Friday, February 24, 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.

I figure it's time to take stock. I look in the mirror and things have certainly changed, but at least I can still make eye contact. I haven't broken that contract. And it's not even about that. It's not about me. Not from what I can see. I'm just a jumbled rubber band ball of subtle faults and guilt trips. Long ones.

I should have packed my luggage. 

You want to be a shit about it? I don't. I just want to look over this cliff and breathe and then get a good night's sleep. I don't want to stalk brief moments of authenticity, hard to find when everything is so sparkly. But that's something I don't have to worry about. 

Boo hoo, poor me. 

Poor you. Poor fucking you. What happened? Were you born broken? Did someone use words to chip away at you .. or was it fists? Or was it nothing? A whirlwind flurry of old couch stuffing.

I'm flying this plane right into the goddamn wall. You might as well brace your arms. It won't make any difference, but it might make you feel better, petulant. You're stagnant. I'm vibrant. We'll both fall.

Or it's a lie and I'm you and you're me, struggling for some putrid epiphany. I don't care at this point. All I know is you can go ahead and ignore the oxygen masks. 

They ain't gonna help.

#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...


  1. We'll both fall... love that line... and I wonder if it's into or out of grace?

    1. Outstanding. Packs quite a punch. To crash and burn or merely fade away? Each to his own to decide but gone is gone, probably.
      You're stagnant. I'm vibrant. We'll both fall.
      Love it.

  2. Some bars are like Christmas presents. You open the door, and you find what you’re looking for inside. The Rawhide was like that. Sometimes you went in for a talk with buddies, and sometimes you went in looking for more. Being the only gay cowboy bar around, sometimes two-stepping was the order of the day. Or night, depending.
    That night, I walked in, and the place was practically quiet, except for Miss Patsy Cline on the jukebox.

    It took only a minute to realize why. At the bar, surrounded by a buncha stockbrokers wearing their brand new Stetsons, was the real McCoy. Tall and lean as a saguaro cactus, and just about as prickly, he stood apart. The only thing that belied his cowboy nature was the lack of a hat. Even that only proved he was the real thing; from his forehead up, he was white as the driven snow, where his hat had shielded his skin from the prairie sun.

    All eyes were on him, even as they pretended not to look, and the wolf boys were all hungry.

    I sidled on up to the bar and asked Randy for my usual, JD on the rocks, and made sure my elbow touched the cowboy’s as I stood waiting. He looked at me, more out of curiosity than annoyance, and then he smiled.

    “Hey, I know you, you’re…”

    “Hush, don’t start a stampede in here. Let’s just finish our drinks and then we’ll go somewhere to talk.”

    I stared into the mirror behind the bar, and back a few decades. I knew the man who raised him, from my years on the rodeo circuit. Knew him pretty well, to be honest, and knew the boy’s mom, too. Memories took me back to a night I thought I’d forgot, a night I’d tried to forget.

    He put his empty bottle on the bar, and I guzzled the last of my JD.

    “Let’s get outta here, and see if we can find your hat.”

    His grin told me all I needed to know. He might have lost his hat, but I’d found my son.

    1. Even guessing what was coming didn't lessen the power of this one.
      "... the wolf boys were all hungry." Marvelous story telling.

    2. Love it! And this line: "Tall and lean as a saguaro cactus, and just about as prickly..."

    3. Like Christmas presents, yes indeed...I kinda miss bars...

    4. What they said. Such a vivid scene you painted here, and such a great twist. :)

  3. The elevator groaned to a stop between floors in the old courthouse. It's three occupants groaned, too. Mr. Saunders was on his way to the county commissioners' meeting. Tardiness was frowned upon. Mrs. Garcia and her six-year-old daughter were to testify at her husband's deportation hearing. Being late was not an option.

    She looked toward him, as if encouraging him to use the emergency phone. He complied. He opened the door on the box and drew back in disgust. He looked at her, and she shook her head. He took the silk square from his pocket, certain he'd never fold it right again, and withdrew the dirty receiver protected from its filth by the fibers of a silk worm from another continent.

    He held the receiver away from his face, and shouted into it, the static did not answer back. He tried again. A second failure. He shrugged and put the receiver back.

    Mrs. Garcia looked at her watch--a Timex her husband had given her for their fifth anniversary. Five minutes before two, five minutes till the judge would decide if he was going back to Mexico or staying with her.

    She rummaged in her purse and found the cheap tracphone she kept for emergencies. But who to call?

    911, of course. But the operator spoke no Spanish. She shrugged at Mr. Saunders, who still held his silk square, and he took the phone from her, still leery of germs.

    "This is Commissioner Saunders. Stuck in the elevator. In the courthouse. I'm late for a meeting."

    He handed the phone back to her. She pressed disconnect. He gave her a half smile.

    A moment later, the elevator lurched half a floor and its door opened.


    She and little Estrella raced to the courtroom, entering just as the judge sat down.
    Mr. Saunders nodded to the other Commissioners and called the meeting to order.

    "Now, let's hear the plan for ridding our county of all these damned illegal immigrants." His voice sounded hollow, even to him.

    Down the hall, a gavel fell, and a mother and a daughter wept.

    1. A well told reflection of the sad times we, unfortunately find ourselves in. Some turn a blind eye, some never see at all. Thank you, Leland.

