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 dancing popcorn and the coy soda don't know anything about you. They don't know the struggle. And that guy in the front who thinks he's witty? No point being mad about it. Even the zookeeper can't control the monkeys. Not really.
You'll get a view of several potential futures and each one will take you back. Trapped in the dark, you feel your skin tingle; you want to stand up, make a proclamation, make a statement, leave...
All those people to step over.
Life's a movie, and we're all just extras standing around wondering what shitty, stupid, pointless thing we'll have to do next. We hope for a happy ending, but then we resent it. We want reality, but we don't. We want that dancing popcorn to be a popcorn prophet.
We came here to learn about ourselves. Here, in the dark, we are less or more human. Less or more violent. Less or more sad. It's a strange deal to make with flickering darkness.
And it's not even cheap.
#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...
I like that... movies do that to us, don't they? long for a reality that isn't, long for a fantasy to be reality... and dancing popcorn.ReplyDelete
I especially love the penultimate sentence. Oh, and this better be titled "Popcorn Prophet" in your next flash collection or we're having words, brother.Delete
It was a morning, like most any other morning. The older dog nudged him awake before the sun rose. The coffee burned his throats in a good way. Leftover cornbread made a good breakfast. The younger dog caught the crumbs before they hit the floor.ReplyDelete
He did not turn on the radio that morning. Didn't think of it, so he missed the news.
He and the dogs walked their usual four miles, then returned home. The sunrise was spectacular like most morning when the clouds did not block it. The sky was a blue that the Greeks would have called cerulean, from the very word for sky.
Later, he would realize that there was no birdsong that morning. Neither did the train's seven o'clock whistle sing through the chilly air.
The dogs stuck closer to him than they usually did, but they were sensitive to things. When mountain lions or coyotes were out, they stuck close.
He spent a couple of hours working on a novel he was sure would have mass appeal, but his heart wasn't in it.
At lunch, he stopped to check email, but only got a failed-to-connect warning. Probably sunspots. They interfered with his satellite connection to the internet sometimes. A quick walk with the dogs. The sky seemed smokier than usual, even in this wildfire season.
The afternoon saw him writing poetry. He liked the exercise of finding just the right words, with just the right rhythm and sound.
Evening came, and when he and the dogs walked, he realized there were no new tracks on the gravel road since the rain last night. Odd. There were at least two cars that usually passed by on any given day.
Dinner was simple. Macaroni and cheese, with a ham sandwich. The dogs knew he'd purposely let a few slivers of ham fall, and they pretended with him that it was an accident.
He listened to their chomping of their own food when the sandwich was gone, and he thought it was the finest sound.
Just in time for the evening news on NPR, he turned on the radio, and heard only static. Ah, the joys of living in a rural area.
He was about to settle down to processing pictures when there was a knock at the door. Odd, the dogs usually alerted him to visitors, and he'd heard no vehicle come down the long drive.
He opened the door. A smiling man, who for all the world looked like Colonel Sanders but whose skin was a beautiful ebony, stood with his hands behind his back.
Still no sound from the dogs.
"May I come in?"
"The dogs aren't really used to strangers, and I suspect your white suit..."
And he walked in, not precisely past me, but a little bit through me, and I shivered.
"My name is Michael. I always like to visit the newcomers to see if they have any questions after their first day."
And then I sat down.
