Friday, September 23, 2016

2 Minutes. Go!

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

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

I know what a diphthong is; I often use ellipses. And I know. I'm gifted. And just too pretty. So ... lay down some witty lines you lifted; make sure those shits be witty. Too cryptic? I'm not tripping on it. Curbs. Broken sidewalks. Those are the shits that trip me up. And head-hopping, shop to shop, nope, put that one back - I don't like the pattern of his tie-dyed knapsack.

I have all the appendages I am supposed to have. So far. Don't get me wrong. Don't be silly. You're not seeing it right. I know that everything can change overnight. I could wake up right when I start to nod off. I could stand up too quick, spin the dizzy vertigo ballet. Cover the walls in crimson spray. 

I have this tiny invisible box that I keep my feelings in. Go ahead. Look at 'em. Poke 'em a little. They won't mind. They'll take what you got and return in kind. Just remember, I know what a split infinitive is - and I know what it isn't. And I know what I'm going to hear when you open your mouth. 

More television.

#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. The image of a dizzy vertigo ballet is so stark and real I nearly fell off my chair. "I'm not tripping on it. Curbs. Broken sidewalks. Those are the shits that trip me up. " Brilliant, just fucking brilliant. And that's coming someone who not only knows what a dipthong is, but is wearing one! Great reading. As always, you take me on a journey through time and space while nailing my board to the floor. You're like enhanced interrogation for psychoanalysis. A self-help wizard cloaked in the guise of a muse.

    1. Damn, Ed said everything I was gonna say, but he said it a hundred times better...

    2. yeah, i think Ed nailed it. So did you Mister Mader. That tripping up, I feel your pain.

    3. I love that image. The dizzy vertigo ballet.

  2. Highways. Byways. Doesn't matter. No destination in mind anyway. Pregnant biker. I've got my eyes on her thighs. Sense the thrumming engine through the cracked leather saddle. Drive straight through the puddle. Muddy water on glistening calves like rivulets of tears through mascara. It's hard to see the future when you're blinded by the past.

    1. Poetry literally in motion. The last line reads like an affirmation. Determined advice from a weathered nomad.

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    3. Damn. This is going to be hard because Ed nailed it. The fluidity and sense of journey. And every line lands with mad power.

    4. Awesome, and that last sentence is pure gold.

    5. Thanks, I appreciate the kindness.

  3. This year it is late October before the first snow falls. The flakes land on golden leaves, insulated from the still warm ground, and they sit there, watching. Huge flakes flutter from the gray sky, white leaves of some kind of colossal tree. The dogs and I go outside. Their black fur turns slowly white, my blue coat does, too.

    The ground turns to mud as the flakes melt, and I stare at one, caught on my coat sleeve.

    Six-sided, they say no two snowflakes are alike, but they don’t really last long enough to compare, do they?

    Seven billion people in the world. Unique. But they don’t really last long enough to compare, either.

    We walk through the ballet of snowflakes, and I wonder if this is how God feels when He walks amongst us, seeing the inevitable falling, the laughter we bring, and the tears we melt into when at last we touch the ground. I wonder if He laments, and if he ponders why “They don’t really last long enough at all.”

    And I wonder if He sees us sparkle, when the sun bursts through the clouds.

    1. Perfect comparison of the perfection of the world with the frailness of morality. So many snowflakes so little time. We all melt into the mud, it is just a matter of time and temperature. No one knows less than I what these changes mean in the bigger picture but the picture you paint is beautiful. Damn if it didn't really last long enough either.

    2. Yup. Agreed. This is beautiful in many ways. The structure and the language. "Huge flakes flutter from the gray sky, white leaves of some kind of colossal tree." Love that line. And the comparisons. One thought, in the first P, black coat vs black fur - the parallel between that and the blue coat would be fire. For me.

    3. Oh, I like that... I'll edit it for a future collection of flash Thanks for the kind words!

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  6. Ohhh Leland I love this. The repeating of not lasting long enough was powerful indeed.

  7. Early, before the light dispels the night
    the dawn kisses the land with bashful surprise
    her blushing cheeks; the foothills of morning
    The dew calls to the sun with a dazzling smile
    reminding the sky that it's fallen stars have found a home
    among the grass and stones
    the morning stars begin to wink out
    and colors explode across dawn's canvas




    1. Speaks of innocense long gone.

    2. Agreed, there is an innocent wonderment here. Lovely.

    3. So much wonderful imagery. Every line. What I find most enjoyable is the way each line surpasses the previous. It is an example of great poetic story telling.

    4. Thank you so much. Your kind words mean an awful lot to me. :)

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  9. In the corner of a once tended garden, on a hillside, there is a circle of rocks. Smooth stones of dusty blue color, arranged carefully some decades ago, on a rainy day. The clouds wer low that day, as they are today, but then a child, a boy, had dug a hole, not too deep, but deep enough, and placed something very precious there.

