Friday, January 22, 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. 

They went to the beach - saw the tide pools. Jenny was ecstatic. Laughter rolled off her like the chunks off rock that they could see on the road above. Mike was not impressed. Not by the tide pools or Jenny's laughter or that the road had been a goddamned suicide run. Who knows when there's going to be a rockslide? Like playing the lottery.

The whole trip had been like this. I want a honeymoon. What do we need a honeymoon for when we been together ten years? I want to see the ocean. The ocean is just a big ass lake that smells bad, do you know how much money we're going to blow on this trip? We're not going to blow the money, we're going to have the time of our lives.

And so forth.

Jenny was about done. Done with Mike's complaining. Done with watching sunsets alone, while he smoked cigarettes and looked everywhere but at her, wiping sand off his boots like it was poisonous. She was done with the laughing gulls, done with sandcastles. Ironic, she thought, that this trip might prove their undoing.

On the last day of their trip, Jenny woke up alone. Panic. She ran through the rooms of the small cottage they were renting. Then she saw him. In the yard. Standing, smoking, but watching the waves intently. She stepped out into the damp morning and cleared her throat behind him. He had been crying.

"Honey, what's wrong? You can't be that miserable."

"Miserable? Hell."

"Then what?"

"I was just thinking - have been thinking - it shouldn't have taken me ten years to take you the one place you wanted to go. You've gone plenty of places with me. I been selfish."

She smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"I know. That's why I love you."

And they looked at the waves together. And they laughed with the gulls. And they played in the sand, like children, until it was time to leave. This time, they did not fear the rocks.

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

146 comments:

  1. Ah, another proof that JD Mader CAN and DOES write beautiful and romantic stories... ya got me in the heart...

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    1. Nearly made me cry at work. Well told, Mader.

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    2. You really surprised me with this one. Well done!

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    3. Beautiful piece. What is it that makes us resist what we need most? Which in most cases is only to makes others happy?

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    4. I think this may be my favorite flash of yours Mader. I can't be sure because you so often surprise me. I know it reminded me of someone and something important.

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    5. Wow. That's...riveting and beautiful.

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    6. It's just so sweet, yet true to life.

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    7. Even if this sort of understanding were not true (and it is), this piece would make you wonder if it could be.

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  2. His was a life of half-met expectations.

    When he asked his parents for a dog like Lassie, they got him a toy poodle.

    When he wanted a bicycle, they gave him the one his sister had outgrown.

    “Honey, no one will notice it’s a girl’s bike. It goes just as fast!”

    When he tried out for the high school football team, they didn’t listen to his dreams of being a quarterback. They made him the team manager.

    He fell in love with the beautiful Swedish exchange student in his senior year. He was the envy of every guy in his class. When he finally found the guts to propose, she explained to him what “pre-op trans” meant.

    He had a decent career as an assistant manager, but never made the cut to full manager.

    Finally he’d had enough of his half-assed life. He found his father’s gun and held its cool barrel to his head as he pulled the trigger. He learned that starter guns only shoot blanks, but they make a helluva lot of noise.

    When he did enough research to figure out how to kill himself successfully, with the right mix of medications, he knew he didn’t care if he went to heaven or to hell, as long as all the half-met expectations were behind him.

    When he opened his eyes in the celestial white room, and heard the angel call his name, he almost smiled, until the angel completed his sentence.

    “Mr. Snyder, welcome to Purgatory.”

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    1. The listing of 'grievances' is SO spot on. "Honey, no one will notice it’s a girl’s bike. It goes just as fast!” - How many of us have heard those words! Awesome, L. And nice twist at the end.

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    2. What Dan said.

      Guess he should have chosen to find a way to make his life less half-assed, huh? Good reminder to keep reaching for the stars. :)

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    3. So many of us see our lives just that way. excellent.

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    4. Funny and tragic at the same time. Very cool!

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    5. I always wanted a boy's bike...
      I really liked this one Leland!

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    6. Levels and levels of meaning in this, beyond that simple puch line. You go, guy!

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    7. Thanks for the encouraging and kind words!

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    8. This was trippy Leland (that's a good thing), cause it was simultaneously funny and morose. Well done.

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    9. I love how you pulled that line all the way through. Well done, sir.

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    10. Leland, love that you began and ended with one clear sentence. It was a trip, as Lily says, of melancholy and humour. I add my name to the chorus: well done!

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    11. I feel the need to add to the praise. Awesome piece. So like life. If you just take a step back you can see the humor in it.

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    12. So like life. If you just ride the flow, give up, stay in, loose faith, half is who you will be at best. Well done.

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  3. No matter how many times she said it, they didn't understand.

    "He can't get out of bed."

