Friday, February 26, 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. 

Sure, I guess you could take it that way. Feel the wake and wind and the ocean spray, salty. Unmoored, that's what it seems like, backtrack, let's all give our pennies back. Streamline. Don't always assume assumptions wrong, the words of my heart are a doo wop song. False and modern, man, look at all the angles. Angelic.

I'm not going to smile, nor be apologetic. I get it, it's fetid, it's downright pathetic. But these rules weren't given to all in kind, you smile and sure as hell don't mind. I'm in a battlefield. I'm standing in the sun too long, screaming. 

Goddamn, you never listen. 

Long ambition, short con - you got 'em both wrong. I am the seething underbelly. I am the scared kid, quiver-jelly. Don't move, you're harder to track. And that's what happens, we always come back. Why? 

Hell, ain't no place left to be.

Not one bit of peace, no, not for me. You can be my one true epiphany. And I'll smirk while you shirk all your self-righteous works. Sorry, I guess I'm just one of the jerks. 

And you're just like me.





  1. MaderRap... I dunno how you do it... rhymes elude me, even more if I'd try to tell a story with 'em... but you do it... and you do it well.

    1. Dang! Mister Leland's right! You do it really well. It always makes me smile too. It's almost like an Easter egg, my brain lights up like a pinball machine when I stumble across word-play like that. Thank you. :)

    2. I'm going to have start calling you slimMader.

    3. It would not be a complete Friday without a bit of Mader Rap.

    4. Love it and sure, jerks love to shirk but not this time. :)

  2. The sun rose on a quiet landscape, long shadows grew shorter, and the man watched. His dog lay beside him by the creek, but neither of them moved a muscle. As the temperature warmed, a sliver of water ran over the ice in the creek bed, a whisper of a gurgle.

    The dog’s body tensed. He saw the mouse race, then stop, then race again to take a sip from the tiny rivulet of water. The man’s camera had been at his eye for an hour. His shutter finger was cramped, but ready.

    The hawk whooshed from on high, lifting the mouse into the heavens, and its transfiguration was caught for all time by a digital sensor and the memory of a dog.

    Do mice scream?

    1. I love this. The last line kills. The first paragraph could be from Louis L'Amour. At his best. Nice take on a pastoral premise.

    2. Poor little mouse. For a brief moment he probably thought he had just figured out that he could fly...

    3. Lovely snapshot! The imagery calls to mind Ansel Adams for me, rather than a writer.

    4. Ha! No wonder I'm bad at taking photos. Patience is necessary and this short piece nails it! Vivid!

    5. Thank you kindly... and Ansel Adams is one of my heroes!

  3. There is no spring in Big Spring. No tree, let alone an evergreen, in Alpine. But here, in Desolation, well, we let our town’s name speak its truth.

    When they took out the only stoplight last year, the tumbleweeds sighed with relief as they raced down the main street. And there are tumbleweeds, Lord there are tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds and dust we have aplenty.

    You can stop checking your cellphone for signal. There ain’t none. You can use the computer at the library to check your email, but it’s dial-up, so plan on spending some time there. Not a bad thing, to spend time in the library.

    Mrs. Theiss, she knows every book there. She’ll know you’re a stranger, suggest you read The Story of Desolation, the approved history of our fair town. If you don’t read it, she can tell you the story by heart.

    How a young schoolmarm got off the train, looked around, and said, “I’ve never seen desolation such as this,” and how the name stuck.

    The official history may have been just a little sanitized from what my grandpa told me. It wasn’t a schoolmarm, but a madam who spoke the line, and she may have sprinkled a few four-letter words in there, too. I reckon Grandpa should know. That madam was his grandma.

    Mrs. Theiss will tell you about how the town has seen its share of booms and busts, and she doesn’t mean the kind of bust that women have. She’ll tell you about the ranches that used to be around here, about the oil wells now gone dry, and she’ll invite you to stick around for a while.

    And when you leave, realizing that the dial-up modem would take too long to download the latest cat videos or CNN news, you’ll hear her sigh just before you close the door. A sigh that speaks of the ages and the hopes that have passed through her life.

    When you get hungry, come on down to the Five-and-Dime. Mr. Peterson’s got a soda fountain in there, and he’ll use his new microwave to make you a decent hotdog. Thirty seconds! That’s if the electricity’s working. Sometimes the sandstorms cut clean through the wires.

    When you’re done eating, come on over to the church for evening services. Reverend Christensen’s been getting a lot of interest in his evening sermons, ever since young Patsy died. He thinks he’s got it all figured out, what killed her.
    He says Desolation has one more thing besides tumbleweeds and dust to worry about. He says we have a werewolf.

    1. This kind of reminds me of those old Twilight Zone episodes where it seems like an ordinary enough town...but ohhhh underneath there's a current of danger and an uneasy truce with the bizarre! I hope there's more!

    2. Intrigued... love the story of the town's name!

    3. Do you now, or have you in the past live in West Texas, perchance? You captured it beautifully and mentioned three locations out there.

    4. I've never lived there, but I've spent some time in west Texas... I hope Desolation isn't a real town...

    5. Really digging this one. You probably could have guessed that. ;)

  4. In the closet, sliver of light from the cracked door - not as safe, but the darkness is too dark. The closet smells like moth balls and old shoes. It's quiet as all hell, and it better stay that way. The closet is the last safe place.

    There is an electric tension in the house. It's palpable. You taste it as it coats your tongue, it lives in cold sweat. The closet is no confessional, and it's not an escape tunnel. If anything, it's a trap. But it's better than what's outside.

    So, hide.

    The closet will change shapes over the years, different sizes, doors with mirrors. The closet will stop working, but there are other ways to shut out the light. They just cost more.

    In so many ways.

    1. oh yeah.... that closet is an expensive, painful place... and safety is vastly overrated. This is a strong piece, and it got a visceral reaction from me...

    2. "But it's better than what's outside." <<< that's when you know the trap's got a good hold on ya...

