Friday, December 16, 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.

It was a subtle terror folded in the creases of his subconscious brain. He rolled toward the campfire and pushed himself slowly onto one elbow. There was a flash of two eyes from beyond the fire - his stomach clenched, and he swore he could smell blood. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs.

He could smell blood.

He lay very still and his hand moved slowly to the gun beside his leg, inside the bedroll. The gun would do little except make a lot of noise, but it was all he had. In the moment and in life. The only thing he really needed. He also knew that, until his leg healed, every shot was life or death. 


He almost chuckled. Waste one? Or was it a waste? Or should he save it? The shot? His life? The questions were hard to answer because he didn't know. Couldn't remember. He just knew that he knew certain things. How to shoot. How to build a fire. How to find water. He could not recall his name no matter how hard he searched the corridors. His life was minutes old every time he checked - he was unmoored. 

And the eyes flashed.

He aimed the gun in the direction of the eyes and slowly pulled the trigger. The night exploded in a thunderclap of light. He blinked and tried to see, but couldn't. His ears rang. He had made the wrong decision. 


Now, he would have to find out what the next minute held in store...

#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...

46 comments:

  1. What a way to start us off Dan! Incredible tension, thrown head first into a life or death situation with more questions than answers. So vivid and richly told, you feel the pain, the confusion, the terror. Wonderfully done and thank you.

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    1. What Tamara said! my adrenalin is pumping!

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  2. The North Star was low in the winter sky. Fresh snow blanketed the desert, but somehow the scent of sagebrush was strong in the frigid air. Two sets of footprints, one human and one canine, led down to the creek.

    There was no wind that night, a miracle in itself. The whistle of a train carried across the miles, but otherwise it could have been any century. A man and a dog.
    They knew each other's secrets, each other's strengths, each other's frailties. They knew them well, and they balanced each other. There were memories of nights in blizzards in a tent, when they kept each other from freezing to death. Summer days when they'd shared their last quart of water. Predators they warded off with knives and growls.

    Such events were common enough not to be recalled individually, but they built a common purpose, a shared trust, a sort of telepathy between them. Their bond transcended language.

    Until that night. Until Christmas Eve under a full moon.

    The dog cleared his throat. The man raised an eyebrow.

    "You know it's Christmas, right?"

    The man nodded.

    "I don't have a gift for you..." the dog said.

    "And I don't have one for you," the man, a stranger to conversation replied.

    "I figure," the dog continued, "that we're kind of beyond that stuff."

    The man said nothing, but sat down on his haunches so his eyes were even with the dog's.

    "I'm getting up in years. You are, too, but dogs age quicker than your kind."

    The man interrupted, "You're not that--"

    The dog interrupted, too. "And I'm a might concerned what will happen to you, who will watch out for you when I'm gone." The dog looked up at the stars, making sure the man did not see the tear ready to fall. "I just want you to know that I want you to find a pup and take him in when the time comes. For his sake. For yours. And for mine."

    "We've got a long time before we..."

    "No, my friend, we do not." The dog rose to his feet, and so did the man. They walked into the Christmas moon, leaving footprints in white stardust, and the next day, they were silent again.

    When spring came, the man swore at the stubbornness of a puppy, and he remembered the gift of a dog, an old dog, the gift of love, and he looked up at the stars, so a puppy would not see his tears.

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    1. Oh my word! Leland, you've ripped my heart out. It's so beautifully written and no words that I can think of can do it justice right now. I'm stunned. Maybe when the tears stop I can do better. We lost our furbaby to kidney failure in 2014. He was so loved we haven't been able to adopt since then. For the first time in my life, I haven't had a pet and I'm bereft. But my son isn't quite ready to handle a pup. I hope he can soon. '...For his sake...and for mine."

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    2. Ah, I'm so sorry for your loss... you'll know when the time is right...

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  3. Apologies for the two parts. This one wouldn't stop. I don't think it came from me at all, in fact. Maybe Proxima Centauri or somewhere along those lines?
    _____________________________________________________________________

    We live inside an avocado; it's green and damp. Oh. Maybe it's not an avocado; maybe it's a rainforest.

    I have this friend. I call her Genevieve. I think she might be some kind of lizard. She is also green and has funny eyes that make me laugh. They move like they're tiny machines, and not always together. She hasn't ever told me one single joke, yet she makes me laugh almost every day.

