Friday, May 4, 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.

And these are the games we play. Nonchalant, we put the petty insults away. But just to save them for another day. There’s a woodpecker that visits my yard and hammers out his call with reckless abandon. I know his head is built for it, but some mornings, I just feel bad, man. You gotta slam your face into something hard over and over again just to eat? And then I remember that I slam my head against a job day after day just to have money for food and bills. And my sympathy wanes.

Me and the woodpecker. We both got growing pains. 

My dad used to do this thing. He’d jab me in the center of the chest with a rigid index finger. It hurt like a bastard. And I remember thinking, just hit me. Just go all the way to extremely pissed and abusive. I think it would be less painful. And it would be honest. Because, even when I was a wee bastard, I remember thinking that this was the way he rationalized it away. All I did was poke him in the chest! Yeah, but it hurt just as much as a punch would have. And I remember thinking, why in the hell would you do that to a kid who has asthma? Not that it hurt me asthma-wise, but it hurt my sense of understanding of the world. Because. It. Didn’t. Make. Sense.

And there are so many things that don't make sense. I am dark blackness infused with a blinding light. I am a an empty vessel filled with bullshit and bravado. Not really. The fingers lie sometimes. I don't know why they do that. Like, they're pathological. Fucking weird things. Like spiders. And now, I'm old and they're veiny, old man hands. 

And they're softer than either of my grandfather's hands were.

Not proud of that. 

I'm not ashamed of it either, but I do feel like a Disney character. Like I have constructed myself from off-brand Lego blocks. The colors aren't consistent. Imminent systems.


Fuck you and your fucking metronome. I'm afraid of gnomes, and I can take the bus home. 

I used to blow people's minds because I could drink a pint of vodka faster than they could drink a pint of beer. And I could. Won quite a few free drunks that way. But they usually didn't end well. And there was a sad tinge of burnt-hair-smell about the whole thing. Or the way that old people smell.

Halfway to hell. Mickey Rooney slapstick slick. 

I've seen things you have never seen, done things you will never do, and I did it for one reason only: I wanted to not give a fuck. And not giving a fuck is hard. And I've always liked a battle of will.

I was born for this shit.

I died for it.

I told you, I'd come back for you. You were lost, wandering in a November snow flurry. Your jacket pulled tight around you. And I saw you there. Like some kind of porcelain figurine, red-nose and snowflakes on your eyelashes - pure. Beauty. It was like seeing a unicorn. And I thought to myself: someday, I am going to break your heart. But, I'll try not to.

Then, I did. 

But I didn't get any pleasure out of it. It was the hardest jab of all; my chest still hurts.

#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. Do we ever stop thinking of/comparing ourselves to our forebears? This piece is filled with beauty, and I really like the tactility of it all...the hands, the tapping...well done, my friend

    1. I love the tie-in at the end. Awesome piece, Dan.

    2. Incredible stuff. And the line about the gnome - spicy little interlude

    3. Love it. "...the hardest jab of all." Man.

    4. Yeah, that ending is spot on. This is incredibly sad, like an epitaph for humans or something: "someday, I am going to break your heart. But, I'll try not to."

  2. Sunrise. A boy on the street. Sneaks into Starbucks to use the bathroom. Looks in mirror. Looks away. Washes face. Pulls toothbrush from backpack.
    Knock on the door. He brushes fast.
    Hey kid, can’t use the toilet if you’re not buying.
    He says nothing.
    He finishes peeing as the door opens.
    Don’t make me call the cops, kid.
    Boy looks down at his feet. Sees them shuffling out. Autopilot. He doesn’t think. Cannot feel. Shuts off brain.
    Four weeks on the street.
    Boy is hungry.
    Boy is alone.
    Boy wonders how long shoes last.
    Boy cries.

    1. All the feels. I was him. It sucks, but you captured it perfectly.

    2. Agreed. And the structure adds to the impact. No frills. When I worked in coffee shops I never stopped anyone from using the bathroom. And that was in the City, when I was likely to find a mess or a needle. Everybody deserves a bathroom.