    No, he's not hurt. He's not sick. Yes, I suppose he could get out of bed, physically, but ... he can't get out of bed. The town didn't know what to do about it. He was a man. Men got up and went to work. They didn't spend three months in bed. Not unless they were good and goddamned hurt.

    She spoke to him, but he didn't even answer. Just slept on his side - or lay on his side staring at the wall. Sometimes, he wept. She told no one about the weeping.

    And then one day it stopped. He got up. Put his boots on and went to work. And everyone put it behind them. But not her. She knew that it would be back. Whatever it was. She could already see the storm clouds gathering in his eyes.

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    1. Damn this is good... and she's right. It always does come back. The last line is perfect.

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    2. Dead on. Depression can be so debilitating and is so poorly understood.

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    3. Great. Inspired my piece from a differen time this week. What did we do, before we called it depression? Fascinating question..

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    4. I know depression is the obvious story here but I got something completely different from this and totally fascinating as an alternate possibility.

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    5. So much, here. She knows. She always knows.

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    6. Insight expressed in such a short piece. I feel I know both of them.

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    7. This is amazing. The last line kills it.

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    8. Nailed it. My dad used to this for days at a time. He called it " having a blue funk".

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  4. She held the rag doll in one hand but paid it no mind. It was her only toy but she didn't really like it. It was dim under the dark oak table. The closed drapes blocked any sunlight and the chairs made her perch under the table more like a cage.

    Why hadn't she kept her mouth shut. Her friend, indeed her only friend, who lived above, would wonder why she had not climbed the stairs to visit. The age difference didn't matter, she at 2 1/2, the woman likely in her twenties, or maybe even thirties.

    How could she have known her father would forbid visits after she told him the woman had "burned the shirt" with the iron? How could she have predicted he would rage at her that the woman would burn the house down? Even she knew that wasn't likely.

    He slept, recovering from some illness. He demanded total silence - all day and night. Any peep would bring another bout of rage.

    So, here she sat, in the dark, silent, alone and asking herself why she'd told him, why she hadn't kept her mouth shut - missing her friend.

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    1. This is a heartbreaker, and well-told.

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    2. Hmm, not sure why but it should have shown it under my name.

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    3. I was guessing it's yours! nicely done!

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    4. Indeed. I love it. Especially this sentence. Simple and beautiful: "It was dim under the dark oak table."

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    5. Mader is right that sentence embodied the whole piece for me. Tragic how early the survival instinct starts for some of us.

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    6. Just for everyone's information (and thanks for the comments) this is my earliest memory. I'm thinking of expanding it as the opening for my memoir.

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    7. You absolutely should. This is wonderful and moving. You can feel her loneliness.

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    8. People tend to forget their early days, things that happened. They also put it out of mind that children think and feel. Thank you for showing the error of their ways.

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  5. On a morning when the planets played celestial tag with the moon, he prepared for his morning walk. He put on his heavy coat. Snowboots. Travel mug of hot coffee, check. Camera, check. Notebook to write in, check.

    He looked out the window. Twelve inches of snow overnight. The eastern sky was just now getting a little pink. He called for his dog, who was already standing at the door, but traditions are traditions.

    He looked in the dog’s graying face, seeing hope but not expectations, the dog had given up on expectations some years ago. So had the man.

    He put the camera and the notebook down, and grabbed a tennis ball instead. The dog began salivating and doing an arthritic version of a puppy’s happy dance.

    “Let’s go, boy.”

    And as they crossed the threshold, they left the old man and dog inside, and the kid and the puppy chased a yellow ball in ultra-white snow until neither one could feel his feet any more.

    And the puppy-dog stood on his back feet, front paws wrapped around the man-boy, and they watched the sun come up, together, and there were no pictures that day, and no proof of the silliness of two old fools except in the memories of those two old fools.

    And it was good.

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    1. "He looked in the dog’s graying face, seeing hope but not expectations, the dog had given up on expectations some years ago. So had the man." Fucking BAM!

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    2. Thanks... you make me think I might keep writing....

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    3. I could see this piece so clearly in my head Leland. No might about it...DO keep writing.

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    4. Thanks... I'm not sure I could stop if I wanted to, to be honest... it's a disease....

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    5. I enjoyed the focus of light on that moment of decision. Somehow, in so few words, you were able to express how much that small change in behaviour meant to both of them. Lovely.

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    6. This made me tear up. It also made me smile.

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    7. What a lovely expression of relocating joy in life!

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  6. It was Friday. He’d told everyone he’d be in and out all day. Which was true.
    He mounted his bike, slipped his helmet on, and headed across the bridge. It had too much traffic these days, but what could beat riding through the fog hundreds of feet above the ocean?

    He’d brought only one thing with him. A notebook. So he could write. Fiction, he told himself. Which was false.

    He pulled into the parking lot on the other side of the bridge, his adrenalin still pumping. It was mostly empty.

