Friday, December 22, 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.




She sat on the end of the bench like she was afraid taking up too much of it would mark her selfish. Wrapped in scarves and too many coats, she laid a thigh on the lip of that bench and tried to make herself invisible. And it worked. For the most part. Not for me.

I have a knack for seeing things that other people can’t see.

The first time I sat down beside her, she flinched, but I didn’t say anything. I set a cup of coffee beside her and drank my own while watching the kids playing in grey snow. I did look back when I left, and she had her hands wrapped around the cup. I think she was even smiling.

This routine went on for months. Pretty soon, she started drinking the coffee with me, but we still looked straight ahead.

Not a word passed between us.

The morning I found the bench empty, something broke inside me. Who would have thought you could grieve so much for a statue? Which is what she was. Or what I tried to convince myself she was. The alternative was too painful.

It was Spring when I saw someone in her spot. There was something familiar about her. For a second, I thought maybe …

But this woman was young. Well dressed. I sat down with my coffee.

She smiled at me, but I could tell she had been crying. I didn’t ask. Maybe with my eyes.

“My mom used to come here. I’d come as soon as I got off work, but she was here all day, watching. She used to tell me about the kids and the joggers and the funny things she saw.”

My heart skipped.

“You mean? Wait …”

She looked at me harder then. There was warmth in her eyes.

“Don’t tell me. You were the coffee fairy? She used to talk about you.”

“I … yes, I guess I was.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. We never passed a word.”

She stood up and held out a slender hand. She laughed.

“Come with me,” she said. “There are some things I need to tell you. And she would have wanted me to buy you a cup of coffee. Or a few. She always told me you were handsome.”

I didn’t know what to say. We’ve been married ten years now, and I still don’t know what to say. But we sit on that bench all the time and watch the kids play. Other peoples' kids.

And our own. 

#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...

68 comments:

  1. Face it---the holidays suck. I'm old(er) now. I'm not going to talk myself into how "wonderful" the season is, it's not.

    The wide eyed-wonder and expectation of childhood is gone. Frankly, it never lived up to expectations anyway.

    The people I might choose to spend this time with are dead, divorced, or distance separates us.

    What gets me through the "season of joy"? Animals. Taking care of the pets people can't take with them when they're forced to gather away from their own home.

    God bless 'em. If their pets didn't need me I'm sure I'd find a way to self terminate.

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    1. I'm pretty sure that the pups are what keep me breathing and alive... this is a good reminder of how important they are to all our well-being!

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    2. I agree with Leland 100% And this line hits really hard for me: "Frankly, it never lived up to expectations anyway.

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  2. There was no Christmas tree, no beautifully beribboned packages, no goose for dinner. The skies were gray, and it smelled like snow.

    There were no wise men, but there was a shepherd of sorts: a herding dog. In the dark of night, he watched the flock of sheep. He was serious about his job, as serious as he was in his love for the man who slept in a bedroll twenty feet away. The love was returned. They’d wandered these pastures with this sheep and their ancestors for a decade. They knew every rock, every crag where a ewe might decide to hide a lamb. And they knew the clan of wolves who watched, who waited for a sick or injured sheep.

    There had never been a physical altercation between the dog and the wolves. Canine diplomacy involved more vocalization and marking territory than actual fighting. But this night, something was different. He wished the human were awake, too.

    When the dark clouds finally parted, and the nearly full moon shone through, the dog saw, and understood. It was not a wolf. It was another dog, a large dog, and from its smell and sounds, it was sick. He gave a bark at the stranger. "Hey, these are mine, move along." But the big dog growled, and inched closer.

    Another bark, this time to wake the man, but by the time the man awoke, it was too late. The crazed eyes of the other dog glinted red in the night. Just as the herding dog readied himself to do battle, reinforcements came from an unexpected quarter. A wolf jumped from the shadows and grabbed the dog by the throat. There wasn’t even time for a scream. The strange dog made a thud as its limp body hit the ground.
    The wolf howled, just loud enough for the dog to hear. "You owe me one."

    And the dog barked in reluctant agreement. And the clouds drew together again, and the man returned to sleep, unaware of the strange alliance. A lamb bleated for its mother.

