Thursday, May 24, 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.

You keep looking at me like if you say the right words in the right order, quarters will start pouring out my ears. I’m flattered, but I’m also confused as hell. You’re in the wrong place. I got no cheap buffets. No complimentary shrimp cocktails. There isn’t a sequence of buttons you can push that will reset my circuitry. I am a broken robot. I am out of quarters. I’m running out of patience. And I’m covered in sticky circles. 

The least you could do is use a coaster. 

You think I’m holding something back. Like I’ve got some secret ace stashed in my asshole. Son, let me be the first to list my shortcomings. Actually, that would take too long. Let me list my strengths. Wait. That’s depressing. Let’s talk about tacos. Not those bullshit ones you put your syrup salsa on; I mean real goddamn tacos from a truck or a stand. Simple. Corn tortillas. No crunch. Some onion, cilantro, Tapatio … shit, I’m getting hungry. 

Let’s talk about egrets. I’ve had a few. They’re feisty birds. I don’t know where the hell Sinatra got his from. Mine shit all over the furniture and make my life a complicated misery. I get it. They get pissed with no sand to sink their beaks into. It’s not my fault that I live in an apartment and sometimes buy exotic animals on the dark web after the Ambien kicks in, but before I go to sleep. Is it? Just following doctor orders.

Fuck egrets. Let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about fucking egrets. That’s some messed up shit right there. I don’t even know how you’d go about doing it, let alone why. Why’d you even have to take us there? Seriously. Life is confusing enough. 

You keep kissing my ass and hoping; I see it. I should do the honest thing and tell you that you’re shooting your boots full of holes. I never did like having my ass kissed. I hate it. It’s hurting your cause. I’d rather you be critical. I’m not made out of glass. I’m made out of flesh and bones and gloop and a brain that doesn’t like falsehoods. Even if they’re flattering. If you’re going to kiss my ass, you need to do it subtly. I can get down with subtle ass kissing. And subtle hypocrisy. 

You. You, you, you. Me. Me, me, me. Doe a deer. A female deer. Far a long, long way to run. Old movies, I torment my children with. But, hell, they seem to think it’s fun. 

Why did they dress like that? Why does the phone look like that?  Dadda, what’s a Nazi? Oh, shit. Let’s go play Barbie. That’s a different kind of mind-fuck, but Barbie wasn’t down with genocide. Unless there’s a ‘Genocide Barbie’ now – I know they’re diversifying. Gotta represent everyone. And Trump is president. Which somehow allowed all the knuckle-dragging wannabe Nazi idiots to come out into the open instead of cowering in their parents’ basements where they belong. 

You think I’m wrong. You have that right. But I don’t think you’re right. Ain’t it interesting? 

I’d like to be a hermit crab.

Actually, I’d like to be a hermit crab in Doc’s lab on Cannery Row. That way I could keep abreast of the goings on and fascinate drunks and geniuses and saints and whores all at the same time. On Steinbeck’s dime. 

Where are we going to? What are we running from? Why’d we do so many drugs? Because they were fucking fun! I don’t understand why so few people say that. Not that I think everyone should do drugs, but you always hear: I was experimenting. I was lost. I was depressed. Never: what do you mean why? That shit was a blast!

It stops being a blast eventually, but, then again, doesn’t everything?

I’ve got too much white privilege to speak with any authority on blackness, but I know why the engraged bird sings. Because he doesn’t know how to open the cages and set all the other birds free. And that’s a tough one for anyone with a soul and some simple decency to swallow. Or swift. Or hawk for that matter. 

I’m not selling any wares. Anywhere. I’m trying, but no one’s buying. 

Step right up and lay your money down. Before I figure out how to steal your identity and take it.


#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...

42 comments:

  1. This story doesn't want to end yet, but I wanted to share it anyway.

    ---

    The gray-green ocean hasn’t changed. Waves attack the rocks and retreat, a rhythm as old as the earth on which Jude stands, waiting for her son to park the car. The sand, she imagines, is the same as it had been once upon a time, littered with pebbles yet cleaner than most public beaches. It must have hurt her bare, bejeweled feet, but she has no memory of that. Only of a girl and a boy flying high on peyote and getting married on a beach, as if they’d invented love and peyote and getting married on beaches. She’d giggled as his stringy mustache approached her lips, after the minister, a guy in a caftan they’d met at a peace march, had pronounced them husband and wife.

