Friday, November 18, 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.

She drank wine while she cooked, and she always insisted on making dinner. And, certainly, no one thought of complaining. And she would tell them. Stay out of the kitchen while I'm making dinner. And hours would fall while she concocted dishes that smelled like symphonic need. Hell, the whole family agreed.

She did make the wine stay out of the kitchen.

Thus, it is hard for anyone, even me, to say. Hours. That's a lot of time, but they never thought about it. They had work to do -  had balls to throw and fields to traverse, and they were always going forward, never in reverse. 

The house was neat and orderly like a catalogue house. She had hiding places. These were for the vodka. Bottles of vodka snuggled in the linen closet beneath piles of blankets. She kept a bottle in every room. Behind a bookcase. In the back of a closet that no one ever looked in. Safe.

She was a perfect statue of poise and grace. Always. I can picture her now. Neighborhood barbecues. She stood tall, proud, hair that went from blonde to grey. The right way. She never put on weight. She wore stylish slacks and blouses. She laughed. Everyone loved her.

She did not laugh alone. She did not love herself.

Once the details were arranged, the kids decided to go through the house. Keep the treasures, give the rest to Goodwill - sell the house and split the profits. 

And then they found the first bottle. 

By the end of the day there was nothing to say. Shy tears hung to quivering eyelashes. The house smelled of chain-smoking. 

And they sat, wine glasses in hand, wondering how much one can really bottle up.

#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. Heartbreaking, honest, fiction that is all too often true... and a tale truthfully told.

    1. An honest examination of what is sometimes left behind gives clues about that which never was.

    2. This made my heart ache. Subtly and painfully real.

    3. I always love your stuff, Dan, but this one went in extra deep.

    4. Oh. Oh, oh, oh. So heartbreaking.

  2. Glittering flakes fell from a graystone sky; the sun made small islands as it moved between the heavy clouds. There was wind, ceaseless and persistent, blending dust with flakes.

    The mountains looked upon the man with pity, but with no way to tell him it had all happened before, thousands and thousands and thousands of times. They stood sentry against the blizzards of the north, protecting him from the storm as best they could.

    Hope. It was a single-syllable word and his way of life. If he could just make it through this storm, if he could just make it till tomorrow. And he always had. But that’s the thing about winning streaks; they always come to an end.

    There are things a man has to stand for, and things a man has to stand against. Sometimes those things are outside and sometimes they’re inside the man. His demons of the outside were long ago. He had only the inner fears to confront now. And he sat on the bench he’d made last summer, facing the east.

    The sun left the sky. The sough of the wind gave way to shrieking. The flakes became ever larger. An owl hooted above the roar of the wind, but the man did not turn his head.

    He was still there in the morning, blanketed by six inches of snow, eyes frozen open.
    They say if you listen closely during Colorado blizzards, you can hear scream cry his anthem, a single word: Hope.

    1. "hear HIM cry his anthem"... I hate that there's no way to fix typos... sigh.

    2. I like this one a lot. Even with the type-o :D

    3. Again, we're in sync, Leland. Mountains, "demons," and hope. I love that his eyes are frozen open. Literally unblinking.

    4. We are in sync.... I thought that after reading your wonderful story... and thank you!

    5. I didn't notice a typo because this is so fuckin good. I'm exhausted. don't expect insightful comments today. That story made me wish my Grandpa was live. He would have loved it. I do.

    6. I love this. Typo? What typo? I was too caught up in his struggle.

  3. It was the third time someone had tagged my fence. The first was a swastika, backwards, which made me think it wasn’t a real Nazi. The second was something about going back to Islam. Fools. Islam is not a place, it is a religion. And now, the third, “Die Fagot.” I was more offended by the misspelling than the intent.
    I made a mental note to buy more paint at the hardware store. I opened my car door, carefully placed my briefcase on the passenger seat.

    I put the key in the ignition, and looked out the window at the misspelling, and I began laughing. At least I knew it wasn’t any of the thugs I taught in my classroom. They would have spelled it right.

    When the engine finally turned over, I heard an explosion and smelled burning hair. Apparently, the third time really is the charm.

    1. I am saddened we are come to this, yet adoring of the poignancy with which you relate the tide of the time.

    2. I really like that he laughed and went out laughing.

    3. This is an intense and brave piece. The misspelling malaise over intent is so good.

    4. What they all said. And then some.

  4. It was just a little ski town in the mountains. I hadn't been there for years, but in spite of the growth a decade can cause, it was still a small, intimate place.

