Friday, August 11, 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.


They left town when the sun was falling, hands entwined, but hopeless. Their hands were too warm, too moist. It didn’t matter. The important thing was to have an anchor. And they were used to the others' warm, sweating hands. In fact, were they to think of it, they would realize that their earliest memories were of reaching out for a warm, wet hand. They shared a bed, and they reached for each other in the black night. They shared the dinner table with their father and his demons, and they reached for each others' hands under the tablecloth. They had grown up hand in hand. So, it was natural. And if someone tried to fuck with them, they’d tell them to go to hell. And, if that didn’t work, they would say they were brothers. And, if that didn’t work, well, fuck it. They’d taken enough punches.

They weren’t worried.

Behind them, there was chaos. They could not see it, but they could feel it. Deep in their bones they’d known how the town would react. The town was a part of them, and they knew it almost as well as they knew the desperate, strong clutch of each others’ hands.

“They’ve got the fire under control now, huh?”

“Gotta figure. They’ll find the real prize soon enough.”

“And then what?”

“We become the devil, I guess. They’d never believe us. They never did believe us. Remember when you told Coach Johnson? I told my teacher. Both of them looked at us like we were crazy and told us to show the old man the respect he deserved. We never said a word again. In hindsight…”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. Fuck.”

It was proper dark now, and they were moving further away from the lights. More stars overhead. Things were quieter. Or a different kind of loud. A better kind. Natural. 

“We did the right thing?”

“No. Of course not. But we did the only thing.”

“We were never going to convince them that Mom didn’t just fall down the stairs. That this had been building. It was going to be one of us next. We had to do it.”

“Yep. No choice.”

Back in town, there were rich, white folks and poor white folks talking more than usual. They still didn’t cross the color divide, not even to hit the liquor stores that were still open. They drank coffee and shook their heads and wondered what kind of psychopath would kill the Mayor. The best man any of them knew. They weren’t used to this kind of thing. Unless it was on the TV, so it took them too long to realize that the boys were gone. They got on the horn quick, but they didn’t even know the right people to call.

It gave Jimmy and Johnny the start they needed. They had the whole thing planned out. Handy, living next to the border. Nice, to be dark-skinned with jet black hair. They had their mother to thank for that. And for the fluent Spanish that fell effortlessly from their lips.

“You know, I always wondered. Some folks hated the Old Man for marrying outside his race. Some people thought it made him a hero. We know why he really did it.  I wonder how that will play out. I guess he’ll always be a hero to most and a traitor to some.”

They stopped walking and dropped hands to light a cigarette.

“That’s none of our concern. Let’s just be glad for once that people care about pigment. And as much as I hate that fucking wall, something tells me that’s going to work in our favor, too. How you feel about being an expatriate?”

“Seriously? I think I was born that way. You?”

“I think you took my answer.”

They were in Mexico by morning. And they wondered, but realized that they would never know. Not if things went according to plan. And, so far, the plan was working.



#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...

155 comments:

  1. My God, that's beautiful. The hands are perfect... and the resolution of an impossible situation. Well done, sir! Diego and Juan will be happy now!

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    1. Wow, love it. Yes, I loved the hands, too.

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    2. Yes, yes, yes! Not the right thing but the only thing. <3

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    3. Wow. So much said and unsaid. You pack a punch, Dan. Always have, always will. And tackle the taboo, the dirty secrets that need brought into the light. Respect.

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    4. Agreed. Not the right thing but the only thing. I loved that.

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    5. Fantastic from beginning to end!

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    6. I love the way your stories unfold, Dan. Each paragraph has a new twist, the whole becoming darker and darker. Fabulous, as always!

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  2. Garden hills. It was all I could see, or rather all I wanted to see. They made me feel overwhelmingly calm even in the face of great fear. But today it’s different. I can feel it in my bones, a slow rumbling that will soon turn into a herd of Clydesdales falling from the sky. Something warm is spreading over me. I can feel it running from the back of neck to the bottoms of my feet. I do not live here, this is a far away place that I come to in times of need, and suddenly I’m questioning if it even exists. Something in me wants to move. ‘Not yet’ a small voice in the back of head says, ‘I’ll feel it when I’m ready.’ And there I lie. Naked, in the garden hills.

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    1. Beautiful... the description so vivid I could feel that warmth, and the Clydesdales... I know that feeling...

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    2. I know that feeling, too. You nailed it. This: "I can feel it in my bones, a slow rumbling that will soon turn into a herd of Clydesdales falling from the sky." I agree with Leland. The whole piece is excellent. That line and everything that comes after it is perfect. It's so strong it makes the first few lines seem "weak" and they're GREAT. In fact, I think they're necessary to lull us into a false sense of security before you drop the hammer. Awesome.

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    3. Powerful, beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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    4. Really like the sensations, and that Clydesdale image.

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    5. Notice how themes appear each week? In this case, a kind of dislocation. This is both dreamlike and strangely ominous (but that might be me projecting, lol).

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    6. I do't not live here...god I love that line! Well done!

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    7. Ambiguous and powerful. And it's up to the reader to imagine his or her own story. Great work!

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  3. My dreams are always in pastels. In fact, there are scientific studies that find this is the most common way of dreaming. But this dream came in Technicolor. The colors were too bright to have been seen with my eyes. Only my brain could have tolerated such vividness.

    There was a tree. The same tree beneath which we first kissed, first really kissed and allowed the fires of passion to break free of the prisons we'd built for them. That kiss changed everything.

    There were sunflowers of a yellow so deep the sun itself might have been envious. They were huge. They reminded me of the sunflowers we exchanged at our wedding so many years ago, atop that mountain in Colorado. I thought more of our friends would have dared the climb, but in the end, it only mattered that you and I were there.
    And do you remember? As the minister said "I now pronounce you..." the floodgates of the heavens opened, and there was nowhere to hide, and so we stood there with only each other for shelter, and it was enough. Our shivers were united, stronger in rhythm because we were joined.

    That day, there was no rainbow, and it took us hours to climb off that mountain, but we laughed all the way down. The minister, not so much. Along the way we lost our sunflowers, and I always wondered if there were some seeds that fell and grew, and if the sunflowers questioned how they wound up growing on the side of a mountain, but maybe they grew anyway.

    And the last thing from the dream... a ray of sun burst through the clouds, and made a part of a rainbow, just a part, a broken part of a once-complete arc. It lasted for only a moment, but the colors broke my heart.

    And when I awoke, I knew. I knew this was your gift to me. Your sign, your promise, your "so long for now." And one day, one day, the fragments of our rainbow will be joined again. Until then, my friend, my love, I shall watch the sky for rainbows and the earth for sunflowers. Until then.

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    1. Man, those last two Ps. The poetry in the penultimate. The whole thing is great, don't get me wrong, but there are a million more stories in those last two Ps. "allowed the fires of passion to break free of the prisons we'd built for them." - I really like this. And I'm starting to really envy the way all your stories incorporate color. And I'm starting to think that the MagicalRealLeland effect is all about love - your writing is soaked in it.

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    2. Thank you kindly! My obsession with color started with the Rainbow's Edge book... and now it consumes me... and yeah, love is really the central theme of many of my stories... having it, losing it, finding it again... it's kinda what life is like, I think.

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    3. Not fair to make me cry twice! Talk about raw emotion, you've managed that and more. You draw the deepest sorrows but also give the brightest hopes. You see both so clearly and impart that to us. No small feat.

      "Along the way we lost our sunflowers, and I always wondered if there were some seeds that fell and grew, and if the sunflowers questioned how they wound up growing on the side of a mountain..."

