Friday, July 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.



The wind lifts the wet hair off the back of your neck and, for a moment, it is almost like flying. Eyes wide and heart singing. There is a sensation like you are being lifted off the earth – you are neither frightened nor amazed. You are bored. Bored with flying? Already?

Who could have seen that coming?

There is birdsong in the eaves, but you don’t listen. You hear only the freeway traffic as it passes your house. Gasses it, leaving only carcinogens and confusion. Why don’t you listen to the birds, little mouse?

You used to.

Me, I’m juvenile. I’ll listen to birds sing and pretend to fly all day. I don’t think that makes me simple. I don’t think it makes me complicated either. I try not to think about it. Makes the mockingbird mad when I get too lost in my head.

At least that’s what I think he said.

All of this is just a roundabout way of saying:

I counted on you, and you let me down. I’m not saying it’s your fault. It’s both of our faults and neither of our faults. It’s the way the cookie explodes. I get that. But I don’t want to sit and eat pasta and pretend.

It’s time for that to end. 

There’s nothing wrong with listening to traffic and thinking that cool lift of wind is a given. But I like my way better. I’m sticking with it. Even if it leaves me deaf or splattered on the ground.

So, if you’ll excuse me, the mockingbird and I are going to have a conversation. Then, I’m going to hike up to the top of that hill. The one the red-tails love. And I’m going to stand in the wind. 

And pretend.

#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...

54 comments:

  1. Ah, I know that hill. Thank you for letting us tail along on a well-told journey... the sounds and the visuals in this are exquisite.

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    1. What Leland said.

      I always love the rhythm of your words. And I agree absolutely that listening and flying is the better way. :)

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    2. I love the undercurrent of melancholy vying with defiance throughout. It's musical in its sounds, and it also has a strange tension. I love it, of course.

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  2. There are secrets the dead can’t tell you, and one of them is this: You know, on the day it happens, that you’re going to die. It’s not something you know in words, it’s something you feel deep in your bones, as they begin the work of cleaving from your soul.

    Your head floats an extra centimeter above the rest of your body. Not your head exactly, but that part of your brain that has housed your consciousness for however long you’ve been alive.

    Your eyes start seeing colors you don’t have names for. That violet that is even beyond ultraviolet, reds so infra they’re almost black.

    Your ears are filled with music, played on instruments you do not know, sung by voices so pure they must be transparent. Notes so high, so low, that the universe quivers.

    The smell of sulfur overwhelms all other smells. Not because you’re going to hell, but because you are preparing for the fire of purification, a fire you can’t yet see, but you know it’s there.

    Your words slow down. Whether writing or speaking, you can almost see the syllables stretching out like honey left too long in the refrigerator. In the silence between them, in the commas and the semicolons, you see aeons of meaning that you never noticed before.

    Your hands feel like they always felt, until you look down and them and see that they are no longer covered in flesh, that they are spirit hands, gray on the outside, translucent, and filled with the unnamed colors.

    When at last you feel your heart stop, you expect silence and darkness, but you are surprised.

    There are secrets the dead can’t tell you, and another of them is that you never really say goodbye.

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    1. <3

      You have no idea how much I needed to read this right now. So beautiful. Thank you, Leland.

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    2. Thank you for your kind words...

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    3. I agree. This is an awesome, unique piece. Magical RealLeland at it's finest. Beautiful.

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    4. Thanks. That means more than you know.

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    5. Agree with everyone else. Second person was a perfect choice for this strange, magical piece. Sublime (I'm only using that word because others have already used beautiful and gorgeous)!

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  3. Part 1
    ______

    They came to our virgin thresholds and asked for our longest songs.

    Some grim radar. An impertinent sonar.

    Cephalopods.

    Those songs we sang for them, relayed them for days, weeks, even months, the dwindling howl of a coda falling silent on upturned cedar. Dank, weary branches like bony old limbs. Notes like heavy snowflakes, the banshee shriek of the wind up in the narrow draw, silencing the very owls to grey.

    Agonal gasps. A moist clutch of arms. First we gave them our extravagant minimum.

    What were they? Aliens? Well, yes, but that says so very little. With which face should we meet the encroaching distance, which forgotten facet?

    Rapid City. Deadwood. Devils Tower. The Black Hills quivering, purple, epochal, sacred with need. Unearthly as plasma spit from a star.

    Dream westward. Spearfish. Sheridan. Missoula. Coeur d'Alene. Spokane. Fremont. Deception Pass. Ninety ways to Boundary Bay.

