Friday, August 5, 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.

Her hair is the color of spring sunlight, soft and golden, always shifting - slight turns of the head bring showers of shadow and magic. She is beauty, walking with soft feet, gentle smile, "Dadda, can we play for a little while?"

It's amazing to me that such small arms can give such mighty hugs. Direct connection, just love. Soft pats on the shoulder. I know she'll get older, I'm not about keeping people small. I already feel like I know who she will be when she is tall. And she will be amazing.

Free from guile, fed by giggles and made up riddles. When I am with my children, I am the best me I can possibly be. They do not know the things I regret. They never met the man who would have been too self-centered to notice a crack in a smile. 'Cause every smile cracks, but a quick kiss on the forehead trumps super glue every time. 


Today is a birthday, and that makes this particularly relevant, but I think about it every day. I walked so many hard goddamn roads. So many tales remain to be told. And there were far too many tolls to pay. But it got me here. To this day. More excited than a four year old. From this vantage point, the future looks bright indeed. 

Pure gold.

BREAK THE BLOG FOR ME! AND GIVE ME SOME STUFF TO READ! Get 'em! :)

#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...

68 comments:

  1. Dan, that is one of the most beautiful birthday presents you can give... a gorgeous piece, written by a dad with heart... you need to print this out and put it on the refrigerator... or on her mirror... she needs to read this one day when she is sixteen...

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    1. Thanks, brother. I write something on each of the girls' birthdays and put it in an envelope for when the teenage years come and they hate me. ;)

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    2. That's awesome And maybe, just maybe, you should publish a custom book for them on their 18th birthday, with all those lovely pieces and a few photos... You're an amazing man, and a good dad... I admire that greatly.

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    3. That's a good idea!

      And thank you. Your opinion means a lot to me as you know. :)

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    4. Wow Mister Mader. Those are some very lucky little girls. And I think Leland's idea is genuis.

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    5. So sweet. A card of love from a dad. Super-glued kisses and happy birthday to your little one.

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    7. There is NO GREATER gift you can give a child than the knowledge they are loved. Sure they'll try and convince you it's all about the phones and the Barbies? Don't kid yourself. You got it RIGHT!

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    8. There is NO GREATER gift you can give a child than the knowledge they are loved. Sure they'll try and convince you it's all about the phones and the Barbies? Don't kid yourself. You got it RIGHT!

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  2. It started with his teeth. First one molar fell out, then another. He made an appointment with the dentist. Then it was his little toe. He was taking his socks off, and his little toe just detached. No blood. No pain. It was just not a part of him any more. The next morning, he was checking email, and sipping his coffee, when he looked back at the keyboard, he saw his index finger. Lying there like a piece of sausage. Which doctor do you call when your body starts dissembling?

    He had an itch on his nose, but he was afraid to touch it. And then an itch on his right earlobe.

    He looked at his co-workers, surprised no one had commented on his missing fingers, and then he saw that they too were missing appendages. Ellen, his assistant, smiled without teeth. His talkative boss was silent, and he wondered if she had lost her tongue.

    When he had to go to the men’s room, it was all he could do to keep from screaming when he saw what he saw in the urinal. But no one screamed. No one commented. They all just kept on going with what remained to them.

    How long, he wondered, until they started losing their brains, and their hearts. His mother had warned him; he should have listened. He should have never gone into politics.

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    1. Man, you do the switcheroo well. I love the narrative in the beginning and then you subvert the leprosy/zombie vibe by adding a perfect sword thrust.

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    2. There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”
      —Jim Thompson

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    3. This has such an odd-cool-ickiness Leland. It gives me that kind of clinical detachment feeling that they would do on Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. It's hard to believe how unaffected by the little losses everyone is and then that killer realization at the end...wow.

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    4. Oh that's funny Leland! At first I thought mother told them masturbation nightmare stories but politics is similarly hilarious!

