Friday, March 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.

It's hard to see underneath all that paint, but the house is cramped and broken. New, but crippled from it's infancy with a kind of fake cheer and chipped veneer. Like something is just off - you can stare at it and look into it and you see great expanses of black. You fear the house, but you are not afraid of it. You are sorry for the world. 

That God saw fit to make such a girl.

And you can clean the cobwebs from the corners. You can decorate and make it sparkle, but it's still a squat little house bulging at the seams. Moving, ever so slowly, to a place where only sociopaths dream. There is a path to the house. 

She would do anything to take it.

The neighbors won't even walk by. They don't talk about it. The other houses smile and grin and close their shutters. Try to avoid the collateral damage of the repugnancy which is bringing down the market value. 

The fucking market value

And still, forever more, until collapse, the house will sit on the top of a hill that doesn't deserve to be called a hill. The colors will be too garish. Birds will stunt and flutter at the proximity. Rain will swerve around it. 

Because she has the kind of blankness that makes you shudder. 

Board the shutters.

#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. Here's to the houses and the girls and the boys who find the blankness... and who dare to be too garish. I really like the feeling of the outcast in this one, and using the house as the subject of it is brilliant.

    1. Love it! My favorite: The other houses smile and grin and close their shutters. Try to avoid the collateral damage of the repugnancy which is bringing down the market value.

    2. Yes, what Leland and Laurie said, but also the play on shudder and shutter, which in North American accents are pronounced the same. Which is the point. :)

  2. She is adorable, all curled up and sleeping. Maybe two? I breathe quietly, not wanting to disturb her. Do all children look so innocent in their sleep? Her brown hair frames her face in wisps, if the light were dimmer, I'd think it was fog, or smoke. She's sucking her thumb.

    I remember my parents breaking me of that habit, screaming of how unsanitary it was, of how it would make my teeth crooked. My thumb twitches at the memory.
    Her mother, though, sits quietly, occasionally brushing an invisible strand of hair from her daughter's eyes.

    What would it be like, to have such a daughter? To hear her morning laughter? To answer the thousand questions a two-year-old asks?

    "Because God made it so" was my parents' answer of last resort. If they'd answered more honestly, maybe I would have become a scientist, or a doctor...

    The child shifts in her sleep. Her mother tenses, afraid her angel will fall from the bench they share. Somewhere a door slams, and the child awakes, innocence transformed to fear. Her mother glares at me, as if I am the thief who stole her daughter's respite.

    I look away. It's part of the job, the job I never wanted. I should have been something, anything else but a detention center guard.

    1. Oh, the sweet set up and then the crushing finale. First heartbreak? Check.

    2. Wow I liked this. I could see everything so clearly.

    3. JD I really liked that first story! I can never figuRe out how to comment on your fist one.

    4. Oh. You crushed me at the end. Well done.

    5. Uh. That revelation. Where's the Munch Scream emoji?

  3. Two more stouts down here, honey? Thanks, love. So this is how it works, youngster. The pols will argue over when life begins, at conception or at birth. What the hell, the subject of their alleged debate could just as easily be Creationism versus Evolution. It’s the same churned-up, wormy loam that’s sustained the political phonies for more than a century. It’s what they hoe when tangentially preaching to the party-affiliated converted.

    We scribes would sit back and take notes, mainly gauging relative volume, totals of Biblical citations versus Scientific references and numbers of finger points. Though many now use their thumbs as pointers since the birth of Darwinian political exemplar Bill Clinton’s index finger-stabbing, definition-of-IS-is, white-lie, bad-optics hair-splitting during his own multi-hyphened product-of-a-sexual-encounter Dance of the Seven Berets.

    Oh, and we collected, crunched and consumed salty quotes like pretzels in our after hours bars.

    We were paid to fill open column inches or air-minutes between advertisements, with the implicit promise our bosses made to the advertisers of bringing X-number eyeballs to their come-ons for pharmaceuticals, automobiles or insurance.

    Judging which side is right or wrong rose above our pay grade, best left to the former reporters who soared or crawled over the broken egos of their colleagues to editorial or columnist positions either by hard work or something just shy of befriending (maybe just the journalistic equivalent of caddying for) publishers. Though some made it by outliving them.

    We ink-stained wretches are a cyclical lot who learned to somewhat compartmentalize our feelings as best we could without losing our edge, becoming totally numb. See, it’s not so much who’s right and who’s wrong on a specific argument as it is who those aforementioned editors and publishers choose to make right. We’d rather leave it out there in some artful, judgement-free, make-your-own-sundae bit of prose that’ll move the reader like Hemingway did in Hills Like White Elephants. Hell, not once did he ever mention the word “abortion.”

    No one’s ever going to actually “win” these debates, combining science, culture, politics and religion in a danse macabre where Defeat/Death inevitably collects the dramatis personae and Victory/Life is merely Intermission, one last chance to pick up some Sno-Caps, Raisinets and nuclear containment vessel-sized containers of Coke and popcorn before the house lights go down for the final act.

