Friday, June 1, 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.

Ride with me.

He said it so simply. It wasn’t an order. It wasn’t a question. It was an affirmation. We are two dudes on motorcycles a long way from home. My bike was old and well used; his was new and compensating for some serious insecurities. Didn’t matter. We shook hands. Established our signals. Talked about riding style and how often to stop. Both of us wanted to make time. I pulled out in front. A rusty thumper with a chromed-out V-twin behind it.  Together, we sounded like some kind of Frankenstein bike.

Something unholy, but somehow right.

The first time we stopped was for coffee, but he could barely hold the cup. I almost made a joke about not being able to afford decent gear after all that chrome and custom paint. I didn’t. Then, I didn’t even want to. So what if this was new to him? Or if he was a weekend warrior? Who was I to judge? Just because I practically lived on my damn bike. I went to my saddlebags and brought back some goodies.

Put on this thermal underwear. This scarf – until you get a full-face helmet, keep your face and neck covered. Wear these shop gloves under your riding gloves. Keeps your fingers warm.

He smiled. Poured a slug of bourbon into my coffee and went to get warmed up. He came back smiling harder. It’s a certain kind of smile – I can’t describe it without making it sound stupid. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end. Sometimes you get by with a little help from your friends. Sometimes you get by with a little help from a stranger.

That underwear is gonna make a huge difference. Thanks, brother.

No problem. You ready?

He was ready, so I did a few deep knee bends until my left one popped that ugly, loud, snap that made my knee feel almost human. I stepped onto the peg and swung a leg over my gear. I felt the bourbon a little. Not too much. I heard the big Harley start up, and I waved him forward. I’d listen to his pipes for a little while. This wasn’t a tour after all.

I ain’t no tour guide.

The second stop, I called. My phone was ringing and wouldn’t stop. When I checked it my face must have done something because he looked real pale when I looked up.

You want a few minutes?

Yeah, brother, thanks.

There was no good reason for her to be calling me when she knew I was on the road.

Sorry, I was riding, what’s up?

Oh, Baby. I hate to tell you this over the phone. They couldn’t save him. I love you. Come home.

I had nothing to say to that, so I hung up the phone. Or pressed the fucking button. Whatever you call turning a phone off nowadays. I’ve never been good at crying. It’s like my face wants to. My body wants to. But it gets all twisted up inside and turns into pain – thick throat pain. The tears won’t come and it’s like emotional blue balls. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to set my bike on fire. Then, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Everything OK, man?

Yeah. Well, no. No. Nothing is fucking OK. Friend of mine got run over a few days ago. Drunk truck driver. He was wearing all the gear, but that don’t matter when you get crushed. Still, they thought they might be able to save him. They couldn’t.



Jesus, I’m sorry man.

He passed the bourbon to me, and I took a long pull. I lit two cigarettes and handed him one.

He was a good rider. Real good. Better than me. But he was reckless. I wonder how much that played into things. And then I feel like a dick for thinking it. And my wife wants me to come home.

Will you?

Naw. I’m gonna finish the ride. I was going to see him. Hauling ass. Don’t have to haul ass anymore, but I still want to see his old lady. His kids.

You still want company?

Naw, I’d slow you down. Your bike is faster, and something tells me I’m gonna be riding extra slow for a while.

I didn’t ask if you thought it was smart. I asked if you wanted it.

I looked at him then. He was a middle-aged guy. White. No ink that I could see. He was probably an office type. He had that kind of doughy, pale skin. His hands were soft. I wasn’t judging him. I was just thinking we made an odd pair. And I felt a little like the ugly duckling.


Actually, you don’t have a choice. I was just riding to ride. This is my vacation. Every year. I don’t get to ride much back home. So, I make sure I do this every year. So, I don’t even have a destination. And I’m not letting you ride the rest of this ride alone. Where do they live?


Let’s ride.

We stood up, and I could see him more clearly than I had before. We probably had very little in common except for gender and a love of motorcycles. That didn’t seem to matter to him. I wondered if it mattered to me and, if it did, what the hell kind of person did that make me? I was frozen. He could see it. Not cold like he’d been. I was frozen inside.