    3. What Leland said. So strong. So universal.

    4. Your ability to capture certain psychological "issues" without directly pinpointing the individual is fascintating.

    5. Where? Where should we hide? Made me sad but I smiled from the clarity.

  5. Do you see them? All the lines that connect everything that is and isn’t, all that won’t but could be? They’re all color-coded, reds and blues and white and greens and yellows like wires carrying power that isn’t electricity? They’re everywhere, but they’re soft, and they don’t trip you when you’re walking. Mrs. Cratchet she says I’m making it all up but how can I make up what I can see? Don’t tell anyone but I think she might be blind. Her breath smells funny sometimes, like mouthwash but stronger and I wonder if maybe she has really bad breath so that’s why the red line from her mouth to the drawer in her desk is really strong. There’s a big blue cable that connects her to the clock, too.

    And all the circles! They’re everywhere! Frisbees connecting yesterdays and tomorrows and maybes and nevers and spinning, spinning, spinning.

    I ask Mrs. Cratchet if I can go outside and play. She says no and all the spinning stops and I ask why and she says it’s too dangerous outside and that a boy with my condition might hurt myself and then I understand. It’s better if I don’t hurt myself. Better if I let her hurt me. Like she says, she’s a professional.

    1. Intricate depiction of "the Force" if you will, and what it takes to bring it low. You make me wonder if all teachers get into the profession to some degree to feed their own need to control.

    2. What does Cratchet know anyway!? Loved this but you probably know I love psycho-connectives.

    3. Dang, this one is fire. "They’re all color-coded, reds and blues and white and greens and yellows like wires carrying power that isn’t electricity? "

    4. I had not heard the term psycho-connectives before! Thank you for that! and as for teachers and control, I was blessed to have teachers who didn't give a rip about that for the most part... they set my mind free!

  6. It was a bad idea. And he knew it. From the furrow between his brows and his downturned mouth, she knew he would have preferred they go into town and have a cup of coffee instead of taking this trip back in time. But she slowed at the familiar corner and flicked the blinker. He leaned back in his seat and sighed. Brushing a hand through his receding hair, loosening the knot on a tie he rarely wore. “It’s probably gone,” he said, looking out the side window. She didn’t answer, because he was probably right, and she didn’t want him to be right. Despite her dress and heels and bad knee, she wanted, needed to lie in the grass and stare at the undersides of the oak tree, breathing in the oxygen it exhaled. But he continued. “The new owners probably chopped that thing down for firewood.”

    “Shut up,” she said.

    “It was already dying.”

    Her voice choked. “Shut UP,” she forced out.

    He tried to touch her hand but she jerked it away. What the fuck did he know, care? He walked from this place the second he was legally able and never looked back. He never talked about what happened there, and even when he had a few, it just made him quieter. Now she only saw him when he could make no other excuse to stay away. Not here, though. Never here.

    The house loomed ahead. Reconstructed. Deconstructed. Smaller than she’d left it. During the plane trip, she’d tried to remember the way the sun streamed through the windows, and if that happened in morning or afternoon. Odd to live in a place so many years and not remember if the sun rose in the backyard or the front. To remember so many insignificant details, like the shapes that the grouted rivers formed between the flagstones in the front hallway, the smell of the fresh towels in the linen closet, and not something as basic as where they were in relation to the earth, the sun. Maybe because she was small enough then to think the universe revolved around them, and the sun and moon and stars were like her Colorforms pieces, sticking wherever she pressed them.

    The house faced east. She saw that now. Actually, the rental car’s GPS system saw that for her, and part of her wanted to rip it out of the dashboard.

    He peered ahead. “Doesn’t look like anyone’s home.” He tapped restless fingers against a charcoal trouser leg. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s do this.”

    1. and of course you know, I want more... want to know what and why... but your descriptions... they take me there... beautifully done!

    2. Wonderful use of the senses that gripped me from the beginning. I went with you--followed the blinker and the sun. Thank you for writing this journey.

    3. Man, there is something magical in the way you depict relationships of all kinds. It's like you have some kind of sense the rest of us don't. I could read on and on and on.

  7. He shifted uncomfortably behind his desk. The hard plastic seat was hell on his bruised tailbone! He said "Hell". He liked saying "Hell". The grown-ups said it all of the time, and he was allowed to now, so he threw it into every sentence he could. This busted tailbone was not helping him sit still. He wiggled around again, trying to get comfortable.
    Mrs. Bates hated it when he "squirmed around like he had ants in his pants!" She said he needed to sit still, she said he was a distraction to the other students. She said he had a good brain in his head, but jumping beans in his soul. He smiled.
    She liked his stories. She liked the pictures he drew. But she didn't like the fidgeting. No sir. Not the fidgeting.
    He tried to be still. He tried not to be so loud and enthusiastic. He tried not to blurt out the answers before he was called on. He tried. It didn't always work.
    Hell, sometimes an idea was just too super duper not to tell everyone!
    Like the Eclipse! He couldn't wait to tell everyone about the Eclipse! Shadows and planets and moons! Day was going to be nighttime! He wasn't supposed to look at it though. He would go blind! But in a little while they, the whole class, were going to go out on the recess field to "Observe the Phenomenon". Still didn't make any sense to him. They weren't supposed to look at the Eclipse, but they were being ushered out onto a field to "observe" it. Even at seven years old, he knew this was a crazy idea. Kids were notorious for not doing what they were told! Duh!
    It was ok though. They had spent all week learning about solar and lunar eclipses and had even built viewers that were supposed to make viewing them safe. The same white poster board and black electrical tape that they had used to make a simple box camera that spring. He still couldn't believe that had worked!
    Teachers were crazy, they had all kinds of crazy ideas! And he loved it!
    His Grandpa said he would. His grandpa was really smart. He had told him that he should always listen to someone trying to teach you something, even if you don't like what they're saying. You just might learn something anyway. Then grandpa would tell him to go put his head in a bucket, just to keep things in perspective.
    Grandpa was gone now. They said he lived in heaven with the clouds. Clouds taste like ice cream! Grandpa had told him that too. He got really sad when Grandpa died. He overheard them saying "His heart exploded." That sounded really scary. Would *his* heart explode? Sometimes it felt like it when he ran really hard. He remembered he got sad, but the grown-ups got mad. His grandma and aunts and uncles were fighting over everything! Even Grandpa's bible! Grandma finally got so fed up, she threatened to tear it in half so they could all have a piece! She couldn't tear that! It was grandpa's!
    He shifted uncomfortably behind his desk. The hard plastic seat was hell on his bruised tailbone!
    His small fingers could feel grandpa's duck-call in his coat pocket.
    He should be at home with Bruno.
    He could learn more running through that back field with his dog than he could in this stupid classroom!

