Friday, January 27, 2017

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.

Don't it smell good? Don't you think it's swell? Look, right there, you look deep enough and you'll disappear in there. Board or not. Puff. Smoke. Take only footprints, leave only air. Keep yelling loud enough and they'll hear you. Like a thousand cowbells. Man, I don't like the way the wind smells. 

It's changing. 

We're all stumbling around looking for somewhere soft to land. That's not so terrible. Hell, that seems civilized, almost. Bearable. Wide open eyes. Don't fucking look at me. Just don't look away. See that stain on the drywall? Looks like Jesus. Or a pigeon. 

One of the two.

I can't brush my teeth enough times to get the taste out. Get your plastic bins, it's time to get the waste out. Get your favorite pants. It's time to let the waist out. Get fed. Get up. Get fed up. Dance. 


Get wasted and kicked out.

Your ears don't work right. I know it. You know it. They're like chipmunk ears. Can't hear the frequency. Is that real? True? Can I bask in that legitimacy? I don't know much about chipmunks. I hear they're mean fighters. Don't ask me.

I'm a fiction writer.

This is what the tired brain says. These are the xylophone keys I'm banging. Your moms is crying because you left her hanging. Said you'd come back, but you never did. Just like you, you ungrateful fucking kid. War on drugs? Relax, Nancy. It'll all be fine.

Ask Syd.

Fuck trees and sunshine and rainbows and ice cream. I don't mean have sexual relations with them. 
What the hell is wrong with you? Your brain didn't settle right. The seams aren't tight. 

If you put your hands on me, you better do it slow and easy. I startle. And I don't like being surprised. I like to see truth when I look into your eyes. Not bitterness. Not cheap bourbon lies. Father's day ties. 

Five dollars will get you a ticket to ride. 

You breathe in. You breathe out. That's what this whole thing is about. Eat, shit, breathe, live, die, find out what happens. We need to send a reporter out into the field. A good one. With glasses and a pad.

Find out what the fuck is real.

I'm done now. And this doesn't make a lick of sense. Or does it? Sweet recompense. I waited where you told me to wait. I was there on time for your trumped up date. But you were late. And then you were late again, and we had us some children. 


They were born into sin. Drinking lead. Sheltered by tin.

Anyway, that's what I've got for you. Cryptic bullshit and cheap rhymes. Subtle distraction leads to frantic crimes. Your screams won't help you; they just give away your location. Me? I'm on a reality vacation. You too? Bully. Have a nice trip.

See you next fall.


#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...

76 comments:

  1. Oh my. Where to start. So many nuances and lines to read between the lines. All done with a dazzling consciousness streaming in abandon. Did I say streaming? I meant screaming, and if we aren't then we should be. And if we aren't it just means we've tuned out or it's too late.
    Well done Dan and thank you.

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    1. Wow and yowzah on the Mader Rap! I want my soft landing.

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  2. A friend was talking about his grandfather and his battle with Alzheimer's last night. I couldn't get that story out of my mind. That his last good day was the one where he rallied and insisted on seeing his newborn grandson. So I wrote this at 4 am, For all those afflicted with dementia. A tribute to who they are, who they were, and in loving memory of those who are gone but never forgotten.

    In Two Parts, which I've never done but this was important enough to me to do.

    He was a kind man. The one the kids could always count on to have a lollipop or two in the pockets of his button down cardigan. Who would smile and be first to join in if they were playing a game of catch. Always there to assist should a kite become tangled in a tree or a puppy become lost. No pets ever stayed lost for long under his watch. His eyes crinkled when he smiled and his laugh was infectious. In summertime, when the ice cream man would drive down the street he was first in line, and should any child be slightly short on change, they weren't for long as he kept plenty of coins for just such a need. And so it was with sadness that his family watched as he started to become ill. No sudden onslaught of a disease. No, this was more insidious, much more devastating. A slow eating away of self, first confusion and the ebb of his smile. He began sitting in his favorite chair, staring into space with eyes slightly glazed. The jokes he used to tell so frequently diminished or were begun but never finished. Just sentences that trailed off into mutterings. He still hugged, wrapping strong bear arms around and giving a loving grunt as he did so, but those watching noticed that after a moment or two, he might need to pull back and look at the face of the one he was hugging. As time went on, he recognized fewer of those faces as he examined them.

    He'd always enjoyed fishing and that he continued to do. The baiting of the hook, casting into the pond, those were ingrained since childhood and a comfort. But as the disease progressed he found it harder to find his favorite pond. The grandchildren started accompanying him more frequently, holding his hand as they skipped along by his side. Even the local children kept a closer eye on him as he'd walk around the neighborhood. They may not have known precisely the nature of his illness, but in the way of children, knew something had changed and as he'd always been there for them, reciprocated with childlike innocence. But a few adults were less kind, not understanding the nature of the disease. Seeing only a once vibrant and take charge man slide slowly into what in their less kind moments they called "a doddering old fool." Sometimes under their breath, sometimes a bit too loudly for him to miss and unfortunately, understanding them in his more lucid moments.

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  3. A Tribute Part II,

    Then one day, another grandchild was born. He set his sweetened ice tea on the side table with a loud crack and stood. Suddenly galvanized into action, he announced to the room that he was going to see the newest addition to his family. Those there looked at him, used to his eccentricities and went back to their activities. He walked into his room and pulled out his finest Sunday church suit. Polished his shoes, took his crisp white shirt off the hanger and added his favorite suspenders. He looked in the mirror when he was finished and smiled. Some might say he looked bespoked as he winked at himself and he felt better than he had in years. Walking back through the house with a confident stride, snagging his best hat off the coat tree, he made a beeline for the door. One spoke up to ask where in the heck was he getting off to. He turned and addressed the family.

    "I have a new grandson and I aim to see him."