    2. The last few lines made my heart hurt. I hate that this is the world we live in.

    3. Ah. Feel like I just got punched in the chest

  4. Mothers' purses are bigger on the inside. They have to be. They hold Lifesaver candy and bags of Cheerios to quiet young ones, safety pins and bobby pins for all sorts of emergencies. And sometimes they hold pistols, little harbingers of death for those who would take what is not theirs.

    The day was one which held the promise of spring, with warm temperatures and gray clouds that carri d either rain or snow. Her purse was worn over her shoulder, but she clutched at it, too. Four years in the city taught her how easily a thief could cut a purse strap.

    Her heels were sensible. She knew there would be no close-in parking for the courthouse. She also knew she was not going into the courthouse. She'd wait for him outside. As she walked, she practiced her smile. She wanted it to be disarming, sincere.

    The birds were silent in the trees along the sidewalk, staring at her. There was a bench by the courthouse door. She looked around, then sat down, after making sure the bench was clean. The powder blue suit she wore would show stains, and this day, for this performance she wanted to be immaculate. She crossed her legs provocatively, imagining she was doing a layout for Vogue.

    Her hand reached into the purse, almost unconsciously. First, it found the envelope, then the cool handle of the little revolver. She took her dark glasses off, and there he was. The man who fathered her daughter, the man she'd given herself to, the man who'd tossed her aside.

    He saw her. His artificial smile, the one he used to sell real estate, was firmly in place.

    She stood, wobbling a little, for she was not used to heels, even sensible ones. He extended his hand, and she drew the revolver from her purse. His smile slipped and he tried to back away, tried to reclaim his hand, and when the shot rang out, when red flowed on the powder blue dress, the last thing she saw was the look of a man whose world would never be the same. The photos in her purse would guarantee that. Photos of the man with his boyfriend, the most reverend Bobby Phillips.

    She hoped he'd remember to pick Sam up from school.

    1. Gut wrenching. Secrets, lies too often told, with one who is the most innocent paying the heaviest toll. My heart aches for Sam.

    2. Wow. So powerful. And that image of the blood on the powder blue. Magnificent.

    3. Terrific! So vivid, and I loved that she dressed up for the ocassion.

    4. Wow.

      You and your unexpected endings. :)

    5. Laurie took my answer. You do color so well.

  5. There is a certain kind of sadness which clings to a person and never leaves.
    It attaches to the heart like an epiphyte clings to a tree.
    Often only the host can feel its burden as it hides itself so cleverly, though once in a while its presence may be sensed by another.
    We disguise ourselves as best we can, nonchalantly presenting our best face to the world.
    We laugh, we smile, we care and give as much as we possibly can. If we didn’t, the sorrow might possibly be unable to thrive, for only the sensitive have such a propensity for this disposition.
    Is it a curse I wonder, to feel intense love and profound longing for those who have hurt us ?
    Are we unnatural to feel our sorrow grip ever more painfully and burrow deeper into our being when we find it intolerable to witness the atrocities and pain inflicted on innocent human beings by our fellow man? To feel love and empathy for the strangers we have never met?
    Many say we cause our own suffering, that there is no need to experience this constant ache in our hearts and our soul. Maybe they are right, I don’t know.
    All I do know is this; If we have no empathy for living breathing world around us then we are surely doomed.

    1. Filled with truth and beauty... thanks for sharing.

    2. This is incredible. Beautiful, bittersweet, all too true for those who do have this ability. You ask if its a curse. There's no doubt in my mind that it is a most terrible torment, a beastly bane. At least it is for me.

    3. This piece is so strong and well worded, careful, powerful. Dope. You better be here next week. ;)

  6. You would be surprised, how easily Jim fit in with his rural community. While the church was generally close to packed every Sunday, folks around his neck of the woods in the flat prairie of Kansas were generally distrustful, if not hostile, toward the government. They missed old-fashioned community values, but the lurch toward fascism did not sit well. Jim’s grandpa, a 91 year old World War 2 veteran and lifelong Republican, followed the 2016 presidential election keenly. He saw one Donald Trump speech and spat, “Fuck this rich jerkoff. He talks like a cheap knock-off Hitler: he ain’t got no real solutions, he don’t know shit about how the real world works, he’s just coastin’ on his fame and assuring people “just give me the reins and I’ll fix everything, don’t worry your pretty little head about how, it’s those people, I’ll deal with them for you and everything will be fine”. I did not survive the war, colon cancer, and that got-damned car accident, so I could have to hear about this prick every day. I bet I could kick his ass.”

    A good few of his peers, the elders of the town, expressed similar sentiments. So no one paid any mind, when Jim gave shelter to three strange youths who blew into town. He hardly told anyone, but apparently they did some dirt up in Chicago and needed to hide from the feds for a couple days. It was all over the news: Chicago had been under martial law for over a month, and a few prominent local political figures had been murdered, but they had no clear leads, so the folks of Culver supposed it was none of their business. It was the Christian thing to do, after all.

    Jim wasn’t surprised, when a man and woman in crisp suits with FBI credentials pulled up to his farmhouse in a black Ford, asking after some fugitives they had trailed to the area. He played the innocent victim, “oh thank GAWD y’all are here! Them fuckers had me and th’ missus scared out our got-damn minds! They been hidin’ out in muh shed, I wish y’all the best of luck gettin’ ‘em out.”