    You came home tonight, via the food bank, buzzed our door and I let you in. A train strums the night air in power chords. A hog revs on State Street like Satan's ruined trachea. The neon signs burn without mercy. You brought Campbell's soup and noodles and mushrooms and celery. Couple fresh spices. From this, we will conjure a feast in defiance, and while one of us plays culinary virtuoso, the other will walk a block to the Grocery Outlet and buy two bottles of wine, a malbec and a shiraz, for relative pennies, and we will eat and drink like covetous gods, then turn our salivary hankering to each other's indigent need. Our thirsty skin.

    Okanagan. Plastic corona Penticton forecourt. Intersection highway desert fall fruit stands. Summerland. Peachland. Don't sneer; they're real. Burned on your shifty retinas. Harshness muted by conifers. Heat like a wall when you exit your car. Late-evening thunder in the hills like rumoured war. The shout of stars. The damp smell of dust in the dawn. The utter absence of any breeze. A patch of grass between your motel and the strip of sand by the lake. A toddler playing ball. Your child. You throw him the ball and his arms jut, fingers spread, and he laughs into the sky. You throw her the ball and her arms jut, fingers spread, and she laughs into the sky.

    Even the living have ghosts. Sequential traces. Semblances.

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  4. Part 2
    _____

    Fairhaven. There are ghosts in the rust on the corrugated sidings of what I silently call the cannery, after Steinbeck. Rust-coloured ghosts of dust-covered trails and railroad tracks. Quick, when does the Amtrak come through? Let's watch it from the bridge, see it stir up the afternoon wraiths, send more dust and creosote to coat the dark berries where lovers saunter and graze. Let's take the boardwalk over sculptures and starfish. Swallow blackberries of sorrow over grapes of wrath. Someone draped a shawl over the evening, dimmed the reflected lights, the piers of industry reaching forlorn into the bay. Inviolate night haunted by the blush of its own unlovely face.

    You have pledged all your nonsense and I will honour it. Speak to it.

    "I was left behind," I begin.

    "Yes, indeed. It wasn't anyone's intention, but you were hurt, it's true."

    "Not just hurt, but hurt."

    "Butthurt. I can't deny it." You smile.

    "Funny. When you walked into my store, I thought it was a beginning. You were dressed in muted greens and reds, and they seemed so right."

    You look waylaid. Your words are a whisper. "I'm sorry. I never intended anything else."

    "Anything else?"

    "Anything other than what it was."

    "Which is?"

    "Now? A pure clusterfuck." You show me your sweating palms, a saint with stigmata.

    "What the hell did you want then?"

    "All the love. All the good things."

    "Did you capture anything at all?"

    "Photographs. Hundreds of them."

    "Tell me your favourite?"

    "The beach ball in the grass with the blurry palm tree background and the heartbroken sky."

    "You know about that? I should let you go now."

    "Why? What? Seriously?"

    "You know. You fucking know."

    "…"

    A concussion ricochets across the distant ridge, clay pigeons, the shattered rock itself a percussion section. We can make of chaos sheer rhythm if we're so inclined. Strata. Stratum. Sessions. Casual permissions. And you will listen. And dance. Even in a last apocalypse. Even within the fission hiss and searing echo of all our abandoned superannuated missions. Even then.

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    1. Damn, man. I'd need to write an essay to tell you all I love about this piece. Your language and imagery are so good. What stuck out in this one? For me? Rhythm. Man, it's subtle, but it's so fucking strong. R&B

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    2. Thanks, you two, for reading. Yeah, lately I think I've been (subconsciously until now) merging my two great loves: music and words. It really means a lot when someone hears the melodies and the rhythms. R&B, for real!

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  5. He remembered the moment he began to understand grammar, and how he knew it held the secrets to life. The people around him stopped being just people, and became nouns, stationary and useless until other people, verbs, acted on them or through them. He realized that some people were adjectives, and their purpose was not to be, but to add color and flavor and texture to other people. And the adverbial people, well, they were mostly unnecessary as long as the verb people knew what they were doing. He was filled with joy, and saw the world in a whole new way.

    And then he learned punctuation, and realized that all the other people were not words; they were punctuation. All the words belonged to him, were him, made him, but the punctuation controlled him. They would make him look somber or silly or true. Ellipses and commas and interrobangs and so many dashes.

    He fought back with fonts. Emphasizing his own words. Bold. Italicized. Underlined.
    And then someone selected all, hit a key, and answered “yes” to the question of all questions, “Are you sure you want to delete? This action cannot be undone.”

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    1. Damn Leland! What did you have for breakfast? What an awesome conceptual piece. And the concept in no way outshines the meaning or the writing. Brilliant.

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    2. I love this conceit! Executed perfectly too. No wasted characters (ha, see what I did there?).