    3. What a piece! And the spare, impersonal phrasing at the end. well done, sir

    4. What they all said. Wow. I love the sparseness of it; gave it so much power.

    5. Leland, this is an experiment that definitely works! Bravo. (Also, I know that kid.)

  3. For nearly three hours, Cait sits in the chair in the silent room.

    Once, she was the tiniest girl and no one even noticed her. And this is now not then, and she's still small, still quiet, and she is still mostly overlooked.

    Traffic on the highway hums its deadpan melody. A yellow warbler sings counterpoint.

    I no longer love the wineglass, just its stem, Cait thinks, while the brassy chime of an antique clock peals someplace behind her. Like sound will overcome her reticence. Like love won't ever apply to her.

    Cait in a dirty white dress with a faded flower print. Cait with hair lank as ditch weed.

    Aunt Trinity left a good four hours ago, let Cait know of ways to break right through, killed two mosquitos in her room and said, "That's two less bloodsucking bitches y'all need to mind."

    Cait wonders if she sat like this before, so still, so quiet, so decorous and factual. Wonders if anyone ever sat so true.

    For now, it's hard to think of someone other than Mr. Kosiński, his kindly face all gathered in the doorway, his Polish husk so sweet across the room, like storied hazelnut. He thought today was his day, when he would teach Kate how to be French, but he got it wrong, and who knows now what so many crisscrossed schedules bode?

    These are her doldrums. Something meteorological. Won't anyone come help?

    No. Of course not. How we—stripped, abandoned, supplementary—extricate ourselves from smudged insipid traps determines all the rest.

    Kate sits in the astonished eye of a teacup storm on a silent chair, past noon. Her lashes curl and drip. Her lips purse and pale. She tries to frown, a pint-sized girl under a crushed daisy crown.

    Will any of this coalesce? What is this ache? Squall or squib? Does she wait for something in the sky to break?

    A knock on her door. She never wants to answer. Blam. Blam. A second and a third. Kate sighs, then sighs again.

    "Okay," she whispers, like she's lamenting a version of her own name. "Coming, I guess."

    Beyond the screen a haloed queen, some gypsy harlequin badass goddess. A Bolan lyric layered onto robust bones.

    "Time to be alive again, pretty lady," the apparition says in a voice soft with dark confectionary. "Come."

    The antique clock chimes every quarter hour and does so now, and will chime unheard one million, four hundred and one thousand, six hundred times more while quiet, overlooked Cait rides rails and road righting the myriad wrongs done to her, accompanied by a grinning ghost.

    1. I love the ending and the mood throughout was great.

    2. Damn. Voice soft with dark confectionary. Traffic on the highway hums its deadpan melody. A yellow warbler sings counterpoint. I love the piece as a piece, but there are so many blossoms of genius in the narrative, too. This is deadly writing, brother.