    She catches flies for me and for herself. She lives in my belly pouch and seems happy with the arrangement.

    You know, it might be an avocado. My other friend, who looks more like me, and is called Raglan, told me this is a moon but also an avocado. There's a smooth hard core and a mountainous crust that was blasted into black hard-rubber ridges in a long ago war and we can't live on it or we'd get terribly sick and die. We live in an avocado orbiting a nearby planet that is so molten it acts like a small sun and we wade through warm avocado pulp, which is our air.

    Or perhaps that was my last dream. The dream before that I woke up in an ocean filled with wondrous sights that swayed and slithered and grasped in what was not water but pure alcohol. All the anemone things and the squid things and the sharklike things were completely shitfaced. Even the orange kelplike things spiralled off-kilter. It was drunken mayhem. It made me laugh, too, but I was happy to wake up so I could escape it, all the same. That kind of thing is not sustainable.

    Genevieve just yawned and her tiny red tongue made me laugh. I love her so much for making me laugh. Laughing is one of the best things to do in this or any other life. Without it, a dimension or two would peel away and snag whatever breeze was passing and be faraway by nightfall. Too far ever to catch.

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  4. In one of my dreams, while birds shaped like liquid crystal wheels spun through a violet sky that tasted of berries, someone in a dark forest made of the eyelashes of giants called me Mississippi, called me a chimera, but I don't know what one of those is. Imagine that.

    I think Mississippi was a river, though. I like its sound. I wonder if the thing itself sounded just like its name as it flowed along and lapped against its banks. And did the birds call out its name as it flowed on by? "Mississippi!" Did boats journey on its back and were some of them alive? There is so much I don't know.

    I do know this, though. Raglan fell in love with Clarice, but Clarice went and died, so Raglan is too sad to laugh yet. I hope he will relearn laughter, because he's a nice person, and he deserves it. I think he feels left out of laughter world and sometimes it makes him say something mean, which I know isn't really him, it's his unhappiness talking.

    He told me I was stupid and for a moment I wondered if he was right. Then he burst into tears, and I knew he hadn't meant it. His unhappiness meant it, and for a second his unhappiness convinced my unhappiness and we merged into a whole new being made out of pain, but it was over quickly largely thanks to Raglan's tears. My own tears never had a chance to show themselves.

    Clarice didn't die of natural causes. She was killed. Some say the Mistreat Man did it. He is made out of smoke and something else I don't want to think about because it squirms and drips and reeks of death. Smoke I can deal with. But the older boys and girls up on the other ridge say he stole in one night and did something awful to Clarice—they say the word violated and their faces go still as stones and far too serious—and when he realized Clarice might tell, he snuffed out her life like it was a small candle, and then the Mistreat Man went someplace where he hoped he'd be forgotten. But Raglan won't forget him. Not ever, not in this life. Raglan believes the other children. I think he might be planning something.

    Which, yeah. I wanted to tell you something scary I saw earlier, but I don't want to think about it anymore, not for a while, so thank you for listening to my tales of living in the avocado, and perhaps I will tell you more if you gain my trust. Or when I feel stronger. Wave back, I'm waving!

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    1. So many emotions with this one. You had me at the first "avocado." Enthralled by the time I got to "completely shitfaced." The veered and caromed around the fanciful and amazing Universe for a while. Such an intriguing trip. Then the second part, decidedly dark but no less compelling.

      I'm *waving wildly*. Thank you.

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    2. ...and I hate typos, so now I'm wishing I had caught mine...Perhaps if I hadn't been gesticulating at my computer screen...

      *Then veered and caromed...

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    3. This is truly awesome! I want to read more, and I want to understand it all... but right now I feel all slimy like from an avocado!

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  5. The first thing I noticed about you was also the last: The W on each pocket of your Wrangler jeans. Mama always warned me about cowboys, and her warnings only made me want one for myself. I made sure I was in the little dark cave that was the only bar in the county when the rodeo came to town.

    Patsy Cline was singing about falling to pieces when you walked in the door and straight up to the bar. My eyes didn't make it above your hand-tooled belt before you sat down on the barstool. And then I saw you were staring at me in the mirror behind the bar. I winked, and you winked back. My feet decided on their own to walk toward you, and you wheeled around on that stool and gave me that half smile that even now, just remembering, makes my heart beat twice as fast.

