Friday, May 11, 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.

I wish I believed in God, because I'd love to have a chat. Hey, why'd my friend Rich die? How come babies are born HIV positive? What about human trafficking? Genocide? Rape? Emotional agony? You having fun up there? That's what I'd like to say, and that's why I would love to believe in God. I can't make you believe in not believing in God. And you ain't converting me. Just saying.

You believe what you want to believe. That's your humanity-given right. But I'm going to do the same. I've given it quite a lot of thought. I've read the Bible cover to cover. Have you? It's a weird, but interesting read. I'd give it four stars. 

We're fucking idiots. Listening to the radio on the way home. The lyrics are supposed to be "with my dick in your mouth" and they replaced it thusly: "with my gat in your mouth." Think about that for a second. We're OK with talking about putting a gun in someone's mouth, but we're NEVER going to say dick.

I'd rather my kid hear dick than gat if they have to hear one. 

I'm not saying don't fuck me. But fuck you, too. I'm mad today because everyone is shortsighted. I would greatly appreciate it if you would ask yourselves the following questions. They're easy, but you gotta think about your answer.

1) Do you care who other people have sex with, and if yes, why?

2) Do you really think that someone's skin color or religious beliefs trump their value as a human?

3) Does it really make sense to set your country up so assholes get super rich and most people suffer?

That's it. Three questions. 

I'd ask God those questions and straighten things out if I could.

I'm sure I believe some stuff that's debatable. I know I do. But I don't understand why anyone would care what anyone else does unless it affects them or society. Every person gets to think, wear, and, within reason, say whatever they want. My five year old understands that.

Hey God? Where were you during the Holocaust. See? That's just one of the reasons. You want me to believe that God created the Earth so he could FUCK with us? Look around you. Things aren't going great in the world. If there's a God, then he dropped the reins or he's a sadist. Or she. It. Whatever.

I'm not trying to be a dick. I'm just telling you what I believe. I won't even knock on your door and do it in person. I don't care if you believe what I believe. Remember that part? Worship fairies. Join a cult. I don't fucking care. As long as it doesn't cause harm.

How could so many stupid people make something so simple so complicated? Everything in life can be put into two categories. Things that hurt people or society. And things that don't affect anyone except the person doing them. That second group of people should get to do whatever the fuck they want. Not only is it right. It's a right. Pursuit of happiness and all that.

The founding fathers you love to talk about would start the revolution if they were here right now.

Are you kidding? 

Dear God. It's me, Dan. If you exist, you have a lot of explaining to do. If you don't, and things are the way I think they are, it would have been really nice if humans had stopped evolving right around the time they discovered language. We don't need bombs or laptops and cell phones. We really don't.

We could be living in a natural paradise right now, but we screwed it up. And we keep screwing it up. And pretty soon the ocean will be sludge and all the rich CEOs and politicians will shrug their shoulders and go, "welp, we had a lot of fun with the money. So, there's that." And we'll all fucking starve.

Or we will be forced to put aside our petty differences and just do what animals do. Eat. Sleep. Try not to die. It's not fucking complicated.

So, that's it, God. Thanks for letting me pretend to have this talk with you. My Nana didn't deserve to die the way she did, by the way. And you should really think about sparing the kids.

For Christ's sake.

#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...#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. The first thing he did when he got home from the war was to go to his parents' house in New Jersey. When all the awkward hugs were done, the second thing was to find the nearest flagpole.

    An odd obsession, perhaps, but that’s what he did.

    It was in front of a grade school, not far from his parents. In the morning, he presented himself to the janitor, and offered to help raise the flag.

    Mr. Wamboldt, a veteran of the Great War, the war which failed to be the war that ended all wars, understood and agreed.

    The two of them, alone, met each morning for the next nineteen years to raise that flag. Crisp salutes, each of them humming "The Star Spangled Banner," early in the morning.

    He, too, became a janitor at the school, on Mr. Wamboldt's recommendation to the superintendent.

    They did not trade war stories, did not boast of the kills they’d made. In fact, most of their time was spent in silence.

    When the halls were swept, when the toilet paper was resupplied, when the light bulbs were replaced, they sometimes played a game or two of chess on a picnic table, in the shadow of Old Glory.

    The students watched them, these mysterious silent men. The few who mocked them were shamed into silence. Most of the kids knew there was something about the men that deserved reverence.

    And then Mr. Wamboldt died; some said by his own hand, but they only said that in whispers.

    He learned to play solitaire, until one of the students asked if he’d play a game of chess. Johnny. His name was Johnny, and he was good.

    Even when Johnny moved on to high school, they continued their games after school.
    Another war came, and Johnny enlisted.

    It was a different war. Some said it wasn’t a war at all. But the body count sounded like a war. The pictures on TV looked like a war.

    He raised the flag alone now. He still hummed "The Star Spangled Banner." He still saluted. On Sundays, he visited his parents' graves.

    And then, one day, in the crisp October air, he felt someone watching him, heard someone humming with him.

    When Old Glory was flapping in the breeze, he turned around. Johnny was back. Most of Johnny was back. But not his left arm, and not his smile.

    "Would it be okay if, if I helped you with the flag?"

    He nodded. "It’d be fine."

    Johnny sat down at the picnic table, the one with the chessboard painted on top, and dug in his pockets for the pieces.

    "I lost one of the pieces, over there."

    He nodded.

    "A pawn."

    He nodded again. "It’s always the pawns that get lost."

    And in the shadow of the red, white and blue, they played a game of chess, minus two pawns, and they waited for the next war.

    1. This...this got me.
      "It’s always the pawns that get lost."

      And in the shadow of the red, white and blue, they played a game of chess, minus two pawns, and they waited for the next war.

