Friday, October 20, 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.

The shadows get longer and, still, you sit. You scratch your head and listen to the vast silence that isn’t one bit silent. You watch the herons dip and glide and you wonder if they’ll ever stop. You sure hope not. But it seems like everything is changing so fast. Shit’s on fire; shit’s flooding. The President is huffing and puffing, but really he’s doing nothing. Or doing the wrong things. Because he’s sure doing something. And you don’t like it. And the herons don’t give a shit.

But that’s just because they’re not sentient.

If we could make all the animals sentient, they’d storm the White House in droves. In flocks. In stampedes. In murders. In herds. It would be like the big, white house was Noah’s ark and the floods scared them all shitless.

But they just keep on keeping on. Witless. While we bear witness.

Meanwhile, we take the land and shit on it. We grin and think nothing of it. Didn’t we learn anything from the Exxon Valdez? From the Dust bowl? From the shit we used to spike the global punch bowl.

Your stomach is clenching up, so you watch the shadows creep and try to breathe. You need to get home, but can’t seem to leave. And your throat burns. Your eyes tear up. You try to pretend it’s the smoke, but smoke doesn’t hurt this much. And you feel like an ingrate because you got off easy. And so many are suffering. And at the top of the mountain, the Naked King is blustering.

So, you get on your bike and ride home. You hug small people and get scared. And you’re so grateful they’re small enough to remain mostly unaware.

#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...

120 comments:

  1. Boy, you gotta pull your hat down low over your eyes. Why? I don’t know. Ain’t you ever seen the movies? All the smooth ones do it like that. Cock that hat back and you look like a hillbilly dirt farmer. Pull it down low on your forehead, kicked a little to the side, and you look like you’ve got a million secrets. And nothing to hide. Like you know the game is rigged, but it don’t matter because you KNOW the game is rigged. It makes you look like you know what the fuck is going on. Go on. Do it. Dig?

    That’s better.

    And why you standing so straight for? You in the fucking Army or something? You think they’re coming by for inspection? Afraid of rejection? You gotta slouch a little. You seen that picture with James Dean in it? That motherfucker wasn’t standing straight for nobody. You gotta care enough to look like you don’t care. Doesn’t make sense? Never had to. Just like life never had to be fair.

    I know you’re scared…

    The girls don’t notice you because you blend into the scenery. I don’t say that meanly. I mean you’re like an indoor plant. People get used to seeing you there, and you don’t make no impact. I told you. It don’t have to make sense.

    You can’t even hold a cigarette right. You can’t flick it straight. I seen you try to open a beer bottle once, and it looked like you were doing algebra for Christ’s sake. Why don’t you try being like me? I’m no Casanova, but I do alright. You know Betty Anne, down to the feed store? I almost had her the other night. Then the preacher came in for a medical shot. Gave her a fright. But I could have done it. You get that straight. You get what you can get. Ain’t no time to wait.

    Now, I got to go. You think about what I said. I’m late to the factory again, and I’m canned. You listen boy. Think on what I said. Now … say, you see that redhead. The one with the caddy convertible just up ahead? Why’s she stopping? Why’s she walking towards us?

    *HONK*

    You pull your hat back on your head and smile. You look at her, him. Smile twice. Get out of the truck and into the Caddy, standing tall, tossing words over your shoulder: “Have fun at work, Dad. And … uh, thanks for the advice.”

    "Something for YOU to think on. Have a ball. Or two. Don’t let nobody tell you what to do."

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    1. I like how everything twists around at the end. <3 And I love the dad's voice. "Betty Anne, down to the feed store" - that's so very country, in the most honest way.

      Re: story 1 - heartbreaking, of course. The truth usually is. Beautiful imagery and great evocation. I think I'd have been there with you even if I wasn't there with you, if you know what I mean.

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    2. Love this, but to be honest, love the one above it even more. Your writing just flows so well. The beauty is intense...while you're breaking my heart. Exquisite pain.

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    3. Oh love this. And the first one. Power and yeah, exquisite pain.

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    4. The first one made me want to hug all the little ones... and us big ones, too... and the second made me want to laugh... awesome ending after a believable lecture (and I had enough of those lectures to swear to its veracity)

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    5. I Love it. Springsteen from another mother...

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    6. We've dumped so much into the global punch bowl, no wonder so many of us are intoxicated. Or numb. Or just too dumb to quit drinking it. And too many others just sit and sip their Kool-Aid.

      Love the first and the second one, Dan. Sharp and incisive. Nobody cuts through the bullshit of reality like you do.

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    7. We're punch drunk from the toxic punchbowl. I love these pieces. Something about that second one has an elusive quality I can't describe (if I could, it wouldn't be elusive, I guess). Love your writing, brother.

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  2. He waited until night had fallen and the ship was quiet before he pulled off his boots and socks, rolled up the legs of his trousers, and crept up to the open deck. The others would think him strange, maybe even crazy, but this was important to him. The feel of the wood under his bare feet, the scent of the deck oil on the night wind. Tonight, it was more important to him than usual. Tonight it was about getting to know his new home. About learning how these boards felt, how this deck smelled. He would take his time and learn everything he could about this ship, the way he would learn the secrets of the a new lover. He would stroke the wood of the railings, tangle himself in the ratlines, inhale the heady scent of oil and tar and hemp. They would twine together in the moonlight, and with any luck at all, they would become one.

    He lost track of time, on the deck and above it, as he made a study of his new home. He found a few flaws he would report to El Capitan come morning, but for now, he would savor them, these small details that only he knew. He was certain that he now knew the ship—at least these parts of her—more intimately than anyone else on board. He took a certain satisfaction in that. Let himself feel a little superior, a little smug, knowing it might well be the last time he felt that way until his time aboard the Persephone came to an end.

    As he climbed down from the ratlines, he spied a figure below, waiting in the shadows. He assumed it was his friend and cabin-mate, but as he neared the deck, he realized the man was too large to be Oliver. Too large, too, to be El Capitan—thankfully.

    The big man steadied him as he leapt down lightly onto the deck.

    “What are you about so late?”

    He gave the railing one last stroke. “You will think me mad.”

    “Try me.”

    He looked up, at the envelope, at the lines, at the sky beyond. Then he looked at the man, the XO, a man called Oz.

    “I just wanted to say hello.”

    Oz’s face split into a wide grin. “That’s not mad, lad. That’s just polite.”

    Oz clapped him on the shoulder and steered him toward the stairs that led belowdecks. “It’s also polite to say hello to your new crew mates, though. Come have a drink with us.”

    He looked down at his rolled-up trousers and bare feet. “I don’t think…”

    “Then don’t think. Too much thinking’s bad for you anyway.” Oz’s big hand squeezed his shoulder. “It’ll be all right, lad. Trust me.”

    Trust didn’t come easy to him. It never had. And time and again, his skepticism had been proven right. But…he had to try.

    He glanced back over his shoulder at the bridge, the railing, the city lights beyond. He scuffed one bare foot against the boards. He’d be happier here with only the ship for company, but Oz was right—it was only polite to say hello. And if Oz was wrong, and it wasn’t all right –well, the ratlines would be waiting. He’d learned long ago that they, at least, were always there when he needed them.




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    1. I'm loving getting to know Javi. He has such a great perspective. Keep 'em coming.

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    2. Ah, I could almost smell the salt air... I really like this character.

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    3. I'm intrigued. I was right there with him.

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    4. We always talk about writing to the senses, and this is perfect example of why. Excellent. Also, I think the dialogue is really strong. And I'm loving this seafaring adventure.

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    5. Somebody put the nickel in you jukebox this week, for sure! Love it!