    3. Might be my favorite of yours that I've seen. Such a portrait painted of her

    4. Oh, so beautiful. The mood. The words. I loved just sitting with her, as the word portrait painted around her.

    5. I love you guys. Kicking myself that I forgot to italicize that one thought of hers. Need an editor. ;)

    6. Oh, and the inconsistent spelling of Cait/Kate, just to rub it in. :(

  4. “It’s not realistic,’ was my editor’s biggest criticism. I knew she was right, but I didn’t know that I was willing to make it realistic. Frustrated and depressed, I set up a meeting with my editor, her team, and the big boss at the publishing agency.
    I shouldn’t have done it. I knew it wouldn’t lead me to anything good, but I needed to talk and they needed to listen. We had to connect before I became homicidal.
    “Sara, not that you have us all here could you finally tell me what this meeting is about?” my editor, Teena asked. She didn’t even try to disguise her impatience or contempt. My books didn’t sell like other author’s books did. She felt the company was losing money on me and I wasn’t worth her time. I certainly didn’t warrant the time of her superior. This was one of the many problems that had caused me to call the meeting.
    “Certainly, Teena,” I said. “While editing my book you forgot to include a proofreader. That is my first issue.”
    “You don’t get enough readers for a proofreader,” she said.
    “If the book isn’t in English it will get less readers,” I responded. “Proofing is not optional. I have a contract. It states that all of my books will go through three types of editing before being released. I’m not happy that you skipped the most important one.”
    The bigwig behind the desk opened his mouth, but I refused to let him put in his two cents before I delivered my kill line. I was determined to control the narrative.
    “Since this is – as I stated – in my contract and was not done, you have two choices,” I said. “Either I get a damn good proof of my book or I get fifty thousand dollars. Which would you prefer?”
    “Holy shit, are you kidding?” Teena asked.
    “Do I look like I’m kidding?”
    “To be honest, Sara, we do not have many proof readers left at the company?” Mr. Bigwig said.
    “Why the hell not?” I asked.
    “Because we don’t use them very often,” he said. “Most of our authors don’t notice the difference. What are a few typos or grammatical errors?”
    “In books?” I asked. “That would be the difference between having a character tell her lover that she loves him with all of her heart or telling him that she lofes him with all of her heat. I know. That tiny little typo is in my book. It ruins the scene a bit.”
    “I’m sure the readers won’t notice.”
    “I’m sure they will,” I said. “Choose.”
    “Why should you get special treatment?” Teena asked. “What makes you think you’re worth it?”
    “I think I have a legally binding contract that states I’m worth the services that were promised to me,” I said.
    “But no one expects these things,” Mr. Bigwig said. “They don’t even miss them. This is normal now.”
    “What you’re telling me is that the reading population has come to expect shitty products from writers,” I said. “They don’t care about bad sentences, typos, and misused commas. Yes?”
    “Exactly,” he said. Mr. Bigwig looked relieved. I could tell he assumed I was getting with the program, finally. I shook my head feeling disappointed in these people I had agreed to work for and with. I intended to make damn sure they felt the same frustration and antipathy for me that I felt for them before I walked out of this office, but I knew that in taking them on I would not be spared from hostility and my own frustration.
    “Sorry, but that’s not good enough,” I said. His face fell.
    “I care. I expect better of me and better of you,” I said. “In fact, I am willing to demand it and make it hurt if you do not cooperate. We should expect better. We deserve better. Our readers deserve better. I’m willing to fight for my rights and theirs.”
    Teena got to her feet. Her mouth hung open with shock and outrage. I could see the thought bubble above her head asking, “How dare you!” I wanted to laugh, but refrained.
    “Teena, you might want to sit down,” I said before she got her wits about her enough to vocalize her outrage. “We’re going to be here for a while. Let’s talk about reality, and why I don’t want my books to be realistic…”

    1. “That would be the difference between having a character tell her lover that she loves him with all of her heart or telling him that she lofes him with all of her heat. I know. That tiny little typo is in my book. It ruins the scene a bit.” This is a strong piece - you handled the dialogue really well. Rings true and sounds on point. The frustration is palpable.

    2. Yes, we all do deserve better! Wish someone would really take on the big 5 and make them understand this.

      My favorite line, though, is, "Let's talk about reality, and why I don't want my books to be realistic."

      Great piece.

    3. I've been on the publishing side of this and also rang true about how you sometimes have to twist arms to even get basic things done right. Well written!

    4. I hear you and been there! And I love how you told it. And what Mr. Mader said.

    5. My editor side is wondering where the copyeditors are! But yes, this humanizes and adeptly illustrates in story form an unfortunate problem, that many publishers are dispensing with the usual levels of editing.

