Friday, February 12, 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. 

Just pull the lever if you’re so clever – see what falls out and what stays. Figure out why the morning birds sound so gay. Me? I plum run out of shit to say. I’m done with it. I’m moving on. You can have everything when I’m gone. I’ll be out in the desert with the bleached skulls and cactus statues. I’ll be breathing dust and staying quiet. I made enough noise. I’m done now.

It’s not something that can be taught, and it sure ain’t something that can be bought. It’s more complex than that. It’s simpler, too. And you can feel it, like putting the wrong foot in the wrong shoe.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re gonna do it. One of these days. When you’ve run out of games to play. Talk to me then, and I’ll tell you the same. It’s a trick pony what ain’t got no name. It runs in circles, chasing it’s tail. It won’t listen to your commands. It doesn’t care about ticket sales. But it’s what you got. When all else fails. You just pull the lever. See what comes out.

That’s what it’s all about.




  1. A great start to a fun day of flash fiction.... and when I pull the lever, I see 7s lining up on the bar for you, my friend...

    1. Excellent start, it's true. The wrong foot in the wrong shoe, I like.

  2. These are the things I know. A mattress does not forget your shape after a decade or two of sleeping. A pillow will hold the scent of the man who slept on it for a year or more, if you’re careful. I don’t want to pick up your jeans from the floor, for fear I will disrupt my memories of you. If I close my eyes I can still feel the stubble on your cheek.

    I know I should empty your side of the closet, but I can’t. Sometimes I go in there and hold your shirts to my face and I cry, knowing that each tear is erasing the molecules of scent you left behind.

    The dogs on the street look at me with disappointment when they see I walk alone. One tilts its head as I go by, as if to ask why.

    And I ask why, too. Why you, and not me? Why, of the two candles we were, that your fire was extinguished first. Why the brighter flame is gone.

    I may laugh again, though I doubt it. Right now, I focus on breathing. On making my heart continue to beat. And I wonder if I stop drinking water if I will cease my weeping, my endless weeping.

    I stopped the clocks the moment you died, and in their silence, I heard good-bye.

    1. Wow. This is beautiful, Leland. So sad, but real and true - tricky avoiding sentimentality, but you did it. Just lovely. "...if you’re careful." That hit me so hard, sets up the piece perfectly.

    2. That was beautifully painful. So real...

  3. It wasn’t planned and it wasn’t spontaneous. It wasn’t fate and dead martyrs had nothing to do with it. It just played out the way it played out. Believe me, I’ve run through every scenario. You get sick of hating the bars and the metal bunks and the guards, so you start trying to figure it out, and you end up hating yourself. I believe that’s how it happened. I believe there will never be a way to truly know. I believe in nothing anymore. How can you? In a world where grown men treat other grown men like stand out kids just because they’re wearing a uniform and we’re all orange.

    My whole life. Whole damn life there was someone with a uniform. Or they were born with one you couldn’t see, but could just feel. And you could read the sneer on their lips. Hear the words. White trash. Trailer park garbage. Refuse. Go ahead, try and refuse – that just makes you junk that talks back until it gets broken worse. You accept it and you’re better off. Swallow that curse.

    They gave me a role to play, so I played it. No grand design, no crystals or star-soaked sign. They thought me trash, so I acted like it. They called me names, and I became those names – to where I almost forgot my real name. But I didn’t forget. Jimmy Richard Levinson. That’s what I say to myself when they stomp their heels down the walkway, hand a tray, step back into the fray. I say that name to myself and, sometimes, just sometimes it drowns them out. But it don’t mean shit. Not one bit. You play the cards you were dealt. And I was dealt a bunk hand. Ain’t it grand?

    1. Painful and honest. And I love the name Jimmy Richard Levinson.

    2. Yeah, one of those instances when giving him a name brings him even more to life. I also love the play on "refuse."

    3. Thanks, brother. I wasn't sure about that one. Glad it worked. :)

  4. He kept an old fashioned calendar, the kind you’d get from a feed store—pictures of cattle and dogs and cowboys. In the left corner of each day’s square, he wrote the high and low temperatures. In the right corner, he noted any precipitation. At the end of each day, he drew a careful X through the square. Another day done.

    He had circled February 14 when he brought the calendar home. In red ink, no less. Only two unmarked squares before that fateful day.

    Today, he’d pay his bills. Write a few letters. Check the fence on the back 40 acres. Why he needed a secure fence when he’d sold his last horse, he didn’t know. But it was the right thing to do.