    It didn't matter that it was raining, that it was a good hour away to where his grandson slept soundly on his first full day home from the hospital. He only knew he needed to see him, hold him and look into eyes that might be glazed but he knew would crinkle when he smiled as he got older. Who would always be there to help with a kite and would have an arsenal of jokes to make family or friends chuckle. His grandson would always have enough change to cover any shortages when the ice cream man came through the neighborhood.

    And so the rest dressed quickly and drove in the deluge to the house where the baby slept. He relaxed in the chair holding the tiny addition, his loved ones scattered around the room talking and laughing. He lived a few years beyond that day. It was the last good day he had, some would later reflect. But if there was one good last day to have, he couldn't have picked a better one.

    -Tamara McLanahan

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    1. I love this Tamara. So many touchable memories.

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    2. I love it, too. I watched several people I loved slowly lose touch with reality. One was my father in law, who lived just long enough to hold his first granddaughter, my oldest. The whole family was there. A good 20 people. No one thought he should hold the baby but I insisted. And he smiled and knew. It was one of the most tragic and beautiful things I've ever seen. Also one of the things I'm most proud of standing up for. The man needed to hold his granddaughter.

      Thanks for this.

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  4. The darkness encroaches when I close my eyes.
    So the question becomes is it better to succumb to the pull?
    The path of least resistance?
    Or should I seek to grasp that one small sliver,
    That tiniest of flickers, a tenacious glowing ember,
    Tucked in a small recess of my mind.
    Locked away.
    Held at bay.
    Blocked from seeing the light of day.
    Because that is hope and what good is hope to the hopeless?
    The forlorn, forgotten, the abandoned.
    Do I pull myself back from the brink?
    It just means another day I won't sink.
    A stopgap, a surrender of sorts, slowing the descent.
    Is it inevitability, will I always grieve?
    For tomorrow, the day after, for as long as I breathe?
    For when I close my eyes, the darkness still encroaches.

    -Tamara McLanahan

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    1. Agreed. And I love that you can write such strong poems in perfect meter or let it loosen up and keep the rhythm.

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  5. Shit, son. Get your pill bottle. Hold that fucker tight. Your hands are shaking so bad it sounds like maracas. You're gonna shake em to dust. Then what are you gonna do? Get another nosebleed?

    Beer in the morning and booze at night. This is the only way you'll ever sleep tight. There are too many things to hold onto, and you'll never get it right. Dirty hair ground into your pasty scalp. That's why kids cry when they see you. Brown, nicotine fingers. Who wants that shit?

    But people do. And that's the amazing thing. So many enablers, so little time. What? You think I'm blind? This is Appalachia - I know this like the back of my hand. It's covered in small cuts and cigarette burns. We're all slow dancing, fiddling while the forests burn.

    You can't hold the glass without slopping, then you chew them things. Chew em, boy. They'll hit harder that way, too. But goddamn, get it done. We've got a lot of things to do.

    See, they're trying to paint us dirty and I don't think it's fair. They think because we don't got tall buildings they'll catch us unaware. Catch us sleeping. They don't know the half of the arsenal we're keeping.

    But get those pills in ya, kid. You can't pull a trigger with your hands all spastic. And I'm half wired, half tired.

    I feel fucking fantastic.

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    1. I felt this one. It made me so uncomfortable. Well done.

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  6. She always loved the garden more than she loved me. Yeah, I'm gonna rip Steinbeck off. Because he's dead. What the fuck is he gonna do? I won't get into the white quail, though. That's some sacred shit. I might go see what Doc's doing...

    The dew on the petals is slowly drying. Inside, you're slowly dying, and I don't have the energy to save you. I'm not interested one bit. You think that's rude? I think you need a change in attitude. Open your mouth, so I can shove in some spoiled food.

    What I don't understand is why they make kids read the shitty books. Why aren't we teaching East of Eden? Sure, Tortilla Flat is funny. But look what's lurking on Cannery Row. I don't get it. It's like, we could read this piece of magic, but instead, here's an essay I wrote in middle school. Enjoy!

    Fool.

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    1. I really like this one. I love how you play with words!

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  7. I saw her sitting, silent at the table in the corner
    I saw the vultures circling, but I was to scared to warn her
    Blue hair and vacant stare, I know what pills your mom takes
    But don't worry, she's rich, and she'll fix all your mistakes

    You think that's bullshit? Them's the breaks...

    She saw me in my shadow form, hiding from the masses
    You go ahead and take notes, I'll be skipping classes
    And sure, she'll go far, and I'll stay right fucking here
    But don't feel bad, I got my mind right, I'm thinking clear

    There are so many lies flying around in here...

    I don't want to know about it
    Don't say a fucking word
    You want to crow, I won't say shit
    I'm such a silly little bird

    Fuck you. Fuck your designer Chucks.
    Enjoy college. I could give two fucks.

    (Now go back to the beginning. It's in the key of C. Read it til your fingers bleed.)

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    1. hey mister, leave my designer Chucks out of this! ;)
      Loved this!

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  8. I was in the kitchen, but the apartment isn't big. You can hear everything. And I heard her say, "I don't like ANY boys. Except for Dadda." And I thought, fucking A right. I smiled. Then, I thought, wait a second, dick, this isn't about you.

    She said she would NEVER go to prom. I said, "You're eight, lady, relax." And she did. And we talked about boys. Cause I'm not one anymore, but I once was. And I don't want to be one of those weirdo dads who answers the door with a bat when some brat shows up for the middle school dance.

    I said that some boys are nice. She agreed. Then my wife got involved and we made a mountain out of a molehill. It was funny, really. Stupid. Silly. And it made me feel old and out of touch.

    She laughed. Said: "You worry about gender too much."

