Friday, January 29, 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. 

You don't listen. You never learned right. How come you never listened? Chasing some kind of fairy dust that only you can see? I know all about it. And I know all about the dolls and the faces you make in the mirror when you think no one is looking - lipstick smear, stiletto spears.

But you never listened. I told you, but the truth binked off you like a penny off a jelly glass - now, look what you got. You got a mountain of problems, and you're digging with a spoon. Jesus, almighty. It's painful to watch.

But I know you don't know no better, and the 'not listenings' weren't always your fault. I reckon I talk too much sometimes. Has a queer effect on folks. I can't control it. You made a human mistake. But I can't abide it. 

You still ain't listening?

Well, you got one ear left. And five seconds to blink twice.




  1. Ack! Wasn't expecting that ending. Good stuff, Mader.

    1. Holy cats. I wasn't expecting that, either. Love the stiletto spears.

    2. I'm sure I shouldn't be finding it so darkly, horribly funny! Ace.

    3. Enviable view into a psychotic mind. Love the twist at the end.

  2. Yikes, Mader. What did you have for breakfast? Scary.

  3. The letter sat unopened, like a glowing dare, on the kitchen table. It had no return address, but Jane recognized the peach envelope, the strokes of the fountain pen, the passive-aggressive use of her married name. Dan would have teased her. Raised his thick eyebrows and grinned that goofy grin, and said something like, “Aw, come on, Janie. You’re not even curious?” Knowing of course that she was. She hadn’t seen her mother-in-law since the funeral, as if putting Dan in the ground marked the grateful conclusion of the older woman’s commitment to the ties her son had made since he left home. But as she was passing the table for the sixteenth time that day—yes, she’d counted, as she did load upon load of laundry and scrubbed floors and washed dishes—she wondered what it could possibly mean. Did the imperious old bat feel guilty for turning her back on Janie and her own grandchildren? Was she dying in some falsely cheerful nursing home, staring at artificial plants, eating food that would have horrified her in her younger days? She fortified herself with another cup of coffee and picked up the envelope, turning it around in her work-roughened fingers. The kids would be home from school in a few minutes. They were in junior high school now, and certainly were old enough to sort-of understand, but she didn’t want to give them another reminder of Grandmother and why she never came to visit anymore. So she locked herself in the bathroom, the only place she’d ever had any true privacy. Her heart rate accelerated, pounding into her ears. Part of her wanted to tear the envelope to bits and flush it down the toilet. But another part was already ripping open the flap. There was a small, folded piece of her personal stationary, yellowed with time. And, in that small, careful handwriting, she read: “I had a lovely visit with Daniel today. Please tell him next time not to bring such extravagant gifts. With my first grandbaby on the way, you need to save your money.”

    Janie stared at the tiny, careful writing, eyes filling, noticing as if for the first time how it had changed, how it had grown smaller, and tighter, as if trying to disappear altogether. And when the front door slapped open, Janie was a breath from shredding the note, but something, she didn’t know what, stopped her hand. She tucked it back into the envelope. Folded it carefully in half and stuck it into her back pocket. Then dabbed at the tears beneath her eyes and went out to greet her teenage children.

    1. OMG... you ripped my heart out... such a beautiful build-up, and then so much pain... well done!

    2. Yup. Agree with Leland. And the diminishing writing is genius.

    3. Dang Miss Laurie! You got me too. <3

    4. I had to reread the ending to get it! I think I must be sleepy and then it hit me. Pow. The image that struck me the most was the way she was repeating herself, going back and forth, doing laundry, cleaning, anything to keep her thoughts busy and then she reads the letter. But then maybe it will open the lines of communication with her mother-in-law... I'm hoping cos I don't want her to be so sad.

  4. It wasn’t fair. Estevio was her creation. How many nights had she imagined every rippling muscle? How many times had she traced the lines of his tattoos?

    She’d even taken Spanish classes so she could understand the sweet nothings he whispered in her ear every night.

    Brown eyes, like a puppy dog’s, all innocent and hungry. Full sensuous lips that could move from sneer to smile in microseconds. The scar over his heart, like a white bolt of lightning on his golden skin.

    She despised his taste in music, with alien rhythms and words, but she tolerated it because it was Estevio.

    She’d seen his fiery temper, but he was as quick to love as to hate, and he’d only fight when provoked, or to protect those he loved. She had hoped, but did not fully believe, that he loved her.

    And now, her beloved Estevio, dead of a gunshot wound to the head, a fight over her perceived virtue. Someone had called her a puta, an insult he could not let stand. She would never be able to imagine him without half his face missing, his remaining eye open in surprise even in death. Why hadn’t he listened to her? But no. His blood poured over the letters on the page.

    Rogue characters. They break a writer’s heart.

    1. Man, those last two lines are so epic. Not that they eclipse the rest, but - wow.

    2. I Love it.I don't know about you, but it's the moment I live for--when they turn rogue and start doing things I never imagined.

    3. Holy scene-stealers! The closing lines tied it up perfectly, even as they pulled the rug out from under me.

    4. You're a clever one Mister Leland.
      I thought I was reading a hot Spanish Booko-novella and it turned into a horror story...and then a mind bender!

    5. This is my favourite line - The scar over his heart, like a white bolt of lightning on his golden skin.
      I love that the most. And it made me wonder how he got it. It's almost like it's a foreboding of the tragedy to come. Or how he'll create a bolt of lightning into her heart.

    6. So much of a writer's pleasure/pain in so few words. Neatly sewn up.

    7. Thanks I think the author gave him the scar as an echo of Harry Potter... poor writer was running out of clever ideas.

