Friday, November 4, 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.

Man, it's a long way to the parking lot. You gotta know that. You feel it in the electric buzz of your numb legs - it walks with you: the white, sparking revolt. Your brain is a ball of tapioca, it's leaking out your ears. Your bootstraps are long gone. You got nothing to pull on. 

You started out all right, had your heart in the right place. You said the right words and people listened, but, somewhere along the way, you stopped listening to yourself. I wonder why? Is it that hard to live in a world this cruel? Is that even a fair question?

Me? I've been knocked down a bunch of times. Getting up is hard, but you need to do it. Otherwise you end up staring at blinking lights and a blinking box and wondering...

She stopped loving you, and I know that hurts like hell. I've been there. But I was honest enough to realize my culpability. Sometimes you make someone stop loving you without meaning to. Without being mean, too. It just happens, whips up like autumn leaves and you can feel the red and gold fire of it.

But you got to get up. And if you can't make it past the parking lot? 

Brother, I think you're stuck.

#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. Excellent imagery of a story we all know... and the boots without bootstraps says it all... WELCOME BACK, by the way! Hope you're feeling better!

    1. Thank you, brother. A little better every day. :)

    2. Hope you're better Mr. Mader. And I agree with Leland, a great take on an age old problem. Who hasn't felt the red and gold fire licking at them?

    3. Welcome back. Love this: "Your brain is a ball of tapioca, it's leaking out your ears. Your bootstraps are long gone. You got nothing to pull on." I think it's a feeling we all know. But yes, you gotta get up. <3

    4. Welcome back, Dan. I'm glad you're feeling better. :)
      I enjoyed the near-repetition with different meanings (ha!) here: "Sometimes you make someone stop loving you without meaning to. Without being mean, too." That spoke to me.

    5. Welcome back! This is lovely. And what LB said. That's the line I highlighted.

    6. Glad you're back up to snuff, guy! This is Great!

    7. Red and gold fire! The fall version of Red and Black! Glad you're back.

  2. “Thank you for agreeing to meet on such short notice,” the man in the shadows said.
    “It was no problem. I was, I was going to come to this part of the country anyway. The people here, they love me. We’ve got plans, big plans—”
    “Yes, well, I’m sure that’s all very nice. You remember our agreement, right? If you win, your first allegiance is to me.”
    “We’re gonna win hugely. Big league. We’re gonna—”
    “I’m sorry, I was looking for a yes or no answer. Could you accommodate me?”
    “Yes, I—”
    “Excellent. I might offer a bit of advice. No more talk of women, even respectfully. You sound like a buffoon championing women when you obviously…”
    “Nobody respects women more than—”
    The shadowed voice laughed.
    “Don’t laugh at me. I’m going to win.” He sounded hurt. He didn’t like being laughed at.
    “Yes, yes, that’s possible.”
    “Possible? But you’ve got to make me win! Otherwise you don’t get what you want, either!”
    “I believe that will be all. You may depart now.”
    “I win, you win, right?”
    “Oh petulant one. Truly, the only way to be certain of winning a race is to own both horses, and I do. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
    An elevator door opened behind the orange one, and when he got on and turned around, the doors began to close. He took the moment to look at his biggest contributor. He wondered if devils had plastic surgeons, and if they did, why they never had those unsightly horns taken care of.

    1. Leland, this is delightful! Read it three times I enjoyed it so much. “Oh petulant one. Truly, the only way to be certain of winning a race is to own both horses..."
      Wonderful, snappy dialogue!

    2. Well-crafted, Leland, even though I can't "like" the insinuation about my chosen candidate at the end. ;)

    3. This is pithy and precise. Love it. :)

    4. Ha, I love it. Here's hoping the orange one wakes up in a lake of fire on Wednesday. ;)

  3. This is a place to test the waters, go out on a limb, stretch oneself to the maximum and then a bit beyond, correct? I can only hope it is. I've not a clue from precisely where this came, or why I didn't send it back to the nonsensical part of my brain from where it surely must have vaguely originated. If not from there, then Lewis Carroll may have invaded my body for a short while. I hope he had a rousing good time in it. Come to think of it, that would explain the bru..but I digress. Forthwith, here's a tale, in all it's shadowed, sheer opacity but, oops, I cannot tarry... I think the men in white coats are ready for me now...

    It was half passed nothing o'clock and he was already late for something he was entirely too early for. The sun shone brightly in the night sky, casting nary a shadow seen nor unseen. The music danced along the breeze, tasting candy sweet, each sour note lying bitterly on the tongue. Dogs meowed their irritation as notes only surly cats could hear had the felines barking their displeasure. Reality was the first casualty, as fantasy decided to rule the day, harsh in its countenance, yet never more truthful.

    Tree roots swayed in the light morning zephyr, while limbs and leaves soaked up moisture deep from within the ground. The grownups played hopscotch amid clouds of white, their bare feet causing the water droplets to swirl and reform in a type of cloud covered Rorschach parody. The children, bespectacled and bored, nodded sagely whilst reading Nietzsche, the better to misunderstand the world at large and small.

    He walked boldly passed the vendors, who called out to him, desperate to buy something, anything. He had nothing to sell today and so roundly ignored them all. Briefly he considered swilling a coffee but today was too important to fall asleep and so ultimately chose not to indulge. Time enough for rest once his business was concluded. Walking backwards through the closed door to save some time, he heard the large clock unchime and slowed his steps.

    "Can't be on time for this, it wouldn't look good," he muttered to himself.