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    1. I'll just say this, because I know you know what I mean by it - I wish Louis L'Amour were alive to read this. He would love it. I do too.

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    2. Oh, love it! "Canine diplomacy" and the twist at the end. Nicely done.

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    3. no one tells a better doggy story! Did the dog kill the ewe? that's the plaintive sigh at the end - the little bleat in contrast to the loud barks and howl and it stands out.

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  3. The crowds cheered as my brothers and I marched in formation, and paraded through town. We were on display, basking in the welcome they offered us, celebrating the return from our war.

    Our procession turned a final corner, and as I took in the scene, my eyes burned with unshed tears. A group of men in leather jackets stood together, and held up a sign - 'Vietnam Vets Welcome You Home'.

    I have never felt such shame as I did at that moment, seeing those men, and how they rose above their past to love us.

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    1. Oof. I gotta agree with Leland again. Mad power in such a short piece. And such control. Really impressive.

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    2. yeah the switch from basking in the glory to shame... and it makes you want the bigger story.

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  4. I wanted it to happen.
    Badly.

    A stolen glimpse,
    led to a lingering touch.

    Sly compliments, ripe with suggestion,
    tempting me.

    Slowly, the momentum grew, and grew again,
    and then came

    that first darkly-magical kiss.
    Open and dancing,

    bursting like a fiery sun
    on my tongue.

    And I wanted more.
    Badly.

    Slowly, the dance swept along,
    and we met in the kitchen, alone.

    Her lush body, hinting, daring, offering desire.
    Then she came to my room, alone.

    With my father downstairs, all unaware
    that his soon-to-be wife was

    leading a young almost-man down
    a forbidden path.

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    Replies
    1. Whoa! that went differently than I thought, but it's beautiful and bittersweet and good!

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    2. I figure there will be lots of early judgement on that one that reverses course at the end

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    3. Nicely done. I do like that switchback at the end.

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    4. I liked it when it seemed innocent and I like the switch at the end. And the flow of it is really smooth.

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    5. haha! passion, desire and darkly comic at the end while also dramatic. i hope she doesn't prefer the son cos that's gonna be a complex household! nice switch

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  5. Grandpa loved animals. Not in a peculiar way, just in a respectful way. Whether dog or cat or horse or cow, they felt it, and they loved him, too.

    He never went in for much craziness, around the holidays or otherwise. Never dressed a dog in clothes, never put a hat on a cat. Never sent a Christmas card.

    Much as he loved his family, too, we all knew where to find him on Christmas Day. The barn, with his animals.

    One year, I snuck into the barn to see what he did on those Christmas Days.

    “Bobby,” he said, “Don’t need to sneak around. You’re getting to an age where you should know some things…”

    I came out of hiding.

    “Are you sure he’s old enough?” a feminine voice asked.

    “He’s old enough,” Grandpa answered.

    I looked around to see who or where the woman was, but it was just Grandpa and the animals. “Who was that?”

    “It was me,” and I just about fell over. It was Liz, the milk cow.

    “On one day a year, on Christmas Day, the Lord gives them the gift of human speech,” Grandpa said.

    My mouth was hanging open.

    “Hey, close your mouth afore the flies get in!” I looked down, and it was the dog, Maggie, speaking.

    “Does Grandma know?”

    Grandpa nodded. “She doesn’t much like it though.”

    “Why?”

    “She’s afraid I’ll like talking with the animals more than her.”

    “And…”

    “And we don’t need to answer that, young’un.”

    After that, every Christmas, I joined Grandpa in the barn. Learned more than a few bad puns from Maggie, too.

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    1. Just the right amount of silliness

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    2. Oh, I love it. And Maggie's there. <3 So cute.

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    3. Man, if only it was true. "He never went in for much craziness, around the holidays or otherwise. Never dressed a dog in clothes, never put a hat on a cat. Never sent a Christmas card." - love this

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    4. Ha. Marvelous. And I dare you to put a hat on a cat.

