Friday, July 28, 2017

2 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON'T IDENTIFY AS 'WRITERS' - all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.

You look into the water, see your reflection – fail to see any genuine affection. You curl your lip and squint your eyes. Sneer. That’s affectation. What a difference a few letters can make. But it doesn’t matter because you’re not thinking that way. You’re not thinking about anything. Not anything that matters. 

Maybe that’s why your life is in tatters.

Pride goeth before the fall? Maybe. Maybe it goeth before Spring, Summer, Winter … maybe pride is all you have, so you pull at it like a splinter. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but making sense of things isn’t what this is about. 

Keep looking. Straight on or crooked. The water doesn’t lie. You may lie to yourself, you may lie to the folks that ask you questions, expecting answers. You can’t lie to your reflection. Or you end up getting a flower named after you.

#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’re always running from it, but it’s something you’ll never escape. Doesn’t that seem strange to you, man? You can run from lots of things, but memories aren’t one of them. You gotta own them. Good or bad. Strange or enlightening. Hopeful or frightening. You can’t divorce yourself from memory. And you don’t want to. Not really.

    It’s easy to convince yourself that you’d be better off with no memories. Or with only carefully selected, pruned and crafted memories. But what happens when you get old and your memory starts leaving you? You get straight up terrified. There’s nothing scarier than not remembering.

    So, while you have the time, maybe you should try to make peace with it all. Or as close to peace as you can come. This is easy for few, hard for some. Impossible if you don’t try. But trying IS the battle. You have one life, one brain, one set of instructions. Don’t throw them out before you have the whole thing built.

  2. It makes me think of my Grandpa. He was a smart man, but he didn’t put on airs. He didn’t feel the need to prove his intelligence. Some people took him for stupid. They were wrong. My Grandpa was a lot of things, but stupid was not one of them.

    Still, you could see where they’d get that idea. He had no use for fancy when fancy complicated something simple.

    “Just say what you mean, son. This isn’t Jeopardy. Ain’t no cash prizes awarded. We’re just trying to get some work done. Say what you mean and get on with it.”

    He worked with his hands. Maybe that was part of it, too. People are narrow minded like that. They don’t think that the guy that made their custom deck also reads poetry for fun. They don’t think about the journals he kept or the books he read. They think, “he works with his hands, forget his head.”

    I was lucky enough to see both sides. The tough exterior and the inner strength that tough exteriors hide.

    1. A wonderful remembrance... and I think when the hands and head, with some heart thrown in, work together, they make works of art... your words are proof of that.

  3. There are lots of kinds of funny. There’s the funny where you can’t stop laughing, tears rolling down your face. There’s the funny where you smile, maybe groan, shake your head. Then there are the scary funnies.

    This tastes funny.

    Did you think that guy was acting funny?

    Ain’t nothing funny about those kinds of funny. Those are the kind that keep you up at night.

    My Nana loved the funnies, only she meant cartoons. The kind that came in the newspaper and were brightly colored once a week. She liked to point out the silliest ones. They didn’t have to be funny funny. They had to grab her in some way. Twist her morning coffee so the world looked different.

    Me? I just liked sitting next to her. Staring at cartoons that weren’t funny, but weren’t scary funny either.

    1. Ah, the Sunday funnies... always best when read with someone. I had an uncle who loved 'em and read 'em to me... thanks for the trip down memory lane...

  4. It’s so bright it hurts your eyes. You don’t want to look at it, but you can’t stop. All around you, the hills are dry and brown and look like kindling. Except for this bright green abomination. The same patch of invasive nonsense that sends fertilizer into the lakes. Runoff.

    But heck, that lawn sure looks nice.

    And maybe I’m envious. Green with jealousy. I don’t think so, though. I like the brown hills. I like lakes that aren’t choking on algae because they’re filled with fertilizer.

    And I hate mowing lawns.

I know, you’ve heard it all before and it doesn’t mean a thing. You’ll get a smile and a nod from the HOA, and that’s the most important thing. A plaque. Something to decorate a space that should be blank. Maybe the plaque will be green. That would be fitting.