    Tomorrow. Tomorrow, he would make her favorite dinner. His secret-recipe chili, perfected when he was a cowboy, a long time ago. Didn’t taste quite the same without ashes from the campfire, but it was good, and she’d always liked it. Cornbread. Made with buttermilk, the southern way. Did he have honey? She loved honey on the cornbread.

    And the next day, the next day he would wrap up dinner, like a picnic, in a basket, and take it to her. He would lie down on the ground next to her, and tell her he was tired of it all. And when the sun was low enough in the sky that the long shadow from the granite marker touched him, he was pretty sure he’d die. In a cemetery, by the grave of the wife he’d loved.

    He checked the cupboard for honey, and then he pulled his boots on.

    1. I was thinking a Valentine suicide. You tease out just enough information to hold out hope in spite of the ominous foreshadowing. Nicely done, my friend.

    2. Kind of spooky when you read my story this week! Similar wavelengths or what?

    3. Thanks, Brothers! and David, I really really loved your story.

  5. Everybody wants to know what it feels like. What it sounds like. What you feel like afterwards. What do you smell? Can you hear things you couldn’t hear before? Can you watch pictures turn to movies on your wall? It’s not like that, but I don’t feel like explaining it, so I smile, grit my teeth, grind my jaw – yeah, I say. You can taste colors and shit. Whatever.

    Thing is, why am I supposed to tell you if you ain’t got the balls to find out for yourself?

    And I’m old now. I see kids on the street, and I shake my head. They don’t know what they got themselves into. They don’t know what they locked themselves out of. They don’t know nothing and they’re too chickenshit to find out. So, suddenly I’m some kind of hero. Some kind of martyr. Cause I’m old and they think I was brave. And I think I was stupid.

    And we’re all wrong. Have been all along. Same old story. Same old song.

    1. Some Kind of Hero, Some Kind of Martyr... a great name for a collection of stories... and I like this piece a lot...

  6. The light runs easy and pleasant, drips off the side of the rock face like snow melt. There is a creeping stillness in the air – lazy clouds drift by and don’t even bother changing shapes. No fun for the kids. No mystery. Just: “That one looks like a cloud.” A few minutes later: “Still looks like a cloud, Dad.” I can see their fingers twitching, curling to the shape of a cell phone or game controller or some shit. And I want to scream at them. “Just look at the damn clouds and enjoy the day, the sun, just live it for a little while and be happy we’re here."

    They’re not happy we’re here. I’m not sure if I am anymore either. I hear the shrill lament of tinnitus in my ears. I am suddenly aware of the thin air, no oxygen to spare. And I’m sweating. Shaking. Trying not to let on, but they sure as hell know. I can see it in the way they cant their heads. The way they perk up and start saying how pretty it is. And it’s awful. My fault, this guilt – unfair. This isn’t about the mountain or the sun-stroaked air. They know it; I know it – and I just want to go home. Let them text their friends. Empty bottles down my throat and just float.

    It starts with a crack and then the sound of giant, novelty cards shuffling. The kids laugh and joke about the abominable snowman, but I know. I pull them close to me and tell them I love them.

    There is just enough time for them to wonder before everything turns white.

    1. Beautiful... truly beautiful... so much transformation of both the kids and the teller in so few paragraphs... and the descriptions are awesome.

    2. Especially love this one, brother. Ominous as fuck! I love the combination of the mundane and the hella creepy.

  7. Four owls came to visit last night. They roosted in the tree outside my window. The last light of day painted them in silhouette. The feathers on their head -- what are they called? The ones that look like ears? Once, I knew such things, when I was young.

    Those feathers, on either side of their heads...the looked like the horns of demons, but surely only angels had such wings as owls.

    They began their interrogatory chorus. First one, then another, then another, in three-part harmony, "Whoo? Whoo? Whoo?"

    I waited for the fourth, but he was silent. Maddening to await that which is beyond control. I felt, no heard, my pulse increase in the waiting.

    The poison was meant to slow my heart, not hasten it. I became angry at the birds, threw open the window, threw the empty bottle at them. Three flew off. And the one who remained, the one who took my soul, asked the question for which I had no answer. "Why? Why?"