    1. aw, you took me back to grade school! this is very cool... and nice tie-in to the upcoming eclipse!

    2. "Jumping beans in his soul" is so accurate for children!

    3. Took me back, too. Eerily. Well played. I love the impact of: "Observe the Phenomenon" - perfect. (and I broke my tailbone once, that shit HURTS)

  8. You come out of hiding and blink rapidly.
    You feel dazed and there still seems to be a veil of haziness over everything but you’ll adjust.
    How long has it been, a day? a week? longer? No matter. You are here again, present.
    Drink tea by the open door and breathe the freshness of air.
    Throw on a coat and boots and start walking. Where to go? Just put one foot in front of the other and see where you end up.
    A bird squawks and startles you. You are jittery, every nerve jumping and straining but you keep on going.
    A car honks and your heart flips over, drumming in your chest and you quicken your pace to the sound bite. Pound the pavement one two one two, arms swinging to the steady beat.
    Blood is pumping to all the right places now and you feel breathless and stronger.
    Around the block. Then around again and again till you are back at the door. Only now you are smiling and the fog has lifted and you are panting steadily and it feels so good.
    What to do now? Write it down. Get that shit down on paper, use it, own it while it’s fresh.
    You catch sight of the mirror as you pass so you stop and stare but your heart soars when you see her looking back at you.
    I’ve missed you, happy lady, please stay this time.

    1. Those last two lines... brilliant... and they made me smile, too.

    2. Glad the fog lifted. Enjoyed the run.

    3. Leland's right. And I love the rhythm and roll of this one. So strong. I can feel it under my skin.

  9. She looked around at the boxes and totes full of crap. Oddly, it didn't seem like crap when it was unpacked and put away. It really didn't seem like crap when it was being useful. But now, when there was a shit-ton of it in the middle of an apartment, not moved, not moving, waiting to go downstairs then upstairs, then in closets and cabinets and under beds and on shelves -- well right now it was crap. And there was quite a lot of it. She picked up a box and carried it down the rickety stairs while she contemplated the viability of cloning herself.

    "Do you need some help?" a guy wearing black from head to toe asked. She considered kissing him.

    "If you don't mind, that would be great," she said. "My movers flaked, and I have to be out of here by tomorrow."

    "I've got some time, and some friends," the guy said. "We can get this knocked out in no time. I'm Brian, at your service."

    "Kathy, and I think I owe you my life, Brian," she said, trying to keep the emotion from her voice. Generally speaking, people didn't flock to help overly-emotional women. She knew this from experience.

    "Nah, just pay it forward when you can," Brian said. "Let's do this."

    1. An angel, without white or wings... and a cool snapshot in time! Thanks for sharing!

    2. You describe the mental tension of moving nicely. The nice guy in black is an appreciated tribute to the day, and a bright spot in what might otherwise be rather bleak action.

    3. Ooh, made me have trust issues because he wore black. I wonder if he was casing the joint and will come back later? LOL

    4. Man, I like this. But THIS: "Do you need some help?" a guy wearing black from head to toe asked. She considered kissing him. - this is fucking brilliant. Twisted my neck.

    5. <3 Perfect tribute to Man in Black Day. <3

  10. Cassie’s small fingers, slick with perspiration, tightened around the tube of lipstick in her coat pocket. It had been too easy. She saw it; she wanted it; she took it. Her heart sped up as the cashier lifted her thousandth tired smile of the day and swept her store brand milk, eggs, and bread into a plastic bag, took the last crumpled bills from her babysitting money, wished her a good evening, all without meeting her eye.

    And then Cassie had walked out. Head down, stomach melting.

    All the way home, chin still tucked toward her chest, Cassie warred with herself with what she had done. Half expected someone to be following her. A hand on her shoulder, a scowl, a reminder that there was something she hadn’t paid for.

    But no one was there.

    Regret weighed her limbs, but as she moved, the more distance she put between herself and the shiny, shiny racks of makeup, the higher she could lift her head, the faster her footsteps and rationalizations fell. Who would miss it? Who would care? If they cared, why would they leave them all out in the open like that?

    But as she approached the small house she shared with her grandmother, the more her guilt pulled her back to earth. Her hand shook; she shoved it into her pocket only to be met with the consequences of her decision, of her weakness.

    “Cassie, darling, is that you?”

    She took a deep breath as the footsteps approached from the kitchen; she’d tried to palm the cylinder into the plastic bag but her grandmother caught her in motion, the smile dropping a hair when her quick gaze found Cassie’s hands.

    “I got you something, Grandma.” Cassie held out the tube as if she’d discovered a new element.

    The quick gaze held a moment, then wavered, then crinkled with a slow return of the grin. “Well, aren’t you sweet,” Grandma said finally. “And like I always say, lipstick makes you beautiful.” She beckoned Cassie forward. “Come with me, honey. Let me show you how to put it on.”

    1. You, Laurie Boris, work magic... so much bitter and sweet in this tale of guilt and giving... and you got me in the feels...

    2. Karma has such an interesting way of making you squirm. Sometimes the guilt of 'not getting caught' is a lot worse than the guilt of committing the crime. Wow Miss Laurie, you got my innards all knotted up with that one!