    The big sign at the outskirts of town still welcomed visitors. The air was thin and cold, as it was year round. Snow was humped up on cabins and businesses alike, great fluffy looking mounds of white. The dirty sheeps-wool mounds were piled alongside businesses and heaped along the side of the main road. Everywhere tall pines loomed over the little valley the town nestled in. They were black with the wet, casting long dark shadows like furry clawed hands no matter the time of day. Axial tilt helped them create that illusion.

    It looked pretty much like any other high altitude small town that offered seasonal skiing.

    There was a grocery, a gas station, an emergency clinic (the hospital was down at the base of the mountain in the city there), a tiny town services building, a lodge that all the visible cabins were attached to, a few pickup trucks owned by the locals and several shiny out-of-state cars.

    Why on earth did city people drive those expensive things up the mountain? Because they could.

    Why did they visit here in the winter, giving the town a seasonal income? The skiing was prime.

    Why was I here? Because they had a livery stable with hourly or daily rentals for riding horses and miles of trails beneath those trees.

    I could care less about skiing. I'm just mad about horses.

    1. This is beautiful... and a wonderful reminder that if the tourists are doing it, find everything else they're missing!

    2. Paints a vivid picture. Comparing the older snow to sheep's wool made me see it in my mind's eye instantly!

    3. I've been there many times. You nailed it. And I love that you describe it even after saying it looks like what we already know.

    4. Like David said, I could see it so vividly. The line at the end made me smile.

  5. "She is up there," they tell us. "Up in them hills."

    They file on past, eyes averted, some making religious gestures, clasping tokens, intoning auguries, chanting maledictions, the superstitious fools.

    A red-tailed hawk catches a thermal and whistles a falling oath, while rising. Pretends to give a shit.

    We set to climbing the red hills, breathing the sun's furnace and its diffuse issue from the world's parched surface, the sounds of the ferrous rocks we dislodge like a pool hall absent the cool and the echo. Same essential hush, though this one's hot, flat, and indifferent.

    Guess we're all behind the eight ball now.

    What do we expect to find? The polished bone of a cue ball? A shiny solid red?

    I question my own damn self halfway to hell and back on that trek up the steep incline, with its loose rusted shrapnel like someone blew up some great adobe hut, with its tufts of vegetation too hardscrabble to ever be thought of as food by any living critter worth its salt. Like ancient green leather stuffed between the shattered brick-rubble lots of war-torn Europe.

    What do I expect to find?

    Likely nothing comforting. All I know is she's bad news on legs, and I'm weary, and not much good will come of any of this. And that's the optimist part of me.

    Some bar in Tuscaloosa or maybe even Memphis, a drunk plain ran out of patience with my jaundiced talk, squinted at me and asked, "What's the difference 'tween ignorance and apathy?" I shrugged, and he answered his own self. "Don't know and I don't care." Only damn words he didn't slur all night. Truth is, I wanted to laugh, but I felt more like crying. So I did the next best thing and ordered another shot of bourbon. Better that than ripping out his throat.

    I'm tired, tired like the damned. Been walking trails and riding rails and stealing horses a half century or more. By horses I mean four legs or four wheels, it don't really matter; hot-wire or hackamore, it's all the same. Part of me hopes I won't ever come back down from these hills.

    But we're pilgrims of sorts, and this is what pilgrims do; we keep on moving even in a headwind of doubt, push onward so's we can find some succor in an artifact, grab ahold of a ragged sleeve or a loose page caught in a dry storm, hungry for its message, and if it ain't got no message we'll write our own, because there's plenty that's worse than death and one of them is the fear that all this has no meaning, which the red-tailed hawk knows, and the coyote knows, and the raven knows, and the red hills know, and I only partly suspect, despite all the scribbling I ever done in a score of journals I since burned for warmth.

    I'm the first that gets here. She stands, inside a horseshoe of striated rock like the rough hull of a dugout, naked as the first day of man, or woman, her bright auburn hair like the radiated halo of a Celtic saint, like hair can shriek, like the lunatic prophets were right, her body in an X pose, impaled and glorious on a stake, skeins of watery blood spilling from the many wounds in her torn scalp, a crimson Tigris and Euphrates over her shoulders and breasts, down over her clenched midriff, merging like a bloodtide with the dry, sandy delta of her sex, congealing there in slow, pendulous drips.

