Friday, April 29, 2016

2 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON'T IDENTIFY AS 'WRITERS' - all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.

The sun dripped down the grand, green slope of the hill they called a mountain. They, the intrepid ten. Young, brazen – call them anything you want. Children. Men. It don’t make any difference in the end.

Or maybe it was twelve? Maybe a million strong, a mighty throng. And the rivers whispered your name in a soft, soft song. And the wind smelled of loathing...

And you clawed at your throat; you tore at your clothing.

The mighty thousand crested, rising high above the tide, in song. The million screaming multitudes – WE ALL THINK YOU’RE FUCKING WRONG!

Birdsong battles, pigeon rattles. Step to my parakeet; I’ll give you a pair of feet. Something lasting. But discreet.

Whisky neat.

Shit. You don’t think they’ll both fit, but I’d bet on it.

I bet on the climbing circus blasters. I rallied the troops to court disaster. I drank in the shy, elusive laughter. And I cried.

But not ‘til after.


#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in!


  1. If you were good enough you wouldn’t have to ask yourself these questions. Are you simple? He was right, wasn’t he? All the he’s. You can’t answer it because you can’t look it in the face. Square up to it. You’re just the little bitch you were told to be, huh? Well, shit.

    Who saw that coming?

    If people really liked you, you wouldn’t have to try. Making jokes, cheap wordplay. Do a fucking impression. Dance, monkey. They’ll throw nickels. You know they will. And you’ll feel a little better – even though deep inside, you know you’ll never be more than you were when you were six and too scared to make it stop.

    It was your fault and you know that. Deep inside you. You know it was all your fucking fault because you could have stopped it. You know that now. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know then. You should have. Anyone else would have.

    You never were a very smart monkey.

    You can’t drink, now. Sorry. You’re not man enough to handle your liquor. It makes you wake up sweating, scared shitless you’re gonna have to ask her.

    How bad was it?

    So, just try and block out the noise. Try. You’ll lose. And you’ll have the song stuck in your head for days. Even though you hate it.

    Hey. Hey. You. You. Get out of my mirror.

    1. This is what good writing is... takes the fears we all know, and puts them right out there to look at... and fuck man enough to handle liquor... saying no to it is the best way of handling it after all...

    2. and that my friend is the beginning of wisdom, you can't change your habits, your location and your therapist, but for all the quick fixes we are sold, the fixes ain't so quick and our demons still lurk, just hanging out for their validation....Takes a strong human being to say, Fuck you!

  2. Get out of my mirror! That, I loved--it made me "see" his side. * throwing symbolic dollars*

  3. They huddled in the dripping room while the things could be heard above them, shambling, directionless. Except Gemma knew they weren't directionless; their boosted olfactory senses locked onto human scent like Sidewinder missiles tracking heat. It was only their graceless and deceptive gait that suggested a lack of purpose. For they had purpose: an unrelenting hunger for human flesh and human viscera. Almost as if, should they consume enough, their own lost humanity might be returned to them.

    In the youthful world now passed, this place had been an industrial park threaded with sweeping arteries of asphalt as the highways curved through the blaring living city. All now void of freight and everything ossified.

    But what of beauty? The constant dripping from broken pipes had become the maddening new music of an altered world. Yellow-umber stains on cracked concrete its strange new art. Carrion birds the brave new letters on the dismal grey pages of the sky.

    Gemma had noticed one in particular: a woman. Yes, what of beauty? Beauty still clung to this one in places, as with a blighted tree still flowering its final spring while its bark peeled and most of its leaves browned and curled like the imploring hands of babies in the ashen wake of a terrible fire. One of her eyes still flared green like a dying sun. Her chestnut hair, where it still clung, hinted at the lustre of its prime. Even her gait, that appalling lurch of her kind, was offset by the jut of her resting hip, a plaintive sexual echo. In her nihilist soul Gemma found herself wanting her, craving some cheerless consummation.

    There was no song, no prayer, no lament, could do justice to the magnitude of their loss. The slow parade toward annihilation had always been inevitable, all things growing cold and alone as space itself stretches and drops over an irreversible horizon. Heat death. But not like this. Not like this.

    Song or not, believer or not, in her fitful dreams Gemma found herself praying to the unliving woman she called the Last Beauty.