  5. You are, it turns out, unsuited for the life into which you have been thrust. You think brooms are made for flying. You are disturbed that the laundry has taken on a shade of grayish-pink. The only cooking tool you know is your telephone, and there’s no place left that delivers.
    The implements of your trade—a fountain pen and a red tie—sit forlornly amidst the dust that seeps in from unknown places. You remember hearing somewhere that much of household dust consists of sloughed off skin cells and you shower more vigorously and more often in hopes of staving off your inevitable suffocation under the detritus of your own body.
    It doesn’t help.
    And it doesn’t matter, because you know that soon there will be no water.
    You fall asleep reading an old magazine. When you awake, you realize it has fallen to the floor, and when you retrieve it, you notice the fuzz collecting beneath the bed. Dust bunnies. In a fit of fancy, you name the biggest one Puff. You tell it the only joke you remember, one about a termite walking into a bar, and when you laugh, you scare it centimeters away from you. Somewhere deep inside you know that it’s the air you exhale while laughing, but still you feel the sting of rejection.
    When your laughter stops, you feel the weight of the atmosphere, hear the the haunting silence, and wonder if the sun still shines.
    You leave the comfort of the bedroom and think about shaving, but the face in the mirror is not yours, it is some old man with a graying beard and eyes inches deeper in his skull than your own. You cannot shave without a working mirror.
    You wonder how many days or weeks it’s been. You hunger for what was. You consider for a moment what they might be saying about you, those vipers who masqueraded as your friends. But they might no longer live. Never mind.
    There are no clocks in this place. This is both comforting and alarming and you laugh again at your unintended pun, and the laughter sounds like someone else’s, reflected from these unfamiliar walls. You wonder if Puff will warm up to you, whether eventually he’ll laugh with you as he grows in size.
    You wonder why your parents never allowed you a cat or a dog. Maybe they were allergic. Maybe they were concerned that the boarding school they sent you to as soon as they could would not accept pets. Maybe they didn’t like the idea of dealing with dog shit.
    You try to remember your parents, but their faces are gray blobs in your memory. You remember your father’s signature though, from the checks he used to send you, back in the day. It was more legible than your own. The initial letters were huge and the subsequent letters were pristine and minuscule. Always blue-black ink, as if he couldn’t commit to business-blue nor to artistic black.
    You knew he was a scam artist, but you never said anything when he told people he’d inherited from a royal father in the old country. You paid attention to his lying. Not what the lies were, but the artifice he used in telling them. You were a quick study.
    Memories of the rich and powerful courting you flood your mind and you smile as you think of the lovely meals and women who invited you to spend the night with them. Gone. All gone now.
    You hunger for television, for the news, for the talking heads which told you what was good, what was bad, but the screen in the living room doesn’t even show staticky snow, doesn’t have any sound. Still, you reach for the remote and try, just in case, every now and again.
    What you would give, what you would pay, for one day outside this fallout shelter, for one more piece of flesh, to hear the band play "Hail to the Chief" one more time.
    You return to the bedroom, to talk to Puff again, not quite realizing how very mad you've become, how very mad you were.
    Puff has moved very far under the bed and that makes you sad.

    1. Damn, Leland. This fucking vibrates it's so powerful. I absolutely love it. You know I love second person when it's pulled off well and you CRUSHED it.

    2. The bit about the dust bunny rejecting him...and then the stranger in the mirror. You've captured the depression in a tight vise and made it sit still to be examined.

    3. God, this is gorgeous, and haunting, and sad, and brilliant. Crushed, is right.

    4. I love it. I might not love him, but I love how you tell his story. I agree with Laurie. It's haunting.

    5. Wow. Yes. What everyone else said. Karmic and even tragic.

  6. He didn’t know how to make peace with his past. What offering of acceptable remorse exists when the past, in whatever personage or spirit, listens not and averts its eyes at the mere thought of him? He'd try, “I’m sorry,” but seven letters hanging off-kilter from an apostrophe can get blown sideways and lost in the winds between two people, two different lives from what came before. His mind has lost its edge and quickness since its days of serving up scars even before others knew the sting of his cut. Now his life is not much more than a scar, something to look at and and recall all those wounds he administered across his lifetime. So he waits upon his cold chair for that final felling wound. He sighs at how the sword always fell to his pen, but knows the scythe always wins. Perhaps then a peace he still dreams might come will reveal itself before he hears the swoosh of that existential steel. And, if comes too late, he must assume the role a scar on a piece of someone else’s past. But wouldn’t it be grand to hear that voice say, “Would you write me again.”?

    1. Great things come in small packages. You proved that with this piece. Well played brother. You can FEEL it.

    2. Great how you manage the line with the sword/pen/scythe. Some really nice lines in there!

    3. I especially love this: "seven letters hanging off-kilter from an apostrophe can get blown sideways and lost in the winds between two people," the way that odd description of the letters sets up such an unexpected metaphor.

