Friday, April 7, 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.

Tell me to keep marching, but I won’t. I got Phil Ochs in my pocket, and we’re through with the fucking marching. I’m sick to death of it. I don’t want to be a good soldier; that was never my aspiration. I aspired to a certain honest dignity and that meant no marching. Not unless fish-related and on my terms. I don’t march for anybody but me. On that, and many other things, Phil Ochs and I agree.

I’m not going to get my gun. Not that I have a gun, but I’m not even going for the metaphorical quick-draw. I told you. I’ll go fishing. You make the cole slaw. Not because I said so – that’s like telling someone to march. No, just make it because it will taste good with the fried bream, and we can both do our part.

I don’t want to see the tomb of the unknown soldier. I don’t want to go back to Gettysburg. I’ve been there. I just wanted to sit in the grass, but they kept telling me it was greener from the blood spilt. Which seemed like a lot of bullshit at the time. Still does. I won’t address it. Lincoln beat me to it and did it better than I ever could.

I just want to do what I should.

And that’s a bold statement for a wannabe misanthrope to make, but you get what you get and you take what you take. If golf is a good walk spoiled - like Twain said - then life is an interesting adventure tainted by the screaming of hypocrites and liars. I don’t want to be thrown into that patch of briars.

I just want to hug my girls, love my wife, write, and catch a fish every so often. There’s not a lot of time for anything else. So, I'll fight my battles. Stop trying to enlist me in yours.

#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. I was young, and he was the choir director. He was a man of God – besides just being a man. That made him double trustworthy in the eyes of my peers and through the lens of my training. I didn’t think about it much. That seems stupid, but it’s the truth. I was just a kid. He was a grown up. Not just any grown up either, but a grown up who wore robes and closed his eyes when he sang about the Lord.

    He paid special attention to me, but I didn’t even question that. It was nice. I was used to being alone, and I was flattered by the attention. By his promises that I would be a great musician. That I was a natural. I swear, there was nothing about it that seemed weird.


    My mom came to pick me up, and he pulled us aside. I anticipated glory. He was going to tell my mother what I already knew – I was special. But he wasn’t the same with her. He seemed scared. Like a kid. And he stammered as he told my mom that I could be a great pianist. That my hands were made for it. I remember him holding my fingers, showing her, his skin clammy and his hands shaking. And then everything changed in a nanosecond. And I could see it through her eyes. Through his eyes. Hell, for the first time, I could see through MY eyes.

    I wanted her to be angrier. She wasn’t angry. But she was resolute. I was done with choir. Done done. I would never be going back. And we never talked about it again.

    And it took me years to realize that I wasn’t the one who should have felt dirty and corrupt.

    And I never did learn to play the piano. But I played guitar so loud that it blocked out the screaming in my head. And sometimes, I wonder ... but I know the old motherfucker is dead. So, I carry on. Because that’s what you do. And I am extra vigilant about how people look at my kids’ fingers. And I don’t go inside a church unless someone dies.

    1. Creepy and twisted and far too real. And as scary as hell. Well written, Dan!

    2. Wow, yeah. Creepy, sneaks up on you. And I love the first one, too.

    3. 1. I wish Kendell Jenner had your moxie. 2. Superb.

    4. This sent chills through me... if there's even an iota of truth in it, it breaks my heart more than I can say... and the fact that I'm asking only confirms that you are a masterful storyteller.

    5. Yup, this captures that feeling.

    6. It still amazes me how you can craft such a powerful feeling in such a short amount of time. Love the voice.

  2. The room didn’t look like a prison. She’d a comfortable bed, a bookcase filled with the latest bestseller titles, even a small refrigerator that whirred constantly. She’d also a view of a park with rolling dunes and hillocks and even a small pool where she knew fish would rise. She’d seen the fishermen there, pulling its shining occupants out briefly before returning them to the waters. The world was there, waiting for her.

    Clary turned away from the window. Her bed was messed up, as usual. She’d remade it every day until the Man stopped coming, taking the freshly-ironed sheets and pillow covers and fitting them to her bed. She’d folded the used bedclothes and placed them in the chute, leaving it a few hours after she’d pitched the remnants of her meals down there, worried about how they might stain the cotton if they fell onto them. But the fresh linen had stopped coming too and so that ceased to be a problem.

