Friday, May 5, 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.

You can play it any way you want, any key. It ain't changing the fact that the facts been locked down. What? You think folks is blind? You think we can't hear that caterwauling every night. Even simple folks know what those sounds mean. They mean meanness. And Sin. Every word you say is a snake in the grass, and we don't need it - take it, bleed with it. Cross your T's - we got plenty of eyes. 

See, folks around here are respectable. And that ain't got nothing to do with money. That's got to do with callouses on hands ands backs sore from honest work. Knees that hurt from kneeling while we pray. We don't even have the same vocabulary. Like whatever you call that fancy blonde lady what takes care of your little ones. Sounds like some kind of fancy yoghurt from the mall, but it just means lazy. 

You can't even take care of your own.

That's what I mean. It's like trying to make a possum fly. Won't work, and you can't be mad at the possum. It ain't in a possum's nature, and it ain't our business to go messing with His designs anyhow. So, you can wipe that cookie-stealing grin off your face. I'm not about to fight you. I'm not going to be a spying neighbor or make you leave town. I could. I sure could. 

The word Mayor means something here. 

But I ain't doing nothing to you except, well, I'm gonna help you. Ain't nobody so high falutin' they can't be saved.

All you gotta do is believe.

#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...

100 comments:

  1. "All you gotta do is believe..." a phrase fraught with hope and division... you shine a light on dividing lines in this one, and I like it a lot.

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    1. I'm being a ditto head. Good stuff.

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    2. Like trying to make a possum fly. Wow. Good hearts win.

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  2. The town's name is Virginia Dale. Town? Not more than a wide spot in the road. Not much is left of the place where gunshots were once fired in the old west to settle disputes of love and money.

    I'd driven past it a hundred times on my way to my favorite camping spot. Not sure what made me think of stopping this April evening, but stop I did. The only building around that looked like anyone cared was a little church. I parked the truck beside it and stared. A church. In the middle of nowhere. Who maintained it? I hadn't seen a house that looked lived in for fifty miles or more.

    A few hundred feet away, cars and trucks whizzed by on the highway, but I barely noticed.

    What the hell, I'd already stopped. May as well look around. The cold air took my breath away as I stepped out of the truck. The wind was ferocious and cold. I walked quickly to the door of the church, wondering if anyone would dare leave a door unlocked, even here in the middle of nowhere.

    I turned the knob, and the door opened. I stepped in and closed it behind me. Still cold, but at least I was out of the wind. The only light came through plain glass windows, miraculously intact. The interior was pristine, in a nineteenth century kind of way. Plain, in other words. The altar was unadorned but for two unlit candlesticks and a cross.

    "May I help you?"

    The voice startled me.

    "I was just curious..."

    "All are welcome here," the voice said. When I turned to look at the speaker, I saw a man in a plain black suit, not of this century, nor the last, wearing a white collar. Full beard, kindly eyes. Green eyes, like the pine trees outside.

    "You're the one who keeps this place up? It's beautiful."

    "I am, with a little help." The man looked toward heaven.

    "Thank you, for letting me look around."

    "Come back anytime you wish. Anytime you need spiritual refreshment."

    The candles flickered in a draft. I felt like there was something I should ask, but couldn't think what it was, so I turned and walked back out through the door.

    This is going to be a beautiful town, I thought to myself as I mounted my horse and rode into the hills. We should name it for my wife, Virginia.

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    1. Smooth like fried butter! And just as tasty!

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    2. I love that breathless moment when the narrator steps inside, the quiet suspense. And I kept wondering if his last (or even first) name was Dale. Just so much hidden here, waiting.

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    3. I agree, the tone and scene-setting make this piece.

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  3. "It was a long hall, with many doors, I remember that much. And all the doors were closed, all but one. They were different colors--reds, blues, greens--but the door that was open was black. The light that poured from it was dark gray, like the smoke that wet wood makes. It didn't feel right. Like my gut was squirming, and that voice that tells you when you're being stupid was screaming. I ignored the warning signs, and kept on walking, one foot after the other, but my feet seemed to be getting heavier with each step. Maybe time was dilating, I don't know. I'm not a physicist.

    "At last I reached the door, and pushed it all the way open, and what was beyond, how can I describe it? It was awful and awesome at the same time. So much brightness and darkness, creatures dancing, slithering, jumping. None of them seemed to notice me."

    The patient twisted on the couch.

    "And how did you make your way back, to here, I mean?"