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    5. This is terrific Leland, I was fooling with something similar vis a vis the current atmosphere, only I started with TIME Stretching and contracting like a rubber band. Made 3 false starts and had to give up for today. Kid crisis in between. I'll try next week. Not my finest hours, lately.

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    6. Thanks so much... and deep breaths, Teresa... give the story room to breathe, too, and it will come! Good luck with kid crisis! and Intangible Hearts, um, now that I think about it, they're a lot alike, aren't they?

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  3. It felt a little weird, the sense of being simultaneously anonymous and notorious. After all, Eric MacDougal had always been a nobody, a mild-mannered working-class white boy from the suburbs of Minneapolis. His dad worked at a paper mill, and his mom at the middle school cafeteria. They were kind of poor, but not destitute, given the low cost of living in St. Louis Park; they couldn’t quite afford to live in Minneapolis proper, definitely couldn’t afford Chicago, and couldn’t even dream of living in New York City or San Francisco.

    His long-suffering parents had a vague idea that he was involved with activism, but thankfully, they had no idea that he was one of the Saint Paul Seven; a notorious domestic terrorist cell which furnished materials and intelligence to other cells in bigger cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Particularly, the Californians loved how having buddies in states like Minnesota helped them circumvent California’s draconian gun control laws. They were willing to pay handsomely for a nice, non-threatening white boy to make runs out west to supply them with hardware that could not easily be obtained without paying the exorbitant prices charged by black market dealers: as a resident of Minnesota with the appropriate permit, Eric could acquire an AR-15 for maybe $600 with no waiting period; a comparable piece generally would cost at least twice that on the black market in California. He carefully spaced out his purchases, so as to look like an enthusiast and not some kind of militia wingnut.

    But once he had amassed a small arsenal, he’d load up his slightly rusted Chevy and go on a road trip. It took about three days to drive from his small apartment in South Minneapolis to that squat in a desolate, polluted block of West Oakland. There, he would sell the guns, ammo, and body armor at net cost to the squatters; that cute black girl, Luanne, was something of a self-taught gunsmith. Apparently she knew how to modify the guns to fire full-auto; he once went out to an isolated container yard with her and a few of her compatriots, where they burned through a few hundred rounds in a minute or two. It was a little scary to a nice Midwestern boy, hanging out in one of the worst parts of one of the most dangerous cities in America, with these heavily armed, mostly black and Mexican weirdos, but they were nothing but friendly, hospitable, and generous, plying him with great burritos and pot and lots of beer. It was comforting, a bit, that they typically drank the same swill as his dad: lots of Pabst, Budweiser, and Miller. Curiously, they turned their noses up at Coors, rejecting it as “Republican swill”.

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    1. Wow, shockingly dangerous. I think it sounds like it needs an entire book so we can read the rest of it!

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    2. I LOVE this one! I could name you SO many ordinary white kids who chose that path. More on that later...

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  4. There is a small town in Nebraska. You walk down one of its dusty streets, and you sense that something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. The people are well-dressed, smiling. They even say hi to you, a stranger.

    When you get back to your hotel room, it hits you. Every single person you saw had blue eyes. Every single one. A coincidence, you say to yourself. There must have been a lot of settlers from Scandinavian countries.

    In the meeting you’re here for, the next day, you can’t stop looking at people’s eyes. Honest, sky-blue eyes gaze back at you.

    Your job is not a glamorous one. You sell headstones to morticians. You came here for a meeting because it’s one of your best markets. At the end of your meeting, one of the funeral directors suggests that you take a tour of the cemetery, so that you can see what a difference you’ve made in the community.

    He drives you in his black Cadillac, a decade old. He drives you up and down the chalky lanes of the cemetery, and you recognize the models of the tombstones. You know the granite and the marble, and the fonts the stonecutter used.

    By the time you’ve driven past the last row of markers, you’re reading the names on the markers. Hernandez, Castillo, Guzman. All Spanish names. And you make the connection. All the names you’ve seen would likely have eyes that were not blue.