      You're on a roll today, Leland. But could you quite making my eyes leak now? <3

    2. Yeah, really nice piece. And before I saw LB's comment, I thought, "Good line, Leland. 'It’s always the pawns that get lost.'"

    3. Got me, too, damn ya. This is the real tale as old as time. The line that did me in was the one about the war that wasn't a war at all.

      On a totally different note, Dan your first piece slayed me, too. Get out of my head, man.

    4. Yeah, I'm late and the ditto - head. I like the cyclical nature. And this line got me good: "Some said it wasn’t a war at all. But the body count sounded like a war. The pictures on TV looked like a war.'

      Oh, and the missing arm and smile hurt.

    5. Man. You got me too. This is so good. And that line. The one everyone else highlighted. Poignant.

  2. Brie was very well-informed. She read multiple newspapers, watched the news twice a day on TV, had the updates on her phone. Some of her coworkers swore she knew more about what was going on in the world than she knew about her own life. And it wasn’t that Hollywood gossip crap either. Nuh-uh, that was much too silly and frivolous for their Brie. She was shy but underneath that she was a thoughtful and serious girl. Her coworkers loved her. That’s why they didn’t understand why she didn’t have many friends.

    Brie was very well-informed. Her mother was proud of that fact. She always had been, too. The girl had talked Prue and her husband into subscribing to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker and the Washington Post on top of their local newspaper. Prue’s husband joked that the best part of Brie going off to college was cancelling all of those subscriptions. They saved so much that they could have covered her tuition if she hadn’t already covered that. One day Brie told her mother that she’d read an op-ed piece about a woman who had stayed with her college boyfriend after he’d hit her. It was written to explain why some big New York politician’s employees hadn’t come forward immediately after he’d assaulted them. “How awful to go back to someone who’d taken his hands to you,” Prue had responded. “My Bruce would never lay a hand on me and if he did I would walk straight out.”

    Brie was very well-informed. Her husband loved taking her to parties and showing off what she knew. He often called her his little American Granger. She could stand to lose some weight and she couldn’t cook to save her life and the woman was hopeless when it came to keeping up the house and it would be nice if she could remember people’s names and details about them like Harry’s wife, Pamela did, but Brie did make him look good in front of his friends. That was something he supposed.

    Brie was very well-informed. She took a walk in the park on her lunch break, taking an old paper with her. She wanted to read that article she’d told her mother about again. It fascinated her. The wool coat kept in the heat of the day and itched her arms but she didn’t dare take it off. Her shoes, though, those could go. Barefoot, she sank into the green grass and shook out the paper. Her eyes went right to the piece, knowing exactly where it was located on the page. The writer said that it was possible that her boyfriend had hit her on accident. He’d been furiously gesturing. Maybe it had gotten out of hand. Brie pondered how hard the hit had been if the woman thought it might be a misunderstanding. Getting punched hurt. It left a bloody large bruise. It could make you limp or gasp for breath or avoid picking up anything heavy for a few days. How could someone claim to be hit if it was so minor that it could have been an accident? Despite the fact that she doubted that the woman had stayed with a man who “hit” her, Brie did agree that there was shame involved in being beaten. She also agreed that it wasn’t so simple as seeing a monster or a good guy. People came in all shades of gray. No one would stay with a monster. Who would do that?

    Brie was very well-informed, and she fervently wished she wasn’t.

    1. Oh wow... this is filled with irony and pain... and you leave it to us to hope for justice... The repetition of the one line at the beginning of each paragraph gives the whole piece a unity and rhythm... really well done!

    2. Wow. Great piece. Also, everything Leland said.

    3. Yup. Dammit. Leland literally stole my answer. :) This is a dope piece.

    4. Wow. Killed this. And me, too.

  3. Hey you, over there! Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you.

    This is God.

    You asked a shitload of questions. Yeah, I can swear, too. You think I can’t? I know the languages of a billion billion galaxies. I know about — hell, I invented — sex acts you can’t even imagine.

    So fuck you.

    You remember when your kid pulled the head off her Barbie doll? You see that one coming? You wondered if you were raising some kinda psycho? Yeah, I know that one, too.

    I gave you a gift. A beautiful fucking gift. A place with rivers and blue skies and trout and eagles and dogs and rainbows and all sorts of cool shit, and what did your kind do with it? You pulled its head off. Broke it.

    So I gave you some guidance. Suggested maybe you treat others the way you wanted to be treated. Maybe love your fellow creatures as much as you love yourselves. Fuck, you got the love yourselves part down pat, but you all kinda forgot about your fellow travelers there.

    And what’d you do with those hints?

    You pulled your pants down and shat on them.

    That’s on you, not on me.

    When your son grows up to be an ax murderer or a rapist, and you did the best you could by him, you ready to go to jail for your part in his crimes? Yeah, me neither. Sometimes, you gotta let the kid learn about consequences.

    When he gets out, maybe he’ll act different. Maybe the same. Either way, if he needs a place to crash, I bet you’ll let him sleep on the couch.

    I’m not a puppeteer. You’re not a marionette. I don’t pull your strings. I’m just the guy who gave you fucking life and a world to live in. I’m watchin’ what you’re doin’. Hell, I’m proud of some of ya.

    Fiction. Poetry. Paintings. Quilts. I didn’t dream those up. You did. Good stuff there. Motorcycles. Damn, you did good on that one. Cowboys, too.

    Some of you, not so much. Nuclear bombs? What the fuck? You couldn’t destroy shit fast enough with guns and bombs so you invent a way to kill off whole continents?

    Yeah, we can talk. I’ll take my share of the blame. When I saw the experiment was going bad, I coulda pulled the plug on the whole thing. But I kinda like the good stuff. Most of you are fun to watch. And I’m still waitin’ on your next book.