    She’d no means of measuring time though. The skies were always light and blued and the moon was the only thing that changed. It rose to the right of the window and traced an arc that took it up out of her field of view. After that, it never returned until it started over again, to the right, rising again and then disappearing. She’d begun making marks on the walls each time it appeared but that soon became frustrating; the covering over of the first wall ending her desire to measure her time here. It was too close to being endless – the marks only made it worse.
    The Man’s absence made her worry sometimes. She’d deserved her time here – she’d the ‘offender’ tattoos to prove that. But what had the Man done to deserve being here. She’d only seen him the once, before she’d begun marking the wall, but he had to have been about for a while. She’d heard him for weeks after that, maybe four or five dozen sleeps in total, his voice instructing her to stand clear of the hatch when the new bed-linen came, telling her when the refrigerator was refilled and wishing her a good night each day when the moon disappeared. She missed him. She hoped he was alive still.

    You could never be sure if you’d wake the next morning.

    1. This is both sad and sinister. It's vaguely reminiscent of a dream I found deeply disturbing. Good work.

    2. Terrifying and well written...

    3. Yeah, this is subtle and unsettling. Keeps you off balance.

    4. I agree, the gentle tone makes this totally tense and intriguing.

  3. Even if he'd been a small man he'd have been a big man. But he was a big man. I see him in his chair at the peeling formica table, on the right facing the tiny kitchen itself, slumped, in what some now call a wifebeater but then we called simply a vest—baggy trousers, cuffs rolled, braces over the tea-stained vest. White hair nicotine yellow, swept back. A soft pack of nonfilter Woodbines and a mug of sweet strong milky tea. Ten or fifteen bottles of prescription drugs ranked like soldiers in a defective war in which daily battalions are lined up at dawn to learn their fate.

    England. Northwest. The nineteen sixties. The syncopation of passing trains.

    I sit now on the long sandy reach listening to "Little Wing," blinking along, tapping my toes and fingers, stretching my neck to watch the disc of our galaxy wheel slowly across the night sky, that genial Stratocaster tone opening its throat and hungry for us all.

    Oregon? BC? Baby, won't you change your mind?

    This is the part where we are asked to feel shame. Where our therapists make their living.

    "Baby, what's in your spice rack? Paprika's a given, but surprise me. Cloves. Ground nutmeg, sure. Dried sage and oregano. Chilli powder. Garlic. Cumin. Coriander. I need something radical, girl. Exotic."

    "I got something radical. Stay with me."

    A skinny girl in a tiny pleated skirt and motorcycle boots, nipples face-forward and plastered humid inside a plain white cotton tank top, eyes encased in kohl, earbuds pulsing Diplo and Flux Pavilion, waxy, harsh.

    I'm two generations beyond, yet more thirsty for Cleopatra.

    And is this the part where I'm to beg you to love me?

    Nah. Don't work that way. Been driving a good while, coming down from the mountains, heavy on the brakes as the road descends and sidewinders down to a quiet valley while the sun begins to drop behind the dry hills. The town is unremarkable. Its populace too. I pull over and walk the empty streets, meet almost no one. A one-eyed scarface dog, an old lady with recycled bottles inside transparent bags in a shopping cart. Meet me. Meet me. You won't ever meet me.

    Quiet howls emerge from the draws that backdrop the town, each a distinct tone, a coyote symphony. Except it ain't coyotes; it's the outraged god-abandoned wind piping its raw heartbreak through ruined fissures in shafts that are no longer mined nor ever again will be.

    Back to the large man in the crumpled grey pants absorbing and agitating the fog of morning, charcoal and faded pink. His mind always working, his appetites arrayed, some clockwork set by ancients and left to unspool well into life and beyond. UFOs, wartime, an Italian-American tenor, a gaudy South Pacific theater, Antarctic sacrifice, an icebound German plane one bleak February that never got airborne, the awful melancholy of something unsinkable sinking. Melancholy hearted, he saw the eventual decline. Nodded quietly at fate. Checked out around the same time as Elvis, of whom he'd once said, "He'll never last." Nineteen seventy-seven. The jubilant year of Sam and Stevie, of Stormtroopers and fevered Saturdays, under a marquee moon. Stayin alive amid the rumoured death of a ladies' man in the decade's autumn.

