Friday, March 30, 2018

2 Minutes. Go!

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.

If it were a face, you'd punch it. If it were a memory, it might be that one afternoon by the beach when the beer was cold and, somehow, you were charming. If it were a nightmare, it would be one continuous scream of blood - sinew, flesh hanging from spiked parapets. 

If it were a puppy, you'd hold a sock in front of it's face and you'd laugh. You'd fucking chuckle. If this were a western, you'd win a belt buckle. Bucko.

If it were a woman, you'd treat her just well enough that she wouldn't leave you because that's what your Deddy taught you to do. It it were a religion, you'd be handling snakes...

Before you pass the poluck plates. 

If it were real misery, it would be one thought repeating: one thought, one thought, one thought, one thought. Until it fucking drives you insane. Until you'd do anything; any chemical to the brain. 

Better than a bullet?

If it were an animal at the zoo, it would be the lion with the bad leg that fucking no one ever goes near. 

If it were an emotion, it would live next to fear. So near. Close enough to keep an eye on it, but always slipping into shadows...

Vapor.

The Butcher. The Baker. The Candy-ass faker.


#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. Ah, a paean to emptiness and mediocrity. And yet, there is just a spark of hope. Well written.

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    1. This one has sheer power lurking beneath its veneer. It's visceral. It's crying out to be spoken word.

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    2. Wow. The elusive, irresistible “it”. Yes could definitely be spoken word or some kind of alternative country music.

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    3. Oh. I love the sinuous breath that goes through it.

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  2. The dog is blind. His eyes are white with cataracts, and still he greets you with a smile. His human's eyes, dark brown, bear the marks of too much crying, or maybe allergies, but you’re pretty sure crying. The two sit on a sidewalk in Seattle, with a cardboard sign that reads "Free Kisses for a Dollar."

    You ponder the contradiction in the sign as you reach into your pocket to find some money. You are a soft touch. As you lean to put the sawbuck in the stained cowboy hat, the dock finds your face and delivers not one, not five, but ten kisses to your cheek. How does the dog know it’s a ten-dollar bill?

    "Rascal, it was my turn to kiss the generous donor," the old man says, and you wonder if he means it until he guffaws.

    "Sweet dog," you say.

    "Rascal's a charmer. If it weren’t for him, I reckon I’d have starved to death."

    The dog’s nose remains pointed at you, seeing things that eyes can’t see. Maybe he smells the bacon you had for breakfast, maybe last night’s gin.

    "I was young, like you, a long time ago."

    You nod and wonder what sage advice he has to share.

    "You won’t listen; I didn’t either. But I’ll tell it to you straight. Get a dog. Lay off the bottle. And watch for rainbows."

    "That’s it?"

    "That’s it. Unless you want to wind up on the streets, like me and Rascal. And the streets no proper place for a dog."

    You stand up. "Thanks for the advice, old man. And thanks for the kisses, Rascal."

    You walk away, toward your shiny car, that will take you and your thousand-dollar shoes to a soulless office, where you manage other people’s money so they don’t see the homeless people on the street.

    And you stop. You want to know the name of the man, not just his dog. You turn around. But the man and dog and their cardboard sign are gone.

    And in the sky, you see a rainbow. You pull out your phone to call in sick, and instead, you text "I quit" to your boss, and you take off your shoes and socks and let your feet kiss the pavement as you walk back home.

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  3. He’s a bad boy, and you knew it the first time you looked in his eyes. His eyelashes, dark and long, veiled eyes the color of well-worn denim.

    His nose bends a little to the right, a testament to schoolyard fights, or maybe to the last battle he had with his old man. He won’t talk about it.

    You met on the beach, on a hot summer day. All the other guys, with bodies sculpted by personal trainers, showed off every inch of skin the law allowed. He wore ratty jeans and a white T-shirt.

    You challenged him to a game of volleyball, and you lost badly, because your eyes weren’t on the ball, but on him, on all of him. His fierceness, the drops of sweat he shook off like a dog when it ran down his face and into the five o'clock shadow that he shouldn’t have for another six hours. His fear. You weren’t sure why, or what he was afraid of, or who. But you sensed it.

    He hit the ball not with grace, but with anger. It wasn’t hard for you to imagine him breaking noses, too.

    But his smile, when he let it show, was a little boy’s smile, the smile that a five-year-old wears when he holds up a dandelion for his mother.