    She tries not to burn too much energy worrying about the rightness or wrongness of her choices, and definitely not in what-might-have-beens. But the sun on her face and the breeze fluttering her linen suit summon memories of her first husband. And, not for the first time, despite her self-imposed rules, she wonders what might have been.

    “Who am I kidding? We would have killed each other,” she says as Ethan appears, handing her something frothy and cool in a tall paper cup.

    “Who? My father or the guy you married here?”

    The tone of his voice brings her back to the present. Away from a girl and a boy to a mother and son, a son whose sarcasm she doesn’t appreciate at the moment. “He’s not the ‘guy I married here.’ He’s the first guy I fell in love with.” She doesn’t dare to say his name out loud. Her mother always taught her it was bad luck, which was probably a family myth, but it had stuck.

    “Don’t worry,” he says. “We’re not getting married here.”

    “You’re not…“ But his last statement is ringing too loudly in Jude’s mind for her to form speech. That her twenty-three-year-old son is marrying the girl he’s known for all of five minutes, a girl Jude has only met once.

    “Yeah.” He gulps at his frosty mocha whatever and lets out one of those irritating audible post-coffee sighs. “Sand fleas. Medical waste. Probably need six different permits these days, too.”
    Sand fleas. Jude had forgotten about those, too. She blames the peyote. Or maybe— “Wait a second. Is she pregnant?”

    His grin is so like his father’s that she doesn’t know whether to scare it off of him or cry. Instead her chest expands with equal parts fear and rage. Words collide with each other as they race to get out of her mouth.

    “No, she’s not pregnant. And before you say we’re too young or whatever, might I remind you that you were eighteen when you married that guy.” He gestures to the beach with his coffee cup as if they are watching the ceremony.

    “That was different! We were…” Fifty years ago, on that pebbly sand, the boy slipped a dime-store ring on a girl’s finger. Now a woman, she has no answer for her son. At least nothing that makes sense. We thought were in love? We were high? He played the guitar? She hides her embarrassment in a long sip of her drink, then indulges herself in a deep breath, timed with the rhythm of the waves.

    “Am I invited?” she asks, her voice smaller than she would have expected.

    His grin is sweeter now. It’s her father’s, not his. “Are you kidding? If I didn’t, you would never, ever let me forget it.”

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    1. I like the visuals, the sounds... and the characters, too. Would like to know them better... and now I'm scratching... sand fleas are the worst!

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    2. Love the whole thing, especially those self-imposed rules.If there's anything to get a person over that, it's your kid!

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  2. And a shout-out to Dan's opening story. Funny and sad for all the right reasons. Egrets, I've had a few...

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    1. This hermit crab was amused and saddened. And he loves the story.

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    2. Complete with the requisite component of adhd

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  3. I know this path by heart. I could walk it by night if they allowed visitors after sundown. I make this walk from the metro station at least once a month, but I only bring flowers three times: His birthday, the Marine Corps birthday, and this day. Memorial Day.

    Under the green trees, around the stones—arranged in formations as the warriors who lay beneath once stood—past the statues, and there, over there, beneath that dogwood, is the only grave I care about.

    Richard was a dog handler. He and Max detected 173 bombs and IEDs, saving the lives of their fellow Marines, civilians, and a few soldiers, too. In a desert I’d never visit, in a war I’d never understand.

    I loved him. Like a brother, and more. In ways I never imagined I could love. With depth and breadth, but alas, not in length. We were only together two years before... before he and Max were killed by bomb number 174.

    When the harbingers of death showed up at my door, to break the news, I saw them through the peephole, and I knew what cursed message they carried.

    They knocked smartly, ignoring the doorbell. For a moment, I thought about not opening the door, pretending that if I didn’t let them in, there would be no bad news.

    But I opened the door. They were polite. Supportive. Formal. And then, when they turned smartly to leave, the youngest one stopped.

    "This is irregular, but I was asked to give you this."

    He handed me a set of tags. Through my tears, I saw they had Max's name on them.
    And they left. Richard's body would arrive in a few days. They would call me.

    Darkness came, and I did not turn on the lights. Morning came, and I did not dress for work. Darkness came again.