I got the chills. That shift from third to first person. I didn't notice it happening and only realized at the end we'd almost literally entered a different world.Delete
Agreed. This is a really cool piece conceptually and the story is unsettling in just the right way.Delete
Wow, I liked that. The dancing popcorn. And all of us in the dark.ReplyDelete
His flight leaves in three hours and his sister assures him the side trip won’t make him late. He has a sense of where she’s taking him, even before he recognizes the landmarks—the abandoned diner, now covered with graffiti, the shopping center that used to be the only one for miles—but he doesn’t want to ruin her surprise. Or his own. He thinks about the old place once in a while, who might be living there, what they might have done to it. He has schooled himself not to dwell in the past too much, though. It only makes him sad about things he can’t change. And sad for her that she can’t seem to let it go. Yeah, he’ll share a memory once in a while when they’re together for the holidays, for old time’s sake and to fill the awkward silences, but he’s afraid his sister has built the place into some kind of monument to their childhood. He talked about that with his wife just last night on the phone. “She’ll want to go there,” Donna said. “It’s really not that healthy.” But even as his sister takes the left fork in the road, the one that leads to their tiny old neighborhood, he doesn’t find himself protesting. In fact, he’s a little excited about getting a backward glance. Maybe to prove to himself that he has put it behind him. That he won’t turn into a pillar of salt. Maybe just because he knows it will make his sister happy and she’s had so little to be happy about lately.ReplyDelete
“I’m afraid it’s going to look smaller,” he says.
She laughs, a small chuckle. “Of course it’ll look smaller. We’re bigger now.”
“No, I mean…”
“Yeah. I know what you mean. I’m kind of afraid to see it, actually.”
His brow furrows. From the way she talked, he thought she’d been driving by every chance she got. “When was the last time you saw it?”
“Fifteen years, maybe? I don’t get down this way that often anymore.”
He sees the old playground. The ball field. He smiles, remembering himself at ten, eleven, all the time he spent there. When was the last time he played like that, instead of counting reps and sets at the gym? He begins to speak, his voice isn’t wholly there and he clears his throat. “You think…you thing whoever lives there would let us come inside?”
She shrugs. “All we can do is ask, right?”
They are coming up on the turn into their old development. “Hey, what’s that?” He points. A small billboard is stabbed into the brown lawn of what is left of Mrs. Murphy’s two-story colonial.
On it was the name of a bank, a name of a builder. Future home of a conglomerate he only knew about from his stock portfolio. She pulls the car to the shoulder, but leaves the engine running. A question in her eyes. He shakes his head, and she keeps on driving.
They are silent for a while. He tells her what the company does. She clears her throat. “I suppose it’s good,” she said. “We need more affordable senior housing in this country.”
He nods. It’s a few miles before he speaks again. “You remember that unfinished part of the basement where the cat used to hide?”
He sees half of a wistful smile. “But all you had to do is open the refrigerator and she’d come running.”
He thinks of that cat, the refrigerator, the yellow tiles on the kitchen floor. The back deck he helped his father build. The trees they planted. Even stupid things like taking the garbage cans to the curb on Wednesday nights. The sudden loss tightens his throat.
“It’s just a house,” she says.
“I know,” he whispers. “But it was a nice house.”
Ah.... wistful memories, well-told... I guess we never really can go home again, can we? But I'm glad they tried, and I'm glad you let us see their journey.Delete
Hit all the right notes of nostalgia. You're writing a lot about sisters and brothers lately!Delete
Agreed on all counts. And you stuck the landing perfectly. And I love this: "He has schooled himself not to dwell in the past too much, though. It only makes him sad about things he can’t change."Delete
“It’s complicated.” He practiced saying those lines a hundred times in front of the mirror as he got dressed.ReplyDelete
“It’s complicated,” he said with a tone he hoped was between sad and brave. The black Wranglers fit perfectly. Even had a crease ironed into them, just like he’d seen the cowboys have on television.
He took the shirt from the hanger. A Rockmount. Only real cowboys knew about them, and a few rock stars, a old company in Denver. The pearl snaps on the white fabric, with black piping on the yoke, made him look more authentic than he was.
“It’s—complicated.” Yes, a pause in the middle was good.
He tried the Stetson on. Most expensive, most real cowboy hat around. It felt fake. He took it off. Maybe on the second date. If there was a second date.
One more look in the mirror. He practiced a smile. At least that felt genuine.
He walked through the bedroom door, into the hall, past the pictures of his dead wife, down the stairs. He stepped over the stuffed toys and the Legos and the Barbies, the toes of his boots missing them by millimeters.