    Today, an old man pushed himself up out of a wheelchair, carrying a tiny shovel in one hand. The wheelchair tracks were not as graceful in the damp earth as his eight-year-old self’s foot prints, but they traveled the same path, found the same destination.

    Life had been kind to the child, not so much to the man. A boy’s dreams can lift him into the stars, and a man’s doubts can crash him to earth. It was not a bad life he’d built for himself, but he was never an astronaut, never a fireman, never a soldier. He’d outlived his wife and his son. And now, now he’d returned to the place he began, this patch of ground in the clouds.

    The toy shovel, better suited for beach sand, was loud as he scraped the soil away, then dug down to what he knew was here. The boy that became the man was persistent, as he had been that day long ago.

    An inch at a time, the hole grew deep again. The years had compacted the soil. When at last the shovel hit the small metal box, he stopped to rest. His useless legs grew cold on the ground, but his heart was warm.

    The metal was still red, though augmented by the red of rust, and he saw Prince Albert’s picture. Tobacco tin. Did they even sell Prince Albert any more? And he flashed back to all the times he’d swaggered into the tobaccanist and asked if he had Prince Albert in a can, and when the answer was yes, he’d shout, “Well, you’d better let him out!” and run back out to the street.

    He pulled the lid off the can, almost afraid to look in.

    When he did, he saw them. The precious gifts of childhood: A Matchbox car, a marble, and his father’s dogtags.

    A small time capsule, a gift, from a boy to the old man across the years. A memory of the day his childhood ended. The day his father died.

    1. Well dang, there goes the tear factory. I lovery this Leland.

    2. I love this. You know I love buried treasure boxes of youth. And this: A boy’s dreams can lift him into the stars, and a man’s doubts can crash him to earth.


    3. Whoa, this piece is so wonderful I would suggest it be required young adult reading, say 6th grade or so. It describes a kind of prescience that is gifted to youth but too often lost by time. The Prince Albert in a can joke both cements the character's generation in stone and lends complete street cred to what is in reality a timeless story. One for generations of readers. I hope you find it a home in a collection or anthology, and I hope that home lands in school libraries.

    4. Oh, I love this. This line, too: "A boy’s dreams can lift him into the stars, and a man’s doubts can crash him to earth."

    5. Thank you all... your kind words keep me going...

  10. She was hesitant to pick him up. She had certainly gotten enough lectures about stopping to help strangers, to "know better".
    But he had a dog.
    And it was one of *her* kinda dogs.
    He had to be okay, right?

    "And sometimes the Devil has blue eyes..." her grandmother's voice warned softly in her head.

    She knew she would love the sound of his voice before he even spoke a word. She knew this like she knew how to breathe, or laugh.
    It just came to her.
    "Thanks for stopping and picking us up." He said, as he gently shook the rain out of his hair.
    "Noah himself, would have run for the hills tonight!" He laughed. It felt free and unburdened to her ears. It sounded very...non-threatening.
    Oh God! His eyes, they were blue!
    They looked so kind! And inviting!
    Not menacing at all.
    Not like a demon's.
    "You're insane."
    She shook her head and tried to determine which voice had said that.
    Hers? Her Grandma's? His?
    She almost asked him why he said that.
    "What's your name?"
    He asked with a hint of laughter in his voice and eyes that smiled.
    Those eyes!
    His eyes!
    And he smelled SO good!
    He smelled inoxicating!
    Like leather and cigarettes, and hard work.
    A sudden movement catches her eye.
    A dog!
    The dog!
    The reason that she even looked in this guy's direction.

    1. Trouble is often attractive!

    2. I like the tensions here. Subtle, and very effective.

    3. Dangerous and appealing for that very reason. I like the total honesty of this writing. No judgement, no resolution. Just the age old conflict. Leather and cigarettes, and hard work is not going to smell the same to everyone. It hints at both good and evil. Traces of honesty and danger. Yet, there is kindness in the oddest places... No judgement. That was the lesson I drew from this piece, but there is a lot more going on. Worth reading and rereading.

    4. Thank you so much! I hope to expand on this one too. There's a lot more to this story I feel.

    5. Always. Always. The devil has blue eyes. Nice.

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  12. If you're plans are so effective, then how come we're here detective? What happened to the lofty goals you erected? I laughed and smiled, but all the while still suspected... Now, I have my proof. 151. Tonight's gonna be anything but fun.

    Well, it will be fun for about half an hour. Then the good times will turn whiskey sour. See, 151, that's a big number. That'll burn your throat and tear you asunder. You may die, might just slumber - wake up with an STD and a crumpled phone number.