    “It’s such a nice day, we should go for a drive further into the country,” the funeral director says.

    You nod.

    And you look in the side mirror at all the graves, and at yourself, and at your own brown eyes.

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    1. Oh shit! What did you have for breakfast? This one is so creepy and sad and good. And sadly, some people's future ideal "reality" - well done. My brown eyes are a little moist.

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    2. just a BUNCH of coffee.... and thank you.

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    3. Ohhh shit is right! That's creepy AF! I kinda feel awkward with my blue eyes over here...but I'm black irish so Spanish eyes from in my line :)

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    4. I feel that EVERY time I go back to Wisconsin.Land of the blonde/bland and home of the not-so-free...You got it, honey, and you GET it too!

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    5. I shared this with a friend who is from that little town in Nebraska, and she said that it's changed now. There are actually a few people with green eyes, and a whole family that has brown eyes! There's hope for us all!

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  5. Stars fell from heaven that night, that August night some years ago, but you did not tell me why until the morning.

    “They’ve called me up,” you said, and I knew that you were not speaking of a phone call. “We’re shipping out next week.”

    In the time of Alexander, the laundresses and whores followed the soldiers, giving some comfort in the night. Alexander, the name we chose for our son, a warrior king. But today the laundresses are named Halliburton, and they may do laundry better, but I know there is no comfort there.

    And I wonder what I will do, those nights when I am alone, and waiting for you, for word of you, for your safe return.

    Friday comes and I watch you, who can kill without pause when you need to, I watch you pick our son up out of his crib. I watch you kiss him, and lift him high in the air, and then place him carefully on his back. I watch his tiny fingers wrap around your trigger finger and I marvel at the power of a finger to bring both love and death. He falls asleep holding the teddy bear who wears a uniform that matches yours.

    I promise myself I will not cry as you hug me goodbye but it is a lie, I do not sob, but tears run down my cheeks as you kiss me and the flavor of salt joins the bitterness of farewell as our lips part.

    I dread and cherish our weekly Skype sessions. Sometimes I wonder how you can sleep, with the sound of guns and explosions. Sometimes I wonder how I can sleep, with the deadly silence. I record the calls and play them back, over and over until I know them by heart.

    The calendar pages turn slowly. Alex and I spend Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas with your parents, and we always leave an empty spot at the table for you.

    You introduce me to your buddy Tom on a Skype call and I hate him immediately. The easy way he puts his hand on your shoulder, how he jokes with you even as you say goodnight to me and Alex.

    Four pages of the calendar have turned, four of the six until your promised homecoming. As I play the recordings of our calls, back to back, I see the changes in you. Your skin turning bronze, your careless laughter growing louder, your smile almost manic.

    And then one Friday, as I waited for your call, the doorbell rang, and the two men told me to sit down and I did and I knew true emptiness for the first time.

    I brought our son to bed with me, and the teddy bear, and I held the bear, hoping for a trace of your scent to be there, but all I smelled was baby powder.

    In the weeks that followed I cursed God and my prayers to bring you home early. I never meant for you to come home in a box. I made a loop of the recordings of our calls and played it over and over, so that Alex and I would never forget the sound of your voice, the ring of your laughter.

    And then your unit came home, and Tom came by to pay his respects, and I stared at him when he came to the door. His eyes were sunken, his furrowed brow. We stood in the doorway, and we said not a word, and he took me in his arms and held me, just the way you held me, and then I knew. There were no whores nor laundresses, but you'd found some comfort in the night, and I did not hate you, and I forgave Tom, and we wept together for the stilled heart of a warrior.

    That night there were no stars left to fall from heaven, but Mars and Venus danced slowly across the sky.

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    1. Oh, man. This is beautiful. That's all I have. Just beautiful, Leland. Did Antrobus bribe you to make me cry or what?