    And my heart opened, and I wanted to scream with joy. Because I want her to be loved, and I don't care if it's a boy. I want my kids to find what I found. A partner in crime. That crime being life. I want only love for them. Who that love comes from is largely irrelevant.

    As long as they're cool and never hurt her. Cause if that happens...

    Well, I do have a baseball bat. Let's leave it at that.

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  9. "What do you want?"

    She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. The one with the notch cut out.

    "I want to get so high I never come down."

    We laughed. Shit, that's what everyone wants, but it's not possible. You either keep the edge straight or you deal with the downside. That's the way it's always been.

    "If you were high all the time it would turn into sober."

    She thought that was brilliant, and it made my skin crawl. She asked me why I never made noise when we had sex. I told her the truth. She took it OK. I didn't quite understand it myself, but sometimes you have to answer questions you don't know the answer to.

    Sometimes the foot is on the other shoe.

    We stayed together because we were too lazy and scared to admit the truth. Months and years. Hopes and fears. Late night movies and breakfast in bed. The whole damn thing went to my head.

    Then she left, and I wished I was dead. But I got sober. A wise cat helped. It took a while, but it took. And it stuck. Sometimes I wonder where she is now. And whether she has any teeth left to grind.

    Or axes.

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  10. The stars fell from the sky at midnight. John had brought his little girl camping this weekend, despite the cold, despite the snow. Dinner was hot dogs and beans from a can.

    "Why are we here, Daddy?" a little voice asked in the glow of the campfire.

    "Can't a dad take his daughter camping? Have you ever seen so many stars?"

    "Tell me their names again, Daddy."

    "That one is the Big Dipper. Some call it Ursa Major. The big bear. And two of its stars point to the North Star, in the handle of the Little Dipper."

    She leaned against him as he explained the constellations for the third time this night. He was afraid she would ask him about the falling stars, but her tiny snores came before that question.

    It was good, because he didn't have to explain what intercontinental ballistic missiles were. The sky was full, so very full, of falling stars.

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    1. Oh, there I was, lulled by the imagery until you pulled the carpet out from under me. Leland, I know every generation has lived through uncertain times but this is a scenario too many are envisioning. Scary good.

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    2. I really like this one. A beautiful set-up for a haunting ending.

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    3. Jesus. You got me. This is an awesome piece. You should submit this one to a flash contest.

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  11. The Huge War began in a way no one might have imagined. It was not a shot from a cannon, not a bullet from a gun, not a missile falling from the heavens. It was a three-year-old boy in Shanghai, playing with his father's iPad. His father, a currency trader, had fallen asleep while logged into his government trading account, and the boy somehow managed to initiate the sale of a billion dollars in US Treasury bonds. The sale depressed the market price enough to trigger automatic sell orders around the world.

    When the American dictator woke up, he discovered that both the country's and his personal portfolio were worth half of what they were the night before. He screamed in capital letters on Twitter and by the afternoon, he had a list of potential retaliatory measures from various departments on his desk. He considered the options for less than three minutes before he giggled and placed a stubby finger on the one that described a limited nuclear strike.

    "They like fireworks. Let's give them fireworks."

    As the missile flew, a little boy in Shanghai wondered why his father was not yet home.

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    1. I thought your first story scary. Now you've shown me pure terror. And so matter-of-factly, it chills the blood.

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    2. Agreed. Too scarily real. Not that that's a bad thing for writing. It's good. I just hope it stays fiction.

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  12. The ancient Trodeaulets visualized their ancestral beings much in the same way as we would look at a family tree. They see their evolution from the ancestral animals in multigenerational steps from the lowest branches to the highest. Bacteria, molds, fungi, yeasts and microbes form a root ball that encircles their planet (which they call simply "Mother") forming a sphere around their "Mother" orb.

    The tree grew up through the northern pole as the branches rotated against the stars of the system nearest to their galactic home. Those all of creation revolved under the same stars, from the tiniest of microbes to the most complex mammals. It wasn't a perfect model, but certainly as good a cosmology as any we've dreamt of.

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    1. Fascinating. I want to know more.

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    2. Me too! This is like existential Vonnegut. Love it, brother.

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  13. The sunlight was not welcome. That was evident from the dozen upturned, snarling faces. He let the door swing shut and stood for a moment, letting his eyes adjust. Cigarette ghosts danced and cards shuffled. He walked slowly to the bar, hands loose. Teeth clenched like a hangman's noose.

    "Whiskey."

    And the barkeep poured. It went down fast, so he had some more. Hours passed and the noise settled into a kind of rumbling. A river rush. A straight flush. An angry hush. Everyone was getting antsy.

    Then, the man stood. He wavered a little, but not much - held onto his barstool crutch. His other hand was near his gun and no one liked that much.

    "I'm looking for a man named Floyd. Anyone know a man named Floyd?"

    Dead silence. Then Floyd stood up, and he was all angles. Thin, but wiry. He looked like a coyote that found some confidence.

    "My name's Floyd. You looking for trouble?"

    The man smiled.

    "Yep. Name's Hop. I believe I took some of your cattle. And I scared your women folk. And I took that bag of gold you thought you hid so well. Now, it's time for one of us to go to hell."

    Floyd's eyes flashed in the darkness.

    "You? It was you? I been trying to find you for years."

    "I know it. That's why I stayed hid."

    Everyone was against the walls now, and the men stood facing each other. Floyd was so mad he was shaking. Shaking ain't no good for gunfights. We all liked Floyd. There wasn't a man there who didn't have his hand on his gun, but we all knew the rules.

    Floyd was a poker player. A good one. And he played a mean piano. But he couldn't draw, and even if he could, he couldn't hit the broadside of a barn.

    No one breathed.

    Floyd went for his gun first, but the stranger's was up before it cleared the holster. One gunshot shattered the night.

