Friday, June 2, 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 sit there, Basset Hound eyes, hands twitching like a tweaker with Parkinson’s, and you expect me to say … what? Everything is going to be OK? Can’t you feel it? I know you don’t hear it, but can’t you fucking smell it? I can. It smells like paranoia and cheap cologne. It feels like there’s a toddler in the corner, mewling, “Just leave me alone!” When all you’re trying to do is explain why it’s not safe to play in the street.

You’re gonna get run over, son.

I’m not your enemy, and I don’t aim to be the agent of anyone’s demise. I do not direct nervous breakdowns. You want to break? I get it. But it’s something you kind of have to do on your own. Ain’t nobody going to tell you how to fuck your life up. And maybe, when someone tells you how not to, you should listen.

Look at me when I’m talking to you.

You got that slick-grease guilt sweat coming out of every pore. Shit, it’s making me nervous. So, you gotta choice, I reckon. 

You gonna play in that traffic?


#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...

63 comments:

  1. And that makes me think... and maybe I just will go play in the street...

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    1. Sparring with words is always fun when you do it.

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    2. "Ain't nobody going to tell you how to fuck up your life. And maybe, when someone tells you how not to, you should listen."

      Man, I love that. That's truth right there.

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    3. Dan, I so often read you twice. The first to be astounded. The second time to savor. This was such a lyrical truth and so tasty it hurts the tongue.

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  2. I need not see the open coffin to know that he is dead. The stars were dimmer last night, and this morning’s fog was in his honor.

    The world will not know what we meant to each other. A different sort of fog hid that, the fog of ignorance and hate. But we knew. And usually, that was enough.
    Usually.

    It would have been nice to hold hands in public, to whisper in each other’s ear. But we laughed together, and that will have to do.

    And now, now I mourn alone. I carry the memories of each hidden touch, of night sweats, of nightmares, of the roar of your ocean.

    One day, one day we will make love in the sunshine, and there will be an audience who applauds your beauty and mine. And we will know not shame. And there will be no sad faces, no black suits of mourning.

    One day, morning, not mourning, will come again.

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    1. My nose is tingling and my eyes seem to have sprung a leak.

      <3

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    2. Wistful, sad, poetic, beautiful...

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    3. Jerk my living heart right out of my ribcage, why don't you?

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    4. Oh Leland. So bittersweet and gut wrenching, heart breaking, I have few words.

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  4. Lord Thorndale was a puzzle. Kate had always loved a good puzzle. They gave her something to sharpen her mind on during the long, lonely hours of late night watches. The puzzle of Lord Thorndale had so far proven sufficient to occupy her mind anytime she had a moment to think.

    This Lord Thorndale couldn't be more different from the one she'd known. Unfortunately, he looked nothing at all like his bloated blighter of a cousin. He was always meticulously dressed, almost-but not quite-dandified. He'd never hear it from her, but it was nice to have an airman aboard who wasn't perpetually wrinkled, even if said airman was not only a passenger but also an earl. Even if he didn't approve of her.

    No, that wasn't quite right. He'd been nothing but respectful.He treated her just as a ship's captain should be treated. But she could not forget the way he'd assessed her, looking her up and down, at their first meeting.

    She sighed. She really shouldn't hold that against him. Most folk didn't approve of a woman wearing men's clothing, even if skirts would be patently impractical for the captain of an airship. As for her hair...well, even her crew--even her family--hadn't known what to make of _that_.

    Kate ran a hand through her short locks. Her hair had grown out a little since she'd first chopped it off, enough so that Elle could correct some of the damage Kate had caused by cutting her own hair. On a moving airship. But she'd been desperate. She'd hoped that the severe haircut would make her look bold and tough, the way an airship captain should look. The way she was where it counted. Instead, the short locks gave her an impish air, or perhaps a waifish one. She looked like a child or some creature from Fairyland. She did _not_ look bold OR tough.It was a disappointment, but with her luck, she really should have known better.

