Friday, February 10, 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.

That music sounds like a bad acid trip I had one time, son - too much nitrous. I was lost in the labyrinth of helicopter chop, heart pounding like a jackhammer - I didn't want to dance, though. But I get it. Ecstasy is interesting shit. You want to be Day-Glo and dance to empty blender blasphemy accompanied by the sound of an engine seizing?

Get the hell off my lawn. 

You want to step out back and go a few rounds? Fuck no, I'm not taking off this bathrobe. I don't take this bathrobe off for anyone. I'll beat your ass, though. 

You were conceived while I was wearing this goddamned bathrobe. 

Can't you see you're just fighting a fight you're going to lose? You're going to become a caricature of yourself and tell the same stories over and over until people start to realize they get a little more unbelievable every time. 


Folks ain't dumb.


So, turn off that racket and listen to this here. This here's the Carters boy. You hear the guitar? Sounds like it was recorded in a whore's asshole. But it's the...it's...


Well, it's real. That's the thing. Ain't no computers doinking each other while some queer screams in the background.

Oh, hell. Let's listen to the goddamn humpback whales. Maybe I'll understand it this time. I just want to listen to something that isn't like a fucking buzzsaw. Something clean, for once. Before it's radio silence.


Hell, we're almost dead now. Turn the dial and breathe deep - I should have sealed the window gap tighter, but it's working. I feel great. We'll go to the morgue and the car to the chop shop. Maybe they'll prosecute the garage. Complicit in suicide. Stop squirming. Give the shit a chance.

Wait until you hear the drop.


#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...

72 comments:

  1. “Mom, this is home. You’re home.”

    “This isn’t my home. Get your hands off me. You want my money. You want to take my identity. I saw about it on the TV.”

    “Mom, your memory is cutting in and out, remember? Yesterday we worked in the garden. Look! You still have dirt under your nails. So do I. What will the neighbors say?”

    The old woman cocked her head.

    ”Hee hee! The neighbors. I can just hear them. They’ll say we’re wicked. Hussies.”

    “They will, Mom. They’ll all be talking about those wicked Wilson girls. With their tight asses and their dirty fingernails. They’re just jealous. You know that.”

    “Course I know it. I know all about the neighbors. I still don’t know you from Adam, but I think we’ll be friends. Get into some trouble. We can go out drinking. I need a man.”

    Jen took a deep breath and counted to ten. She swept a smile onto her face. The smile felt like lying. It made her ashamed. It made her wish her dad was still alive. Or that Adam hadn’t left for the city and never come back.”

    “We’ll be friends. Guaranteed. You and me. We’ll go find us some lumberjacks to toy with.”

    Then, Jen felt a light hand on hers. Then a head on her shoulder. The the frail body shook.

    Then, they cried together.

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    1. And now we cry with them... poignant and well-told.

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    2. I can see that room they're in. I've been in that room. Well done Mister Mader

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    3. Love, love it. And that first one.

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    4. That first one--Jesu...matched up against the second, you took us through a whole range of emotion in like, 4 minutes? Amazing and pin-sharp.

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  2. Complicit in suicide... and music... and get off my lawn... only you could put it all together and make it make sense and make it beautiful. Well done!

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    1. Creepy there at the end, dude. But I love this. This cracked me the hell up: "So, turn off that racket and listen to this here. This here's the Carters boy. You hear the guitar? Sounds like it was recorded in a whore's asshole. But it's the...it's...

      Well, it's real. That's the thing. Ain't no computers doinking each other while some queer screams in the background."

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  3. “You think Dad will stay more than a week this time?”

    “No. I don’t know. How the fuck am I supposed to know?”

    “Don’t you care?”

    ”No. Sorry, little bro. I don’t.”

    “Bullshit. Be pissed. Hate him. I do. But don’t say you don’t care. That makes me feel all shaky and confused inside, man. Please.”

    ”Alright, of course I care. But I don’t know. He may never come back. I think he has a new woman. New kids.”

