Friday, August 26, 2016

2 Minutes. Go!

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

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

Good Lord. (Not the sky one.) I don't know where I went wrong. It doesn't make a lick of sense, I swear it doesn't. I realize that the past can be a dark, dark corridor and I never claimed to be a saint, but I'll be damned if I don't keep meeting horrible people. And I try. I try to make the right call for myself and be there for the ones who don't have the strength to call out. And I'm not trying to be a martyr, nor noble. I'm just trying to be what my Nana called 'decent'. Why do there have to be so many assholes? 

And why do they drive such nice cars?

We need to mobilize a pacifist army. Get this shit sorted. Get the rewards to the good people and let the politicians and 'celebrities' worry about money all the time. I just don't understand how the system got so twisted. How stupid are we? You pay a firefighter enough to buy a decent house, but someone who fucks people for a living gets a Mansion with a royal garden in the desert outside LA?

And I got nothing against porn stars. Weird that that sprung to mind. Because I'd much rather round up a bunch of white dudes with nice hair, grey suits, secret atrocious appetites, and coke habits - roast 'em in the middle of town and then watch the real vultures feast on roasted vultures for weeks.

You telling me that a nurse should make less than the CEO of a company? Two minutes are not nearly enough to tell you that the person who picks your fucking food should live in a pretty decent pad. And be treated with respect.

Ya shortsighted bastards. Oh, and good morning. The drought is making me cranky.


#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...


  1. Replies
    1. Took me awhile to find your blog this week and I'm so glad--there really are a lot of a-holes in the world and they seem to be multiplying--writing helps.

  2. News traveled through the gulag that the war was over, and soon they would be allowed to leave. Svetlana imagined doors flung open and stepping into glorious sunshine and blue skies, but the thought of that made her nervous. Like it was all a trick. That two steps into the courtyard, the shots would begin firing. For two days, she did not sleep, only huddled in her bunk and listened for any sounds from the other side of the wall. There were no shots, and the soldiers did not come. But one morning, the matron came for her, and said that she was to meet with the relocation counselor. She said the words like they were initially luscious but had a bitter aftertaste. And then her eyes narrowed. “Come now, czarina”—the word had a sarcastic edge, more so in her thick accent—“you are not the only poor unfortunate we need to process.”

    Svetlana slowly got to her feet and followed the woman down the dark, dank corridor. Process. As if she were sausage. She had made sausage, back in her village; she knew what was inside. After a long wait in a long line, she was shuffled into a small room, where a perpetually smiling slip of a woman in a clean, starchy suit gave her some papers—her name was spelled wrong—and said what would become of her. There would be provisional room and board. The opportunity to learn a trade. And see a doctor. Svetlana’s stomach roiled. She did not want to see another doctor. The first one, who gave her an examination when she arrived at the camp, had seen her scars. He gave her a look of pity and shook his head. “Did they do this to you?” he’d said, and she did not answer. He said they had ways of removing them, making her good as new, and she almost laughed in his face.

    “No doctors,” Svetlana said, getting to her feet. “And I’m going home.”

    The thin woman paled. Then fluttered a smile, eyes wide as if Svetlana were a churlish child. “We don’t recommend that,” she said. “It could be very difficult to see what might have become of it. And some of the countryside, it is still very dangerous.”

    Svetlana’s scars were covered by her thick, scratchy uniform, but she imagined the rivers and tributaries they formed on her back, her thighs, her stomach. They thought to make her ugly so no man would want her. They thought to make her despise herself and her people. But now she called on them to make her strong. She plucked up the paperwork with her misspelled name. She grabbed the small bag of her few belongings. “I’m going,” she said. “Try to stop me.”

    1. wow.... what a scene, and what a character... I want more!

    2. What Leland said. You can feel the strain of the unknown, the oppressiveness of Svetlana's situation. Well done.

    3. I agree. You've tapped into a powerful character.

    4. So sad. I can feel her discomfort and her determination.Really remarkable writing.

  3. There were no signs. You got there via a rutted overgrown track between the corn brake and the slough. Once you did, you'd be hard put to know which was the more broken down: the shack or the old man who lived in it.