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    6. Time for me to ditto everyone again! ;)

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  3. You are beside a campfire, in Colorado mountains, and you watch the embers of the fire stream toward the stars of the sky. The wind is still, so you hear the rustling of the leaves immediately and you start. You stand up.

    “Nothin’ to be afraid of, I just saw your fire, thought maybe you could use some company.”

    The man’s face is grizzled, and the flickering shadows of the fire make him almost monstrous, but for some reason, you trust him.

    “Pull up a log and make yourself at home.”

    He has a grace, despite his age, as he settles in.

    “Lookin’ at the stars?” he asks in a voice just louder than a whisper.

    You nod.

    “See that one up there? The bright one?” he points to exactly the star you were considering before his arrival. “That’s Sirius, the dog star.”

    It’s the brightest star in the heavens, no wonder you both fixated on it.

    “My mama told me it was shining the morning I was born. Always had a soft spot for it. The Greeks say that Sirius was the hunting dog of Orion. That’s him, not far away, with three stars in his belt. But the Greeks aren’t the only ones who think Sirius is a dog. The Chinese call it the Celestial Wolf. The Cherokee say Sirius and,” he points to another star, “Antares are both dog stars and guard the ends of the Path of Souls.”
    You came to the mountains for their silence, but you don’t mind this strange man’s voice.

    “But nobody ever remembers the other dog star, Procyon. Procyon is part of Canis Minor, the little dog. I reckon, with all the dogs I’ve known in my life, the heavens have a star for just about every one of them.”

    You nod again, and you wonder if he notices, as dark as it is.

    “I think you came up here to mourn something, if you don’t mind my being nosy.”
    You swallow, and utter a quiet “yeah.”

    “Whatever it is, set it free. These mountains have cried with the best of us, and absorbed those tears. They’ve listened to and echoed the bawling of humans and others for millenia. They’ve got room for more.”

    You try not to think of it. Try not to cry. You look back up at the heavens, where the embers meet the stars.

    His hand touches your shoulder, and he doesn’t say a word. The two of you sit there, beneath the dog stars, in silence.

    Finally, he speaks again. “You are strong. You will survive and grow. You have the spirt of a wolf inside you.” And he takes his hand back. “I reckon you could use sometime alone.” He stands, and moves to the edge of where the fire’s light reaches.

    “Thank you,” you hear yourself say, as a tear escapes your eye.

    And just for a moment, you think you see, instead of a man, a wolf running into the forest.

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    1. Stop that! Seriously, beautiful, but it made all this dust start bothering my eyes...

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    2. I have no words. Such a beautiful piece. Love that ending.

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    3. Oh... I love when you write about the stars. So beautiful.

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    4. I love the MagicalRealLeland!!! And the places you take us.

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    5. Incredibly moving. On animals, stars, spirits and the mix of all of them, few can hold a candle to your eloquence. And most importantly, we see it vividly and...believe.

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    6. Three stories in and even if they'd been anonymous I would have instantly known who wrote them. Your voice is unique and powerful, Leland.

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  4. This is me, this is who I am. I am a hermit, in the middle of a beautiful nowhere that more and more people are discovering. I cherish the solitude and the quiet, with only dogs for companionship. I love seeing the stars come out after sunrise, and watching the moon rise and set, and the glories of the sunrise and sunset that mark the beginnings and the endings of my days.

    Through the magic of science and technology, I have the pleasure of the company of others… friends and strangers… when I choose. As part of the rent I pay for my corner of this earth, I try to bring people together. People who don’t know each other, but should. People with differing opinions, with pure intentions. I try to bring a little bit of peace into the world.

    I don’t have a lot of tools to help that happen, being as far away as I am from the center of the world. I rely on words and pictures, and a little humor. If I can get people of all types to say oooh and ahhhh at a sunrise, or to stifle a groan together, join in a good cry, or even share laughter, maybe we’ll all remember that we share this tiny planet, that whether we agree or disagree, whether we have the same traits or not, that we breathe the same air, that we drink the same water, that we’re all in this together.

    That’s all I’ve got. That’s who I am. This is me.

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    1. And you are awesome. Just so you know.

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    2. And this is why we love you so much. :)

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    3. If that is how your writing is to be judged? By the way it brings people together and makes them think, look at the beauty they may be missing? If such is your rent for your corner of the world, then I'd say you're paid ahead in full and probably due a big refund.

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    4. y'all are most kind... every once in a while I write a piece like this to remind myself who I am, and what I think matters about what I do...

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  5. The five men entered the exclusive club through the back door and did not need to be introduced nor shown the way to their private room. Each man’s drink of choice arrived moments after he sat down. One Diet Coke, one frosty draft, one sweet tea, one decaf, one vodka martini. The greetings were more somber, the smiles slower. Prior meetings had been, if not happier, at least more convivial occasions. The men would compare experiences and gray hairs, ask after each other’s families, show off pictures of grandchildren, suggest ways they could help raise money for disaster relief in poor countries. But this was not one of those meetings. This was a problem that the Council had tackled only once in their long and storied history, but these members had never faced it before.
    Each lifted his glass in a silent toast. The first sip a kind of ceremony. Slow, calculating, bracing. When all the beverages were back on the table, the eldest—by only four months--spoke, his quiet crackle of a voice and decades of experience commanding the room, making them lean closer to hear.

    “Thank you for coming. Assume you’ve received and read your briefing packages.”

    The men nodded.

    “Knew you would have, just wanted to confirm. Based on that, our prior conversations between and among, and the grave situation we are facing, thought it might be prudent for us to sit down and get on the same page.”

    The men nodded.

    “And want to add first, you two”—he waved a wizened, liver-spotted hand toward the draft of beer and the sweet tea—“excellent job speaking out. Know it’s not everyone’s wheelhouse to even whisper publicly about the new guy, but appreciate that you did. Kind of softens the target.”

    The man behind the draft beer looked especially pained.

    “Yes, Forty-four. Is there something you’d like to say?”

    The tall, elegantly dressed man cleared his throat. “I’m as concerned as all of you,” he said. “And maybe for a few reasons, I have more call to be—with the exception of Forty-two, I can imagine.”

    Forty-two, the ruddy man behind the Diet Coke, waved a hand. “No worries, brother. I wasn’t crazy about being back in that fishbowl again, know what I mean?”

    Forty-four nodded, with a wry half-smile, and continued, gesturing toward the packet in front of him. “But pulling this trigger—literally, pulling this trigger--seems a little extreme. I was hoping we could achieve a more tenable outcome if we work at it from the inside. We still have connections in high places. Operation Twenty-five looked like a viable option. I do believe that our founding fathers, in their foresight and wisdom, would have thought that amendment to be a necessary failsafe, in the event. And I do think, and I think we are all in agreement, that this is, without a doubt, an event.”

    “Yes, we can definitely agree about the importance of action,” Thirty-nine said, his voice a mere wisp with a Southern accent. “But I fear the damage he could do in the time it would take to invoke the twenty-fifth.” He tapped the folder. “And we are all running out of time. So it is my reluctant but necessary call that we go forward.”

    Forty-three gave Forty-one the side eye. “And that injector gizmo in the Oval Office chair…it really will look like a heart attack?”

    Forty-one raised a brow at his son. “That’s what J. Edgar Hoover told me.”

    Silence fell over the table, and one by one, the men nodded.

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    1. Damn, but I do love you. This is great. Can we make it a reality, please, though?

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    2. Ohhhh.... dark Laurie writes GOOD stuff! Just don't open the door for anyone pulling up in a black SUV, okay?

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    3. Kinda hinky about posting this anywhere else...but oh, how I want to! :D

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    4. So you're cool with the CIA taking me out, though? ;)

      For the record, I love America and I'm pretty sure Laurie is a Russian Bot and ... um ... I should go ...

