Friday, January 12, 2018

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 edge of the sea wall, feet grazing the tips of the waves. There was sunlight and birdsong, but it felt wrong. There was a feeling she didn’t recognize. Something too heavy and hard to wrap her mind around. She ran a hand through her long, gray hair and sighed. The sigh was heavy and drifted towards the wisp clouds on the horizon.

It was a light heaviness, the feeling inside her. It clutched at her throat and made her feel a kind of opaque fear, surrounded by a giddy, childish anticipation. She wondered at it, but she knew not to question it too deeply. She was old enough to know that good things come to those who wait.

Or she was old enough that she had convinced herself of that – told herself that it was truth. But she did know, deep inside, that the good thing was coming. The anxious joy inside her … the flashes of light and sound that matched her twitching mouth. Smile, frown, wonder, think …

She heard his footsteps before he spoke. He was a heavy walker for a thin man. Like his feet were trying to punish the ground.

“Hey, you ready for an adventure?”

She smiled shyly. She wondered if anyone is ever really ready for adventure or if adventure is something that needs to be ready for you; she was determined to find out. She brushed sand off her legs and stood tall, stretching. 

"Let's go."

#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...

79 comments:

  1. Wow... interesting contrasts painted in this one... the softness and the hardness, the ground and the water, the hope and the anticipation... I like it!

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    1. I'm torn. Contrasts indeed, polar opposites throughout. Intriguing read.

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    2. Yes, youth and age too. Like the whole piece is balanced on a fulcrum and who knows what will tip it, or indeed which way it will tip?

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    3. Beautiful! I love this: "He was a heavy walker for a thin man. Like his feet were trying to punish the ground."

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  2. The snows came late that year. He went camping in January, and found a place to pitch his tent next to a creek that wasn’t frozen over.

    As the sun set behind the mountain, he sat by his small campfire and watched the sparks join the stars in the sky. Water music, he thought. And a light show. A few stars fell to meet the sparks. Meteors, but that wasn’t as poetic.

    The moon was a sliver of itself, and rose late. He, too, felt a sliver of himself. Like the moon, he ought to be familiar with it; it was a cycle they’d both been through, though the moon had it over him in numbers.

    This was the place he came to mourn. He’d camped here when his brother died, and again when his father passed. Here, tears could fall freely, without judgement, without question.

    He reckoned there weren’t all that many who understood or allowed themselves to mourn the death of a good dog. Or maybe they were just better at hiding it than he was.

    Damned dog didn’t fit the image he had of himself or others had of him. What kind of cowboy has a dachshund? He’d heard every variation on the joke about "getting a long little doggie." And he never laughed.

    Image or not, the little runt wormed her way into his heart, and she loved the great outdoors. They’d hiked together, camped together, and even rode more than a few horses. And yeah, she’d licked away more than a few tears along the way.

    The fire started to die down, and he let it. It was time. He reached into his backpack, for the little box of ashes, cold to his touch now. He stood, and called her hundred secret names, the names he called her when they were alone, silly names, names that made him laugh. As he called her names, he scattered the ashes around and away from the fire ring, and when at last the box was empty, the fire was red and blurry from the tears that filled his eyes.

    When he wiped his tears with a red bandana, he dared look at the sky again. The stars were hidden, the moon gone, too. But he could feel the kiss of snowflakes on his face, and he could pretend it was her kissing away his tears one last time.

    Somewhere to the west, a coyote sang a canine Ave Maria, and the cowboy threw another log on the fire.

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    1. Beautiful. The little moments of grief that you capture so well.

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    2. Agreed. I'm also always amazed the work a little image can do. I was there the whole time, but for some reason the red bandanna ZOOMED me in at just the right moment.

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    3. Agree with Dan: that moment of detail had me fully present. Brilliant.

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    4. So gorgeous. And what they said.

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  4. He wakes on Saturday morning.
    They always bake bread on the weekend.
    Repetition has engraved the recipe in his head,
    in his heart
    This step calls for salt.
    He wonders if his tears will be enough.

    Kneading and folding the dough,
    it catches on his ring, like always.
    The worn, golden band has circled his finger
    for forty-nine years,
    And he never removes it.
    He wonders if the bread will still rise today.