    My mind was panicked. What was I going to say to a cowboy? But my feet kept on moving me toward you, and then I was there, within touching distance, and you stuck out your hand, and I stuck out mine, and you said, "I'm Lucky," and I said, "Tonight you sure are."

    And you laughed and said "No, I mean, that's my name," and I didn't tell you I knew because I read it on the back of your belt, above the pockets with the Ws.

    Your breath was sweet and hot like the whiskey you'd just slammed down. I know because I felt it on my lips when you asked if you could buy me a drink and I said I'd had enough of drinking for the night, but I wasn't done partying.

    And then you touched me with those fingers under my chin, like you'd known me forever, a gentle touch, or maybe it was a touch you'd practiced on horses to look into their eyes. I leaned to your ear and whispered that maybe we needed some fresh air, and you stood up and took me by the hand just like they do in old movies, and we walked out the door and leaned against your beat-up old truck, and we made sure our lips fit well enough, and when we were convinced they did, I invited you back to my apartment for coffee I said, but we both knew I was lying.

    And when we got there, and we closed the door, we kissed again, and leaned against the wall, and I saw Freckles my cat look you over and walk disapprovingly into the kitchen, I knew we'd never be in love, but that wasn't what mattered, not that night.

    You unbuttoned my shirt, gently, slowly. I reached for your belt buckle and asked you why cowboys always had such big buckles and you said it was like a search light, to help with navigation, and then we didn't talk much, at least not with words. And I heard my mama's warning in my head and I wondered if she was warning me against love or addiction because you were definitely a gateway drug to my obsession with cowboys.

    And when we'd finished charting each other's bodies with fingers and tongues and shared sweat and other bodily fluids at last we slept.

    I awoke to the smell of bacon, and alone, and I finally got up, bathed in the scent of horses and a cowboy. You were already dressed and smiled at me, a full smile, so I must have been okay. Freckles was weaving his way between our legs as we kissed good morning and you confessed to feeding him bacon and so I knew you could seduce not only humans but cats.

    Breakfast was quiet but our eyes had conversations that would make even your mother blush. We washed and dried the dishes like the old married couple we'd never be and we kissed again and you said you needed to get to the arena, and I gave you my phone number. You grabbed your hat, and gave me a long slow kiss and said thank you like the polite Texas boy you are and I watched the Ws and the letters of your name on your belt as you walked to the truck, and almost missed your wave and your wink.

    Tonight, and tomorrow night, and all the nights after, Freckles and I will wait for a call that will never come, but I'm lucky, too, and I thank Mama for warning me off cowboys, or I'd never have gone looking.

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    1. A lovely, bittersweet "ships that pass in the night" tale. Always remembered tenderly proving that's it better to have...than never at all. Wonderful. You had me smiling at "...it was like a search light, to help with navigation, and then we didn't talk much, at least not with words."

      Thank you Leland.

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  6. I've been on a poetic bent of late. Who knows why but...I have a World of Warcraft character named Anamcara, also a lovely sterling silver ring. I find the term beautiful and inspiring. I've found one recently so this is for them.

    There's a soul bound recognition when I look into your eyes,
    When our bodies feel the pleasure as the passion starts to rise.
    It's a building expectation as you hold me very tight,
    An emotional connection that has never felt so right.

    And it doesn't really matter if it's night or if it's day.
    I know in my heart it's timeless; I will always feel this way.
    I surrender to you gladly, take my hand and then my heart,
    You're my sweetest anam cara and I'm lost when we're apart.

    We can share the fast ascension as we're hurtling into space,
    Then together we're descending from that lovely peak of grace.
    So be with me now, my darling, as I crave your loving care.
    You're my sweetest anam cara and I need you more than air.
                                                                        -Tamara McLanahan

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    1. aw, this is beautiful! and listen to the muse whenever it speaks, whether in poetry or prose!

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Reposted below, sans typo. If anyone finds another one, I don't want to know! lol

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  8. Because really, when one is afforded the opportunity to have crescendo, enthralled and ensorcelled in a work, one should always go for it. lol


    It's a crashing wave crescendo, a sublime, supreme delight.
    The commands I hear you whisper as you've got me bound so tight.
    It's a singular addiction that I've found as I am held.
    Pinned beneath you, I'm enthralled now, and my body ensorcelled.
    Held in balance, on the edge now, weak with wanting your control.
    I'll remain here, lost in heaven, freely giving all my soul.
    It's like lightning in a bottle, when we're moving face to face.
    Other times a sweet seduction with a slow and steady pace.
    But no matter how we show it, in your arms I'll want to stay.
    Not just for a day or week, dear, but forever and a day.
                                                                                 - Tamara McLanahan

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    1. Wow... this rolls like crashing waves! and I learned a new word that I love: Ensorcelled! Well done!