    "Back? I've never been here before, doc. It all feels so strange. I walked through the door, and found myself here in your office."

    "What else did you notice?"

    "Things smelled differently. Not as strong. Colors were different."

    "Mm hmmm, and what else?"

    "I want to go back, doc. I feel naked here, without my fur, and without my tail."

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    1. Ha! You got me. Love the ending.

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    2. Ha, that last line! But it also made me think of all the alternative worlds we never experience or even notice, even though they go on around us.

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  4. oh sweetest tongue that gently sups

    the dew that from my bud erupts

    to slake thy hunger as it bursts

    a steady stream to quench thy thirsts.

    a kiss that pauses, loves and lingers

    with errant drops caught on thy fingers

    a subtle claiming, I am undone

    and yet thou have scarcely begun

    such supple lips that doth partake

    and cause my mortal soul to quake

    so take it all, I will give more

    as fevers burn and passions soar

    ~tamara mclanahan

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    1. beautiful... and the second person familiar "thou" fits well... Shakespeare would be proud!

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    2. Yeah, what Leland and Laurie said.

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    3. Love it. If you made it a little dirtier and more about Syphylus, I would have thought you John Wilmot.

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    4. That is one of the most erotic things I've experienced recently.

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  5. Pills, pills, the wonderful fruit, the more you eat, the more you... Fuck. That don't work. This Norco don't make you fart. It slows everything down. Like a traffic jam in a hermetically sealed vacuum tunnel. Can't shit. I literally don't give no shits. But the pain is dull. The pain is dull and the world is dim. I can see clearly now the agony is gone. Not the pain. No. The pain's not gone. The agony has left. It's taken a temporary vacation thanks to the ten milligram miracles. Thanks to these light orange ovals with the line down the middle, with the V on the front and the 36 05 on the back. That V's for Victory over the agony. But the pain remains.

    Imagine you got a toothache in the small of your back. Imagine there's an infected tooth back there. Imagine you can't pull it. Imagine that tooth might make you cripple one day. Imagine that.

    Five surgeries but I'm still here. I'm still walking. I'm still singing...

    Pills, pills, the wonderful fruit, the more you eat, the more you...

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    1. a snapshot of pain and the hope for the end of the pain... a truth for so very many...

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    2. and if this is, as I suspect, autobiographical, I'm glad you're still walking and singing.

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    3. I'm with Leland on this one. You managed to make old injuries flare in my mind.

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    4. Feels ominous yet cautiously hopeful. It's an unusual mood to capture, and it takes a good writer to do so, and of course, you're that writer, my friend.

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    5. I agree with Antrobus. The tooth analogy works perfectly, too. And constipation sucks. Miralax to the rescue!! ;)

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  6. The stars fell from heaven tonight, the night you said goodbye. The bed feels all wrong without you to share it. I forgot to eat dinner. I've not yet gone through the closets to remove your things. The place still smells of you, that cheap cologne you always wore.

    I close my eyes and I remember the night we met at that bar. Godawful music, but you asked me to dance, and we did. Even in the dim lights I knew your eyes were blue, they had to be, because I'd dreamed of you for so many years.

    That night was magic, magic like I'd never known before, and like we never knew since. Life afterward got so complicated, so noisy, so overwhelming. You were always there, like a blanket, not in a comforting way, but in a smothering way. You never talked. I had to guess at what you thought.

    When I saw the first glint of pity in your eyes, I knew what we had was dying; dying more quickly, anyway.

    I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I'm going to miss you. If only I hadn’t had to kill you.

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    1. Old Spice with a side of tobacco smoke... Wonderful.

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    2. Yeah. I'm digging this one. I think you hit it just right.

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    3. Well that escalated quickly. Gave me chills.

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  7. He knew, by the time they married, that the dog was mor important to her than he was. The dog was the ring bearer at their wedding. After the wedding, the dog was her fierce protector. Whenever he touched her, the dog growled. Their sex life was confined to the weekends they sent the dog to doggy camp.

    Fluffy. Ridiculous name for a dog that could take your arm off, or kill you. Fluffy. A German Shepherd mix of some sort. Teeth a mile long.

    He'd considered arranging an accident for Fluffy. Considered poisoning Fluffy. But in the end, he knew he couldn't. It would break her heart, and somehow she would know he was reaponsible. So he gritted his teeth and waited.

    The day he came home from work and found her crying on the couch, oh how he wanted to comfort her. He looked around nervously for the omnipresent dog, and not seeing it, he sat down beside her.

