Friday, September 1, 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.

Can’t you feel the sharp edges on your words? I know my ears are fucked, but they’re not that bad. They’re not whetstones. You think I’m putting a good edge on your syllables before they hit the old ear canals? 


Don’t they taste bad, those words? They have to. I imagine they taste like battery acid. Probably burn like acid, too. But they’re effective. My brain feels lacerated, septic, and I don’t really care to keep talking about it anymore to be honest.

Mission accomplished.

Show me a cool, dark cave, and I’ll go live there. You can visit every once in a while. Make sure I’m not wearing animal skins or making mannequins out of small, sharp bones. Those will cut you just as quick as words. 

Lonely or not.

Maybe it’s a problem inside of me, but I think it would behoove both of us to look inside ourselves. Your shit is real important; I get that. My shit is my shit, so why should it concern you?

Let’s be sensible; it’s the reasonable thing to do.

So, on that note, I’m taking my leave. You can keep yapping away, shooting darts into the space I used to occupy. I’m going to be up high, past the stars, beyond the sooted sky.

Or I’ll find a place where people let their words be soft, round. Where people speak, but I don’t have to run from the sound. You got wares to sell, clearly. And your poker face works. 


Just not on me. I’m gonna go make a shield out of my words, now. You laid down the gauntlet. But you don’t get to make all the rules.


#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...


  1. Where to start... Such sharp imagery. And do I call it internal monologue, asides, Mader cadence? "Lonely or not... Nearly... Fool..." I hear it loudly, clearly and it both cuts and soothes. Amazing.

    1. Dan, this sounds like a person so downtrodden by the personality and actions of another that it has come to not merely "flight or fight," but "kill or be killed." At least in a relative sense. And while the speaker tells of the destructive and cutting words of what I guess we can call the antagonist(s) in this piece, the speaker/protagonist (through the gifts of our writer) has finally risen, grabbed the figurative "jawbone of an ass" and slays a thousand fears and ghosts. Way to come out punching!

    2. Ah, I love that MaderRap™ ... and the hunger to run, but still make your own rules... favorite line: "I’m going to be up high, past the stars, beyond the sooted sky."

    3. O.M.G. I read a link tonight that really crystallized a clinical perspective on the relationship I had with my ex, the narcissist. The article was written in the form of a letter from the narcissist (her) to the co-dependant (me). This truly could be a response to that "letter".


  2. With time and tide it's passage marked,
    Immortal, incandescent orb.
    A baying wolf's heralding cries,
    Night's blackest shroud will soon absorb.

    Surrounded by pale diamond studs,
    That lunar jewel adorns the sky.
    A pearl of beauty in the dark.
    Bedecked in velvet, vast and wide.

    Mark her ascent as bright she glows.
    A cosmic party to attend.
    The hastened journey as she flies,
    For soon enough she must descend.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

    1. The subtle connections you've made to the various powers of the moon over our physical, intellectual and artistic world ...time and tide its passage marked) start at line one and finish--though with an echo--float right through "she must descend." Lovely, Tamara.

    2. I love all the moon references... and the metaphors you use. Absolutely lovely.

    3. I concur with the above. Also, I am always amazed by how TIGHT your verse is. Beautiful.

    4. Thank you all for the wonderful comments. Keeps me inspired and challenged.

  3. The wind blows through the trees in the dead of night. The moon, not yet risen, casts a faint glow on clouds over the horizon. Like an old man's knees, the house creaks.

    A curtain waves through a broken window in a bedroom long empty. Somewhere in the attic, a colony of rats builds a nest in a photo album.

    Bits of black and white from a century ago intersperse with early colors of Mid Century.

    There is only one photo that survived unblemished. A girl. Perhaps seventeen. In a prom dress. A corsage of faded blue carnations. One rat guards it from desecration by the others, uncertain why.

    He knows that this picture is somehow connected to the body he saw in a room below.

    He remains haunted by the taste of its blood.

    Some houses have stories, stories untold. The moon rises and the wind howls. And one rat remains on guard.

    1. Chilling, haunting, bittersweet and powerful. Wow.

      The moon seems to be weaving its way into our words today. Yet another time when great (and humble, of course, lol) minds are thinking alike?

    2. Oh, man... I immediately thought, "What a cool conceit this rats nest in a photo album is." Then it kept going. And then the body dropped. Once you take this hook out of my mouth, I hope you're a catch-and-release guy. I want to dive in and read more.

    3. Man, I like the dark and creepy Leland. ;) And I love this line: "A curtain waves through a broken window in a bedroom long empty." Really, tight, and the creep factor is balanced well.

      BTW, rats are one of the few animals that make me crazy. If I have nightmares...

    4. "Like an old man's knees, the house creaks." Fantastic descriptive. I literally heard it when I read it.

    5. Thank you all for the kind comments!

  4. I wrote this a couple of hours ago, a response to someone's request that I write of a dark, epic battle in the skies. For good or bad, possibly ugly, this is what my half awake brain came up with...

    No one still alive remembered how it started but the devastation told the tale of how long the battle had raged. The why's and wherefore's mattered less than the who's in any case. It had broken down along Elemental lines and the firmament shook as they unleashed their long pent up wrath fueled by petty jealousies and perceived slights.

    Mortals looked skyward in abject fear, those who weren't huddled in their hovels with ecclesiastical whispers on quivering lips and beaded brows. Candles were a small comfort to some when dark clouds flashed with liquid fire as rain pellets and worse fell from the skies.

    Wizards in sacerdotal robes chanted incantations while the Earth opened up and acrid brimstone filled the air. Even the storm above couldn't wash away that scent as it spiraled upward in serpentine coils. Demons slithered out of long sealed tombs and roamed the countryside, having their way. Bodies caught in the crossfire lay strewn in heaping piles but those above cared little for their plight. Only their grievances held sway. Budding humanity was simply collateral damage.