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    5. "I hereby disavow JD Mader of any responsibility for posting this incredibly fictional piece of fiction." There.

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    6. I So LOVE it! My Fantasy is NorthKor actually Recruited to drop a very limited nuke on a very limited person. Imagine the "Unimaginable"

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    7. Love it, Laurie. Great job of capturing the essence of Those Who Came Before, btw.

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    8. Wow, loved it. *quick look over my shoulder for sunglass wearing dark suits*

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    9. Oh, please make this so. I can see this as an episode of Black Mirror. And if you haven't seen that show, I heartily recommend it. Brava, Laurie.

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  6. You have not been back to the city in a decade. The trees have kept you company, and the creek. The loudest sound you’ve heard is the shot of a rifle during hunting season.

    When you walked the 200 miles back to this place, you prepared yourself mentally for noise, for the sounds of people yelling, cars honking, trains running.

    You did not prepare yourself for the silence, punctuated by the sound of weeping.
    You saw the arcs in the sky, and you knew the end was coming. You knew when the radio went silent, when there was no cellphone service, that the end had come.

    And you wanted to see it with your own eyes.

    You should have stayed where you were.

    The air is wrong. Smoke. Tires and everything else combustible is burning. The sun is red between the black columns of soot.

    You walk between cars on a freeway you once drove at 75 miles an hour. The faces, the dead faces of their drivers show fear. At least the ones that are intact.

    The crying bothers you. It’s not just one voice, it’s many. Part of you wants to stop and help, another part knows that it’s futile. The radiation has killed them already, even if they are alive.

    Another mile. Now you hear something different. Not a human cry. A whimper. A dog. In the burned out car you’ve just passed, the face of a dog is pressed against the glass. Silly dog. The windshield is gone, the dog could easily escape that way, but it presses its face against the side window, and stares at you.

    You try the door. It’s unlocked, and the dog jumps down, its leash dragging behind it. It stands on your leg. You pet it. It howls.

    You came to this, the ending of all, to see the best and worst of humanity. You’ve seen enough. You turn around, pick up the dog, and you walk toward home.

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    1. Agreed. And this (and recent events) have been making me think a lot about The Stand.

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    2. Don't take me there. I don't think I'm strong enough to stand it. But well done, anyhow.

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    3. Jeez, that one dug deep and carved me out. Well done.

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    4. My kind of story. The end of things. And a dog. And yes, like Dan, I've been thinking about The Stand a lot too.

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    5. And it just occurred to me that if things play out anything like they did in The Stand, Leland will suddenly have himself an abundance of new neighbours!

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    6. Oh, my heart. That one hit close. I could smell the tires burning and feel the dog's despair.

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    7. I've been thinking about the Stand, too, and thinking it might be time for a re-read... I'll have to see if I still have the paperback somewhere...

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  7. "Precious, stop staring at the dog," Buster growled in Helen's ear. "That stupid mutt ain't even washed. Cal keeps trying to catch your eye and you're too busy gazing longingly at a damn stray."

    "He needs a decent meal and a bath," Helen said. She was only half listening to the man who was pressed up against her. The puppy had her full attention and that hadn't changed for half an hour. They were outside the itest of it spots. Buster smoked cigar after cigar, down to the ring. Even Helen knew that wasn't done but she didn't care enough about her lover to let him in on that fact. She'd feel bad about that, but he'd been trying to unload her onto one of his friends for weeks. It was insulting. Unfortunately, it was also what these people did.

    Why was she there? What had possessed her to dump her friends, forsake her family, for this posse of posers? Too cool to care. Too hot for attachments. Every time she donned a haute couture dress Buster bought for her and felt the constricting discomfort that came with the garment Helen felt her depression grow. Another night with people who talked unceasingly but said nothing. Another smokey club. More drugs. More sex. No rock-n-roll because it wasn't "in" anymore.

    How the fuck was she hanging out in a group of people who were so clueless that they truly believed that rock wasn't cool? The man she gave her body to didn't like a dog because he wasn't good enough? God. What had she done?

    "What the fuck?" Buster beat Helen to the question. One of the guys had just vaulted the fence to scoop up the pup. He hopped back over -- like the thing wasn't taller than him -- making a bee-line for Helen.

    "You wanna take him back to my place or a shelter?" the man asked. He cuddled the puppy he'd just claimed against his chest and scratched her behind an ear. Helen couldn't keep a grin from spreading across her face.

    "He's a she," she informed the man. He grinned back at her. "Let's take her to your place, but I'm gonna want to give her a bath. Maybe a flea dip, too."

    "Good with that, baby. We got shit to pick up if we're keepin' her," he said, pulling her to him as he headed for the door. "Later Buster."

    "What the fuck?" her ex-lover said. They stopped and the guy faced Buster, meeting his eye.

    "You want a class act who gives a shit about something outside this pathetic little bubble, take care of her," the guy said. "Don't put her down. Don't try to pass her around. Don't demean her for giving a shit."

    Helen's gasp was lost as another obnoxious song started pounding it's way into the night. Her expression was mirrored on Buster's face. "How did you...?" she asked the guy.

    "You ain't invisible, darlin'," he said. "People pay attention. I'm one of them. Name's Bryant. You can call me whatever you want, though."

    "Let's get her home, Bryant," Helen said. She turned towards the door without checking to see if he followed. A second later she felt a massive arm curl around her shoulders and smiled. After months Helen finally felt like she belonged somewhere and all it took was someone caring about her. Not the dress. Not the face. Not the body. Someone saw the person inside. And he liked what he saw.

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    1. Well, that's just beautiful... you had me at "dog." And I'm likin' Helen and Bryant quite a bit, too!

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    2. Why do I feel like I know this Bryant guy? ;)

      Love this a lot. Great descrips and scene-setting, too.

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    3. I agree. The scene is set so perfectly and the justice served well.

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    4. SOOO Nice! The evry esence of What Women Want! Go You!

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    5. Why do I just want to high five someone, or hug them? YES! What a lovely story and a happy ending for someone who needs one.

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    6. I hadn't even realized until after I read it that I needed that ending! Love it, Erin.

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    7. Yes! YES! Really enjoyed that, and the ending.

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  8. As the men started heading over to the Humvee we had parked and hidden out of sight, I thought I caught a shimmering glimpse out of the corner of my left eye that would give any soldier the suspicion that they had been detected by a sniper.

    I signal to my men to hold positions and take refuge. Just as the men are moving into better firing positions, gunfire starts roaring off around us from multiple directions.

    Where in the flying fuck did these assholes come from and how in the hell did they know where we would be? Intel had informed us that the insurgents we were to track down weren’t this far south. But obviously they must have missed them.

    We begin to take evasive actions and return fire but we cannot manage to figure out where the bullets are flying in from since all we seem to pick up is that the bullets are coming from several directions.

    Movement off in the distance caught my eye. Using the scope on my military issued rifle, I can clearly make out what appeared to be an unmarked car and moving fast enough towards us, that it kicked up a huge cloud of dust behind it. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a suicide vehicle full of explosives. It was now a life or death moment for us.

    I signaled to my buddy on my right to cover me and without waiting for a reply, scrambled for a better firing position. The noise of the firefight around me faded as I concentrated on my breathing and sighted on my target, the wheels. My finger caressed the trigger. My mind and body relaxed as I waited for the moment that felt right. I squeezed off three consecutive short bursts at the speeding vehicle, hitting the right back tire, making it spin out of control and slam hard into the side of the valley wall.

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    1. Clarity in the moment of battle... well told!