    Just like she should know better than to spend so much time puzzling over Lord Thorndale. Studying the breadth of his shoulders or the sardonic lift of his brow. Ruminating on his attitude towards his new title. Fondly remembering the warm, rare sound of his laughter. Wondering what his expressive lips might feel like against hers.

    She shook herself. She was not some farm girl chasing a village boy, with no idea what to do with him once she'd caught him. She was the captain of this airship. Best she remember that and start thinking about her crew and her ship instead of mooning over some dandified lord. She resolved to put the man out of her mind.

    But her mind had other plans.

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    1. Oh no you didn't stop there! I want more. <3

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    2. This is me pondering whether to use multiple POV in the book I'm working on. :D

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  5. The tree out there, it doesn’t care what’s on CNN, whose side you’re supposed to stand up for. It’s war. It’s war with nature and the bugs and the squirrels; you hold on so tight, don’t you want those dead branches to fall? Fuck it all. You carry this burden so high in your bough. Even deadfall is golden, even your broken branches make a home for young nestlings, make food for the woodpeckers, stripped off by squirrels to make their nests. And then you can rest. You let that go. You’ll never know. Fuck it all. Let it fall. What a relief it would be to drop that big broken branch. The life. The conversations you could have with the other trees. The communication. I like what you’ve done with your leaves this spring. That color is just so fresh, so new. So you. How much younger you look with those dead branches pruned. It must feel like you’ve lost twenty, thirty pounds. And all you did was let go, let it drop to the ground.

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    1. Mader rap must be contagious. :D

      Love the rhythm of this, but I also love what it has to say.

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    2. And now you let the mic drop to the ground! BOOM! :)

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    3. Beautiful! You and a certain silver maple I know need to have a chat...:)

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  6. Brotherly love exists in the hollow of my mind not just when I gaze at my brother or laugh with him. It exists even when we’re far apart by distance, as we often are, and age as we will be forever. I’ve got almost seven years on my brother, so everybody knows he was an accident, even him. Though, I challenge anyone to look at him even once and suggest he doesn’t feel deeply loved every single day.

    If I appear hard and brittle like chipped glass then my brother is radiant and zen like perfect weather on the coastline. We are not quite opposites but we are atypical brothers. We do not look, behave, or even love the same way but we love each other… unconditionally.

    It was a hard life growing up without him, then losing our mother when he wasn’t even fully potty trained. Raised by men -- hard men, I grew into my rigidity honestly. Thoroughly. While my brother seemed oblivious to such severity and was cared for all the more because of it.

    Sometimes it felt like my mother had given birth to an alien who could never relate to how truly fucked up his home life was. It wasn’t that he didn’t see the cracks in the ceiling. It was that, for him, the cracks didn’t exist.

    It should have made me envious. It didn’t. It made me protective and deadly to anyone who got near enough to shatter the natural force field surrounding him. I am his knight, his samurai, and he is my last, best faith in a world I don't always believe in.

    God help me if I ever lose him.

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    1. <3

      This captures the essence of love so perfectly. And I'm enthralled by the characters you managed to introduce so thoroughly in so few words. This makes me want to know more about them, or make up some folks like them to tell my own stories about.

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    2. Agreed. And I love that he wants to protect the gentle soul. And I love the juxtaposition in this image: "If I appear hard and brittle like chipped glass then my brother is radiant and zen like perfect weather on the coastline."

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  7. After the doctor asks her question—they only give him female doctors now because of what he did to the male ones—she lets silence seep into the room. He pretends the silence is poisoned gas. It’s only spreading across the floor now, licking the soles of his laceless shoes, and the young man plays with the silent death like a game. There are so few other amusements here. The cloud can only rise so far before he answers. It snakes up his cuffed ankles and winds around his calves. To his waist and he closes his eyes, imagining the smell of it, the vaporous feathers that rise off the top of the cloud reaching his nose. When it gets to his collarbones, he feels his throat tighten as if two hands are choking him. An oddly exciting sensation. Then he sees the images, the blood.