    She placed the wedding symbol on his hand,
    when they married, so young.
    Before he was sent to the jungle in sixty-nine.
    Kissing his knuckle,
    and begging him to return safely.
    His tour passed, bringing him home, and home he stayed.

    She embroidered words on the oven mitts
    that protect him from the oven’s heat.
    Well-worn stitching reads,
    Hearth & Home on the right; Home & Heart on the left.
    He wonders how he can bear to wear them.
    He wonders how he can bear to take them off.

    For nearly five decades, they baked the loaves.
    Feeding generations of ducks at their pond.
    Each weekend, good weather or bad,
    they shared a bench,
    while mallards feasted on the crumbs.
    He wonders if their feathered children will notice her absence.

    Today, he bakes the bread alone.
    And he will walk down to the pond alone.
    And he will feed the ducks alone
    And as he breaks the loaf into pieces alone,
    His heart will break with it.
    Alone.

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    1. Ah, and now you have broken my heart. This is beautiful... the side-by-side use of life-giving bread with the aching emptiness of being alone.

      And the feathered children will notice.

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    2. Beautiful and heartrending. Every word, every rhythm is perfect. Every image connects right to the heart.

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    3. I'm the ditto man (I don't feel well), but I agree with all, especially the rhythm - really solid and it works really well. I like the breaks and the impact.

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    4. Yes to all of the above, but also that "He wonders if the bread will still rise today," coming at the end of such a stanza, made my breath catch in my throat. The whole thing is so understated, which makes it so effective.

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    5. I love the images of the wedding ring and the oven mitts.

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  5. By the arcane laws of the Old Testament, there was no guilt for him who put the prisoner to death. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

    By the laws of mathematics, his guilt was shared with more than fifteen million voters in the state who approved the death penalty.

    By his own moral code, the guilt was his alone. Daddy told him that if he wanted job security, be an executioner or a jailer. Nobody ever got fired from those jobs.

    He dabbed the injection site with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol. Every time, he wondered why. They were killing a man, why did they care if a few microbes entered that man’s bloodstream?

    This one was cooperative. Hell, he seemed anxious to get on with it. He was tired, he said. Tired of the waiting, of sitting on the knife blade between execution and pardon. He’d waited thirteen years, and he wanted resolution.

    If the courts were right, this man was responsible for the deaths of eleven children. Brutal murders, slow deaths for the innocent.

    If the prisoner were right, he discovered the bodies and called for help as soon as he got a cellphone signal.

    The needle slid into the tiny bottle of chemicals, chemicals that were used to put dogs and cats to sleep every day of every year. First they’ll go to sleep, then they’ll just slip away. That’s what every veterinarian said, that’s what the death penalty defenders said.

    After administering the drugs nineteen times, he knew that was usually true.

    “Never look in their eyes,” the guy who’d trained him on this procedure said. “It’ll make you crazy if you look in their eyes and see what’s there.”

    And he’d ignored that advice, every single time.

    He’d seen the look of madness, he’d seen the look of resignation, he’d seen the look of anger.

    But there was something different about this one.

    “It’s not your fault, doc.”

    He’d seen, in this one, the look of mercy.

    He pushed the plunger on the hypodermic, emptying its contents into the plastic tubes, tubes that might give life if something else had been injected, in a different time, under different circumstances.

    He watched the prisoner’s face, as it relaxed. The straight line of his lips curled up into a beatific smile. His eyes closed.

    “Not your fault. Not your fault. Not your fault.”

    He did not blink as he watched.

    The monitors told him the heart beat was slowing, the breathing was slowing, it was nearly over.

    “I’m coming home, Mama, I’m going to dance with you in the stars,” the prisoner whispered.

    And it was done. The time of death was recorded. The news reporters left the viewing area.

    That night, the executioner repeated “not my fault” to himself two-hundred-thirty-seven times, and he didn’t believe the words even once.

    He was his own firing squad that night, and his aim was true. And his own death was not his fault.

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    1. Society's choices have repercussions. I like the character, his determination to engage with what he does, despite the cost to himself

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    2. Wow. Just wow. Getting a look inside a mind we don't usually consider, seeing how the world--his father, society, etc-- has written his death sentence long before his "execution" comes to pass...brilliant. Heartbreaking. Beautifully done.

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    3. Again, I ditto. Also, I really like the specificity of 237 - I guess I'm all about the small details today? This is a really dope piece.