    She knew he never spoke of the very war she figured was what ruined him. She made these visits not to hear about napalm or agent orange or Bell Hueys but simply to keep him company. She felt badly for him, all on his lonesome an' all, no family she knew of, friends likely dead, unbidden memories shuffling out of the corn.

    Sometimes he'd be sitting on his canted porch in a reeking bathrobe that might once have been white cotton flannel but now appeared as if assembled from filthy slaughterhouse mops, and stank that way. Mayhap she'd hunt down that old washboard and coax him out of his robe and try to launder it best she could. He never hid his nakedness, and after a while it stopped bothering her too. Other times she'd dig up a greenish potato in the weed patch that dreamed of being a vegetable garden and add it to the chitlins she'd brung, along with a couple eggs from the coop if the broody old hens had deigned to lay that day.

    Neither of them said much, all told. She might sit beside him on the stoop—though he'd never offer up his rickety chair—and watch as the sun spread like a broken yolk and dripped below the rim of the world and the lightning bugs briefly outshone the few pale stars. Occasionally he'd go fill a mason jar with moonshine and share it with her, and smoke while they listened to the antic coyote chorus, after which she'd sway a little on her hike back in near blackness, half-afraid she'd fall in the slough, a small dutiful woman in a large world of night.

    He did tell of his brother once. Another time of his mama. Both long dead, as she'd thought. Rare times he talked, she mostly listened; the smallest creek needs no impediment. He never once mentioned his pa.

    The most he ever talked was after a big storm had passed, one that still sounded in the gloomy hills to the east, like the ghosts of old battles.

    "Had to kill me one a' them hens," he said into the clear mercury air.

    "How come?"

    "Got a wound on her neck, so the others woulda slowly pecked her dead anyways."

    "Which one?" she asked, but immediately felt foolish. "Though I s'pose you seen one dumb chicken you seen 'em all."

    And that was the only time he spoke of the war.

    "They used to say that about Charlie. They was wrong then, and you're jes' as wrong now."

    1. And in this, what you say in the unsaid is as beautiful as the words you write... really, really beautiful.

    2. This is an amazing piece. The last line is gold. And I love this description 'as the sun spread like a broken yolk and dripped below the rim of the world.'

    3. This is so beautiful. So many lines I highlighted, but I kept coming back to this one: a small dutiful woman in a large world of night.

    4. I'm late so I gotta ditto, but that last line. And the smooth flow of the narrative. Damn, dude.

    5. Chitlins?--people still eat those things? This piece has a consistent and compelling voice.:)

  4. Strange times, these are strange times. Lightning and thunder fall, man-made, from the heavens, and the hammer of Thor falls on mountains that have stood forever. The ground shakes beneath our feet, and the skies deliver justice, or at least retribution, in clouds shaped like elephant trunks.

    The cave in which my tribe shelters is not large, but large enough. We have dwelt here long enough to know that there is just enough room, but no room for strangers. The spring deep in the cave drips just enough water for our sustenance, and the plants, though bitter, provide just enough nourishment.

    So we turn away strangers, those who are not members of our tribe. It seems savage, but should we choose the life of one we do not know for the life of one we do know? Or the slow death by starvation that would occur if there were not quite enough for our tribe?

    Today I go into the jungle, to hunt. Meat is a rarity for us, but in the season of lengthening days, it is needed. The flesh of young animals feeds the flesh of our young mothers, and makes for healthy babies.

    I leave the safety of the cave, to hunt alone. Lone hunters are the ones who have success. And by that success comes recognition. And with recognition, the opportunity to claim a mate.

    The spear I carry is my father’s spear. The stone at the end was his father’s. I feel his power and his father’s power when I carry it through the jungle, to the watering hole where I hope to find prey.

    I walk silently, my bare feet touching the soil and the leaves, feeling my way by the soles of my feet more than by the sight of my eyes. The soil grows moist as I near the watering hole, and I stay in the shadows of the trees. The shaft of the spear vibrates in my hand, certain of victory.

    I see it. A young deer. Perhaps a year old, maybe less. It seems wary. I slow my breathing, and for a moment I do not exhale. It looks to the place where I hide, its brown eyes seeking without success to find mine.