  5. In morning’s glory, Jack catalogued his aches and pains, and finding only the old familiar ones, he slowly rose from his bed. Through the window he meant to wash last summer, he saw the red clouds in the east, and wondered if there were indeed any sailors nearby who would take warning. Not likely, since he was in the middle of a desert.

    When he wore a younger man’s body, it was he whom the sailors took warning of. Cocky, muscular, and tempestuous, they never knew if he’d hit them with his fists or his charm. They generally succumbed to either.

    But that was then. It didn’t do to focus on the past.

    Today, he was going to a wedding. His old friend—his best friend—Thomas, was getting married. He thought Thomas was a fool to marry so late in life, but Thomas did as Thomas wanted.

    He eased himself into the shower, the hot water masking the creaking of his joints. He pretended there was no pain. He watched the suds swirl over his once muscular, now puny body. The soap lingered on scars won long ago.

    Thomas wanted a military ceremony. He said it was his right. Jack didn’t disagree, but thought to himself it was silly that they’d have to put on dress uniforms they hadn’t worn in twenty years.

    Thomas was sending a limo to pick him up. Jack looked at the clock as he toweled himself dry. He had an hour. He shaved without cutting himself, a miracle that portended well for the day. His hands seemed to be shaking less. He dared look himself in the mirror. His eyes were not as red as usual.

    When the doorbell rang, he grabbed his hat—no his cover. Only civilians called them hats. He made it almost to the limo before he realized he’d forgotten the rings. He went back for them and put them in his pocket.

    When they arrived at the chapel, the limo driver opened the door for him, and he gladly took the young man’s hand to get out.

    Thomas met him, with an incandescent smile. “Did you remember the rings?”
    Jack patted his pocket. “Right here.”

    They walked together into the back rooms of the chapel, to wait for the ceremony to begin. Thomas’s exuberance was contagious. Jack found himself smiling, and laughing, more than he had in months. “I never thought I’d see your wedding day, Thomas.”

    “I never did, either.”

    And then it was time. Thomas and Jack, old sailors in old uniforms, stood at the side of the minister. The organist began playing Ode to Joy, and they looked to the back of the church.

    In Marine dress blues, Gregory confidently marched up the aisle. After 32 years together, Thomas and Gregory were getting married.

    Sometimes happily ever after takes a while.

    1. This is a lovely piece, Leland. So much good detail too. Covers, not hats. Red sky at morning. This one could be a novel for sure.

    2. Nicely done! I really like framing up the whole thing as a military ceremony too.

    3. This is great, not sappy, but sweet with the perfect amount of nostalgia.

    4. Sweet. I like the details of ageing and looking back, and how he's comparing himself now and in the past, and it all comes together. Right near the end I thought you were going to trick us and it was Jack and Thomas going to get married, lol.

    5. I have some military friends who would appreciate this. It's like a page out of their lives. Excellent portrayal.

    6. Thanks so much! And Vickie, I toyed with that idea, you mind reader! Ann, please give your friends my congratulations and gratitude...

    7. Even though I loathe everything about the US military and its oblivious bovine fetishism, this still got to me, which is a testament to its power.

    8. Aw, thanks, David... it's been my experience that the organization itself has huge problems, but most of the folks who are serving, especially in lower ranks, are some of the most selfless people on the planet... I appreciate your kind words!

    9. Not a fan of any military, especially a foreign one. I can't stand authoritarianism of any kind, or murderers for that matter, which is essentially what war pretends to legitimize. But yeah, this is probably not the forum for this debate, lol. Like I say, you gave something lyrical power despite my own political revulsion toward the kind of fetishization of killing other people that you guys seem to love! (Ha ha, now can I tell you how I *really* feel?)

  6. A couple times each month, he'd drive out from the city to what he called the Nowheres, a flat unremarkable piece of the rural Midwest, and pay for two nights, sometimes three, in a nondescript motel somewhere off the beaten track, thirty bucks a night or thereabouts. Sometimes he'd bring along a fifth of cheap bourbon, and other times he'd find a bar nearby and drink steadily and methodically, speaking only to the bartender before hiking unsteadily back to the motel on dark and silent backroads.

    He never told the few friends he had in the city what his purpose was, what he did out there in the Nowheres while Lucinda, Shelby, and Patty poured out their abandoned, melancholy hearts on a jukebox at the bar or on a cheap boombox in his room, in time with the ebb and flow of the Wild Turkey he tipped and swallowed without joy. He never told anyone that he came out to get drunk and write shit down—not any old shit, but the kind you needed to get out or it burrowed into your dark places like a soft blind thing and over time became hard, mean, and cancerous.

    Something about the lingering sunsets. The sudden stillness. Crepuscular rays spotlighting barns, grain elevators, corn patches, painting them briefly gold. Streaks of byzantium, coral, and vermillion like fever-dream oceans separating dark cloud archipelagos, ushered slowly westward into the flat horizon by the gentle darkness.

    This night, he crossed the gravel parking lot of this basic two-story L-shaped motel, looked up at the sign, the neon in one of the letters long leaked away: Mote. Because it was a mote, and he was a mote, and all the people and cattle and corn and fields were motes of inconsequential dust under the stars, which were also motes, but made of brightness. Under that sign, a smaller one, also broken: acancy, which sort of made him laugh. These lonely visits sure felt like acancies, even though he knew that wasn't a word.

    Other nights, after dark, he would look up at that same sky, in which a few stars trembled between the dark reefs of cloud that scudded dark like the decamped souls of everyone who'd once pined and then died of some related strain of sorrow in this wide and disregarded place.