    Even night afforded no cease fire, no surcease. The Moon cast blood red shadows on the damaged land while the seas continued to boil, the susurrance carrying over makeshift mass graves dug between aggressions. Only as deep into the scorched earth as time allowed. Hasty prayers were uttered as those who remained refused to forgo their humanity even if those above had forgotten their compassion.

    Red skies at morning bode ill for the day, not due to weather but more to the persistence and obstinacy of the combatants. Equally matched, no one held any advantage, to the disadvantage of those below who were not immortals. Flesh and blood, they shivered or burned as the rain turned icy cold one day, scalding hot the next. Their screams fell on deaf ears.

    Until one sunset when the skies calmed and the waters stilled. The scribes who remained worked tirelessly to recount all that had happened. The earth recovered as Nature always finds a way and the land flourished once more. Mortals dared again to look skyward. To brilliant sunrises and beautiful sunsets. Hoping, dreaming, they made plans to join the stars. All was peaceful until the day the sky turned red with renewed wrath, the battlecries echoed to the four corners and the screams began drowning out the sobbing.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

    1. This piece shows the handiwork and polish of a storyteller in both prose AND poetry, Tamara. The visceral, emotional and almost painterly language is as much a character as any in the story.

    2. Joe took my answer. Also, THIS is what you write when you're only half awake... ;)

    3. Awww, thank you Joseph, Dan. Heartwarming praise indeed, especially when everyone here sets the bar high for exceptional works.

    4. Oh this is so a tale of biblical end times. I just finished a published Christian apocalypse series and your short, half awake rambling exceeds the skill of that series---which I truly enjoyed.

    5. I'm very partial to your vivid descriptions using color... and you used a lot of alliteration in this, which was really effective. Well done!

  5. Just as Lt. Duncan McCain ambled into its circle of light, Corporal Ezekiel Jenkins spit into the campfire. He didn’t look up as McCain said, “You boys heerd about ol’ Stonewall?”

    Jenkins grunted an exhausted response that could have been yes, no or Merry Christmas.

    Martin Leek poured steaming chicory coffee into his tin cup and said, “A’Course, after the accident…some of our boys mistook his party in the dark for Yanks…a tragic misunderstanding…an’ the sawbones had to take his left arm, I heerd he’s doin’ some better.”

    “Nah, I heerd ol’ Blue Light took a turn Saturday an’ died of the pee-numonia this afternoon,” Jenkins said, still staring into the flames.

    “Lord, no…that such a gallant man who pushed our forces to those great victories in the Valley—Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic, all in jus’ two weeks--should be killed accidentally by his own boys who thought his party was Yanks!”

    “Yep,” Jenkins said, sending another sizzling spit into the fire. “An’ I was there at Front Royal, where my brother lost a leg, an’ at Winchester, where I was nipped in the ribs, an’ at Cross Keys, where Lanny Beachem jus’ disappeared in a puff of red mist, and at Port Republic where the Federals killed my pa, and I was there in the moonlight at Chancellorsville. And whadda ya mean ax-ee-dintly?”

    1. Oh, did I enjoy this. I lived off of Salem Church Road until moving to FL. Salem Church was where Stonewall was taken.

      You've captured it so well, I can see them around that campfire. Love the twist too. Well done!

    2. Thanks, Tamara and Laurie. Tamara, the fact that this city boy from upstate NY got the feel and "geography" right for a native to recognize, makes all the zealous research I do for these things completely worth it. That this tiny story worked at all for both of you is gratifying.

    3. Man, this is good. As always, the dialogue is legit. The small things you do though - using full names. Doesn't seem like it should make such a difference, but it totally does. Really good, Joe.

    4. I could tell you that I have relatives in Winchester, Front Royal and nearby Strasburg. Spent many summers visiting there. I could tell you a good friend lives near Wilderness Battlefield and she and her father do Civil War reenactments. Cannons are their are of expertise which I guess makes them field artillery. Her name is Valerie Jenkins.

      The fact that you haven't had first hand knowledge of the area, that you haven't toured the battlefields and museums yet capture the details so richly makes me appreciate it all the more.

    5. I personally haven't visited those battlefids, Tamara. But my great-great grandfather, Peter Snyder, was captured by Confederate infantry during the First Battle of Winchester in 1862. Who knows? Maybe I have a genetic memory of the area. 😉

    6. Thanks, Dan. I 'd be interested in knowing why you feel the use of full names is something special in my work. I'd never really thought about it. Just another clue about character, I guess.

    7. I agree with all of the above... and I was going to comment on the use of full names, too. A very southern thing to do, especially when showing respect.

    8. AND the dialogue does ring true... and in this story, I loved the last line especially.

  6. Part 1

    All the warm lights settle into the glow of evening, that umbra of deep blue before it accedes to black. You can still see the ridge with its dark fractal conifers and a deepening gloom beneath, backdropping this pretty town, beyond the amber necklace of I-5 lights. This melancholic summer twilight. All our crew and passengers anticipating night.

    "I walked for hours alongside the interstate and no one noticed me. Till I stumbled. Then everyone gathered to watch me stumble again."

    "The way of things. Said it before."

    "But surely it ain't right. Ain't normal!"

    "There is no normal; only what we become accustomed to."

    The bay is flat as a hockey rink, barely a ripple on its reflecting expanse. Blue and blue and more blue, deepening to ink, punctuated by the copper and brass of streetlights, passing ships, the breathless tremor of awakening stars.

    We are on an ark amid those stars.

    You write like HST, like Hitchens: whipsmart and hairshirt honest. You're a heartbreaker the moment a heartbreaker's required. Because the truth barely hides within all the voices. Hurts, though, hurts so good.

