Friday, February 19, 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. 

Oh, it must be awful hard to be nascent dancer, twirling through a world shattered by frailty of mind, hiding in the corners where old memories used to live. That doesn't make it any easier to watch, and it doesn't make it wrong that sometimes it all just gets you mad as hell. It's not fair. From either side. And there is never an easy answer. 

When the brain foot slips, the slope is a son of a bitch. And you don't know, so - hell - now, you're a detective and a friend and a lover except you're the only one who remembers that. Right? Who the hell knows.

There are moments when there is a piercing clarity, when a rough hand wraps itself around your bird hands, and the combined strength births a kind of battlefield optimism. There is no winning the war, but there will be moments of heroism, there will be fear and there will be minor victories. You will lose ground, and you will eventually lose everything. Put up the white flag. 

Bury the purple heart along with the stumbling brain.




  1. "When the brain foot slips..." and "the combined strength births a kind of battlefield optimism" are poetry.... a melancholy piece that touches my heart...

    1. I agree it's very poetic and sad but I loved it.

    2. Yes, exactly what Leland said, and I was going to highlight the same lines.

    3. Synchronicity, this. I got a memoir in for editing about caring for an aging parent. We all have so much to learn. Great Job!

    4. Yep. The brain foot. That really got me. Leland beat me to it. ;)

    5. That middle paragraph is metaphoric gold.

    6. ditto, poetic, golden metaphoric middle, brain foot indeed, ditto ditto.

  2. I stood in front of the mirror, trying to remember how to tie my tie. I found my topcoat the night before, and I brushed the dust and lint off a suit not worn in years. But the tie, my fingers didn’t remember.

    I looked in the mirror, but that made it worse. Everything was backwards. Did I really tie a knot like this every day for twenty-six years?

    My eyes lost their focus, and I remembered my father standing behind me, his hands over mine, showing me the way to bring one side over the other… A Windsor knot, that’s what he called it.

    And just like that, as if by naming it I had power, I tied the knot. I opened the tiny case that held the tie tack. A tiny cowboy on a horse, the state symbol of Wyoming. Papa gave it to me the same day he taught me to tie the knot.

    “Just ‘cause you’re going off to college, don’t forget about what you learned on the ranch.”

    “I won’t, Papa. I won’t.”

    But I did. I did forget a lot of it. I went on to be a salesman, of all things. Papa laughed out loud, though his eyes teared up when I told him. He tried to make a joke.

    “Did I ever tell you the one about the traveling salesman…”

    I pricked my finger on the tie tack. Lucky the tie was red.

    I looked in the mirror one more time, and I saw not the 18-year-old going off into the world, but a younger version of my father.

    “I may have forgotten, Papa, but I’m remembering now.”

    And when my turn came at church, I told the traveling salesman joke. An odd sort of eulogy, but it was all I had.

    1. Oof. This is super strong. And I guess it's only fair for you to hit me in the heart after my opener. ;) Really love this one. The tie/tack resonate so well.

    2. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 19, 2016 at 9:23 AM

      Can see that happening ,...

    3. So powerful. I love this line: "And just like that, as if by naming it I had power, I tied the knot."

    4. I could really see this. You got into my head and made it a 'real moment' for me. I'm pretty sure I could even see the dust motes floating in the air.

    5. Agree with Laurie on that line. A revelation. As was that smooth, powerful ending.

    6. Thanks... I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between fathers and sons lately; it's a theme that runs throughout my work in progress...

    7. Wonderful written and powerful

    8. Agree with everyone else, but also the line about being lucky the tie was red was unexpectedly poignant.

  3. The shadows aren’t really black at all; they’re blue. I never noticed until that day.
    The sun was out, though it had snowed the night before. All the clichés about white blankets and stars, well, clichés become clichés because sometimes they’re true.
    When I got to the creek, the cottonwoods stood sentry over the frozen water. Their silvery gray bark was rough to the touch when I leaned against them.

    I remembered the first time I saw that creek, the first time she saw the sparkle of sunlight on its water. She touched the water’s surface gently, tentatively, as if it carried stardust. And when she deemed it safe, she jumped in. The delight on her face rivaled the sun. She splashed about in the water, and covered herself in creek mud and ran in great circles.

    Today, the creek was frozen. I could hear the water laughing under the ice. But both its surface and my face hid well what ran beneath.

    The single tear turned to ice as I remembered her.

    And that’s when I saw the shadows were blue.

    1. Man. This one is ethereal and wonderful. Cuts to the quick. Returning to the shadows at the end - perfect.

    2. Awesome! That tiniest bit of reducing the shadows from Black to Blue. Masterful....

    3. They are blue. Like the ones you see in snow. It's a beautiful color, but it can bite too. This was beautiful Mister Leland.

    4. This story runs under that ice, cold and clear, not a gentle sound, but a mocking laugh. Wow.

    5. Fantastic. Loved "I could hear the water laughing under the ice. But both its surface and my face hid well what ran beneath." Memory as extraordinary

    6. The problem with arriving late to comment is that I'm now doomed to being a dittohead, so yeah. What they all said. ;)

  4. They were an odd couple. He was about action, she was about place. He always had to be doing something, anything. She projected peace and calm.

    I came to think of their relationship as a sort of silent theatrical production. She was the stage and its sets; he was the only actor.

    They didn’t speak much, but their eyes were always open to each other. It was unnerving sometimes, when you felt that they had conveyed an entire conversation with only their eyes.

    Now, in the hospital, I saw him brush her cheek, with the back of his fingers, as if he weren’t sure he was permitted to touch. I’d seen a student, in an art class, touch a sculpture the same way. Afraid the sculpture would shatter if a hand other than its maker came near.

    Sixty-three years together, never a child, never a harsh word, never a separation between them. He was a farmer, she was a housewife; both wore their titles and responsibilities with distinction and pride.

    We children, when we were children, would visit. There were always cookies, always fresh and warm from the oven. He taught us how to whittle. We learned by watching.
    I watched the final act of the play that was their marriage as a nurse, as a friend.

    When he took his hand away from her face writ with memory, I knew the curtain was about to close.