    I raise the spear like a caterpillar walks the ground, slowly, slowly, until it reaches its place. The power of the generations of my family is in my hand now. I hear a scream behind me, and I turn to see the tiger falling from the tree, no not falling, leaping, and it falls upon me, but not upon my spear.

    When I awaken, I am in a strange place, a cave that is not a cave, and a stranger tends to my wounds. I try to stand. I fail. My heart beats faster. The stranger, she is a female, puts her hand on my forehead and makes unintelligible but comforting sounds. And then she places her lips on my lips.

    And as I begin to lose consciousness, I make up a word to describe this. Kindness, I think, is the word. The opposite of turning strangers away.

    And I know I will never return to my own tribe’s cave again.

    1. Me too! And this line kills: "I raise the spear like a caterpillar walks the ground, slowly, slowly, until it reaches its place"

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Love is mightier than the spear. Great one Leland.

  5. The last days of summer are filled with secrets that boys tell each other. Frogs left in pockets that make mothers scream, crawfish that skittered away, and sealing wax and words never said.

    Jimmy had his feet in the creek, splashing water, scaring the catfish that Bobby was trying to catch with some string and a safety pin, and neither of them said a word, afraid that a word would break the magic, and bring the first day of school crashing down on them.

    The wind came and went, showering them with the first falling leaves, the beginning of autumn. Or maybe the trees were dying. Clouds skated across the deep blue sky, making a zoo of fluffy animals before disappearing over the horizon.

    A ghost of gnats haunted them, whether attracted or repelled by Jimmy’s kicking, they didn’t know. The train whistled far away, like it was saying goodbye, over and over.

    The sun, playing hide and seek with the clouds, moved west in the sky. Almost-no-shadows grew into tall-shadows like the men that boys will be too soon. When the skeeters came out, the string jumped in Bobby’s hand, and he pulled it out, a tiny sunfish on the pin that was not safety for a fish. The sun, peach near sunset, glinted on fins and scales.

    Jimmy held the fish, while Bobby worked the pin out of its mouth, and they held the fish together, in the water, their hands touching, before they set it free.
    They stood up, looked around, and crawled up the creek bank.

    “I love you, Jimmy.”

    “Like a brother, Bobby.”

    “Brothers forever.”

    And they headed home, and into the future. Secrets must be told, especially between brothers, on the last day of summer.

    1. Love this piece. This phrase jumped out at me 'a tiny sunfish on the pin that was not safety for a fish' but the whole thing is delightful, as usual. :)

    2. Yup. As you could probably assume, I dig this one. :)

    3. Sometimes that creek makes it seem like Summer will never end.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. The train whistling goodbye, almost makes me tear up.

  6. Caroline wished she could speak to Lady Thorndale about her heathen son, perhaps give her a few words of advice on how to set the man to rights, but young ladies of quality held their peace. About everything, more or less. She couldn’t give well-meaning advice that might be seen as criticism, and she certainly didn’t dare criticize Lady Thorndale. It would be bad enough to criticize a woman so highly placed in society, but to give offense to her future mother-in-law…that was unconscionable. So she would hold her peace, even though doing so would mean having a much-gossiped-about miscreant for a brother-in-law.

    Oh why did he have to show up now? Why couldn’t he have stayed away until after the wedding? His very existence threatened her only chance for happiness. She wasn’t at all certain what her family would do if his brother did offer for her. After all, he was no longer Lord Thorndale, now his elder brother had been returned to his family.

    “Why couldn’t you have just stayed dead?” she wailed.

    It was patently unfair.

    1. I like the feel of this a lot... and you've created a lot of royal fear and tension in so few words!

    2. Yeah, the atmosphere of this piece is super solid. I feel like this one wants to keep going...

    3. Ooh, I feel a romance building momentum and tension coming around the corner.

  7. Cheryl made a point of always looking fresh: she got her hair and nails done every week, without fail, and generally didn’t leave the house without any makeup on. She wasn’t bougie, she dressed like a B-girl in low rise jeans and Raiders crop tops and hoodies when it got chilly out. She was just vain, she knew she was pretty and wasn’t above squeezing whatever she could out of her sex appeal. Not that she was a ho, either, hell nah. She was a straight-up hustler, waist deep in the dope game, and it put the men she did business with at ease that she was a sexy young light-skinned North Oakland homegirl. She often got good deals, in fact, because she knew most, if not all, of them wanted to fuck. She never mixed business with pleasure, but it was occasionally tempting, just because of how often she felt like her business isolated her, like she had plenty of money but no one she could trust to enjoy it with.