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    5. Cute. Yeah the cat might like the hat :)

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  7. I met him in a barracks in Okinawa. Faltering notes escaping a brand-new guitar that he was learning to play. It was a song by Metallica, but I don’t remember which one. Only that he struggled with playing the chorus for hours, night after night. Evening after evening, right up until Taps he practiced. What should have been a screaming guitar riff, was endlessly butchered into scattered chords that could only be called music by an overly-charitable, tone-deaf nun who loved watching someone put their determination on display.

    He finally mastered the song, a few days before I transferred away. For those last few jam sessions, it was like living next door to a rock god, who deigned to bring the thunder of metal to the ears of a few lucky mortals.

    I lost touch with him, as members of the Corps do when they move around, but I remembered him nevertheless. Afterwards, whenever that song played on the radio, I remembered his transformation across the hall, and the triumphant chorus that roared from his guitar.

    I saw his name a dozen years later, reading an online story about veterans around the holidays that made an offhand reference to a local Marine who had committed suicide the week before.

    I don’t enjoy Metallica as much as I used to.

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    1. ah, my heart is now shredded and lying on the floor. And that last line is perfect and a killer.

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    2. Yes, this is heartbreaking. But it's set up so well, and it's beautiful, too. Really well played. I especially like the last sentence of the first P. And you kept just the right amount of distance from sentimentality. (for me)

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    3. yeah, really effective. it could go either way and then the final kick. Pow.

      Sad but true :)

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  8. He shouldn’t have listened to the others. The captain wouldn’t like his being here, and if he were honest with himself, he wasn’t sure _he_ liked his being here. The room was hazy with smoke, loud, crowded. The smoke from thin cigarettes and fat pipes mixed unpleasantly with sweat and harsher scents, and his stomach roiled.

    A slim woman approached him, her pale bounty overflowing the top of her corset. She sat down in his lap, took his tankard from his hand, and sipped his ale. She licked the foam from her lips and smiled. This close, he could see that she wasn’t as young as he’d first thought. Much older than he was, for certain. Perhaps old enough to be his mother. Not that he minded.

    Said something in a language he didn’t recognize. He thought it might have been a question. He shook his head.

    “Ingles?” he asked.

    She shook her head and held her hand up, the tip of her finger and thumb nearly touching: a little bit.

    He shrugged one shoulder. He reclaimed his mug, sipped the ale, handed the mug back. After she’d had another taste, he leaned forward to lick the foam from her mouth. She pulled away, smiling, and then rose. She curled her fingers in a “follow me” gesture, and after he’d drained the last of the ale, he followed her upstairs.

    His heart hammered, and his hands shook, but not with anticipation. With dread. He wasn’t sure he was ready for what lay ahead. He didn’t know, really, what he was supposed to do. Wasn’t sure what he was supposed to feel, if anything.

    The others, they said this would make him a man, but he knew better. He’d been a man since he was eight years old. Since he’d seen his family slaughtered. Since he’d taken to first the streets and then the skies in order to stay alive. He’s seen more than any of them, done more, lost more. He was more man than any of them.

    And, he realized, he didn’t need to prove himself to them. Not like this.

    He stopped the woman at the top of the stairs, passed her a few coins for her trouble.

    “I’m sorry,” he said. “I have to go.”

    He turned and went back the way he’d come, right back down the stairs, in full view of the others. Some of them pointed and laughed. He didn’t care. To hell with them, and to hell with anyone else who tried to tell him who to be. He knew he was, and as long as he didn’t lose sight of that, he’d be all right.

    He reached inside his shirt, to touch a spot over his heart, and nodded his head.

    Yes, he’d be all right.


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    1. powerfully stated; well done!

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    2. Dang! This is dope. We're so close here - intimate and true. I love the rhythm and rhyme in this phrasing, too: "His heart hammered, and his hands shook, but not with anticipation. With dread. He wasn’t sure he was ready for what lay ahead."

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    3. When you write these tavern scenes, I swear I can see candlelight, smell the ale, and hear the noise... but you don't just describe the place, you invite us in, as if we're sitting on the characters' shoulders. Love this. Thanks for sharing it.

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    4. So good! I love this character and want to hear more. And what everyone else said.

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  9. RE: DAN'S OPENING PIECE

    Because we all skipped ahead and started throwing down our own pieces, but yours deserves to be remarked upon. Because it's beautiful. And it made me teary-eyed, in a good way. And yes. <3

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    1. it absolutely is beautiful! a love story for the ages!