    When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, Floyd was standing there looking at his gun. We all were looking at his gun. The stranger was on the floor, leaking blood. Laughing. Well, chuckling.

    I was the one that grabbed his gun. Some folks were slapping Floyd on the back, but he just looked sick. I took the strangers gun off him. Figured I'd sell it.

    The bartender checked the wound. Right in the center of the stranger's chest. He was still alive, but barely. He grabbed my arm and pulled me close.

    "Tell Floyd I'm sorry as all hell. Tell him when no one is around. Let him think he got me. Tell him...I'm so sorry."

    It wasn't until later that I understood. The man's gun looked well used, but there were no bullets in the chambers.

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    1. What a marvelous period piece and great set up, tension. Penance, a death wish, reparations, which may have negative connotations these days but whatever the reason, Hop made for a very interesting character and a great story.

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  14. My clothes don't fit right, and I swear my teeth shifted overnight. I look in the mirror and there's a guy who kind of looks like me. 'Cept he's old and tired. I brush my teeth and try to ignore the blood on the toothbrush. I'll go to the dentist, I swear. One of these years.

    Right now, there are bigger fish to fry.

    I gotta figure out why the world's slanted. I gotta figure out if it's the world or I just can't stand up straight. I gotta figure out these compulsions before it's too late. Because, I know, there are some things that can't be undone. I've known that for a long time. Longer than I've been avoiding the dentist.

    I get the old guy dressed and ready. It's hard because we can't keep his hands steady. Hands shaking just like his old man's. They say it's hereditary. Don't worry about it. I say, OK.

    I got bigger fish to fry.

    So many words and stories rattle in my brain. So many shortcuts around the sneaky, soulless pain. Fucking listen to me. Listen! Get out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. You need to eat. It doesn't matter if it tastes like cardboard. It doesn't matter if it makes your jaw ache. Eating doesn't sound fun, but the alternative is pretty damn final.

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    Replies
    1. Painful, emotional. Feeling it all while reading this.

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  15. I wonder how many hours I spent making bows when I was a kid. Sharpening arrows from sapling arms. And, for Christmas, I asked for a real bow. And I got a BB gun. And I'll wonder about that for the rest of my life. Doesn't make sense.

    We had guns in the house, but they were like ghosts. We shot them, but we also ignored them. I was too young when I found out what guns can do. I was too young to spend hours staring at my Nana and wondering how she could scrape her son's brains off a wall and not be in a straightjacket.

    Don't get me wrong; I had fun with the gun. I was a good shot. Always. Good eyesight. I could shoot the flame off a candle. Had a shooting gallery in the garage. I spent hours out there wasting BB's and pellets.

    I still have that gun. Well, my dad does. I don't want it in my house, even if it only shoots small.

    It's just one of those mysteries that burbles up from the morass of memory. Why would you buy a gun for a kid who wanted a compound bow? Why would you buy a gun period when the whole damn family was haunted by a shotgun blast that sounded before I was born?

    I'll never know. Because I'll never ask.

    Because I don't want to know.

    The real guns are sold now. The BB gun sits in the corner of my parent's house. I shoot it sometimes when I'm there. And part of me is happy that I can still hit what I point it at.

    And part of me wishes it shot arrows.

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  16. The frog ate the muffin. The old lady pulled a dagger from her purse and put it into the mailman. The birds sang death metal ballads. The house shimmied and the windows cracked.

    The deer didn't jump or run; they lumbered like drugged elephants. The trumpets sounded like piccolos. The lumberyard sold IKEA bookcases. The bookstore sold computers. The coffee shop sold Kratom.

    The old man sprinted up the hill. The youngsters sat primly, perfect posture. The cows came inside and the people went to pasture. Everybody started looking, but they didn't know what they were after.

    The sun turned blue and the sky was fire. The oceans stilled, and the mountains turned into molehills. The mockingbirds stopped talking, and the raccoons had a tea party. Very civilized.

    The junkies put on business suits and the businessmen sucked dick in dark alleyways. The preachers told the truth, and the politicians took off their masks.

    There was nothing wrong with any of it. Keep smiling, motherfucker. There's nothing wrong with any of it.

    Repeat after me.

    There's nothing wrong...

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  17. Jimmy ain't here. Stella left like an hour ago. The rest of us are curled up into dark corners. Some grinning. Some grimacing. A few manage to look broken AND menacing. I smile that it's going to be OK, but the smile's not convincing.

    The same mix has been playing on repeat for hours. I've heard Joni Mitchell so many times I'm starting to hate her. I'm starting to hate myself. I'm starting to think we should pave paradise out of spite.

    I'm starting to REALLY hate myself.

    I don't know what I'm doing when I stand up, spinning, but suddenly I'm screaming. The only thing I know they'll listen to.

    "Cops! Fucking run!"

    And they do. And then I go around looking for lost roaches and other sundry nonsense. I find a few guitar picks. Too bad I sold my guitar. There will be no showdown at the crossroads now. We'll have to stick to railroad tracks.

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  18. I'm on fire. I can feel the flames, but I don't feel pain. And the flames are green. My brain is drenched in bleach and oven cleaner. I can't feel anything. Why can't I feel anything? I want to be happy. Or angry. Or something. All I feel is beige. So, I watch the flames dance. Strange.

    I can't keep my pants up, they keep falling down. My eyes are filled with blood. My ears play tricks on me. I hear waves crash and the gentle ticking of an engine cooling off. Only problem is that I'm nowhere near the beach. Nowhere near internal combustion. At least not the kind that takes gas and a key.

    I'm burning inside. I get that. I wonder how many more miles I got in me. It's all so fragile. Bones and organs. Drumsticks and pianos. How many songs can one man sing? What do I do when the telephone rings?

    I want to hide in the closet like a kid. Not because I'm scared of what I did. No, I just want someone to check on me. Hey, you doing alright?