      Quite a legacy of words you're sowing, Leland. Beautifully done once again. Your gift to all of us and one we treasure.

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    4. Oh, you made me tear up. I love, love the idea of the scattered sunflower seeds down the mountain, and what they might grow up to be. Beautiful

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    5. Aw, shucks... you all say the nicest things!

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    6. Only two things that matter: love and beauty. And you own them both, my friend.

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    7. Oh, but you do know how to break my heart, melt it down, and yet somehow make it whole again. Powerful and beautiful.

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    8. Simply iconic, Leland. You're transcending Technicolour here. I can't do you justice by picking out any one element: it's simply superlative.

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    9. Truly, you all are most generous. Thank you.

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    10. I agree with what they all said. I knew how this would end the moment I saw the word rainbow, and I knew it would be perfect. And it was. <3

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  4. “He’s still there.”

    “What? Who?”

    Her husband’s footsteps come up behind her at the window, his steady hand lighting on her bare shoulder. The surface of her coffee ripples. She’s afraid she’ll drop it, and holds it tighter.

    “Blue SUV, across the street.”

    The derisive snort is one she’s come to expect.

    “You think I’m crazy.”

    The pause is another number in his repertoire, one that started irritating her about ten years ago. Friends told her this happened after decades of marriage, but she’d always thought it would happen to other people, not them. That they’d be the couple toasting their anniversaries with champagne and witty banter—the conversation, while not Algonquin Round Table scintillating, would at least be there, no long, awkward silences where they would start wondering if this was all life had to offer. Start looking over each other’s shoulders for something better. It had been a comforting thought, at first.

    “No,” he says finally, his voice a degree of calm that makes her want to jab her elbow backward. “You’re not crazy. You just…maybe think too much. You think every blue SUV is someone out to get us. You think every man with sunglasses is his secret police gathering intel. Maybe you’re watching too much Netflix.”

    “I think we should leave.”

    “Okay. Now I think you’re crazy. Why would you want to leave because some random guy in a random SUV is parked in our neighborhood? Maybe…maybe he’s watching someone else. Maybe he’s stalking his ex. We have no idea.”

    She sets her coffee down so hard it sloshes onto the brickface of the mantel. “I’m going to ask him.”

    “Honey.”

    It’s another tone she hates, but she sucks in a slow breath, lets it out slower, tells herself she is in command of her own reactions.

    “It’s not against the law to ask, is it? Or is that something else he changed while everyone else was distracted?”

    “Probably not, but it still could be dangerous.”
    She turns toward him, her mouth parting. “Why? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

    In the silence, her life slow-pans across the screen of her mind. The last image, their beautiful boy.

    “Just go upstairs.” His voice is soft, but deliberate, which makes the hairs on the backs of her arms stand up.

    “I will not—”

    But he already has his hand on the knob. He stops. His eyebrows dip, face contrite. It’s a look she’d seen on their son’s face when he’d been naughty. “I’m on his enemies list.”

    “You…” Damn him. She knew it. He hadn’t stopped. She’d told him the first time he got arrested to stop writing those letters, stop posting in that group. Stop stirring up trouble. He’d promised.
    “This has to end now,” she says. “You know what happens to those people, you know what he does, we saw with our own eyes…” The words turn into hard knots in her throat.

    “Which is why I’m going to tell him to leave us alone. You’re right. It ends now. In the name of the Constitution and the First Amendment. It ends now.”

    This is what he cares about most? Some useless bits of history, and not their lives? How could she have believed that he had stopped? The good wife in her head, the good wife putting that champagne on to chill, the good wife making his supper every night, wants to say something like “I’m coming with you” or “We’re in this together,” but she doesn’t want to be together with him in this folly anymore. He has already cost them too much. The legal fees being the least of it.

    She lifts her hands. She walks away. Up the stairs. To the empty bedroom at the end of the hall.

    The front door slams. She curls up on the small, narrow bed with the Star Wars sheets and closes her eyes. Imagining the handcuffs. The Miranda rights. And then the blue SUV driving away.

    When she comes downstairs again, all is quiet. She looks out the window at the empty street. Then hits the number she’d been instructed to call. When the calm voice answers, she says, “Help me get to Canada. Please.”

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    1. wow.... wow... you've left me wondering so many things... and in the best tradition of flash fiction, you make me, the reader, write the rest of the story. This is magnificent.

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    2. More questions than answers and such realistic dialogue I felt I was there, eavesdropping. Maybe from that blue SUV since the house has been bugged for months.

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    3. Damn it, they took my answer. I was going to say, "HOLY FUCKING DIALOGUE!" - so good. That netflix line. All of the dialogue is perfect. And I agree that you open a million worlds here. This is flash fiction at it's finest. And with dialogue Salinger would envy.

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    4. Oh, and the tense choice is perfect.

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    5. Was gonna mention the tense choice! Works perfectly. This is like a tiny little movie. Or like the pilot of an intriguing new show.

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    6. Wow. You invite the reader inside this incredibly intimate space, where the tension and sorrow are palpable. I hadn't realized I was holding my breath until I let it out to type this!

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    7. OOOHH. This hits close to home. I have one of those DH's who can get FAR too caught up in The Principle of the Thing...

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    8. I thought the same as David - it's my turn to be a ditto-head - but I don't think a movie could do this justice. It's got to be a book - full-fat and with no abridgements. The reader has to live this along with the characters.

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    9. Oooh. David's right. The beginning of a TV series. Maybe a Netflix original where they don't have to watchdog what they say. :D

      Hits all the right notes to make my chest feel hollow. Great tension. Lots of unanswered questions.

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  5. No good excuse for my absence except I need to manage time and energy better. On the bright side, I have five stories published. Another two by next month and more works in progress than I can remember. But...I missed this. Missed everyone, so here goes.

    "A dream is a passionate wish from the heart..." TMcL


    Ephemeral but gaining shape,
    His form is shimmering, coalescing
    Substantial now, I see his face.
    My lips soon opening, confessing,

    I reach to touch and feel his weight.
    My fingers sliding, seeking, questing.
    A steady press in darkest night.
    His firmness felt, resilience testing.

    As pebbled flesh gives up the fight,
    To seeking mouth and hands requesting,
    Our moans fill up the soundless dark,
    Empowered now, limits assessing.

    Enraptured in the heated dream,
    I take my fill, endurance besting,
    All carnal pleasures in pursuit.
    Replete when to the heights soon cresting.

    But dreams must end and yet I know,
    When eyes are closed and mind is resting,
    I'll come again when I repose,
    And so will he, at my behesting.

    -Tamara McLanahan

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    1. Welcome back! congrats on the published stories! and I continue to be amazed at the raw emotion you portray in structured form... beautiful!

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    2. Yes! Welcome and kudos! I probably have said this before - I'm not super good at critiquing poetry, but I know what I like. And what always impresses me about your words are that the structure and feel has such a timeless, classical element, yet it always feels fresh and modern, too. I don't know how you do that.

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    3. Yes, congrats on the published stories! This is tight.

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    4. Congratulations on all your successes, Tamara. And again, as always, you raise our interest with a heated tale with a twist.

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  6. It was the sort of August day when puffy white clouds in the shapes of circus animals danced a conga line just above the horizon, but the relentless summer sun beat everything down. The breeze was gentle but dry. It was, after all, a desert.

    Against all odds, there was a creek that ran through the sand and clay. Its cool water sustained birds, packrats, a porcupine, a dog, and a man; a man who just now removed his baseball cap and dipped it in the cool waters. The dog stood in the creek, slaking its thirst.