  5. Fear and terror renew themselves unendingly. Am I not what anyone wants? I try to enjoy things the way I used to but fuck, they won't let me have it. Eternally agitated. Everything seems so far away from me. This anxiety, this constant apprehension and uneasiness stays with me all the time. My feeble attempts to escape it have never worked, and I learned a long time ago that only one thing will relieve me of this pain, but I am too cowardice to even say the word. It is the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about before I sleep. At least sleep offers some time away from it, but lately my dreams have been catching up.

    1. That last line has an ominous import. And I really like the phrase "Eternally agitated" - the feeling is palpable and on point.

  6. Like Carl Sandburg's Hair

    I wish I had hair like Carl Sandburg,
    silver and smooth, with a near-center part
    from which would curl horns of cool
    hirsute parentheses that would occasionally
    encapsulate the brown and gold irises
    of my poetic vision.

    I wouldn’t like hair like Walt Whitman
    or even Ezra Pound, though, all kind of
    wind-wild and wiry. Sure, damned
    arty-looking, best kept under wide-brimmed
    slouches, but probably troublesome
    containing beneath a baseball cap.

    Robert Frost’s hair, silver like Carl’s
    and mine, just seemed as weedy as
    a New England pasture, unfettered by
    the neighborly fence of brush or comb.
    Emily’s, while smooth as a Berkshire pond,
    never made it to silver.

    I didn’t slick it back like Stafford when
    I had enough to slick, nor even now when
    it borders the vacant shores of Lake Roethke.
    No, I want Carl’s hair with its quotation mark
    cowlicks speaking louder than little cat feet,
    as big-shouldered American as the prairie.

    1. This is just beautiful... and I love those last three lines!

    2. I agree with Leland. And I love the concept. And this is SO good: "best kept under wide-brimmed

  7. Part 1

    She waited a week before revealing the secret.
    I don’t remember much after Liz sat me down in the living room to tell me. I could see she had something going on, though. Distracted, quiet, even moody. I’d asked several times before she finally told me.
    “Oh, I’m just tired’s all,” she’d say. Or, “Nothing. Everything’s fine. Do you want there to be something wrong?” Eventually, after a week of this, I just stopped noticing, at least with any intent.
    That’s when she dropped the bomb.
    “I’m leaving here,” she said.
    Not, “I’m leaving you,” but, “I’m leaving here.”
    “Liz, what’s going on? I’ve noticed something’s wrong for over a week, and now, ‘I’m leaving here’?” I said, not sure if I should lean in or rock back like I would if punched in the face, which is what this felt like.
    “I, I can’t do this anymore. It’s all too much,” she said. She couldn’t look me in the eye, but I could see hers darting about the room as if looking for some means of escape other than through me.
    “Can’t do what? What’s too much?”
    “This, here, everything.”
    “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess it’s…”
    Her phone, which she held in her right hand, rang with a ringer I’d not heard before. She took a quick glance, rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took a deep breath.
    “I’ve got to take this. I’ll be right back,” she said. She got up from the chair and moved one room away into the kitchen.
    My mind raced, trying to make sense of what was happening. But even through all the questions ringing in my mind, I could hear her whisper from the kitchen.
    “No, not yet… No. I’m trying, but it’s hard… You don’t understand… I told you not to call… I’ll call you when I’m done… No.” Then a muffled something that sounded to me like, “Love you.”
    I got up from my chair and walked toward the kitchen, where liz quickly whispered< “I’ll call you later,” and cut off her call.
    “Okay, Liz, what the hell’s going on? The detached behavior for the past two weeks, telling me you’re leaving, the secret phone calls? If you’ve got a beef with me, at least have the decency, the balls, to tell me straight up. There’s nothing you can’t tell me, okay? We’ve been through too much to keep secrets from one another, especially something as obviously disturbing as whatever’s on your mind,” I said.
    She wandered over to the coffee maker and poured herself a second cup. Black. And if Miss Sweetness and Light was going to drink her coffee straight, I knew I’d better brace myself.
    “Please sit down, Bobbi,” she said, pointing to the kitchen table. With the squad of chair legs on the tile floor, we each settled into seats on the opposite side of the old wooden table my mother gave us when Liz and I moved in together.
    She looked at her refection amid the steam on the ebony surface of her coffee and took a deep breath, which caught in her throat.
    “There’s this man, I met,” she said.
    Finally, I knew what was coming.
    “I met him on the Internet and we’ve been talking to each other for a month at night while you’re sleeping or engrossed in some TV show,” she said, which felt like a backhand to my reddening cheeks.
    “A man? You’re leaving me for some man you met only a month ago?” I said a little too loudly. Now I felt like throwing a weak backhand.
    She stared into her mug some more and looked like the steam had condensed in her eyes and was dripping down her cheeks. If she ever left me, I felt sure it would be for another woman. After all, she’d left her boyfriend two years ago to be with me and I was anything but a man.