    On this her final night, unaware their camp had been breached, that those pitiless jaws with their unholy sepia teeth were almost upon her, this was her final entreaty, which became her elegy, her requiem for the great abandonment, played for an audience who'd left long ago:

    "Come, O woman of the endless shade. Here. Where we follow traces of gold in the gloaming; where we contort our falls to preempt our crushing newborn lambs, whose ripe eyes are glittering seeds for distant new worlds; where we slip silently into the bay, oars laid gently down, rifles now readied; where the shriek of loss in the night ward arrests our hearts while the lusty cry of an infant restarts them; where a timely unbidden song breaks the impulse to self-murder; where the compulsion of sex follows the double helix down into the damp heat of the earth, spiraling—a dark caduceus, kundalini's echo; where the dust-mote cathedral hush and floating becalmed at night under the shimmering cosmic blurt are counterparts; where a fawn emerges unsteady on a quiet floor of dew before even the birds begin their welcome, nose and tail both twitching as if for balance; where Kalashnikovs stutter a Parisian night; where the morning cool holds its delicate breath; where magic still dwells; where all things seem true; meet me here, with all of this, and help me to understand you."

    1. Run Gemma run! Wish I had your vocabulary!

    2. Amazing and frightfully beautiful... "Carrion birds the brave new letters on the dismal grey pages of the sky," is one of my favorite lines from the piece, but the whole thing is darkly wonderful.

    3. Shades of something else, dude. Shades of something else...To me the saddest thing about it is that Gemma will almost surely go down for her love of beauty...

    4. Leland took mine. But really, it's all gold. I love the way you can make horrid images beautiful with your words. Since Leland stole my favorite line, I'm taking this: "where Kalashnikovs stutter a Parisian night; where the morning cool holds its delicate breath; where magic still dwells; where all things seem true; meet me here, with all of this, and help me to understand you."

      Awesome, DA.

  4. She hit “next” on her iPod, and the first notes of a song slipped through her headphones and into her heart. She hadn’t listened to the song in so, so long. It reminded her of him. It had been their song…at least it would have been, if there had every really been a “them.” For nearly a year now, she hadn’t been able to bear listening to it, had avoided it diligently, afraid to let even those first few notes out to play havoc with her emotions.

    To her surprise, they’d lost their power to hurt her, even if he hadn’t.

    It was a start.

    1. A start indeed... and a good vignette of overcoming fear...

    2. Sweet, I think music has a strange power, to hurt and to heal. Ever hear the song remembers when? Hokey and country maybe...But man captures as you did, that feeling so beautifully.

    3. Agreed. And perhaps the start of a longer piece? :) Though I love the flash. Well played.


  5. The fall semester went well. Every other day, after a long grueling ten hours, she’d show up for classes wearing ugly suits. She drove a company sedan and wore sensible shoes. Her sense of accomplishment outweighed any desire to marry and to any casual observer she was a matronly twenty-eight year old driving a Buick. It was a chicken and egg thing. What had come first? The lack of a serious prospect ready to commit or a goal called a graduate degree? It didn’t matter, because her mind was on the prize and nothing, not Christmas, or flaring hormones could disrupt her vision. Nothing.

    Two annoying marines always disrupted the class. They sat in the back row making faces at the dour Ethics professor. Today, she had time to change before going to class. Second-hand well-worn jeans and a sweatshirt got her a soft whistle. “Shut up,” she said with a beaming smile. At break, the bald one handed her a vending machine coffee. “Major Lucky Thompson at your service,” he said bowing down. She noted his shiny head and asked him what he did at Pendleton. Top Gun pilot. Both of us—he’s Brando” He pointed at his friend who looked like he was picking up some loose change that had bounced out of the vending machine. “We live back East and take classes here.”
    “Hmmm, you break the sound barrier coming to class, huh?”
    “Kind of--Brando calls me Lucky because I’m still standing after buzzing our General’s house.”
    “Sounds lucky to me,” she said before taking a sip of the warm coffee. “How did you know I like my coffee black?”
    “We saw you come out here many times to get coffee,” he said, rolling his eyes. “It’s not like we can read your mind or anything.”
    Brando nodded at Lucky and whispered, “We need to get back to class, bud.”
    Slowly, they walked down the corridor, stopping to linger near a trashcan where she took a few more sips and tossed her paper cup.