    I am fourteen or fifteen, a voyager, thumbing my tangled path away from pain. Close encounters on the littered edges of motorways while listening to "I Feel Love" on light cranial rotation and waving at "Johnny B. Goode" as it slingshots out of the solar system. Never minding the bollocks. And shedding a tear for Ronnie and Marc. Low. Animals. The Idiot. A Bat Outta motherfucking Hell.

    She emerges inchoate from the gloaming, haloed by dark motes like the ur-lights of some grim carnival. Hands me something warm and still dripping. Smiles like a tracheal gash.

    "Eraserhead. Is that radical enough for you?"

    Nightfall is upon us, with no place to sleep.

    1. Love, love love this. The punchiness, the words. Oh, the words.

    2. Yep, love is the right word. Just realized that reading you is sometimes like watching a loop of film with no edits. You're pulled along fascinated that you've come so far, that you're compelled to, but you keep wanting to stop and go back to make sure you saw what you saw cause it was awesome.

    3. Another wow from me... I had "syncopation of passing trains" marked as my favorite, and then you just kept getting better... beautifully done.

    4. Kind people, thank you. This is all weirdly connected inside my head and heart both.

    5. I LOVE the first paragraph. The whole thing, but that first P sets it all up. The sly musical references (marquis moon) hidden in between the bigger ones. There's nothing I don't like about it. Favourite line? "This is the part where we are asked to feel shame. Where our therapists make their living." I love how that stutters the flow.

    6. Oh, I like that last observation. And yeah, pop culture nerd is pop culture nerding like crazy. I bet there are twenty of those sly references in this thing, lol.

  4. In the small of night, I hear the voices, the screams. Not just at night, but that's when I they’re loudest, when there is no sound. How long till they are silenced? A year? A decade? The memory does not die until...

    I walk to the kitchen. There, on the table, the pistol from that night. I wonder if there were still blood spatters from that night. There shouldn't be. I've cleaned it over and over, just as I wash my hands obsessively. Clean gun, clean hands.

    It was the last time I'd killed, the last night I followed their orders. In the years since, I'd lived in a dozen towns, under two dozen names, and always, I felt them coming, feared they'd find me.

    I pour a cup of coffee, black and hot, and sit at the old table. I am afraid to touch the gun this morning. Why? I do what I always do. I force myself past what I do not want to do, past my fears, and I hold the cold metal in my hands. It feels heavier than usual. The weight of guilt?

    I’m being ridiculous. Sentimental. That shit gets you killed.

    I close my eyes, feel the oneness with the weapon. It can do nothing without my participation.

    Between the screams in my memory, I hear a whisper.

    "There's a way to make it stop." The voice is a child's.

    "No," i answer it aloud.

    "Aren't you tired of running?"

    I nodded.

    "Then do it. You know I'm right."

    We've had this discussion before, a thousand times, the whisperer and I. I open my eyes, staring at the Glock. A beam of sunlight falls through the window, landing only on my hand and the gun. Dust motes dance in the sliver of light, in time with the screams.

    "Maybe one day. But not today."

    I put the gun down and rinse my coffee cup in the sink with rust stains. Time to pack. Time to move on. Time to run from the screams.

    1. Wow. I hope there's more of this one day.

    2. So much depth and things to know more about here. I liked how he wasn't his fear. He seemed so full of murderous intent even when he clearly didn't want it.

    3. Yes, this is compelling. More? :)

    4. Agreed. You KNOW I love this one. "Clean gun, clean hands." - so good

  5. Another two parter...apologies, but I can't write short today for anything!

    Part 1:

    Amid the chaos, the family arguing about who got what and what they were supposed to do next, you figure no one will miss you. He’d told you where to find the paperwork. Which car to take to the house in the country. Your older brothers call it “the cabin.” What a joke. Pop only bought it because he thought it would make him look smart. Because some wise man in the past droned on about doing his best thinking in his cabin in the woods. Pop had been there once. He stayed exactly two hours, pronounced it “boring as hell,” then went back to the city. But you’ve always liked it. You really want nothing from him, and told him so the last time you spoke, and somehow he respected you for that (probably calling you a schmuck behind your back). Now a small part ofx you hopes he left you the house in the woods. Maybe that’s why he’d hidden his will there, and gave you, as final instructions, the job of driving there alone to read it and bring it back.