    A twisted umbilicus hangs from that arcane gap and I shut down all thought, pledge not to wonder what such an organ might have been appended to, and where such a thing might now draw breath.

    Before the others arrive, she looks at me and whispers, "They took it all, my love. They took everything."

    1. I'm sure you tire of my praise for your use of language... and yet, I admire it so, and it lights a fire inside me... this is exquisite, my friend... and my favorite part? "if it ain't got no message we'll write our own, because there's plenty that's worse than death and one of them is the fear that all this has no meaning, which the red-tailed hawk knows, and the coyote knows, and the raven knows, and the red hills know, and I only partly suspect, despite all the scribbling I ever done in a score of journals I since burned for warmth."

    2. Thanks, my friend. I never tire of it. ;) This was almost word-for-word a dream I had this week. It felt apocalyptic. Thanks, Donald Trump. But yes, that passage you quote was the most enjoyable to write. It had its own rhythm and I didn't need to second-guess it.

    3. I agree. You can only say good things. I love hot-wire or hackamore. I love it all. BUT, I'm calling you out, brother. Red Tails do NOT fucking whistle. ;) The screech, shriek, but do not whistle. ;)

    4. I was proud of hot-wire and hackamore! Thanks, g. But I disagree on the hawks. I can even do the sound myself, pretty accurately. It's like a ragged whistle, a descending note. Remember the opening credits of Northern Exposure? That. Okay, let's compromise: a whistle-shriek?

    5. You paint such vivid pictures with your words, but my favorite part was your description of her body. I've never been so moved. You amaze me.

    6. The power here, like always, just blows me away. This paragraph especially:
      But we're pilgrims of sorts, and this is what pilgrims do; we keep on moving even in a headwind of doubt, push onward so's we can find some succor in an artifact, grab ahold of a ragged sleeve or a loose page caught in a dry storm, hungry for its message, and if it ain't got no message we'll write our own, because there's plenty that's worse than death and one of them is the fear that all this has no meaning, which the red-tailed hawk knows, and the coyote knows, and the raven knows, and the red hills know, and I only partly suspect, despite all the scribbling I ever done in a score of journals I since burned for warmth.

  6. I walked toward home in the somber light of evening that shines just after the sun goes down. Venus beckoned bright in the sky.

    Venus. Like the song said, Goddess of Love. But she did not find time to send a knight in shining armor my way. Not even tarnished armor. No matter. A cat named Galahad awaited me in my small home. He was a ginger, and his coat while shiny, was golden, not silver. In the seven years since I’d found him, he’d had scant reason to rescue anyone in distress, much less a damsel. He had, however, averted the ongoing attacks by the mice that somehow squeezed their way into my humble abode, no matter how I tried to block them.

    I reached the walk that led up to my door when I heard a car swerve around the street corner, and the red and blue lights were casting eerie, animated shadows on my lawn. I was surprised when the car screeched to a halt In front of me. The doors slammed open and two of the county’s finest shouted in unison, “Get down!” and then pulled their guns.

    I dropped to the ground and extended my hands above my head, grasping at the lawn I had mown only the day before. The ground smelled comforting, of things living and dead that had somehow made their peace with one another.

    “What’s your name?”

    My mind wandered as minds sometimes do when they are confronted with the impossible or the inevitable, and I tried to remember what you were supposed to use to get grass stains out of cotton shirts.

    “Your NAME, sir!”

    I answered, “Jose Ortiz. My friends call me Joey.”

    “Why are you here?”

    “This is my home. I nodded to the front door, behind which an impotent Galahad awaited.

    “Are you a citizen of the United States, SIR,” the one behind the flashlight demanded.

    I wondered if Canada geese were considered citizens. I wondered if Mexican jumping beans were. And I did not know how to answer. Or whether to.

    “I’m going to need to see some ID, SIR.” This time it was the one who was not holding the blinding light that asked. His gun was trained on me.

    “I lost my wallet.” And I had. I had called for cancellation and replacement of my credit cards, but had not yet gotten a new driver’s license.

    “Your date of birth?”

    My mind wandered back to my 16th birthday, back in Tiajuana, so many years, so many dreams ago. “November 9, 1979,” I whispered.

    The one without the flashlight muttered my name and birthdate into his radio, and I cricked my head to look at him. He was handsome. Blond. A neatly trimmed moustache. His uniform was neatly pressed. If he were a knight, he would be Lancelot. Or perhaps the Black Knight.

