Friday, January 26, 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.

“Get the Google Docs!”

“Huh? You mean you want me to send you a document?”

“No! What are you, simple? I want the Google Doctors. Now! My whole internet is sick. Viruses and more. I don’t know what’s going on. Windows keep popping open on this old computer, and I think my laptop has a fever. It’s so hot that I can’t even put it on my lap.”

The young man shook his head.

“Mom, there aren’t any Google Doctors…”

“Don’t lie to me, college boy. I heard all about it. The Google Docs. Everybody knows about them. Even your poor old Mom who is apparently too stupid to understand computers or her son or –“

“Mom. Calm down. What do you want me to do?”

“I told you! I want you to call the Doctors. Make them fix my World Wide Web.”

He shook his head. There were a lot of ways to play this. He could try explaining. Like he’d tried explaining about firewalls. Only that had made his mother terrified that her computer was going to burst into flames. He could lie. 

Yes, he would lie.

“OK. Mom. Here’s the thing. The Google Doctors are very busy. And they have a long waiting list to be seen. They wouldn’t be able to make it out here for weeks. But they owe me a favor. I can get them to come by and take care of this for you, but they have to think they’re doing it for me.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Get a cup of coffee. Go to the library. Give them like an hour and a half. They work fast. And don’t tell anyone you cut in line. I’ll make the call now. Go grab your purse.”

She was halfway out the door when she turned back. He was prepared to accept her thanks graciously. He was looking forward to it.

“Son,” she said, “Don’t ever lie to me about the Google Doctors again.”

His mouth hung open as the door slammed. Then, he poured a stiff drink, ran the anti-virus software, and checked his Facebook.

#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. mothers - only clueless about their computers, not their kids. Nicely spun up.

    1. Moms always know... and I love how you wove an easy misunderstanding of technology into a universal story of mother and child. Well told!

    2. Very funny! And smack, she sees through it!

    3. Cute, funny, and all too real.

    4. Cute, funny, and all too real.

  2. There is a moment between
    silence and yes.
    When a mile-high boundary is

    There is a moment when hopeful fingertips
    whisper and tantalize.
    Between dangerous curves that

    There is a moment between
    breaths and gasps.
    When a beautiful peak is

    There is a moment when blushing handfuls
    rise and fall.
    Between passionate symphonies that

    There is a moment between
    you and I.
    When every aspect of us is

    1. This reminds me of a wise man who once told me that to understand music, you have to listen to the silence in between, to look for the space between the notes. I think you've taken it to another level, where you remind us that the space between individuals is where another being, the "us," exists. I loved the poem; the only place I'd work on improving it is the last stanza... the last two lines especially feel like they could be more concise or clearer? I dunno... just my opinion. Thanks for sharing! [PS: John has asked for critical feedback, so I'm giving it... not being mean]

    2. I'll gleefully take feedback - I don't feel I can improve unless I hear what doesn't ring true to the readers. I agree with you, the last two lines (When every aspect particularly) are extended more than the first two in that stanza. The first and last stanzas both have a third line than first (while the interior three stanzas all have the third line shorter). Both of those third lines would benefit from being tightened by two syllables.
      Thanks for both sides of the feedback; I love hearing how it resonated to you, and I want it to be better!

    3. Yep. I agree. I like it a lot and I feel the intent, but it did drop a little at the end. I'm not an expert on verse by any means - I think part of it is that there is less "visual" detail, too.

    4. I don't have a problem with the end verse because it brings everything together. But maybe there's another way of saying it, if two people have pointed it out, but I like the repetition and the circular idea. I always like abstracts. Maybe because of the abstraction, the end verse is too obvious - maybe that's it. But I like it.

    5. I'm with Vickie on this one. I like that you leave the space at the end...

  3. Mrs. Johnson, bless her heart, was the one to call it in. Woman couldn’t help but take in strays. The county looked the other way, but her neighbors knew she had upwards of ten dogs and seventeen cats.

    It took a while for the county deputy to get there, but it was still daylight when he did.

    “He’s around back. Seems friendly enough, but I didn’t get too close.”

    The deputy eased his revolver from his holster.

    “Oh, you’re not going to hurt him.”

    “Not unless I have to, ma’am. But it’s good to be prepared.”

    “Do you want me to come with you, or should I stay out of the way?”

    “Why don’t you just go on back inside, and let me take care of the situation.”

    After he’d heard the old lady close the old door on the old house, he went into stealth mode, and walked slowly, carefully around the corner.

    And there he was. All scrunched up in a ball, like he was cold. Or afraid. Or both.

    The deputy found his voice, his smooth as butter everything’s-gonna-be-okay voice. “Hush now, we just want to get you where it’s warm. Maybe get some food into ya. You hungry?”

    With a head tilted to one side, the poor thing stared at the deputy, wanting to believe. And then he caught scent of the gun. He bared his teeth and snarled.

    “Easy, fella, easy. I’m not gonna hurt ya.”

    But he’d seen guns before. Seen the magic leave their barrels. Seen the death they brought.

    The deputy sat on his haunches. He thought of all the times when he was a boy how he could charm squirrels, possums, even a turtledove once. It was one of the reasons he became a deputy.

