Friday, July 14, 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.

I think about it sometimes – more than I’d like to admit I guess. It sits inside my brain like a sarcastic cartoon mouse. Sometimes I throw it a piece of cheese – distract it for a while. Sometimes it just sits there all smug and chuckling and I think, “what the hell, man, you can’t do everything right!”

The mouse doesn’t care.

And I guess I should be glad that there aren’t any horrible regrets flying around in there. Wreaking havoc. It’s the things I didn’t do that keep me up at night. Why was I so afraid to talk to that one girl? Why didn’t I stand up for myself more?

That’s what nighttime regrets are for.

And sometimes I can’t shake them when I wake. They follow me around. A snail slime trail of nagging memory. But all the could have’s and would have’s and might have’s don’t change a thing. 

Not really. 

It’s like the telephone is ringing, but you don’t want to answer it because you don’t want to talk about it. I have enough useless conversations. I don’t need to be debating my younger self about why I didn’t jump off the cliff when everyone else was having so much fun. Why I didn’t think more about the things I was going to do and the things I’d done.

I’ll give the mouse some more cheese before it turns into a dragon and devours me.

#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...


  1. You look into the mirror and your face goes blank, white. You feel pressure in the inside of your skull and you try to turn the faucet on – splash some cold water on your face – only you can’t seem to remember how the faucet works.

    Suddenly, the world is very black. Not literally. You walk down the hall. “Look at my eyes. Do they look normal? My mouth?” You try to think back on what a stroke looks like and what they told you in college, but you can’t remember.

    Your wife is looking at you with those scared, mad eyes. The kind that say, if you die on a Tuesday night because you’re too stubborn to go to the doctor, I’ll murder you.

    You lay down. Accept the cold washcloth for your forehead. Close your eyes. Through your eyelids, everything turns red.

    1. Whoa. This: "...if you die on a Tuesday night because you’re too stubborn to go to the doctor, I’ll murder you." And I love the first one, too.

    2. Chills here, too. And you tapped into one of my biggest fears... losing my brain and mind.

  2. They don’t care about you because they have no idea what it is like to be you. You think your elected officials know what it’s like to eat Top Ramen for a week because otherwise you won’t have the rent money? You think they care about health care? Or what’s fair?

    You haven’t been paying attention.

    And this isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s not about the NRA or the
    Planned Parenthood or coal miners. It’s about a lot of people who are supposed to be working towards the common good.

    But, if that’s true, how come being common feels so scary.

    How can I relate to a billionaire who plays golf every weekend while I work? More importantly, how can he relate to me? How can we navigate inequity?

    I wonder sometimes what the alternative is. Anarchy sounds scary as hell – despite any naïve punk rock aspirations you may have. But what else is there?
    Humans were meant to live in small tribes. We were not designed to live in countries crammed full of people, represented by the elite. That sounds like the premise for a bad reality TV show.

    I believe a politician they way I trust a mechanic. You fix it? I trust you. You try to tell me nothing’s broken when my car won’t start? I’m gonna question everything, starting with your brain and ending with your heart.

    1. Don't be tempted by that false equivalency, brother. Your Democrats, as weak as they can appear sometimes, are trying, at least, and aren't even close to the sheer vicious malignancy of the Republicans. Those particular mechanics tell you to trade in your shitty car and they'll "compensate" you with arrest warrants. Been around a good while, and it's a long time since I saw anything as ugly as them.

    2. We are writers... we are artists. We may not influence the politicians directly, but a few people listen, and maybe the ideas grow from there. I'm scared, but I'm not giving up.

  3. She was born in a hurricane, with hair the color of fire, and that ought to have been a warning to all who entered her life. She learned to talk fast and never shut up for the eight decades after. She outlived three husbands and two sons.

    And she was damned if she was going to outlive hope.

    When she heard about it on the news, she looked at a calendar and began her plan. She bought a small plot of land in the middle of nowhere. She bought a pistol. She got a travel trailer and filled it with the essentials: coffee, books, and food for the journey to her new homestead.

    The highway from Texas to Nebraska was smooth sailing, but when she got to the gravel roads that were supposed to take her to her ranchette, she nearly got lost.

    She thought she heard Siri throw her hands up in despair when she asked the virtual assistant for directions. But she found it.

    She had a day to set up camp. She got her folding chair out, made a fire ring, and tried to decide what she ought to be reading when the time came.

    She decided the Bible would make her seem more religious than she was. Shakespeare wore her down. And then she saw the slim volume. Little Prince. Of course.

    She checked her watch. Made a pot of coffee and put it in her thermos. Carried it all outside, sat down, and looked at the sky. Not a cloud to be seen.