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  9. The first time I posted this, I had a typo. I'm just OCD enough to not be able to stomach having TWO typos today so I've deleted the first. Here we go again...

    Life had become so tedious, so toxic. I'd had enough of it, filled to the brim with remorse, regrets and worse, knowing it could have been different. One opportunity taken here, one slight misstep avoided and things could have unwinded to a different conclusion. Then again, it could have been worse. At least I'd made it this far, but no further. A moot point in any case as a lifetime of disappointments, lamenting over losses, grieving over gambits was coming to an end.

    I watched you as you came into the room, anger almost always in your eyes now. Never really understanding why you're so mad at the world. Sure, circumstances can mold you into such a creature, but I think you were born angry. Maybe the attending physician at your birth was just a tad too rough. Did he miss your bottom and hit your face? That would account for your perpetual scowl. But alas, another moot point in a day filled with them. At this point, a life filled with them.

    I should have been more careful. In the beginning you dazzled me. An older man, so worldly and seemingly wise. But that was a facade, a carefully contructed persona meant to attract. You had fast hands and an even faster tongue but I wouldn't realize how much you said were lies until much later. After you got older the lies changed, until even you couldn't remember what was truth and what was fabrication. Ah, what a tangled web, indeed.

    Staring into the carefully brewed cup of coffee, I brooded. I'd been planning this for a while. Holding my medications, squirreling them away until the time was right. Capsules easy to open and all those little green, blue and white pills mixed up so nicely. Like powdered coffee creamer but with a decidely different intent. This would not sweeten. This would be bitter, but what was one more acrid thing to swallow? And all for the greater good. My greater good, at least. I ceased caring about yours years ago. Overhearing one ill timed phone call had put paid to that. Next time you call your girlfriend, maybe do it from a cell phone instead of the landline. Just a thought if you ever snare another victim.

    But the coffee was too hot. How ironic that I would make it so. That even now, I was forced to sit and listen to the litany of my shortcomings. The indignaties you'd had to suffer so far today. I tapped an impatient foot, wanting to guzzle the cup down, but not willing to burn my tongue in the doing. How foolish was that? I rose to go to the refridgerator, grab a small ice cube to dump into it. Willing to risk cold fingertips more than a singed mouth.

    I turned and could only watch in horror as you grabbed my cup and knocked back the contents. The cube slipped from my fingers, began melting on the linoleum. Stared, dumbfounded as you walked out of the kitchen.

    You did always have fast hands and no respect for what wasn't yours.

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    1. ahhh... this is a delightful tale of unintended vengeance... well told!

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    2. Well, shoot... *indignities

      My week for typos I suppose. Bad Tammy, no cookie.

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  10. The cabs rumbled, their body panels vibrating as they waited at the signal. Mason was inside the bus, looking down on them, able to see the drivers and their passengers inside, his view of their heads cut off by the roof panels of each the individual vehicles. Maybe, one day, if he’d more money, he might hire a cab and tour the city after dark when it was at its most impressive, when the lights seemed at their brightest and when the traffic was busiest.

    The bus lurched forward and then stalled, the driver pre-empting the changing of the signal and then having to mash his foot onto the brake. A long-bonneted black Benz-mobile cut directly across in front of them, its driver cruising through the junction without hesitating. He’d probably used a green button; some of the more select citizens’ chauffeurs had them, over-riding the signals’ sequence at will, leaving the rest of the waiting traffic ricocheting off one another, their drivers shaking their fists and cursing at its passenger after the limousine was out of sight. You never showed your disapproval before then; people had been known to disappear for the least of reasons.

    A loud humming filled the body of the vehicle, the bus’s starter motor priming itself for re-ignition. Both the bus and its engine were huge, most of the space inside its body taken up by the heavy cast drive cylinders and their triggering mechanisms. At the busiest times, most of the men rode outside on the roof, the nimbler children hanging onto the sides, taking their chances and hoping they’d be able to dodge the taxis and other service vehicles. It was still early and both Mason and Gray had found seats. An hour later and they’d be outside, clinging to the handholds.

