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.
There were tunnels in the walls, secret places. He knew about them, but no one else suspected. They should have. A house that old, there had to be all kinds of secrets. He wasn’t giving this one away. The tunnels were the only safe place he knew of. Because, young or not, he knew that they had brought something to this house that didn’t belong. It would become one of the many secrets. A black, ugly secret that no one would ever know about. Of course he countered their secrets by guarding his own secrets. His escape routes.
It wasn’t just the tunnels.
He would lay in bed at night and hold his breath. He got really good at it. He could hold his breath until spots started to appear. Until his fingers tingled. Then, he would exhale and breathe fresh oxygen and feel the pound of it in his head. It never lasted long. But he didn’t expect that. If anything, life had taught him that nothing ever lasts that long, good or bad.
When he was in the tunnels, he could hear them yelling. Mostly the old man. They shouted his name and cursed him and shared their theories … he was in the yard, he was hiding in one of the closets. He was a bad kid. It always came back to that. But soon enough, they would shift their focus to some other subtle misery. They would grab onto something bigger than he was. He was the enemy, that was clear. It was also clear that he was only one of many foes.
He didn’t expect redemption in the walls. Or in the oxygen deprivation. He did not understand the reasons behind his stunts – he thought he was brave; he did not realize that he was looking for more ways to hurt himself. How aware can you really be at five years old? He did what he had to do. And he never told them when he was hurt, unless it was obvious. Then, they hurt him more, but he always took his punishment quietly. This made it worse for him – they wanted tears, but it was so important; he felt it in the very core of his being: never let them see your pain.
He grew up like a circus elephant who has spent too many years under the control of a stern, sadistic ringmaster. He was sullen. He was quiet. He was withdrawn. Unless he was provoked. When he was provoked, he crushed big tops and spread the pain around, sharing it with everyone he could. The pain was his, but he was not selfish. He had learned much in the tunnels. In the thump of his brain cells dying.
And it worked. In a fashion.
You would think that the therapy helped. It did explain things. But it didn’t help. It made him even sadder. It took away the sweet righteousness of the pain. So, he found tunnels that were even darker. Tunnels that no sane man would enter. And he made those tunnels his. He reveled in his dark agony.
He stopped the therapy. Sure, it helped, the nice lady even said it was helping, but it was also changing him. It was making him into something other than the careful construction he had spent his life inventing.
You can see him if you look. He sits, quietly, unassuming. Some people find him unnerving. Some people call him brave. Some think he’s funny. And he thinks, “I’ll be whatever I have to be to get you the fuck away from me ASAP.”
And then he runs for his secret darkness. Just like he was trained to do.
#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...
Ah, that is so dark and deep... and brave. I love that little boy, for his courage, and for his invention of a reality he could tolerate. This is a beautiful story, even in its tragedy.ReplyDelete
Dan, you hooked me with the mysterious tunnels right from the start, then the overall darkness of this person's existence. But when you brought in the childhood aspect, I was consumed by it. Some aspects hit too close to home for me. But that's what good fiction does.Delete
Oh, man. Yes. What they said.Delete
and poses so thoughtfully how we will protect a sense of identity, against change.Delete
What you notice when you meet her is her smile and her laugh. What you sense but have no words for is the aura of light that envelopes her and those standing near her. You see its effects. Children stop crying. Small animals gravitate to her.ReplyDelete
In fact, you are not sure why you walked into this flower shop. It is no one's birthday, not your anniversary, and it is that part of summer where there are no holidays. You've never seen so many people and animals crowded into such a small space.
You look around. It is not a typical florist's shop. The sun bursts through the windows, amplified by strategically placed mirrors and crystals. There are rainbows dancing on the walls.
Without your noticing it, the people have departed, and only the dogs, she, and you remain. You feel her presence behind you as gaze into the coolers filled with flowers from fields far away, flowers of tangerine, and red velvet, and an abundance of chartreuse. You see her reflection on the glass, and she is smiling. You turn around, look at the floor, and stutter something about your confusion.
And she replies, "Thank goodness you're finally here! I was afraid you might have gotten lost!"
And just like that, you are drawn into her hug, and into a web of magic you never imagined existed.
