Friday, January 19, 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.

The man was tired. He sat with slumped shoulders, breathing heavily. He occupied the middle of the park bench, and there was a perimeter around him. People picked a careful distance, which averaged to around ten feet. They would not sit on his bench.

But I did.

When he felt my weight on the wooden slats, he raised his head and smiled gamely.

“How you doin’ kid?”

I decided not to mention the fact that a 34 year old man is hardly a kid. Maybe I liked being a kid in his eyes. I don’t know. But I didn’t say anything.

“Good, how about you?”

He seemed to consider it. He rasped his hands together and all kinds of clichés popped into my head. They were like catcher’s mitts. They were the kind of hands that had spent a lot of time in boxing gloves. They were working hands. It was all silly. I didn’t know anything about him.

“I’m doing.”

He leaned back and I couldn’t tell if it was for his benefit or mine. Maybe both.

I didn’t want to ask him if he was OK – it seemed invasive, so I made small talk about the weather and the way people dress in California when it gets even remotely cold. We laughed. He said he was originally from Montana – lived in California half his life, but the place still didn’t make sense to him.

I laughed. Told him I’d been born here and it didn’t always make sense to me.

We passed a half an hour or so, and then he stood abruptly. He left a manila envelope where he had been sitting.

I don’t know how, but I knew it was for me. I waited until I got home to open it. It was full of money and a short note.

The note said, “I was wondering if someone would stop. You did. Thanks.”

I guess I passed the test. 

And I'm still surprised how much money you can fit in one envelope.

#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...


  1. I like your take on this old tale. Good feeling to start the day.

    1. I enjoyed the story too. Thanks for the smile.

    2. That's an awesome story of connection. And believe it or not, I wrote my park bench story before I read yours... and I'm glad he stopped.

    3. I love the way you tell everyday stories so well. And I love that this one had that not-so-everyday twist at the end. Great one, G.

    4. I love this story. Not to mention not just the monetary value, but the human value of ordinary interaction.

    5. I love this story, too. It lifted my heart.

    6. You write the light as often as you write the dark. Good to have balance.

  2. Time was, it seemed like half the world hated us. Now, half the world is gone, and all that’s rest hates us even more. Their reasons are better now. We started the war that covered the world in fire and death.
    I spend my days in a dank English pub. My nights in an alley, or a shed, if I’m lucky. If anyone asks, I tell them II deserted from the US Army back in the nineties - usually that’s enough to stop the questions.
    I’m sure it was a mistake. I hope it was a mistake. There’s maybe nobody left that could say one way or the other for sure. Every reputable news source agrees - America launched waves of missiles, and launched them first. And every other nuclear power on the globe denounced a madman, and sent their arsenals in punishment. Okay, maybe Pakistan and India saved a few special deliveries for each other, and North Korea flailed around as much as they could reach, but by and large, the community of the world stood together and eradicated my homeland.
    Part of me wishes I knew the story. But mostly I’m glad I don’t.

    1. This is good stuff. I'm partial to "the day after the end" stories, and this one is told well.

    2. I Love that he tells them he's a deserter. Good for him!

    3. Agreed. And more fuel for my paranoid nightmares.

    4. I wanted to know more about him, and where he goes from here. And love that he's a deserter.

    5. Hoping to become an expat in a foreign country before your little tale becomes truth.

  3. I’ll admit it: the cat unnerves me. It will sleep for hours at a time, then bolt upright and hiss at nothing. An hour of staring at empty space follows as it flexes its claws. And then sleep again.

    The cat, not my cat. It showed up at my door one summer morning, waltzed in, and acted like it owned the place. I learned to open and close the doors at its command, and to have tuna in spring water, not oil, on hand at all times.

    I put posters up, at the post office and at the grocery. As I taped the second poster to the window, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

    "That’s old man Jensen's cat."

    "Do you know how to get hold of him? To come get the cat?"

    "Jensen’s dead. Didn’t find him for a awhile after. Not pretty. Still haven’t figured out what killed him. I’d say you got yourself a cat."

    I took the sign down, and bought another five cans of tuna.