    The beep beep beep of the heart monitor stopped, and then sounded the alarm.
    I saw the lights on the scenery fade to black, and for a moment, a pinpoint spot shone on his face, illuminating his eyes, his blue, his dark, his very empty eyes.

    1. Gorgeous! As a member of a marriage where we got a word nerd and a visual guy, we are constantly "translating" and yet?...Beautifully captured...

    2. I"ll have to come back to this one.
      I shouldn't be chopping onions while I'm reading flash fiction.
      Hard to read when your eyes are doing the backstroke in onion-tears!

    3. I"ll have to come back to this one.
      I shouldn't be chopping onions while I'm reading flash fiction.
      Hard to read when your eyes are doing the backstroke in onion-tears!

    4. The drawing of the two characters, their yin and yang, brilliant. But how you establish the setting, the gestures, the sensory cues, magical. Real, Leland. Right there.

    5. Thanks so much.... this is one I have no idea where it came from... I'm glad it resonated.

    6. It absolutely resonated. That description of them in the beginning was brilliant and help to make the ending all the more heartfelt.

    7. Agree with Joe. And this line anchors the whole piece: "He was about action, she was about place. " So nicely played.

    8. Yes, this one is pretty much perfect. Actually, scratch that "pretty much."

    9. Thank you so much... your kind appraisals keep me going!

  5. When I was younger, I had a collection of small things - don't know why, seems strange now that I think about it. My Grandma called them miniatures. And they were. And I delighted in their size. And I don't know why.

    I had a tiny pocket knife, little plastic animals and houses my Paupa gave me from his train set in the basement. If it was small, I wanted it. And I don't know why.

    Part of me wants a time machine so I can go back - reach for the big things. Collect fucking elephants and tanks and big rigs. I don't know.

    What really fucks with my head is the armchair psychology. The why? Why so obsessed with small things. Obsessed with birds of prey? That makes sense. They can fly away and fuck you the hell up if you mess with them.

    Why would a boy who felt so small and fragile collect small and fragile things?

    I don't know why. And I don't like to think about it.

    1. This is a character I want to know better... and *I* want to know why...

    2. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 19, 2016 at 9:27 AM

      Maybe because as a child you could control the things around you better if they were small.

    3. It's the precision. Like flash fiction, dude. :)

    4. I want to find that little kid and give him a damn hug. You guys are killing me today. My heartbones are aching.

    5. The birds of prey cue, the connection with the little guy, it all makes sense and leaves the reader reader saying, "Ahhh." Then, "More!"

    6. I love the tension here: why, but I don't want to know why.

  6. Don't look at me with those big eyes because I know what they mean. They mean that you think I'm something I'm not, and I know I can only keep up this charade for so long. Then you'll know, and those eyes will cloud and dull and reach inside my heart - I might not be able to handle that.

    But I can't take the wide eyes either. Makes me feel like an impostor. A fraud. Maybe I am and maybe I'm not, but I don't like feeling like one.

    So, I do human things and try not to think about it. I pick out my clothes and pick at my cuticles and brush my teeth with dentist-fear. I go to work, and I try not to clench my jaw, and I fail. Wire brush on road rash. Feels so raw.

    Just know that I didn't mean to mislead anyone. I didn't put on airs. If I seemed like something I'm not, it's because I was trying to hold shit together and sometimes that comes off as something glorious. When it's not.

    I love you. Know that. Even if I'm broken, I'm whole enough to love. It's the being loved back part that turns my blood cold.

    1. Those last two paragraphs... that's what life is all about... and it's what makes life so scary... well done.

    2. OOh, this made me shiver with something I have witnessed but may not wanted to realize as a truth. Wonderful. "Feels so raw." Maybe she's alien--or wait--maybe he is one too? Maybe we are all alien-to each other. Ah so deep.

    3. A conflict beautifully expressed. But this is one that's got more to it. Write on!

    4. The soul and pen of a poet in you, dude. That line, though, "brush my teeth with dentist-fear," was a showstopper.

    5. Wow really was feeling this. Loved all of it. Every bit.

    6. Here's another fan of that last paragraph. Boom.

  7. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 19, 2016 at 9:30 AM

    My species is long lived - almost immortal. It was my misfortune to crash land on this gem of a planet, oh so very long ago. Loneliness crept in, unbearably so. Then I realized new life was emerging and it became fascinating to watch it grow and prosper. There were times I ached to interfere, but realized it wasn't my place. Laughably so - I also realized they did not need me or my knowledge. They were magnificent in their own arrogant way - that's the key to success. Arrogance and self awareness that this was their world - oh how brilliant they were and still are. Time is finally winding down for me - I have seen enough, I have marveled enough, I have wept enough, I have bowed my head to this remarkable species. Some day they may strike out into the Universe and perhaps meet my kind. As for me, my end is finally here.....

    1. ohhh... I like. I especially like "...magnificent in their own arrogant way..."

    2. Oh so interesting. You want to know more about the backstory. Fascinating and also inspiring to others who might want to use this piece of yours as a sort of prompt. Loved it!

    3. Writing prompt, yeah! This is only the prologue

    4. I really, really liked this, and yes, I want more!

    5. I could so see this being a statement by a god. Leave it to the reader to choose which. Nice concept, Nancy.

    6. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 19, 2016 at 6:59 PM

      Thank you all, your comments are much appreciated.

    7. Agree with all. That phrase Leland pulled got me, too.

    8. Yeah, I also like the alien vs god possibilities here.

  8. [So I'm still toying with the idea of a gay werewolf story... this is a second piece about Tony, whom I wrote about last week]

    Tony and I were at the soda fountain after school. Along with cherry Cokes, our geometry books were spread out on the table. He’d asked me if I could help him study.

    “What was it like?”

    “What was what like?”

    “Doofus, you just told me you were turned to a werewolf over the summer.”

    “Oh, that.”

    I catalogued the other changes I saw in Tony, compared them to the attributes I’d memorized from last year. It was an extensive list. I’d been infatuated with Tony for a long time. Well, infatuated wasn’t quite the right word. Obsessed, but that sounded kinda creepy.

    “It’s cool.”

    I was a nerd, so I knew the word “laconic” And he was that, both before and after he was turned.