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    4. And like a woke fiction writer, you spell out those numerals like the Chicago manual asks us to! But more seriously, there's something deeply honest about this piece. A conflicted voice yet a trustworthy one.

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    5. I was riveted to every word of this. And what they all said. So beautifully done.

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  7. The rusted metal was piled high by the shed door. He liked to think of it as a sculpture, not as something he was too lazy to clean up. His neighbors didn’t like it, but he didn’t like his neighbors, so it all worked out pretty well, really.

    And it was beautiful in its own way. Old tools and pieces of machinery. A nearly complete refrigerator. It was a big pile. It had taken many years to become that big.

    He wasn’t just lazy. There was a part of him that wanted the pile there. A part of him that was proud of it. He didn’t know why he was proud or what there was to be proud of, but you could see it from the back porch, and he liked to sit and stare at it.

    The day the men from the city came, he didn’t know what to do. They had paperwork and petitions. Rules and conditions. They said his neighbors had complained to the Homeowner’s Association.

    “It’s not trash,” he said, “It’s a sculpture.”

    The two men looked at him with bemused smiles.

    “If it’s a sculpture, it has a name, right?”

    The man smiled.

    “Damn straight. It’s called “Hatchet on a motor."

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    1. Oh, I like it.... the rule-breaker and the artist... they are often the same. and the name of the sculpture is perfect.

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    2. one person's eyesore is another's junkpile. I like it

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    3. Ha ha! I genuinely laughed at that last line of dialogue. I've known guys like this, and bless 'em. (Jesus, I might even be becoming a version myself, lol.)

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  8. Part 1
    _____

    I knew I was going to kill him the moment he walked into my kitchen.

    ***

    "Is it weird for you?"

    "Is what weird?"

    "That your abductor loves you more than anyone else in your life?"

    "It isn't so strong. She has Gothenburg Syndrome."

    "Ha."

    The echo: I stand and face the waterfront and behold the absence of gulls and ponder the silent lapping of tethered boats, until a siren blares like the sudden shout of Satan, and not a single one of us has any inkling what comes next, as we dim with a fallen sun, pay endless respects to the spasming of a planet contemplating its own eradication.

    ***

    It's a castle. The whole place is a castle. Music blares from speakers strung along its ramparts. "Lullaby," by Low. Turn it up. Place the speakers strategically. Untangle the fallout harmonies, adopt a male stance to blare, take a neutral line, assume a female posture to hear. The way of a world, probably our world, but not of all worlds.

    I fell apart in Sacramento. Victim of those shibboleths. If my mercy overwhelms my wrath, this brass, your American face is bleeding, your underbite ascribed, your downturned mouth some emblem of your endless loss. Make the call quickly, and choose northward.

    He walked into my kitchen. We were reduced. Me, my sister, my two brothers, and a cousin. They were sleeping. Here was I. There was he, and my eyes slid left to avoid seeing something appalling.

    ***

    Want to meet love halfway? Simple. Add "my huckleberry friend" to everything you say. You will be inconsolable.

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  9. Part 2
    _____

    Across from us, wan dishrags of cloud drag across the tops of the dense conifers; ahead of us the road.

    Oh god, that road. Oh god, that road. An unspooling charcoal ribbon curling between our splayed legs and the endless banks of trees.

    ***

    An arrow into an abyss. It's hectic, corrosive, you pull into a federal monument.

    Ten islands, four pumps each. Forty gasoline teats awaiting our unquenchable thirst. Outside just desert, a monotone of beige and fawn, of sands and scrub. This is where the action's at: microwaved hoagies and bitter scalding coffee.

    Remember Scandella? The investigator? You thought of him as a good man, some kinda sleuth. And maybe that's right. But did it occur to you he mighta bin a she? Private dick, my irreverent ass.

    Hunkered down, we hunch our impudent shoulders, lower our frozen gaze. The winds howl and whistle, keep on howling and whistling, and a fleet of corvids raids the back side of the ridge, dive-bombs this place, mocks this shelter, and we laugh, somehow vindicated.

    ***

    Squeeze your eyes tight and let the tears fall; we can all see the humanity wrung from your dried apple face.

    ***

    We fell through the long slow cracks. Made our way to minimum security.

    Carnock told us an ice storm was coming, so that night we took our chance during the first outage.