    "You wanna keep walking, or should we go home?"

    The dog blew bubbles, then knelt in the water to soak his underside.

    "They say the sun is supposed to hide behind the moon today. Sometime around noon." The man looked at the sky and calculated the time. "Shouldn't be much longer."

    The dog tilted his head, convincing the man yet again that the dog understood his every word.

    They walked a while in the fields of sagebrush and sunflowers. The birds were the first to notice, going silent. Then the breeze died down.

    The man squatted down, and the dog put his head on the man's thigh. The man rubbed the collie's ear. "I reckon it's starting."

    The man and dog looked up but not at the sun directly.

    "My granddaddy used to tell stories of strange things happening during eclipses."

    The sky grew darker.

    "My favorite story of his was that the animals..."

    The stars were visible now. Totality. The sun was obscured.

    "That the animals could talk? It wasn't just a story," said the collie.

    The man was silent.

    "And I want to say thank you. You're a good human. I appreciate the walks and the tennis balls. Little bored with the food, but I guess it's nutritious."

    The dog's voice was deep, just as the man had always imagined it. The moon was ringed by the fire of the sun's corona.

    "Sometimes I worry about you, with only me, a dog, for company, but I guess you know what you're doing."

    The man answered, " I worry about you, too, being an only dog."

    The dog continued, "I guess there's just one more thing I want to tell you."

    There was light on the horizon. Totality was nearly over.

    "I'm not very good with words. Human words especially. I just want you to know I..."

    A dim beam of sunlight touched them both.

    "Ruff rooooo," the dog howled.

    "I love you, too, buddy."

    They rose to their feet. The birds awoke. A meadowlark sang. And they walked toward the horizon, their shadows and their history trailing behind them.

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    1. Oh, Leland, I'm teary over this. I tend to anthropomorphize easily. If I pick up a stuffed animal in a store I have to buy it or worry I've gotten their hopes up of being owned. I kid you not. It's a bit of a curse to have such a fanciful imagination or perhaps it's a loose grip on reality. Whatever the case, I adore the stories where your animals speak. This was beautiful. And what dog lover hasn't looked into the eyes of their furry baby and seen comprehension, compassion and unconditional love? Only the ability to articulate was missing. Your story addressed that in marvelous fashion. Thank you.

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    2. Agreed. I love me some MagicalRealLeland. This is a dope piece. Touching. Funny (Little bored with the food, but I guess it's nutritious). Timely. And always with the heart. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it. You can do things other writers just wouldn't be able to pull off without getting called out sentimental. Because it's genuine. For a little while we get to see the world the way you do. I wish I saw it that way all the time. <3

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    3. Well, those two said everything I was gonna. Love this. If it weren't for the current border, I'd be down in Oregon to see the full eclipse ten days from now. As it is, we'll still see maybe a ninety percent version.

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    4. Love this so much! As a crazy dog person, myself, I'm convinced that this is totally possible. Well done!

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    5. Another 'day in the life of a man and his dog' tale. You do these stories so well - but of course you would!

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    6. With kind words like this, how can I help but be back next week? Thanks to you all for the encouragement!

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  7. It burst through her, ripping sinew and tendons, ligaments separating from bone. Those in turn shattering. Shards pierced organs and she doubled over in pain. Shifting always did this to her but what other choice did she have? To remain corporeal would make it infinitely easier for them to track her every move.

    And they were close, she sensed them. Through the pain, through the haze of #light she knew they were near. Staggering into the closest open doorway, she stood, braced while the pain eased, assessing her next move. Eyes darting to make sure they weren't already ahead of her, she crossed the threshold, then moved further into the darkened room.

    Quick thinking had saved her skin too many times to count over the years.

    She was just tired enough, anxious enough to laugh at her own joke.

    Ha, as if she currently had any skin...

    No, that she'd left in the alley next to this dump. Cursing that she'd had to leave it in a recycler, which, if those tracking her had any sense, they'd find shortly.

    But maybe it was to her advantage. Who would think to look for her so close to where she'd Shifted? She'd been clever enough to stay one step ahead of her pursuers for these last six weeks. No reason why they'd think she was slipping now. Or at least that's what she hoped.

    She shimmered in the darkness, just a hint of gold now that the Shift had completed. People turned but squinted as sunlight poured into the open doorway. She'd dissipated enough to be next to invisible. To these humans at least. A pity the ones who hunted her weren't humanoid. Moving to a window, she peered through the dingy pane, hoping to see them head in another direction. A calculated risk but she was running out of options.

    Empty. Nothing stirred in the alley. She'd be alright after all. Next course of action, shift to solid again and procure an off-world transport to...anywhere. Anywhere but here. This had been too close a call.

    She felt the ice cold, that frisson of awareness a second before the force field stunned her, immobilized her.

    They weren't in the alley. They were directly behind her.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

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    1. Well that gave me goosebumps! Not a genre I'm very familiar with, but it still got me!

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    2. Me too. I think you did an outstanding job of maintaining the tension here. It's spot on. No dips. No grand drama. Just taut enough to lock us in there. Well played, lady.

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    3. Yeah, I got chills at the end. Nice build, really taut, lots of information that never once felt like info dumping, which isn't easy in flash fiction of this kind.

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    4. I always tell the folks I edit: If you keep the sentences short, you heighten the tension. Perfectly well done!

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  8. Iowa - I have to get the fuck out of Iowa and I can't find my car keys. Two hours later a locksmith makes two copies, now for an oil change and 2 new tires. Everything we own crammed in the car, cat, spiders, a hissing cockroach, and two kids.
    "Mom why do you get all the leg room?"
    "Because I have to be able to push the accelerator and brake pedals, and preferably not at the same time."
    We are still in Iowa as the sun sets, they sleep a little.
    "Mom, where are we?"
    "Iowa, we're still in Iowa." Dear Lord why are we still in Iowa.
    Missouri is a blip on a map, in and out so quick there's no time to stop, at least we're not in Iowa anymore.
    Kansas at 3 am is another story. Every town in Kansas has the same town signs and single street lights. I hope I have not entered the Twilight Zone and that by morning the labyrinth will spit me out in Oklahoma. Sun comes up, still in Kansas.
    Oklahoma comes with me chugging energy drinks like they're going out of style.
    New Mexico starts as a dream, smooth roads and no traffic. Then there's an accident changing the endless road into a parking lot and the a/c craps out. The cat and the son get sick from the heat and two tarantulas die. There is no where to turn off til the end of the mess, the cat lounges in a beer cooler while I clean the son up and put him in his sister's clothes. I toss out a good sleeping bag too. At this point I wish I was the cat, chilling in the beer cooler with a cold one.
    "Mom, where are we?"
    "Still in New Mexico. Remember kids New Mexico wasn't mom's fault."
    Night falls and we're still in New Mexico.
    Arizona is our final bathroom stop, that way the daughter can get out in her home state for a stretch. We reach the hotel at midnight, gross and exhausted, dripping with sweat and in desperate need of a shower.
    6 am and the alarm goes off.
    "Mom?"
    "Yeah?"
    "It's time to get ready for my field trip."

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    1. A perfect description of a road trip from hell... or to hell, depending on perspective... I love the detail in this, and the reality of the kids and the cat... well told!

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    2. Go Roz! You will never ever take a road trip quite as long, I promise.