    His eyes remained on me, as if I, a waiter, would be able to afford a weapon that might threaten him. His radio squawked and the only word I heard was “Clear.”

    “You can get up. You really need to get some kind of ID.” Lancelot sounded almost apologetic. Officer Flashlight was muttering something under his breath. I caught “Damned Mexicans” but not much else.

    “I’m sorry we put you through that. Are you all right?”

    Now on my knees, I nodded.

    “We’ve seen a lot of break-ins in this neighborhood, and we’re just playing it safe.” He returned his gun to its holster.

    I nodded again. “Thank you,” I heard myself say.

    “If you see anything suspicious, or need any help, please call.” I saw him write on the back of the card he eventually handed me.

    “Thank you,” I said again.

    He offered his hand to help me up, and I saw he had the hands of a musician. Long, slender fingers, a cool touch. He stood there waiting until I walked to my door, fumbled with the key, and let myself in.

    I stood in the entryway, shaking, and Galahad jumped up into my arms.

    “Easy, easy, big fellah. You can rescue me next time.”

    He purred.

    I turned on the light and examined the card.

    In a scrawl on the back was a phone number, and a note: “Nice ass. Call me.”
    I considered if it was a command or an invitation, and I laughed at the crude compliment. I wondered if Galahad would challenge Lancelot to a duel over me, and who would win. My money was on Galahad, but I had always hoped for Lancelot.

    1. And was there a round table in his kitchen? lol As depressing as recent events have been, there will always be love and lust where humans are concerned.

    2. Man, my insides are completely twisted. Whiplash. In a good way.

    3. What they said. I love how you twist things up. Definitely good whiplash.

  7. Things fall apart, the Irishman said, and, as days dwindled like hours dropping by the temporal roadside, my life sloughing off like a snake’s skin, I’d once turn to look at the trail of debris I’ve left along my way.

    Along both shoulders of this pothole-pocked gravel two-lane lies the detritus of all my broken promises, crushed chances, dashed hopes, severed relationships and shattered dreams. But I reckon that’s what this life was supposed to be, not some smooth interstate of heretofore to hereafter.

    I’ve found it’s like driving along and That Song comes on the radio and you see Her and the highway fades away for the next six miles. Suddenly you’ve reached your destination and you don’t remember how you got there, what you passed on the way, what you might’ve dropped while recalling a better-forgotten past and contemplated a cloudy never-will-be.

    I try not to look back, try not to imagine my destination. This current place in my journey is what’s most important. And every time I think of taking a peek, I look hard to the right and left and continue slouching toward Bethlehem of wherever it is I’ll finally fall.

    1. Joe... you've outdone yourself... this is an homage to the open road of life. And the last line nails it... really amazing! Well done!

    2. Thank you, sir. I'm trying to cull a story I've written to the requisite number of characters and it's down to cutting off a few fingers. But, I'll persevere.

    3. Angelo says don't lose the thumbs... they're all we humans have as an advantage.

    4. I have to admit, Yeats's poem keeps coming back to me lately, too. I love the way you've integrated his dark vision and made it your own, Joe.