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    2. yeah, I loved it and commented twice, but not sure where one comment went but one is on the week of the 15th. i liked the idea and how it moved circular, and how he thought the meetings weren't that important to her... there's a sweet xmas spirit in it too

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  11. He wasn’t what you’d call bright. Not by a long shot. He was a lot of things, but the poor bastard couldn’t do basic arithmetic. He stared at bright things and then freaked out when he couldn’t see. That’s not me ripping on him. I’ve always thought that intelligence is highly overrated.

    Other people liked to give him shit about it, though. And I didn’t like that. I shouted a lot of people down and even bloodied up a few. When “the dummy” is your brother, well, you do what you gotta do.

    People assumed I must be simple too. Or, perversely, some kind of genius. I always wondered about that one. Felt like they were calling me out. Like I was being selfish when they handed out brains. I didn’t tell them the truth because the truth would have meant more social workers and more drama. It would have only made things worse.

    I wonder sometimes how mad I should be. At her. And I wonder why she gave up before having her second son. Why the booze and pills and everything else were more important. But you don’t ask those kinds of questions. You just let them sit inside you and fester.

    It doesn’t matter anymore – she’s been dead for years. And my kids love their uncle more than anyone in the world. They don’t care if he’s Einstein. They care that he’s kind. That he’s always ready to play. They hug me extra tight sometimes, and I wonder how much they know. Small towns and all. The things people say.

    Then again, it doesn’t matter. Never did. He was never bright, but he was always a good kid.

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    1. great read, lots of heart

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    2. Lots of heart is exactly right. Really well-told...

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  12. The aftermath

    So the thing was said in two words when speech wasn’t needed, the reply losing itself upon the wind whistling through his brain. In the darkness in which he wrapped himself these things he came to see: the arch of her back, the light dancing in her eyes, the red flecks in her hair. But it hadn’t always been that way. In the past they always sat in rooms, silent; the back of her head the only thing given freely. The monotone answer of her voice stagnant water, the tapping echo of her pencil tip an irritation he could never scratch. She was always good at sums, able to add up anything. Numbers were her thing. And dates. Birthdays, weddings, appointments, anything – some so random as to be inconsequential. And anniversaries. He breathed in the smoke. His one downfall the pitiful memory he inherited from his father, no matter what they say about most chromosomes being inherited from your mother. How he wished. The woman filed memories like an elephant. He stubbed out the cigarette butt on the step and gazed down at Layla’s soft, brown eyes beneath him. She barked and cocked her head to one side. He nodded and stood. It would be a while before it was safe to venture back inside anyway.

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    1. Written with a poet's ear... and only a cigarette in length. Beautiful and sad.

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    2. Thanks dude ;) He's gonna go back and all will be fine, but first he's walking the dawg :)

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  13. I couldn't sleep for 1.5h. Nothing unusual... So I ventured on fb and then thought I'd hop here for a read, only to find the stories were different to what I was reading earlier. Apparently I am Frank Spencer. I have commented on a bunch of pieces from last week & was gonna finish off tomorrow & also accidentally posted both my pieces there! So, guys, head back to last week for my comments! Doh!

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  14. Another two-parter: Part 1

    I did not want to be afraid. It was a beautiful evening, not so very cold, and the snow fell in tiny shimmering flakes, just like the first Christmas that Mama Svetlana and I lived in New York. She had taken a break from working in her restaurant and we saw the big tree in Rockefeller Center, all lit up and shining. But there was no tree this year. It was no longer allowed. By order of the government, there were to be no lights other than those that were absolutely necessary for public safety. Lights made for crowds which made for tempting targets, or this is what they claimed. So as I walked home, all I had was the snow. And a creepy feeling that I had been followed. I saw nothing, nobody. Perhaps it was my imagination. Still, Mama Svetlana says that if I feel afraid, and she is out of town, to come to the restaurant and ask one of the men to walk me back to the apartment.