    It’s your move. I’m gonna go have some coffee while you figure it out. Couch is over there if you need it. Try not to destroy it.

    1. Oh, Leland. I love this so much. You got me in the feels, and you put into words perfectly what was starting to form in my head.

    2. Also, Dan's piece and this one reminds me of the latest Bloom County comics.

      That's high praise, to both of ya. ;)

    3. Thank you kindly, and Dan writes a helluva piece, with all the questions we all want answers to... I thank him for the inspiration! Tall glasses of ice water all around!

    4. Damn. This is beautiful. This is amazing. I agree about the juxtaposition of this and Dan's piece. I love your voice, Leland. Always.

    5. We should keep this going. We need more time in the day. I love this. A god with a guttermouth. ;)

    6. I think it'd be a fun thing to do a small book like this... God and a non-believer one-upping each other in the language and logic modes... sort of a 21st century riff on Twain's Letters from the Earth and Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.

      Thanks for all the kind words!

    7. Oh, I love this. And if I were God, I'd be pissed, too. I love your two pieces together, as well.

    8. And I love the third piece you've added, making a triptych!

    9. Ha, we should post them together somewhere.

    10. Terrific! To both of ya! Turn it into a dialogue!

    11. Maybe the Doubter, Mother Earth, and God around a campfire...

  4. Andrew Harrington shut the office door behind him and took the seat that Mr. Hughes offered. He’d been here before. The first time, he’d stared at everything at once, overwhelmed by the spoils of the company on garish display in every corner of the room. The last time, he’d forced himself to meet Hughes’ gaze and hold it, even though the disappointment—and worse, the pity—in the older man’s eyes had been almost too much to bear.

    “Do you know why I’ve called you here?”

    “I don’t, Mr. Hughes. I couldn’t begin to guess.”

    He could, of course, guess, but he didn’t dare hope. He’d pushed away the thought over and again since he’d received the summons from Hughes. Still, his heart was in his throat as he waited to hear what the man had to say.

    “Harrington, the Faradays are not forgiving men. They have long memories, and deserting your ship and crew…”

    Andrew swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I know. I’m very fortunate to still be in Faraday’s employ.”

    “You are. But even if the Faradays don’t realize it, we’re fortunate to have you as well. Your record since your reinstatement has been spotless. Better than spotless. And you were, by all accounts, one of the best captains Faraday has ever had at the helm of one of its airships.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    “Still, you’ve made it hard for the Faradays to ever trust you again.” Hughes held up a hand to forestall anything Andrew might say. “I understand. I do. I have a wife and two daughters who are the world to me. I’d have done exactly what you did. But for the Faradays, this shipping company is their child. They don’t any slight against her lightly.”

    “Nor should they.”

    “Nor should they,” Hughes agreed.

    He drummed his fingers on the desktop and then leaned forward, resting his forearms on the desk as his gaze drilled into Andrew’s eyes. Andrew’s heart did an uneasy flip, and he shivered as adrenaline raced through his veins. He swallowed hard and forced himself to stillness.

    One corner of Hughes’ mouth lifted in a half-smile.

    “Do you ever flinch, Harrington?”

    “I try not to, sir.”

    Hughes nodded thoughtfully.

    “I called you here to offer you a captaincy.”


    “A captaincy, Lieutenant. Of an airship.”

    Andrew’s nose twitched at the jibe. He wasn’t an imbecile. He just thought he must have heard wrong. Hadn’t Hughes just told him in no uncertain terms that he’d ruined his career with Faraday?

    “There’s a catch,” Andrew guessed.

    “I convinced the Faradays that you were the only man who would take this captaincy.” He sat back in his chair again, his fingers laced across his chest. “If you take it, you leave today.”


    His mind reeled. No chance to look over the ship properly, to get to know his officers, much less his crew. None of the formalities would be observed. He’d be lucky to even get the proper collar pin to denote him as captain. The situation wasn’t ideal. If they’d lost the previous captain so suddenly, there was every possibility that the ship and crew were less than ideal as well. Yet…this was what he’d been working toward, and it might well be his only shot.

    He frowned and crossed his arms over his chest.

    “Do I reek of desperation, then?”

    Hughes’ gave his head the smallest shake.

    “Not desperation. Honor, Harrington. Honor and integrity. You can see that the situation is dire, and you’ll step up to do what’s right. It’s who you are.”

    Forgetting himself for a moment, Andrew leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and let his head hang forward. Regaining the title of captain had been his goal these past three years. Why, then, did earning it feel like defeat instead of success?

    He raised his head to look at Hughes, and then slowly sat up again.

    “I must say, Mr. Hughes, I do wish you didn’t know me quite so well.”

    1. I want more, but you did a great job with this as just a scene. I love that he can't walk away from the challenge.

    2. Yep, this is a great’ve given us a little twist, and reminded the new Captain AND the readers to be careful what we wish for... I like the way you showed his body language, and the dialogue is well done!

    3. I concur. And I love this sentence: "Why, then, did earning it feel like defeat instead of success?"

    4. I want more, too! Really enjoyed this. And what they all said.

    5. Ain't it the truth? We ALL get tripped up by the ones who know us best, don't we?

  5. The first lie was small. You’d spilled grape juice on your mother’s movie magazine and buried it deep in a neighbor’s trash can. When she asked, more to the living room than to you, where it had gone, the “I don’t know” eased past your lips in three soft puffs of air, wrong but delicious. Your heart raced; your cheeks flushed. But she didn’t flinch; more likely she didn’t care. Busy with her busy life, busy with her list of tasks to be checked off. A truth, at that point, would have made an inconvenience, demanded a response. It would have stopped time, the flow of left-right, left-right. Right-wrong.