  8. “I’d like to purchase me one of those pistols, Mr. Baker.”
    “One of these, here, son?”
    “Yessir, that .41 caliber double action Colt on the right, to be exact.”
    “Nice little piece, son. They call it the Thunderer. Say Hardin was partial to this weapon. Yep, stone killer, that one. How old are you, son?”
    “How old?’
    “Well, almost nineteen.”
    “How close is almost, son?”
    “What was that, son? I don’t hear so good anymore. But I still see good as ever, and if you’re nineteen, I’m Rutherford B. Hayes. Now let’s try that again. How old are you?”
    “Fourteen and a half. But I do a man’s work and carry a man’s load for my Ma and little sister and brother.”
    “I don’t doubt that, son. Can see by those rough hands ya got there. Now what would a hard-workin’ young man like you want with a gun made for…well, for killin’ other men.”
    “I don’t know’s that any of your business. My money’s just as good as any other man’s and I don’t see you askin’ them so many questions. You gonna sell me that gun or not?”
    “Rein in there, son. No need to get all tetchy. Just makin’ conversation’s all. I was just wondering what you wanted the piece for.”
    “Huntin’, eh?”
    “You havin’ a problem with some mighty big rabbits out there by the North Fork?”
    “How d’you know where I’m from?”
    “Knew your daddy from back in the old days.”
    “You knew my Pa?”
    “I did. He did some rangerin’ with me after he come back from the War. I was too old and they wanted some Rangers to stay an protect folks from Comanche and such while most of the men were fightin’ back East. Sorry to hear about your Daddy’s passin’.”
    “He didn’t just die. He was backshot by Cal Blandings.”
    “I heard he’s working on your Ma’s place. You say he killed your Pa?”
    “Not just what I’m sayin’. It’s what I know.”
    “And how’s that”
    “Says he came upon my Pa after he was shot. But he’s a shady one and I wouldn’t believe a word the bastard says.”
    “I’d say you’re a pretty good judge of character, son.”
    “Yep. Few weeks later he comes to our door asking Ma if she needed a spare hand, what with Pa’s unfortunate demise. He gives me the evil eye, lettin' me know he’s not to be trifled with. Said my Pa never understood that.”
    “If I recall, he was right fond of your Mama before your Daddy come along and turned her pretty head. Mighty fond. Didn’t take it too well, now’s I recollect.”
    “Yessir. And now he’s tryin’ to spark my Ma, convince her she needs a man around to protect her and the kids. Then he tells me how I’d best be careful when I’m out catching strays. Says I could end up like my Pa if I didn’t watch myself.”
    “So this here gun is to provide for your family, you say.”
    “Yeah. Protect ‘em. He’s got Mama pretty mixed up right now. And the other night he…he hit her.”
    “He didn’t!”
    “Yeah he did.”
    “So you want this Hardin gun to…”
    “Do whatever needs doin’.”
    “Son, I want you to wait a few days to cool down just a skoosh. Then come back and I promise to let you have this gun if you still think you need it.”
    “I need…”
    “Trust me, son. You don’t want to do what I think you’re plannin’. Listen, I’m an old Ranger who’s seen what one of these can do to a man.”
    “I seen men shot before.”
    “I don’t mean the one’s what got shot, son.”
    “Just trust me. Two days is all I’m askin’. Keep your powder dry for two days and then we’ll deal.”
    “All right, I’ll be back Friday.”
    “Good. You won’t be sorry. I’ll even put the Colt aside for ya as a show of good faith. In honor of your Daddy. See ya Friday.”
    “Yessir. See ya then,” the boy said, closing the door behind him.
    “Jack, come here! Put this Colt away for me, will ya? Should the Leakes boy come back for it, tell him you sold it.”
    “Sure, Ben. You headed over to Doc’s now?”
    “Nah. He said nothing he can do for me anymore. Just a matter of time. Actually, I’m thinking of takin’ a ride out near the North Fork. Chet Leakes’ place.”
    “Why you puttin’ on your old Colt just for that, Ben?”
    “Gonna hunt some rabbit. Hear they got big ones commencin’ to be a problem out there. Thought I’d lend Maddie Leakes a hand, just for old times sake. Adios, Jack.”

    1. ah, so much story in all dialogue... well done... and I'm glad there are folks like Mr. Baker in the world...

    2. Brilliant! Almost no words that aren't dialogue and I was riveted. Satisfying ending too.

    3. I couldn't agree more. And so true to the genre.

  9. I wobbled our way to the tiny hospital bathroom, moving as fast as I could while with my mother hanging onto me for dear life. Her IV trailed behind us like the loser in a parody of a race. Mom lurched and sputtered, and I knew if I wasn't half-dragging her she'd have sunk to the filthy floor ages ago.

    I damned myself over and over for insisting that they remove the catheter, but Mom begged me to make them do it. I had no idea getting her to and from the bathroom would kill us faster than the chemo and surgeries. Endless days in the hospital was sapping my strength to care. I couldn't imagine what it was doing to her, and I didn't want to.

    I loved my mom with all my heart, but in my darker moments I thought,"Is one life worth this much pain?" Even then the eventual answer was yes. So we kept going back, kept fighting the never-ending fight.

    I was convinced that I never wanted to get old. I never wanted to go through what my mother and father and aunts and uncles were going through now. Going out in a blaze of glory sounded like the way to go. Then again, according to my kids I was already old.

    If I had a nickle for every time I heard, "Fifty is old as dirt, Mom," I would be a rich woman. Then I could hire someone to do this shit for me. But I wasn't rich, and I wasn't old. I was trapped, just like Mom. We were trapped in the not-so-funhouse of cancer treatments.