    A lurking, sporadic gale, teasing the world with sly offers of sanctuary. There's this moment when we both think we're free. Under scudding clouds of burnt umber traversing an orange night, a full quarter of the sky to the east flares sudden electric blue. Once. Twice. Transformers blown. Again. Four times. Her and me, we grab each other's hands as if the violence of the night might sunder us. Gaze at the antic incendiary sky. Then jack a Dodge pickup already warmed and readied by its hapless owner.

    The roads are the shameful aftermath of genocidal lumber wars: miles of scattered limbs and even entire torsos of cedar and hemlock, fir and spruce, death-gripped by the cold embrace of their mutual hissing antagonist: the freezing rain. It paints you over many hours in layers of ice until its cumulate weight takes you down. All around, limbs groan and fracture, detonating, falling muffled and unmourned. Power line viscera curled every which way. We pick our careful course between these hazards, see lights in all directions flashing road closure warnings. There's no escaping it. No way out. Now that's some rich and lavish fucking irony, right there.

    ***

    Don't pay me any mind. No, wait. Blame my sorry ass for everything. You will anyway.

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    1. So much poetry, so much emotion, channeled into a story told with heart. The image of the highway, the charcoal ribbon is one that will stay with me a long while... and "...wan dishrags of cloud drag across the tops of the dense conifers..." Well done.

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    2. The umber line. And this: "Want to meet love halfway? Simple. Add "my huckleberry friend" to everything you say. You will be inconsolable. This might be my favorite thing you've written. It's wonderful, brother.

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    3. I'll be thinking about this one for a while. The images of the ice storm damage. The charcoal ribbon. Wow.

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  10. Winter’s wind cut through him like a knife.

    His inner editor objected, even as the snow blew around him. “Cliche. Find a new simile. Also the sibilant in the possessive form of winter is jarring,” he could hear the red pen scribbling.

    The winter wind felt like a thousand paper cuts being rubbed with salt.

    “Better, still a little clumsy.”

    The winter wind was salt in a thousand paper cuts on his skin. He knew he shouldn’t have left home this morning.

    “Your reader wants conflict and resolution. So far you’ve given a weather report and a regret. Try to move it along.”

    The winter wind was salt in a thousand paper cuts on his skin. His father had kicked him out of the house that morning.

    “This sounds like another boring ‘narrator is a victim’ story. We’ve had enough of those this year.”

    The wind of winter was salt in a thousand paper cuts on his skin. He’d come close to killing his father this morning.

    “Better.”

    He’d come close to killing his father this morning, but failed because he lacked a weapon. The guns were locked away, and even the door to the kitchen was bolted, preventing access to the knife that might have done the trick.

    “Who locked the kitchen door? and what kind of home has a lock on the kitchen anyway?”

    …because he lacked a weapon, but not because he lacked motivation. He stormed out of the house instead.

    “Stormed in a winter storm? you can do better.”

    He fled the house instead. He ran into the blizzard, not caring which direction he went.

    “Who didn’t care? Him? or the blizzard?”

    The wind of winter was salt in a thousand paper cuts on his skin. He’d come close to killing his editor this morning, but the only weapon was a red pen. He grabbed it from the editor’s hand and stabbed the editor first in the eyes, and then in the heart. There was no blood. Only red ink poured from vacant eyes and there was no heart.

    And it was good.

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    1. This is a cool idea. Made me feel schizophrenic. And this made me laugh: “Your reader wants conflict and resolution. So far you’ve given a weather report and a regret. Try to move it along.”

      I don't know if non writers would get this, but I love it.

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    2. I laughed at that last paragraph. Such a great turn. And every writer has been there!

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    3. Ha. Ha ha. Love it! (looks over shoulder)

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    4. very enjoyable - I like the distant voice throughout

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    5. LOL! It's funny, but there's also something incantatory about it. I was kind of mesmerized by all the repeated phrases and the rhythm of it.

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  11. 56


    The night sighs heavy when it stops to think,
    The curve of the light a distant cousin,
    The nail in the wall a reminder of hate;
    It creaks,
    This going forward, always coming back –
    A tortured walk is this half-dazed oblivion,
    Yet I seek it
    Or it seeks me,
    Day in, day out, week in, weak doubt.