    The pistol was heavy in the waist of her jeans but reassuring in its way. In its cold metallic way.

    The meadowlark stopped singing when the shadow fell. The crickets started chirping. She put the book down, and held the gun.

    She knew enough of acting to know that audiences remembered entrances and exits more than the words in between. She was born in a hurricane, and she'd die during an eclipse.

    "'One only understands the things that one tames,' said the fox."

    1. Wow. Powerful. I want to know more about this woman.

    2. I love everything about this piece. The structure and flow. The Little Prince. The bits left unsaid that say so much.

    3. Yeah, agreed; flesh her out even if she has to die eventually. Seriously.

    4. I think I'll be keeping this character around... not sure if she's going to have a book to herself or be a supporting character, but I SEE her in my head, and feel her... thanks for the kind words.

  4. I keep expecting to wake up. I keep expecting to wake up and find him here, in the bed next to me. I keep expecting to wake up and not have to leave the house to visit him. In the ground. Under a headstone. Surrounded by other people's memories, like he's my memories. All of my good ones, at least.

    Gahdam, I miss him. Didn't much care for him being always under me when he was alive (such a gahdam clinger, that man) but now that he's gone, what the hell am I supposed to do? Who's gonna get on my nerves now? Who am I supposed to cook breakfast for? Who am I going to fuss at when I can't get the brown out of his tighty-whities? Who says all guys have shit streaks? I sure as shit don't.

    And who's gonna stare when it's just me, myself, and I at Winn Dixie, or the bookstore, or gahdamn Lake Martin? Because, down here, they always stare - a buncha dicks staring at a pair of dicks that just happen to like dick.

    Not happen. Happened. Past tense. Because you fuckin left me, and now no one stares anymore. Gahdam you, Charlie. Gahdam you. Why'd you wanna go and leave me? What the hell I ever do to you?

    1. This is one of the great fears. Loss. And it's well portrayed. I really like the voice. This line: "Who's gonna get on my nerves now?" - perfect. And I don't have shit marks in my underwear either.

    2. Yeah, I love this elegiac tone. Never strays from the vernacular, yet.

    3. I like this a lot... and you nailed all the little things that add up to the big... really well told.

  5. It is a ritual he has performed for 30 years. He says their names, by memory, one after another. 127 names. Sometimes he says them in a different order. To test his memory. To keep it from becoming only rote exercise.

    Some nights he says them out loud. Sometimes only in his head. If someone heard him saying them, they would notice a few things. More of them were formal than nicknames. Edward, not Ted. Robert, not Bobby. Almost all of them were male names. The female names were, well, unusual. Bubbles. Brown Sugar. The listener might think they are stripper’s names, but they are not. They are the self-chosen sobriquets of drag queens.

    As he says each name, he conjures a picture of the face it belongs with. The faces are beautiful in a 1980s way. The closely cropped hair. The moustaches. Many had an earring or two.

    Some nights, especially the nights he’d been drinking, he hears the music they danced to. Donna Summers. George Michael. Barbra Streisand. Devo. Some nights, he sees the lights of the dance floors in a dozen different cities, crowded with shirtless men.

    He slept with some of them. He can close his eyes and remember their kisses.

    He held the hands of some of them as they gasped for air, when the pneumonia came. He helped cover the lesions of KS with makeup for a few. And he wept for each of them. Still weeps for them.

    127 names. 127 men. 127 stars that shined in neon colors before the eclipse.

    He doesn’t understand why he survived. Some spoke of God making the decisions, but it wasn’t that. Bubbles told him that God loved drag queens and fags, and Bubbles wouldn’t lie.

    He shakes his head. It doesn’t matter why. It matters that they are not forgotten. And he wonders, he worries, who will recite their names, who will remember them, when he dies.

    He turns out the light. And sometimes, sometimes they come to him in dreams.

    1. This is beautiful. And Bubbles wouldn't lie. There is so much heart in here. Played so delicately. Who will remember? I guess that's part of why we do this writing thing. <3

    2. This slayed me. Remember the eighties? Pete Burns? Boy George? Sylvester? Remember how Reagan ignored AIDS? Remember those friends who died? You made me cry, Leland, for real. :'(

    3. Thanks for reading it... and thanks for being the kind of folks who are moved by this... the 80s were so long ago, and yet, only yesterday.