    3. Yup. This is an uncomfortable piece in the best possible sense. Feel all squirmy here, too.

  11. "It makes you think, doesn't it?"


    "Of all the things that are haunted, how many exist because people believe in them?"

    "That's a frightening thought."

    "Isn't it, though." She paused a moment. "So, what do you believe in?"

    1. this gives me goosebumps... and I've wondered that very thing...

    2. You can do so much with so few words. It's pretty astounding. And I agree with Leland.

  12. "I know those knights back during the holy wars brought home all sorts of odd ideas, but this is one I am very thankful for!" Kate sighed as she slid further down into the tub, hot water sliding up over her shoulders.

    "They brought back those colors ladies put on their faces, too," her maid said softly as she poured the last of the hot water into the tub.

    "Don't remind me. I hate putting that mess on my face."

    "They also brought back henna," the maid said, shyly sweeping a hand across her own hair.

    "Yes, Sherry, they did bring back the henna that makes your hair shine so." She chuckled fondly. "And glass mirrors so that you could admire your hair without all that waviness of the old metal mirrors."

    Sherry blushed and turned to reach for an bath oil to add to her mistress' bathwater.

    "Don't forget the perfumes." The maid added just the right amount of the oil to lightly scent the bath.

    "Which some people sadly use in place of bathing. Hoo, can they stink! Then they try to be all charming as if they can not smell themselves!"

    In spite of the difference in their station, the two women laughed together comfortably.

    1. a fascinating snapshot in time... and I'd never thought about where makeup and mirrors came from... well told, and you taught me stuff besides!

    2. Like a snippet from a fairy-tale. I liked it.

    3. Yup. Totally agree. I love the snapshot flash.

  13. "My people do not write or read," she said softly. "We have a long oral tradition, like you land walkers had in the beginning. The telling of stories has always been popular among peoples who do not record things as you do. Our sagas tell of brave deeds, journeys to strange lands, and battles against foes and nature. They are used to teach the young and to entertain ourselves on long winter nights."

    "You have no music?" he asked, slightly horrified.

    "We have music, but not such as yours. The songs of the People, all of the different People, are beautiful. I enjoy the music walkers make, as well, though it lacks a certain quality of the voices of the sea."

    He looked at her, not as if trying to understand, but appreciating her fervor in her people's ways.

    "You are nothing like what I expected."

    "And what did you expect me to be like? A stupid peasant? A dumb animal?"

    "Actually, no. I had no real preconceived notions. I've met numerous individuals from cultures all over the world, and I suppose they gave me a concept to begin comparing you to."

    She looked at him with growing admiration. "You are a strange man, but one I think I will like."

    1. Oh, man! I want to know more! :)

    2. I'm always fascinated by the oral storytelling tradition... I am not good at it, but I admire it greatly... thanks for the reminder that there ARE other ways to tell stories.

  14. First-date-speak bores me. Really, is it any wonder I’m 47 and single? The very pretty, very nicely coiffed lady sitting at my table has uttered “more than just a project manager,” and is staring at me. “And what about you? What do you do?”

    “I grieve.”


    “That’s not my official title, but that’s what I do. I grieve.”

    “Well, isn’t that interesting.” Her eyes wander over the other patrons in the restaurant. She hopes one of them will sense her discomfort and rescue her. They won’t.

    “I work at a veterinary clinic. I’m a vet tech.”

    “Oh. I see.”

    “Every day, I’m asked to help put dogs and cats and birds and lizards out of their misery.”

    “Mmmm hmmmm.” She’s shifting in her chair now, like she’s going to say she has to go to the little girl’s room.

    “And after every damned one of them dies, I cry.”

    “That must be very difficult.” She’s now touching everything she brought to the table, making sure it’s all still there. “Would you excuse me for just a moment? I need to powder my nose.”

    I knew it would end this way. It always does. I signaled to the waiter for the check while she was gone. He arrived with it at the same time she returned.

    “You’re back?”

    “Of course I am! You didn’t think I’d let you go without seeing pictures of my little Fluffy, may she rest in peace.”

    And the pretty lady shoves her cellphone in my face and tells me about Fluffy and we cry together and laugh together.

    Maybe dating isn’t so bad after all.

    1. Disrupting expectations ingrained by a selfish society in a shared experience and a sad smile. Nicely done!

    2. “That’s not my official title, but that’s what I do. I grieve.”
      That's pure gold. So real, I can almost taste it.

    3. That first 'I grieve' hits like an atomic bomb. So good, Leland.

    4. Oh, I love this. That line. And then the ending.

  15. Hard to believe there had been riots here only last summer. The street seemed so ordinary. The pavement still carried the sheen of an earlier rain squall, but was now trickster-bright under the great dome of our planet's sky. A city street, with towering glass buildings, random nodes of pedestrians, and a blossoming line of Japanese maples every fifteen metres or so.

    She hailed a cab but no cab stopped. She'd lost her phone in the park, after those one-armed boys had chased her, so Uber was not an option.

    A crow on a streetlight glared at her and screeched "cunt!" just once.

    She flinched and bowed her head. Tried to recall the transit map in her head. Bus or skytrain?

    Maybe she could walk. She only had to go a couple blocks. Or wait, was it two miles? She couldn't remember.

    The pulsating sun was turning yellow-orange and crimson, swirling like a candymaker in an emerald sky. A man emerged from the knots of passersby, stretched his neck and whole face toward her, looming like a thing from perdition's carnival, and spat in her mouth. She tasted spoiled mackerel and she gagged, vomiting out a small dead rodent on the fur-lined sidewalk along with the pitiful remains of her lunch, a soft taco.

    "Help me," she said, although not loudly, and kept walking.

    "Cumbucket," said the crow.

    A woman laughed in an alley. A rusted old Chevy sedan slowed and kept pace with her. She couldn't make out the driver, seeing only a silhouette that suggested a misshapen head far larger than a man's. Ponderous, untamed, hirsute, bovine.