I love all the colors and the flowers, and I want to sit here thinking about why the character walked into that shop. Lovely.Delete
What a wonderful piece!Delete
MagicalRealLeland! I love it.Delete
It is the custom among some people's that the closest friends and family wash the body of the recently deceased. Thus it was meet and right for the gentle rains of autumn to cleanse him, he who died among the golden leaves he loved so much.ReplyDelete
The day began with a sunrise filled with candy reds and marmalades and peaches. He whispered "thank you" when he awoke to the glory. He made a quick cup of coffee and grabbed the camera before going out with his dog. She was a sweet old thing, getting up in years, but with enthusiasm that did not wane in proportion to her years.
The birds sang their matin songs, staking out their territories with good and clear intent. He whispered his own morning prayers of gratitude. Someone told him once that if you only know one prayer, let it be "Thank you." And it turned out that he only knew one prayer.
When they reached the creek, he watched the dog slurp water as she stared at her reflection. He wondered if she thought she was beautiful. He did.
The flash of lightning-hot pain across his chest surprised him when it came, when he crumpled, when he slumped.
The thunder was only in his ears, the last thump of a heart well-used. The dog came running when she saw him fall. She licked his face with hope, and then with despair.
When the rains came that afternoon, they finished the task the dog had started, the washing of the dead.
There was a rainbow that evening, as the sun made its journey to the western horizon. There are customs that must be kept.
Your descriptions of the land, of nature, always get me, Leland. Some of this is too close to home for me. I know a guy who goes out every day with his dog to commune with that natural world. But this is so beautifully rendered and sad in such a good way, I want to keep it on my window sill to help greet the dawn with me.Delete
I couldn't ask for a higher compliment than that. Thank you!Delete
Oh. This just breaks my heart. Amazing descriptions.Delete
Really very beautiful...Delete
I agree. The imagery and the tone are just right.Delete
I never liked this tie.ReplyDelete
I must admit, I’m sure I’ve looked better in my life, but my life ended three days ago. I have no say in how my family and the mortician presented me for final inspection to whoever is coming to, at best, say goodbye to me and console my family and, at worst, see if I managed to leave a decent looking corpse.
True, it’s only 6:00 PM, but I expected a bigger crowd. Maybe it’s the weather, rush hour traffic or extended happy hour prices or something. Denise and I were always early arrivers at the wakes we had to attend. Even for the schmucks who couldn’t die soon enough for my tastes.
Ooh, there’s old Fred Howser. Wow, Fred, time to put down the beer and Doritos. There’s room for only one in this box, buddy, and I have the lease until The Rapture. Take care of yourself and moderate some, pal. The world needs more happy drunks like you, not dead ones like me.
Uh oh, here comes a coven of ladies from the old job. Jesus, what the hell are Diane and Sally doing with Elaine and Joanie? I never got any warm vibe from them. Wish I could sit up just a little to hear what they’re saying. I was afraid of this. I’d hoped for some sort of omniscient point of view deal when I tripped on that rainbow. What fun is watching your own wake when you can’t hear what the all the people are saying about you? If I could breathe, I’d be sighing now.
The kids look pretty busted up. I guess the dead can feel guilt, even though your balance sheet for the afterlife is closed. But damn, seeing them cry like that makes me feel good as much as it makes me feel sad. Wish I had been a better Dad. I know I can’t go back to make it right, and that I was a good Dad for the most part. When you’re lying here, you’ve nothing but time to figure out when and how you could have done better. Maybe this is what they really mean when they talk about Purgatory. No fire, no pitchforks, just your soul and time to think about your shortcomings.
Oh no, here she comes. I guess Purgatory is a timeout to think about your sins, too.
Been a while, but she looks pretty good, at least to these physically closed eyes. But then I always had closed eyes for her, from the first time I saw her. She had all that black curly hair, angry victimhood, fierce intelligence in a man’s world and some spark that lit a flame in me I didn’t know I had. She was my red ink, my fall from grace, my weakness in the face of vows, honor and duty. Boy, was I stupid, but boy did I love her.