    I must have slept, for I dreamed. Or I had a delusion. Or a vision. Or an hallucination. Whatever it was, Richard was in dress blues, white gloves and all, and Max stood at his side, giving adoration as only a dog can. And Richard was waving goodbye, and I couldn’t hear what he was saying but I could read his lips.

    "I love you."

    When morning came again, I washed up, changed clothes, and waited for the phone to ring. The days after were a blur. But one thing I remember. When they lowered the coffin into the ground, I did not cry. I was stoic, just like Richard told me to be, if this were to happen. But Max's tags, the tags id clutched through the days and nights, were still in my hand. And I threw them in the grave. I heard the clunk on the polished wood.

    Now, these years later, i stand at this simple white stone, and I let loose the tears I held back that day.

    And I notice what I’ve noticed on every Memorial Day. Four paw prints in the dewy grass beside the grave.

    I am not the only one who mourns.

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    1. Aww. So elegantly wrought, so spare so moving and dang it, I'm not even a dog person...

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  4. Part 1:

    Rain is scant in the high altitude desert. Sand is abundant. Dust, too, which is just sand worn down. People move here as sand, blown by the curious winds of change in their lives.

    They leave it as dust, pulverized by poverty, loneliness, and the unrelenting wind.
    This is the story of one man, a boy really, between the transformation from sand to dust. A boy who believed he could stay, could remain uncrushed.

    He had three strikes against him, right from the start. His mother had no idea who his father was. Strike one: She had resorted to the old profession to put food on the table. He didn’t mind not having a father, but one parent meant only one income.

    Strike two: his last name was Pacheco. The Anglos he waited on in the restaurant called him a Mexican, even though his mother’s great, great, great-grandfather had emigrated to this place from Spain.

    Strike three: he figured out he was gay when he was about six years old. The scar on his left cheek was from the boy he tried to kiss.

    It was a good thing he didn’t know how to play baseball, or he’d realize that three strikes mean you’re out, and not in the way of coming out.

    He didn’t want to leave this one-horse town. He had no desire to seek the big city, or to travel beyond the mountain walls of this valley. This was home, despite it all.

    His only dream was not to be alone. To find a man worthy of him as he would be worthy of the man. A man to laugh with, to play with, a man with whom he could grow old. And it wouldn’t hurt if the man were a cowboy.

    A Garth Brooks tune came on the cheap stereo in the restaurant one day. He was humming along with the song (the owners didn’t appreciate his singing along with the songs they’d chosen to create "ambience" in this hole in the wall).

    The door let in the desert sun to the cool darkness of the adobe building, and for a moment, he saw a silhouette. A cowboy hat. And he heard the shuffle of boots across the scuffed floor. A chair screeched as it was pulled out from under table 4A.

    And his heart was thumping, writing happily-ever-after endings before he even brought Mr. Right his ice water.

    "Our specials today are..." and his mind went blank and his face flushed red. "I’ll have to check."

    "That’s all right, pardner..."

    Pardner? Was this guy for real?

    "I reckon I’d like to have a steak. You got steaks?"

    He nodded.

    "Rare, if you please, a little blood running out when I cut it."

    He nodded again. "What would you like to drink?"

    "Coors'll do."

    "Sorry, the owners don’t approve of alcoholic beverages. Maybe a lemonade?"

    In another town, the cowboy might have walked out to find a restaurant that did serve beer, but he knew this was the only one in town.

    The cowboy made a face. "That’ll do."

    "I’ll bring you some chips and salsa."

    No cowboy was ever waited on more attentively. No steak was ever more perfect. The cowboy even smiled when he brought the check to him.

    "Waddya all do for fun in this town?"

    What could he say? His mother was retired from the business now, and no one had taken her place. There was no movie theatre. There wasn’t even a bar. "Well, some of us drive up the mountain and watch the sunset. We get pretty sunsets here."

    The cowboy's eyes sparkled again, but he had the good grace not to laugh. "Do they now? Is there a good place to go to watch it?"

    He nodded. "I know one or two."

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  5. Part 2:
    The cowboy was full-on grinning. "Do ya now? You suppose you could tell...or show...a stranger?"

    He looked at the clock on the wall. "I can show you in about five minutes, when my shift is over." He prayed Cindy would be on time, but if she wasn’t, he was gonna walk out anyway, damn the owners.

    "That’d be fine. Let’s clear the check, and I’ll step outside for a smoke."