    It's a dark room, massive as a hangar. I can't even tell what the floor is made from, whether it's natural or even solid. A doorframe filled with light gleams on the other side, far away, and every footstep leads me there yet doesn't. It won't come closer. I walk and walk before the traceless course is set.

    People have been seeing stairs in the deep woods—in the peace and the pure dark of those woods, stairs and no floors, concrete risers absent handrails, going up, descending—and have heard music notes that rise and fall with the wind on still days. Like a sudden mist, a shudder, an air of something terrifying, trees inhaling en masse then holding their breaths.


    They left me here. To deal with Mother Russia, or one of her misbegotten spawn. Inside this grim building that feels like an institution. Flats, I hear; never apartments. One syllable will suffice. The single pane windows are framed in cold metal once painted a green so pale it's almost grey and is grey where it flakes. I stand at one and hear the spite of the windflung snow like grit on the glass. Did you know glass is a liquid, one very slow tear from an eye that cannot blink? I hear someone moaning, not close. Outside, a narrow road set back beyond an open area that is barely ever grass, even in springtime. Now it is patched with snow and strewn with ugly, unwanted things. Unloved things. A scarred dog the colour of dysentery investigates. The deep fissure between its eyes suggests something treacherous; I see the same in some men. The dog first sniffs then begins to chew on a used condom, and my nausea returns, beached like a gulping fish. There is nothing out there. I am in some blighted quarter of some nexus where all Cold War stereotypes happened upon truth for once. Someone left me here and isn't coming back. Nothing moves on the road and the ghosts of centuries hurl cold grit at the window and I try not to blink.

    1. The colors! Vibrant and muted. You capture both. I'm constantly in awe of your imagination and imagery.

      "...whipsmart and hairshirt honest..."

      Just one passage of many I highlighted.


    2. Oh, good god, this: "Did you know glass is a liquid, one very slow tear from an eye that cannot blink?"

    3. Laurie pulled my favorite line!

    4. wow... yeah, the glass tear is awesome... but I was also blown away by this: "The single pane windows are framed in cold metal once painted a green so pale it's almost grey and is grey where it flakes." Your ability to link gaps in time so easily makes me envious.
      But then, so does your vocabulary, your rhythm, and your imagination. Sigh.

  7. Part 2

    The man who speaks to birds divulges troubles. An emphysemic blues harp trailing in sync with the failing blue light. A hierarchy of blue. Near-black to india ink to royal blue to cerulean to shimmering abalone, that inbreath, the vestige of light unreal.

    Bird man is on this. Where is the two-step hoot of the cuckoo in the bluebell woods? he asks. Our childhood springs were punctuated by its veiled predation. Its dulcet faux-solace bored into our brains unnoticed. Those auspicious Aprils. That banded marauder. Now silence presides over the wildflower lake that laps against dead bark, its waves curling midbreak and browning. How is it the birds are silent, the odd lone interloper gallant in its solo aria? Did we make of progress a ligature with which to choke the rest?

    Bile and drool. Factories, refineries. They all sound like chickens. Astonished and blest.

    Great swaths come of age defrauded. Cheated of this: supine in fragrant grasses as the lark spirals skyward buoyed by its own sweet song. Twitter is scant compensation, is weaksauce.

    Close those massive doors and stop dreaming. Nostalgia is the devil's favourite trap, your fretful yearning throat in a capo grip, your flustered avian heartbeat faltering.


    Behold the false spring. Here, things live in things that grow on things. Cryptic. Larval. Something lives inside the holes, appallingly aware. You came and lived among us. The earth itself cries torrents.

    "I'll never be accustomed to this."


    "I'm right, though, ain't I?"

    "Hush now."

    We are all writers. We lay upon this world black ribbons. We lay upon this world vile detritus. We lay upon this world our open, defective hearts. Sigils and glyphs. We lay upon this world our fathomless regret.

    1. God, that final paragraph! I want to print it, hang it on my wall. May I share that quote on my Timeline? It's ...I haven't adequate words.

    2. David, you always seem to fill the blank space to the right and left, the above and below of your story line, but not with stuffy detail or other speed bumps of language. Rather, it's with something ethereal, informing, inspiring, something that allows the reader to not only see your story in a deeper sense, but also to...oh I don't know...maybe breathe it in. I am both moved by the story, yet learn something new about the craft every time I read your work.

    3. I would be both terrified and grateful for a visit to the part of your brain where words lived. Another epic piece of literature. I love this: "Close those massive doors and stop dreaming. Nostalgia is the devil's favourite trap, your fretful yearning throat in a capo grip, your flustered avian heartbeat faltering. "

    4. Your sigils and glyphs, my friend, defy your claim of detritus... they are magnificent, and wonderful, and a gift. That last paragraph is one for the ages...

  8. The object, as I have come to call it, has been under quarantine ever since it splintered the roof of a nearby home. At least the owner had the good sense to call it in. Who knows how many valuable asteroids and such have been lost to science forever, because the residents wanted to keep the pretty rock or polish it up, hoping to sell it to collectors and scoundrels?

    But this is no asteroid. My team had been monitoring the anomaly for quite some time, and nearly all of our projection models showed it striking the planet or at least whizzing closely by. One hates to say a direct hit is “lucky,” or see it do property damage or gods forbid hurt anyone, but in the name of science? We were all quite excited.

    Now the two of us are alone, in the quarantine bay of the observatory. It sits in a sealed, coffin-shaped container of thick glass, atop a sturdy pedestal table. I watch; I take notes; I check readings. Nothing has changed. In my singular fascination, and to pass the time between the monitoring of temperature, radiation, a myriad of other quantifiables, I make sketches of it from different angles. It’s really quite beautiful. Its surface, a shade of grayish blue, is smooth. Half mythical creature, half like a shiny pebble one might find near the ocean. Not merely polished by erosion or forged in fire, but of a texture and substance I can’t identify. It is not uniformly round, but a kind of squashed, ovoid shape. Markings spaced in a uniform pattern intrigue me. I can’t tell if they are part of an intentional design or the random scars of traveling through our atmosphere.

