from the room, the entirety of my skin, mostly intact and dripping, bundled in its scrawny arms like a sodden sweater, a look of shock on its face that it had even been seen. I knew I wasn't supposed to wake until later, but who could sleep through that?

    Only that wasn't me. That was someone I had brushed by in the corridor days before, mindful of how narrow it was in that cheap hotel, how sticky the carpets in which the original pattern was barely discernible beneath the endless weary decades of grime. Tackiness emulating gravity. My bare arm touched his besuited one as we passed and he made a sound, a quiet apology, and I told him it was fine, it was my fault. I was unsteady in those heels. I might still have been drunk. As I got in the elevator the other elevator dinged open and breathed out a rancid shadow, a flap of bad, which clung briefly to the walls before I lost sight of it when my own door clattered shut.

    The lid is lifted and I watch a black balloon float up and over red rooftops patchy with snow, while a woman or a child sings in an alley like the world's last sad bird. Horses drum cobblestones. Echoes become muffled. A shout. Murder comes to visit awhile. It's Christmas.

    An ornate frame, a blood-orange tree, a lifeguard running, drive slow homie, red red wine, a dark rest stop on an empty highway, fish tamales, a lone dancer smearing bloodscript on a polished stage, homemade knuckle tattoos, the secret yearning of a nun, human viscera in ribbons, the silent vigil of a grief-stricken dog, the lady in red, the anger of the sun, Bud Lite, sudden rain, an antique letter opener, fuck tha police, a field in England, cranberry vodka, our better angels, batteries not included, sheet-metal memories, fog on the runway, a forearm opened lengthways elbow to wrist, black lives matter, dewdrops on razor wire, que sera sera, a fatal misunderstanding, all your base are belong to us, the red road, you can't handle the truth, red and black, the evening redness in the west, that's me in the corner, don't breathe, paint it black, Juicy Fruit, ninety-nine red balloons, back to black, red dawn, fade to black…

    Let me drive and I'll show you my true self. And lo, I'm behind the wheel of a late sixties Corvette Stingray and Interstate-5 is unrolling behind me like a dark contrail. A SoCal sunrise on my right. I'm heading north, Canada-bound. Unless I'm picked off before nightfall. I am a coyote returning to the pack, the sounds of hysteria echoing from the snowy bluff. An eagle sailing thermals. Orca music.

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    1. wow... gorgeous language and metaphor... "Tackiness emulating gravity" made me stop and take notice, but if I copied all of my favorite lines, it'd be easier to copy the whole thing.
      I really like the non-linearness of this... the absence of cause/effect... I'm starting to think that the whole notion of progressing time in a story (or a book) isn't the only way to go... thanks for sharing this...

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    2. Stay with it. see where it takes you. Amazing stuff, I LOVE the "something stolen from a another dreamer" and fascinated by the concept that we all share these dreams, there isn't any escaping it.

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    3. Dude. You take my breath, you and your words. And loving this sentence so hard: "It's more like a bird flying between trees in a dense forest, only sometimes you jump between birds, between birds of the same type, but then from cardinal to woodpecker to crow, and then briefly into a squirrel or a raccoon… then the forest disintegrates and you're stood trembling in a desert as yourself again, only you wish you were a camel because the throat-scouring thirst is the worst thing you've ever felt and the gamma burst sun is burning a pencil light hole through your skull and you consider opening up your veins just so you can drink from them."

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    4. Holy shit. This may be my favorite piece of yours. The birds and the listing stream of consciousness (though so perfect and constructed?) in the penultimate P. This is so good, D. I can't stop reading it.

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    5. Thanks, all! Kind comments, indeed. I keep trying to make time to come back and read and absorb everyone's pieces tonight, but I keep getting distracted. I'll make it yet!

      I did manage to finish this (or, lol, "finish" it) and upload it to my blog. It went in a slightly unexpected direction. But here it is. :)

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  5. I got a shoulder. Hell, I got two of the fuckers. Sure you can cry on them, but one's got a chip on it - I ain't telling which. Don't say I didn't warn you. Go ahead, though. Shirt's made of flannel. Old flannel is made for tears.

    You didn't get the chance you deserved. No one treated you nice. Your parents argued a lot. You developed early and the other girls made fun of you. All the boys in school followed you around and they hated you for that, too. You have an underbite. Your sister is dead. I get it. But I can't fix it.