    The Benz-mobile turned right, its passenger appearing, framed by the oval of the rear window. An elegant profile and a long, slim neck topped by a fall of blonde hair. Miss Grant. Of course, it was. There were few others with the money required to keep a limousine and chauffeur on call. Miss Grant and her family owned most of the property in town and by default most of the people who lived in it. Mason was lucky, he was still his own man, his business one of the few independent ones remaining. But a few more hikes in his rent might change that. You were never late with payment twice if you rented property from The Grants. Their debt-collectors were brutally efficient and took pleasure from their duties.

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    1. I really like the tone and the ideas in this... science fiction, or foreshadowing of our future? either way, it rocks.

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    2. It's from a WIP I'm working on. It's a diesel-punk novel, so it's delightful combination of sci-fi and misremembered history!

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    3. lol, I do not know the term diesel punk...it's after steam punk but before solar punk?

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    4. It's a slightly more advanced version, set in the 1920's and 1930's. It has hints of Art Deco and maybe the Weimar Republic.

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    5. fascinating... I do like that era...

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    6. Leland Dirks, I envision a world with Cold Fusion punk. I await with bated breath and sewing needle at the ready. I'd be part of the deuterium crowd. Hydrogen is already so passé.

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    7. Well, Leland, I very well may have hit on a subject to think about for next Friday's Flash. The ideas are percolating already for a Cold Fusion punk story. Black with tonal shades of blue for the hydrogen isotope that deuterium is, with glow in the dark properties. Heavy water but not too radioactive. Perhaps my futuristic heroine will make a visit to the Large Hadron Collider, now a decaying museum, laughing over how hard it had been to discover the Higgs Boson. Pretty darn elusive for a God Particle. String theory, party on!

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  11. For sixty round trips of the hour hand of his grandmother's wooden clock, which he broke some indeterminable time ago, Pål Rønning, had not seen the sun rise above the eastern horizon, which his grandfather told him was out beyond those scrubby trees.

    Compasses grew confused about direction this close to the top of the world, just as Pål got confused when he moved to this desolate spot when his parents died in an Oslo car crash, how he got confused even more by the however-many days, or whatever one called them, he had been alone during this horror called Polar Night.

    As he lay there by the fire, staring at the images of his grandparents sleeping at the table, staring at the ceiling, he didn't think anything around him was real anymore, even the winds that knocked at the door he no longer answered.

    "I am alone here and will never see anyone again, or maybe all around me is just a dream and I and the darkness are all that is real,” Pål wrote on a page of an undated journal the hunting party out of Longyearbyen found, along with Björn and Maria Rønning, frozen in blood there at the table of their cabin.

    What they didn't find was young Pål Rônning, who had decided to take a midday stroll one night under the Aurora Borealis, so sure that it was noon in Oslo and not something imaginary again like people, April and that great ball in the sky that once was the Sun.

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    1. That gave me chills... and in so few words... well done, sir. And I love the names of the people and the places...they feel authentic!

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    2. Yaas, I dig on that Nordic shit.

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    3. Surreal, and I agree with Leland, quite chilling. Told in a manner to give it even more impact. Very nice, and thank you for sharing.

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  12. Dotted all my T's and crossed my eyes. The dots are really holes. Old t-shirts and cigarette memories. Truck stop meals that felt like lead in the stomach. I've seen sunsets that should make a grown man cry. My Grandma made homemade pie crust - goddamn, that lady could cook.

    My Paupa collected model trains. I think that's fucking awesome. I collect pocket knives. He probably would have thought that was stupid. But he wouldn't have been mean about it.

    I have boxes full of old paperbacks with notes scribbled in them. Some of them you can't read because of the whiskey tremors. And Thomas Berger still doesn't get enough credit. Don't even get me started on Sir John D. MacDonald.

    My motorcycle is lonely. I don't have the guts to ride it right now. And I'm not talking about courage.

    I tried to live in so many worlds. I secretly loved so many girls. I wonder if they knew? All the songs I wrote. And I wonder, sometimes, who can see through the mask. There are cracks, I know that. But they're hard to see if you're staring at your cell phone. Or your head is giving you a colonoscopy the hard way.

