Friday, October 27, 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.


No one knew what was under that tarp. No one except the old man, and you couldn’t get nothing out of him. He was like a rusted trap. Only you can’t use kerosene and mineral oil to clean up an old man. So, folks talked. Folks speculated. Most of us figured it was some kind of car. You had to know that. Probably. It was the right size for a car, but it didn’t add up. The man’s house was like one of them Lincoln Log sets after it’s been smashed to hell by some spoiled toddler. And it wasn’t like he was stranded. He had an old Chevy truck that beat the odds most days like near everyone in town. Nobody had two cars. 

Nobody.

It was one of those things people liked to toy with. End of the day. Everyone on their porches. Kids doped up on sun and fatigue. The men slipping bourbon into their sweet tea. The women pretending they didn’t see. They’d start with the rise in prices. Who was losing what part of their lives. But then they’d work their way around to the old man and his tarp. Tommy Johnson thought it was a spaceship. Lilith Earnest thought it was his sleigh – like he was Santa. A dirty, weird old Santa. Most people thought it was a pile of rusted shit. Or moldy wood. Some kind of trash. Something they could use to chip at the old man and his ways. He was queer. What did he have to hide?

Me? I didn’t have any earthly idea. But I wondered.

Usually, about the time that the first stars were coming out, the kids would be hustled to bed, but they’d go to sleep wondering. The adults would keep talking and eventually someone would have the balls to say it. What everyone else was thinking. “Guess we’ll find out when he dies…”

And then the old man did die. And people waited a few days. No one wanted to be the first. Seemed tacky. And we were willing to be a lot of things, but tacky was the worst thing you could be. It meant low class. Money or not. Chief Emery was the one who finally yanked that thing off, yellowed and dirty and grease-stained. Covered in bird shit. He did the pulling, but we were all in on it. It was like we pulled with one will. And, when the tarp hit the ground, we all covered our eyes.

Underneath the tarp was a bright red Buick convertible. Looked like it just come off the lot. Or out of the factory. And we were gobsmacked. When? How? No rust? Why? The kids wanted to touch it. The religious folks said the old man was the devil. Chief Emery didn’t know what the hell to do, but he was smart enough to keep folks away. Most just shook their heads. Devil or not, it was the nicest car they’d ever seen. And they spoke as one, heads wagging.


“Well, I’ll be damned.”

#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...

166 comments:

  1. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to read the news, but I can’t look away. I want to TALK; I could give two shits what you have to say.

    I don’t think I’m getting mine. I think the system’s rigged. I think it’s THEIR fault I’m struggling. Hell, the politicians even say it’s their fault. All of THEM. Not me. I didn’t have nothing to do with this. My kids ain’t got dinner, let alone a college savings account. Shit. That’s for rich folks. Me, I guess I’m no-account. On account of all the no-account bastards taking what should have been mine. I'm keeping accounts.

    Birth right? You got that right.

    Pass me another beer; I gotta wash this burger down. Thing tastes like shit. I swear, it wasn’t always like this. Used to be that going to the Dairy Queen was a treat, and the food was good. Now, it’s shit. And it makes you sick. And it’s made by some idiot – probably spit in it. Probably don’t even speak proper English.

    You can’t trust them. That’s the way the liberals try to spin it. Don't buy into it.

    Me? I ain't trusting nobody that ain’t got MY interests in mind. Mine. Because I was born in this goddamn country. I was born in this goddamn COUNTY. I ain’t some drug-peddling rapist. I ain’t no hippie communist. I sure as fuck ain’t a terrorist.

    I’m an AMERICAN. I want what’s coming to me.

    And I aim to get it.

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    1. You are, my friend, a masterful writer, but even your skills cannot create a hateful voice. You have to be a lot more hateful, and I'm glad you don't have that in you.

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    2. I concur with Leland, though you do frustration very well.

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    3. What they said and I wanted to know more about the red convertible in the opening piece.

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    4. Laurie OTM. There's no place to truly appreciate the opening story, which I honestly think is one of your best ever short pieces, brother.

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    5. I agree with David!And Laurie! and everybody!

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    6. But...a Buick?...I need more details on the darn car!

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    7. The opening piece was transcendent. Mind-blowing. But you also do angry and indignant so very well, Bro. First rate as always, Dan!

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  2. Good lord, that first piece is damned near perfect... no, I take it back... it IS perfect... mystery and beauty and character...

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    1. Yeah, I said almost the same before I saw your comments. It blew me away.

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  3. The gritty snow hit the windows, sounding like sand or rain. The stars were invisible. The only other sounds were the roar of the fire in the wood stove and the snore of a tuckered out dog on his chair.

    This was the third night of the blizzard. There was enough food for him and the dog for another two days. Three if they went light on rations. By then maybe the roads would be open. Maybe. If not, he might be able to use his rifle and bring down a deer. He didn’t want to think of that.

    He’d trained the deer to think of his place as safe from the rifles of hunting season. He made sure there was always water available in the tank he kept for them. He even broke the ice for them every morning.

    Killing one of them would be a betrayal, of them and of his ideals.

    Not killing one of them might mean he and the dog would starve to death. Another betrayal.

    He moved to the wilderness to get away from contradictions like this. But that’s not how life works. Running away from choices only brings other choices to make, sometimes harder than the ones we leave behind.

    At least there was firewood. The dancing flames hypnotized him in a way television never could. The colors were different depending on the wood he burned. Right now, the old cottonwood branch that had blocked his driveway after a storm this summer burned bright yellow.

    The dog's feet were quivering. A running dream. He wondered if dogs dreamed of chasing or being chased. A small yip. Of victory?

    He got up to throw another log on the fire and patted the dog on the rump. A sigh. And the running legs stopped.

    He sat on the couch again, and pulled the woolen blanket around him. And watched the fire. And listened to the snow on the windows. And at last, he dreamed of running, with the dog, after a rabbit, in summer.

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    1. Choices no matter where you go. Good stuff.

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    2. I love the evocative first paragraph. I really like the idea of morality and betrayal. This: "He moved to the wilderness to get away from contradictions like this. But that’s not how life works. Running away from choices only brings other choices to make, sometimes harder than the ones we leave behind."

      A piece that goes as deep as you want to take it. My favorite kind.

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    3. Using the dog as a scene builder is great. After that first paragraph as Dan mentioned, the rest builds up the character's empathy nicely.

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    4. I Like the fire.The dancing flames hypnotized him in a way television never could. The colors were different depending on the wood he burned. Right now, the old cottonwood branch that had blocked his driveway after a storm this summer burned bright yellow. Gorgeous.

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    5. Thanks for the encouraging words!

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    6. You take us with you so well, Leland. Seamlessly adept as always.

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  4. Yeah, I know. It sounds crazy. But I can feel it, can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when it happens.

    They’re watching me. Listening to me. Following me. They’re good. I can’t see them, can’t detect them, but I know they’re there.

    When I figured out they could use the phone to track me, probably turn the camera on and watch me, too, I threw the damned thing in the creek.

    I don’t use the computer either. I know that every search, every query, every keystroke I type, it all gives them a way to get inside my head, to figure out my secrets.

    I swear to God, I never told anyone. I did what they told me to do, and I respected my vow of silence. I did it, even though it made me sick inside. I did it and didn’t tell a soul.

    Why don’t they trust me on this? Do they see me as a loose end? If they kill me, won’t that just make more loose ends?

    I’ve taken to sleeping with my pistol under my pillow. When I hear a sound in the dark of night, I touch its cool metal, remind myself to leave the safety on.

    There! The hairs on my neck again! There’s someone in the driveway. I gently push the curtain back. Not a black SUV. It’s white. The windows are tinted. Dark. I wait for someone to get out.

    The driver door opens. I can hear it. I flip the safety off. Wait for him to stand up. My heart is beating so loud I’m sure they can hear it.