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    3. I traveled from Maryland to Colorado Springs once. Longest five days of my life with a breakdown on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and a flat on a Sunday in Saint Louis Mo. Felt like aliens had culled the whole town. We finally did escape out of Kansas but it was a near thing. And sometimes, in nightmares, I'm still back there, having never left.

      Thank you for bringing all that back so vividly. :)

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    4. Yes! What they said. You nailed this. Also, "Iowa - I have to get the fuck out of Iowa and I can't find my car keys." - that is an EPIC first sentence. For a story, a novel, for anything. Love it.

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    5. Love it! "Remember kids New Mexico wasn't Mom's fault." Ha.

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    6. Ha, brilliant. Stressful and fun at the same time.

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    7. Tense and with a narrative we can all connect with. Excellent!

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    8. Well in! Perfect beginning, great tension, excellent dialogue and descriptions, and then that ending. Aces!

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  9. This was something done for fun, a concerted effort on my part to break from my "style" as some say they can see in my poetry. Tongue in cheek...

    His turgid conveyance was held in abeyance
    With simply a flick of her hand,
    Delayed in not knowing had impatience growing,
    As well as the seduction planned.

    He pressed his advantage, the best he could manage.
    A silver tongued devil was he.
    But with some augmenting, she next was relenting,
    Soon right where he wanted to be.

    The passion was rising, it wasn't surprising.
    Entwined and engaged as they were.
    But with her consenting, he'd not be resenting.
    The Beast was beginning to stir.

    He might be corrupting as he was erupting,
    A claiming she'd never forget.
    And soon complimenting a languid contenting,
    He'd be evermore in her... debt.


    ~Tamara McLanahan

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    1. Awesome. If there were more references to monkeys, whores, and "diseases of love" this could pass for Lord Rochester. :)

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    2. Double entendres and puns, tied together with rhymes! how could I not love this!

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  10. This is an oldie but a goodie, I'm posting in solidarity for Roz.
    Relocation: Part One
    And it came to pass that God spoketh in mine ear and said, "Lead Thy people from out of the desert, and into the land of milk and honey. There, you will find seasons, and the grass grows green and the rivers run, and the trees grow in great abundance. Not to mention nice architecture. It is also the home of Gooey Butter Cake and St. Louis style ribs, but those are only to be consumed in moderation.
    Selah.

    And we prayeth unto Him saying, "Fine with us, God, but howeth are we supposed to pay for all this?"
    And God smote us for our lack of faith. And we grew sorely afflicted and there was whinging and moaning throughout the land. So in His mercy he provided a storage pod and a cheap 85 Chevy Long Bed camper with 4 Captain's chairs with a velour tufted ceiling like the chariots of old.
    So in the heat of the desert sun, we packed one and then the other for days upon days and finally, our 3 highly distressed cats and made to leave.

    But a kind woman of the desert persuadeth us to tarry. To replenish ourselves at the Motel 6 as her guests she said, because they don't charge extra for distressed pets. And verily, we allowed as how she had a point, not being as young as we used to be, and God delivered Dominoes that night and it was good.

    The next morning we discovereth that the Mexican Philistine charged with making our chariot road-ready deceived us in our ignorance, and the tranny was leaking like the eyes of Our Lady of Sorrows and it faileth emissions, so the kind desert lady introduceth us to a Cuban who was a righteous man, she said and very successful because he had a house in the Foothills and knew her minister, but could not get to it until the following day. So we taketh the chariot in again and proceedeth to lunch. On our way back to the Motel 6 the kind woman receiveth a call from her daughter who has fallen ill. "Food Poisoning?" Spaketh the woman to her child through her iphone, "A touch of the flu?"

    Whereupon I began to channel my dearly departed mother or the Holy Spirit or something and saith unto the woman out of the clear blue firmament. "She's got appendicitis. Check for fever and get her to a hospital."

    She looketh upon me as though I had taken leave of my senses. "How can this be?" saith she. "We are vegans, Yea, verily."
    I am in no mood. "Go!"

    And so we waited throughout the long afternoon. Because the woman has the good insurance, the child had to get a CAT scan AND an MRI just to tell them she had appendicitis. But they got it before it burst anyhow and the child was healed. Which only goes to show you, God puts you where he wants you, no matter what you happen to think about it. And that night we celebrated with strong drink and Cheetos and swam in the Motel 6 pool. And it was also good.

    But God worketh in even more mysterious ways, because the next morning, in our tribulation, the righteous Cuban revealeth that the Mexican Philistine, though he had reached deep into our pockets had neither checked the brakes nor the bearings and they needed to be redone. And so it was another day passeth into night at the Motel 6.

    But the Lord sent an angel bearing a 50 percent off coupon from the House of Meineke, and so we clung to the hope of being able to leave the Motel 6 with at least enough gas money to get out of Tucson.

    So in the light of the dawn we wrestleth the 3 distressed cats back into their carriers saturated with Martha Stewarts Natural Calming Pet Spray. And I was blessed because I only got peed on once, and that was good.

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    1. Delightful! Such fun to read. Perhaps the Martha Stewart Natural Calming Pet Spray works best when sprayed directly into the human's face? Why should cats get to be any calmer than they already are? ;)

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    2. Ha! This is hilarious. I love the repeated references to Motel 6 - this whole piece is funny and, yeah, I agree, just plain fun to read. :)

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    3. LOL. "We are vegans, Yea, verily."

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    4. ROFL, thanks Teresa. Let's road trip together some time, just not in one long stretch or with too many unintended hotel stays. By road trip I mean no more than 300 miles. I got to California and the ex emails asking if I can get the kids back to Iowa before summer's over...uh that'll be a nope.

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    5. I hate to be a ditto-head, but this is LOL hilarious!

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  11. Relocation: Part Two
    And so after 10 hours we come upon the oasis known as Tucumcari, an ancient shrine to the travelers of old. Like most ancient shrines, it’s in ruins, but we are booked into a Super 8 and after the Motel 6, we feel ourselves to be coming up in the world. Until we run out of gas a half mile from the motel. He who droveth this great distance crieth out to the Lord" "Are you fucking KIDDING ME?"

    His wife knoweth better than to question the Lord, much less the driver. I just spray the cats some more and keepeth my mouth shut.
    But there came upon us a Samaritan with a gas can, and after a quick trip to the Quick Trip good will was restored.
    And we slept that night and dreamed of the Promised Land. And In the morning there were donuts and coffee. Selah

    The oracles of the weather channel promised fire on one road and floods on another, yet we clung to our faith and the Lord sent a cloud cover over Texas and Oklahoma. And that, too was good because given our chariot problems, don't even ask about air conditioning.

    And then it was we came to Tulsa, which is a place not mentioned in the Bible, but a lot bigger than you'd think. And we lingered once more at a Super 8, because neither one of us are brave enough to free the cats from their carriers and actually try and share the van with them overnight at a campsite, Martha Stewart or no Martha Stewart.

    And then there came upon the land a feast called Labor Day and it was good, until you hit the traffic on I-44 going north. But we prayed and wept and blessed God for the brake job, because somewhere along the line the oracles of Map quest neglected to mention the OZARKS and the true necessity for brakes on 250 miles of bumper to bumper holiday traffic on a roller coaster of hills and hairpins. My husband is with neither God nor the devil, he's in the zone where driving is all that matters. I am offering prayers to my ancestors and telling the cats to just shut the fuck up.

    But given that there is a very strong possibility that we will have to live in this van, given that we still have no apartment because there is no internet out there in the wilderness of of highways and Motel 6 type establishments we check into a Red roof and smuggle in the cats, because really, at this point, WHO CARES if you're pet friendly or not?