Okay, you guys, move it along. Nothing to see here but the husk of the entertainer. No more yuks, except for this hideous tie. Oh, well. If it makes Denise happy. I owe her that.
Shit, Teresa’s right there above me. I remember how I joked that when I died I expected her to wear a dress to my wake and throw herself across my body, shuddering in wracking sobs. Damn, she did wear a dress. If she throws herself atop me now that I’m dead, I’ll be so pissed. No, she’s kissing her fingers and touching my cheek. Well, I’l be damned. Perhaps. Probably.
Well, last call, I guess. Funny how time moves when you’re not counting it anymore. Bounces around and then you can sit somewhere in the past for who knows how long. There was that bender in ’78 that was like that. I guess I’ll get used to it.
Hi, Denise. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to support you tonight. It really is all I’ve ever wanted to do. You’ve been my rock, my touchstone, my savior. Don’t know how you can look at me with such pride. You got me sober and some drunk plows into me. Sorry I never made it home with your ice cream.
Aww, man, please don’t cry like that. I don’t really hate this tie. Don’t lay your head on my chest. I don’t deserve…I’ve been a total drunken fuck up…I… Wait, what’s she saying? Damn it, why can’t I hear her? There’s that crooked grin I fell in love with 45 years ago.
I don’t know if we’ll ever be together, you know, on the other side, but if your face is the last thing I’ll ever see before this temple of inadequacy is planted out in Memorial Gardens…
That’ll have to do for this eternity.
Joe, this is awesome. I love the perspective, and the introspective nature of the whole thing... your descriptions of each of the mourners is priceless, and the feelings they invoke in the dearly departed well-told. Thanks for sharing it!Delete
What he said..well done!Delete
Agreed. And I love this: "But then I always had closed eyes for her," - And I wonder how many stories could be started with that opening line. Might make an awesome collection.Delete
Oh. This is so beautiful and moving.Delete
She loved this time, the first instance in each show when she broke from behind the curtains and into the lights.ReplyDelete
She can feel her power to draw the attention of men as well as women to her beautiful face, her seductive body, her magnetic being.
She reveled in the fact that every man out there wanted her and every woman sitting with that man secretly wanted to be her, sinuously slinking down the catwalk, head high, stride strong, to stop at its end, right hip, POP, left hip, POP, swirling turn, and show them the rear view is as good as the front.
The lights, she thinks, it’s the power of the lights that helps bring this power out of me, the light that loves me…Love…and this crowd loves me…Love.
Just listen to them, just…
“Can I give your wheelchair a push, Mrs. Marmelstein, love?”
Ooh, did not see that coming. I dig it.Delete
Thanks, folks. It feels good to be back in the game.Delete
It's good to have you back in the game! and I love the daydreams and the sudden awaking to reality... good show!Delete
When the candleReplyDelete
In a last flare of fury
That a few other candles
By its flame
Recalls a few times
It burned at
At last extinguished
It is surprised
There is still light
Breaking out the poetry! I like it. And I love the concept. Indeed, I think we all light more candles than we know.Delete
I know for certain that you do, my friend.Delete
The restless dead still wander the sites of old battles. Ironic to this misfit how much they still belong.ReplyDelete
The thing squats on the arm of my chair. A sound like veins being knotted, unknotted, gurgles from its abraded throat, a spoiled creek.
"How gentle are you?"
Faraway dead moan their irony. It's a hammock, this world. Where, which places, is it anchored?
"Gentle as I have to be," I answer, and it is a good answer.
Something falls into an abyss and screams, dopplering to silence.
"Enjoy the silence."
How can something in such surly folds of grey make so firm a claim to whiteness when clearly they mean purity? Is anodyne a prize now?
"Funny. I refuse both silence and joy."
"Then you're a fool. As all your kind have proved."
So be it. It's not wrong. How normal is it to stand in your bathroom, your mouth unhasped, no sound emergent, while your fingers crawl amid the grainy air and the muffled drop of a cat stooping from a chaise longue onto a hardwood floor punctuates some mutant night that dreams of being a sentence? The cat a comma. Your silent scream an ellipsis. Your burlesque fingers quote marks emulating talk.