    “Why?”

    “I don’t know. Just a feeling I have. Think about it.”

    ”You know what I think about? I think about all the things I’m going to say to him when he does come back. Tell him what an asshole he is. Tell him how Mom cries. Tell him how he fucked us over.”

    ”You really gonna say all that?”

    “If he ever comes back?”

    “Yeah.”

    ”Naw. Probably just say hi.”

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    1. I like this. It's like a scene in a movie...just a moment that tells you a lot about these kids.

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    2. ^this. Also just an honest (and heartbreaking) look at the way kids work in situations like this.

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    3. Kids. They're honest and they know honesty, and the way you wrote it, you know honesty, too.

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    4. What they said. It just feels so real.

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  4. That morning, I faced the setting moon instead of the rising sun. I don’t know why, or didn’t then, my body just did it. I saw your face in the moon, and imagined you saying good night.

    We hadn’t spoken for months, friends taking friends for granted, know there was love without the need to speak of it. Each of us remembered days when we were younger, drunken revelries, seeking answers to life’s questions, dancing till sunrise, walking streets empty of all but the garbagemen and hopeful cats.

    That morning, as the moon slipped below the mountainous horizon, and its glow faded from the sky, I promised myself to call you, to catch up, to laugh, to cry, like in the old days.

    When they told me what time you died, I knew you truly did say good night, and I danced through tears, and told our old stories, and there was no one there to watch or listen, but I felt your hand touch my shoulders, and your lips kiss my cheek, and it was like the old days.

    Tomorrow, I will watch the sun rise, with the moon at my back, knowing you are with me.

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    1. That's beautiful Leland. Man do you paint a fine story.

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    2. This is beautiful. Just the right balance. And I've walked my share of streets empty of all but the garbagemen and hopeful cats. Awesome image.

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    3. <3 Dammit, Leland. Don't make me teary-eyed at work! :)

      (Seriously, though, thank you - this is beautiful.)

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    4. Gorgeous, Leland. So real, too. Those moments when they come to visit...

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  5. I slept with my back to a dog. That dog slept there for almost 15 years. We shared our heat and kept each other warm. I've never had a dog like that dog before and I haven't had one since.

    That dog just about raised my boy. He even saved his life one day. My boy had gone out to play, and not 20 minutes later I hear him screaming like a little girl. I grabbed my gun and headed off to the field Jake used to play in and all I could see was my dog shaking his head violently back and forth and my little boy crying beside him. When I got closer I could see something in the dog's mouth. A damn diamondback with the biggest rattle I'd ever seen. Long thing too. Almost 6 feet long!
    When that dog heard my boy screaming he ran to find him. My boy said the dog growled and pounced on the snake. He grabbed it in his mouth and snapped it's neck. Yep, he saved my boy.

    Tacked that snake up on the side of the barn. I half-thought to make me a pair of boots with that sumbitch!

    That dog though. He saved my life more than once. There was this one time when I went fishin' down at the tank. I had just sat down on the bank when that dog, no bigger than a pup, started to bark and carry on and then he knocked me over on my side. I had sat down right next to a nest of cottonmouths. Deadly. And that little pup sure let me know about it!

    But that dog though...he's been lying by my side all of these years...Now he's lying in my arms.

    I figure I'll miss him 15 years or more.

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    1. Heartbreaking. I love the rescues. Like Rikki Tikki Tavi. No snake is safe. :)

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    2. Ah, how I love this story... and the images of protection and hope and pain.

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    3. <3 Heartbreakingly beautiful.

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  6. I don’t know where the dreams come from; dreams nor nightmares. I mean, I know they’re supposed to be ways for the subconscious to make sense of the madness in the world, to bring it to some kind of logic, but I don’t know how it happens.

    Last night I dreamed of being in Washington again—the District, not the state—and I was being held in Lincoln’s lap, his whispering in my ear that it would all be all right, to be patient, to be strong. As dreams go, it was vivid. I counted the thirty-six pillars around his memorial. As Mr. Lincoln whispered, I felt his whiskers against my ear.