    She was bitching about it with Luanne while smoking a blunt in the living room of Luanne’s dilapidated squat. They knew each other from around the way; Luanne’s brother Jacob worked for Mister Gibson, the local gang boss from whom Cheryl bought most of her product. Luanne wasn’t in the dope game, but Cheryl knew she was a bad bitch too. She knew her way around a gun, and wasn’t afraid to pull a jack move if she caught some SoMa yuppies slippin’.

    “Gurrrrl, I got to get the fuck up out the hood. Move to Concord, or San Diego, or fuckin’ Seattle, or somethin’. I’m stackin’ paper, but I can’t do this forever,” Cheryl hit the blunt, “I need a man, and all I get out here is these garbage-ass no-bank-account-havin’ ain’t-shit niggas.”

    “I feel you. It ain’t easy out here.”

    “Tuh, yeah, you would know, you got a man. I’m a little jealous that you got you a white boy, but he ain’t exactly buying you any fuckin’ diamonds.” Cheryl knew Luanne’s guy too; cute, but not really her type. It was Jacob she had a thing for; that tall lean handsome brother was about his hustle too, but he did it to take care of his siblings, not just so he could blow money on stupid flashy bullshit like a lot of young dudes in the game. It drove her crazy, how he was nice to her and just a little flirty, smiling and referring to her in affectionate terms like ‘honeydip’ and ‘sexy mama’, but never actually made a move. She usually wasn’t like that with dudes, but she would hang out with the other girls just to watch him and his boys play basketball.

    1. There is an cool mix of innocence and innocence lost here. Creates a really interesting tension.

    2. Tragic opera with a modern twist. Very clever and very real.

  8. The crowd surged to either side ahead of me, parting around something I couldn’t see. There were also voices shouting, their tones angry and harsh. The man was crumpled in on himself, his arms looped about his knees. He also had a bruise developing on his cheek.

    “Are you alright, mate?” I reached down toward the stranger, stooping to take his hand.

    The man looked confused. His eyes didn’t seem to see me and I had to grip his palm firmly, so as to pull him to his feet again. He was dressed oddly, wearing khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, with one sock red and the other blue. He straightened awkwardly, his feet sliding for a moment until his shoes gained the grip they needed.

    “Can you speak to me? Say anything; I don’t care what language you speak.”

    The man’s eyes focussed, his gaze swerving back to my face from wherever it was he’d been looking. He might have been looking at somebody in the crowd, someone who might have given him the blow that was now darkening the skin around his eye; the area around its socket already beginning to swell and to close up on itself. He shook his head and then spat, something small, white and red flashing across the paving slabs and the disappearing under the feet of the people who were still massing and then flowing around us. I was the only person who’s stopped for him. What was it with people these days?

    “Wahisto day youdrize?”

    “What’s that you said?” The stranger was now standing unaided, his cheek purpling as I watched. Anyone else would have been rubbing it or at least prodding it tentatively but this man did neither. It was as though he’d not realised he’d been hit yet. He was probably in shock, I decided.

    Another stranger caught me in my side, his elbow or his case or maybe even a fist targeting me and making me fold up in pain, whoever it was mumbling and then hurrying away without stopping.

    “I’m sorry,” I said, pulling the man toward the shelter of a nearby shop doorway. “We need to get away from the street. It’s like a rugby scrum out here.

    “What is that you drive?” The man asked, slumping up against the glass, his buttocks stopping their slide when they reached the low sill at the bottom of the window. “What is it that you drive?”

    I shook my head, grasping the man’s shoulders and staring him directly in the eyes. His pupils looked normal, both the same size. But even then, he could have taken another blow to his head. He could still be concussed. Or was he fine and I was the one who’d received a hit that had stunned me? I couldn’t remember anything but either he was speaking nonsense or it was me that was mishearing him. Maybe if I asked him how he was again, he might become more coherent this time.