Hugging in motorcycle gear always feels awkward and manly and lame at the same time. But I welcomed his embrace. I took another slug of his whiskey. He slapped me on the back.

I’m awful sorry about your friend.

I know.

We rode together for three more days. We took the scenic route. We got to know each other. Turns out his name was Randy and he worked as the manager of a grocery store. Turned out my name was John, and I was hard to put into any category. It became kind of a game. And we became kind of friends. He went to the funeral with me. I don’t know if he had to stretch his vacation or not. I did know he needed to head home, and I wasn’t ready yet. We were sitting in their back yard. The kids were trying to have fun. I tapped his shoulder.

Ride with me.

We rode to into town. Found a bar. Had a few drinks.

I know it’s time for you to move on, brother. I can’t tell you how much this meant to me. You ride home fucking safe, OK?

I will. And don’t sweat it. You would have done the same thing.

We hugged. He rode off. I gave him time to get his stuff and clear out before I went back. I was wondering about what he said. About me doing the same thing.

Sometimes, I still wonder.

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.


  1. And that is one beautiful story... the brotherhood of mankind... hearts touching hearts. You got me in the heart.

    1. This one got me in the heart, too. Like, almost physically can feel it there. Mighta made my eyes leak a little at the corners, too. A little bit of perfect brotherly love in a very imperfect world. <3

  2. Gravity

    Twice as far down
    As he was
    But only half as far down
    As tomorrow
    Equals acceleration
    Times time
    And he was going
    Distance is
    One-half the
    Product of gravity
    And time squared
    How very far he’d fallen
    He had no idea
    Of how very far
    There was left to fall

    It’s what gravity does.

    1. I don't know how I feel about you bringing mathy type things to the show! ;) This is a cool piece. Neat idea, and I like the clean/clinical tone a lot.

    2. It's great cos the words are falling, like gravity :)

    3. Oooh. Clever. I really like it.

  3. It was near sunset when he set out on the familiar trail. Only a fool starts a hike so close to dark.

    His feet knew the static part of the path without his guiding them. That was not why he walked. It was the changes he saw every day, the deltas, he’d call them in mathematical terms.

    Each leaf. Each blossom. Each footprint of each wild animal. They added and added until one day in August, the additions became subtractions, and one by one things disappeared, things died.

    He did not want to see another August. He wanted to to remember this place always as a crescendo. And this was why he started his walk near sunset.

    The sky glowed as the sun kissed the horizon. First dark yellow, then marmalade orange, and at last, dark red. He watched Venus, the evening star, sparkle into light. He knew it as a planet, but who was he to re-write history? If the Romans saw it as a star, so could he. Somewhere, the mourning dove began its plaintive call, and another joined it in response. Both were silenced when the owl began its relentless questioning.

    He, too, had relentless questions, but not who. His questions were mostly why. Step by step, he left the owl and the doves behind.

    Now only the sound of his boots on dust echoed through the dark. On he walked. On and on. Now he heard his breath, not like the wind, but ragged, like rusty hinges. He added when to the litany of questions. When had he grown old?

    He stopped, when he heard a buzzing. Cicada? Rattlesnake? His mind muddled through the possibilities. He should have brought a flashlight.

    Do cicadas make their noise at night? He couldn’t remember. He did not move. He watched the clockwork of the sky, centered on Polaris, the north star, the only one that did not rotate through the night sky. He watched the transit of Jupiter.

    His legs cramped, and yet he remained still. He felt something on his right boot. Then his left. Something slithery. He stopped breathing, willing himself to remain silent. His bladder was near to exploding, but he did not move.

    The sky behind him promised dawn. As the gray landscape came into view, he dared look down.

    There was nothing but the marks of a snake’s signature in the dust, between his two feet. He glanced slowly to the left and right. He saw nothing, no one.

    He breathed again.

    Cautiously, he lifted his right foot and set it forward. Then his left. The fool resumed walking.