    God, he loved this city. Which was true.

    He took his helmet off, breathed in the morning air, and looked at the bridge just as the fog started to lift. Its towers were still half-hidden, orange against the luminescent gray. He unzipped his leather jacket, a jacket he’d worn now half his life. It smelled of sweat and spilled beer and gasoline and oil and memories.

    If you didn’t count the cars and trucks zooming across the bridge, it was actually almost quiet here. Which was false.

    When he was a kid, he used to come here to dream. Sometimes he brought a fifth of Jack Daniels to help him dream. Now he came here stone cold sober. He’d seen too many friends die because of drunk drivers, and he’d seen too many drunks walking like the dead.

    He needed to be alive. Which was true.

    He had responsibilities. Which was false.

    He needed to breathe. Which was true.

    He’d never finish writing this damned book. Which was false.

    He’d finish the book, or die trying. Which was true.

    And there, in a parking lot, by a bridge, he finished the story, which was false, but truer than anything he’d ever known.

    When he left at noon, the lot was nearly full. He was drunk on true and false and flying high as a kite on his body’s own endorphins.

    He was a writer. Which was true.

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    1. (this piece inspired by the infamous JD Mader, who so often posts "I'll be in and out all day"... I had to come up with something that he was doing while he was gone all that time...)

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    2. JD inspired you and I like that but I imagine he does have some responsibilities. LOL

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    3. LOL, yeah, I know he does... all that Dad and husband and job stuff... I didn't mean to minimize that....

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    4. Oh Leland! I love the puppy-dog one so much! I *know* that feeling! When The Mutts and I are down at the Crick, I'm 9 again, and EVERYTHING is an adventure! Thanks for reminding me! :)

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    5. I loved the way it kept coming back with the "Which was true"
      And loved this line "he’d seen too many drunks walking like the dead."

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    6. Just beautifully constructed on the True/ False axis! YAY!

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    7. Garsh. I love this. And I agree, the construction with the true/false dichotomy is so strong. And thanks for making me think about how old my leather jacket is. ;)

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    8. I live to serve . And don't you ever let that jacket go.

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    9. Love how this is set up. Which was true.

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    10. Everyone else used my words! So I'll just mention that this sounds like the mind of a programmer (true/false, if/then) trying to grasp a new concept - fiction.

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  7. She finds a motel on the wrong side of town. It is terrifying, this feeling. This lying prone on a paltry bedcover the colour of cockroaches, imagining it shifting and breeding beneath her, as she splays herself like a fallen star and stares madly at a ceiling so stained it might have been some ancient treasure map. And feeling the steady tears on her rigid mask of a face and sporadic sobs belch from her gut like swamp gas while a train runs raucous nearby, a night freight intent on escape, and in the diminishing wake of its blare and bedlam a bottle smashes and someone yells emphatically at someone else to go fuck themselves with something large and rusty and a yard dog barks ferociously for a few seconds then all is quiet again for now.

    She knows she should be happy. If not happy, relieved at least. She slipped away. Absconded. She, an outer planet shearing without warning from the numbing track of its bleak orbit around that dark sun into the emptiness of space. But a rogue planet is a cold one, a desolate defector, and there comes a moment when it feels the absence of its terrible sun, when abject loneliness is no longer qualitatively better than utter terror.

    Seeking to divest herself of one, she seems to have donned both. From merely afraid to lonely and afraid. Ought she to return to the man who once threatened her destruction? Is it already too late?

    Rewind. Early fall. Somewhere in Ohio.

    When she pulled into that rest stop she had only one thing on her mind: her full bladder. She killed the engine and barely gave a moment's glance at the two vehicles already parked there. It was only when she was passing the men's room that the world outside of her urgent need to pee intruded in the form of an awful, skin prickling scream. It had come from inside the men's restroom. She stopped and listened to the silent aftermath, an eerie muted quiet in which the oceanic surge and retreat of the interstate seemed muffled and no birds or insects sang or buzzed.

    She could ignore it. Most folks would. But she wasn't most folks.

    [To be continued?]

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    1. Wow... yeah, continue this! this is full of your usual brilliant imagery, but this phrase set the scene perfectly: "...while a train runs raucous nearby, a night freight intent on escape, and in the diminishing wake of its blare and bedlam a bottle smashes and someone yells emphatically at someone else to go fuck themselves with something large and rusty..."

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    2. Yeah, for sure, continue it. And Leland's right it's hard to see how you could do better than that one magnificent sentence in the piece.

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    3. Yup, go. And I love Leland's grab. You know what though? Sometimes you read something and a phrase locks you into the narrative. Happens to me rarely. The colour of cockroaches? Holy shit. That's brilliant. (I hate cockroaches.)

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    4. Seriously intrigued. Also, what Leland and Dan said. Both of those bits sucked me right in, like I was there.