    And then I floated through the air, over the marble monuments, to the Capitol building, seeing the tiny rust spots in the roof of the rotunda, made of iron, not marble, and the cold metal made me gasp as my ethereal body pierced through it, to a tiny room, where two Senators sat. They held their heads and wept, words unspoken. I whispered in their ears, to be patient, to be strong. They looked at each other, afraid to speak, afraid to be thought mad if they confessed to hearing voices.

    Again I was caught on a whirlwind, and this time, I recognized the street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and I was whisked into the White House, the oval office, where another man sat, alone, staring at his empty desk. He, too, wept, but his weeping was punctuated by maniacal laughter. He pulled his phone from his pocket, stared at it, put it away, took it back out again, and began typing a message. “I was wrong…” and he deleted it and typed it again, still laughing and crying, and then I was pulled away, back to the Lincoln Memorial, eighteen steps below Lincoln’s statue, the statue with the hollow and pained eyes, and he stared at me, and pointed to my feet.

    I looked down, and there, there were immortal words. “I have a dream.”

    And when I awoke this morning, I knew all would be well, eventually, finally, despite inevitable blood and pain. Mr. Lincoln would never lie to me, not even in a dream.

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    1. I like this. Lots of details that make it very visual!

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    2. I Love this SO much. I think dreams reach out to send us messages of healing all the time. And yeah, I've been dreaming about DC, too.

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    3. This is awesome. Thanks for taking us along for the ride. JD

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  7. She’d never expected to feel this way, at least not because of a man. The stabbing pain, the rush of blood in her ears, the blind fury…she knew this things individually, but never had she experienced them all mushed together. And definitely not because of some…some…man.

    Why should she care? He was only going to be in her world for a short time—a couple of weeks at most. And even if he was a permanent fixture, why should she care that he, like every other man she’d ever known, clearly preferred her sister to her? Not that she could blame him. Her sister was everything she was not: vivacious, sunny, charming, an engaging conversationalist. Beautiful. Most of all, beautiful.

    She looked at her reflection in the small mirror above the desk that also served as her dressing table. Her skin was too brown, chapped red in places by the wind and dusted with freckles. Her eyes were too narrow, her gaze too sharp; she looked more like a hunting hawk than an innocent doe. Her mouth was, she felt, her best feature, wide—but not too wide--with full, rosy lips. If she could manage to stop scowling at him, he might even notice.

    Or then again, maybe not. It was, she would imagine, hard to notice anything with her madly disarrayed hair drawing more than its share of attention. She wet a comb and began trying to smooth down the short, roughly shorn locks. After a moment, she realized what she was doing and threw down the comb in disgust.

    She didn’t care what some man thought of her or her looks. She didn’t. So if he didn’t like her hair, he could find something else to look at.

    So thinking, she turned on her heel and left her room. There was much to do, and worrying over some puffed-up popinjay of a lord wasn’t high on the list.

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    1. Funny how many times we have to remind ourselves how much we don't care... and sometimes we're telling the truth, and sometimes not. You caught that dichotomy well.

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    2. ^^^ what he said! I really liked this!

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    3. Oh, loved the "puffed-up popinjay." And so much more. Nicely done!

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    4. I admit, puffed-up popinjay was someone else's phrasing. I couldn't remember who and had to look it up. (Twas Ms. Jo Rowling, who got me writing again. <3) Weird how phrases like that can just stick in your brain.

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  8. The Russian man was back, lounging at his favorite table like a king. Annika could have predicted this. From the first day he strutted into their bistro and charmed Svetlana into preparing a special dish for him, he had the bearing of a man used to getting his own way; Annika did not fathom why Svetlana couldn’t see that. Maybe love was making her blind. Or maybe he had simply worn her down. To save her dignity, perhaps, or to extend this cat-and-mouse game she was playing, Svetlana chuckled, took two wine glasses from the batch Annika had just washed and hand-dried and filled them with the last of the good Riesling. Svetlana leaned against the counter, sipping from one of them. “I will make him wait,” she said. “What do they say about anticipation, what is that maxim in English?”