    I can make you forget about it for a while, though... Bloom of blood-rose in chamber, hands shaking steady - that I can do for you. I can hug you so close the whole world won't mean shit. Warmth, that's it.

    Just don't forget about that chip.

    I warned you.

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    1. "Old flannel is made for tears..." I can't think of a more beautiful phrase about crying. "Bloom of blood-rose in chamber" is awesome, too. Shoulders, what amazing things, to carry chips, the weight of the world, and tears... to be put to the grindstone, to be a verb for a burden... this is good stuff...

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    2. I Get this beyond what you can possibly understand without me spilling into autobiography. Oh and writing is great, too!

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    3. Yes. I loved that sentence too.

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  6. Sally was a riot grrrl, hair of manic panic madness. She used to laugh with all the kids, but she was made of sadness. She liked a boy named Billy because he played in bands, but Billy hated everyone and died by his own hand. And the kids all took the time to mourn, with just the right amount of scorn. They got tattoos and puked on shoes and found new souls to burn.

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  7. There is a snowglobe in Nebraska where a boy sits at his window staring at the white stuff coming down. He feels every time when the unseen hand shakes the globe to make the snow start all over again.

    He’s read every book in the house. Week-long blizzards are the standard fair out here. The last one, though, Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, not the comic book, that’s what weighs on his mind as the world turns whiter and whiter.

    What kind of guy, even in the jungle, has a chimpanzee for a best friend? Didn’t Tarzan get lonely for another human?

    The globe shakes again when he looks at the nearly naked Tarzan on the cover of the book.

    And the globe shatters when he tells his father he wants to move to the jungle and live with Tarzan.

    “No son of mine is going to live in a jungle with some naked fag.”

    The jagged pieces of glass from the globe feel sharp on his wrists. Maybe there are jungles in heaven, and Tarzan will hold him in his arms as they swing from vines. And maybe his father will be happier with a chimpanzee for a son.

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    1. Deep anger comes through loud and clear. And grief, too. But I think you're being hard on the chimp. He deserves better company.

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    2. Holy crap. I love this piece. Fucking fierce. Pulling no punches. Ace, Leland.

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    3. I could sure feel the cold.
      This one hurt my heart.

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    4. y'all are way too kind... thank you.

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  8. Old man Wilkins lived on the same land he was born to back when cars didn't look like intergalactic dildos. The land had been good to him. The world - the world had not been as kind. It had started out as a sanctuary and become a beeping, blinking madness. The dildo cars rocketed by now. And he watched. Wondered how they could just take a man's land - or a chunk of it - for a road. Guess what? The interstate is now your porch. Here come the dildos.

    And it wasn't just the cars. No one seemed to talk anymore. Not real talk. The old man missed porch-sitting talk, relaxed evening talk. When did people start talking so fast? What the hell was in those phones everyone was always staring at. Momma would have said they ought to have been staring at their Bibles. Old Man Wilkins thought that was bullshit, but he'd take bibles over iPhones.

    Standing by the stream, the same stream he had fished since he was barely big enough to catch crayfish - well, at least the stream never changed. The stream was a constant that ran through the land. And the land was his life. The water, his blood.

    And then he saw something he didn't recognize. Behind the tree by broke-knee bend. It was a dishwasher. Out of place. In his place.

    So, he put his rod away and pulled his shotgun off the wall.

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    1. A good story... and I'm cheering old man Wilkins on... and the dildo cars is a perfect description...

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    2. Intergalactic dildoes? I'm stealing that! And the dishwasher as the symbol of violation? Wild! Love it.

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  9. Liebe Mama, the letter began when she opened its mud spattered paper, unfinished, like the life that penned it. On the other side of The Channel it read Dearest Mum.

    And then their stories began of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when the guns ceased their booming bursts for that time and young men peeked over the mole-run, rat-hole front lines with no fear of dying without a head to send with their bodies, home to Liebe Mama and Dearest Mum. They told of going over the top clutching tobacco and biscuits, candy and sausages, instead of Enfields or Mausers, to trade season’s greetings instead of death.

    And carols were heard instead of the screams of the shells, the wails of the wounded, unanswered calls to Mama and Mum. But these were mud soldiers, the ones whose bodies would fertilize the poppies one day, perhaps, when church bells would ring for Christmas services and not to bury mein junge or my boy.

    It’s said the clean uniforms at the rear called a cease to the cease fires in later years, because such fraternization was not in keeping with victory for King and Country.