    1. Beautifully said... and I confess, I'm rather fond of you ink-stained wretches... shining flashlights into the dark corners so we see it all.

    2. I love the way the near frantic pace matches with the theme. Really tightly constructed.

    3. Love it. Love the rhythm of your writing.

    4. And yes, journalists are essential, flawed as the fourth estate can sometimes be. We need them to get over their self-loathing! Beautifully expressed, though, as always, Joe. As the current online version of the Washington Post proclaims: democracy dies in darkness.

  4. It is dark. Truly the night is black. No streetlights, even the stars darkened by the clouds. The moon is absent. Why do they call it a new moon, but no one calls any phase an old moon?

    I am afraid to sleep. I hear noises in the shrubs around me and convince myself it is the wind, though I've felt not even a breeze.

    I shiver. I'm not sure if it's fear or cold. Perhaps both. Or perhaps the memories I choose not to see. Perhaps my body remembers what I will not allow my brain to recall.

    I recite poems in my head, and wish I'd memorized more. At last i resort to prayers, and when I've said the last, now I lay me down to sleep, I realize there are no sounds at all, not even rustling in the bushes.

    The hairs on my neck are quivering, electric, and I dare to say aloud, "It's going to be okay." And I wish I had a watch and I wish my iPhone's battery wasn't dead and I wish I'd stayed on the trail and my litany of wishes is longer than the poems or the prayers.

    But nothing comes for me except at last the sleep of exhaustion and avoidance.
    When I wake, it is with a start, and the eastern sky is no longer black, but an almost unnoticeable gray. I sit quietly, facing the east, awaiting the light.

    And then I notice him, watching me. Silent. Still. Patient.

    A wolf. His eyes meet mine. For a moment, we both are wild. Am I prey or protected?

    The sun bursts above the horizon. He stands, backs up two steps, and turns around, quietly padding away. He looks over his shoulder once, as if to tell me to be careful, and I am alone in the light.

    1. You captured that eerie feeling so well. I've been there with bear and mountain lions. And they were always kind enough to walk away. But that thrill fear is spot on.

    2. Yes. So lovely and lyrical and eerie.

    3. What they said and Wow! Well done Mister Dirks

    4. Excellently understated, Leland. I once wrote a similar story but deliberately overstated it. The wolf is possibly the noblest of animals in our world.

  5. “The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus

    You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the motherfucking pimps, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally.

    I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own.

    Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.

    Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?

    Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.

    Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to the appropriate species.

    The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos.

    Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left.

    Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock.

    Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?

    These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need.

    1. I stand in awe. There are times I read your work, and I feel like I'm at an oracle, not reading, but feeling your truths. "...glimpses of its liquid tectonics..." is my favorite phrase, but the whole thing is a beautiful mosaic of color and pain. It's good to have you back.

    2. Pretty much what Leland said. You had me when you quoted Claude Lévi-Straus. It only got better after.

    3. Agreed. I kept highlighting phrases I loved and then finding ones I loved more. I especially love this: "A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own."

      Awesome, D. And fuck the chicken.

    4. Funny, "liquid tectonics" was perhaps my favourite phrase, a strange invention. Thank you, my friends, and if you're interested I added a short coda on my blog.

    5. Definitely interested, feel no need to make it short though.

  6. An extemporaneous offering from an anonymous friend:

    It smells like melting tar and burning wood, unwashed men, rotting teeth and freshly turned dirt, old whiskey, sick, piss and shit.

    Its pungent and raw. The road here was so empty and peaceful, but with the hush of hidden death hiding just below the green leafy canopy of forest and hills.

    Now death is everywhere and loud and obvious.

    They pass a flat board filled with black haired scalps. A sign says reward for dead injuns. The scalps are covered in the buzz of flies and a thick stink of ammonia.

    His heart pounds hard. The fight is real. The story is no longer fiction. Life is a tragic struggle. No longer hidden. No longer a tale sold for a dime. Here death is not just an unknown ambush, but a glaring man in a ten gallon hat holding the butt of his pistol. He makes it obvious he wants what the boy has. Youth and a second chance.
    Laughter and angry shouts fill the air. Mixed with the orgasm of a man long traveled and in long need of relief behind thin pine wood walls.
    The laughter of a whore.

    The tinkle of cheap ivory piano keys.

    "Come get your gear here miner," a man in dirty overalls shouts over the din of tin being hammered and boards being nailed and the occasional shot fired either into the air or still living meat.
    Maybe the small town boy regrets his decision to come west. Maybe he thinks he can go home now.

    But he is here, stained forever with what is around him, no longer able to go home and be the kid he was before. He is becoming the man he will be. One day he will either be, or not. That is the way of Deadwood. you either succeed or die whether an attempt is made or you do nothing.

    1. Places the reader right there. Connected sights and sounds, which for me is real power in prose.

    2. Yep, a genuine Western tableau... and "The Way of Deadwood" would be an awesome title!

    3. Yup. Totally agree. Nailed it. Made me think of Blood Meridian.

    4. Yeah, for sure: Blood Meridian and Deadwood both. The raw keening poetry of the West.

  7. The cameras never caught them. They were small, and fast, and nearly invisible. The press was wild about the size of his fingers, but they never thought to notice his eyes darting from one side to the next.