    But kids will be kids. 190? That's a whole 'nother level. You play the bass part, I'm strictly treble. Trembling. Remembering. But pass me a red cup, I'll try to finish before it melts the plastic. One thing's certain. The hangover will be fantastic.

    1. There you go again, doing that thing you do with language. Damn, its wound lighter than an eight day clock, strong as polycarbonate fishing line. The hangover is indeed fantastic.

    2. Dang JD! I love how you rhyme. It never feels forced or expected.
      This is awesome.

  13. You stood staring at the door, psyching yourself up - when it opened, the world crumpled. She was wide-eyed scared and what were you going to say? Just got here, certainly haven't been staring at your door for five minutes. The air is thick and vile. Try to breathe. Or just hold your breath until everything turns black.

    You mutter and mumble. Expectations crumble. She smiles and chuckles, but it sounds like lies, feels like steel belt buckles. It feels slimy. It's like a sweaty preacher's hand. Soft and wet and creepy as fuck. That talk. But what, you gonna tell her to shut up?

    Or are you going to try to play human while the lights spin and dangle. Salvage some shining thing from the fucked up disaster you wrangled. You're trying to be one of them now? Talk to people? Casual conversation? Son, you were too late, and the train left the station.

    Maybe you should, too.

    1. I can't make up my mind if this is about unexpected love at first sight or that awkward moment when you realize you've opened the door to a Jehovah's witness. Again!

    2. I'm convinced that your brain is a stew of words. You keep the pot simmering, simmering, simmering slowly over a low flame. Each time you dip the ladle the words come out ever tastier.

    3. Lol Ed! This is amazing. You slip in so many textures, your stories aren't simply read, they're felt. I feel like I can touch and feel everything.

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    5. Your stories... how you see the world from so many different perspectives, but with such integrity... and such heartbreak... I'm so glad I get to read what you write.

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    1. Looking forward to reading the rest of this. Very dramatic and I don't know if I am more worried for the boy or the mutt. (I do know, its the mutt.) But scary stuff, perfect for the season.

    2. Thanks Ed. It came to me on a walk with my My Monster Mutts. 3 aussies and a Border Collie. Most of my best writing comes to me on those walks. :)

    3. I don't know why every comment I make posts twice. Maybe it's because I'm on a phone? zi don't know.

    4. It's because you're awesome. :)

  15. She stands in the sterile hospital bathroom, hands shaking, trying to get the lighter to spark. Fucking frantic. The walls sweating. So cold, her skin's on fire. But she has the fucking cure if her hands would just cooperate.

    And the nurse says: Honey, you OK, been in there a while...

    And she thinks, Oh Jesus, please let me get this shit done! Cook and prod for a vein and walk out like nothing happened. Smile. She'll tell the nurse her back hurts and she looks just innocent enough.

    The nurse is waiting when she exits, she says: God, I'm in so much pain. This happened before. The doctor gave me something...what was it? Dilaudil? Dilopid? Something like that. It helped. I slept.

    The nurse hesitates for a second and she freezes. Nurse checks the college sweatshirt. Fingernails clean. Those clear blue eyes and that silken hair. She starts scribbling on the pad, and the girl screams inside. YOU FUCKING SIMPLETON! I own you, bitch.

    Until the scrip runs out.

    1. Ohhh...damn that's about as real as it gets.

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    3. That is the problem summed up and put in story form. You can't tell, you can never tell. Anybody can be jacked up, anybody. We can all be so naive in our worldliness.

    4. It makes me sad... and it makes me worry... thanks for putting this truth out there.

  16. The boy looked around and shrugged with a little smile.

    He had never been this far into the woods before.

    And he had never been in the woods alone.

    Not that he was *really* alone.  He had his Mutt, and that was all he really needed.

    He wore a backpack with all of their "Survival Gear" in it.

    2 bottles of water, one for him, and one in case there were no puddles, or the streams had run dry.

    A Frisbee, a fully loaded Chuck-it, a pocket knife, some carefully cut up chunks of hotdog, and hopefully, a flashlight!

    He tried to remember other things, but they didn't always make it into the pack.  He was very glad that he had grabbed his favorite baseball cap and his raincoat today.

    A loud snap brought them both to attention.  Their heads tilted at the same time and in the same direction.  "What is it boy?"  He asked, trying to sound brave but maybe, slightly, interested.  They both looked toward where they thought the sound had come from.  The underbrush was thick and the lighting was bad.  It was easy to paint monsters out of the shadows.  "Hello?"  He hoped his voice didn't creak with nervousness.

    They waited and listened for a couple minutes.  Not a single sound came back to them from the trees.


