Friday, March 18, 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. 

I'm not mad, I'm just scared, worried; I look in your eyes and you're not there. It's all rage and fire and brimstone, and it's disconcerting. If you were bigger, I'd be terrified. I picture dams exploding, massive earthquakes, volcanos erupting - all in that 1950s newsreel patter - I can hear the doot doo doo doot doo. I wish you could hear it, too.

You're so beautiful. Simple to say, says it all, no need to dress it up. You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. And I'm not just talking exterior. You were gifted with the exterior, inside cleaning, free pine scent. Hell, they simonized your tires. But you're not beautiful when you get that way, all spit and fury. No one knows what to think. And usually I'd think, then fuck them.

But I don't know what to think either.

I guess I'll go back and forth on it. Like cliched tides and the windy updrafts your moods still ride. Sometimes, I'm not seeing the glass half empty. Most of the time I'm not even thinking about glasses - they're like tides. They cheapen this whole thing. But I can't say the truth truth.

Because words like that don't come back. They'd just lay there. 

And we'd have to look at them.




  1. Ahhhh.... those words, lying there on the floor until someone sweeps them up or someone steps on them and cuts themselves.... I like the first paragraph especially, but the whole thing resonates.

    1. I see a parent looking at an angry child in this one. Seeing that a scary rage in someone so perfectly the rest of the time. I can just her the venomous, "I hate you!"

    2. They haven't made a vacuum strong enough yet to suck those words back up. This one punched me right in the gut. It was like a drive down memory lane, of every time I stood there...looking at those words...

    3. I think you've described bi-polar disorder but I loved this piece--especially the part about simonized tires since I have no idea what that means. LOL

    4. What they said. (I'm such a dittohead today :( ) I'm familiar with not saying the truth truth, though. Parts of this really resonated with me, and the rest was awesome, too.

    5. I loved "simonized tires"! I forgot that line until I read Intangible Hearts comment!
      You can take the girl out of the Auto Parts

    6. Letting someone else just be who they are..familiar beautiful and yet? occasionally alien. Their own ran material. Beautifully rendered portrait!

  2. When the time came for the funeral, it was hard to edit the little movie of memories everyone expected these days. Not because there were so few pictures to choose from, but because there were so many. Hundreds of thousands.

    Here he was riding an elevator in the World Trade Center, pre-2001.

    Here he was in his office cubicle.

    There, in the waiting room of the hospital.

    A four-hour video of the drive from San Diego to Oceanside when the traffic was bad.

    The man photographed and videoed everything he did. Everything.

    The bathroom videos were the first to be edited out.

    Then the pictures of parking garages, grocery stores, liquor stores, and dark room encounters.

    When everything was sanitized, everything edited down to non-offensive, non-coma-inducing, they were left with one picture, and one picture only.
    Him and a cat.

    When it came time to choose the soundtrack for the one-photo video, everyone agreed.

    “Memory”, from Cats.

    And no one knew the cat’s name.was Macavity. No one.

    1. I love this one. Really cool effect. A million theoretical pictures swirling in my head.

    2. One picture video for all the frigging cat lovers. They deserve it. LOL

    3. Were his pictures and films blurry or crisp 'n clear? This was really of cool. So many pictures painted in my brain! Irony on a Universal level!

    4. The stripping away tells the story. I love that. And the last image. Nice.

    5. Says SO much about the departed! What were they trying to capture? Touch me, it's so easy to leave me... all alone in the moon light. Well done!

  3. So this is what it’s like to watch someone you love turn from a guy to a werewolf.

    206 human bones bifurcate and rearrange themselves into 321 canid bones. A face evolves from flat and hairless to long nose and fur and whiskers. Ears move to the top of his head and grow pointed. A shimmer of light passes through his body and his eyes change from green to yellow, and a glorious flag of a tail appears at a part of the body you’ve long admired in Wranglers.

    You watch fur sprout all over his body and it grows at an impossible rate, the same color as the hair on his chest, but less curly.

    Beyond the sounds of bones popping and snapping into place, the only sounds are the ripping of those jeans and the screams of pain as nerves adjust to changing species.

    And then there is silence. You stare. You are in awe at the transformation, at how one such beautiful creature can be created from another beautiful creature, and you wonder which form of his you love more. Your adrenalin is pumping at being allowed to see this bit of magic, and because you realize that the wolf that stands before you has teeth that could go right through your arm and jaws that could bend metal.

    And then you hear yourself laugh, because the wolf comes to lick your ear, the same ear he had kissed just moments ago as a human, and you swear to God he smiles.

    1. MagicalreaLeland. The description of the transformation is so good. Will you please make this a novel so you can get rich and take us on a cruise? ;)

    2. LOL, so far I'm collecting stories... we'll see if it all fits together... but yeah, a group cruise, where we all stay in our cabins and write and then read over dinner... that sounds awesome!