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    2. Agreed. Had my heart pumping. And, as always, I am so glad I have never experienced anything like this in real life. Parts of this reminded me of Krakauer's account on Tillman's death.

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    3. Great piece. I agree with Dan, it got my heart racing.

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    4. Thanks y’all. It’s a slow WIP but this part of my novel, Espionage that I’ve been writing since I was 15.

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  9. She was a warm and golden presence from her heat to the tips of her hair as she sat at her husband's bedside, alternately praying over him and holding a cool, damp cloth to his brow. She sat back, drawing within herself. There she reached out for a golden path, one twisted about on itself like a bit of knotwork carved into a standing stone. she freed her mind to walk the path, over and under, over and under, while silent prayers danced upon her lips. Tirelessly, timelessly her mind followed the path, round and round until a gasp intruded on her concentration.

    She immediately looked at her husband's face, fearing the worst. It was not to be, not yet.

    He was sweating freely, the fever broken.

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    1. Doing a lot of character introductions for random people for practice. Any feedback is most appreciated.

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    2. I'd be interested in knowing more about her. Since you asked for feedback, here are a couple of things... make it more visceral, more tangible. Instead of using "was" and other to be forms, use some sensory words. She felt the sun bring a glow to her blonde hair... She was confused by the path she'd chosen, a path filled with twists and turns like the knotwork she made with... How did she free her mind? what did she tune out? what did she focus on? what did she see when she closed her eyes? Those are just thoughts, not criticism... like I said, I'd be interested in knowing more, just as written.

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    3. I agree with Leland's critique. Also about wanting to know more. But I also like the brevity of flash character depiction. And it is really good practice, huh?

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    4. Thanks, Leland!
      JD - It is indeed excellent practice, and a great way to flex one's mind and fingers out from under a block.

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    5. Wowee! I try all the time to capture the moment in so few words and almost Never succeed, but you definitely DID!

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    6. Was it just me who got an erotic charge from "She was a warm and golden presence from her heat to the tips of her hair..."? Okay, maybe don't answer that. I did wonder if heat was a typo, but I actually hope it isn't! lol

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    7. You're very good at capturing the essence of people. I also want to know more, but that would be going backwards or forward. You definitely gave enough to make us curious.

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  10. Ask, and ye shall receive, they had told him. Work hard for what you want, they had told him. Hypocrites.

    He had finally decided, after several years of study, that he was tired of being the whipping boy for their inside jokes, their snide comments.

    So he asked with the proper intonation, with words memorized from the manuscript they had no idea he had read. his own blood spilled carefully for the sacrifice. power welled up round him, tore at him, let itself inside him. It spilled like hot wax into the vessel that was him, filling him with a read hot fire until his eyes began to glow.

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    1. Wow! now that's powerful! I like the opening, and the anger that fuels him.

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    2. Gonna agree with Leland again. The anger is palpable. Mad impact.

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    3. Like the song says: Let me stand next your fire!

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    4. Goodness, the words come rapid fire and add to the power of this.

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    5. There may not be much action here, but this is a great action scene. Also love the anger.

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  11. BAM!

    Her elbow flew out to catch the woman next to her in the shoulder, knocking her on her ass. teach her to wear pink on this rink! On she zoomed, her wheels rolling like thunder beneath her feet, the slick boards flying past, eyes roving for her next target. No way in hell were they going to get away to win this match! She hooked an ankle, hopped over the woman who fell before her, and kicked up more speed to catch the next one, ignoring the blast of the ref's whistle in her exhilaration!

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    1. Love this! A good friend of mine coached roller derby. He's going to dig this one. :) And somewhere Jim Croce is smiling.

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    2. I really dig this one. You put us right in the middle of things and give us a good glimpse of who this fierce person is.

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    3. Yes, exhilarating. The exact right word.

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    4. I love that from the word BAM I knew, somehow, that this was about derby girls. Love this.

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  12. I imagined her as a pig; her body covered in short, stiff bristles and with trotters at the end of each of her limbs. She was wearing a mid-length skirt today and her legs were on display; full-fleshed, milky-white and dimpled with enough of her thighs visible to make me feel nauseous, the acrid tang of my reflux strong enough to spoil my appetite. I'd meant to eat lightly today, and she was helping my resolve.

    "You're feeling unwell?" Ms Adams looked up from her bowl, smears of custard still on her lips. "It's such a shame to let good food go to waste." She motioned to my lunch-box, eyeing the sandwich I'd made this morning while I'd still been mostly asleep. It was two slices of bread cemented together by a layer of peanut-butter and it had been the best I could manage to make at five o'clock.

    "I'll live," I said. "I'll eat it later. Maybe after I get home. I've nothing else prepared yet."

    She harrumphed softly, her legs rasping together. Her skirt rode up a little further up her thighs and I caught a quick glimpse of material further up, caught in the tight angle between them. I looked quickly away, taking a swift gulp of my coffee, the sudden burning of bile in my throat catching me by surprise.

    I was definitely finished with my lunch.

    Ms Adams returned to her own food, running the edge of her finger along the inside of the bowl. She collected a gobbet of custard on it and then jammed it into her mouth, a dribble escaping to fall with a splash on her desk.

    I looked away. I had work to do – as I was sure she’d remind me. ‘Lunchtime’s for lunch,’ she regularly said. ‘If you’re not eating, you should be working. End of.’ Sharing an office with her had certainly improved my productivity. There was never any idle chatter like I’d enjoyed in other placements. I came to work and that was all I did: I couldn’t wait to leave each night.

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    1. Wow, now that's a character! such vividness...her legs rasping together nearly made ME lose my lunch... you exemplify "show, don't tell" in this piece... well done!

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    2. Agreeing with Leland AGAIN. This is vicious. And awesome!

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    3. I'm getting a flashback to porcine decked in pearls and wearing heels. Well done.

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    4. There's something so British about this. Makes me think of old Lindsay Anderson movies. Visceral and almost surreal. I hope you don't mind me saying this, Mark, as the last thing I want to do is embarrass you, but dude, you are really finding your voice lately.

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    5. The pig comparison sets the tone in a great way. Love this, but I admit, I love all your work. (At least all of it that I've seen.) You love the words -- even the ones filled with vitriol -- and it shows. Great piece.

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  13. Place ain't much. Somewheres to be born, is all.

    Three main streets like a Y and a couple swingin' lights, a barbershop, a diner'n a convenience store. Feedlots. Plenty farmers with not much to farm. Passers through on the interstate. A school bus stop, a part-time sheriff, a scowling cliff top.

    Pickup trucks. A whole mess of dusty pickups.

    Grew up here, then some of you came by.

    Hear tell they talkin 'bout dreamers in the govermint. Way I see it, we're all dreamers now. A foot in here and a great loss there. Sure, I stutter. Th-thought I'd grasped it all once, b-but now I don't even f-fake it: I cain't learn no more here, no more'n a rattler can hush its dry clatter once it done bin bothered.

    ***

    Confronted by the holiest of ghosts, we crumble like pies.

    Claim me, sister. Make me one of your own. Your nighttime entreaties galvanize me. You are a river, I tumble like waters, my destiny your delta. Your splayed, glorious wetlands.

    I am the spray inside the bowling shoe, the bogus peppermint breath pledging our allegiance—you sanitize the world, you decontaminate it all, even the things we'd rather defile.

    The juniper reek when you piss in the street one feral August night. You stringent tomcat fuck.

    "You got stories to tell."

    "Sure. I got stories to tell. When I get a minute to tell 'em. Or when the Lexapro kicks in. Might take weeks. Ain't none of it come easy no more."