    You got away with it. But you didn’t sleep that night. Maybe someone had seen you. Maybe Mrs. Fitzgerald, who claimed she saw everything, spied on you from her window and told your mother, and she was merely biding her busy time, waiting for you to crack.

    You didn’t.

    The second lie came easier. When your father took you to his office, he told a secretary in a horrible dress and an ugly hairdo that she looked beautiful. But he’d slid you a wink. On the drive home, he explained that sometimes it was necessary to lie in the grown-up world, that the truth can hurt people who couldn’t take it. “And sometimes,” he’d said, “a tiny fib can help grease the wheels a little. You know. Like if you need to make something bad go away.” You didn’t know what that meant and were afraid to ask. But the next day you told Patsy Miller, a girl in your class with buck teeth and stringy hair, that she was beautiful. The words, again, were easy. The smile made her look happy, so happy she let you cheat off of her on a test you’d been dreading, and you understood what your father had meant.

    The third lie, the fourth, the fifth…you’d stopped keeping count. You’d stopped even thinking of them as lies. It was “stretching the truth.” It was “making everyone’s lives easier.” It was the thing all his friends were doing…to get girls, to get better grades, better jobs, better deals. Better girls. Better wives.

    The last lie was the one you told yourself, the bourbon and pills laid out on the shiny gold nightstand next to the indictment, the divorce papers, the will. You smiled into the empty room and said it had all been worth it.

    1. Wow... talk about showing the consequences...artfully told, and no, I’m not just saying that.

    2. Damn! That ending is dope. So is the whole piece. The specificity and detail. Amazing.

    3. Hate to be a ditto-head, but I don't think I have anything to add to what they said. Powerful piece.

  6. This gave me shivers. Great piece and so true.

  7. What do I do? Well, you know. A little bit of this, a smattering of that.

    Oh, for a living, well, I’m a, uh, I’m a…

    No, I’m not stalling. It’s just hard to explain. I’m a comparative forensic lexicographer, except backwards, sort of.

    See? I told you it was hard to explain. I study dictionaries. I compare them. See what words showed up when, what words disappeared.

    Interesting? Oh, you’re being very kind. I’m sure you can’t imagine spending a day wearing white gloves in the… yes, yes, we have to wear white cotton gloves so the oil of our skin doesn’t damage the paper…

    What’s paper? Oh, my. Well, before there were screens, there was paper. It was a substance made from trees… yes, those large unmoving organisms you studied in history. And the letters were affixed to them with ink, a black substance….

    Yes, I can see I’m losing you. The important thing I do isn’t about the reading, as I mentioned. It’s in the comparing.

    Example? Okay. Let’s take this one. Last week I was comparing the Websters New International Dictionary from 1909 with the Fourteenth — and final — edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Edition? Oh well, that’s rather complicated. Let’s just say they kept improving, until they did not.

    Now, where was I. Oh. Yes. One of the words that was in the 1909 edition describes a curious idea. The word is “humility.” It’s defined thusly: “State or quality of being humble in spirit; freedom from pride and arrogance; lowliness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth.”

    Yes, yes, such curious words, all antiquated and out of use these days. I had to look up “arrogance” myself.

    And the fourteenth edition doesn’t have either “humility” or “arrogance”… so we can ascertain that these terrible qualities -- and by extension, the need to describe them -- were eliminated from the culture by then. Such progress! And how amazing to mark our progress through our language!

    Now, did your 3-D cam capture all of that? Let’s have a look before you stream it to your fifteen billion viewers. I want to make certain that my every word will be heard and understood. I am, of course, the foremost comparative forensic lexicographer in the world! Wouldn’t do to have any portions inaudible, or my rugged appearance compromised now, would it? Let’s retouch the shiny spot on my nose. Perhaps add just a touch more chest hair? And let’s make my eyes a bit bluer. Yes, yes, that’s perfect.

    1. Oh shit. The ghost of Ray Bradbury and I love this so hard. It's a cool idea, but you pull off the believability. It's satire, but it's done with a feather. That's so hard to do.

    2. AND everything was written in two minutes! except I had to find an online copy of the old dictionary... who knew that you can find Webster's old dictionaries online? Thanks for the encouragement!

    3. Oh, wonderful! And what Dan said. Such a light hand on the satire.

  8. It was completely silent in the dark room. Well that's not true. There was the soft scratch of mice feet scampering around on the cold tile floor. That stopped bothering her hours ago. Her thin gown wasn't enough to fend off the creeping cold of this room. The blackness only made it colder. There were no lights, not even the ray of hope that sometimes slips in underneath the door of your bedroom at night when you've had a bad dream. They call it "Isolation Chamber Therapy". The cold, dark, quiet room served as a sensory disconnect for the brain. It was supposed to free your mind, allow it to make connections that it couldn't make before.
    They used it to shatter the mind and free your inner demons and then they could pave freeways down the spine of your soul.
    This time it wouldn't work.
    She said that last time too.

    1. Woah. This is so dope. You totally put us in that room. Just the perfect amount of detail, deftly doled. You put us in that room and the transition from description works because we're IN THAT FUCKING ROOM!

    2. Yep, I shivered as I was reading it... and my favorite line is "not even the ray of hope that sometimes slips in underneath the door of your bedroom at night when you've had a bad dream"... good to see you here!

    3. Thanks guys! Trying to get back in the game :)

    4. Nope, not trying, you ARE in the game!

    5. Holy cats. Definitely made me shiver.

  9. You want to get the taste out of your mouth. And you'll feel better if it's an even number. So, you don't ever just take one sip. One hit. One line. One tab. Minimum of two. But you know you'll have three and it will have to become four. Ad infinitum.