    No one has yet dared to touch it, myself included. The homeowner, perhaps with a sense of propriety, and of scientific value, for he was often a visitor to the observatory, marshalled his curious neighbors away from it until my team arrived.

    And now here it sits. I don’t have the instrumentation to determine if this object that hurtled through space is safe to examine further, so I wait for the big guns to arrive. I wait and I stare. I stare and I wait. I imagine where it might have come from. It’s late and my imagination wanders, swirling in fatigue, and my sketches drift into the realm of science fiction from my childhood—odd beings with symmetrical features, stepping out of wild-looking spacecraft.


    I shake some sense back into my head, take another reading. Radiation—no change. Temperature—no change. I tick all the boxes and return to my chair. I flip back through my sketches. Odd. I don’t have one from the bottom, and, eyeballing the distance from the glass box to the floor, it looks like I can slip easily beneath.

    A gasp escapes me. Something…appears to be written there. It’s a form of glyph I’m not familiar with, but the strokes are even and regular and some repeat. I sketch furiously, feeling each marking as if the repetition of each can etch its way into my brain, and the discovery sends my hearts racing, my imagination soaring. Could it be possible…could it be possible that we’re not alone?

    1. For context I'll explain that I grew up on Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Farmer, Dick, Ellison, just to name a few. Mythology was a first love but Science Fiction...(Yes, Harlan, I paid close attention that you say Sci-Fi is derogatory and demeaning of the genre)

      Having said all that, Laurie, this is wonderful. It has a classic feel to it. I was pulled in from the first paragraph. A joy to read.

    2. That descriptive paragraph is sensory gold, Laurie. The decision you made to have the narrator almost anthropomorphize the object ("Now the two of us are alone...") is such a great hook and, if not foreshadowing, is most certainly a window into the psyche of this hard scientist who doodles science fiction sketches along with his/her research drawings. I would love to read more!

    3. I agree, you tease. Keep going!

    4. Working on it... thank you! I watched a documentary about the Voyager Space Probe and couldn't stop thinking of what might happen if it encountered intelligent life. If they'd be able to interpret what this thing is and the capsule of world art, history, music, and culture it contains. So...this might be it.

    5. Yep, this is brilliant... and I was just talking with someone on my timeline about a story that might inspire you with its ending... where you pull for the main characters, and sense all sorts of evildoing in the alien... and then at the end, you discover that the alien is in fact a human, and the story isn't on earth at all. Your ability to jump genres and write well in all of them... truly remarkable.

  9. Good afternoon, I’d like to speak to Jason Lafleur, please. Oh, hi, Mr. Lafleur, this is John Berdar from the Press-Republican. Heh, yeah, the Republican Press. I hear that a lot.

    Anyway, I was hoping you had a minute to talk to me about…. No, nothing to do with that. I never heard about any DWI. Not anything with your name attached. I just was kinda wondering if you’ve heard about the State Police looking for your cousin, Loyal.

    No? Okay, thanks. Oh, wait a second, please. You don’t known anything about Loyal’s disappearance, but maybe you can help me fill in some blanks the troopers won’t. I won’t have to use your name or nothing. You could be what we call a source close to the family. Funny, huh? Someone in the family being called close to the family. I’ve got only one brother left and I don’t think I’d want him to be that kind of a source, close to the family. He’s a real dick.

    I’m sorry, you don’t need to hear my sorry story. Let’s get back to Loyal. You two grew up together, right? Uh huh. Sure, Up in Chateaugay. Love how you local folks say that, shadda-gee. Sorry, I’m from Albany. I’m sure you think I’ve got my own weird accent.

    So, you and Loyal grew up in Chateaugay. Would you say he was a quiet kid, kinda a loner? You know, like how folks always describe their neighbor who chopped up his mother and fed her to the cats or sprinkled her on his salad or whatever.

    Oh, yeah, sorry. You were saying he was a hell raiser then? Were you the quiet one in your dynamic duo? Kind of a balance thing. Funny how nature likes that balance. Human nature too, I guess.

    Anyway, the troopers tell me, what little that is anyway, that Loyal once got caught outside your Mom’s house holding something they later connected to a beating he must’ve given a guy named, ummm…Steve Yaddeau? Yeah, he must’ve been a tough kid. You didn’t see that did you? Him beating up Yaddeau? You two always together and all, I figured. Yeah. Yeah, No, of course not. Not you.

    Oh? Just a few more minutes. You’re being a great help. My editor, Teddy, he wants all this background stuff and he’ll cuss me out something fierce if I don’t come up with something. Hate to lose my job over just a conversation between two guys, couple of poor kids who grew up with some rough guys as our family. Ya know?

    Thanks, I appreciate it. Now, you say you were around when Loyal put that whuppin’ on Yaddeau? Uh huh. What about the time he got caught joy-riding in your dad’s Chevy? Oh? You tried to stop him? Rode with him so he wouldn’t get in any more trouble. Your a good friend, Jason. Sorry, can I call you Jason? You can call me Joe. How’s that?

    I guess having the under-sheriff as an uncle helps in times like that. Oh, no, I wasn’t saying that. Of course not. That’s just how my silly mind works. No filter, as they say. Just BLURGH, out it comes. Sorry.
    So you and Loyal were caught joyriding in your dad’s car. Glad he didn’t press charges. Woulda been terrible. family and all. And I know how families are, believe me. You can be going along your whole life like brothers, even closer, and BANG something happens between you two and it’s over. Happened to me and my brother. Don’t speak anymore.