    4. I love the way you make the metaphor run throughout the whole piece. I agree with Dan. You can feel the pain. Great job.

  7. Of course, we never talked about it afterward. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because we figured the ones who’d been there knew more than they wanted and the others, those who hadn’t? Well, maybe they didn’t want to know as much as they thought.
    But the dead tell no tales, as they say. They sure haven’t to me, anyway. Still, the wicked events of that fine summer day linger. Casting shadows on that day and every one since. Like the first summer stain you get on a bright white shirt. In retrospect, it seems inevitable. Something that might result from a clip to the elbow, jostling that fine red wine. Chocolate ice cream melting too fast; ketchup or mustard from a backyard barbeque. A deep green grass stain from lying on your back and sliding back and forth on somebody’s lawn doing things you ought to know better than to have tried.
    But people have a funny way of only seeing what they want to, don’t they? They’ll see that stain and feel sorry for you, maybe. But they don’t ever ask how you got it. And once they see it, they’ll never mention it, either. You? You just get another bright white shirt. And pretend to be clean again.
    You don’t know the truth, and memory’s a trickster. You are safe in the knowledge no one will mention what happened to them, those four silent tombstones recording lives that somehow ran mercifully short.
    It’s best not to speak of it. The nightmares that haunt you, how vivid their faces appear in your dreams. Best to move on and never ask questions. Don’t speak of the blood that was spilled in the street. Keep the secret when you can’t stand the memory.
    Never bring a rock to a gunfight; my friends. Unless you’re prepared to die on your knees.
    Kent State May 4, 1970

    1. This one is painful. And excellent. There is something about your writing that makes it easy to read. I don't know what it is, but it's ... maybe the storytelling vibe? I don't know, but I love it.

    2. Slew me with the final two lines. Fantastic piece that hurts me even though it took place six weeks before my birth. Kudos.

    3. Wow, yes, this is powerful. Those last couple of lines made me catch my breath.

    4. There is some powerful truth in here and as Dan said it's easy to read. I kinda want more. I want to see what you can do with the action.

  8. So many stories to read! I'll get my comments in this evening. Running late, and just have time to post - as always, comments, criticisms, thoughts and reactions are welcome.

    Symphony in Benzene Minor

    My fingers shake as I unscrew the lid of the gas can, discarding the red cap onto the rocky ground. My teeth sample the gasoline fumes, throbbing gums exposing the rage slamming through my blood. It feels like my cheek muscles will rip, leaving my face gaping in mad glee until it heals.

    Let it rip. I’ll show up at the funeral, leering until everyone turns their faces away.

    I’d paid Mario’s Discount Furniture Movers five hundred dollars to drive their truck down the gravel road past the railroad tracks east of town. Five miles of ruts and curves finally deposited us at a slag heap of broken asphalt, rusted metal and shattered concrete. Remnants of the old highway that the state road crews left behind. Mario, a sour-looking man in his forties, balked at unloading the piano there. I’d thrust a wad of twenties in his direction, “Cargo isn’t your problem after it gets unloaded, is it?”

    I slosh the gasoline onto the Steinway’s polished maple body, and bench seat, dousing my hands in the process. The scars on the back of my hands shine under the oily fluid. The silver hairpin that had cut my skin so many times, was now holding Mother’s burial hairdo in place.

    My sister, Caroline, said, “Mother always wore it, and it looks so lovely in her hair.” I didn’t argue. I caressed the thought of the silver slowly tarnishing underground, year after year, as its owner rotted around it.

    Caroline still thought the Steinway was being delivered to her house this evening. “So sorry, Caroline. You don’t get what you want. Not this time,” I whisper to nobody.

    I embrace the scent, the hazy perfume of gasoline beckoning destruction close like a lover.

    I open the lid of my childhood tormentor, shaking the gas can inside. The gasoline soaks the hammers and strings, ruining their acoustic qualities. It reminds me of Beethoven going deaf, and I smile even wider.

    Mother’s voice screeches inside my head, “Awful child! Beethoven would roll over in his grave if he could hear you mangling that music. If you would practice like Caroline, you wouldn’t play like a drunken organ grinder!” Then the slash of the pin, like fire across my hand. Or the crack of her knitting needle against my neck like a metallic whip.

