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.
We were mighty then. Thumbs looped through ragged belt-loops, lips supporting dangling fags. We were fearless. But we were so afraid. Oh, how the mighty fall. Oh, the mountainous bullshit of it all. Here’s my pager number. Give it a call. I’ll meet you at the corner.
Trust me, we’ll have a ball.
Folly. Volley. Pass it to me, and I’ll pass it back to you. Too young to know the truth – never too young to scream. FUCK! YOU! I can drink a forty in less than forty seconds. As long as it’s warm.
Who the fuck cares?
Hear that distorted minor chord?
I’m gonna use it to beat you senseless.
And fuck you and your jock-ass friends. We came here to make amends. To sway and lean against each other, friends. We came for support. This ain’t a contact sport. This is important – why don’t you understand how important this is? I’m staring out over a hundred heads, sweating. But they’re not picking up what I’m laying down. They’re taking.
What are they getting?
Are you aiding? Or abetting? Or will you strike a pose of supposed righteousness with me and my crew? We’re half chicks, and we’re not going to fuck with you. That’s not what we do.
Slugs off the whiskey tit? Sure, I’ve had a few.
How can there be such beauty in self-destruction? I’ll tell you, but you won’t listen. But I’ll tell you anyway.
Look. There’s only so much anger one boy can absorb. There’s only so much pain you can pretend to ignore. It’s got to go somewhere. And I didn’t want it hurting anyone else. So, I took one for the team, blood running down my arm in one long, thin scream.
I’m not saying it’s noble. It’s fucking retarded. You think I don’t know that? You think I didn’t know that then?
I didn’t know any other way to get them to listen.
And it didn’t even work.
I’m not Christ. It was selfish. But at least we weren’t busting heads in the pit. At least I wasn’t calling some kid a faggot because that’s what my Dad called me. Naw, I blew those brain cells away with stagnant, pulsing apathy.
It didn’t do anybody any good, but it didn’t do much harm. Put that on my tombstone. Carve THAT onto my fucking arm.
“He didn’t do much good, but it could have been a whole lot worse.”
Now, I gotta go. Show’s over. My ride’s here. And, yeah, I know it looks like a hearse.
One more chorus. Fuck the verse.
#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...
I don’t know when it happened; I can’t remember. But I know it did. I know it happened because I can’t look some people in the eye when I talk to them. And I don’t like it when people come from behind me at a certain angle. Not even my kids. I try to tell them. I can’t explain it, but, good God, please stop doing it.ReplyDelete
Someone is going to get hurt.
I bet if I tried hard enough to remember … but why the hell would I want to do that? Not remembering is bad enough. What’s illumination going to do? Except maybe burn this whole place to the ground. I’ve been tested. I’ve heard the sound. I know what it’s going to sound like when I’m not around.
Probably a whole lot more pleasant. But don’t get your pitchfork yet, peasant.
We’re all towing ghosts behind us. Some of mine I can see clear as day. Some are vapor, and I want to keep them that way.
I’m trying to write about things, see? And I’ve got this reputation in my mind as the kind that won’t pull punches, blind. But there’s this one punch that’s giving me fucking fits, man. If the shoe…
I’ll ride it out. Write it out. It will get out eventually, and then I’ll have to look at it. That’s the deal I make every time I sit down to type without a plan. Understand? Me either. I just know it’s not that hard to break a man.
And if I break myself, so be it. I’ve got to do it so YOU can see it.
Raw honesty and pain... feels like I'm staring into a blooded wound. And we need that kinda brutal honesty, now more than ever. "I'll ride it out. Write it out," echoes in my head.Delete
Been there, felt that.
Sorry for my absence. I'm enroute to North Carolina where my younger daughter just delivered our second granddaughter. Little mite decided to come a month early. So, greetings from I-85, southbound to Raleigh. See y'all soon.Delete
Both pieces are fierce, brother. They connected? They feel like they are. My favs: "So, I took one for the team, blood running down my arm in one long, thin scream." And: "We’re all towing ghosts behind us."Delete
Oh, and congrats, Joe!
I'm not you, Dan. I'm an ocean away and have a whole different set of influences but you always manage to draw me in and make me feel what you feel. Masterly.Delete
[a continuation of last week's Solitary story]ReplyDelete
I remember reading the stories about the prisoners in New Orleans during Katrina. How the guards left, and the prisoners had to fend for themselves. I wonder if they had solitary confinement there. There's not really anything different in a flood, I realize, except for water. And no food. And no Kentucky Boy to keep me from going crazy.