    He took the cowboy's credit card, not letting himself look at it until he was at the cash register. "Louis Lester." He practically swooned. He ditched his apron, and threw it at Cindy, who was mercifully on time, and ran out the door.

    The cowboy was leaning against the adobe wall, one knee bent, his boot resting on the wall, too. Either this guy was the real thing, or he’d watched a lot of cowboy movies.

    The man ground the cigarette out in the parking lot, and picked up the butt.

    "Here’s your card and receipt, Mr. Lester."

    "I reckon you can call me Louie. Not Louis."

    "My name's Jimmy."

    And they got into Louie's rusty old Chevy pickup, and rode a gravel road up the side of the mountain, and when they parked, the birds sang, and the clouds provided a screen for the prettiest sunset the San Luis Valley had seen in many a year.

    It’s a funny thing. Not all sand turns to dust. With enough heat, some of the sand turns to quartz crystals. And some kisses are just hot enough to make that happen.

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    1. Perfect. And together they rode off into the sunset...We both got romance on the brain this week Leland.

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  6. Hilarious, Dan! Egrets... egrets!!! And the card stuck... 😂

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  7. Weird. Started another piece entirely. Then this happened.More content and comments tommorrow!
    Never intended to be all that, the crazy cat lady with a far-out dream
    But I seen an angel from another side, and he woke me from my sleep
    Never did see his face all at once, just the most beautiful pair of lips
    That kissed me, then whispered in my ear.
    “Witness.” He said
    His big wings flashed and sparked like lightning
    Striking terror in my heart.
    And he disappeared and come back again
    As I ran from my room, “I ain’t all that.
    The one who has visions
    And talks to the spirits
    I’m not the one, I ain’t your prophet.”
    “Witness,” he said. “You’re all I got.”
    “Awaken,” he told me and pulled back my hair and opened my eyes and made me stare into his vision and out my front door.
    Into the present, into the past, into a future that cannot, must not, come to pass.
    How do I witness a terrible story, impossible to tell?
    How to paint a politically correct, socially acceptable, completely plausible, vision of something called an angel calls Hell?
    I never wanted to talk with the angels. The spirits shouldn’t be able to speak to me
    Yet I am a prophet no one will believe
    I am a witness who cannot speak
    I am the worst information leak
    I never wanted to prophecy, yet if I do and it bears true
    You will blame me and my cats and my spirits
    But you unbelievers will never blame you.
    I am anointed with a terrible secret: Just this strange talent. An ability to see.
    I can give you advice you will never embrace
    From my beautiful lips pour beauty and nurture and terror and grace.
    Witness and speak; lie down and grow old; fear your angels, they’re telling the truth.
    And try to recall, that whatever happens
    The future, somehow, belongs to the bold.


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    1. "Witness" is one of my favorite words in the English language... and you made me love it even more. A fascinating, haunting poem. the "wit" part of witness comes from Old English wit(t), gewit(t), denoting the mind as the seat of consciousness, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch weet and German Witz. We think of it as "seeing" but it's really closer to "knowing."
      Well done!

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  8. We're counting sheep as the stone crow dies, starved of any colour to its wings. Lapsed in waiting, it kills me to remember and these days are shrouded in black night anyway. He lies prone, shaves the seconds from the day, and staggers in circles never completed. Drawings surround these echoes of a life, scrawled in a hand I no longer recognise. He sketches outlines in stages, languid pools of dots strangled from his pen, and in this way he fashions pain on to blank paper. And all the while I count the sheep. One, two, three.

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    1. ohhh.... this is good... dark, but heavy on visuals... I like! Favorite line: "...in this way he fashions pain on to blank paper."

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    2. Hmm I want to see more of this. So Intriguing!

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    3. Thanks Leland :) That's my favourite too :) That's all, Teresa - a small package & not sure what it means!