  6. You stand on the terrace, elbows against the flaking metal rail, wishing you had a cigarette. You don’t even smoke, but there’s something about escaping the crush and murmur of the phoniness inside that thinks it would be romantic, Kerouac-esque, to blow smoke rings into the cold night as a symbol of your sudden three-by-eight-foot freedom, as a prelude to jumping in your car and bombing off into the horizon. But you’re the designated driver for your three friends quickly getting wasted on cheap wine and whatever they’re passing around, with giggles and their heads close together, so you can only be Kerouac in your mind.

    What would his literary hero say to this? The fact that, instead of following your dream and that red-haired green-eyed girl to Canada, you stayed behind to finish that holiest of holy grails, your education, the one your father laid out before you as the answer to all of his own unfinished business. He made wearing a cap and gown and flipping a tassel sound like a golden ticket to eternal wealth, respect, and dignity. “Yessir,” he’d say, thumping a fist against his blue, oil-stained work shirt. “You get those letters after your name, you get that degree, and you get to stay clean. You get to be one of those guys who takes a shower before he goes to work, instead of an old slob like me who takes one when he gets home.”

    The truth is, you’d rather be getting your hands dirty. You’d rather see the immediate results of your labor than push some paper around a desk and know only the satisfaction of a regular paycheck. Not that you’re down on money, hell, you like to eat and have a roof over your head like the next guy, but life has to be about more than earning that piece of paper, putting on a white shirt and joining the throng headed downtown each morning, slipping into the silence of the commuting choreography. The coffee, the newspaper, the shine on your shoes, the smile growing duller by the minute until one day they find you hanging by your own tie in the supply closet.

    “What I do’s not good enough for you, boy? Why you think I work so hard? So you can have what I didn’t.”

    The voice. It’s louder in your head when nothing else is going on to drown it out. As if on cue, a girl inside giggles, punctuating the silence. You eyeball the distance between the railing and the dark patch of backyard one flight down. Kerouac would do it. He’d write a goddamn book about it, the night he leapt to freedom, the night he left them all behind.

    You pull in a breath of the sharp, clean air, sensing on it the promise of change, sensing the window to your wild, electric thoughts rapidly closing. Sweat beads on the back of your neck. You sneak inside just long enough to leave a few bills with the host to make sure your friends get a cab home, just long enough to avoid the questions in his eyes. And then you jump.

    1. Woah. I LOVE this piece. And not just because I have tried to be Kerouac in my head. So strong, and the Kerouac thread running through this works so well. He would have approved. Or hated it. He would have gotten drunk, that's a guarantee. ;)

      I love it.

    2. The father anchors this. I damn near lost it at this: "You get to be one of those guys who takes a shower before he goes to work, instead of an old slob like me who takes one when he gets home." That was my Grandad, who worked the trains. I grew up in coal mining country, too, and I hear this. The loss and the expectancy.

    3. The roots of Kerouac and the blue collar hopes for the future are the perfect framework... and the jump, metaphorical, is so friggin' perfectly responsible, and it contrasts so perfectly with the desire to be chaotic and Kerouac-esque. The tension in this is sooooo well done. And the story. Dammit. I love your stories.

  7. The pungent smell of burning oil and gas was strong around me. The crumpled mess of my car as I came to from the darkness was evident that I had hit somebody. I don't remember what happened. All that I can remember was looking over at my brother as we went thru the intersection to make sure no one was going to blow the redlight. Next thing I can remember is seeing a small white vehicle appear out of nowhere at the last minute before my car smashed into theirs.......

    1. Sorry if this seems short. I'm thinking of writing a fictional tale of the night I lost my son and what me and my family have been through but I couldn't bring myself to write more than this right now because I'm at work.

    2. I can feel the pain in this, even more by what you left unsaid than what you said. I know you didn't ask for advice, but can I offer a tiny bit? Keep going with what you did in the first sentence. Focus on the visceral, the senses, the immediate reactions. Keep the reader in that car with you, make us experience it step by step, smell by smell, color by color. Writing can be healing, but it can hurt like hell when you're telling the story. Take your time.

    3. Thank you Leland! I appreciate it. Every time I think of that night I end up having nightmares. I need to find a way to deal and writing has always been one of my strong suits when it came to talking about how I feel.

    4. Hey brother. I commented before from my phone and it apparently didn't work. I agree with Leland. Also, what I said before? No apologies necessary. You write what you write. Long, short, working stuff out - it's all good. Writing about pain is super hard and super important.

  8. We're a long way past those plastic wood panels. That studded belt. The brackish shallows.

    She was born Ida Grace Showbuckle, a Midwestern girl in a middle America world.

    By the time she arrived in Hollywood, she was Shyna Lite, but that only shepherded her briefly pornward until she settled on Gloria Spensky, which combined a classic first name with an authentic East European family moniker while largely avoiding complications. America fell quietly in love, even before they'd truly parsed the name for prestige or infamy.