    “Is it like the books say? That on the full moon…”

    His eyes quickly surveyed the store, seeing if anyone could hear us.

    “Yeah, it’s like that. And it’s amazing. Can you imagine running around with no clothes on, feeling the wind against your fur, every hair alive with electricity?”

    I could, and my body reacted to his description. It was the longest sentence I’d ever heard from him.

    “Do you…”

    His eyes focused on me and only me.


    “Can we talk about this later? More privately? Right now I want to understand more about acute angels.” He winked.

    “Angles. Not angels.”

    “A cute angel’s gonna help me with angles. I’m not stupid.”

    I blushed, and I was glad the lower part of me was hidden by the table.

    When we finished an hour later, the talk of theorems and postulates and Pythagoras had distracted me enough that I could get out of the booth without embarrassment. Still, I held my notebook in front of me. Just in case.

    “I gotta get home. Gotta check on the herd or Daddy’ll tan my hide. Can we study more tomorrow after school?”

    “Sure. And I didn’t mean to pry, I mean with that question.”

    He flashed a smile at me and walked out of the store. I wasn’t sure if I thought his Wranglers or wearing only fur was hotter, but I was glad for my notebook’s strategic placement.

    I had a crush on a cowboy werewolf, and I smiled like a doofus all the way home.

    When I left for school the next morning, I had an answer to my question, too. There was a freshly dead jackrabbit by my car door. It wasn’t a dozen roses, but it was sweet, in a werewolf kind of way.

    1. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 19, 2016 at 9:51 AM

      I can see it working - LOL.

    2. You had me at doofus, and sealed the deal with "Acute angels" Is it too early to put my preorder in?
      I think I have a crush on a werewolf cowboy too! (In a purely platonic sort of way of course)
      Love this. I want read more!

    3. That last paragraph! Yeah, want more.

    4. Thank you kindly Tony keeps nagging at me, so I suspect we'll hear more from him.

    5. Yep. This could be really interesting. It already is. :) Go! "I had a crush on a cowboy werewolf, and I smiled like a doofus all the way home." Love it.

  9. It was all fun and games, at first. Tim snuck his little brother into the trendy SoMa nightclub, so he could see how it’s done. They posted up in a booth with bottle service, watching the girls on the dancefloor with Jacob. They weren’t there to dance or chase skirts, though. They were working, doling out grams of cocaine and hits of MDMA under the table.

    At least until the management got wise to them, and had a cadre of security guards roust the three of them and frog-march them upstairs. The man in charge of this spot was a muscular, mean-looking Russian cat with manicured facial hair and a short little ponytail, who introduced himself as “Mr. Petrovich”. Mr. Petrovich patiently, if condescendingly, explained that he already had people working this territory, their products were unwelcome in his club, or anywhere in the neighborhood, and they would be well-advised to stay in the East Bay. They were then marched to the side door and roughly shoved out into the alley. Tim wanted to go back in and shoot the place up, but Jacob said, “nah, dude. I’m kinda pissed too, but them Russians will kill all our asses. Fuck it, we made a few bucks, let’s go home before they change their minds and come back out here and hose us down with the AKs. Besides, the trains are gonna stop running soon.”

    On the way back home, Jacob also talked about how he envied the hardware he reckoned the Russians had; all kinds of AK variant assault rifles, sub-machineguns, grenades, the whole nine yards.

    1. Yikes, that is scary stuff but I liked it!

    2. This is good, D. I like it. If anything, the Russians seemed overly understanding. I was waiting for the bone snap. ;)

    3. Oh, if they came back, they'd get beaten to a pulp.

  10. Simon didn’t feel like he had that many friends in America, but he knew Lieutenant Hodgkins, a bunch of squatter kids in Oakland, and he even had a girlfriend who was also English! He didn’t know her from back home; he was from an obscure little mill town in South Yorkshire, she was from big-city Liverpool, some 50 or 60 miles away. Despite how worldly he was, after his tenure in the Royal Marines, he just wanted a regular ‘round the way’ kind of girl, and she was as close as he was gonna get. Tall and athletic like him, with untamed curly hair; she reminded him a little of Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, in a good way. She was a bit more gregarious than Simon, fond of getting drunk at parties and telling embarrassing stories, but also, whether drunk or sober, warm and affectionate. She would drawl, in that occasionally-really-annoying scouse accent of hers, “Noooo, this cunt, this fuckin’ cunt, he was dead scared of me, at first. He comes mincing up to me, all biscuit-arsed like…”

    “But, no, seriously like, I fuckin’ love this bloke. He’s the titties. Gizza kiss, pet.”

    1. She was perfect for him. A match made in Heaven. LOL

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Liverpuddians have a way words, don't they? :) I would listen to her stories!

    4. I really dig this one. You do dialogue so well, D.

    5. Cheers! That's what I like to think. I'm not over-educated, I haven't read lots of classic literary fiction, so I write dialogue the way real people talk. And my second languages are British and Australian English. ;)

    6. I'm a Limey, and this all works in terms of authenticity, although "pet" is very specifically northeast, essentially Newcastle (Geordie). Plenty of classic literary fiction writes dialogue the way people talk (or more accurately brilliantly creates the illusion of same).

    7. Yeah? I thought that was a general Northern thing, if maybe more a Northeastern, Yorkshire / Tyneside thing.

  11. The boy in the flannel pyjamas found himself alone and afraid in a room, a cold, dark room.

    Not quite full dark, as there is one small lamp on a night table to his left. But drear as old London in fog, the lamp impotent as nineteenth century gaslamps in cutting through the resounding slab of night.

    It should be cheery, its porcelain stand cast in the form of a swirling flamenco dancer, her death-white dress daubed with crimson rose motifs. But its burnt orange ambit is feeble and ominous.

    Why is he so alone? Did his family abandon him? Whose room is this?

    He senses a bed in front of him, alongside an urgency to reach it, image-conjuring the harsh carpeted floor into a dire terrain bristling with clawed and ravening things covetous of boy toes. He ratchets his courage, glances at the incomprehensibly terrible lamp for the last time, and runs. Something swishes around his legs in the dark. Something wet and sharp and salivating with need.