    1. Never a good thing when an owl comes to visit, beautiful as they are. You execute this one perfectly.

    2. Agreed. Magical RealLeland. Borges would be proud.

    3. Thanks to you both... I'm honored.

  8. Luanne finally felt like she could relax, at least more than she had in what seemed like ages. For a girl who didn’t go to school or work a regular job, her life was hectic, stressful, sometimes even dangerous. At least she was at home, in her room. It was cleaner than some of her housemates’, but nearly everything she owned was scavenged, stolen, or bought with ‘dirty’ money: the third-hand mattress and discount-store bedding she laid naked under, the bookcase full of books about political science, philosophy, computers, cars, and gunsmithing, the cheap Ikea desk and HP laptop, and the weapons themselves. The one time that English dude, Simon, had been in her room, he was like, “Cor! I haven’t seen this many guns in one place since the fuckin’ armory at Bickleigh!”

    They made out a little, ‘had a quick snog on the sly’, as he put it, but that was it. The guns actually seemed to make him a little uncomfortable, but he was also at least a foot taller than her, so that was awkward. She had them displayed on a big pegboard, like the Punisher: eight handguns, ranging from the small Glock she normally carried, to a big .44 Magnum; two shotguns; four sub-machineguns; and five rifles. She mostly lent them out to her compatriots; none of them were registered or anything, so she didn’t give a shit.

    She briefly admired Tim as he dozed beside her. She thought it was cute how he usually fell asleep, if only briefly, after fucking her. Sometimes she did too, and she thought she would, but she was wide awake. It was only like 9:30, so she got up, put on some shorts, and turned on her computer. While it booted up, she ground up some weed and rolled another spliff. She used to roll these stingy little pinner joints and smoke the whole thing to the face, until these two dudes from New York came out to visit. One of them was this snappy, smart-ass white Jew, but the other was Jamaican, and he showed her how to roll these fat-ass cones, about 1/3 tobacco, 2/3 weed.

    But before too long, Tim woke up. He stood behind Luanne’s chair, kissing her close-cropped head and rubbing her shoulders, asking “what are you up to, babe?”

    She smiled, looked up to kiss him on the lips, and said “I’m workin’, baby, I got emails to answer and shit. Those cats in Chicago are finna go off half-cocked and get themselves killed.” It wouldn’t be the first time: while the fellas in Chicago boasted one of the highest body counts in the resistance, that applied both to the number of enemies they killed, and the number of their own who fell in combat. They tended to talk about that like it was a good thing, but Luanne typically refuted, “nah, your casualties just mean y’all are good shots, but shitty tacticians. You’re no good to the cause if you dead, dummy, take care of yourself. Buy a goddamned vest, cuz you dumb-ass niggas ain’t getting no virgins in the afterlife.”

    1. So much detail packed in but it never feels overloaded. I like the quick snog on the sly, feels authentic, that.

    2. Yeah, good call. Dense, but it doesn't feel heavy at all. Solid. Like iron.

  9. Light runs like a river through a winter sunset in Colorado, all sparkles and soft clouds. I fill my backpack with dreams, broken mostly. When I stuff the old sleeping bag in, and the book, always a book, the old dog opens one eye.

    “You wanna go for a hike, buddy?”

    He looks suspiciously out the window and sees the moon. He lifts an ear, listening for sarcasm and irony, but there is none.

    “I can’t stay inside any more, buddy. I need the open air.”

    I test the weight of the backpack. Not too heavy for an old man. Not too heavy. I grab a few things from the kitchen. Cheese. Sandwich meat. Crackers. Dog food in a bag for him. A couple of bottles of water. Matches.

    “Come on, let’s go!” And the straps go over my shoulder. Heavy, but I can do it.
    He looks around for a minute, finds his tennis ball, the one that squeaks, and we walk out the door.

    And under the light of the moon, we walk on ground littered with diamonds, through trees with their arms lifted in perpetual hallelujahs, until the light trickles over the mountains in the east, and time runs like a river through a winter sunrise in Colorado.

    1. Lovely. Honestly mean this, not in the clichéd sense, but I was transported there for a moment, especially in that final paragraph.

    2. Man, I guess I'm DA's echo. Yeah. Lovely. And he squeeky ball did it for me.

    3. You both know how to make me smile... thank you kindly.

  10. He awoke to a morning in which sky and sea had fought to deadlock and were each devoid of shade as the other; even the inundated land had few attributes. He awoke to his burden and felt his heart like an old lead bell swaying ponderous in the groaning frame of his body.