    His head shows above the SUV. His hair is the same color as mine, before it fell out. He’s moving toward the back of the vehicle. And when I see him, it’s like looking into a mirror, a mirror from twenty years ago. He is my duplicate, all the way down to the tie I used to wear when I was on duty.

    I focus on not hyperventilating. Stay calm, I tell myself, and I move toward the door, doing my best to be silent.

    Which me will die? Or maybe one of me already has.

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    1. Man, totally. You nailed the paranoia and left just enough unanswered Qs. Really dig this piece. I both want to know more and want to wonder...

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    2. Eerie! Made the hairs on the back of my own neck rise.

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    3. Just 'cause he's paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get him

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  5. There is a tiny park in Brooklyn. A pocket park, they call it. Room enough for one bench, one tree, and a square of grass.

    He has been coming here for eleven years. Since he retired. Each day, fair or foul, he comes and sits on the bench to enjoy one cup of coffee. He listens to the birds in the tree. Sparrows mostly, but he feels kinship with them. It is a long way from where he grew up, in Wyoming, but it makes him think of the mountains there, and the trees.

    Until today.

    Today, he arrives, and there is yellow tape blocking the way to the park. And a sound he has not heard since he was a child.

    A chainsaw.

    He sees the city forester, clipboard in hand. He ambles up and asks a simple question.

    He whispers it. “Why?”

    “Blocks the view. Unsafe. Not enough room for its roots.”

    The man turns toward home. By the time he gets there, his coffee is lukewarm. He cannot stop thinking about the birds. Where will they go? Where will he go?

    He pours the coffee down the sink. He paces. He frets.

    He turns on the radio. He turns it off.

    He sees the phone book that holds up one end of his ancient couch. He struggles to pull it out. He notes the year on its cover. 1989.

    He is distressed at the changes of the world. He has not received a new phone book for years. This is the yellow pages volume.

    He opens the book. Turns the pages. Restaurant names jump out at him, restaurants he once knew. Gone now.

    He finds the category he was looking for. He finds the black phone, with its knotted curly cord. There is dial tone. He dials the number he’s found. Some miracle happens, and there is a human who answers.

    “I wonder,” he says, “what the going rate might be for a red oak seedling. Perhaps three feet tall? Yes, I’ll be by tomorrow morning to pick it up.”

    And he lies down on the couch, out-of-kilter without the phone book to hold one end, and he smiles as he falls asleep.

    A sparrow looks through the window.

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    1. I'm obsessed with the idea of routine and how important it is for humans. You do an awesome job of tackling something huge, and addressing the disruption of routine comforts.

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    2. This is exactly why some people can't seem to move forward in life. They gt stuck in a certain routine and when it breaks, they do too. I like it that your character found a way to not break.

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    3. So Poignant, especially for a man of some age. People do that as they age, their routines become more and more important.That he wants to plant the new tree? I see it as very hopeful, somehow.

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    4. I too am fascinated by routine... how it defines our lives, and we set routines for others--from children to dogs to adults... The breakthroughs come in the times routine is broken, but routine gets us through so many things, too... balance, balance matters... Thanks for the kind words!

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  6. Growing up in a tiny village on the Russian Steppes, where sometimes not even the wheat would grow, left Olga little to feel hopeful for, but when the odd, small airplane fell from the sky, its cargo still intact owing to some engineering genius, she felt like the God she had not been allowed to believe in had smiled upon her.

    She looked left, then right, then up into the partly cloudy afternoon. The only witnesses to what had just happened were the hawks that circled overhead, hoping to swoop down for a rodent tempted by the scatter of wheat gone to seed. She snuck up on the wreck, knelt before it, breath held as if some alien being would burst out and consume her.

    But it made no noise. There were some markings on the broken craft that she didn’t understand, some crooked letters that didn’t look like the Cyrillic her uncle had taught her. Similar markings were duplicated on the padded carton attached to the device. Curiosity overwhelmed her caution, and she used the end of her scythe to remove the packaging first from the metal framework and then to open the box itself.

    She sat back on her heels, unsure of what to make of the second box fitted into a crumpled nest of paper. There was a picture on the box—pretty people staring at a screen and looking happy, and she didn’t know what to make of that either. It was nothing like their old television set. But somehow an instinct told her that one, it was something magical; and two, it was something she wanted to run inside and show her uncle.

    He was fixing a window in the living room, and in the background droned the one channel they could receive on their tiny old television. His eyebrows rose at the sight of her bursting into the house, for she was normally a quiet girl who did not slam doors or even walk around noisily. Breathlessly she pushed the box toward him and told him what had happened, and after a moment he relieved her of her burden and set it on the table.

    But he didn’t look happy.

    “Uncle, what is it?” He had been in the army before settling down to farm, before her mother took sick and sent her to live with him, and he knew far more about the world than she did. “And why did it crash in the field?”

    “You left it out there?” He stood up suddenly, frowning. Before she could answer he was on his feet and heading for the door. “Then you will help me,” he said over his shoulder. “And we will tell no one about this. No one, do you hear me?”

    Her throat constricted, so she could only nod as she followed him out.

    They made quick, silent work of carrying the mangled plane into the shed. She was afraid to ask why they were doing this, afraid of his tight mouth and narrowed eyes. He sent her to her room when they returned, and when she was called down for supper, the small, magic box was nowhere to be seen.

    “I got rid of it,” he said finally. “It’s for the best. Beware of these new devices, Olga. You are a very special girl, and we don’t want them to find you.”

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    1. ohhhh... I like the feelings this evokes... and I want to know, of course, whether her special talents are mathematical, paranormal or whatever... as usual, your scene-setting skills are superb, and the characters feel believable and familiar, like I've known them a hundred years... a well-told story.

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    2. More paranoia. Must be Halloween coming... ;)

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    3. I agree 100% with Leland. And again. I love it the way it is and I want to know more, but I also love the mystery! Ach!

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    4. Leland pegged it. The girl is fascinating.

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    5. I read this on your blog, Laurie. You have to finish this off. I'd buy that book!

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  7. Dan asked for this. Be prepared for "literary character introductions" all day long. Shall we begin?

    Squinting into the light in spite of his brimmed hat, the auld reprobate took a good look around. He knew light fingers had attempted to snatch a bag from his belt. His tight lips and nose twitched in a silent snarl.

    "Damnable pick-pockets. I find him and I'll have his guts fer garters," he grumbled to himself, rippling fingers like sausages into a tight, crackling curl against this palms. "Shouldn't aughta let them kids wonder 'e streets. Aughta be put to work or sumpin'."

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    1. The voice here is really strong. Rings true, as do the descriptions of his fingers.

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    2. You've told us a lot about this character in two simple paragraphs... well done!

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  8. His nose fed him the information he needed desperately, but truly did not want. She was here. She was waiting. But not for him. He could smell her fear, her desire for freedom. Tonight he would erase that fear from her. As soon as he could lay eyes on her, she would understand, would help him to take her out of this place. His ears twitched at the sound of her nervous giggle. She was close. Following the sound and scent trail, he opened a door to find her just beyond in a tall chair with a near naked man pacing in front of her. She met hi eyes, begging. He smiled a human smile to reassure her.

    Then the wolf took over.

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    1. Damn! Yeah, this one is strong and intense.

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    2. You know you had me at nose and ear twitching... this is really good!

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  9. That crooked smile was infectious. His pale eyes under that dark hair helped the slightly crazy, somehow sexy look to get under people's skin, to bring them into the mirth. he rarely lacked for drinking companions when he was in the tavern. Outside, however, when he drew an arrow to his ear, great bow creaking as it bent, those same eyes turned to ice, an the grin to something more sinister.

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    1. Really like this one. The facial expressions....