    I like to remind it not to be late,
    Not to forget to close the door behind it,
    And so it is,
    This creeping remembrance lost
    Of my selfish conscience,
    Flapping like a dried-out fish…
    Obsolete.

    I like the sound of obsolete.

    I can trick myself I’m nothing like,
    Yet I can see,
    I have eyes,
    Two of them,
    Though this vision of me blurs still –
    A twitch at the sides of a smile says so,
    This tortured style of mine.

    But tell me this:
    Did you think of me today or wonder
    Who I indulged these languid hours with?
    I was alone, but you won’t know this,
    You never ask.

    But you’re always here, waiting,
    Sucking the bar dry until I reappear
    To accompany you between the butts,
    Breathing the smoky lungs we share,
    Reminiscing, laughing, choking
    On our fears, always bigger than us.

    And so today I will retell a joke or two,
    Watch your grin creep up into a drawn bow.

    You know I value these simple hours,
    You know I’ll always come back,
    Dragging my half-spilled bloody baggage,
    Bearing my very bones for observation,
    Knowing you will never be my judge –
    I came for a half and I got a hug.


    Vickie Johnstone

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    1. Loved the wordplay and inner rhyme in "Day in, day out, week in, weak doubt." But it was the last stanza that made the poem for me. Well done!

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    2. I literally was going to say what Leland said. I even copied that same line. Mad power.

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    3. another one that I'm not sure what it means, another read-through or two may help, but I'm sure that I like it. Even without consistency (that I see), the flow is still there, and that's more important.

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    4. Builds and builds and more than earns its strong ending. I love this, Vickie.

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  12. What Is Now Proved Was Once Only Imagined

    Sometimes, like right now,
    I find myself imagining
    what it would be like
    to die in this seat.
    I’d be biding my time,
    thinking how easy this was
    not so long ago. Like breathing.
    I’d turn words into living things,
    as if they rose from some kind
    of primordial ick to stick
    to my mind’s wall, where I’d
    shape them into Adams or Orcs.
    Maybe you’d invite some
    into your home, if they promised
    to wipe their trochaic feet.
    Tonight I’m biding my time,
    waiting for any words to bubble up,
    but fearing they’re in league
    with some dark spirit,
    who’s waiting for unholy sacrifices
    I’d make on this QWERTY altar
    for even fifty of his minion.
    Instead, I just sigh in this guilty ooze
    with nothing to show for my efforts
    but white space smeared with gook
    of the gobbledy kind, imagining
    part of me has died already.

    (The title's from William Blake)

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    1. This one rolls so well. And I love the QWERTY altar.

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    2. I enjoy it - a creative attack on writer's block (or a satire of writer's block). Proof that you can always write something other than blank carriage returns!

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    3. Ha, Dan beat me to it. If I didn't already have a writing blog, "The QUERTY Altar" might be my favourite title.

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    4. Oh, and how does anyone misspell a word that isn't even a freaking word, and by definition is easy to type? lol QWERTY, ffs.

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    5. yep, QWERTY Altar is awesome, and I really like the whole thing!

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  13. Mom handed me a photo at Christmas, telling me it portrayed dad's mom and dad and my aunts and uncles.

    She wanted to know if I was the little three year old kneeling on a chair staring like some beady-eyed little mouse into the camera from the foreground of this gray-scale ’50s kitchen tableaux.

    Mom wasn't sure.

    This happens more and more these days, this not being sure.

    It was me...I think. But I couldn't recognize my grandparent's faces.

    I held that photo in my hand but the image wasn't a key that opened the locks and released memory.

    I flicked thumb on the shiny, off-white scalloped edge of the photo and it snapped loose other memories...the smell of Grandma when we kids slept with her after the Old Man died, the feel of Grandpa's bald head beneath my fingers when he'd ask me to scratch it while he napped on the sofa. But the faces?

    How flexible, frangible, fragile a thing remembering has become.

    Today I remember grandparental entities, emotional placeholders that my memory reads as Grandma and Grandpa.

    I have a photo of my Grandfather. I don't know the face that's squinting into the eastern sun, staring all bad-ass as he pauses from shoveling snow in front of his house on Bradford Street.

    But I remember how he'd hand me the keys to his dump truck as I sat in the cab beside him. I smell the aroma of motor oil and cigarettes in the air surrounding us. I know the house fronts there above the dashboard.