    I finally got us to the tiny, sterile bathroom, pushed her gown up and helped her get her panties down, only to find we were too late. I wanted to scream, curse, cry, flee. I didn't do any of that. I cleaned her up, got her new clothes, wiped up the trail on the floor, and got her back to bed.

    "I'm sorry, Jeannie," Mom whispered. Her voice broke on my name.

    I shook my head, kissed her cheek, and told her not to worry about it.

    "I love you, Mom," I said. "I'll be back with some ice chips."

    I fled to the little room where they kept the vending machines, leaned against the wall, and slid to the floor. It took me a few minutes to realize my sobs were way too loud. Right about then my husband poked his head in and looked down at me.

    I wanted to punch the pitying look right off his face, but didn't give in to the urge. Steve helped me up, pulled me into his arms, and held me while I let go.

    "Is it worth all this, honey?" he asked.

    "Yes," I murmured.

    1. ahhh... what would the world be like without loving daughters and sons? A heart-rending tale. Thank you for sharing.

    2. Yup. I cried along with her. Captures all the sadness of this, and the spirit too.

    3. oh, my god this is heartbreaking

  10. Went to the gym, today.
    To clear my mind, to get away.
    Tried the barbells, the weights, a chair.
    After five minutes, I was outta there.

    1. This reminds me of Shel Silvertein who I adore.

  11. "Come, sit with me." My mom, said. She slowly pat a spot on her bed.
    "I wish I could." I rubbed her on the head. "I'm running to the store, we're out of bread."
    " Come sit near me." She moved her leg. "Just for a moment. Don't make me beg."
    And three days passed much the same way. Pretending I was busy, too afraid to stay.
    Then one day, I grabbed a pillow, and stopped for a while , to listen and take in all she felt and had to say. Today, that time is what helps me smile.

    1. ahhhh... beauty and bittersweetness... I'm glad you took the time...

    2. Good to read your stuff here, Ey. These poems are delicate and unique.

    3. Agreed, and it's nice to have ya. :)

    4. Thanks guys. Promised myself I wouldn't come over here unless I could get a little, light. Ive been in a really heavy mood.

    5. I hear ya. Been a rough couple weeks.

  12. "Yes. I have breasts."
    "Breasts. Two of them. On the front of my body."
    Denver shook his head, looking startled rather than ashamed. Or so it seemed. He'd been eyeing me up all morning. I knew this hot-desking was just the worst idea the managers had had. I hunched my shoulders forward and then slipped on a cardigan, conscious of the the chill from the air conditioning. I wasn't feeling cold - I preferred it cooler - but the last thing I wanted was to give him any more reason to stare.
    "I'm sorry. About before."
    Crossing my arms, I turned back to him, deliberately shielding my chest from view.
    "I mean," he continued, swivelling to the left and then the right and back again. "You're very impressive but that's good, right?"
    I counted to ten. Twice. Three times. Then I took a deep breath and then one more.
    "You can't just say that," I said. "It's not what a woman wants to hear, I can promise you that."
    His jaw tightened and then loosened again, the dimples on his cheeks deepening and then disappearing.
    "Look," I continued, holding my breath and then deliberately trying to breathe shallow breaths. "It's just my body. Roper in accounts has larger breasts than mine but do you stare at him like you do at me?"
    Denver shook his head again, his words abandoning him. Maybe he'd leave me alone for a while now. I only had to manage for another three hours; the day would be over then and maybe he'd take the hint and find some other poor woman to stare at. I almost felt sorry for him: he was one of the perpetually singles we had in the office. He just needed to get laid...but what woman would do that?