    “Yes,” he says, his voice coming out hoarse and broken. “I’m having the nightmares again. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

    The corners of her mouth turn down; she taps her pen against her notepad and makes the usual inquiries—if he’s taking his medication. If he’s taking it on time. If he’s taking the right dosage.

    “Yes, to all of it, all right? What do you want from me? These pills. All these pills. All these treatments. All these pointless queries about whether I am doing my self-care and writing in my journal and letting the negative thoughts float by like clouds on a summer afternoon…it’s bullshit. It does nothing. I keep seeing it. Over and over and over.” Her lips compress. The corners of her eyes pinch. He is making her fearful of him, afraid of what he might do, and he’s enjoying that as well. Long ago, when he was allowed to live at home, Mama explained that long German word to him about enjoying other people’s pain, and she told him that he mustn’t have those feelings. But how do you control a feeling? If they were, as the doctors kept telling him, these floating, ephemeral things, how can you let it drift from your mind if there is no breeze and it stalls over your head, building and turning gray and swollen?

    After a moment, she says, “Is there anything different about the nightmares?”

    “No. I still see it. The head. His head. The blood. Like a trophy.”

    She leans forward. The expression on her face changes again, to that of someone who cares. He doesn’t know if he can trust it. “Which one?” she says. “The one that was supposed to be a joke?”

    “No.” The word was so small he barely recognized it as his own breath leaving his body. “The other one. The real one. The one the police said I was holding when they found me.”

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    1. I'm feeling kind of twisted today.

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    2. Gee, I can't imagine why! :*

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    3. Damn, this is a strong piece. You wield the words like a scythe here. I love this: "licking the soles of his laceless shoes, and the young man plays with the silent death like a game. "

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  8. Another one I can tell isn't done yet. I'll post the rest on my blog later and link to it here for anyone damn fool enough to follow me into this mad place, lol.
    _______________________________

    Are they fields or backdrops? Cornstalks, watercolor hills, the raw faraway throats of the assembling hounds.

    You tripped on the edge of a ditch, dressed in your charcoal raiments. Fell to your knees along the rude shoulder of a quiet straight road. When I saw you, my first thought was why a nun would be alone out here in this place of silence, dripping sullied water, palms displayed, mud streaks your only stigmata.

    The hunter is coming, with his dogs.

    I am your sister, your twin. I live in a hovel, barely fed or taken care of. My dirt is in sedimentary layers, marking the eons of my degradation. I was taken from our village, where you and I played in our facsimiles of innocence, and the years passed like sutures in a wound: deep, stinging, sequential.

    You are the river that keeps pace, that stays its course through millennia of strata thrusting upward and tells my ancient tale.

    "Befouled."

    "I'm sorry."

    "No, don't apologize. You are far more nun than whore. I am, too, perhaps."

    "My sister, I suspect it's not so stark a choice. But I don't want to dredge the past. I only want to love you and be loved."

    "Easier for you to say than me. It is I who has to keep on paying. So many prices."

    "What would you have me do?"

    "Live my life as if it were yours."

    "Is that possible?"

    "Of course. Anything we imagine can become real."

    "I can be the river instead of the rock?"

    "Yes. Yes."

    Did you crawl across the ankle-sharp cornstalks, the stunted remnants of our precious crop? Each year we move more soy, more sunflower. Pretty, yet the details become erased, the fine grain of things smoothed. We rip out the milkweed, even its roadside kin, oblivious to everything, the future, Lepidoptera attrition, the ruination of the monarchs. Make of everything a cipher. Too late, we get it. These are way stations we should never ignore. Did you make your escape?

    Keep one eye on the distant hunter, an ear on the uncanny hollers and yowls.

    Hey, did you hear? You can get Innis & Gunn on tap in a bar on Government Street. Parliament dissolves, its outline a string of seasonal LEDs. Hot people lovemaking on the darkening lawn. Gawkers and passersby quietly thinning; tetchy draft horses dragging emptying wagons. Seabirds and crows scolding stragglers. The intimate lap of sailboats in this restful harbour. Sketchers and jewel makers disassembling, dismantling, heading for home. Red buses parked for the night. Replicant England folding into its counterfeit footprint.