    I’m not prying or anything, you know, but were you and Loyal still on speaking terms lately? Just as background, mind you. My editor will be asking how credible my source is. And who could be more credible than the cousin and one-time best friend of the deceased.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. (OCD had me deleting the typo'd first comment. Ugh)

      Wonderful, laid back dialogue. One sided but so well done. You had me seeing the conversation so clearly. One shrewd, one being led to the waiting trap, phones held to their ears. Looking forward to Part 2.

    3. The voice. And again, the way you use names!

    4. The fact that you conveyed so much, even while only letting us hear one side of the conversation... the fact that you got us the information on how to pronounce the name we could have stumbled over... and your devious imagination... all I can say is "well-played!"

  10. Part 2

    Oh, I’m truly, truly sorry. Did I say deceased? I meant missing person. I’m sorry, you’ve been a great help for the story, talking to me all the way from Watertown and all. You moved away after your grandfather died, right? About six months ago? Was that when you and Loyal had your falling out? Man, I know how those tough guys can be about personal stuff like that. Emotions always close to the surface. Sorry for your loss, Jason. I’ll bet you were your grandpa’s favorite weren’t you. The good grandson.

    Oh? Go figure. You two being his only living kin and all. I figured, you know, that balance thing again.

    Oh, yeah, I’m sorry, taking up so much of your time. I really really thank you. My editor will skin me with a pica ruler if I don’t get a couple more facts. I promise.

    Anyway, I’ve got this friend over in the probate court. You know how it is, young reporter from the Big City, Albany, and a sweet girl originally from Rouses Point. Sweet. Yeah. Anyway, she told me your grandpa left most of his estate to Loyal, with you as secondary heir. That can’t be right, can it? I didn’t believe that.

    No, no, strictly on deep background. Just so I understand how Loyal ticked. A bad kid who connived his way into his grandfather’s good graces, sucking up to his elders while being a creep to the younger kids. No Kidding. Must’ve been a real ball breaker, you’ll pardon my French.

    Anyway, I want to thank you for your time, Jason, Mr. Lafleur. You’ve been a big help. My editor will only have to skin me from the waist down now, ya know? Heh…

    So thanks again. You have a….

    Oh, one more thing. I’m so freaking stupid. You said you saw Loyal at your grandfather’s wake, right? Oh, you didn’t? I would have sworn you did. Must have been that funeral guy I talked to from Brown’s. Said he saw you guys in the parking lot that night. All those Elks and Knights Pythias herding around, I don’t know how he could, but there ya go.

    Said you two were having words, but he coulda been mistaken. Coulda been an Elk and a Knight or a Rotarian arguing about the Habs or Democrats or something like that.

    So I want to thank you for your time. I’ve gotta make another call to get a second source. Yeah that’s the rules around here. Yeah, ain’t rules a bitch? No, I won’t use your name in this story. Not today, nope. Hey, you have a great day, okay? If I hear anything from the troopers or sheriff I’ll be sure to give you a call if you like. No? Okay, you’ve been a great help. My editor… Yeah. Yeah. You too. Yeah, have a great…

    Ouch. That was a loud one. Must’ve hung up with a hockey stick.

    Hey, Ted! You might want to look at my notes here, but first I got one more call to make. Yeah, troopers. Want to go over my notes with them, too. Think I might be able to wrap this story up for ya with a big bow by 10:00. Just hold another seven inches on A-1. No, I’m not shitting you. No. Then come on over while I call Troop G.

    Sheesh. What a grouch. Wish he’d stop calling me J-Bird. Oh, hi, good afternoon. This is John Berdar from the Press-Republican. Hah, Republican Press. Never heard that one before. Anyway, I’d like to speak to Inspector Gallo? Yeah about the Loyal Lafleur murder. I got some new questions, shouldn’t take more than a couple of… Sure I can hold, but tell him I’m on deadline.

    1. If Matlock had been a newspaper reporter...

      Such natural flow to the dialogue. " Elk and a Knight or a Rotarian..." One sided, no less. Enjoyable tale, well done.

    2. I really like how you got all this story out in just dialogue. Now I'm missing pica rulers!

    3. I agree. The voice works wonders in this piece.

    4. And this wraps it up beautifully... a mystery solved... well-told!

  11. He’d only meant to tidy up. The housework was daunting to him. Someone else had always done it. He was placing a book back on the shelf when a slip of paper fell out.
    A grocery list. Her perfect penmanship on a slip of paper with an insurance company’s telephone number.

    He sat down on the floor. He wept. He would never know which of the Brownings’ poems she had marked. They used to read them to each other. Did the paper mark her favorite?

    Three years on, he should be better equipped to face the days, the nights. Maybe they ought to have had children. Maybe he should get a dog.

    The shadows grew longer. It was September, after all. The tears stopped, not from the end of sadness, but from the emptiness of the ducts that fed them.

    Still clasping the book, he rose from the floor. He turned the paper over, accidentally, as he slid it between the pages, and saw her handwriting on the back, too. “43.” It might have been arithmetic, it might have been a price. But in his heart, he knew it was Sonnet 43, and in his heart, he heard the words, “I shall but love thee better after death.”

    He put the book on the shelf, poured a glass of wine, and went outside to watch the sunset.

    1. Oh my. Heartstrings tugged. Empathy and despair when faced with never knowing where the slip fell from, you mad the loss palpable. Joy when turning that paper over. A closure of sorts and comfort.

      "The tears stopped, not from the end of sadness, but from the emptiness of the ducts that fed them."


    2. The air of loss and mystery in this piece is intoxicating, Leland. All of this emotion and memory wrung from a simple slip of paper with a loved one's mere grocery list written on it. And then the grieving man turns it over... Sigh. You got me.

    3. Oof. Punch to the heart. I agree. Lovely piece of writing.

    4. Thanks! I appreciate your kind comments!

  12. [One I shared earlier this week on my page]

    It was a small cloud when he woke up. He sneered at it, the tiny puff of white in a Colorado blue sky.