    The house is not easy to find. A highway to a series of two lane roads to a dirt path to a cluster of pine trees across from the remnants of an old barn. The gate, cleverly designed to look like scrub and deadfall, opens with a touch of the remote. Soon you’re inside, lighting the fire to chase off the chill and drinking his good scotch out of the bottle.

    A manila envelope sits on the coffee table. During the drive, you’d speculated about the funeral he might want. There was not a cell of modesty in Pop’s bloated old body; he’d probably want to raise PT Barnum from the dead to put on the show of all shows. Pomp and goddamn circumstance.

    But when you get all cozy to read his last wishes—images of showgirls and champagne dancing through your head—you are stunned to find, attached to a standard will, a page with your name on it that reads: “I don’t want a funeral. They’re depressing as hell, no matter how much you tart them up. So, put on a party if it makes your mother happy. Otherwise, use the money for something better. That, I’ll leave up to you. You were always the smart one. The good one. The others, not so much.”

  6. Part 2
    You set down the papers, drink more scotch, watch the flames dance in the hearth. Wondering. True, you’ve been away for a while. Unable to stomach the political circus, the election, the mockery he made of every institution. But was it the office that changed Mr. Flash-and-Dazzle’s tune? The consequences of his decisions? The bombs he dropped, the ruined lives, the plummeting poll numbers, the flag-draped bodies coming home?

    You can see that. Even his handwriting on the note looks less self-assured than the confident scrawl of his prime. No doubt the government would feel obliged to give him a proper send-off. No doubt his brothers would want a four-story golden mausoleum in the middle of Park Avenue, emblazoned with the family name. Part of you doesn’t give a shit what kind of pharaoh-like send-off they envision, and you realize there’s nothing you can do to stop them. But a portion of his estate is legally yours.

    Maybe you can do some good with that. Maybe he would have wanted one of his children to spend his legacy righting some of his wrongs. When and if you have kids, maybe you’d want that, too.

    There’s no need to return to the city right away, so you slip the letter into your pocket, take the scotch and head outside to watch the sun set, marveling at how beautiful the light looks, melting into the lake. You drink a toast to the old man. If he’d stayed long enough to see this show, maybe he would have had some good thoughts in his cabin in the woods, and maybe everything would have worked out differently. Maybe you wouldn’t have had to kill him.

    1. I DEFINITELY(emphatic much?) want more of this. Please.

    2. Wow.... what a build up, and then what a twist! Your craftsmanship is amazing....

    3. Ha, that last line! Never saw that coming. In fact, it wasn't until the beginning of Part 2 that I realized what this was about. Some really nice misdirection and staging here. I love it.

    4. Yep. Antrobus stole my comment. DITTO!

  7. These are the things I try to remember in troubled times.

    Sweet and sour go together. The creek will gurgle and giggle long after I am gone. The missiles will not fly forever. Some birds sing in joy, and others sing for their territory. There are more good people than bad.

    I remember that lightning causes thunder, and rain gives us rainbows. From ashes, life rises again, and not just in a mythological sense. Some seeds will not germinate unless subjected to fire. And some people blossom under pressure.

    It’s natural to look behind you to see if an enemy is approaching. It is kind to look behind to make sure no one is left behind.

    And the fire will not rain down from heaven for always. Only until they run out of bombs.

    1. Awesome. This: "It’s natural to look behind you to see if an enemy is approaching. It is kind to look behind to make sure no one is left behind."

  8. From my current WIP:

    The house reminded him of the one he had lived in with his friends when he was going to school with the woman he adored in Brooklyn. A brownstone with many steps and a wooden double door. Warm recollections flooded in as they always seemed to do lately with little provocation. It had been a happy home. A happy time. Only now, time and destiny —those two great mischief makers dole out this irony; the home that lit the memorial spark in his head, the one he wants so much to enter now is his estranged son’s. A son who can afford to rent such a home like this in Manhattan, for his family. A family that Ethan has no part in.