    Suddenly it smelled like rotten meat and fear.  He knew the demon had caught his scent,

    and he was drawing near.
    "I'm not afraid! "  His voice rushed out,

    somewhere between a cry and a croak.  

    His mouth was too dry.  
    "I'm not afraid..."  He whispered, the words dying in his throat.
    He tried to remember what grandpa had taught him about predators in the woods.  

    But it had been so long ago that they had talked about things like that.  So long.
    A snap and a crash behind him reminded the boy that he was here, now,

    and not safe on his grandpa's lap.
    Crap.  What was he supposed to do?  He wanted to run.  

    He wanted to tear out of there like his pants were on fire.
    But what if it was a bear-like creature?  Bears were a lot faster than they looked!  

         And they sure as heck could outrun a nine year-old boy.

        His dog stared in the direction of the sound and growled quietly through his clenched teeth.

        "Easy boy."  He tried to calm the dog , quiet him down.

         He grabbed his leash and tried to leave the area at a quick pace, but not quite running.

         No running, just in case.

         The crashing got bigger and louder.  He knew that the bear-demon was coming for them and they needed to get the heck out of there.  Like right now.

         The forest filled with a loud snorting and huffing, and then a roar that made the hairs stand up on the back of the boy's neck.  The boy wasn't sure if the roar sounded frustrated or hungry, but he didn't want to find out.

     I hoping to expand on this one.

    1. Looking forward to reading the rest of this. Very dramatic and I don't know if I am more worried for the boy or the mutt. (I do know, its the mutt.) But scary stuff, perfect for the season.

    2. Thanks Ed. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. :)

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    4. I'm hoping you expand it, too! and you know I'm a sucker for dogs in stories...

    5. I really, really dig the rhythm and assonance. And the tension. Please keep going.

    6. Oh, and "It was easy to paint monsters out of the shadows." Fucking brilliant.

    7. Thanks guys! You're encouragement gives me wings. :)

  17. Adam Forester blinked, his thoughts cast out toward the forces he’d amassed. His armies were marching through most of the countries on the globe, the insurgents being mown down by his red-booted riflemen and the gunners sitting secure in their attack craft that hovered over them. There would be no resistance. At least not for long.

    Across on the other side of the world, Karl Roth was plotting. He’d created an elite force of mercenaries, their tactics and weaponry far beyond anything Forester could command. His attacks would be smaller but more focussed; his strategies relying on the loyalty of his men under pressure. There’d be heavy casualties, they all knew that, but they all knew their cause was true. Roth could secure an outright victory and if he did the world would be a better place than it ever was. Prosperity and equality for all was a given. They only had to win.

    The world trembled. It seemed that the battlefield had spread across every country. The cities were falling and it seemed unlikely that there’d be anywhere of any size that would remain untouched. The skies were filled with black-winged scouts and grey-bellied bombers and above them the con-trails of the missiles laced the world. For a moment it seemed like everyone on the planet was holding their breath…

    And then Adam’s mum entered the room, carrying a tray bearing a plate of baked beans on toast and an orange juice-box.

    The potential destruction of every living being on Earth would have to wait.

    For at least half an hour.

    1. The problems of the world solved by baked beans on toast. I knew it was something like that! Nice story telling with a great ending.

    2. Dang Mark! I want this to be a book! I really enjoyed it.

    3. Love it. The detail of the beginning contrasted to the "child's play" - the intricacy of play that we don't see once we're older. Most of us anyway. Awesome stuff.

  18. What always surprises me, even now on what will be my last time, is the quiet.

    When we climb aboard and the cool brass elevator doors close on the marble atrium where we report for our next assignments, the one we hope is the One, they don’t whoosh or shoop. There’s no swell of harp strings or inspiring Muzak pumping through speakers. There are no speakers. You hear only the harmonized breaths of you and Eternity. You don’t even hear the other souls aboard.

    Right there in front, next to the door, you see the spectrum of buttons under a placard that reads, “Find Happiness.” Bottom to top, they’re arrayed Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red – primary color chips of a rainbow for those of us who’ve tripped on one once ...or even four times.

    This is my fifth trip on this four-dimensional magical mystery ride. Well, it would be a bigger mystery if I hadn’t pushed each of those buttons except yellow on my other tries here in the Happy Box. Four shots at happiness that all ended in something less.

    It’s not the elevator’s fault, nor Management’s. We all make our own choices and I made four that I didn’t think came with the top prize, a Mega-Millions of Smiles or whatever is supposed to be waiting for you There. Happy-World, or whatever There is.

    My first time, when I didn’t know any better, I started on the lowest floor, pushed Blue. I was let off in that youthful Eden, where I bumped up against Nature and Humanity with all the subtlety of a hopped-up, blindfolded linebacker in a flower shop.

    But you never know when the call will come for a new assignment.