    "What's wrong, sweetie?"

    Between sobs, she told him. Cancer. No hope. Put to sleep. Dead.

    He allowed himself to touch her shoulder, still expecting a growl from her bodyguard, then he tried to take her in his arms.

    "It wouldn't be right. Not while I'm in mourning."

    "I just meant to..."

    Her icy stare sliced his sentence in half.

    A week. Two weeks. Ten. Her eyes were raw from tears. Still she would not let him touch her.

    He broke. The dam let loose with the emotions he'd held back, fury raged in his voice and, he soon realized, his fists. When he knelt beside her on the floor, the smell of her blood was sickening. He vomited, and the green mixed with the red.
    He heard a low warning growl behind him. When he turned, he saw the shadow of a dead dog on the wall, the shadow of Fluffy. He stopped screaming when the invisible fangs ripped through his throat. The whimper that followed might have been human or canine. And then all was silent.

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    1. Nicely handled! Though I can't imagine marrying anyone who's dog is more important than you are. Living with, maybe, but not marrying. The silly git. Maybe he got what he deserved, eh?

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    2. LOL, and this explains why I am single .

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    3. There is so much here that reminds me of Steinbeck's The White Quail. High praise.

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    4. I had no idea we were headed for paranormal horror. Nice touch.

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  8. It is not the wind
    Nor the ripples of the flag
    Only the mind moves

    [inspired by Kōan 29 in the Gateless Gate]

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  9. I have to explain a bit about this one. I record guided imagery meditations from scripts online but I find them sometimes redundant so I wanted to pen one of my own. It went well enough at first, I think but veered and got away from me (I do write a fair share of a certain genre) *cough* so I can't post all of it but here's a snippet...

    The sky is a brilliant cerulean blue, so bright you shade your eyes. Fluffy white cumulous clouds dot the horizon as you walk along the pristine beach. No footprints, those have been washed away by the morning's tide. A fresh beginning as your feet sink into the warm sand. Seagulls dip and dive overhead, looking for morsels. Their cries echo over the sound of the surf. A gentle breeze drifts from the ocean causing the palms to sway. Their undulations are mesmerizing as you continue further down the beach. Sea shells lay strewn across the white sand, an occasional sand crab skitters into his den. As you walk further down the beach you see a large piece of driftwood sitting by the water’s edge. Foam from incoming surf surrounds it and you watch as the water reforms the patterns, taking some bubbles, leaving fresh in their place. A constantly changing Jackson Pollock tableau. Abstract art in nature. Organic and ethereal. You watch closely, knowing that though the beach would be the same, the sky, the clouds, even the same birds and driftwood, the patterns, like snowflakes would never be precisely the same. There is comfort in that. This moment in time is just for you, the dance of the waves is a ballet for you and you alone.

    You could walk the same path, choose the same course but it would never duplicate exactly this day right now and so you open your senses. Let it flood you, fill you as you absorb every sound, every scent. You stick a tongue out and taste the tang of salt spray. You stop short of the driftwood and put your head back, close your eyes and listen with your inner mind. You see it all, memorize it all. Like a hummingbird captured on stop motion camera, you see it in your mind's eye but at an almost imperceptible pace. The lazy glide of water caressing the sand, the trees barely shifting their fronds. The birds are almost frozen in time, beaks open, wings spread. Riding high on pinned thermals. You pause to take a deep, cleansing breathe...

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    1. ahhh.. nice visuals and sensory input! well done!

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    2. I agree. And it adds to the hypnotic cadence. Cool piece.

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    3. I think I need to try a guided meditation.

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  10. A part of him knew it was over the moment he opened up the car door. It had been so obvious to those around him, but he was young, idealistic and hoping that she was a better person than everyone had been saying as of late. As the door closed, the echo bounced around atop the frozen lake. It startled him, mostly because it - like his life - was such a contrast to how peaceful everything else had been.

    Putting his hands in his pockets and letting out a breath that quickly froze before his eyes, he started walking. 'Yeah', he said to himself. And he started walking.

    With each step he felt slightly more free from the bonds that had kept him both so unhappy and also so unaware. However it is that our minds recover is a mystery, but also a happy one. This isn't what he wanted; he was sure of that now. No matter how hard he had tried to keep it together and to protect the love he thought was there, he knew now that he was the only one holding on. And with that realization he let go of the rope, and with it fell the curtain that he had tried so hard to keep up. And just like that the light of the day broke through.