    They had noticed her? “That’s funny, considering I’m always wearing suits and low-heeled shoes. My hair is almost always up and by the time I get to class I’ve removed my contacts and put on glasses.”
    “Yeah we love those glasses. Makes you look super smart and sexy too. And those jeans make you look hot.” He rolled his tongue around like a hungry dog and smacked his lips.
    They talk about her?
    “Shut up,” she said with a huge grin. “I’m wearing jeans so I can pick up a Christmas tree after class. Come to think of it, I could use a little help.”
    “No problemo,”said a smiling Major Lucky Thompson.

    1. This just makes me smile... I always love when the smart one is the one calling the shots... and she obviously is!

    2. AGREED. And there is a cool teeter-totter effect here. I really like the roll of it.

  6. [having a big snowstorm here, so I'm gonna be mostly absent... apologies]

    The writer in him knew all the right words for the winter palette: Umber, ochre, sage, shadow gray; but that morning, after the snow, only one word mattered: White. Eleven inches of heavy, wet flakes blanketed the ground and everything planted in it.
    The color of sounds was missing, too. The birds hid wherever birds hid when the weather hid their prey. His feet crunched into the snow, and he heard only his own breathing.

    The smells were absent. The perfume of the sagebrush and the junipers was masked by a nothingness that made him wonder if somehow he’d lost his ability to smell.

    The mist of his breath let him pretend for a moment he was a dragon, flying high above the Scottish Highlands.

    A movement caught his eye. In full winter coat, a coyote stared at him, annoyed that her own privacy had been violated.

    Ten miles of frigid air carried the sound of a train whistling at a crossing where no one crossed. The coyote started, and so did he. A ray of sunlight pierced the clouds, and the color of hope shined blue on the snow.

    1. Loved your use of senses and colors and I'm listening for that train!

    2. The color of sounds was missing, too. - Love it. The whole piece captures a sudden snowfall so well. Really glad you could get online! :)

    3. OOOH! Perfectly captured that strange silence of snow, the muting of sensory experience. It's what we love about it, and yo? This time of year, gotta hate it, too...Next week write "the melting"...

    4. Thank you! and I hope for melting stories ... also known as mud around here!

  7. A star-shell burst above the field, its sudden eruption of light casting shadows in all directions. Within the trench, the platoon were readying themselves, only the officer and his observer looking forward toward the enemy's terrain.

    “We've two infra-red hot spots and five false traces on micro-wave, Captain,” the non-commissioned infantryman reported. “What do you recommend, sir?”

    Grant stared toward the hill's rise, his eyes almost useless on this moonless night. “Do either of the heat sources coincide with the micro-wave reports?” he said, weighing up the possibilities. “I've a feeling that the enemy are going to try something new. Try to take us by surprise.”

    “Only one.” James scanned the horizon again and then panned quickly across the field leading up to their position. “Bearing oh two three with an inclination of five degrees. Range about fifteen hundred metres.”

    “That'll be Cromwell's troop. He was supposed to have sixty cavalrymen at his disposal. If we take him out now, we can change the whole of English history.” The captain nodded. “We'll strike there first. If we use mortar fire, no-one need know we were here.” He turned around, his face a pale blur. “Radioman?”

    The command was issued, the battle of Edgehill ending in a decisive win for King Charles' men. World history had been rewritten and no-one would ever be any the wiser.

    1. Love it. Wise, informed and truly imaginative speculative history. Great work, Mark.

    2. Thanks, Joseph. It's not one of my usual genres, so I'm really testing my limits!

    3. Re-writing history is an awesome goal Mark! LOL And might I add you were very entertaining.

    4. If you're testing your limits, you haven't found them yet! This is good!

    5. In fact, you inspired me to write a little follow-on piece, see below.

    6. Now, I'm flattered, Leland. Thank you!

    7. I agree with all. Really cool premise. Well written as always. Super creative and interesting. Which is what I expect from you. :)

    8. Love it, adds a whole new dimension to all those tired "divine Intervention" press releases...Morph on!

  8. “It was less than a second, maybe half a second, but it changed everything.”

    I never wanted to make the decision. Who would? But being who I am in the order of things, it fell to me about when to let her go.

    “Well, what do you wish us to do?” the doctor asked, with a benevolent demeanor, but a double-parked, motor-running, it’s 4:58 on Friday vibe coming off him. I could feel his inner toes tapping.

    You don’t really think about making this decision, deciding life or death for someone you love. But you know what you have to do in the second, maybe half-second they ask you. You just tend to think about the other things as a diversion.