    And so barely again did boys in Khaki or Grau join hands in the brotherhood of men who looked alike covered in the mud of Flanders or to the addressees of these, their last letters home. For after the final strains of Stille Nacht, there’d come no more silent nights except where now poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row.

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    1. Beautiful... absolutely beautiful. I remember hearing the story of Christmas Eve in WWI, of Belleau Wood ringing with the sounds of Silent Night and Stille Nacht, and the silence of the guns... a well told story, sir.

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    2. My mother used to recite that poem. She was born in 1918 and the story of how her father was gassed, etc completely informed her childhood. Weird, how it failed to inform the memories of so many of those in the next war, isn't it? And the one after that, and the one after that, and...

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    3. Joe. God, I like the way you write. "But these were mud soldiers, the ones whose bodies would fertilize the poppies one day..." Awesome piece. Powerful and subtle and terribly beautiful.

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  10. I put the phone down.

    My brother and I rarely spoke and for him to call me at work had immediately made me feel uneasy. He was as blunt as ever though. The two words 'Dad's dead' had been all he said at first, the phone-line quiet for at least a couple of hours, or so it had seemed. I fancied I'd heard him breathing though, waiting for me to continue. Giving me nothing.

    “Okay,” I'd said, even though it wasn't. Empty words that meant nothing, filling the air with an excuse for thoughts that wouldn't come.

    My father had been ill for a long time, so it wasn't a surprise. In fact, you could have said it was a blessing. All I knew was that he'd finally gone: his light snuffed out, never to return.

    The phone remained quiet and I looked about me, seeing the others in my office. They knew nothing. The banter continued; football and television and the bets that had fallen through. Nothing of importance.

    Back in the present I imagined him there; lying in his bed, his face slackened beyond sleep. My brother hadn't said how it'd happened and he never would, uncaring still even now he was gone. I just hoped he hadn't suffered – despite all he'd done while he lived.

    “Excuse me,” I said, walking to see my manager. “Can I speak with you a couple of minutes? Somewhere where we can be alone.”

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    1. Ah... you transported me back to the moment I learned of my father's death... and you described my reaction.... good writing here...

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    2. Yup. You nailed this one, brother. Perfect. Level. I love this phrase: "his face slackened beyond sleep..."

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  11. I will tell this story backwards. I will tell this story honest. I will tell this story, lying well. I will tell this story any way I want - you can go to hell. You want me to write stories the way you think they should be written? I want you to burn all your pleated pants - we all got shit we want changed.

    Your pants are your pants and my words are my words. I sell books, but not enough. How about this... You get 500K of your closest friends to snatch the whole catalogue, and I'll write Twilight fan fiction and bland erotica for housewives until the day I die. And I'll try to write the way everyone thinks good writers write. Long books with trite plots. Books that don't bleed.

    Hell, capitalism and art don't mix. Always been that way. So, I'll leave your Macy's pants alone - you stop writing me emails telling me I'm a heathen. That I deserve what I get. Even if I do, I don't need the reminder. I hate me more than you do. No doubt.

    We'll all be fine. Don't worry. They're just words. Not even as important as pants. Words don't cover my ass one bit. At least pants keep you warm - the words don't do shit except just enough to keep me from giving up. In lots of ways. And they keep my junk covered. Which keeps things from being awkward.

    Now, who wants to read a story about drugs and psychological atrocities?

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    1. I do. I wanna read a story about drugs and psychological atrocities, at least I do if you wrote it... you're so good at channeling the anger into MaderRap™, and telling us truths we need to hear. You couldn't do trite if you tried.

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  12. Clara sped down the sidewalk, the worn soles of her sensible shoes slapped the pavement, slickened by the early winter fog. The familiar trill of her cell phone and the vibration of it against her butt cheek made her jump. She ripped it from her back pocket, eyed the caller ID, rolled her eyes.

    Mother.

    She raised the phone to her ear, but fumbled it and it flipped in the air. She grasped at it, desperate not to let yet another screen shatter against the cement. Her shoe slipped on the ice and she landed on her ass in the gutter.

    The caw of a raven coincided with the plop of a dollop of bird shit on top of her best knit toque. Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. "Quoth the raven, go fuck yourself."

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    1. I've had weeks like that... and your description of every action is perfect.

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    2. Yup. Me too. No lie. I once had the worst day ever. I looked up and lamented that fact loudly and a bird shit in my mouth.