    No, I'll say. I'm fucking burning.

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  19. If I could paint, I'd do it. I'd use bright colors and I'd do it all the time. All my clothes would have paint smears on them, and I'd rock that shit like a walking rainbow. I can't paint, though. Well, I can't paint well.

    If I could sing, I'd never stop. Hell, I can sing. But I mean singing like clear bell chimes. When I sing it sounds like I smoked too much and can't catch my breath. It sounds like my voice is mangled by a collection of accents.

    If I could smile more, I would. I love people who smile all the time. But I don't have it in me. And I can't force it. Makes me look like a serial killer. The smile's have gotta be genuine. I guess I need more things to smile about.

    I wish I was more handy. I'd love to be able to point to a dope table. I made that shit. You like it? But I didn't inherit that ability. All I have is these words, but I'm going to make them into something great. Just wait.

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  20. If I had a time machine, I'd have a fucking blast. Take the things I've learned hard, and apply that knowledge to the past. There are stands I'd take. I'd go back and tell myself it's not a race. And there is at least one guy I'd punch in his feral face. I'm not violent by nature, but goddamn, if anyone ever deserved it...

    I'd also stick up for more people. I'd say: Fool, you're gonna get hit anyway. At least feel good about it.

    And I'd gather up a crew of folks who don't remember right. A bunch of people who've chosen darkness over light. I may not be able to remember some things, but I remember enough. And some of it is pretty dark stuff.

    If I had a time machine, I wouldn't make it all about me, either. I'd fuck with the space time continuum, because some things are more important than physics. There are too many people with wounds they have to live with.

    If I had a time machine, I'd do everything I did before. Some less. Some more. I've done alright, I think. But there are tweaks and adjustments that could be made.

    If I had a time machine, my friends wouldn't be struggling. I wouldn't spend half my time wondering when they are going to die. Or at least I'd hug them more and promise things will be better in the sweet by and by.

    If I had a time machine, I'd only go backwards, never forwards. I don't want to ruin the surprise.

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  21. I got a little carried way, crew. I'll be back to read and comment later. :)

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    Replies
    1. Isn't this precisely what you enjoin us to do? Get carried away, pursue the abstract, the absurd, the mundane and the fanciful. And if you can't do it on your own blog, then where else? I say it's all good and enriches everyone.

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    2. Oh, I think everyone should write as much as possible. I just hate not leaving comments until late. :)

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  22. Laughing River

    He went down to the river to clear his head, to take in the leaf-dappled sun, and drink in the sounds the water made. He brought questions to the river and sent them downstream. The answers came from above him, somewhere upstream. This wasn't hard to do. His father had taught him long ago that the river was everywhere at once, though he couldn't, wouldn't hear it at the time.

    He came here often to this hut, this shack by the river.

    His father's friend, the old man, was gone when he first came back to the old hut as a young man; an insolent boy no longer.

    The son had been born a prince to an important lady in a small village. When she died he was sent to live with his father.
    He hated his father.
    He hated his simple ways.
    He hated his simple smile.
    He hated everything about him that wasn't what he wanted.
    He hated his simple ways of trying to raise a spoiled child.
    He ran away when he could stand it no longer. He ran fast and he ran far, so far that they'd never find him.

    He traveled the world seeking out teachers and mystics, gurus and holy masters, but none had the answers he sought. He found no peace, no joy, no smiling wisdom of the truly enlightened.
    He grew weary of traveling, tired of the words of would-be saviors, so he returned to the river. He returned to his father.

    His father was an old man now, but he was handsome with an easy smile. He welcomed his son into his home and shared his simple meal with him.

    They had many talks as the old man taught the boy how to steer the ferry across the river. This time the words sunk in. Soon the son realized that his father had learned that this river had the answers to every question he had to ask. A simple smile spread across his face as he looked down at the water.

    He father died a few years later and left the hut and ferry to his son; all he had in the world.

    He looked down at the river. He was sitting on its bank, smiling in the sun.

    This is how he would spend the rest of his days, listening to the laughing river and remembering an old man's smile in his own reflection.

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    1. A lovely story, rich in imagery. Sometimes we have what we most want in life right in front of us but it takes time, distance and clarity, knowledge gained, to see it. The lucky few see their way back to it.

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    3. Thank you Tamara. I've often wondered what happened to that son.

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    4. Oh, I like this one. I love parables and this has that vibe. It's got tones of the Giving Tree. Awesome.

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  25. "I really wish they would all just forget about me." He sighed gustily.

    "Whatever do you mean, Lance? That's your immortality down there. All your family and friends, all those kids you helped through the Big Brothers thing, all those other folks you helped when you volunteered... They love you and they miss you."

    "Yes, I know. I miss them, too. But it's been a decade now. They need to let go, get on with their lives."

    "They have, Lance, they have. It's just that you hold a special place in their hearts."

    "But I'm ready to move on, too, Peter."

    "I get that. I really do. It's been a really long time for me, too. Long enough that the memories have been twisted into something else. I've been made into an icon in a religion that expressly forbids icons. Think about that. I may never be able to get on with things because of those fools who decided they had to record everything they thought I said. I may never get out of here."

    Lance stared at Peter with a surprised look. "I never thought of it that way. I've got nothing on you for time in service, much less for how many people remember me, huh?"

    "Probably not," Peter said with a rueful chuckle.

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    1. I really liked this. A cool moment that leaves me wanting more!

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    2. Yup. A brilliant snatch of story. Well done.