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  10. How could anyone think of him as a dangerous, bike riding monster? He laughed with childlike joy when rolling in puppies, and snuggled softly, gently when being used as a cushion by kittens. He spoke to them softly in a voice that wasn't as deep as his looks would have one believe. He took so many in, fostered them, found them homes and care. He was such a sweetheart.

    Except that one time he caught a neighbor beating a dog...

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    1. Yep. Definitely want to see the neighbor pay. ;)

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    2. And I love this guy, for coming to the defense of a dog and for being a cushion for kittens... you've given us the light and the dark side of his personality, and you make us want more!

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  11. People saw him and got out of his way. He was a big man, though few ever saw the size of his heart. They saw the unconventional, the frightening, the left-wing nut. No one bothered to try to understand the man he was rather than the man he appeared to be except a few dear friends. The hand in his coat pocket gripped a small canister spasmodically. Their viewpoint would change. Soon.

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    1. Really good job giving a glimpse at Character and building suspense....

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  12. Everyone on the crew came to her with their problems, seeking word of wisdom or solace. She was diminutive, fae-like, so none of the men thought of her as a threat. Sometimes they actually listened, but it was too easy for men to fall back into habit time and again. Women, too, though they sought her out less often. She would continue to do her best by them, regardless of the potential outcome. It was what she did, when she wasn't lending a hand with the cooking, the mending (she did NOT stitch sail!), and the reaving.

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    1. This one didn't hit as hard for me for some reason. I think it just needs a little more detail.

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    2. This is one of those where a single instance of the behavior might make it easier to follow... a simple problem that one person brought to her and that person's failure to follow. Even so, I like it!

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  13. "Mommy!"

    Not again. She was just getting to the good part, the part that made her own heart swell and her loins ache, even if it was only in fiction. with a sigh she put the book down, marking her place carefully. She would come back to it eventually. Right now he had to face the reality of what that kind of romantic fluff could lead to. Heroines in the novels she read never had to worry about getting knocked up unless they decided it was time. Reality was quite a bit different.

    With sigh, she meandered into the other room to see what the boys were up to. They greeter with sweet smiles and a castle build of their building blocks.

    "For you, Mommy!" they chorused, their eyes shining and their hair mussed.

    Her heart melted. There had been no mistakes here.

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    1. This one feels really authentic. I especially like this line: Right now he had to face the reality of what that kind of romantic fluff could lead to.

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    2. I like the contrast of the fantasy and the reality! and the mussed hair

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  14. She seemed a quiet thing, surrounded as she was in the stacks by books and dust. She re-shelved books from the basket at her feet, studiously watching that the books were in their proper order as she worked. No one ever complained about her work. She knew where everything was, every book, every scroll, every bit of magic that protected the building from harm. Most of those spells she had devised herself. She certainly didn't look like a mage,which likely, along with her love of books and the written word, had led her to take the place of librarian. An unassuming place where no one would look for a woman with power.

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    1. I like the set up a lot, but I'm not getting much of a visual ... yet. :)

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  15. Such a package! How he longed to untie the bow and give her freedom. Peacock feather colors surrounded her eyes, gave her lips a strange hue, smoothly complimenting the fair smooth canvas of her skin. She was a woman that would keep a man warm of a night, and fed of a day. She was a woman who knew her own worth, and would stand up for it, even if it cost her the right man for her life. Slowly he would have to proceed, gentling her to his touch and voice. He could be patient that long, couldn't he? For this bright peacock?

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    1. I feel like the balance of exposition and imagery is spot on here.

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  16. He was a father now. Married or not, all thoughts others had fled his head when his wife, his true mate, had given him a son. Now the big man learned to be gentle in ways he had never thought possible. He learned to care for the helpless infant even as he watched the boy grow. He waited, sometimes impatiently, for the tot to reach an age where he could begin shaping the man who would grow within the boy. He spoke to his wife often about some of the aspects of manhood, to gentle her to idea of his teaching their son how to wield a sword, a hammer, to bend steel and fire to his will. He knew she would balk when the time actually came, but perhaps should would balk less knowing that a respect for life, diplomacy, and as much of courtly manners as he already knew would also be among the lessons he had planned.

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    1. You nailed the voice again here. And I love this phrase: the man who would grow within the boy....

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  17. The scrappy little man swaggered down the cobbled street as if he owned it. His eyes seemed to look straight ahead, but in truth were taking in details from all around. There was the bakery that always smelled so good when he passed, and there was a the flower girl who he planned to tumble before leaving port. He tipped his hat to a group of men grumbling together on a street corner with a smile. They glared back, having been fleeced by him at dice a few days ago. It had been a fun run in this port town, but he knew even as he smiled so cheerily that his welcome was about to run thin as the smile in a whore's eyes. He strode on, confident that he would live to see another town, as the Captain had given orders to weigh anchor on the evening tide.


    _____



    The scrappy little man had ducked into a tavern that had rooms upstairs for business or pleasure. Above the main room where patrons and tables were piled high, soaking theirt weary woes in ale, there was a rail guarding a walkway sporting doors to private rooms. His eyes rose at a hint of motion to see her.

    Her features were slightly uneven, this woman, but her smile was berry red and her eyes were only for him. Her eyes glittered with their khol decorations. She straightened from her watching pose, her bare arms glowing a bit inthe lantern and candle light. She ran the backs of her fingers down her sides in a knowing invitation, her hips swiveling beneath her skirts as added temptation.

    He needed no second hint and bounded up the stairs.

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    1. The repeating of "the scrappy little man" was meant to tie the two introductions together so I wouldn't lose track of them.

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    2. The voice is super strong again here and we get a good sense of character. This phrase stuck with me: his welcome was about to run thin as the smile in a whore's eyes.

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  18. Little mouse, how your nose twitches below your bright eyes. Your
    anticipation is only outstripped by your willingness to await a
    command. If you had whiskers, they would vibrate like the rest of your skin. Such a sweet thing, anticipation, frustration, restraint. His voice will come to you soon enough, but in the meantime your insides churn and your mind froths with desire.

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    1. This one made me feel anxious. Which I think is the intent. :)

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    2. Ann, I just want to say, all of these entries and your efforts have simply blown me away this week! You rock and get jillions of gold stars, for the sheer effort! But then, I tend to be lazy that way!

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    3. Teresa, just wait. There's more for next Friday. I simply got tired of posting them. All the feedback is wonderful!

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  19. Cat slit eyes peered out of the trees' cover, eyes sharp as knives. he didn't know if he trusted the words his long ears had picked up, but he would find out the truth of them shortly. The riders, invaders, strangers, outsiders who rode their twitchy mounts between the oak, ash, pine and hickory of his home forest would have little choice of where to stop for the night, and little choice of telling the truth shortly afterward.

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    1. This feels like the beginning of a story. Cool descriptions and flow.

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  20. It was difficult to tell if the roar of sound came from the grey haired man on stage or from his guitar. It seemed the two were in sync for a moment before the guitar whined it's way into a register that mere human vocal chords could not follow. The music was hard, driving, and worthy of a player half his age. The energy was pouring out of them, the human and instrument, as one beast. There would be women clustering around him when went on break later regardless of his age or looks.

    That energy was enough to captivate them.

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    1. I like the effect ... the guitar is a mighty powerful tool in the right hands. ;) There's something about the last sentence in the first P that throws me off. Not the idea, just the wording.

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  21. A box of shoes -- heels and flats both, the heels in outdated styles. A paper calendar. A handful of magnets, most from places she'd never been. Ten identical bud vases, one for each year that she'd received flowers from the firm on her birthday. A space heater and a fan, both verboten according to the fire code. A ratty sweater. Bumper stickers and cartoons pushpinned to the wall under the ledge. Packets of salt and pepper from the cafeteria. A mug featuring a supplier's logo, half filled with pennies. A bottle of antacid tablets. A bottle of ibuprofen.