    Cat stares at me, too. Eyes almost closed, it looks at me as if it’s disappointed to be taken in by the likes of me, like it knows it could do better.

    I can feel its little yellow laser beams boring into the back of my head, even though it closes its eyes when I turn around.

    Tonight, I was sitting at the computer, and it was lying on the desk next to me when it sat up and glared at me, eyes unblinking.

    "What? What do you WANT from me?" I shouted.

    It was unmoved to answer. And then I realized. It wasn’t staring at me. It was staring at something behind me. And the cat was smiling.

    1. Cats. Mysterious overlords, plotting our demise - except when they are wanting their chin scratched. Great tale!

    2. Ha! Yes, exactly what Gry said. :)

    3. Trust me, this is a true story. I know, I have cats! Well done, Leland!

    4. I like this one a lot. And it makes me miss Cat. In a good way. :)

    5. Ohh, I like this. Cats see things humans can't, and that's always fascinated me about them. Very cat-like, here. He'd better sleep with one eye open!

    6. Ugh. My head went right to the place where Cat killed old man Jensen and moved on to the next victim.

  4. Deep winter scenes gently sleep,
    snow tumbles from the sky.
    Softly white slumbers in peaceful heaps,
    hushing the sounds outside.

    The cicadas in my head
    Scream raucous noise.
    Their arrhythmic cycle, angry decibels.
    Drowning my thoughts, murdering sleep.

    1. The transition from idyllic silence to cacophony is well-played, and plays out in my head sometimes on snow-days.

    2. Yeah, I agree. I like the sharp contrast. I wish I had more days like the first and less like the second.

    3. Sometimes the sheer beauty of the winter lulls me past peace and into the pit.

      Those days I pray for cicadas.

  5. They say the ghost of Lincoln walks the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania, giving solace and sometimes advice to those who came after him.

    There is, buried in the National Archives, a photo of Harry S Truman with an unexplained shadow that looks like Honest Abe with his hand on the shoulder of the man who ordered the use of the atomic bomb.

    The longtime employees in the White House never speak of it publicly, but some have told their close friends that they have seen and heard the ghost of the sixteenth President. And they are worried, because no one has seen him since January 20 of 2017.

    The guards at the Lincoln Memorial have not seen the ghost either, but they report an eerie sound, akin to a man weeping echoing through the marble chamber.

    And in the Lincoln Bedroom, no one can explain why the lettering on a revered document, once faded by time, is growing brighter, and why the spotlight on it won’t turn off.

    “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal:::"

    1. a timely reminder that despite how it feels, our country has been more divided than it is now, and came back together. We could use a few more watchful spirits from the past looking over our shoulder

    2. Cool piece! I like it flashy, but I also think this idea has legs. I want more.

    3. Love this! I agree with Mr. Mader; I want more, too.

    4. Can Trump be considered a vampire feasting on the blood of America? I would welcome Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and not bat an eye.

  6. I am not who I once was.
    He was callow, judgemental.
    The sum of all knowledge,
    untainted by error.

    At sixteen, untried.
    At nineteen, unbeaten.
    At twenty-nine, unprepared.
    At thirty-four, unattached.
    At forty-seven, unending
    cycles, uniquely repeating.

    I look back at that younger boy,
    that man he became,
    and marvel at the thoughts he had
    Was I so wrong then, with what he believed?
    Would I like me, if I met me?
    How will my three-score self judge the me of today?

    1. I like this... I like the passage of time, the growth of the character. And in truth, we'll never know, will we? Would three-score man be a hero to the sixteen-year-old? We try. For all the sixteen-year-olds.

    2. Yup, what Leland said. And I love that last line!

    3. I love the second stanza the most.

    4. Why else do we not keep reimagining, reinventing; if not for a dissatisfaction with our younger selves?

  7. Don’t know why I stopped, don’t know why I listened to the grizzled old man on the park bench, but I did. I threw all my change into the hat with the cardboard sign beside it, and sat down.

    “Let me tell you a secret, young man.”

    His breath was clean of alcohol, a smell I knew well.