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  9. stephanie williamsMay 25, 2018 at 7:48 PM

    I think it was always in me to kill. The want, I mean, because although I had the urge does not necessarily mean I was going to do it. I wasn’t mad of course, it was just a feeling. If we were punished for our feelings, then every living person on earth would have done their time.
    Sometimes it flashes right in front of me, as if I were still there and had never left. And I can see the setting sun and I can smell the flowers which had just fully bloomed. It is hazy outside and I usually hate snails and such creatures, but today I feel no such distaste for them, as the lovely day has already rubbed off on me, and I can feel myself becoming more open to the environment around me. Maybe I will try to hold one of those snails.
    My sister is also with me, but she is off doing her own thing in the yard, as she has not been interested in spending time with me for a while now, even though I try to show affection to her. But suddenly I hear a scream, which at first I do not attribute to her because she is a tiny thing, and no sound like that could exit her mouth. I get up from the ground slowly and cautiously because I am scared of what I may see around the bush. I have a terrible feeling deep down inside me that as soon as I turn and see what happened, it will change me. And there she is, on the ground mewling like a kitten. My first instinct is that although I want to help her I cannot, my legs will only walk and not move faster beyond that, even though that is what this situation calls for. Up ahead I see her, her hair and clothing ruffled, her face distressed. She looks like she’s sobbing. I’ve seen her cry twice before and it’s the same face. There is blood running down her face and she reaches out. But this time will be different. This time I will pick her up and walk inside and call for help. Soon it will be like none of this happened, and we will go back to enjoying our summer. Maybe she’ll be closer to me after this.

    This is what I tell the doctor they want me to see.

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    1. Wow... this is remarkably powerful. All the more so for its simple and direct language. The last line was a brilliant twist!

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    2. Love the strange disociative element, the sort of out of body experience.

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  10. I once sold my soul for a free trip to Disney World, that I never ended up taking. Let's take a moment to process this.

    To be fair, I wasn't in a good place. I didn't entirely understand the worth of my soul nor did I factor in that I might actually want it back in even trade.

    First, I was provided free room and board. Mother did laundry for me, first time since I was 7 that didn't have to do my own, and taught me how to drive in a thin veil of independence. Fridge was always stocked and I didn't even have to cook the meals. Father barbecued and all was good. Long summers in the sun enjoying their company without shouting, hitting, or hair pulling. I was carefree and I could study in peace when I needed to in blissful ignorance of what was to come.

    But slowly it came. First Mother bought me clothes and encouraged me to wear them to church. I was engaged to Baby Boy and they tried to postpone the wedding so Sister 1 could marry first. We compromised with an elopement, they were the only family I had so this was a minor inconvenience. I let Mother choreograph a sham of a vow renewal in a sanctuary fit for 1000, we had less than 30 guests, all his family.

    I was on birth control, couldn't have kids before Sister 1, then once she had her first I was given the okay. I had my two, the requisite boy and girl, 6 weeks after my second my tubes were tied. Now I just had to wait until child #2 was 6, and we'd be allotted our free Disney trip like Sister 1 and Sister 2 before us.

    Baby Boy became more withdrawn but Mother and Father stood beside me, watching the kids as they grew. Only 5, 4, 3 more years til Disney World, I can do this, this is how the family stays together.

    The walls around me crumbled and I couldn't maintain the facade any longer.I soon realized that I was going to have to reassess the returns on my investment.

    I had given up time, money, better jobs, more education, and so much more for a Disney trip I may receive in 3 years or less. I had received 2 children in trade, far more valuable than the temporary thrill of an amusement park.

    So I walked first then ran. I headed to new shores and clung close to the children, it was them and me against the former powers that be.

    My soul's external value is greater, with love, more education, and lessons learned. The kids and I will adopt soon from India, a reminder that there's always room for one more at the table and that there is not an ideal family size.

    As for Disney World? Well, despite the boy being 2 years shy of his birthright trip to Orlando, we're Annual Passholders at Disneyland. We go when we like, at a pace we like. He may not be tall enough for every ride, but it's worth it.

    They can keep their plans and pretend like we're going to Disney World soon. In reality, I've already gotten my soul back, debt paid in full.


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    1. I love this... it sings of the joy of freedom when realized! Well done!

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  11. I'll just leave this here for y'all. Part One:

    The smell should have been my first clue. It was coming from a dark, thick patch of grass near the fence. Momma always said that the grass is always greener over the septic tank, or maybe that was the title of a book she liked. So I went to tell the groundskeeper.

    He gave me this weird look. Laughed and tousled my hair in that way I hate, but I didn’t want to get him mad because I was getting paid decent money for mowing the grass. “Rich people’s shit stinks just like the rest of us,” he said, then told me he’d take care of it.

    He didn’t take care of it.