    And I call again about the apt we'd seen on Craigslist and a few others, too. And it came to pass that we learned to live in the moment, because sometimes, you just gotta. Selah

    So after checking out we have 3 hours to kill before the landlord for the apt we'd said we'd take finally shows up and I sweet talk him into renting and letting us unpack the van and the cats and write him a couple of slightly warm checks, because all those gas stops "hold" up to twice the charges and he actually lets us move in the same day.

    And so I saith unto you: It is not easy, nor is it not horribly expensive. But you can change your life and get your asses to whatever your Promised Land might be.
    Is it worth it? Definitely.....The streets are alive just now with the Mexican Independence Day Festival around the corner on Cherokee. And the music? Most definitely NOT yo Mama's mariachi...
    It's never the realities of our lives that really count, anyhow.
    The sense of possibilities? Those, my dears, count for everything!
    Thus spaketh me...)
    Selah

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    1. I love this. The upgrade to the Super 8! "And then it was we came to Tulsa, which is a place not mentioned in the Bible, but a lot bigger than you'd think." I'm cracking up! :)

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    2. I laughed myself silly with the whole thing! This is awesome!

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    3. Too funny, and you know me, I can relate.

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    4. "And it came to pass that we learned to live in the moment, because sometimes, you just gotta." Ha ha! These two pieces are a lot of fun.

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    5. Totally tongue in cheek and hilarious. Most brilliant, I sayeth.

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    6. More hilarity and a great message. Love it!

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  12. “I’m sorry,” she said to the seated woman, whose protruding tote bag was impossible for her kneecaps to miss. The woman looked up from her National Enquirer to give her a dirty look. Now sweating but undaunted, she added, “I’m having one of those days,” singing the last three words in too many octaves for morning rush hour. The woman gave her the once-over and said, “It don’t make you special or nothing.” Smile faltering now, she shrugged. “I suppose not.”

    The commuter bus was easier than the subway. She was just as crammed but at least the bus didn’t rock back and forth, causing her to step on 360 degrees of toes. She only had this woman’s tote bag to worry about. She pulled in every muscle she could in order to keep herself within hair of it. Still, every turn of the page gave the woman another opportunity to give her a nasty look.

    What the heck did I really do to her? She thought. Then she made up a story about the woman’s wretched home life, which gave her comfort and relief that she couldn’t possibly have inflicted so much misery on a perfect stranger on a bus with an honest knee-brush. Hey, at least she’s sitting down! She added, shifting her own weight from one high heel to the other. She’d just gotten on the bus for her first day at a new job and already she regretted ignoring the impulse to don ankle socks and tennis shoes over her hosiery. Her sister told her no one did that anymore. “It’ll date you,” she’d warned.

    The bus driver braked hard, throwing her sideways, first toward the front, then toward the back. The woman dared her silently to so much as brush her fake leather tote one more time, and she didn’t. Not even close. But as the driver pulled into the next bus stop, another impulse came over her, one she did not ignore. She smiled down at her one last time, kicked her sacred tote bag hard enough to spill its contents, and ran off the bus.

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    1. Vengeance is MINE! Remind me not to stand next to you on the bus Seriously, this was fun.

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    2. This is a really strong piece. I love the way you present these real-life scenarios and let the reader relate - super confident and precisely written. Just the right details in the right places (eg, the sneakers), and subtle anxiety/frustration rings throughout.

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    3. Ha ha, I love the payoff. You set it up so perfectly. I think what makes it funnier is that it seems out of character. A nice, kind person kicking back at the ugliness of the world. Missed you on here, sis!

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    4. Honestly? I would TOTALLY do this! Loved it!

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    5. We all feel that way, don't we? We don't all have the cojones to follow through though. I only hope she's not on the bus again tomorrow...

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    6. Thanks, everybody! There's a small part of me that always wanted to do something like this to someone like that, mostly when I was younger, before I learned how to use my outside-my-head voice. Thanks for reading!

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    7. What they all said. Great piece as usual, Jen. And one I can totally relate to. I'd want to kick that tote, too. :)

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  13. When my girl left me and went back east, I drove many hundreds of miles of my own. South.

    Long before Canyonville even had a chance, I pulled into a darkening asphalt parking lot horseshoed by conifers, hearing the cannonade of surf against rocks, and I signed in to a room with an ocean view. The owner, a handsome woman with short black hair in a bob and wide sargasso hips, hinted I might find solace in her oceanic murmurs and clefts, and I did consider it, her warm specific impetus of comfort. But I never acted on it. Actual solace being too distant and all.

    That first night, after hearkening to the eternal clamor of the tide, I beheld the sunset, the dripping red sun like some internal sac dropped into an autopsy pan. My rosy camera finger stutter-sifting forensic traces.

    Plastic glasses brimming with cheap red wine. Slipshod guitar work. I slept on the narrow balcony, folded into motel bedding, torches marking the cliff top trail below. Eighties Prince strutting on my laptop. Grainy silhouetted couples passed and gouged more pieces from my dark-starred heart. Whispered and clasped hands. I could see the sugar arc of their fingers, imagine the shadowy settlement of their terms, the endearing angles of their lips and eyebrows, their poise, their tone, their doleful, gentle music.

    As the surf replayed its nevermore loop, hell's agonal gasps, I watched the gaping moon, frozen out there in the solar wind. Cadaver blue and alone.

    The first time solitude outshines us, it makes some quiet vow to ratchet up its bone-grip.

    That ring tone. Asking, "You there?"

    FaceTime. Fuck. I could have ignored her, but my prison was my grieving skin, my gentle heart, was never not.

    "Here. Yeah. Hey, babe."

    Shadowy faces moving and grimacing in doltish middle grounds. Aging white folks. Farmer's omelets and rye toast and bottomless coffees in white mugs, Perkins and Denny's, peanut butter and strawberry jelly arrayed in racks, thumbsized. Iowa fields and South Dakota billboards. Sioux City, Sioux Falls. Illinois sunset. Faraway lightning. Liver spots. Trucker hats. Angry as fuck. The drastic ghosts behind all this.

    "You did the left coast road trip without me."

    "I did."

    Pause to hear the sussurance of the night surf. The quiet inhale, the concussive rage, the hissing backdraw through mineral-brown teeth. The whole defiant coast is a wide and diffident mouth.

    Lighthouses faking something. Partial corpses. Zombified. Useful in some surrogate time now gone.

    "How could you?"

    "Was always gonna do it. And woulda done it either way."

    "I'm mad at you."

    "Yeah. You broke this. Broke me. There was no us when I started."

    Seabirds claim their quotas of night right before the crows wake.

    We traded more words. Reminisced. About fireworks seen from a balcony. Even tried to wring something winsome from this jilted Fender, until…

    A great blinding shear off the coast, somewhere near the horizon, sliced across the night, stupefying light so pure it's easy to forget the wretched bastard cacophony to follow.

    And you saw it onscreen, knew it was your immediate future, light-speed nigh, the moment I tried to say I still cared, the moment love posed triumphant, when a gull screamed, at the frozen blazing moment of my erasure.

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    1. That last line! "My rosy camera finger stutter-sifting forensic traces." "Liver spots. Trucker hats. Angry as fuck." There are so many perfect lines. I love the contrast of movement and stasis (internal and external) in this. You crushed this one, G. Perfectly tuned.

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    2. This is nothing short of gorgeous... the images... the sugar arc of their fingers... the fireworks... the sea... so many many beautiful images... and then you nailed the ending. Once again, I am in awe.