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    2. Thanks. If he did, the payment hasn't come through yet!

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    3. Ohhh...that was raw and real. You still owe me a box of Kleenex. This is beautiful Leland. Alot of heart packed in there.

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    4. Puts me in mind of Shakespeare: antony and cleopatra:
      Oh, withered is the garland of the war.
      The soldier’s pole is fall’n! Young boys and girls
      Are level now with men. The odds is gone,
      And there is nothing left remarkable
      Beneath the visiting moon.

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    5. Handing kleenex out for everyone... and Teresa, I like that a lot!

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  6. Wake up. Claw the cobwebs from your eyes. More sleep won't help, sleep slips through your defenses like a cat burglar. Vigilance. That's what you need. A brain is a hard thing to control. Sometimes it's like a wild mustang on meth. You just gotta hold on.

    Think about those old cartoons. Toothpick in the eyelids, and then they snap. That shit was never funny - amazing how funny things can grate at you. Especially when it's four in the morning and you can still smell the gasoline. Still feel the disbelief on your stupid face.

    So, fuck sleep. Fatigue may not kill the brain, but it hamstrings the fucker. And it's 100% safe and natural. Well, maybe not safe. Hell, maybe not natural. But the memory vultures circle and your mouth tastes like bile, and there is no time left to think.

    Don't blink.

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    1. Now I'm afraid of toothpicks... and I really like the image of memory vultures...

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    2. It's weird how at 4 in the morning...you think you're the only person in the world that's awake and having thoughts like these. It's scary how real this feels Mister Mader.

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    3. I agree those cartoon toothpick scenes were weird. Is sleep safe? :)

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  7. Last one for the day (I think)... not really fiction, but here it is...

    Use it or lose it, they say. And as day passes into day, and year into year, I see that it is true. We lose what we do not value, what we do not need, what we do not use. Our burden is lightened, except when we fall into nostalgia, and the thing about nostalgia is that it’s usually a longing for things that were better than they ever really were.

    Now in my fifties, I see that I’ve carried only a few things with me this far in life. A love of words, an appreciation of beauty, and the honest affection of dogs. A few friends have come with me on the journey, some for miles, some for a few yards, each important in their own way, not valued for the distance they traveled with me, but for the light they shined when they did.

    I think, when the last unnecessary things are stripped from me, I think that they shall find me, with a camera in my hand, a pen and notebook in my pocket, and the generous drool of dogs. And I think, that moment, when all else is stripped away, I think that is when I shall be richest and most free.

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    1. Honest with no punches pulled. The best kind of writing.

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    3. Leland, this one is so sweet. Thanks for the imagery of freedom!

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  8. I sense this one wants to run and run.
    _____________________________________

    Something in his look, standing now by the stove slightly asquint—or was it askance?—from her, brought everything back.

    A girl. No more than sixteen or seventeen when she'd first set eyes on him as he climbed the short steps of the trailer on her parents' farm. His nimble sturdiness put her in mind of the bighorn sheep that had been so prevalent back then in Similkameen country. For a moment her mind erased sheep and thought rams, but uneasy, she switched it back. Her ma and pa had hired him for a year due to her father's failing health, an illness of the lungs that seemed to have focused the diffuse ill temper he'd displayed throughout his life into moments of pure incandescent rage. Ellen often thought that he'd assumed the burden of fury for both spouses, although her mother's version was silent as a glacier. No matter. Fire and ice can consume and wound equally.

    "Mister?" Her boots crunching in the dry frost of the gravel driveway, a sound like cattle chewing alfalfa, she followed him, opening the sliding door to the soft prairie mustiness of damp carpet and all that peeling paneling meant to look like wood, a tawdry scale model of all Canada.

    At the end of the narrow corridor, she could see him on his bed, removing his heavy boots.

    "Hello? Mister?"

    He grunted in answer.

    "Sir, my name's Ellen."