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  6. No one ever helps her. They all say they will, but they never do. It all ends up on her shoulders. She's busy too, ya know! She has a job and kids and a husband who can't even put his clothes in the hamper, let alone help with the kids'stuff. Everyone has criticism, but they never have time. She grumbles through her tasks. Anyone looking on would immediately feel the waves of irritation that wash off of her, wetting anyone within reach. One mother notices. She steels herself to ask the woman if she needs help. Surprisingly, her offer is met with a smile and the mother is given a simple task to do. She feels good about offering to help. Others have said the woman is hard to work with and demanding, but the mother thinks she is just misunderstood. The mother completes the task and heads back to the woman to turn it in. The woman stares at the objects in her hands. Derision pours from her mouth "Those are wrong. I'm going to have to do them over. This is why I should just do things myself."

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    1. Oh. This one cuts to the bone. I really like it. A very powerful snapshot/character study. Well done.

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    2. Powerful indeed, and I fear it is all too often rooted in truth. thanks for sharing.

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    3. Agree with Dan and Leland. I can almost feel the clenched teeth in places.

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  7. Daddy always told me the rain falls on the just and the unjust. He said it’s in the Bible. He told me that so I’d know it was true.

    The day started off with a red sunrise. He told me that meant it was going to rain, sailors and shepherds knew that red sky in morning meant a warning. I didn’t care. It was going to be my day.

    Strange thing to walk in the middle of nowhere, without a hammer or any other thing in my hands. Just me and the sunshine, just me and the air.

    The clouds started off fluffy white, then grew to gray. Then came thunder that shook the ground.

    God’s bowling in heaven again, my mama used to say, when it thundered like this. I figured God had a strike with the last clap of thunder.

    The rain came down in buckets, and I just stood there, cold drops hitting my face, soaking my shirt, running down my back.

    I laughed for the first time since I lost my job, lost my house, lost my wife. Lightning struck a tree not twenty feet away. I went to stand under its flaming branches. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place, my grandma used to say.

    When the second bolt hit, I felt power and glory and dead.

    Daddy never told me the unjust are rich enough to buy umbrellas and Grandma never told me about lightning rods. And me, I just floated away.

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    1. Woah. You are KILLING today. The voice is so strong here. The flow is so powerful. I'd say more but I want to read the next one!

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  8. For the third time since you came into this coffee shop, you pull out your wallet and stare at a picture taken eighteen years ago today. The colors are faded, but in your mind you still see the blazing pink dress she wore, her blonde hair done up like a grownup; her third birthday party.

    You blew bubbles as your wife held the camera, a trick you'd learned from a children's photographer. Keeps them looking up, and the look full of wonder. You remember one of the bubbles went up, and then descended toward her hand. You heard the shutter click just before the bubble popped and she cried because something beautiful just disappeared.

    You recall coming home from work the next day to an empty apartment and the decade you tried to figure out why your wife left and took the baby with her.

    You remember all of this in a microsecond, and you still have time to notice the young woman at the next table glancing at you. She's probably too young to remember pictures in wallets, before smartphones. Something about her gaze stops you from looking away. Something familiar.

    You forget that your coffee is cold, and you stretch out to return your wallet to your back pocket, and you accidentally hit the table hard enough that the paper cup tilts over and spills, the cold liquid flowing in slow motion toward the girl. Her serene gaze transforms in extended time to an uppercase O as the liquid splashes on her pink pants.

    You offer regrets and paper napkins and the slow motion movie is over as she repeatedly says "it's okay."

    When the paper napkins are gone, you reach for your wallet one more time, and you hold the picture up for her to see, and you whisper, "Is this you?"

    She doesn't answer except by shaking her head no, and then turning to leave.

    She'd be twenty-one today, and you know you'll never stop looking, and you wonder if the one who just left was lying or telling the truth.

    You don't sing it out loud but for the rest of the day you hum Happy Birthday, and that night you cry again. You cry still.

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    1. Oof. I was waiting for the one that would break my heart. This did it. Amazing, spooky, surreal writing, brother.

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    2. What Mader said.

      You're on a roll today, for sure, Leland. But then, you usually are. :)

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    3. Ouch, yes. This one hurts. In that good way.

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  9. I closed the book, put down the lighted magnifier and realized this might be the last one I’d ever read.

    You think of these things when you’re going blind. And fast. Ischemic optic neuropathy is what the doctors called it. On top of that, I had something called low tension glaucoma, something the regular eye exams would never pick up.

    They were something I’d had for decades as my eyesight deteriorated and the doctors just gave me stronger eyeglass prescriptions and the lame, “You’re getting older” jive.