Where was he? He said he'd come back for me. Somehow I know he's not in the habit of lying. He probably had a mama who taught him not to. I did, too, but she's dead now. She--
The door rattles. The big door, not the little one the food comes through. It opens.
And as it opens, the drip drip drip turns into a whoosh as water runs in. I feel it against my feet. Cold, gritty. Maybe if I'd had boots on, I wouldn't feel the grit, but it's up to my ankles.
"Come on, it's getting bad out here. We gotta get you out. You're the last one."
I'm disappointed that he doesn't have more of an accent. Mostly, when people get excited, their accents get more pronounced.
I try to stand up, but I've been crouching too long. My legs are asleep. I look up at him, and see pity in his eyes. "I can't..."
He comes in and I see how tall he is. A beer belly, but mostly in shape still. His arms stretch the short sleeves of his guard uniform. He reaches for me, like he's gonna help me up, and I try to make out the letters and the words of the tattoo.
And the door slams shut.
And the swoosh of water stops, and he shouts "FUCK!" at the same time.
And I remember from hours, days really, of staring at that door that there is no keyhole on this side.
His tattoo says "Pray for peace; prepare for war."
I want to know the rest of this story.Delete
thanks Me too!Delete
Yeah, definitely keep it going, Leland.Delete
Yes, me too!Delete
You left us hanging, Leland. Now I know how it feels!Delete
ew "Ruby" Rubio hadn't cased this place before deciding to break in. But he’d been on the run from the cops in Albany for two sleepless days and nights and figured he could hide up in this cottage in the Helderbergs for a spell while everything cooled off down in the city.ReplyDelete
Lew figured no one had been home in at least a week from the number of newspapers that peppered the apron of the driveway. He decided to jimmy the sliding door on the side away from the road, even though trees blocked view of the most of house from County Rte. 10. With a screwdriver he discovered in the garden shed and twenty years’ practice in the Bronx and Albany, he was standing in the kitchen in thirty seconds.
Once inside, Lew found his suspicions were correct. The place had been buttoned up for some time. A check in the bathroom showed the electricity on and the water off. He found the main, gave it a good twist to the left and he figured he was set for as long as he wanted to stay there. As long, that is, as he remained vigilant for any visitors from the County Sheriff’s Department or the State Police.
But first thing’s first.
“I’m frigging starving,” Lew said as he walked to the refrigerator. Inside, he found jars of pickles, olives, condiments, three cans of Mountain Dew, two bottles of Nine Pin Cider, a large unopened bottle of Ommegang Rare Vos ale and a half-bottle of 2016 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Well, this is all very nice, but where’s the damn real food?” Lew said, shoving the refrigerator door closed and moving to the cabinets that lined the wall above the sink. In the dim moonlight, he found cans of Progresso Chicken Noodle and Minestrone soups, some boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese, envelopes of Brown Sugar and Cinnamon oatmeal, a jar of peanut butter and three tubes of Pringles barbecue potato chips.
“Jesus, maybe something’s in the freezer. Aannnnd…two scrawny frost-burgers, half a bag of Tater Tots and two bottles of vodka. What the hell is up with these drunks?” Lew said, as he closed the freezer door, casting the kitchen back into darkness..
He froze when he thought he heard the crunch of something on the gravel driveway out front. Then he dropped low when he saw the headlights.
“Shit, not already,” he said, catching his breath as a car-mounted spotlight swept the exterior of the front of the house and the woods on both sides, its beam cutting off a slice of the darkness in the kitchen. Lew crawled toward the sliding door again, ready to make a run for it if necessary. But the Sheriff’s patrol car backed out onto Rte. 10 and once again he was alone.
“I’d better eat something now, in case they come back,” Lew said to himself. So he opened two bags of oatmeal, tossed the contents into a bowl, added water from the now-functioning tap and put it in the microwave for a minute. While it cooked, Lew poured a can of Mountain Dew into one of the red Solo cups he found on the shelf, and topped it off with some of the icy vodka.
“The Dew for the caffeine and the hooch for my nerves,” he laughed. He pulled the steaming bowl from the microwave, gave it a stir and slowly ate it, washing it down with the fortified Dew. Finished with his oatmeal, he dug a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar he left open on the counter, sucked down a hard cider and decided he’d better try getting some rest.
Slowly, he climbed the stairs up to the shed dormer, where he found two bedrooms and a half-bathroom. But, since the dormer was on the side away from the road, he thought he’d better get back downstairs just in case the cops made this place a regular stop on their patrols.
“You never know who might break in on you,” Lew said with a laugh.