Is mimicry all we have left? Will this sultry air not move again? Or ever match this hankering?
The stench of the dying dead fills everything. Help me. Help.
And you don't even own a cat.
Yearning for a cloudburst.
Apples, blueberries, fresh basil, a pickled human finger, spring water, kidney beans, parmesan, labia minora.
Fungal uncle. Aching aunt. A dozen cousins, and portabella bella, under her umbrella. Ella, ella.
Cumulonimbus. Digital familial. Expertly packed, the things we need today. Riding the subway, a muted rollick under the fungible layers of love and tragedy. A rhythm section somewhat lower than the cacophony.
Wetness. Extra virgin truffles, and the staring, gutted eyes of a slaughtered baby.
Compare grocery lists?
No. Please, let's not.
Cry wolf and loose the battalions of ravens.
Coyote always had two syllables to me.
This is the West. The terminus. The place the world crawls to when its legs give out. When its heart wears thin. When all thoughts spiral out from certitude, recoil from discipline.
You hold a torch, guttering in the prairie wind, but your endgame, your raw sortie is clear. Nothing is happening in the gathering impasse in the sky; a skirmish of silence and spreading shameface. A pinto gelding sighs and looks askance, partway asleep on its sturdy legs, its long piebald face more sorrowful than genocide.
A hiccup. Something rustles. You cut the flap, ignite the walls, and eviscerate a child.
As you run, the keening starts and flows like some soon-to-be-discovered cloud form, and it follows you, a subdued post-rape scream as you stop to slake from a brittle canteen, the leather cracked and crackling, the lukewarmth of its bowels more jittery horror than quenchment, and it follows you and doesn't ever blink or quit, not even once. Not even in judgment.
"Time to wake up, baby boy."
A slow tide sucks itself back over pebbles. A harbour rocks its boats.
"I won't wake up. I won't ever wake up. All this is a lie. You lied to me. Goddamn it, you were supposed to be kind. Whatever happened to kind?"
"I won't ever answer that, my brother."
"You ain't my fucking brother."
Wild blueberries and whistler marmots bisect a sheer plane of scree. Fruits of the woman, of the delta. Contours the shade of American ordinance. Blue is the overtopping god above grey, above white. Great banks of snow in mid-August. Tourists braying like burros. This caldera, this cascadia, this hallelujah, shouted from a ruined throat into ink, chorused into unspooling light years of astonishing indifference.
Sometimes I read your words aloud, just to feel the sounds on my tongue, to hear them echo in my ears. I try to hold meaning at bay until the second, or the third reading. This piece, this piece took four readings... to take in the beauty, the horror, the truth, and the silence. And that last sentence is a work of art all by itself. Thank you. For writing, for sharing, for feeling.Delete
It's almost always a ride through the all-too-real world and the colorful one that longs to break from the shadows within me when I read your work, David. You expand my borders of fiction, inspiration and appreciation of our language. And if that sounds like gibberish, it's because I feel like a drunken hack when I consume the clarity (or claret) in your work.Delete
Jesu, dude. You knock me out and I'm not even entirely sober, having been already knocked out by the rest of the day. More on this as the others, and perhaps even something from me if I can muster it, tomorrow. You done good!Delete
Damn. Yes. This is epic writing. I highlighted so man passages. I love it all. This: "Fungal uncle. Aching aunt. A dozen cousins, and portabella bella, under her umbrella. Ella, ella." This is the one that bounced around in my brain the longest.Delete
And you don't even own a cart. Brilliant.
I love, love the taste of these words. Damn. "Dopplering" is amazing.Delete
It happened when he touched me. I felt something in the pit of my stomach, that for the first time in a long time, didn't give me a dust and ashes feeling about what was going to happen. I felt so warm. I felt something break open and spill out inside my stomach and chest. He touched my arm, but it was more than the action, it was what had caused him to do it. What had propelled him to reach out and grasp my arm. Did he want me closer? Did he want to know what my skin felt like? I used to have a difficult time finding the beauty in things, but now they come to me so clearly.ReplyDelete
I really like this piece. The sentence that sticks out to me? "Did he want to know what my skin felt like?" - it's a cool play. Could sound sweet and innocent. Could be all kinds of creepy. It works really well to maintain unsettled feeling of potential.Delete
This is so hopeful and lovely... and my favorite sentence is the last... thanks for sharing!Delete
She'd not seen me yet but I already knew her. Almost intimately, in fact. I'd been watching her a long time.ReplyDelete
Candy was feeling tense today. Her beau had been giving her a hard time about her need to go to work. He'd told her to stay at home, to call in sick, to stay home with him because he felt ill. Of course she'd not. She was more dutiful than that. But that was part of the reason I'd hired her.