    He continued down the dark passageway, wishing he'd thought to bring his sunglasses as the lack of light hurt his eyes. His steps were measured, varying greatly. Walking into the unfamiliar room he knew so well, he saw seven people were in attendance this day, including himself, whom he wasn't counting. All of them quickly closed their mouths and began speaking at once, the cacophony nearly inaudible. With a sigh, he waited, giving everyone in turn a critical eye. One by one, their mouths opened, until he knew he had their divided attention.

    "Alright!" he pronounced, in a ringing tone that echoed nowhere. "Our last order of business is firstly to consider and yet not. As to that, we've had it brought to our attention that the world above has been a bit more orderly of late. Completely unacceptable! This cannot, dare not continue! Do I make myself unclear enough?" Mr. Wocky jabbed a finger at each of them in turn.

    Everyone closed their mouths at once and an unreasonable discussion on what fresh chaos to inflict upon the mortal world above began in earnest...

    1. Oh, this is a lot of fun! and a lot of good twists!

    2. Ah yes, an enjoyable retreat! My favorite line was, "Reality was the first casualty, as fantasy decided to rule the day, harsh in its countenance, yet never more truthful."

    3. This is EPIC. The imagery and language - almost like a literary hallucination in the best possibly sense. So strong.

    4. SO much fun; I really enjoyed this. Thank you!

    5. Ha ha, Mr. Wocky jabbed! This is surreal, hallucinatory, and wonderful.

  4. She was a gentle whisper of a woman, and I shouted too loud, I reckon. Talked too much about horses and weather and all kinds of important things. Important to me. I get that now. We didn't spend much time talking about what was important to her.

    Sometimes, she'd reach for my hand - lightning, she never liked storms - and I'd pull mine away and wonder why. Where did that come from? Who installed that reaction?

    It's all over and done, but we always had the sun. And there are many days that will remain forever. Days where I can still smell the wildflowers and she was not afraid of storms. There were even days when I wrapped her small hand in mine without prompting.

    And I wonder where that came from, too.

    1. Oh, so very sad, bittersweet.

    2. Beautifully sad... and sadly beautiful...

    3. There's a melancholy here, and a longing. It's really lovely in a sad sort of way.

    4. "Who installed that reaction?" So true.

    5. Beautiful and very real. Who has not pondered relationships in retrospect and wondered?

    6. Like Maggie says, melancholy indeed.

  5. His was a childhood measured not in years but in dreams that were crushed. Richie learned to say “No!” and “Don’t touch that!” long before he learned to say “Mama” or “Dada.” His parents had enough money to buy the fine and fragile things of life, but not enough to replace the things he broke. Some kids grew up in a plastic bubble to protect them. He lived in a house that was bubble-wrapped to protect things from him.

    And that was why Danny was his friend. Danny was reckless, dangerous, and everything that Richie wanted to be. He never figured out why Danny would want to be friends with him, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

    Richie was afraid his parents would forbid his friendship with Danny, but they didn’t. He finally figured out that they were relieved he was out of the house more and more, and he was sure they were glad they didn’t have to tell him to be careful of the fragile things as much.

    When Danny turned sixteen, his parents bought him a beat up old motorcycle, and Richie and he spent all their free time working on it. Richie turned out to be a decent mechanic. He understood the science and engineering while Danny understood the spirit of the machine. After a couple of months of tearing it apart and anointing every surface with polish or oil, the Saturday of Truth came. Danny and Richie invited their fathers to see if the motorcycle would run. Richie’s dad had a golf date, but Danny’s dad was there, and had a lopsided grin on his face. He sat on a step, drinking his beer and smoking a cigarette. Danny climbed on, and gave it a kick. Nothing. Another kick, and the motor purred to life. Danny’s dad applauded, stood up, and shouted “Once around the block, then we need to talk.”

    Danny gestured for Richie to climb on, too.

    The ride around the block felt like freedom to both of the boys, wind blowing in their faces, and Richie held on to Danny like he was the anchor to reality and hopes and dreams.

    When they brought the bike back up the driveway, Danny’s dad was still there, and his grin wasn’t lopsided any more. Danny turned the key and the engine was silent.

    “You boys wait here.” He ran into the house, and when he came out, he had two boxes, big boxes, in his arms. “This is for you, son. And this is for you, Richie.”

    They tore into the boxes, and when they saw the leather jackets inside, they tried to act serious as they put them on.

    Danny’s dad almost died from the bear hugs they gave him.

    “Next thing we gotta get is helmets for you two knuckleheads.”

    Richie’s dad didn’t do well on the golf course that day, but it didn’t matter to Richie. It was a good day. That day, a friendship grew stronger, and two boys grew up a little, and no one said “don’t touch that.”

    1. What a touching story of someone coming into their own, finding their place in the world. Going for their bliss and forging a lasting friendship. Some search a long time for what your two characters found. Wonderful piece, Leland.

    2. The bubble-wrapped world...I've had friends who were subjected to that. It's no way for a kid to grow up. I felt for Richie. You hit the bullseye with this one, Leland. :)

    3. Aw, this is going to make me cry at work. I love this. You know why.

    4. Everyone else already said it. I'd only add how I enjoy your mastery of hooking the reader in the opening sentence.

  6. A friend nudged me to go dark.This is my answer,JW.

    She dragged one leg behind, that booted foot scrapping the wet pavement as she made her way into the alley. Tonight's business had taken a toll and she'd need a few days to heal. A setback, a miscalculation on her part, but it could have been worse. Very nearly had been worse.

    "Fuck it, she mumbled, "What doesn't kill you makes you..." She sucked in her breath as the foot twisted, fresh agony rolling through her and the nausea rose up, strangling her. She caught her hand on the brick wall, bracing, while her last meal expelled, bile and chunks splattering amid the debris that littered there already. Used needles, soiled condoms and food wrappers told the tale of what mattered most in this alley. The dregs of society did have priorities.