    She heard distant music to the west: French horns, glockenspiels, bassoons. As if some ghost parade had been carried on the storm, had become unnerved and had left for the coast, was fading as it passed over the inlet and the edge of the wide Pacific, gathering in its heartbroken wake only the good things of the world.

    Crying seemed appropriate, but she resisted.

    "Suck me," offered the crow.

    The car tracked her every move; she even stopped to test it. After a minute or so of this dance, something made her suddenly brave, and she opened the passenger side door. An immense shriek so loud it cracked windows and stripped blossom from the maples blared from inside the vehicle, and a voice that sounded like something malignant being boiled alive said, "Get away. Close the door. We will chew off your limbs. We will obliterate everything you love."

    She recoiled and collided with a younger woman, who hissed at her and made a sign with her fingers. "Are you here?" the young woman asked. "Is anyone here? Am I here?" Her eyes rolled into her skull and instead of whites, the orbs were without light and colour, darker than the underwings of the sleek and ribald crow.

    "Goatfucker," suggested the crow.

    The air was filled with cherry blossom and their fragrance was cloying.

    She tried to answer the woman, but her throat was coated in something sweet and gluey. Her mind filled with a roomful of mewling fetuses, their stick limbs waving and clutching like tiny tentacled ocean things, pellucid amphibian eyes mostly sightless, dark stilted beings looming and striding among them and plucking morsels as they trod.

    What is all this? What happened to me? she thought, a moment before something impossibly vast and inconceivably dark dimmed out the world and everything truly went to hell.

    1. Gulp. Another Friday night of sleeping with the lights on. You scared the crap out of me. And I know that crow is real...

    2. Awww this is wicked and I love it!
      So many juicy details and textures.

    3. Beautifully twisted. I'm gong to have to read this again a few times.

    4. Damm crow! Seriously sick in a good way--the candy maker sun gave me hope but alas...

    5. Holy shit, dude! This is so fucking scary. And so good. And for some reason, the line that got stuck in my brain: She hailed a cab but no cab stopped. - light brush strokes, so perfect.

    6. Dittohead here. Scary and brilliantly twisted and the crow.

    7. No time to comment on everyone's pieces this week, but I read them all and as usual can't say enough good things about them.

      And thank you for your comments on mine, you good people.

      Dan, it's weird. I don't know if we're allowed to like our own phrases but that line was one of mine. I like how you characterize it here.

      What's wrong with me? Another nightmare! o.O

  16. He deserved this.
    He knew what he had done.
    He deserved whatever punishment they handed out for crimes such as his.
    Each morning was the same.
    His eyes would pop open ages before he wanted them to, and with that, the aches and pains began too.
    He slowly dragged himself out of bed and found his simple sack-cloth habit.
    He dragged that over his balding head and ancient beard, bones cracking and creaking as he raised his arms to slide it on.
    Then he had to tie on his soulless sandals. That meant bending over and performing amazing feats of contortion.
    That meant raising your head again, and waiting for the world to catch up.
    If he was lucky there would be some 'meal left over in his bowl. He never knew just what it was they ground up and fed him, so he resigned to calling it 'meal.
    (It wasn't too smart to start thinking about what they might have put in there. Spiders and nightmares most likely...unborn dreams and maggots for sure.)
    They called him Sissy-Fuss and he didn't know why. They made jokes about "No moss gathering" as he walked by. They spat on him and sneered with wicked laughs and hateful eyes. They despised his very existence, and they made sure he damn well knew it.
    His penance was a simple task. It was a method employed for centuries to break one's spirit, to teach one that they CAN and WILL be broken.
    He found that task exactly where he had left it the evening before.
    At the bottom of that whoreson of a hill.
    Hard and so cold. Unyielding and unforgiving.
    Round, yet flat on all sides.
    An impossible improbability brought to life by his own refusal to accept the fates that the Gods had given him.
    He braced his shoulder against it. He felt the old familiar pain in his back and neck squawk in vacant protest. His body knew as well his mind that this was what his life was now, and this is what it would always be. He'd already been doing it for a 100 years or more. It's hard to keep track after a few decades slide by.
    He just KNEW that if he could get this bastard up to the top, up to the top and keep it there, that this would all be over. He could finally rest.
    So he pushed his rock.
    And he measured his progress with a stick in the sand. 6 inches forward today, 7 inches back tomorrow.
    Some days he despaired and begged the Gods, "How long? How long must I wage this war with the hill and the rock?"
    They never answered.
    And then one day, a lesser god took pity on the old man. He was young and impulsive, which often to led to him finding himself in front of the Council getting a stern reprimand for his childish behavior.
    He had heard the old man's cries and couldn't stand to hear his agony any longer.
    "Silly old man. Don't you know?"
    Sissy-Fuss was so startled to hear another's voice that he let go of his rock and watched it roll back down to the bottom in dismay. So much progress lost. Today might have been the day too. Today he would've made it to the top for sure.
    "Know...whaaat?" The old man struggled to find his voice. He had never been good with conversations.
    "The choice is yours. It always has been.
    You can leave as soon as you learn to quit trying to push that damn rock up the hill. You will be free when you learn to leave your rock behind, and just...*walk* up the hill."
    The old man laughed as he dropped to his knees. The irony was just too much for him to take. And the weight of it broke his heart...and he was free. Free to walk up the hill and finally see what's on the other side.

    1. If Aesop had retold this tale, he would have been hard pressed to carry it better. "One must open one's eyes to truly see."

    2. What a wondrous interpretation. Very enjoyable to read and with an unexpected twist too.

    3. Agreed. And Spiders and Nightmares? Whoreson? Really good use of language. I dig this one a lot.

    4. I agree... really good language, and the twist is brilliant.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. I think this is the start of something bigger:

    The minivan pulled to the curb, and for a moment, Delia leaned back against the seat and let the scent of her mother’s perfume fill the empty, dull spaces in her mind. She had pretty eyes, blue like distressed denim. Why hadn’t Delia really noticed that before? There were a lot of things she hadn’t noticed.