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  26. I've got a headache, a storm is coming. Never fails.
    Sometimes it's the weather, sometimes it's the raging storm inside of people.
    When I was a kid it was usually our mom.
    Every time I'd wake up with a headache, it was on one of her bad days
    "Batten down the hatches!"  My kid brother used to say.
    Oh yes, there's a storm comin' buddy.
    It was easy to tell when a shit-storm was coming with our mom, you'd see thunderclouds build up in her eyes, a lightning strike, then you knew you were gonna get it.  Rain and wind would blow in and so would the rage.
    So much anger and no good reason for it.  We were good kids.   We always were.  And since mom had gotten sick? We'd gotten even better.  We didn't do anything to make her mad, did everything we could to keep her happy, but her anger didn't make sense and didn't need a reason.  We were kids, we did what we could.
    Man those storms could blow in fast. Sometimes we never saw them coming.
    My brother sure didn't.
    Now when I get a headache, I batten down the friggin hatches and take cover.  I don't mess around.
    This one is building fast.  Looks like it's gonna be a big one for sure.  The sky's purple with clouds.  The temperature has dropped fast and the air is vibrating with electricity.   I hope the winds don't kick up the dust, that's the worst.  That dust was bad news.  You didn't fuck around with that dust.
    I'm afraid to look over at him.
    Afraid to see those eyes again.  
    Afraid to see what the storm will bring.
    He's pulling at the chains, testing their strength.  The growling and snarling coming from his throat sound like they're coming from the bowels of hell.  He sounds like the monster he is...and isn't.   
    What's coming now, the torrents of rain, the screaming winds, the cracking of the air as lighting crawls across the sky...that's not the kid I used to know.  This isn't him.  But it is.  It is right now.  And I'll do everything I can to keep him safe...and everyone else.
    He was 13 when it started.  He'd get upset and the TV remote would fly across the room.  He'd have a bad day at school and all of the fish in the aquarium would go belly-up.  Mom would beat him the shit out of him for it. Except he had never touched any of these things, they just...happened.  
    They started happening a lot.  I finally noticed the storm blowing up in his eyes before one of these incidents, and then I knew.  My brother had gotten the worst traits of both of our parents.   And he was running with them.
    "Riarrrrrrgruh!  Grawwwwwww!"
    I hate seeing him like this, chained up like an animal.  Hate it.
    But I have no choice.  It has to be this way. To keep us safe.  All of us.
    It wasn't too bad at first, little outbursts, little fits.  Back then I was pretty much just damage control and clean-up.   Now I'm the master control program.    Our situation has put me in charge.  He was the kid brother.  
    Now he's the perfect storm.
    I'm the big brother and my word is law.
    I exercise very disciplined control over him.  It's not the way I would have it, but it's the way it is.
    I love him, that's why I do it; why I've spent my whole life looking out for him.  He needs me so I'm here.
    The first drops of rain are pitter-pattering all around us.  The wind is softly blowing his hair across his brow.
    He looks so angry, almost sick with it. He'd kill me if he could.  But those chains are strong and so are the locks. 
    The chains are clanging against each other. He's been trying to break free for half an hour.
    The banging and clanging is driving me nuts.  Every time he does it I feel like I'm ducking a blow.  Like an abused kid does when someone slams their hand down on a counter or pulls a door closed too hard.  It's an involuntary jump that brings it all back.
    "Roaaaaaaarie!  Roarieeeeeeee!"

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    1. This one is chilling and I want to know more. How much is real, imagined, perceived? Fascinating. I read it twice and still have questions.

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    2. StormPt2
      The begging and pleading comes next.  It's almost like part of him is still there and coming through.  My heart wants to run over loosen those chains and comfort him.  He sounds like he's in pain.   I hate this.  I hate this so much.  The darkness of the storm is coming down on us.  I hope this old gas station will hold up.

      Plonk.  Pink.  Plonk. Ping.  It's hailing now.  Great.  It's going to be a rough ride.

      "Rooooaaaaareeeeeee!  Rory!  Rory remember camping at the river?"
      "Sure buddy, I remember. "
      He remembered everything.   Can't control his own actions, but can recall every childhood memory we've shared together.
      "I was the best diver.  Better than you!"
      "Yeah you were buddy. You were good."
      This will go on for awhile even while the storm is growling it's way towards us.
      But once that lighting strikes the real show will begin.
      I'm bracing for it now.  I know it won't be long.  I've already hear a few rumbles.
      "Rory let me go so you and me can go hunting!"
      "Maybe later bud.  I've got a lot to do before the storm really hits, okay?"
      I always try to keep him calm for as long as possible.   I don't know if it helps or not.
      I checked his restraints and they all feel tight.  I think we're good.  Or good enough at least.
      I'm glad we're alone this time.  It makes it easier.  Makes it safer. It makes it easier for me to focus on him and make smart decisions.
      CRRRRRRRRAAAACCCKKK!
      Aw shit there it is.
      "RRROOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAARRRREEEEEEEE! Let me Go!  You little jackass get over here!  LISTEN TO MEEEEEEE!"
      His voice is huge.  There is so much fury.
      Chiiiang Kah!
      Chiiiang Kah!
      Chiiiang Kah!
      God I hope those anchors are secure.  I checked them but my strength is nothing compared to his when we're in the eye of the storm.
      CHIANGKA! CHIANGKA PING!
      Shit something just broke free!
      Shit.
      One of his arms is free.  It's okay, he's not going anywhere.
      The smell of ozone is so heavy.
      The flashes of lighting are coming one right after another.
      CHIIIANGGG-KA!
      CRRRRRRRRAAAACCCKKK!
      CHIANGGG-KAH!  POP!
      Shit.
      I've got the sawed-off  right here.
      I don't know if I can use it or not.
      I mean...I guess if it's him or me...
      I've got to think of others too.
      He's like a werewolf...
      Helluva guy when there isn't a full moon, 'cept when it's storming, it's always a full moon.

      But he's my brother...



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    3. This is awesome. Reminds me of Jack Ketchum. Twisted and adrenalized.