  8. Part 2

    I got up from my chair, it’s legs squeezing in protest to my sudden explosion of energy I’d been tamping down since Liz began her harried silent treatment.
    “Fine,” I said. “Go. I guess I never expected a pretty girl like you could stay with troll like me forever anyway. But never for a man, even if you are bi.”
    “Stop it, Jay,” she shouted. “I’m not leaving you for another man. I’m not leaving YOU. I’m leaving here to finally meet my father, you idiot. But if that’s they way you really feel about me, then maybe I should.”
    Her anger had brought the color back to her soft white cheeks. The skin I’d come to adore. I was hurt, but once again, I’d hurt her worse.
    “I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure. I’ve been living without a father my whole life. It left me feeling rejected. You know how my analyst says that’s why I always ended up with what she thought were father figures. She even included you in that group,” she said.
    “Well how about that?” I said. I’d never been the most feminine woman, but I was far from anybody’s even desperate surrogate for a runaway father. My turn to roll my eyes.
    “Jay, I love you. But I have to see what it’s like to have a father, see what Kevin’s all about. He says he never wanted to leave me, but Mother, the domineering bitch, chased him off with her lawyer brother and threats from her family. I’ve been searching all my life for the truth. Now I may have found it. I’m almost sure I’ve found my father,” she said.
    “You couldn’t tell me this?” I said, rather more weakly than I thought I could.
    I thought you’d ridicule me, a 30-year-old woman searching for her Daddy like I got lost in the mall.
    “No, honey, I wouldn’t. I’m sorry to hear you felt that way.”
    “Well, I’m leaving Tuesday for Vancouver. That’s where he lives, Vancouver,” she gave a kind of ironic chuckle and said. “But I’ll be back, I promise. I only took a two-week leave of absence from work.”
    “You couldn’t even tell me that?”
    “No, I really was afraid of your reaction. And I’m glad you seem to be taking it so well. That you understand why I have to do this.”
    “Not really. Not with my history of being tossed out at sixteen by my old man when I came out. But I won’t stand in your way, even if this dude is some fraud serial killer who’ll take you away from me permanently,” said, surprised at the catch in my voice. “But let me help you pack and take you to the airport.”
    Which I did, with the teary bon voyages and long hugs and kisses you might see in the movies when Johnnie marches off to war.
    A week later, I got her email saying she indeed was leaving me for another man. The father thing had been true, but the Internet affair and three-day business trips to Vancouver and Seattle had been to see some guy name Bret. I shipped her things to her and that was that. She’d already packed her secrets and took them with her a week before.
    Like I said, she waited a week before revealing her secret. It just wasn’t the week or the one I expected.

  9. After the third day and night on the run from the Cheyenne with no food and little water, his horse now lying dead a thousand yards away, Cleve Mason settled to rest in a buffalo wallow somewhere south of the Platte River in western Nebraska Territory.

    Gathering some buffalo chips from the rim surrounding the nearly dry depression in the prairie, Mason lit a smokeless fire and began cooking off a piece of his mount’s stringy haunch.

    Mason had been lucky enough to evade his pursuers this long, but fatigue and hunger proved too much, figuring it was only a matter of time before the marauders rolled over him like a red, feathered wave.