    An inveterate wanderer, he concedes there may never be a place for him here – a role to play.

    He felt the unnatural swelling in his chest as the door opened. The more he delved deep, the more he unpacked his feelings or his profound ignorance of them, the more he wanted to run. Each and every layer he peeled back on wanting, needing his family, the more naked he felt. Even thinking or saying they were his was a lie he couldn’t escape from. He belonged to no one and no one belonged to him.

    Luckily it was Serena who opened the door. But even she showed some surprise to see him standing there though she knew he was coming.

    This would all be so much harder than he originally thought or planned for.

    “You’re here.” She said stating the obvious.
    “You were expecting me, weren’t you?”
    “Yes… and no.”
    He inhaled deeply and let the air out slowly while he examined her. Each time he saw her now it was like taking a blow to his solar plexus. His humiliation wasn’t complete but it was a rising tide.
    “So, can I come in?”
    “Yes, yes of course.”
    Taking a step inside, he stopped, remembering his last encounter with his son.
    “Is he here?”
    “No. Ell said he’d be home later.”
    The way she spoke he knew. He’d made her sad again asking about Elliott. This wasn’t his objective. He didn’t want to hurt her any more than he already had.
    “I’m sor—“
    “None of that. Sydney and I are in the living room. Come in.”
    Entering the room Sydney stood immediately and came to shake his hand.
    “Hello Ethan. I’m glad you decided to come by.”

    1. Good scene building, and an underlying bit of tension.

    2. Yes, what Leland said. Placid enough waters with dangerous undercurrents.

    3. I'm late, so I gotta ditto, but I agree. Delicate and dangerous.

  9. Part 1

    Inside the hull of what was a year before the good ship Arkansas, before it ran aground on that rocky island out in the middle of Yerba Buena Cove the locals called La Isla des los Alcatraces, the pipe and cigar smoke was as thick as the evening fog that had rolled in over the past couple of hours.
    The fact that a derelict ship had been turned into a saloon for sailors and gold seekers wasn’t too surprising to Elihu Barton, who had scouted this madhouse in Alta California for the past four months. He also scouted out his next mark.
    Across from Barton sat a squat man named Emilio D’Antoni, who held a glass of wine in his rugged hands. He also held Barton’s attention with a direct but rheumy gaze beneath his snowy brows.
    “I tell you, D’Antoni, with your backing and my not insignificant gift for the give and take, we can make thousands off these trusting souls,” Barton said over his third glass of purported Kentucky whiskey.
    “Si, Signore Barton. I think you too smart for even me, and I make a few dollari on the docks of your Boston, yes?” D’Antoni replied.
    Barton and D’Antoni had come to California as so many had in 1851, to make their fortunes. But, unlike most of the other Americanos, they planned to make it by outfitting those who had become known as Forty-niners.
    “Oh, my friend, I know I could never get over on so wise a man in the shipping trade. With our combined resources, whatever fortune I acquired in outfitting the emigrants in Missouri will pale in comparison,” Barton said.
    Barton smiled his practiced smile, exposing where two of his top teeth once rested. An old trapper had removed those pieces of Barton’s charm one night in a St. Joe saloon. When he left Missouri, Barton left behind those teeth, replaced by a pair of gold ones now, as well as a reputation for selling shoddy to trusting Christians, including Mormons, who sought the Promised Land in Oregon or the deserts and mountains of Utah.
    With a flourish, Barton pulled a piece of paper from his well-worn beaver top hat and laid it upon the rough table in front of D’Antoni.
    “As you see, my friend, the party of the first part, yours truly, promises to pay the chief investor, the party of the second part, that’s you, sixty percentum of the profit, etcetera etcetera, that we can garner from the feverish, greedy dreamers hoping to pull gold from the earth in the Sierra Nevada rather than the wheat or coal they pulled back in Virginia or Pennsylvania,” Barton said.
    “You just sign here, mi amigo, and the true fortune of this grand El Dorado will be yours, not the Fool’s Gold these shit-kickers will find.” The lamplight glinted off Barton’s golden grin.
    “Senorita, una pluma y tinta para mi amigo, por favor,” Barton said to the barmaid, a young whore wearing a black lace veil attached to a Chinese enamel comb.
    “Kiss my Irish ass, mate, poor fa-voor,” she said, and gathered glasses from the nearby table.
    “Hah hah. Bella signorina, another drink for my friend, if you please,” D’Antoni said. “Signore Barton, my hand to yours and yours to mine is all I need for this societa, eh, this partnership to be, as you would say, con-soo-mated.”
    With that, D’Antoni reached across the table and took Barton’s hand in a grip that would make a longshoreman wince. And had.