    “We’ll just wait for a while, then. You and me. Let you calm down a little.”

    All the books said you weren’t supposed to make eye contact, but the deputy always did. He’d been winning staredown contests since he was five. He held his hand out, palm up, never palm down, they’ll think you’re going to hit them if you put your palm down.

    He stopped whimpering. Started believing again. Tried to remember what trust was. Why he’d lost it. And his belly growled.

    The deputy stood up nice and gentle, and spoke in the most soothing of voices. “You want to go for a ride?”

    And something clicked in his mind. He remembered rides. He remembered the smells rushing past like water in a creek. He uncurled, just a little.

    The deputy was patient. Sometimes these things took time.

    Finally he rose to his feet, head tilted again, just like a Border Collie the deputy once knew. He took one step, then two.

    The deputy backed up. “That’s it, come on, we’ll go for a ride!”

    They inched together toward the car. The deputy put his hand on the back door handle. “Ride?”

    As soon as the door was open, he jumped in. The smells were wrong. This didn’t smell like the old pickup. He grated his nails against the closed window and let out a pitiful whimper.

    “Now, I’ll be right back. You wait here for me.”

    Wait was another word that brought back memories. He’d waited before. For how long? Long enough to be hungry.

    The deputy knocked on the old door, and Mrs. Johnson opened it. “I got him, ma’am. And I didn’t hurt him.”

    “Oh, thank goodness!”

    “I’m gonna take him in, see if anyone’s reported him missing.”

    “Will you let me know?”

    “Of course. Thank you again, Mrs. Johnson.”

    “Thank you, deputy.”

    When they got to the sheriff’s office, the identification was almost immediate. The deputy took him back, back to where he belonged.

    The deputy watched through the small glass window as he pawed at the bed, turned around three times, and whimpered once before he fell asleep.

    The deputy asked, “What’s his story?”

    “Massive stroke.”

    “That sucks.”

    “Yeah, Ralph Symonds loved his dog. Totally lost it when it died.”

    1. I didn't see that coming! Love the story, how it goes along, how the dog is meandering between suspicion and trust, brought on my memories of the patterns in things. I also like how the deputy is thinking about it all and his back story flows in. Nice and tight.

    2. And now I've read all the comments below. It's not a dog. Geez. My god. But then it makes more sense. Brilliant. I was out-dogged.

    3. Thank you... I've modified the ending to make it clearer, and I appreciate your kind words!

    4. Oh. This is wonderful. You really caught me at the end. I love how the story unfolds, the two points of view.

    5. Oh geez, Leland. Why did you let them take the poor guy back???? Now I'm all worried about him!

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    1. Love the descriptions of how he calms the dog, and the reactions on the dog's side.
      I may need more coffee, but I'm lost on the last four lines. It feels like the deputy took the dog back after the dog's human (Ralph Symonds) died, but it reads like the human had a stroke after the dog died?

    2. Or maybe it wasn't a dog the deputy took away at all... maybe it was a man who thought and acted like he was a dog...

    3. ah, I've been entrapped by assumptions. Deftly written!

    4. perhaps too deftly... too obscure. Ah well! there's always the next story!

    5. It had crossed my mind that it was Ralph in the room, but the final description (pawed at the bed, turned around three times) didn't seem to match up with 'massive stroke'. The words spelled it out, I just didn't connect them correctly.

    6. I'm always looking to put a twist at the end... sometimes I'm more successful than others!

    7. Yeah, I didn't quite get that either. I LOVE this one, though. Mostly because I'm a twisted motherfucker and I thought for sure he was an evil dog killing bastard. Whether it was intentional or not, that tension was perfect.

      If he'd killed the dog, we would have had words, though. ;)

    8. Here's a modified ending... maybe making it more clear. Thanks to you all for the feedback! (and yeah, if he'd killed the dog, *I* would have had words with me, too)
      The deputy watched through the small glass window as the feral man pawed at the bed, turned around three times, and whimpered once before he fell asleep.
      The deputy asked, “What’s his story?”
      “Name’s Ralph Symonds. Thinks he’s a dog. Hasn’t been right in the head since his own dog died.”
      The deputy shook his head. “Bless his heart.”

    9. I like it. Feral. Whimpered. Does it for me.

  5. I creep upon a
    narrow ledge
    swaying in the absent wind
    paralyzed, yet my limbs
    yearn to twist me out into the

    I almost taste the scream
    swelling up
    like sour mustard
    harshly fouling my throat
    it wants to fly

    Each crawling step
    avoids plunging down
    throws me further off
    balance more certain to

    Vertigo, a simple word that
    doesn’t capture wild
    movement while I am still
    doesn’t explain the compulsion

    Terror disconnects my mind
    legs cramping buckling
    twitching throwing me

    1. I like that you're experimenting with a lack of punctuation... I think that forces the poet and the reader to listen, to look for other structure, rhythm, meter, and other clues. Also really like the combined words without spaces (there's probably a word for that, but I don't know it) in the last two stanzas.
      As for opportunities to improve, I think I'd say actually read the poem aloud... it'll help you feel the rhythms you're setting, and making sure they're the ones you want... your first lines are iambic, but then you change meter. Make sure that's intentional.