    3. I like that Mister Dan! MagicalreaLeland :) This makes me smile! If you only knew what a strange fascination I have with "Wolf" from The Talisman, you'd realize you're basically custom-writing an adventure/(b)romance for just me! It's delightful! Well...except for popping and snapping of bones...ugh I hear/feel every one! ;)

    4. Oh, I love this. Each creepy sweet beautiful powerful detail.

  4. I got the call at seven in the morning. I was at work by eight, as usual. My supervisor and the manager and a whole host of other people asked, “Why are you here?” The simple answer is “life goes on.” I didn’t want to be at work, talking to entitled people about overpriced hotel rooms. I wanted to crawl under the covers and never come out. But I still had bills to pay. I had to make sure the paperwork was filed so I would get paid for the days I had to take off. I had to figure out how to get back to my hometown to help my brothers and sister make arrangements. And, too, there is the fact that it didn’t feel real yet. I knew in my brain that it was, but my heart hadn’t accepted it yet. So I kept going. Because it wasn't real yet, but also because that's what we do. We keep going. One breath, one step, one day, one hour-minute-second at a time. Until it's done.

    1. ahhh.... you described this situation so well... a situation so many of us have faced... and I thank you.

    2. Yup. Agreed. You nailed this one.

    3. Acceptance and duty in the face of pain. You summed it up so succinctly.

    4. I liked the part "So I kept going. Because it wasn't real yet..." So much easier when it isn't real yet. So much truth there. I have to agree, you nailed this one.

    5. Thank you, everyone. This was non-fiction, which is different for me, and part of a long letter I sent to someone going through pain that, even as a writer with an overactive imagination, I can't imagine.

    6. Ahhh, yeah. Been there. Done that!Rendered without self pity. Good job!

  5. Marine Sergeant Trey Davis wore his uniform like a suit of shining armor. While he had it on, he represented the best of his country; clear eyes, honest dealings, certain death for betrayal.

    But when the uniform came off, he was a different man, as both his wife and his boyfriend could attest.

    He’d chosen each of them for opposite reasons. His wife, for her need to be protected, and his boyfriend for his need to protect. The arrangement suited him well, as he was able to dominate and be dominated.

    The arrangement wasn’t without complication. He had to keep a notebook of the lies he told, so he could be consistent about them. Neither the wife nor the boyfriend knew about the other. When Kinsey accused him of seeing another woman, the truth felt odd in his mouth.

    “I am not seeing another woman.” The unuttered follow-on never came to the surface and eventually she believed him.

    Once he had forgotten to take off his wedding ring when visiting Derek. Derek grabbed his hand and pointed at the ring, without even asking a question. The lie came easy.

    “Just wearing it so no eyebrows are raised with the other guys. I mean, who’d believe a stud like me would be unmarried at 36?” A laugh, and he was sure Derek was convinced.

    “It’s a good thing you never lie to me, boy. I’d hate to think of you losing a good thing,” Derek had said after a bout of bedroom gymnastics that night.

    So it came as a shock to Trey when he went into the commissary, where Derek worked, and Kelsey was flirting with him. And he was flirting back. What the--. But he backed away and left the store.

    Damn, he hated when plans got screwed up. He’d thought the balancing act would be good for a long while. Maybe it still would be.

    It was his night to visit Derek, so he got his breathing under control, and got his story straight for the day. And he made damned sure the ring was off when he knocked at the door.

    “Come on in,” he heard Derek say.

    “Sorry I’m running late, the line at the commissary—“ and he stopped. Kelsey was sitting there on the couch. On Derek’s couch.

    “Oh, I know, they were awful today,” she said all matter-of-factly. “Derek was a doll and got me through checkout and we got to talking about men. When he got to describing his boyfriend, I just couldn’t get over all the similarities to my husband. So he invited me over to meet my husband’s twin.”

    Blood rushed to Trey’s face. “I can explain everything.”

    Derek’s arm went around Trey’s neck from behind. “Oh, I don’t think you need to explain anything, buddy. I think your wife and I have a pretty clear idea of your lies, to both of us.“

    When a lady found Trey’s naked body in the dumpster behind Walmart the next morning, the authorities used the tattoo on his arm to identify him. No one thought to check for signs of rape. If they had, they would have found his wedding ring shoved deep in his ass.

    They say the Kelsey never married again.

    1. Wow, I didn't read this yet when I wrote what I wrote. I love it. So dark and full of verbal gymnastics. LOL

    2. Woah! I like the twist. There is something really interesting about having an affair with military precision, too...

    3. I'm having trouble keeping straight which Marine was wearing the white hat in this one! Whoa!

    4. LOL, yeah... when they take their uniform off....

    5. But I did adore it. You're so good.

    6. thanks ;-) and you are so kind.

    7. Yeah. That's one tangled web, dude.One tangled web...

  6. So, I'm a hard man to love. You think that's the first time I've heard that line? It's bullshit. Something women get to say. There's an implied "oh, garsh - he must be AWFUL!." If I said you were a hard woman to love, your family'd lynch me. I don't like those double standards your books talk about. I want one standard. For everygoddamnbody.

    And maybe I'm hard to love. Everyone's hard to love. Love is hard. If it was easy, anyone could do it. I ain't got much. Hands softer than I'd like. Heart, too. I'm too pale because I work in a box. My brain is broken because all these numbers gotta fit in all these slots, and that's enough to drive Bukowski crazy, drunk or not. At least he had real letters, not electrons.

    This isn't a riddle and it's not a song. It's not about me, I made it up. That doesn't mean it's wrong. Maybe the real me is a hard man to love. I'd wager it. But who wants to love someone easy? Where's the challenge in that? I'll keep trying to straighten out the complication wrinkles until I have hands like irons.

    1. Love IS that hard... and you've got to peel away all the Hallmark before you can even begin to see what it looks like... Nice call out to the poet/author, too... "hands like irons" is a great reprise to the earlier "hands softer..."