  10. Part 2

    "Now, my friend, beyond your ‘not insignificant gifts,’ what else do you bring to la cosa nostra especial? Our special thing?” D’Antoni said, still crushing Barton’s hand.
    “Ah, yes, of course, our cooperative investment for the common good of each our houses,” Barton said, shaking his hand and drawing half out of his coat’s inner pocket a leather bag full of gold nuggets he had already scammed from miners.
    “You see, my friend, we are well-armed to begin this crusade for the riches of this Unholy Land,”he said.
    “Si, my friend," D’Antoni said. “Bere, bere, drink drink. To our great crusade,” D’Antoni said and raised his glass to his new partner.
    Barton touched his new glass of whisky to D’Antoni’s and said, “To a brighter tomorrow. Now, if you would be so kind as to give me your part of our investment, I shall buy up all the necessaries I can and be off to mine our riches. My confederates and I shall set up stores in the gold fields by next week. You just keep the market tight on your end.”
    “Si, si. I have my portion under guard out in my carriage. If you would be so kind as to help me up and to it?” D’Antoni said.
    Barton stumbled a bit as he rose, feeling the effects of that horrible rotgut a little too much, he thought. He took D’Antoni’s arm and led him out the door that had been cut into the side of the Arkansas. He tripped as he went down the ramp to the street.
    Outside, the yellow glow of the lamppost almost seemed to be moving in the fog, even though the breeze from offshore had died down. Just as Barton reached the carriage, the glow turned into a bright white light, when the butt of a heavy Colt’s Dragoon pistol cracked into the back of Barton’s head. Then all was blackness.
    Sally O’Heaney, the whore from the saloon, found Barton's dented beaver hat in the street around dawn. She festooned it with her black veil and ribbons later that afternoon. She thought it would make her look right smart and that would be good for business.
    She bought the ribbons with her savings from all the four bits D’Antoni and his men usually paid her for dropping her opium elixir into the drinks of unsuspecting Anglos. They inevitably woke up later in the holds of his ships that worked the China trade. For Barton and the prize of his ill-gotten fortune, though, D’Antoni gave her two Double Eagles.

    1. You do amazing historical fiction... I am always amazed.

    2. Thank you, Leland. This draft will be part of my first collection and I strive to be historically closer than in the ballpark, while making the story work (and, hopefully, give the reader something with reading.)

    3. So many rich layers. And I especially love the dialogue. Really good stuff.

    4. I agree with Leland. The phrasing and use of language are so spot on. I want to read more.

  11. Sometimes I wonder if ignorance IS bliss.
    In not seeing most, it's much that they miss.
    But to slide right through life, with little a care,
    To never see suffering as they're unware?
    For the ones who see all, and feel it so deep.
    Emotions run riot and interrupt sleep.
    Their sun carries with it a little black mark.
    And it's always there, even in the pitch dark.
    So we try to maintain, try not to succumb.
    But truthfully, sometimes, I wish I were numb.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

    1. Ah, it is a conundrum, isn't it? you've described it perfectly...

    2. I hear this. And yes, what Leland said. :)

  12. To a muse, a wordsmith, a friend...

    An alchemist, sorcerer, seducing with words.
    We follow most happily wherever he goes.
    Perfection and grace flow through all of his lines.
    Transmuting, infusing such passionate prose.

    A gentle restraint or a visceral punch,
    The stanzas are magical, dazzling to the eye.
    Divine and delicious, we're poised on the edge.
    His words give us wings and we're eager to fly.