    He stopped. He turned around. He started to walk back to the car. He didn't need to walk anywhere anymore because he had arrived. It was over. It was also just the beginning.

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    1. I like it a lot... transition, movement, and realization... well done!

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    2. I can't help feeling you might have the core of something bigger here.

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    3. I'm with Antrobus. I dig what you've got (and it totally works), but I also want more.

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    4. That's a big boom in a small package. Yeah life's like that.

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  11. Binary code was the first to come back to her. A vague memory at first but once she opened her mind and touched the Enclave, updates flooded her, along with her original mission parameters. She cursed the body chosen for her. Too fleshy, easily distracted, entirely too needful as hormones ran rampant all too often. And once a month! She shuddered just thinking of it.

    At least she'd been given a reprieve the last two months. What was it the backward inhabitants said?

    "Don't look a gifted ass in the mouth?

    No matter. She'd be going to the coordinates prearranged in less than an arne. Translocuted and safely ensconced amongst her own in nanoseconds. Then able to shed her skin, lose the ears, nose, the mouth. OK, being honest? She'd be missing the tongue and mouth.

    That made her think of Brody. As she compiled her logs and packed her gear, her thoughts drifted back to him. A most unique humanoid. Articulate and possessing of rare knowledge. The nights with him would be missed.

    She walked to the clearing and looked skyward, the glow from the transport ship lighting the night sky. Chuckling to herself how these dense creatures would explain away any sightings.

    "Weather balloons, my shiny metal horse!"

    She stood still as the beam coated her but instead of finding herself in the transport depot, she remained on land. Blinked when the voice said to her, "We only expected one of you."

    "One? Of course," she mentally answered.

    "No!" came the guttural reply, the hissing clicks that followed. "There are two. Find the one who is responsible and tag implant him. He will be transported as well. Obviously fertile and we need more like him."

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    1. Oh... I like how you're expanding your horizons... imagination is awesome!

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    2. Well played! Chucklesome and creepy all in one.

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    3. Yup. An intriguing direction.

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    4. I agree. And I like the reprieve of pregnancy. ;)

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    5. Great twist. And leaves me begging for more.

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  12. She stands in the rain, rivulets of cold water running down the folds in her pink and yellow polka-dotted poncho, face tilted up to the sky. Her smile is broad, her eyes closed, as if waiting for her favorite song to start playing on some cosmic radio station only she can hear, or if she’s expecting a miracle—the rain to change into popcorn or dandelion seeds or glitter. You are sensible and sit on the bench underneath your black umbrella. You feel smart and dry and normal, and think about things like the bus schedule and where you’re going once you get there and the button you need to replace on your favorite overcoat. You don’t have time for miracles. You don’t have the luxury of letting the rain curl your hair. She’s doing a little shuffling sort of dance now, like in that movie, and several other people waiting at the bus shelter move a little farther away from her, trying to make it look as if they’re afraid of having rainwater splashed on their nice clothing, but their faces tell a different story, and that makes you angry. It makes you think of a little pair of pink rain boots you used to have as a child, and how you wanted to wear them everywhere, and one day they were just gone from your closet, gone from the mudroom, gone from everywhere. You asked about them but were told to forget about them now, that big girls didn’t need to wear silly boots, that you needed smarter ones. And when you are done getting the new button for your overcoat, you stop by a store you haven’t been to in years and buy a pink umbrella with ducks on it, and on the way home, you twirl it and giggle through the puddles, remembering.

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    1. I love this, the rain, the umbrella, the poncho... and the contrasts of what "should" be done and what "should not." Obligations vs. joy. Thank you for this.

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    2. Good. That ending. Fuck 'em. I so loved the gentle pendulum swing of third and second person.

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    3. I agree about the POV. And I LOVE this: "...or if she’s expecting a miracle—the rain to change into popcorn or dandelion seeds or glitter."

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  13. I woke up sandwiched between them, my two guys. The morning was cool, so snuggling down was a luxury I took advantage of.

    I could feel them breathing, gentle rise and fall of two strong chests, ribs expanding against my sides. I imagined the beating of their hearts, the vitality flowing within them, within me.

    Extricating my hands, I reached out to slowly stroke them at the same time. Wonderful softness met my fingertips,making me smile and want to tickle them awake.

    One of them began to purr.

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    1. ahhh... I love vignettes that are this warm!

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    2. Captures an aspect of life almost everyone can relate to.

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    3. Agreed. I miss my cat. This is a great, relatable piece.