I could see her hands steepled in front of her; her manicure a steel blue like claws. She'd got fake nails, acrylics, but she kept them perfect; managing the keyboard with a practised ease. She'd long, strong fingers and wore no rings, the Office rule demanding that no-one wore anything personal that might hint at a relationship. We all knew the truth about ourselves but our Clients didn't and that was what mattered; the ambiguity that lead to tension and a heightened awareness of each other. I kept swapping her desk about to discomfort her, her card-pass sending her to a different floor each day, preventing her from forming relationships but keeping her alert, keeping her attention on her computer while she worked.
She worked well. Efficiently. She was well-organised and never questioned anything she was asked to do.
She was an optimum employee and I looked forward to her beginning her next assignment.
Oh, you damn tease. I want to KNOW what the hell is going on. ;)Delete
Gah.... so manipulative the narrator is! and yes, NOW what happens!Delete
The experts warned of its coming,
but most of us didn’t expect
such darkness until it finally did.
How it cast a Stygian shadow
across the country the likes of which
most of us had never seen.
Well, maybe some old-timers,
but most of them were looking
forward to its arrival anyway.
The golden face we thought we knew
grew darker, as the lunar forces
overcame its careful polish.
Many flocked to be part of the experience,
since such a phenomenon was their goal
left unfulfilled for years.
Others, though, grew more fearful
as the gloomy lunacy spread and shadow
overcame what once provided light
and hope from coast to coast.
Then move or close your eyes,
said some who clamored for this
But, frightening as they can be,
such triumphs of darkness
over light never last, the forces
of better nature pushing aside
the shadow-maker, bringing our land
back its original sun-bright vision
for those wise enough to turn away
from the eclipse. Of course,
those who gazed so slavishly upon it
had become blind. But they’d lost
their sight to its occultation long
before its shadow fell upon us all.
This is awesome. My appreciation for it has eclipsed my ability to make any coherent comments. ;)Delete
Thanks, Dan. I rolled out of bed and wrote it this morning in about 15 minutes. I tend to keep a wide distance between myself and politics. But the overlap of the coming eclipse and what's going on in DC were allegorically too sweet (and low-hanging) a fruit not to pick.Delete
Wow... a brilliant allegory, and well-timed! The closing sentence is pure gold, but so is the rest.Delete
She dreamed of the shark again.ReplyDelete
The next day was like any other. She woke with the alarm, fed the cat with his usual sachet, having thrown away the ones he'd never eat. She started off a coffee, showering while it gurgled, hating the noise it made and doing anything that could hide it or take her mind off it.
The coffee was perfect though. Strong, black and as bitter as the woman she hoped her ex-husband would marry. She drank it and wished them both long, miserable unfulfilling lives together populated by irritating children and the eventual repossession of their home. She'd not yet worked out how that would happen. She'd have to rely on Karma to figure out the mechanics of that.
And then she dressed, sliding the cup back into the dish-washer. She had nothing to eat, preferring to stay hungry while she drove.
Her car was red, of course. It was small car with an over-sized engine and brakes she rarely used. She never fussed about its economy; it needed fuel and then she refilled it. That was all that mattered to it. She'd never given it a name.
The traffic was heavy today though and she looked up along the road. There were the usual suspects there; a man in a Lexus with his phone against his ear. A school bus filled with pre-teen girls, all in uniform. their eyes all downcast toward their laps. Her own phone lay beside her on the empty passenger seat; its screen darkened and its electronics dormant, plugged in, recharging.
She never liked being disturbed while she drove.
