Friday, July 21, 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 air is thick and wet, and the hairs stick to the back of your neck. You hear everyone laughing, but there is no laughter in you. There are questions. The same questions that always rattle around inside the craven, corrupted cavern you call a skull. Why won’t anyone talk about the important things? Are they pretending to be happy? How can they be happy given everything that’s happened?

These questions will eventually block out the noise of the laughter. They will eventually block out the light of the sun. They will eventually become a weight that hangs around your neck, strangling you. But right now, there’s a pale man in dress shoes and shorts passing you a bowl of potato salad. You try to smile, but your lips lick rigor mortis. 

"Potato salad?"

He smiles; his teeth are yellow and crooked. The sky is fractured now. Your brain is screaming at you, but it turns into a kind of melodious drone. You close your eyes and ignore the voices. Ignore the hands shaking you. You will sink into the grass if you just give it time. 

You’re sure of that. 

#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...

141 comments:

  1. It’s always running away from you. It’s a frightened rabbit being chased by coyotes. It’s elusive, slippery. You want to hate it, but that’s like hating water or mountains or heartburn. Some things you just have to live with. And time is a corridor that everyone navigates. It is filled with fun-house mirrors and horrors you don’t want to think about.

    There is never enough time. Until there is too much.

    You imagine yourself inside old cartoons. You are the coyote now; the roadrunner is time. And you’ll never catch up. Nothing they send you from the ACME factory will ever be sufficient. They’ll sell you all kinds of stuff. Anything you can think of. But it won’t work. It will be another set up for another pratfall for another month of regret and recrimination.

    Time keeps slipping away. And that’s a cliché. But it’s a pretty apt one. There’s nothing as slippery as time. There’s nothing as glorious and repugnant. There is no fair weather friend more radiant in her hypocrisy and malignancy.

    I’d tell you more, but I’m out of time.

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    1. This: "There is never enough time. Until there is too much." Those cartoons were not only for children; I always knew so. And so much love for the first piece.

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    2. Yeah, with the first story, I love the ending with the sliding into the grass if you're lucky. The desperate need to escape. The pain of anxiety, the thoughts spinning around and around, and the silent scream. Deadly. Love the idea of the second one with Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner - loved them as a kid - and the idea of time, wanting more of it, but then there's too much of it that make awful moments last a lifetime. A curse or a gift.

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    3. "You are the coyote now; the roadrunner is time." This is wonderful. I'm going to be quoting you forever because I have such a challenging relationship with time.
      Love the first piece, too. Man, I've been there, too.

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    4. The pace of this parallels the sense of time in a way that you feel as if you're running as far as you can and then stop to try to catch your breath. Love it!

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    5. I love the comparison to Wile E. and Roadrunner... very apt, very well described... and I've ordered from Acme... they deliver on time, but it never works.... really like this one.

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    6. You just keep getting better and better Mr. Mader...

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    7. You've captured the capricious nature of time perfectly.

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  2. You put it on your shelf and look at it. It’s nothing, really. Just a piece of paper. It would be thrown out in a second by anyone who came into the room … if anyone ever came into the room. If it wasn’t just machines burping and screeching. That piece of paper? Man, that piece of paper is the warm feeling in your chest when you think that things will get better some day. It’s hard to hold onto. That’s why the paper is right there. Right where you can see it.

    It’s not about the finish line. That’s easy to say and hard to live with, but you’re pretty sure it’s true. So, what’s the deal with the piece of paper? It’s like those excited weirdos who hand folks cups of Gatorade during a marathon. It ain’t gonna help you finish the race if you don’t have the finishing in you. But it helps smooth things out a little.

    It quenches some of the thirst?

    The paper is there when you go to sleep, and it’s there when you wake up. And that’s something. Man, that’s a lot. It’s almost like having a friend. Someone who loves you and will check on you.

    You check on yourself. And you use that paper as a shield. For now, it is keeping the machines from taking over completely.

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    1. What is on the frigging piece of paper man? I'm gonna be wondering and wondering. Dammit. Or is it an ordinary newspaper - a defence against the internet etc, etc?

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    2. I'm intrigued. But I like it.

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    3. Is it a specific piece of paper, or paper itself? I love that you leave me wondering.

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    4. The ambiguity helps to highlight the intrigue of the canvas and/or work medium. Reminds me of trying to read ebooks and missing the smell of used copies of paperbacks in my grandfather's basement. It's definitely something that is not easily reproduced.

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    5. I love those pieces of paper.... whether they are a poem half-written, a drawing by a child, an affirmation on a 3x5 card, or a self-made flashcard for vocabulary... my life is littered with such pieces of paper... and I weep every time I am seized with the notion of "tidying up." Luckily, that urge strikes rarely. I love your story.

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    6. thanks guys. Sorry, Vickie. I'll never tell. :)

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    7. It's blank. It stands for all the potential words you can fill it with. The ultimate challenge to a writer is a blank piece of paper. Sort of like waving a red cloth at an angry bull.

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    8. P.S. At my house it's post it notes on all objects filled with the French and Spanish names for the object. I'm trying to recover my rusty HS French and college Spanish.

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  3. He unscrewed her foot and dropped it on the floor beside the bed.

    “You’re staying the night,” he said. “I’m not taking no for an answer.”

    “Oh, I HATE it when you do that!” Eleanor pushed a chestful of air between her lips, looking down at the stump at the end of her leg. A threaded spigot protruded from the lower end of her calf, her ankle and everything beyond it out of sight and now out of reach. “You know you’ve only got to ask. I’m programmed to comply, whatever you ask.”

    “That’s true, isn’t it?” Jacques clapped his hands and then threaded his fingers together, turning his palms outermost and then flexing them until his knuckles cracked. “Okay, remove the other one too. And your left hand.”

    Eleanor sighed. This evening was not progressing as she’d anticipated.
    But she still obeyed him. She had no choice.