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    4. Missing my furkids. I long for those mornings again.

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  14. Part 1

    He was a powerful shaman, a man of great spirit and fearsome medicine who The Creator imbued with the power to heal and the power to strike down.
    And he was my grandfather.
    The People called him The Doll Maker. And nobody dared wonder aloud why every doll he made had the same face. Except for me.
    One night I said to him in his special hut in the furthest corner of the village from the palisaded entrance, “Grandfather, why do all your medicine dolls have the same face when they are meant to represent different people and spirits?”
    “That is not for you to know yet, Grandson. Soon enough, I shall reveal my secrets to one of you children, for someone must take my place when it is my time to join our fathers and their fathers’ fathers in the Land of the Dead,” he said, never moving a muscle as he stared into the small fire before him, save for his lips around his pipe.
    “I see, Grandfather, it’s just that I never understood.”
    “And perhaps you never will, Grandson. But, if the spirits of our ancestors place their hands upon you, you will be the one to whom I will share the secret of the dolls,” he said and closed his eyes as if in a trance.
    “I know why he does it, give all the dolls the same faces,” my older brother Kakë:’ët neokë, White Deer, told me one night in our family’s portion of the longhouse. “It’s because he’s become so old and feeble he can no longer carve any face but that one. While I, on the other hand, have schooled myself in the carving art and have surpassed that old man. All I need is the knowledge of his incantations and medicine and I will succeed him as our clan’s shaman.
    White Deer pulled from beneath the bear robe on his pallet six small wooden doll heads, each carved to look like a member of our family. Their likenesses frightened this boy of eleven winters and I stepped away from them while not being able to tear my eyes from their piercing stares.
    “Hahji’, my brother, while your craftsmanship is great, you should not show those to anyone. And you should learn to keep your plans to yourself. The Grandfather hears with more than his old ears and he will punish you for speaking against him in such an arrogant way,” I said and walked to the other side of the fire to where my mother was nursing our baby sister.
    “Mother, why does our grandfather make his dolls with all the same faces? Has he ever told you?” I asked.
    She gave me a stern look and said, “My son, you know women have no part in that part of out lives. Such medicine is in the hands and heart of special men, like our Grandfather. Now go fetch more firewood as I would make our evening meal for the family, including our Grandfather.”
    Over the next few months, I began doing more and more chores for Grandfather, learning more about the history of our people and even some of the healing arts beyond those dispensed by the False Face Society, the masked healers who held ceremonies throughout the village in the green-up and harvest times.
    Several men, including my father, were members of the False Face Society. Father said they all learned the story of the False Faces from The Grandfather. How the Creator, when he had finished forming the world, was wandering around admiring his work, when he encountered another being who said HE had created the world.

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  15. Part 2

    “In a competition to see which of them had the most power, each was to move a mountain, though they were supposed to turn their backs to the mountain while the other used their power. The stranger went first and moved the mountain but a little, yet he moved it. The Creator then took his turn and reminded the Stranger to keep his back turned. But the Stranger’s curiosity was too great. He turned before the Creator was done and was struck in the face by the mountain, leaving him disfigured. Because the Creator recognized the Stranger’s great power, he decided to let him stay here to use his powers to heal and prevent storms from harming The People. In his honor, the False Face Society members carve their masks in their own special representation of the one now called Ethiso:da’,” Father said.
    “And it was your Grandfather who taught three generations of our men how to carve our masks. No one was a better teacher or a better carver than our Grandfather,” Father said.
    “White Deer feels he is a better and will succeed Grandfather as our great shaman,” I said.
    “Your brother will become a great man among The People. His strength and confidence will serve him well in war and poltics. But your baby sister stands a greater chance of becoming Shaman than White Deer,” Father said, and laughed. “And we shall keep that between the two of us, son.”
    He sent me off to see to Grandfather’s comfort and needs. When I entered his hut, I saw Grandfather placing a new doll over by his carving knives. It had the same face as all the others, but it’s clothing looked familiar and on its hand it wore a bandage.
    “That doll reminds me of White Deer. It even has the bandage he wears since he cut himself,” I noted.
    “Perhaps he should be more heedful to what he has in his hands rather than dreaming of grasping for those things he cannot reach,” Grandfather said.
    “Grandfather, did you…?”
    “White Deer cut himself, Grandson. I only had the vision that he would and carved a remembrance of the act. Now come, look more closely at this doll,” he said.
    I sat next to him and he showed me the doll, whose face looked like every other doll’s face.
    “I have decided to begin teaching you how to carve, Grandson. You shall be my apprentice, my student, my successor,” he said.
    “Grandfather, I am just a boy,” I said.
    “Yes, but your heart and spirit are pure and have the welfare of all The People foremost at all times. Even as young as you are, you do not judge a man, woman or child by how he looks, but what lies inside them.”
    With that, he tugged the face, the same face as every other doll, off the White Deer doll. Beneath it he had carved an exact likeness of my brother. He pulled the face off another and it was my face, painted in strong medicine red, beneath it.
    “You will learn the carving and the medicine easily enough, Grandson. But you, above all my generations of children, have the greatest gift necessary to succeed me,” Grandfather said.
    As you can see, The Grandfather taught me well. Oh, you see only one face on my dolls? True, but my brother, Chief White Deer, will attest to its striking resemblance to our Grandfather.