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  13. Son, what the hell? What's so all-fired important? Why you crying? Jesus, son, don't you ever stop crying? I'd say you must be a girl, but I don't know no girls bitch and moan and complain the way you do. You're worse than a faggot, boy. Let someone fuck you in the ass, I don't care, just let me fucking sleep.

    You got bad dreams? Shit son, everybody gets bad dreams. You wake up, you shake it off, and you go back to sleep. You don't stand there melting into snot and pussy drops. Ain't no dream that bad.

    Sure, I drink too much and there's things I don't remember. What the fuck did you just say to me? You got about two seconds to take that back, you little punk. You son of a bitch. And I mean that. Your mother was a whore. Why's your hand behind your back? You put that right back on the goddamn rack before I...

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    1. Killer ending... pun intended... and well written.

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  14. I regret that my porous old memory cannot recall who She was. Rose? Barbara? Definitely not Mary Grace. Though I wish.

    But I see brown eyes shining in moonlight, street light or maybe porch light. I still feel that cold stab of fear, tempered by hot blasts of potential embarrassment at the very real possibility of
    screwing this up and setting my life on a path of remaining forever the untouched one.

    Girls, I’m sure, think about this moment, dream about it, worry about it, from an early age.
    Did you practice, perhaps pressing your lips to a mouth made of your thumb and index finger, there in your single-bed sanctum sanctorum?

    A guy can’t think that far ahead, would never give that first kiss a dry-run. It wasn’t like rehearsing his expression of insouciant cool in the bathroom mirror behind that locked door. You figure one night it just happens.

    Uncharted, virgin, that first feeling of neo-carnal warmth glowing off that girl, that woman, Her.
    The smell of her recharged perfume in the dark, heady, sweaty, intoxicating, inviting. Then that feeling of her mouth drawing closer, warmer, tropical, her breath sharing mine, mine with hers.
    My shaking hand on the small of her back, hers rising to slide within the black hair now bristling at the back of my neck.

    Then you simply fall into that wet, warm pool of flesh, that doorway to the pounding triphammer heart, the unknown, the soon-enough revealed. After that, the fall becomes a climb and dive from the high board, then another.

    I still feel it, walking away, whistling my quiet, night-time whistle through the posh, the not-so and the not-very neighborhoods home, my left hand touching my cheek, my lips, the smell of her still there.

    But that's all I remember.

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    1. wow wow wow... "first feeling of neo-carnal warmth glowing off that girl, that woman" will be with me all day.... first kisses... sigh...

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    2. The word choice and assonance - the rhythm. Man, I love this one, too.

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  15. The men on the back of the truck wore stone faces, dirt ground into the folds of their jeans. But she hadn’t seen another vehicle go by for more than an hour, she’d lost quite a bit of blood, and the clouds swelled purple with impending rain. She croaked something in Spanish, and they parted to make space for her and her German Shepherd. Poor Bucky was probably dehydrated, they’d walked so far in the heat, and as if they knew this, two of the men produced canteens. One tipped some water into a tin cup. The dog lapped it up greedily. The other man gave his water to her. “Gracias,” she said, her voice a little softer. Nobody wanted trouble, she knew that, and she most likely looked like trouble to them, and getting angry would do nothing to serve her cause. An older man knelt beside her, gesturing to her wound. She shook her head, unable to come up with the words in their language to explain what had happened to her. Car jacking. Accident. Tried to get his gun. Nope. Please and thank you and water and the gestures of needing help, that’s all she could depend on. A wave of nausea swept through her; she slumped to the bed of the truck and rested her head on her bent knees. Then she heard more soft voices over the rumble of the truck engine, felt soft hands on her leg, water cooling her skin, and when she looked up, one of the men, barely old enough to shave, was tying a bandanna just above where the bullet had pierced her. “Is there a town far from here?” she asked, trying her luck. More blank faces. “Doctor? Doctoro?” Nothing. She sighed, and dropped her head on her arms. Hoping that something resembling help was at their destination.

    Then a new voice cut through the others. Soft, like a whisper. It called her name.

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  16. Randomly having her heart catch seemed an overreaction to the sight of the large black bird sailing over her head and if it hadn't landed to take a regal stance in the middle of the intersection right in front of where she was walking, she might have been able to ignore the sensation -- brush it away like all forgotten ideas or brief revelatory moments.

    But it did stop. Right in front of her.