    1. It's like a vicious cycle! But yeah, a great illustration of the male gaze, and how so many dudes still don't get it.

    2. I'll admit, I still want more. Love the line about Roper's breasts.

  13. “Ma?” Heidi Winston shouted down the fold up ladder from the attic. “Her mother emerged from one of the bedrooms and peered up anxiously. “What?” The irritation in her voice was not some heard, but felt, in that way that only blood relations understand.
    “Where did you put all the happily-ever-afters?”
    “They’re up there,” Mrs. Winston answered uncertainly. “At least, I thought they were…”
    Sounds thudded above as the somewhat ungainly Heidi moved aside boxes. “How about the wreath?”
    “Oh, honey, they don’t allow those anymore, remember? “ Mrs Winston frowned. “I think it was the same year they banned the “Peace on Earth signs.”
    Heidi’s face appeared above her, flushed and confused, yet grimly determined. “I have the tree anyway, and the ornaments. And lights.”
    “We can’t use that tree this year. The homeowner’s association was very clear. “ She pulled her checklist out from her filthy sweater pocket. “No trees above 4 feet in height, no blue and white light combinations, no 6-pointed stars that might be construed to represent the Star of David, no Menorahs or any candles set up in a row are to be displayed whether or not they are visible from the street, no Three Kings, only one, and none of color, and only happy-and serene-looking Virgin Marys may be used as décor this holiday season.” She paused and glanced up hopefully. “Bring the fake snow, though. They seem to like that.”
    “How about Rudolf the fucking reindeer?”
    Mrs.Winston sighed. “They feel it might be offensive by association to the new Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs.” She answered sadly.
    “Aha!” shouted Heidi. “I found the Joy to the World LED display! Can we use that?”
    “Hmmm. That one still seems to be okay…”
    Heidi huffed over and handed it down. “Fucking animals,“ she added, extended her other hand. “What about this?” she said, handing down a four-foot figure meant to sit upon the mantelpiece, his garish, orange-red hair peeking out from under a pointed cap, with eyes that seemed to follow wherever you go.
    “The Elf on the Shelf?”
    “Yes! That one’s VERY Popular! They’ve all been micro-chipped, you know? They watch us all the time, the children especially. They already know, Santa won’t come unless they are compliant.”
    “I found my Barbies!” Heidi yelled. “And I’m bringing them down!”
    “Barbies?” Mrs Winston scanned her list. “I don’t see them on the forbidden list. But don’t they discourage a positive body image or something?”
    Heidi huffed down the stairs after sending six or seven boxes down to her mother’s feet, Clutching a small blonde, pant-suited figure to her copious breasts. “We’ll set her on the top of the tree!”
    “Well,” her mother answered. “ I guess that would be okay….”
    Just then, the elf on the shelf tumbled down the ladder after her, landing face up and sprawled at the floor beneath their feet. Heidi grinned and gave the doll a swift kick in the ribs, while Mrs Winston stifled a chuckle, in that way only blood relations can understand.
    “ C’mon Mom, where’d you say they put that micro chip?”
    Her Mother’s eyes shone. “Right in the forehead, I think. “ And with that brought her foot down hard between the Elf’s eyes.
    And together, they kicked and stomped that creature’s head in some far oblivion, until nothing remained but some fragments of plastic, an illusion of safety and a little bit of what looked like blood and awfully human bone.
    Heidi draped an arm around her mother’s shoulders. “You know what? This is gonna be the Best Christmas Ever…”
    Her mother gazed up at her, eyes shining. “Can we invite the Abdallahs? They’ve been in the basement for an awfully long time…”
    “Yes, yes we can, Mama. Bring them upstairs. Got any eggnog?”

  14. I don't have answers, I have questions. If you'd like some fashion tips, I have suggestions. If you'd like to live better, a sweater, not one that's fuzzy or wooly or shady. Naw, I'm thinking more like motherfucking Mike Brady.

    And the shoes! Christ. I don't understand. It's like ugly shoes are in frantic demand. Mostly the men, women have class, but your bright white walking shoes can kiss my ass.

    See, here's the thing; life is art. And there's not many areas where you can't take part. Give a fuck, care a little. You're all brimstone and spittle. I spit truth and, no, I won't meet in the middle.

    Now, I'm out of two minutes and done with this session. I hope you made mental notes and learned your lesson.

    The high ground don't make me noble, but my kicks look fresh.

    1. I never understand why you say you don't like or get poetry, brother. This is exactly poetry, with a total feel for traditional rhythm and meter, etc. I'm not kidding, it's iambic freaking pentameter, Bill Shakes's thing, and it's awesome!

    2. Yep, if Shakespeare had biking gear, he'd almost be as cool as you... "brimstone and spittle"... for the win!

  15. The anonymously mailed note was like gasoline on the fires of unrest, after a string of fatal shootings of Chicago police officers. It read, “you want to act like an occupying army and go around killing people? We’re giving you motherfuckers a taste of your own medicine. Every time an unarmed, or lawfully armed and cooperative, person is killed by a police officer, anywhere in the United States, a pig gets the same. Eye for an eye, bitches, your lives are not more valuable than anyone else’s. We’ll stop when you stop, and there’s a lot more of us than you, so if you want to make this a war of attrition, we WILL win. We’re everywhere, like the pusher man. Just a notice: you want a war, you’re getting a fucking war, and you’re going to lose.”