    The contents of her stomach gone, she struggled with dry heaves until finally, she slid down to the ground, spent. She tried to avoid most of the  vomit but at this point could only care so much. With a last burst of adrenaline, she pulled herself over to a makeshift bed of cardboard boxes. Wet, sticky and with a vile smell but better than nothing. Closing her eyes, she gave in to exhaustion.

    She woke gummy eyed, dry mouthed and with a ringing in her head she didn't think she'd survive from one heartbeat to the next. Her stomach ached like a sore tooth but that pain was overshadowed by the sheer agony that struck her when she moved her left foot, the better to sit up. Waves of it rolled through her but with each breath, she was able to maintain, endure. Survival was paramount.

    Last night came flooding back into her memory. Any and everything that could go wrong had and she wanted to point a finger at someone. Blame someone...but she had always tried to assess things honestly. The fuck up rested solely upon herself. Which was exactly why she'd be fixing it herself. Screw rules and regulations. She could quote them as well as the next person but was known to ignore them better than just about anyone. Some called her rogue, but never to her face. One had called her far worse. They'd only found the body parts she'd wanted them to find.

    1. Holy crap! Dark is good. Especially when it's this good.

    2. Ah, that final sentence! Echoing Dan, this is good dark.

  7. The ride had been a long one, but riding on a horse was always hard on a body, even after all these years. The horse was named Micah and did his best to keep Matthew comfortable. Humble, too. It was the horse who smelled the creek long before his rider had heard it.

    The water was wide here, and none too deep. It was late enough in the year that the man had no worries of snakes. Bears should be asleep by now, too. That left only mountain lions and coyotes to keep him company. There was an old cottonwood that gave some shelter, but not much.

    He dismounted, gave a look to Micah that said, “Don’t wander far,” though the horse knew that already.

    By the time he had a small camp set up, the sky was going dark, with wisps of red clouds. The fire was smoky from the damp wood he’d found to burn. He only wanted the fire to heat the beans that would be tonight’s supper.

    Micah grazed on the remnants of summer’s grass. He wasn’t going to get fat from it, but he wouldn’t starve, either.

    The fire died down, and there was only the sound of the creek, syncopated by Micah’s occasional snorts. Matthew reached into a pocket, and paused. There were a lot of shooting stars tonight. He didn’t much believe in wishes and prayers, but he closed his eyes for a moment, When he reopened them, he put the harmonica to his lips, and he played the only song he knew, the only song that mattered. “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

    When he finished the song, he put the harmonica away again. And he wiped away a tear. Johnny wouldn’t be coming home. He died in Afghanistan.

    Cowboys don’t talk much, don’t cry much, but when they do, it’s around their horses or their dogs.

    Micah understood, and as the just-past-full moon rose in the east, its pale light made ghosts of them both.

    1. What a lovely story, vivid and compelling. And with a harmonica...*sigh*

    2. It amazes me. There is a place in your brain that is very much like a place in my brain. I grew up hearing not to look a gift horse in the mouth. "None too deep" - subtle, but it is so authentic to the form.

    3. Yeah, the understatement gives it its power. And after praising your opening sentence in your last piece, I have to say how much I am in awe of your final sentence here. (Yes, I'm a sentence junkie.)

  8. She waited for the first cold snap of the year and it came in early December. At first her nineties-model Ford pickup wouldn't start, and she almost laughed. Some might have read that as a sign and gone back inside to a warm, dry room, but she didn't believe in signs. Then the starter caught and none of that mattered.

    The road was a favourite drive of hers. It snaked along a north-south valley that rose from flood plain into foothills, crossing dry creeks and ranch land, up toward Devil's Lake, but you took a right before the asphalt became a dirt logging road. She passed her favourite house: a log cabin set on parkland, huddled amid cedar and fir that were now strung with red LEDs. Festive. Cozy. Heart crushing. She grabbed the wheel tightly and tried not to feel.

    As she'd guessed, the parking lot was deserted. It was late afternoon, and a light snow was falling. She doubted anyone would even show up to lower the barrier to the parking lot once the light had leached from the sky. It didn't matter.

    She wasn't exactly dressed for it, a black T-shirt under a thin North Face fleece and Lululemons with sneakers, but a straight hike up to Cataract Falls would keep her warm enough for now. No danger of the fashion police in this cold, remote place. The light was that combination of day and night that made visibility murky and strange, as if the veil between the two hinted at some other world entire. The mulch on the ground was hard and ridged, and mildew and ice made the rough cedar walkways and steps along the trail treacherous. In all directions, other than the faint rushing of the falls above, an anemic quiet had settled. Here under the canopy of the rainforest, the snowflakes were sparse, like the pallid ghosts of moths.

    Fifteen minutes and she was at the falls, watching as half the deluge fell into a frothy bowl of slick rock, while the other half hung suspended, frozen, as if time itself was debating a cosmic pause and had been caught in two unfathomable minds. The sound now was thunderous, water at war with rock, and she could feel the icy spray of their combat on her face. This would be the last time she'd see the falls, and already the encroaching night was drawing a veil over them. She stayed, resting her arms on the railing at the viewpoint until full dark.

    The cold seeping into her bones now, she headed north and up, crossing a ramshackle bridge where the trail joined a forest service road that switched back and forth a few times before eventually leveling out high in the mountains that stretched ahead for hundreds of miles, all the way to the playground of the rich and blasé, Whistler Blackcomb.