    “Another headache, Dave?” my wife Jen would ask.

    “Yeah. Work's just been a bitch and my sleeping has sucked.”

    “When are you going to see a doctor about it?” Jen would always say.

    “It’s okay, Jen. Just migraine or something. I’ll take an ibuprofen and it’ll be fine,” I’d reply. But then the ibu didn’t seem to hit it anymore and my peripheral vision seemed to be shrinking.

    After I nearly rolled off the shoulder of the country road out near Oneonta, almost taking out a jogger, I decided I’d better see the doctor. But it was too late. The damage was done, my optic nerves were dying and the world was going dark faster than the onset of a January night. Only no dawn was riding to my visual rescue.

    To her credit, even though I deserved it, Jen never pulled the “I told you so” card on me. She was calmer than I thought she would be, though in no way unsympathetic.

    She found me sitting in the dark, moping, feeling sorry for myself. I’d become your typical panicked patient, pondering how I’d survive in the perpetual night coming in just a few months.

    “Hey, why so dark in here?” Jen said and flipped on the lights.

    “I’m trying the future on for size. Now turn out the lights, Jen, and let me think, okay?”

    “I wasn’t talking about the lights, Dave,” she said.

    “Wouldn’t you be upset if you were me, Jen? Tell me you wouldn’t.” I said.

    "I would be and I am, Dave. But sitting here silently raging in the dark isn’t going to change that. Now let’s start making some plans so we know what we’re going to do when…you know.”

    “Are you kidding?” I said, jumping up from my chair and moving toward her voice. I tripped over the ottoman and fell to the floor, banging my head and seeing flashes of light like I hadn’t seen in months.

    “Dave, are you okay?” Jen said, hitting the light switch again and rushing to my side.

    “See? See what an invalid I’m becoming? I’ll be nothing but a fucking burden on you and useless to myself and everyone else.”

    She stood up and looked down at me. I could feel her eyes boring a hole through mine. I recognized that energy from all the other times I’d been a self-absorbed asshole with her.

    I scrambled off the floor to the window, embarrassed for my whining outburst. I opened the curtains and looked into a darkness that might well be my view for the rest of my life.

    “I can’t even see the stars anymore, Jen. Our stars, the one’s we’d stare at from the bed of my pickup when we were 17.”

    “We can get through this, Dave. We’ve been through worse. What about my mastectomy? Fucking cancer and you never wavered in your devotion and care. You’d hold me every night, loving ME, not just some bra mannequin, as much in love as in the back of that pickup.”

    “I don’t know how I can take never seeing you again, Jen,” I said with a catch in my throat.

    “I’m right here,’ she said, putting my hand to her face. “I’ve got your stars right here,’ Jen said, touching my fingers to her closed eyelids. “And I’ll keep them for you, let you hold them, bring you every bug or vista you’d ever want to see. That’s what we do, Dave. If you can’t see that, then you’re blind already,” she said.

    Slowly, everything became so clear, even with our eyes closed. So clear a blind man could see it. She’s beautiful, isn’t she?

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    1. What a great love story. The idea of going blind terrifies me. And I'm going deaf. But I have a beautiful support team. Thanks, Joe.

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    2. People bringing the feels this week. This is like the third time reading these that my own eyes filled up!

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    3. Dan, I've lost a lot of my hearing due to nerve damage and some other issues. Loud music didn't help, and I never stood and played all night in front of a stack of Marshalls. That low tension glaucoma is something they just discovered simmering in my eyes. Caught it in time, but what's been lost is gone forever. I always had the "dumb" part down. Never expected the "blind" and "deaf" to catch up to me. That's why I've taken Warren Zevon's advice to "enjoy every sandwich" a little more than I used to.
      And David, thank you for your encouraging comments. You always inspire this old scribbler.

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  10. Svetlana searches for a way out of her predicament. Her opponent has boxed her up good. How he’d managed to hold the center of the board and push her powerful pieces to the outside is a mystery. Is she slipping? Staring so long at the squares she can no longer grasp the big picture, the end game? Grime blurs the seams between black and white squares, between good and evil, between past and future.

    “You’re a tricky one, Anatoly,” she murmurs, imagining a corner of his mustache lifting while she keeps her laser focus on the game and considers what to do next. Move this one and he takes the pawn… She can live with that. Move that one and he takes the bishop and she’ll take his knight… It will be a good trade; it will give her more freedom. But then… The headache is starting again, the burning pain behind her eyes, the tension up the back of her neck.