    Clamber aboard this clumsy vessel, tune those strings, find your sea legs, drift by the cliffs, sing your heart out, endure the tireless mockery of gulls. We die bereft of love. Die without our allotment of love. Fall before we even dream of love. Stumble on love's doomed highway. Shot across the bows. Holed beneath the waterline. Dance irrelevant as our kindly ardor allows.

    "Just start."

    "I can't."

    Visit this. And detonate. Disintegrate.

    "Yeah? A'right. How about this. Left my girl when I found out she was cheatin'. Walked straight the fuck away. Sold my ride for a couple hundred plus memories and trod the bleakest of streets, some wide meridian thoroughfare lined with gas bars named from lunatic tales, like Love's and Flying J, edged with landscaped evergreen forecourts blurting mammoth names—Target, Costco, Walmart—amid lawns and hardy desert flora, cardboard pleas held high by the penniless elect, bona fide scenes in an unwatched film. More. Cracked open fourscore beer in homespun bars, scowled at the haters, spit at the dreamers, howled with the lovers. Fascination Street. Angel squalls. American honeys. Vindictive, tender, whatever, this just the motherloving start."

    "Pretty words, and I like 'em, but still ain't no story, only the germs of stories."

    "Huh. Well, don't tempt me. I got stories could keep you up a stack of nights, stories could hug the whole world. Slip between your waking and your sleeping, yarns you ain't never gonna dislodge. Kurt Cobain, Kurt Weill, Kurt Vile. Drunk and violent girl on a train. That goddamned maniac sundial. Bless us. Defile us. Obsess us. I don't know why we ever choose to stay or choose to go away."

    Grip it. Track it. Ragged golden clouds spill across our flyblown sky, drop below the collagen lip of the world, partway ashamed, most ways stunned. Gather the light of evening, cup it, feel it spill across your fingers, and make of it a gift to someone treasured. Then sleep. Then wake to the shudder of morning and arpeggiate this.

    O my quaking, mislaid heart. Love abhors its own purity.

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    1. You know, words are lucky to be touched by you. Your alliteration and assonance remind that the words are beautiful not only in their meanings but in their sounds... So many sentences and phrases cry out to me from this piece... here are some of my favorites: "Confronted by the holiest of ghosts, we crumble like pies." "Dance irrelevant as our kindly ardor allows." "Then wake to the shudder of morning and arpeggiate this." I could go on. Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

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    2. This is masterly schizophrenic. And I told you you talk like a midwesterner. You can write it, too. Not bad for a Canadi-Brit. ;) This is awesome stuff, brother. This, I adore:

      I am the spray inside the bowling shoe, the bogus peppermint breath pledging our allegiance—you sanitize the world, you decontaminate it all, even the things we'd rather defile.

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    3. When it comes to language, I want what you're having. Honest to god...

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    4. What they said and more. It's apparent you love the written word, and they in turn, adore what you do for them. Brilliant.

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    5. That great tumble of words we all choose from. I love that you guys get it. Ha ha, Dan: I still tell people how you told me I talk like a Midwestern farmer. Unlike the stereotype of a coastal librul (lol), I love the American heartland, I really do. It's as haunted a place as any I've seen, and I've seen Glencoe, Glastonbury, and the West of Ireland. And thank you, my good friends. :)

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    6. As Dan said, gloriously schizophrenic (okay, I paraphrased). My favorite part was the scowling clifftop, because it took me there. Beautifully done, David.

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    7. I... yeah, holy crap, I have no words. Yes.

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    8. And it's my turn to be a ditto-head. What they all said.

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  14. A two, and possible 3 parter. I'll post more tommorrow.
    Wiley Richards kept his eyes on the road, with an expression that said he was thinking hard about something, but didn’t want to talk about it.
    “Oh! Look at the leaves, Wiley!” Marlene Thompson rode beside him in the passenger seat of the rental, gushing with enthusiasm. “Aren’t they the most gorgeous things you ever saw? I swear, this is SO much fun. It’s SO October, isn’t it?” She delicately reached across the gear shift to gently pat Wiley’s thigh, a gesture that might have been meant to be seductive, but he couldn’t be sure.
    They’d met online, actually, one of those For People Over 40 things. Wiley had been awkward at first; he didn’t see himself as the kind of man who went for that sort of activity, but Marlene seemed genuinely interested in more than just gold-digging and when they’d finally met for Starbucks, he’d been relieved to see she wasn’t much older or plumper than her picture and easy to talk to, as such things went. The truth was, he’d been missing the lack of female company. Being a lawyer could be lonely , so after a few more dinner dates and a background check, he’d suggested a day trip somewhere. Candlelight only went so far, after all, and he wanted to be sure before he got in deep.
    To his consternation, though she’d seemed to have the whole thing planned before he did. Out of the city and along the river to some farm up north and Petersen’s Pumpkin patch, a short stop at Antique Village, then lunch at Henderson’s Mansion in Cooleyville, renowned for its local cuisine and reputation for being haunted.
    Marlene had chosen a huge pumpkin, big enough at least for Cinderella. When he’d said as much he’d made her laugh and she explained it was for her nieces. The overpriced antique joint stank of potpourri and old rugs but he suffered through it as well as he could, munching a caramel apple since he’d skipped breakfast and listening to her rave about the Queen Anne this and the Eastlake that. He was more or less a Stickley man himself, but as far as he knew women were fond of their frills and it was to be expected.
    But ghosts were another thing entirely. Now, with the brochures spread out on her lap, Marlene read aloud. “rumored to be among one of the most haunted places in New England, The Henderson Mansion was originally built as the home of coal baron Ezra Henderson, for his bride, Julia. A native of France, Julia contracted tuberculosis and transitioned the very morning of her wedding, before their vows were ever said. Guests have reported visions of her on the second floor landing, a veiled figure, dressed in white clutching a faded bouquet as she searches the halls for her lost love.” Marlene managed a sniffle.
    “Oh Wiley, isn’t that romantic?”
    Wiley sniffled as well; the potpourri she’d bought at the antique joint was making his eyes water. Something about the way she said his name struck him as odd almost proprietary. Not to mention irritating. “What? Sure, yeah. I guess. If you think a lot of made up advertising is romantic.”
    She shot him a glance from the corner of her eye and folded up the brochure, tucking it back in her purse. You don’t believe in Ghosts?”

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  15. Something in her tone alerted him to the notion that this was a conversation he most definitely did not want to have. Women could be sensitive on all kinds of topics, he knew, so he chuckled a little. Yes. No. Well maybe. I don’t know. It’s just that seems like all these stories are the same, you know? But who knows. If we’re made up of all kinds of energy, maybe some of it hangs around after we die. Maybe. But people ghosts? I don’t think so. Not really. It’s just a story.”
    “But Wiley, what about the bellhops? Some guests have seen ‘em, knocking on the doors and disappearing. Or the teacher who hanged himself in room 6 in 1921? People have seen him, too. They have eyewitnesses.”
    Wiley licked his lips. He didn’t want to argue with the woman, but he didn’t want to agree with her, either. So he softened it up. “Honey, if you’d interviewed as many eyewitnesses as I have, you know how many different ways there is to tell a story.”
    Marlene mouth shaped itself in a little O and her hands fluttered a little over the brochure. “So you don’t believe in ghosts? Well, I hope the food’s good, anyhow.”
    Wiley sighed, feeling suddenly guilty for no good reason. Maybe he didn’t need a woman in his life as much as he’d thought. “No,” he said finally. “I don’t guess I do. I mean, if it turns out there is an afterlife why would you spent it in a hotel, anyhow? You really think you’d have to spend eternity as a bellhop? It just doesn’t seem sensible is all.”
    As the car rose higher into the rolling hills, the trees burst into full color flaming in red and yellow and orange. Soon they’ll all be gone, he thought. And nothing will be left but black, dead skeletons against the worn out winter sky.
    As if reading his thoughts, Marlene sighed. “My mother always said the veil was thinner in October.”
    “Veil?”
    “Between worlds. The world of the living and the dead. She and Grandma raised me. They always told me it was important to believe in the spirits. Because if you believed in them, they wouldn’t hurt you.”
    Sounds like a real cheerful pair, he thought, but didn’t say it. Because just at that moment, the turnoff to Henderson’s appeared on the right.
    Marlene strained against her seal belt as he made the turn trying to peer around the trees. She pointed to a small field that appeared on the left, adorned with a postcard barn newly painted the color of drying blood, her mood lightening.
    “Isn’t that sweet?” She squealed . “Look Wiley, they have their own goats!’