    Without a second to spare, he makes it, almost flipping over the opposite side, just able to hang on. His breathing is animal-like, a bray of trauma.

    On top is a scratchy blanket, with a polyester sheet beneath. Some internal imperative insists his only hope of safety lies in plunging his bare feet and flannel-clad legs under these covers forthwith, which he does.

    The cool sheet feels good, as his feet descend into the depths of the bed...

    ...only to sink further into something warm and soft and endlessly slime-ridden, releasing from the boy a querulous scream of anguish as he feels a sluglike mass begin to dissolve his flesh like an acid, beginning at his toes and oozing—wretchedly, interminably, unhurriedly—upward.

    But what the boy feels before the agony is worse—an infinite hopelessness, awful beyond measure, the colour a ceaseless grey moan marching to the most wretched and endless of horizons.

    1. How I envy the breadth and depth of your language... ambit, ravening, and more... you've turned "good night" into something that makes my skin crawl, and it is good.... I'll be checking under the sheets before I go to sleep tonight....

    2. Well, that's enough to keep you up at night! The whole idea that the monster are real!

    3. "...image-conjuring the harsh carpeted floor into a dire terrain bristling with clawed and ravening things covetous of boy toes." <<< That is exquisite! I wish I had written that! Wow!

    4. Well, I ain't sleeping again. ;) This is a dope piece, D. Love this: "the colour a ceaseless grey moan marching to the most wretched and endless of horizons." Such a strong closer.

    5. This was a real nightmare I had when I was about eight, I think. I'm a little pissed off, though, as I screwed up the tense in the opening line. Idiot. lol

  12. Joshua liked to think of himself as one of Saint Peter’s helpers. A regular volunteer at a hospice in rural Texas, his main responsibility was to be a friendly face and listening ear, keeping the sick and dying company until the Good Lord took them. That faith in a just and merciful God was what kept him on an even keel, despite all the suffering and death he witnessed every day. He rarely went a week without watching someone die. Usually, they just quietly drifted off, with little to no melodrama. Old Missus Gertie Schultz up and died while he was in mid-sentence, replying to some innocuous comment she’d made, reminiscing about her courtship with her husband, Henry, who had died of a heart attack a decade before.

    Joshua was a bit surprised that one of his favorite patients was, arguably, one of the least pleasant. A gruff, potty-mouthed man of maybe 70, bald from chemotherapy, or just from a long, tough life. When Joshua first introduced himself, he snorted, “yeah, I know what’s up, kid. You’re just comin’ round to keep me company while I die. I’m old, not fuckin’ stupid.”

    There wasn’t much question that he was dying. According to the doctors, he was fighting a losing battle against lung cancer, and his liver was shot; grim medical facts that he seemed to take in stride, declaring, “yep, I done some fuckin’ LIVIN’ in my day. I drank all the liquor, smoked all the dope, snorted all the coke. Y’ever get tag-teamed by two stacked Korean whores while rollin’ on molly, son? Boy, if I tried that again now, I’d probly up and kick th’ bucket, right in mid-thrust.”

    The old man warmed to Josh quickly enough. When he was feeling up to it, they’d go for walks around the grounds, shaded by droopy willows and tall pines. Sometimes he would get into playful melees with other patients, batting at each other with their canes and exchanging colorful bon mots, along the lines of “Thou misbegotten chancrous pot of dicks! En garde!” and “Have at thee, you dad-blasted muthafucka!” The one time he hit Mister Olafsen hard enough to knock him over, he immediately dropped his cane, blurted, “oh, shit, sorry about that, Jerry!” He helped his elderly peer to his feet, continuing, “here, up ya go, on your feet, ya fucker. Next time, don’t come at me like you’re about shit, tough guy.”

    1. Really feeling this one. I used to work in a retirement home. I know this guy. Well, knew, I guess.

    2. I love old guys like this. Was going to say it's a fantastic character study, but it feels like it's more than that, like it wants to live beyond these flash-imposed limits.


  13. Amelie stared out the window. She was wearing a peach colored silk robe and her boyfriend liked the way the creases gently folded over her lovely derriere. “Lapin, lapin, lapin.”
    “Come again? English my sweet,” he said wondering why she sounded so melancholy.
    “Z rabbits. Zhey are eating my jardin. I hate the disgusting animals.” It sounded like she was spitting out the words.
    “Ah, forget it. You American men have no idea what goes into French cuisine. My herbs. Z rabbits are eating my herbs.”
    He nodded and grabbed his jeans. “Why can’t you ever be happy? We just made love and I think you’re beautiful.” When she turned, he noticed tears welling up under her lovely eyes.
    “Get out,” she yelled. “You have no compassion. You don’t understand.”
    “I can’t—uh—you’d have to get a job.” He tried flattening his hair after pulling on a teeshirt. “Your beloved garden comes with a mortgage. I think you should sit down and think about this. You know I love you.”
    “Non,” she screamed, wiping her eyes. “Forget it. Just get out. Now!”
    “Okay, okay.” He worried she’d throw her Limoges flowerpot across the room. Grabbing his keys, he dashed into the closet, pulled down his backpack and filled it with a few essentials. “I’ll be back next week for the rest of it. Adieu.” The door slammed.
    The following week Amelie went to the largest department store in the city where she knew she’d get a job. She didn’t need a man. She was independent and free and soon she’d be able to pay her own bills.
    “I’m sorry Miss,” the human resources manager told her, “but we are not hiring at this time.”
    “I thought you’re always hiring.”
    “Yes, but with the current economic situation, we have doctors and lawyers selling shoes. You understand?” The human resources manager wasn’t sure how to gauge Amelie’s intelligence. The thick accent she surmised, would only work in the perfume department and they already had a waiting list of beautiful, experienced applicants for that department.
    Amelie stood. About to leave, the human resources manager asked her an odd question. “Wait, how tall are you, dear?”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Sex foot tall.”
    The manager blushed for misunderstanding and rifled through some papers on her desk. “Yes, okay, I see.” She nodded and pulled a pink memorandum from a file. “Hold on a second, here it is,” she whispered perusing the document. “The hourly wage is pretty good. Do you mind wearing a costume?”
    “No, of course not—I need a job.”
    The manager stood and shook Amelie’s hand. “Well then welcome to the family. We’ve searched for the right person for a long time. The candidate needed to be tall and slim to fit into our costume and the best part is you don’t have to talk.”
    Amelie was thrilled. “Oh thank, you, thank you. When do I start?”
    “I’ll call down to the wardrobe department and tell them you’re on your way. It’s on the fifth floor. The sooner you get that costume, the sooner you can start. With Easter only a month a way, we have needed to fill the Easter Bunny position for the last two months. “
    “I’m a rabbit?”
    “Well, technically you’re the Easter Bunny.” The manager smiled and ran to grab her ringing phone. “They’ll also have some forms for you to fill out up there. Good luck.”