    Although Annika knew enough English to get by, her first language was German, French her second, so she could only shrug.

    Eventually Svetlana went to him, and Annika could not bear to watch. But she imagined the strikingly beautiful chef strutting across the dining room, smiling at him, insinuating herself into the chair opposite his, flirting with him as if it was a craft she’d polished as well as Annika had the wine glasses. The change in the pitch of her voice, the low, intimate tone, was a painful thing to hear.

    Because Annika had seen him around town with other women. She didn’t know if it would have been kind or cruel to tell Svetlana this. Until that moment, Annika had held her tongue. But just yesterday, she’d passed a jewelry store and saw him through the window, his arm around a slip of a thing as she pointed to various items in the cases. Certainly he was not old enough to have a daughter that age, and there was nothing fatherly or brotherly about the way his hands seemed to own her.

    It was that empty hour between lunch and dinner, so Svetlana had the luxury of lingering with special customers. They had wine and bread and cheese, and he leaned toward her and drank her in with his eyes. He was besotted with Svetlana, and why not? The chef was smart and worldly and elegant. And as a Russian, Svetlana understood him in a way none of these little French girls did.

    When it was time for dinner prep to start, Svetlana came back in the kitchen, slipping into her white jacket. Her cheeks were flushed, either from the wine or his attention.

    “What?” Svetlana said to Annika. “What stick flew up your ass and died?”

    Annika turned toward her station. The pots still needed to be washed. “He is not worthy of you,” she said, half-hoping Svetlana wouldn’t hear.

    But damn her, those sharp ears caught everything. “That is charming of you, to be so concerned,” Svetlana said. “But I know what I am doing.”

    Heat flooded Annika’s pale cheeks. “No, I think you don’t. I think you don’t know him as well as you claim.”

    Svetlana flipped a palm up, as if this was of no consequence. “Yes. There are others. And a wife in Moscow. We have no illusions.”

    Annika smacked her sponge into the soapy water. “This is just what I meant! He is not worthy—you deserve someone who will love you and you alone. You deserve…”

    Already Annika had said too much and her words stuttered to a stop.

    Svetlana smiled, stepped over to her, pressed a palm to Annika’s cheek. “Liebschen,” she purred. The low note of it, coupled with the warmth of her hand, vibrated a chord in Annika’s belly. “It is truly sweet that you look out for my welfare.” Then she turned away to begin her prep. “You know, perhaps you could do with a distraction. A night out. I will see if Grigory has a friend.”

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    Replies
    1. Oh. Oh my. So much going on in such a few words. You're not just writing this stuff but living with the characters, and it shows. <3

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    2. And already I'm in love with Annika... your characters are so well-developed, and so real!

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    3. wow...I did not want this to end!

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    4. Girl, I wanna know where this is going! Great stuff, so vividly drawn. I was right there.

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    5. Thank you! In my head, this felt complete, but I guess my head messes with me sometimes. Hmm...

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  9. The nurse looked in room 227A, and saw a tired old man with a smile on his face, sleeping, turning over a bit. She ascribed it to a pleasant dream. The chart said his name was James Neuhafen. Hospice care.

    Though his eyes were closed, the old man saw quite clearly a young boy on the banks of a stream he knew, a stream where he had often fished.

    “Hey, boy, how’d you find this place?”

    The boy just grinned.

    “Having any luck, boy?”

    “I’m lucky enough to be fishing on this fine day.”

    The old man smiled.

    “What are you doing here, old man? Where’s your fishing rod?”

    “I reckon I’m just here trying to catch some memories; no rod, no license required for that.”

    The wind blew through the trees, weeping willows, at the bank. The man sat down.