    He leaned in toward me to whisper a secret. “It’s the boogeyman.”

    I nodded, though I had no idea what he was talking about. The sign said “Help a vet.” Maybe…

    “It’s always the boogeyman who starts the wars. He plants these ideas in people’s heads. States’ rights, weapons of mass destruction, Communists plotting overthrows. He has a lot of tricks in that bag of his.”

    I dared ask, “You think he’s coming again?”

    His toothless smile answered for him. And a vigorous nod of his head.

    “Anyway to scare the boogeyman off? Keep him away?”

    He tilted his head, looking at me as if I were the madman. “Ain’t only but one way.”

    “Is it a secret, or will you tell me?”

    His eyes, clear blue, looked through me and toward a past some fifty years ago. He stared like that for a couple of minutes. “One way.”

    I waited for him to continue.

    “Love and kindness. He don’t like that shit. It disturbs him.”

    “That’s all?”

    “I gave you my secret. What you do with it is yours to own up to.”

    My phone buzzed in my pocket. I needed to get back to the office.

    “Thanks for sharing, old man.” I stood. I dropped a five-dollar bill into the hat. I was a softie.

    I walked away, and I heard his voice one more time. “Don’t forget!”

    I turned to wave, but the old man was gone from the bench. In his place was a single white rose. In Denver. In January. Before the coming civil war.

    1. There's more than one kind of magic in that story. Love and kindness, indeed. Another good one!

    2. Woah! Weird. Not the story. Story's great. You and I seem to be sharing a brain though... ;)

    3. and this: His breath was clean of alcohol, a smell I knew well. - love it

    4. It'd be an honor to share your brain

    5. Yes, I'd tagged that same line. Love it!

    6. Ominous portents. How difficult today to imagine any but ominous portents.

  8. She’d been writing articles about softball leagues and fishing gear and how to buy a barbecue grill, so when she looked up and saw the snow falling, the sight perplexed her. For a moment, she’d been lost in the promise of spring, and the dancing flakes and the chill in her feet felt like the ultimate betrayal. A joke on her, a slave to the almighty editorial calendar, always having to think three months ahead. If only real time could move like that. Fly past the difficult moments, the painful confrontations. The grief. The grief never moved. It sat like an uninvited guest who pawed every knickknack and drank your good scotch but would not take the hint to leave. Feeling leaden, she rose from her chair, stretched the creaks from long-suffering muscles and tendons, and put the kettle on. There, she felt grounded, realigned in time. But too fast, so fast she felt a bit lightheaded, and gripped the handle more tightly. He’d always been the one to put the kettle on. He saw to her comfort, poking his head into her room to see if she was too cold or too hot, wanted something from the store, or a cup of tea. She’d snapped at him, then. For taking her out of whatever she was writing, wrenching her out of the focus she’d needed to produce five hundred words on a myriad of topics, for which she was paid a ridiculously small sum. Articles that were easily forgotten; money that was quickly spent. Again she regretted each sharp look, each groan of frustration, each shouted “What?” when he’d tap-tap on the door, or peer in like a small child, hoping and not hoping to disturb her. Time she would never get back. Apologies she would never get to deliver. The snow had stolen him. Because she was living her editorial calendar life, she hadn’t responded to his whisper that he was going into town. She hadn’t answered the phone. Didn’t know he’d gotten stuck. And only learned about the accident when the police banged on her door. She slapped the kettle on the stove and, mouth frozen in anger, shoved her feet into his boots, always left by the laundry room, and stumbled out into the winter that also would not leave. She cursed the snow, the sky, the icicles hanging from the eaves like a Yeti’s fangs. She snapped the closest one she could reach and hurled it javelin style toward the trees, as if this was a monster she could stab. But it fell short and only landed with a muffled “ssshhh” halfway between the wellhead and the small red maple he had planted last spring. Crying tears of anger and frustration and loss, she shuffled toward the tree, stroked the bare branches with her bare hands, and sank to her knees in the snow. “I’m sorry.” She said it louder. Then she aimed it to the sky, and the only response was the fat, icy flakes that painted her face and sifted into her hair. When she could no longer feel her fingers, she went inside, and reheated the kettle, and began to write about winter. And snow. And icicles like monsters’ teeth. Spring would come, in time.