The babysitter gave him a whistle, and he smiled again.
His two complications, four and five years old, grabbed him around the legs. He kissed the tops of their heads.
“I’ll be back late. Don’t give Tiffany any trouble about going to bed, okay?”
“We won’t, Daddy. Have fun.” Perfect unison. They must have been practicing, too.
Sitting in his car, he looked in the review mirror at himself, and tried once more. “I love my kids.” And he knew honesty would be the best policy. It was the cowboy way.
Oh, I love this. The practicing, the details of the shirt, "his two complications." I want to know more.Delete
thank you so much for reading it, and for your kind words!Delete
I agree with Laurie. And "They must have been practicing, too" is a perfectly placed and weighted line. Something so fragile and vulnerable about it. Dammit, Leland, that got to me.Delete
Yeah, I'm feeling this one. And not just because of the dope description of the western shirt. ;) I want more, too.Delete
They’d been hiking. A storm was coming, and Hannah knew it was a bad idea to be up on the mountain, but Josh insisted, and in all the years of their friendship, he’d hardly ever insisted on anything. When the storm swept in, they scuttled for the shelter of a cave they’d hidden in before. He spread out his sleeping bag and built a small fire, boy scout style. By the dim light she could barely see the lurid bruise beneath his right eye and the swelling of his lower lip, leaving her the illusion of his face as its usual cute, undamaged whole. She didn’t say much; he said less. The patter of the rain and the crackle of the flames and the thunder, now a gentle roll in the distance, made her drowsy. The next thing she knew, the storm had passed. They could have resumed their hike at any time, but it was nice in there, with the fire and the metallic smell of damp rocks and his regular breathing. Josh was still asleep, and she felt comfortable lying next to him, the rhythm of his chest rising and falling a kind of meditation. She ached to touch his lip, his black eye, to soothe away the pain, to erase the memory of him seeing her kiss Ben Thompson, the humiliation of losing the fight and getting punched not just once but twice. She didn’t mean for it to happen. The kiss, or having Josh see it, or Ben being such a jerk. Maybe she’d been nervous about what would happen to her and Josh at the end of the summer. They’d been friends since grade school, but aside for the occasional family trip, they’d never really been apart. Even when she had her appendix out, he’d come to visit her at the hospital, and they’d played card games and shared her jello. Could they still be friends in colleges at opposite ends of the country? When the subject even brushed the edges of their conversation, they flinched, changing the topic. She was tired of flinching.ReplyDelete
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
His eyes flickered, and he turned his head to face her. “Why? You didn’t make it rain.”
But the silence filling the cave after his last word made it clear he knew what she was apologizing for.
“I’m sorry because it was supposed to be you. It was always supposed to be you.”
His mouth opened slightly, making the puffy lower lip look even more painful. “You could have told me that before I made a total ass of myself.”
The fire hissed and crackled, dancing shadows along the rock.
“It would have changed everything,” she said.
He appeared to think a moment, nodded, then, with what she hoped wasn’t too painful a smile, said, “Change isn’t always bad.”
“Try saying that again when we’re living three thousand miles apart.”
He rolled toward her, touching her cheek as if she were exotic and breakable and, possibly, imaginary. “We have now. We have the rest of the summer. We can figure the rest out later.”
He was right, and wrong, and the rain was starting up again. When thunder shook the ground, she flinched, and he pulled her tight against him.
Sweet and beautiful, and I could feel the thunder... and beautiful scene setting and character development, as always! My favorite part? “I’m sorry because it was supposed to be you. It was always supposed to be you.”Thanks for sharing!Delete
Yeah, full immersion from the get-go. I loved nature's percussion section in the cave. As Leland said, it's sweet and uncynical, and that's a good thing.Delete
Agreed. There is a lovely real world 'innocence meets reality' vibe. And I love the phrasing here: "The patter of the rain and the crackle of the flames..."Delete
In the world of wildflowers, everyone wants to be the sunflower, and nobody wants to be the dandelion. Oh sure, it’s good to be tall and to have that radiant face that shines out, but what about when it’s too cold, or too early in the season, who blooms then?ReplyDelete
We dandelions, that’s who.