    He could see them, though. And worse, he could hear them. A constant buzzing, like two bees, fighting to the death.

    On his left shoulder buzzed the dark one, whispering doom and vengeance. He had such energy. Even as the President tried to sleep, the dark one droned on, with a homily of fear.

    On his right shoulder, the one filled with light and joy. Her voice was more of a whisper, a murmur, reminding him of all good things, of grandchildren, of flowers, of green fields. She was subtle, quiet, but strong.

    The dark one encouraged him to be spontaneous, straightforward, and to share his dark vision with the world in 140-characters snippets.

    The one of light whispered “act presidential” and “think before you speak.” Instead of choosing between them, he acted on both, and it tore him up.

    The President imagined them as a classic battle between good and evil, and he tried to detach from their bickering, but could not. He was a deal maker, and he wanted to broker peace between them. They were both important to him, both responsible for his success. Why couldn’t they just get along?

    In his early morning analysis of dark vs. light, of good vs. evil, he missed two hypotheses: 1) That both were devils, and 2) that he was mad.

    1. Devilishly good! If only the press didn't have its own demons. Oh well the devil you known isn't really news then is it.

    2. This is a new twist on MagicalRealLeland of late. And I really like it.

    3. How apropos of today's America...

  8. Daddy used to call them drugstore cowboys, the ones that dressed up but had boots that never stepped in shit. There were a lot of them in this bar, but that only made it easier to pick out the ones that smelled of horse barns, the ones in well worn Wranglers, the ones who knew how to sweat.

    I was a farmer, not a rancher, so I was surprised when a tall drink of a man came up beside me and said howdy without a trace of irony. His name was Ben, he said. Once we made our howdy dos, he invited me to a game of pool. Beat my sorry ass, but then cowboys have more time to play games than farmers do. Daddy told me that, too.

    Yuma, Arizona, was where he called home. The cowboy I mean. I was from Nebraska, but Daddy used to tell me stories about Arizona. When I was old enough to help run the farm, he took a salesman's job and travelled all over.

    One beer led to another and Ben and I were getting chummy. I started to feel like I ought to know him from somewhere. We talked about friends and family, but we found no conjunction in our lives.

    His eyes, goddamn, when he looked at me I felt their fire. I saw anger and passion and blue prairie sky. And his voice, a whisper, the kind of whisper a man has when his only companion is the wind. I almost missed when he told me he was raised by a single mother, and suddenly I knew, before he even said it. His daddy was some traveling salesman.

    His eyes were my own dead father's eyes. When I laughed, he asked me why, and I didn't tell him. Wrong or right, I wanted to kiss him and put my hands in his pockets.
    When morning came in his cheap hotel room, a farmer and a cowboy kissed goodbye, more than brothers.

    1. Well done! The bit about the fire in his eyes and the whisper of his voice was elegant. Tracing the attractions to the memories of a song about his father was kind and strong writing as well. Nicely done.

    2. Really, really like this one. This is such a cool phrasing: "the ones who knew how to sweat." Simple, but authentic and true.

    3. I remember the "urban cowboys" at Gilley's and other CW joints back in the heyday. That part was well written and brought back memories. That ending, though, is twisted in more than one sense of the word. Love it!

  9. Ben took one of the newspapers from the bin at the end of the counter and along with his triple latte ambled over to a quiet corner of the coffee shop to catch up on the news.

    "Never any good news, " he muttered under his breath. After a few moments of scanning the headlines, a story in the neighborhood section made him sigh. Sadly, softly, he whispered, "Oh no, what a shame." The story was about identifying the body of a missing young woman as a local named Sharon. Sharon's murder was made all the more shocking and sad by the fact that the suspect to whom all evidence seemed to point was her boyfriend.

    Ben soon became lost in thought as he studied the picture of the young lady which was from obviously happier times. She was quite attractive with a warm pleasant smile that seemed to radiate out from the page at Ben. As Ben studied the page, he thought about all the choices we make each and every day, any one of which can take our lives in a cruel direction.

    Anyone you meet could be a friend, a lover, a savior, or in her case, her murderer. In a perfect world, perhaps Ben would have met Sharon. They may have become close and he might have seen the danger in this man, warned her off. He might have become her boyfriend instead. In a perfect world...

    Just then a man interrupted Ben's thoughts by asking him if the chair next to him was taken.

    "Yes, I'm sorry but my wife is joining me soon." The young man excused himself and left to find another chair. Ben went back to his thoughts and the morning paper.

    "There you are Ben, were you waiting long?" He looked up at a familiar kind face. "No, just enough time to catch up on the news."

    "Any good news?" She asked with a smile. Ben looked at the paper seeing a very different picture attached to the same story he had just read with the one other change being in the woman's name.

    "No Sharon, no good news." Ben smiled and took a sip of his triple latte.