    Red was bad, Green was moldy, Orange was hot and dry but ultimately a little too like Red. That leaves Yellow, doesn't it? Yellow, the color of sunlight, illumination, the middle of it all, the mean and the median of Happiness. So here I am, looking around at the other souls on the elevator and see something in each their faces that I probably showed in my previous ups and downs in here.

    That young guy there with a crewcut. His mug just oozes determination. I'd tag him for a Green. He's got GI written all over him. Good luck pal. My Green phase included something to do with a little kid wearing a straw hat during my time in Vietnam. Or was that Okinawa?

    "You okay, little guy? Your mama around? "

    All about was torn up and tropical. This little kid has absolutely no expression on his face, not fear, nor sadness, no tears. So odd. Gunfire, I hear gunfire over there.

    "C'mon little guy, I'm taking you someplace safe." Why do I remember those eyes turning wide and uniforms and an explosion of red and yellow flame? Hmmph, doesn't matter now. Semper fi, buddy. Yep, he's a Green.

    That young one over here in the corner, the one dressed in the school uniform is blinking and shaking a little with fear. Might be her first trip. She's definitely a Blue. My Blue phase... Jeanine, or Janet. Looking into those blue eyes on her back porch.

    "Why don't you stay with me tonight," I remember her saying. I do.

    "Aww.. I'll be okay," I said. "Just gonna meet the guys for a few more and then head back home. I'll see you in the morning. I promise."

    Soft kiss, embrace, breath warm--a sigh?--on my face, a hand holding tightly to my belt. Temptation, testosterone, torment of indecision there in the porch light's yellow glow.

    Why am I remembering this so clearly? Or am I?

    I recall a bar called Fillion's and some other guys drinking as much as we were. One of them, pizza-faced prick with an accent straight out of Hempstead trips one of my guys and it's ON. Real Red-line stuff.

    I hear, "Get the fuck outta here. I'm calling the cops." And it all rolls outside into the cold. Yeah, cold, dark, snowbanks, and the sidewalks are slippery. Sucker punch haymaker from pimple-puss levels me and I hit my head on the curb. Streetlights hurting my eyes. They all climb into a Pontiac and peel off. I jump into my Dodge and take off after that piece of shit.

    1. Great world building through descriptions and character observation. Very well done.

    2. Thanks, continued below. Just wanted to try it on y'all.


  19. I see yellow lights behind the hazy red of the intersection, gliding sideways, and...

    I shake my head and notice that middle aged woman to my right who ignored my nod of greeting feels familiar. I mean we're all just shadows of shadows here, but I envision some hot piece I took up with in my Red or Orange time. Maybe in both. No, it was Red.

    Italian girl? No, Russian, I think. I see me in a leather jacket and I feel something hard between my upper arm and chest. And secrets. I remember secret things and my photos in little books. Different languages and different colored books, And each one, a different name, like I have each time I press one of these damn buttons.

    Wait, I recognize that squint-eyed expression of resentment. I recall meeting her in a bar in Moscow. A hooker? That damned testosterone again, but I'm looking for happiness even if my job is kind of dangerous. Yeah, hotel room. Pushed up against the door, my hand cupping her ass, her hand unbuttoning my shirt and her other hand...the red and yellow flash in my face from a pistol.

    What the hell did I do to you, sladkaya. Yeah, sweetheart, you! Wait, I know Russian?

    The elderly guy in the back, I've seen that aura before. Sorrow. Watch, he'll push Orange. There are those eyes again. I'm lying down, looking up into those eyes. Definitely Italian, I'm sure. Been here a long time and it hasn't been much fun. The flash of the welding torches and riveting. I hear clanging steel plates and watching the ships roll off the rails into the harbor.

    Fights. Screaming matches with this woman. Married and Catholic. Maria or Teresa. Yeah. Mi cara, Yeah, as if.

    What are all these wires and hoses? Beeping and disembodied voices. Weak, feeling weak.

    I don't like her. Something's not right. Smell alcohol, disinfectant.

    "You just don't know enough to give up, do you?" she says.

    I can't answer. Something's stuck in my throat. Those eyes, brown but burning, burning in my chest. Can't breathe. Bells and horns all around, can't breathe, gasping, no air, those eyes, angry but somewhat...not relieved, happy. Peaceful? The light again, that yellow light. I close my eyes.

    The elevator doors shut again and I'm left here alone. Haven't pushed a button yet.

    "Ahem," I hear behind me. I open my eyes and turn.

    Female, look of been-there-done-that resignation on her, like she, too, had smushed the four other buttons before and was sure she was headed toward Happiness. We've let the others get off at their potential Edens, Nirvanas, Asgaards. We look at one another but it doesn't feel like the first time.

    “Where you been?” I asked.