    I knew all the men there. From the busboys to the waiters to the Russian businessmen who always took up the round table in the back corner and talked of things that I wasn’t supposed to be hearing. But I happened to arrive when Alexey the dishwasher was due for a break, so he threw on his jacket and said, “I walk you, da?”

    I nodded and followed him out. I felt comfortable around Alexey. Not just because he was big and could look intimidating. Or because he was good-looking with nice blue eyes but not so handsome as to make me nervous. But because he was only a few years older than me, and like me, his English was also not very good. So I did not feel the pressure to make conversation. He would always see me not just to the building but up to the apartment door and sometimes inside, to make sure it was safe. I thought that excessive, but gentlemanly, and I offered him tea or a snack, because that is what Mama Svetlana would have wanted me to offer a guest in our home. Usually he would decline, fumbling through enough English for me to feel reassured that it was because he had to get back to the restaurant, and not because I was any kind of burden to him.

    That evening, he accepted a cup of tea and some butter cookies that I had baked the night before. They were my favorite. And, it seemed, his too. Soon, though, he made his excuses, and when he reached for his coat, I saw the handle of a gun sticking out of the inside pocket.

    I nearly dropped my teacup and pointed toward the firearm. “You need a gun to walk me home?”

    “Is not safe,” he said, looking almost apologetic—for the political situation in New York, for the secret immigration police that pulled up in their black SUVs and took people away. Like our neighbor, Mrs. Gonzalez, and her three children.

    “But I am legal,” I said. Mama Svetlana had adopted me in London, and we had the proper paperwork to live here and work here. Even though she had not renounced her Russian citizenship and I... Well, I was not quite sure where I stood. My father was Austrian and my mother a Syrian refugee. But what better kind of American than one who carried the genes of so many civilizations?

    He cleared his throat, shifted his eyes left then right as if deciding what and how to tell me. “You are daughter of Russian woman with powerful friends,” he explained. “You make target.” That silenced me. Inside my heart was doing circus tricks, along with my stomach. I thought I might throw up. Then he put his hand over mine. “I not say this to scare you, Anya. I say this so you pay attention.”

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    1. I like her persona. And the indistinctness of "when" this is

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  15. Part 2

    That made me angry, and I pulled my posture up straighter. “I don’t pay attention? I have been paying attention my entire life.” I told him what it had been like to grow up in a country in which it was not safe to be a Middle Eastern refugee. I told him about how my parents had died. How Svetlana had adopted me as her own. I even told him what I heard at the restaurant, that some of Svetlana’s friends—the Russian businessmen—have been talking about a plot to undermine the American government and one of them went on in quite some detail about how it could be done. Alexey listened to my barrage of English—very patiently—but when I talked about the Russian businessmen, his eyes iced over.

    “You should not listen to these men,” he said. “They are fools with not much better to do with their time.”

    I felt afraid again. Of the men. Of the horrible things they said. Even if they were fools.
    Perhaps Alexey saw that on my face, and he pressed a warm hand to my cheek. “Do not let them scare you, Anya. Everything will be fine. Everything will be...as it should be.”

    I wanted to bathe in his reassurances, but a shiver went through my body just the same.

    We made a bargain that evening. While the lights were out and the snow came down and he ate the rest of my butter cookies. He said he would keep me safe. He said he would not tell Svetlana I had been eavesdropping. For giving me all of this, what he asked for in return was my silence.

    I nodded. What else could I have done?

    “You are good girl,” he said. “There is no reason to be afraid.”

    Then he pressed a kiss to my forehead, transferred the gun to his front coat pocket, and left.

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    1. I liked part one more - the voice in it spoke smoothly to me. Part two, seemed more tell rather than show. She's known Alexis long enough he should know her background and not need to be told (it seems to me as an outsider to the story). Maybe not - maybe the language barrier is why he doesn't know her well?

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  17. The young man believes he wants
    to learn to play the saxophone.
    That he wants to bring beauty into
    a world that needs it desperately.

    He listens to the masters of jazz;
    how they swing;
    the magic that they blow.
    He thinks he wishes to be like them.

    Whispers inside himself say,
    you can’t imitate the rain.
    No one can copy the nighttime sky.
    Mortal peasants will never ascend a godly stage.