    Look, I'm just a lucky motherfucker who's trying not to screw up. I should be dead. I could be in jail. I've never done anything harmful, but I've done some stuff that people would make a big deal about.

    I know what Navy SEALS do to blow off steam and if you knew, it would blow your mind.

    My mind is like a jack-o-lantern in December. I'm surprised it still works. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe I've been hooked to tubes for the last twenty years and this has all been some weird coma dream.

    Is it wrong that sometimes I hope that's the case? I don't know. All I know is I started out with my eyes crossed and now I can't see straight.

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    1. Wow, Dan. Mental musings that rivet. I don't know why I'm partial to stream of consciousness but I am. I particularly like "...your head is giving you a colonoscopy the hard way." Perhaps the best way I've ever heard that put. Thanks for sharing.

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    2. I like this one a lot... it's a riveting biopic... letting us see behind the genius' curtains.

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  13. Let's change tack. Not that I want to take anything back. But here's a different perspective - a new skull to crack...

    I get blown so many kisses. Sometimes it's hard to stand up. It's wonderful. And I have been hugging the same woman for over a decade and we have that shit DOWN. And I know how to juggle, but I ain't no clown.

    I don't want to lead the pity parade. And I don't want to try and paint everything rosy because it isn't. Life is a complicated thing, and, frankly, it's not any of your business. I just write it down because I can. I don't try to make sense of it. It doesn't make sense. Why do all my novels revolve around baseball in some way?

    I fucking hate baseball.

    So, take what you can, feel lucky that you have the opportunity because there are too many nights where I lay in bed wondering how a good man who gave strong hugs could dial 911 with two crushed arms. I'll never get to ask him. Unless I'm wrong about the afterlife.

    See? It's a whiplash mindfuck. I know all about it. So, I collect the kisses and keep them in my pocket. I hug my wife and think how lucky I am to be alive when there were so many times I almost lost it.

    And I'm not going to OD this Christmas. That's a tradition I don't miss one bit. Take deep breath, run with it. I'm through being a chickenshit.

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    1. Life is a constant puzzle, we do what we can. As you so eloquently put it, it is one huge "whiplash mindfuck." So we just keep on keeping on. And please do keep writing it down for us, we need to keep reading it. Thank you.

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  14. “Man… I don’t like to talk about it, usually, cuz, y’know, it’s history, but I miss pops. Don’t you?” Jacob asked his sister, passing the blunt back to her. “Yeah, of course I do. He’s the one who was actually any goddamn fun, at all,” she replied, taking her two generous puffs before passing it back again. “Shit, how long has that ol’ crusty-ass nigga been dead? Six years? I know you keep closer track of shit like that.” “Yeah, about that. Moms been chillin’ with Jesus about three or fo’ years.”

    Their old man, Ron, was an incorrigible addict, or as he liked to call himself, a ‘connoisseur’ for cheap liquor, weed, crack cocaine, and the heroin that would ultimately kill him. But otherwise, he was a genuinely kind, gentle soul, who just got ground down by the harsh circumstances into which he was born. He never laid a hand on, rarely even uttered an unkind word to, his wife or children. He had a reputation as a scrappy, hot-headed young blood, as a teenager in the Western Addition, back in the 1990s when it was still one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in San Francisco, but those days were long gone by the time he had kids; said fighting the white man’s war took it out of him. He usually didn’t talk about his deployments, especially when he was a boot infantryman tossed into the meat grinder of early 2000s Afghanistan, but when he did, he was usually drunk, yet his tone was sober: ‘I killed enough ragheads to last a lifetime, I don’t want to hurt nobody else, if I can possibly help it.’ He was very cagey with the details, but his personnel record included several citations for valor in the field, and credited him with 29 confirmed kills. He didn’t want to talk about all those Afghan men he shot, fragged, stabbed, and beat to death, but knew his children couldn’t really understand.

    The Rodgers siblings watched “Angela’s Ashes” in the same voyeuristic way that white people watch films like “Precious”. It struck a chord for all of them, the universality of poverty and deprivation. Malachy McCourt was like the white version of their father: not a cruel or vicious man, but one dominated by his addictions. Right down to how they affected his behavior: sober, he was dour, withdrawn, serious, preoccupied by his paper chase, be it looking for legit jobs, or less-legal scams and hustles. When he was drunk or high, he was affable, even jubilant, keen to express his love and affection, and bond with his beloved children.