    Sweet and sour. Salt and sugar. His contrasts were what drew you in. He was not a spider, trapping you in a web; he was an exotic flower, attracting you with color and nectar, and it was only later you found he was a Venus flytrap, his jaws closing around you.

    That night, he insisted that the lights stay off when he kissed you, gentle first, building to a crescendo, then back to the gentle butterfly kisses of his eyelashes on your cheek as your fingers explored the lines of his jaw, now covered in wiry stubble.
    Your hands touched his now naked back, and you read the lines of scars, scars which matched your own, from a belt wielded by a spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child father who couldn’t stand what he had brought into the world.

    You didn’t make love that night, or the night after. The bodily fluids you exchanged were tears, and that was your, that was his, undoing. Two foundlings, two bad boys in the dark looking for light.

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    1. Ah, doomed love. Another universal language scrawled in dark ink.

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    2. More. I want more of this please.

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    3. This one has mad power. The scene setting is so effective, everything else flows perfectly from it.

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    4. Holy cats, Leland. This is so lovely, and all the contradictions and sensual details. The eyelashes and the tears. Man, I love this.

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    5. Y'all are very kind. Thank you.

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  4. Life and death dance more closely in the middle of nowhere. The dogs and I were walking along the creek in winter when we came upon the fresh remains of a deer, killed by coyotes, no doubt. The vacant look in the doe’s eyes haunted me for a moment, not from the fear they showed, but the grace in acceptance of death. Or the inevitable. Or maybe that was the same thing.

    The ears remained. Unusual. The coyotes usually take the softest flesh first.
    Angelo was on alert. Maggie, too. Her low growl was a constant warning. A raven scolded us for interrupting his meal, and tilted his head as he watched us.

    Angelo sniffed the exposed ribs warily. His teeth grabbed a red morsel of meat, and then he peed on a nearby bush.

    He looked expectantly at me, disappointed that I would not join in the feast.

    Maggie kept her eyes on the top of the creek bank, watching for a killer she already smelled. I turned toward home, and about a hundred feet on, I called to the dogs.

    They came running; our lives are so entangled that even fresh red meat cannot tempt the two of them to abandon their posts of duty.

    They both stopped at the same time and looked back at the deer. I looked, too. A mother coyote and her two pups were tearing the ribs free.

    We walked home together, the three of us.

    The dance of life and death is sometimes fast, and sometimes slow, but the dance continues in the middle of nowhere.

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    1. Yes, it does. And much as we would like to believe otherwise, Nature is not always kind...

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    2. I swear on everything I hold dear that I hadn't read this before I wrote my own. It never ceases to amaze me how so many of us mirror each other's themes every week. Oh, and by the way, "the dance continues in the middle of nowhere" could be our species' epitaph. :(

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    3. Thank you! As for an epitaph for humanity, I think I like the idea of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in Hocus Pocus, better:

      "Bergeron's epitaph for the planet, I remember, which he said should be carved in big letters in a wall of the Grand Canyon for the flying-saucer people to find, was this:

      WE COULD HAVE SAVED IT
      BUT WE WERE TOO DOGGONE CHEAP

      Only he didn't say 'doggone.'"

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    4. Loved the first line of this: "Life and death dance more closely in the middle of nowhere." as well as everything that came after.

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    5. Agreed. This is a cool. piece. I LOVE this: "The vacant look in the doe’s eyes haunted me for a moment, not from the fear they showed, but the grace in acceptance of death. Or the inevitable. Or maybe that was the same thing."

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    6. What they all said. Like Lily, I was thinking of that first line. It could start a poem. An elegy. A novel.

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    7. Thank you... I snuck in a little non-fiction this week... I appreciate your kind words.

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  5. There's not a lot that gets under my skin like driving in traffic does.

    Part of that was my fault. I wouldn't allow any extra time in my commute for anything but no troubles from point A to point B. I was setting myself up for frustration and failure.

    I had a two hour commute that rarely went for the best. I left before the kids got up and got home as they were getting ready for bed.

    I started making recordings for them while I drove. Just thoughts, things I thought they should know, how much I loved them.

    I could never share those recordings with the kids. When I played them back I was shocked at how much I swore at the drivers around me. Even more shocked at how nasty those words sounded as they poured from my mouth. That really helped to show me how easily I let frustration get to me.