    “Everywhere but Yellow,” she said.

    “Me, too,” I said.

    She stared into my eyes like she was looking for something.

    “I know exactly what you're thinking," she says. "You stood here just like I did and watched them all hop off. You’re never sure about what will make you happy until you’ve experienced it, do you? I remember how it was when I pushed There.”

    She pointed and sighed a nice sigh, not sad or sorrowful, but really kind of a memorable exhalation of contentment. It sounded so familiar.

    I put my arm around her shoulder, maybe even fatherly, and said, “We’ve been there before, I know. But what about…”

    Warm, that shoulder, buzzy and fuzzy like a sweater under my touch. Familiar, definitely not fatherly.

    She hugs me close and stares right into me again and this soft look that matched her sigh comes over her. We're close enough that our chests move against one another in a harmony I hadn’t felt since..well, since..

    I take her hand in mine and we nod to one another, sure we've made the right decision, no hesitance, no remembering yellow lights, yellow flames, yellow anything. Yellow has been staring at us all this time.

    Together, we push Blue and, sure enough, we're There again.

    Only this time I'm not letting go.

    1. Great details. A totally strange reality and yet familiar. Really takes me there while leaving just enough ambiguity to puzzle the hell out of me in a good way. Definitely builds the curiosity to find out more about this levels of reality and what they mean.

    2. Beautifully strange and wonderful... and your next collection of flash fiction should be entitled "Pushing Blue"

    3. Well damn. That was like a literary acid trip in the best possible sense. Love it. Gonna read it again. And probably again after that.

  20. You'd think otherwise, wouldn't you, but sleep has never come easy for me. Not the tucked-in for the night sleep, not the snuggled close and content sleep.

    Mine is the toss and turn sleep, the stare at the ceiling dark so long my eyes adjust to see shadows you'd never see. Shadows I don't wish to.

    I'd never wake you to tell what I see. I can't. If I reach right or left all I can feel is empty.

    Covers twisted and fallen, I turn over and tell my pillow, but a pillow will only echo what you lay upon it, no spontaneity or warmth other than what I put into it. And still, sleep evades me, or teases me with a veiled unconsciousness that lasts maybe an hour or so, over and over.

    So that the thing I crave most is the thing I most fear and despise, something in the dark that pulls me under and spits me back out like words I never said except here. That might be why sleep does not come easy for me as it does for you. Because you sleep just fine, tucked in for the night and snuggled close and content.

    1. Ahhh this feels so real. I know those long nights all too well.

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    3. Loneliness makes for interesting patterns on the ceiling... and a few thousand sheep to count... this brings it home.

    4. Yep. What they said. And this: a pillow will only echo what you lay upon it - so, so good.

  21.  I don't care what anybody says.  The shit is contagious.   If you've been around someone that has it, you're getting it too.  We're all infectacble.  As soon as you notice the behaviour in someone else, the disease has you.

    You'll see their syptoms and it will look odd to you.  Maybe even bizarre.  Then it will start really bugging the shit out of you.  The victim's attempt to control the illness will literally drive you insane.  The cans in your pantry will suddenly need to be alphabetized.  Surfaces will need to be constantly wiped and sanitzed.  Even water-drips in the sink are considered life-threatening  That sounds crazy right?  Like a a little Nazi regime springing up right in your kitchen.  That's not even the crazy part.  What seals the deal, is that you're gonna start doin' shit to keep them from doing their shit!  Suddenly you're making sure all the labels are facing forward and there's *nothing* left on the counter, just so they don't come in and freak out.  Just you don't have to have the "You guys and your cheese." talk again.   I don't know how they do it. I don't know how it works, but believe me, the shit is contagious and it spreads like wildfire.

  22. There’s a stretch of two-lane highway through the plains of southeastern Colorado that is the most desolate stretch of roadway I’ve seen outside of Nevada. The Arkansas river runs not far from the highway, but the heat and wind sucks the moisture out of the river before anything much can grow.

    It’s a road I know well. I visit my uncle in a small town there as often as I can. He’s getting up in years, and I’m about all the family he’s got left. The trip from Denver takes about four hours. That means if I head down after work on Fridays, it’s dark by the time I get there.

    I don’t know what it is, but the moon looks bigger out there. No buildings, only short trees, or maybe it is bigger. I don’t know. And the last time I visited, I had the radio set to the oldies station, and there was Dean Martin singing, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…” Don’t judge me, but I sang along.
    In my headlights, I saw someone standing by the side of the road, thumb extended. I slowed down, and I turned the radio station down, too. I rolled the window down.
    “You okay?”

    An Asian-looking boy, probably about twenty-one, looked through the window at me and I shivered. He just stared.

    “You need a lift?”

    He nodded.