    "No need for all that mister and sir stuff. What can I do for you, girl?"

    That was when she noticed the darkness of his eyes, black as lodgepole bark after a wildfire, and she took a step back. At this, he seemed to soften.

    "Alright. I'll call you Ellen if you call me William."

    "William." Abruptly, she looked away—at the shabby kitchen to her left, with its cracked linoleum and dripping tap, at the tiny window with its delicate frost swirls like the ghosts of flowers—but she had more than an inkling she was lost from that moment on.

    Of course, he stayed longer than a year.

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    1. You had me at "asquint"... I like this a lot... and you're right, it needs to go on!

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    2. Damn straight it needs to go on! "opening the sliding door to the soft prairie mustiness of damp carpet and all that peeling paneling meant to look like wood, a tawdry scale model of all Canada" So good.

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    3. Askew? Was he a reincarnation of a Bighorn? I liked it a lot.

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  9. You slip your hand down into the inside pocket of your jacket. Wrap your fingers around the steel, still slick with blood. Press your hand to your side, figure it, really think about it - how much blood can you afford to lose? More than you can afford time. You have five minutes, give or take. And, in those five minutes, you need to find him. And try to tell the dame. Something. Sorry. Love you. Fuck you. Duck. Something.

    You start walking and you can feel the slosh in your shoes now. Colors are dimming. The alleys are black and white and you try to feel like Bogart, but you know he was a pussy. A fake. Ain't nothing fake about this. You put a cigarette in your mouth, ignoring the bloody fingerprints. Strike a match.

    Then, you see her. She's all body and hair and she smells like sour laughter, even from across the street. The other side of happily ever after. Because she's got his arm around her. And she's laughing. And you smile, soft. Slow. Because they thought they took the only gun you had.

    So, you smile. And your hand doesn't shake one fucking bit.

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    1. The pacing of this is deliciously slow, especially given the subject matter... and I'm in awe of this phrase: "She's all body and hair and she smells like sour laughter..." Exquisite.

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    2. This has such an air of 'coolness'. I mean really Bogart's got nothing on this guy.

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  10. You’ve passed the house a hundred times at least, in all seasons, when the leaves swirled around the horseshoe drive, when the snow piled up against the mailbox, when the water ran down the culvert in sparkling ribbons, when the boards on the small front porch popped loose from the heat. You’ve passed it so many times you feel a kind of ownership, and you pluck fallen branches from the driveway, and cut down the pokeweed that grows tall over the mailbox, and fret over the chipping paint and the buckle in the asphalt and the shingles that blew off in the last windstorm. You’ve never seen a car there, or a light in the window, but occasionally the lawn is whacked down as if by machete, and maybe there’s an irate neighbor who takes his anger out on it occasionally, fearing it brings down his own property values. One day, idle speculation slides into a thirst for fact, and you happen to be in the neighborhood anyway, so you ask at the town office where they keep records of such things. You get a name, and the status of ownership, and the bored clerk pushes her glasses back on her nose and slides her “World’s Greatest Nana” mug away from her record books and sniffs at the ain’t-it-awful history of the place. Death in the family, lost in probate, squabbling children. She goes on, and it breaks your heart. “None of ’em sound like they even want it,” she says, shaking her head. “And it’s not worth spit. I think it’s just about ego, at this point. Can you imagine?” You can’t, or can, and don’t want to, and can’t believe such a thing would ever happen in your own family. And you go back to that house, and peer in the windows. It’s not a bad little place. It needs a good cleaning and some love, and you’ve been thinking for a while that a change of scene might help you forget. In your soul, you already feel like you’re halfway to ownership. And on your way out, you wonder how the porch railings would look painted sage green, and if there’s enough sun on the south side for a garden.

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    1. This is so rich and lush. You paint details so fine, lady. Lovely.