    Being a crisp early spring morning, he sat in the kitchen, sipping his coffee and eating breakfast. It only startled him a little, when he heard the feds meet the rebels: he smirked as the arrhythmic gunshots reminded him of a brief but violent case of diarrhea. Once he could no longer hear the sounds of struggle, he finished his cup of coffee and went out back to the shed. The vicinity was littered with bullet casings, the two federal agents laid dead, bleeding out onto the rich black prairie soil. The three rebels were breathing hard, one sporting a flesh wound, but alive. “Y’all okay?” “Tommy caught one in the arm, but we’re doing a lot better than these fuckers.” Jim looked down: both feds had lead lobotomies, their eyes winning a staring contest with the sky, and assorted torso and limb wounds. “Nice shootin’, city slickers. Grab them shovels, we better get these sumbitches in th’ ground ‘fore they start stinkin’ up th’ place.”

    1. Powerful and scary. You don't hold back. Kudos for bravery. Some will not like your pov. Some will embrace it. Either way, a well told story of a nation galvanized and divided.

    2. I might not be a nice person, but I'm with Jim on this one!

    3. I agree. Powerful and no punches pulled as always.

  7. She cut my hair off first; scissors tugging at my scalp as she took snip after snip at it, her free hand lifting handful after handful and then offering it up to her blades. She was vague and blurred, having already taken my glasses, her face a pale oval somewhere beyond those hands.

    I’d already given up most things, my dignity being one of the first things to go. I’d been prodded and probed and scanned every-which-way, my whole body being scrutinised by every method available, so much so that I thought I was now the least part of myself; the samples they’d taken easily equalling the weight of the rest of me. There’d been slices taken out of each of my glands, the purple-stained specimens of which had been studied by The Corporation’s medical panels, each of them running their tests, pondering over the results and then conferring.

    And they all agreed on one thing. I should already be dead.

    Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple. They all agreed that I would die. It was only a matter of time and their main source of speculation was how it would happen. The cardiologists thought that my heart would fail, the neurologists thought that my brain would go first; the neurons in my head and my nerves degenerating into soup. The mycologists thought I’d suffocate and the haematologists agreed, neither of them sure if it’d be the cause or the effect that would end me.

    But everyone thought they’d have the answer. Only, just not right now. Maybe in twelve months. Or in three years. Or perhaps a decade or two, if they got enough funding. Whatever it was that would kill me, they could fix it. They could guarantee it, given time.

    And so DataTech ZeroK stepped in.

    Now, I’m not a scientist. My skills were obviously somewhere else. But all these people agreed I could be saved if I was flashed. DataTech could freeze me and then do the scan and then store the data in their buffers. And then, when the technology could do it, they’d restore me. And then do what was needed to fix me.

    As easy as… whatever it is you say… these days.

    1. Brilliant... and my head is all wrapped in a knot after the last paragraph... since it's all told in past tense, I'm trying to decide if I know that the flash worked... well done!

    2. I Like it! The whole idea of having to surrender to people who don't know what they're doing...

    3. This reminds me of some of the best sci-fi stories I've read, years ago, before dystopian and utopian were trope. Great piece. Could definitely be part of something bigger, and it'd be something that would grab my attention for sure!

  8. What are you supposed to do when someone bleeds for you. In front of you. Because of you. What do you do when someone puts their heart in your hand. You smile, try to understand. Accept that maybe you can't.

    I don't like to see my friends fighting. I don't like being the one to step in and make sure all the wrongs get writing. And, no, that's not a typo. You think I'm a goddamn amateur? Fuck you.

    I'd like to carve myself into pieces. Let the meat and blood and gristle pool - hand pieces out to everyone. Take one. You like light meat or dark? Happy endings or the crunch of reality, stark.

    Punch me, kiss me, make me feel like the piece of shit I am. I just want to feel something. Something real.

    Something that bleeds.

    1. The lament of many heroes I have known... well told, and heartbreaking.

    2. "... all the wrongs get writing." No, I knew immediately it was no typo. Life, sheer living slices tiny pieces of us off every day. Slivers that some are more than willing to chew up or spit out. Do they want mustard or ketchup with that? Some aren't satisfied until they hit the bone.
      A beautiful piece of writing. Thank you JD.

  9. Mariel was backstroking off the wall in the deep end of Lane Five when the sirens began. At first, with her ears under water, she thought it was part of the music from the aqua aerobics class at the other side of the pool. The instructor liked to mix it up, keep her elderly clientele moving. But now they were moving all right—they were a blur of white hair and pale, sagging flesh and multicolored bathing suits heading for all the ramps and ladders.

    Damn it, not again. Three times this month, she’d been kicked out of the pool from the bomb threats. Not just out of the pool but out the side door into the parking lot, and it was damn freezing outside. Were those racist meshugge bastards aware that most of the people here only came to the Jewish Community Center for the pool? It was like calling a threat into the YMCA because you were gunning for the Christians. Or the Young Men.

    Part of her wanted to say no to the lifeguard coming her way, where she and Ruth shared the lane. Ruth was still swimming, her strokes long and elegant and perfectly synchronized.