    1. Oh.... what a twist! well done, sir!

    2. Agreed. My brain just spun around. And I didn't even have a triple latte.

    3. I concur with Leland. Very smoothly day-in-the-life sort of thing until you smacked us one.

  10. Pt. 1

    Jane was pissed. Dick was cheating on her with some woman at work. Jane loved her husband. She thought he loved her. This had blindsided her. This was some bullshit.
    The curtains of the motel room smelled like stale cigarettes and the bedspread smelled like barf and sex.
    The bathroom...the bathroom smelled like something had died in there and had been rolled in shit.
    The rain splattering on the nicotine-greasy windows made it hard to see, but she could still make out their forms
    in that bitch's apartment. Jane was seething. They weren't even being discreet and that just added salt to her wounded heart. It pissed her off is what it did.
    He simply followed the woman from work, parked his car in front and then they started screwing like horny teenagers. The way they acted together made her want to puke.
    She watched the whole thing. First in disbelief and then in fury.
    She felt the cold weight of the gun strapped to her side. She checked the sharpness of the knife and pruning shears.
    Dick was going to pay. He's going to wish he and little Miss-take never met. He was going to regret fucking around on her.
    Across the street, the light turned of in the front room and the light in the bedroom turned on. This steeled her resolve and told her it was almost time. She was buzzing with nerves and adrenaline.
    It felt like she'd had 5 cups of coffee and a methamphetamine bagel.
    "Good." The adrenaline would give her strength and would keep her sharp.
    The alarm on her watch went off and she nearly jumped out of her skin.
    Dammit! Dick was supposed to fix that weeks ago. Dick made a lot of promises that he couldn't keep.
    Well if she had her way, Dick wouldn't be fixing anything after tonight.
    The light went of in the bedroom across the street and Jane was ready to move.
    The rain plastered her hair to her face and made her make-up run. She didn't care...not tonight.
    She crossed the street half-running to avoid cars. Her heel broke halfway across, so she looked and felt like a drunk. She didn't care. She only cared about making him pay.
    She'd check the lock first. Dumbasses probably didn't bother to lock it. They weren't being very smart.
    She walked toward the apartments. "Dammit!" She stepped into a pothole and broke off the other heel.
    "Shit!" Her ankle nearly snapped when she stepped into the cold water.
    She stepped under the covered area after hobbling across the parking lot. Did a quick inventory.
    The bitch's window caught Jane's gaze and she watched for a few minutes.
    Walking easily into the unlocked lobby, she whispered a thank you to the man upstairs.
    At first glance, this place seemed nice. Close up it didn't look any better than her motel room smelled. The old lights bathed everything in yellow. The institution grey mailboxes made everything dreary and the crooked paintings made her feel like she was being stared at by a starving homeless child. This lobby was like a commercial for the latest antidepressant.
    She looked for room #19. When she found it, she took a moment to still her racing mind.
    Her hand wrapped around the door handle and tried turn it. It turned and she almost shouted "Thank God!"

  11. John sat in the corner of the restaurant, fuming. The waiter had stopped coming by hours ago. He would have been asked to leave, but it was off hours and there was something about the man that made everyone think twice. Something in the eyes.

    John, of course, knew - he did not want to talk about it. He did not want to explain the significance of the table or the shaking of his hands. He was not hungry. He was content with ice water. He was not concerned with making a good show of things.

    The manager pulled everyone into the back and talked them down - he's an old man. If he's still here when the dinner rush starts, we'll say something. Until then, let the man sit and drink his ice water.

    Jackson wasn't having it. Wanted to kick his non-paying ass out immediately. The rest were OK with it. They debated for a few minutes over cups of coffee and the cake that looked like shit but tasted fine.

    The noise was so out of character that they couldn't place it. But they raced out into the dining room, and found themselves unable to move. Some scared. Some angry, wondering how they could clean the brains off the wall before seven.

    Jackson knew. The walls would never be clean again.

    1. I think my head just exploded. I told you there was only so much room in there. Damn.

    2. Forgive me, but I couldn't help laughing at this one. Restaurant staff can be terribly self-centered sometimes. And some people can be irrefutably damaged.