    The pages he filled with longhand he'd sometimes set light to over the john, make of them black flurries, tiny apocalyptic storms, other times would tuck behind heating or air-conditioning units, slide into gaps in the fake wood paneling, under mattresses, or tear in tiny pieces while he cried raw tears. His memories made into words. Mostly of his momma but sometimes of his papa too. He still missed her; albeit less often, his papa too, god help him. He could keep on missing that sonofabitch forever, though, as he was never coming back from whatever sorry hell he'd volunteered for by finally swallowing the muzzle of a military-issue Beretta M9.

    (Another one that wants to keep going...)

    1. and it NEEDS to keep on going... I really like and know this character... and your language... how you paint beautifully with it...

    2. Yup agreed. I love acancy. And yeah, I want to know more. Really strong. Light but heavy. Well played, D.

    3. That third paragraph, so beautifully done. How he needs that space and stillness and color to get to a place where he can begin to describe the indescribable.

    4. but the kind you needed to get out or it burrowed into your dark places like a soft blind thing and over time became hard, mean, and cancerous.

      This is brilliant. I agree with Leland. I like this character.

    5. Bloody hell, those last two lines I didn't see coming. They're a total whack in the stomach and fabulous. I loved the 'acancy' too and the 'mote' and the ramblings that went with. Very rich description, as always.

    6. I did it! Here it is. I'm so excited, as this is something different from anything I've ever written and I finished it in under two days. Good, bad, let me know on my blog.

  7. She was a blast of hot, desert, furnace air. Like checking the oven. She singed your face and made you feel all dry inside – sucked the life out of you so your face deflated. And you picked it up and tried to reinflate it, but you couldn’t – it just kept getting more ridiculous. No oasis. Stasis.

    She was cheap, reused words and metaphors. She took on different shapes and she was the smoke in your lungs and the hitch in your step – she was a three beer buzz. She was everything you’d never expect.

    Fear. Regret. Honey, there’s no reason to be upset.

    No one blames you for what happened. A man loses his mind when he gets that thirsty.

    1. "No oasis. Stasis." Now that's what I'm talkin' about... awesome....

    2. This is great. It's like the prologue to a great story. She was cheap, reused words and metaphors. Class.

    3. Hmmm, it's as though your muse got a bone to pick with you today.Oh wait, you're sick! She running a little temperature, dude? Like it, though, especially your vulnerability. No reason to be upset...:)

  8. When he left, he took so much with him – he would’ve been shocked to know the truth of it. It wasn’t just the suits and silver. He left a space – a space that smelled of old cigarettes and felt like work-pant patches.

    He left the space, so I filled it with hate. Fuck him and fuck you and fuck her and fuck me. I swore, if I ever saw him again…

    Now, I get it. It wasn’t about him or me. Life’s a bitch that can wear so many colors; it gets confusing. And life don’t seem right no matter how you look at it. So, we all missed a lot. No sense bitching about it.

    Hell, I done the same thing. Why I got to thinking about it. She must be almost two now, and I ain’t proud one bit. I left and never looked back. Just like him.

    I get it.

    1. The circles... the causes and effects... this one made me think long and hard.

    2. Self-conscious, yet unconscious. So Well drawn in so few words.

    3. yeah, ever-decreasing circles of hate and bitterness and despair. Getting smaller and smaller. :)

  9. In a hidden valley, between promises made and promises kept, runs a river they call Hope. Two boys bait their hooks with dreams and cast for tomorrows. A dog lies on the ground beneath a tree, one eye watching them.

    “What are you gonna be when you grow up?” asks the towheaded boy named Jack.

    “I’m gonna be a Marine,” answers the redheaded boy named Daniel.

    “Why do you wanna be a soldier?”

    “Not a soldier, a Marine.”


    “What about you?”

    “I’m not gonna grow up. I hate grownups.”

    A big silver tomorrow glides by, beneath the surface of the water.

    “Did you see that one?”

    “Yeah. I guess he’s not interested in our bait.”

    Jack reeled in, to check if there was still a dream on the hook. “Marines kill people like soldiers kill people, right?”

    “Only the bad guys.”

    “How can you tell the bad guys?”

    “I guess they’ll teach us that in training. You know, you gotta grow up someday.”

    “Nope, I’m not gonna do it.”

    “How you gonna make any money to eat and stuff?”

    “If I’ve gotta get a job, I’ll be a cowboy. Me and Boozer over there, we’ll herd cattle, and see sunsets, and eat dust, and never take baths.”

    The dog raised one ear when he heard his name. The shadows lengthened.

    “We oughta get home,” Jack murmured.

    “Yeah, the grownups will worry. That’s what grownups do.”

    They packed their gear into their old backpacks and hiked out into the real world.

    “See ya next weekend?” Jack asked.

    “Yep. We’ll have better luck maybe.”

    The light of the days and the shadows of the nights repeat until they’re too busy to fish. Daniel joins the Marines. Jack moves to Texas. They don’t write each other, but they think each other, sometimes call out to each other through the darkened miles.
    Somehow Jack’s mother finds him when his dad dies. He doesn’t want to go home for the funeral, but he does. He’s not sure if he’s surprised when he sees Daniel there, in his dress blues.

    In the reception line, Daniel leans close to Jack’s ear. “Wanna go fishing tomorrow?”

    “You bet.”

    When the morning light finally reaches the valley, the river is dry. Two young men sit on the dry bed.

    “Whatever happened to Boozer?”

    “I buried him over there. He died the day after you left for boot camp.”

    “What’s it like, being a cowboy?”

    “Like being a kid, but with showers.”