    I started to give myself more time to commute so delays wouldn't frustrate me so much. I listened to books on tape on my drive, mostly fiction. Mysteries, romance, whatever. I'd get so caught up in the tale that idiot drivers couldn't take my focus from the tale beyond adjusting to their actions. It made the drive bearable, sometimes enjoyable if I was listening to something funny.

    It wasn't until years later that I happened to hear the KLOVE 30 day Challenge while searching radio stations. I'm not especially religious but this also wasn't the church hymns I grew up with. I had a job I loved, with a shorter commute, but didn't like the company I was working for. I resented having to go there in the morning and I came home in a foul mood most nights. I took the challenge. I noticed a difference after only a week. By the time I got to work it was with a mindset to make the best of the workday. When I got home at night grumpy mom got left at the office. It's hard to hang on to a bad mood when you're listening to something that makes you feel good.

    It's not like that everyday. I'm not perfect and neither is anyone else. But some situational awareness and filling a frustrating task with something to distract you from it helps.

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    1. Cursing in traffic is one of our last few pleasures. ;) But yes, finding ways to coax our better angels is never a bad idea.

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    2. A beautiful reminder. Thank you!

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    3. Music is a balm for almost any "frustrating task". Yes, thank you.

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    4. I often wonder how many people there are agonizing in cars around me when I drive to work. I'm listening to music. ;)

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    5. Thank you. I curse way too much in traffic. Then take many deep breaths.

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  6. There are three ways to tell the difference between us. One, our skin. The melanin chasm in our family is real folks. Really real. I’m sable with a hint of charcoal, she’s a pale rośe and taupe blend.

    Two, our temperaments. I’m a home body, who likes to cook, read, paint, and howl at the moon in private. You have to sandblast me out of my house or have impeccable timing to get me to go anywhere. She is, to her very soul, the paradigm of hospitality and not just because she was born in the South either (I was born in the South too. South Brooklyn). There is an inherent need to socialize that is so much a part of her makeup you could accurately assume that she is almost never alone. EVER. People follow her around like she’s got puppies and silver dollars randomly falling out of her armpits. But actually, she’s just super kind and compassionate (Yech).

    Three, I like to wear colors. The louder, and more vibrant the better. I don’t care that red doesn’t go with everything. The only time I wear black is to funerals or catering gigs. She dresses in color too but only five of them: White, Black, Grey, Navy Blue, and Beige. That’s all. That’s it. She’s such a minimalist in her style you’d think she was from Okinawa.

    Still with all that’s different between us, we are, and will always be sisters. We sound alike. We cock the same eyebrow at the crazy stuff. We tell the same jokes… badly. We are one in the important things like our politics, our financial outlook, and of course, our suppositions or kneejerk judgment calls about other people. We even like the same kind of men but since neither of us are good at sharing it’s never been a problem once one of us stakes a claim.

    I couldn’t live well without my sister and remarkably, she feels the same way. So why can’t I tell her that her husband is having an affair. She’s my sister first. This should be a no brainer. But I know how much she loves him. I also know, really know, for sure, that he loves her. What if his cheating is just an aberration? What if I destroy them? What would I want if the situation was reversed? Can I really expect to be the one who picks up the pieces of my sister after being the one that tears her apart?

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    1. They say you can only deliver a message, you can't be sure when they get it, if ever. I wouldn't wanna be that messenger. I'd just be there, afterwards.

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    2. So much good stuff here! "Sandblast me out of my house" made me laugh out loud. Puppies falling out of one's armpits is a state of nirvana never articulated until now. To me, red goes with everything, which is probably why the fashion police have an all-points bulletin out on me. But anyway, none of this detracts from the central dilemma here. And I wish I had some smartass answer to that, I really do.

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    3. Ah, the beauty and the pain of loving someone. I loved all the images in this... the colors, the way you described your temperaments, everything... except that he's having an affair.

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    4. This is some beautiful and controlled writing my friend. Antrobus pulled the lines I loved, too. Especially the puppies and silver dollars.

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    5. Yes. David highlighted my favorite lines, too. I also love the descriptions of the skin tones.