    I pushed the unlock button on the door and waited for him to open it. He looked confused. I reached over and unlatched the door for him.

    He got in, kind of tentative, maybe scared, and he pulled the door shut.

    “I’m not going far, just to Granada. I can take you that far.”

    His eyes had that faraway look that said “memories” or “anywhere,” I didn’t know which. He nodded again.

    I accelerated back up to speed and tried again to start conversation. “You from around here?”

    He shook his head, then he nodded, and then he just looked confused.

    I gave up, and reached to turn the volume on the radio up again. “It’s only a paper moon… sailing over a cardboard sea…” God, the station was playing really old songs. But a tenor voice had joined the Andrews Sisters. I looked over and saw my passenger was singing and smiling. “Oh, you know this song?”

    He nodded and kept singing. The song ended, and the radio station faded as I drove further into no-man’s land. He looked crestfallen. Or maybe it was my dashboard lights.

    “I died here,” he whispered, as his icy hand touched my arm.

    The problem with picking up hitchhikers is you don’t really know if they’re nice people needing a ride or crazy folks looking to murder you. I was leaning more toward the crazy folks category for this kid.

    “You have to tell my story.”

    “Now listen, kid,” I said, and looked over to meet his eyes, but I was staring into empty space. There was no one in my passenger seat. I slammed on the brakes.
    I put the car in “Park” and grabbed my flashlight. Surely I would have heard the door slam if he’d jumped out. I walked around the car, looking in the ditch. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Raising the flashlight higher, I saw a sign: Granada Relocation Center, A Japanese American Internment Camp. I shivered.

    When I got back in the car, I locked the doors, and I made damned sure there was no one in the back seat. But the only sign that I had had a passenger was the voice that echoed in my head.

    “I died here. You have to tell my story.”

    And there was nothing but static on the radio.

    1. Well. Goddamn. I can't think of a thing to say. Except Wow.

  23. (I have no idea where I'm going with this, but it feels like it's a lot bigger.)

    “You remind me of this doll.”

    Ugh. He could have punched himself in the face. The silence had made him panic and she was just so damn adorable with her fringy bangs and slipping-down glasses, which made him panic even more.

    “A doll?” she said, over the top of her caramel coffee.

    He fumbled with his straw wrapper, hating the blush firing up his pale cheeks. “No. I didn’t mean a DOLL doll. I meant…my parents didn’t let us have toys that reinforced gender stereotypes, and they gave my sister this doll that was, you know, supposed to look like a real girl and not like a model, and my sister hated it because she wanted Barbie, but I kind of liked it, and…”

    Her eyes were big round blanks, but a corner of her mouth turned up in that “let’s not antagonize the crazy guy” kind of way.

    He groaned and slumped back in his chair, focusing on the Daredevil poster on the far wall. He wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten up the nerve to ask to here in the first place. One minute they were just standing there talking about Firefly in the parking lot at work, her car two spots from his, and in the next, his mouth was telling her about the comic book store that had a new café inside and maybe she wanted to have coffee. Or not. Stupid mouth.

    “I know,” he said. “It’s totally weird, huh. I mean obviously you’re not a doll. Not that you couldn’t be one.” Shit. “I mean—”

    She laughed, and not in a sarcastic way, which he appreciated. But then a small furrow formed above the bridge of her nose, and after a moment she said, “Can I tell you something?”

    Not trusting his mouth, he merely leaned closer and nodded.

    “Okay, so I was a math minor, in statistics and probability? It’s kinda wasted at my job, doing reports about who’s going to buy what when. But I like keep in practice. So, I figured, what’s the probability of two people who work at opposite ends of the building having the same car and also liking Firefly? And would that probability of bumping into each other again be increased by decreasing the distance between the cars and setting up one of the people as a sort-of control group, leaving at the same time every day, walking at the same pace and in the same direction…”

    He put up a hand. “Wait. So I this was just some kind of science experiment?”

    “No, of course not. I would never use my superpowers for evil. I was just stalking you.”

    “Oh.” He couldn’t help a smile. A girl had never stalked him before.

    “Still think I’m a doll?”

    “Um. Kind of even more.”

    1. I love it... for the gender role reversal, and for the beauty of your language and imagination...

    2. Word. This is so good. The last line of dialogue kills. Boris, you're people are so real!

    3. Thank you! But...gahh. Typos. I hate making typos.

    4. I really really liked this Miss Laurie! I really hope you expand it. Like a lot. :)

    5. Wonderfully flagrant awesomeness here Laurie. And his 'stupid mouth' is yummy even with the damn typos.

  24. I don't feel ugly, don't feel genteel. Tried to feel something fake, but it turned out real. Tried to do the right thing and all I did was steal. Not hearts, not goods, just time - I took it and I won't give it back. This is my first real attempt at attack.