  12. Pt. 2

    Jane let herself into the apartment. The plan was in effect. Nothing could stop it now.
    She stopped and listened. The only sounds were coming from the bedroom. A tear fell down her cheek and met a snarl. Her heart was broken but her blood was boiling.
    Making her way through the dingy apartment, she finally found herself in front of the bedroom door.
    Whores. Both of them.
    She opened the door and stepped inside. They were so caught up in their rutting, they didn't even notice her come in. Stupid sonovabitch.
    She cleared her throat and announced her presence. "Hi honey! I'm home!" The look on Dick's face was priceless. Shock. Surprise. Fear. And the realization that he was caught, busted and completely naked in another woman's bed.
    "Jane I can explain! It's not what..."
    "What it looks like Dick?"
    "Please enlighten me. What's *really* going on?"
    "She means nothing to me! It just sort of happened. "
    "Dick your excuses are as old and lame as you."
    Both he and his harlot sat with the sheets pulled up to their chins, wide-eyed and trembling.
    "Get up Dick."
    "Don't worry about covering up honey, we've both seen you naked."
    "Go stand by that desk."
    "*You* stay right where you are missy. I'll deal with you in a minute, so don't go far.
    She pulled the gun of it's Holster. It's weight felt good in her hand. She had bought it from some sleazy
    gunshop didn't care care too much about paperwork or any of that nonsense.
    She practiced every day, and now she was a mean-eye shot.
    "On second thought, Dick let's go into the bathroom."
    "Why? What are you going to do with me? What..."
    Cracking him on the head with the gun shut him up real quick. She thought that might work pretty well. Make it a lot easier. On her anyway.
    She made Cynthia (She'd found some mail on her dresser) help her drag Dick into the bathroom.
    Then she made her lift the bastard in the tub.
    Jane took Cynthia out to the front room. Found a secure spot, pulled out the handcuffs and made sure there'd be no escaping. Richard was still conked out. Maybe she wouldn't have to use the chloroform she got off the internet.
    Pulling out her tools, Jane took the knife and felt it's edge. She decided it would do the job
    The garden shears were sharp too. She had taken them to Lonning's Saw Shop and had them sharpened.
    Dick woke up as she was making the first cut. His face went from blank to confusion to fear and then went straight to pain. "Fucccccccckkkkk! Whaaa...what are you doing Jane? Dear God Jane...pleeeeease...nooooooo!"
    She maintained her composure and started a narrative.
    "Let me tell you a story Dick. Back in 1969 in a small town in Texas, a bouncing baby boy came into the world. Kevin Ikels. 7.8 lbs and 19 inches long. Happy. Healthy. He was the pride of his Grandpa's eye. Until he wasn't. You see, Kevin grew up to be a beautiful young lady and that just wouldn't do. Her family turned their backs on her and her friends disappeared like ghosts. So she headed out West where no one knew her story and she started writing a new one. You know, Trinidad, Colorado is the reassignment surgery capitol of the United States. They perform miracles there. They give people the bodies that matches their souls. Miracles. I had a place for awhile. Anyhow, you've known that girl for a long time, and you didn't even know it. And now that girl is REALLY pissed. But you don't worry darlin', I know a lot about cutting off balls."

  13. The dark horse was gaining speed. Old women shrieked and looked for easy exits. Young, sallow men took measure sips of whiskey in the cold night air. The stars were too extravagant. They were fevered. The stars hurt them in a pleasing way.

    The air smelled of lavender and horseshit, but the sound was driving them mad. The crying. They were all wrapped up in it. Some of them wanted to kill her. Put her out of her misery. Some argued that it was their misery they were concerned with - she could get better, not fair.

    Owls floated through the heavy boughs and the crying continued, broken by an occasional scream. A grunt. They all let their heads hang low: what the fuck are we even doing here? They all harbored dreams of escape, but none of them moved.

    It would have been easy. But it also would have been impossibly hard. None of them had the energy. Empty bellies and minds filled with fear and hate.

    They'd wait for her to die. They already regretted the others that had been killed to fill their plates.

    1. Donner - Party of 12...
      Donner - Party of 11...

  14. A chill twitched his shoulders, and the man opened his eyes. At first he saw nothing but a white swirl of haze, and a small, hard bench beneath the seat of his expensive pants, yet his feet dangled in midair—cold, like he wasn’t wearing shoes; small, like he was very young. Just as he was realizing where he was and why, the smack of leather against flesh made him wince. In his mind he saw her. Her gray, wrinkled face unyielding as iron, the tiniest of smirks on her vise-tight lips, the way she always looked when he’d done something wrong. Like she gleefully anticipated what she would do with her dead husband’s belt. He shook his head, tried to clear the images, tried through his usual alchemy to turn them into motivation, the cleansing pleasure of inflicting pain on his enemies.

    Nothing budged.

    Then he heard laughter. The sound deep, rich, and male, and the man instantly hated him. “She’s forever your punishment, now. Forever reminding you about the coal you dropped when you filled the stove, when the tea that wasn’t hot enough, the many, many ways you never lived up to her expectations.”

    The man burned to choke the life out of who or whatever said that—she’d loved him, in her way, how could anyone say otherwise—and he thrust out his arms, and they, too could not reach. He opened his mouth and the words—who the hell are you to talk to me like that, I’ll sue your ass—squeaked out, as ineffectual as a mouse.

    “No,” the deep voice said. “You don’t get to ask the questions now. Now it’s our turn. Now…for the accounting of what you visited upon the world.”

    The man cleared his throat and pushed the words out. It was a godawful noise, but at least he found he could make one. “Hey. I only gave what I got. I helped a lotta people. Believe me, I helped.”

    “You’re actually going to sit there and say… Do you want me to roll that videotape again?”

    “It wasn’t me,” the man said. “It was faked. Believe me, it was faked. Fake news! They just want to make me look bad.”

    The sound of fingers drumming on wood echoed in his head.