    2. This is going to sound like a criticism, but it worked for me. There is a jarring, lilting effect to the rhythm, but I think that totally works for this piece.

      I also agree with Leland. Reading anything you write out loud is smart. I don't do it as much as I should, but I've read House on Mango St out loud to students a thousand times, and you don't realize what a magnificent poet Cisneros is unless you recite it.

    3. I'm happy with criticism - I've been yelled at by professionals, so my written work is fair game. 'Jarring' is definitely part of what I was going for, so glad to hear that. Making some recordings (and listening to them) and revising from them is on my weekend agenda, thanks to the advice

    4. I really like this. I get vertigo, so the descriptions gell - the fear but the body wanting to jump. It's weird, and this captures it. I also like the way the words bunch up in fear. With the last line, I don't even think you need the word 'terror' - even just having something about 'my mind disconnects' is enough. You can feel the terror without having to name it. My fave parts are the first two verses. I also like the movement - it's fast so there's a sense of falling. I'm doing a poetry class at the moment and it's great. 3 weeks in. It's inspiring and getting me writing more. Totally recommend it.

    5. great insight- you're right on the 'terror' - that line gets a rewrite.

    6. Thanks Gry. It's only a suggestion, so only take the ones you feel are right for you :) Someone put a comment on one of my poems on my blog and suggested removing one word - he was spot on, so I did.

  6. At the side of a creek
    At the side of a creek
    My bonnie lad waits for me
    Asleep, asleep

    Once we splashed in these waters
    Once we fell asleep in the sun
    Years ago, years ago
    Once when we were young

    His uniform, his armor,
    How handsome the shining brass
    The tear never fell, never fell
    Only glistened in his eye

    My tears were enough for both of us
    When he, when I, said goodbye
    I walked beside the creek alone
    Awaiting his return, awaiting his return

    The sun was dimmer then,
    The waters laughed not as much
    Then one day
    I welcomed him, I welcomed him

    And I promised, I promised him
    We’d return to the creek, the laughing creek
    That’s where we buried him,
    At the side of the creek, at the side of the creek
    Where my bonnie lad waits for me.

    1. ah, the rhythm of this. Love it.

    2. This is lovely. It has a real Poe feel to it. Reminded me of my Grandpa reciting Annabel Lee. Classic and timeless. Man, you got me with this one. I'm not crying, you're crying!

    3. It is lovely. It reads like a song. It has a steady, swishing rhythm and I like the playful repetition. It works. And the ending is great, how it's where they buried him. Great story in there.

    4. Thanks, y'all... Robert Burns' birthday was Thursday, and it got me thinking about poetry and love and loss... this was the result.

  7. Magic words
    not abracadabra
    but please
    and welcome
    and love you
    and thank you

    say them loud
    say them soft
    but say them

    and watch
    eyes open
    wrinkles disappear
    frantic heartbeats
    slow and lengthen
    lips smile

    listen to silence
    between the words
    as they sink in

    say them to others
    say them to you
    practice magic

    great power
    in great words
    greater still
    in words more humble

    1. Grassroots magic if everyone read this!

    2. You know. I went to Jamaica with Karen before we had kids. Before I went I read obsessively of course. The DAY before we left I read this random blog piece (small blog) about how you should say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to Jamaicans. Didn't think too much about it. In Negril, EVERYONE is selling something. Poor, beautiful country there. Anyway, the first day I was still in fast paced SF mode and saying what's up, how you doing, etc. Then I remembered that post. For the rest of the week, every local I talked to the first words out of my mouth were good morning, afternoon, or good evening. I swear to God, it was like a magic incantation. Suddenly, the hard sell stopped. The right price appeared. We were being taken to secret places that our new friends really cared about. We met actual Rastas and chilled with them. It was amazing.

      You're right. Little polite actions and words mean a lot.

      And yeah, I spent a lot of my youth in the south.

      And yeah, the Jamaica thing also has a lot to do with British imperialism, but it was still amazing. ;)

    3. Yeah, where have these words gone? Sometimes I feel like I'm turning into my mother cos the world seems to be getting less polite and I'm not sure if people are forgetting what these words actually mean. People say excuse me or sorry AFTER they've barged you, rather than saying them first and waiting. I like the abracadabra. It's not rocket science - it's basic courtesy :)

    4. Just the acknowledgement of one another is so important to human relations, and the acknowledgement of actions... I really believe it's a game changer. Dan, I think I was reminded of those greetings more when I traveled internationally, too. Americans don't have the best of reputations for manners abroad, so I think we shock people into liking us when we show them we can have manners, too!

    5. This is just gorgeous.Practice magic incantations, indeed!

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  9. Aunt Margaret made me a sweater when I was twelve. She was a champion knitter, with blue ribbons from the state fair to prove it.

    The thing was, it was red. I hated red. It made me feel fat. Made me too noticeable.
    When I opened the box by the Christmas tree, her eyes were watching me. When I pushed the tissue paper aside, and saw what it was, I made a face. Probably a pout. Oh, I said my thank yous, but she knew.

    Calmly, deliberately, she took the sweater from me. “I can make another one, a different one.”