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    1. This is so real... and these characters are delightfully believable... I can't wait to see what happens next in this "goats story"... sorry, had to make a pun.

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  16. PART 1
    The old man shivered as he sat upon his white horse. He sat as tall as he did in the old days, when he led armies into battle, even though the effort to do so was excruciating.

    In some ways this feeling reminded him of the debacle from that winter so many years ago. The enemy commander a martinet who considered anathema the celebration of The Lord’s birth with song and libation. To him, it was just another day in the field for Prince and some other country. They were ready for the General’s force and cut it to ribbons.

    The army he led this day was even less organized, untrained and most certainly less disciplined than that one. But that was a different fight, for a different overall goal, even if the reason these two armies faced one another across this western Pennsylvania field was one of the causes of the war that enabled them to be here in the first place. Taxes.

    The old general stared across the field and could see His Excellency, once again at the head of his troops. He shook his head. That man’s courage and stupidity are exceeded only by his disregard for his own casualties and his amazing luck. He should have been killed or injured in ‘77, but for being thrown from his horse and landing upon a pile of his own dead, he thought.

    The General estimated the opposing force as something more than 10,000 men, which was not a surprise, since His Excellency wanted to make a show of his power and station no matter where he sat, be it in the executive mansion or on the back of a black horse while he wore Cornwallis’ surrendered saber.

    “What are your orders, Gen’rul,” a Scots-Irish militia captain from hill country the other side of the Cumberland Gap said, his broad-brimmed hat in one hand, a dazzling curly maple piece of some Pennsylvania gunsmith’s art in the other.

    The General, knowing his army of farmers and moonshiners would matter-of-factly drop the reins of their plow horses, pick up their long rifles and fight off seemingly overwhelming numbers of Shawnee at the first whoop, squinted with his diminished vision at the opposing army and said, “We wait. If His Excellency wishes another revolution, let him start it here.”

    But the old man, his arthritis grating, his jaw throbbing and his once-buoyant ego now raised solely by its location upon this bluff and a 15-hand white gelding, began to think his hoped for rebellion against the unfair tax on individual distillers was doomed before it began. His show of force and resolve paled to the force and resolve of His Excellency, the President. These weren’t tax collectors and marshals they faced, but a standing army and organized militias.

    He turned to his second-in-command, Nat Greene, who also suffered the wrath of Congress after December ‘76.

    “I would say, General, that we have once again been overwhelmed by a superior force, not that our men don’t have principle and courage on their side. Does fighting Hamilton’s accursed tax merit the loss of life that we will no doubt suffer here?” the old soldier said.

    “We’ve been on the losing end of too many of these scrapes, I fear, Sir. Would one more make that much of a difference in our already tarnished legacies?” Greene said, still the doleful devil’s advocate.

    The blue-clad General weighed the odds and what capitulation would mean to his men, as well as himself as proprietor of the largest distillery in all the states. Better to give up some profit in whisky tax to that traitorous Hamilton then to lose all in a bloodbath here.

    Memory of his first defeat came back to him. His surrender to French and Indian forces also out here in western Pennsylvania nagged at him his whole adult life. The retreats during the war for independence were one thing, but surrendering to a smug opposing leader was another.

    The old General turned to Greene and his other lieutenants and said, “I think this has gone far enough. Bring me a white flag and tell the over-mountain men to return quickly to their farmsteads. I’ll take care of this.”

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  17. PART 2

    He stared back over the field and said, “It’s men like me they really want their pound of flesh from. Besides, the revenue agents have to find our Kentuckians before they can collect from them. I’d say they stand a better chance of being killed by Shawnee, Chickamauga and Mingo than getting a patch of skin off our westerners.”

    “You’re surrendering, General?” Greene asked, a look of disbelief and disappointment crossing his face.

    “In a way. I’m surrendering so our neighbors won’t have to. I know His Excellency for what he is, courageous but foolhardy, hot-blooded and given to polishing his medals. I believe I shall bring along a piece of white cloth with which to help him,” the old General said.

    Greene smiled and nodded.

    “Yes, sir. I believe in a way you shall defeat him here without firing a shot.”

    The General, Greene and some of his whisky-making colleagues from Virginia rode slowly out into the would-be field of combat under their white flag. Almost without hesitation, His Excellency spurred his black toward them, waving his lieutenants to follow him, as always, at the gallop.

    Reining up, he smiled his smug smile as his men slowed to a trot behind him.

    "Good day to you, Your Excellency," the old General said, his jaw clenched, but in pain, not embarrassment.

    "And to you, General. You look well, sir. I see the infirmities of rustic camp life have not diminished your old vigour," His Excellency said. He stared intently into the old General’s eyes, judging what he deemed jealousy simmering in their rheumy condition.

    "General, violence will not solve this dispute. It is the law of the nation, established by your very own erstwhile adjutant. You and your 'army' stand no chance against the assembled arms you see behind me. In fact, I see scores of your rebels already melting back into the countryside from which they came," he said.

    The old General turned in his saddle and hid a painful grin.

    "I must agree with you, Your Excellency. Such a battle would leave this field littered with our dead. And while it would be a tragedy for independent men who turn the bounty of their crops into a public necessity, such bloodshed would leave your government bereft of individuals from whom to bleed your tax, something you and I fought a war to free our people from," the General said.

    "So, General, will you retire from the field and send your people back to their loving families and bountiful farmsteads?" His Excellency said.

    "Aye, sir. You have bested me once again with a reputation built upon the bones of your enemies. You may send your tax collectors where you may to bleed us dry so the nation may drink to your honour," the General said, and wheeled his white horse without another word.

    "And to yours, good sir, and to your continued good health," His Excellency replied.

    As His Excellency returned to his cheering army, he couldn’t help but feel the swell of pride in his latest victory. This one not as a mere soldier anymore. No, this one, over the man Congress had once picked for leadership of colonial forces. This victory now as President of the United States.

    With the huzzahs of his men ringing in his ears, President Benedict Arnold never heard the laughter of his opponent and his party at the pomposity and and puffed up gullibility the Old Man had just leveraged to save his men from bloody defeat or capture.

    Congress never appreciated these skills, he recalled; but that was politics, something he never wanted to play back in 1777 or now. The old fox was happy to return home to his farm and distillery on the Potomac and live out his remaining days as gentleman farmer George Washington.

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  18. Inscrutable, with silver beams,
    A tapestry sewn midst the trees.
    With scent from needles dipped in pine
    Carried upon the night's lush breeze.

    The clouds a shroud to hide behind,
    A visage some say taciturn.
    Despite the eons skyward gazed,
    There remained much that we should learn.

    Trees cast their shadows, umbrage strewn,
    With shifting fingers flexing thread,
    A patchwork knitted loosely bound,
    While nature's quilt lay darkly spread.