    2. We're all hard to love. And if it's too easy I doesn't stick.

    3. What they said.

      Seems like a day for truth and introspection.

    4. J.D, you are on a roll! Loving a difficult man makes the love so much sweeter. LOL.

    5. What they said. And I love the last line.

    6. Ain't no perfect in love, honey. Nor Novels, either. And yet we always think we can solve the problems... But the hands? Brilliant!

    7. I like the rhythm of this! You are a sly fox with rhymes Mister Mader!

  7. You don't have to apologize. I'm not gay, but I'm not an asshole - I'll take all the compliments I can get. I'd let you buy me a drink if I still drank. No trickery of course. No lead on - just two guys sharing a drink. One, maybe a little disappointed. One, feeling like princess of the universe and loving it. I bet I could make you laugh ... make it worth your while.

    It doesn't matter, go on. Keep walking. Days like this weren't made for talking. And I shouldn't feel like shit because someone compliments my shirt, but there's a skittery part of my brain that thinks I should take you up on it. Prove I'm no homophobe. Prove that the darkness of your skin doesn't mean a thing to me. Hell, it's beautiful. Makes mine look like old parchment paper.

    I'll see you again sometime. And I'll have something ready. Something witty to say. Something other than, "thanks, I got it at the Salvation Army." Something about the lie therein. They may have clothed me and made my record collection swell, but they never saved me. And I don't even believe in sin.

    What I'd like to believe? Someday we'll be able to tell the beautiful people we think they're beautiful. Tell the kind people we appreciate them. Tell the inspirational folks that they get us through the day. Not trip about about who's straight and who's gay. No awkward wondering. Who's anything? Hell if I know. Folks is folks.

    In a world of the blind, I bet we could find that one-eyed fucker by feel. Get rid of him. I never believed that lie, no man can be king like that. I get it, I'm no imbecile. I just think it's stupid. Whatever.

    It's a fucking awesome shirt. I'll give you that.

    1. This makes me smile, and it confirms what I already knew... you're a cool guy with great shirts... and a big ol' heart.

    2. <3

      Folks is folks.

      I love this piece so hard.

    3. Wow, that's magical. I liked it a lot!!

    4. Yeah. Exactly. Ultimately we are all "incorrect!"

    5. I love this! :) You gotta be careful telling those people that they're beautiful and kind and cool though, man they start treating you like you're crazy! This is cool!


  8. Dan waved him down at the bar where an old racing-green colored but worn, leather stool beckoned him like mermaids to a rocky shore.
    “Hey, sit down, sit down. What’s going on? You look nasty. Let me buy you a beer.”
    “Nah, it’s okay. I have to be on base at six in the morning.”
    But Dan insisted and pretty soon, cannon-like tears were rolling into his lager.
    “Would you tell me what happened?” Dan reached over placing an arm around his friend’s shoulder.
    “Everything happened. It’s no use. I’m a failure. Better move your arm or they’ll ask if we’re a couple.”
    “Whose they?” Dan asked, slowly removing his arm and looking around at some of the other people in the bar. Mostly men with very short haircuts, the placed was teeming with off-duty military.
    “I don’t know—whoever it is that’s doing this to me.” He paused to wipe his face on his shirtsleeve. “I never liked some of her flaws either but she went nuts. Frickin’ ballistic-threw me out of my own home and tossed my clothes on the lawn. You once told me she’s hot. She’s hot all right. Hot like the devil if he had obsessive compulsive disorder.”
    “Dang, I can’t imagine her doing that. And flaws? You know I think she’s perfect.”
    “Fuck you—it’s not all about ass, you nitwit. She’s a witch. Gas powered with little jet-packs on her broom.” He took a huge gulp, wiped the foam off his lips and stared up at the ceiling as if recalling a bitter memory. “The way she slices cheeses, arranging them like soldiers on a marble cutting board used to annoy the hell out of me.”
    Dan shrugged and almost smiled. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”
    “And the way she paired my socks into little balls. My drawers are full of these little black balls. They looked like grenades. Every time I pulled my drawer open, I wanted to launch a few at her face. Made me stop wearing socks altogether. Ah hell, Dan, she’s a woman and it’s enough to drive me crazy. Wait till you get married.”
    Dan ordered two more beers. “But what’s she pissed about?”
    “Another tour, I leave for Iraq next month.”
    “That made her mad?”
    “Yeah, she thinks three tours is enough....Can I crash at your place?”

    1. I like this a lot... and the socks as grenades... that's awesome!

    2. Love this piece. The socks, the siren bar stool. THIS: Hot like the devil if he had obsessive compulsive disorder.

    3. Yeah, the image oflaunching a few at her face made me smirk with delight! This was a really cool moment. I agree with Mister Mader "Siren barstool" is wicked!

  9. I lost my son to a monarch butterfly.

    There are two kinds of October in the panhandle of Nebraska. Some years, the first snow falls early in the month, and everyone moans and complains about what a long winter it’s going to be. Other years, folks talk about Indian Summer and the wheat farmer worries but never talks about his fear that the crops won’t get enough moisture to germinate. This was one of those years.

    I walked from the barn to the garden, where Buddy and his mother were digging carrots. It was early in the morning, and there ought to have been frost on the pumpkins, but there was not. Buddy and his mother were talking about Halloween, and about how big a jack-o’-lantern he could carve this year.