    The taste in your mouth is blood. Not the way blood really tastes, but it is the taste of guilt and disappointment. It's the way your face tastes when it's all scrunched up because you know you're about to cry. You cry when you're mad. You get mad when someone says something that's not true. Especially family.

    That's why it tastes like blood.

    Who the fuck am I to wrestle these words? I spend my days exploring and riffing on the best of the best. I'm explaining Steinbeck to a 16 year old. I'm letting them explain Steinbeck to me. It's amazing, but it's like expecting the color commentator and announcers to put on pads and get into the action.

    Fuck you, Fitzgerald. I'll own that.

    But Vonnegut? Twain? Cisneros? Shakespeare? Poe? I'm supposed to dive into their brains and then go home and write something that I don't think is shit in comparison. I'm supposed to keep swimming upstream. Self Loathing River.

    Cry me one.

    It does get the taste out of my mouth though. And I wake up wanting to do more. But doing it more doesn't hurt me.

    Check it. There is a skinny boy with thick brown hair. Golden in the summer and straight as shit. The boy isn't a bad kid. Not by a long stretch. But he feels like he's a piece of worthless shit. He thinks he should hurt himself as much as he possibly can so he can live up to the image of the wayward, impotent antihero he has been convinced that he is. That kid will grow up to be a man with a lot of cut marks. Healed. And a lot of vices. Slaughtered. The kid is gonna be alright. But he doesn't know that.

    Motherfucker SLEEPS in fight or flight.

    This kid does NOT want your sympathy. You can save that. Give it to someone who deserves it. The kid just wants everyone to be happy. And he will go to great lengths to make that happen. He will become the person that everyone knows will do anything because he doesn't give a fuck. But he always gave a fuck. That never changed. Sometimes when you get assigned a role, you play it because you don't know how not to.

    He blew it out of the water. That taste.


    Now, he deals with it and tries to remember that kid shouldn't have felt so bad.

    Words help.

    1. Wow... I think I know that kid.

    2. Ah, that kid...he’s gonna write circles around us all, because he knows all about pain and how to balance it with joy and angst. You told this story with the heart of a teacher, a damned good teacher. I’m glad that boy knows you.

  10. There is a "dock" that goes out about eight feet. It's not a big pond. It's big enough though. The boards are brown and broken, but it's not dangerous. And there's an old faded lawn chair bolted to the end of it. And you can sit there for hours and catch beautiful bream after beautiful bream. Golden bellies and tiger striped. Gorgeous. Like someone plucked them out of a tropical fish tank.

    And there will also be bass. Not many. And not big. Except you know there's gotta be one that's HUGE. Bass eat bream. This is a fucking bass fish bowl. There's gotta be one big mama bass down at the bottom who was a little smarter than the others.

    She don't fuck around. And she won't even look at a spinner, but you believe she will. Someday. Or a spoon or a popper or a jig. Maybe a rubber worm.

    And in the mean time, you can have a blast catching bream. And if you want, your grandma will have a fish fry with coleslaw and you'll eat the fish when it's still hot and greasy. Iced tea and homemade biscuits.

    The tragedy? I don't think it's there any more.

    Except in my brain.

    1. I love "big mama bass." I think she's got a bunch of stories to tell.

    2. I can just about smell that fish frying....and see the glint off the scales of those fish...and I think mama bass has stories to tell, too

    3. That is a tragedy. Spent many a day at the "tank" at my grandparents' place, pretending I knew something about fishing and wondering about the big momma bass. This conjures those memories. Captures them perfectly.

    4. Okay, now I'm hungry. Screw this farm raised salmon stuff...

  11. The catch

    I will keep the hook
    When I prise it from my flesh
    Dug in deep where it rusts,
    Its poison coursing in a steady
    Pump towards my stone heart.
    I hear it like the ticking of the
    Clock, slowly diminishing, out of
    Rhythm, as an insect crawling
    Scours a ragged weary tread.
    I linger. I pull. I pick. The wire snaps
    And I watch as the hook sinks back
    Inside me, enmeshed, twisting, twisted,

    1. wow! always a pleasure to read your words!

    2. Oh, I love this. What great, powerful images.

    3. Seriously. You pack some intense imagery into so little space. And I love the structure. This is what you write when you're too tired to write? ;)

    4. Thanks guys! :) JD, I thought I was too tired to write. I'm not sure what it means though. It's Leland's fault and it was like midnight or so :)

  12. You persuaded me. They've come out dark tonight. I'm in bed and it's 1am!

  13. With a bow to Dan and Leland...

    Ain’t that just like a man? Ball up some mud and fling it into the universe then leave everyone else to do the hard work. Sure. Let old Mama Earth grow the grass and set the water flowing to carve the mountains. Nurture the baby animals. Then you come back with your man business, waving your wands around, saying some shit in your big man voices. Gotta make more men, you say. Gotta make men in my own image. Now you’re blaming me for what bullshit they got up to? You see my girl Eve down there starting any stupid wars? Setting any homeless people on fire? You see her dirtying up the air and the water, slaughtering all my pretty animals? She’d be vegan if not for you. Damn. I gotta sit down. And no, I do not yield my time. Not one second of my time. Not after all the shit you’ve been putting this world through. All y’alls down there wanting Man God to come and fix your problems? He ain’t listening. He got his own shit to do. Making more dirt balls, flinging them around, up there in the heavens playing catch with Odin and Thor and Zeus and all the others. My ladies and I, we had ourselves a chat. We are done with you. No more coming around here barking orders. We’re gonna fix this place up best we can. Maybe light a few candles. Say a few prayers. Can’t say for sure it’s gonna work, but always leave a place nicer than you found it, is what I always say. And my ladies, we’re gonna raise up these new men right. If you’re good with that, then maybe, and I mean maybe, we can have ourselves a conversation about where we go from here. Starting with that man clown down in Washington, thinks he owns the place. Well, I got a thing or two to show him. Did you see that light show in Hawaii? Yeah, I did that. A girl’s gotta blow off a little steam once in a while. I can just as well blow some hot lava all around that chi-chi golf club down his way. See how he likes that on his back nine. Well, those to-do’s aren’t gonna get themselves to-done all by themselves. Namaste, y’all. #metoo