Whose leaves can be eaten in a salad? Ours.
Whose flowers can make wine? Ours.
Who even donates their roots so they can be used to make a drink for those who can’t drink coffee? Yep, we do.
And you. You put out a few seeds that people have to shell, and you take up all that space.
Enjoy your time in the sun, sunflower. What we lack in majesty, we more than make up for in persistence. They call our seeds “dandelion wishes.” They chew on yours and spit them out. Who’s the best flower now?
I have much more respect for dandelions now. :DDelete
lol... my work here is done.Delete
Ha ha, yes!Delete
This is awesome. :)Delete
First part of a longer story I'll (hopefully) post later on my blog.ReplyDelete
What reared in palsied segments from a blasted hollow was the ruinous progeny of some heinous prior act, a man hauling across the incognizant desert long bereft of any road his own daughter and then violating all touchstones of trust, all human and earthly edicts, before uncoupling her from her life in the cooling night until the land itself sheared and assumed the burden of arbiter and caught him and vise-gripped his leg till he mewled and died sluggardly under the searing day that followed, the sun itself meting justice and broiling first his eyes to grayish raisins in their sockets then his sobbing brain in its canted bone pan. From the drying juices of his corpse some unholy alchemy spawned this flapping, fractured thing born thirsty and agonized. With the falling of night and the cooling of the red stones it staggered and moaned a crooked wan-lit path toward the lights of a town scattered like tiny stars in a great throated void.
Not really a town. A convenience store with twin gas pumps, crude sentinels, a dusty bestrewing of trailers, a barroom squat and yellow-brown as a bark scorpion, a single red light pendent as a polyp over a crossroads.
She'd stopped because she dripped without moisture, because she needed relief from the eternal dry breath of the road and its cartoon hornet string of broken lines. The smeary windowpanes of her eyes reflected nothing. Her twenty-four hours of freedom from a man hellbent on her ruin yet joyless. The bar had no signboard or emblem aside from a Sorry We're Open sign in its only window, and the inside was small and dark and hot and rank; she named it in her mind the Devil's Armpit and thought about smiling.
But she didn't smile. The barkeep cocked an eyebrow and with her head she signaled a cluster of bottles, whiskies.
"Give me chain lightnin'," she said, her voice strange like that of an exotic bird in a cave.
He grunted and poured a dark amber shot glass and she drank it back, her throat taut, her eyes tight, and when "The Master's Call" by Marty Robbins rose and soared from buzzing speakers, though no god had ever dwelled in any part of her, a tear gathered in the corner of her eye.
Two men had wandered in, like moths find their way on a porch around nightfall. One of the men wore his darkness like a prioress wears her faith—as a part of him, his oil-black hair gleaming like the nape of a corvid, his one eye a campfire coal soliciting dark tales, his other blank and nacreous. The second man was no account.
They took up a place on the other end of the bar, four or five scuff leather stools between them.
"So, lady, tell me your first sight this sunrise." He didn't look her way because he didn't have to.
"With all respect, sir, I ain't exactly enamored of conversation right now." She also looked only in front, at the grimy bottles, at black-painted drawers now fulvous with the chalky exhalations of the land. Nothing here could be kept. All of it ran between splayed fingers amid silence.
"We-ell. Ordinarily I'd grant your respectful wish to be left alone, Miss. I truly would. But truth is, present circumstances militate agin' such a relinquishment."
She looked his way at last, for scant moments, heartbeats.
"Why might that be… Mister?"