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  7. "I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine. I went down the primrose path to the sound of flutes. I lived on honeycomb." — Oscar Wilde

    He comes out of the mouth in the rock, underneath dripping, towering cedars, and stands swaying in the chill March air. More brown than black, his damp fur is matted as fever. Alone on a gravel curve, he hears the rage of dogs behind him, ahead of him, in all the directions, and knows he has to pick some astonishment of a path, some unlikelihood, even as his head still throbs from a season of sleep.

    Steaming in the late afternoon, he shows the wet earth to the pale ghost of a day moon, scuffs the moist dirt into sculptures.

    The world is not the same. Will never be again.

    Bare and rude, a strip of blond ground, boxy green buildings, a place without complexion, long abandoned. The planes and shadows and golden light of a full day moves across this vista, and nothing, absolutely nothing, changes.

    A child emerges from nothing. She sits by a mildewed wall and with wordless sounds she confers with the waning day and she waits. Coyotes answer but she sits stoic and unresponsive; her parley is not with them, those subtle dilettantes.

    Loneliness threads this land. Eyes appraise it: the black terror of a doe's wet stare, the eagle's stern glare. In time, resignation afflicts even the artful coyotes. There will never be another train.

    She sits and waits and she calls out like a lost bird. Her name is Lana, but she has forgotten this. She almost remembers flutes and honeycomb, dreams of primrose paths arrayed with bees.

    The great silence is the largest voice now.

    Feral dogs and the liquid throats of ravens gulping high up in the conifers are no match.

    A sound in the undergrowth, at the edge of the forest, and Lana clambers to her feet. And then he is there, lumbering perplexed from the leaking shadows, and he hasn't yet seen the little girl, Lana, whose name means "wool" in Spanish, and who dances a sudden dance at the first happy thing she has ever known, the first good answer to her silent query of a quiet land veiled in rain.

    "You came back," she says.

    The bear startles, his fur like acres of dark wheat in a prairie gale, undulating, fluctuate. Then he crosses the span between them in seconds and stands like a steaming boulder before her. She touches his cold nose and grabs his fur and climbs on his back and laughs, ignoring his savage reek, which is like memory. She digs in her pack for the dead things she's saved and dangles them over his snout and he feeds and is glad.

    "Of course I came back," he says between bites, his voice abrasive from neglect. "It's winter I don't love. Not you."

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    1. Loved this so much. It is perfect.

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    2. Yeah, this is amazing. The balls on you biting Leland!...JK. ;) This is wonderful. And I love the disconnection jolt of the flash pieces you usually lay down, but this one is more linear and it works really well. And is just as brilliant. Felt like reading Jack London on mushrooms.

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    3. Sometimes I run out of adjectives when I read your writing... it's transporting, it's enervating, and yet, it gives enough space for the reader to breathe, and to fill in the gaps. Just beautiful...

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    4. You guys. Thank you. I always dig your feedback so much. And Jack London on shrooms! I love that. Sounds like the beginnings of a theme party, lol. Kerouac on meth. Steinbeck on ayahuasca.

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    5. Yeah. Out of adjectives. Just loved it. I read it a couple of times just to taste the sounds.

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  8. Une Homage to vampire porn, Dan Mader. Related to an earlier thread this week, Via Laurie Boris.For entertainment purposes only, y'all.Get the brain bleach.

    Her eyes restlessly roamed the room, his face, the view from his penthouse office.
    "Oh Wow, " she said. "I guess I should ask some questions, huh?"
    He grinned displaying white, movie star teeth, but his dark grey eyes never smiled. "Whenever you're ready, Ms. Steele. May I call you Anastasia?"
    She blushed, suddenly compelled the chew softly on the soft pink eraser end of her number two pencil. She inhaled deeply, trying to ignore the subtle scent of Old Spice, English Leather and AXE deodorant that reminded her of her dad. Not that her dad had ever been anything but a perfect gentleman, but still.
    He pushed a bottled water in her direction. "Peterpan collars, wow. You don't see that much anymore. Are you Amish or something?"
    Not to be outdone, Anastasia gathered herself. "None of your beeswax."
    Christian chortled heartily, his deep baritone bouncing off the Plexiglass. The sound of it made her think of Prince's When the Doves Cry. How could that be? Why was this happening? Had he slipped something into her latte?
    "Please," the tycoon told her. "Try to relax. I promise you, I'm not a monster. Just a very wealthy man with particular...appetites."
    "Like what?" Her pencil trembled in her hand.
    His eyes drifted to the pulse in her neck, just to the right of her jugular.
    "Stop looking at my collar, " she protested weakly. "I didn't have time to do my fucking laundry, OK?"
    He rose from behind the fortress of his wide mahogany desk, affording her a full view of the considerable package cleverly disguised in his impeccably tailored Italian worsted trousers.
    Anastasia swallowed a gasp.
    "Oh, wow," She squeaked.
    He extended his hand, trying to control the barely discernible tremble of his fingers he reached for her hand and licking away a trace of drool from his Botoxed lips. "Come with me," he growled. "I want to show you an aspect of myself few have ever witnessed."
    As if hypnotized, in a trance, she willed herself to her feet and followed. It was like some Disney Dream, some fairy tale, or some really kick ass acid; she couldn't be sure. She only knew she could not refuse him.
    A single finger pressed a panel and a wall of mahogany slid aside to reveal a secret staircase tat wound down,down, down into the very bowels of the city. This was the stuff of history, the world of legend and dreams. It stank to high heaven.