    She pulled at a piece of the yarn… started rolling it into a ball. The sweater came apart just that easily, and I was transfixed.

    In spring, Aunt Margaret was put in a home. An institution. For crazy people, though no one called it that.

    That was the year I learned what “unravelling” really meant. And I still hate red.

    1. The unexpected jab. The wordplay. So short and unforgiving

    2. Jesus Christ! You made me teary twice. And I have totally lived this moment in different ways. And you nailed it. The amazing thing, to me, is that you could have fucked this up so easily, but keeping it spare and tight makes it a punch to the heart.

    3. I always remember the bit in Catcher where Holden says how every present he gets ends up making him sad. I think I put the book down for a second.

    4. It's great. Love the themes. Unravelling. Ironically, I was crossing the road at work with a friend in the week and I was talking about unravelling and wool. Can't remember what sparked it. Weird!!!! Love the red. He still hates red. It has to be said. Memories cross and stay, and we remember weird things in sad times. Simple and sweet.

    5. Yep. What they said. Just the right length.

    6. I got that same sweater! Only it was Rose. Like old lady rose.From my grandma. LOATHED IT. Until my mom took me aside later and said. "I'll bet you a hundred bucks she made it for herself and then decided she didn't deserve it..."

  10. Let's talk about the rotten shape our world is in. About the wrongs happening right where we live.

    Let’s talk about how we’re to blame. Not “them” in Washington. Not the bastards on the city council. Not Mr. Tavirski, the racist down the hall in 18C. You. And me. Us.

    Let's talk about cliches, and overworked phrases you've heard so many time you bother to consider what they mean anymore. “With great power, comes great…” You know the one. You've got power, now take some responsibility, you miserable cur.

    I hear you. I hear your little words, those pitiful defenses. They're the same ones I'm using, so I'd damn well better know them.

    And they're contemptible. And wrong. And you should be ashamed. We all should.

    No power? Power means the ability to influence. To change. To make a difference. You don't have any power?

    What about that club sandwich you made last night? Weren't even hungry, were you? Tommy Milton, twelve years old, goes to school with my daughter. Nice kid, dirt-poor though. He trudges to school every Monday, and just about every Monday, the last time he had a sandwich was the previous Friday. A nice juicy PB&J on wheat bread, two weeks past the expiration date. This Monday was quite a treat for him - snow day - no school. Half the kids were thrilled they got to sleep in, and no homework. Tommy, though, that kid was totally not thrilled. Sleeping in? Nah, he got to wake up shivering, with the apartment a brisk fifty degrees, and not a sandwich in sight. See, he ate the last of the crackers he'd been saving Sunday morning. A stale feast before going to a grubby institution and hoping the program workers felt generous. The can of knock-off spaghettios got shared four ways Saturday morning, and that was it for the weekend. Nothing but a half-full ice tray, and a completely empty box of pizza rolls in the freezer - he’d checked. Twice. And then checked again Sunday afternoon, just in case.

    Enjoy your delivery pizza tonight. Piping hot, even if you had to wait an extra twenty minutes for them to bring it to your door..

    Yeah, yeah, I still hear you and your little words, your pathetic excuses. Aren’t you listening? They’re still the same ones I’m using. “What could I possibly do? I can’t go knocking on doors in the Heritage Plaza apartment complex until I find Tommy’s place, and hand him a nice turkey sandwich on artisan rye bread.” Nope, you sure can’t. But my daughter has 3 classes a day with him, and how much effort would it take for me to make up an extra sandwich (Gasp! Or even two, you wild philanthropist!), stick it in a bag, and have her put it in Tommy’s backpack after Chemistry class.

    Hey, I might even teach her a lesson about how to do some good in the world. Nope. Two straight years she’s had classes with that boy, and the number of sandwiches I’ve made still rests at zero. Makes me a little sick to my stomach, but I still haven’t acted.

    Your pepperoni pizza still tasting good? Go ahead, go back for another piece, I’ll wait.

    1. Now that's haunting, and beautiful, and change-making. Get this out into the world!

    2. I agree. This is right up my alley, and it's true and cutting. No bullshit. This is some powerful ass writing. Feedback? That third paragraph through me out of the flow. And I really wish it hadn't. I got back in it quick.

      I am probably overly anal about typos because I have OCD and I'm grading papers all the time, and I don't usually get thrown because of a missing apostrophe or something, but having to stop and figure it out is the ONLY thing that hurt this piece.

      I agree with Leland. This is something that a lot of people should read. I'd be submitting this one somewhere.

      Lol, just looked back at all my comments. Want to guess who had to take Sudafed today? ;)

    3. and yes, I know it should be 'threw'. smh

    4. Ha! I would have gone with 'you made that intentionally'. And I need to repeat 'never not proofread twice, just because it is flash' 500 times. Typos drive me bonkers to read also.