    Solitude is fertile ground for introspection, and she resisted. But as it often did, her mother's voice echoed in her head, a voice she hadn't heard in the world since she was eight years old:

    "Remember, wherever you walk on earth, you're always my moon angel."

    Right. Got it, Mom. Whatever the fuck a moon angel is. I hope wherever you walk on earth, it's even colder and lonelier than this, bitch.

    1. Quick note: this one keeps writing itself in my head, so hopefully I'll finish it later and maybe link to the rest, for anyone interested.

    2. Count me as interested! and intrigued, and appreciative of your beautiful language...

    3. I'm interested also, David. I'd like more. The words are so evocative, painting a brilliant picture in my mind's eye. I want to see that waterfall in winter.

      ...the deluge fell into a frothy bowl of slick rock, while the other half hung suspended, frozen, as if time itself was debating a cosmic pause and had been caught in two unfathomable minds.

      Simply beautiful.

    4. Your use of language always astounds me. I love this. Keep it going. And that ending. BAM!

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. I love you all. Thank you for the kindness. Here's the final version which, as I expected, unspooled in my head and I had to type fast to keep up, so it's still raw! One of those tales that needed to be told. Leland, there's something here you (and Angelo) will love, and I swear I wasn't pandering; it was the story telling itself.

    7. Just read the final version. A beautifully told tale and thank you for sharing. (I've just deleted what I'd typed as I don't want to give anything away but two theories are working in my brain.)

      I will express my untempered praise for this work, crafted so eloquently, richly, with nary a caveat or proviso in sight.

    8. After reading the rest, I can tell you this is one of my favorite stories by you... truly beautiful.

    9. Read the full version. Outstanding. Teary-eyes and chills. So much heart. <3

    10. Well, I came back to this week's 2minutes to read all the stories, so these last comments on mine are an unexpected bonus! Thank you, my friends. :)

  9. (my two minutes was a bit that followed something I'd written previous, so I included a bit of that for clarity, etc.)

    As they neared the field, Julian’s eyes turned upward, assessing and categorizing the ships moored there. On the far end, far away from the passenger ships, workers scurried up and down the gangplanks of transport ships, loading and unloading goods from around the world. Closer in, a couple of small, private craft drifted on long mooring lines. Farther down, the pleasure barge floated, and beside her was the Persephone.

    As airships went, she was a fine one. She wasn’t of the latest design, but she wasn’t archaic, either. She was in good repair, her envelope free of patches, her decks gleaming in the sunlight. Men in smart livery bustled up and down the rear gangplank, loading supplies and, likely, luggage belonging to the newly booked couple.

    Thompson led Julian past the rear gangplank to the one for passengers. At the head of the gangway, a man in dark clothing that matched his somber face glared at them. He was of an age with Julian, and he carried the sort of dark good looks that would have his sister and cousins giggling and swooning. Something in his bearing spoke of ex-military, and Julian found himself unconsciously straightening his spine and lifting his chin, aligning himself into perfect military posture.

    “Mr. Hawkins,” Thompson said, inclining his head toward the man. “Lord Thorndale here to see the captain about business.”

    Hawkins stared down his perfect nose at Julian, sizing him up. He didn’t seem particularly impressed with what he saw, and it took everything in Julian to keep it from ruffling his feathers.

    Finally, Mr. Hawkins turned his attention to Thompson and said, “You will likely find Captain Mallory in the navigation bubble.”

    “Thank you, Mr. Hawkins.”

    Julian inclined his head in an almost-bow of thanks and followed Thompson farther onto the ship. He was pleased to see that the planks gleamed and the crew moved like well-oiled gears.

    The navigation bubble sat at the front of the ship. As they neared the bubble, Julian could see it was of the Westfield design: three levels connected by ladders—the crow’s nest, the deck view seat, and the under deck instrument room. No one was on deck or in the crow’s nest, so he figured the captain was belowdecks, likely discussing routes and timing with the navigation team. Julian followed the young man down the ladder. He could hear Thompson explaining the situation even as he climbed down to join him.

    Julian’s feet touched the deck, and he turned with his most winning smile in place. He needn’t have bothered; the captain was out of sight behind a bit of equipment, nothing visible of him except his shiny black boots and a bit of the fawn-colored breeches tucked into the.

    Thompson stepped to one side, and the rest of the Captain came into view. Julian’s smile drained away.

    The captain was a study in contradictions. Her face was youthful and innocent, soft around the jaw, wide of eye, and possessed of that dewy glow that always seems to fade with age. She’d tried to sharpen her soft edges with a short, severe haircut that sent her blonde locks spiking off in all directions. The lush curves of her body were echoed in her full, kissable lips. She’d attempted to downplay the welcoming femininity of her body by wearing men’s clothing—breeches and boots, military-style jacket, and cravat—but she’d only succeeded in showing off every tantalizing curve. Her bearing was a stark contrast to both the softness of her face and the voluptuousness of her body; she faced him with her back ramrod straight, her shoulders back, and her head tilted so that she gave the impression that she was looking down on him, though she stood several inches shorter. She favored him with a scowl.

    The madman that inhabited a corner of his soul thought it made her all the more attractive.

    “What is it that you want, Lord…Thorndale, was it?”

    Ah, but that was the question, wasn't it?

    1. Intriguing. And such wonderful detail. I'd want to know more, read more...

    2. Oh, I like! and I've never read dirigible fiction before!

    3. The tone and voice is so perfect. I want more.

    4. Nice! You put us right there with descriptions that are SO precise!

    5. Thank you all. Something new for me that I hope to work into a full novel soonish. :)

    6. Pure storytelling chops and full immersion. I was right there, from the get-go.

  10. She had a bright smile, as I remember, and I forget so much these days. But the idea of what’s now a featureless face, save for the memory of that brilliant double arch of inviting conviviality, coquettish charm and orthodontic perfection, floats before me and I can’t blink nor rub it away.