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    1. OMG. This is so funny. "Are you Amish or something?" had me until the Disney acid. I'm rolling. I would totally read this vampire novel.

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    2. Those last two sentences killed it... and Axe and Old Spice and English Leather... truly amazing...

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  9. "Oh wow, " she whispered, her eager fingers caressing the slime covered walls. "Ever check for mold?"
    Christian's teeth glinted in the dim light that glowed from below. Patience, my darling girl."
    He paused at the end of the endless stairwell; the click of his Cuban retro Beatle boots echoing eerily in the dark. He flipped a switch to reveal a long golden coffin in the center of the room.
    "Oh wow," Amanda gasped. Her hand few to her mouth,Unsure of what to think. "Is that real gold? i mean my mother was a jeweler. That looks freaking REAL!"
    Christian laughed and Amada protested. "Christian, please. We need to get back to our interview!"
    Furiously, he thumped the glimmering surface of the coffin. "Dammnit, woman! Don't call me that!"
    "Isn't that your name?" She blinked rapidly, trying to absorb it all.
    It's my middle name," he admitted sadly. MY given name, my fit name is...Vlad..."
    "Whoa," said Amanda. "Ironic. Wow."
    "I am undead."
    "Seriously?" Amanda tried to quiet the butteflies in her stomach as the piece of the puzzle that was Christian Grey, silently fluttered into place. "That is SO cool!"
    He turned away in the half light, bent in agony, then turned to her again, his eyes on fire, his throbbing manhood liberated from its prison of impeccably tailored Italia worsted.
    Amanda's knees wobbled, even as her panties grew dank and slimy as the dungeon walls."Oh wow," she breathed.
    "That's right girlie, " he grinned
    "That's why they call me the Impaler."

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    1. I got the sense you had a blast writing this, Teresa!

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    2. Hahahahahahaha I can’t even begin to critique this. Laughing too hard.

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    3. lol. Dank and slimy as the dungeon walls for the win!

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    4. Bahahahahaha! (I should never read this stuff while I'm eating.)

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    5. Yep, you nailed this one... pardon the phrase! and I'm giggling, too.

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  10. A light rain is drizzling over the bar in Sector 3. The pitterpat of droplets on the roof and streets was the only noise aside from the creaking of a door hanging on one hinge. Bodies lay in the street outside the building, blood and rain mixing to create cloudy puddles. The windows were shattered, bullet-holes peppering the frames. Inside, the early morning sun filtered through the shattered glass, lingering smoke from the barrels of guns wafting in the shafts of pale light.

    Tables upturned; empty casings scattered about like the droppings of rats. Blood spatters, broken bottles. Bodies of various sizes.

    He’d been thinking about things recently. His old life; his old friends. Did he really have old friends? Was Johnny ever his friend? Phil just existed. Mary was…never-mind. Sophie. She seemed the most decent but even that ended up falling apart. What about his old life, the life before the city, was good? Was worth remembering? Nothing. Everything he carried with him now- his anger, his superiority complex, his bias -was the result of shit. He wanted to reset. To start new. Let the old him fade away. Things were different. No reason to stay the same.