    Close to ten by the time he got his backpack and tent together. Jumped in the car. Headed down the highway to his favorite trailhead.

    The cloud danced behind him. He'd have seen it if he looked in the rearview mirror.
    Traffic was bad, but it was Friday afternoon by now. This was going to be a good day. Nothing too strenuous. Just a chance to spend a weekend out of the city.

    The cloud invited some more water vapor to join it, and it grew.

    He parked the car. Retrieved his pack from the backseat. Left a note with emergency contact information and his general destination on the front seat.

    The cloud increased in size. Its color changed from cotton white to dirty snow.
    The hike up the side of the mountain was filled with wildflowers giving their last best praise to summer. A little hot. Where was a cloud when you needed one?

    The cloud sneered this time. Let the man regret his morning words. Tendrils of gray anger sprouted.

    He got to the place he wanted to camp. Next to a lake that would reflect the stars and moon nicely. Trees were close enough to break the big wind, but far enough away to allow a breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

    The cloud rumbled as the man set up his tent.

    It was near sunset, and he wondered at how the cloud had come out of nowhere. He ate a sandwich as he peered through the tent flaps.

    The cloud now covered the eastern half of the sky. Dark. Foreboding.

    The man wished he'd brought a beer.

    The cloud unleashed two forms of magic at once.

    The purity of the colors in the rainbow made the man catch his breath. The bright blue-white lightning bolt made him jump.

    The cloud gave late warning in thunder.

    The cloud poured forth its bitter tears to water the dry grass of the meadow.
    Some clouds bring rainbows, and some clouds bring lightning. Which cloud finds you first is equal parts luck and attitude.

    Never turn your back on a cloud with attitude.

    1. This is lovely. How it builds...and builds...and that cloud.

    2. You have such a gift for anthropomorphizing. Now I know it's not just with man's best friend but nature as well.

      And a lesson learned. Never taunt or turn your back on an impish cloud. Delightful.

    3. Concur with L and T. Now, I may be immature, but...

      Trees were close enough to break the big wind

      Is this a fart metaphor? ;)

    4. LOL! How on earth did I miss that?
      Thanks to you all for kind comments... I'll be back with comments on everyone's stories late tonight or tomorrow...

  13. It was, she discovered, surprisingly easy to poison someone. Bless the internet, there were hundreds of ways to do it. She was careful to protect her searches from view. She might look like a beautiful, stupid person, but she was far from that.
    She had training. Specialized training.

    With so many options for delivering the poison, it was hard to make a choice. The important thing was that it look natural. It wouldn’t do to have it portrayed as a murder. That would be unseemly.

    A heart attack would work. He wasn’t known for eating healthy food, and to be honest, his weight had been increasing for the last nine months. Carefully tailored suits might mask that from the cameras, but when he stood naked in their bedroom, there was no hiding it.

    She shuddered. He was vile. She’d known that from the start. She did not marry him for his looks or his charm. She married him for his money, and for his power. If that made her a prostitute, well, then she was well-paid for her efforts.

    What about a delivery mechanism? It could be in something he ate, but that would only cause trouble for the staff, and they’d been nothing but kind to her. No, that would not do.

    By contact? The North Koreans had had some success with that with the death of their dictator’s half-brother, but they seemed to use a specialized substance. Such a purchase would be all too easy to track.

    When she found the answer, it was obvious. In one of his many hair care products. He was most vain about that. The evidence, except for the bottle containing the poison, would be washed down the drain, and she of course, would see that the bottle went missing.

    It was also brilliant because of the concentration of blood vessels in the scalp. Rapid absorption of the poison. She was surprised to find the number of poisons easily absorbed through the skin. But the one that made her smile as she researched was a plant she knew was in easy reach. Wolf’s Bane. She’d asked a gardener what the lovely flowers were only last week, and he’d told her.

    Her husband was hardly a wolf, but still…

    She allowed herself to daydream. She would look lovely in black. And the world loved a first lady in mourning.

    1. Oh, awesome. Exactly what I would do. You know. If I did something like that. Hypothetically. Of course.

    2. Damn, brother. I love this line: That would be unseemly.


    3. Too deliciously evil and provocative by half. The allure of this being non-fiction makes me feel guilty...for all of a few seconds.

      Diabolical and cleverly written. I saw the last line coming and it still hit with force. Bam!

    4. I'm sending an anonymous copy of this to Melania... and of course, I won't mention any of your names... off-the-record and all...

  14. She looked up with big eyes, reached out with small hands. Her heart was swollen; her thoughts were small, clenched, red and tiny like a squalling infant. Inside her chest there was the steady thump of life. She wondered at it. She knew what happened if that thumping stopped.

    She missed them.

    The woman in the green clothes was nice. Her face was wide and bright. But there was something forced in it. Something like the smile you have to wear with the sweater you have to wear when Grandma comes to visit.

    When she used to visit.

    She felt her eyes fill, but then it was gone. It concerned her. But it wasn't worth thinking about. The woman in green was coming with a bag of candy. It made her smile. She would not eat it, but it still made her smile.

    She would not eat, period.

    In her developing brain there were new ideas blossoming. And she knew that the food would stop them. She knew that hunger was important. Some communal something. She didn't have the words for it, but she did know that there was comfort in the hot pain inside her.

    The woman in green smiled, but her eyes were scared. It didn't matter. The girl turned her head to look out the window, still unable to believe that the world could change so fast. She felt her throat close, but it didn't matter.

    She knew it wouldn't last.

    1. Love how you lead us to our own conclusion as to the direction this is going. The urge to know more is powerful. The evolving, the becoming...

      Ooh, I want more!

    2. Dark, and filled with so many story possibilities... you invite the reader to the world not to watch, but to participate... and the air of madness is completely real.