    And on this bed our bodies locked
    Deep in the forest's secret brush,
    The only music that we need,
    Our own sweet lyrics in the hush.

    With sighs and whispers woven through,
    A heavenly cast draped mosaic,
    Entwined as one, we trace the silk,
    Never content to stay prosaic.

    So in this bower gifted us,
    A panacea we create,
    While moonbeams weave and knit the cloth,
    The forest bed to decorate.
    ~Tamara McLanahan

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  19. In the stillness of this moment
    In the quiet of the shade,
    As I lay in contemplation,
    Of decisions I have made,
    All my thoughts turn warm and liquid,
    Touching lips that you've perused.
    Reading every inch presented,
    Fingertips your medium used.
    Stories told, reciprocated,
    As your body joined with mine.
    And the tales we made were epic,
    From the sweet to the sublime.
    Though the memories are fading,
    I can conjure them up still.
    Pages lovingly turned sepia,
    Under the sunlight's spill.

    ~Tamara McLanahan

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    1. There was a picture prompt to this. Wish I could show you but hopefully the words paint it a bit.

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  20. Just published my first paperback! I'm still a bit starry eyed over that. And there may be a name or group mentioned in the dedication. ;)

    Luc looked in the rearview mirror and smiled. Deep blue eyes, crinkled with amusement looked back at him. Wavy jet-black hair pulled back from a high forehead, so black it seemed to have bluish highlights in the dimming twilight. An aquiline nose and full lips, strong chin. The thought came unbidden,

    My, aren't you one handsome devil?

    That had him laughing so hard, the few stragglers in the parking lot turned curious eyes his way. The males frowned but the females gave him smiles from shy to outwardly aggressive. He was used to those reactions as well.

    He rolled up the Jaguar's windows when the wind and dampness of the surf began to chill him. He was used to much hotter climes.

    When his stomach rumbled, he stopped pushing buttons long enough to think about food. He hadn't had a good steak in too long to remember and so starting the ignition, he backed out of the parking spot and headed onto a main road in search of sustenance. He'd never understand the logic behind having the animal you intended to eat on a sign for a restaurant. Pigs seemed happily looking to be slaughtered. Fish smiled, glad to have been hooked and gutted, just waiting to be fried or breaded. He looked at the sign for the local steakhouse and sure enough, an amused heifer glowed in the darkness. Beggars would not be choosers tonight and so he pulled into the first free spot he saw and headed inside.

    It had a fern bar look about it, despite the occasional cowboy themed picture or spurs pinned to the wall. A large saddle sat by the salad bar, signifying what exactly, he didn't care to think about. The hostess rushed over to greet and seat him. His looks usually got top notch service from females and he enjoyed the attention.

    He was used to being lonely in between these visits.

    The waitress hurried over and seemed surprised when Luc ordered the steak tartar. But wisely knowing her tip depended on it, her smile only slipped slightly. She'd recovered to full wattage when she returned just minutes later with a glass of tea and a basket of still warm honey wheat rolls with cream butter. He'd skipped the salad, he wasn't a damn rabbit and dug into the bread with gusto after taking a deep breath.

    He'd just finished them when his steak, blood red, was set in front of him.

    His waitress cautioned him the plate was still very hot. Eyes crinkling once again in amusement, he looked her up and down.

    "Honey, thank you most kindly, but I'm good with heat."

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  21. Learning Curve

    She woke to a swollen tongue and parched lips. Her first feedings had gone well enough but she supposed there was a learning curve. All good things came with a price and immortality was the best prize in the Cracker Jack box, most would agree.

    She looked over at Ethan lying on the floor, deathly pale, chest rising and falling slowly. His heart beat sluggishly in his concave chest. He looked an emaciated thing. It was easier to think of him as a thing at this point. Just a means to an end for her. She'd known her humanity would be a casualty but that was just one more price. Like knowing the only sunrises she'd be seeing for a while would be on the internet. But moonrises would last all eternity.

    Alamari lifted trembling, blood dried fingers to her mouth and licked, the sweet taste of copper pennies blooming on her tongue. A balm as she sighed heavily. Her lips moistened, plumped, the cracks healing quickly. Her skin still felt drawn, stretched, gaunt but no mirror would haunt her with that look. She rose from her bed and knelt by Ethan's side, one fingernail sharpened to such a point that the arm she caressed, the vein she opened, parted like thin parchment. His eyes fluttered briefly open, a look of such sadness in them that she hesitated, but only for a moment. She needed the sustenance he provided too much and so she drained him to a husk while her heart began to beat again, his blood began to flow once more through her veins.

    In true draconian fashion, she knew her survival would mean the destruction of so many others but she just needed a better feeding ground. Ethan had been a mistake, she knew that, but the hungers had come on so rapidly there really hadn’t been any choice.

    The need assuaged for the moment, Alamari crawled back into the bed she and Ethan had slept in together for the last three years. Her skin still too sensitive, too hot to the touch to slip under the covers, she lay on top of them, happy that Ethan had always insisted on 1800 count Egyptian cotton. Petal soft, but it still abraded her skin. She made a mental note to buy pure silk at the first opportunity. Pulling the pillow under her head, a single pinkish tinged tear escaped before she blinked it away. It landed on the beige pillowcase and spread like a Rorschach print as she drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

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  22. He was surrounded by darkness, not even the smallest stream of light making its way into the room in which he sat. He remained still for a time, listening to the owl outside, the plaintive sound adding to his melancholy. He questioned his purpose, his isolation, all he had done and not done, all he hoped to do.

    A broken record of doubts and insecurities circled inside his mind with the pitch black in which he found himself only exacerbating his distress. He sought clarity, illumination of all his darkest thoughts. A light to lead him out of the darkness in which he found himself. He shuddered, suddenly unbearably cold.

    He thought the lack of light might last forever, that he'd never be warm again, never see clearly again. His already short life too quickly snuffed out. He'd no sooner thought that than he heard footsteps nearing. He strained to see who approached. Felt the displacement of air as they reached near him. He held utterly still, but his excitement grew until he felt ready to combust.

    A bright flare of light startled him, temporarily blinding him but his eyes adjusted and he watched as shadows flickered on the walls, danced upon the floor. His heart leapt in his chest, he felt alive once again, warmth suffusing his whole being.

    He glowed with a happiness he couldn't contain. And the person in front of him smiled back, watching him carefully. They stared at each other, time ticking away but neither one wanted to move, neither wanted to break the spell. She murmured words incomprehensible to him but he was so glad to feel alive once more, to have purpose and be out of the interminable darkness that he didn't care. His smile was incandescent. Her's was luminous and the joy bubbled up inside him.

    She became quiet and studied him once more. When she bent closer, cupping a hand around him, he melted inside. This beautiful creature was mesmerized by him and he in turn. He longed to touch her as well but dared not, he felt molten and was too afraid his ardent attention would burn her. His feelings inflamed and he stretched higher, though careful not to move any closer to her as he danced lightly in place.

    She scried in the air with her fingertips and he watched them for a time, her fluid motions captivating but eventually lifted his eyes back to hers. He saw himself reflected in those lovely green eyes and waxing poetic, wanted to say so many things that were burning inside of him. But he remained mute, his tongue too tied to speak of the depth of warmth her nearness brought him. He felt himself sinking, aquiver with emotion and he knew in that moment he belonged to her. That he would count the moments until she returned each day and allowed him to blossom. He would shine for no one else but her.

    With a smile on her face, her lips neared but at the last second, she pulled back and licked her thumb and forefinger then squeezed him. The light ended abruptly but he still felt her nearness, her breath moving over him and the air still carried the scent of her and himself when he drew breath. He remained warm, smiling into the darkness he now knew wouldn't last for long.