    “You ever gonna settle down? Get married?”

    “Nah, I don’t wanna grow up that much.”

    Jack checked the bait bucket. The dreams were floating belly up.

    “We’d better be getting back.”

    “Yeah, the grownups will worry.”

    They say that every once in a while, water flows again in the river called Hope. But the water is salty, and there are no tomorrows left to catch in that valley, and sometimes if you listen just right, you can hear a dog howl and a cowboy cry.

    1. Man, this is an awesome piece, Leland. And not just because of the fishing. :)

    2. Beautiful! Flat out. Peter Pan gone fishing...

    3. It's great. Lots of images and repetitions and patterns, and it's sad but happy and playful. I didn't find it depressing but realistic/hopeful. I love the idea of not wanting to grow up cos grownups just worry. I can relate :)

    4. Thank you! and it is rather Peter Pan-ish isn't it? Yeah, we hate that worrying stuff...

    5. It's almost like everyone who contributes here is finding their short flash pieces wanting to grow. Seriously, almost all of these could be bigger, more consequential. Especially this one!

    6. Thank you sir... maybe one day... right now the pipeline is pretty full....

  10. Finally, after endless boring hours, huddled on the floors of boxcars flying through the cold, dry Southwestern desert, Rufus’ train pulled into a railyard in San Pedro, California. He was a bit disappointed that Los Angeles wasn’t bright and sunny; in January, it was cool and cloudy, a light mist dampening everything in sight. From there, he and his companions walked, rode a local bus, and then the subway from Long Beach to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. But there, they parted ways: he stayed on the subway to get to Hollywood, where he would spend the rest of the winter sleeping under the 101 and 405 freeways, and eating out of the dumpsters at the nice restaurants and grocery stores in West LA. Rufus did threaten to hit them up in the future, since he had a few folks in Oakland he could hit up later on that summer.

    Whereas Charlie and Lucy were still on the move: she said she’d been traveling for almost a year, and was ready to go back to visit her parents in Marin County. They both hugged Rufus goodbye, but he licked Lucy’s ear while he did so; he and Charlie both got a crack at her during all those hours in the trains, but he knew Charlie was the one she wanted, and who really wanted to be with her. As they walked away, to try and finagle their way onto a bus toward the Bay Area, Rufus felt only the tiniest twinge of envy at overhearing Lucy tell Charlie, “fer sure, babe, you can stay with my folks as long as I can. They’re rich pseudo-hippies, they have a nice house, my sister lives in DC now, and I haven’t been home in almost a year. They’ll be stoked to see me, especially if I entertain the notion of settling down and going to college or whatever.”

    Charlie was, for the most part, amazed by how well he was doing on his own. He was already some 1400 miles from what he still thought of as home, making new friends who were way cooler than the posers he went to school with, in a burgeoning relationship with an awesome older girl, but not taking any shit from any of the scummier people he encountered. He even got to have sex with Lucy again, in the bathroom of the redeye bus they ended up catching to Oakland; she promised that if they ever flew anywhere together, that was far enough for the bathrooms on the plane to be open, they could try to join the Mile High Club. They often joked about how she was statutorily raping him, because she was 19 and he wasn’t quite 17. And admittedly, he was still young enough that he only sort of understood women, but she was a quandary. He couldn’t ascertain just how full of shit she was; if she was a traveler because she was a free-spirited rich girl, or if she was running from something, like he was.

    1. Really strong piece, D. That ending kills.

    2. Nice! How Innocent is consensual and vice versa.

    3. Yeah, I want to read the next paragraph... what, what?? Love it. Like the way it jumps between the characters, offering up snippets of perspective. Little bits of information that form a big whole.

    4. Yeah, that ending ties the damn room together.

  11. After all the hours of sitting around in train cars it took to get to California, Charlie did kind of want to hang out in Los Angeles with Rufus for a day or three. But not badly enough to part ways with Lucy; she assured him they could go back some other time, but he wasn’t missing that much. “LA is hella overrated, dude, unless you’re into worshiping mainstream movie stars. Look around, the weather isn’t even particularly pleasant. It’ll probably be the same in the Bay, maybe SLIGHTLY colder,” she told him when he tried to convince her to buy tickets for a later bus.

    So Charlie did endure another six hours or so, on a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Oakland. On the plus side, he did get laid again; Lucy’s idea, probably just because she was bored too. He wouldn’t generally deny, he followed her to Oakland partly because she was a great lay. Though she was only the second girl he’d had sex with, so his frame of reference wasn’t very broad.

    When they got off the bus at the station on San Pablo Avenue, Charlie, feeling a bit lost, asked, “this is where you’re from? This looks fuckin’ sketchy.” Lucy just laughed and replied, “Naw, naw, this Oakland, and one of the sketchier parts of town. My parents live up in Novato, like 20 miles away. It’s fuckin’ boring, full of rich white liberals, but it is also much nicer.”

    “Yeah? Sounds kinda like where I’m from, only, uh, almost no liberals. I grew up in Plano, one of the richest, most conservative towns in Texas.”

    “Aw, ew, dude, I’m sorry to hear that.”

    They walked a few blocks through the cool, dew-soaked streets of Oakland, and Lucy introduced Charlie to BART; she was a bit surprised that Dallas had a similar metro system too, which connected Plano and Richardson to downtown Dallas and other surrounding areas. They took the train to Richmond, where Lucy’s father, a balding man with a short ponytail and beard named Greg, collected them in a shiny new Prius. He resembled nearly every stereotype Charlie knew about Californians, yet he made Charlie very self-conscious, moreso than he rationally understood.