    The lovers leave sweat outlines like crime scenes. I feel like an implosion. Down by deceptive waters, the frisson of thwarted love.

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    1. How is it possible to start so strong and then build and build and end even stronger? You sick, magical Britnadian! ;)

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    2. LOL. Britnadian made me think of Sharknado. :D

      I wanna come back and read all these. Just skimming them is whetting my appetite.

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    3. I did finally write the rest, for what it's worth.

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  9. At the end of the bar, I saw old Mason Snyder sitting in his semi-usual ruminating funk, so I decided to slide my beer down there to here him out and see if we could repair the world a bit together.

    After asking why the long face, Mase said, "Last week, I saw a study that broke down the average life expectancy in all the States and the spot with the longest living residents–at 85 years–was in some Colorado ski resort area, while the shortest are in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, where on average, people there can expect to live to age 67," Mase said.

    "Beyond the obvious disparity, is that what's pissing you off so much?" I asked.

    Mase had a long pull on his Bud, took a deep breath and said, "I saw some news bunny ask if the lives of Oglala Lakota County residents there were so short there because they died of boredom out there in the high plains."

    "Uh oh," I said, knowing the righteous wrath coming in three, two,....

    "Yeah, honey, the type of boredom that sets in where you have no prospects to change your life from the grinding poverty of being members of families who've essentially been prisoners of war for a century and a half. The type of boredom that drives people to drink and drug themselves into oblivion because they lost the home version of the Manifest Destiny game show. The type of boredom that causes kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation to kill themselves at a ridiculously high rate," Mase said in his indignant and borderline angry tone when he talked about the treatment of America's native people.

    "That's pretty tragic," I said, feeling both sad and guilty watching Mase, who was of mixed Navaho and German heritage, take another gulp of his beer and the breath to go on.

    "Oh, and by the way, Miss Talking Hairdo, that average life expectancy was for the whole of Oglala Lakota County, where
    the numbers just a few years ago for Pine Ridge Reservation residents only were 52 years for women and fuckin' 48 for men-- 48 years of age and done," Mase said, spun on his stool and stalked out the bar entrance.

    "What the hell was Big Chief Bottom-of-the-Bottle going on about?" Charlie the bartender asked me in the wake of Mase's diatribe on the mistreatment of red folks by the sorry-ass  Great White (absentee) Father over the years.

    "C'mon we're as guilty as any White Americans in not doing enough--or anything--to help these fellow Americans live better, safer, healthier lives," I said in my own Mase-stoked righteously indignant tone.

    "Yeah, well you tell him for me if he--and you, for that matter--expects to get his firewater in my joint anymore, he'd better keep it down or, better yet, take his whiny shit to some liberal fern bar, 'cause us real Americans don't want to hear it," Charlie said, flipping the channel from the fifth inning in Cleveland of another one-sided Mets matinee loss over to Fox News Channel.

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    1. Damn, this is powerful. "home version of the Manifest Destiny game show." - I might steal that at some point. ;)