    And so began June, in crescendo, hiding dread August with the pledge of dawn.

    1. Wow, this is beautiful. And that last line? Damn! I love this: "He, too, had relentless questions, but not who." - and the way you carry it through. The math? Second warning. ;)

  4. Every seven years, the locusts emerge from the earth and drive him slowly mad. At first, a few rub their legs and wings together, and he pretends it is a small orchestra. Violinists, tuning their instruments.

    Then more emerge. The noise is deafening. He can hear nothing but the dry desert wind and the locusts. The sun beats him down, but only speeds the locusts up.
    Their milky shells, from their molt, lie everywhere. He walks and steps upon them, feeling, but unable to hear the crunch.

    His mind transforms them from violins to chainsaws, murderers lurking behind every shrub, every blade of grass.

    He is paralyzed by fear and can take not another step. Hyperaware, he knows they surround him, and there is nothing he can do.

    The yellow rays of the sun make him thirsty, but the water is half a mile away. It may as well be another planet. He listens, he listens.

    And he hears their voices merge into a chorus, in a language he’s never heard before, but which he nevertheless understands. He nods. Of course. It all makes sense.
    He sits down.

    And never rises.

    When the sheriff finds his body, he notes an unnatural smile on the face. He reaches for his radio to report in, and the lips separate. A locust crawls out, red with blood.

    1. Damn. That did get creepy with a quickness. Glad I don't live in cicada country anymore!

  5. “We sell domestic bliss,” the ad read.

    “Our synth-skinned models are so human, the only giveaway is their willingness to do all the chores you hate.”

    Alex looked at the photo in the ad. Sure looked human. The price wasn’t as high as it was a few years ago, either. Economies of scale, no doubt.

    Emily’s birthday was coming up. Maybe…

    He and Emily had a perpetual disagreement about who did more work to keep the house running. Maybe this was a way to resolve that.

    With uncharacteristic impulsiveness, he clicked the buy-now button. He placed his finger on the secure ID spot. The screen changed, and asked configuration questions.

    Preferred Language.

    He chose American English.

    Skin Tone.

    This was new. In addition to the color swatches on the screen, there was a “randomize” option. He pressed that. He was very liberal.

    Personality Scale.

    On the left was “Butler” and on the right, “Party animal.” He used the slider to choose smack dab in the middle.

    Nearly Done! the screen proclaimed.

    Gender. Male, Female, Indeterminate.

    Alex paused at this. If he chose female, Emily would suspect he was bored with her. If he chose indeterminate, his first choice, she’d still be suspicious. He selected Male. It might even be good to have a buddy. Work didn’t leave him much time for making friends.

    Last question!

    Sexual Orientation.

    Good Lord. Really? Alex stroked his beard and pondered. He hadn’t really given this thought. What if the automaton was attractive? Would Emily consider… no, of course not. They had a very satisfying love life. Still, he didn’t push a button.

    Maybe, just to play it safe, he should say “Gay.” But would that be weird? What if it were attracted to him? Surely there’d be a way to program it. He pushed the Gay button.

    And then he pressed the Confirm button.

    Congratulations! Your new family member is being programmed. Estimated Arrival 24 hours.

    Now he could get back to work. Emily would be very pleased. He was sure of it.

    It was difficult to keep the news from Emily that night, but he did want to surprise her.

    The next day, Emily called. He couldn’t answer. He autotexted her with the phone in his pocket. Meetings with the brass were strictly technology-free. Call You Later.

    But one thing led to another, and he forgot to call.

    When he arrived home that night, Emily greeted him at the door. She looked radiant, and more relaxed than any day since the day he met her, some dozen years ago.

    “Alex, what a surprise! The bot came today, and he’s perfect! He’s given me a massage, a facial, and applied my makeup for me. He’s taken out the trash, made dinner, and vacuumed the entire house!”

    “I thought you’d like it. Now that we don’t have to fight about chores any more…” and Alex made a suggestive nod of his head to their bedroom.