    What’ll the family say? How can I face myself day after day after the deed is done? Can I live with being the instrument of another being losing her life?

    You look up at the professionals and their eyebrows have that inverted V droop of a practiced medical professional.

    “There’s no coming back from this,” the doctor said, meaning her condition, just lying there. But there’d be no coming back on my end, either. “It’s painless, she won’t feel a thing. It’s what she would want.”

    You feel like your boiling as you stand still for that second or less, three heartbeats replacing the one that normally fills that space. Allegro.

    “Okay, let’s do it,” I say as my eyes get all mushy and moist and my throat locks in the words and out the air.

    The doctor does what he does, practiced, assured, always ready. And then, we wait. It really doesn’t take long, but a lot of life flashes before your eyes when you’re the one deciding. The guest of honor just closes her eyes, takes a few deep breaths and…. She’s gone.

    In that second, though, everything changed for me. Emotions began living closer to the surface, though I noticed and reveled in more of life life humming and growing and ebbing all around me. All from one second of indecision to decision.

    It gave me a harder shell, too, though. Since I was graced with the same decision for my Mom not even a year later. Outwardly cool, I’m sure the weepers around me thought me an unfeeling bastard.

    The doctor gave his spiel about no coming back, it’s for the best, she has a no-resuscitate order, all that stuff. The same inverted V they teach in Veterinary school they must in Med school, too.

    Then came the money shot question, the big one, the life or death one.

    “Well, what do you wish us to do?”

    In a second of fire and freeze, the man in whom a dog’s death changed everything, nodded and said “Okay, let’s do it.”

    And then I stood taller, set my jaw, began to breathe again, as the others began to sob. They could never have made this decision, wouldn’t want to. Who would? But, like I said, in less than a second, maybe even half a second, it changed everything. Dammit, everything changed.

    I’d cry later.

    1. Ahhh... it's those decisions we have to make in two minutes that change our lives forever... and often we don't even know we're making them... this is a good piece, and I was standing right there with the narrator...

    2. Yeah. Leland nailed it. So close. Intimate. And I am super jealous of this: I could feel his inner toes tapping.

    3. Yeesh. Been there, done it. You have all the time in the world to grieve and only a minute to make the decision. You did it right.

  9. [a little follow-on to Mark's piece above--think of it as fan fiction, my friend]

    The time for coincidence was over; these were the days of miracles. Lions met lambs and left them untouched, not because they were not hungry, but because they knew fear. Stranger greeted stranger, not because they were kind, but because it was the right thing to do. Stars were visible in the heavens, not because the air was clean, but because the generators had failed.

    The river of time ran backwards, from iPads and iPhones to paper and pencil, and when those were gone, to clay and sticks.

    In a hundred years, they’d find pieces, shattered mostly, of little electronic devices, and they would wonder at them, question whether they were some sort of religious relic. In a thousand, they’d forget how to read.

    And no one would ever imagine that time travel was possible, that someone helped King Charles defeat Cromwell and changed everything that came after.

    1. This is dope, Leland. He better be fucking flattered. ;)

    2. Damn right he is. Leland's a masterly writer!

    3. Pshaw... we'll see how well my new book Rainbow's Edge sells... on the other hand, maybe selling well doesn't equate to good writing...