    “Do you think you might have been knocked out? Even for just a few seconds?”

    The stranger shook his head again, his eyes holding mine this time. “No, I’m fine,” he said. “Now, what is it you drive?” His voice sounded thick and I guessed that he was bleeding inside his mouth. It must have been a tooth he’d spat out earlier. There was no way of finding out without this becoming even more strange. How do you ask a man you’ve never seen before to open up so you can check if he’s missing any teeth. It might be usual in a boxing ring... but on a high street in a busy town in the lunch hour?

  9. “I don’t understand you. Are you asking me what kind of car I have?”
    “No.” The man spat again, a dark brown gobbet of phlegm landing at the bottom of the wall near his feet. “I asked you ‘What is it you drive?’” He looked more self-aware now, surer of where he was. He didn’t look the least bit disoriented. He seemed as sober and as clear-headed as anyone I’d ever seen. The way he was standing now, he appeared to have a military air; his eyes were clear and alert and the way he adopted a slight flex in each knee told me he was used to standing unmoving for long periods of time, at ease but ready to move into action at any time.

    I shrugged, creasing my face into a grimace. “What do you mean, sir? If it’s not a car you’re asking about, what else would I be driving? I don’t have anything else. I’m not qualified or authorised to drive any other vehicles. I can’t drive a bus or a heavy goods lorry. I used to have a motor bike, but that was years ago. I’m not sure I could ride that now. At least not safely.”

    The stranger sighed, rolling his eyes in exasperation. “No,” he said again, enunciating the word as though he thought I was deaf or stupid. Or both. Or maybe he just thought I was having problems understanding what he said because of the blow he’d probably taken to the jaw; something other than the kick or the punch he’d taken near his eye being responsible for his losing his tooth. “What race are you? What gender? What age do you have?”

    I drew in a quick breath, understanding but not truly comprehending him. “I’m a man. And I’m British. English, actually. I’m forty three years old and I’m Church of England for what that counts. It’s really a religion for the agnostic. For people who think it might be a good idea to claim to have a faith but never have the conviction to visit a church. Or even pray, I guess. You know, you want to be able to take the credit if there happens to be an afterlife but you don’t feel sure enough about it to put the work in like the Catholics and the Muslims all do.”

    The man nodded, pressing his hands to his chest. “I’m an Italian today.” He looked into the window, seeing his reflection there. “And I’m dark-haired. Probably thirty-six years... no thirty eight years old. And I’m a Catholic. Today, at least. But tomorrow, who knows? I may be a woman then. Or maybe taller. Or shorter.”

    “I could be a lesbian,” the woman said, placing her hand on my shoulder as she stood behind me.

    “I could be a child,” the pre-pubescent girl laughed, resisting the towing hand of her mother as she slowed down to speak to me.

    “These are all but the shells that carry our consciousness,” the security-guard said, as he came out from the shop behind me. “They’re not the real person. At least they’re not if we don’t let the body or other people decide.”

    “It’s really quite simple,” the original stranger said, gripping my shoulder to stop me from falling. “Or at least it will be. Soon. Even now you can make the choice. Be what you choose to be.” He smiled, his eyes alive behind the bruises. “Why would you be anything but your best?”

    1. This is such a cool and original piece. Another one I want more of!

    2. Incredible! A fascinating beginning, prompting so many questions. I want more too.

  10. “Hell, I’m not a hundred-percent certain what nature of critter it is,” Wade Blanton said, as he wiped sweat from inside the band of his salt-ringed, sun-yellow sombrero.

    My compadre Shug Coffey whistled and clucked as he knelt and stuck his finger within the diamonds of the chicken-wire enclosure behind Blanton’s cantina outside Nogales. No one was quite sure if this Nogales was in Arizona Territory or Estado de Sonora, Mexico, but it didn’t make a whole lot of a difference back in those days.

    Shug, still poking into the enclosure, captivated, whispered, “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like it, even in pitchers.”