    It's not you, it's me. I don't care about you. Why would I? See? You get it now? Forget it - allow me to illustrate. You're like the way I feel when I masturbate.

    It doesn't make sense. I and I know it doesn't. You and you can fuck it, call all your big tough cousins. I ain't got a dime, I got dime bags. You can have all you want, but I don't front. You want the green, you gotta open the bidding with your own. But reach in your pocket slow, fucker. I'm a gangster, not a long haul trucker.

    Those motherfuckers actually get shit done.

  25. He rubs his index finger along the edge of the desk and whispers into his hand: nine, nine, nine. Taps gently. There is a pentagram carved in the old wood of the desk. Flip those nines and the devil's coming. He laughs into a cupped hand. Jimmy smacks him on the back of the head because what the fuck. So, he hexes Jimmy.

    The hex is an inside joke, but damned if it didn't take. Jimmy started puking before the bell rang. He was pale and shaking. It's amazing the mix up when the devil starts taking. Don't be mistaken, I saw him breaking.

    Jimmy ended up in the ER. So, he ran home and told his mom. She hit him, so he told his dad. His dad just got mad. The dog was skittish. The linoleum was a glacial nightmare. He went upstairs and hexed himself. But nothing happened. So he took a thumb tack from the lower left hand corner of his Hulk poster and started scratching.

    A pentagram with three nines underneath.

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  27. It hit her straight up -- no chaser. Bubbling brook water didn’t move this quickly. Neither did the latest iPhone right after Thanksgiving. Hell, Flash AND Dash Incredible were slower.

    So of course on some level she had to wonder if it was all TOO fast. She knew better than to ask out loud though. First off, just saying that for the universe to hear would be bad enough but if he heard it too? He’d get so upset if he knew she even contemplated the question for one second. He'd literally flip out on her. They’d already blown it enough times and neither of them was prepared to ever be that miserable again.

    Still however crazy it sounded, she almost wished she weren’t so damn happy. While walking around feeling like she had a scoop of ice cream in her belly and the sweet mellow taste still on her tongue, never got old; it also felt slightly decadent. It felt as if she spent so much of her time grinning now, her jaws had a mild but still noticeable ache.

    “What are you smiling about?

    She glanced up and there he was. The source. The apex of her semi-permanent sanguinity.

    “You need to ask?”

    Grinning he shook his head in the negative and swooped down and in for what unsurprisingly turned out to be a truly magnificent kiss. He was so freaking good at kissing.

    After, they both took a long deep breath and sighed gazing at each other. Then she had another thought. It made her smile so hard she soon dissolved into giggles.

    “What?” he asked, like a man who was used to getting his questions answered, especially from her.

    “What do I get when I’m not smiling?

    1. I love this. What a cool moment. It's like a scene from a movie.

    2. Agreed. Super cinematic and strong.

  28. It’s too close inside, the air heated with the whisky exhale of men with bad poker hands and pent-up grudges, and you take refuge in a sticky old lawn chair underneath the stars. The night is quiet except for the chirp of the crickets and the distant hum of traffic on the highway. But then you pick up the muffle of pop music from an open window of the house across the cul-de-sac.

    “See that,” your uncle told you, pointing across the way when you first arrived with your hasty suitcase and your swallowed-down fears. “That’s trouble. Stay over here and we won’t have none.”

    But it’s a band you won’t admit to liking, and your foot, stretched out into the broken webbing, starts moving with its own appreciation, and when you notice, you stop, for fear she’ll see you.

    Seventeen other times she hasn’t, but tonight, she does.

    She’s backlit by the front porch bulb, her hair like a scatter of something electric, and she stretches her arms high over her head, one and then the other, and walks across the empty street.

    “Whatcha looking at?” she says, and from the pocket of her oversized shirt she pulls a pack of Marlboros and offers you a cigarette. You shake your head, she shrugs and lights up.

    “Stars,” you say as she sinks cross-legged to the damp grass beside you.

    “Pretty,” she says, exhaling a haze over top of them. “They make me feel so small sometimes, you know?”

    “That’s the point.”

    She laughs, a low chuckle that’s older than she lets on. “Next you’re gonna tell me we’re all made of that star stuff. I heard it all before, mister.”

    “So why’d you come over, then?”

    The band you can’t admit to liking cycles around again. She slides you a grin as her foot taps out the beat. “Wanted to hear it again, I guess.”

    1. This just makes me smile.
      "the whisky exhale of men with bad poker hands and pent-up grudges" I really liked that line.

    2. This just makes me smile.
      "the whisky exhale of men with bad poker hands and pent-up grudges" I really liked that line.

    3. This is such a COOL piece. Mad style. Perfect encapsulation.


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