    She vaguely recalled the superstitions of her mother and grandmother about blackbirds and death, although neither woman had risen to any new heights in her consciousness for quite a while. She thought about them daily, but vaguely, as if she’d absorbed their energy permanently and didn’t miss them in quite the same way as when her grief was fresh, because they were always with her. Gram had died in ’88 and Mom followed in ’99. Odd that she hadn’t noticed the repetitive numbers until just this moment. Another sign perhaps?

    The bird just stood there, mindfully, barely moving or adjusting itself. It did not look at her as she stared at it or at least she didn’t think it did.

    Feeling silly she continued to walk the path she’d set for the train station biting back the desperate and intense craving for a glass of Malbec. It had been a long day and she was dead on her feet. Had she really just said that? She could hear her mother’s disapproval beyond the grave. “Don’t go courting the devil, girl.” And that made her laugh because of course she could make even her dead mother disapprove of something she’d done with very little effort.

    As she got close enough to pass it she took one last look at the bird, who she now felt quite sure was appraising her. Feeling punchy she said something to it. Actually she growled the first thing that popped into her mind, “Oh go to hell.”

    The bird wasn’t impressed or even perturbed particularly.

    Maybe she should call Brenda and go out for a drink instead of heading home. Temptation rankled and held on tight but she dismissed it with the strength of someone who was constantly on the lookout for their own failings. She didn’t feel strong though. She felt disconcerted and badly in need of something. A drink, surely. Anything else would mean delving too deep. There wasn’t enough Malbec in the entire fucking world for that.

    As she reached the top of the steps at the station she heard a loud and raucous caw behind her. She wanted to turn back to see if the bird was speaking to her. But she didn't. She just didn't want to know.

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    1. beautiful and haunting... and I like that you leave it to us to write the ending of the story... whether she got her Malbec or whether she got run over by a car... this is a good story.

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    2. Great Piece! Sometimes stayin alive means just ignoring a lot.

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    3. Yup, I agree with Leland. Brave choice and an awesome piece of writing.

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  17. Her eyes looked through the mask, distanced by it. Other than that, she was still the same as ever: a woman I'd known - but not as I knew her.

    Raising my hand, I traced the latex; my finger following the line between. Below, her face. Above it; who knew who it was? She was a stranger to me. Shying away, she twisted sinuously, her eyes strange. "Did I say you could approach me?" she said, her voice unknowing of me. "I make the decisions. Not you."

    "But..." I faltered. "I only..."

    "You only..." she repeated, her mouth set hard. "You only...presumed." She circled me now, my head turning to follow her. Feral and lithe but still as before: the mask making a stranger of her.

    "So who are you now?" I ventured, my mouth arcing into a wide curve. "Or what, perhaps?"

    She looked at me blankly, not understanding. "Now?" she echoed, her tone confused. "I'm the whoever I always am. The woman who receives without needing to ask. The woman who never needs to take. It's only your perception that seems to have changed."

    Defiantly, I paused, watching her move. Following her and waiting until the time and her position were in my favour.

    I sprung... and then jumped back bleeding.

    "And what was the reason for that?" She was circling again, her manicure now sullied by my skin. "And I still didn't say you could approach me."

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    1. This is awesome and cold and intriguing. This kicks ass: ""Now?" she echoed, her tone confused. "I'm the whoever I always am. The woman who receives without needing to ask. The woman who never needs to take. It's only your perception that seems to have changed.""

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  18. Do you remember the summer you tried to make dandelion wine? How you wouldn’t let me mow or spray the lawn until you’d collected enough yellow flowers to fill baskets? How the neighbors complained and Old Mr. Johnson practically wept when he saw yellow flowers in his lawn, too?

    How you took pounds and pounds of sugar, boiled it in hot water and poured it over the blossoms? How you bottled it and we waited for it to ferment? How it changed from golden yellow to putrid brown? How we both spit it out when we finally tasted it?

    And do you remember me asking why you had to do it and all you could say was you wanted to taste summer in the winter, how you wanted to see blue skies when the skies turned to gray?

    I wish I’d told you then, that all you needed to do was look in a mirror, for there, between your laugh lines, were the sky blue eyes that made July jealous, that as long as your eyes were open, we’d always have summer.

    And that is why I now place a dandelion in your cold hands. For wine, for summer, for unspoken words. And because I face winter without your summer eyes. The winter of my life.

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    1. Oh God, Leland. Rip my living heart out of my rib cage, why don't you? :)

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    2. Oh... Those last three paragraphs just about killed me.