    The boy who barely looked old enough to grow whiskers was standing at the edge, clapping his hands and saying, “Let’s go, ladies. Everyone has to evacuate, now.”

    Ruth turned her head just long enough to call him something nasty in Yiddish and then she was off again.

    “Come on, Ruth,” he said, his voice whiny now. “You’re gonna get me in trouble.”

    “Okay, okay, quit shouting.” She grunted as she tugged her potato-shaped body up the ladder. Like a penguin, Ruth was amazing under water but not so much on dry land. She sometimes had trouble walking, and Mariel was afraid she’d slip and fall on the wet tile, and the lifeguard looked too busy hustling everyone else clear to notice.

    So Mariel followed her out. But where they were supposed to turn right toward the exit door, Ruth turned left, muttering something Mariel didn’t understand.

    “Ruth.” The cold hit Mariel’s wet body and she wrapped her arms around her chest. But the woman wouldn’t stop. Again, Mariel followed, fully expecting one of the lifeguards to come chase them down, even revoke their memberships for not following their instructions.

    Undaunted, and with no one following them, Ruth kept trundling along, one strong leg planting into the hallway after the other, her body rocking from side to side with each determined step.

    Then she turned left, into an abandoned office. “Shut the door, already,” she said, and Mariel complied.

    Ruth punched a sequence of numbers into the phone on the desk. “Yeah,” she said, when Mariel guessed someone had answered. “They’re at it again. You know what to do.”

    Mariel couldn’t help but ask. Ruth shrugged, showed her a small mark on her forearm that Mariel had always assumed was a birthmark or maybe sun damage.
    It was a number. “This,” Ruth said. “After the war, I had to do something. And I guess once Mossad, always Mossad. So I called in a favor. We won’t be hearing from those schmucks anymore. Now, let’s go. I’m cold and I want to finish my laps.”

    Then she waddled back to the pool.

    And Mariel followed.

    1. Whoa! powerful! and it wound up some place I wouldn't have guessed... well done!

    2. Masterfully told. AND WHAT AN ENDING! Thank you for sharing it.

  10. Janie didn't want to say anything because she knew what would happen. It would open up so much. It would paint the whole world the color of pea soup. People talked, but Janie kept her mouth shut and, through force of will, managed to keep her world a light pink, sometimes veering into red.

    Janie didn't ask for any of it. She didn't want it. Didn't want to acknowledge it. People called her chicken shit. She smiled. There's nothing wrong with chicken shit. Every animal shits. She thought about that sometimes when the pink started to get too red.

    It put her brain to bed.

    When Janie left she took:


    Inside the backpack was:

    Two pairs of jeans.

    Five band t-shirts.

    Five balls of socks.


    Her copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

    $50 she stole from her mom.

    Just a little bit of hope.

    And a toothbrush.

    Janie grew up and she did grown up things, but there were always moments that made her stop and think. Why am I tripping about anything. Stay pink. Just stay fucking pink.

    Then Janie started to drink. Years passed and she didn't think about colors anymore. Just black. Everything black. Coffee, brain - her prospects. She was so angry she didn't even realize it.

    When Janie was almost forty, she met a man named Bill. He was a big, goofy fucker. She hated him for so long that it turned to love. At first she didn't know what to think.

    Then, they kissed, and the world turned pink.

    1. Dammit... I love when you turn the ugliness in the world into love.... and I really like the list... tells us a lot about what's essential, for both body and soul.

    2. Lovely. Persistence, tenacity of spirit, happily faded to pink. Would that we all fared as well as Janie and Bill.

  11. “I think it’s best we don't see each other anymore, Joel,” Marina said, looking him the eye and then back into her coffee mug.

    “Oh, okay,” Joel replied, grinning his stupid grin that Marina once found endearing, but now recognized as definitively just stupid. Nevertheless, Marina hoped for more than this response to her pronouncement. She wanted to see some emotion for once.

    “That’s it? Just ‘Okay’?” she said, once more glaring through Joel with what he once called her “hot chocolate eyes.”

    “Well sure.You made it very plain my obsessive behavior where you’re concerned made you quite uncomfortable and I guess I’ll just have to live with that. Have you already found somebody else?” Joel said.

    For the third time since they sat at the table, he sorted the little packets of sweetener. This time in sequences of white, blue, yellow and pink.

    “Somebody else? There was never an Us to begin with for there to be a Somebody Else. And yes, I have found someone. Someone who’s not a lunatic like all my friends warned me you were.”

    “I remember you once called us soul mates. Do you remember that? That had to come from somewhere,” Joel said.

    “Yes, it came from me being lonely and vulnerable and I guess seeing something I wished to see. But I was wrong, so very wrong. And the only reason I’m here is because you called me here and you once meant something to me…as a cute and funny friend who shared interests with me, but just a friend, nothing more…and I felt I owed you a face to face explanation of why I don’t want to see you anymore. Please stop that.” Marina said, grabbing Joel’s hand as he reached for the sweeteners.

    “It really is okay, Marina. I understand. I’ve kinda found someone else, myself.” Joel said, pulling his cell phone from his jacket pocket. Marina stared slack-jawed as Joel pulled up a black and white photograph on his phone of an attractive young woman obviously from another era. And then he flipped through seven more of the same woman.