    Emily winked at him. Winked! And she took his hand, and led him down the hall.
    He already had his tie off, and his shirt unbuttoned when she opened the door.

    “Close the door, Alex. It’s time for a change of pace.” The voice was deep.

    Alex looked away from Emily and saw a nearly naked, hirsute stranger caressing a whip.

    “Emily says she’d like to watch.”

    This was not how it was supposed to work.

    And Emily laughed and laughed.

    1. I laughed, too. I like this one more than I probably should.

      Great twist, and all the details are just right.

    2. Ha. I love it. As Laura said, probably more than I should. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

    3. Lol. This is great. Reminds me a little of The Veldt. Be careful what you wish for...

  6. I'm just warming up. Hope to be back soon.


    If you stand very still, and listen beneath the birdsong and the hum of the traffic from the interstate, you can hear the insects chewing. It’s a sound a lot like rain dripping from the leaves after a storm, but it’s been dry for the past two weeks. No wonder the trees are dying. No wonder so many have already fallen, and so many lean precariously toward imminent demise. Against power poles. Against street signs and rocks and sheds and over the roads. The men come by with their chainsaws and wood chippers and dispose of them. The grind of their spinning death and gnashing teeth another section of the orchestra. You wonder what happens when all the trees are gone. After the insects and the storms and the men turning them into firewood and paving material and garden beds. You know the basics of geology: on a mountain, trees keep the soil in place. You live on a mountain; you can do the math, too. Calculus notwithstanding, you decide that all those courses you learned in school and thought you’d never need might have a purpose after all.

    1. Oh, I like this a lot. Wonderful sensory detail.

    2. Math for the win! and you've actually hit on one of my big fears... the loss of the trees and wildflowers.

  7. Moral code

    Come what may, those are the lessons we have to learn, he stated, settling too long on the word “morality”. The room spun on a revolving desk woven with autumnal leaves; a veritable feast of reds, oranges and yellow, sliding like liquid ink towards the swirl of the thick carpet. In contrast to the hollow beige of the man, from his wispy hair to his sharp suit, far too short in the leg. Did he actually wink at me as he spoke, the curl of his lips seeming to reveal something else?

    I looked again and the colourful cloth resumed its everyday appearance, but the flaming red still sounded a warning. I backed away towards the window and the rigid black ornamental feline perched there. As Mr Brown strode towards the door, the cat’s stiffness slunk away and she sank down on the sill, back into Sphinx mode, eyeing me in empathy. I could have sworn she smiled.
    Once he left, I took the sealed, stamped letter out of my pocket and reread the stick blue scrawl, asking for Elizabeth Main. So she hadn’t forgotten me over these nine long, silent months. Her confinement at an end, it was only a matter of days before she’d walk through the front door and everything could go back to normal, and he’d be sent packing whence he came.

    1. I like this a lot. Super visual.

    2. You got me with the colors... you painted a vivid picture and left me wondering who she was!

  8. Midst

    We have this and we have the middle, the beginning, but never the end. The finality of it all hovers in the distance, a bridge of empty air, conjured up by magic, wondered at, imagined; so clearly defined we may feel we can step upon it, touch it, grip the safety rail if we wish, but we’d be wrong. It fades into the ether, sinking, becoming one with it, spreading into the very air, devoid of atoms, full silent. In this middle we have our understanding, our being, our rest, our all; the sounds, scents, feelings of each and every echo of each and every second, and we long for them. How we will miss them when they are vapour. Yet even then we will still find ourselves wandering in circles in the middle, enveloped by meaningless time, spilling and never spilled, emptying but never emptied. And when we finally draw towards the edge, there will be the very centre of it all, inviting us, the ghosts of our passing, our sacred seconds spent.