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    5. What they said, and the color of cockroaches, and PLEASE PLEASE continue.

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    6. Dittohead here. I love the line about the cockroaches as much as everyone else, and want more.

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    7. Intriguing. Check.
      Creepy. Check.
      Mystery. Check.

      Your mention of that bedspread has Kafka-sequel images running through my head.

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  8. Covered with something like mulch or brown trash that had gone through some sort of recycling machine or wood chipper, the soil felt spongy under my feet. Twilight hid the sun, and four of us were carrying something light but awkward on a path to a nearby location. No one grumbled or complained; they looked at their feet and marched like zombies down the dark path. “Wait,” I yelled, picking up a nice leather wallet. “ Look, it’s cash.” I quickly took the money, pocketed it and tried keeping up, when I saw another wallet and it too appeared to be bulging and full of dollars. “Here,” I said to the guy next to me. “Take it.” I handed him the money and noticed there were wallets all around the edges of the trail. We made it to our destination where the rest of them immediately began to assemble whatever it was we had carried down the lane. While I scoped the area for more wallets, I overheard one of them making a crack about the stupid tart.
    “You mean me, don’t you?” I said stepping into view. Fine, I’m out of here.” Indignation boiled in my veins as I checked out the others and made negative judgements about their lifestyles. They didn’t look like upstanding individuals and I didn’t want to hang out with them any longer than I needed to. Plus, I didn’t like their language or being called stupid. But the farther I traversed from the group, unusual signs made it clear I shouldn’t have left. I kept coming across more wallets, overstuffed purses and dusty luggage along the side of the road. Some were empty and filled with old clothes and fancy shoes. Frustrated and still angry-- I finally realized this was purgatory, maybe even hell--and the money wasn’t going to buy me anything.

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    1. Yes, purgatory - but it need not have been. Well played.

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    2. This is such a cool, unique piece. Mind twisting. I love this phrasing: "Twilight hid the sun, and four of us were carrying something light but awkward..."

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    3. This was so unexpected and perversely it was fun too. Really enjoyed it.

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    4. This was a trip to read, in the best possible way.

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    5. You begin with a dream and end with a nightmare. Nice!

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  9. Button slept. Or at least that was what we told the children. It had been three weeks since our kitten had moved, the tubes having been plugged into it's gut early on in its care. After that she'd stabilized, her fur beginning to look more as though it was attached to a living creature rather than a beginners' failed attempt at taxidermy.

    We never found out what had happened to our beloved pet, although the vets all thought she'd somehow eaten something covered in a lead-based paint. Connie - our fifteen-year-old - had hypothesized that she'd been poisoned by a Serbian immigrant, the neighbours already being on her hit-list of undesirables, but her mother and I chose to disbelieve this. However would they have been able to locate the polonium she swore Button had been fed? Whatever they'd done to upset her before, we'd decided not to trouble the police with her theory. It was all too fantastical and likely to cause much more trouble than it'd solve.

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    1. Timely and well-done... Button was clearly a defecting spy.

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    2. Again, I am left desperately wanting a stroll through your brain, brother.

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    3. I really dig this piece. Wish I had some better feedback, but I apparently suck at that today.

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  10. The river still sang its endless loop of November song as it rolled past the old steel bridge, even though January had almost run its course. On the hillside above, the latest excuse-me snow had whitewashed the abandoned shopping carts, empty bottles of someone’s hope turned to hopelessness — perhaps the other way around —
    and a notebook, its pages fat with ice, its back broken, its heart now devoid of words.

    Where once ran hand-written lyrics to the music below, the sun had bleached each line, exsanguinated warm memory of how the two of them watched the river flow, erased dreams to follow it someday out of the valley, to where the wind carried the perfume of nature and not the cough of the mines.

    The approaching coal train strikes up a new strain, overpowering that of the waterway that drew its steel path before farm and factory ever broke this frozen soil.

    In the roar and wind as the black beast passes, ringing, howling its way out of this valley, the pages flutter and reveal for scant seconds the secrets a girl never told a boy, only to disappear back to the story of the hillside’s white and the sound the river makes as it chases tomorrow and runs from yesterday in its wordless November song.

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    1. wow... such vivid images and sounds... and I love the train, and the notebook, and the river... and you did a beautiful think with the echo of November song... this is good stuff.

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    2. Joe, this is beautiful. Pure poetry. I love it. And I wish my grandfather was still alive because he would have loved it, too. If I wrote this, I'd FORCE everyone I know to read it.