    Next time I came, the patch was darker, and bigger, and needed a serious mowing. I got as close to it as I could stand. My eyes were watering from the smell. The grass was soggy, and maybe I was just imagining it, but it looked like the whole patch was kind of...sinking in the middle.

    “Kid.”

    My stomach cramped. It could have been the smell. But I knew better. I knew that man’s voice.

    “Hey, kid. C’mere.”

    He was bigger than I thought. Meaner than he looked on the television. I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. Momma also said that I should stay far away from “that fool,” as she called him, and she never said anything like that without good reason. I tried to take a step back but my feet froze. Then he came to me.

    “Kid. Don’t go near that if you know what’s good for you.”

    Then he shoved five bucks at me and walked away.

    I kept his money. Didn’t feel right spending it, but I kept it in one of Gramps’ old cigar boxes in my closet.

    Then I started to wonder. What was so important about that stinky patch of lawn that the president himself was giving me money to stay away from it? Somehow I didn’t feel like he was scared I’d get hurt.

    Next time I came, that part of the lawn was marked off with yellow tape, and three men were standing around staring at it. I didn’t know what good staring at it was going to do. It was all swampy now, and sinking even lower in the middle. And good Lord, that smell. I’ve been in a lot of outhouses and such and I never smelled anything that bad. That got me wondering if maybe some animal fell in and died, like that raccoon that got trapped under our porch.

    I was about to tell them that when a big hand landed on my shoulder.

    I turned and my mouth went dry. I’d never seen this guy before, but he looked even bigger and meaner than the president. His face was one giant prune and it was getting redder and redder by the second.

    “You got business here, kid?”

    “I just mow the lawn...”

    “Not anymore, you don’t. Get your ass out of here.”

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  12. Part Two:

    I was so shocked and afraid that it was like my feet had decided for me that we were going to turn around and run. I made it about a block and a half away before I stopped. And thought. He didn’t have any right to fire me. I didn’t even know who he was. The groundskeeper was the guy who’d given me the job, the guy who gave me my twenty bucks after I’d finished. And what was I doing, running away like a little baby. I heard what Momma might tell me: “Stand up for yourself and be a man.”

    So I took some deep breaths and walked back there. Tall and strong like a man. Right to the groundskeeper’s office. And I told him what happened, plain as I could.

    He listened. Nodding at me. I thought for sure he’d say the man was right to fire me. For standing around gawking while the men were doing their important work. For causing trouble. But he just said, “Close the door and sit down.”

    I did. My heart in my throat. I might have been hovering an inch off my chair, I was so nervous. My palms were sweaty and I wiped them on the legs of my cargo shorts.

    He leaned forward. “I’m gonna tell you something, son. And I need you to promise me you’ll never tell another living soul.”

    I nodded, sure my eyes were bugging clear out of my head. Momma told me a man’s word went straight to God. That a real man—a real, good man—never promises what he can’t deliver. “Yes, sir.”

    “That’s where he puts his sin.”

    Now, I knew all about sin. But I didn’t understand the rest of it. The groundskeeper must have realized that, because he let out a long breath and moved a little closer. “See, there’s this story. It was writ a long time ago by this English dude. There was a man who made a deal with the devil to stay young and good lookin’ forever. But there was a catch. You know there’s always a catch when you make a deal with the devil. The devil, he put a painting of the man in his attic? And this painting, it had a spell on it, so that it got older and uglier each time the man sinned. Which was all fine and good for the man. He could do what he wanted and the painting took the hit. But he was overcome with guilt every time he looked at the painting. Eventually it drove him crazy and he stabbed the painting, and the man fell down dead as if he’d stabbed himself.”

    It took me a long time to think about that. “So...the grass out there grows higher and gets stinkier each time he...?”

    The groundskeeper nodded.

    “Boy, he must sin a lot.”

    “It ain’t for us to judge,” the groundskeeper said. Quiet, like we were in church.

    “But that’s not good for the lawn.” I wondered if maybe the devil would give him a portrait instead, that he could stick in the attic. “And that smell, it could make people sick.”

    He nodded again. “Well, I agree with you, son. That’s why those three men are out there right now.” He hooked a gnarled thumb over his shoulder.

    “If it’s his sin, what can they even do about it? Dig it up and put it somewhere else?”