    “You ever have any luck catching fish here?” the boy asked.

    “A couple of trout from time to time. Mostly I caught ‘em and released them.”

    “Me, too. Couldn’t eat anything so beautiful.”

    “You’re a wise boy.” The man winked.

    “What do you do? I mean, what’s your life like?”

    “I went to work in the city. Paper pusher, I guess you could call me.”

    “I’m gonna be a writer when I grow up.”

    “A writer? What are you going to write about?”

    “Maybe fishing. Maybe about catching and releasing other things in life. Get ‘em, set ‘em free before they get their hooks in you.”

    “Pretty heavy thoughts for a boy.”

    “I learn from the best.”

    The sun glinted on the running water, and the boy and the old man both saw the trout shimmering in the light.

    “Gonna try and catch him?”

    “Nah. I got him last week.”

    “I reckon I oughta be going,” the old man said, struggling to stand.

    “You just got here.”

    “I reckon I learned what I came to learn.”

    “Come back again, sometime.”

    “You make sure you write that book.”

    “I will. You watch for it! My name’s Jimmy Neuhafen.”

    When the nurse looked in on the old man again, the smile was still there, but James Neuhafen was no more.

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    1. Oh, punch me in the heart, why don't you?

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    2. As you might imagine, absolutely love this beautiful punch to the heart. (perfectly said, Laurie)

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  10. It wasn’t like that. You keep saying it, but it doesn’t make it true. Doesn’t make it real. The cruel-hearted things you do. Did. You never touched me – I never learned how to hug right. I know, because I hug other people and think: somebody hugged this motherfucker enough. Somebody loved them, taught them the important stuff.

    This isn’t some kind of opportunity for revisionist history. Hide from the truth, and you get lost in a thicket of lies. Red, sand-grit eyes. Crying is for pussies. That’s what I learned. I’ve spent most of my life unlearning it.

    So, maybe we can revise, but we can’t edit our lives. You can’t pretend you didn’t say horrible things. Things that sat in the room and sucked out all the oxygen so no one could even speak. You can’t expect someone to be strong if you keep calling them weak.

    I’m not playing a game. There is no striped-shirt overseer. There are no coaches yelling. This is slash and burn, and so many trees need felling. I don’t have the heart to do it. My brain hurts, my brain bleeds, I’m stumbling through life trying to figure out all the things I need.

    And I’m trying to convince myself that I deserve the things I need. That it’s not selfish; it is NOT related to greed. It is about being human. You gotta know it, and keep it shiny on the shelf.

    And sometimes, accept that you have to teach yourself.

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    1. <3 This makes me sad, and hopeful, and just want to give the narrator a hug.

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  11. When the wind is soft through the cattails and the sun is dropping, there is a moment of pure awareness and acceptance. It is bittersweet, but beautiful. It tastes like butterscotch candies, linted, from an old man’s pocket. Sometimes, I even put the rod down. Forget about the fish. Man, it ain’t about the fish. It’s about that moment, and the herons know it, too.

    Sometimes, I can smell my Paupa’s cigars. Cigarettes almost killed the man, but he smoked cigars while he fished. To keep the bugs away. Guess it was cheaper than bug spray. Or it was an indulgence. Which is fine. This quiet moment is just the right time. Used to be the breeze would carry the smoke down the bank. Now, it floats on memory and I stand, riveted, wondering about it all.

    Sometimes I wrap my hand around my Paupa’s fishing knife. I almost lost it once. Left it stuck in a log. I about had a heart attack. God, I don’t know what I’d do if I lost it. But I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t use it either. It’s nothing special. Worth less than a cheeseburger.

    But not to me. I check to make sure it's there.

    To me, it is a reminder that I was lucky enough to know a kind and gentle man in a world populated by cowardly bullies. I was always in a hurry, and he slowed me down. I feel so lucky that he can do it still.