    “The hell with this, just let ‘em come,” Mason said, as he gorged himself on a huge chunk of horse meat, closing his eyes and trying not to think that only three hours before it had been his companion for two years.

    So intent was he with his meal he never saw, heard nor smelled the wall of flame, a speeding prairie fire set upwind by the Cheyenne, as it rolled over him like a red wave, though not the one he expected.

    1. So succinct and perfect. A study in the form.

  10. The box was ugly. Yellowed with age, and the corners were worn. I’d carried it with him from one end of the country to the other, job to job, house to house. And I’d never opened it.

    It was a shoebox, in its first incarnation. My grandfather’s. Size 8 workboots. My grandfather was a carpenter. A liar, too, if Grandma was to be believed. They divorced when I was ten, and I didn’t see Grandpa again for twenty-two years.

    The phone call came out of the blue. Caller ID said it was Metropolitan Hospital, and in a moment of curiosity, I’d answered it.

    After verifying my name and age, they gave me a message. A man in their hospice unit had requested a meeting with me. A man with my grandfather’s name.

    It was more out of duty than curiosity that I went. It’s gotta be bad luck to turn down a dying man’s wish, doesn’t it?

    But I hate hospitals. They have nothing that lets me connect. They are dust-free, germ-free, soul-free. And still, there I was. As I walked the sanitized hallway, dodging nurses and doctors, I tried to decide how to greet him, whether to smile, whether to look serious.

    I needn’t have worried. When I opened the door to his room, there was a husk of a man, eyes closed, and the only feature on his face that was recognizable was his nose. Which looked exactly like my nose. Large nostrils, and a hook in the middle that supposedly looked like an eagle’s beak. Aquiline, they called it.

    I stood there. I stared. And he opened his eyes slowly. The oxygen mask hid his mouth, but I saw recognition dawn on his face.

    And that was the first time I saw the box. Fighting the wires and IV lines that fed into his arms, he lifted it from the rolling table over his bed, and held it up, as if I should take it.

    I did.

    And he closed his eyes, and the beeping of some monitors stopped, and the nurses and doctors raced into the room, and he was dead.

    I didn’t bother with a funeral. As far as I could tell, I was the only one who even remembered he had lived.

    Now as I purge my house of unneeded items, preparing to go into an assisted living center myself, I hold the box.

    And I remove the lid.

    A photograph, of him and me. A pair of child-sized mittens. And a pocketknife.
    Christmas presents, for a child long gone. Christmas presents, from a grandpa long dead.

    I put the lid back on the box, and put it in the trash. A black plastic bag, full of what might have beens, what never was, and what will never be.

    1. Oh, man. I love this. And trashing the gift was the perfect call.

  11. Something was wrong with the butterflies. There’d been a half dozen appliques clinging to the mailbox when the realtor had shown her the house. Now several of them were gone and the last few were dangling, as if they were trying to fly away.

    The house looked smaller, too. She clenched her brand-new keys so tight the metal teeth bit her palm, and she worried that she’d just made the biggest mistake of her life. “Whaddya want a house for,” her grandmother had said. “A whole house, no husband, no kids, what’s the point? Why would you want all that fuss and bother?”

    At the time, she’d started to reply with something bright and airy and young and independent, something akin to only living once, so why not hike the Andes and ride an elephant and dance the samba in the rain and come home to your own nest that you can feather up the way you want, but then her mother stomped all over her metaphors with her sour face…actually defending Jessamyn for once. “She wants to pay for it, why shouldn’t she have her own house?” Maybe she wasn’t really defending Jessamyn as much as she was defying her own mother. It was a samba they would all keep dancing, as long as the three of them lived in the same place. One woman per kitchen, that was a rule she’d learned the hard way.

    And now she’d have hers. She brightened a little, and maybe the house had returned to its usual size, the way it had been when the realtor had first taken her to see it. She saw the meals she’d cook and the garden she’d start and the shining, copper-bottomed pots on a rack above the stove.

    One woman. One kitchen.

    But first. First she’d have to put the butterflies back on the mailbox.