    “Careful there, pardner,” Blanton said. “I’m not sure or not if it bites. And when I sto…I mean ‘procured’ it from the late Padre Robledo, may he rest in peace, I was kinda in too much of a hurry to IN-quire.”

    Shug jerked back his finger, letting his breath out in a low whistle again as he stared inside the fence at the swan-winged creature chained to the hard-packed Sonoran Dessert sand.

    For most of the time we gaped at the wondrous thing, it tucked its head beneath its white wings’ natural shade. Just once, though, it peered out at me and looked so serene and resigned to its situation, I about cried. I couldn’t stand it, so I turned let Blanton have it.

    “So you say the good Padre died? Wonder how he’d come by such a treasure. I thought those Brown Robes took some sort of vows of mortification and poverty. Poor bastard couldn’t even touch his willy, let alone get it wet. Know that’d kill me. And he couldn’t own much but what he could throw on his back. What was he doin’ with this grand and valuable beast?” I said.

    “He never did say. But I’m sure his heart was grateful to the good Lord Jesus n' me for my takin’ it off his hands and greasing the way to a swift and doubtless non-stop ride to his glorious eternal reward. Let’s just say I was an agent for good, rescuin' him from any future of fleshy temptation and gold-janglin’ sin,” Blanton said.

    “Yeah, Gabe,” Shug turned and said to me. “I heard them old Francisos whip on themselves in their private moments and string barb-wire round their leg so’s to fight off the dark temptress of desire and depredation."

    “Ahem. Gentlemen, we white folk out here are gonna melt like church candles in this sun if y’all don’t shit or get off the pot on our deal,” Blanton said. His once roaming eyes now bore down on Shug. My compañero believed his future and that of his saloon-gambling hall-whore house hinged on bringing this amazing critter back to El Paso.

    He walked to his horse, fished in the saddle bags and returned with a pair of leather sacks in his hands. He knelt down one more time and I thought for a second he was going to ask Blanton to open the critter's mouth so’s he could check its teeth, for Shug was known as a shrewd judge of beasts. Just not beasts of the air.

    The Whats-it gave its wings a good shake, loosing one of its feathers, which landed outside the little wire corral. I picked it up and pocketed it, maybe for luck.

    “Well, Coffey? I got other anxious buyers coming by tonight. I don’t feel like waiting. What do you say?” Blanton said. I couldn’t tell from his dry words coming from his dry mouth if he was bluffing or not.

    Shug sighed, pushing in all his chips, you might say, and mumbled, “All right, all right, I’ll take it.”

    “Splendid. I’ll have my men wrap him up for you once siestas are over,” Blanton said, opening the sacks and silently counting his profit as he returned to the shade of his cantina.

    I reckoned his fast-money, world-be-damned business practices might grease his way somewhere, someday, too, like maybe the Territorial Prison in Yuma—if we were in Arizona. If we were in Sonora, his bullyin' gringo ways would slide him into the ground, I hope near the late Padre Robledo.

    “You drive the devil’s own bargain, Blanton" Shug said, "and I pray all this trouble was worth it. But I still say three thousand pesos seems an awful steep price…even for a angel.”

    1. I love this. Have you read the story by Borges about the angel that falls into a small village? Can't remember the name of it.

  11. Toes

    It doesn’t have to be this way. She said. To the lights dimmed to destruction. Graffiti thrown like a grenade to the wall. It’s the way. I know it. This year the summer never raised its eyes. Winter always. A cloud of grey, ashen hope. A dark reflection.

    I cry in the same way as ever. This lie reverts in twists and scales, like a snake, a rebirth in the slant of the ache that wrestles me. My toes hover restless on this earth, the dirt seeming to melt beneath my gaze. It shifts, caressing my pale skin, spiky grass tickling. They seem out of whack, toes. Sticking out too far. My mother always says it doesn’t have to be, but they are. I can see them.

    As I walk, the ocean grows. Salt bristles on my lips. I relish the sting of it, the knowing that I am and can always be, here, walking, beside myself, lingering to check my toes. Still there. A hair slashes my cheek and I giggle. The sound cuts the silence, yet the white birds cut it already, I know, soaring as they are, seeking to reach the cotton wool puffs of cloud, always slightly too far. Always out of reach.