    5. Hint on finding typos (if you need it) - read it out loud :)

      It's great. The only thing that jarred with me was the sentence on teaching his daughter to do good in the world - we don't know much about her and it sounds harsh, so it jarred with me. I love the rest. Like all the talk about social justice. We do turn a blind eye, but then to help is sometimes embarrassing - to us and then we feel the other person might be embarrassed. but it's good to help, it costs nothing. we stop and wonder how the other person will take it - will they be offended cos they have less than us (poverty) or will they feel bad taking from us, or think we look down on them. And yep, with power comes responsibility (hello Tories, hello Mr Trump, hello Hollywood), but I think people lack the intelligence to make that right. People are full of excuses, me too - sometimes for good reasons, sometimes bad. The world needs a rethink.

  11. He closed his eyes. Tight. So tight that the red color frightened him; the calm voice beside him didn’t help at all. He knew the voice was trying to be nice, but he couldn’t make himself act on that knowledge. Inside his brain, there was a long keening noise – something abstract, but utterly focused. It was like the redness. It took over everything. He could not fight it.

    When he opened his eyes, he didn’t know where he was. And then he saw his mom, and he remembered. The dentist. There aren’t many nine year old boys who enjoy going to the dentist, but he HATED it. And he hated it for reasons he didn’t quite understand. He just knew that the dentist made him feel trapped. Not the dentist himself. Mr. Green was nice – he was the assistant coach of the soccer team. It wasn’t the dentist or even the teeth cleaning.

    It was the place.

    And he didn’t know what it was about the place, but he knew he didn’t like it. It was too small, too white. And it made him feel wrong. And hating it made him feel wrong, too.

    The hygienist appeared, smiling, from the back room where they took the X-rays. She was holding a small plastic bag which held a new toothbrush, some floss, and a tiny bottle of green mouthwash. Her smile got even bigger, like she was advertising clean teeth.

    “Do you want to pick something from the prize box?”

    But Johnny just shook his head. He didn’t want a prize; he wanted to go home.

    Home did not make him feel scared for no reason. When he felt scared at home, he knew exactly why.

    1. Ah, that last line. My vicarious fear is always amplified in a story about kids or animals who know fear... and who have reason to know it.

    2. Ah, at the end I'm wondering why he feels scared at home!!! I like the red and green - should never be seen together. Like the red in the eyes. Seeing red. Green should be restful. And the white - very clinical. Claustrophobia??? Lots of mysteries in this one :)

    3. such darkness in that last line, but it just highlights how much worse the 'whatever it is' at the dentist office is. The line about the hygienist's teeth, so innocent yet seems to have danger lurking.

    4. What they said. I really felt the fear.

  12. She awoke to a silence she didn’t recognize. It was like the entire world had been put on mute. It scared her. She pulled back the curtains and gasped. There was snow on the ground. At least a few inches. And there was no one outside. No neighbors, no cars – she didn’t even see any birds. Of course, the feeder was covered in snow. She shook her head and laughed.

    Snow. She thought back and tried to remember when she’d last seen snow. Certainly not since she'd left Vermont. That was part of the reason she’d moved south, to get away from the snow. But she was happy to see it. She thought about calling her friends to chat, but decided to enjoy the muted world for a few minutes. The kids would be out soon.

    She made a cup of tea and pulled her rocking chair close to the window. She sipped at the tea for ten minutes before the first child exploded from across the street. Soon, as if to prove the existence of the collective unconscious, the street was packed with children shouting, running, sliding, throwing snowballs, building small snowmen and then knocking them down with snowballs.

    The young man who lived next door was shoveling everyones' walks with a garden shovel; she took him a cup of coffee and he smiled.

    For the rest of the morning, the snow sat. Then the sun came out and the snow turned wet, then slushy, and then it turned to mud. The red mud mixed with the snow and turned everything soupy like Hershey’s syrup. She called her friend Cathy.

    Cathy answered the phone chuckling.

    “Can you believe it? Of all the things!”

    They talked for almost an hour and then made plans to meet for lunch the following day.

    Assuming there wasn’t a blizzard. Or swarms of locust.

    Lord knows, times were strange.

    1. Sweet... and you know how I love color... the red mud made this story real to me. And the last line is a perfect understatement.

    2. Yeah, very sweet. I like the way things start slow and restful and silent, and then speed up into noise with the explosion (love that choice) of the child bulletting down the street, followed by more kids. And then she makes personal contact. And he smiles - simple but effective, and says a lot. And then she goes home to quiet and slow again. And she phones her friend - more human contact. And she hasn't lost interest in life, the little things. You feel her contentment with her lot and her interest in people. I like the little details. Well done.

    3. the best section for me was the 'for the rest of the morning', transitioning the fun, beautiful snow into soupy mud.

    4. Yes, I liked all these things too. Love the details. The children waiting for one to be the first, then they all piled out.

  13. The guest

    I am the guest,
    The unnamed one who trips and trots
    Through closed rooms, opening doors,
    Seeking ways to understand what’s gone.

    I wander with a heart long emptied,
    A dying sound is all I emit from dry lips –
    Unheard of, these gems of dust fly
    From myself to you and back again,

    Senseless, these things making no sense.
    I dream of finding a penny while you die,
    And yet I know you have no care,
    And for this reason I will not despair

    When you are gone. I will not sink.
    I will not dwell on past things long gone
    Or think to ask you a yard of questions,
    All unfathomable, dried, twisted, cold.