    She was fortunate. Spectacular and tawdry. Resplendent with dubious pedigree.

    Before tomorrow, the deviant mollusc will have devoured eleven faces. Be ready. This carnage won't be silent or demure. Segmented limb parts the texture and disavowed colour of forsaken tarpits will skitter from bleak corners, antennas tuned to utter wreckage, trojaned in by the aroma of coffee beans and the poise of a nylon seam, a lukewarm foot cupped by a cool stiletto heel.

    You have no idea what I'm saying, do you?

    Don't worry. I don't either. I no longer know how to ask for help.

    Was something birthed in the vomit of some homunculus, before any of us were here?

    Gloria made progress, found a modicum of genuine affection among the glitterati. If she is filled with secrets, then so are we all.

    Laura was my neighbor. She was older than me, not by all that much. Sometimes she babysat us. Her hair was the color of a raven's throat. My fingers ached to stroke it. Then came our private Armageddon and our priorities changed. Although I never stopped loving the girl next door, whatever her guise. She was my ingress.

    Psychotic girls might be our last shot. Please rearrange words accordingly.

    And please give me an invitite. Smurn me with lashes. Starl. Aglutor. Abrogate all this. If langrage is a skareton, the very bones of our syntax are fragmenting in clouds of sweet white dost, like wedding caek. Our vocalumnary crombles. Restet my gladdamned jawmoan. That bird has flone. Hear me haol till dawn.

    Chronology isn't my strong suit. Nor is lucidity. Especially when my brainpan hosts its silent apocalypse.

    Gloria met an enigmatic young woman named Evelyn who'd come down from Canada alone, for altogether obscure purposes. Gloria and Laura, who met at a club in Inglewood in July 2011, would help her sometimes, both sensing her dangling-over-a-cliff vulnerability. Evelyn had landed on skid row—in a hostel once opulent but wearing its own sad fall from grace in its crumbling facade—either because she felt it was her natural home or believing it her launchpad to Hollywood. She was pretty and sweet, listened to J-metal and read dystopian fiction, but she was already a wraith. A waif like a leaf gyred by November winds through a caterwauling valley someplace north of the forty-ninth. Her appointment with death kept getting postponed, and they took this as a sign she would be okay. They bought her meals now and then, took her to shows. But one day they didn't see her, no one did, and the internet seized on a shiny new mystery and Evelyn became a made-to-order character for websites dedicated to creepiness, not even rounded enough to be tragic.

    Gloria kept going, but Laura went home, could never shake the sorrow of Evelyn's disappearance. They still talked now and then, but things had lost their luster. I loved all three, a walking, pulsing Bechdel test, but Evelyn will always hold a special place for me, allowing me my moment to school them and to fail them, her soft porcelain throat collapsing under my thumbs, her epicanthic stare beseeching me until her light slipped away, already heading back up Interstate 5, searching at last for home.

    Now you've read this nonsense, answer me this: what the fuck is wrong with you?

    1. First, I love the name Ida Grace Showbuckle. Second, you did something that I've never seen you do before. You forced me to listen to the sounds of the words only, void of meaning. It's a rhythm and sound I'm not familiar with, syncopated in an alien way. Alien, but beautiful.

    2. Thanks, Leland. I found this one difficult to write, perhaps because the narrator is not only unreliable but also is a monster hiding in plain sight. Yeah, the part where the language starts to unravel, that was weird. It happened spontaneously too! Alien is a good word. It felt like I was in the head of an alien, a pitiless one. Thanks for reading and commenting. This is a strange one. And yes, that name! Again, just came to me out of nowhere. :)

    3. I'm gonna ditto because Leland was so on it. (I love the word pornward.) And this is such a universal feeling captured simply: "I no longer know how to ask for help." This is a really interesting piece though, yeah. Intriguing, mysterious, a little confrontational.

  9. "Scalpel."



    I'm being put back together, like some grotesque human puzzle without all the pieces. I was an amazing officer, until that fateful day. I was lured in without backup and brutally torn to pieces by shotgun blasts.

    Now, like some unholy marriage of man and machine, I rise, my mind starting up like some bizarre, twisted version of Windows 97. I will be the one to clear the streets of these scumbag criminals. I will be the one to end crime as we know it. And I will be the one trying to end my own eternal suffering.

    I am the ultimate mechanical do-gooder. Primary directive: uphold the law.

    1. That was my first thought, too. I like this piece a lot. I think what I like most is the Windows 97. Such a serious piece, that bit of flippancy really roots it for me. One of those things that seems like it shouldn't work, but totally does.