    "Go ahead, Angelo," he'd say and I slide that worn-down key into the ignition and twist my wrist as he mashed down on the clutch and gas. Hear the roar? That's the memory I have, strong as three minutes ago.

    And yet twice this last week I forgot where I put my car keys.

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    1. Wow... this feels so very real. And the faces being less recognizable than the situations is something I often go through. This is a thoughtful, peaceful work my friend. Thank you for sharing it!

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    2. Yeah. Wow. I love this. My pulse was racing. It really does feel real and haunted in the best way.

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    3. Tapping into my thoughts. My memory is awful, my memory for faces even more so. You captured my feelings with this one, thank you!

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    4. I can't add anything to what these guys already said, but yeah, this is a truly haunted piece deserving of a wide audience.

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  14. The clapboard house wasn’t all that big, and Amy could still see most of it from the footbridge over the creek, but with Papa off working the oil rigs in the Gulf and her older brother gone more often than not with stupid militia of his—Good Guys with Guns, of all the fool things—the three of them rattled around like old bones in a graveyard. She felt better outside. Close enough to run back if Mama called for her; far enough to be free of the college applications, free of the pressure of what she sensed could be the biggest decision of her life.

    She leaned her forehead against the cross beam of the handrail, staring into the water. Hoping an answer would hop up like the frogs and the sunnies. It didn’t.

    “You should be off doing something practical to save the planet, with those smarts of yours,” Mama had said, but the worry lines were hard to miss. As if she were thinking, how can a girl who can’t speak function in this dangerous world? But Amy had been doing fine so far. The congenital defect didn’t compromise her hearing, or her intellect. She had the best grades in her school. Which now was part of her problem. The Russian man’s offer was hard to shrug off. A full-ride scholarship to Stanford. Her dream school. A ticket out of this piss-poor town, this dead-end life. All for joining up with his group, doing a few things on the computer. Amy could do them—she’d been white-hat hacking into things she wasn’t supposed to since she was big enough to reach a keyboard; her way, perhaps, of compensating for her lack of speech—but did she trust him to shield her identity, as he’d promised? If the wrong people found out, it was all over. Forget just losing Stanford; she would probably be arrested for treason. Although how could it be treason if she believed the government was the enemy?

    She sat there a while, losing herself in the progress of a darning needle across the water, when she heard a rustle in the grass and then Ben was sitting beside her. The bridge shaking under his weight. It shocked her a moment, that her little brother was becoming a man, and she gave him a gentle smile.

    He grinned back, tugged a lock of her mud-brown hair, and they sat a while. It wasn’t like him not to talk, when he was with her. Maybe his way of compensating. Talked more than he listened, in her opinion, but maybe that was just how families went. One making up for what the other ones lacked, and most of the time they formed a complete whole.

    “I’m joining up,” he said eventually. To her shocked expression he said, “Yeah, I know. I’m not old enough, technically. But I’m tired, Amy. I’m so tired of watching this country turn to shit. They need more good guys with guns. They need an army of ’em.”

    As he went on, heat rushed to Amy’s face and she fought the urge to slap him. But he kept on going, parroting all the things Papa says, all the things his news programs say. All the things she thought were abhorrent, about building walls and silencing women, about discrediting and attacking those who disagreed with the president. She’d written tomes about it, manifestos about it. Maybe that’s how the Russian man had found her in the first place.

    And then she knew. Maybe she’d constantly worry, maybe she’d go to hell for leaving her mother behind or not working harder to get her brothers to give up their guns, but she needed to go to Stanford. Because she was tired, too. She had her own war to fight, her own voice, and she’d be damned if she’d let them keep silencing it.

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    1. The bones... Man, you write pretty. And I would love to see this keep going. Intrigued by the brother, too.

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    2. Stories about how revolutions begin. Wow. Too many things I like about this to try and list them, but....the characters...the thoughts.....the worries. Another gold star, Leland

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    3. Thank you. There's a lot more.

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    4. Yes! I was hoping you'd say that, Laurie. This could be another novel.

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    5. You've set a believable conflict up here, and given just enough flaws to your characters to make them believable, yet they have ideals, too. Yep, I'd read more!