Lew decided to crash on the futon by the sliding door, just in case. He opened the glass slider to allow some cool air into the pace through the screen. He then propped himself up so he faced the driveway and settled in for what remained of the night.
“Maybe I can steal a day or two here before I hit the road,“ he thought. Within two minutes he was sleeping soundly.
He never saw the headlights, nor any spotlight, but the sound of someone moving around outside coming through the open slider roused him around 3:00 AM.
“Shit. Where the hell did they come from,” Lew thought as he eased himself off the futon and padded over to the wall next to the slider. He peeked out one side of doorway, saw the shadow moving toward the doorway.
“I ain’t going back for them to put in the county lockup. I either gotta make a run for it into the woods when this dude moves to the other side, or I have to take care of him, myself…right now,” Lew thought.
He looked around for something to use as a weapon, if he needed it. Once again Lew heard the rustling sound and a chill ran through him, his heart began pounding, his mouth dried so much he could barely swallow. He saw the wrought-iron poker leaning against the wood stove and knew what he had to do. If someone came through the slider, Lew was certain he could take them down and put some distance between himself and this cottage before daybreak and any more cops could come along.
But he still hadn’t seen any sign of a vehicle out front, hadn’t heard the crunching gravel. He wondered if what he heard was another breaking and entering star looking to steal whatever of value he could find. Lew suddenly felt more superior to this interloper and figured it was time to put end to his stay here one way or another.
He’d eaten the owners’ oatmeal, drank their cider and vodka, made use of their futon and now he was going to use their fireplace poker. The intruder was now moving closer along the wall to the sliding door.
“This is it,” Lew said, taking a deep breath. “He’s right there and now’s the time to confront this asshole one way or another. One, two thr…”
Lew slid open the door and jumped out of the house and turned dead right, his poker above his head. He saw the silhouette of the intruder and raised his poker high, saying, “Get out of here, asshole, if you know what’s…”
But that was it. The brown bear, leading her cubs in a raid on the bird feeders and trash cans of the neighborhood, rose on her hind legs, stepped into Lew, and with a swipe sent him reeling bloody into the forest. She then burst through the slider doorway and went straight for the open peanut butter jar on the counter while her cubs licked the unwashed oatmeal bowl.
State Police found Lew lying beside County Rte. 10 about a mile east later that morning. They transported him to the emergency room at Albany Medical Center, where doctors reattached the blond-haired flap of scalp the mama of the three-bear rural crime spree flayed off him on her way to breakfast.
During his three-year stint at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, Lew picked up a few nicknames. Early on, the other inmates called him Zipperhead or Ruby. But as his hair grew back and word of how he was apprehended got around the yard, Lew Rubio was known by inmate and corrections officers alike as Goldilocks.
Ha ha! You brought this tense adventure to life, Joe, and I love the comic swerve of the ending.Delete
So good, so full of great detail, and I knew you were leading me somewhere with all the types of food and drink...and the end was perfect. "Comic swerve" is just the right expression!Delete
“Redneck Vampire Attacks Trailer Park. Lloyd, why do you read that shit?”ReplyDelete
Lloyd Taylor raised his eyes from the National Enquirer he’d been perusing, peering over the top of his glasses. Jimmy had known Lloyd a long time, long enough to know the man wasn’t annoyed by his interruption.
“That’s what I do,” Lloyd said. “I read and I know things.”
Jimmy slid into the diner booth across from his neighbor. Lloyd ignored him, turning back to his magazine. A couple of minutes later, he laid the Enquirer down on the formica table top. It was open to the article about the redneck vampire. Jimmy shook his head.
“I just don’t understand your fascination with those damn tabloids. You’re an educated man. A well-educated man. Shouldn’t you be reading…I dunno. The New Yorker or something?”
“You’d be surprised what you can learn from one of these,” Lloyd said. He flipped a couple of pages and tapped the page. “I mean, how else are you going to find out that NASA’s shuttles are responsible for the hole in the ozone layer.”
“Shit, Lloyd. I wanted to hear that crap, I could just go listen to old Ed Ferguson. Sounds like one of his crazy conspiracy theories.”
“He does have some wild stories.”
“Yeah he does. You should hear what he says about that Hargrove kid. Hell, you should hear what he says about you.”
“Oh, I’ve heard what he says about me,” Lloyd said.
He didn’t seem too bothered by it. Jimmy would be. He’d be mad as hell if some old codger accused him of having an appetite for young men, even if that appetite was quite literal. Ed seemed to think that Lloyd liked to eat high school and college-age boys. But only the handsome ones.
“What I want to hear,” Lloyd continued, “is what Ed says about Jen Hargrove.”