    “This is Maude. Maude Fealy.,” Joel said. “She’s an actress. Or was. Isn’t she beautiful? She may have the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen. And yes, I understand I may have transferred my obsession for you ton Edwardian actress, but I don’t want you to be jealous. You have nothing to be upset about, just as you said I have nothing to be upset about in our not seeing one another anymore. It just is.”

    Marina scraped her chair back from the table, tumbling sweetener packets from their holder. Joel ignored the pastel pile of have-to action waiting to happen and continued to flip and stare at Maude Fealy. Maude in a flower garland hairpiece. Maude in virginal white robes. Maude dressed as a newsboy. Maude in a high-necked Edwardian frock.

    “What the hell’s wrong with you? You do understand this woman is dead, right? That you can have no relationship with someone who was long dead well before you were born. That, even if she was alive, would probably never know you even existed,” Marina said.

    “Oh yes. I knew you’d say I have an unhealthy obsession with this woman, or at least her image. But, that said, she will never reject me, never say mean things about me, never judge me solely over my…foibles. I know she could never love me and I don’t love her. Not the corporeal Her. Just the spirit, you might say, of my ideal woman. And, yes, I guess she looks a little like you and I imagine has a voice like yours, but that’s all,” Joel said, his face splitting into his stupid grin.

    “Joel, she’s dead.”

    “Yeah, and so are we. So are we,” Joel said, placing the phone back in his pocket as he rose to leave the coffee shop. “Bye, Maudie, uh, Marina. I’ll be seeing you.”

    And with that, he tapped his fingers against his chest.

    1. Eerie, sad, and beautiful... I don't know how you did that, but I like it!

    2. Those last sentences, indeed, the whole piece, decidedly chilling and so well done!

    3. This is so good! Quirky and unexpected with just the right amount of tension!

  12. Part 1.

    It was 5:45 AM, or so his old Honda’s notoriously inaccurate clock glowed, poking Ben to a more lucid wakefulness and the question of where the night had gone.
    Even with the windows fogged from the warm breaths inside and the chill pre-dawn air outside, Ben could still make out Paula’s features by the light of the full moon hanging over the western horizon as they parked there at the overlook. Ben noticed how her face took on its own aura when she turned toward him in her sleep and the still-white moonlight caught something he hadn’t noticed before on her skin——an almost imperceptible dusting of fuzz.
    For reasons even he didn’t understand, he found this discovery, and its prismatic phenomenon, both exciting and oddly disturbing, and he squirmed in his seat to more intimately examine this girl with whom he had been deeply, and apparently blindly intimate with since Friday night.
    The sound of the squeaking leather driver’s seat stirred Paula from her slumber. As she turned toward Ben, she opened her eyes to find him staring closely at her face.
    “Wha…? What are you doing?” she said as her eyes opened wide and heart raced as her first waking sight was Ben’s face not ten inches away, tilted to the right and staring with what felt like rapacious intent.
    They both snapped into upright positions in their seats. Paula’s fear-startled eyes canting to a more severe expression.
    “You scared the hell out of me. What’s your problem?” she said.
    Ben, his own face grown red as if she’d caught him with her right hand, rather than red-handed, said, “Oh, um, I was…I mean, I just discovered…You have…I mean, in the moonlight, your face, your skin…um, stunning. I was transfixed by how beautiful you are.”
    “Wow, thank you. Such fright and bullshit to wake to,” Paula said. The previously cream-in-a-saucer angelic tranquility of her face at rest had turned into a half-shattered mirror. One side serene, while its no-longer twin side clenched around a disbelieving eye.
    “No, I’m serious. You’re just stunning. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.” Ben half-truthed.
    “Ben, there’s no need to polish my ego and its connected parts. What were you staring at? What do you find so disturbing about my face that you wake me with this…this…inspection?” Paula said.
    Ben turned and traced his finger around the leather-wrapped steering wheel, noting for the first time how its surface went from slick where his hands tended to grip it to soft in the spots he didn’t.
    “Okay, but promise you won’t get mad. It only adds to my fascination with you.”
    “What?” Paula said in a tone her English teacher mother would have called imperative more than interrogative.
    “Your cheeks, your skin so soft and perfect, but…”
    “But what?” Paula said, her hand flashing to cover her right cheek.
    “Um, there’s a little bit of fuzz on them,” Ben replied.
    “What the hell are you talking about?”
    “Fuzz, super tiny hairs. I noticed it when the moonlight shined on your face. That’s all,” Ben said as he looked up at Paula’s face, though focused upon the area below her eyes.
    “Are you telling me I have a hairy face?” Paula said, nearly shouting.
    “No. No. I just noticed it because of the moonlight and because I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You’re so….”
    “Hairy? Like a guy hairy? Like I need a shave hairy?” Paula’s hand left her cheek and found an abrupt landing spot on Ben’s left cheek.