    Sweat beaded on the back of his neck. It burned like acid. “I’ll get you whatever you want,” he gasped. “A Kardashian? You want one of them? I can make it happen.”

    Laughter again. Then silence. “Your currency has no value here.”

    “Bullshit, it doesn’t have currency. Everybody’s got a price.”

    “And your stock just tanked, you puny excuse for a man.”

    “What?” He tried for a smirk. Didn’t know if that was happening on his face, but the memory felt right. “No ‘accounting for my sins’? No taking me to the woodshed for what I ‘visited upon the world’? Pathetic. Pathetic. Frankly, I’m disappointed. I thought this would be more entertaining. Now you remind me of Saturday Night Live after Eddie Murphy left.”

    “That’s it,” the voice said. “That SNL dig was the last straw. You can tell it to the guy in the basement, now.”

    Then with a cold whoosh, he was falling. In the final seconds before the ice fog closed above him, he saw the face.

    “Baldwin!” the man howled. “Your ratings suck, you son of a bitch!”

    But Baldwin just smiled.

    And the man fell, and fell, and fell.

    1. I didn't know you were going to go there, until you did and you and I were wearing the same t-shirt. Which would be something. I wonder what it would say? Never mind.

  15. The air in the bar is dark and fuzzy.  The lights over the pool table make everything yellow and it looks like 1976.  The beer is flat and the top shelf booze is just as watered-down as the bottom shelf.  But no one was here for the booze.  Allanah Miles was playing for the third time.  Black velvettt...  Play some Skynrd man.

    He watched the cowboys in the bar.  One of the guys playing pool was hot.  Kind of a young Sam Elliott.  He couldn't take his eyes off of him.  Well his butt anyway.  Damn his butt in those jeans.  He sipped from his beer and carefully watched the game over the edge of his glass; smiling when Sam leaned over to make a shot.

    He felt good.  He had a nice buzz going.  This wasn't his normal choice of places, but for tonight it would work.

    Tonight he wanted to celebrate a little.   He pushed his baseball cap down tighter on his head and grinned.  He ordered another beer and chewed on a toothpick absent minded as the bartender poured it.  

    He liked the bartender.  She reminded him of his mother...if his mother quit her job as the Church Lady and started following Ozzy Osborne on tour.

    Her voice was whisky and cigarettes, but her smile was easy and kind.  The couple in the corner were going to need more than a booth petty soon, they were going to need a room.  The couple dancing probably wouldn't make it back to their room. The bar was long and polished after years of sliding drinks down the line.  He traced the letters R.S. carved into the bar with his finger, wondering who these rough letters belonged to.

    The mirror behind the bar is greasy and dim.  Your reflection looks like a bad dream, not a wonderland.  The kid still had a smile on his face, nightmare or not.  The drinking age for beer was 18 and he was 19 so it was all good.  He was only going to have a couple, three at most.  He needed to drive back to his mom's house and he was not going to drive her truck back drunk.  No way.  He was afraid to even get a scratch in it.

    There was a loud crack and the cue ball hopped of the table and rolled right under his feet on the stool.  He started to bend over to pick the ball up and almost cracked heads with Sam Elliott.  He felt his cheeks blush.  He tried not to grin like a fool.  He tried to keep a straight face.  It wouldn't be good to upset the natives with aberrant ways.  But God he was hot.  And he smelled good too.  His belt buckle was at eye level.  He tried to look away.  Anywhere but there.  But it was like dangling a shiny lure in front of a hungry bass.  Sooner or later that fish was gonna bite.  Sam grabbed the ball and stood up.  "Sorry man."  He grinned and headed back to the table.  He liked watching him walk away.  He smiled despite himself.   Just looking.   No harm, no foul right?

    He finished his beer and ordered another.  He felt tmreally good, but wasn't drunk.  One beer and he'd be just fine.

    "Love is a burning thing..."  Those brassy horns declared the end of the night and everyone finished up their drinks and ordered another.  Last call, last call for alcohol.

    He headed to the men's room and then out to the truck.  He pushed open the doors and stepped out into the parking lot; that big smile still on his face.

  16. “How far you figure they're away? Do you think it's them. The Comanches, I mean. Is it true what they do to white women, Mr Hook?”

    Aliceanne Gibbs had been crying for an hour, what tears she had left running muddy streams from her blue eyes down her dirty cheeks. She took another gasp of the hot dusty air and choked on it as she stared at the cloud of dust on the southern horizon.

    “I'd say no more’n eight mile, maybe an hour or two to find us,” said the man called Eb Hook, who squinted at the southward, too. He fancied himself a scout there on the high plains of Texas, though the true scouts, men like Billy Dixon, knew him to be a boastful fool.

    “I reckon if we hunker down under the brush in this buffalo wallow, they'll ride around looking, but won’t find us for awhile. I’m pert sure they might follow the horses east. I heer’d of a Ranger name’a Rip Ford used that there trickery to slip a band of Nokoni Comanch’ back in ’72. Good ol’ Rip. That was a man,” Hook said.