“Get this,” Jimmy said, leaning his elbows on the chipped and scarred tabletop. “He says that kid is some kind of special ops.”
Lloyd’s heavy black eyebrows rose. “Really? That’s a new one.”
“Tell me about it. I figured he’d tell me the kid was an alien or a murderer or something, and he busts out with ‘special ops.’ Actually, he said the kid works for a secret government agency or some shit.”
“Ah. There’s the conspiracy theorist we know and…well. That we know.”
Jimmy grinned and sat back in his seat. “You’ll love this one, Lloyd. Right up your alley.”
“Oh yeah. That secret government agency? They hired Hargrove to hunt down vampires and werewolves. Ain’t that a scream?”
But Lloyd wasn’t laughing. He looked thoughtful, almost pensive. He silently folded up his newspaper and slid it inside the breast of his suit jacket.
“Interesting story,” he said. “I’d best get moving. Clients to see.”
Jimmy watched Lloyd slide out of the booth and stride out of the diner without waving to Jodie behind the counter or saying goodbye. He watched him walk outside, into the crisp fall day, and turn his face up toward the sky and his chest puffing out like he was breathing deeply of the cool air. He watched Lloyd wander on down the street toward his tax accounting office.
Jodie wandered over to the table to see if Jimmy was actually going to order.
“My usual,” he said. “And Jodie…I’m just curious. Today is Sunday, right?”
Jodie looked at him like he was crazy.
“Just checking. And Lloyd, he doesn’t see clients on Sundays, does he?”
“Not in all the time I’ve known him,” Jodie told him. “And I’ve known him since I was sixteen.”
“Huh. That’s what I thought.”
Nice. Like Joe's piece above, the devil is in all the details, only this time mostly in dialogue, which reads perfectly and naturally.Delete
Yup, you can learn a helluva lot form all that Fake news...Delete
Yes, that's some wonderful dialogue. Flows so well.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I don’t wanna hear no more of your miseryReplyDelete
My bad on me; It’s just how I am
Don’t think I can stomach too much more of that pain
I feel what you feel
I want you to heal
But I ain’t going back there again
I don’t want to make sense of my own tragedy
I don’t need to see around the corner where it’s all going
I don’t want to hear the litany of where we’ve all been
Or get stuck in the vision of where we’ve been.
I want to keep growing. And learning and knowing.
I want to be naïve.
But I wish to god I had that magic, the tarot cards and entrails
Astrology and signs.
I wanna be able to wave
My magic wand
I’d make you a gown or some sort of prediction
Turn your pumpkin to a carriage
And give you hope
Somehow, give you the means to move on.
But all I can do is hear your story
Take it to my heart
Make sure your words are never forgotten
As we practice
Our respective arts.
When you heard the news, you had an idea. Recreate the picture. Get the team together one last time, raise a glass to toast Cassini goodbye in the same place you celebrated her successful launch. How many times have you’ve pulled out that photo, stared moony-eyed at the third girl from the left. She wasn’t much more than a girl then, and you weren’t much older. Your first big assignment out of school, and how it thrilled you just to walk into that room in the morning and see scientists you’d idolized since you built a spaceship out of Lego and zoomed it up to an imaginary moon. You mumbled at your shoes for the first three days. Then you settled in, and you found each other, in that way young people find each other in offices. In coffee rooms, at the copier, lingering after the staff meeting so you’d both be leaving at the same time, “helping her” bring back lunch for the boss. Staying late to pitch in. You teased her about her thick glasses; she ragged on your Star Trek socks. And you were the last one to know how she felt about you. By that time she’d been reassigned. Or at least that’s what she said.
You brought the picture with you. You distract yourself with comparing the faces that walk through the door with the ones in the photo. People laugh. The tall, sharp-eyed guy who made origami swans for everyone at the Christmas party—stooped over a bit, a little blurry around the edges. The round-shouldered dude who wore all the sweaters his mother made him. Still rocking them but in a grandfatherly way. You wonder what they might be thinking about you. If you ever got married. If she had… You dread the moment you know is coming, the one where someone will say: “You made such a cute couple, why didn’t you ever—”
And then you start to think this had been a really bad idea. You slink away to the bar with the excuse of ordering another round. The television monitor shows the last images Cassini will ever transmit. Your eyes mist over, remembering when the first ones came in. You thought of her then, too, and thought for sure she was out there, somewhere, remembering you, wondering if she’d made a mistake. Or counting her blessings that she’d moved on. Then you sense someone on your left. Myrna, the office “mother”—who made the birthday cakes and hugged them all so very tightly when their work was done.