    1. Ahhh.... and oh. Beautiful and wrenching.

    2. Wow. What an amazing piece. The metaphor plays out perfectly. The emotion is all so real.

    3. Your descriptions are always riveting, but this piece yanked me out of the warmth provided by my wood fire and plunged me into ice. Truly excellent.

    4. Wow, Laurie beautiful and heartbreaking. the icicles hanging from the eaves like a Yeti’s fangs. Geez...Now, writer to writer: Hang on sister, Spring really IS coming!

    5. Dang. This is good. And you take us on such a voyage in such a short time without sparing the literary goodness. I kept highlighting lines I liked, but I kind of like every one.

    6. You gave my 'Yeti's fangs of regret' sharper points, drawing me into your pain.

  9. There were a thousand theories exchanged around campfires in the years after. Some blamed ISIS. Some said it was the Koreans. The conspiracy theorists clung to the notion of a false flag attack. A brave few said it was an accident.

    None debated what happened after the explosion in New York City. The lights went out. Screens of all sizes went dead. Folks in Nebraska and the Dakotas recalled the rumbling as the covers to the silos pulled back and the nearly simultaneous launch of hundreds of missiles.

    We’ll never know if those missiles reached their targets. We only know there were no missiles sent in reply.

    I kept my ideas to myself. I believed that those we targeted were civilizations with attention spans of centuries, not milliseconds. Why destroy resources they wanted, when all they had to do was wait for us to destroy ourselves? Make one shark bleed and its compatriots would do battle. All they had to do was wait.

    I was the one who found the President in the Oval Office. A single bullet through his forehead had passed through his trademark hat, forever altering its slogan, not a week after his physical.

    “Make America eat Again.”

    It took me a moment to recognize the maniacal laughter echoing in the corner less room was my own. When I looked down, I saw the President’s young son, holding a pistol. When I took it away from him, I saw the words engraved on it: “America First! With thanks from the NRA.”

    I took the boy by the hand and we walked to find his mother.

    1. Woah! This is some fierce writing right here, brother. You write gentle so well, but you bring down the sledgehammer like a motherfucker, too.

  10. Simon peered over the railing. In the dark, and so far away from any city, he could see nothing but black.

    How easy, he thought, it would be to orchestrate an accident. To fall overboard while working on a malfunctioning windscreen or tumble out the maintenance hatch near one of the engines. He could simple fall into the black, into nothing. Maybe he’d just keep falling, even in the afterlife.

    It’d be less hellish than the hell he was living now.

    If he were just to climb over the rail now, while they were low enough to have the screens down, how long would it be before anyone noticed him missing? And would anyone care? He didn’t think they would, much. Even the chief wouldn’t miss him too much.

    He braced his foot against the side of the ship and tensed his muscles, ready to hoist himself up…and then stopped. He felt something, between his shoulder blades. Not quite a tickle or an itch. Certainly not a pain. More a weight. An awareness.

    Lowering his foot, he took a step back from the railing and turned.

    A glimmer of white in the pitch of night made Simon’s heart thunder, but a moment later, the specter moved into the dim light of a lantern and resolved itself into one of the deckhands. With his dark hair and swarthy skin, the man blended into the shadows just a little too well.

    “Charani. What are you doing up here?”

    “I think I am stopping a friend from doing something foolish.”

    Simon turned away again. “You don’t understand.”

    “I understand more than you think, my friend. I know you ache for something you cannot have. I know you want to belong somewhere you never can. To be someone you can never be. To be loved by someone who cannot love you.”

    His hand came to rest on Simon’s shoulder.

    “I have been where you are. I have hurt as you hurt. It gets better.” He raised his hand to brush the backs of his fingers against Simon’s jaw. “If you let it.”

    Simon closed his eyes against the temptation of that feather-light touch and clenched his fists against the wave of pain that rose up as he wished that the touch had come from someone else. When he felt he could speak without his voice shaking, he said, “I want to believe you.”