    “Right. My turn.” Jacques took hold of her remaining hand, pressed the opposing points on either side of her wrist to disengage it and then detached it too, holding it triumphantly above her. “Looky here,” he said, grinning. “How about that for underhand behaviour?”

    Eleanor turned her face away. He was incorrigible enough without her encouraging him. She closed her fingers so her nails bit into her palm, forming a fist.

    “Hey! You can still use that? Now, that gives me an idea!”

    He dropped her hand onto the bed, his face suddenly close to hers.

    “Memory purge time,” he said.

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    1. Woah. This is WEIRD. In a really cool, creepy way. I want to read more of it. The balance of levity and ... well ... creeposity is STRONG in this one.

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    2. It's very disturbing and speaks of unspoken and unrememberable abuse. I read it back and was surprised at how dark it had become. It was originally going to be lighthearted. It changed a bit!

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    3. The opening line is great. It's surreal and whimsical and bizarre all in one. It's also totally unexpected for the reader - it drops out of nowhere, like the foot. So, really, it's great to keep as an opening line! I agree with Mader on the creepiness. It does start out lighthearted as her response is jokey, but then you realise she doesn't like it, she feels uneasy. And he's after control. There's no pleasure in this at all for her and she doesn't like letting go of all her power/defences. So then it's dark. Plus there's the 'horror' aspect that she can still use her hand. Yay, can she strangle him? The hand bit brought back memories of the Peter Wotsit film, The Hand, which totally creeped me out as a teen.

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    4. Hah! That's one of the coolest opening lines I've seen lately. Surreal and creepy and... I like it!

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    5. This had shades of the Stepford Wives; it leaves you wondering who really is in control.

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    6. Creepy and kinky... and your writing skills in telling the story are right on. This is kinda like Salvador Dali meets the Borg, but in print! well done!

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    7. Ditto on the great opener. Creepy in the best way!

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    8. This is nightmare material. I LOVE it.

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  4. The tattered monofilament is like those cups you tie together with a length of string. Only you don’t really do that. You know people who do it. Treehouse to treehouse. That kind of thing. You've read about it. But you don’t have a treehouse, you have a fishing rod. And the fish damn sure communicate a lot through that line. Sometimes they show their disdain, their anger – most times they show that they are creatures just like any other creature.

    They need to eat.

    The tendrils in the clouds speak to you. The lines of light on the water. You start to wonder if the whole world is connected by strings. Then, you feel like an idiot. It will be years before you even hear about string theory and realize that life really IS about fishing after all.

    For now, you hold the line gently in one finger, interpreting taps and tugs and pulls. Separating the fish from the tree stumps from the rocks from the water.
    Just keep holding on, son.

    Keep holding on.

    The fish will talk to you if no one else will.

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    1. LOL, you wrote about fish as well!! That's so funny. I like the word 'monofilament'. I didn't know what it was and it almost sounds like a made-up word and I imagined it meaning parts or bits or a puzzle. Then I looked it up! And it's fishy related. the tendrils and strings link up, and make you think of the creature's tendrils- oozing out into the water. And string theory - makes the story bigger with more to think on. And then it's sweet. Loneliness at the end and a oneness with nature.

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    2. Ah, yes. Connected, yet disconnected. Nice!

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    3. An open call to nature, should you choose to reach out!

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    4. Your fish stories always grab me... and the way you've show us what can be telegraphed through that fishing line is awesome. The reference to string theory appealed to the mathematician in me, too.

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    5. Do you suppose Hemingway is rolling in his grave, knowing you write about fishing better than he ever did????

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    6. Thanks guys. Teresa, I think Hemingway is still too drunk to roll effectively. ;)

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  5. His hands were ruined, but that was part of the job. Catching blazing pitchers, winging balls to second, knocked around by foul tips and bats on the rebound and runners plowing into him to reach holy mother home plate. Those hands would never win any beauty contests, but each blown knuckle and callus and broken nail tells a story. He could point to one and talk about the day he threw out a Hall of Fame base-stealing legend—twice—once getting him a good two beats before the tag. He could point out another, always with a smile because those rough-and-tumble days of bus rides and crap motels had become romantic over time, and talk about the beating he’d taken from catching his first knuckleballer.

    If he could still talk.

    The nurses comment on his hands each time they come to check his vitals; one in particular, a young girl, visibly pregnant, pets his hand like it’s an abused dog, sometimes cooing a few words in Spanish. They are beautiful words, and her hands are soft and soothing, and he says them over and over to himself, embedding them in what’s left of his memory. She’s the type of girl he might have cottoned to in the bar after the game, the quiet and motherly girls, like his Gina, God rest her soul.

    Today the older one comes, with her world-wise eyes and the limp she won’t talk about. “Morning, Pete.” Flo is the only one of them who calls him by his first name, which he prefers, because that mister business makes him feel every inch of his years. She’s only one of them who picks up his hand and laughs and says “that’s one damn ugly paw,” and he likes that too. He can take that, from a woman like her, and if he could talk, he’d give it right back to her, and the smile in those weary eyes tells her she knows that. She checks his reflexes, his various bags of fluids, his numbers. With a grim attempt at a smile—only one side is working—he remembers the days when his stats were the numbers that mattered. Batting average, home runs, percentage of runners he’d thrown out. Now it’s blood pressure, oxygen level, heartbeats. Each heartbeat chattering across a digital screen. He’d rather be back there, jamming another finger beating a runner to the bag, than in this damn bed, watching the measure of what’s left of his life.

    It’s late, he can see that with his one good eye, the way the light is dimmer through his half-open shades, and maybe Flo sees the way he’s looking because she says, “Yeah. Lucinda called in sick, something with the baby.”