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  10. Gary Brand’s face and neck burned, his stomach knotted and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and shivered when he saw Jenny Stein sitting in the Southwest Airlines Gate C-3 boarding area.
    It had been two years since they split and she had moved to YYYY and he stayed in Albany. What were the chances he’d run into her making connections with the same flight he was taking to Orlando?
    “Shit, now what do I do?” Gary said under his breath. Should he lay back in the Gate C-4 waiting are across the way or maybe park with his back to C-3 in the nearby bar? No, that would be the coward’s way out and he’d proven himself a coward when he told her he didn’t love her anymore. Besides, it was only 9:15 AM and the bar was closed.
    He knew Jenny’s seeing him was inevitable when they began lining up the boarding groups to select their seats aboard Flight 3385 at 11:30.
    Let’s prolong the inevitable for as long as possible, Gary decided. So he wheeled his carry on to the outer edge of the waiting area, Jenny sitting closer to the gate with her earbuds in and a book on her lap.
    But Gary hadn’t considered Nature's call and looked up to see Jenny’s seat by the gate no longer occupied. Startled, he swiveled in his seat and saw he had placed himself between Jenny’s seat and the Ladies’ Room. Gary grasped his hood and pulled it over his head, hiding his face and gathered his carry on and laptop bag and hustled to a seat by the window at Gate C-4.
    “Oh, man, oh, man, I hope she missed me,” he said as he peered from beneath his hood. Jenny came out the restroom entrance and walked by the seat Gary occupied minutes ago. She looked around and walked back to her seat.
    Now what? Gary wondered. He knew he had a early boarding pass, so he wouldn’t have to stand in line long, mitigating any uncomfortable meeting.
    At that, the gate attendant called for all preboarding and early boarding passengers. Gary waited until all but the last early boarding passenger had been waved through and then hustled to the gate, hood up and boarding pass in hand.
    Sure that no one would willingly take one of the rearmost seats, Gary moved swiftly down the aisle and selected a window seat in the second-last row. He stuffed his carry on in the overhead bin and placed his laptop bag beneath the seat.
    He looked up as more and more Orlando-bound passengers boarded, filling the aisles like waves reaching closer and closer to him as if the tide was coming in. In the mix of men in anticipatory golf shorts, women in leggings and flip-flops and kids either squealing or blindly walking ahead with their eyes on their mobile devices.
    And there, approaching like Venus riding upon the ocean foam, came Jenny. He secured his hoody and dropped his chin to his chest.
    “Is this seat taken?” Jenny said.
    Garry mumbled in a deeper voice, “Yeah, I’m holding it for my girlfriend. She’ll be down here soon, sorry.”
    “Cut the shit, Garry, you coward. I gave you that custom laptop bag sticking out under the seat for Christmas three years ago. What say we talk. We’ve got nowhere to go for the next hour, do we?”

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    1. Oh snap. Want to hear this conversation.

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    2. Thank you, Dan. So great to see you back at the helm here. You're not the first to ask for the next act in this hellish trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.. started it, but not finished for today's go-round.

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  11. PART 1

    Jen sat in her Honda, its engine running, backed into the parking place in the lot so she could face the riverside walkway north of Albany. She also backed in just in case she and Ashley needed to make a quick getaway.
    She could her friend Ashley in the distance walking with her boyfriend Sam. Jen knew what was coming. She and Ashley had talked about it for weeks.
    “Ashley, you’ve got to break it off with Sam. He’s an arrogant prick who treats you like crap,” Jen would tell her childhood friend.
    “You’re wrong, Jen. He loves me and I love him. You’ve got to understand what he sees every day in the streets. Sometimes it’s hard for him to shake it off when he gets off work,” Ashley said.
    “Is that why he tends to stop off at Bogie’s at the end of his shift and drinks for two hours with the other cops before he sees you?” Jen said.
    “Like I said, job pressures.”
    “Is it job pressure that leads him to call you stupid, a summa cum laude graduate of Boston College? Two masters degrees? Nationally recognized teacher of special needs kids? Really, Ashley? You deserve so much better,” Jen said.
    Ashley blushed and Jen wasn’t sure if it was because of the litany of honors she listed or the fact that Jen had heard Sam call Ashley stupid. Or worse.
    But Ashley was adamant.
    That is until Jen brought the video from the bar capturing Sam yucking it up with the other cops, three pitchers of beer on the table and a table full of St. Rose College girls behind them.
    “Just watch this for a second, Ashley. And listen closely,” Jen said.
    “Don’t do this anymore, Jen.”
    “This will be the last time, I promise. If this doesn’t change your mind, just a little, I’ll give up trying to convince you this guy cares about nothing but himself and has disregard for not only you, but it seems anyone unlike his twisted self”
    Jen held her phone up and started the video again. In it, Sam turned in his chair and started talking to one of the college girls.
    “Sammy,” one of his cop buddies said, “don’t you have a real teacher waiting on you? These are student teachers, man.”
    Sam turned to his friend and said in the way guys will when alcohol meets testosterone in a spontaneous combustion of stupid, loud enough to be heard on the phone’s microphone, and said, “Sometimes Ashley’s more like a student, one of those little kids she teaches, than these ripe young things. She's always wishing and expressing and not getting down to what's real. Fantasyland, man."
    "That's cold, dude."
    "No, that's the real world, real talk...hey, Jennifer, what the fuck you doing over there?"
    The recording froze right there.
    For a few seconds, Ashley blinked at the captured final frame of Sam staring cold enmity at whoever had just recorded him. Most probably Jen.
    "Why did you need to show me this?" she said.
    "I needed to give you proof that he's a dog, Ashley. An over-the-line stepping, skirt chasing, arrogant and self-absorbed dog," Jen said.
    "While you're home working for your next day's classes, he's out there..."
    "Protecting us," Ashley said.