    I catch another hair, feel its texture between my fingers, let it slide away, and the summer I can reinvent in my head. Play with the idea until it’s here, as I do with everything I want, while my toes sting, almost turning blue in the cold. A seagull swoops, cries and soars, and I giggle, squinting at the dripping yolk of sun.

    1. My goodness, the way you use language. Outstanding.


  12. My grandfather always said, “Life’s enough of a back-bending burden without having to carry someone else’s sorry-ass one around with you in a sack made of guilt.” He was a hard guy who treated me like a prince.

    Of course I was raised by his daughter, who ran on guilt and dished it out by the spoonful like medicine for triple coughs she infected us with that sounded something like “cough-SORRY-cough!” I still carry the marks from the figurative spankings she doled out with her passive-aggressive Golden Ruler. I never got a close enough look at it, but I think it read something like, “Apologize to others before they have a chance to accuse you.” Unspoken it was, but cut as deep and scabbed as hard as a canyon in the essence of you.

    These mixed messages from the same strain of DNA left me a scar-and-stoop-backed sociopath. Or at least that’s what all the girls who felt wronged by me said. Unfortunately, one of them was my psychiatrist, Dr. Nancy. It’s one thing to be branded a conscience-free combination of Francis of Assisi and Richard III by some whining Millennial chicks for whom the unfair natural world is a lousy B&B with poor wifi service. It’s a whole other to be certified as same by the professional who you’ve fallen in love with.

    1. Wow. Mad power in this one. In the things said and left unsaid.

  13. The champ

    The smell was like pork roasting,
    Turning on a spike upon a fire,
    Except this animal was no pig –
    He was Morris May, my grandfather,
    Brought into this world much too soon;
    So unique they never made another.

    Even the sun liked to get too close,
    Peel and speckle his skin all lobster-like,
    For he always fell asleep in its gaze,
    And no one could tell him not to.

    Listening, well, it wasn’t his forte;
    Talking tall tales was more his thing,
    Dazzling us with careless imaginings,
    Crazy enough to make a porn star blush
    Or a nun seek to change her habit,
    My mother’s boyfriend sometimes says.

    But I’m a-wandering off again, I feel,
    As my grandfather deserves full attention,
    Slunk now in his favourite blue chair
    Dreaming of lord knows what,
    Jollying along with who knows who,
    And I’m wishing he could take me too,
    Because to live for one second in his mind
    Would be bound to make me wiser.

    I listen to his snores bristling forth,
    Stare up his nose at twirling white hairs,
    Wonder if to loosen his laces for a laugh
    As he would chuckle, wag a finger,
    But it’s all too soon that he awakens
    Like a phoenix from some lifeless ashes,
    Raising one eyebrow, then the other
    In the way I think snared my grandma,
    Because he brings out her secret smile.

    “You want another game of Chess?” he asks,
    And I nod, pulling my shorts up higher,
    Puffing out my hairless, concave chest.
    He winks. I know he’ll beat me again.

    1. Dang. I think you hit the narrative/poetry balance perfectly here. Really loving this one.

    2. I love this. The eyebrow that sucked in grandma, the way this piece pulls in the reader.

  14. They hung together, purity and innocence; the two of them just existing. Justine closed her eyes and leaned toward Amerie; her skin searing her face with its heat. She was always like that – the fire to her ice – the pair of them opposites but still matched. Amerie’s shoulder was like a coal, glowing in infra-red, its warmth a continual comfort to her from her first thought each day to the last one she registered. And often beyond. They were sympathique. They even shared their dreams.

    Justine curved closer, her belly and her breasts arching into Amerie’s back. Her partner was harder along her rear aspect; her spine ridged and her shoulders sharp against her. She was calm and relaxed, almost acting as though asleep, her own chest barely moving against the barring of Justine’s arms. She was as slight as a boy, untroubled by the curves of older women, her waist barely tapering as it swelled toward her hips. Her buttocks were scant too, her back falling uninterrupted into the tops of her legs with barely a swelling. But they still fit together perfectly. A pair of fleshed spoons, with nothing to stir but each other.