    A box of pens, several packs of unused sticky notes, blank file folder labels, manila folders -- supplies that could be put back into the company stockroom. Easy. The salt and pepper packets are easy, too -- they'll go in the trash. The personal items are harder.

    "This is going to sound creepy," your hallmate says when she stops by, "but she told me once she thought this place would kill her."

    "She said it to everybody. More than once," you say. "She thought this place would kill us all." You tape the box of shoes shut, the packing tape dispenser making a ripping sound. Then you straighten and survey what's left.

    "Where's all that stuff gonna go?"

    You shrug. "Her kids, I guess. Doesn't seem like much to show for all the years she worked here, though, does it?"

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    1. I agree. And I like how you construct the character with the things that are left behind. Cool technique. Works really well. And this is something most of us have experienced in some way. Resonant.

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    2. Yep, each item, each prop, tells a little bit about her, and about the person picking them up... I like it!

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    3. So sad and so very real. Excellent.

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  22. Tall and thin, he looked like a used up stick, but he was so much more. A smile broke cross his scowl, lighting up his eyes and reshaping assumptions. Here was a man with a fire inside, a passion that he willingly shared with those who recognized it. He lifted the bottle in his off hand with a nod. Two women and a man waved at him, motioning him to their table. He had the Loki to get the party started and they knew it.

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  23. Most people who saw him took him for simple, lazy, lumpish, but they underestimated the wit, wisdom, and turn of speed he could display. Some days it hurt, these selfish things they thought. Other times is was a blessing to be underrated, part of the background. shifting his bulk on the wooden bench, he drew a small symbol int he wet rings on the tavern table. It glowed for a moment. When he was joined by the man headed towards his table, no one would hear what they discussed, nor be able to ready their lips. A little smile played across his lips. Let them underestimate him at their peril.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the tone of this one a lot. This sentence threw me off a little: "Some days it hurt, these selfish things they thought."

      Delete
  24. She would huff! And she would puff! And she would... blow her breath gently, tickling his ear. He would hrumph and bat at her, but she would persevere. She blew again, the ear twitching though her target did not move his head. with a lot chuckle she did it again. This time he shook his whole head and gave her venomous look. She laughed. He sneezed.

    Then the cat simply walked away to great amusement.

    ReplyDelete
  25. A wicked gleam shot through his eyes as he surveyed the crowd. This new lot would be interesting to tame. He didn't care for breaking their spirits, but relished the challenge of bringing them to heel. Their minds were bright flames he had no wish to dim, but they needed direction, discipline that he was happy to provide with an iron fist if needed. For now though, the velvet glove should suffice.

    "All right class, let's turn to page 62..."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh. This one is hitting that creepy ominous tone perfectly. Really intriguing.

      Delete
  26. His smile was reckless and brash weighing against the sleep look in his eye. One might mistake his gangly form for that of a child still growing, and growing quite tall. Truth was he had mastered his limbs a long time ago. He unconsciously practiced the loose-limbed look so that others might underestimate him - until he pulled and threw a dagger to hit them on the mark. He hit most times, too, and they never seemed to expect it. More the fool they.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The gangly deadliness has a cool effect.

      Delete
  27. The drama was over. The explosion of grief and tears and rage was done.

    It was time to pick up the pieces and begin to heal. Emotional superglue in the form of pizza and chocolate cake were in the kitchen, along with a bottle of red wine that would be a good accompaniment to either or both comfort foods. The microwave dinged, signalling hot pizza. It was time to buckle down and sort herself back out, she
    thought, as she poured the first glass of wine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like this. We can all relate to this. That said, I have vicarious heartburn. ;)

      Delete
  28. Her body wasn't as limber as it used to be, but her sense of politics and the ridiculous could still do standing back-bends when needed. She really didn't like stretching in those directions, but she was willing to do so for the good of the Realm. Silly people, they were, with silly ideas and attitudes that needed a bit of a guiding hand. She looked down at her hands and the callouses built up there from shoveling bullshit, and reining in wild egos. Time for some lovely lavender lotion and gloves, she thought, just to pare away the excess before letting them build back up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The details really do a lot of work, here. Strong character study.

      Delete
  29. He stood at the edge of the stage, frowning a dark frown. He watched the pageantry, the stupidity of the current political muckitymucks as they blatantly ignored his warnings. There should be another guard at that spot, he thought to himself, and a few more swords visible in the group over there, and where the hell were those archers he had ordered for the gallery? Sometimes a show of force was all it took to avoid having to actually use it. He fingered the long dagger at his hip, a tingle of danger running up his spine. A boy next to him suddenly snarled, whipping a short sword from under his cape as he dove for the stage. He grabbed the boy around the neck, clotheslining him, and knocked the short sword from his hand. It clattered to the floor as a cheer arose from the audience, with no one the wiser.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a cool snapshot. Almost seems like a completed piece of flash.

      Delete

  30. He was a big man, and jovial, though a lot of his humor was crude or lost on the subject. He could be subtle without trying. It didn't happen often that someone angered him, but when they did they unleashed a troll of epic proportions. His words would slice as deep as his blade, and woe betide the one who was in his way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like contrast, but the word troll trips me up. I see trolls as passive aggressive and non confrontational, which seems to go against the character's reaction...

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    2. Dan, it's for a fantasy character, so troll in this use is the angry creature, not the human being a butt.

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  31. She worked hard to deny her inner marshmallow. It was a private place, and be damned if she would share it willy-nilly. The world was a harsh place, and she had to live in it. She worked hard, played hard, took a hard-line stance on most things outside her home. People were shite and deserved what they got, especially if they were stupid. Her spawn, however, her mate and her dogs were the ones who got the occasional glimpse at her inner smooshiness. Not too often or they might think they deserved it, but often enough to know that she loved them above all else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The character description is really interesting and unique. I dig the inner smooshiness.

      Delete
  32. It is said that, "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." He believed it, though it had been a hard lesson to learn. With his dark curly hair and dancing yes, he has thought himself too pretty to be ignored. It took time and not a few scars for him to realize that true beauty lies within, that finding the right person wasn't about make-up or money or tight curves, but about the butterflies in the stomach and the sight of a smile that never fails to bring forth one of your own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The formal tone here is interesting...I'd be curious to see where we are.

      Delete
  33. He stretched out to his full hirsute length on the clean bed and scratched where it itched. The children were all fat and sassy, tucked up in their beds asleep. His curvaceous wife, his favorite double handful, was under the linens smiling at him.He wriggled a bit, settling into the tick as she flipped the bedding over him. It wasn't a perfect life, he thought, but it was hard set to be too much better without a title and a castle and all the gold that went with them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I might take being hirsute for a life of stately ease...

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    2. Dan, I was thinking hairy, but the spell check wanted to argue with me.

      Delete
  34. Hair and a smile like bright sunshine were accentuated by the greens and golds she wore. Her hair was contained only to a point by the gilded circlet on her brow and the pearl dotted snood cupping the length of her hair. Her hands, so fine and slender, waved first to one side of the carriage, then to the other as the townspeople cheered her and children offered her flowers from their mother's gardens. It was a wearying promenade, but worth it as it was only once a year and it kept her people happy with their overlord. Overlordess? Overlady? There was plenty of time to figure that out once she was out of this carriage and had something cool to drink in her hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The rhythm is really good here. And I like the introspection.

      Delete
  35. They say he didn't step from shadows; they wrapped themselves around him like old friends. He was never spoken of as having social graces, rather of being born of the streets with the grace of a cat. They say he learned to tread softly from the alley cats, who taught him because he was one of their own. His claws were glistening steel and whistled through the air. You might hear them one night, and see a body fall, but you would never see him. Listen well, my child, and know that I speak truth, for if you do wrong, he may come for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This one feels like it works as is, too. I really like the alley cat metaphor.