    For he'd heard her last words. Knew she'd be back tomorrow and the next night and the next. He turned and looked at the matches lying near him on the mantle. She'd be lighting him again on the morrow for he was her beacon, the light she needed to ease her own darkness. Closing his eyes, he slept until the sun set the following day.

    Leaping for joy as she touched the lighted match to his wick, he burned for her once more.

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  23. I trudged through the snow which was knee deep along the narrow track towards the house. I’d had to abandon my car a mile back because there was no way I could drive it along the the winding country lane. No road gritters came this far out in the wilds so the lanes were impassable after a heavy snowfall.
    I finally made it to the yard and wishing I’d left my suitcase in the car too. My feet were freezing but I was sweating like a pig and swore for the hundredth time I’d get in shape when a got back to London.
    I stood and eyed the house where I had spent my childhood. It hadn’t changed one bit. The grey stone from which the cottage was built had darkened over the years and the small window frames appeared shabbier and in need of painting. The low roof was covered in snow and seemed to rise and sink in parts giving it a wavy outline. Lights shone dimly in a couple of the ground floor windows so presumably the others had arrived. I shiver rippled through my body or as ma would say, someone just walked over my grave.
    “Hello son,” ma greeted me without rising from her chair near the blazing fire. I bent and hugged her and kissing her cheek I replied, “Hello ma. How are you doing eh?” She winked at me and grasped my hand then indicated with her eyes and a grimace towards the others in the room and said, “I’ve been better, son, but you’re here now so I can’t complain.” I winked back at her and turned to the others.
    Gordon, my older brother was sat at the worn table near the window and he reached out to shake my hand. “Well well, if it ‘ain’t the prodigal son returned,” he said. He was always a sacastic bastard and had no intention of changing I noted. “Gordon,” I replied.
    His wife Harriet sat opposite him on the other wooden chair, a cigarette between her fingers and an impossibly short skirt revealing her slim legs which were mottled blue with the cold and a faux fur jacket pulled tight around her body. I never ceased to be amazed at how two unlikely people could have married and stayed together for so long. I wondered if they were happy because they didn’t show it if they were. Gordon was a moody arrogant man who never tired of telling whoever would listen, how he could have been someone if he’d not had to work on the farm and look after ma and dad. Truth was it was ma and dad who looked after him because he was a lazy sponger with no backbone and hadn’t done a proper days work in his life.
    Harriet blew out a cloud of smoke and threw her arms round me in an inappropriate hug and kissed me full on the lips. “Andy!” she gushed. “”Take no notice of misery guts, he doesn’t mean it. We are both so happy to see you, aren’t we Gordon?” she said this while pointedly staring into my eyes and licking her lips suggestively. Still a raving nymphomaniac, Harriet, I thought and I extracated myself from her grip.
    I moved nearer the fire and glanced round the room. “Where’s Davey?” I asked.
    “Probably shooting up in the bathroom or poppng pills or whatever other shit he can find to put in his body,” snarled Gordon. “That’s enough Gordon!” said ma. “He’s been trying really hard to give it up these past few months and I won’t have you starting on him. He’s heartbroken about your dad and we have to make sure he doesn’t slip back into things.” She started to cry quietly, big tears sliding down her pale cheeks. She looked old and frail and guilt washed over
    sliding down her pale cheeks. She looked old and frail and guilt washed over me like a tsunami for not being around for what I realised now, was years.

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  24. PART TWO...

    “He’s outside somewhere,” said Harriet. “He said something about seeing a dead horse on the roof,” she said raising her eyebrows at me and lighting a cigarette off the butt of the last one.
    “See what I mean? He’s as high as a fucking kite. Changed his ways my arse. He’ll never change that one. Once a junkie, always a junkie!” Gordon spat the words out with a mixture of disgust and triumphant glee. Davey was my youngest brother and was always such a delight as a kid. It pained me to find out he’d turned to drugs in his youth and it shamed me that I had done nothing to help him. I just couldn’t be here anymore and dark memories of my father rose up fighting to be acknowledged but I pushed them back. The old man was dead and would be buried in the cold ground tomorrow, I needed to get that over with first.
    At that moment an almighty bang rang out from above. Heavy footsteps and shouting followed by several loud bumps and a roar could be heard then someone fell down past the window outside landing with a resounding thus. I ran outside, quickly followed by the others.
    Davey lay spread eagled in the snow looking like some fallen snow angel, a dark mass in a heap nearby in the shadows. “What the fuck? Davey are you ok?” I shouted as I ran over to him.
    Davey opened his eyes and focused on my face. A big goofy grin lit up his boyish handsome face and he struggled to a sitting position and pulled me into a tight embrace.
    “Andy! “ he cried. “I’m so freakin’ happy to see you bro.”
    I smiled in spite of myself and asked him,”What the hell is going on? What’s happened?”
    He stood unsteadily and picked up a torch which he’d obviously dropped during his fall and shone it at the dark mass near the side of the house. “Well bro, I climbed up on the roof because I thought I saw a dead horse on the roof and when I got up there…well look for yourself.”
    Me, Davey and Gordon looked to where he shone the torch and sure enough there was a horse lying in the snow as stiff as a plank and as big as a, well, a horse.
    We gawped at the horse then gawped at Davey then gawped at each other in turn.
    “It was heavy as fuck, man,” said Davey scratching his head.
    I smiled then I chuckled then I laughed out loud. Davey laughed and punched me on the arm and a rumble came from Gordon till he bellowed and guffawed. Pretty soon we were laughing so loud we were falling into each other and were rolling about in the snow nearly pissing ourselves because that was the night Davey found a dead horse on the roof.

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  25. One of my famous 'asides' that ought to be worked up...and finished.

    The demon was small like a boy and had a pair of short horns jutting from his forehead. He'd not noticed me - or so I'd thought - and was busy with the newspapers; pulling out individual pages and then studying them, the tip of his pointed red tongue switching from one side of his mouth to the other. He examined each sheet in the most minute detail and then tore out just the photos he judged to be appealing, although there seemed to be no clear reasoning to his selections. He then folded them in on themselves - twice, so they became quartered - and then dropped the page, thrusting the photo into a leather pouch he had, its strap looped across his body. I must have watched him for something like a quarter of an hour, nobody else disturbing either of us; a fact that should have alerted me to his true nature immediately.

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  26. The house was almost derelict with scarcely anything inside intact. Most of the doors were missing and neither of the two he'd seen still closed. The walls were all blotched with damp; either on the paper, where it was still attached, or on the plaster, although much of that had fallen away to lie in crumbling heaps on the floor. The floors were ruined too, the carpets had either been stolen or set alight and the boards were mostly broken and cracked so much as to be a trap waiting for his feet. It was nothing like the home he'd left so many years ago.

    His room was one of the most badly damaged. Someone - he believed he knew who that was - had set about everything that had been in there, starting with the light fitting and then working down the walls and through all the furniture, finishing their destruction by shredding the rugs he'd remembered. There was nothing left untouched; not one item of furniture unsmashed, no wall left ungouged, no single book or toy unbroken, the wanton destruction incredible in the thoroughness in which it had been done. It was as though it had been an exorcism that had been carried out while in a rage, every trace of him either defiled or destroyed.

    The building began to feel colder now, the light outside failing and the rain growing stronger. He felt alone and at risk, knowing that the rage that had consumed the other person still lived, both in this house and in person. There was nowhere else where he'd rather not be now. He'd seen enough and would never come back again. He'd sell this place, give it away even, just to be rid of it. There was nothing here for him now, just memories he'd rather not experience again. If only he could rid himself of those so easily.

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