  14. Amber sidled next to him slowly, with a feline smoothness that she belied with her first words.

    “So, I’ve never seen you here before. First time?” She smiled.

    He turned, startled by Amber’s voice, kind, inviting. He’d been lost in thought, gazing without focus on the lights. “No, this isn’t the kind of place I tend to come to when I need to think,” Ben said. “Do YOU come here often?”

    “Me neither. But I guess it’s a good place to talk. My name’s Amber. What’s yours?”

    He looked past her at the lights all around. “What? Oh, yeah. I’m Ben.”

    “Hi, Ben. Mind if I sit here?” Amber moved a little closer, could smell the whisky and knew she had a chance tonight.


    Amber slid closer and smiled again. It had worked for her before many more times than not.

    “You look a little upset,” Amber said, and took a sip from her drink. “You want to share a little? I’ll tell you my sad story if you tell me yours.” Even in the dark, with all the colored lights around, Ben could see she had soft light brown eyes. Almost…amber. They glowed with gold flecks and softly, warmly demanded his attention. He turned away.

    “Broke up. She left me. Said I didn’t give her what she wanted, what she needed. Said I’d become cold and disinterested.”

    “Awww. What’s her name?”

    “Jess. Jessica. What’s it matter to you?”

    “I’ve been there. My guy left me for some nurse. Blamed my job. The hours and all. But this new bitch works even shittier hours than I do. Sometimes, people just don’t fit, ya know? The heart wants what the heart wants, they say,” Amber said. She smiled that smile and her brows clinched just for a second and then relaxed. But Ben saw her eyes flashed even more fiery.

    He looked away again, but Amber knew she’d made a connection. Now to play him some more before she set the hook.

    “Whatcha drinking? Looks like some serious medicine for a broken heart.”

    “Jack. Figured if I was gonna go out I’d best go strong. Jess is a wine drinker.”

    “My guy liked his Jack, too. Never knew if it was going to make him horny or ornery.” Amber slid a little closer. “I’ll bet she said you didn’t want to do intimate stuff besides, you know, fucking, all that cuddling we bitches crave all the time.” She said it so matter of factly, Ben had to chuckle.

    “How’d you know?”

    “Bitch,” Amber said, pointing toward herself, her eyes wide, like she was revealing something only too obvious. “Funny thing, though. David—that was my guy, David—he said that same thing about me.”

    Amber slid just a little bit closer to Ben. She could feel the heat coming off him now, smell the sweat. Just a little more play. His head jerked up and he slid just as much away from her.

    “Look, I don’t need…”

    “Easy there, Ben, I didn’t mean nothing. Just thought, you know…kindred spirits and all.”

    “You don’t know.” He took another pull on his whisky.

    “Do. Been through this, like I said. Hate to see someone suffer like I did.”


    Amber leaned back a bit and her voice got quieter. “Yeah.”

    “I’m not stupid, ya know. I can see right through your ‘Oh, Ben’ bullshit.”

    “Sorry. I just thought…” She whispered something else.

    “What?” Ben said.

    “I said, I’m sorry. Didn’t want to scare you off. I’m not Jess. I’m…” Again, fainter. Whispers.

    His whisky nearly gone, just a tawny puddle left, Ben wobbled, leaned forward, reached to catch his balance. His whisky tipped and some of remaining drops fell.
    That was when Amber pulled Ben into her body as her team pulled the safety line back toward the bridge’s roadway. Four officers restrained Ben as he struggled.

    “It’s okay Ben. I won’t let them hurt you. Told you. I’ve been through this before.”

    As officers led Ben to a waiting ambulance, Amber by his side, a suit from the mayor’s emergency affairs office stood next to her boss.

    “She’s always has a way with these folks, always has a chance,” the lieutenant said. “Empathy, intelligence, training and, if needed, a strong right cross.”

    “Tell me about it,” the suit said.

    “Fuck you, Dave,” Amber said, her golden eyes blazing, as she climbed into the ambulance and closed the doors behind her.

    1. wow.... that went in a completely different direction! nice legerdemain, there, sir!

    2. Shit! Indeed. What a switch. Predator to savior. This is super impressive, Joe.

    3. Oh, brilliant. Set the hook for the reader, too. I never saw it coming.

    4. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 21, 2016 at 4:58 AM

      I was beginning to think she was a vampire ready to take him out back of the bar into an alley and....

  15. You get to a certain age and your memory becomes like that snow falling outside
    on an even older snow fall. You’ve left footprints in that earlier one, each an impression, something you can look back to and say, “I’ve been there.”

    And with each sweep of falling flakes, the scope of your vision loses clarity and those footprints, become fuzzier recollections. It’s not the snow I curse. That’s what led to those original imprints in this smooth canvas of the life I’ve traversed. I just wish I could find them a little easier when this snow ends. But it doesn’t seem to end,it keeps falling, sometimes just a flurry, others a blizzard.

    Now I just stand in place, the flakes falling upon my shoulders, dimming any recognition of me, until I speak up and say, “I’ve been there, but now I’m here.”

    1. And you've been there before and after it melts!! :)

    2. Beautifully described... and it hurts, both to make those footprints, and not to make them...

    3. This is a lovely piece, Joe. Really soft, but strong.

    4. What these guys said. (Sorry for dittoing.)

  16. “Do you have any regrets.”

    The question caught me off-guard, coming from a nine-year-old.

    “You know, regrets, things you wished you didn’t do?”