    “How do you like the music now, Mother?” I scream at the hated instrument.

    I dig in my pocket for the cheap blue lighter. I’d purchased it at the same station as the fuel and container, just past one this morning, barely able to walk, drunk on Mother’s last bottle of Laphroaig scotch. I pull the sheet music for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony - Mother’s favorite - from the inside jacket of my coat, and viciously twist it into a makeshift wick.

    I spin the sparking wheel once, twice, and on the third attempt, a flame blossoms. I shout in triumph as the symphony catches fire, and I toss it into the piano’s belly. I bask in the warmth of the percussive gust of heated air. I realize it is more than just warmth, as the residue on my hands ignites.

    “Is this what you want, Mother?” I bellow towards the empty sky, waving my blazing hands. The gas-spotted fabric of my pants and jacket, catches as well, and I scramble to the bench. I set my burning digits to the ivory keys, and an exaltation comes over me. “I’ll play one more time, Mother, and then I’m done! I’ll never play for you again!” I shriek at my memories.

    My laughter, the perfect accompaniment to the crackling inferno around me.

    1. I really dig this piece. Criticism? I don't really have any. If it were me, maybe, I would have ended it when his hand ignites. But that's a personal thing. The detail and pain in this piece are so powerful. Super strong.

    2. I think I agree with Dan. Also, some exquisite details revealing character here: the cheap lighter contrasting with his mother's expensive whisky and the piano itself. Details that add to the immersion and realism: the name of movers, the five miles, etc. Really good stuff.

    3. Holy crap, I love this. Especially the end.

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  10. can't write short to save my life today, but this is something I'm noodling with.


    Jude had written a poem that morning. About how big life feels until someone you love dies. Then it’s small. It’s an aphid crawling up a blade of grass. It’s the relief in a mother’s smile when her baby finally falls asleep. It’s a bird feathering a nest. A wisp of clouds across a deep blue sky. A perfectly roasted coffee bean, bouncing across the kitchen floor.

    It’s small. It’s the sight of Ethan’s face when he sees her waiting for him at baggage claim. She’s seen that look on her son a thousand times before. When life was bigger. Starting school. Moving to a new city. Leaving his own mother’s nest. He’d worn the same tension in his jaw, the same stiffness in his posture. But there’s more to it now. It’s about coming home because he lost his father, but it’s also about the girl, whom she has yet to meet. He wonders if she’ll like her. He worries that she won’t. He feels guilty that he’s yet to introduce them. He wonders if their relationship is moving too fast. If he should have taken her back to Woodstock at all.

    “Jude,” he says on an exhale when they meet, and she doesn’t get to see his face as he throws his arms around her. He is the same and different. Same size. Same hug. Same way his arms go around her. Left one higher, right one lower. Same damn leather jacket that she’s always hated. He smells different. From the staleness of the airplane, the variables of travel, whatever new product he’s using in his hair. But something else.

    Jude hugs back, tight but not too tight, firm in her missing him but not so desperate as to scare him off. She can’t pretend to know all boys, but she knows this one. Now a man. She knows that if you hold too tight he’ll squirm off in the other direction. She hopes the girl knows that. But where is the girl?

    “Mariposa’s in the bathroom,” Ethan says. “She wanted to freshen up after the flight. She’ll meet us here.”

    Mariposa. Butterfly. Such a poetic name. She’s seen the pictures of the pretty Mexican girl with the long silky hair and the eyes of an old soul. She and Ethan had met while working on a film in California. From what he’d told her, and what Jude has seen on her phone, the two make a nice fit. His auburn curls against her straight hair; their eyes so similarly brown and deep, their smiles genuine.

    She approaches them, smaller in person. Jude feels as if she towers over her. Mariposa’s plum-painted lips part as she looks up. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Ms. Goldberg. Ethan tells me that you loved his father very much.”

    Ethan’s face moves to the full-on anxiety of being forced to explain his divorced parents in front of one of them. “What she means is—”

    “It’s all right, Ethan,” Jude says softly. She did love Ethan’s father. More than any of her other husbands. Maybe she always had. “And thank you, Mariposa. But please, call me Jude.”