  13. Part 2.

    “No. Hell no. It’s just that I’m so fascinated by everything about you. Can’t get enough of you. You’re the most beautiful…”
    “And hairy.”
    “…girl I’ve ever met,” Ben said.
    Through the car’s back window, sunrise cast its first rays on the couple, while the moon still hung in the western sky. The combined glows filled the car with a rainbow aura in which dust mites spun and tiny prisms of spit flew between Paula and Ben when she said, “Take me home now, Ben. I’m tired and want to go home. Now.”
    “There. You see? I knew I should have lied and just said you’re so beautiful I couldn’t taker my eyes off you. Which is so true it almost hurts,” Ben said, still rubbing his cheek where Paula had left a rosy print of three fingers and her palm, almost magenta in the combined glow of the newly risen sun and tenacious evening moon.
    “Home, please,” Paula said, only now with a catch in her throat. She turned her face away from Ben toward the window.
    “Okay. I’m sorry if I offended you. Ben said. “It’s just that…” He stopped and gave a whisper of a gasp. In the morning glow, he saw the tiny blond hairs on Paula’s neck, running from the hairline of her stylishly cropped ‘do down into and beneath the collar of her blouse.
    He saw her shoulders rise and fall rise and fall, rise and fall once he brought his focus back from that singular point to the whole girl.
    “I’m sorry, Paula. Offending you is the last ting I wanted to do,” he said.
    “Ben, please, before I get out and start walking,” she said and gave a slight snuffle.
    Ben turned the key in the ignition and slowly pulled away from the spot where lovers gathered to share intimacy, lust and lies. Even lies of omission like the one Paula had wrapped in ego-stroking compliments the whole time she was with Ben that weekend.
    She thought of telling him how, not once, had she appeared to notice, let alone mention, the extra lift in his left shoe, his tiny fingers, the way he snorted when he laughed, how his glasses were so strong his eyes looked almost twice their size ,like an owl’s, how his clothes were straight out of Miami Vice or how his manly bravado was cover for his true feelings of inferiority to other men.
    No, she wouldn’t say anything until she quickly opened the car door and looked down on him like the moon at morning, when the lies she silently told in the night were stripped away and truth hurt like staring into the morning sun. She would only say “Good-bye” and “Thank you.” The she’d walk into her house, ascend to her bedroom slam the door behind her and sit to gaze at her newest imperfections in her make-up mirror for the better part of an hour.
    It added one more to the list she chronicled each day that began with her too-close set eyes, how they were a muddy brown color she hid under blue contact lenses, how one side of her face was fatter than the other (something her mother noted when Paula was twelve), how weak her chin was, how one ear sat higher than the other, how large that freckle was above her lip, how her teeth still didn’t seem straight enough, how that blatantly that tiny scar at the top of her left cheek stood out now that it was framed by all that hair she could now clearly see under the make-up mirror’s circle of lights. Lights that stared flat, unblinking and stark upon her, like the Ben did and so, too, the face of the accusing moon at dawn.

    1. Some overlook imperfections, some embrace them. A few do both. Thank you for sharing this.

    2. I love how you take a moment of beautiful innocence and twist it inside out, letting us see the fears... gorgeously told.

  14. Written for and dedicated to a friend with a heavy cross to bear. Love and strength in the days to come.

    Ever Bound

    Some loves transcend this mortal coil,
    The souls that twine are steady, true.
    No time divide nor death may foil,
    This bond that over ages grew.

    So as we change, a comfort found,
    A sorrow but known in my heart,
    Forever here, forever bound,
    Your soul and mine will never part.

    -Tamara McLanahan

  15. Don't think I'll get through this whole story, today, but here's Part One
    Mary Jane Henderson and the Immaculate Conception

    I’m pretty sure it happened that weekend when Daddy took Mommy to Branson for the Dolly Parton Christmas Extravaganza. She was pretty sick by then, and didn’t see the point, but went anyhow. She always tried to please him, right up till the end.
    Anyway, they left me alone, figuring I was old enough to take care of myself and I really was. I mean, I went up to Luanne’s on Saturday night and we got baked as fuck, but that’s about as bad as it got. I don’t have anything to hide. Nothing good, anyhow.
    But that was before the light came and took me. I was driving down route 3 and all of a sudden, the radio goes dead. Nobody fucks with me when I got Mettallica on the dial. So I pull over and mess with the dial. It’s all I remember.
    Next thing I know, I’m walling back toward my truck through the field at the butt end of the Yarner place. The lights are still on and it’s still in idle, and when I climb inside, Metallica kicks back on. “Enter Sandman”. I’m staring at the dials; the gas gauge hasn’t even gone down. But the dash clock is blinking 2:30 AM. I’d left LuAnne’s at 12:33. It’s 20 minutes away.
    I forgot all about till I missed my monthly for the second time. Mommy passed a month to the day after the Extravaganza and after the 10 years she’d spent sick, I put it down to the stress and all. Tell the truth, it was a kind of a blessing. But Daddy took it hard. With men like my daddy, well sometimes you just can’t talk about it too much. I felt like if I cried or something, he wouldn’t be able to deal. So he went to work and I went to school. I didn’t think anything was wrong, because I hadn’t done anything to make me suspicious, you know?
    But then, I said something to Luanne and she freaked the fuck out. We drove to Walmart right away and sure enough, I peed on the stick and it was positive.
    I knew right away what I needed to do. There’s just this one thing, they don’t want anybody to have a choice. Went Luanne and I drove to the clinic, the doctor there did an examination. He got all puzzled when he found out I was still a virgin.
    “Gal,” he told me, “I don’t know what you been up to, but when it comes to baby-making, looks like you won the damn lottery!”
    “But I don’t want it!”
    “Don’t matter, “ he said. “In this state, you got to have parental permission. “ He pulled out some papers. “ Talk to your mama, “ he told me. “She’ll understand. Did you watch the chaplain’s video yet?”
    Me and Luanne put away a six-pack on the way home, while I cried like a baby.
    “You know what?” she told me. “I read on the internet that there’s a pill for dog abortions. You can order it on Pet Pharma. Com. It’s supposed to be the same thing they give to humans. Only a lot cheaper.”
    It made me laugh. “ Fuck you, Luanne.” I told her. And got out of the car.”