      Delete
  36. Statuesque was an excellent word to describe her. She was tall for a woman, wide in the shoulders and hips but well balanced with a smaller waist and large breasts. The sultry look that rode her face was painted artfully, but the smouldering eyes were not for just anyone. One would think she would be after a large man, one who could make her feel dainty just by standing beside him. Instead she had defied reason, cleaving to an angry stump of a man who's wild beard and hair were as unkempt as she was well turned out.

    _____


    The stumpy man stalked out into the fray, his much dinged and repaired armor making him look even wider than he really was. Red hair spewed forth from beneath his helm, front and back, creating a fearsome flaming sight. If it were not known he was human, he could easily have been taken for one of those deadly mountain dwarves. The sight of him alone frightened a number of warriors into stumbling back, away from him and into other combatants. With a tremendous roar he engaged his first opponent with a swift and shining sword, bring the other man low.

    Growling, he turned to seek new prey.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Usually she's just friendly, with a healthy side of naive. Tonight was so completely different, it almost wasn't her.

    She strode into the room with an unusual confidence, he feet coming down in thunks as the lug soled boots hit the ground. She wore all black, from the boots and pants to the blouse and filmy thing that clung to her shoulders. The decolletage wasn't new, but it was somehow enhanced in ways to make a lot of men stare. Her makeup was dark, but it went with the smouldering look in her eye. Her hair fell straight and dark back over her shoulders, holding the filmy jacket thing down firmly. Silver glinted at her ears and throat, and glittered along her fingers when she reached out to pull a chair back from the table.

    No one spoke as she sat, glanced across the papers and books, pencils and dice arrayed across the table.

    "Right," she said in her normal jocular tone. "Let's be bad guys!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The characterization is really rich here, and I love the twist at the end.

      Delete
  38. A scruffy Viking squeezed himself out of the cab of the truck. Sunlight glinted off his bald head. He took a big breath, and breathing it out slowly went around back to open up the shop. As the hatch rose and the tailgate dropped, the tools of a smith became visible.

    His huge hands reached inside to grip a mini forge. Muscles rippled beneath the skin of his forearms as he lifted it to the ground, belying the more rounded parts of his massive frame. Next came a log that looked like it would take two men to move, and a medium sized anvil. The anvil was swiftly bolted to the log. The thick leather apron was next; a whole cow must have been sacrificed to make something large enough to fit him. He dropped a few tools in the loops on the front.

    Turning to face the stable manager, he grinned hugely. "Who gets new shoes first?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The tools really make the characterization vivid.

      Delete
  39. Today's #2MinutesGo - Post 32

    The room was crowded with gamers and nerds of all sorts, but the guy laughing at the gaming table in the corner caught my eye. His t-shirt sported a geeky pun. He was short and round for my world, but beautifully bald like all my favorite men are. His laughter was infectious, the open mouthed, full bodied bark of being caught off guard by a stray comment. Fascinated, I moved a little closer to watch his hands play over the dice and game pieces before him. A stack of books was at one elbow, files of papers and pencils in a box by the other. This guy was obviously ready to play.

    "Hey!" My eyes jerked back to his face to see him staring at me. He waved, the shoved his glasses back up his nose without noticing he'd done so. His friendly smile was open and warm as he said, "Come! Sit! Play with us!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a world I want to know more about, for sure.

      Delete
  40. Today's #2MinutesGo - Post 33

    A warm presence came in the coffee shop door with the chill wind. The chill lasted bare moments, while the presence lasted far longer. In she came, bundled to her eyelashes against the bite of winter, coat, scarf, and likely two pairs of socks and a sweater beneath.

    She went to her favorite table - I know because I have seen her there often - and setting down her large bag, began to unwrap those outer layers. Her hair, past her shoulders, straight and for the moment a golden red, fell away from her hat scarf. While I could not verify the socks, there was a dark sweater under the coat, just as I had surmised. She went to put in her usual order and pay for it, making a joke with the cashier, making the woman smile in spite of her being at work. Back to the table and she unpacked her computer with sturdy hands.

    Her plump bottom wiggled enticingly as she moved about the four top, unpacking a slim laptop, its cables, a sheaf of papers, settling things just so and retrieving her steaming coffee and what looked like a scone. The saucer and plate also had positions assigned to them on that table. Everything being as she liked it, she plunked herself gracelessly into a chair and, eyes closed, breathed in the steam from her coffee.

    Her eyes opened slowly, and with determination, she settled in to write.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Much like the tools in the previous one, the "stuff" being unloaded makes this super visual for me. And the saucer and plate...

      Delete
  41. "A man's smile can be soft or cold, fiery or harsh," Denah told her listeners. "It all depends on what's on his mind or in his heart. Down in Ironwood we get all kinds."

    "There's this one man's smile, when it can be coaxed out of him, is wide and warm and maybe just the tiniest bit feral. It's genuine, as he is. There is softness about him, but beneath it is muscle; mixed innocence and guile; naivety and worldliness. It makes for an interesting package what with that dark hair of his and and those flashing eyes. Don't poke him, though." She raised her hands like a monster and growled, "You'll wind up with a an angry bear after you."

    Her listeners screamed in mock fright and giggled. They stared at her as only children can do, their eyes begging for more.

    "Some visiting warriors found that out down at the pub of an evening. They picked on the the wrong waitress, and with a roar he came unglued."

    "That was Mama!" one of the girls chirped. The others shushed her quickly.

    "Yes, dear, it was your mama. She might not have loved him before, but she grew to love him well not long after."

    "And us, as well," piped up another child.

    "Yes, my dear, and you as well. All of you dears, daughters and nieces and nephews!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is such a lovely scene. We learn a lot in a few words.

      Delete
    2. I agree, and the dialogue is on point.

      Delete
    3. I love this one, too... the kids speak just as I'd guess kids would speak!

      Delete
  42. The woman who walked in that door looked nothing like I remembered. Gone were the lank hair and stooped shoulders. She stood tall, her hair piled on top of her head in some complicated looking do, minimal makeup, and her clothes were lovely, yet comfortable. She sat gracefully in a chair. It was like looking through a glass that made people see what they could be, or what they were inside...

    I blinked, blinked again. A glass. A looking glass. Seeing the truth. It was important that my brain figured this out, quickly, so I studied her some more. There was competence and fire in this woman. A spine of steel that people rarely saw or understood, an abiding strength. She was intelligent, erudite, bold behind a facade of shyness she seemed to truly believed in. Such a peaceful person most of the time, but roused to lightning-spitting ire when her family was threatened, as it was
    now.

    I stepped back from the glass to rub at my eyes. This was the same woman I new, but somehow, not. She had wed, moved to another country, adopted her husbands child. Had we grown so far apart, she and I?

    Beyond the two-way mirror, the questioning went on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This one really got me. Definitely want to know more.

      Delete
  43. There was a slight motion in the air, and a radiation of heat that told me he was there. I let him think he fooled me for moment, before whipping around to give him a big hug. I'm a huggy sort of person.

    “Ack!” he squeeked, hugging me back. “I thought I'd finally been able to sneak up on you!”

    “Not this time,” I chuckled back. He was young this one, but aging more every day. Life had ridden him hard, matured him in ways that sometimes startled me. He looked like nothing more than a big fuzzy marshmallow, but there were hidden depths lurking in his eyes behind those bushy brows that matched his bushy beard. In most light, his fuzz and hair looked black on his pale skin. He was round, teddy bear chubby, but it his a lot of strength and a shocking turn of speed. One wouldn't think a guy his size could move the way he could.

    He smiled into my eyes as we are near the same height, mischief sparkling there. He opened his arms and stepped back, the intensity of his gaze heightening.