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    1. Bravo! I love the way you've presented these people, and shown clearly and understandably that they are another people than our own. The medicine is subtle and well cast.

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    2. This is beautiful... and it feels strikingly authentic... well done, my friend. Well done indeed.

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    3. Gripping and, as Leland says, authentic. I hope you pursue this one.

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    4. I LOVE this piece, Joe. Please write more.

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    5. This is beautiful and begs to be continued.

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  16. On the cusp between life and death, in the shadow between life and death, he ponders. Is this goodbye, or until next time? He no longer knows whether the voices he hears are from te land of the living or the dead, and he wonders if there is in fact a difference. If by believing there is a wall between the two that the wall has come into being.

    He hears his mother calling him in for dinner, just as she did when he was a child. He finds his once arthritic legs running without pain. The streetlights are turning on, one by one, all the way to his house. His dog runs beside him, looking up to catch his eye.

    When he sits down to dinner, his father looks over his glasses and asks him to say grace, a custom long since abandoned. He’s surprised when he hears himself begin the prayer.

    The dog lies under the table, at his feet, awaiting a dropped crumb or other morsel. His mother is reminding him that he has a lot of homework to do, but that he still has to help wash dishes. His sister’s place at the table remains oddly vacant, but sometimes she has band practice.

    When the dishes are clean and put away, and his father has settled in in front of the Philco television, glimmering black and white images with rounded corners, only then does he climb the stairs to his room.

    The dog whimpers as he reaches for the doorknob. He skritches the pup behind the ear.

    And when the door opens, he finds himself on the cusp between life and death, afraid to close the door, afraid to open it further, and he wonders at the difference between goodbye and see-ya-later, and he finds there is no difference at all.

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    1. This is beautiful. I'm not sure how else to express the feelings it evokes.

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    2. THIS is magical-realLeland, brother. :)

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    3. Is life perhaps a circle, eternally repeating?

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  17. It's the blue train, the coal train.

    How did we come to be lying on these tracks now it's arcing its slow curve this way around the hillside?

    Two blue engines fore and one mid, dusty lozenges of sapphire bracketing dull beads of jet.

    Eve is up on the hillside with a camera. She will avenge us if this goes awry. If this train of thought leads to catastrophe, so be it, and there will be a reckoning of sorts. I lie between the tracks and wait, the weight of the device heavy on my supine chest, the ballast between the ties jabbing my spine, my ribs. I feel the train before I hear its distant voice, its thin wail of loneliness. At the right moment, I will detonate this thing and the train and I will cease to exist, and one more blow will have been struck for freedom. Eve will film it for posterity. The clanging, screaming serpent is closer now, and the steel tracks on either side are harmonizing with each other, a calamitous electric yowl like the pitched dyad birth throes of star twins. My skull is coming apart. The clouds are blurred, the treetops smudges of dark. Smears and blurs against the blue of faded jeans: the last things I will look upon. Things we can't unknow. I close my eyes. The great engine is upon me, and amid the clinker sparks and infernal din I count the seconds. And I hit the button.

    It's 1980 or '81. A Soviet engine arriving on time via Warsaw and Köln rolls into the Gare du Nord like something mythical and reptilian, a vast bristling hammer-and-sickle agglomeration. A clanking imperious steel assemblage that stops us in our tracks. Its own fanfare. All anyone can do is stare.

    Trains. We got on board the love train some eight years earlier. In England, in Russia, in China, in Egypt, in Israel. When did we disembark? Or did we? Was there a derailment?