  10. Replies
    1. Okay, here's the NOT screwed up Part One

      Of all the benign cruelties a mother can bestow upon a child, the girl’s mother named her Daffodil; Daffodil Delilah Dannunnzio, to be precise. There was really no explaining it; her brothers, taking after the Italian side with their olive complexions and dark curly hair all claimed less distinguished monikers like Steven and Dave and even John Fitzgerald for the dead President. But when in 1967, she finally, held in her arms the little girl she’d always longed for, Mrs. Dannunnzio claimed that something in her heart broke loose and she vowed this baby would grow up free.
      Of course, it might have had something to do with the PCP-laced ether they used to ease childbirth in those days, or even the general waft of pot-scented Utopia coming over the airwaves all the way to South Milwaukee, or even the fact that by the end of February in Wisconsin, even the strongest souls were begging for spring, but in any case, the handle never made little Daffodil’s life any easier.
      First, because no one seemed able to come up with a reasonable nickname for her. Neither Daff or Daffy or even Dill could be made to stick. And second, upon her entry into Our Lady of Angels Kindergarten and Elementary the good Sisters of Charity found it appalling that a nice bunch of Italians like the Dannunnzios wouldn’t have graced their only daughter with a proper saint’s name and insisted instead she be called Mary Katherine while at school.
      It was doubtless confusing to the child, having one name in one place and another for the wider world, but she adapted, as children will, and with a peculiar intuition, learned to respond to a simple, “Hey, you!”
      Failing her mother’s more romantic aspirations for her, she too, favored the Italian side, with a dark olive complexion and thick straight black hair, that hung in the fashion of the times, nearly to her waist. As she grew, she was neither tall nor short, pretty or not. Her only distinguishing feature being the odd, almost goldenish green of her eyes. As might be expected, what she lacked in self-esteem she made up for with a cool indifference for her peers and more than once, her natural disdain for authority landed her in the confessional with extra Hail Marys and Acts of Contrition as her penance for realism.
      She might have continued that way, a dour, introverted and somewhat unpleasant girl until the Fairy Godmother of puberty touched her life and she began to change, filling out her school uniforms with an almost embarrassing speed and reveling in the secret power she had, blooming with full breasts and round hips and well-muscled legs in perfect proportion.
      Suddenly, she was different and dangerous, too. In her senior year of high school, her anxious parents struggled to arrange some suitable match from among the Italians in the neighborhood, but when she heard from her schoolmate that the Benedetto boys were planning to kidnap her in the Sicilian fashion and marry her off to the eldest son Frank, she packed a bag and headed for Chicago on the midnight bus, with twenty four dollars and change.

  11. Part 2

    The Paradise Lounge smelled like beer and olives and bus station smoke. It was darker than it looked from outside. The man looked up from a table in the back when she walked toward him, spine straight as her waist-length hair, her golden eyes flashing in the dim half-light.
    “I’ve come about the job. You got a sign on the door. Help Wanted. Apply within. I’m applying.”
    “That’s for a dishwasher. You wanna be a dishwasher?”
    Without warning, she flashed him a smile. He’s seen them before, of course, these girls. Running from god-knows what. But this one made him feel like he’d won the lottery.
    “How much does it pay?”
    He shook his head. He’d didn’t need problems. Four girls had quit on him in as many weeks. They got old, or they got married or fucked up on drugs. Women. It was like they didn’t understand entertainment. “You gotta be eighteen,” he told her. “You eighteen?”
    She observed him with a calculated disdain. “Yeah” she said, flipping the mane of her hair for effect. And if she was lying, he couldn’t tell.
    “What’s your name?”
    For a moment, she faltered, then answered with a long, slow blink that did something to his insides. “Daffoldil Dannunzio.”
    “Did you say Daffodil?” He stared, not sure if he’d heard right.
    “Yeah, shithead. That’s what they called me. A hippie name. And I haven’t had time to change it. So, do me a favor; don’t wear it out.”
    “Daffodil Dannunzio,” he repeated softly. “Gonna be tough to find a job with that name. Unless,” he paused for effect. “You’re a stripper. You ever strip, Daffodil?”
    She flashed him another of those sultry smiles. “I take my clothes off every day. How hard could it be?“
    And so it happened that she fulfilled her mother’s dreams and for the next four years for five nights a week at a place called the Paradise, she danced her way to a handsome salary and put herself through college and used the gifts the good Lord gave her until Daffodil Dannunzio finally felt free.

    1. I love the name, and I love her attitude... and I want to know more about her! well done!

    2. Agreed. I love the way your pieces branch out. Then you bring it back, let out a little, then a firm yank. Names can be pretty important, eh?

    3. Thanks, Leland...It's not my fave piece and needs work. But like I say,in these politically correct times? I like my feminism straight up. With a twist. :)

  12. Excellent work, Leland. You've really found a great angle for your follow-on!

  13. You really can’t disown someone you never did own. You’re best off throwing punches, I already got myself stoned. You can stake me in the desert, call it my just desserts. And yeah, I’d fucking love it if I had the balls to wear a skirt.

    A flirt? With what? Comfort? Your mind is narrow, dirty like a Anaheim culvert – for some reason, I’m not worried. And I ain't in no hurry to wear your hair shirt.

    Hurt? Convert.

    You chose to play in the dirt.

    So, it’s all about the team until one of us tries to swim upstream. Then it’s shit talk behind the back, subtle wide-eyed side attacks?