    In addition to falsely claiming relationships with famous names from Kit Carson to Phil Sheridan, Hook was known to drop out of sight when Comanche or Kiowa were on the prowl. But he couldn’t let the Gibbs girl, daughter of the adjutant at Fort Davis, know he was most unsure if his own ruse of running off their spent horses might work. Hook knew they couldn’t run anymore, but he was hopeful the colored boys from the Ninth Cavalry might scare the Comanche off before the the heathens found the girl and him.

    “Mr. Hook, isn’t that dust cloud getting closer? They’re coming for us, for me, aren’t they?” Aliceanne said, her throat dry and her voice scraping the scab off Hook’s last shred of nerve as he removed his hat and peered over the edge of the dusty depression.

    “No, darlin’, I think the breeze’s just shifted and it’s blowing a little more in our direction. We got plenty of time for them Buffler Soldiers to come a’howling over the hill.”

    But indeed the dust cloud to the south was getting closer. Hook could no longer even look at the girl for fear she’d see the terror in his eyes. He remembered the last time he saw what pure butchering hell the Comanch’ did to men they captured, let alone the women. It was right then he decided he wouldn't let them have their fun that June day of 1874.

    Checking the loads in his Remington New Army revolver, Hook took the last swig of the bottle of corn whisky he’d removed from his kit before chasing off his gelding. No, those Comanche closing down on them from the south weren’t going to have their sport with Eb Hook.

    Two hours later, a squad of Ninth Cavalry troopers charged with finding and escorting Captain Gibbs’ daughter to Fort Davis—the horsemen that had been dragging a cloud of the Llano Estacado behind them from the south since for the past five days—rode up to the buffalo wallow where Hook and Aliceanne had taken refuge.

    The squad’s leader, Sergeant Purvis Lee, examined the scene in the wallow and shook his head at the sight of the dead girl and the scout. He turned to two troopers and said, “Get out the tarps and let’s clean up this mess.”

    As he untied the oilskin from behind his saddle, Private Cole Watkins turned to his sergeant and said, “Why this fool Hook shoot the white girl and then hisself when no Comanch’ in hunnert-so mile o’ here?”

    Sergeant Lee, born a slave on a Mississippi plantation, turned contraband in 1863 and cavalryman in ’64, took a pull on his short pipe and said, “Some folks just wasn’t made for this country, son. This little girl may have been someday. But Hook? Fool shoulda been a slops boy in some Storyville cathouse.”

    1. Excellent period piece, puts me right there as impossible as that seems. Maybe I was there, maybe you were, but you do know how to paint a timeless story in the colors of any timezone and that is really something.

    2. Very nicely executed. I know reenactors who talk like this regardless of how humorous the audience may think they are.

  17. Monsanto's back had finally been broken. One of their own engines of biological research had gotten loose to become a devastating weapon against their own products. Copyrights meant nothing in the face of ravaging bacteria that had lain the breadbasket states to waste.

    If not for the labs and testing farms at Texas A&M, and the crops grown in the Texas Valley, and in backyards across the nation in spite of government regulation, the united States might have plunged into more dire straits than had been survived during the rationing practices of World War Two, or the 1930's Dust Bowl crisis.

    Millions of meat and milk animals were slaughtered and frozen to prevent them from consuming grains needed for human survival. The cost of beef dropped to pennies on the dollar in spite of inflation, while dairy products, breads and refined sugars became more precious than gold.

    If not for those Aggies and veggie rebels around he world, the loss of human life would have been catastrophic.

    The birthrate dropped alarmingly in response to the unilateral nutritional changes. Deaths among the elderly, the sick, and the poor rose.

    One scientist quipped, "Darwinism at it's finest!"

  18. When a single raindrop falls, it is a small thing. It reaches terminal velocity long before it

    hits the ground, with no anthromorphized realization of what will happen to it. It falls at

    the whim of the winds until impact.

    The drop hits the ground at some insane rate of force, shattering into what we see as a poetic

    and pretty splash, sending out ripples into the remains of its fellows that fell before it. It

    it seamlessly merges into the whole, becoming part of the ripples of those that follow.

    The gathering drops flow together, collecting into a greater whole, following the slant of the

    ground to puddle up in some low place, a ditch, a pond, maybe a gutter. Together conjoined

    they sweep debris along leaving behind a fresher surface, especially in the always grungy

    city. Sidewalks, windows, buildings all are cleaned up a bit by the rain.

    Water is life, some say. Others claim the human body is mostly water. Water, from the smallest

    snowflake to the deepest ocean brings us all together, starting with that little splash.

    Too bad when a human falls like a raindrop, the result isn't as pretty.


  19. "Ach, why do ye do that to yerself?" the cabin boy pleaded. "Ye'll catch yer death doing things like that."

    "Nah. We're wet to the skin when it comes a storm and no harm taken." Liam scrubbed first with seawater from a bucket, then a wipe down with a tiny bit of fresh water, the towels himself vigorously dry. "I kind of got a taste for it hanging around that lot in Grosport."