    I remember the color of the sky that day, just after sunrise. Yellowish-red, like the sky was on fire. Buddy stood up to stretch his back, and pointed at something, and I watched that damned butterfly come out of nowhere, circle around him, and land on his outstretched finger. I remember the smile on his face.

    I knew then that I’d lost him, that I’d never really understand him, that he was chosen by someone or something else.

    Later, when I told Ma about it, she prattled on in her German superstitious way about butterflies being angels, what a blessing it was.

    All I knew was that I’d never play baseball or go hunting or toss a football with my son. I turned around and went back to the barn.

    1. Wow. The way you play the heart strings, brother.

    2. This is actually kind of cheating... it's a scene from my work in progress, Rainbow's Edge. I've written it about a hundred times, and this is, I think, the best version... thanks for the kind comments!

    3. Gorgeous. The Monarch? On the verge of extinction? Choice of symbol is breathtaking. Nothing else to say!

    4. This is so cool Leland. This has me in tears. It's an achingly beautiful moment, it's Rainbow's Edge <3 but it's magic too! A time machine to the Twilight Zone...where a little kid riding her bike down by the barn, looks up and sees a cloud of orange and black butterflies! They were everywhere! And that kid was too little to know about migrations...she just saw it for what it was: magic. I forgot about those butterflies! Thanks. I can't wait to read more about Rainbows!

  10. I don't know why I'm still alive. Doesn't seem reasonable - even to me. And you don't believe the half of it. But I have witnesses. Well, some of them died, but some of them didn't. No rhyme or reason to it. Natural selection? Some buds die. Some blossom.

    I wasn't counting on it one way or the other. I stopped counting when the numbers got too big. I ran like hell when they told me letters could be numbers. Not my letters. My letters were meant to be words, not some unknown puzzle for people who keep their pencils too sharp.

    So, here I am. I understand. You don't know what to say; I don't either. I lost the sickness, but still have the fever.

    1. A tale of survivor's remorse, well told... and I have no idea why I'm here either... but I'm glad you are, and I'm glad I am, and maybe that's enough... keep the fever...

    2. "I ran like hell when they told me letters could be numbers." That is some truth right there! Wow! I'm really glad you still have the fever.

  11. She stalked into the room, her six inch heels making a commanding sound as they struck the floor. Her skirt was short, clinging to her hips, while her top was a blowsy silk that framed her substantial bosom in a delicate drape. Her hair fell in a dark red wave just past her shoulders, pouting lips painted the same shade. She looked like a small man's wet dream, or a warrior's nightmare.

    Unlike her clothing, however, there was no forgiving in her face as she glared carefully about the office. One man actually whimpered, sinking back into his cubicle chair in the face of this tall, statuesque woman. She shrugged her hair back over one shoulder, placed her hands on her hips and said, "All right you idiots, let's get this place in order.

    To her credit, and the surprise of others in the office, she dug right into the work in spite of the heels and skirt. Nothing seemed to deter this Amazonian princess from getting the job done, done right, and done right now. Not event the plastic-ware in the fridge that had been there for weeks or the moldy sandwich in the back of someone's desk - she handed the culprits rubber gloves and made them scrub with bleach as penance.

    "Ya'll get this wrapped up in time, and lunch is on me. If it's not done by noon..." she let the pause become just slightly pregnant, "you can starve." And she meant it.

    1. I like this whole piece, but this line is gonna be stuck in my brain. "She looked like a small man's wet dream, or a warrior's nightmare."

    2. Yep, the whole piece is awesome... but that line will stick with me all day, too! well done!

    3. What they said. I love this. Could easily lead to something bigger. Fun stuff. :)

    4. An Amazon in six inch heels? Yikes. Made me shiver!

    5. I really liked this! And what they said...that line! :)

  12. She sat down heavily on the park bench, weary of the day's exertions and the walking, the endless walking. Her gilt hair reflected the sunlight in bouncy waves even as her skin shrank from the UV. How she loved sunny days like this, and loathed them all at once.

    Man troubles, work troubles, mom troubles, pet troubles... did it ever ease up? Probably not, as her "second mom" had warned her. Ah but she was a capricious child, and admitted that she would likely never learn. She had learned, however, that walking int he park did a lot to relieve some stresses and give her time to think things through.

    She chuckled to herself. All right, then, up we go, she thought, coming to her feet. Let's finish this stupid walk and go find some ice cream!

    1. This is brilliant... and I believe in the power of walking and sunshine and ice cream!

    2. Walking is very good. So is ice cream. This was *really* good!

  13. Stream of Consciousness Leland. Or maybe it's just a creek or a brook.

    Dream or nightmare, flashback or fear, I’m not really sure.

    The room was gray, gray walls, gray carpet, gray furniture. I wasn’t sure how light was getting in. There weren’t any obvious fixtures and sure as hell no windows or doors. The carpet was soft on my bare feet, like big-money soft, not stain-master soft. I said the furniture was gray but really there wasn’t more than a table in the room, and on the table was an hourglass. Who used those any more? Why did I even know what an hourglass is? I mean, yeah, I see ‘em when the computer is slow, but a real hourglass? And the sand was, you guessed it, gray. I watched as the sand trickled from the top to the bottom. Got close to the thing. Had to be an antique. In old 18th century script around the bottom I saw “Tempus fugit,” “time flies,” if my Latin wasn’t too rusty. And in script around the top, upside down, “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” I knew that joke was old, but was pretty sure it was not as old as the hourglass looked.