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  11. Sydney felt like running but instead she forced herself to walk at a measured pace. Colliding with other commuters in the busy station she ignored the few surprised looks and angry glances. They must be tourists since they didn’t realize the disparate camaraderie such exchanges could evoke in born and bred New Yorkers. It simply was what it was. A part of life here not at all worth bitching about. All the more reason that bumping into an old friend on the train shouldn’t have inspired the lack of composure she was feeling. Why so undone? It had been years, not months since she’d last spoken to Eli. Their friendship had been epic and she at least had hoped impenetrable. When it turned out not to be the case, when it turned into an affair, Sydney hadn’t let it get tawdry. She’d been brave enough to end it almost immediately. Eli barely blinked and she was gone.

    He’d tried to reach her of course. They had been very close once. Finishing each other thoughts and sentences, laughing uproariously about the smallest peccadilloes they shared, and bravely fending off any whisper of a bad thought that might wrack the other’s self-esteem, with loving encouragement. They had been great friends. And they had ruined it. So of course he had tried to fix things.

    Coming out of the station at West 4th Street, the cold air cleared her head immediately. She tried once more to think back on a time that even the softest vibration of a memory she'd left behind so long ago. When she disappeared from the loft Eli was subletting, there had been countless phone calls and plaintive messages from him that went unanswered. So many that she finally disconnected the answering machine. Twice he came to her door and she pretended not to be home. She was elated that they didn’t work together anymore and she was between jobs because she feared he might have attempted to interrupt her at work, if only to incessantly go over ground they’d already covered a thousand times.

    They weren’t to be. They weren’t meant to be. Not that way. Not then. Not ever.

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    1. A fascinating scene well unfolded... I'd be interested in hearing Eli's side of the story, too!

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    2. This narrative is so intimate. Your pieces do that a lot for me. I just feel immediately really close to the story. Like I already read it. That sounds weird. It's a compliment.

      And this is microfiction:

      They had been great friends. And they had ruined it.

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    3. This is so real I felt I was there - and in a way I was. I've been there.

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  12. So romantic and sad. Sydney will find true love some day and Eli will be a long lost memory!

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  13. Daddy had the cabin fever; you could see it in his eyes. Every year, it came on him sometime after Christmas, and every year it was just the same. Momma would lock up the guns and keep the key in her corset and then tell him he’d just mislaid somewhere. By sometime in the middle of January he’d start at the drinking. He’d take down that bottle from the place he’d thought it was hidden and have a shot or two and stare at the fire almost till it went out. And every night, Momma would get up after he was asleep and top off that bottle with water. And when it was finally gone, he’d get into the jar where she kept the money, and break out one of the horses. Then he’d ride to them Irish that sold it down the road and get him another and hide it again. And the ritual would start all over.
    By Valentine’s pretty much, we knew to whisper and keep ourselves scarce. Even the baby didn’t dare cry. One time Momma called the Preacher to come offer him some consolation but it didn’t seem to help things much. And when he told Daddy to pull hisself together, the Reverend left with a big black eye.
    Momma started sleeping with a knife under the pillow. I knew it when I saw it there one time. After that, she started sleeping in the kitchen ‘cause he was talking in his sleep and said she couldn’t sanction lying with a man who cursed God, whether he knew it or not.
    Another time, they got a Doctor to come look him over but he couldn’t find nothing much wrong. But momma begged him for some tonic, so he gave her a bottle of some snake oil and told her what he needed was to occupy his mind.
    They say that thing about an idle mind and the devil’s workshop, and it was certainly true in Daddy’s case. When the fever was on him like it was, and he got that look in his eyes, you might as well have been staring at Ole Scratch himself. So Momma started reading aloud most nights after supper. Things like Shakespeare and poetry and the 23rd psalm. “And now is the winter of our discontent…”Problem was, when it came to book learning, you had about as much chance of getting Daddy interested as you had of baptizing a cat.
    Widow Larsen’s people came from Norway. She come by one day when Daddy was lying down, which was most days by then, that year being especially bad. The old busybody was checking in on everybody, warning them of the blizzard about to fall. Well, she took one look at him and told Momma to tie him to the bedposts straightaway, give him some broth and not let him up till the first thaw, explaining that’s what they’d had to do with Uncle Arne back in the old country.
    That blizzard did come all right. Snow up to our asses and frost so thick on the windows you couldn’t breathe it off. And another one after that. Long about that same time, it was Daddy’s birthday. So Momma baked him a cake he didn’t want and we tried to sing Happy Birthday, but that just seemed dumb. It was like we’d caught the sadness and the devil that looked out of him was doing a pretty good job on the rest of us,too.
    But then she pulled a package out of her apron, wrapped in butcher paper and tied with a string. His fingers were shaking as he opened it and he put it nearer the lamplight so he could see. Inside, wrapped in different pieces of cloth were the sprouts of a hundred seeds, threadlike and alien, like something just born.
    “I wrapped them up and kept them damp and put them in the dark,” she told him. “ I got some dirt in the cellar and pots, all ready to put them in the ground. You’ll have a good head start on the garden next month, Luke. We can start on the crop after that.”
    I can’t say I know much about miracles. But my Momma worked one that day. Because, just like that, the Devil departed. All the murder left Daddy’s eyes. He leaned over and kissed her hand. And for the first time since Christmas, Daddy smiled. And all that had been lost was returned to us again with that single, fragile promise.
    Of spring.