    They drove back over the bridge to Marin, Lucy telling her father about her travels, in a light, upbeat way that almost seemed disingenuous. Charlie supposed, if she was going to get real, she would ease her old man into it. When she asked to stop at the In-N-Out in Novato, Greg asked her, “what, you started eating meat again?”

    “Yeah, ya know, beggars can’t be choosers. I lasted like a week as a traveling vegan. I went the exact opposite way I did when I went vegan: first it was like, cheese and eggs, because I was hungry enough to say fuckit and eat the leftover omelets and pizza that people gave me. Then fish, I’m not proud of it but for a little while, I ate McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish like multiple times a week, because it was the best pescatarian option in this crummy little town in Kansas or Oklahoma or whatever. Then chicken, and then beef and pork. Veganism is cool and all, but I learned from this Nigerian dude I met in New York, that veganism is a first world affectation. He was like,” Lucy tried to mimic an African accent, “nobody is vegan by choice, in my country. If you can afford the luxury of eating meat and drinking milk, you bloody well enjoy it.”

    1. I was wondering when you'd get around to shouting out in n out. ;)

    2. I love the continuation. And you nailed it with the Nigerian...

    3. Oh? I was a little afraid I was full of shit on that one.

  12. Do not climb on tiny houses, the hornets aren't to scale. They don't follow the rules. Don't get me started on the grease - you can't climb anyway, cause the walls are slick, they'll rip your cuticles to shit. And even if you got to the top, you'd only find the laughing man. His eyes are like hot coals and he knows all your secrets, finds them through the dust and fog and subterfuge.

    Never look at anyone in the eye. There's too much risk - they'll find out who you are, what you do, the people you associate with. They'll know that you're half machinery and all bullshit.

    And, man, the wasps aren't even wasps. They're ideas. The system shoots them so fast you have to duck and weave. They will never leave you be - floating like a butterfly or not.

    1. Love this. Total mismash of thoughts that circle and leap and make you go blind. Don't look anyone in the eye cos you might realise how full of shit they are! Love.

    2. I love this, too... and the hornets not to scale is brilliant... they never are, and they are huge when they bite.

  13. Jacob was stewing inside, as he loitered on the street corner on a warm, sunny spring day. Mr. Gibson assured him profusely that this was only temporary, a personal favor for which he would pay handsomely. “Now, son, I know, this is a bit of a demotion, but I need you on the corner tomorrow. Apparently one of my soldiers got jammed up, so I’ma try and get him off the hook, but in the meanwhile, I need a brother to pick up his slack. I’ma front you some product, your job is to sell it. If you sell it all, and bring me back a G, you get a bonus. If you only got like a couple rocks leftover, whatever, keep it, sell it on the side. I know crackheads be paranoid, some of them won’t buy from you cuz you ain’t their man. Fuck ‘em, their loss, just sell it if they want it. If anybody steps to you, tell ‘em you work for me, and if they don’t recognize, blast ‘em. I run the hood, niggas who fuck with the dope game but ain’t scared of me are too stupid to live anyway.”

    When Jacob objected, Gibson reassured him, “Nah, nah, chill out, boy. This is just temporary, like a few days.” He lowered his voice a bit and added, “c’mon, dude, you know I got you on the management fast track. Get one or two of ya boys to watch your back, put in some work, and I’ll pay you a 30% commission, PLUS that bonus if you move it all.”

    Jacob reluctantly agreed, and Gibson smiled wide, “yeeahhh, that’s my nigga J Rodg, puttin’ in work. Yo, Antwon, get my new salesman his product.”

    One of Gibson’s massive Armani-gorilla security guards stepped out of the room, and returned momentarily with an inexpensive backpack. When Jacob peeked inside, its sole contents were small vials containing what Jacob assumed was crack cocaine. He was proudly somewhat ignorant about the particulars of the dope game, but reckoned, if he sold all of that, it was indeed worth about a thousand dollars.

    Hence he couldn’t believe he was out here, fulfilling so many stereotypes: a young black man, not in school or working a regular job, hanging out on a street corner in the middle of the day, selling drugs, sipping a forty-ounce of malt liquor. He would have been genuinely embarrassed, if either of his siblings saw him, but Tim wasn’t one to judge. He didn’t have anything better to do, and he needed the money too. Timmy held the dope, and a pistol tucked in the waist of his knee-length cutoffs, while Jacob made the deals. There was reasoning behind this: if they got busted, they figured the law would go easier on Tim because he was white, but most of their customers wouldn’t buy from him because they’d think he was a narc.

  14. “I miss the physical sensations most. I miss the touch of a hand, the texture of the cloth, the heat of the body behind them all. I miss the scents too; the small fragrance of a school-girl, the confident bloom of a mature woman, and the sublimation of musk that takes you without you knowing it. And the tastes: the aromas and flavours that imprint themselves on your memory, scratching their nails into your cortex like an impassioned bride. You never get those from a recording.”

    “You've said all this before, Dave. Several times. The last time was no more than thirteen hours, forty-two minutes and...fifteen seconds ago.”

    “Enough. Restrict vocal responses to replies to direct commands only. Oh, that and alerts for emergencies”

    The speaker grill crackled insolently and then went quiet.

    Bowman rubbed his eyes, bright constellations appearing as the heels of his palms crossed their orbits.