    I let him go, one eyebrow arching up. He was up to something, again.

    “One of these days, ninja-lady” said my friend, “ I WILL sneak up on you.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For some reason "ninja lady" pulls this all together perfectly. :)

      Delete
  44. A lonely man sat at the bar. How could I tell her was lonely? Easy. He had a tall green bottle with a distinctive shape in front of him, a lowball glass with two chunks of slowly melting ice sitting in just enough of the whiskey to be noticeable. One he hang was wrapped part way around that glass, though it could have engulfed it.

    The rest of him was intimidatingly big, just like that hand. He'd shaved his head, but the copper fire of his beard and his size made me thing of Vikings by way of Ireland. Probably had a temper to match, this one. His tattoos, tribal bear paws on his inner forearms peeking out beneath the arms of his t-shirt were not surprising, nor was the tri-colored Boru harp on his calf. The t-shirt, along with the kilt and combat boots were unrelieved black from what I could see.

    He looked like he should be in the mosh pit of a Dropkick Murphy's show, or at a rowdy pub somewhere instead of this quiet, fairly upscale dive. I couldn't complain though. I'd come here to meet him for a drink.

    I walked up to slide a gentle hand across his shoulders. He turned his eyes, those pale, color changing eyes, on me. He smiled. All the weariness fled his big body with that smile. He slid an arm around me, that huge hand giving a gentle squeeze to my butt.

    “Hello, sugarpants. May I buy you a drink?”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another really vivid description. And another that can stand alone in my eyes.

      Delete
    2. So Much going on with you, girl! You make me want to adopt any of these people your don't wind up using!

      Delete
  45. The thin young man leaning over his freshly delivered mug looked a little like a weasel. His long face and scraggly facial hair helped with the image. His body language was all about being small and unnoticed, though, more like a mouse. A hard day hauling lines, perhaps? No, the callouses on his hands were wrong for a fisherman. He was something else. His head jerked up at someone calling his name and a smile broke out over his features like a ray of sunshine. Other men joined him at his table, signalling the barmaid. They didn't wear armor, but their larger frames and the swords at their sides were fairly obviously those of guards or soldiers. They way they treated him as one of their own explained the callouses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "He was something else." - this is such an awesome sentence. It works on so many levels. I like the categorizing aspect, the wonder, the offset posture.

      Delete
  46. He was quiet, staring at her like a frightened bird. It was intriguing. Was it her rank? Her gender? Or was it simply that like a young and inexperienced horse, he simply did not know how to react to her presence at first. Resisting the impulse to circle him like a predatory cat, sniffing at his edges, she decided to go for a more frontal approach.

    "Greetings," she said gently. "I understand you are one of the archers called in to defend the city."

    "Yes 'um." His voice was soft, quiet like the rest of him.

    "Thank you for your service to the city and the Crown." she reached out as if to shake his hand, waiting to see if he would take it. He glanced down at her slender fingers, nervously licked his lip, then reached for her hand. She smiled at him and received a tentative smile in return as they shook equally calloused hands.

    Behind the archer stood another young man, probably of an age. He had a boyish face, not solemn like the first man. His cheeks were peppered with dark fuzz, and they cracked into a wide smile when he noticed her regard. He didn't have to say a word for her to understand that he was brash and cheeky.

    "Thank you as well," she said, extending her hand toward him. he took it and shook it without hesitation, seemingly to prove as much to himself as to her that he feared nothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The use of callouses and hands in general that runs through a lot of these is a really cool technique.

      Delete
  47. Last one for today - more next week.
    _____

    With a distinctive clank, the helmet came free of it's ring in the big man's gorget. Man? Nay, a boy it seemed by his hairless chin and smooth skin. Imagine! A boy not royal as a knight? What was his lord thinking?

    A womanly kind of woman rushed up and threw her arms around what she could reach of his neck. He kissed in a way that no mere boy would understand, much less be able to do.

    "Ah, fair of face, young of heart, they do say I suppose," the old man watching the happy couple muttered. That girl had certain put paid to his assumptions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dig this one, but I don't understand the last sentence? "He kissed in a way that no mere boy would understand, much less be able to do." - really dope line

      Delete
  48. Trickle down, Mother Fucker
    Stu and Annie Stowolski were fond of telling people: We’ve been hanging on so long, our knuckles are as white as our hair.
    But it wasn’t until the day Annie’s food stamp card came up short, four days before Thanksgiving ,when her kids were coming home that she decided to do something out it. As it happened she was 79 cents short on her card, and as she dithered about what to put back and what to keep, her next door neighbor Paul, stepped up like a goddamned hero and offered her the change.
    Paul was a Republican on the city council. He had ambitions to run for Congress and all over the neighborhood, signs were springing up, telling folks “Paul is All we Got.”
    But that day, Annie accepted Paul’s eight cents to make up her bill. He even helped her to the parking lot, loading her groceries into the relic of her Buick Roadmaster Station wagon, 8 cylinders, good glass s and chrome, no rust with less than a hundred thousand miles.
    “Thanks” was about all she could manage.
    “Anytime. Neighbor,” he grinned and his face was like glass breaking. “Remember me. Any thoughts about selling that house of yours?”
    She turned to him. “And where would that be, exactly? That house is free and clear. Me and Stu have had it for fifty years.”
    “ No disrespect.” Paul backed off, his hands held up in surrender. “ But there’s places… As you get on, I mean.”
    “Get on to what? You mean Senior places? You mean the kind of places that seize your assets and declare you incompetent? The government places?”
    She might have seen him blush, but she couldn’t be sure.
    He looked at her squarely, then and it wwas her turn to blush. “What have you got in the bank? Because I have a friend, a real good friend. He might set you up in a reverse mortgage deal.”
    Annie headed toward the driver’s side. “ How much you got in the bank, Paul? They took Stu’s pension, they took his Medicare, they took the rest in taxes and took the rest in jacked up costs for prescriptions. Now I got to pay because somebody else stole my identity and I can’t even get a goddamn credit card. Thanks for the eighty cents. I’ll pay you back.”
    Paul turned away, “I meant no offense, ma’am.”
    “You didn’t answer the question. How much money you got in the bank?”
    Something in her eyes made him answer. “Nothing. My money’s in cash. I don’t trust ‘em any more than you do.But try to stop by my rally tonight. We need your votes for this election and we do, truly care. Happy Thanksgiving.”
    So Annie went home and unloaded the groceries. And called to Stu, who was sitting in front of the Tv, watching Ellen give away 30 grand to someone she’d never even met.


    “Stu?” she asked. “Is it dark yet?”
    “Course, “ he grumbled. “Fall back, didn’t you remember?
    “I remember, Still got that pistol? To Keep us safe?”
    Stu came into the kitchen. “What are you on about?”
    “Our neighbor Paul, is going to be out for evening, Honey. He’s running for office, did you know that? W had a little chat at the Walmart today. AndIafter waiting so long for something to change. I think I finally have a plan.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clean up all the copyediting issues and you got one of my favourite stories from recent weeks. I love this.

      Delete
    2. Yep, this is good stuff... vigilante justice, righteous indignation, and timely...

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    3. Yup should have done the edit all right! I was actually trying to hold myself to the 2 minute mark, always a YUGE challenge for me....

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    4. Whoa, I realized my comment sounded critical, although it was meant to be the opposite. I love this piece. You know yourself: we do this stuff all day, so we're always thinking copyediting. And good for you for sticking to the rules. I almost never do because I'm a jerkwad. ;)

      Delete
    5. I concur. This is a hard, real, and rich piece of writing. I really dig it. This one needs to be read by more people.

      Delete
  49. I'm the second best person you never heard of.

    Me, your goddamn guts. I'm walking now, dragged strenuous, passing beyond the biting, random glare of your accountants.