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  27. Saudade

    I remember the day perfectly. Beautiful clear summer morning and I had taken you up Bell Mountain Road in my red VW bug to let you have a go at driving. After reaching the top I pulled over on a wide spot in the road. I decided that the relatively straight gravel road would offer perhaps fifteen minutes drive time. Ample time to get used to clutch and figure out the gearshift pattern. Probably wouldn’t get to fourth gear but the lower gears were the trickier ones anyway.

    You were a happy kid. Always was one, even though you worried a lot. So did I. I worried that you didn’t worry enough about worrisome things. I worried that you worried too much about trivial things. But you seemed unworried about driving my car. I was beginning to to get over my apprehension as well as you were really doing great!

    The road up ahead ended in a “T” intersection with another road. The options were turn right, turn left, or go over a cliff. Reasonable lad that you were you asked me which way to go. Reasonable and carefree proud parent I was I said, “Either way.” You decided going straight was an option. Not wanting to panic you I said, “STOP!!!!” In that controlled, patient, adult voice of mine when I’m sure we are both going to die.

    You didn’t know how. My bad as a teacher really. You were still trying to process my instructions about the gas pedal, clutch, brake sequences.

    I pulled on the emergency brake with all my might. The little bug slid on the gravel as the engine bucked and died just short of the flimsy barbwire fence ahead. After a brief silence you looked at me with that innocent 13 year old face and said, “Do you want me to drive back?” More silence. Then we started to laugh. I still hear the music of your laughter after all these years. I hear it in my mind because I will never hear it from you again. I miss you son.

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    1. A lovely slice of a memory. Bittersweet and beautiful.

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    2. I agree with Tamara. A beautiful moment.

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    3. Ditto. And if only parents could always respond with love and humor. Taut lesson, well written.

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  28. The day moves far too slowly and you check the time again and it’s still only ten minutes since you checked the last time. Mom says if you’re bored to make something up in your head to pass the time, but you’re in school and supposed to be paying attention but whatever Mrs. Sheldon is saying is not as interesting as the fly bobbing along the ceiling, its buzzing going in and out of your ears, louder and softer, depending on where it flies. It disappears inside one of the lights, into the plastic cover, and the buzzing gets buzzier. You’re sad for the fly. You want to make everyone stop, make Mrs. Sheldon stop talking about stupid boring things and help the fly. Because lights are hot, and you’ve seen what happens to the bugs that get stuck there. Your father works in a company that makes lights and calls those “bug coffins” because that’s what happens. Bugs get inside and they can’t get out and they burn up. Dad said it’s called “incineration.” He got out the dictionary and showed you the word. It’s a big word with six syllables and you practiced pronouncing it slowly and carefully, emphasizing each bit, rolling it around in your mouth until it sort of tasted like ashes. Like dead flies mixed with light. You asked if that’s what happened to Grandma before Mom put her in the box on the shelf and he said yes, kind of like that, but the people coffins are bigger and you need a bigger fire to incinerate a whole human. The buzzing over your head gets softer and then stops and you can’t help but stare. It’s up there all alone without its friends and its fly family, and you wonder if it’s too scared to buzz, just sitting there with its wings over its eyes, waiting to be rescued. If you were a fly trapped in a bug coffin you’d want to be rescued, and you’d be mad if a bunch of people were down there talking about stupid boring things and didn’t know you needed help. You know you’re not supposed to get out of your seat and you’re definitely not allowed to stand on your desk but it’s the only thing you can think of doing. You don’t even care that you can’t reach even the bottom of the light or that everyone is laughing, because one day, they’ll all be trapped in people coffins and nobody will help them, so they’ll have incinerations like the fly, like Grandma. While you’re waiting in the nurse’s office for Mom to come and take you home, you wonder if Grandma was scared, too.

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    1. These could have been my childhood musings, or even current ones. To feel too much, empathy with all living creatures, to overthink almost everything but the worst is the helplessness. You think it gets better with age, but unfortunately it doesn't. Her dad tries to teach the practical but I doubt she'll grow out of it. But I'd be enough of a smart ass to point out that incineration has only five and that if he's wrong about that, he could be wrong about a great many things.
      I really liked this story, albeit how emotionally it hit me. Thank you for sharing it.

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    2. Laurie! This is so good. Jesus. This needs to be published.

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  29. The unintentional amusement derived from being owned by cats can sneak up on one some days.

    My cat has taken a liking to Amazon boxes - the short sided ones that are just the right size for a 12 pound fuzzball. His brother has been mimicking him. The first Amazon box got shredded with catly love. The second, a bit larger, was so often occupied by both boys that it was stretched beyond it's limits and burst at the seams. It joined the first in the recycle pile.

    A third box, much larger than the first two was introduced, with a folded towel at the bottom to entice the cuddle monkeys. No dice. Unless it got really cold, they refuse to use it.

    Fine.

    While doing the grocery run today, I kept my eye out for boxes. Not too large, not too small, not so deep that it would be ignored... all those catly preferences the boys had already made clear to me.

    I found two such boxes, not bothering to notice what they had previously contained until after I was home. More on that in a moment.

    I set the two offerings on my bed where the boys were tightly curled nestled among the pillows. It was a bit chilly in the house, and definitely colder outside, so I couldn't fuss at them for leaving fur where MY head is supposed to rest. they both perked up and peered at the boxes from their respective wallows.

    Leaving the room to attend to other chores, I gave them a few minutes of peace to figure things out. When I returned to the room with a double armload of laundry to drop on the bed for folding, they had each deigned to sit in one of the boxes.

    Again I left the room, and upon returning found that they were still sitting int he same poses - in different boxes. I supposed this meant the poor boxes had feline approval and would eventually find the demise of their predecessors.

    One of the boys seemed to be getting sleepy, while the other was winding himself up for a Catinapolis 500 run. It was then that I noticed one cat was resting a NyQuil box. The other was looking wilder and wilder as he sat in a box labelled Monster Energy.