    1. Another dope piece. The "full silent" literally stopped me in my tracks. In the best way.

    2. For me, the empty bridge made me stop... a beautiful contemplation you've shared.

  9. Letters and words

    We lie in waiting,
    Wait in being ourselves
    A while, betide this tidal
    Outpour of indelicate words;
    Such “improper” behaviour,
    Conjuring awkward reactions.
    What is so inappropriate if
    It is real? And what is born
    To be despised in our tongue,
    This language we create and
    Share? Are we not meant to say
    How we feel? So sweep it all
    Away, disintegrating into dust.
    I can tell it how it is, or
    Sugarcoat it to your desire.
    Will it repel your ears to hear
    Youth spout the truth?

    1. This is dope. I especially like the word play at the beginning.

  10. Imperfect perfect, a twitch,
    Feet striding, thighs slapping,
    Limbs flapping, smiles lifting,
    Eyes sparkling, scars fading.

    1. This is a cool little snatch of poetry. So few words, and yet I envision a whole scene.

  11. Amelia dipped an old cloth in the rain barrel and pressed the damp coolness to the nape of her neck. Mama said that’s what her grandmother used to do, before there was electricity and air conditioning. All the elegant Southern ladies had fans, too; Mama had shown her how to make one with paper. But it hadn’t made Amelia feel elegant in the slightest. It just moved the hot air faster across her face. The wet-cloth trick was only marginally better.

    She walked back into the house and sank onto the sofa next to her mother. “I heard on the radio we might not have power again for days. Maybe even a week!”

    Mama let out a hefty sigh that made her whole body sag, her brow furrowed in that you’re-on-my-last-nerve kind of way. “Just try to think cool thoughts until I can figure out what’s what, will you please? Maybe we’ll stay by your aunt’s house, but... right now I just... I just need to lay down a couple minutes, okay?” Her eyes drooped, an expression Amelia was starting to know all too well. Like she hadn’t noticed the empty bottles of cheap wine in the garbage. Amelia could hardly blame her, with Dad working the oil platforms, dangerous work that kept him away for weeks at a time, and her brothers overseas, fighting wars no one was allowed to talk about. But Amelia would be graduating from high school soon. No way did she want to stay in this small town forever, yet her heart damn near broke when she thought about leaving her mother here alone.

    After she heard Mama’s bedroom door close, Amelia scooched down to the floor, where it was a degree or two cooler. She transferred the cloth to her forehead, but that wasn’t working, either. They’d also said on the radio that the cause of the blown transformer that took out the substation was “suspicious,” and one man thought it was terrorists and that they might do it again to the rest of the country, because the infrastructure was weak. But Mama didn’t need anything more to worry about.

    Thoughts of what might happen, thoughts of terrorists blowing up their electrical grids, thoughts of her mother too checked out to care were pressing the heat flatter against Amelia’s skin, threatening to smother her. The panic weight on her chest had returned. The panic that had first started the first time the oil rig blew.

    Amelia had to move. It was the only way to dislodge that tight band around her head, that pressure against her lungs. She left the house and walked down the gravel drive and all the way to the wooden footbridge that ran across the creek.

    She couldn’t even bear to sit down. She stood on the raggedy planks, hands tight on the railing, and watched the water dance over the stones. The rhythm flowed over her, soothed the panic, lowered her shoulders, and she could finally think. This was no way to live. Waiting for tragedy to happen. Waiting for the knock at the door, the phone call. The next explosion. The next blackout. The next excuse. The next empty bottle to hit the trash.

    Purpose propelled her back to the house, to the cash she kept in her sock drawer, to the hook near the kitchen door where they kept the keys to the truck. She pulled up hard into an empty space on Main Street. In fact, most of the spaces were empty. The hardware store being just about the only store open during the blackout. With that wad of cash, she bought her mother a generator. Then stared at the display window two doors down, decorated with stars and stripes and uniforms. That was open, too. Maybe it was always open. She marched in and said to the surprised man behind the counter, “You take girls here?”

    1. I really want this one to keep going.

    2. I do, too. Complete in itself, but could so easily be a part of something larger.

    3. Your skill at creating the mood with not only words, but rhythms and sentence lengths made me feel the relentless heat... and the power of the last couple of sentences just about did me in... really well done!


Please leave comments. Good, bad or ugly. Especially ugly.