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    1. So sad, so beautiful... and I love it. The last two sentences/phrases are pure magic.

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    2. This is gonna sound weird. You'll know what I mean - when I read your stuff, it's so wonderfully written but also so easy to read. The voice is always so true. Like using the word "sanction" - that one word lends so much authenticity. Love it

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  14. The full moon rose in the east, like the end of a sentence. A very long sentence. Twenty-two years with the bastard.

    It was the same moon that brought them together, in 1993. Camping. Both of them hiked solo, and both hiked until sunset, choosing the same lake to camp next to, without even seeing each other.

    She heard water hitting a tree, and wondered if bears made that sound when they pissed. Unafraid, she stuck her head out of the tent, with her flashlight aimed in the direction of the sound. He held up his hand to block the light and laughed.
    God how she loved that laugh.

    Stumbling over apologies, they introduced themselves, and they talked in the light of the full moon. As the moon finally set and the eastern sky began to light, they made love the first time.

    They spent the rest of the week together, getting to know each other, comparing movies and books and music and arguing politics. And making love. They were insatiable.

    His friends and her friends both warned them, when they returned to the city, that they were moving too fast, to take it slow. He moved into her apartment that weekend.

    Twenty-two years. Two children. One grandchild. Six continents they walked together. And cancer. It ate him up from the inside, right before her eyes, like a balloon deflating, not popping, but deflating quickly.

    How dare he leave her? He was her everything, and she was his.

    Now, she stared at the full moon, alone in the same tent, by the side of the same lake.

    She was wrong. That large golden dot in the deep blue sky wasn’t a period. It was a halo. Finally, she cried.

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    1. OK, you broke me. It's official.

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    2. I need your address so I can send duct tape... it won't do to have you broken Thanks for the kind words.

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    3. This is one of the most heartrending and beautiful things I've ever read. <3

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    4. Thank you for such high praise! I'm honored!

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    5. Good feels in this one. Or rather, well expressed feels.

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  15. “Ayo! What’s up with all that shit you was talkin’, bitch?!” Tim kind of hated getting involved, at all, with publicity. He only went to these things with Luanne as a bodyguard; whenever anyone pointed a microphone, he shut up and let her do the talking, for fear of saying the wrong thing. But if anyone acted out of pocket, he did the confronting. Even if they weren’t acting out at that moment. He’d heard about Mustapha ben Sharif, and took exception to the things he had to say about Luanne, himself, and the radical movement they were driving, hence when he spotted him, he strode right up and got in his face.

    “Young man, I don’t know WHAT you’re talking about…” Mustapha replied, in a dignified, yet a touch indignant, tone.

    This only made Tim even more angry. “I’m Tim fuckin’ Callahan, nigga! What’s up?! You got somethin’ to say? You got an opinion about me, about my lady? Fuckin’ say it to my face and see what happens, ya ol’ ashy-dick hotep nigga!” He had been drinking since lunch, and deliberately blew his whiskey breath in Mustapha’s face, before sharply prodding his shoulder with two extended fingers.

    Mustapha scowled as he replied, “well, my opinions of you, and Miss Rodgers, are rather well validated by your comportment and choice of words. You dress like a vagrant, you reek of liquor, and your offensive language makes it clear to everyone around you: you are ignorant trash.”

    “Look, I don’t give a fuck what you think about me. You ain’t shit, I use motherfuckers like you to pick dog shit out the soles of my kicks. But if you wanna talk shit about my lady, cuz she don’t cape for bitch niggas like you, we got a problem.” Tim prodded him again, as Luanne watched, amused, and added, “Whatcha gonna do now?” He pushed Mustapha again, with both hands. “You think you’re such hot shit, now you got a white boy up in ya grille, callin’ you a nigger to your face. A punk-ass, pussy-ass, bitch-ass, ain’t-shit, Uncle Tom-ass nigger. What are you gonna do about that shit, boy? I dare you to raise a hand to me, nigga, I double dare you. I will end you, right here, in front of everyone.”

    When Mustapha took a step back, aghast, Tim continued, “yeah, that’s right, back the fuck up. And in the future, be mindful ‘bout what you say. Next time you get on my nerves, I will fuck you up.”