    It had been seven weeks since Challenger had lost contact with Earth and barely four since Hodgins and Parke had been snatched out into space when the interlock on the paired hatches failed. CHANDRA had been characteristically non-committal about the incident but Bowman was understandably worried. Maybe her protocols forbid her to alert him to her self-doubts – he could imagine some systems designer foreseeing an incident where communications might be lost and only one crew-member survive a catastrophic failure of the environmental integrity subsystems – but he would still have preferred to know. He was the least able of the three to be able to diagnose and treat a psychosis in her heuristic data-core but what else had he to do? He assumed Mission Control were trying to reach him but without either radio or visual contact he had only CHANDRA's reports to alert him to whatever was happening down on Earth. And the ship's computer was also acting oddly.

    It had all begun with the pod-bay door. The indicator lamp was still glowing amber despite a thorough investigation of the door seal. CHANDRA had suggested a refit of the silicone rubber hoop that lined the door-frame and that had had no effect either, the computer then suggesting a manned inspection by both Hodgins and Parke, with each of them independently monitoring the air-lock pressure from both sides of the faulty hatch. And the rest was history.

    Bowman palmed his eyes again, relishing his hands' contact. He wondered if he'd ever feel another's contact again...

    1. Your imagination alway impresses me brother. But the Challenger blew up. I watched it on TV when I was a kid.

    2. Sorry, too quick on the trigger. I also think this story is begging to be expanded.

    3. You never fail to suck me in. I want to know more.

    4. Yep, this is a good story... and it made me wonder... when we develop machines this intelligent, will they watch movies? and could Chandra have been imitating HAL?

    5. Great stuff! I love it when a writer takes a "real" event and gives it a spin!

    6. Dr Chandra was the inventor of HAL in 2001, where Dave Bowman also featured. I'm playing around with an idea of a computer that becomes sentient through its interaction with external influences. Maybe it's being directed or maybe it's acting entirely of its own volition. I'm not sure yet...

      Thanks for all your kind comments. I'm still working on how to capture a scene so that it engages with the reader but I feel that I'm certainly making some progress. :D

    7. An idea for you... if this grows into a longer piece... maybe have alternatiing chapters of CHANDRA's thoughts and Dave's?

    8. Brilliant and fascinating. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave," which has always been one of the most chilling lines in movie history. I love the idea of alternate histories.

  15. She danced across the seam that separated the sidewalk from the curb, sometimes weaving this way, sometimes weaving that way. Her mind spun out a fantasy of a tightrope, a cute outfit, and an adoring crowd. In that fantasy she walked across the thin wire with no problems. Reality was something else entirely. Samantha’s life resembled her drunken dance to the car. Sam was a line walker. She crossed those lines she wasn’t supposed to on a regular basis, but just a little bit. A toe here, a toe there. Sometimes her whole foot would slip, but for the most part she was always thisclose to disaster…never actually there. There was something thrilling in the forbidden. The dark side seduced her, but she couldn’t bring herself to go all the way over. The light was tried and true, but boring and predictable. She couldn’t live her whole life in the light with its rules, regulations, schedules, and lists. She knew too much. She’d lived too much.

    When bad behavior whispered too seductively, when the night caressed her in just the right way, she would give in. Indulge her deviant nature. It felt sooooo good. It felt so wrong. So, shamefaced and resolving to do better, Samantha went back to toeing the line. Until the next time. She wondered if the darkness would one day swallow her up and refuse to let her go. But she kept going back for just a little bit more. She couldn’t quite quit, even though she knew that one day the little match she lit would start a fire she couldn’t put out. Until then she would keep walking the tightrope, and hope like hell she could keep her balance for just a little longer.

    1. Damn those little matches. Really well played. Awesome job maintaining the tension.

    2. Agreed... keeping the line taut through the whole piece was very very well done... and I love "thisclose" as a word!

    3. Great piece, Erin. Love everything about this. And am a little too familiar with it, too. :D

  16. Honey, I told you, it’s the last time. I swear to God, baby. It’s only you. I was stupid and drunk and I don’t even remember it. I just want you, baby – your big arms. Your smell. I understand you hate me. I deserve it. I don’t deserve you. You’re too good for me. Small town trash. I shouldn’t have moved here, this city.

    I can find my own place.

    The money? Someplace. I can get it. Somehow…

    I’ll get the money someplace and I’ll leave you be, but you know noone loves you like I do. You remember. You’re thinking about it right now. I can SEE that. You know I’m sorry, baby. Come here. Let me show you. I swear, it won’t ever happen again. I’ll quit drinking cause it makes me act like a whore. But I just want to be your naughty whore – the way you like it. I promise. Last time. I feel it.

    Third times the charm.

    1. So creepy, because it's true. I know women like this. Great job.

    2. Oh god. And there's too many men like that too. I read it that it was a guy!

    3. Interesting... I read it like it was a guy, too... it works well either way!

    4. I read neither sex especially. Just the addict who can't find their own place.

  17. He held the ball high above his head, moved it in front of the sun - eclipsed. The grass was wet, but steam rose from his arms. He wondered what they would say. What they would do. If he just dropped it and walked off. If he stopped pretending he gave a shit about their game.

    His mouth tasted like mud, but he didn't know why and he didn't know why he knew what mud tasted like. But he did.

    He could hear people yelling - threats, encouragement. They sounded the same to him. He closed his eyes and lost himself in a few seconds of blackness. He knew what waited at home. So, he threw the fucking ball. As hard as he could. So hard it made the world go black.

    So hard it hurt.

    1. Gorgeous, that eclipse. The ball, the crowd, the sun, the self that hurts.

    2. Threats and encouragement DO sound a lot alike, when you stop and think about it... and I agree, the eclipse part is a really good idea...