    Coffee and a stale slice of bread. The radio on low, a recording of a preacherman exhorting or extorting, he could never be sure: a last broadcast, a distant itch few could scratch, and certainly not him. Far as he could tell, if God made man in his image and in no other he was a damned fool with one dim and murky colour on his palette standing imbecilic before an eternity of canvases.

    Today his home was a structure not a dwelling.

    He'd known this day was coming; its inconsolable pallor and the tenor of his heart were commensurate.

    Make this day short, conjure brief ceremonies from the air, let my next sleep be the dreamless kind.

    He stood and picked up the heavy sack and a shovel. Each old wound, every place cartilage had worn to a threadbare shine, all disfigurements of mishap and war, places where bone had been split and set and healed over months, years, decades, moaned at him in unison as he carried his load out the door and made his way across the barren fields and toward the wooded place.

    The wan, anemic air was birdless and silent.

    Each day that passed was a way station, a site for some small drama or banality. Strange that his mind would seek out such locales, but as he hiked he recalled his wife, a time when they'd sat on the porch watching the lightning bugs sew the edges of twilight to the encroaching night and hearing the coyotes and crickets while the crimson in the west had dimmed and triumphant night had bled its ichor over everything and she'd drifted into sleep, and before he crouched to carry her to their bed he stopped to gaze at her face lit warm in the reflected porchlight, her closed eyes flickering with new stories about limitless new days, her lips still full and in a half-smile, and he passed his hand over her jet hair that had only recently welcomed a few grey strands, feeling its cool, its silk, its utter mystery, feeling the strangest confluence of adoration and sorrow in the hollow atrium of his chest.

    But though he now felt that same odd blend of love and woe, she was five years gone into some different or indifferent night, and he had no idea if he'd ever find her long-cold trail to wherever she waited amid the eternal nights ahead.

    The world is scrupulous, but the human heart is profligate. We are all prodigal sons and daughters yearning for a home we spurned while stars swallow planets and all jots and iota return to the searing core to be reborn.

    He reached the thicket and kept going until he discovered the small clearing he knew was there.

    Her wooden marker still stood, tilted slightly and branded crude and guileless as a grieving heart.

    Eva, beloved wife

    And beside it he began to dig. It took an age, although he gave up a benediction of sorts for the chill in the air, thankful the world had eased even the tiniest part of his burden. When he was done, he opened the sack and retrieved its contents, letting them slip from the burlap onto the decay at his feet—first the blanket, then the loosed pitiful object once lustrous with life and now dull as the leafless trees and the sunless sky above.

    1. [There's a little more to this. I'll post it on my blog later.]

    2. My God... what beautiful language... "watching the lightning bugs sew the edges of twilight to the encroaching night and hearing the coyotes and crickets while the crimson in the west had dimmed and triumphant night had bled its ichor over everything and she'd drifted into sleep" ... what worlds you can pack into a phrase... truly, truly beautiful....

    3. Leland, thank you! I finished this one on my blog, in case you're interested. I had you partly in mind when I wrote this, and you'll see why.

    4. Agreed. Astoundingly even and beautiful. I loved the seamstress lightning bugs too. And this: "The wan, anemic air was birdless and silent." Another amazing piece. Can't wait to read more.

    5. David, thank you... the whole piece is awesome... and I'm honored if I was a tiny inspiration... for all the rest of you, if you haven't already done it, go to David's blog and read the complete work...

    6. Hey, I appreciate that, my friend. Better still, I might have thought of a framing device for all my apocalyptic flash stuff. Just an idea at the moment, but this piece suggested it.

  11. It had been easy. Ridiculously easy, really. A couple of phone calls, a few trips to the bank, and his biggest problem was gone — his wife kidnapped by cheap thugs and murdered, her body never recovered.

    Joseph allowed himself a small smile while all the mourners had their heads bowed in prayer during her memorial service, but at "amen" he molded it into a grimace of grief. One by one they passed him as they exited, expressing their sorrow and offering any help he may need. Hell, the freezer was already full of casseroles. He didn't know what he'd do with any more of their "help."

    "Stay strong, brother," Bernie said when the rest of them were gone. "Things have a way of working out just as they're supposed to."

    As they walked to the door, Joseph pondered the peculiar comment from his wife's brother, but its meaning became crystal clear in the parking lot, when Paula stepped from behind a van.

    "Hello, Joseph. As you can see, I'm still alive."

    "My dear wife! I’m so reliev..." He felt Bernie’s hand tighten around the back of his neck.