    Take the axe back, hack. It’s itching my shoulder blades.

  14. They called him The Champ. Everyone. No one knew why, but it was something you didn't question. There was something in his eyes. Some dark mystery that said he could have been a boxer or a hit man or a priest. Ain't nobody gonna ask about that shit.

    The Champ liked to drink. Hell, lots of folks like to drink, but nobody did it like him. He drank whiskey like water and vice-versa.

    The Champ died on a Thursday and no one really gave a shit. There were cherry blossoms dancing the Spring breeze and it was just accepted. You hear about The Champ? Damn shame.

    They buried him with his wheelchair. Passed the hat, had a coffin custom made. And they told stories about him. A man no one understood - his winning, and their loss.

    All in the span of life's pitch and toss.

  15. He stood with a shoulder against the brick wall, hat low, cigarette stuck to his lower lip. Whistle at the dames, ignore the hustlers - the kids? He was nice to the kids. Protected 'em. Hell of a thing.

    He was always there. Like he was part of the wall. He didn't look worried or hurried or scared. They knew he'd never fade. Never fall. He was holding up the wall.

    Women liked to think about him, but they never went near. Men hated him or wanted to be like him. Or both.

    The wall didn't care. Not two bits.

    1. I gave considerable experience with the wall myself. Beat your head against it, pray to it, add to this. It's great!

  16. The lid of the box swung open with a click, its contents rising as though propelled by some mechanism.
    “You see? It's unreal!”
    Watson pushed the platform back down again, holding the cube close to his ear. “It sounds like clockwork,” he said, hearing the clicking of pawls against ratchets. “It's an incredible piece of craftsmanship.” He held it up toward his face, studying the way the floor of the cavity slid smoothly back downward again, moving as though it were balanced or weighted in some way. “Where did you say you found it?”
    Grant reached out to take the box back, his intrigue about his professor's interest giving way to possessiveness.
    “It was in a wooden crate I found. I bought it unseen in a house clearance sale. I got the contents of the loft for thirty nine dollars; most of it was junk but there were a few items worth selling on. And this, of course. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with it yet. I was hoping you could help with that. Do you know what it is?”
    The arts professor turned the cube about in his palms, having closed the lid again so it was as he'd originally seen it.
    “I originally thought it was ivory but it's not. The grain's wrong and the patina's too pronounced. I'd have expected it to be dulled but this is something different. It's as though it's been handled a lot, the rounding on the corners shows some wear, but it's rippled and roughened too. As though it had been made recently and left unfinished. The inlays are curious too: geometrical and sharply edged. As though it had been laser-cut. But that'd be impossible. It's clearly too old for that.” He held it outstretched between his hands, both squeezing and trying to slide the opposite faces away from each other.
    “Maybe it's bone?”
    Grant nodded. “It could be,” he said. “But what kind of animal would have the bone density to give it as much weight as this has? It's most curious. Quite peculiar.”

  17. They’d say Karen knew her way around men, but actually she knew men’s ways around her. They would orbit her like moon-faced satellites.

    Occasionally one blazing-egoed, meteoric swain would try breaking through her sweet-pheromoned atmosphere only to burst into flame and barely make his way out as a mere cinder of his former astral glory.

    “Arrogant bitch,” they'd say. So they put out the word she was “experienced.” Someone so beautiful, so attractive, so well-put-together simply had to have been around the galaxy a time or two. But she hadn’t.

    She came from St. Johnsville and she had the FFA and 4H bona fides to prove it. I was her city boy fifth H, Honesty on top of the Head, Health, Hand and Heart. She never could understand why only jerks would try to strike up what seemed to them a conversation, but was to her a pubic service announcement. Why she told me this, I didn’t wish to know.

    I didn’t need to know anything more than every time she brought her whisper close to my ear I’d shiver in its warmth, stretch to colossus status among my peers and learn more about how women think than a cute (she said), funny, shy guy should.

    And yet, I never got the girl. One of those jerks, this one from Albany, with patience and lines as smooth and warm as Holstein juice straight from the source, wrested her from my scant gravity. We grew apart, as experience taught each our own lessons. Well, maybe just Karen.

    No, I take that back. I learned that while it’s always the best policy, honesty will only get you a healthy yellow ribbon, maybe as high as an intellectually headed red.

    Oh, and warm, near-intimate experience earned is no guarantee of securing the blue ribbon prize of a particular celestial body’s hand or heart. Just the blues.