    “They’re doing what they were told to do. Stand around and look at it for a while, make it seem like they’re fixing it. Maybe put some hay down, soak some of the stink up. Bless them, they don’t know it’s only gonna come back worse.”

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  13. Part Three (Sorry, it wouldn't fit!):

    That made my stomach ache. How that thing could get any worse? I swallowed hard before I asked my next question. “Do I still have a job?”

    He gave me a soft and kind of sad laugh. “You’re a good boy. You’re a good worker. Yes, you still have a job. Leave that man to me.”

    I couldn’t sleep that night, after what the groundskeeper told me, about the sin and about the painting in that story. It just wasn’t right, to be that full of sin and also be the president. And leave that stinky swamp out there on the lawn, making anyone who gets near it sick. But I kept my promise. I didn’t tell a living soul what the groundskeeper told me. I did my job. Eventually,, they took the yellow tape away from the stinky spot, which was a little less stinky, and they’d raked up the hay. But that grass was way darn long and needed a serious cutting. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to take care of that.

    So I did.

    The next morning, Momma told me the president died. And that they’d asked everyone who worked there to come by and pay their respects. Momma said she’d come with me, though I knew from the pinch in her mouth that respect was the last thing she wanted to give him.

    As we walked by the part of the lawn where I’d spent so many hours working, I tried not to look at the stinky spot. Maybe it was my imagination, but I couldn’t even smell it anymore. It just smelled like fresh cut grass. It wasn’t soggy, it wasn’t sagging in the middle...it looked just like the rest of the lawn. Momma leaned toward me and said, “You do such good work, son.”

    My jaw trembled with fear. Had I killed him? Was it really true, what the groundskeeper said, and what I did was like stabbing the painting in the attic?

    No, I told myself. That was just a made-up book.

    It wasn’t my fault, what happened to the president. I was just doing my job.

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    1. Yeah, tell it. That's where he puts his sin. Knocked it out of the park.

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    2. An epic tale! Oscar Wilde would be proud of this retelling! and yay for boys with consciences and lawnmowers!

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  14. It was raining when the widow Grace Johnson arrived at the fellowship hall, toting a bucket of ambrosia salad and announced by a suffocating cloud of perfume. Part jasmine left out too long in the heat; part dying gardenia and coconut and an undertone of something more like feet.
    Almost immediately, the Reverend Bowman cracked open a window and more than the usual gang of smokers headed out to the porch, even soggy tobacco being preferable apparently to the tropical torpor that wafted in every direction like some poisonous gas.
    We couldn’t really blame her, I guess. Grace had just recently returned from an ill advised cruise to the South Seas paid for courtesy of her dearly departed husband’s life insurance. There were some of course, who disapproved of her choice, but I figure you just can’t come right out and tell people some things and how to spend their money is one of them.
    So I relieved her of the salad bowl, being more nose blind than some, and stuck a finger in it before handing it to Jaycee Lee Hendricks. “It’s okay, I told her. She used the Cool Whip,” because in the hot weather the brethren had discovered through had experience that things like real dairy and mayonnaise on the salad table could bring down half the congregation without proper monitoring.
    But the reek of Grace’s eau de whatever couldn’t hold a candle to what came next when she shook off her trench coat and revealed a pair of gold threaded harem type pants with a flamingo colored silk crop top just short enough to show three inches of midriff whiter than an Edwardian banker’s. I swear, there were at least sixteen silver bangles on each of her wrists and a necklace than jingled over her bosom just about every time she breathed.
    There wasn’t a gasp so much as a collective inhalation. And that perfume must have been growing on us, too, because then she asked me, “Like my new scent, Livvie? It’s called, Polynesian Sin.”
    Now, anyone who knew Grace Johnson before that night would have reckoned and rightly so that the woman knew as much about sin as she did about Polynesia, but now I wasn’t quite so sure. I showed my teeth. “Is that what it is? I knew there was something different about you.”
    She laughed merrily, with a throaty sort of undertone that made me uneasy. “And my Buddah pants? They’re the most marvelous things, light as a feather for the heat and will fit any figure. Any figure at all. Yet SO feminine, don’t you think?”
    She twirled for me once and I could tell from the murmurs rising through the doorway the women in the kitchen were having themselves a regular field day. I was going to excuse myself but right then, the newly divorced Tate Harding came hustling in from outside, stinking of breath mints and started pumping Grace’s hand so hard that necklace of hers jingled like Christmas morning.