    He feels surprise and worry do something to the side of his face that works, and god knows what’s happening to the other side. “Nah, she’s fine.” Flo checks his IV. “And aren’t you the lucky duck to get me pokin’ at you twice in one day.”

    He wants to tell her that he doesn’t mind that at all. Flo reminds him of another girl he knew when. She’d come right up to him at the bar after a game, nothing shy about her at all, and both of them knew what they wanted. He liked her honesty. It made things easier for him. He’d gotten good at reading signals and calling pitches, but it was frankly a relief to leave that on the field at the end of the day.

    “Yeah,” Flo muttered, giving him a wink, “I know you love me. But we don’t want to make the other nurses jealous.”

    He laughed at that, or at least tried to, and it came out like a bit of a wheeze. Still, it gave him hope. When they first brought him here after the stroke, damn near nothing worked. The doctors told him he had an excellent chance of recovering most of what he’d lost.

    Flo made a few notations on his chart. “Not bad, Pete. They’ll be getting you into rehab pretty soon.” Her face softened. “You want, I’ll come visit. I know you got some good stories in you, especially about what happened to these ugly paws. And I want to hear every one.”

    She wrapped one strong, no-nonsense hand around his. It was the one on his bad side. Where he hadn’t been able to feel a thing. But her hand was warm, the pressure firm but not so much it hurt.

    His heart monitor beeped and beeped and beeped.

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    1. Aw man with the direct assault on the feels! Goddamn Boris. You're going to make me cry at work. This is brilliant, though. And the descriptions of the hands is so good. Reminded me of my Paupa. He spent a fair amount of time behind home plate himself.

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    2. It's great. It's sad and you're there with him from the start, wondering what's happened and how much function he actually has and what's going to happen to him. I thought he might have lock-in syndrome at the start and just be watching everything around him. But then there's hope and the fact he's laughing is bittersweet, and yet we're told there's real hope and you imagine something developing between the two. So the ending is uplifting, not sad.

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    3. Beautifully written and so completely satisfying. Perfection!

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    4. The connection between them despite obstacles really made this piece stand out.

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    5. You choose exactly the right words, and build exactly the right characters. You always do. In this beautiful love story, the word I'm most in love with is "cottoned"... that one word telegraphed a lot about his background... you built the tension so well, and you resolved it in a lovely way. Thanks for sharing this one.

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    6. So sweet and beautifully rendered, not too much, not too little...

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    7. You climbed in to someone else's body and gave words to the speechless. Stunning.

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  6. He took the camera from the bag with the gentleness and familiarity most men reserve for lovers. His fingers remembered every curve, every button, every dial. Their printed labels had worn off the plastic long ago.

    He'd waited two years to take this photograph, calculated the angles of the sun, the time of day. He missed his opportunity 365 days ago.

    Photography was a metaphor for his life. He liked the way he could frame what people would see. He put the beauty on full display, editing the trash and ugliness out. Show the flaming red flower with a drop of dew, but make sure the empty beer can an idiot tossed from a speeding truck was nowhere in the frame.

    The sun was not yet up. He checked the flower again. The bud had just begun to open. Now all he had to do was wait for the wonderfully predictable sun to make its entrance.

    The waiting was part of photography, too. Like life, much of the magic was in anticipation. Sometimes the waiting was fraught with fear. Would the rain come back during the shooting of a rainbow? Would it destroy the equipment he used to capture the beauty?

    And sometimes the waiting itself was filled with beauty, seeing, hearing things the camera could not capture. This morning, a hermit thrush serenaded him.

    The eastern sky brightened. From midnight blue to gray, and then a blush of a color without a name. He checked the sky again. Not a cloud.

    Last year, the storm that kept him from the picture was not born of the sky. It was a tempest within his soul. He wished he could see the warning clouds of depression as easily as he saw those that brought rain.

    The hermit thrush took intermission, the photographer checked the battery charge. One minute to go. He inhaled.

    The sun rose. The blossom opened. The shutter made a satisfying click. A rooster crowed in the distance.

    And when it was done, he stepped over broken glass and a dirty diaper.

    Show the beauty. Ignore the ugly. Get on with life.

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    1. Oh, my heart. Loved this all the way through...and that last line. Nice.

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    2. I love this one, too. The thought process. The process process. The Hermit Thrush. The cadence. Really awesome piece. And I like parables that aren't quite parables, as you know.

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    3. The hermit thrush - it's like him - he's the hermit thrush. I like the contrast of the beauty and the end lines. He's depressed but he comes out of his cave to capture beauty. The deliberately slow beginning, dwelling on everything, is really beautiful too. He wants to see the beauty of things, even if he doesn't feel beautiful himself.

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    4. I love how the focus and pacing shadow the author's point as well as the words.

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    5. Thank you all for the kind comments!

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    6. Yes, The Pit robs so much time from the creatives. We miss a lot when we can't see over the rim of The Pit. When at last we can, it's easy to wait for that moment of perfect beauty.

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  7. When Jesus came for me, he was wearing Wranglers and a Stetson.

    I'd been out late the night before. Maybe had a couple drinks. Maybe a couple more. Maybe a few too many.

    Morning came too fast and I closed my eyes tight against the day, the day when Bobby would come home. Bobby. Such a nice name, a little southern, kinda innocent, all the things that Bobby wasn't.

    The bed jiggled. Oh Lord, tell me I didn't bring someone home. I heard the rattle of a belt buckle. I did. I did bring someone home. I opened one eye. The sun punished me for that.

    "Jesus Christ, what time is it?"

    "Just after nine. And actually, I'd appreciate it if you called me Jesse. A little less loaded, religiously speaking."

    I had no idea what he was saying. It was a miracle I could hear him above the pounding drums in my head.

    "Did we, uh..."

    "No. You were entirely too drunk for that. Otherwise, we might have. I don't take advantage of the impaired. I just needed a place to sleep."