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    3. Jesus, Leland. Even my heart calluses have their limits. Summer in winter? Brilliant.

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    4. Thanks... and I hope everyone's heart has returned to normal this morning!

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  19. He was a good man. He must have been; everyone said it. Almost a hundred people showed up at his funeral. The minister told of what a good farmer he was, what a good Christian man he was, how he was always there for “the Church.” The eulogy dragged on and on, about how he’d helped this family or that, how we’d all do well to emulate him.

    I looked down at the funeral program to make sure I was at the right funeral.
    When the service was finally done, each one in the congregation shook my hand, and expressed shock, sorrow, dismay. And they looked more than a little disappointed to see that it was me left to hold his legacy.

    Old Mrs. Anderson was the most direct about it. “Maybe now you’ll settle down and forget about all this ‘gay’ foolishness. Get married. Have kids. It’s what he would have wanted you to do.” Her son was beside her; her perfect Gregory, same age as me, looked away.

    And she was right. It was what he wanted me to do. Carry on the name, carry on the legacy.

    I drove home alone on the icy streets, but I stopped at the liquor store first.
    I might not ever get married, might not ever have kids, but by god, I’d carry on the legacy of drinking, because that was something he and I were both good at.
    Wouldn’t be the same in the morning, though. No one to yell at for being too loud. No lectures about how I oughta be responsible. And the only disappointment left in the house would be my own.

    After I drain the first fifth of Jack Daniels, I reach for the phone. I dial the number from memory.

    “Mrs. Anderson? This is me.”

    “Why on earth are you calling at this hour? And you sound drunk.”

    I’d never realized you could hear lips purse.

    “I wanted to thank you for coming to Father’s funeral, and for your honesty.”

    She hemmed and hawed, surprised by my gratitude. “Well… someone had to say it.”

    “You were the only one honest enough to say it out loud.”

    There was silence on her end of the line.

    “Is Gregory there? I wanted to ask him if he’d like to come over and make out on the couch, like we used to in the old days.”

    Mrs. Anderson’s plot is right next to Father’s in the cemetery. When Gregory and I put flowers on their graves, if the wind is still, I can almost hear the tsk tsking from both their graves.

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  20. Here's a fish story for ya, Mader!

    Sweetfire lived at the bottom of the river, and the boy could see her sometimes when he went down there to fish. She was beautiful so far as he knew; she had long, curly red hair that swirled about her in the deep water and the kind of lips that made him think about things he probably shouldn’t. Her emerald eyes held secrets; he knew that much. They glowed at him from beneath the surface in a way that made it difficult to breathe.
    Thursdays after school he’d head down to the bank to the place where the willows hung low over the water. It was quiet and he could think. Even the birds were quiet there, and in the late afternoon he could stand and cast his line with its bright blue bobber and hope. Already at twelve, he was pretty sure that fishing was not so much about catching as it was about hoping. But he was grateful for it all the same.
    He’d first seen her one day back in August. He’d been watching the bobber, hypnotized a little by the way the sunlight danced over the water, groggy from the suffocating heat. Duke Thomas and some of the bigger boys had chased him from school to the place where the road ended and turned into the long dirt drive that led to his house. Mama had her soap operas turned up loud so she could hear them from the kitchen and he knew if he could grab his pole from the front porch and get out the back, there’d be no need to explain the bruises on his knuckles or the deepening purple over his eye.
    She didn’t even look up from shelling peas into an enormous yellow bowl in the sink. “By dark!” was all she said as he hurtled on through.
    But as he waded a little deeper, his toes sucking mud, the cool of the waters felt as good as a dream. He glanced down, expecting to see his own battered image but instead she was there with her fiery hair smiling a little and putting a finger to her pink full lips. He blinked squeezing his eyes shut tight against the vision. She was there when he opened them again, lingering for minutes with that same soft smile until the moment when a cat bird circled over his bobber and signaled him to the jerk on his line. The girl was gone but in her place was a fat, Guadalupe bass.
    Sweetfire had come to him almost every Thursday since. He couldn’t be sure when he named her that, any more than he could explain how she lived in the river or the persistent glow of her emerald eyes. Those days when even the Lord couldn’t make them bite, she’d entertain him with a kind of water dance as though there were music playing somewhere and if he just listened he might could hear.
    Other times, she’d reward him with bass or the occasional catfish and once with an eel that made him holler with delight. But all the time, every time, she filled him with a kind of hope. New and strange and beautiful. A feeling that lingered long after she’d gone and left sitting up nights, staring at the moon.
    Never once had she beckoned him or asked him to follow. To slip into the cool, blessed current and show him her mysteries. Never once had she broken the surface of the current to throw a vine around his helpless ankles and pull him into that liquid darkness until he was gone.
    Never once had Sweetfire asked for anything at all. But he was pretty sure that day was coming. He was pretty sure she would.