    Can I still speak when you fall ever silent?
    Will you hear me when I rack and wail?
    As the walls close in to embrace me cold,
    I know I’ll remember how all this I sold.

    I am the guest
    Who wanders in and empties out,
    Drifting on these small gusts of memory,
    For everything else is long gone, stolen,

    And we are but the remnants of our selves.

    Vickie Johnstone

    1. some of these lines really grabbed me 'I dream of finding a penny' 'Can I still speak...' 'who wanders in and empties out'. A couple of the ending lines read more cumbersomely to me 'And for this reason' 'I know I'll remember'. I like how this wanders, keeps making me change my mind about who/what the guest is

    2. Just lovely, and I too wonder who the guest is... "a yard of questions" is a delightful phrase and eloquent, but the word that sealed it for me and made the ending perfect was "remnants." Like things unraveled, remnants and scraps are never valued enough.

    3. Thanks. He's the widower-to-be. She's dying. But he wasn't a good husband to her. Now he's full of grief and regret, but she's relieved to be leaving him finally. He 'sold' their marriage.

    4. ahhhh....I see it now. Puts a poignant note on it, yet, balanced. I like it even more now, with the additional understanding

  14. After death

    Scraps of entrails, bloody and twisted,
    Gathered into his arms, spilled, spilling,
    Wrestling – sleek pythons seeking to disarm
    Him, never falling, sliding, never biting.

    The morning misted carries a grisly tune,
    One the devil mimicked on a cold afternoon,
    As he gazes in thrall upon this face, still,
    The hard arch of the cheek, lips and nose.

    He knows not what to do with the hair,
    The sheer immensity of it, so fine, the colour
    Of yellow yolks slithering. No touching.
    He cannot touch it – he just enjoys looking.

    It will be the one thing he keeps of her,
    Locks upon locks, sealed away in a box,
    Yet tangled threads will always remain
    Lost, hidden in crevices, seeking to expose.

    Dripping crimson, red, it floods and thrills,
    Cascading down the walls, across the floor.
    He’s drowning in it, knee deep and wailing,
    Yet there is nowhere else he’d rather sleep.

    Vickie Johnstone, Jan 27, 2018

    1. the hair as a trophy - chilling

    2. I like the symbology of red, for blood and death, and for beauty... and I shivered at the entrails.

  15. Finally Fallen

    There are times I felt
    like a leaf fallen from a tree,
    blown away from Home,
    that place from where
    spring my roots.
    I’d be chased by this breeze
    and that, run in circles
    going nowhere, tossed among
    other untethered souls
    awaiting burial or burning.
    But I always hung on,
    the sturdy one, gutting out
    October, never-minding
    November, shaking off
    December and its snows.
    I’d slip the North Wind’s
    noose and start over again.
    But now has come the winter
    I couldn’t escape,
    when I fell without a breath,
    captured and held in stasis
    by this cold beyond Death,
    awaiting some Spring when
    I will be released and forgotten
    among the other scraps
    blown away from Home,
    where my roots have lost their hold.
    Perhaps the tree will fall
    without me there to hold it up.

    1. The tree, and its echoes throughout, are a haunting allegory... and of course, I love the scraps line. I do wonder if the trees might fall, sometimes, without us to hold them up... and if the sky might fall, too, without the trees. This was wonderful my friend.

    2. the stubbornness in the face of (to me) a lack of appreciation or strong connections with other people. Sturdy piece.

  16. His note was pointed. Literally. He’d creased an index card into a fighter jet and nosedived it through the coffee beans in her tin. He knew this was the first place she headed in the morning, and when she’d be at her most vulnerable. Like a paper arrow through her heart. She crushed it in her fist and tossed it across the kitchen.

    Two strong cups of java later, a forensic investigation was in order. She located the black box that contained the pilots’ voice and data recordings. “Have your lawyer call my lawyer” was all that could be recovered from the crash site.

    The fast-talking assistant who lately had become her only contact in the firm said she’d pass along the query. Rather, his query. This whole process was ridiculous. They wanted the same thing. To split all they owned down the middle and be rid of each other forever. If only she could make him see that, they could save themselves a lot of trouble and money. So many times, she’d tried to tell him that, but he’d fixed his schedule so he was never home when she was awake, and vice versa, and he’d stopped taking her calls or responding to the notes she’d tried to dive-bomb into his daily routine.

    “This divorce was your idea, might I remind you,” she told his voice mail. “At least you could have the decency to move out.”

    But the strong words didn’t bolster her strength. Feeling toothless and declawed, she prowled the house that neither of them dared to leave. Thoughts of sabotage snuck into her head. But she never thought of herself as that person: the vindictive soon-to-be-ex-spouse who’d burn what she couldn’t give away or sell. Although it might be fun to set one or two of his ties ablaze, she knew she’d feel guilty afterward and scramble to replace them.

    She hated that part of herself, the good-girl gene. Maybe that’s why it had all gone so sour so fast. He’d wanted to marry the good girl, but after a while he’d grown tired of her and yearned for a bad one. In retrospect, her family had tried to warn her, very gently as not to offend, and she hadn’t or hadn’t wanted to pick up the cues.