    1. Brilliant! Man and God having their fight, forgetting there are others in the house! Really, really like this!

    2. This is beautiful. I can picture Mama Nature perfectly. Thank you.

    3. Yeah, I love this. And Karen riffs on this all the time. And she's right. Men suck. Except for me, of course. ;)

  14. Spit

    I have done it -
    Swallowed hate like bile,
    Laughed in the face of the cruel,
    Smiled while dying a little in my heart.
    They pierce, these
    Raw wounds hung on barbed wire,
    Flesh waiting to smoke.
    The memory closes down,
    Refusing to process the negative,
    Leaving the images to singe in fire.
    I danced in a yellow dress.
    The leaves wither on this tree.
    The branches bend towards cracking
    Yet refuse to yield.
    A hazy breath like summer lends hope
    But the blackberries taste sour.

    1. So sweet and sour... bittersweet doesn’t quite say it. I like the way you layer and contrast the images and feelings.

    2. Yup, I agree. And the simplicity of the yellow dress line absolutely makes this piece for me. It has so much power. Brilliant.

    3. Thank you! I wrote it in a notebook first and the yellow dress line wasn't there. I put that in while typing it so it's funny you picked it out :) Yeah, it's bittersweet, Leland. Life is complicated!

  15. Things

    An empty sock
    A fingerless glove
    A hat bereft of brim
    A plant with no pot

    A child without a sweet
    A street name erased
    A house dead of light
    A field shaved of grass

    I am challenge
    Yet you bring me love.

    1. the metaphors are spot-on and painful, and the last line brings perfect resolution.

    2. Yup, totally agree. And I love lists in writing in general. And you nailed the landing.

    3. Thank you! I didn't know where I was going with that.

  16. Fairy dust

    You brought me scarlet lights
    Woven into a fairy garland scrawl.
    A sparkling symbol of things unsaid;
    Something to shine out the dark.

    Your paper hands threw fast shapes,
    Skittering madcap scenes across walls
    For my childish delight. I tried to catch this
    Affection in a jar like the dance of fireflies.

    1. This is lovely. Not to disrespect the first stanza, but the second is deadly.

    2. Thanks. I tried to write something sweet after the dark stuff. I love the idea of fireflies dancing.

  17. So sorry, my friends. I couldn't finish that story I mentioned on Facebook. But I did sculpt something from a bunch of different words.

    I see it coming, mostly peripheral, but not always. Sometimes it looms upfront and winks and laughs. Heartily even. Yet more and more I clock it as it struts along an urban street or lurks at the lip of a wood. It's a tendril, a blur, a shimmer. Often a goodbye. But I know it's real; I'm no longer dreaming it. Last week I saw it fall from a branch and shower golden green as pollen, slide off a wing as bright clear drops onto dry gravel and be absorbed. Heard it late in the gathered dark as the scream of a bobcat. Fucking? Fighting? Is there a difference?

    It doesn't always win, although it usually does. It's coming, though, however slowly.

    See the gluey trail, the fallen tree, the intaken breath at the passing of a hawk. The blinking slicked-back head of the harbour seal. Spawning sockeye stymied by falls. Raven calls, airless, sacerdotal. "Rainbows and rail ties." A wild pony drumming the land frantic. Stories of injustice, desperate killers exonerated by science, by reason. The mining disaster. That last travesty. The next.

    In the glare of a burnt orange sundown, we might even run out of steam, of breath.

    A slag heap slipped and dropped on a school. Friendship ruined by envy. Abandoned lovers gathering at the wharf, circled by urban coyotes (two syllables), the blare of the darkened barge gliding oleaginous in the thick contrarian ink of the river. Congealed fluids of everyone ever murdered. Molars claggy with rancid meat. Butterfly migrations. Stars astonished by their own birth. Mosquito nets. Craft slingshotted past so many lens flares for alien readings. The trafficked. The raped. The genocided. The blazoned sins tattooed by monsters on the conveyor-belt corpses of women. The lost. The compromised. Those who jumped so they wouldn't burn. Challengers. I swear. Dreamers obliterated by the shortcuts of others. I swear. There is nothing more terrible than imagination. I swear. Nothing. None of this. No matter. Swear. Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

    1. Your word choices always fascinate me... and I almost always see colors when I read your work (and no, I'm not smoking, nor drinking anything other than coffee). The last paragraph of this is a deep, deep gray (grey, alternatively)... And I almost always sit down and contemplate when I finish reading. This is beautiful, in a deeply pensive way.

    2. Synesthesia, Leland! I think I have a mild form of that, where the senses get their wires crossed (you see sounds, hear sights, etc.).

    3. I agree. And there are so many neat "tricks" in here. Specifying two syllables versus three. The images falling on and over each other. Kick ass writing.

    4. You swear. That refrain, great. I declare...

  18. Not my usual submission...

    I've written all my life. From the first barely a paragraph scribblings in a diary to the 20+ pages that composed my teen journal. No matter what path my life takes, I've always made space for my craft.

    Primarily I write memoir. But I short-story it when I want to leave out identifiers when it comes to the characters.