    Then I looked really close at the sand, where it was falling out of the tiny hole from the top, flowing into the bottom. If I squinted, I saw it wasn’t really sand at all. There were tiny faces, and letters, and sometimes the letters fell in order to make words, and the words made sentences. Faces of people I’d known, mourned, and forgotten. Words I’d memorized a million years ago when I was young.

    And then the sand stopped. The top half of the glass was empty. I tried to turn it over, but the hourglass was somehow affixed to the table. I tried to lift the table, but it was glued to the floor. And I got an idea.

    I lay down on the floor with my feet touching the wall. And I walked up the wall, and when I was facing the ceiling, I walked on it… and I watched the hourglass, and the sand was flowing again and the words were good words and the faces were strangers I’d never seen and then I realized all at once.

    It’s all about perspective.

    1. I love this one. There's hints of Steinbeck in here. The cadence, the perspective shift.

      "big-money soft, not stain-master soft" - perfect. :)

    2. thank you! that's a high compliment!

    3. Very creative. I could visualize the sands of time!

    4. It's all about perspective. Ain't it just? :)

    5. It's probably just a crick in your neck Leland! ;) and a bit of uncooked potato. But seriously, this was really cool. It painted some pretty uneasy, old b&w television Alfred Hitchcock/Rod Serling style images in my head. Right up to the part where you flipped it, then the pictures were a lot less anxious :)

  14. Dark hair shining in the sun, calloused hands gripped the controls of the mower a it swept back and forth, up and down the sward. It was a repetative task that left his mind open for creative things, fntastical things. He thought about the last weekend's festivities, how this or that might have been better done, or left out to improve things over all. he thought about a story he was wanting to write, and immediately regretted not having pen and paper handy to jot down notes.

    His footsteps went from the determination of beginnings to the plodding of inevitablity as the grass stratched out before him. He thought of his lady loves and how to take better care of them, both human and canine. Silly bitches, he snorted to himself.

    He glanced up to check the time as he wended his way past the storage building. It seemed like the day was moving slowly, moreso as the temperature rose. Sweat formed on his brow, tickled it's way down the back of his neck. The job needed doing, and he was determined to finish it before lunch, though he wanted nothing mroe than to dodge off and crawl a creek or jump into a cool blue pool in the woods.

    With a sigh, he trudged on. The work would not complete itself. Inside his mind, A child began to cry.

    1. Silly bitches cracked me up. Great male perspective.

    2. Damn. This one got me. Those cold, blue pools. They come in so many shapes and consistencies. "It seemed like the day was moving slowly, moreso as the temperature rose." <-that is just flat out BEAUTIFUL. A man of weaker morals would steal it. ;)

    3. I could practically see him, shirtless, sweating... is it hot in here or is it just him?

    4. I loved this. Lots of great textures and images. That last line got me.

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  16. (By Dean Wygate - or Mark Morris - enter name of choice)

    “It's really the art of noticing stuff,” he said, picking up his camera. “You might think that this is the ultimate device for recording the world, but it's a distant second to a writers' notebook.”

    “What do you mean? Don't people say 'a picture paints a thousand words'?” Cal scrunched his forehead up, furrowing the skin up on his brow. “Surely a photo can be more powerful than a paragraph? Anyone can take a picture: writing's a much more specialised skill.”

    “Isn't that reason enough for you to want to rise to the challenge?” Foster raised the camera to his eye, firing the shutter off five, six, seven times in quick succession. “Now look...these photos don't look that evocative, do they?” He thumbed the buttons on the top of the casing, displaying the images he'd just recorded on the preview screen to the rear of the camera. As he'd stated, none of them were ever going to win any awards for fine arts; in fact, his thumb featured prominently in two of them and three more were notably awry, his blurred face gazing hazily back at them in almost every shot.

    “I think you need to buy yourself a selfie stick, Doc,” Cal said. “Either that or take a photography class some time!”

    Foster grinned back, acknowledging his inexpert efforts. “The fact remains, none of these can capture a moment like an expert writer can. The lens traps the viewer of the picture inside a bottle of the photographer's making; its glass walling the action or the subject away. Now, a writer can do much better than this.”

    “Is this where you give another of your impromptu lectures, Mr Foster?”

    “You bet, Cal.” The professor shrugged his shoulders, raking them both up and then backward until his spine clunked dully. “Now, a literary aesthete could suggest so much more than a photographer ever could. Or even a cinematographer.” He enunciated the last word with relish – the visual arts and the creative linguistics schools were always in direct competition with one another for funds and, more importantly, for the best students. However, at the moment it seemed that the older discipline was on its back-foot more often than not, and Foster never wasted an opportunity to campaign for his own chosen art-form.

    “A talented writer can capture a moment and draw the reader in, immersing him or her in a full array of sensory experiences, individually tailored to them. He can freeze time or make it run either forward or backward and can elegantly make you party to the characters' emotions and thoughts. He can reproduce the past on as small or as large a scale as can be imagined and he can do the stuff of gods, creating whole worlds and their populations at a whim from almost nothing. And on a budget of peanuts, compared to the likes of Peter Jackson and Cameron.”

    He put the camera down again, winking at his bemused student. “Now, tell me,” he asked. “What would you choose: the position of the remote spectator or the active participant?”