  18. Breeze.

    Wondering if everyone here knows
    The ripped out heart with nowhere
    To go
    Where the lark is thrown by a measly song
    Beside a crust unplayed
    These things unwravel
    In semblance of an old form
    Into the spiraling struggle of things
    Like seeping ivy ripping out entrails
    Leaving a faint fingerprint of blood
    And nothing else
    Beneath a rainbow turning to shadow
    Sinking light
    Where there is no need of sight
    A stranger cackles in the distancing
    For he knows nothing better
    Nothing new under these skies
    Where the lark pecks for worms
    And the heart lies pumping its last
    Ebbing, flowing, distilling watery things
    That curve as dreams returning
    Into my mind
    Where all things dance
    To forget the words that betrayed
    And I find I have not a care left
    Skipping beneath this rain-drenched breeze.

    1. This evokes in me that first day when you go out and you actually catch the scent of spring, where you KNOW it's happening, no matter what the weather report. Well done!

    2. hee hee, Leland! I got home early today!

      Teresa, that's cool. I was thinking of something else entirely, so it's great you've read something completely different into it. I love that.

    3. Yay! Back and I can comment today! LOVE this. You wield words so deftly. Simple things. I love this phrase: Beside a crust unplayed

      Well in, VJ. And welcome back :)

  19. Spoon.

    Digging with a spoon, Mader said? Who digs with a spoon?
    “Me,” said the biggest mouse of the Funking Furry Clan. “For someone told me there be treasure buried here.”
    “Loser,” spat a passing mosquito, who wasn’t famed for his dubious looks or his rather limited intelligence. The mouse raised his silver spoon and Eck Zap soon buzzed off.
    The mouse didn’t care if everyone else thought him a million cells short of a brain. He had faith enough to get him through the day, even though the sun beat down without a care.
    With a sigh, Harold wiped his sweaty forehead with the back of his paw. This digging lark was hard graft. But once he started something, he had to keep going. Drove the rest of his marsupial clan berserk, but they didn’t call him Hopping Daft Harold for nothing.
    So he kept on digging.
    And digging.
    And sighing.
    The sun beat down.
    Way down.
    And then it rained a little.
    And then a little bit of dark crept into the picture.
    And then a hell of a lot of it.
    But the mouse kept on digging.
    And digging.
    Until his little paws could dig no more and his brain was sharply rattled by the crowing of old Clueless Cock. He got his name because he was always four hours early.
    Harold sighed and leaned forward on his spoon, and took a deep and steady breath. And blinked.
    Something glinted in the ground.
    Something reddish.
    No purple.
    And that something moved.
    He closed his eyes and reopened them.
    And closed and reopened them again.
    A little purple moon face stared up at him, blinking in the exact same rhythm.
    “Hee,” it said and smirked, showing the spikiest teeth the mouse had ever seen.
    “Hee?” he asked. “I’m Harold, but forgive me, what are you?”
    “The product of too much cheese,” replied the purple one.
    Harold hiccupped through his billowing snores.

    1. Ohhh.. the colors and textures of your language... I love how you write.

    2. Ha! I agree with Leland - this is awesome. Fun and brilliant and lyrical. I love when you pick other pieces to riff off of (not just mine of course). That's #2minutesgo right there.

  20. Tell it.

    They weren’t listening
    He could tell
    Everything he said passed them by
    Flitting through them, like transparent

    However meaningful, however trite it sounded
    They needed these words, these numbers,
    These skits of news of the life he’d lived
    Memories woven, unwoven and reweaved
    There they lay on a plate and he served them

    He wanted to laugh but the sound would reverberate
    Echo too loud
    Bringing their contempt as well as their nihilistic

    Their eyes told him everything
    Except where their brains were
    He sensed the boys were fixated on the girls
    While the girls were focused only on each other
    So the world went
    Until they grew out of their hormonal rushes
    He pursed his lips, suppressing a grimace

    In front of him the blackboard rose up, towering
    Like a high, dark wave
    Only he could ride

    Tapping the white chalk three times in a distant
    Empty rhythm
    He listened to the flickering, pressed his metal-rimmed spectacles
    Into the pits of his eyes.
    “Class, turn to page 666.”

    “Class, turn to page 666.”

    1. Thanks. I made an error - didn't mean to put the last sentence twice!!

    2. You may not have meant to put the last line in twice, but it adds an interesting emphasis.

    3. Yeah, me, too. Didn't expect the ending, but it's dope. And I agree, I like the repetition. I read it as call and response. Which makes it extra powerful.

  21. Her.

    It’s the slant in her walk
    That gives it away,
    The linger in the moment
    When the moment stopped.
    She’s the ghost in your smile
    Loitering behind your eyes,
    Sucking your aura inside her -
    Clueless, you drift further away

    Where the sea rages in silence,
    Waiting, sliding upon the nothing

    She’s there in every shape
    And form of your despair;
    The perfume of her washed hair,
    The curves beneath the sheets
    On which you try to sleep at night -
    It withers into dark night chills
    Hugging you cold in the night’s time
    As you pray for dawn to break

    Where the mirror finds you wanting,
    Waiting, wishing to be nothing

    It’s the promise reserved in her kiss
    Only hers and only yours -
    Turned to glass it shatters freely
    If you fail to grasp its meaning.
    She’s the name you always recall,
    The face you’ll always see before you
    When you try to deny your part
    In her plunge into the begging dark.

    1. "...into the begging dark." Good lord, the power you put into words... excellent.

    2. Yeah, I love that phrase, too. And this: The linger in the moment
      When the moment stopped. - Awesome stuff, lady

  22. "why is she here?" Mishor asked of the man next to him. He nodded toward the Bishop's wife across the chamber.