    That riff you play is like your stomach flipped then dreamed something up you never even knew existed. It's tight and warm, like intimacy, like pimps turned nice. Like you found your old friends gathered outside a barbershop in the tangerine light, toe ended your kickstand, and rode like nothing else mattered on crumbling tarmac, veering into the dunes and driving those piston legs toward the tide, all of y'all hollerin madcap charms, antic conjurations, before embracing the waters under an astonished sky.

    ***

    Conversation with a despicable man.

    "So you liked her?"

    "Like? Don't know how that's relevant."

    "I mean was there anything about her that you responded to, not in a sexual or murderous way, but on a human level, if you will?"

    "…"

    "What's that look mean?"

    "You ask a good question. It's kind of blowing my mind right now, to be honest."

    "Can you elaborate?"

    "Well, you say 'human level.' And I think I know what you're alluding to, but isn't it also human to want to destroy, to ruin? I can't answer your question until I know where you stand on that."

    ***

    The air has a death tinge out here on the prairie. To the west, above the defining wall of mountains, the sky is umber and coral and rust, and from the stench it seems great fires burn. The old house groans at its buffeting by the charnel winds.

    Cassady told me everything west of Canmore is burned. If our prairie grasses catch enough sparks, the blaze will race itself all the way to Manitoba, and south to Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, if it ain't already.

    We did this. You. Me. All of us. With our terrible thirst, our dragon breath. Crime ain't the word. Sin ain't the word. Wrongdoing ain't the word. This was unmitigated evil. The only world we know of that has such treasures as the wild headstrong ponies of the plain and the butterfly clouds in their migrant tides and the colours of fall and the sheets of green that dance in the northern skies and we've done killed it. Maybe not full dead, but what rises from these ashes henceforth some pale morn won't be the like of what has passed. I gotta hope it will be better, but will this world's waters ever again swell with the breaching whale? Will its forests echo again with the howls of the pack?

    My heart says no. Like a deep bell says no.

    Once it might've said otherwise, but my childish hopes ran headlong into the slaughter reek of a dying world.

    ***

    "Shouldn't it go without saying that destruction and ruin are bad?"

    "You'd think so, wouldn't you?"

    "But…?

    "But yeah. The world. Not so simple as we once thought. Powerful men have greater urges than the weak. They must be filled."

    "That's monstrous."

    "So says one of the weak, I'm afraid."

    "If that's the case, why are you the one sitting here in manacles and I'm going home to take my wonderful wife to dinner tonight?"

    He grinned the odious amygdala grin of something that scuttled in the skull's own basement and held up the unclasped cuffs. After the first shriek, his expertise was such that the guards were still too late.

    ***

    There was one day that felt different. When everything worked. I reserve that day forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So many twists and turns, so many homages, so many good words... I always want to race through your words so the rhythm stays with me, but I always want to slow down so that the tastes of them linger... the last line, the last line is killer.

      Delete
    2. Me too, Teresa! Thank you, both of you. I've been thinking a lot about toxic masculinity and rape culture lately and watching the TV show Mindhunter, and this was pretty much the result (with, as Leland notes, a few other tangential influences as usual).

      Delete
    3. I agree with Leland. The homage aspect works really well. For me, man, that first sentence is so good. It just makes you HAVE to read what comes next. Not that I wouldn't have otherwise. I also love this vignette style you rock.

      Delete
  50. X. A variable. Mathematically represents thousands, perhaps even millions of possible values. It would be physically impossible to guess what-or who-it would represent at any one given time.

    That's the wonderful thing about it; anonymity, secrecy. But I've grown.

    As I stare at myself in the mirror, the white painted mask stares back at me. It is like an old friend who has stuck with me through thick and thin. I've found something else to help me with growing, however.

    I turn away from the mirror,pulling off the grey hoodie I'd been wearing for the past however long. Fresh out of the closet came a dark black leather jacket, biker-style for maximum-badassery.

    Turning to the mirror, the white mask looks rather silly against the black leather. Reaching up, I gently take hold of the oak wood.

    How long has it been since I've seen my own face? How long has it been since I started writing? Brown eyes blink innocently, taking in the cleft chin, square-jawed scruffy young man staring back at me. Today was the start of a new me.

    My name is David Liu, and I am Writer X.

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    1. Ahhh... and I am glad the mask is removed... and I love reading what you write!

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    2. Glad you took the mask off. :) And I really like this piece. Conceptually, very cool. Tight. And I love "maximum-badassery."

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  51. Oh, jesus…my head is spinning. Where am I? Oh, I’m in my house. I must’ve somehow stumbled home after the visit to the pub with the boys. Well, hangover or not, all’s well that ends well. I get up off the couch and clutch my head. It’s pounding like my brain wants to claw its way out of my temples. Time for a glass of water. This is when something starts to feel off. My house is too quiet. My dog would’ve heard me by now.

    “Quince? Quincy?”

    I call his name a few times, but there’s no response. A tingle creeps its way down my spine as I feel something pull my head towards my front door, gently. Suddenly, the distance from the sink to the door feels like two miles. I take a step forwards, my legs trembling. Something was very, very wrong here. I can hear voices, I start to see the reflection of flashing lights in my window. My heart is pounding in my ears as I finally reach the door, fingers trembling as they’re about to grasp the door handle.

    Have you ever had a moment in your life where you just cannot comprehend what has happened to you? You just can’t wrap your head around a picture or a scene in a movie? Well, if that hadn’t happened to me before, it just happened.

    The police were examining a body in my front yard, EMT’s just arriving with a stretcher. The body was laying face down in the grass, hand still barely holding onto a can of beer. What a poor guy, must’ve passed out and died in my lawn…why my lawn though?

    I walked down my front steps quietly, so as not to disturb the scene. Huh. He had a biker jacket on too, good taste in clothes, I guess. Suddenly, I froze. The can of beer he was holding was also my favorite brand. I felt a shiver run down my spine and through my legs. No way. There’s no way. It couldn’t be.

    An EMT gently grabbed the body’s left shoulder, rolling him over to reveal…my friend, Shaun.

    I sighed in relief as my memory came back to me. Last night, we piled out of my car and I stumbled inside after I unlocked the door, flopping onto the couch. Shaun must’ve passed out in the yard…

    I turned back inside so I could take a deep breath and think this over, closing the door behind me. I heard my dog barking from the living room, so I turned the corner to give him some morning treats and locked eyes with my lifeless corpse, face down on the couch, laying in a pool of my own vomit.

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    1. Surely one of the most frightening things imaginable, seeing one's own corpse... well-described, with just the right amount of shifts and turns.

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    2. Agree with Leland. And thank you for reminding me how glad I am that I don't drink anymore.

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  52. I always told myself I'd never die during a horror movie; that I was too smart, that I knew the cliche bits.

    I always told myself I was strong, that even though I stopped going to the gym in college because I was stressed, I was stronger still than a lot of my classmates.

    My friends and I always thought we would be invincible, no matter the antagonist. Jason Vorhees? Hah, easy. Just dig a pitfall trap, put some spikes in it, and ta-dah! He's trapped. Fill it with concrete to really seal the deal. Freddy Kruegar? Pffft, piece of cake. Just imagine you being with your friends and then dream yourself as god. Lucid dreaming was my specialty after all.

    However, it's one thing to imagine what you WOULD do, versus what would actually happen. That's why I'm trapped with my back against the wall, drenched in blood from head to toe and trembling in a puddle of my own piss.

    "Stand up, kiddo. I want you to realize what kind of mistake you've made by coming here."

    We went on a cross-country trip, taking a plane to Germany and then trekking across the wilderness. We never knew that an innocent cross-country hike would turn into a murder spree.

    "Boy, do you wanna die like a bitch, or do you at least wanna stand up like a man?"