    Sometimes I can still make out her eyes, deep brown with a filigree of gold and ebony surrounding the pupils. I only got close enough to study them four times, and of those, only once was with her knowledge, but not approval.

    They were as bright as her smile and were the windows to her troubled soul.

    But now I don’t see her eyes too much. Perhaps my recollection boarded them up when she lost the lease on her soul. It doesn’t much matter anymore, since I moved off on my way, too.

    But I admit to missing that bright smile and the times I’d bask in its illuminant approval, hear the chime of laughter from inside, instead of feeling its bite on these, my own smileless days, when in the mirror I reflect on my own eyes, and see, and see, and see a candle within.

    1. I always say I love your writing, but I figured out why! Balance. So perfectly balanced always.

    2. I will always be a sucker for alliteration and skillful imagery, a wordsmith at the top of their game. Five paragraphs but you pack quite a punch into them. Incredible. The whole of it. "...I’d bask in its illuminant approval..." Dazzling.

    3. Subverting the cliché of "windows to the soul" by extending the metaphor is brilliant here! Boarded up, lost the lease. And the interplay between windows and mirrors. Truly well played.

  11. 17 Alternatives to NaNoWriMo

    1. NaNO!WriMo: Do not write anything — not a single word — for 30 days. The challenge is tougher than it might seem.

    2. NaDoWriMo: Chronicle every episode of The Simpsons in which Homer exclaims, "D'oh!" This, of course, requires watching every episode of The Simpsons. Not a bad way to spend the month.

    3. NaSloWriMo: Writing shouldn't be a race. Take it slowly, savoring the process, and don't worry about the number of words on the page or screen. What a novel concept! But not a full novel — that would take a year or longer at this pace.

    4. NaGroWriMo: Make out a grocery list each day of the month. Every. Single. Day.

    5. NaProWriMo: Procrastinate about NaNoWriMo until after Thanksgiving, yet still expect to write 50,000 words by the end of November. Fail miserably. Pledge not to wait so long to get started next year. Recall that the same promise was made last year, which stirs feelings of self-recrimination and shame. Eat all the leftover stuffing, while swearing to begin a new diet regimen “tomorrow.”

    6. NaFroWriMo: Write an essay on the Afro, its history and significance in the United States. Bonus points for having hair in an Afro while doing so.

    7. NaSloMoWriMo: All writing must be done in slow motion. For an added challenge, throttle down to super slo-mo.

    8. NaFroYoWriMo: Spend the month extolling the cold, creamy, flavorful wonders of frozen yogurt.

    9. NaGloWriMo: The world needs to know more about Gloucester, Mass., America’s oldest seaport. Hop to it — Gloucester isn’t getting any younger, y’know!

    10. NaJoWriMo: What goes better with writing than coffee? Nothing! So why not settle in with a cup o' joe and wax poetic about the life-affirming elixir?

    11. NaGo!WriMo: Do your writing two minutes at a time each Friday by visiting J.D. Mader’s weekly flash fiction write-in, #2minutesgo. Even though it won’t result in a novel this month, it might spark next year’s NaNoWriMo project. You never know.

    12. NaBroWriMo: Just kidding. Dude, real bros don’t write.

    13. NaMoWriMo: Write more than usual, give or take a little, with no pressure to reach a certain word count or keep up with friends who somehow manage to crank out 10,000 words a day. That's it. You're welcome.

    14. NaCroWriMo: Choose a different “cro” word for each day of the challenge. Here are a few ideas: Cro-Magnons, crocodiles, crockery, Walter Cronkite, crocheting, Croatia, cross-training, crowdfunding, crop circles, and crows. In 3-2-1, go!

    15. NaCoWriMo: Team up with a buddy and write in tandem for National Co-Writing Month.

    16. NaRhinoWriMo: There are hundreds of rhinoceroses in zoos and sanctuaries across the U.S. Their stories need to be told.

    17. NaYOLOWriMo: Hey, you only live once! Don't waste precious time spewing out a giant word salad. Instead, write something meaningful, something to remember and be proud of for years to come. It needn't be lengthy or learned; a single character could suffice. Indeed, a checkmark next to Clinton/Kaine would do nicely.

    1. This is brilliant and hilarious and SO creative. Well done!

    2. *bursts out laughing*
      *reaches for coffee, blinks, drinks anyway*

    3. Loved this! Original and such fun. I'm taking #16 to heart. Penning a candid and compelling rhinocerotic tale as we speak...mostly because how often does one get to use a word like rhinocerotic ANYWHERE.

      P.S. No worries PETA, it's not what you think. *wink*

    4. This. Is. Awesome!

      Thanks for the laughs. :)

    5. Perfect! Just perfect! And an important reminder that creativity just ain't the same as manufacture...

    6. Ha ha, sorry to be the ditto guy here, but what they all said. :)

  12. When they call your name, it’s not like some sort of surprise.
    It’s not as if several potential revelers crouch hidden behind the furniture and curtains, some half-drunk, some in closets
    already making out, flipping on the lights and yelling “Surprise” as you enter that darkened home.

    No, when they call your name you more than likely know it’s coming, maybe dreading the intonation of your nom de la vie, the whispered, “Excuse me, Mr./Mrs/Ms./ (insert name here), it’s time.” Or maybe you’ll be lying there, all antsy, waiting for that light to illuminate your way to where they want you to go.