    Cal shrugged, his expression blank but still knowing. “I dunno, Doc. I guess it'd depend on the story. I'd hate to be in the middle of the Great Plague or the Great Fire of London. A little distance can sometimes be a great benefit!”

    1. "his spine clunker dully" created a sound photo without a thumb. Awesome.

    2. This is awesome...and so very true. Kind of makes me want to write about something similar. I might just have to do that in a bit. Thank you, sir. :)

    3. This is such fun and I really have to thank our host and everyone else for my favourite day of the week...

      Thank you both. I love just writing like this. And the company here is peerless.

    4. I really, really like both the message and the means it was conveyed... well done!

    5. Yep. Agree with all the above, and my pleasure as always. Since they took my answers, a flat out compliment for you. Your pace is always rock solid. Such comfortable worlds. No overwriting. But not overly confident. That's worth hundreds of thousands of words or pictures (unfortunately not dollars...yet). ;)

    6. I LOVE this! That sift from the academic's emphasis from the "deconstructing he narrative context" to the more visual, world. Great stuff!

  17. People need to understand that sometimes when something needs to stop, it needs to stop now.

    I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to hurt them. I told them to be quiet.
    I told them not another sound. But when things need to stop, they need to stop NOW.

    Their necks snap surprisingly easy, you wouldn't think they would.
    (They've already survived so much.) But they do. Like dead twigs.
    My mother told me when I was still a young girl,
    "It has to be done. You have to keep them quiet."
    And she taught me how to kill them
    Step by step.
    Using the old ways.

    I love them when they're newborn;
    small and dependent on me.
    But when they start crawling around with lives and ideas of their own...
    That's when the trouble starts.

    I hide their bodies in tiny unmarked graves.
    Well, almost unmarked.
    I lay a small stone beside each one.
    A heart of blue, because at one time I DID love them.

    But like momma always said...
    "Ideas are like babies.
    You can always have another one."

    1. Ohhh... I like the darkness of this... and the last two lines are brilliant!

    2. This whole thing is brilliant. Love the structure. Wow. The transition from dead twigs to motherly advice - that part actually hurt my chest a little it was so strong - bad ass writing.

    3. Holy cats. What they said, and more.

    4. Yeah. Awesome. That point where you need to murder your darlings..we've been there.

  18. Murray’s knees complained as he climbed the ten steps to Mrs. Abbott’s front door. He rang the bell and hoped she wasn’t one of those hovering-in-the-foyer types, like the others. He appreciated that the people he’d already checked off his list had been ready on time, had gathered their coats and purses and tissues and keys and reading glasses and canes and whatnot, but he could use a bit of time to catch his breath. After a couple minutes, though, he got worried when he didn’t hear anything from inside.

    He pressed the button a second time. Nothing. He hauled in another breath and meted it out, scratched the back of his neck and wondered what he was supposed to do with himself for another hour, when he was scheduled to pick up two elderly sisters and take them to the firehouse across town to cast their ballots. Ridiculous locations, some of these polling places, and the voting board could have done a more efficient job of choosing up the routes, but at least it ate up the day. Dot already made it clear she hoped he’d make himself scarce until dinner. His wife had had enough of him grumbling at the television, grousing about the state of the world and the apathy of those who inhabited it, and said, “You’ll do the world a hell of a lot more good if you get off your saggy old ass and do something instead of sitting here bitching about it.”

    So, he’d volunteered. He’d been at it since the polls opened, squiring old ladies all over the damn place, helping them in and out of his car, holding purses, pointing out how the new ballots worked. And now it seemed, for the first time that day, he had a no-show. Or maybe Mrs. Abbott just needed a little convincing. To hear someone say that her vote actually did matter. He cleared his throat and stood a little taller, readying a little speech, and lifted his fist to knock.

    But then the door opened.

    And a squinty-eyed young man stood there, eyeballing him like he’d shown up to rob the place.

    “Murray Goldblatt,” he said, trying for a congenial smile as he lifted his clipboard and identification card. “I’m here to take Eileen Abbott to the polls?”

    “I think there’s been some mistake,” the man said. “I don’t remember my grandmother asking anyone to take her anywhere.”

    Murray frowned and checked his clipboard. Each of the names had been vetted. The committee had called every number, confirming that the person needed a ride and who was going to show up to drive them. But maybe something got lost in the translation. Although he was a little confused. If an able-bodied young man was about, why wasn’t he driving his own grandmother to vote? “I have the check mark right here,” Murray said, showing him the line on the form. “Brittany from campaign headquarters called her just last night and said that I’d be here at two.”

    “Well, Brittany from campaign headquarters is just damn wrong.”

    “If you don’t mind, can I please just talk to Mrs. Abbott for a minute?” Murray tried to peer behind him, but the man shifted his body and crossed his arms over his chest.

    “Haven’t you people taken my mother for enough money yet? You want to make her go out and vote for your damn sleazebag candidate, too?”

    The brief orientation meeting he’d had with Brittany and the other volunteers hadn’t covered this. But something told Murray not to leave. Even more so when he heard what sounded like a whimper coming from deeper inside the house.

    The man took a step closer and said through clenched teeth, “Again. You can leave now.”

    “No.” Murray wrapped his fingers around the porch railing. His eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute. You said before she was your grandmother.”

    The whimper grew to a strangled cry for help.

    “Shit. Shut up, bitch.” The man’s hand moved—a quick and deliberate reach for something inside his jacket. Murray whipped his clipboard across sonny boy’s windpipe. Then dropped him to the foyer floor, cuffed him to the radiator, and went off to see to Mrs. Abbott.