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    3. "Wretched bastard cacophony" FTW! Love this piece!

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    4. LOL. My good friends who I love so much. It's all music. Sometimes cacophonous, sometimes mellifluous. And love, of course. :)

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    5. Without fail, I read your postings twice. Once because the words are so melodious, so compelling I can't tarry long. I need the next one and the next one and so on, until the conclusion. Ah, but the second reading is a joy. To read the nuances, to savor the flavor of the words, let them wrap around me, sink in. Delight in the experience.

      Always twice, at least. Sometimes more.

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    6. Everybody's on a road trip this week. And I agree with Tamara, there's something about the cadence that is musical, almost subliminal. Do you write out loud? I mean, do you speak the words as you write them?

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    7. There's nobody does this better than - or even as well as - you, David. You engage us with every sense and a few more besides. Masterly work, as always!

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    8. Thanks, all! Teresa, to answer your question: sort of. I don't literally say them aloud, but I hear them in my head, and often in different voices. But don't tell any passing mental health workers. ;)

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    9. Wow. This is lyrical and beautiful and horrific and sad and I love it to bits. Every word of this is just perfect.

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  14. Man, it's been a long time since I made it to the party! No real reason except maybe trump fatigue. I've been totally uninspired to write or to push through the block. But I'm finally feeling the itch to tiptoe back into the writing pool. Some of the obituaries I read while researching my family tree inspired this little snippet.

    *

    Polk County Gazette - Sept. 10, 1878

    We regretfully report that Mrs. Josiah Buchner, heretofore the only surviving offspring of Thomas Wexham, one of the earliest settlers in this area, died last evening at the Stony Gap home of her son William Buchner.

    Thomas Wexham moved his family here in 1835, and some years later professed great pleasure in seeing his daughter marry Josiah Buchner, whom he regarded as a fine man and upstanding citizen.

    Mrs. Buchner is survived by two sons, William, who took over the family farm after his father’s passing following a brief illness four years ago, and Thomas, a merchant in Grizzly Niche, as well as three daughters, Mrs. Elijah Proctor, Mrs. John Winters, and Mrs. Samuel Henderson.

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    1. First off, welcome back! And I feel you on the TF. I haven't been getting enough writing done either. This is a cool concept. I want to know the story within the story. And it just occurred to me how cool playing with obit form could be!

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    2. Thank you! The main catalyst for this was trying to find any significant information about one of my great-great-grandmothers, which I still haven't been able to do. Her obituary was mostly about her father, husband and sons, with no mention of her beyond the fact that she was the one who died. :/

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    3. I agree... an awesome form! and I'm glad you're back, too!

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    4. Welcome back! So nice to see your words here and your cute little raccoon face. Wow. Feels like there's a story behind that small obit.

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    5. Yes, welcome back, Maggie! The others said what I was gonna say. :)

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    6. Welcome again, (and I can sympathize with trump fatigue) it's been messing with my inspiration, too!

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    7. Welcome back, Maggie! And thank you for this stylish piece of work!

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  15. He needed to work. He needed to work because he needed to eat. He kept reminding himself of that, even though the mere thought of food was enough to make his stomach clench and roll. He needed to work, but if he managed to stay alive long enough to make it to the first port, he swore to himself he’d stumble off the damned ship with his pack on his back and take his chances.

    No one had warned him. No one had told him that the ship would pitch, taking the deck under his feet with it. No one had warned him that he’d he tumbling to port one second and staggering starboard the next. They hadn’t told him what a toll it would take on his innards, either. He’d been trying to keep his insides inside since the ship left port.

    Four hours. Four long hours they’d been at sea. Four hours between him and blessed land. All he could do was grit his teeth and try to do his job while the deck rose and fell under his boots and hope that he could survive all the way to their first stop.

    _ _ _

    Hours later, while it was still pitch black, he climb-crawled into his hard, narrow bunk. He was grateful for the thin mattress, the rock-like shelf beneath it. At least he wasn’t one of the poor bastards sleeping in a hammock, swaying with the ship. His stomach couldn’t take that. But his hard, narrow bed would offer just enough solidity to let him sleep

    _ _ _

    He rose long after the sun and rolled out of his bunk. His stomach had calmed. So had the sea. The ship still rocked, but the movement was gentler now, more like a cradle than a hobby horse. He didn’t stumble so much, and his stomach didn’t heave. The smell of coffee and bacon was welcoming, and he devoured more than his fair share. Then he climbed aboveboard to report to work.

    The ocean spread out before him like a great, glittering jewel. Diamond peaks sparked off of darkest sapphires, dazzling his eyes. The jewel sea stretched out…forever. As far as his eye could see. Farther than his imagination could reach. He’d never dreamed of anything so vast.

    And he knew. He wouldn’t debark at the next port to take his chances. He’d take his chances here. And there, wherever the water ended, far beyond the horizon. There would be rough waters and rough nights…but there would be views, there would be days like this. And a single moment like this was enough to make up for a whole string of nights like the one just past.

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    1. Oh, I love this. Great characterization - leaves us wanting more. And leaves me never wanting to sleep on a ship... ;)

      There is an authority to this piece. I can't think how to put it. It's just the right amount of intimate.

      One thing (and I may be totally wrong about this because I am NOT a sailor by any means), but I think the hammock would be way preferable to a hard bed sickness wise. ? Maybe not. Maybe our protagonist doesn't know any more about sailing than me (yet). Just thought I'd mention it.

      Dope piece. Even with the knowledge that I'd be puking my guts out, I kind of want to see that single moment myself. <3

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    2. Yeah, as Dan said, there's an assuredness here that gives us confidence we're in good hands, and that a worthwhile story is taking shape. I'd read on, for sure.

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    3. I love the true-to-life shift in the character's perspective, how a beautiful, calm morning really can negate a long, dark tumultuous night. Wonderful descriptions, too!

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    4. Beautiful. A lovely epiphany for your hero. He's found his place in the world. Inspiring.

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    5. Gorgeous, and perfectly described... I've been at sea in such conditions, and my stomach nearly heaved at how well you brought back the memories... and I remember the morning after, and you painted that just as accurately and believably... thank you...

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    6. A baptism of fire...sorry, water. I only hope we could all recover ourselves so well and acclimatize ourselves to our changing circumstances. Great work!

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  16. First, they changed the language. You didn’t notice at first, but then, little by little, words didn’t mean what they used to. It was strange all right, but I can tell you when it started. I was standing with Tommy Markson outside the church. Having a smoke. We did that sometimes when the sermons went on to long, snuck outside real quiet, like we needed to pee or something, when it was really just to stand in the weather and get a better sense of things. I don’t know about you, but I always found more God in a good bit of weather than I ever did inside the walls of the First Presbyterian. Maybe Tommy was the same and maybe he wasn’t. I used to think so, but after that Sunday, I don’t know anymore.
    But we was going on about the eclipse and the missile crisis, and I was looking out over the headstones in the churchyard. It’s a pretty spot, peaceful, leastwise when dying doesn’t seem so close. I was going on about CNN and every other Bob having to say something about nothing. “Fact is, Tommy,” I told him, “you can’t go firing missiles at a whole dang country, just because you heard it on the news they said they might be fixing to fire at you. Saying ain’t doing.”
    Tommy looked troubled and shook his head. Some mockingbird sang out, making us both jump. “Factis,” he said. “Factis are not important. The ratings indicate otherwise.”
    I ground out my cigarette. “What are you saying? Facts are sure as hell important.”
    “Not if you look at the databytes.”
    “The what?”
    He let forth an odd little chuckle. “The social media indicators of possible dissent. The alternatives. There’s an app for that.”
    I began to sweat. “Tommy, we been friends for twenty years. What the fuck are you talking about?”
    He grinned. Inside, the organ began to grind the opening chords of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
    I turned to go back in. He murmured under his breath, chanting it like a mantra. “Fakenews,fakenews,fakenews.”
    I stopped him with a hard hand on his shoulder. “Tommy? You okay?”
    He turned to me, grinning a little. “They have chips in all the Democrats now. The Liberals. They can Tell when you buy a six pack. Or cheat on your wife. Or sign a petition. I know…”
    “Tommy? Jesus, Tommy. Long as I’ve know you, you’ve been a good man. Smart. Ask yourself, what about the Truth? What about that? The truth will set you free!”
    He turned back to me. “Don’t you get it? Didn’t you hear? There ain’t no truth no more. There ain’t no free, either. Believe what they tell you. It’s the only way to stay alive.”
    His eyes turned black as olives, hollow and strange.
    And I haven’t gone back to church or stepped out with Tommy since that day.
    But I’m real, real careful about the words that I use now,
    About what I say.