This is an awesome character study. I love how much we learn just from the car.Delete
"Strong, black and as bitter as the woman she hoped her ex-husband would marry." - so good
I agree with Dan. But not only the sentence he cites...that whole second paragraph is acid-etched gold.Delete
I'm quite taken with both the car and her... the air of mystery, the certainty of her life... really well told.Delete
The music was too loud that morning. Not from his neighbors, not from his radio, but in his head. He tried meditating it away. He tried drowning it out with breakfast food that went snap, crackle, and pop. It would not cease.ReplyDelete
It stayed with him in the shower, on the subway, in the elevator. Churchbells rang. Strings. A saxophone. He missed three phone calls when he held his hands to his ears, trying to keep it out, but instead it echoed in.
His secretary gave him a look, was it pity? Could she hear it, too? She left the papers on his desk, in timpani booms. He went to the washroom, thinking cold water on his face would snap him out of it, but instead he heard triangles tinging away where his brain used to be. The paper towels were oboes and clarinets. The door slamming behind him, a kettledrum. At his desk, it crescendoed. He closed his eyes, trying to remember a prayer. When he opened them, he saw her picture, and silence fell.
Silence was her requiem. He missed the quiet way she laughed. The sound one of her tears made when it splashed on the kitchen counter. When he told her he had to leave. She did not beg. She did not threaten. Only the one tear, its plip plop drip drop on the marble they’d fought about.
And just as he’d become accustomed to the silence in his head, in his office, in the world, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture began, this time with a pistol. There was no room for cannons.
Dang, brother. I like every bit of this. The onomatopoeia works so well. This is a brilliant piece of flash.Delete
Thanks to you both!Delete
Can you hear it when you close your eyes? Can you feel my hands against your cold skin? Do you bear it, wait for it to stop? Do you crave it and think of me in the night? Am I a conquerer or a charlatan? Do I have the whole thing framed right?ReplyDelete
I think I might.
How much of me is me? Really? How much is a ball of propaganda and radio jingles? I thought I was an album. Turns out I'm a bunch of disjointed singles.
Twenty for a turn? Son, you got money to burn?
I'm tired, but the tiredness never goes away. I'm angry, but it never leaves. Even when I laugh, I feel the tug at the corners of my mouth. I'm going to figure out a way that doesn't hurt. A different path. Something. Maybe the answer is in the library? Do they still have libraries?
I'm going to finish this bag because otherwise it would be a waste. But that's it. After that? I'm done with it. Probably. I'm most probably, definitely done with it. Shit. I think I even believe that. Maybe a little bit?
Come on. Sit. I'm not going to hurt me. You're not going to leave, see? Not like the rest of them did. You're going to sit here and hear every story I have to tell.
Until I can no longer stand the smell.
Love this: "How much is a ball of propaganda and radio jingles? I thought I was an album. Turns out I'm a bunch of disjointed singles."Delete
Another fine example of the famous MaderRap™... and Laurie picked out my favorite line!Delete
You are standing in a liquor store. You can't recall quite how you got here. You gave up booze four years ago, and yet, here you are. You're staring at the liqueurs, in their oddly shaped bottles. You like the clear bottles so you can see the magical liquids inside. You wonder if this is what it's like to fall off the wagon but it's the colors not the memory of their tastes that cry out to you.ReplyDelete
The Galliano holds the color of summer, golden, and your eye rests there for a moment, remembering summers of your boyhood. Dandelions. Sunflowers. Yellow roses.
The blue curaçao reminds you of the lake you once swam in, on hot days, before it filled with chemicals from a factory no one noticed until it was too late.
And then, a gleam of light illuminates a bottle that holds the promise of spring. It is not a bold green, not intense like the colors in the other bottles. It is a subtle green, mixed with a hint of sunlight, promising flowers but not delivering, not yet.
You cannot stop staring at it. Your mouth tries to quietly pronounce the name with a proper French inflection. Chartreuse.
And then the attendant comes and asks, "Can I help you?" and the spell is broken.
"Just looking. Just remembering." You hurry out the door, into a street you do not know the name of, you turn right, not knowing why, and you keep saying, silently but with your lips moving, "Chartreuse."
I love what you do with colors and memories.Delete