    1. This is very, very cool... and I hope she voted for the "right" candidate! Once again, you do a delightful job of taking a mundane scene, played out a few miillion times a year, and you give it glorious life... Thank you!

    2. I love this. Agree with Leland. And your attention to detail is insane. I don't know how you do it. Not much writing, mine included, starts the movie reel in my head like yours does.

  19. I was feelin Dan cravin some memoir.. I Been slackin on that. So here's this: 2 Parter:
    My grandmother was another story. As a child, I knew very little of her history, but since have managed to piece together what remained. The family, an extensive congregation of semi-titled aristocrats, fled the Bolsheviks to Austria and from there to here. It’s all very romantic, until you realize it was merely sad. What did survive was an extensive collection of porcelain, a silver samovar, three thoroughly forbidden family portraits of unhappy-looking ancestors who shared her sharp black eyes and Roman nose and a full banquet service for 12 in sterling silver. Those and, of course, her name, Renata Eugenia.
    She was as warm as marble statue; as controlled as a matriarch of old. No death, or disease or casual calamity could ruffle her feathers and if she had any maternal instinct at all, she kept it hidden in place we never found. As it happened, it was her who decided that my older sister needed deportment lessons and social graces to become acceptable in a world that no longer existed. So it came to pass that I was made to tag along on those remote Sunday afternoons, sitting through a stifling assortment of instructions on the proper cut of a diamond or emerald and how to test a pearl with your teeth; the proper response when introduced to royalty of varying degrees; how to curtsy, how to sit and when to remove one’s gloves at table, whether tea, luncheon or dinner.
    We practiced the art of polite conversation, learned to nod earnestly in the presence of a gentleman, and how to demur an unwanted advance. She’d crank up Viennese waltzes on her ancient Victrola and together, we learned to waltz. Lift your feet! BumbumbumBump. Lift your chin! Straighten your stupid spine!
    My sister was the more docile pupil perhaps, having been Grandmother’s favorite from the start, but I was quicker and so earned my meager rewards, like some dog given treats in obedience training. If, God willing, you wake me up at ninety, in the throes of my dementia, gave me a chart and a pointer and asked the correct position of the fish fork, the hors d’oeurve, the butter or the bone plate; which is the water glass, the red or the white, and the proper placement of the aperitif? I will be able to recite them all.
    Those rewards, to me, completed the fantasy I lived on those long ago Sunday afternoons. If I had done well, I was allowed into her closet, where she kept a moth eaten jacket of genuine monkey fur, and a boa of wolf nearly six feet long. And the hats! Dozens and dozens of them. Silk velvet cloches, and silk with beads; a huge, black straw laden with faded silk flowers. Labels like Bonwit or Paris or Saks Fifth Ave. And once even a tiara. I began to see her differently then, let into that closet. She had a history; she’d been a beauty; even if she had never been warm or in my seven year old imagination, even very happy. Some possibly evil Queen, banished from her country. Some fairy, cheated of her throne.
    Respecting her was demanded. Loving her? She never asked for that. She died even without her dignity, dropping on a sidewalk on a bright fall afternoon, emerging from a city bus. I was 21 by then, a stranger to the banality of dying and found it hard to grieve. It was just another piece in her cold, forbidding mystery.
    I felt bad for my mother though, who mourned her passing with a terrifying inconsolability. Theirs was a difficult relationship and once one had endured Renata’s disapproval or disappointment, it was not to be undone. Were those tears about anger? Or guilt? The love that never happened? It was difficult to say.

  20. But it fell to us to curate her relics; that house and her flowers and all she had left. She had strict instructions for how she was to be sent to the hereafter, with a special note not to mention her true age. It was simple enough, I suppose. Old people often don’t have much, at the end. Old women even less.
    I was sent to clean that magical closet, the one where she kept the hats and the furs. Most of them long gone by then, donated to the moths and the rigors of changing fashion. Up on the shelf was a box toward the back, old and dusty, like everything else in that house that smelled of floor wax and lavender, at the end of street named Sunset Court.
    Inside, was an enormous collection of clippings; a relic of the True Cross in a red velvet pouch. There were copies of the Black List, news about the trials and photos of the culprits and an autographed picture of Senator Joseph McCarthy, kissing my Grandmother’s hand. A carefully documented history of Communist hysteria and the darkness that threatened the land.
    When I showed it to my parents, my mother wept anew. “Jesus,” was what she said.”I can’t even believe this!” She was understandably horrified. Between the two of them, my parents were so radically liberal, it was hard to decide which was which.
    My father, on the other hand, danced around the room holding up the photo as though he’d won a war. “You see?” he said to my mother, curled up in the corner of an old wing back chair. “I Told you she was crazy, didn’t I? I told you she was a crazy BITCH!”
    I wandered back to the bedroom and that magical closet, dreaming of silver and hats and jewels, inexplicably sad, suddenly engulfed by a sense of loss that seemed to have no bottom. I sat on that lumpy, Sheraton bed and lay back, inhaling the essence of floor wax and lavender, a young hippie kid, sot in the ages. I hadn’t loved her very much, but I needed to ask—Why?
    And then, as rarely happens in life, I understood. I could say she came to me and kissed me on the forehead, I could say I fell asleep and dreamed. But none of that happened, maybe because I was the quicker student. so many years before. But I understood.
    The Communists had stolen her life once before.
    She could not accept they might do it again.
    Whatever our pedigree, there are things that come through us, passed down by genes and deportment lessons, legacies shrouded in time.
    Maybe your world was gone before I got here, but thank you, you relic, Renata Eugenia, for all you gave to mine.