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  15. part 2
    “Why Miz Johnson, ain’t you a sight for sore eyes! How was your cruise? I told you Bali was the best, didn’t I? Tahiti? All them places, ain’t they the greatest? Did you hit the nude beach I mentioned? Something to see, all right. Something to see.”
    Just then, Pastor Bowman appeared at her right elbow, looking more embarrassed than if he’d personally tossed a hairball on the carpet. Looking everywhere but her mid-section, he rolled his eyes to heaven. “ So good to have you back, Grace. You look so uhh…rested.”
    “Oh, I am, Reverend, I am!” Grace gushed. Just to see another corner of the great wide world; to mingle with the natives. They have such a sense of freedom. Travel is so enriching, don’t you agree?”
    Just between you and me, I don’t think the Reverend Bowman has ventured any further into the wide world than just north of Tallahatchie, but he wasn’t about to differ. Meanwhile, he’s got Tate so fired up with all her enthusiasm he’s grinning so hard he’s about to lose his bridgework.
    “I tell you, I am positively rejuvenated. Some might say the Holy Spirit came down to me on a white sand beach, but do you know what I say? I believe I’ve finally got in touch with my Inner Goddess at last. Who would’ve thought?”
    Now, there are some things you can tell people and some things you can’t and what to do with your Inner Goddess is another one. So I just leaned against the kitchen door while inside old Caroline Hawkins was running dishwater hot enough to scald a cat. By that time things were breaking up bit at the fellowship hall and I never noticed Grace was right behind me, shrugging back into her trenchcoat like strip mall stripper at the end of her shift as the women in the kitchen banged dishes in the sink.
    “Inner Goddess my eye, “ said Caroline. I’d like to know the name of whatever cruise gigolo she managed to take up with down there. I truly would.”
    And then, from behind me, the widow Grace Johnson laughed merrily, with a throaty little undertone that didn’t apologize.
    “Garrick, “ she told us, loud and clear. “His name was Garrick.”

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    1. This is MARVELOUS! I love these characters. I want more.

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    2. I swear to God I know these people.... yes, tell their stories!

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  16. She lays on her back
    Vulnerable to the elements

    In little movements
    She pushes little by little
    The weight of the world off of her

    The sun dims as she heaves off
    Her discarded shell
    Proud and tired from the work
    she touches her eight tiny legs together
    To sense her new size and body

    She rolls over and
    Dries her new hair then
    Returns to her burrow
    Reborn

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    1. I really enjoyed this. Great images. Thank you.

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    2. rebirth through shedding skins has always fascinated me... thanks for letting us see up close and personal!

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  17. In the City

    He worked the mezzaluna against the board, shredding the basil into fine slivers. The peppercorns were next, ground gently until they released their flavour. The ingredients were coming together – this was as much an art as any other. Wilbur brushed his hair away from his brow with the back of his hand, careful to keep the sweat away from his palm. He was putting nothing but love into this meal.

    In another part of the city, Elaine was busy also. She was working on her outfit, laying combinations of clothes out onto her bed, seeking to find the optimum permutation of items. If asked, she could have calculated the total number of selections, but however you looked at it, it was daunting. She didn’t want to be too predictable – they’d been out together almost a dozen times now – but she didn’t want him to realise she’d only a few classic garments in her wardrobe. Strategic accessorising was the way to go, she thought. People focused on lines and shapes and textures – a subtle pearl on an invisible thread could captivate almost anyone if it was deployed with thought.

    On the gyratory expressway, Asil was concentrating too. He’d a pick-up at nine in the blue-collar residential part of the city; a young woman needing a ride to the affluent new-build section of town. His dispatcher had radioed this fare to him just five minutes ago and he was on the wrong side of the traffic that clotted the streets at this time of night every Friday. He’d have to be extra wily to make it there in time. He knew it’d affect his tip if he was late.

    A hoodie-wearing man with a back-pack waited until the crowds began to dwindle, picking his way up from the subway, making sure no-one jostled him. He’d a mission in the city centre, his controller sending him out to make a statement no-one would be able to ignore. He’d be well-known throughout the world by this time tomorrow. If only he’d be able to enjoy the fame he’d have earned.

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    1. Ohhh... I want to know how these intriguing characters come to interact... each is mysterious, and each determined. You've drawn me in!

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