    “Then believe me.”

    Charani squeezed Simon’s shoulder and stepped back.

    “Come. Let’s find somewhere warm and light, some place where your sorrows won’t feel so at home.”

    Simon hesitated. “I’m not sure such a place exists anywhere, and definitely not on this ship.”

    Charani grinned. “There is such a place. Few know it, and we guard our secret well. But it will do you good, I think. Come.”

    Charani turned and headed for the stairs, trusting Simon to follow. After one last glance over his shoulder at the pitch black beyond the railing, he headed below decks. He could always do himself in later, after all.

    Besides he was curious, and curiosity always had won out over any of his other emotions.

    1. I'm most intrigued... and you've done a brilliant job of scene-setting, without it being obtrusive... your characters are fascinating, and I'd read more!

    2. Thank you. <3 Minor characters in my airship series who might just get their own novel, novella, or short story. These days, my brain pretty much lives in the "universe" I created for that series.

    3. Yeah. You can tell you live there. It's awesome. It's both brilliantly written and observational - cause you're there - which makes it super intimate. Like eavesdropping.

    4. What they all said. I'm grateful that SImon had a "guardian angel" and I want to know more about him. I really like this universe.

    5. Definitely lots more to learn about this one - keep going!

    6. It's rare that the sort of intimacy portrayed here leaves me unsatisfied, so wanting. More please.

  11. I woke up one morning and they were there. It was like they had always been there. Small and oval and a dark, dense black. I rubbed my eyes and got my wife and we looked at them. And we agreed. Eggs.
    I wouldn’t have trusted myself, but she a biologist? And they sure looked like eggs. And they were everywhere – covering the floor, the furniture, stuck to the walls – they were the size of jelly beans. My wife was intrigued. I was terrified.

    “You seen anything like this before?”

    “Nope. But I’d bet my tenure they’re eggs. I don’t understand how all this could happen overnight…”

    My wife has always been good at keeping a cool head in a crisis. I have not.

    “We need to leave. Call the police. CIA. Something. What if they’re aliens?”

    She chuckled, but I didn’t find one thing funny about it. I stood on the landing of the stairs and realized that we were trapped. There was no way to get to the door or our phones. I was starting to panic. I knew the signs. My chest was tight and I was having trouble breathing.

    My wife put her hand in mine and was about to say something. Probably something reassuring – she was good at that. But she didn’t have a chance. And it wouldn’t have worked. I knew something was terribly wrong.

    And then, they started to hatch.

    1. Ohhhh... now this one scares me... and what if the wife is the one who brought them there? What if she's been infected by aliens! Seriously, it's cool seeing you do different genres, and you do them all well.

    2. This has that nice horror edge to it. Makes me miss Boo!

    3. Creeped me, but you already know that.

  12. Becky Trainor lives in a trailer, says she was a secretary before the war.
    Accused her boss of the kind of thing that bosses shouldn’t be doing no more.
    She should have blown it off, she told me should’ve have let it lie,
    Then her daughter was raped and the hate kept growing
    Until she decided she was nobody’s whore.
    So tomorrow she marches
    For her daughters and sons
    In a world that keeps changing for everyone.
    They ain’t got no money
    They ain’t got no time
    cept the one that they’re all living in
    It ain’t that bullshit twitter hashtag
    Hers ain’t no Facebook click on story
    Becky’s got a tale
    Becky’s got a cause
    Becky’s got a reason
    And Becky’s gonna win

    1. a battlecry to rally 'round. I think Becky's gonna win, too. I really like the form of this poem... from the long to the shorter lines... it's like you're narrowing the focus with each line.

    2. Sigh. As I age, I can't help but fear that the only way this will ever change is when women take up arms and smite the oppressors.

    3. I want to turn this into a Phil Ochs-esque song.

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  14. One more for Saturday. This one is dedicated to Duane Hutchinson, who lives always in my mind as the ghost story teller of Touzalin Avenue. He was more than that to the adults around him, but to a young boy listening to his, without further ado, a ghost story in tribute to Mr. Hutchinson.