    You don’t have much say, you just have to wait for its arrival
    like the patient drip-drop of an IV bag hooked to the blue vein in some scarecrow patient. Or it can come so fast, like lightning or a runaway semi on the interstate, that you don't even have a chance to mumble, “Who, me?”

    When they call your name, they just call it, maybe mispronouncing it like Hersh or Heesh. There was a time I didn’t care if they called, no matter how they said it. To leave all this would be no big deal.

    But now I think I’ve earned the right to be called my proper name, for a proper departure from here to there, if there’s
    a There there.

    So I wait, no longer in a hurry. I’d enjoy ignoring a first or second call, like they were lame political pollsters or
    credit card scammers. I’d just hit the button that reads Dismiss. Or maybe I could hide behind the curtains and yell, “Surprise” when they come to pick me up.

    Oh, I wish I could.

    (Apologies to Ryan Adams for using the first and last lines of his “Come Pick Me Up” to make this happen.)

    1. I love this one, too. Interesting structure and tone - really cool piece.

    2. Poised, hovering, the anticipation of hearing the name, your name, my name, anyone's name. The bell tolls for...

      Enjoyed this very much. Whether your intention or not, I had a moment that I wanted to shout, "Soylent Green is..."

    3. Manages the deft trick of staying light (yet substantial) with the heaviest of topics. Good stuff.

  13. A small tinny fanfare sounded.

    “Oh oh,” Adam said. “Earthquake!” His hand smashed down onto the table, jostling the castle, the land and all the waiting troops. The bugler toppled off his horse, joining the hundreds of dead and wounded who’d already suffered directly at the boy’s hands.

    “If you’re not going to play fair there’s no point us playing at all!” Jack started picking out the Indian tribesmen, wrapping them individually in tissue paper and then laying them reverently in his shoe-box. “You’re nothing but a kid, anyway!”

    “Am not! I’m as growed up as you are. More so!”

    Jack shook his head and continued packing his toys away. The castle, the horses, the Indians and the cavalry were all his, as were the covered wagons and the cactuses. Adam was only visiting and he couldn’t see why he should always give in whenever he had one of his tantrums. He was just too little and didn’t know how to play anything properly. It was all too frustrating.

    “Jack? Jack? What’s going on in there?”

    As soon as Adam saw his cousin’s mom’s head round the door, he started pounding the floor and burst into tears, his triumphant private grin shared only with Jack. Jack’s mom immediately took the box with the toys he’d carefully packed away from him, pushing it toward Adam. “You couldn’t act your age for an hour, could you?” she snapped, tugging her son to his feet by his pullover. “He’s much younger than you; you should set him a good example. It’s not his fault he’s troubled. You should make allowances for him. You’ve a mother and a father and we both indulge you. Rosemary struggles; she can’t afford to buy him toys like you’ve got.”

    “But Mom!”

    “But nothing!” Tracy pulled her son along behind her, ignoring his protests. The more he fought the more it confirmed what she thought. His father would hear about this and then he’d really be sorry.

    Adam waited until the door closed behind her before he reached for the toys, lifting the top layer of paper out from inside the box. “Geronimo’s dead,” he said, biting most of the way through his neck and then twisting his head off his body. “And his horsey’s lame too. Just look at how his leg got twisted.” It only took him a few minutes to maim the whole of the Indian tribe and dismember most of their horses. It served Jack right, he would never let him win at anything.

    1. This is so REAL. And intense. Wow. Really, really dig this one.

    2. This puts me in mind of an AM Homes story that features Barbies and is also quietly unsettling.

  14. Dang! I think I wrote too long at the fair's part One!

    “You need to get you a fella, “ instructed Uncle Ed, waving a brown n’serve slathered with butter in her direction. Ed was the self-declared patriarch, now that Grandad was gone. The year before, he held his place at the head of the table while the women took turns feeding him soup and mumbled unintelligible things about boogers and rattlesnake stew which had amused the Parker grandchildren no end, but eventually he’d died, still dribbling, one morning the previous June.
    But Grandma insisted on Thanksgiving just like always, and now, Bitsy, better known as Liz to her friends shot her mother a warning look over the carcass of an overcooked turkey, two ducks and a ham, and stifled a sigh.
    “Ed,” her mother admonished. “Bitsy don’t need a fella, she needs to concentrate on her studies. Don’t you, Bitsy?”
    Bitsy nodded and coughed a little. Jello salad trembled on her plate as if to mock her. She figured the news about her dropping out could wait till Christmas. Not that education took high priority amongst the Parkers generally, but they simply weren’t the type to take kindly to those who failed to finish what they’d started.
    “How old are you now, gal?”
    She turned her head and looked at him, figuring him to be four, or maybe five, glasses of wine into the meal. She’d brought a good bottle of Malbec, but Grandma had stashed it somewhere, offering the family her usual vintage of a hellish Zinfandel from the box carefully decanted into her wedding crystal because ‘she wasn’t made of money, y’all and besides, no one ever notices after two glasses anyhow.’
    “Twenty-one,” she answered.
    Ed thumped the table, making the silverware jump. “Then you need to meet up with Jake!”
    Bitsy paled a little, feeling the weight of Aunt Glory’s cornbread dressing settle in her guts like a stone. “Jake?’ she squeaked.
    “Jakey Flad junior, Hon.” Put in her cousin LuAnne. Luanne was married straight out of high school to one of the rapists on the football team, later convicted of drug possession and eight years in the state penitentiary, but wore her burdens as well as could be expected, presiding over the town’s only day care center with no more ill result that a seemingly perpetual cold. “Of Jake Flad Ford.”
    “ohh…” Bitsy frowned vaguely, only to conjure up a vision of a pale-handed boy with thick glasses. “ I remember him,” she said.
    “He’s made quite the name for himself.”
    “Damn right!” Ed thundered. “Does my books down at the store, and a whole lotta other folks, too. I reckon he even kept Willis over at the bank outta jail when their audits went bad last May.”
    Bitsy took a long draught of her own Zinfandel, swallowing till her eyes watered and managing a non-committal “hmmm…”
    “You could look a long time for a man like that, miss. Good habits, steady ways. Fella like that is like money in the bank.”