    "What’s that, brother, you’re relieved to see her? Are you relieved to see them too?" Police closed in from every direction.

    "Joseph Grimes, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent..."

    Yes, Joseph though, it had been easy. Too easy, as it turned out.

  12. Sometimes, Tim couldn’t believe he was where he was in life. He always kind of expected he’d stay in Elko, graduate high school, and work a service job: bartender, blackjack dealer, burger flipper, weed dealer, etc. Losing his parents sent him veering off in a radically different direction, however. Now he lived in a squat in Oakland with his brother and a bunch of other orphans and runaways. After six rough years, the Nevada country boy was gone; some weeks after he had extricated his younger brother, Terry, from a foster home in Las Vegas, Terry told him, “damn, you have truly become a ghetto white boy.”

    Terry got the hang of it fairly quickly, with his brother’s guidance. It was just all still kind of surreal, to him, going from his straight-laced white-bread Methodist foster parents to hanging out with black kids and Mexicans. He listened more than he talked, learning the lingo while Tim and his friends smoked blunts. He knew Jacob, the slightly-older black dude, Luanne and Ray’s brother, and Mateo, the wiry, intimidating Mexican. He didn’t know the other two, really; Paco and Cesar Romero. They both appeared to be Mexican too, and even more cholo-ish than Mateo.

    “Man, did you see all them fuckin’ cops on patrol, on 14th Street?”

    “Last night? Yeah, there had to be like at least 40 of those motherfuckers, tryina show out like they’re the fuckin’ Imperial Army or some shit. I half expected them to be led by a dude in a Darth Vader costume.”

    “No shit, right? I tried to get some of my vatos to snipe, but they didn’t wanna fuck with ‘em cuz they had, like, grenade launchers and shit.”

    “Yeah, whatever, fuck ‘em. Y’all know I blast on any fuckin’ pig who wanna step to me.”

    That was the scary, exciting part, living outside of the law. Terry had never shot anyone, at least not yet, but he had participated in a few robberies, usually driving the getaway car, despite his lack of a driver’s license. He did have a gun, a nondescript plastic one that Tim gave him as soon as they fled Terry’s foster home, but he’d only fired it a few times, way out in the industrial wasteland near the docks. Since it was just a few kids fucking around, not shooting at people, no one seemed to care much.

    1. Again, so much going on. But "He listened more than he talked" jumped out at me; kids raised in care are often by necessity natural survivors, chameleons almost, and this captures those smarts so well.

  13. The well's running a little dry today...

    The radiators are ringing with a noise like a robot percussionist, the pipes adding a bass note as they thunk in time. It's early morning and the heat's not yet started to percolate through the house, so I've got the duvet wrapped about me, hoping I can keep it hugged tight enough to keep me warm and still type.

    Today's the first day of a new writing regime and I was sure to be up early. I hardly slept last night though – I was too excited about getting my writing done before anyone else got up and ended up turning fitfully until the alarm went off. Or so it seemed.

    My pen's hanging loosely in my hand and the paper of the page is pushing back at it stubbornly, resisting my efforts. The words are all congealed in my head too and it's as much as I can do to pen these words, my train of consciousness slowly negotiating a steep incline leading to a number of long, lightless tunnels.

    So the early start has been a bit of a non-starter so far. My hands are warming up though and the cup of tea's beginning to seep through to my brain. If only, I'd not forgotten about it and hadn't let it stew so long. Oh well, I never liked weak tea…

    I'm a writer and the habit I have is a cruel one. I spend hours beating myself up for the few moments of bliss when the words fall with ease, making sense and creating beauty on the page. And then the next day I either look back at them and think they're hopeless or love them just as much as I did before but then find they don't fit in with what I'm trying to do and still have to delete them.

    Maybe tomorrow will be better.

    1. The writer's lament... and yet, there is something that keeps us going... listen to that... and know that that tiny voice that says don't give up is telling you truth... thanks for sharing this...

    2. Thanks back, Leland. Time and vitality are often in short supply. I felt the need to post and to support the blog even though I hadn't much to offer. But there's always another day to write.