    When the sun drops, reality sets in and my fishing clothes feel extra thin. I realize I’m hungry. I realize I’m thirsty. Sometimes, I see other people packing up their gear, and I hope that there is something for them here. Some memory they can smell. Some nostalgia they can hear.

    I go back to the car or bike, and I sink down into the seat and I’m bone tired because I’m getting older and the physical apathy of my youth is catching up to me. And I picture my Paupa, cigar between his teeth. Never moving too fast. Making it last.Secure in the knowledge that there will always be fishing.

    I never throw pennies in the water, but I’m always wishing. The wishes rarely come true, which is probably just as well.

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    1. What a magical story... told with light, and enough realism that I could smell the cigar smoke, too... thank you for inviting us along.

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    2. awareness and acceptance--like butterscotch candies,linted...Damn, you're good!

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  12. I’ve never been good at pretending to like assholes. This has cost me more than I’ll ever know. I don’t understand how people can lie and cheat and manipulate. I also don’t understand how other people don’t call them out on that shit. Or at least stare at them blankly, like you stare at roadkill.

    I reckon that being a phony isn’t such a shabby skill. I just can’t do it. So, I take my meager pay and say screw it.

    There are times when I think maybe it could be different. Maybe I could try and plaster a smile on my face, join the rat race, get a job that will ease the burden. Life insurance. But I’m not that guy. And as much as I hate to see my wife looking scared – well, hell, I’m not a good liar. You’d think society would reward that.

    But that ain’t the way it works. Success is for the lucky and those who don’t mind the company of jerks.

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    1. Classic MaderRap™... honest rhymes, honest writer, honest truth. And we need that truth more than ever.

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    2. What Leland said.

      Also, "Success is for the lucky and those who don’t mind the company of jerks." Hits close to home and rings sadly true.

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  13. You hit the brakes and you’re sliding. You’re old enough now that you know what to do. You hold on. Try to regulate it. This is the way of so many things. This is the feeling when the late night telephone rings. This is the fear that dark, black nightmares bring.

    You gotta breathe or you die. But you can breathe wrong and still live. It’s hard to remember. There is so much time to give. And you give freely or not. No one is keeping a tally. No one’s keeping score. You can try as hard as you want, but you’ll always be bored.

    When you rewire your brain, it’s like a deal with the devil. Sure, it works sometimes and you can laugh, sing. Revel. Sometimes you get stuck on the other side, tasting bile, begging to get off the ride.
    You can grab a book and read and disappear. Or you can read the same sentence over and over. Searching between the words for a four leafed-clover.

    God, the pain is wearing on you. What you wouldn’t give for one pain-free day. The natural way.

    You might make it, you might not. Them’s the breaks, and you can’t pump ‘em. You can’t make life do something it doesn’t want to do. Eat a piece of candy; swallow before you chew. Maybe you’ll choke and die.
    That seems a much more reasonable way to say goodbye.

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  14. “I’m stuck in a precipitous place,” you said, “and falling is a possibility I no longer care to worry me.”

    The fall doesn’t kill you, I replied--ignoring the pain I’ve felt, too. It’s that sudden stop at the end of it. He grinned (Or was it grimaced?) akin to a wolf who had a death grip on his own ears, contemplating letting go or holding on for dear life.

    His life, yours, mine, it didn’t matter. Fear and anger will do that for you.

    “I don’t care as much anymore about this place in the present,” you said. “The past looks like scorched earth and the future’s a desert of hopelessness.”

    Then stay where you are, I replied. Yesterday’s nothing but ink-stained fabrications at the bottom of a birdcage. Tomorrow’s just a hazy today in waiting. Hold onto your spot here and now like it’s a bird, softly enough not to crush it, but firmly enough that it can’t get loose.

    Your grip on life can escape you on swift’s wings, and sometimes those guardian angels pounding their gloves waiting to catch you if you drop in the existential outfield have been known to lose some in the sun.

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    1. I love the rhythm here. And that last paragraph...nice!