    What had I done?

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    1. What a marvelous story and lovely imagery. We write fiction but I find myself hoping this one was a slice of real life. I'm smiling still. It was purrfect.

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  30. Why can no one hear me scream? How can they just ignore my painful cry? Am but a ghost in everyone's eyes? I can see all the people around me. I can hear all the words of hate they expel. I can feel the sticky sweaty hot palms upon me. I can smell their wretched perfumes and colognes. Yet each day they walk past me ignoring my pleas. I was once beautiful and danced in the sun. Sang songs to my children and was full of life and fun. The sun has set upon those days. Now I lay fifthly in a box in which furniture came. On the coldest days I cry, no I cry everyday. The city wakes and sleeps without understanding my pain. All prefer to think I stumbled I choose to be this way. Their version of my life must help them sleep at night. I must admit I would love to be seduced by the brown bottles the doctors produced. But I cannot live that way. I must feel every moment of my shame. I was the murder, the criminal in a that blink of an eye that killed my sweet children and a husband on that fateful day. Yet no court in the land charged me for the mangled bodies of my babies blurred together on the street that day. No one thought of punishing me for the two half bodies of a husband separated by a few hundred feet of roadway. They told me it wasn't my fault. It was the driver of the truck that was blasted that day. It mattered not to me in that moment or even today. I can only live every moment in agony as I should of died too on that road of pain. Why can no one hear me when I scream? Because I scream in the darkest of alleys in the a blanket of black. In a city were many are being boxed up and will soon be stiff and cold and then taken away.

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    1. What incredible pain in this. Swallowed whole by an indifferent society, demons that never rest and wracked with guilt. No one chooses to see why, they walk on by because it's easier than to stop. A sad tale and all too pervasive.

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    2. I agree. Super strong psychological impact. I got a Edgar Allen Poe vibe, too.

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  31. That was the day I woke up tired.

    A sepia dream 'bout trains fading like a station abandoned.

    "You okay, homeboy?"

    "Nah."

    "What's up?"

    "Usual."

    Didn't know it was possible to be so bone-worn drained. Didn't want to keep talking about it, though, so I grabbed a lukewarm coffee Estelle made earlier, poured some of that hazelnut creme shit all poor people seem to like better'n milk, and drank it in one, for the caffeine, the sugar, and nothin' else. Tasted like scorched ass with an undertone of litter tray.

    Got up to go.

    "Where you goin'?"

    "No place."

    "Always a place."

    Heard the trains still in my head, mourning each other, chasing each other's tails across the plains, through the Appalachians to the Rockies. Needy fucking earthbound dragons.

    "Always a place."

    "You be here later?"

    "Yeah."

    "Ever stop dreaming, black?"

    "Prolly not. Listen. I tell you somethin'?"

    "I know you will anyway."

    "You funny girl. A'ight. When I sleep, I got this place. A city. Some old parts, some new. A old station. College kids. Antiques. Overpasses. Some kinda boat place—whatchoo call it?—a marina, that's it. Glitterin' in sunlight. Impressive steps at the corner of a mall. East of downtown, a dark wooded place filled with wasps and nettles. Suburbs, vacation homes, a regular hood, weedy abandoned lots, you know?"

    "For real?"

    "Well, no, exact opposite of fucking real, matter of fact."

    "A'ight. Sorry. Sounds kinda dope."

    "Kinda is. Sometimes I can fly, like I'm watching from some drone, an' I fly north over downtown with its seawall glass, and northwest past the glittering waves and the boats, and over this island that feels like it's made outta moors or some kinda lowlands. All heather and weak fall colors, like a smile on a face that forgot itself."

    "You always bin special wit' words, boo."

    "Ain't like that."

    "Sure it is."

    Ain't fuckin' special. I wanted to hurt her for just a part of a second, but it was enough to alert me to the badness inside-a me. Somethin' crawled from my left nostril and I swiped at it before she could see, and I saw it was black as crude. Thought at first it was old blood, but it was worse. Things're always worse. We gonna choke ourselves, ain't we? Ever ran a hunnerd-ton engine into a moose? Me neither, but I talked to a train man from Saskatchewan once, up in Canada someplace. Fuckers stand there like nothin' can take 'em out. Moose, I mean, not Canadians. Idea they can be killed by somethin' bigger than they is outside their wheelhouse, their motherfucking domain. But everthin' comes in mist form, even moose. Know what? Before we found all that black shit in the earth—hard, soft, wet, grainy, cloudy, don't matter—we built all this on fuckin' whales. Ain't even lyin'. You think them whales thought they could be reduced to fuel, to lantern oil, to women's fucking corsets? Nah, dawg. They's the biggest things ever lived on this sweet dark earth, far's we know. Lucky for them enough of us still like 'em. Even more lucky for us this loco space-pinball had motherfuckin' whales, though, feel me?

    Whatever. There's a kinda yearnin' the world won't get behind. As well as a kinda grief.

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    1. What a spell this wove for me. Pulled me in and spun me around. You have incredible ranges to your talents. I read this twice, just for the pure enjoyment of it. Thank you.

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    2. This is awesome. And I love this new voice, brother. You've tapped into something super cool here. Keep going.

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  32. Tonight I'm watching the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever, a life I lived. The hair, the clothes, the clubs, and yes, the drugs. I can't believe I survived what in hindsight is one of the most destructive periods of my life.

    If I had it to do over again, with the same outcome, I doubt I'd do it differently. I learned so much about myself and the people I then called friends, none of whom are still friends today.

    It led me, for better or worse, to who I am today. And I pretty much like myself today, regrets and all.

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    1. Different time period, but I have similar thoughts all the time. Amazing I'm here, but I have some interesting stories. ;)

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