    “So, last chance,” her mother said, mouth pursing. Delia almost expected her to reach over and brush the hair off her forehead, like when she was little and had a fever. “You’re still sure you want to do this? We could just, I don’t know, go to the mall or have a nice lunch or something?”

    Delia shook her head. “I’m still in.” She clicked the door button and it slid back neatly. “They said it takes about an hour, but I’ll text you when I’m done.” She began to step out, but braced her hand at the doorframe and dared a look at her mother’s face. “Thank you,” she said.

    Her mother’s lower lip quivered for only a second, but it held firm. The words were so faint the purr of the engine nearly swallowed them up. “Happy birthday.”


    A purple-haired girl was sitting at the counter. A man stood behind her. He’d been showing her something on her computer, but when Delia came in, he stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Bill. “Kind of a cool sweet sixteen your parents are giving you,” he said. “Do you know what you want? You want to see some designs?”

    Delia glanced out the window, making sure the minivan was gone. She’d promised to make sure the place was reputable, in exchange for her mother and father letting her do this alone. “I heard you on the radio,” she said, her voice catching. “So they really…what you do…for kids who used to cut or whatever? It covers the scars?”

    He nodded toward the purple-haired girl, and she put out her forearm. The ink was beautiful, and she looked so proud of it. Two red roses wound from her wrist to her elbow. “Unless you get, like, microscopically close, you can’t tell.”

    “And you don’t have to, you know, report it or anything?”

    Bill slowly shook his head. “Only that you have their permission to get a tattoo, which we already have.” He glanced down at her arms, encased in long sleeves even though it was late June, and under his scrutiny, she crossed them over her chest. “We don’t want to make anyone live with a constant reminder of something bad that’s not who they are anymore. The memories are enough, right? So, we turn it into art.”

    She grinned, letting her arms relax. “Do you have daisies? I like daisies.”

    1. Oh, snap. This better keep going. You can't leave us with the daisies. Love this.

    2. This is amazing... and a wonderful healing... I know someone who did this, and I think it's a great idea... yep, please keep going!

  19. The Child was kicking me again, sightlessly hitting out and making my belly bulge. I'd seen the ultrasound several weeks ago but it was still a blob to me. I couldn't imagine it as anything other than a malign creature, growing inside me like a huge black toad, curled up on itself, waiting to be born to the world so it could torment me from the outside. Other mothers had said I'd grow to love it, that the hatred was a passing phase and that I'd become infatuated with it once the nurse wiped it free of my blood and handed it to me.

    I couldn't imagine that ever happening.

    The Child had been loved once. At least for a few days. I'd mentioned the positive test to Harvey and he'd seemed reluctant at first, suggesting it might be a false alarm and that I'd missed a period before.

    I hadn't. I'd said I had once before when he seemed a little distant for a few weeks but that had passed and we'd been as close as ever for a while. He'd even booked a weekend away for us, saying it was a reward for my not saying any more about it, having told me it was bad luck to talk about it until I was in my second trimester. But even that passed and then we just sort of flat-lined, his attention drifting until we inevitably split.

    And then I found I was really pregnant.

    1. She's sure to love it,as I have enjoyed reading about it.

    2. Really interesting perspective, Mark. Well rendered as usual. You put something very complex into relatable language. Impressive.

    3. I admire you, taking on this one... it's hard for me as a male to understand pregnancy well enough to write about it, but you did it beautifully...

  20. Discussing Trivia with an Unbalanced Friend
    Eve Gaal

    Why are you pointing at that dog?
    Snoopy is supposed to be a Beagle.
    That’s weird. I never knew that—
    Picasso loved doxsies and so did Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria.
    I bet it’d be cute to have a wiener dog in a castle.
    I like terriers, like Toto.
    They’re sweet too.
    Did you know Dorothy’s last name is Gale?
    No. Who cares?
    You should care. Her house flew away in a gale storm—and it’s like your last name.
    Never thought of that-
    Don’t forget we’re all connected. Anyway, be careful.
    Like that guy who wrote Wizard of Oz.
    You mean Baum?
    Yeah, means tree in German.
    Don’t you get it? Branches? And Schultz—I looked it up, means headman or mayor.
    Peanuts was great.
    Yup, he was the head of all cartoonists for a long time.
    What about Stan Lee?
    I need to find out whether Stan Lee was related to Harper Lee. I’ll Google it later.
    Doubt it. I liked Disney and Chuck Jones too.
    Darth Vader was played by James Earl Jones—see? Disney castles, princesses--it’s all connected.
    Jones is a common name.
    Kind of like that rich author, King—who sells enough books to be dubbed a king.
    It’s only a name but I see your point. Do you think he owns a dachshund?
    Corgis’ like the House of Windsor. (Long pause) And then there’s you.
    Don’t point! What about me?
    Your first name—everything’s your fault.

    1. This is a really cool piece. I like the playful language - hard to pull off, but you make it look easy.

    2. so good, with all the connectedness... it's like six degrees of separation only better... and poor Eve.

  21. Not flash fiction, and it took more than two minutes to write — but I'm a rebel. ;)

    ‘Rebel’ may not be the term that springs to mind when someone meets me. In most respects, I certainly don’t fit the mold. But in the current political climate, I am truly a rebel — a rogue, a maverick, a revolutionary.

    I’m a moderate.

    And at some point in recent history, ‘moderate’ became a dirty word.

    Today's polarized, hyperbolic society shunts moderates into the shadows. We are dismissed as being milquetoast, spineless, namby-pamby. We’re told we don’t have the courage of our convictions. Indeed, some of our more vociferous critics treat us as pariahs.

    Ask Jeb Bush. Or Hillary Clinton. One pushed out of the presidential race, the other pushed to the left just to hang on. The irony is, neither of them has ever been a true moderate. They’re just a little more reasonable, more pragmatic than others in their respective parties.