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    2. Beautiful writing... and Laurie's right... that last paragraph is pure gold....

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  15. The air was like a soup. A highly-peppered broth that stung your eyes, forcing tears that ran grey down your cheeks. The ash cloud was impenetrable, thick and billowing, folding and roiling, hiding everything before your face. There was no way through this. At least none that could be seen.

    Yet there had to be. You knew it. You knew if you turned the way back would be just as dark. Ash stacked on ash, hanging in the air, always falling but always being replaced. There should be a fire somewhere – a huge fire – like a forest or something even bigger, its death like a still-born phoenix, never to rise again. There should be a heat, flames crackling as the wood burned, but there was nothing. It was too large, too far away: a dark sun glowing out of sight somewhere, its presence evident even if it couldn’t be seen. There should be a glowing at the heart of it, a lightness to guide you toward it or to steer you away.

    It was destruction. There would be nothing left where it was, nothing intact. You knew that the town lay beyond it, that there’d be the frameworks of buildings within it, the meat of them shrivelled up and burnt onto their bones. There’d be the possessions of the townsfolk – at least those that couldn’t be carried. There’d be furniture and artworks, architecture and legacies, the culture and the memories of the people now made immaterial, everything reduced to its purest forms. There’d be nothing left that could be held anywhere but in memories. Yet this would be the making of the town. There would be nothing that was not irreplaceable. Everything that had been there would have been beyond compare.

    It was to be the end. And perhaps, a new beginning.

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    1. Really strong piece. Love the 2nd pov and structure. Starts out with strong, vivid description and keeps going.

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  16. “Goddammit, Chris!” Ross Wilson jerked in his chair and slapped his hand hard on the desk top inside the double-wide parked at the edge of his field south of Camarillo. “How the hell can you do me this way? Lost half my pickers already.”
    Christian Flores stood in the office fingering the brim of a broad straw hat, his eyes fixed neither up nor down, but sideways, in a kind of penitence. “We got no choice, boss. You know that.”
    “And you know I got fifty-five acres of berries out there fixing to rot and the tomatoes right after. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
    Christian gave a small shrug. “If it were just myself, I might stay on. But Clara,” He gestured dolefully toward the window where outside, an ancient Torino was loaded low to the ground, a mattress strapped to the roof. Two little boys scuffed in the dirt near the back tires, giggling at something that couldn’t be seen, while the silhouette of a woman’s form showed from the front seat, rigid except for the lazy rhythm of a homemade paper fan.
    “Ain’t I been good to you, boy? Paid you regular? Hell, my own folks come out here in the dust bowl days. And when they come into their own, they didn’t forget.”
    “No, patron.”
    “That’s what I’m talking about!” Wilson rose from his chair, coming around the side of the desk. “And what about them boys of yours? They American citizens, ain’t they?”
    “Si Senor,” Christian murmured.
    “Well, that’s what I’m talking about! You got to hang on! Get yourself a lawyer or something! What the hell, Chris, I know times are hard for you people right now, but you got hang in there. Like my folks did. You can’t just quit mid-season.”
    Christian raised his eyes and met his glare full on. “There’s a difference, boss. You were here already.”
    Wilson looked away, rubbing his chin. He run this place for forty years; he’d seen them come and go. It’d be a lie to say they was all perfect. Mexicans came in the same flavors as everybody else when you got right down to it. Lazy ones and drug dealers and the kind that made anybody sleep with one eye open. Mostly, they worked like dogs and made their trouble on their own time. The criminals could be replaced; there was always somebody else willing to pick a crop. But the honest ones? The loyal ones? They could break your heart.
    “I cannot read, senor. There was no money for schooling. Besides, there were always the crops. It’s a good job, picking.” For the first time, Christian smiled. A man only comes to know himself through the earth.”
    Wilson tried to return the smile and failed as his anger rose up again, itchy and dry as the wind heavy laden the fragrance of citrus and strawberry and dirt. The scent always made him think of women, sweet as candy, yet musky and unpredictable.
    “Goddamnit!” he burst out. “I thought he was going to lower the taxes. Increase the subsidies, you know? But this? I swear, Chris. I never thought it would come to this!”
    Christian rotated the hat in his hand, hoping to mangle a new portion of the brim. “Too much rain in one place, too little in another. That is why we traveled. Whatever the risk, the promise of a harvest kept us going.”
    “But there’s a harvest right here, don’t you see that? Shit, you need to hang on! You need to stay!”