    Abby always came back from her once-a-month weekends with her mother with more questions than answers, or even joy.

    “Why do you want to know that?” I said, turning away from the kitchen sink and looking at her sitting at the table.

    “I heard Mommy say to Brad that she regretted everything she did in her life that you were part of. I just want to know if you have regrets, too,” Abby said, as she picked at a loose bit of red in the weave of the placemat.

    “Well, let me think,” I said, and scraped my chair kitty-corner to hers so I could see her more clearly and she could see me.

    “I regret that Mommy and I couldn’t stay together for you. And I’m sorry that Mommy said those things so you could hear them. But we have no control over that, so I can’t regret it. Can’t think of too many right off the top of my head. Don’t think I ever robbed a bank….nope, pretty sure not. ”

    “You sure? It’s okay, you can tell me, Daddy. I’m pretty mature for my years,” she said.
    I covered my mouth to hide my grin, at hearing that from a face full of freckles with a fruit juice stain above her upper lip.

    “So no other regrets? That’s not many.”

    She sounded like the nun who sent me back to my pew when we were learning how to go to confession. “Not enough sins, young man. Go think up some more.”

    I couldn’t exactly come out and tell her I regretted not killing her mother when I had the chance. Regretted not letting her lover just beat and choke her for being so stupid as to get pregnant there in our bed when I got back from Boston early.

    I didn’t yet regret not telling her the guy whose clothes lay scattered across my bedroom floor, who had been fucking my wife for months every time I left town, who was crazy enough to beat to death the mother of his child, whose neck I broke, was really her father.

    I did regret that her mother hated the child she carried so much that she wanted to give it away because, without her lover, she really had no reason to keep her. I regretted having to leave my hometown just to get Abby away from any chance she’d hear the story of her whore mother, her dead father and her killer dad. That news would come soon enough if Beth was talking like that in front of her child, my daughter.

    “Nope, I think that’s about it. Sorry, pretty boring, huh?” I said, and kissed her forehead. “So, Abs, how’d you like to go get some ice cream after dinner?”

    “Yeah!” Abby said. “Can Mardi come too?”

    “Sure, let me call her mom. Maybe she’d like to come, too. You wash up,” I said.

    “Thanks, Daddy,” Abby said and climbed up on her step-stool to the sink. Over her shoulder she said, “And, Daddy? I sure am glad you’re my father and not Brad. Or even Lou, and he was a nice one.”

    “Wouldn’t have it any other way, Abs,” I said, squeezing her to my chest and squirting water over both of us and the kitchen floor.

    Didn’t regret that a bit.

    1. What a story.... from so many fragments and threads, you wove a tapestry of truth and beauty... well done!

    2. Beautiful. Love made him the real dad!

    3. Yup. Agreed with all. I also think this one could be much, much longer if you wanted. I'd read it.

    4. Again, everyone else said it all. Excellent stuff.

  17. She knew where he’d be waiting. On the left bank of the creek, just over the wooden footbridge, a small hollow beneath an outcropping of rock, flanked by two bent, old trees. She checked behind her. No one had followed. Her shoulders tightened, nearly bracing the straps of her heavy backpack of their own accord, and her breath was labored, rough as adrenaline spiked through her, as it chattered down her arms and curled her small hands into fists. Again she felt the slap, saw the disappointment on her mother’s face. Another note from school. Another reminder that she wasn’t like her brother, would never be like her brother, that pious freak, yes ma’am, no ma’am. She could not sit still in a succession of dull as death classrooms and listen to her droning teachers tell her things she’d learned on her own years ago. But he understood. He would take her away from all this. Her sneakers squished in the damp grass, the patches of mud, as she dodged and wove the familiar ground, over and over the same rocks, the same tree roots. The creek ran high with the recent rains; she heard it before she saw it, and she followed the sound toward the old bridge. Here, she worried. The rushing water could cover anyone’s approach. The social workers. The police. But so far, nothing but grass and pale-pink sunset clouds and trees whipped by the wind. She knew where he’d be waiting. But something ahead didn’t look right. The bridge lay splintered, half in and half out of the swollen creek. No way to cross. No way to get to where he waited. With her new chance, her new name, her new life. Something flashed ahead. A whisper of movement, or maybe the wind. A light clicked on. Clicked off.

    She chanced the question. “How do I get across?”

    “Wait there,” he said. “I’ll come to you.”

    He appeared from behind a tree like a vision. Like a holy mother vision from one of her brother’s many Bibles. Even in the dimming sun she could see his smile. The promise in it. The promise of far, far away, which felt like the only safety she could imagine. Hands out for balance, he stepped foot by foot down the bank. She gasped as his left leg crumpled, as he slid to the water. “Dad!” She skittered toward him, barely catching herself in time to avoid his fate. Then, breath held, she stared. Legs weren’t supposed to bend like that. Blood ribboned out into the water. When she followed it back to the tree branch sticking out of his arm, she nearly vomited.

    “Go.” His voice was a weak rasp wheezing from his throat. A faint, rhythmic whine broke through the rush of the water. Sirens. “Shit. Your mother must have—left pocket. Take my keys.”

    To reach him she’d have to swim for it. And after that— “I don’t know how to drive!”

    He drew in a shallow, shuddery breath. “Time to learn.”

    1. WHAT? WHAT DID MOTHER DO? Gah.... this gave me such an adrenalin rush, and now I want all the questions answered! but no.... you wisely make the reader fill in the gaps.... sigh... this is so good.

    2. I'm hearing the river and my heart is thumping. Strong imagery.

    3. This is cinematic. I could almost literally *see* everything.

    4. Nancy De Cilio GauthierFebruary 21, 2016 at 5:06 AM

      Scary - and yes, I want to know what did Mother do.

  18. (Aaaack! This is getting too long. I'm still working on the rest of it.)