    We're all on a haunted planet careening through some galactic backwater, convinced of our own consequence. Each galaxy a bright station for hurtling aggregations of stars and worlds.

    Canis and corvid. Coyote and crow. The engineers. Conductors.

    "Every hour wounds. The last one kills."

    Cliff edge trees like victims of strokes: listing, staggered, part-ruined. They lean like broken soldiers in a bewildered vanguard, unmindful of each other, wind-assaulted, salt-scoured. The droning lobes of my skull are full as tics.

    "Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
    Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
    Which thou dost glare with!" — Macbeth, William Shakespeare

    I have woken as if from some other life. This here is the dream. I was happy in that life; my simple needs were met, and my smile was broad as Grand Central Terminal. My moons had their own moons. But this rude place is unworthy even of a dream. It is like a stick figure, a chalk drawing on a stoop, a bundle of twigs when placed before a great temple, tied with a grubby strip of cloth. Like a single brushstroke in a grand painting, an afterthought. The cracked mortar between the stones of an architectural wonder. Is this lost night of silent dreaming nearly over? Please. Let me return to my life. The abandonment of dreams has never seemed so promising.

    How are you?

    Struggling. In pain.

    Really?

    I do a good job of pretending otherwise.

    Probably we all do.

    The device didn't work. It didn't go off. We can't go back.

    Ah. What if this world is our home now? What if it rejects us? What if the world's skin crawls and spasms like that of some weary and ancient being, shuddering to rid itself of the parasites in its afflicted rind? What then?

    What then.

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    Replies
    1. Every damned time I read something you write, I fall in love with language all over again... if Kerouac had more vocabulary, he might have sounded a little like you. And you made my soul sing with Canis and Corvid... Thank you, and I issue my perennial plea for more.

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    2. You made me happy, Leland, since Kerouac is one of my great influences, his euphony and rhythms. His words (of which I swear he knew more than I). ;)

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    3. I agree with Leland. These piece of late have a brilliant fever-dream intensity to them. This line kills: " If this train of thought leads to catastrophe, so be it, and there will be a reckoning of sorts."

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    4. Wow. That last paragraph will haunt my dreams tonight.

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  18. I do believe I need a nap. A writing group I'm in gave us a prompt for Cinco de Mayo. It was a sugar skull, a white, shriveled face, spider webs criss-crossing her face, three red roses in her hair. I must be tired because I had Day of the Dead in my head when I whipped this up just now. Sheesh. Six months away so those references and my really cool twist at the end have been deleted. Still, figured I'd post what remained...

    Bella woke. Cold, thirsty and still exhausted. Always exhausted of late. Her skin had become gaunt, lips wrinkled and eyes permanently circled with shadows. No literal punch to the face, but Life had not been kind to her. She retained some of her former beauty through liberal application of makeup but that was starting to cake and crack.

    Only the very astute saw deeper to her pain. But she was a fighter. Not much could keep her down and so she eased out of her soiled bed and tangled sheets, put feet to floor and padded into the meager kitchen for a dose of caffeine that might restore her, even for a moment.

    No clean cups, no coffee grounds come to that and so she contented herself with just drinking from one left from the night before. The cockroach skittered away, his refreshment having been denied.

    She looked to the calendar, to the big red X's that marked her closer to her birthday. She grinned and if she'd had a reflection, she would have been appalled at the rictus presented. Sallow skin, haunted eyes. Only the roses she wore in her hair giving her any color.

    While draining the last of the bitter cup, she mulled over how to celebrate her natal day, only two days hence. She needn't have worried. She wouldn't be aging a single moment more. Bella just hadn't realized it yet.

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  19. The hands on the ruined clock remained still but time continued its flow. The church had been mostly demolished but one side of its tower remained intact, albeit at a lower level than before. The glass behind the dial was broken, of course, but the outer ring bearing the figures for the hours was still there, as were the hands, reaching out as though they needed rescuing. The main body of the building was wrecked though, its contents largely looted, with no sense of it once being revered.

    A rat pushed its head up and out into the moonlight. It was hungry and although it felt safe in the ruins, there was little food to be found there. It would have to venture further away to find its supper. The man watching it raised his rifle to his eye and mouthed a single silent word.

    Bang.

    Of course, the rat remained unscathed. Although the rifle was loaded, the marksman had other targets in mind. He’d been in position since late the previous morning, his pocket flask providing for most of his needs, the occasional sip being all he’d permit himself. His quarry was yet unknown to him, his employer assigning him his mission along with details of the location and the time he’d expected the contact to be there, picking up the money he’d demanded. The designated time was long past now and only the shooter’s professionalism had kept him here. Someone would come, he knew. No-one demanded three million dollars and then left it for someone else to find.