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    1. sorry bout the two fer...I just had to get it down...

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  17. Christian bowed his head. “Things have changed. You know that. I will not go to a deportation center. I will not be separated from my family. All men must make their choices. I have made mine. Do you have my money?”
    Furious, Wilson pulled out a wad of bills and counted them out. “We worked side by side in them fields for 17 straight years, Chris. You never once let me down. I thought we were friends.”
    “ I am proud to count you as a friend.” He answered. “But some prefer a wall. But know that I will always be grateful.”
    Confused by the emotions rising in his chest, Ross Wilson watched helplessly as his right hand man loaded his boys into the car. As Chris took the driver’s seat, he pulled out another few hundred and threw it on the seat between him and Clara, then found a couple of fives for the boys.
    “Tuck that cash away, you hear me? You gonna need it. Swallow it if you have to, but I don’t want to see any of my money in the pockets of the goddamned border patrol, either.”
    “We will be careful, boss, “ Christian said. “You could maybe get a crew in here, before the hot weather. I hope so.”
    “And pay them minimum, and benefits and health insurance? Chris, you know what strawberries sell for, right?”
    Chris bowed his head. “Yessir.”
    Ross threw his hat down in the dirt. “They got me,didn’t they Christian? The fuckers got me coming and going. It’s enough to make Jesus himself drink from the cat dish.”
    Clara covered her mouth with her hand to hide a snicker and swatted at the boys with her homemade fan.
    Ross straightened his spine and slapped the hood of the car. “I’ll miss y’all,” he said. “Stay safe, y’hear?”
    Christian grinned, then let it fade again as his olive eyes grew serious and sad. “I will miss you,” He said.
    Ross Wilson watched until the trail of dust disappeared on the horizon and the light turned gold over the strawberries lined in perfect rows like sentinels all around him, putting out their scents of wealth and rot and peril into the breeze. He returned to the office, turned out the light, and hearing the vanity of those who’d gone before him, put his head in his hands and cried.

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    1. Oh. This is so powerful. So painful and poignant.

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    2. I agree, and this: Jesus himself drink from the cat dish. - so good

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  18. It was 2030 and the Federation of States had just came into power after the collapse of the United States government and the civil war that followed. The economy had collapsed and with it the power the United States held in the world.

    There was no recovering from the destruction that swept throughout.

    Corporations who thought they had control over the economy and the politicians they controlled, had lost it all. They could not come up with a plan in time to save their companies.

    The people called for an end to the corruption in Washington. They refused and there was a war. The second time a civil war had been fought on American soil. The first time came upon the United States after President Abraham Lincoln had abolished slavery and the Confederation had declared independence from the Union. A war came and consumed the entire country. Eventually the north won out and the United States was whole once more.

    But this war would not have the same result. This time it was the people versus the corporations. The folks who lived and worked for the very corporations they were fighting against. They had kindly asked the United States government to end the control of big business and give it to the people. But government officials refused to give up the money they were getting from those who controlled the largest Corporations. They refused to give over control to the people. Majority of these officials were too greedy for their own good.

    Corporations were in control of every aspect of government throughout the United States. Once the American economy collapsed, the rest of the world pulled away from the U.S. We were on our own to fight a war that was decades overdue.

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    1. Thank you! I want to actually turn this into either a short story or full on novel/series.

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    2. Preach! This would make a great novella.

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    3. Thanks Brother! I want to make it into a futuristic end to the United States.

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