    He sat, back against an upturned table. Blood pooled under him, dripping from wounds as numerous as holes in Swiss. He’d been there for a while. He was slumped forward slightly, breathing so slow he might’ve been mistaken as one of the corpses laying around the establishment. His guns lay beside him, empty and cold. He never could bring himself to do it on his own. This was the easiest way for him to do it. Peacefully. Slowly. There was a lit cigarette in his jaws, providing a small, small light in the dim atmosphere. The smoke wafted up, catching sunlight.

    Funny. He always told himself he was tough. He had to be tough. But not now. There was no reason to. Let that fade. The urge to fight. Let it go. Aggression. Let it fade. The old Steve. The Steve that fought for pocket cash and stole drugs to feed himself, that scraped and scrabbled in the dirt like a dog at a scrap of meat. Let it die. Let him die.

    And so he sat, at peace with himself. With the world, finally.

    The cigarette slipped from his lips, landing in a puddle of blood and extinguishing itself softly.

    A light rain is drizzling over the bar in Sector 3. Inside, all is quiet. All is at peace.

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    1. Yes, that last hush. I reacted to this by forgetting to breathe through most of it. Seriously, bravo.

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    2. Amazing and totally masterful.

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    3. Wow. Yeah. I don't know if I breathed either. Thanks for not making it longer; I might have passed out!

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    4. Wow redux. It was a transporting piece that ended so well. Great imagery throughout.

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    5. So much blood... and you contrasted that with slow pacing... the contradiction was what sold the tale to me... well done!

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  11. I've been visiting my sister for the past month on a working vacation. Last week Keven (my brother-in-law's friend) said that he had an electrical problem in a four-plex apartment that he bought. I spent two days fixing one problem after the other when yesterday I was in an upstairs apartment with him finishing up the latest nightmare and I could tell that he was nearing his wits end due to the endless stream of miswired and broken items that I kept finding when his wife called him to check on our progress.
    Keven to wife: "Hi honey. Yep, he's a magician. I think we're almost done, unless he wants to keep looking for more problems."
    Keven to me: "Do you want to keep looking for more problems?"
    Me: "Not unless you want me to."
    Keven to wife: "He says he's done!"
    I laughed my ass off.

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  12. She was brown like an insect, her limbs long and awkwardly jointed. She loved to sit in the dark. In the winter she went out rarely; much preferring to stay where she could steal the heat from the other’s, each of their eyes light in the fire’s gloom.

    Her father was pupating. He’d attached himself to the ceiling in the kitchen; his body hanging above the breakfast table, shrouded in a fleshy silk shroud like a bat’s wing. She often watched him in the morning – her morning began at sundown, unlike those of ‘normal’ people – sitting chewing on a piece of dry toasted bread with redcurrant jam, studying his features as they stared down from above. It was a contradiction in itself; his face, both eyeless and frozen in a scream, with no sound to give a clue of his thoughts. One day she’d know, she guessed, but she would not be her then and might not be aware of whoever it would be who’d watch her.

    Or so she hoped.

    She never got to see her mother leave. That was her biggest disappointment yet. She’d been secure in the loft, suspended up over a radiator but positioned so she could catch the moonlight. She’d forbidden them all that they watch her change, insisting they look to one another. The boys hadn’t minded - there was much to eat and their lives to live – but she’d felt saddened that last time she went to visit and found her gone; her casing left dry and empty. She supposed she should feel glad for her, but still wished she could have been there then; if only to reassure herself all would be well for her when her time came to change.

    And she knew it couldn’t be far away.

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    1. Woah. I'm digging this brother. I'll take the Kafka with a twist please, bartender! You gonna keep this one going?

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    2. Yeah, Kafka by way of Cronenberg by way of Burroughs. Yet not derivative. Mark A Morris all the way.

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    3. Yep... Genius. you had me at long legs, awkwardly jointed.

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  13. Radio

    He was naked, except for his shoes, the casing of his radio warm against his palm. The glass tube glowed inside it, and he knew he would hear their voices if he pushed the earpiece into his ear. He could almost hear them now; their whisperings never stopping, not even when he wasn’t giving them the attention they insisted upon. They always knew when he’d stopped listening, and he knew they’d be tougher on him when he went back to them again.

    He pushed the earpiece in and then they were there, speaking down to him as though he was a child. ‘You shouldn’t have done that; you know we know best,’ they chorused, chiding him. One of them, one of the loudest, had a tone rather like his mother’s, its cadences and word choices a close match with those he remembered. It was the one that caught his attention the most; the others being more of an accompaniment to its words. It (or she) was whispering to him now; its hissed sibilants pouring into his ear-canal like venom, giving commentary to everything he saw, sitting secure inside his head like a toad.