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  15. The slideshow began…

    The first photo showed the two of us, mugging for the camera. We never knew who took this one, but it was some man who’d seen us both in the park; me with the Nikon and Elaine on the bench. There was a hawthorn bush behind us, white flowers like stars set against the green sky of its leaves, and she was dressed simply in a full-length red dress with white edgings. She was wearing those shoes she had too, the platform ones with the huge heels she could never manage, and I knew we would have walked the whole way there with her hand on my shoulder, her seeking the security I gave her. I loved it when she wore those shoes.

    The second photo was taken later and only showed Elaine. This one had been shot in the summer too and was also taken outdoors, her head thrown back and with her hair falling away from her face. She was heavily pregnant then but still dressed in red; looking tired but natural and wearing no makeup. Her manicure was immaculate though and he remembered how she’d fought to keep her nails; it being one of the few things she’d managed to retain. Her ‘real’ clothes had been placed in storage and she’d given up on the glamour he’d soon come to take for granted. Those shapeless sacks had become her day-to-day wear and she’d been quick to give them up, refusing to be momsy and drab. She’d got her body back and was determined to shrug off the time she’d lost being his brood-mare, reclaiming herself almost immediately.

    The third one was another one taken by me. This one was of the two of them, Eleanor and Elaine; both standing in the snow. Eleanor had her hat on, the rainbow unicorn with glitter, and Elaine had her hair flying like a flag. The snowstorm was gusting and there were clouds of it stirring; suspended in the air, drifts rising to become galaxies frozen by my lens. Our daughter was laughing – she always wore a smile – but Elaine was reserved, face pale with just the slightest rouge-red spots on her cheeks. It was hard to be sure how she was holding our girl; was she pulling her back into an embrace or was she pushing her away? The camera was ambivalent; there was no way for me to know. If only I’d been with them, hugging them both.

    Photo four was of Eleanor, smile blazing and eyes wet. Her mascara had run, and she was arm-in-arm with Craig. They were turned toward each other, heads looking forward me, my camera capturing them just before they took flight. They were both dressed in gowns, mortar-boards balanced rakishly, and my life wouldn’t ever be the same; each of them choosing to travel and then to work far away. There would only be me left at home then; our house like a suit that no longer fitted, the three of us now become one. There would be no more photos of her – the opportunities too few and far between - and my camera would gather dust; no longer needed as a witness to record frozen time. There’d be another baby, Denise. They’d send me her photos, sharing her life with me as best they could, but the distance would grow between us and we’d never become close.

    The last photo was of me. One taken long ago. I was looking at the camera, my arms around Elaine. I’d used a tripod and a delay-timer, and I’d rushed to my position, face red and hair across my eyes, but I’d caught her smiling. There was nothing to suggest that anything would change.

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    1. Damn! You have been sharpening the blade, my friend. You're straight up carving with it now. The description and imagery - and the construction - just superb.

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    2. you don't tell all the story - makes me want to hear the missing bits. But it feels complete even with the absent parts. A tough balance to strike, but you hit it.

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    3. Ah, I love this... and as many photos as I take, that aspect of the story was especially poignant to me... beautifully and skillfully told!

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  16. As haunting as it is lovely. Your spare, elegant prose and the narrative distance lent through your choice of the slide show heightened the emotional impact. Brilliant.

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  17. Cannons roar across the battlefield,
    shredding buildings, shredding flesh.
    It doesn’t matter which.
    Mayhem is the goal.
    Victory at all costs.

    The arms race turns cannons to rockets,
    Rockets to bombs,
    Bombs to weapons of mass destruction.
    By any name, the masses still die.
    Innocents fall more than statesmen.

    Leaders posture, and call to arms.
    Sacrifices must be made, they say.
    A greater good, and ultimate victory.
    Pay their price gladly, if patriot you be.
    Countries, like people, play at war.

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    1. This has serious weight. I really like it. It's almost as if it was being written inside me while I read it.

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    2. I admit, it isn't what I wanted to write about the false alarm in Hawaii today, but I said I would write something. Even a topic that has reams and reams written about it.
      One of the things I love about your page - I have no excuse not to write 'something', even if I haven't spent half a day on it. Glad you liked it!

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    3. It's honest and it makes me ache... the last line was perfect, but so were the rest.

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  18. I think we all get twisted up by the illusion of happiness. We all pretend to be happy and we grow up with a bunch of people pretending to be happy and expecting us to be happy – we don’t learn how to say, “hey, I’m fucking sad.”