  15. The fossil is still alive, you know that.

    He woke with a start. Dark upon dark. The stars were hidden, the moon gone. And there was someone or something close by. He threw some branches on the fire. Felt the searing burn in his leg. He chuckled.

    I'm going to die from this. After everything. After the war and all the slow-motion suicide trips after. Dead from a busted leg. Dead from a wrong step because he wasn't paying attention.

    Pay attention, Jonathan! Be a good boy.

    That was the fever. The dream was fever, too. Nothing was making sense. He took a small sip of the gritty water in his canteen. Then, he upended it, watched the water create a small pool of mud.

    His hand was on the butt of his rifle. The answer had been there all along, but now that his hand was forced, he didn't want to play it. But he knew there were wolves in the woods. He knew there were pumas and bear and all kinds of wicked shit.

    His eyes closed, and he smiled. Maybe if he went back to sleep, he would dream of providence. Maybe he would dream of recompense. Maybe he would find his common sense.

    Or maybe he could trade the cryptic messages for one more night at the old rail, eyeing a sad divorcee.

    Regrets. He had a few.

    It is true what the blue folks say.

    1. " that his hand was forced, he didn't want to play it." His internal struggle is so well written. Powerful.

    2. Louis L'Amour would be proud... "Maybe if he went back to sleep, he would dream of providence. Maybe he would dream of recompense." was my favorite line till I got to the last two lines, which are excellent.

  16. She reclined in the chair waiting for the novacaine shots to kick in so the dentist could start. Five shots in all. Why did it have to be the upper jaw? Each tooth had its own nerve and needed a separate injection. She almost passed out when she got a glimpse of the needle.

    He poked her gums with a sharp instrument while his eyes asked a question.

    "Yesh, I'b dumb", she slurred.

    A pair of stainless steel pliers approached in her peripheral vision before she closed her eyes and felt her fingernails try to puncture the armrests.

    There was no pain, but she could feel the motion, the uncomfortable tugging. The lack of pain was nowhere as disconcerting as the sound. She almost wished for the sound of a drill to cover the squeaking noise that was quickly followed by a wet pop and a ting as the tooth was dropped into a metal pan.

    Only four more to go...

    1. The lack of pain is secondary to some horrors and you nailed it. The sounds , squeaks...for me it's the smell. Good grief, you brought all that emotion flooding back.

      The main reason I have to have nitrous for dental work. Not the numb pain but those sounds and the smell..

      I'm going to have nightmares tonight. I'm going to see either Steve Martin in a white coat or Jack Nicholson in the chair. Just watched LSOH, 1986 a few days ago. Eek.

    2. Ohmigod... yeah, this is horror for certain... I always wonder that there aren't more stories of dentists, who hold the tools to make or prevent pain with so little scrutiny... Oh sure, there was Marathon Man, but there's a rich vein of possibility in dental horror and mystery stories, as you've just shown. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Part 1

    I’ve come to the realization the problem with going through life one day at a time, each in order, is not so much the order part as the living. The sun wakes you from the east and entrances you from the west. And if you're lucky, that trance will overtake you until that magical sun does its great misdirection act and reappears in the east again. And again. And yet again, for all your rosary-bead days

    So bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    “Why do you always do that?” Alison asked one night while I washed my hands in the kitchen sink after I got home from work.

    “Do what?” I said and shrugged, which I came to learn was as bad as saying, “What the hell are you bothering me with this crap for, woman?” to that emotionally fueled and attuned half of of humanity.

    “You know damn well what I mean. You take your ring off and place it on the back of the sink. What if it fell down the drain? And please don’t tell me that you do the same thing when you wash your hands in the filthy restroom at work,” Alison said with the cold stare that’d chase off even snowmen.

    “Well, yeah. Of course I do. I don’t want it slipping off my soapy fingers into the sink. This way, it’s safely sitting there right in front of me the whole time,” I said, drying my left hand and returning the ring to its rightful position.

    “Gahhh, you infuriate me so sometimes Robert!” she said, stalking from the kitchen into the living room, leaving behind chopped up onion, relish and other condiments I suspected had to do with my eating hotdogs this evening.

    “Aw, c’mon, Allie. What’d I do wrong this time?”

    “You take your ring off in any number of unsavory places. Why even wear it? Why even be married to me in the first place?” she said.

    “Well, I was working under the theory that graduates of Smith would have more sense than mere, you know…women.”

    “How dare you! How dare… Whatever possessed me to allow you into my life, allow you to coerce me into going out with you, let alone saying yes to the man who so cavalierly removes the sign of his eternal love and fidelity five days a week,” Alison said with a mist forming across her eyes.

    I learned a long time ago never to tell a woman not to cry. Do not force them into an embrace when they’re in such a state. Just stand there and look noble, open and a little sympathetic. Don’t fawn, hover or lay a finger on them until they overtly let you know they’d accept it now…except for the telling them not to cry part. That’s always a no-no.

    “How do I know you’re not pulling off your ring and chasing some cute little hoochie-coo secretary at your office, or that bisexual amazon Stephanie when you’re at work? Huh?”

    I sighed.

    “Allie, one, none of the compliant hoochie-coos give a shit if you’re wearing a ring or not. Unless, of course if your ring has a healthy supply of gemstones in it. Then their interest is geometrically piqued. Secondly, have you taken a close look at this mug of mine lately? Looks like I got socked with a bag full of years, quarters and dog asses since I hit double-nickels in the age lotto. And finally, Stephanie has a steady girlfriend, so you can forget her all the more,” I said.

    Though not-so-deeply inside me lived a more-than-passing affection and long-suppressed lust for that buff beauty. And I’d drop and give her a strong fifty if she asked for them, as long as a shot at her kind attention was incumbent on my successful completion of her Herculean task.

    And I lied about the girlfriend.

  18. Part 2 - “Well, all right,” Alison sniffed. “But please don’t take your ring off anymore. Please. And I think your face is fine. Full of character.”