    I opened my other eye. In three dimensions, the man who was zipping up his Wranglers was a sight that even a hangover couldn't obscure. Tall. Short blond hair. Dimples, Lord, those dimples. And a cleft chin. I won't even mention his cowboy butt. It was just about enough to make me wish I'd been drinking club soda instead of Jack Daniels the night before.

    "I don't suppose you know how to make coffee?"

    He grinned and picked up his cowboy hat and headed to the kitchen. Like I said, I'm not going to go on about how he filled out those Wranglers, or how lucky those pockets were to be so close to something so perfect.

    I stretched. Through the gauzy curtains of my bedroom, the sky appeared to be the same color as his eyes.

    He shouted, "Cream? Sugar?"

    I shouted back, "Black."

    And a minute later he carried a mug of steaming hot wake-up juice into the room and sat down on the bed as he handed it to me.

    "Jesse. Thank you. Now, much as I hate to say it, you need to be moving along. My boyfriend is due home in just about an hour."

    “Kinda like the song, huh? Whatcha gonna do with a cowboy?”

    “”Kinda.”

    He laughed.

    "What's so funny? Believe me, you don't want to meet Bobby. He's a mean son of a bitch."

    "He the one who gave you those bruises?"

    I pulled the sheets up, too late, but I could pretend he didn't see them. Maybe pretend they weren't there.

    "Maybe."

    "It's none of my business, but I'll tell you one thing. A man who hurts someone he says he loves is lying, one way or the other."

    I didn't say anything. I looked down at the sheet, the white sheet I'd need to get in the laundry before Bobby got home, because Bobby was like a bloodhound, and he'd scent a strange man had been in his bed, even if nothing had happened.

    "I'll go. But I think you might need someone. Someone to sort of watch over you. Kinda like a guardian angel. You keep your eyes open, and I'll see what I can arrange."

    He got up from the bed, and walked out the door. My eyes didn't leave the Ws on those pockets. I heard the front door open and close. I finished my coffee, and then I got up to make the house perfect for Bobby.

    [This is part of a longer work I'm donating to an anthology to benefit survivors of domestic violence. If you're interested in reading the rest of it and giving feedback, I'll be happy to send it to you.]

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    1. I'm definitely interested. I still love that opener, and the story here is strong. And this line: "A man who hurts someone he says he loves is lying, one way or the other." Man, do I love that line.

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    2. It is a great opening line. I hope you keep it as the opener - it's sweet and funny at the same time. And the depiction of the cowboy... well, I defo have the hots for that description! Cool story and the gentleness of the cowboy comes across. It's like everyone knows what to tell someone who is a victim of domestic violence, but it's harder to see it or make sense of it when you're on the other side. You get into that well.

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    3. The first line grabs you and reels you in, I'd love to see more!

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    4. Man, I'm a sucker for dimples and a cleft chin! This is a good, strong piece for the anthology. I'd love to read the rest of it (and buy the anthology when published).

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    5. Thank you all... I'm close to being done with edits at this point, but if you direct message me on facebook, I'll gladly share the story with you. The title of the anthology will be Betrayed, and it should release in September.

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    6. Gorgeous, gorgeous piece. That opening line is amazing!

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    7. I just read the rest of the story. So good.

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    8. You have, quite exceptionally, pointed out a whole new writing purge I need to pursue.

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  8. The pain. It's all I can feel. The dark excruciating pain of someone tearing my heart from my chest and squeezing till it crumbles to dust.

    That's the pain I felt the moment I was told my son didn't make it. It was the darkest my heart had ever felt. The deepest my life had ever been. I felt like I was at the bottom of an ocean with no air to breathe and only what I had held in in my last breath. Living my life without my son felt like it was going to end.

    Contemplating suicide to join my son in Heaven crossed my mind several times but it was something I couldn't bring myself to do. It wasn't the first time I had thought about offing myself either. Many times throughout my life have I had thoughts of ending it all.

    I think the only reason I have yet to do it was because the thought of my family knowing I ended my life without talking to them about it scares me. Another reason I haven't ended my life is because of the music that I would listen to when I was having those dark thoughts about suicide. Listening to heavy metal music and just sitting or lying quietly as I let the lyrics run through my brain, my mind would look deeper into the meaning of the lyrics and allowed them to talk me off the ledge. That's how I was able to step off the edge and back to reality even if it sucked.

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    1. I think this is my favorite thing you've written. Brutal. And I would imagine it's a brutally hard write. But it's got to be written. Keep this tone. Try to maintain the exact distance you've got right now. It works. Write it, brother.

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    2. Thanks. Something like this I never thought I could write till I lost one of my idols yesterday who kept me going with the music he made.

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    3. Yep. Makes these kinds of pieces and conversations all the more important.

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    4. I like the image of being at the bottom of the ocean with no air to breathe. It's a cool analogy. It's interesting what keeps people going - what keeps one person going will be different from the next, yet people connect on the things that are familiar. But you have to keep on breathing. RIP Chester.

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    5. I'm glad you're still here, and I'm glad you're writing about it. Sometimes writing is like a flashlight shining into dark places, and once the light shows us what's there, it's a little less scary. Keep writing.

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    6. Echo the above, you must keep writing, and thinking, and being curious about stuff. That last one has often been the only thing that kept me hanging on through my darkest moments.

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    7. I love writing about pain myself. It really is a release. You've done the pain of death-loss well with this one. It's been 35 since my younger brother died. I've written about it before, but I think now perhaps not enough.

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  9. Silence

    We’ll have nothing left here in the dark,
    The cleft between spaces
    Shaken in the middle of a sentence,
    Left hanging with a hook
    Unpicked.
    As a fish struggles to unclasp its lip,
    Blood splashes;
    Words unshapen swim in the air
    Unformed, only thought in a momentary
    Glance you make,
    Often seeing what you want to see,
    Yet never noticing the essence
    Of things, or me.
    While the scales slither silver
    And the living twitches its last breath,
    I wonder at you,
    Here, where we sit in the approaching
    Darkness of our lies,
    Stripped bare,
    Pained upon a grated thing.
    I wish to unravel it,
    But all I can do is remove the hook
    And throw this life back in the water
    With a mercy
    You used to have.