    The drive home was quiet. The car felt smaller. The highway, the exit, the back roads leading to the house. That, too, felt tiny, the dot of the setting sun splitting gold beams across the mountains. She sat for a while, spent from the drive, tired from missing him, as Ethan helped Mariposa with her bag and led her toward the house. A hand on her arm to steady her as they navigated the broken bluestone path, grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared.

    1. quiet details in this one, but a definite thread running through it. A constant sense of diminishing, maybe. I liked it.

    2. This is so assured. I love how you take a snapshot, a movie still, and we sense the entire film that runs before and after it. A whole backstory.

    3. Quiet details. I like that. And I agree. Played so delicately, but such depth. Awesome.

  11. Marissa clawed at her scalp, fragments of dead skin and charred hair falling loose.

    “I suppose there are benefits,” she said, from her chair, crossing her legs. “I’ll never need a new styling or a wax again. No more new clothes either - which is a shame because I loved to shop and try to keep up with the current trends.”

    I sat patiently in my chair, facing her. I knew she’d need some time to process the changes in her circumstances and that nothing I could say would help her. And knowing it was due to my cowardice was more than enough for me to accept without my encouraging her to explore it even further.

    “It’s fortunate for me I never had any self-doubt about my body,” Marissa continued, stretching out her right leg and then drawing her palm back along it. “I worked out. It’s lucky for me I did. I’ve seen so many train-wrecks already that didn’t make the transition to demon-hood well. Bitter, malevolent and vengeful, every one of them. It’s a huge change to have to undergo but you need to have a strong foundation to begin with. If there’s the slightest flaw in your personality, you’ll turn, just like that.” She raised what was left of her eyebrows and ran her fingers through her hair, brushing her fringe to one side, scowling when another handful dropped away and fell in her lap.

    I looked away, confident she was still relaxed about her change. I noticed the door was shut, its mechanism engaged so I’d have to fumble with it before I could open it. I noticed the full moon outside, shining pale through the darkness and then my window. I noticed her feet standing in front of mine on the rug.

    1. Ominous throughout and then a great creepy ending. Good stuff, Mark.

    2. Yeah, I agree. The tension mounts and that ending is spot on and ... yeah, creepy is a good work. ;)

    3. This is a good example of balancing revelation and mystery

  12. “I think he’s pining. He’s not eaten a thing for days.”

    “Pining? Is that a thing lizards do?” Marissa turned away, no longer interested. She pulled her phone from her bag and studied her face, using its camera app as a mirror.

    “Well, his buddy died a week ago. What would you do if I died?”

    She shrugged. “Mmm…I don’t know. Maybe I would just be glad I was alive.” She took a lipstick out and applied it, flexed her lips to achieve the optimum lines and then rolled them together into a smile. “Maybe I’d eat your remains. Is THAT a thing lizards do? Or is that fish?”

    “It’s geckos. Gregory’s a gecko. How many times do I have to say? And yes, if they’re stressed or hungry. Hamilton was on a moult or at least that was what I’d thought. I wasn’t expecting to find him dead in his bowl. Gregory was on his rock, the one near the heat lamp, so I don’t know if he knew. Of course, he’d miss him eventually. His vivarium’s not that large – you know I wanted to buy them a new one. A bigger one.”

    “Yeah, you said. I remember you saying something one time. I was looking to go to Cancun, pick up some early season sun. You said you needed to spend a thousand – is that right – and we had a huge fight. You never spoke for a month after I came back.”

    “So, anyway. About what I said. Maybe I should buy him a friend. Someone for company. It can’t be much fun for him now – it’s a big tank for one on his own. You’d feel alone if you were him.”

    Marissa turned, her eyes unreadable. “I’d thank you not to liken me to a lizard.” She sniffed, dropping her phone back into her bag. “They’re vile creatures – all scales, claws and black and white droppings. And the things they eat; everything alive and still hopping. They’re disgusting – I don’t know how you can feel an attachment to something so cold-blooded.”

    1. Oh, this ending crushes, too. Really well executed. And the dialogue is tight - well in, my friend.


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