    Humanity is like a child with a flamethrower, locked into a greenhouse by an absent-minded gardener. We may set the place on fire completely by accident. We can rip any growing thing from its home, and carelessly scatter the roots on the floor with impunity. And tucked within the many cabinets of curiosities under the workbenches, are things which could kill us a different way each day for a century, and never repeat our demise exactly.

    I’ve heard it said that ghosts are spirits which are left behind with some sort of motivation or agenda. And I’ve talked with many whose culture is closer to the earth than mine, and one thing they all agree, is that creatures of nature have spirits, whether they are animals, trees, or even geographical focal points.

    To me, the math is simple, the human race is stacking long odds, getting longer each day, against survival. Feeble man, apex predator that he considers himself, is creating an ever-growing host of angry spirits, generated by our callous treatment of every other inhabitant of our world.

    I don’t pretend to know how they will move against us. Perhaps they already do, in ways large or small. But there is a reckoning due, and the blood of every man, woman and child may not be enough to slake the centuries-old thirst of those holding the note.

    I’ve left civilization, packed up in a rusted-out pickup with a mobile home. Perhaps isolation will protect me. But I fear time in the greenhouse is getting short, and I can almost hear the thorns and brambles shifting towards me when my back is turned. The first sensation, when their barbs barely stroke my skin, may even seem gentle. At first.

    1. Chilling. I often fancy the different ways the plants and animals we've caused to go extinct, even the very planet we slowly kill with apathy might exact revenge.

      You've captured that fear succinctly.

    2. I agree. And the kind of grandiosity in the tone works really well.

  15. I remember it like it was yesterday...

    As I stumble across the barren rocks searching for some small plot where it still exists; searching for water that hasn't perked beneath the endless rock, and greenery to keep me alive one more day. I can't help but reflect on the beginning of the end.

    Need has always driven innovation and science provides to satisfy needs. Women, tired of working all day only to come home to hours of housework. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Everything always needing cleaning. There MUST be an easier way they clamored!

    The bio-technologists answered the need. They crafted a microbe that absorbs dirt and filth leaving no waste product behind. When the microbe reached capacity, it birthed more microbes, then died only to be consumed by it's many offspring.

    At first there was disbelief. Buy an expensive vial of microscopic microbes you couldn't even see and all your cleaning tasks were done? Initially it was the purview of the rich and famous, who soon became even more rich and famous with their testimonials as to the effectiveness of the product.

    People world-wide rejoiced, unless, of course, they were maids or janitors. Soon the microbes were everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

    No one thought about what might happen if you walked out of your home, office, whatever---with microbes clinging to the very filth on your shoes and clothes. There were no controls. They were unaffected by heat, cold, wet, or dry. Their only mission? Consume, reproduce. No one thought they'd see the soil we all depend on as "dirt" to be "cleaned."

    When the filth ran out, the first casualties were indoor plants. At first it was thought some sort of rapidly spreading fungus was attacking indoor greenery. But once the potting soil simply disappeared, the truth became evident. The next to go were gardens adjacent homes and office building landscapes.

    Farms, family and corporate, fell victim to the microbes. Lands that sustained the trees that clean our air and grasslands that sustained the animals we eat and all the wildlife dependent upon plants to survive were eaten down to the very bedrock.

    Then there was no arguing about whether climate change was real or hoax. It was real and the mass extinctions began.

    There's few of humankind left wandering this dying planet. And we don't band together to help each other. Oh no, with so few resources left to sustain us we kill each other on sight during our aimless wanderings for greenery and water.

    Don't ask me what human flesh tastes like. I only know it's a food source I can't decline.

    #2minutesgo #flashfictionfriday #write #read. #amwriting #flashfiction

    1. Dang, that ending is killer. No pun intended. I really dig this concept. I think it could definitely be expanded, but I like it like this, too. This phrase is dope: "searching for water that hasn't perked beneath the endless rock"

    2. a chilling look at what consumer tech and laziness might bring.


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