    “Yeah, like all you women say about this white hair. I know the half-assed code. ‘Old Bob has grown obsolescent, if not completely exceeded his shelf-life.’”

    “Oh stop, Robert,” Alison said with her crooked little smile. “You’re my lovely man and I love you above all others. Just never take your ring off, okay?”

    “Sure, I’ll be careful. Maybe I’ll just carry a supply of Handi-Wipes around with me instead of using soap. How’s that?” I said with a laugh. You know, break the ice with some levity.

    “Now you’re teasing me,” she said with a frown.

    And we were off to the accusatory and running defensive races again. This was our circular state of being, happening like this so many days that it became almost as certain as the sun’s rotation that brought and finished each of those orderly days I was talking about.

    If not for the fact that every night we’d make up 9:00 PM and never went to bed angry with one another—in fact, quite the opposite—I think I very well might have decided to seek the gentle look-at-me-Bobby dressed women of our administrative staff.

    I most definitely would have taken a shot at the Holy Grail of womanhood that was Stephanie Stoneman. She’d even given me the green light, though not in so many lumens or words, three years ago while some of us executives were on a touchy-feely retreat in the Adirondacks.

    But no. I played by the rules, even if Stephanie was willing to suspend them in my case.

    “Why don’t you come up to my room, Bobby?” she asked in that seductive voice of hers. The one that hooked men and women of all ages without ever losing at her classic features and athlete’s body. Even still at forty-seven.

    And so went the order of Alison’s and my lives together. I maintained my ring in position as that sign of high fidelity and low testosterone. That is, until the day I came home to an empty house. Even the cat was gone. No loss there; I hated that cat.

    There on the kitchen table, propped up against the napkin holder Alison’s nephew made in shop class and gave to us as a housewarming present ten years ago, was an envelope with “Dearest Robert” in Allie’s script on the front.

    I won’t entirely share what the note inside said, except for the phrases, “you don’t know who I am,” “I don’t know who you are” and “a man I can trust,” were the ones that sat me down and punched me in the gut. The fact that this dude and my wife were the ones being untrustworthy was lost on the woman I realized years ago was as shallow as piss in a platter.

    The envelope also contained her wedding ring, since she no longer needed nor desired any sign or memory of love and devotion for me. I noticed she kept the $3,000 engagement ring, but I guess that’s considered a gift without any significant magical meaning to some women.

    All in all, it was great load off my mind when my heart wasn't cracking and my face wasn’t burning in a kind of embarrassment only the cheated upon understand. Most especially those cheated-upons who eschewed the occasion of salacious sin when it not only tempted you, but sent an engraved invitation.

    The other day, I dropped off an envelope with the receptionist at Allie’s office. In it was not a note that mentioned trust, devotion, disappointment or any of the verbal finger pointing and breast beating you might expect from an aggrieved ex.

    Actually, I placed my wedding ring and a card in the envelope. It was a thank you card for giving me back a life of opportunities and choices instead of trying to live the day-to-day doing the right thing for someone who who didn’t do right by you.

    Okay, I also included a photo of me and Stephanie Stoneman we had taken on a recent weekend retreat—this one for two. It seems she is a very perceptive and patient woman. And I’m a guy who now can’t wait for sunup to see what new little or big adventure life has to offer me that day and for sundown to see what Stephanie does.

    1. How perceptible you write about a marriage on the rocks. The non-issues that become major ones. Very well done. And loved the ending! Well deserved comeuppance for the one who broke the trust.

    2. Typo...Ugh. Dislike them but it's late and I'm cross-eyed. I choose to blame auto correct anyway...

      * How perceptively

      And I'm right to blame autocorrect. It did it again but I caught it in time. :p

    3. Yep... those tiny acts like the ring... that's where the magic in storytelling is. We get so hung up so easily on "big" themes and stories, but all the action really resides with the tiny movements like rings being removed and replaced and removed again... those tiny movements can reveal a lot about the character. Thanks for sharing this one.

    4. Ugh. Rings. Rings of devotion. The never ending circle. I pretty much hate those promise rings. After buying a ring I couldn't really afford for the love of my life I was informed that it wouldn't be worn due to A) her status of living completely in the closet beyond the walls of our house, and B) the fact that jewelry was forbidden as a safety hazard in her industry.

      To assuage the guilt I heaped over that issue, I was drenched in gold, diamonds, and gems. They made a lovely nest egg when I finally left and pawned it all.

  19. A long rolling field. The wheat moves under the weight of the wind. The soil is black and rich. I feel something rush through me, a cold, harsh feeling that seeps into my bones. My bones and blood are held together by spite and rage. I cannot see what lays in front of me, and that is what frightens me most. I don't want to talk; I don't want to move, I don't want to eat. I have resigned myself to a terrible fate. I have carved a hole for myself, and now I have to live in it, agonizing over what I have done.

    1. Powerfully written and leaves us wanting more...

    2. The wheat field as a metaphor in the opening is so good. Fields hold life and death...and regeneration. I grew up in the middle of wheat country, and I was mesmerized by the ocean-like waves on them... and that hole? Holes are designed to be crawled out of. And I bet your character will do that well. Thanks for a provocative piece.

    3. Thank you so much! The thing you said about holes being designed to crawl out of really helps me. I'm in New York right now at school, got here a few days ago and originally I'm from the Bay Area and I've been having a hard time adjusting so I guess this piece isn't really even fiction. But thank you. Right now it's hard to realize I'm going to be ok, but I know I will be eventually and thats kind of whats been getting me through these past few days.

    4. You're going to be okay... pretend you're just researching material for a new story... sometimes that helps. And I admire your going across country to go to school... it's really important to see a lot of different aspects of life to understand it... it's the difference between watching life on a screen and seeing it in three dimensions... I look forward to hearing/reading how it's going.


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