  15. The woman picks up a loaf of bread and examines it as if it contains the answers to the origins of the universe. What can be gleaned from a few words stamped on a plastic wrapper? Her hair looks scared, half in and half out of a ponytail, and she’s a plump kind of thin, as if her body does not contain muscle but only a layer of fat and skin holding her bones together, a building material not strong enough to keep her upright. Her shoulders fall forward and her red eyes pinch at the corners, tighter the closer she holds the wrapper to her face.

    “It’s just bread, lady,” you say under your breath. “Just pick one and get moving.” Because your manager wants you to sweep the aisle, restock the shelf, and she’s been standing there doing some kind of carbohydrate whispering to the loaf of bread for the past ten minutes.

    Part of you wants to ask what’s wrong, but that’s a trap, you learned that your first week here. So many women with so many stories, you get one going and you’ll never get your job done, plus they’ll be following you around with their smiles and flirting and it could get you fired. Like that first lady who tried to get you to come home with her after you helped her put the groceries in the car. You’d be a hero among the bag boys and even some of the counter managers, because she’s smoking hot, but that isn’t the life you want and you don’t need shit from the other guys. You don’t need the word to get around. So you don’t ask even though it aches like hell when you see some sad, pretty woman talking to the bread. Because you know she’s not getting any at home. Or her husband’s an asshole and doesn’t listen to her, her kids are getting older and she doesn’t feel like anyone needs her anymore, so you see these zombie women, perfectly beautiful, smart women pushing carts and so lonely it’s like a perfume wafting off them. Not that you want to hurt anyone. You’re as horny as the next guy, but your mother taught you better. You don’t take advantage. You don’t. Cause that could be your buddy’s mother or his aunt and she could be sad and lonely and that ain’t right. What if some guy your age was scamming on your own mom? You’d want to kick the guy’s nuts clean off.

    But then she starts to cry. It’s like a Pavlovian response. Women cry, men go soft. You drop your shoulders and put down the broom. “Hey. Hey, you okay?”

    She nods and swipes the back of her hand across her eyes and it smears her makeup and you don’t know why but you want to murder whoever made her look like that. Like she’s your sister or something.

    “Just don’t cry on the bread, okay?” You also don’t know why you’re making jokes, just that you want her to stop crying, and a little mood-lightening always seems to work. “Nobody wants it all soggy.”

    She laughs through what’s left of the tears and it makes your chest tight. “I’ll take this one, thanks,” she says, and tossed it in her basket. “It’s just…I forgot. I forgot how much I like potato bread.”

    “Makes good French toast,” you say.

    “Really? I never tried it.”

    “Yeah, it’s good. Kind of like challah but softer?”

    She smiles wider and you know you’re in trouble. She’s one step from offering to make it for you in the morning and you have to put the brakes on this and soon.

    “Yeah, your husband’s gonna love it,” you say, and her smile falls, then tightens.

    “Thank you for the tip.” Her voice snaps off at the end, and she pilots her cart briskly away.

    You hear a snicker behind you, and you turn to scowl at one of the stock boys. “Women, huh,” he says, watching her leave.

    “Shut the hell up.” You shove the broom at him, don’t care if it hurts. “Manager wants this whole aisle swept,” you say, and then go after her.

    1. I lOVE this piece, Laurie. "smart women pushing carts and so lonely it’s like a perfume wafting off them. " Hot damn!

  16. (I'll be back tomm to comment)

    I'll help you put it on, plaster it to your face like stucco. I'll do that for you because I love you, and I don't need to understand it. It's not important that I understand. The love, that's what's important. That's what I need to focus on. I'll get you another drink. You sit. Rest.

    Don't you see that what we have is everything. Men are so stubborn. Stupid. Why are you so fucking stupid when I want to love you? Why are you always looking off to the corners?

    I'll let it wash over me like sewage, your bullshit love. You fucking bastard. I'll love you even though you're a bastard, but you better know that you are one. It's not just me that sees it.

    All the girls do. They sing and dance, rattle hangers in the closet. Whisper to me in the dark. It doesn't matter.

    Because what we have is true. I don't even let them see the tears.

    None of you will see it coming. The reckoning. The finale. It's going to be so beautiful.

    Just wait.


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