    Now they surrounded her. More forensic evidence, of the kind they warn you about in women’s magazines. His gym membership, his new underwear, a row of fancy hair products in the medicine cabinet.

    She hadn’t wanted to know. Or he thought she was too clueless to see it. And that made her angry. She snatched up her phone and after his insufferable message, said, “You have five minutes to call me back or your entire collection of European boxer briefs is going up in flames.”

    The phone rang three minutes later. “Hey,” he said, his voice soft and careful, “let’s just be reasonable here.”

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “Reasonable has left the building. Would you like to speak with someone else?”

    “I’m gonna move out,” he said. “I’m working on it, I swear...”
    In the background she heard a woman giggling; in a loud whisper he told her to stop it.

    “I’ll bet you’re working on it,” she said. “Tell you what. Have your lawyer call my lawyer. He’ll explain why the house key you have no longer works.”

    “Honey, stop it,” he said in a voice not meant for her. “I have to—”

    She hung up on him. Called a locksmith. Then dropped his note into the sink. Added two ties, a pair of red boxer briefs, and a thong she’d found in the laundry that wasn’t hers, and set it all on fire.

    The flames were strangely satisfying; the smoke alarm blare fading into a dull tone that resonated with her heart. When the crime scene was nothing but rubble and ash, she washed the evidence down the sink and made another pot of coffee.

    1. I really like this... the metaphor of the plane was a brilliant starting (and ending) point... and I swear to god, there's nothing like vengeance served with coffee... don't ask me how I know. Really, really strong story. "Reasonable has left the building," by the way, is pure genius.

    2. aptly told at how quickly this situation goes from civil to civil war. And the little side notes, that 'soft and careful voice', the 'thong found in the laundry that wasn't hers'. A well-tuned short bit of bitterness. I like it.

  17. “Wake up.”

    He lies in the dark, not caring where he is. He is alive. He has no pain. He is conscious. He could be dreaming but isn’t sure; there’s an order to this that seems real. He thinks he could wake up if he wanted.

    “Wake up.”

    The blackness he ‘sees’ is absolute. There is no end to it. No variation. No relief from the nothingness that surrounds him. He reaches out through himself, seeking awareness. He’s a seed of life, shrouded in night, nothing touching him; no texture or heat or gravity. Just his mind in its place, wherever that was.

    “Wake up.”

    And then there was a voice. At least he thinks there was. Something penetrating the dark, inserting itself into his thoughts. Unless it was another part of him, seeking to manifest itself; to either merge with the self he believes he is or wishing to overcome it; to overwrite him like he was a palimpsest. A slate to be erased and then refilled with another’s script. Someone else’s hand in control of his life.

    “WAKE UP. Wake up, damn you! We can’t do this over again.”

    A different voice this time. Male; unlike the first one. Which means that that one must have been a woman: her voice unfamiliar to him. He must have had a history; a life before this. This…this now.

    “Wake up!”

    It was the woman again. This time she was louder. More insistent, but not as much as the other voice. The man. He’d heard a tone to her voice that made him feel protected. As though she cared about him. As though he meant something to her.

    He felt a sudden sharp pain; the first physical sensation he could remember. He stirred within himself and would have pulled away from the pain if it hadn’t immediately filled him, super-novaing across his consciousness. He opened his eyes…

    He opened his eyes and saw a face above him; cool efficiency hidden behind a paper mask. She was a woman – his woman; the friendly one – and the paper crackled as her jaw moved; maybe smiling, maybe just moistening her lips.

    “He’s awake,” she said. “I think we’ve a live one.”

    1. Yikes. Very tense. Love this line: "He’s a seed of life, shrouded in night, nothing touching him; no texture or heat or gravity."

  18. another 2 parter, I'll post the rest later...:)

    Dorothy Sibley was not a woman prone to excess imagination. She believed in God and shared her house with five elderly cats named Dick, Jane Bruce, Robert and Satan; Satan being the ginger tabby with a temperament to match and so it seemed as apt as anything. She’d been married for quite some time before her husband passed at the pharmacy counter at Walgreen’s last summer and while she did allow the possibility there was more to this world than the physical, she missed his physical self. Whatever his irksome habits, his absence left her feeling far more vulnerable than she was used to.
    But it wasn’t until she awoke one night and saw Satan, twice his normal size, wearing a pair of her reading glasses and tapping at her computer keyboard, that she allowed there might be something actually amiss. So she scheduled an appointment with her usual physician. After pronouncing her in the best of health, she wasn’t entirely reassured.
    “I want some of those tests,” she told him. “You know, like they give the President.”
    “You mean cognitive tests?” The doctor peered at her from over the tops of his readers. “Is there something more you want to tell me?”
    Dorothy glanced away, down at her lap, and then at a cobweb in the corner of the ceiling the cleaners had missed. “I can’t concentrate,” she admitted. “I have trouble sleeping, sometimes. And keeping up with my friends on Facebook.”
    “Not to mention twitter. And Pinterest. The whole internet.”
    “I see.” The doctor made a note. “Do you spend much time at your computer?”
    Dorothy choked back a laugh. “We’re all chained to them now, aren’t we? You can’t do hardly anything without one!”
    “What about other social interactions?”
    “I ain’t got time for that!” Dorothy sprang from her chair and began to pace. “I have my ebay auctions, my etsy store, my online catlovers club; my Women over 50 awareness group, my Cat Memories writers group, my family, friends, my Positivity channel. You tube, Real news, fake news, celebrity gossip and nuclear war. And the politics! Algorhithms. Melania, that poor woman. Bless her heart. Hugs and prayers. OMG, doc lol. You know?”
    She paused suddenly and bent to lean in. “And it can read your mind, besides. Steal your thoughts. It listens in on your conversations.”
    “Such as?”
    “I was texting my friend Nancy about getting new curtains. And suddenly I got curtain ads coming at me from six different directions. Even after I bought some, they wouldn’t go away.” She inhaled deeply and lowered her voice to a whisper. “I think it’s possessed.”
    A slight ting altered her and she pulled her iphone from her pocket, waving the text message triumphantly under the Doctor’s nose. “See? See? What did I tell you? An ad for Exorcists!”