    Fernando took a deep breath to keep his hand from shaking. He’d spent all night making this bit of confectionary witchery, a spun sugar and marzipan extravaganza meant to emulate sweet Marta’s golden hair and luscious curves. A bold move, to place such an invention as a topper for her wedding cake, but he and Marta could keep that little joke between themselves. She had been his kitchen muse, as well as his pantry and office and storeroom inspiration; how could she expect him not to honor her in some way on this most important of days? He lowered his creation to the top tier, finessed a drizzle of ganache to tie it all together and called it done. Then he stepped back to gauge the full effect. Marvelous, he thought with a chuckle. Maybe his best work yet. As he continued to admire it, his new pastry chef swung through the door. Lucy did not have Marta’s light touch, and she was plain and frumpy in her blunt-cut hair and masculine shoes, but she would have to do. Nobody else worth having was available at such short notice.

    Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he caught her smirking. He turned and glared. “You have something you wish to tell me?”


    “I do not understand you,” Fernando said. “Is this one of your American urban slang things? Or do you scoff at the idea that I could be anything but serious about my work?”

    “Well, no,” she said. “But come on. You basically put your girlfriend’s rack on top of her wedding cake.”

    Fernando stiffened. Some bits of American slang he understood. “It’s an homage. A tribute. And you,” he dismissed her with a wave of his hand, “are a philistine. I don’t know what I was drinking when I hired you.”

    “You had a gig and you were stuck for help, that’s why you hired me.”

    He sighed. Yes, she was right on both counts. The baker Marta had hired—the untalented jackal—backed out at the last minute, after an argument with Marta’s fiancé, another untalented jackal, leaving his tearful lovely cakeless on her wedding day. How could he have refused? But there was no way he could have pulled this off on his own. “Fine. Whatever, as you and your kind say. Please help me prepare this for the van.”

    “No,” she said.

    “I’m sorry?”

    “No. Would you like that in a different language? Look. I need this job. But sitting back here while you commit professional suicide is not in my very limited job description.”

    He sneered. “Your ‘very limited job description’ is to do whatever I tell you. And my Marta will have her cake.”

    1. I always wondered what went on in those bakers' minds... this is a fun look inside, and as always, beautifully written.

    2. Man, I want to know so much more.

    3. You have a talent that brings such light to unusual scenarios, Laurie.

  19. “Can you spare me a chip, mister?”

    I stopped with my hand half way between my mouth and my lunch, startled by the voice that intruded into my consciousness. The wool—shrouded face it came from was dirty but still young and for a moment I wondered what she'd look like under different circumstances. She must have been in her late twenties; although if she'd been homeless for long she could have been much younger – the local streets were a harsh environment and it was rare that anyone lasted there for long. The council here was being very proactive in doing all they could to prevent it being a problem but I suspected they were more concerned about keeping the homeless out of sight than they were about actually doing anything to help them.

    “Course,” I said, offering my half-wrapped parcel to her. She looked hollow-cheeked enough to be starving; her face looking more like a catwalk model's than anyone I'd ever met.

    “Thank you, sir. God bless you.” She pushed her hand toward me, cupping her palm in anticipation of me picking out a chip for her.

    “No,” I said, feeling guilty. “Help yourself. Take as many as you want. And sit down here beside me. Make yourself comfortable.”

    I put the paper-wrapped fish and chips on the bench to my left, indicating that she should join me there with a nod and a lame smile. She settled there, looking first down at the food and then back up at me.

    “Go on.”

    At first she was hesitant, her hand cautious but quick but then she became more confident, settling her weight instead of standing there half-crouched. She leaned back too, her eyes ceasing their scanning of the paths running either way away from her, her attention settling on the food. Her fingers slowed.

    “It's been a while.”

    “A while what?” I looked down at her, sitting crouched beside me.

    “Since I had a meal with someone like this.” Her chewing slowed and she gave me a quick, uncertain smile. “Normally I only get a few coins. Not enough for a coffee but if I get lucky I can make enough in a day for a take-out cup.”

    I pushed my lunch toward her, trying not to think how she must feel about the people who passed her each day, trying to act as though they'd not seen her. She was so small and her voice tinier still, her confidence lost so long ago. It must be so difficult for a young woman to live like this; surely she must never truly sleep for fear of unwelcome attention.

  20. (continued)

    “My name's Mark. I don't live here but I work in town.”

    “I know. I've seen you before. You usually give a little to whoever's sitting here.”

    I suddenly felt guilty, even though I knew I did more than most others did. It was only loose change to me but I thought it would mean more to them. Although, the price of a hot drink or a meal was the same whoever you were. The businesses in town discouraged the street beggars, as the town council called them. Few people would choose to queue beside one of them, given the choice. They'd be more likely to move on – there were plenty of coffee shop franchise outlets and none of them welcomed the homeless inside, always wary that they might outstay their welcome and take up a table that a 'regular' person might want.

    “I give what I can. I...” My voice dried up, nothing I could say seeming acceptable. I 'd enough in my wallet to keep her fed and clothed for months and I'd always felt generous just giving them the few pence I'd use to pay for my parking. Maybe I should give more – although I'd always wondered what they spent their money on. The local council claimed they used it to buy drugs and recommended that we should only give to the people selling 'The Big Issue' – the newspaper printed to raise money for the local homeless charity.

    “My name's Lainey,” my new companion said, her mouth still busy with the meal I'd expected to finish myself. “I used to live in Hollifield, like you, except I could never find enough charitable folk to make it possible to stay there. There's more homeless in the city but there's more people come here. I can just about get by most weeks. Not that I'll ever need to diet...” She grinned briefly, her teeth yellowed with several missing, dark holes showing behind her lips.

    “Lainey? Wait a minute. Didn't you use to go to the Harris Comprehensive school? You'd have been there from 1992 onwards?”

    “Yes. You'd have known me as Elaine Bruckner.” She shrugged, her face suddenly looking familiar to me. “I guess I've changed a bit since then – the clothes, the weight loss, the way people never look you in the face, it's hardly surprising you didn't recognise me.”

    1. I like these characters a lot... you've given them just the right amount of mystery and fact... and I like that they have a history!