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    1. No shit, this morning I was thinking you hadn't been by in a while. The dialogue and the contrast of it is so good. So real. Really impressive. I don't think I could do it. "ya ol’ ashy-dick hotep nigga" Really strong piece, D

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    2. I LOVE the phrase "ashy-dick hotep". It directly calls out a certain kind of rank hypocrite: if a black man is blatantly misogynistic and/or homophobic, I don't give a fuck how racist he thinks anything is.

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  16. What's the hold up? I gotta do this shit. Right now. If I don't ... fuck. Sixteen times around the block and touch the stop sign twice. And it's raining. I don't mind the rain so much, but I still don't like to wait. This shit is crucial. It's like open heart goddamn surgery. I need to write some words that sixteen people will read.

    Here, take the scalpel - you can make the cut. I've done it plenty of times and it ain't much fun. Kinda racy. Gets you feeling bad for yourself and sometimes that feels good. I've never cut anyone else. Don't know how that feels. Maybe bad. Try it. You never know unless you try.

    Shit, I need to figure this out. My brain's all twisted. Ain't right. And I can't lubricate it any more. All I can do is keep banging my head against this wall, hoping something will crack. Me or the wall.

    I don't really care which.

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    1. Writerly desperation sucks... but this writing doesn't.

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  17. You sound like a coyote with the yip, yip, yip - shut the fuck up, no one likes coyotes. Not even other coyotes. That's a lie, though. I like coyotes. Sly motherfuckers, coyotes. Cooler than me. Always will be.

    Yesterday, man. Yesterday was a head fuck. Like someone drilled a hole in my skull to literally fuck it. I barely slept, head was so well fucked. Not in a good way. In a kind of spastic way that makes me wonder if there are a bunch of dudes who look 17 wearing white coats in my future.

    But this isn't about me. This is about you, roadrunner. Doorbell just rang. Acme delivered my package.

    Meep fucking meep.

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    1. I, too, admire the wily coyotes... and the guys in the white coats, they mean well... just check that the coats aren't made by Acme, which is owned by the Roadrunner... the last line nails this whole piece... I like it!

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  18. She went to school for the requisite 13 years, and then she went to school for several years more. Mostly she learned that the establishment was more interested in the kids learning to conform than learning to think and that being different wasn't okay.

    But it didn't matter to much that no one was really allowed to educate her properly; those underpaid public servants and under qualified professors weren't her real teachers. Her real teachers were people she'd never met, and would never meet, some dead before she was ever born. Her real teachers were the poets, the authors, and the musicians whose experiences and ideas seeped into her mind. It was almost like learning by osmosis.

    She has a college degree now. She even has the paper to prove it. It's sitting rolled up in a tube in the closet while she claws her way up from minimum wage to something that's almost what her job is worth but no where near what she is worth. But that doesn't matter, either. Because her job isn't what it's about.

    She pounds out words on her keyboard and sends a silent prayer into the ether that someday someone somewhere will read her words and come away just a little changed...a little more knowledgeable, a little wiser, a little kinder, or a little less alone. She prays that she can be the teacher and the light in the darkness for someone the way so many others have been--and are--for her. Because _that_ is what her real education has taught her--that being true to herself and helping others is what it's all about.

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    1. That's beautiful... absolutely beautiful.

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    2. Excellent example of a character rising above.

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  19. Simon did feel sort of at home, in the post-industrial decay of Oakland, California. The weather was a bit more pleasant, and the countless anonymous brick terraces were replaced by stucco apartments and weathered Victorian houses. But it was swings and roundabouts, mostly: the grimy pollution, poverty, racial tension, and economic inequality made it feel like home. Just like his desolate hometown in Yorkshire, most people were un(der)employed, working menial service jobs and/or on the dole. Back home, the few who had better jobs generally had to endure tedious commutes to Sheffield, Leeds, or Manchester; here, they stuffed themselves into trains, or sat through nightmarish traffic, commuting to San Francisco, Palo Alto, or smaller suburban corporate campuses.

    As much as he generally hated serving in Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, he was glad he could use that experience to make exponentially more money as a mercenary than he ever would at any of the other tedious jobs he was qualified for, and that in America, he didn’t get nearly as much side-eye for the aggressive tendencies he’d developed.

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  20. Breath of pine needles on snow. Eerie gray glow. What planet am I on today? Absence of sound, of time. If this is immortal, I’d have wished for the end. Continuation, continuity, continuance. Contingencies, and continence. Had I wished for all this? The power to create entire worlds of words is not for everyone, read today’s memo, Mama. Memorandum. In memoriam. And Miriam. Who was she again? Did I ever know? Where has the day gone now? What had I wished for yesterday? Did it come true? Am I sorry? Am I ever. And ever.

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    1. the rhythm of the alliteration is cool... and almost stream of consciousness... well done!

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    2. Can I comment now? Yes! I love this, Jen. Really beautiful and the way it builds is super impressive.