    “See that woman, there,” it’d said, “look at her, looking over at you. She’d gut you if she could, mark my words; splitting you ‘tween your ‘inning’ and your ‘outs’. She’d eviscerate you in a flash; yes, she would; parading with your bowels wrapped around her like a boa. Just one moment; that’s all it would take; so, mind what you do and who you trust!” And then he’d stopped and seen her and been amazed; the woman being serene and without a trace of what he’d heard.

    And so, it’d continued, its timbre even lower now; growling low, insistent. “You should never believe what you see,” it’d said. “You never see what’s in their hearts. The secrets that they hold. You never hear the voices that speak to them inside their heads; the things they say, the urges they suppress. It’s all chaos within them, just barely held inside. We know these things – you should be grateful you’ve been told. That we’re preparing you. And thwarting them. Countering their strategies. Saving your eternal soul and offering you redemption.”

    And then he’d blinked and was aware again, his radio in his hand. He was walking in the park, fully clothed. But he heard the earpiece still, the voices always there.

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    1. Damn, brother. Dystoptastic. You're on fire. This one could go on and on, too. I'd keep reading. Really well played.

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    2. I'm finding my voice. I write weird. It's the world I see. And thank you, Dan. You're always generous and honest with your commenting - if that's not a contradiction... ;)

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    3. And I too love the unique perspective on the world that you bring, my friend.

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    4. I like your weirdness... you take an ordinary situation and turn it on its head. And then you give it just the right amount of twist...

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  14. It had been an expensive winter for a lot of people, but especially for Julia, her first winter without Dave. A winter of death-rattling furnaces, nasty respiratory infections, chicken soup, putting boots on over pajamas to shovel the front stairs one last time before the end of the storm because who else was going to do it, of electric bills that made her heart damn near explode just to open them. Now it seemed the earth was resting. Restless, as wind whistled through the still-bare trees, as drenching rains atop the rime of road salt collapsed pavement, deflated tires, twisted ankles. Waiting, wondering. When the rain would stop, when the first green shoots would peek out of the mud, when the town road crews would be able to fixing the holes. When the bills would slow down long enough for her to catch up. She’d stopped answering the phone, because the dunning calls got too overwhelming and made her too sad. Everyone in the same boat, no sympathy from the overworked accounts receivable departments. She held her tongue against playing the widow card, but she would never use it. Dave would never want her to. So she took a deep breath, when it didn’t make her cough, and put on another pot of tea. A robin landed on the back deck and for a moment, she felt sort of normal, like there would be hope and wholeness or at least something more out her window than gray-brown gloom, when it wasn’t snowing.

    Then the earth moved. She didn’t know what that sound was, a crack then a thud that made her damn near jump out of her skin and drop the teakettle. She stood still a moment, put the pot down, pressed a hand to her chest and listened. Holding her breath.

    Her phone rang. And rang. Her heart raced, pulsing heat through her body, and that palm on her sternum hoping to keep it from breaking all over again. From hearing more bad news. “Oil pump’s shot, two hundred bucks.” “Furnace needs a new whatcha-thingie, three hundred bucks.” “I’m afraid we can’t save him.” “I’m afraid he’s gone.” She didn’t know why, but as if she was floating outside her body, she watched her hand reach for the receiver. Maybe it was Dave telling her to have faith. To let someone in.

    “Good, Jules, you’re home. Stay right there. Don’t try going down the driveway. Those two big pines fell across it, one after the other. Pete’s rounding up some of the guys and a bunch of chainsaws. You want lasagna? I made a ton. I’ll be right over.”

    Julia opened her mouth and barely recognized the sound of her own voice. When had it got so small and scratchy? From all the coughing? From a winter’s worth of emotion she wouldn’t let herself express?

    “Thank you, I...” But her neighbor had already hung up. Or she had. Julia couldn’t tell. “Thank you,” she said again, and the first tears began to fall.

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    1. The first paragraph is epic scene setting... and the perfect description of a winter too long and too hard... and then you bring us into microfocus, on one person, a sort of Everywoman, make us feel her despair, and then you give her hope... truly, you work magic, even in a small story. Thanks for sharing!

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