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  12. PART 2

    "Okay, I'll grant you that, at least for eight hours a day. But for the rest...I've seen him, cozy up to coeds and older chicks at the bars. Yeh, he can be damned charming with his blue eyes and self-assured way, but it's all a lie. He'll do nothing but hurt you, Ashley. And he won't care. You've got to end this sooner rather than later."
    Shaken, Ashley said, "He and I will be going down for a walk by the Hudson tomorrow. I'll somehow confront him and we'll see what happens."
    "Do you want me around for support?"
    "No, yes, I don't know," Ashley said as her eyes darted around the room and her mind raced behind them.
    "I'll be in the parking lot if you need a lift. No questions asked."
    "All right, but don't get your hopes up. He gets one more chance," Ashley said.
    That night, Ashley barely slept, compiling the many instances Jen had pointed out where Sam treated women, especially his doting girlfriend, like any other perp from the South End.
    And here they were--Jen could see Ashley turning away from Sam and she knew she'd finally convinced her to walk on this guy.
    She pulled from her parking place and glided up to the end of the river walk. With a kuh-lick, Jen unlocked her passenger side door and Ashley climbed in. Ashley motioned for Jen to drive away.
    "Proud of you, hon. That took a lot of courage," Jen said as she eased out of the parking lot and saw Sam stalking nearer the trails end.
    Ashley just sat there in stunned silence. Then her shoulder shook
    "Trust me, Ashley. You just gained, by any substantive means, an exciting new life. Trust me, you're better off with him in your rear view mirror as I have him right now," Jen said. And she meant that. The charm fell of Sam as he drew closer to her car.
    Jen peeled out and headed up the road and back to Ashely's apartment. But while driving there, she was glad to be going to her doctor's on Monday.
    She didn't want anyone to know, most especially Ashley and Ashley's now-former boyfriend, about the terminated pregnancy plans for tomorrow. She could put her one-time-only transgression in her rear view mirror as swiftly as the transgressor, now stalking toward his car in the snowy parking lot.

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    1. Woah. That twisted my brain. Well played

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    2. Thank you, Dan. Well, it kinda *came* from a twisted brain to begin with, so...

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  13. “Night keeps all your heart …” ~ Claus Terhoeven

    I surrendered myself to the darkness when you turned out the lights, a willing body and benighted soul wishing to follow your luminescent lead. But the heart doesn’t need light, it is a blind thing stumbling over the shadows of other hearts that hide in still others’ shadows.

    In the darkened room you offered your body but not your heart. While mine, tenuously tethered, I offered to you. But it shattered, its pieces falling away, chasing echoes of all my dreams that fell before it. Now the darkness fills where once a heart beat for you, lost to your honest duplicity.

    You were the daylight of my life and turned to a thief in darkest night who stole my heart and never gave it back, for night hates penumbral half-measures. Night rolls over
    and keeps all your heart and all its light within.

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    1. So much beauty in these words. I especially love this: "lost to your honest duplicity."