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  21. You’ve always veered left into the locker room, to change in the complicit company of the high-mileage women. Chattering about recipes and prescriptions and lumps of husbands at home on the couch. Today, though. Today you break right. You don’t know why, exactly. Too crowded over there? Too much safety in numbers? But it’s too late and you’re there and backing away would draw more attention than getting down to business. Mere girls are down to tiny panties, bodies snare-drum tight, acres of smooth, untroubled skin, quick grins that think they know better. Until you lift your shirt and for a moment they stare, then avert their eyes, and the last syllables they’d uttered dissolve into the steamy air scented with baby powder and moldy carpet. At least you can still stop a conversation just by walking into a room. And that makes you smile.

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    1. Lumps of husbands cracked me up. Thank God mine isn't a lump.

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    2. This whole thing is cool... breaking patterns... breaking safe assumptions... it's what we writers are supposed to do! Thanks for sharing this!

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    3. Love this. <3 Love the phrase "high-mileage women."

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    4. Yep, I love the high mileage women, too. The whole piece. Super powerful, but subtle-y played. Reminds me a lot of this awesome writer I know, Laurie Boris. ;)

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  22. She watched herself in the mirror, combing her wet hair, drying herself off, applying moisturizer. Megan loved looking at herself. After ten awkward years she had finally turned into a gorgeous swan. Her brown hair was long and blusterous, her skin finally lacked pimples or blackheads, and the baby fat melted away to reveal glorious toned muscle. Sometimes Megan would stare at herself for hours, unable to turn away from the beauty that she possessed.
    Suddenly the door ricocheted open, revealing a pale, grinning ghost of a man. He watched her eyes grow bigger and let loose a terrible peel of laughter. Megan froze in fear, she couldn’t even bring herself to turn toward him. The ghost – or devil – pulled out a knife and walked in to stand behind her, pulling Megan back against him. He brought the knife up to her face and cut a perfect line across her cheek. Blood trickled down, and still she stood frozen.
    “Who are you?” Megan whispered. Her voice sounded loud in the still room.
    “I am your personal demon,” he replied, lips grazing her ear. “I know everything about you. All your dreams. All your nightmares. You can’t hide anything from me, even your deepest fears.”
    “Why are you here?” she asked, lips trembling, voice cracking.
    “You know why, my dear,” her demon said. “Someone has become too vain. I’m here to put a stop to it. When I am done you will want nothing to do with your own reflection.”
    Megan screamed, but couldn’t fight back. She found that she couldn’t move. Her demon was as good as his word. He whacked off her hair in uneven clumps, cut her face and disfigured her body. Nothing of beauty remained by the time the demon was done.
    Megan’s parents found her hours later, in a bloodstained bathroom, destroyed and still screaming. He’d left her alive, but with no will to live.

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    1. Well, that scared me half to death... awesome tearing into the secret fears we all have...

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    2. Eeps. Shopping for a new roomie tonight. You're too scary. ;)

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    3. My girl! *wipes a tear away* I'm so proud!

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  23. There is no way to prepare yourself for a storm at sea. Some withered old fishermen will tell you that you get used to it, but when a hurricane blows up seemingly out of nothing, the waves swell to stupendous size, the rain comes down drowning hard, and there is no sun at all sometimes for days. Those waves, they are monsters. Taller than the tallest mast, wider than your hull by three or four times, crested with foam and roaring down like a dragon of the oceans. It crashes down upon you, while you stand there, helpless to stop it. If you are smart, you've tied yourself to a mast rather than the rail or a cannon. Even the cannon moorings are no match for all that water. They are ripped out of place and swept over the side. So are the people. Being in the rigging during such a storm is playing hit or miss with your life. Rigging can be smashed, even the stoutest of masts can be snapped like twigs, and if you are lucky, very lucky, you will live through it long enough to clear the storm and make port again.

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    1. Good timing :P Great story, though :) It reminds me of life.

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    2. Great description. This is one of the many reasons I never wanted to be a sailor. :)

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    3. I saw this as an extended metaphor about life as well as the obvious. Really well done.

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  24. "Do me a favor?"

    "Anything."

    "Leave a whisper on my pillow so that I will hear you when I lay down here next."

    He looked at her with those large dark eyes. "What do you mean?"

    She shook her head, as if to clear it. "I'm being a hopeless romantic. I'm asking for a token to keep by me. One that can't potentially be used against me like a ring or a book. Merely a whisper."

    "I see."

    "Do you?" She turned away, packing various things from the little desk into the satchel she carried in her merchant guise. "I have to return to the real world shortly, but I have enjoyed my time with you, here..."

    "Does it have to end here?"

    "I don't know. Does it?'

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    1. Yeah, me too! This is lovely. I'm totally using that line, too. Karen doesn't read my blog, so she'll never see it coming. ;)

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