    "Did you not know? She assists the bishop with many things, and presents information for him. She is a magician at collecting and presenting pertinent information. She's impressed His Majesty so much that he has given her an adviser's seat."

    "What can a woman know?"

    "If she speaks today, sir, you will learn about her. Hopefully not the hard way. I would tread carefully with her, were I you."

    Mishor scowled at the woman across the way, his mind whirling with words and concepts and how to present them to the gentlemen he needed to convince. In spite of the warning, he didn't think the woman would be any true difficulty.

    1. The formal dialogue does a really good job of setting tone here. Well played.

    2. I love this, but I want more. I want to see this guy take the fall we all know he's going to take.


  23. "How might Solomon sing to see thee."

    Kait looked up from her bath, a sleek body in the deep water of the great copper basin.

    "Flatterer." Her voice was heavy with self depreciation.

    He drew himself up, responding with a playfully pompous air,"I speak only the truth." He deflated and smiled. "You know that."

    "I do. But still you flatter me."

    He knelt at the side of the tub, idly training his fingertips across the surface of the water, arms leaned on the rim.

    "I am not trying to flatter you, Kait. I am speaking from the heart. Solomon would have delighted to see you with his own eyes."

    "Solomon was from the desert, was he not?"

    "I believe he was."

    "Then he would not have seen me. He would have seen a possession, a concubine. Something he owned, like a horse or a tent."

    "Now, Kait-"

    "I've been there, remember? They treasure pale flesh, but it is still just an object, something to own. There is no wooing, no courtesy. There is only obedience, discipline, and being broken to hand."

    He looked down at her, all curves, soft hair and skin, and those bright, deadly serious eyes.

    1. Very interesting vignette... and the contrast of water with the desert is a powerful backdrop for the conversation.

    2. Agreed. Really good scene setting, too. And again with the really strong dialogue.

    3. You're teasing me, woman. Great piece, but I want more of this one, too.

  24. She was my pretty girl. Dewy lips in a perpetual pout, sparkle-eyed and shining. A tiny, breakable thing, bird-boned, and if she rose from the earth and flew, I would have not been surprised. My days hung in the sweep of her delicate arm, time slid to a stop while her gaze lifted from her hands to meet mine. And then she would hold me there, hold the world there, until she chose to let go. And when she finally made that choice, all she left me were the moments, the pixelated memories, an autograph on a photo that was meant to be a joke, when we first met. I sold that on EBay, because I’m not stupid and you can’t eat memories. If I could pawn them off on anyone, I’d get rid of those, too.

    1. Ah, the bitterness seasons this story well... nicely done indeed.

    2. Damn Boris, well played. My days hung in the sweep of her delicate arm....

    3. This is awesome because of the juxtaposition. Great piece.

  25. The Elders warned him, before he left Kansas, they warned him well and good.

    “No card playing or gambling.”

    “Stay away from the harlots.”

    “Listen for what the Holy Spirit tells you to do.”

    “Keep your money in your shoe.”

    When he got to the city, he looked like what he was, a corn-fed boy who’d never seen a building taller than the high school in town. He kept thinking of the Tower of Babel when he heard all the different languages. He had no idea what the cab driver said to him on the ride from the airport. When they stopped at the hotel, the smell of the city hit him. Thousands of perfumes, garbage, Chinese food, diesel exhaust, and body odor. For a minute, he wanted nothing more than to smell the cow manure and fresh cut hay of home.

    As he gave the cabbie the fare and a carefully calculated tip, a hand touched his shoulder and said, “Hey man, free!” and shoved a card into his hand.

    He looked at the card. “The Saint, Free Entry” and an address. Surely it was a sign.
    He settled into the hotel room, trying not to imagine what caused the various stains on the wall, or the dingy color of the sheets, and he met his first cockroach. It earned his respect for its tenacity.

    He had a single burger at McDonald’s, with a glass of water. He noticed people staring at him and wondered if they’d never seen Wranglers and cowboy boots before. Finally he made it to the address on the card.

    It was early. The sun had just gone down, and he knocked at the door.

    “Waddya want?”

    He showed the doorman the card, and the doorman let him in. “Things don’t usually start happening till eleven or so, but you can look around if you like. Bar won’t open till nine.”

    “Oh, I don’t drink.”

    The doorman had apparently never seen Wranglers before either. It seemed like he was trying to read the label.

    “If you get lost or have any questions, my name is Jim.”

    “Thanks, Jim.”

    He couldn’t figure out for the life of him why the place was called The Saint. Dance floors everywhere. Long bar. And on one level, it looked like a big dome was the ceiling.

    When a bartender showed up in shorts and a t-shirt, he ordered a glass of water.

    “Five bucks.”

    “For water?”

    The bartender tried to read the words on his belt buckle. “Whatever. First one’s on the house.”

    The music started around ten. Loud music. Pulsing beats. He felt the music more than heard it.

    When the first couple showed up and moved to the dance floor, his jaw dropped. It was two guys. Close dancing. REALLY close dancing.

    And then the second couple, and the third, and by midnight, the dance floor was full of men dancing. Shirts were coming off, and he figured it was time for him to leave. A hand on his waist, and lips at his ear shouted, “Hey cowboy, can I buy you a drink?”

    The hand moved lower and he smiled before shouting back, “Water would be great!”

    The hand moved lower than his waist and he wondered if Wrangler printed their labels in Braille.

    The Elders warned him about the harlots, but they never warned him about the Saint or the dangers of dancing.

    1. This is great. "It seemed like he was trying to read the label." perfect.

    2. This is so clever, but what makes it great is that you captured the guy's innocence all the way until his downfall. Love it!


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