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    2. Thanks, Dan. When I finished this, it reminded me of some shorter poetic pieces you wrote.

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  14. A sudden draught lifted her skirt, revealing her legs, her thighs elegantly tapered. Ward approved. He'd been waiting here for over an hour and the wind was persistent enough so that it affected roughly half of the women who passed this way.

    "You like what you see, Mister?"

    The woman had seen him. It was unusual that anyone might spot him here; he'd chosen his hiding place carefully so that he could avoid being noticed by most people that passed along this way. Especially if they'd been distracted by a sudden need to regain control of their clothing.

    But this woman hadn't struggled with her hemline. He'd noticed that, delighting in the way she turned against the breeze, allowing her legs to be seen from three of the four quarter directions. He'd probably leaned forward too, her appearance was quite exceptional, and it must have been this that had caught her eye.

    "You're remarkably perceptive, Ma'am," Ward said, shrugging disarmingly and smiling in a gentle way. "I was taking a breath. Relaxing. The street is quite busy and it's difficult to find a corner where one can stand for a few moments without being a nuisance."

    "A few moments, you say? I've been here and come back, having had a coffee in between. You must be feeling quite overcome, my friend. Perhaps I should call for assistance."

    She lifted the flap of her messenger bag and had begun to reach inside, presumably for her phone, when she stopped, feeling his hand upon hers.

    "There's really no need. I'm feeling much better now."

    Ward stepped out into the street again, taking a quick scan about for anyone else who might have seen him. If this woman had spotted him he must be getting careless. People in this town still might recognise him. He'd been taking a risk coming back here again, his fondness for this place overcoming his usual caution. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe he'd been lucky this time; this woman seemed harmless, but there were many more who would be less forgiving if they recognised him.

    But first he would have to take his leave of this woman.

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    1. Oh man. The tension and unanswered Qs. Love this piece, Mark. And I want to KNOW!!! :)

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    2. Thank you, Dan. It's good to see you back. I hope you're feeling much better too. We need someone to keep control around here. There's a lot of English rogues about!

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    3. What Dan said! (Also what Mark said.)

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    4. I AM the only one who knows where the fire extinguisher is... ;)

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  15. Late to the party, Full day. Back tomorrow for comments!
    Bobbie Mason loved jewelry the way other women loved children or men or their backyard gardens. She came from money and the story was, she’d had to sell her heirlooms during the war, then after, when her husband left her and she had kids to feed.
    But not all of them, not by any means. And by the time her nest was empty and she had some to play with, every spare nickel she put into stones. She played the markets like some junkie; she’d buy a half pound of gem grade something and stick it in a drawer. She’d buy cabochons and things you never heard of, from countries you’d never see.
    She’d spend her rent money and social security on rubies and opals and peridot and amber; she loved Tanzanite, Alexandrite and jade and citrine. When JFK gave Jackie a pink Kunzite ring for her birthday, the world laughed that such a rich man didn’t give her a diamond, but Bobbie knew better. Women don’t love a jewel as much when everyone has one. Women love jewelry that sparkles with new.
    She never wore it much; but as time went on and fashion too, she bought squash blossom necklaces and turquoise and silver, coral and topaz and anything rare.
    Somebody told her a change was coming; it was one of the reasons we fought the war. Somewhere in Asia, the ‘d invented the thing that could grow jewels in a lab, rubies from a crystal and emeralds form a nub, and sapphires in colors we’d never even seen. She knew that the latest discovery could be picked up cheap and she took that gamble with all of her heart, knowing all the time that all mines play out. And what was once plentiful becomes rare; what is now here, is sometimes gone. So little by little she began designating her heirlooms. When she heard my daughter loved pearls, for example Bobbie sent her twelve strands for her 14th birthday, a note that said, “Fashion changes, beauty lasts.”
    When she was ninety, she had a stroke and was sent to the home, and we, being her nearest relations, had to go to her house and get her what she needed.
    “Goddamn!” my brother said.” There is jewelry everywhere! Hell, we should just gather all this up and get over there and decorate her like a goddamn Christmas tree!”
    My younger sister disagreed.”There is nothing but blood on these things. This rape of the planet. Does she know the slavery of those who work in the mines? Does she even care?”
    I heard she even confronted Bobbie about it once, when she came to bring her flowers at the Shady Rest. She said Bobbie just got dreamy-eyed and stared out the window and told her: “Imagine the joy of risking your whole life, just to harvest beauty. All mines play out, all beauty is transitory. How lovely to be able to enjoy something precious in between.”
    After that, when she came home, those of us near to her, began to receive her gifts with greater regularity. Turquoise and amber, rubies and amethysts the size of a baby’s fist. Jade and citrine and sapphire; Zircon and Kunzite and Morganite and gold.
    They were heirlooms in the making, secrets yet to be revealed. Something only women know, perhaps, a secret passed down through a hundred generations.
    Time rolls on, and youth is gone
    And you can’t straighten up when you bend.
    But Diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. And there is beauty that lasts forever, even when we are gone.