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    1. Again, notice how many pieces are dystopian or apocalyptic? This one is very effective too.

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    2. So cleverly worded and all the more chilling for it.

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    3. Yep, this is good stuff. I worry about the changes in the language... about how subtly it's happening... how carefully the manipulation occurs... you nailed it.

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    4. Yes! I totally agree. This is chilling and scary and you put us right there so well. I love this line: “Tommy, we been friends for twenty years. What the fuck are you talking about?” - zap, right back to reality. Seems humorous for a second and then terrifying.

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    5. Yikes! This one's good and creepy. Well done!

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  17. Back for more comments, tomorrow, y'all. Imma 'bout spent for today...

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    1. I like it. Short. Realistic. Nice use of ellipse... ;)

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    2. Not to mention authentic vernacular. Well-punctuated. And the ellipsis leaves open a world of possibilities!

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  18. You are really hard to kill. Remember that god-awful flu bug you got, the one where your fever was stuck at 105 for over a week and you were too sick to leave the house and your fiancé said he didn’t want to catch that shit and stayed away for a month? You lived through it. Returned the ring, too. And what about all the times you were stuck in an airless subway car, packed breast-to-ass, with nothing to hold on to, physically or mentally? Or that time when you were five and your father, who’d left you at birth, decided to be a good daddy one bright, sunshiny Sunday by putting you in front of him on his motorcycle for a ride through woods without a helmet? God knows how you lived through that, but you did. You’ve mixed alcohol on an empty stomach. You routinely walk barefoot on slippery surfaces. You have been known to run with scissors, cross busy streets against the light, smoke cigarettes, eat food, drink tap water wherever you go, and have ingested bugs through your nose and your mouth and both eyes. You occasionally forgo sunscreen even though you’re as pale as the moon. You sit for hours on end, working or not. You’ve been known to balance yourself on tall ladders using only your big toes. You almost always forget to lock your doors at night while alone. You’re kind to strangers – especially the strangest ones. You leave the house almost every day now, convinced something out there will kill you, and yet…you are really hard to kill.

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    1. Cockroach of love! So many wondrous details.

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    2. Fascinating! A fitting tribute to the generations not afraid of their own shadows. Who jumped in puddles, didn't count the number of germs in a mud pie and ate snow, as long as it wasn't yellow. By george, I think you've inspired me to write a little something along those lines myself. Thank you. Loved it! And I've been known to run with scissors on occasion. ;)

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    3. All the dangers... and all the gumption to survive... this is a character I'd really like to know even better!

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    4. Love this! All the little details and the dangers.

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    5. I agree with all the above and the sentiment. And I love this line: "You’re kind to strangers – especially the strangest ones.

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  19. She was Pob.

    She’d always thought she was like a stone, worn smooth by her passage through life, but it seemed that others thought the same. She was a woman – she had to admit that – but other than that she had little to distinguish her. Or so she’d thought.

    She’d always been careful to be independent to herself, picking up little and carrying even less. She’d gone through her life quietly, watching others thoughtfully and making few decisions to change herself. She knew she was a challenge to some of these people; some of them felt protective to her and wished to help her improve herself but she did little to encourage them. She took little from them but still gave back what she could. She was a human and believed in the allegiance of race.

    She wasn’t remarkable. At least was what she believed. She’d a sister – a fellow woman, nothing genetic – who’d often said she could do better for herself. She’d high cheek-bones, a full mouth and an enviable figure, and if she’d only made the effort she could take her pick of men. Or women. She’d not yet made up her mind of her preference. She supposed she might prefer other women for simplicity’s sake but thought little of them, needing little beyond herself. The warmth of a body beside her was pleasant and offered delights she might not enjoy if she were alone but relationships created complications and she wanted none of those, choosing to move on and to seclude herself if it seemed she’d become too comfortable with the presence of another. She was self-sufficient. Or that was what she told herself.

    She’d had a family, of course. Two brothers and two sisters and a mother. And a father too, she guessed. She’d a firm enough grasp of anatomy and nature and a clear enough sense of proportion to realise she was no different in that way. He had never been anything more than a pronoun; her siblings knowing their father but not hers, her might-have-been father dying before she’d been conceived. There’d been a few likely candidates but none had stepped forward and they’d already been family enough not to need another man among them. They’d all cared for her but she’d never felt at home. She’d always considered herself an embarrassment and no-one had complained when she’d left, leaving no forwarding address for further contact. She’d gone through school the same, picking up no-one, just doing enough, gliding through each day and not being remarkable. She would have been ‘that girl that didn’t…’, the ellipsis covering everything. She didn’t fail or succeed. She just did enough.

    But now she had a letter, first addressed to the girl she’d once been: a Ms Penelope Hammond, formerly of 3, Winston Crescent in Sprotworth. It’d been forwarded on several times; the trail of addresses marked out by the nested envelopes a history of where she’d lived. And with a solicitors’ letter as the last to be opened but the earliest by date.

    But should she open it or throw it away?

    She hated complications.

    Did she really need another?

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    1. Ohhhh... the mystery is wonderful in this, and painted with beautifully flowing language... I have a soft spot in my heart for characters such as this... the average, the in-between. Now we must know what is in that letter, and if she remains true to herself after...

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    2. This is a terrific portrait. Makes me think of...oh damn (insert name of heroine in Washington Square?)

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    3. I agree. Portrait is the perfect word. And the language really stuck out for me, too. Formal, but not too formal. Fitting. I'm with Leland. What's in the letter?!?! ;)

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    4. It can't be good news, can it? I'm thinking she'd run...

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    5. Ooh, I love how you left it hanging there!

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  20. The skies are orange this evening. In a city like all other cities, there are alleys. In this alley, there is a box with GENERAL ELECTRIC ENERGY STAR in large print on all sides.

    It is a large box, nearly as large as a coffin. It is not, however, a coffin. In the box, there is a sleeping bag, stained by things that also smell, but the smell is overwhelmed by the other smells in the alley. In this city, there is plenty of food, and some of the food stinks when it ferments. Plenty of food for some, at least.

    There are rats in this alley. They have grown accustomed to rotting food. They thrive on the detritus of a civilization that cries more, more, more, and the rats do not have to cry for more themselves.