    And true enough, for quite some time after that, the city of Chicago was at war with its’ own law enforcement. Even after the National Guard got involved, they were treated the same way: sniper fire, IEDs, average-looking white teenagers ambushing officers, robbing them, and often, shooting them dead. A few civilians were understandably horrified, when that winter’s snowdrifts melted, to discover corpses that had been hastily buried in the snow. The Guardsmen nervously joked that it was finally accurate to call it “Chiraq” after the briefings that, for more than a few, were their last.

    1. Yup. Hey, did you guys watch Spike Lee's Chi-Raq? An under-appreciated movie, I thought.

    2. No, but maybe I should. Isn't it basically a retelling of Lysistrata set in the shitty parts of Chicago? I would think an auteur as Afrocentric as Spike Lee would avoid biting classical Greek tropes.

    3. Yeah, I'm not even sure it fully works, either. Although I still enjoyed it a lot. Definitely worth a watch. Mind you, how far wrong can you go with the likes of Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett?

  16. Oh, you're angry and it just burns my insides up. I understand, I do - you've got so much stewing inside of you. I'd say let it out, in one awful shout, but I have neighbors and don't want the cops all about.

    Fuck me? Well, surely? But fuck you first, light or dark, late or early. You name the park.

    You shake and you bounce, and I'm supposed to think what? This is what it looks like when CEOs front? You decided we didn't have enough pompous windbags. Come to my basement, bring a guest? Get a ball gag!

    And I'll chain you to the wall, not sexual at all. I just want to see your face when the first ashes fall.

  17. Nobody talked much about her father’s job, when Valerie was little. Mother only said that Papa worked for the government and was in charge of helping people get along with each other, which Valerie thought was a very important thing. That’s why when Ricky Alvarez pulled her hair in the cafeteria and said her father was Benedict Arnold, she punched him in the face. Valerie cried all the way home in the back of the black sedan, and even though Alphonso the Secret Service man said nice things to her, and even offered to let her wear his mirrored sunglasses, it was no consolation. She had let her father down. He spent all day helping people get along, the least she could do was try not to punch them. But over cookies and milk that afternoon, she thought about that again. She asked Angela the cook, whom she always trusted to tell her the truth. “Mrs. Angela?”

    “Yes, my little mouse? You would like another cookie?”

    “No, thank you.” She set down her glass. “Mrs. Angela, is my father a traitor?”

    Mrs. Angela’s lipsticked mouth squinched tight. And she stared, long and hard. “Who is saying these things to you? Was it that boy?” Her fist pressed into the counter. “I will tell your mother, and she will call that awful boy’s father.”

    “No!” A bite of cookie fell into Valerie’s lap. “I mean, no, please.” She picked up the crumb and set it daintily onto her plate. That would probably make Ricky Alvarez angrier, and she didn’t want to have to punch him again. Because she thought he was sort of cute. If not for the pulling her hair and the Benedict Arnold thing.

    “Your father is a wonderful man. And don’t you let anyone tell you differently.”

    “But…but what does he do?”

    “He makes the world a better place. That is his job. And we should all be thankful.”

    And that was that. Valerie finished her cookie and slunk out. She walked out onto the wide, green backyard, where the gardener was clipping dead branches from the trees, where a camera pivoted atop a tall, sturdy fence post, and looked up, into the sky and the clouds and the sun.

    Then someone was talking to her, and the memory dissolved. “Your time is up.”

    She sighed. Her father stood, his prison uniform hanging on his thinning frame. “Thanks for the cookies,” he said, and a guard took him away.

    1. Ho-ly shit. That's literally all I've got. Wow.

    2. This is truly powerful. Holy shit is right.

    3. BIG wow... the way you write... and what you write... and the imagination and skill...

    4. What's up with you people writing beautiful tragedies this week? The ending nailed me. Great piece.

    5. Life is tragically beautiful lately. Thank you.

  18. Zeke was a boy, small for his age - the doctors told him to drink lots of milk, so he did. He drank milk all day long. And he didn't grow one bit. And he thought, doctors are like Mall Santas. They don't know shit. Zeke was a pretty smart kid.

    So, he grew up short. Looking up to everybody, deserved or not. Zeke was willing to take anything anyone could dish out. And he ended up on the wrestling team. And that landed him in college.

    Now Zeke is back in Appalachia, and he's the biggest man in town.


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