    But amid a political landscape rife with #berniebots* and #trumpeteers, reason and pragmatism have come to be considered vices, not virtues. This shift occurred with astonishing speed. A mere seven months ago, Bush topped most of the Republican polls and Clinton was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. The biggest question in the presidential race was who would win a Bush-Clinton matchup in the general election. Now the biggest questions are whether anyone can beat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination and if Bernie Sanders can pull off an upset among the Democrats.

    *For those Sanders supporters who don’t embrace the term “berniebot,” here's a quick litmus test: If you bristled at it, perhaps even muttering something to the effect of, "How dare she?" under your breath in an appropriately outraged tone, you probably are one. If, however, you shrugged and thought, "Yeah, some of them are pretty extreme," you probably aren't. No such test exists for Trump supporters; they are ALL extremists.

    It’s time for moderates to band together and rise up out of the shadows, to make our voices heard once again. What we need is a best-selling book to spell out our plans and inspire people to follow us. I have a couple of title suggestions: “Profiles in Compromise” and “The Audacity of Pragmatism” — but I could be swayed if someone has a different idea.

    Of course I could. It comes with being a moderate.

    1. Great closing line. And great piece. Someone get the soapbox!

    2. Good politicizing! A writer's job is to tell the truth and you did it! well done!

  22. I don't want to wade through the muck of your quasi-absolutions. It's a morass, and this ain't hip hop. This is hot sweat swamp and gators and mosquitos like jet fighters. You'll see.

    I'll keep writing and you'll keep biting, cause that's what bitch-ass poseurs do. The real irony is that you picked the wrong monkey to ape. There are faster guns than me, and they paint this landscape.


    Was it something I said? God, I'd like to see the inside of your head. Not your thoughts. You don't have many that are original. I mean brains, motherfucker, staining the sidewalk like watermelon pulp.

    I concede. You do what you need. Me? I'm gonna keep chewing you up and spitting out seeds.

    1. gators and mosquitos like jet fighters... I like that line a lot.

  23. I remember the feel of his hands, always dry, rough like sandpaper, gentle enough to tie a fly, strong enough to keep a sap close by.

    I always wondered about that sap. Brown leather round iron, and I could HEAR the skull crunch. And it never fit. Not in those hands.

    They wouldn't hurt a fly.

    But I'd pull it from the drawer, feel its weight, wonder. Maybe there are some stories you don't tell your Grandson.

    It's strange to trip through memory, and I wish you were here. Although I'd still never ask about it. But you would have liked to see my hands and the things they can do. I've learned a lot since twenty three.

    And now you wouldn't be the only one who calls me JD.

    1. I like this, and even though I don't know who it's about, I can feel the longing and remembrance... and I'm glad he called you JD.

  24. Lemon drops like a twisted subwoofer; it hurts my tongue young gun. I don't want to swallow any more. Keep the bullshit on the floor. Stall. You've got plenty of time and I got mad fucking words to rhyme.

    Penny for your thoughts? Sorry, punk, mine cost a dime. Not the kind I'm gonna drop on you. Not the kind slick-handshaked from your shoes. Two cents, that's no kind of recompense. That's nothing. That's minimal effort, and I'm not impressed.

    Pack up your shit and hit bricks like the rest.

    I'll take the fucking lemon. You can have the zest.

  25. Jake was feeling pretty miserable. There he was at the top of a ladder in the freezing cold cleaning windows for a living. If that wasn’t bad enough he was up to his eye balls in debt.
    He knew it was his own fault but he also thought Barry should take some of the blame. It was Barry who had mithered him to go to the damn casino so he definitely had a lot to answer for.
    On the first night Jake had won a hundred quid. He was elated by that and I guess you could say it was the beginning of his spiral into gambling addiction.
    He spent his wages every week on the roulette but every week he lost the lot. The more he lost, the more he felt he had to try and win it back but of course he never did. His numbers just never came up.
    He borrowed off his mum and family then when they realised they wouldn’t be paid back they stopped lending him money. He was feeling desperate but felt sure sure his luck had to change real soon.
    The previous night he dreamt he had bet on red 7. He watched the wheel spinning as his palms grew sweaty and his heart rate went up ten notches. Round and round it went while he watched, mezmerised as the wheel gradually slowed and the silver ball jostled to find it’s slot. It landed on red 7. He woke himself up shouting, yes! It was an amazing dream but he knew, in fact he could feel it in his bones that it was a sign. Red 7 was the number he had to play but he didn’t have a penny to his name.
    He couldn’t stop thinking about his dream but on the way to work that morning an idea struck him.
    He normally cleaned the houses with even numbers and Barry cleaned the ones with odd numbers.
    This suited him fine because he had some of the easiest windows as the house were slightly smaller on the even side. Also he usually got an eyeful of Margo Miller who liked to walk around tidying her bedroom while he was cleaning her windows. She would prance around, her boobs jiggling in her low cut top and she always gave him a cheeky wink as she bent over smoothing out her duvet.
    Today though he asked Barry if he would swop sides, just for a change like and enticed him with Margo Miller to seal the deal.
    He knew that old Mrs Flannagan kept her life savings in a drawer in her bedroom. He knew that because Barry had told him. Barry had tried to talk her in to putting her cash into a bank for safe keeping but she had adamantly refused, saying she didn’t trust banks, besides which only Barry and her daughter knew about the money so it was safe enough. Barry had mentioned it in confidence to Jake out of concern for the old lady.
    Mrs Flannagan always opened her upstairs window slightly when the boys came to clean them and she made them a cuppa every week.
    Jake was up the ladder at her bedroom window when she asked if he would like tea or coffee.