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    1. Damn. MAD power in this one. And I love the balance between abstract/concrete. And, as you know, a fishing metaphor is always a win with me. ;)

      Seriously though, this one hits like a sledgehammer.

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    2. Thanks. I have a cold today and can't go out. Maybe that's why it's dark! Thanks so much. There isn't much that kicks my writing butt, but this website does. I'm not sure where the fish came from. The woman feels like the fish being hooked and reeled in, I guess. And these two don't talk anymore.

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    3. How I've missed your poetry! Dan's right, the whole thing is well-balanced and beautiful... this line alone would be reason to read the poem: "While the scales slither silver" but I'm glad the rest of the lines are as well-described and clear.

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    4. ...in the approaching darkness of our lies.

      The end really is like a storm moving in.

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    5. Thank you! I was thinking of a couple who have been drifting apart and he's having affairs.

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  10. The burst

    I count the pages
    Line the trees
    Trace an outline with a pen
    Twist the paper til it hurts
    Feel the numbness in my hand.

    These fingers do the walking
    Back and forth and velvet tripping
    The never and the ever
    And the brilliance in between.

    I can spend
    I can feel
    I can wave this thing called humane
    Like a flag in light of something bright;
    I can play the fiddle even, see I can,
    Watch me smile, watch me cry
    Let me paint it in my own particular way
    Play this part
    Make a sail
    Tell the others I can take this boat away
    Let me stray
    Or let me stay
    It’s an easy way to view this choice of mine.

    Catch a plane
    Hatch a plan
    Escape the very things I seek to have –
    Is that a thrill?
    Am I a seeker?
    Did I spill a clue to what I wish today?
    Or did I hide it, conceal it, never to be read?

    I turn the pages
    Catch the light
    Watch the drizzle of the ever-dying day
    Like spreading ink it splatters into curls
    Adrift upon this tide, so turning falls
    Back upon itself and this night
    As I count the pages
    Tear each one out and cast away
    The dreams I have yet to live.

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    1. Fascinating.... the book metaphor goes nicely with Dan's earlier piece about paper... these two pieces belong together... well done!

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    2. It's funny cos I read the first story (Mader's with the cartoons) and Gary's (cos above the space where I copied in my story) and I didn't read the others. So I was amazed when I saw a fish one and a paper one. So we think of similar themes. That's cool.

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    3. It is SO cool when the collective unconscious rears its head. And this is a really intriguing piece.

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    4. oh, and LOVE this: "Twist the paper til it hurts"

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    5. This was like being tumbled in a wave. I like things that bring out every emotion.

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    6. Thank you! I think it's the 2minute thing. This is more a 5-minute thing, but it makes me not think and just let it spill. I'm not really sure where it's going when I write it. The timer really helps a lot. Thanks so much for your feedback :)

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  12. Inspired by Gary Andersen's piece. Following Chester's death and others, I thought about the pull of light and dark, the heaviness and the release, and whether it is or it isn't. The rest being up to the reader.

    Live

    She made it sound so easy
    A four-letter word
    A small sound
    Sweet in its escape
    But a lie upon my wounds.
    I can let it lie
    Or I can let it die
    I can let it fester in my hand –
    These things sound so easy
    These things I tell myself.

    Secrets carried deep inside
    Kept in the darkest places
    Written in an unseen hand
    Never to be read
    Never to be spoken
    Never to be heard –
    These things taste bitter
    Borne hard upon the breath.

    So make it stop
    He made it sound so easy
    Another four-letter word
    Harsher than the first
    Darker than the void
    Starker than the pit
    In which he found himself –
    But to live was so heavy
    And stop so light
    That the sun hid itself.

    You live, she said
    In the corners of my mind
    As she read the words aloud
    And they listened
    And they wept
    And they stared down
    Where the light couldn’t find
    Any sanctuary to rest in
    As they buried him
    Deep within the ground.

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    1. I love this piece Vickie!! It spoke to me! I can't think of any other words to say other than that.

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    2. Thank you! I just read everyone's and made some comments. It's a sad topic, but I can only hope that when these things happen and they hit headlines that awareness is raised that things like depression are serious illnesses that kill. Govts need to take it more seriously and invest in proper care, rather than making cutbacks, which is happening here. Those in trouble don't always know that people care because they've become numb and those who care don't always realise that someone needs help.

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    3. That's it, isn't it? the tension between those two words is where we live... we define a life by birth and death, but the living all happens in between.

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    4. Thanks, guys. I was thinking how we can all be teetering on the edge. It doesn't take much to hold us back or push us over. And then there are the people around us. Life is tension, I guess. I think the key is to let go of trying to control everything, try to fix focus beyond the self and live in the moment.

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    5. Word. Or ditto, your choice. :)

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    6. This piece if full of wisdom! Excellent.

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    7. As one left behind to pick up pieces after suicide, I'd like to be able to say I would never do that to my friends and family. But I've felt that pull, known that darkness. Today I resist, I fight, I win. Someday I may not be that strong.

      "These things taste bitter." You drew in all my senses with this piece.

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    8. Thanks, guys. I've never been there myself, Anonymust. I mean we've all had bad days, bad weeks, bad months, but I've never been faced with that darkness. I've known people who have. I once had to talk someone out of it when I was about 21. I understand the pull though. I understand why people go under and why they can't pull themselves back up. I just hope they can.

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  13. On this blast furnace Arlington afternoon, they all dip into the dark below Clarendon.
    The tepid breeze blows hard in their faces, up from the subterranean lungs, the long escalator throat, and out the green-lipped entrance of the DC Metro station by the Courthouse.