    Legends of the night with fingers
    that have danced across a million keys.
    Lungs, like bellows pumping, never stopping.
    Endless jam sessions building their art.

    The young man tells his friends,
    and throwaway girls
    how he has thought about
    picking up the sax, and learning to blow.

    Decades pass while wax recordings gather dust.
    Notes fading from his ears.
    The young man sinks into reality,
    he has a life to live without dreams.

    A faerie spirit born of music flutters near,
    silently wailing a mournful cry.
    Gazing at a young man who would have created joy and tears
    if he had only been willing to try.

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    1. this makes me sad... and makes me think the world needs more faeries spirits who know how to be on-time, not late!

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    2. yeah, we all have dreams but how many of us try? our only real failure is not to try.

      this is my fave line -

      Whispers inside himself say,
      you can’t imitate the rain.

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  18. been xmas shopping... not as chaotic as expected... here's my second effort, which I accidentaly posted on the 15th December posts (along with comments on people's stories - I'd done half). Cheers. Good to see some more poetry here. Yay!

    Fisssh

    It’s a haunting thing, this crazy thing I think you call fear,
    Unpegging me from the world I make my own,
    Leaving me to flounder, flipping, like a glass-eyed fish,
    Out cold, gasping for breath and a helping hand.

    “Throw me back in,” I want to scream,
    Full knowing my voice seeps out in silences.
    For we are adults now, not children, and can have no excuses.

    Let the brave run wild and blind into their mistakes
    Learning nothing until the pattern is finally broken,
    Usually with a quiet sigh and a heavy heart than a dance.
    Let the weak turn back from any path losing its light.
    These reactions mark our differences, neither right nor wrong.

    The grey shark swims as fast as the humble goldfish
    If the lowly goldfish dares to dream so big.

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    1. I'm going to have to read it a few more times before I feel like I know everything it is saying, but even on first read, I like it.

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  20. He died in battle. Not with a sword or a rifle in hand, but with a pen. He was writing his thirty-seventh letter to a president he did not respect. And it tore him apart.
    He’d fought in two wars for his country. He liked some of the presidents more than others, but he’d never held one in disrespect. Until now.

    Maybe it was because he had daughters, and it made his skin crawl that the beast in the White House might touch one of them, though in truth, they were old enough, and skilled enough to help any attacker sing soprano for as long as he lived.

    Maybe it was because he valued language, in its nuance and meaning. He’d always taken care to choose precisely the word with the meaning he intended. And the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue now seemed incapable of using more than one adjective at a time. Great. Amazing. Bigger. These were not words that meant anything.

    And maybe it was because he believed in truth, whether good news or bad. He couldn’t remember a time he’d lied. No, that wasn’t true. In Korea. He’d lied to protect his buddy Steve. Damned McCarthyites would have had a field day.

    We’ll never know what he intended to write. The envelope was addressed in his perfect handwriting, learned in another century, but the paper itself had only the salutation: “You jackass.”

    We asked that he be buried with military honors. He died in battle. It was only right.

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    1. Right. In. The. Feels. A warrior to inspire others.

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    2. whoa. i like the cynicism. it creeps off the screen. meeting your maker while creating something - you're cruel, Leland :) `my fave line is singing soprano - a great image that is also funny and lightens things.

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  21. It began with a hug at a party. She’d probably only meant it to be polite, they’d been talking quite comfortably until then, but it’d changed the way he considered her. That smile that furrowed her brow and the intelligence in her eyes; it was those that began to suggest there could be something more than just talk between them.

    She turns in his arms now. There was none of the stiffness there’d been just a few moments ago; the wariness you have when you surrender yourself for the first time. They’d eased together so quickly. Perhaps it had been the scent he had about him; subliminal cues smoothing away the newness of his embrace, but whatever it was he felt it too, feeling protective toward her rather than wishing to dominate. She was so small though; she was so slim it felt like he was holding a bird rather than a woman with an intelligence to match his own. He wished he knew what she was thinking. She was still strange to him. He wished they’d met sooner.

    Her eyes are a cool penetrating blue. They seem to be analytical and calm, not at all like he’s feeling at the moment. She’s smiling though; she’s certainly enjoying being at an advantage.

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