    1. Oh, you crushed this one. Man, talk about sticking the landing. Awesome piece, Joe. So precise.

  18. There was just enough light in the sky to see the figure running and leaping over obstacles with the grace and dexterity of a superior athlete, which was only a small blessing to Charlie’s mind. Whoever it was, they were uncommonly fast and lithe; the only sign of disturbance the occasional woodnote from the disruption of a small bird or animal. But as Charlie followed his movements were jerky, loud, almost lumbering in such a way the distance between them increased exponentially. He almost wished for a gun to wing his tormentor into stopping long enough so he might interrogate him.

    It was frustrating to be so incapable of the appropriate movements and agility that would easily bring him to his goal. It was unnatural to him. In most ways Charlie was still young, still fit, and never stronger. He was used to being a hero and the hindrances his uncooperative body presented him with was just unacceptable in the extreme. His leg was simply nowhere near where he needed it to be in order to even catch up with this gnat of a person who’d invaded his home and disturbed his peace of mind. He was just too slow and even now he could feel the twinges of pain in his thigh sending shards of shooting pain through his groin and back that made the panting and ragged breaths his lungs started to expel seem mild by comparison. He didn’t even know if it was a man or a woman and from the burgeoning distance between them it could have been a child. But Charlie knew better.

    He had to stop. His leg was so enflamed, he was nearly at the point he’d need to take an Oxy tonight if he didn’t take a break. Staring at the ground, holding the tops of his thighs and catching his breath he realized that the sounds of the forest had changed and he looked ahead of him again. Damn if the figure he’d been chasing hadn’t stopped and stood there, maybe seventy feet away shifting from one leg to another. The hooded gnat was now looking back at Charlie with what—

    Curiosity? Pity?

    Or maybe Charlie thought woodenly, it was just gall.

    Charlie raised himself to his full 75 and a quarter inches. The expanse of his broad chest rose and fell as he stared across the forest at the figure. Sensing that this was not the end of his tribulations, Charlie stared hard, yearning to promise the stranger all he could even from this great a distance. His will was strong too and he wanted a reckoning. It was important for the stranger to know he’d make every effort to get one if they ever encountered each other again.

    1. I'm so curious about this. I want to know more. Right now. :)

  19. Zeros and ones - a writing exercise and a cautionary tale.



    Before I start, I'd like to apologise.

    Apologise for what, you'll say. You'll think to yourself that you don't even know me, that we've not even met, and that there's nothing I've done I'd need to apologise for.

    But you'd be wrong.

    Of course you'll be confused now. You'll look at the top of this page to see if you know my name, spend a moment or two wondering if you've seen it before and then dismiss what I've said here, condemning me without hardly a thought. I'm nobody you know and if you have ever met me, it must have been without you knowing.

    There's nothing I could have done that could have affected you.

    That's right, surely?

    Just think about it for a moment and then you'll start wondering. You're reading these words now. We've already exchanged thoughts and ideas.

    Maybe I'm not the harmless freak you thought I was thirty seconds ago.

    By now you'll be wondering how you got this message and what baggage it brought with it. Maybe a virus. Or a worm inserted into your computer or your phone, sitting there waiting to act. Any time now it could awake and begin to filter your data, your contact details and your identity, slipping your information unobtrusively into the ether, passing it across the miles between us so I can begin to take possession of your life. Maybe I'll be benign, just spamming you and your friends, slipping your details to the companies that need you to buy their products. Colostomy bags. Beach villas. A request for a funeral plan delivered to you by email on the morning of your birthday. Maybe that's the limit of what I'll do.

    But who says I'll stop there.

    By now the doubts will have begun to bloom. You'll be wondering about your passwords and the logins you've made. Your bank accounts. Your social network IDs. Your Amazon and your PayPal details. Maybe you've some other accounts you're more keen to keep quiet; the Pintrest one, your Google accounts, the ones that you tell no-one about. Maybe your money is the least of all these.

    Maybe you'd pay me to keep those all quiet.

    Or maybe this all just a hoax.


    As I said before… I'd like to apologise.

    Now, go on with your day.

    Don't worry.

    Nothing untoward will happen.

    1. I LOVE this one. Damn. This is a brilliant piece and you need to take it to a large audience. Colostomy bags. Beach villas. - SO good.

      And I'm lightweight paranoid now, thanks.


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