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    2. Wow... this tears at my heart... what a beautiful paean to an abandoned dwelling... and it ends with hope, for the narrator and for the home... well done! What you do with details, casually flung out there, makes the story real... the coffee mug, the color of her dreamed railings... truly amazing...

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    3. This is a tearjerker for me too as I know how this feels from experience. I loved your imagery of the color sage green and the leaves in the beginning tying nature together.

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    4. I want to rescue every single abandoned house I ever saw, Laurie. I feel this so deeply. And yet, they always insist it's about MORE--the investment, the location, etc etc. But that looking for HOME? that vision? NOT about economics--EVER...I LOVE IT! In a totally irrational way, of course!

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  11. Tim didn’t have a problem with that Marty kid, not at all. He knew dude had a crush on his girl, but didn’t care: if he could lure her away, clearly he had something Timmy didn’t. In fact, he got to be pretty fond of him: he was a couple years older, but reminded Tim of himself when he was younger and more sheltered. And he had some nads on him. He responded to something Tim said with “yeah, just like your mom.” An offhanded little joke.

    Tim told him with a straight face, “my mom is dead,” and looked as unamused as he possibly could. But when Marty replied, without missing a beat, “well, at least she’s not still out whoring around, right?” Tim just lost his shit. He, and all of his friends, cracked up laughing.

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    1. I like this snapshot. Subtly played.

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  12. While her personality appeared warm and inviting, there was an icy element to her face that some mistook for haughtiness; more commonly thought of as an air of snootiness, enhanced by a long neck and blue, icicle eyes. An abundance of feminine mystique oozed from her pores, creating magnetism that drove the challenging aspect of a relationship up to a peak until the man seeking the conquest came face to face with a genuine loving person under the sheets; a soft, caring and imaginative soul who wanted nothing more than marriage and children.
    That’s why she cried when Larry left. Bronson-style rugged looks with a pockmarked face and a crooked nose. There wasn’t anything good looking about him but she figured he’d give up drinking, gambling and porn once he tasted her lips and found real love. She embraced his flaws and threw caution to the wind by overlooking obvious signs he wasn’t any good. Even though she’d tell him she had prepared a meal, he’d come home late smelling of cigarettes. She had invested a year in this miserable relationship and didn’t know what to do until finally he said his final piece and slammed the door.
    “Don’t give me those big eyes. We’re not right for each other Hon and I gotta go.”
    “Fine, but can I ask what I did wrong?”
    “Nothin’. But sex is like gambling. Once you know all the moves or played all your cards, there’s not much left, is there?” He carried a small box and pushed it out of the apartment. “Bye.”
    Tears rolled down her sculpted cheeks but she shrugged it off, realizing she had a better hand.
    After the door closed, she went to the hallway mirror to wipe her face. “No more poker face,” she told her reflection. She practiced scowling, smiling and made unusual faces but alas, when she stopped moving there she was again. Sphinx-like and aloof, predisposed to winning the game at the expense of losing the war.

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    1. But at least the joker was gone!

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    2. Whew! the struggle between the ego and the heart! It never ends.

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    3. Agreed, and I love that last line.

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  13. Flash is not thing just now. Don't know how I got here, don't know how. I'm in this for the longer haul, the bigger story, Cecil B. DeMille. I've practiced and perfected, pontificated my perspective. And while I love the exercise, got some truth I got to exorcise.
    So I'll be back and you are rockin' but just right now? Opportunity's knocking, I only got so many brilliant words to say, per day.
    So I got to keep focused, keep my eye on the prize. Got to weave my threads into a large fabric; got a bigger tale to tell
    that I can't sum up in a blog post or a poem. I can't do a sound bite just to make it stick. But I see the beauty of your spontaneity, so you'll forgive me, I hope
    For telling my tale
    and doing my schtick!

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    1. You make me smile... keep that eye on that prize!

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    2. Word. And I love this: "And while I love the exercise, got some truth I got to exorcise."

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  14. I'm ready to hip-hop around just to see your bigger tale. :)

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