    Whether black, white or brown, men, women or t-shirted kids, you can tell who's the local here on the Blue Line and who's just visiting once they step off the dimly lit platform onto the silver and glass bullet headed back to DC.

    They all will slump into plastic seats or grab a bar and probably lean a beat or more against their sticky fellows. But the ones commuting home or to their evening job in The District are head-down in repose or uninterested torpor.

    Others still have their eyes up and their raucous attention peeled for the unintelligible voice calling the stations with names like Foggy Bottom and Farragut.

    These, the lively ones, have visited the dead today.

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    1. Ah, a poignant vignette... Arlington is a sacred place to me, and I've ridden that line often. Thank you for taking me back there.

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    2. I agree with Leland. I used to live in Arlington. You took me back, too. And it's a brilliant snapshot as Teresa says.

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    3. Thank you, folks. I found the difference in the people, relative to where they're from and where they've been, quite striking...if not unnerving.

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    4. Very interesting and poignant piece.

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  14. The kid had a face like some ancient god’s, plastered on to a child’s head. He sat on his haunches, his olive black eyes empty with understanding, stared out at nothing, his posture foreign and familiar and strange. Tailbone propped against the station’s wall, unmoving, waiting, asking, one arm extended with a small silver cup, rough cut, cardboard scrawled in black crayon to his left. He might have been six, or nine or twelve. It was impossible to tell.

    “Trabajará por comida”
    Todd saw him right away. At Nancy’s suggestion, he’d had two lavender martinis at the train station bar and an order of oysters, too. Who knew what he’d spent on his pre game show, before he’d even met her there?
    Nancy taught FlowYoga at a little place uptown; she’d seen that posture before and knew that even after 20 years, her own thighs would be screaming. “Oh God,” she murmured, anxiously looking for their train. “Todd, can’t you do something?”
    Flushed, Todd grinned at her. Yeah, the bitches always expected you to be the champion, didn’t they? Never mind this was only their second date, the way her fingers clenched around his bicep told him what he needed to know: Yeah he could laid tonight. All he had to do was throw the kid a dime.
    With a flourish, he pulled out his wallet, fat with cash. “Hey kid! Kid! Manuel, or Juan or whatever. See this?” He yanked out a twenty and waved it under the child’s nose, like it was a platter of Big Mac and an order of fries.
    The kid raised his head from his knees, his eyes fixing them in an ancient accusation, full of a silent implacable hatred, yet devoid of any emotion they might have been able to name. Nancy saw the fresh scar running from his neck to his eyebrow, the barely discernible tremble of his mouth.
    Habla Ingles?” Todd blustered. “Tell you what. You speak one word of American to me, you little motherfucker, I’ll give you this, huh? What do you think about that, you phony little freeloader?”
    “Todd,” Nancy protested, “for God’s sake…”
    “You want it? I bet you do. So C’mon, talk to me in my language, turd pile. How about it?”
    Quick as a thought, the boy was on his feet, plastering on a wide, obsequious smile. “Sure, Si, I speak Ingles. Real good!”
    Nancy yanked at Todd’s elbow as the train coasted to a stop. “God dammit Try not to be such an asshole. Give him the money!”
    Todd snorted. “Fine, bitch. I was trying to have some fun.” He threw the twenty at the small god’s feet, an offering for his sins unknown, and the two turned and staggered with the gathering crowd to the threshold of the crowded car, never seeing the small blow gun, the quickly loaded poison dart that hit its mark like an insect bite.
    He never heard the English word that lingered after the thunderous echo had faded into the night, and the same small god, sank to his haunches, a twenty dollar bill tucked near his heart, softly chanting the first English word he was sure he had ever learned.
    “Motherfucker.”

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    1. Wow... you surprised me with that ending... loved the build up, and you gave me reason to hate the main character right away... well done!

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    2. Yep agreed. And I was hoping you were building to justice. If anyone needs a blowdart to the neck it's assholes like that.

      Strong piece, strong social commentary.

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    3. Great piece and a very satisfying ending!

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    4. I probably shouldn't feel so good when the oppressed take a deserved, yet unsuitable path to justice.

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  15. “Ow! Quit it,” she cried.

    “What?” he asked.

    She stood up suddenly. Water whooshed up with her and cascaded back down into the kiddie pool they’d both long outgrown. She peered down, relishing her temporary height advantage.

    “Poke me one more time and I’ll drown you,” she said.

    He gave her a tilted smile, the one she predicted would one day tell the shrinks everything she’d always known about her over-sized younger brother. He laughed affably.
    “You’re not going to drown me.”

    “Oh, no?”

    “Of course not, dear sister.”

    “I should’ve drowned you in your baby tub eight years ago.”

    For a split second, she thought to storm off, back into the house, to the relative safety of her locked bedroom. A cicada droned out from a nearby tree its loud, pulsating reminder of the intense heat outside, the hotter temperature inside. She plunked back down with a loud sigh, displacing a fifth of the water over her side of the too-small plastic pool. Her ankle brushed her brother’s toe. He responded by bringing a heel down – hard – on the vulnerable part of her upper foot, between her still-growing bones. With the pain so swift and deep, she drew in a hoarse breath that didn’t quite make it into her lungs. And then he was on her.

    Her eyes squinted in the full noon sun as the water glugged into her ears. Way up high, a red-tailed hawk traced lazy circles in the sky. She didn’t wish to be the hawk, not even in that moment, when the full sun was replaced by his shaded face, and the tilted smile that she’d always known had meant something so terrible that she hadn’t yet acquired the language to properly describe it. “Ma, he’s crazy!” she’d said many, many times to the deaf ears of his staunchest defender. Ma would give him extra cookies while she’d get to split one with her mother.