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    1. Gritty and real. So very well told. Now we'd say PTSD in all probability. It certainly affected his whole life. Thanks for sharing it.

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  15. Whereas, while they appreciated that their mother worked her fingers to the bone trying to support them and their mostly-useless father, she was not much fun. She was the one scolding them to do their homework, eat their vegetables, and go to bed early, no matter how much fun they were having playing with daddy.

    “I do kinda miss moms, too, though, you know? She was our rock. Pops would be passed out on the couch, she’d be on the spot with the paper bag lunch, right? I mean, a sack lunch kinda sucks, but that ol’ ham and cheese on white bread, with the potato chips, it beat the fuck out of going hungry, while everybody else is grubbin’, right?”

    Jacob had to concur with that. He picked up that slack plenty, when he was a kid. Pops was passed out on the couch, Mom was sleeping after a double shift at the hotel, so he got up early and made those sack lunches for his little sister and brother. He typically bought his own lunch, either doing odd jobs around the neighborhood or committing petty crimes, like stealing a few nugs of weed from his dad’s stash, or shoplifting a few small goods, and selling them to classmates. One of the pluses of going to school in a poor neighborhood was, that there were not many narcs running around. Most everyone else was also poor and struggling, so they understood where Jacob was at, selling whatever he could safely steal.

    They reminisced on what little they knew of their family, finding it inauspicious that they were both named for relatives who died violent deaths: Jacob for his father’s older brother, gunned down on Fillmore Street in 1992 over $20 worth of rock, inspiring Ron to join the Army in hopes staying off the streets, and Luanne for her mother’s sister, whose husband killed her with his bare hands in a jealous rage. If he was still alive, he was probably still rotting in a Georgia state correctional facility.

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  16. On his fourth day with the squadron, Lt. David Andrews had already had enough of flying for His Majesty’s Royal Flying Corps, that afternoon in April, 1917.

    After he lost his third squadron mate in two days, he visited his CO, Major Alan Hastings, to ask how to get through just another day.

    “See here, Andrews, you’re doing quite well to have lasted as long as you have, young pup that you are. Those chaps we lost came over here with you, right? That you’re standing there shows you have the stuff to make it over here,” Hastings said as he took a pull on an old briar pipe.

    “But, Sir, these were my mates for months. I even went to school and university with Ellis. How do I deal with losing so many men?” Andrews said.

    “Well, Lieutenant, it’s not something one can stop to think about for too long, really. You just have to pour yourself into the work. Take down more Gerries than they do us. Perhaps you should talk to one of the older men here,” Hastings said.

    “Older men, Sir?”

    “Yes, older. Like Darrow.”

    “Sir, Darrow was a year behind me at Eton. And I tried. He barely speaks to anyone. He just climbs into the cockpit, flies his sorties, blessedly comes back to the aerodrome and goes to visit some whore in St. Omer until the next day,” Andrews said.

    “Really? He seems so much older than you. Perhaps thats what’s necessary, young Andrews. The lesson might be to not get so close to too many of the men. And perhaps you might wish to find some local mademoiselle to take to your lap help ease your nerves and share some wine or whisky. Use your lips to do more than fret and cry. Above all, do your job. Now is that all?” Hastings said.

    “No, Sir. Thank you, Sir.” Andrews said. He then spun about face, banged down his heel and headed out to the flight line for his next sortie. That was the one where his Martinsyde was jumped by four Albatros Scouts and sent down in flames, burrowing into the mud on the German side of the lines. Lt. Darrow did not return from the flight either. Though no one saw him go down.

    That night, after reading the day’s report, Major Hastings, retired to his room and brought out a twelve year old bottle of Glenmorangie, pouring himself one tumbler and then another, as he did every night. And there on his lap sat the beauty whose smooth skin he stroked those nights by the yellow light of a small kerosene lamp. And, as he had for the past two weeks, he passionately pressed his lips to the open mouth of his companion.

    Only tonight, the .455 Webley revolver kissed back.

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    Replies
    1. OMG... I am blown away by the ending... really, really well done.

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    2. Agreed, so very well told. A glimpse into a history we can only imagine the horrors of. And all too often good men were pushed to the breaking point.
      I'm toasting you with my poison of choice, a lovely Glenfiddich Solera Reserve, 15 yrs old. Sláinte mhaith.

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