    A mystical montage of image and verse,
    He wields with alacrity, vivid and strong.
    His journey is winding, we answer the call.
    Most happily enjoined to all come along.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

  13. The house was too quiet. That was the first thing I noticed. In that moment of half-sleep when dreams are pushed away by light and sound. There was light, but no sound. No clanging in the kitchen. No whining in the bathroom. No nothing. My head was pounding, but that was the only sound I heard. I didn’t think much of it as I lay in the sweat-soaked sheets, shivering. I walked my way back through the prior evening until everything went black. At first, I assumed that this meant a normal evening followed by a sensible bedtime, i.e., drinking straight vodka until I couldn’t anymore. But then I remembered that I couldn’t remember watching any shows with the kids. Then I remembered that I didn’t remember saying goodnight to my wife. Then I remembered that she had cried, weeks ago, really full on cried and told me that it was the absolute last time. And then I wanted to climb inside the blackness. Of sleep. Or the blackness that had preceded sleep.

    I could only handle the boiling anxiety for so long, so I soon found myself in the kitchen, grasping a piece of paper and reading it over and over in my mind. Silly, the way the brain operates. As if in reading it over and over there would be some change – suddenly it wouldn’t say that she’d taken the boys to her mother’s. Suddenly the word divorce would evaporate. Finally, I crumpled the paper in my hand and squeezed it until I got a cramp in my neck. My mouth was sweating. I ran to the boys room. Empty. I checked her closet and found the same thing. I stopped then, unwilling to see what else I had lost.

    It would be logical to assume that I called immediately and apologized. It would make sense to take some kind of action – to right the wrong. But I knew, really knew, that there was nothing to be done. That anything I did would only make it worse. And I accepted that I had known this was coming.

    And I hadn’t done a goddamn thing to stop it.

    I’d like to say that I made some grand gesture. Smashed the bottles and went for a jog and found Jesus while I was running. I didn’t do any of those things. I made a bloody mary and drank and drank and drank until I was waking up again – this time in the living room. And days passed like this. How many? I have no idea.

    I do remember when the phone rang. And I remember not arguing. Telling her that I would do whatever she wanted. She could have whatever she wanted. I was no good. I told her.

    It was true.

    And then I drank more. I found bottles stashed everywhere and realized she must have known about them and left them. I wondered at that. Whether it was to shame me or whether it was misguided hope that I might man up and get rid of them myself. I chuckled as I drank them.

    At least I was finally getting rid of them.

    I took the fact that she’d left my shotgun as a sign. She was a smart one. Always smart. And she knew me well, even after she started hating me. Maybe she knew me better after she started hating me. And I knew that hate was the last gift I could give her. And the boys. And I knew that was bullshit, but they were going to hate me one way or the other. Better to ease their guilt. Let them hate me for my ultimate and selfish solution. So, I started to hold the gun while I drank. Just hold it. Then I started shooting the lamps off tables.

    It took longer than you would think to turn the gun on myself. Cowardice? I don’t know. But I eventually did. And my finger was unsteady on the trigger.

    But shotguns don’t miss much.

  14. He couldn’t sleep. He’d watched the recording five, six times. How he wanted to tell the world his thoughts, gloat about what he’d done. But they’d taken away his smartphone. The compulsion was like an itch he couldn’t scratch. He stared moony-eyed at the landline phone in his bedroom. He knew it would be dangerous, and if anyone found out…but he knew what he needed. What he craved even more than a good I-told-you-so. He dialed the number.

    His heart fluttered in his chest when the man answered. God, that accent. It touched things inside him nobody had ever touched before. Maybe he could get his wife to learn Russian.

    “Interesting fireworks show,” the man said. But he didn’t sound pleased. He thought he’d be happier.

    “Did it help? I think it helped. Those suckers in the press. They like shiny things. Easy things. Stuff blowing up. Notice that they aren’t talking about us anymore? Ha. We could run with this. You and me, we could keep this going through the summer at least. Oh, you’re gonna love my place in Florida. One word and I can kick the press out. We could walk on the beach in the moonlight…”

    There was a pause, and the man let out a plaintive sigh, and said in that bewitching and now painful accent. “We have to talk.”


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