    All the unfairness flashed through her mind as her lungs struggled in vain to hold out the water. Just as her body decided to give up the fight, something changed. The pressure with which her brother had pinned her shoulders to the wavy blue plastic bottom let up ever so slightly. She opened her eyes to see him looking away, at someone else. And then she heard the muffled sound of a familiar voice, the one that never soothed or comforted, that parsed out neither justice nor cookies in a fair way.

    “It done yet?”

    Her brother looked back down at her. The tilted smile deepened as he reaffirmed his grip.

    “Almost, Ma.”

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    1. oh wow.... this is perfect cruelty... beautiful in its ugliness. And somehow, sadly, given all the news stories, it doesn't seem all that farfetched.

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    2. Woah. This is fucking epic. You put us in the scene with small details so well (wavy blue plastic bottom). And this is terrifying and shocking without being a bit gratuitous. It's scary. Real fucking world evil scary. And written with a scalpel.

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    3. Thank you for the kind comments. No idea where this piece came from and that is sort of terrifying. Imagine if I knew what I was doing... :P

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  16. I've been itchy for thirty years, non-stop. It's like a dull ache one cannot shake.
    They slathered me in sulfur and coal tar, and bathed me in light until I burned. I am still itchy. I have been poked and prodded and 25 physicians are now convinced that I'm either crazy, lying, didn't follow their regimen, or all of the above. "Oh, UVA didn't work, let's try UVB." No thanks, I'll pass and by the way I'm still itchy.
    Most will go through life not seeing the specks of dust they leave of their decaying selves while mine peel in sheets and line my path. I am still itchy.

    I long to be St Bartholomew. I covet the towering statues of him holding his skin. I would love to peel mine off in its entirety and leave it hanging in my closet for a few precious moments respite from the itching.

    "You have a mosquito bite? Terrible the way they itch unbearably. I can sympathize."

    Now can someone please scratch my back? I'm itchy.

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    1. and now *I* am itchy! Sometimes the best-told tales are rooted in truths about our bodies. Good one.

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    2. This can be read so many ways. I love that. And I love the details withheld. This is a dope piece of writing. Tricky, but also so simple and direct. Really impressive.

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    3. Very effective writing, and yes, I am also now itchy!

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    4. No torture worse than the phantom itch that cannot be scratched. I feel this now.

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  17. "They are brainwashing you!", he screeched into the phone.
    I couldn't take it anymore, the near misses with a hammer, the constant yelling, the hair pulling, the being spit on, and poking fun. So I bolted and knowing nothing my father said was honest or sincere I hung up the phone to plan my wedding.
    Twelve years later and I'm in the emergency room with my husband.
    "Is this your first attempt?" He pauses. I cry.
    "There was one more, before I met you."
    I bolt, back to the kids and the comfort of his parents.
    "You will stay married. You'll work through this," they tell me.
    I am $40,000 in debt and opt not to press charges. His parents tell me he's sorry and that what's done is done.
    "Besides, if you leave him you'll be paying him alimony you make more than him. You have to stick it out for the kids," my de facto parents tell me.
    I quit my job and begin school, something I had dreamed of for years.
    My mother in law pulls me aside in her garage, "I hear you've quit your job. Let's talk this over tonight."
    There is nothing to discuss what's done is done.
    Their pull over me weakens until all that links us are the kids. I divorce their son and move 200 miles away, soon that distance will increase by a factor of 10.

    Deprogramming initialized, reboot to begin soon.

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    Replies
    1. Wow. A lot of power in these words. And a killer last sentence. Well done.

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    2. Totally agree. Mad power. I love the whole sad, realistic thing. No one wants to think or talk about this shit. Which is why we have to. Also agree about that last line. Damn

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    3. I love how it takes a turn toward self-empowerment at the end. Nice!

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  18. What does it for you? What really gets you revved up? - puppyish youth

    In what way? - older pack member

    I mean, what turns your on? What makes you want to howl and hunt and fuck?

    Well, since you put it so crudely, just being outside at night makes joyous enough to howl. The scent of prey just before the fear comes on them is quite tantalizing for the hunt.

    What about fucking? You know, doggie humping.

    *grimaces in distaste* You do have a way with words, pup.

    Hey! I'm no pup.

    No, but you express yourself like one.

    *waitress walks by, hips swinging, period about to start*

    That. * old wolf says simply, eyes following her*

    *pup sniffs delicately* I see what you mean, or rather smell it.

    *older wolf looks at pup* You use too many words, pup. Try simply scenting something fresh in the crowd and telling me without using words where it is.

    Without words...

    Indeed.

    *pup shrugs and lets his nose do the stalking. After a moment or two, he draws breath as if to speak. Older wolf looks at him sternly. Pup takes the hint. He turns slightly to look over his shoulder, as if expecting someone, then turns back with a significant look at the older wolf.*

    Brash, but you will learn.

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    1. You KNOW I love this one... and you captured canine thought brilliantly. Angelo agrees with me.

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    2. Woah. I agree. This is super cool. Very inventive and I don't know as much about the way dogs think as Leland does, but I trust him completely. ;)

      Are you thinking about doing more with this?

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    3. Thanks! And yes, this is the start of something, though I have no idea what. It will come to me.

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  19. Those of you connected to me on SM know a bit (if not a LOT) about my life long struggle with depression
    Blabbing about the struggle with and slow recovery from has value to me by getting my crap of my chest, and possibly touching and guiding others at a similar point.

    Bottom line? What follows is my most recent description to friends about my journey from Hell to the best Heaven I might craft on Earth...

    July 2017 Episode of Fixing Julie's Head.

    A post from a fellow depression sufferer crossed my feed today and it made me realize it's been a while since I posted about my climb from "The Pit".

    I AM still walking the walk. Some days are harder than others, but better mental health is worth it to me. Some days I flat out fake it and that's OK too.