    2. Every start has a before. Nothing springs up from nothing. Thank you, Leland!

    3. Yup, agree with Leland. And I think this one wants to keep going.....

    4. This takes me back to working the streets, and nothing in this feels inauthentic. Nice job, Mark.

  21. Body image

    Bought myself some online clothes; better than the ones I got
    New with tags at a discount
    Something different, yet fraught with some vision of myself that hasn’t yet evolved.
    They are bold ;they are different. They are something not allowed
    A style for an older woman
    What should we look like? What should we wear?
    And when they arrive through mail order I am suspicious of them hanging there.
    Is the color too dark? Too Old lady?
    Is the fabric one that forgives?
    Am I gonna need a Spanx? Or a corset? Or a spa? Go back to hiding in yoga pants
    That pretend I do it more than I do.
    A t shirt that covers all I’ve discovered, but reveals too much of me, too?
    I wanna be rich and elegant
    I wanna be stylish and sane.
    I don’t wanna be clownish, red hatted or otherwise vain
    There’s no solidarity in looking ridiculous
    No standard of style for growing old.
    It might take me a while to get used to these clothes.
    To wear them in public and private too
    The challenge of fashion don’t mean very much
    When you’re supposed to be invisible
    Or militant about who you are
    Some gals have the confidence to dress like some clown
    In colors and feathers and old hippie stuff
    But it still ain’t me and never has been
    And when I look in a mirror. I’m somewhat startled:
    Is that, was that, ever really me?
    Was I ever
    Will I ever
    Somehow be beautiful enough?

    1. A beautiful lament... and a reminder to us all that we are in fact beautiful enough, even if not trendy.

    2. A beautiful lament indeed. Really feeling this. "Am I gonna need a Spanx? Or a corset? Or a spa?" Funny, but pathos soaked.

    3. ^^^What those dudes said. Poignant, funny, even bewildered.

  22. She’d thought the little girl would like seeing the dancers up close. The regalia of Native dancers was usually impressive in both its abundance of ornamentation and color schemes. But as usual it was Sydney who became absorbed in her subject. As she snapped pictures of the social, she adjusted to capture as many elements of the familial dance in it's diesel formation as she could. Silently acknowledging that it evoked so many of her own mismatched feelings about community.

    Remembering she wasn’t alone she watched Laura from the corner of her eye. She was leaning against the short wall, her delicate hands crossed demurely in front of her on top of it and her chin resting on top of her hands.

    Laura was tall for eight years old and the long locs of her hair were thick and plentiful. Sydney felt the urge to touch them to see if they were brittle or well cared for but that was inappropriate. Better that she not indulge in the annoying habit that so many non-blacks are tempted to do when they see black hair. If it didn’t irritate the little girl yet, she didn’t want to mentally suggest or influence her into thinking it was something she should learn to accept either. Besides Sydney already knew the answer somebody or maybe Laura herself was doing a good job with her hair. The question was how helpful was Eli with his daughter’s physical care. Was he attentive about such things and if so, where had he learned? Who had taught him? It seemed Laura’s mother had been out of the picture for a while. Maybe there was someone else.

    “So are you dating my father?”

    Sydney felt the weight of her camera heavy in her hands as she moved it from her face to look at the girl. Laura was now leaning into the wall with the side of her body and gliding the fingers of her left hand along the marble of the wall. She appeared to be looking at the dancers but she also seemed to just as often slide her eyes back to Sydney who turned abruptly back to the dancers and the suddenly welcomed obligation of her camera.

    “What makes you ask that?”

    “I don’t know. You seem nervous around me.”

    “Well, I don’t…there haven’t been a lot of childr…young people in my life. I suppose I worry about doing something or saying something I shouldn’t.”

    “You shouldn’t worry about that. I’ve heard a lot of bad words. And I’m pretty tough so I don’t think you could hurt my feelings.”

    “I’d certainly never want to do that. Hurt your feelings I mean.”

    “Good.” Laura turned back around and faced the inner portion of the rotunda and the energetic performance. “Then we should be fine.”

    1. I love this... and I think you made Laura's voice eminently real!

    2. Agreed. Strong, strong finish. Well played.

    3. I love how it's the emotions behind and between the spoken words that shine through, not necessarily the words themselves.

  23. Driving around strange neighborhoods, looking for some place to be.
    Gawking at houses, dreaming the dream, imagining some future that includes me.
    Ain’t got no credit rating; ain’t got no debt.
    We had a lot and let it go
    We figured it was wise
    We simplified, economized and did as they advised.
    We put our kid through college, mostly
    To find out we was robbed. For all that we invested, they still can’t find no jobs.
    We cared for our parents and buried our dead and never found a way to get ahead
    Now you come out and and call us entitled. You recommend our path.
    Yet we’re not young and we ain’t old.
    And he who lives longest, laughs last.

    1. Oh my! Too much truth at one time. Love it!

    2. You've put into words what so many know as truth.... and it breaks my heart.

    3. Yup. You killed this one. Makes me think of old time folk music (which I love). I might get the guitar out and mess with this a little.

    4. Captures the current sense of despair among a dwindling middle class.

  24. Let me tell you a sad story
    About a happy little boy
    Whose own imagination
    Was the best kind of toy
    He took that thing everywhere!
    It was always by his side!
    Until one day...
    When that little boy died.
    No one mourned him.
    No one even shed a tear.
    They hadn't killed a little boy they said
    Only their fears.
    They didn't bother to bury him
    They left his body out for the wolves
    And the beasts gorged themselves mercilessly,
    Until their bellies were full.
    "This tastes like chicken!"
    They howled with delight.
    They didn't know how close they were
    To actually being right.
    Make no mistake, the little boy was brave
    And was it really his fault
    That he couldn't behave?
    They bought him the wrong kind of clothes,
    They bought him all the wrong toys,
    They just couldn't let a little boy
    Be...a little boy.

    1. Poor little boy, indeed... a good reminder to us all...

    2. Agreed. And the form really works well. Like dark Shel Silverstein.

    3. Good call, brother. Shel Silverstein!

  25. If I could play the music written upon your face, if I could hear all the rhythms of your laughter, these things that I could never do when you were here I long for more now even than I did then.

    1. I really like this. Has a very Bob Dylan feel to it. Maybe I'm just in a musical frame of mind. :)

    2. Ah, that is not fiction, my friend... that is sheer beautiful truth... thanks for sharing....

    3. Aw. Yeah, this is short, bittersweet, and quietly gutting.


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