    3. I hear this. Same as it ever was. Such angst to wring a few good sentences or phrases. Why do we do it? :)

    4. This is so musical. I love it. And this: I'm a writer and the habit I have is a cruel one. So good.

  14. Autumn leaves

    He’s chasing the field
    And was a long time wishing
    Upon a losing streak,
    Like a rocket from a lamp

    The sky cascaded in a dewlit embrace,
    One for him
    Yet one for none

    These are the days stripped apart
    The twigs scattered in an arctic breeze
    The things he recalls when his mind goes dark
    In the heart
    Where it dwelt
    The reminiscence of it all
    When night begins to fall

    He swept it clean
    Kept the home as it always was,
    These windows staring out
    Like eyes looking inward to his soul

    An emptied tin
    Rolling across a straw-strewn floor,
    These things are made for forgetting
    In the places he once roamed before

    But some forget
    And they never know no more
    Where the ever-bright blackbird breaks
    The crust over dawn

    He listens to every unbroken sound
    Come ripping out of the open wound
    Of the sky so grateful
    Seeping into the space he calls his own,
    This rickety wooden chair swaying
    On his idle porch of green

    He’s forgotten how to chase the field
    For winter creeps faster these years.

    1. This has such lovely cadence. My favourite lines (although it's hard to pick)? Probably these:

      "These are the days stripped apart
      The twigs scattered in an arctic breeze
      The things he recalls when his mind goes dark
      In the heart"

    2. It's all so beautiful, but DA's right. The cadence is hypnotizing.

    3. sigh... I cherish these poems from you, you know? "Dewlit" is a wonderful word... and the last two lines... sad and honest.

  15. Fleeting

    Everything in layers
    Sliced pages of something seen
    Briefly in an arc of light
    Streaks of myriad colour wrought

    It weaves us into circles
    Wrapped within, unravelled
    Pieces of a whole scattered
    Lost in an endless drift outward

    Caught in a joyless dance
    Creeping around the edges
    Of true meaning’s curse
    Reliving it, removing it ever

    Wild wings swoop and soar
    Laughter burns the memory
    Cool water drenches it out
    Walking back into yesterday

    It is the day lost and found
    Trickling through unseeing
    Lighting the way, igniting
    These images escaping dust.

  16. Blade

    One by one they fall
    Hope, faith and happiness
    Split across the burning fire
    Ever burning brightly
    Ever cursing the naïve
    Eager for a little charity
    A smile, a hug, a pause
    Before the bar opens
    And noise succumbs.

  17. Friday afternoon, in the crush of the elevator, 16th floor, wedged into the corner, I feel the warmth glowing off that girl from Audit's body and the air around us bursts in my head with the heat and sweat of blatantly reminiscent proximity and recharged perfume.


    Ms. Bevilacqua, yeah that's her name, steps back and bumps her rump against my thigh and my neck tingles like the first time I'd gotten the courage to dance with Her, forty years ago. My heart kept clanging against nascent breasts at the touch of her fingers full of rings brushed against my bare neck. In uncool gasps, I inhaled the aroma of Her hair that night, my one line of conversation a choked, "Thank you. See ya Monday." But, really, I saw Her staring at me from my bedroom ceiling for all the next three nights.


    The elevator doors open and three more employees enter on 12, and Ms. Stacie Bevilacqua is pressed tighter to me now. I'm sure my face is as red as when I would linger with my head upside down "searching" for a book under my desk, but actually watching those to-me perfect legs hang from saddle shoes toe-tapping the floor, and hoping for a spoonful of thigh should She turn to her girlfriend in the seat behind Hers.


    You think you forgot after all this time, until a certain bump, a brush of skin, an echo-whiff of might-be Charlie perfume opens the doors. There's the old sinking feeling again...probably just eight more floors of elevator drop. So you open your eyes and Stacie is shyly smiling up at you. Funny, but the elevator doors are still open on 12, and you just can't help but smile back and whisper, "Thank you. See ya Monday," when she gets off on 3.

    1. Oh, this is good... those floor dings are perfect punctuation to a well-told story...

    2. Yeah, I agree with Leland; that's a great device.

      This is excellent.

    3. Agreed. And 'spoonful of thigh' is freaking brilliant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “He better not come by again, understand?”

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

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

    “Who is it?” he said.

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

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

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


    1. Such complex emotions in this, even for a heathen like me! This is why fiction, and flash in particular, is so great—it can transport you so immediately into minds near-alien and make you empathize.

    2. I agree and is this an expanded piece from earlier? Or am I having deja vu. Either way, awesome.

    3. I had a deja vu moment also, and then realized how much stronger this version is... well done!

    4. I thought so. Yeah, really opened this one up. Awesome.


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