Goosebump material here... looking forward to reading the rest. Of this so far, my favorite line is "One of the men wore his darkness like a prioress wears her faith—as a part of him, his oil-black hair gleaming like the nape of a corvid, his one eye a campfire coal soliciting dark tales, his other blank and nacreous." Stephen King could learn from you in the way to describe darkness...Delete
Leland, thank you! I had problems with my blog so I couldn't post the full story until now. I'll embed the link here.Delete
This is a really interesting piece. The first paragraph wouldn't work if it was written by anyone else. It would seem like getting beaten with a language 2X4. You pull it off and lead us perfectly into the darkness.Delete
What is contained in the space between the hand and the object of its desire? What vibrations emanate from the palm, pulling itself back to strike? What have I done to deserve this? What am I doing? Grinding my teeth against this enveloping madness. I cannot conquer it, and whats more my hopes have to turned to ash and fall through my fingers. You've carved a hole and you've fucked it. It's yours, and it's nothing without you inside it. My bones are too sharp for my skin. These feelings are simmering in me, ready to boil over. I am scared of help because I have never known myself when I'm not like this. Am I anyone at all? Who is the person I may or may not be? Who am I without this pain?ReplyDelete
I really like the way you've described the internalized fear here... and how isolating it can be. It's scary stuff, and it's rarely this well described. Thank you.Delete
Everything that Leland said, and also this: "My bones are too sharp for my skin."Delete
What both those fools said. ;) Also, the fevered tone is so spot on here. The spiral of unanswerable Qs. Really dig this piece.Delete
Just a whimsy from me...ReplyDelete
She sat, quietly, impassive to everyone around her. She’d chosen to sit on an overturned crate, the box aligned end-upwards to give her as high a position as possible. She’d begun her day wearing a coat but now it was bundled up on itself and wedged inside the box beneath her. She’d had a head-scarf too but that was gone now, taken by one of the women who given her attention earlier, the sitter doing nothing, letting her leave with it jammed in her pocket; a trophy she’d earned just by having the nerve or cheek to take it.
It’d been seven hours since she’d arrived, finding the crate outside the bar and claiming it for her own. I suppose she’d have found somewhere else to sit, or even sat on the floor, if she’d not had the good fortune to find it. Her day might have been different if she hadn’t; she might have been less vulnerable if she’d been out of reach of most of the casual passers-by. She might have fallen asleep or have been moved on, one of the homeless people objecting to her presence, attracting the wrong kind of people to their place. As it was, she’d drawn a crowd and, remaining oblivious, she’d challenged most of those who’d shown an interest in her.
Yeah, it would be interesting to expand on this...Delete
I agree. ;)Delete
His writings show up everywhere, less so now as his spirit begins to fade. At one time, they’d appear in newspapers and in magazines, seemingly shoehorned into the middle of a column of text, the story resuming where his words left off but with the replaced block of words missing. Back in the fifties, Cedric called him The Immaculate Redactor, offering up a theory that the government had him locked up in a subterranean bunker somewhere, maybe in Carlisle, set to task by them for some imagined word-crime, his penalty to write tracts under their direction for them to use as filler for the sections of text they deleted from the outpourings of the press and the publishing houses.ReplyDelete
We formed a kind of a brotherhood, Cedric and I. We discovered each other at Edinburgh, in ’58, when we were both fellows at the university there. I’d set to musing over a mistake I’d found in the Daily Mirror, a newspaper one of most junior students must have left there, feeling ashamed for picking it up but still finding it a rare delight. And then Cedric found something similar in the Telegraph and the hunt was on, our enthusiasm guaranteed as we pored through everything we could find in print. It may have been happening for decades, Nordmann disappeared in ’36, but the earliest example we found of his travail was in 1944, its instances increasing until 1988, when they appeared to stop.
also intriguing! I always wondered what redactors were like... and now I know they're likable sorts!Delete
If you consider an imprisoned frustrated writer forced to write filler so that the redactor-general's efforts are more subtle and can be disregarded as misprints likeable, well then yes, they are most likeable. :)Delete
LOL, well... most all writers are frustrated, and we build our own prisons a lot of time. Perhaps I like them because I identifyDelete
This is a cool concept. I think this one could go farther too...Delete
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