  15. “I don’t think so…” said Bitsy.
    Her aunt Lila leaned across the table to spear another slice of ham. Lila was a lesbian who kept a tie dye boutique and traveled around to art fairs with a woman named Mimsy. Nobody was supposed to know about it, but that had never stopped her from dishing out advice on the family romantic history, either. “Do a lot worse,” she mumbled around a mouthful. “Money talks, kiddo. Whaddya supposed young Jakey’s worth, Ed?”
    Bitsy drained the last of her glass. Grandma was right; you really didn’t care after awhile. She narrowed her eyes at Lila. “He looks like his feet smell!“ she replied, as if that settled something.
    At th far end of the table, Grandma, who had been nodding, roused herself for a moment. “Body odor,” she announced, “is an inappropriate topic for dinner table conversation.”
    “What’s that supposed to mean, anyhow?” Ed was shouting now. “Everybody’s do, one time or another.”
    Bitsy struggled to regain control as she shot the stink eye at the children’s table where the Parker spawn were giggling as thought they, too, had partaken of the dreaded Zinfandel, even as they surreptitiously fed their sweet potatoes to Grandpa’s hound dog Elijah, who was gobbling fit to die. “Hush!” she told them, “I just meant, I don’t find him—attractive--is all. Besides, doesn’t he have that thing? Asperger’s, or something?”
    “I want pie!” Luanne’s eldest, who should known better, pitched a fork in the direction of his grandmother’s chair.
    Another one, whose name nobody could quite recall, stood up and declared. “Turkey sucks! I want one of them ass burgers!”
    Sensing a revolution, the women rose, save for Grandma, rose from their seats to do what they must. Running suds in the sink so as not to risk the Havilland and sterling and crystal, Lila sniffed at Bitsy through the steam. “So about this man. It ain’t like you swing the other way? Do ya? I know somebody, got her own money, too. Might could set you up nice.”
    At that point, Bitsy’s mother scurried over, a five pound package of leftovers in her hand. “I guess you got to get back.” She told her, and her eyes were filled with light. “Didn’t you say something about work tomorrow? Best get off before dark. It’s a long drive.”
    “Yes, ma’am.”
    Bitsy hugged her hard, and a silent complicity passed between them. “Don’t pay ‘em no mind,” she whispered. “It ain’t like it once was and it ain’t like it’s gonna be, either, you hear? Kiss your Daddy. He’s watching football with the rest.”
    Once outside, she was Lizzie again, watching the soft leaves fall, inhaling the palette of a gold and mauve autumn twilight as it played across the broad verandas and high columned mansions of another time, where fine manners were recollections and china and silver and glittering crystal were relics of another age, used only to showcase the forlorn substitutions of quality and grace, of plenty and abundancegone terribly wrong.
    Like money in the bank, he’d said.
    “You’re wrong” she whispered.
    There wasn’t enough money in the world.

    1. Goddamn, your characters are so real and gritty. You reflect the world back at us so well. This is dope.

    2. Familial expectations, gotta love them but run as fast away from them as you can. Glad Bitsy/Liz/Lizzie escaped. A wonderful tale, thank you.

    3. I was enjoying the slice of life, then that paragraph beginning "Once outside..." brought me up short in a good way and gave what might have been mostly comic a new gravitas. I'm probably not explaining that very well. But in other words, I love this.

  16. In better days, in days Valerie couldn’t let herself think about, she remembered Tomas clinging to the kitchen doorframe, the toe of one small sneaker scraping the side of the other. Angela, their cook, called him her little mouse, using the French word for it, and handed him a cookie. Sometimes if Valerie was sitting at the small table by the window, where she liked to do her homework, and if the cook was occupied with pasta dough or at a critical point in the production of one of her brilliant sauces, Valerie got to hand him a treat. He had saucer eyes and a wisp of a smile, and he would say a polite and carefully enunciated “thank you” and then disappear before one of his parents could discover him near the kitchen.

    He still stood with one foot worrying the other, but the toes of his sneakers were filthy and worn. His mother would be aghast at the condition of her youngest son, but the state of his clothing didn’t appear to concern him. His ever deepening eyes watched Valerie’s hands inspect the pile of wormy field apples he’d collected in the hem of his sweatshirt and set on her counter.

    “They don’t look so nice,” he said, and swallowed. “But are they good enough for pie?”

    A few days ago, one of his friends had not returned from their nightly scavenging outside the camp walls, and to comfort himself, perhaps, he’d been obsessing about their old life. He’d chattered on about how he liked to help his mother in the laundry, how everything smelled so good and clean. But even better were the smells from the kitchen when Mrs. Angela was cooking. Pie. He wanted pie. An older boy had told him there were some scrubby apple trees not too far outside the camp, where the general’s soldiers never patrolled, and that gave Tomas the idea. Valerie eyed the meager harvest; she didn’t know if they were the right kind of apples for pie, and she didn’t have most of the ingredients, but it would break her heart to disappoint him. Plus, the scrapes on his knees and arms were likely the price of his late-night adventure.