    It’s sad.

    All these sacks of fluid and organs. Walking around. Farting and making gurgling noises and pretending that the world is a fucking fun park when really they want to curl up into a ball. And I know some people are happy. And some people are happy some of the time and not happy some of the time. And some of those people you can please. Or something like that.

    Barnum.

    Back in the cages.

    But it’s an obligation to happiness. That’s what I mean. How many times has someone told you to smile in your life? I think the automatic response when someone tells you to smile is: FUCK YOU!
    Maybe that’s just me.

    I want to wallow in reality.

    I want to be the dirt holding down the daisy. I want to soar through the sky with head held high, wearing my shame like a breast plate. Using my hot anger to lift me higher. I want to be a chalice filled with malicious desire.

    And sometimes I just want to retire.

    I want to say fuck it. And chuck it. And move to a cabin in the woods where I’d starve within weeks because I’m a pussy, piece of shit city-boy. I’m the worst kind of city boy – one who thinks he’s not because he grew up in some places where there were deer and because he likes to fish. That’s some bullshit. Drop me in the Alaskan wilderness, and I’ll be blowing bush pilots for rides back to Anchorage within the week.

    Which is really just a different kind of courage. Can you imagine what a bush pilot’s bush smells like? I’m guessing yeast and frostbite. Death. But I’d gnaw on that cold nubbin because I know that nature is a cruel son of a bitch and I’m a soft, soft man.

    Who knows how to fish.

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    1. Is it weird if I say your monologues of anger inspire me? I really enjoy these stream of consciousness pieces!

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    2. lol. Not at all. And I thank you.

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    3. One of the roles that artists play in our society is channeler of rage... you do it well, and you do it with purpose and a clear eye. This piece is an awesome example of that. And I don't believe for a minute you're soft.

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  19. John. It’s always John. Unless it’s a woman. Before I get the character filled in in my brain. John. Every story starts with John. My dad’s brother was named John, and he blew his brains out with a shotgun. That has nothing to do with it.

    Maybe.

    Maybe it’s just a good, bland name. I don’t know.

    But there is this blob of John in my brain that I use to carve people out of. They get filled in and get defined edges as my fingers move. I’m not trying to be all artsy-fartsy. I don’t quite 100% understand how it works. That sounds dumb to say though.

    You could say there are an infinite number of John’s in my brain. I just pluck one down like a blank leaf of paper and start shading bits in and fleshing bits out and adding traumas and backstory until I have me a character fruit I can smash and smear.

    But what if there’s not? What if I run out of John’s?

    I will be one sad, sad John.

    And who knows how that story will turn out? Probably all gross and emo. Or boring and wearing Dockers and a blue Oxford shirt. And I feel the Antrobus of my mind explaining to me that you don’t capitalize the fucking O because back in the 1800’s some British dickwad yadda yadda yadda Chicago Style Manual but it’s really up to me so I FUCKING CAPITALIZED IT OK!

    Don’t worry about the comma!

    I think things are starting to come apart. Pieces are falling off. The insides are rusting and full of holes. I looked stupidity in the eye one too many times and now reality is all, “Haha! You dumbfuck!”

    And it’s like a DUI. I can’t even be mad at life. I got to own it and be like: “Yup yup, yesiree, I really should have seen this coming. Seems I ain’t superhuman after all.”

    But it was a good ride, and we all got some interesting stories out of it. I remember some of them. Some of them will make good stories at my funeral.

    Whatever. Today, the brain connected to the fingers, and I was involved somehow, and I didn’t even really, technically use a John, so I think that means I got one more bullet in the chamber or whatever someone who actually knows shit about guns would say.

    All I know is that I have shaken the dust off the machine, and, now, it is time to put it all away for today. Which I can totally do.
    My doctor gave me a pill for it.

    (The saddest part is that’s not even true, it just makes a good ending – and now I fucked it up, but I didn’t want my wife to worry.)

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    1. For the record, I'm John. And I work with a guy who got tagged with 'NotJohn', because my company doesn't believe in sharing names, and damnit, I was there first. Still loving the stream of consciousness writing. Mad props for sharing the brainwaves!

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    2. My pleasure. The waves get choppy if I try to keep them in my skull. ;)

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    3. "The Antrobus of my mind" is a stroke of brilliance!

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