    The night was still quiet at three in the morning though and the watcher was beginning to lose confidence in both himself and the target. A fox had followed the trail half an hour ago, its nose to the ground and its tail in the air, but nothing else had shown itself, even to his night-scope. He’d heard an owl’s hooting and the small sounds of its prey but neither of them had broken cover. Perhaps he’d been seen himself. A successful terrorist was usually as skilled as those sent to hunt him, although the marksman preferred to think he still had the edge. He’d been working this trade since the eighties and had put away more than enough to keep him in comfort for the rest of his life. But there was always the call of the challenge; the sport of the kill. It was an addiction that would never loosen its grip.
    The undergrowth and the trees suddenly quietened, the soft noises ceasing as something disturbed the creatures that made them. The disc of his sight panned the trail, hunting.

    He heard the child before he saw it, its heavy feet cracking and breaking the finer wood stems that were everywhere. The balloon came first; silver-green in his scope, bobbing at the end of its cord. It would be one of the easiest shots he would ever have made. One to be remembered forever. He’d never killed an American child. Not yet.

    The low cough came from directly behind him, the cold nose of the pistol firm against his temple. He began to turn away then stopped.

    He would never outrun the bullet. He’d seen many try but the target always lost the race.

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    Replies
    1. Wow... what tension, what horror at the thought of a child's death... and what resolution... well in, sir! well done.

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    2. Really good. And the formal language really adds to that chilling tension.

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    3. My body physically tightened the entire time. The appearance of the child had me in a fetal curl. The release of the ending was an amazing relief.

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  20. “What’s his name? he’d ask.
    “Does it matter?” she’d say, losing focus
    as she saw another’s perfection in her mind’s eye.
    “No, not really,” escaped around his smiling shield.

    Falling in love — which he felt was her
    falling into obsession — was what she loved most.
    “So he’s The One?” he’d say.
    “Oh, yes. And he’s crazy about me,” she’d reply.

    Reflexively, the corners of his mouth bowed up,
    as he’d recall all the times she’d run to him
    with that same expression he fell in love with
    in sixth grade, flashing that same spark
    that melted his heart, burning down his hopes with it.

    He never thought to tell her the truth
    each time she’d run to him like a little girl
    excitedly showing a new doll to her best friend.
    Because her best friend was who he was.

    He couldn’t bear losing her smiling face,
    the intimate warmth of how she’d whisper to
    him, bringing to flaming life any embers
    of his remaining hope, even knowing
    they’d burn his heart to ash once more.

    “Tell me about him,” he’d say, feeding
    more fuel to the torch he’d compulsively raise
    in these dark moments just to ensure
    he’d be able to see the love of his life again.

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    Replies
    1. Heartbreaking and beautiful... unrequited love is the purest...and the most frustrating.

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    2. Yup. Straight up ditto-ing Leland. ;)

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    3. Oh the ways of self torture.

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  21. Today is not a day for words. At least, the way they use them now. Like keywords in some mosh pit, spun on some rotisserie, blackened, charred, misused, marred. Twisting their meaning toward the craved on clicks, hoping to grab the incredulous hicks.
    There ain't no character, ain't no plot, just a your stage to say what you will.
    You got the ratings, you got the sex, you got the porn and titillation
    You call it art
    I call it garbage
    And what you've done to meaning and language
    Makes me mourn.
    Tomorrow I'll paste my shit together
    I'll tell you about the craft
    Be your coach and offer a tutorial
    We are hard wired for empathy, despite what you might think
    we care about the goddamned story
    Not your exhibition, your literacy, your knowledge, your quotes or your degree.
    I will try to explain, again and again, that writing ain't about your ass, it's about THEM.
    But tonight this editor, your coach and yo whore, gonna sit back and
    laugh.
    And hope for better, for more...

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    1. This is not self-indulgence... this is reflection and the human condition... I've always thought that editor-writers have a tough row to hoe... and walk a razor thin line between helpful criticism and loathing... I don't know how y'all walk that line... thanks for helping me understand!

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    2. I don't find it self-indulgent either. I find it honest. And honest writing always wins out.

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    3. My minds eye sees you on a stage, serving this in a hip hop style to a hungry audience.

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  22. Rough week, riding the razor between editor and writer...forgive me my self indulgence...

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