    1. Ah, what a charming story of seizing control of one's own life... the butterflies were a perfect set of bookends for the story.

    2. Agreed. And this line kills:One woman per kitchen, that was a rule she’d learned the hard way.

  12. She awoke in darkness.

    It was quiet where she found herself but it was nowhere that she recognised. There was a window without curtains that looked out onto a cloudless sky. There was a moon looking in and it felt colder than it was; the eye in the sky pulling the heat from her body. She was bound.

    She was bound.

    She tugged with her hands and she found she was secured, her arms up above her head where she lay. It was cloth, or so she believed, soft and smooth and looped about her wrists. She found she could loosen it, opening the gap between her palms to widen the noose until they came free, sliding out to permit her to sit again, blinking in the moonlight at the room around her.

    So, where was she? And how had she got here? A rummage through her memories gave her nothing. She remembered a day at work – a Friday – and thinking of the weekend ahead. She had nothing planned. She never did. She preferred it that way; the surprise of the not knowing, her expectations widened to encompass everything and everything this town could offer her. It was small still, no more than three or four thousand, large enough to disappear if you needed to. There were places that no-one admitted to visiting, darkened at night and quiet enough for privacy, where a woman could find pleasures beyond those you could speak of in mixed company. You might have suspicions, of course; you never studied the eyes of a colleague at work closely enough to be sure. Behind a mask and in the dark and with a new sense of adventure, people presented themselves differently, their realities and their fantasies exposed in their privacy.

    But she was alone now. Where was that woman she’d followed? And what had they done?

    And why couldn’t she remember?

    1. Oh, and I want the rest of the story... excellent build up!

    2. Agreed. You keep the tension level perfect

  13. I always laugh at the people who say 'never bring a knife to a gun fight.' I mean, I get the point, but what happens when you run out of bullets?

    I always laugh when people say they're developing new armor for soldiers that's more and more bullet resistant. The thing is, what else does it resist? Is anyone remembering things like, you know, knives? Kevlar isn't knife resistant.

    I always laugh at people. It's what makes my job fun. It's even more fun when they try to shoot me.

    1. The repetition of "I always laugh..." works really well. Keeps it tense and off balance. I like it.

  14. I always wondered something. You see in video-games or in movies, when a robot gets shot or cut or something there's always oil, like simulated blood. It's really silly to me, like, oil is only used as a lubricant, it's not robot blood.

    Or is it?

    The thing is, it's leaking out of me at an increasingly rapid rate, and I'm very concerned.

    1. Nice twist at the end, there... I like it!

    2. Agreed. Reminds me of a riff on old school scifi

  15. My name is Phil, and this is Mia. He's my personal assistant. He can do everything from paperwork to folding clothes to targeting a hostile armored vehicle and eliminating it from nine-hundred yards away.

    I'm a mercenary. In this day and age, we're everywhere. Armies are no longer raised by a country's populace. They are bought, some ragtag militias with nothing more than scarves and shotguns, to high tech evolved fighting forces with drones and lasers. We're a valuable resource, and as such, we're treated even better than normal soldiers would've been.

    I love this life. I love my work. I love my money. The only problem is I hate my boss. But that, my friend, shall be rectified.

  16. My designation is Mia. This is Phil. He is my father. He can do everything from vehicle maintenance to computer programming to suppressing large masses of hostile infantry with an effective 'metal storm' of bullets.

    I am a mercenary. In this day and age, we are everywhere. An army is no longer a single unit controlled by a single country and bound purely by its patriotism. An army is a band of soldiers, bought and sold like cattle on a farm. Some are merely men looking for their next meal, some are sadistic serial killers with an outlet. We are a valuable, but finite resource. As such, we are treated with the same respect any other large finite resource is.

    I enjoy this life. I enjoy my work. I enjoy the revenue. The only problem is I hate my father. That, however, will soon be rectified.

    1. I really, really like the pairing of these two stories... how the "sins of the father" are visited upon his offspring... consequences, consequences... really nicely done.

    2. Hate to ditto, but I was going to say what Leland said, but not as well. Really cool.


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