    In the sleeping bag, there is a man, or a remnant of a man. He once worked in a factory that produced refrigerators. Refrigerators that had the same name on them that the box now has. The man has forgotten the word “irony” or he would laugh.
    In the man’s head, there are words. Lifelines, really. He holds on to these words. He claims the sleeping bag, one spoon, a pocketknife, and a plastic bottle for water as his only earthly possessions. But the words in his head are what he values. As the sky darkens from orange to gray, he chants the words, first only in his imagination, then in whispers. When the sky paints itself black, interrupted by human illumination of ungodly colors, he increases the volume from whispers to a conversational level. The words, the incantation, they anchor him, keep him from floating away.

    This night, the currents are strong, pulling hard at his soul to leave this place. A full moon enters the small square of sky he can see above. Its gravity balances the earth’s gravity, and his spirit hovers in equilibrium. As the moon continues its journey, hiding behind one of the tall buildings, the man’s voice becomes a shout, desperate, not a plea as much as a sort of “here I am, I matter” reminder to himself.

    When the moon disappears completely, the shout becomes a hymn, sung to notes written a generation or two ago.

    He closes his eyes, and sings the sacred words. “GE, we bring good things to life.”

    And at last, he sleeps.

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    1. Oh! What a wonderful piece. To the disenfranchised, the lost, the alone. Beautiful. And you had me at detritus.

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    2. Yeah, brother. This is an awesome piece of writing and a powerful statement about the way life happens. Well played.

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    3. A poignant sketch of someone formerly in society, now firmly outside of it. Haunting and sad, thoughtfully executed, and beautifully written.

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    4. Thank you all for the kind words. I appreciate it!

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  21. That's not what I want. Sure, the jingle is catchy. Yeah, I get that my neighbors will be envious. What I'm not sure about is 1) do I want envious neighbors? 2) do they think I'm made of money? 3) who are they, anyway?

    And why have they been following me my entire life, pushing me to do things I don't want to do?

    I didn't want to wear neon in the 80s, but everyone else did. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't, but I really just wanted to dress like my Grandpa. Sartorially, I think that's all I've ever wanted. Now, I have succeeded. But they're still not happy. Now, I'm supposed to dress like an eight year old boy on Easter and care about the sustainability of my shoes. I want them to last a long time. I'm not sure what they want when they say sustainability.

    They're confusing bastards. And they're not even consistent.

    I don't want a new car. I mean, I do. But I don't. Care, that is. And I'm not worried about how white my teeth are. I'm worried that they hurt. I'm worried when I wake up grinding them. I'm worried they'll fall apart in my mouth. I could give two shits if they're yellow.

    People with super white teeth freak me out. Don't tell THEM.

    I don't want the same taste with none of the calories. I don't want buying socks to become some kind of civic responsibility, some social statement. They're socks, for God's sake. And I don't want to talk about God.

    Why do they always want to talk about God?

    And don't get your churchy selves all upset. I'm talking about the media. The one God we're ALL supposed to worship. Click this, read this, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS! IT. WENT. VIRAL!!!

    Someday, I'm going to find them and I'm going to make them do the things I think are important. Sit by this stream for a while. Learn the names of the animals you see every day. People included. Read a fucking book. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, makes you question what you think. ESPECIALLY if it makes you uncomfortable.

    Because they want me to be comfortable. I know that.

    And I don't want their comfort.

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  22. What no one knows, or at least no one seems to understand, is how it hurts. How it hurts to be in a room, just standing there. I can't move and I don't know why, but I know it hurts. For some reason I can sense a light switch is there. It's right there, and I can reach out and turn it on and everything will be ok. I've been standing in this room for my whole life. It's burning in me, I can feel first in my stomach, then my chest before it finally claws it's way up, until my throat is bloody and sore. But there's nothing I can do. For as much as I want to move, I can't seem to make it happen. I feel a sickness inside me. Real disease.

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    1. Some understand. And you've given voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. That's what a good writer does... brings the hidden out into the open, for all of us to see. Thank you.

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  23. He dreams in ginger.
    of radiance that glows even in the darkest of nights.
    incandescent, transfixing and transforming
    from one breath to the next.
    one thought to the next as hues become translucent.

    He dreams in ginger
    as spice's remembrance intoxicates.
    swelling as longing laps at his mind.
    the taste ever sharp, even in slumber.
    his lips glistening in anticipation.

    He dreams in fire,
    as remembered heat smolders until
    fanned, fueled by fantasy.
    leaping willingly, willfully into those flames.
    combustion building, nearing raw, pure, undiluted.

    His dreams are molten,
    a liquid convergence of reality and shimmering illusion,
    fed by intent and inherent desire.
    a pyre upon which he happily burns as she melts.
    their blaze turning into a wildfire as he watches the blooming.

    He dreams in ginger.
    Weeping at the beauty of the cleansing conflagration.
    Watching the dance of flames lick them both.
    the roar consuming their senses
    a red haze while it burns brightest, hottest.

    He wakes in solitude,
    a jarring disquiet in the inky blackness,
    as perspiration coats, blankets.
    the chill a counterpoint to the dream.
    He closes his eyes and prays to dream again.

    ~ Tammy McLanahan

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    1. This is beautiful... and I love the line "He dreams in ginger..." It's powerful once, and still more powerful in repetition. Thank you for sharing such beauty.

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  24. “Rowena Holt,” she whispered.

    I rolled backwards away from her, my mind already beginning to chew on this nugget. I’d already known it might be true but had denied it to myself. It couldn’t be true, though. It wasn’t possible. She must be another, not the same one everyone had talked about.

    She leaned forward toward me, her arms caging me against the cushions. “Sweet Rowena Holt,” she said, her voice now louder, adopting the sing-song quality of the rhymes I was drawing up from lost memories. If she wasn’t who she said she was, she still knew the stories, the power of them enough to chill the heart of any man – or woman – from Hartzholm Halt.

    “Hush yourself now. Don’t struggle. It will only be unseemly.” She’d pinned me down now and her face was blurry, only inches away from mine. I could see the dark ovals of her eyes and the thinned, red ring of her mouth, moving closer now. I felt the weight of her upon me, her body fine-boned but heavy beyond my imagining.

    “Please,” I said. “Don’t.”

    Her head lifted, the weight of her chest pressing more firmly against mine. “Please?” she echoed. “Don’t?” She smiled like a predator, as toothy and without warmth as a shark. I felt a sudden chill race across me, like a flooding of ice-water threatening to drown me. I should resist her. I couldn’t give in to her so easily.

    “It should be easy,” she said. “Accept it. Now. There’s no shame in wanting a quiet, painless end. It could almost be like falling asleep, if you choose that way. A vague mist that overcomes you, etching away at your skin, at your muscles and your flesh until all that’s left of you is your bones. And then they’ll dissolve too, falling apart like ashes decaying into dust.” Her voice was smooth and honeyed, her lips close to my ear. I could almost feel them touching me, her tongue ready to roll inside and to taste me.

    ~~~~~~~

    “Rowena Holt,” she said, shaking my hand. “From the University. You were asking about a tuition grant?”

    I nodded and blinked, feigning innocence. “Yes. That was it. You’ve come at a bad time. I’ve hardly woken up.” I picked up the cushions from the floor and threw them back onto the couch. “I’m sorry but I’m feeling a little slow just now. You might have to explain things two or three times before I fully understand, I’m afraid.”

    “It’s fine. I get a lot of that. Don’t worry,” she said, offering me a grin. “We can take it really slow. It’ll be quite painless, I promise.”

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    Replies
    1. ohhh... powerful! an unexpected daydream, or is it a daymare? I really like this. And the assurance of "painless" is so often a lie... nicely done!

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