    I am still getting up with my early alarm, except for those nights I stay on the phone with Patti, who is on California time, until 4 AM. But those convos are pure gold and really serve to boost my climb.

    I'm still hosting card games and ladies range days. I'm still writing but some of my "stories" have been just a tad too personal to share here on FB, but I'm still sharing with the writing group and on my Google writing blog.

    I've been using the pool a lot, especially in this heat, and am doing lunges, squats, and stretching exercises while I cool off. Water really helps with my balance on these exercises.

    I'm using my free weights as I read to build my arm strength back up as a full day at the range has been tiring causing me to take frequent breaks.

    My interest in the little things---things that seem so simple to normal people---oh like, personal hygiene, clean clothes, and a clean home has perked up. I forgot what a mood lifter it was to not smell your stinky armpits and feel your greasy hair for days at a time. Things like paying your bills on time instead of waiting until the nasty-grams roll in. Not a lack of money, but lack of motivation.

    I've rescued my kitchen from the dishes I let pile up AGAIN and decided to cut myself some slack by using paper plates and plastic cups. (I don't use my dishwasher because A) it doesn't work well, and B) I took my kitchen stuff that won't fit in my too small cupboards out of boxes and stored it there. Boom, less boxes stacked up in my way). Once again you could eat off my bathroom floor but I'm not sure why you'd want to.

    I'm still cooking for myself thanks to the local fresh meat suppliers and farmers markets I've started patronizing. I do still do the occasional take out thing when I work overnights in MHK, but I'm making healthier menu choices.

    I've reconnected with a long time social group that I used to attend all the time. I'd forgotten how uplifting their gatherings are and they've welcomed me back with open arms.

    I'm staying in much closer contact with Kelly Simmons-Stewart since my Arizona trip to see her and it's good to be close to mom again.

    Carpe Diem!!!!!

    #DepressionSucks

    #GettingBetter

    #BePartOfYourOwnCure

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    1. One step at a time... and you're doing it! Good on you!

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    2. Agreed. And I can relate - you do it justice. Keep writing. Keep taking those steps. Keep combining them - it will help you and others. Oh, and this is awesome: "Episode of Fixing Julie's Head."

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    3. It's a difficult thing to share our personal pain and struggles, and so I admire your courageousness. Keep doing what helps you, and keep writing. Writing is fighting!

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  21. They always said "better late than never." Here's me late but not never. :)
    ________________________________

    When you ran alongside me, barefoot, following the beach pier below, I thought you meant to tell me something profound, announce something real. When you caught up to my shadow and climbed the iron steps and looked in my eyes and said, "Your mother died," I thought you were either funny or cruel. It took a long time for me to accept you were going for both.

    I can't help it. I associate your metronome hips toiling in a sandblasted skirt with the death of my mother.

    At my tea party, Kate Winslet is Emily Blunt's aunt. Kelp lies forlorn on the shore.

    "Honey, don't make me do anything. Let me do it 'cause I want to."

    Escape your uterine penumbra. Ask me how?

    "I'll ask this. Impossible to answer, no doubt. How is it you seem to know me when all you know is my menstrual smell? And what is it that tastes like people? Makes us numb?"

    "Because you climb men like we're trees."

    "Seriously, no words. You should be banned from speaking."

    "True. But then I'd write."

    Here we all are, rulers of a thousand silent kingdoms.

    "You are not the marrying guy. You are the affair guy."

    "Welcome home, girlfriend."

    "Ugh."

    The wind gets up. Stirs the treetops. Will you dream of a monster hunched among the dark limbs, breathing quiet, awaiting its time? All I know is, every coward craves a gun.

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    1. Wow... even in brevity, you find exactly the right words, the right cadence. I loved the "Seriously, no words. You should be banned from speaking./True. But then I'd write." snippet most of all, except for the last sentence, which puts everything before it into perfect perspective. I envy your skills.

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    2. There are so many layers of tension here...hmmm.

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    3. Agreed. And I love this new style you've been busting out. It's stark and that starkness works so well. I love everything you write. But lately, you've been straight killing it.

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    4. I never know where your words are going to take me, but I'm always glad I took the ride.

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    5. Awakens a disquiet deep inside that I've been unaware of til now.

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  22. It is hard and it is constant. It causes a pain I have never felt before that leaves me feeling powerless and weak. I feel helpless. Emotion seems so natural for everyone, and for me it is like forbidden fruit. Things never felt like they came easy to me, like everything turns out worse than I expected it to. I feel like I am being chipped away and finally there will be nothing but a shell. Hope is running out fast. Every action I have been making has been out of fear. I cannot write for things beyond myself. Everyday this burning feeling of helplessness is reinforced only further. I am digging myself into a hole and there is no sunshine left. I can only go further, but I know it’s irreparable. This feeling in my chest, whatever it may be, turns obsessively on the year’s cycle - with the inevitable coda of a dark, empty winter. My depression and disposition turns to a kind of delight. My mind fills with the joy of imminent destruction, like those polite and cheerful Jehovah’s Witnesses distributing upbeat literature about armageddon coming soon to a planet near you. I grow more beautiful as I grow more hopeless. I suffer from a melancholy disease that makes my skin increasingly shiny and translucent until I finally expire of shimmering loveliness.

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    Replies
    1. Your description of the descent into darkness is chilling and true... and all of the rest of it made my heart beat fast in fear. The last sentence is pure gold. Did you know that before it was called "depression" it was called "melancholia"? From the word for black bile... Thanks for sharing this, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

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    2. Love the ending and the Jehovah's Witnesses - this: "This feeling in my chest, whatever it may be, turns obsessively on the year’s cycle - with the inevitable coda of a dark, empty winter." - beautiful. The whole piece is dope, but those stuck out. And the idea of every action you take coming from a place of fear. I think a lot of people can relate to that.

      Come back next week, hear?

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