  16. Jessie turned the engine over, and the idiot light came on, reminding her that she’d neglected to fill the gas tank. She’d been running late that morning and had decided she could stop on her way home. She hadn’t counted on working a double, and she hadn’t been thinking about the empty gas tank when she’d volunteered to work Natalie’s shift. The call center where they worked wasn’t in the best part of town, and she wouldn’t be able to make it to a better area before she had to stop for gas. She really hated stopping at the local gas stations after dark, but it was better than running out of gas in this neighborhood.

    With a feeling of dread, she pulled into Huggy Bear’s, trying to ignore the bars on the c-store’s windows and the loud, rough speech of the young men loitering near the front door. Her heart beating faster, she stepped out of her car and opened the fuel door. When she turned back to the pump, she nearly jumped out of her skin. From nowhere, a man had appeared, his all-black clothing allowing him to blend into the shadows. He towered over her, his expression all but hidden behind a huge beard and mustache.

    Before Jessie could react—to run or scream or even ask “Where the hell did you come from?” the man reached one hand toward her. Jessie clenched her teeth and forced herself not to flinch away. The man reached past her…and slid a credit card into the slot on the gas pump. Puzzled, and relieved, Jessie could do nothing but watch as he tapped the keys on the pad and removed the nozzle from the pump.

    The man turned toward Jessie and gave her a single nod before moving past her to begin filling her gas tank.

    “Um…what are you doing?”

    The man looked down at the nozzle, over at the pump, and then at Jessie. “Pumping gas.”


    “Do I need a reason?”

    “I guess not.”

    The pump shut off when the tank was full, and the man replaced the nozzle.

    “Have a good night, ma’am. And be safe. You might want to not stop around here after dark again.”

    “I try not to,” Jessie said. “I just…got stuck.”

    The man nodded. “Happens.”

    Jessie opened her car door and then turned back to the man. “Thank you. It doesn’t seem like enough…”

    “It’s more than enough, and you’re welcome.”

    Jessie started to climb into her car, but she turned around again. “I’m Jessie.” When the man didn’t respond in kind, she asked, “And you are?”

    The man grinned, his smile wide enough to be seen even through his heavy beard, and tipped her a wink. He turned to walk away, back into the shadows, but he called back over his shoulder, “Just call me the man in black.”

    #maninblack2017 #wearblackdogood

    1. An awesome story, with a beautiful reminder... there are good people in the world, and we can be good, too... a great way to remember the man in black indeed.

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  19. This is has been a side piece for me for awhile. I’m pretty sure I know how it’s going to go but I like dallying with it. Had to break it up into two parts. – Lily
    “Mr. Huntsville?”
    “Yes, Seb.”
    “I found him. He’s here, sir.”
    Todd looked up from the papers he was signing on his desk and smiled.
    “Show him in, Seb. Show him in.”
    Sebastian backed out into the hall and gestured to Charlie. Charlie, who’d been standing just outside the office wondering why he’d been summoned. Then hearing the eagerness in Huntsville’s voice, feeling instantly even more edgy and uncomfortable. He didn’t like walking into things. He especially didn’t like walking into things without a weapon or a map. But he had to admit this particular event seemed banal enough. The town leader wanted a word with him and given Charlie’s recent escapade it wasn’t hard to figure out what it was about. The why of it, was what Charlie wasn’t sure of. Uncharacteristically, his imagination ran wild with the possibilities.
    When he finally lumbered into Todd Huntsville’s office he barely got a good look at the surroundings before the man himself moved exuberantly, out from behind his desk and into Charlie’s breathing space with his hand extended. Charlie’s reaction was instinctive. He shook the man’s hand easily matching the energy and strength of Todd’s self-assured handshake.
    “I’m so happy to meet you Mr. Lang.”
    “Good meeting you, Mr. Huntsville.”
    “Thank you for letting Sebastian drag you away from your errands to meet me.”
    “It was fine. He asked very nicely.”
    “Well, I should hope so.”
    Huntsville laughed then. A melodic laugh that was calming and easy on the ears without exactly welcoming one to join in.