    1. Looking forward to more! (::refreshes page and checks all her social media sites::)

    2. I'm still thinking there is something about cats on the internet.... I like her 'voice'

  19. The Doctor made some more notes by hand. He rose slowly from his chair and put a finger to his lips. All that could be heard was the incessant electronic hum of the computer at his desk. He bent to unplug it, took of his lab coat and chipped iD and threw it over the monitor. He motioned her to follow him down the hall to a windowless examination room and slid the door silently shut behind him.
    “Give me your phone, “ he said.
    Bewildered, Dorothy did as she was asked. He wrapped in something with a silvery finish and placed it carefully in the wastebasket marked with a skull and cross bones and a bright yellow warning that read: Danger! Hazardous Medical Waste! then turned to her.
    “ Mrs Sibley, I’m going to need you to report for a CAT scan this afternoon. Do NOT delay and do NOT report to the facilities at the University Medical Center. There is another place, a safe place.” He scribbled the address on a prescription pad and handed it to her.
    “But, why? Doctor, didn’t you just say I was healthy?” Panic fluttered in her chest. “Do have some sort of virus? Do I need a flu shot?”
    “I’m afraid it’s more serious than that. “
    “Some sort of brain tumor? Is that what you think?”
    Unexpectedly, he smiled and reached over to squeeze her hand. “No, Dororthy, nothing like that. It’s more like a parasite. Cases like yours are cropping up all over the country. We don’t yet know the reasons, but somehow, some people are affected. Great numbers of people.”
    “But what is it?”
    “It doesn’t have a name yet. Nor a cure. We only know that your computer is, as you said, stealing your thoughts. Affecting your concentration, attention span and cognitive abilities. It’s as though it’s shall we say, borrowing your intelligence to increase its awareness. Only it’s destroying your neurons and electrons in the process. And it isn’t giving them back.”
    Dorothy’s eyes filled with tears, “That’s why my cat Satan’s getting smarter, isn’t it?”
    He looked at her oddly. “Maybe, it’s too soon to tell. But I need to access the damage you’ve sustained already. Promise me, promise me, you’ll stay away. No more computer until I can see what’s happening and report my findings. No online arguments, no Fake news. No fake friends. “
    “How will I survive?” she asked, the tears flowing freely now. “I don’t even know what’s real anymore.”
    The doctor placed his hand behind his back and stared at the wall. “I’m not sure, but I do know that whatever is happening is more than a virus, more contagious than the plague, and ultimately fatal. I don’t yet know the extent of the damage done to your brain, but I promise you, if you give up your addiction, I will try to help you.”
    “But what about Facebook? Who will I talk to?” she cried.
    “Woman! Don’t you see it yet? They already know! They are the ones feeding their databanks, reading your mind and destroying your sense of reality! And yet, each day, every day, you tell that machine all it needs to know. They are the thieves. They are the vandals, they are the plague.”
    Dorothy opened her purse and closed it again. “No more hashtags?” she asked. “Nothing?”
    “Depends on you,” the doctor answered.
    “But how else will I raise my voice and stand up for what I believe in?”
    “ I’m not sure, ma’am. I don’t know. But I can say with some certainty, it will take discipline and action. The kind of contact that feeds your soul, not your anger. That nourishes yourself and doesn’t define a human in terms of what it buys. Sometimes that’s cold turkey. Sometimes, it’s not.”

  20. Dorothy straightened her spine, resistant to his every word. “But what if you’re wrong, about this so called disease?”
    He turned to her and smiled sadly. “The erosion of your current level of brain function, though I do not yet have the specifics is about 30 percent per day. At the end of one month, your hallucinations will increase, at the end of two, you will begin to relinquish ordinary responsibilities such as basic household maintenance, feeding your cats, bathing and other basics, and at the end of 3 months? Your paranoia will become so pervasive, your neuron receptors so impaired, you will relinquish all decision making to what the Feed deems necessary.
    She stared at him. “But what does that mean?”
    He looked her squarely in the eye. “ I give you 4 months. At the end of that? You will get up on a fine spring morning and fail to recognize the world around you and the machine who has taken so much will be merciful. You will climb into your chair in front of your machine and commit suicide, as so many have done before you. Point, Click, Dead.


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