    Too much chess, she figures. It is often the way. Since she was small her father had been teaching her; he claimed it helped young and wayward minds learn focus and problem solving. She credits him for that. She knows how to focus. Perhaps too well, at times. Well enough that she can concentrate on a game for hours and not notice the time until her stomach is aching for food, until the muscles in her shoulders ache from stillness. Problem solving? That hasn’t always worked out so well. But at least she knows she has the power to work through all of her available options.

    She squeezes her eyes shut to block out the old voices, the old memories, as Papa has taught her, and in that space of moments, a fly has landed on king bishop five. It’s the first thing she sees when she again opens herself to the world. Bottle green and wings vibrating, it turns a complete circle as if evaluating her position and his. Easy to do with his complex eyes. “Tell me, friend,” she whispers to the uninvited guest. “What would you do?”

    Anatoly doesn’t answer. After all these years he knows Svetlana, how she reasons things out to herself, usually out aloud, sometimes for minutes or even longer.

    Finally, with a small gasp of triumph, she slides her bishop across the board and takes his rook. How could he have been so careless to leave it undefended? And worse, she thinks, how could she have been staring at the eight-by-eight grid and not have seen something so blatant?

    Perhaps they are both slipping. “Ha,” she says, clapping her hands together. “Now how are you going to answer that?”

    “Well, I don’t know,” says the voice. Startled by the intrusion, Svetlana looks up. The woman is back again, the new one, her mouth an angry slash as she sticks a long, crooked finger through the bars. “But I know how I’m gonna answer. I’m gonna ask you to shut the hell up, ’cause you’re keeping everybody awake.”

    Svetlana lets out a long breath. The game will keep. She remembers where they’d left all the pieces. And Anatoly will always know how to find her.

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    1. Dang it all. I hate when I have typos.

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    2. I would gladly have typos if I could write this beautifully, and tell a story this powerfully... you gave me goosebumps and made me tear up... well done, well done.

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    3. I didn't see any typos. I was reading. "It is often the way." Your attention to detail is amazing. So authentic

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    4. Yes, what those guys said. So balanced and poised.

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  11. The tides rolled in as we walked along the beach, hand in hand, talking about life. As I looked upon her sunbathed face, I could tell she was holding something back. She had a look of terror in her eyes I've only seen once before. The night she found out her parents were murdered by thugs who worked for a former client of her fathers.

    I kept looking at her as I asked, "They've found us haven't they?"

    She looked at me and nodded slightly as she lowered her head down. I knew we had been on the run for almost six years now from these men who took her parents. And now they were after her and her child. I was her assigned agent to protect her but we had fallen in love with each other a few years back and we had a child of our own together. My job was to protect her from these thugs but they had somehow found out where we were hiding out at.....

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    1. A lot of mystery here, and a lot of story. I'd read more!

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    2. Good job maintaining the tension.

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    3. Thank you both for the encouragement. I wrote this off the top of my head on my break at work. I think I can turn this into more.

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  12. She bypasses the plush warm towel in favor of drying off with her crumpled nightshirt on the floor; old habits die hard. Seventy two hours and the kids will be back, home from a week away that feels like an eternity.

    She favors the plastic silverware and paper plates to the fine wedding china in the cupboard, years of taking what she needed and throwing out the waste in a hurry.

    Fifteen years have passed since the man in the red pickup swept her away from under her parents' thumb, proclaiming a new life and a bright future. Two kids later and now she's packing up the hatchback and soon will be heading to the coast. Old habits are hard to shake and she'll be back on the road, putting memories and miles behind her.

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    1. A cameo in the story of a woman who has lived... you told us so much about her in so very few words... in my own imagination, I see a rodeo cowboy... but we'll each see differently... this does what really good short fiction should do... it makes the reader an accomplice in telling the story. Thank you.

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    2. I agree. So much story packed in here. I love it compact, I'd love to see it unfold.

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  13. They say death is the greatest equalizer. It makes the mightiest of men no greater than the smallest of worms. In death, we all become one with the earth, a cycle that persists and will persist for many, many years to come.

    Some say they do not fear it. Some fear it more than they should. Others don't regard it at all in their daily routines.

    I ask, if it's the greatest equalizer among men, does that make me less, or more?

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  14. The dirt is soft beneath my boots, the crunching of the occasional gravel cluster sharp in the still air. The sun is setting behind me, my footsteps leaving a trail in the mud.

    The bodies of friends and enemies alike decorate the ground like a macabre garden, blood on walls of ruined houses like putrid Pollocks.

    Again, I ask, only louder in my mind, if death is the greatest equalizer, does that make me less, or more?

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    1. Putrid Pollocks is evocative and strong. The simple language works really well, too. I like this piece and the companion piece above. Good stuff, X.

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