    I'm always willing to sacrifice an activity I like for writing which I love. #Priorties

    Lately I've subscribed to some author-to-author "guidance". Not pleased. Running more into "you must" instead of "consider this." It's making me bristle.

    Looking for feedback from the #2MinutesGo crew.

    1. If you're looking for advice on writing, the three books I always, always recommend are Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott (and follow her on facebook); On Writing, by Stephen King (seriously, it's that brilliant. I don't like much of his other stuff); and Natalie Goldberg's The True Secret of Writing (her Writing Down the Bones book is also good). Each is filled with recommendations, but not "have tos." Each explains what works for them.

    2. Yup. Lamott and King. Totally agree. Both brilliant books on writing. Haven't read Goldberg. I also think we need to remember that recommendations are mandates. We're always going to breaking someone's "rules" - I hope!

    3. You've come to the right place. Read authors who make you feel like writing. That's why I'm here. I'm very bad at taking advice.

    4. Also, read Chuck Wendig's blog. His post and guest posts. I think the website is

  19. The skull lifted from the grimoire, the deep shadows in its eye-sockets brightening into two small fiery emeralds. “And a good night was had by all,” it said, rocking in mid-air. “Too bad she had couldn’t stay, eh? Who’d have thought you had it in you?”

    “I almost didn’t for a moment,” I replied, my grin widening. “Who’d have thought a succubus could do such things? No-one could ever call me repressed but…whew! Just the thought of it makes my knees knock together.”

    Wilbur gave me a long, fixed stare, the green flames diminishing a little while he aligned his thoughts. “It was a damn stupid thing to do, though,” he said. “Tom-catting about is great when you have the upper hand, but the situation can always turn about on you in an instant. You may be more quick-witted than most but you’re not preternaturally fast. A demon can compress time so that an hour can pass in a second. You only prevailed this time because she was playing with you.” He settled back onto the book and I felt rather than heard his sigh, the gloom deepening about us as he pushed more energy into his wards.

    “You should have said something.” I threw the words at him, needing to offset the shame filtering through me, the remnants of her musk now laying heavy and soured upon me. I’d been trying to impress him, knowing he was in the room, keen to demonstrate my control over the powers I could wield. I’d thought nothing of what could have gone wrong, relying on the skills I’d developed, buoyed up by the confidence of my passion and my youth. This had been my third summoning this week - it had become easy for me, the incantations falling sweet from my lips without my needing to concentrate.

    “I could have but I didn’t.” Wilbur’s skull rose again, hovering eye-to-eye with me. “I needed to teach you a lesson. A lesson I wished I’d learned before my own succubus experiences. Before then…and before this,” he said, turning about before me.

    1. Ohhhh... you had me at grimoire! This is a delicious introduction to a longer work, I hope? and even if it's not, it's a spine-tingling story well-told.

    2. Well, I had to look grimoire up ... ;)

      This is awesome my friend. Your imagination is such a rich, lush place. And I'm with Leland. This is a dope piece of flash, but I would definitely keep reading.

  20. I awake to what sounds like a cacophony of heavy boots stomping onboards. I hear waves crashing against the shoreline, so close by I think I must be on a beach somewhere. I feel nauseated and my mouth is as dry as the bottom of a bird cage. The blinding light of the sun prevents me from opening my eyes. I feel dizzy and disorientated and a feeling of panic rises in my chest, burning like bile. I take some deep breaths and gulp in oxygen but this only serves to increase my anxiety so I try to breathe slowly through my nose instead.
    Clarity eventually returns and I realise that the stomping of boots is actually a headache from hell, pounding in my temples. The crashing waves are the sound of my blood swooshing through my veins and pulsing up to my brain. I’m feeling calmer now though I fear I may die of thirst and my body is so hot I could quite easily spontaneously combust. I hear a guttural sound and become aware it’s emanating from me, from my parched throat.
    A soothing voice whispers and a cool hand stokes my brow as miraculously drops of ice cold water pass through my lips. I want to guzzle and swill down a bucket full and it still wouldn’t be enough but a few drops have to suffice apparently. A cold cloth is placed on my forehead and someone turns the sun down which relieves the strain on my eyelids and soothes the banging in my head. I can’t move any part of my body just now but no matter.
    My body temperature has cooled and I feel as though warm arms have enveloped me in the shape of cushions. A soft whirring noise starts up and it seems that the wind has remembered it has a job to do as a gentle breeze wafts over my face and body.
    I try to focus my mind to work out where I am but my thoughts are disjointed and jump from one strange scenario to another. Images flash across my memory like a trailer for an action movie where I am the leading lady.
    I see me chopping vegetables in a bright modern kitchen…..another scene sees me holding my head and a firework display sparking behind my eyes. In another flash I am falling, falling….knife in hand, my head hits the counter top with a sickening thud as I crash to the floor. Blackness, sirens, fear and someone shouting my name….what’s my name? What is my name….? No matter. I bring myself back to the moment.
    Snatches of conversation from lowered voices drift across my mind. Some sound familiar and there’s one I don’t recognise. Disjointed words which make no sense wash over me.
    “I’m so sorry……brain unresponsive…..very little hope….” Solemn voice I don’t recognise.
    “Please, there must be something you can do? Surely ….needs more time?.......You can’t do this I won’t let you!” Frantic, familiar voice.
    “Daddy? Don’t let them daddy…..please, PLEASE.” Pleading, angelic voice.
    “I’ll leave you to think things over but not for much longer……Won’t ever recover….” Solemn voice again.
    Weeping, sniffles, “why? Why? I won’t believe it, I won’t give up on her…..” Familiar voice, a voice I trust.
    What’s my name? Who am I? It hurts to think. No matter. I am content and relaxed as the soothing, angelic voice reads to me in soft tones. She says it’s my favourite book and I think she may be right about that. She holds my hand with her soft, slim fingers and I see her face in my mind. I smile, at least I think I do and I feebly squeeze her hand. I definitely do that.
    “DADDYYYY! Come quickly…” The angelic voice shouts out very loudly, then kisses my face over and over.