    The solid -thunk- of his crowbar against his hand over...and over...and over again as he stood there horrified me. But it also angered me.

    All my life I've been pushed around. In middle-school it was because I was Chinese. In high-school it was because I ran Track and didn't play football. Now, in college, it was because I didn't drink or party. I'd always had my best friends to fall on when times were tough. Today, however...I had no one. They were gone. This maniac had beaten my one friend within an inch of his life and drowned him in a bathtub, before turning and parting my other friend's brain from his skull with a sickening crunch.

    I reached a hand back to prop myself up, fingers brushing against- oh. Well...things just took an interesting turn.

    My one friend was a soldier, who had just returned from a tour in Iraq. As a gift for my twenty first birthday, he'd given me a mean-looking and sharp-ass knife just to carry with me. I never did, of course, I didn't like having the potential to kill someone in my grasp, but on trips like this I did. It was long, serrated, form-fitted to my hand, and sharp as the crack of lightening on a stormy night.

    "Atta boy! Stand up so I don't have to bend over and hurt my back beatin' your head in!"

    "Shu....shut your mouth."

    I looked up at him, breathing heavily. My heart was pounding in my ears.

    "Excuse me, bud? Sorry, I missed that, say it again?"

    "Shut your mouth."

    "Wow, sonny, you got some balls."

    My hand silently drew the fixed blade from its sheath, concealed behind my back as I propped myself into a sitting position.

    "First time anyone...said that to me."

    "Aw, poor little boy. I promise nobody will make fun of you after I'm done with you!"

    (1/2)

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    1. His laugh sent shivers up my spine, but I grit my teeth, pushing myself to a standing position.

      All my life I've been pushed around by shitheads who think they're obligated to make others feel like complete ass. Tonight was no different, in my eyes, except this particular shithead murdered my friends in cold blood and therefore I was also obligated to gut him like a god damn fish.

      My blood was boiling.

      "Quit laughing, you fucking ass. Aren't you gunna hit me?"

      "Oh, so you want me to hit you now?"

      "What, you ain't got the guts now? You ain't got the guts to finish the job?"

      "I'm...sorry, what? I've just completely annihilated your fri-"

      "Oh spare me the 'I'm scary because I killed someone' speech. I'd rather die."

      If I knew anything about dealing with meatheads, it was that as soon as you fucked with their routine, it made them angry. It seemed that this was no different.

      "Boy, I'm gunna-"

      "'Boy, I'm gunna, sonny, I'm gunna, Kiddo, I'm gunna-' What are you gunna do? Quit fucking talking and hit me you god damn troglodyte. Or, like I said, do you not have the guts to do it?"

      "Oh, I have plenty the guts!"

      "Really? I don't see'em."

      He lunged before I could smirk like a dickhead. I barely had time to react as the crowbar scraped my forehead and embedded itself into the wood behind me.

      "Gh...mnngh..."

      "I'm sorry, I still don't see them. Your guts, I mean."

      He hadn't missed on purpose. It was just that having a 5 inch serrated blade thrust into his stomach hurt more than he was expecting. I had to finish this, though. I had to end this. Twisting the blade aggressively, I viciously dragged it to the side as hard as I could, sliding it free eventually.

      There was a pause as I saw his eyes meet mine, the life draining from his face. Then there was the sickening plop...plish...ploop...of his innards spilling out all over my shoes.

      "Oh. It seems I was wrong. You did have the guts after all."

      (2/2)

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    2. I love this: "My friends and I always thought we would be invincible, no matter the antagonist." Such a strong line. I like the piece, too. There are a few points where it feels a little loose, but the strength of the dialogue pulls it together.

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  53. "We live but a short time and then take nothing with us. We gather wealth and other accoutrements but we will leave them all behind. It is just that we enjoy life - only, we should let loose of we all have accumulated."

    The preacher nodded and the backing tracks sounded, a swelling of trumpets cloaking him with grandeur. A spotlight picked him out, growing brighter as the lights in the rest of the auditorium faded.
    He turned toward the camera, hand outstretched, palm up.

    "I'm not going to beg," he said, shaking his head. "There will be no collection. All I ask is that you give me your names. One time only, on the dotted line."

    The spot-light blinked out and the house was silent until the wall lights returned to their former brilliance. The stage was empty but the preacher had left something behind. A spark that would grow and catch light to the world.

    "So that's him," Daniel said. "The Preacher Man. Have you been converted?" He smiled awkwardly, knowing the answer already. We were here now - I'd brought him here, needing him to understand me - but he seemed unaffected, as cynical and as crude in his intentions as he'd always been. It had been my hope that he would give the Preacher Man a chance, a fair hearing, but he'd already made his mind up before I'd invited him.

    It was hopeless. I'd lost my best friend already. He was dead to me and he didn't even know.

    I began to make my way to the exit, not caring if Daniel followed me. We'd have to stay together for a while, we had a trip home to endure before we said good night at the very least, but I was already beginning to plan how we would finish with each other. I'd be late returning his calls, string out the periods between us meeting, until finally we'd be strangers again and we could part without pain. Or that was my hope. What Daniel wanted was immaterial now.

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    1. Wow... This feels like it wants to grow... you've built some strong characters here, one's I'd like to understand better.

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    2. Totally agree. And if I may - I think if you focused a little more on showing here, this piece would be rock solid. You slide towards telling a bit, but I agree with Leland. This one needs to grow.

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    3. I was planning to switch to showing next from where this finishes off, moving into real-time experience and a more intimate view of the uncomfortable atmosphere growing between the two, using the principal character as an unreliable narrator. I felt I needed a little in-head telling to set things up for the remainder of the piece. And yes, this deserves to be finished.

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  54. Mindy got out of Tina's car, staggering up the walk and thinking -- not for the first time in the last hour -- that she should have taken her heels off.

    "Watch it, baby girl," Chad slurred. "Get back in the car. Come sleep at my place tonight."

    "You wish," Mindy said. "I'm good. Night guys."

    She proceeded to drunk-girl-stumble to the front door, then glared at it. Her stupid baby brother had left it unlocked and wide open again. Stupid Jared.

    Mindy grumbled her way to the kitchen, while every one of her dulled senses screamed that something was wrong. The house smelled...wrong and there was no noise. No stereo throbbing from Jared's room. No snores coming from her parent's open door. No barking from her pup, Roxy. With a fourth of her mind on the wrongness of the house and the rest on how drunk she was, how cute Chad was, and what she was going to eat, Mindy flipped on the kitchen light.

    Her eyes bulged as they took in "Happy Halloween" spelled out in blood on the wall in front of her. But it couldn't be blood. It sure as hell looked like blood, though. Turning to the left, Mindy screamed when she saw her mom, dad, brother, dog, and cat dangling from the ceiling. The bodies swayed in a breeze coming in from...somewhere. Part of her mind wanted to look, the rest was too busy freaking out.

    Mindy wanted to tell the stupid bitch that ceaselessly screamed to shut up. She needed to think. Then she realized that stupid bitch was her.

    In the blink of an eye there was silence. Mindy felt a sharp paid, then she felt her body fall without her. She turned and saw a young man standing over her crumpled body with a shovel, grinning.

    "I got the whole set, Mick," he said.

    An older man shuffled in, grinning back at the boy.

    "Time to get what we need from 'em," the man said as he handed metal tongs to the boy.

    Mindy turned her back on the scene and flew through the wall that separated the kitchen from the yard. She noted that all of the windows were broken, but most of her mind was on finding her family. She flew towards the white light, hoping she was heading the right way.

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    1. Spooky and perfect for the season... and flying through the walls gave me goosebumps!

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    2. Agreed. Jeepers! This one fucked my head up. And "drunk-girl-stumble" - those little visual details kill - no pun intended.

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    3. I loved the twist, you heart-breaker, you!

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