  10. I'm scrambling around with the radio disruption device in my hands, bending wires, clicking buttons. Any minute now, they'll be here, kicking down my door. I have to finish. I won't let them subject the public to these nonsensical propagandist programs any longer.

    There's a click, and a hum. Bingo, the device is primed. I've just hacked into their entire network.

    "Good work, Weasel-1, now book it before they find you."

    "Too late, Den Mother, they're already here."

    "Roger. Godspeed, and may the world rejoice for your sacrifice."

    We already knew I was going to die here. As I raised my hand, transmitter buzzing, the door was blasted open, and the first god damn thing broadcast to the world was the sound of my gun going off and a body hitting the floor.

    "This is the Resistance. From here on out, you are free. Consider this the end of an era, and the start of a new beginning."

    That was the last thing I could get out before a bullet tore my device to shreds.

    I always knew I'd die like this. Gun in one hand, my ideology in the other. I hope the world can appreciate my death as much as I do.

    1. Worth it for that final paragraph.

    2. Totally agree. "I always knew I'd die like this. Gun in one hand, my ideology in the other." - damn that's good.

  11. My head turns, the sound of a gun shaking me from my daydream.

    'This is the Resistance. From here on out, you are free. Consider this the end of an era, and the start of a new beginning.'

    I thought they were just a myth, something to keep our hopes up. But as I glanced out the window, the sight of Empire soldiers patrolling the streets gave me a sudden urge. An urge I never felt before. This radio signal was no farce. It was the one thing many of us had been waiting for. And the one push many of us needed. I went into my attic and blew the dust off of my father's old hunting rifle, pulling the bolt back and chambering an old, but still reliable round into the gun.

    I cracked the attic window a touch, a warm breeze. Across the way, my co-worker was peeking out of his front door. In his hand was a bottle of alcohol, rag smushed into the neck of the bottle. I raised the rifle, bringing the lead soldier's head into my sight picture.

    I couldn't resist it. This feeling, my heart pounding in my ears. I needed to let it out. I needed to scream. My finger trembled as it pulled the trigger back, my voice finally finding its way out of my throat.


    1. Yeah, I entered this character's head, for sure. Which is what the best writing does.

    2. These three pieces are cool... together AND separately. They took me back to when I would devour pulp sci fi books one after the other... you've got the voice for it, and you've got the feel for it, too. I look forward to more! (by the way, in my vocabulary, pulp sci fi is a HUGE compliment, not a put down)

    3. Thank you very much! I love writing serious tones into my stories, and I love sci fi more than I probably think I do. I'll continue to refine my voice as best as possible!

  12. "Pre-teens can now use their electronic devices during designated times," stated the parent handbook for camp this year.

    Uh...what? My 8 year old doesn't have a phone. I roll my eyes and throw the handbook in the trash.

    All call to the last of humanity: I'm looking for a camp with no a/c, preferably limited running water (ie latrines preferred), in which electricity is minimal and the skies are lit with fireflies and campfires. Where music is off key and often a cappella. Where children can still forget for a time that Netflix and Instagram exist.

    These are the dinosaurs, the long lost relics of a time forgotten. One of my camps had its lodge burned to the ground rather than be razed, it's a lake subdivision with a Prius in every driveway.

    They'll never know that the shore resonates with last night closing campfires or that the forest still smells of wet platform tent canvas or s'mores with friends. That the wind echoes 51 years of girls singing, laughing, and crying.

    I chose to send my daughter to one of the last living sauropods, 100 years old and still trudging against the tides. Flush toilets and a pool but at least she's in a teepee. Only a week long, too short to really become Lord of the Flies but as long as deemed socially acceptable for kids her age. Someday it'll be a 4 or 8 week stint though it may require I just don't pick her up between sessions.

    I don't know how long the last will remain so I pack up Agnes, my trusty green 2 person backpacking tent. And I hit the road with the kids, phone unplugged and not charged, headed to nowhere and somewhere all at once.

    As long as I'm around a few fossils will still have breath in them.

    1. As an extremely young adult who sees the world around him too entwined in their electronics, this piece hits home with me. Unplugged, even for a week, is better than never unplugged at all. Amazing!

    2. I'm old too, but I don't always walk in lockstep with my generation on this stuff. That said, this piece is so well written it might yet convince me!

    3. The sense of loss and nostalgia is strong here. I agree with DA. This could have landed wrong easily (sentimental or petulant), but the writing is so strong it totally works. I like the nowhere/somewhere wordplay, too.


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