    “We can cut around the worms and stuff,” Valerie said, forcing some brightness into her voice. “I don’t think it will be Mrs. Angela’s pie, but maybe it will be enough to remind us.”

    1. Sad and poignant. Humanity endures even through great loss. Thank you for sharing.

    2. So well done! I was right there from start to finish! <3

    3. Me, too. This is so delicately done.

    4. I hate to be a dittohead, but yeah, what they said. Love how this is complete in itself but could also be a part of something much larger.

    5. I'm dittoing the ditto. Wow, this is powerful. Again, understatement. Works a treat.

    6. Thank you so. It is part of something bigger. :D

  17. I didn't want to open my eyes. I could tell by the sounds of monitors beeping and the IV flow controller where I was. There were little pains in my arms and hands. Nothing form my feet.

    I could hear someone weeping softly, an unusual sound for a masculine voice. I didn't want to open my eyes and see if I was right about who it was.

    I could feel the sheet beneath the skin of my back, the weight of the covers atop my chest, the warm fingers clinging to my cold ones on both sides.

    I could smell antiseptic and hand sanitizer and that odd floral soap that hospitals use. It made me all the more aware that my mouth tastes truly foul and felt as if it had been smeared with the paste used in elementary schools.

    It wasn't much of a leap to figure out that one of the IVs was a morphine drip as the pain started to surface enough for me to realize it was there. It was almost instantly smothered again beneath the surge of drugs.

    I really didn't want to open my eyes, but in a bare moment, I didn't have to. I rose up to float above the bed near the ceiling. It was odd, but not uncomfortable, and I could see everything. There was light shining in through the big window. My husband sat on the bench that acted as a sofa, his face in his hands. My kids stood to either side of the bed, their fingers wrapped in mine. I could read the nurse's board, but that was just as well. I didn't really want to know just yet.

    A voice whispered in my ear, "What do you want to do? This is a crux in your life and you are lucky to have been given a choice."

    "I want to live."

    "You could go to Heaven you know," the voice said seductively. Tht told me if I were so selfish, it's Hell I would be tossed into more than likely.

    "No, my Heaven is with my family. Put me back."

    I didn't want to open my eyes, but I figured I had better let them know I was alive.

  18. A dark black smear. Behind that? Eons of blood red grievances and disappointments. He was a shallow man. He liked the taste of bitter black coffee and scotch. He liked women, but never touched them. He only liked to watch. In dim lit apartment, head swimming with an acrid, erotic ballast. He was sinking. Always sinking. Thinking or drinking. But never rising.


    He spent hours in a well lit box that was five degrees too cold. Most of his life, really. It seems silly, I'll grant you. Bereaved, he'd disenchant you. Mock himself to snuff the light of others' recognition. Passing hours like gothic towers until he could return to the dim lit room and the bitter pain of being.


    Some nights, he would hold a revolver in his hand and spin it on a finger. So far, he had been lucky. Possibly. Lucky or not, fate's a pretty poor shot, although the walls were perforated. He waited. Deliberated.

    He was vermin. Filth. He did not deserve to live and he knew it. He hated everyone because he hated himself. Top shelf, fuck the poor. Fucking POUR. Over ice, and then the whole world becomes a kind of numb sociopathic void. So sweet. Bitter retreat.

    They found him dead and rotting. Maggots crawling from the corpse's sprawling. They pitied him. Some laughed. Some were curious, but no one suspected...

    When he wasn't off his meds, how many sad souls he'd protected.

    1. Rather like Poe in the combination of prose and rhyme. Nicely entwined.

    2. Oh my. I thought mine was dark. You've made mine look like a Seuss tale.

      ...the whole world becomes a kind of numb sociopathic void. So sweet. Bitter retreat.

      Like Hector Hugh Munro, your last line is a beautiful coup de grâce. The Open Window has always been a favorite of mine.

    3. Hey write more gothic, brother. Love it.

  19. They hit him because he got bad grades. They yelled because he was always late, until the fear of his tardiness became a guarantee. He could hardly tie his shoes, hands shaking. The taste of fear was real and ever changing. Usually, it tasted like coal dust. He knew what that tasted like.

    Friday nights were the worst. And he could never understand. Why the old man would spend money to come home so angry. He didn't understand that there was a sweet spot and didn't realize that he was missing it.

    He got the leftovers. Served with a side of cold beef on a blossoming black eye. But no one asked questions because that's the way it was. You start asking questions and people start asking you questions back.

    The boy grew up to be a gentle man. He liked animals and children. He did not like adults.

    So, he never truly became one.

    1. Heartbreaking. "He got the leftovers. Served with a side of cold beef on a blossoming black eye."
      At least the violence didn't take root in him. A mercy, that.

    2. Heartrending and true. You do that so well.

    3. Whoa, a tale of a life told this succinctly is some impressive writing.

  20. I just discovered something and I'm not telling anyone. I'll write it down in a notebook and wrap it in wax paper. Bury it out behind the old oak tree. And I'll make jokes in my sleep about waxing poetic, about all the words I'll keep.

    Done sharing, start preparing, there are so many to reap. And nothing that counts for nothing ever comes cheap. Kafka knew and so do you...

    You do things for lots of reasons. Some of them are good. Some just misunderstood. Some are so convoluted it's stupid. So you get zooted, wait on cupid. And you die alone.

    Ain't it grand?

    1. Words that dance on the tongue and deeply wrung. A life unsung. But so well written, with the tale I'm smitten. Kept short and sweet, cleverly neat. Thank you Dan, it was indeed grand.

    2. Thank you for your kind words. :)


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