  21. If you want to thrive and pass the test
    No room for kindness when no one’s caring
    The world is theirs and they’re not sharing
    Work like a dog the rich men said
    But you can’t spend your money when you end up dead
    Greed is god and hate is power
    You can’t buy a mansion with a lotus flower
    The river runs red with sweat and blood
    The forests are bare from the lack of wood
    Mine those diamonds and place your bid
    Without a thought for the fate of the kid
    In the rich man’s eyes their life is worthless
    There’s plenty more to serve our purpose
    And what about us who watch and stare
    We say the right things but do we really care
    Do we do enough to right the wrong
    Don’t wait for tomorrow, it will take too long
    We can’t stand by, we need a solution,
    Rise up people, start a revolution.

  22. You look upon her face and think you recognise the woman she has become.
    The face is oh so familiar, every contour and line is imprinted on your memory but the eyes hold secrets even you don’t understand.
    If you try to penetrate their depth it’s like diving into a calm, black ocean, reflections of the moon dance on the surface and there is a twinkle like the stars in a clear night sky. They are pleasant, alluring eyes.
    Swim deeper into them and you will find yourself in mysterious, unexplored caverns. Unseen versions of her will flash and spiral and glow in intermittent bursts, as glimpses of a complex nature hopes to be discovered and understood.
    She may attack as she sometimes does if someone gets too close. She may retreat and hide which is a frequent behaviour she adopts.
    She wishes she was like some other people she knows. They meet someone and before you know it they are intimate though they know nothing about one another. She doesn’t frown upon them, quite the contrary but she can’t do that herself because she needs a connection which goes beyond the physical.
    She is passionate beyond your imagination. It burns to come out like pressure building in a volcano.
    If you are brave enough, strong yet gentle enough to bring her to the surface and into the light, she will leave the cold behind and bestow her warmth and fiery, heartfelt zest upon you.
    One last chance is all she needs. She dreams of kisses and warm embraces, losing inhibitions and allowing herself to trust. Peel back the layers one by one.
    She is simple and complex, the girl in the mirror.

  23. "Gary's in town this week," the message said, "and we're meeting at the 32 Bar and Grill in Lebanon." It sounded like a place I might need to fight my way out of, or maybe even fight my way into. The location made sense, though. When former skydivers have a reunion, it's not at places with names like "The Glass Chimney" or "Purple: A Bistro and Wine Bar."

    I found them at a corner table. They were several rounds into the evening, by the count of their empties.

    I made my way around the table. The greetings were more than just one-shouldered bro-hugs. They were embraces, and the words exchanged might be no more than the other's name.

    Settling in, I ordered a sweet tea and listened as people went back to their stories. What I heard was nothing about the present. Nobody talking about their jobs. No political rants. They were talking about skydives they'd done thirty years ago.

    They weren't talking about the successful dives. Nothing like: "Remember when we hit 10 points on a six-way? Your transitions were flawless."

    Nothing like: "That four-stack? I docked my canopy on you and you slid down my lines like a fireman on a greased pole."

    Nothing like that. All the stories were about when the shit just went sideways. Bad exits. Malfunctions. Reserve rides.

    Mike started with one. "You remember the ping-pong ball demo?" Bruce and Harry howled with recognition: "The PING-PONG ball demo! I was ON that load!"

    A couple heads shook no. Mike went into it. "It was a Thanksgiving promotion at a car dealership. Right before we landed we were supposed to release these bags of ping-pong balls. The newspaper ad told people they could redeem specially marked balls for a Thanksgiving ham."

    "Everything went to shit. There was low haze and Slyde couldn't find the spot, so he put us out where he thought the dealership MIGHT be. We were landing in cornfields. We were landing on OTHER car lots. So the couple of us who DID find the right dealership dump our balls at about 500 feet. The wind catches them and blows them all over God's green earth. Onto other car lots, onto the roof of a Taco Bell. People are dodging into traffic trying to retrieve them ping-pong balls to get 'em a smoked ham for Thanksgiving."

    "People who did find balls marked "HAM!" took them up to office. The dealership said, sorry, the ad was a misprint. The ball wasn't good for a whole ham, but only for a HAM SANDWICH. Man, people were pissed."

    I settled in to talk with Kivett. We'd both been Marines, but a decade apart. I was in grade school when he was in the infantry with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. The year I was wearing short pants and watching "Cowboy Bob," he was at a firebase getting overrun by VC northwest of Quang Tri.

    I was on a load with him in November 1989 when I was a student and he was an experienced jumper, rehearsing an airshow stunt. My jump was a success and advanced me to my next lesson. His jump, an intentional cut-away, resulted in a catastrophic equipment failure. He impacted the ground at 60 miles an hour, which did not kill him.

    After he recovered and went back to jumping, we drove the team van down to the Tennessee Days Airshow, where we did demonstration jumps with the Frankfort Skydiving Exhibition Team. We talked all the way down. We talked about that day and what it was like to be certain you were going to die.

    He's near 70 now. Like most of the rest us around the table, he no longer jumps. It might be our knees or hips. It might be that our funds now go to hunting or motorcycles. But when the skies are blue and the winds are light, there's not a one of us that doesn't look up and think, "That sky looks jumpable."

    I know Kivett does. Before we said goodbye that evening, with promises to rendezvous for lunch next month, he said, “I wake up every morning thinking about two things now. Skydiving. And Vietnam."

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