    1. Wow. The way that you let out a little line, take in a little - maintain tension. And the way you let voice work - the subtle sarcasm and construction makes it so real. So, yeah, I fucking like it. ;) Especially this:

      If, God willing, you wake me up at ninety, in the throes of my dementia, gave me a chart and a pointer and asked the correct position of the fish fork, the hors d’oeurve, the butter or the bone plate; which is the water glass, the red or the white, and the proper placement of the aperitif? I will be able to recite them all.

    2. This is so good. The rhythm, the story. I'm just floating along for the ride. So good. I was going to choose the same paragraph Dan did.

  21. Back later to read and comments, guys! Need food!

  22. He was making a sound that fell somewhere between a laugh and insanity. I wasn't even mad anymore. Fucking weird. I'd entered this safe, cool, calm place - I could do whatever I wanted.

    Back again to the place it began.

    I slapped the pastrami-semblance of a face that he had left, and it made a sound like horses fucking.

    "This is all a little dramatic. I didn't necessarily need it to be like this. So you know. Wasn't my call. The Man told me to take it gonzo.

    He had soiled himself. Begged. Told me about his sick kids - he'd played every cliche perfectly. He was starting to annoy me. But I knew the Man wouldn't be satisfied. And the candle was almost gone. Waxy smoke, now. Black at the tendrils.

    "You see this. What is it? A 'numph?' Yeah, it's a knife, man. This BLADE. Ever seen it? Called a spey blade. I've never actually used it for it's intended purpose before. That makes this special. This one. You. Me. The Man."

    The sound tore out of him, desert hot. A million seashells shattering. I smiled. Inched closer.

    "You're gonna be a fucking legend."

  23. Late to the party (sorry!), with a poem!

    Punk cellist. Braced for banishment.
    Your hectic face, your miscreant strut,
    The fluctuate air hums your ruined frequency.
    Your superheated breath in the small of my back
    I turn slow and understand malnourishment
    At last. I watch you break, and see you crack.
    Whose skin do you inhabit today? This century?
    You sucked so much from me and now you
    Don't even have enough left to borrow.
    Still, I'm going to take it all, the sum of your worth.
    Can you love someone yet wish them only sorrow?

    Nights in Cassadaga, cool mornings in Seoul.
    Give me your arms, donate your shaky armoury.
    Before you I never even knew I wasn't whole,
    Corrugated wharflike and rusted as a cannery.
    My bordertown heart is like the lightning tree.
    Black and crooked. Split and elementary.
    Akin to blind things writhing in a hole.

    The sleek wolves smell you, the blind bears find
    Your scent amid cordilleran folds
    And the tail fan of a talus
    And follow.

    Eagles and buzzards wheel in the impossible sky.

    The cyclic world is giving birth
    To its own end.

    I'm a man. I'm alive. Under the cold bright
    Silver blue sky. Adamant
    Draws us earthward, but
    What next? To whom
    Do we run? Is this where
    Love goes to die or where
    It might begin again?

    We will find each other in the blue-sky valley
    After the carious rocks have crumbled, after
    The parched trees have cracked open, everything
    Once living laid bare to the world. And you
    Will bear me from the charnel field, my brother,
    My blessèd sister, deliver me to my home. You
    Are of my heart always. You my
    Pestilent love are
    Carved from my own flesh. Did you
    Dream of me or I you?

    It matters not. Dream, dream, my love,
    And never stop until sleep is done.

    1. Such beautiful language, D. As always. I love this: "It matters not. Dream, dream, my love,
      And never stop until sleep is done."

    2. Sigh... your words, the rhythms, the sounds, the meanings... this was beautiful and wistful and sad and hopeful... thank you.

  24. “How about Iowa City, babe? I hear they do some really good writing workshops.”

    “Naw, dude, too fuckin’ cold. Fuck the Rust Belt.”

    “Oxford, Mississippi? I hear it’s pretty chill.”

    “Naw, it’s still fuckin’ Mississippi, dude. Those rednecks don’t cotton to interracial couples.”

    It was little more than idle fantasizing, but Tim and Luanne were fantasizing about running away together, in that way that young couples do. Just up and leaving, for some quiet little college town in Middle America, where they could possibly become relatively normal, functional members of society, away from the grime and poverty and despair of the California ghetto. They could find nice regular blue-collar jobs; Luanne reckoned she’d try and get a job working on cars, or possibly at a gun shop, but failing that, settle for being a diner waitress. Tim would take whatever he could get: warehouse, construction, bartending if he could convince anyone that he was old enough. Maybe they could even afford to live in a house, that was legal and up to code, just the two of them, but Luanne was resistant to the idea of having children in the dumpster fire of a world they lived in.

    But it was just a dream, escapism borne out of their bleak surroundings and future prospects. They had no serious intention of abandoning their brothers, their friends, the fight for freedom and equality they started, even though it meant they both would probably die relatively young, either in prison or on the streets. They had generous standing offers of hospitality from friends in other states, but at best, it would just be the same struggle in a strange city.

    1. I like this one a lot. The closing kills it. Uncomfortable stasis and yearning.


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