  26. “A cup of tea would do nicely, love, I’ll come down and drink when I’ve finished your windows.” Jake smiled at her and as soon as the old dear was out of the room and off to make tea, he nimbly climbed through the window and headed straight to her tallboy.
    Heart pounding and pushing down his guilt, he opened the old biscuit tin and helped himself to a fat wad of cash. There was easily a couple of grand in the tin and he reckoned he had grabbed a grand of it. It only took a few seconds to do the dead and he scrambled back out onto his ladder without being seen by anyone.
    Jake was grinning from ear to ear and he began to whistle cheerfully. It was usual to clean half the window then move the ladder in order to clean the other half. However Jake was so invigorated by thoughts of playing at the casino that night that he held on to the top of the open window and leaned across to clean the other side. It was quite a stretch and against Barry’s safety rules but Jake felt invincible today.
    He had almost finished when suddenly the window was flung open and Mrs Flannagan said, “ Did you say you wanted tea or coffee, dear?”
    Jake held tight to the window frame but it was already too late. Hanging on just made the window open wider and as Jake tried to steady himself the ladders fell backwards taking Jake with them.
    He landed heavily smashing his head on the concrete path, it was all over for Jake. If only he had survived, he would have seen that the ladders had knocked over Mrs Flannagans mail box. The big red decorative plate bearing her house number which was number seven was spinning round ond round on the path beside him.
    Jakes dream had been a sign of sorts after all.

  27. It was a strange phone call to make but she was invested now. She’d offered herself. She’d made a fool of herself doing it too. Would Brenda even know how to respond to such a request? She’d been nice when Sydney worked for her on that project at the NY Historical Society. Photographing objects for their archives and a catalog for their exhibition had been tedious work but it paid well, and if she were honest with herself, Sydney would have to say it was relaxing. But it had been several years since they’d had that relationship and their camaraderie rarely ventured into the personal when they did.


    “Hi I’m trying to reach Brenda Thompson.”

    “This is she. Who’s calling?”

    “Brenda, it’s Sydney Tarr.”

    “Sydney? Sidney Tarr. Wow, it’s nice to hear from you.
    It’s been ages. Are you working for the Gaten agency and the Historical Society again?”

    “No, Brenda. I actually ventured out on my own just after you left New York. I’ve developed a sizable roster of really good clients and I’m blessed to be working steadily.”

    “That’s wonderful Sydney. I wish I had someone with your skills here in Atlanta. You really do beautiful work. It’s a gift to have such a good eye for details. I’m glad to hear that you’re still using it so successfully.”

    “Thank you Brenda. That means a lot coming from you.”

    “So you’ve peaked my interest, why the call out of the blue?”

    “I’m sorry about that. I just don’t know that many people I can talk to about this – that know me and might understand… and who…well, whom I respect.”

    Sydney paused for a breath. She could almost see the inquisitive look on Brenda’s face through the phone wires. But Brenda said nothing, wisely waiting her out, knowing eventually the proverbial shoe would drop.

    “Brenda, with my job and my life the way it is I’m trying to figure some things out. I’ve been going in one direction for so long and now I don’t know. I was hoping you could give me some advice. I don’t know whether I’d make a good mother.”

    She wished she could say Brenda immediately found the magic potion to reduce the anxieties that had crept up and scaled the tight muscles in her back, neck, and shoulders whenever she thought about this. And since there’d been little else on her mind for several weeks it felt like she was already one stress inducing thought from a hailstorm of a tizzy.

    But no, Brenda did something much less calming than anything Sydney would have expected her to do or say.

    Brenda laughed.

    1. Ohhh....what an intriguing story, and what an ending!

  28. A jay sits on the fence crying out for some final showdown. Armageddon. Or he's hungry. Maybe he's preaching. Makes more sense than most of the sermons I've heard. Preach on, pretty bird.

    There's a bruise on my chest the size of a nickel. Deep and black. I remember those bruises, but no one poked me in the chest this time. I don't know what the hell is up with that. The jay don't either.

    Conspiracy theories are created by the CIA. Wrap your brain around that. Then convince me that the world is flat.

    I had a falling dream once. Used to have them all the time. This time, I didn't wake up in time. Sat up gasping and dying. Scared the shit out of Josh. And it sounds crazy, but it happened. I was sore for a week.

    I scratch at the stubble on my face and the only thing I can think is: Shit, when did this happen? I didn't use to have to shave my ears. Days and days add to years and years.

    I want to write something beautiful. Something true. Something like the first electric kiss. I wonder if Suzy remembers. I sure do. Suzy. That was her name. No shit.

    Life. I came into this world malleable. And then injustice. And some victories. And sadness. Then darkness and desperation and joy and living and trying not to die. Sometimes trying just FOR that. No rudder.

    I once drank Jack Daniels mixed with lighter fluid. And that's not half as stupid as some of it.

    Yet, I am not babbling. My organs work. I am not sick. I am not sad in the same world-swallowing way that I used to be. And I can't say I wouldn't do it all again the same way. Because, you know, it's not always easy. Sometimes, it's downright gut-wrenching. But I have walked many roads. And there are so many who need direction.

    Who would have thought. Not me.

    I just wanted to be a bird.

    1. Ah.... you are an eagle, and you don't even realize it. This line, " am not sad in the same world-swallowing way that I used to be," is so good... so real... as are you.

  29. My Dad always carried a black plastic comb. I don't carry a comb. I carry an inhaler, a phone, eye drops, a pocketknife. Got no need for a comb. I don't think I ever did, even when I had hair.

    But I'd like to have that black comb for a second. To pluck the plastic tines against my thumbnail. I can feel it. Still.

    And it's not about anything. I don't know why my brain held onto it. There were more important things. Hell, half the time I get my daughters' birthdays wrong and the lady at CVS judges me. I try to tell her about me and numbers. I want to tell her that a date doesn't mean shit. I love my daughters. I remember the day, not the date. Enough. I don't want to protest too much. CVS lady ain't even here. She might not be real. The whole place might be owned by Disney and the FBI.

    They probably sell black plastic combs there.

    I'll probably never buy one.

    1. What an awesome memory... the best ones were hard rubber... and they made cool sounds...


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