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    1. Agreed. This is beautiful. And the angler in me approves as well. :) "he was pretty sure that fishing was not so much about catching as it was about hoping. But he was grateful for it all the same."

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  21. Her roommates made sour-lemon faces when Katie started doing laundry for guys in the dorm, but it was easy money. While the loads of whites and darks danced the washer and dryer cha-cha, she studied or wrote papers. She had been surprised when Ed, a guy she kinda sorta liked, and who kinda sorta liked her, based on a few elevator make-out sessions and a couple of drunken hookups, not only asked for her laundry services but offered to pay her. “It’s only fair,” he’d said. “I’d be taking the spot of some random guy that you could charge for this.” She admired his logic, and the rest of him, and he became one of her regulars. Even though their kinda-sorta had graduated to full on nobody-else-but-you, every Sunday night, she did his laundry and when she returned it to his room, she got ten bucks and a kiss. Her roommates upped the acid in their expressions and said it was an old model of gender stereotyping and a form of domestic subjugation, although they didn’t seem to mind that Katie did their own laundry, and they didn’t seem to mind arguing this over pitchers of beer purchased by the hours Katie spent sorting jeans from boxer briefs and mating pairs of horrid socks.

    One Sunday, when she took the stuffed-full pillowcase of dirty clothes from Ed’s closet and brought it down to the basement, she found what looked like women’s underwear. White. Gigantic. With a sinking feeling in her gut, she threw the distaff garment into the washer. Probably supplied by his asshole roommate, trying to get Ed in trouble with her. But that didn’t add up. If the jerk was trying to stick it to him, why not something from the sexpot collection? Why not a thong or some lacy bit of nothing? Why a pair of grannie panties?

    “What’s with the face?” Ed said when he pressed the bill into her palm and tried for a kiss that she ducked.

    Still standing in the open doorway, she looped a finger around the outsized waistband and spun the garment on a finger before lofting it to his bed. “Look familiar?”

    A flush crept up his neck; sweat shone on his forehead. A throat cleared behind Katie. She turned. And there stood one of her roommates. The queen of all the arguments, the most sour of all the advocates for equal division of labor. “Yeah,” the woman said. “They’re, uh, mine.”

    Katie should have known that. From the number of times she’d washed and folded the garments, made tidy stacks for her to stow in the bureau they also shared. But she would not fold now. She glared from one guilty party to the other, marched over and dumped the basket on his bed. Then stuck out her palm toward her roommate. “Ten bucks,” she said. “A little tax for all the domestic subjugation.”

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    1. I love Katie... she's got chutzpah! and she's better off without the jerk...

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    2. Great stuff! But just between you and me and everybody else, WHY oh WHY, can't you find a sexxy pair of granny Panties? What is that about?

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    3. Agree with Leland and Teresa! Great stories - and we need to start a line of sexy grannie panties. :)

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  22. There are some things you don't talk about. I don't care if the same blood runs through all your veins - some things are sacred. Some things are so shameful that they should be buried. And maybe that's weak, but that's life.

    Dirty laundry, sure there's plenty of it. Plenty of guilt to go around. Don't spend it all in one place.

    And when you think about what you should tell people, think about this. They don't deserve to know shit. You air your own dirty laundry and leave mine the fuck alone. Light, dark - doesn't matter. It's mine, and it's not for you to share over tea and titters.

    Fuck that.

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  23. Your anger is enormous, almost majestic. You can live inside it and no one can touch you. It tastes like rust. It doesn't have a smell because no one is stupid enough to take time to stop and smell the anger. They duck and pass by.

    You are monolithic. And pathetic. Quit smiling like everything's copacetic. I'm bleeding, where's the antiseptic? Your smile, yeah, I fucking wrecked it. And I'd do it again in a second.

    Your anger is a tower that builds and builds to nothing. Slash the mattress and rip out the stuffing. But don't ever look at me with those eyes, cause I'll rip them the fuck out of your head. And then I'll smile, laughing with the dead.

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