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    1. Welcome back, Teresa! Love it.

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    2. Agreed. This is like a hurricane.

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  16. Late entry, so easy to lose track of the days in the frenzy of finally being published. (YAY!) And packing, moving, in between ER visits with my son. (So not YAY!) But just this...

    A truth...

    She'd inhaled the crisp night air as she stepped from the A frame log retreat, her breath a small puff that quickly disbursed. From behind her came the quiet gurgle of the stream they'd played in earlier. Her white shorts had stained so badly green from falling on her arse repeatedly she'd never get them clean again. But no matter, it had been well worth it. She'd squinted into the dark, the silhouette of Massanutten rising from the earth, powerful and majestic. They'd hiked that just this morning and was another memory she'd carry. That of a canteen of bracingly cold water, of eating tuna fish sandwiches with a slice of cheese on them. She loved cheese but this was a first for being paired with tuna. The occasional craving remains.

    A sound in the distance. A baleful howl of an animal but she felt safe, her friends asleep behind an easily accessible door should she simply turn around and take a step back. But she didn't want safe, not tonight. Another breath, a moment to be vaguely curious as to the source. Settled, solemn and at that precise second, at peace, not an easy frame of mind for her, especially at the turbulent age of sixteen , but then she lifted her eyes skyward.

    Awestruck. For that moment in time, she took it all in. The Milky Way splayed across the sky, the night air wrapping around her, not knowing her place in the cosmos but open to learning. Her heart sped up, breathing increased. An nemophilist suddenly realizing the occhiolist beauty of the Universe. A hundred million and more twinkling lights in the dazzling panoramic sky and why was she here? Only the passage of time would tell. But she's typing this now and remembering. And maybe that's a small part of the puzzle. ~Tamara McLanahan

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    1. Wow, this is an awesome piece. Such visual impact.

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  17. I recorded the poem The Sphinx for a friend, eighteen minutes that I thoroughly enjoyed. And I'll admit to not knowing the pantheon of Egyptian mythos as well as Greek, Roman, Norse or Celtic mythology but I had fun with writing this...

    What oracles will say thy name
    In hushed whispers at twilight's beck?
    Most fertile god of plains and field
    With horns of black and marks of white.
    Were you true sired by that bull that
    Beamed from Heaven as he rose?
    Where Nile met sand and dust and light.

    And what divine and rutting grace
    Upon thy face as claim you'll stake
    With claws that rake and breath that burns.
    No one dare spurns your heated gaze.
    With eyes ablaze and loins on fire.
    Will Apis sire his next incarnation,
    A worthy appellation in a stellar pantheon?

    And ancient Memphis would beget your name
    As Serapis, now both the same, a worthy successor.
    To your wild aggressor for noble Osiris.
    In Ptolemaic chambers deep your earthly remains
    Are still asleep from rituals that bound you hence.
    Alexandria the temples built in marble and gilt,
    A most befitting resting tomb that sealed thy doom.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

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