She gives you a sweet smile, and her hand, a little smaller, a little more wizened, lands on your arm. You think of things to ask her, but aren’t sure you want the answers. Is her husband still alive? Do her children appreciate her, do they come to visit?
She points up at the screen. “It was beautiful, you know. Being a part of that. Like we’re all out there.”
You nod. Want to make some joke about all of you together plunging into Saturn, but you don’t trust your voice.
For a long moment, you’re silent, and the commentator jabbers something about the project he probably just read off of Wikipedia, and with a deepening hole in your stomach, you realize that he’s probably the same age you were when you started working on it.
“I called her,” Myrna said. “She said she’d try to make it. You know. For the picture.”
For the picture. Your fingers dig into the sticky varnished wood of the bar. The part of your mind that makes words has turned to jelly. You think about leaving. Cassini’s time is done, and perhaps it’s time for you to move on, too. You put some cash on the bar and ready the least jerky goodbye you know how. You mumble something to Myrna; you don’t look back as you head for the back door. You try not to think about the birthday cake she made you, in the shape of a rocket.
You’re in your car, about to turn the key in the ignition when your phone trills with a text. You don’t know the number but you know it’s her.
She’s written: “At least we didn’t crash and burn like Cassini.”
He grins, then replies, feeling brave behind his words. “Maybe if we’d gotten off the launch pad we could have.”
He imagines how she would smile, maybe giggle a little. Tease him for the corny joke. But her words blip slowly onto his screen.
On six you take a deep breath, open your car door, and eject yourself into space.
Bittersweet. Bleak and hopeful all at once.Delete
Weird. I didn't know you'd written a Cassini-related piece when I wrote mine! I love yours. Another perfectly weighted vignette.Delete
It's in the atmosphere, as they say. Or not. :DDelete
So clever and well observed.Delete
why is it this way not the other way and what are you expecting of us here in this vile tunnel beneath an umbra of skyblown corpses and terrified monkeys in space noted and glimpsed by spiders who exhale sharp patience and spin diaphanous tapestries of memory all the while relating those gleaming campfire tales of stick figure ghosts silhouetted against scenes of war and pictures of torment and dioramas of loathing and don't let's forget our tiny vanguard our fearless scout plunging its lionheart into the multi-ringed air of our giant cousin only to stutter scorch a dying bright limb across its alien sky and everyone cries back here dreading and dreaming and texting and hoping on our choked and maybe waning earth and is there any word more lovely than enceladus or any vista more dreamlike than the sweep and plunge amid the rings slingshot above the world's churning hexagonal pole before the virtuoso suicide before the last tumbling image hurtled back toward a bluish marble dancing with the one that brung me dancing among the glitterati and the astonishment of worlds and the eternal itch of this heartworn impossible family?ReplyDelete
Damn. And I say it again. Damn.Delete
In space, no-one needs to breathe. At least not a space probe. Such a timely piece and so very much out of this world. Are you sure you're not an alien, David?Delete
I can't say for certain, Mark, as I have no memory of my birth. ;)Delete
The parasite tightened its embrace, its legs interleaving themselves under my chin. I felt a brief wetness and a subtle warmth as it began to bore into my skull. There was no pain; it took good care of its hosts, causing them a little discomfort at most. If I'd not been awake I'd probably not have noticed it at all.ReplyDelete
My eyesight blurred and then doubled for a moment as the creature tapped into my brain, its own vestigial eyes closing as it diverted the feed from my own. It snuggled a little closer to the bone beneath it, my hair and then my skin liquifying as it began to fuse with me.
There'd be no removing it now.
The spasms began then, my legs and my arms at first and then my hands as it developed its control further. My fingers drummed and then stopped and then resumed again, their actions more deliberate, playing arpeggios as it began to rummage through my memories. There was much for it absorb and relive as we grew closer, the parasite and I. I'd benefit from this experience, it whispered. soundlessly. I would be stronger, feel no pain, be twice the man I'd been. My pleasures would be ten times as intense as they'd ever been. We'd develop a symbiosis that would make me formidable, both physically and mentally.
I glanced in the mirror, seeing it but seeing nothing remarkable. It was me. I'd already accepted it as a part of who I was. I tried to think about the times before; how I'd looked, how I'd felt, how I used to think about myself but found little there, those memories more like dreams that had belonged to a distant acquaintance, shared one night in a club or a bar while we'd been drinking. They were unimportant, not real, nothing I needed to concern myself with. It was time for me to become now. Be the man I'd always wanted to be.
This could be the prelude to a much longer piece: a novel even. So much potential. It's cinematic too, in the sense it made me think of Cronenberg.Delete