    "Ye mean where Tigress became a king?"

    "I do. Can't be a stinking slag when you are guarding a king in his castle."

    "Ye mean to say ye bathed? Regular like?" The frightened disgust was plain inthe ill educated child's face and voice.

    "I do mean to say. In a tub so big I could duck me head and be completely under the water. And the water could be so hot it would fair scald yer skin. But the soaps and lotions and ointments were very fine and smelled so sweet..." Liam's voice trailed off with unbidden memories of who had introduced him to such abolutions.

    The boy watched his master's face change. "Did ye no like it then?"

    Liam shook himself. "Oh, I liked it just fine, boyo. Maybe too much if it makes me do things like this with damned cold water!" Liam laughed to bring up the mood, his cabin boy laughing with him.

  20. I remember this kid in grade school. A kid named Ishmael. Dude was Jewish at a time in my life that I had no idea what "Jewish" meant. This kid, Ishmael, he used to sit in the back of the class and pull his hair out. Couple strands at a time. Right on the crown of his head so that he eventually had this flesh yarmulke. The skin didn't get all red and aggravated like you think it would. It was just as pale as the rest of him. Just a pale, hairless dome on the top of his dome.

    Whenever anyone asked Ishmael why he did it, dude would shrug and say, "I don't know. I guess I like the way it feels?" He always said this like a question, as if not even he was sure why.

    One day, Ishmael came to school with a broken arm. Teacher took him into the art closet to talk to him. None of us knew why, but she needed didn't want to talk to him in front of us. When they came out, Teach was sad-crying, like folks do at funerals, and Ishmael looked happy. He sat down and Teach went outside for a while. None of us knew what she did out there. I assumed she just didn't want us to watch her cry.

    Some girl asked Ishmael--I remember clearly it was a girl who asked him because it couldn't've been one of the guys who asked him--she asked him what he told her.

    He shrugged again and said, "She kept asking me if something was going on at home, if someone was hurting me, like, was my mom or dad beating me, and she wouldn't take no for an answer, so I told her that all her nosey questions is why her fuckin' husband left her last year and she had to have an abortion because she couldn't afford the bastard without him. Bet she don't ask me no more fuckin' question. Bet that."

    When Teach came back in, red-eyed and puffy-faced, she told us to open our text books and read for a while. None of us ever asked her if what Ishmael said was true. Of course we didn't. You could tell by the way she'd come out of the art closet, crying, that it was true. Every word of it. Question was, how the hell did Ishmael know it was true?

  21. The motorised things frightened him. They were large and he had no control over them. He needed control.
    The bedraggled man cowered beside the road, his arms wrapped tightly around his body. He wanted to be small again. Small meant less space, less chance of the other people coming into contact with him, less need for him to interact.

    His awarenesses had collapsed slowly at first, small erosions like the blurring of the surface of a rock, but once he'd become aware of them they became more and more obvious. The first signs had been the smallest ones; forgetting names he'd known a lifetime and never being able to recall them again no matter how hard he tried. There was no space left that contained the name Eleanor; the face was agonisingly familiar but the sound that defined her refused to attach to the image, falling off and immediately being forgotten. For a while he'd been able to disguise his losses - sweetheart nearly always works - but when more and more names began to elude him it became impossible to hide what was happening to him.

    His manager had called him into the office on that day he'd probably forget soon - May 12th, it was - worried about the complaints he'd been hearing about his being inappropriate with the women, his using terms of endearment they'd refused to accept. There was one - he might never have known her name - who objected to his calling her 'mother'. It just wouldn't do, his manager had said. He needed an explanation from him and an assurance it wouldn't happen again.

  22. Remnants of dreams float in the early morning drowsiness, all too swiftly dissipate leaving behind only a smile as evidence they even existed.
    Reality drenches consciousness like a jug of cold water poured over the flame of happiness.
    A reflection in the mirror, who could it be.
    I don’t know you any more, how can this be, are you me, are you me?
    Memories distorted like time and space visit throughout the day, some are welcome all too real, others are not. They are harder to banish than an invasion of ants and march across the neural pathways. How they itch and resist and no amount of scratching can bring relief.
    A reflection in the mirror, what’s going on.
    I can’t find you, where have you gone, where have you gone?
    Guilt heavier than a suit of armour, is worn daily. Sometimes borne by the warrior with strength and pride, before the inevitable fall.
    Rejection, an old and familiar friend, but who is the rejecter and who the reject-ee. Hurt people will hurt other people when lost and alone even if it is unintentionally, yet the answer is always just out of grasp.
    A reflection in a mirror, a stranger to me.
    Why are you staring, do you know me, do you know me?
    Love ever present is immortal. It carries on through infinity and though a heart may seem barren for a while, the seeds of love lie dormant waiting for the sun, in the shape of a smile to warm them from slumber. Tears of joy to nourish the soul back to life, the breath from a kiss to feed the senses and the touch of a warm embrace to reach out to and offer in return.
    A reflection in the mirror, I’m beginning to know.
    You are all I have got, don’t go, please don’t go.


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