  20. “Please have a seat,” Huntsville said gesturing towards the chair, “may I call you Charlie?”
    Charlie nodded but didn’t sit.
    “And please you should call me Todd.”
    “Todd, I can’t stay. My daugh— “
    “I know, I know. You have a young daughter.” Huntsville was jubilant. “And you care for her all by yourself while your wife does the Lord’s work protecting this country. I promise I shan’t keep you. You need to pick her up at the Clay County School I wager?”
    Charlie did not feel the need to answer any of Huntsville’s questions. It was clear he’d done his research and Charlie wouldn’t be telling him anything he didn’t already know. Also for some reason he took an instant dislike to this overly sunny man. It was as if Huntsville wished to hide his power behind a wall of joyful assertiveness. It reminded Charlie of other men he known who bore false fronts of even tempered inclusiveness and not only didn’t he buy it, he wouldn’t help sell it.
    Instead, stubbornly he continued to stand, waiting to hear the man out. Seeing that, Todd continued to stand too but crossing his arms across his chest and one leg in front of the other while leaning against the desk. Todd Huntsville looked like an agreeable mortgage lender or some other bizarre corporate oxymoron. He was dressed for banking and managing assets but his tie was bright pink. A decidedly non-corporate color.
    “What can I do for you Todd?”
    “Two things come to mind Charlie, but before I get into it can I ask you, were you in the military as well?”
    “And now you’re out.”
    “I was injured.”
    “Oh I’m sorry to hear that. I assume then you were in the theater. Working for who though?”
    “Special forces.”
    “Oorah.” Todd said lightly under his breath with a whisper of a smirk.
    That smirk was probably why Charlie couldn’t help what he said next.
    “That’s Marines. I was Army. Delta Forces. We say Hoorah.”
    Todd opened his arms and shrugged.
    “I didn’t even detect the linguistic nuances. Ahh, I can see I’ve come to the right man.”
    Charlie thought about pointing out he’d come to Todd but didn’t want to prolong the pissing contest, so he reverted back to his old standby— a silent stare.
    “First and foremost, I wanted to thank you Charlie.” Huntsville’s demeanor changed slightly. His voice lowered and seemed to beckon Charlie in with deference and pride. “You handled your business out there. That depraved interloper was a danger to our community and you took him down thoroughly and efficiently. I admire that.”
    Huntsville leaned in a little closer, “Having seen that marvel I’m hoping that you can help me with another clear threat. We need a covert hero Charlie such as yourself. Someone with insight and an unquestionable skill set that can offer us exactly the right kind of protection we’re looking for.”

    1. Ohhh... I like... mysterious hero or villain? or maybe both!

  21. Arnold sat on the park bench clutching his take out coffee. His tummy grumbled noisily and he eyed his lunch box sitting beside him on the bench with longing. Thirty minutes of his lunch hour had passed and there was no sign yet of the lady he was waiting for.
    It was a chilly day and as he pulled his coat collar up against the cold he hoped she would show up soon. His gaze returned to the path which led from his right and continued on in front of him towards the duck pond. Maybe she had decided not to take her walk today although she had certainly stuck to her routine for the past six weeks, this thought reassured him and he took some deep breaths of the crisp air to calm his nerves.
    His heart skipped a beat as he caught a glimpse of her red coat in the distance. He watched her surreptitiously from the corner of his eye and did his best to appear casual as he opened his lunch box and took out a sandwich, cheese and pickle because he’d learned last week that she didn’t eat meat.
    When she was a few feet away he glanced in her direction in what he hoped was a casual manner and their eyes met.
    “Why hello there!” he said in mock surprise. “Lovely day for a brisk walk isn’t it?” he commented, trying to keep his voice from shaking. She had an effect on him such as he’d never experienced in all of his sixty years of living.
    “Hello, Arnold! Yes, it’s a lovely fresh day,” she beamed. “Do you mind if I join you on the bench? I need a bit of a breather now, I’m not as young as I used to be,” she laughed and she sat without waiting for a reply.
    Arnold felt his cheeks flush as she turned her dazzling smile on him. He was mesmerised by her glowing vibrancy and the sound of her tinkling laughter filled him with a joy he hadn’t felt before and which he realised he was becoming addicted to.
    He realised he hadn’t heard a word she had said to him, so enamoured was he by her presence.
    “Are you alright?” she said as her voice finally broke through his daze.
    “oh, er, yes. Please forgive me, where are my manners….would you care for a sandwich? Cheese and pickle,” he stammered. He realised he had been staring at her with a gormless grin on his face and he offered his lunch box for her to take a sandwich.
    “Well if you’re sure you don’t mind, thank you I will.” She chose a sandwich her elegant hand and took a substantial bite and chewed, all the while showing her pleasure with mmmm-ing and oohing noises.
    Arnold was beside himself with happiness and offered his untouched coffee to her to wash down her food which she accepted gratefully.
    They spent the last ten minutes sitting companionably, Angelique (what an adorably fitting name for her, he thought,) chattering gaily and Arnold hanging on to her every word, mentally memorising her favourite things which flitted into the conversation.
    “I um have to get back to work now, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Maybe we might bump into each other again tomorrow?” he said.
    “oh I do hope so and thank you for sharing your lunch with me,” she replied, adding, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t I bring my lunch with me tomorrow and we can compare lunch boxes?,” she said and there was her tinkling laughter again.
    “I’ll look forward to it, my dear,” Arnold managed to say as he accepted her outstretched hand.
    “Tomorrow then.” He smiled.
    He turned and began his walk back to work feeling as though he was a young man again. He glanced back over his shoulder and she waved girlishly and blew him as kiss. He stood for a moment watching her retrace her steps up the path, amazed at how youthfully she moved for someone similar in age to himself and he glanced up at the sky. “Thank you,” he whispered, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this but thank you!”

    1. And that is beautiful.. truly. "Gormless" is a lovely word... and thanks for reminding me that romance comes at any age!


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