Friday, July 27, 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'm still shook by it, straight shivering. How much bad news can one man be delivering? I have parcels and packages. I have bins and bags and big ass truckfuls of anxiety. You want some? I'll share. It looks like marshmallow and tastes like napalm.

It's a big play to call. I didn't have my protective gear on. I was still in my chrysalis. 


I keep on climbing and getting exactly nowhere, man. But don't pity me. I'm cool. I'm doing alright. I've got a shitty car and some credit card debt, but I got real good karma. I'm not even trying to brag. I've done a few important things that no one will ever know about but me. 

But me! But me! What about me? How do I separate the genuine compassion from questing hero status. It's pathetic. Put on your sweater. You know a breeze can kick up any second. 

You're never going to be really safe. Not as safe as I want you to be. I want to cover the world in felt and pocket lint. I'm never gonna do it. I've got a cross to bear, and I'm stuck to it. 

So, how do I stop my hands from shaking? Not the tremor. I'm used to that. It's genetic. I mean this "hard to type" shake that is born of the terror of an unknown future. The fear for small people. 

It's such a big world. 

I'm tired. I didn't sleep last night, and my eyes are gritty, and my mouth tastes shitty and I have one of those headaches that truckers get staring at the white lines on the highway. I wonder why mini-thins always made your head feel weird. No? Maybe it was just me. A kind of squirreling tickle. 

I guess I'll go now. I don't have much to say today.

#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. Trademark MaderRap. Despite the last line's message, you have a helluva lot to say, and you say it well. The line that's echoing in my head right now is "The fear for small people." Over and over I'm going to hear that. Haunting.

    1. The same line echoed for me, too. And the pocket lint.

    2. I love what the others loved, but also the music and poetry of a line like "I have bins and bags and big ass truckfuls of anxiety." Also, chrysalis and Sisyphus is a brilliant half-rhyme.

  2. I’m tired of rage. I’m tired of the explosive anger, unchanneled, uncontrolled. It’s fight or flight on steroids. It’s everywhere.

    Rage is addictive. Rage is unsustainable. Rage is self-destructive.

    There’s plenty to be outraged about, I grant you. I can’t even begin a list of things that outrage me. On a world level, on a national level, on a state level, on a city level, and on a person-to-person level.

    This week I was told I was just "Another compliant writer." That my words were needed to save the world. And then the commenter said it was too late, the world was lost. No one could save it.

    That’s what uncontrolled rage does. It makes us do irrational, stupid things or it makes us surrender.

    I have no intention of doing either.

    I will not sink to the level of those I consider adversaries. I will not become a destructive force, will not toss aside decency and fairness to win a battle.

    See, we rarely win against our adversaries by becoming more like them.

    Instead, we will win by showing the basic values of humanity. Love. Compassion. Intelligence. Cooperation.

    And we’ll win by reminding people of all political stripes, that somewhere those same qualities live in them. And that there’s room to talk.

    And I’ll use every tool available to me to do that. Humor. Stories with heart. Stories about mourning and about love and loss. Stories about the best and worst of us. Cowboys. Marines. Scoundrels. Bureaucrats. Abusers and the abused. And yes, stories about dogs.

    We writers hold a magic mirror up to the reader's face. Sometimes it shows them who they are, and sometimes it shows them who they might become.

    And if that’s not subversive, I don’t know what is.

    "I'm struck by how laughter connects you with people. It's almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you're just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy." — John Cleese

    1. "It’s fight or flight on steroids." This perfectly sums up my mind state since the orange one took office. This is a strong, rational piece. We need more of them.

    2. Yeah, I waver on this all the time, but I strongly suspect you're right in this, Leland. It's just that the other side plays so dirty, so ugly. Makes it tempting to join them in the gutter sometimes. But yes. A timely reminder.

  3. Mrs. Ramirez opened the door, and shouted his name before going in. Something felt wrong.

    There was no answer.

    She walked slowly through the door, and shouted again.


    She closed the door behind her, and put her purse on the table. She walked to the broom closet.

    The door was open.

    Mr. Allan was a very tidy man. He never left drawers or doors open. The hairs on the back of her neck rose. She ignored the feeling and retrieved the duster, the broom, and the dust pan.

    The kitchen was spotless and only required dusting. Mr. Allan ate out mostly.

    The living roo, was more of a challenge. Mr. Allan's dog, Molly, had long fur, and it took a lot of brushing to remove it from the couch.

    Molly. Why hadn’t Molly greeted her at the door as she usually did?
    She shivered. Her mother would have said someone walked on her grave.

    There were fingerprints on the big screen TV, but she was used to that.

    Bathroom and bedroom next. She opened the door and...Molly was there on the bed, with her teeth bared. A deep growl echoed through the room.

    Mrs. Ramirez was puzzled. She and Molly were always friendly.

    Something about the lamp was wrong. The color.


    Mr. Allan despised red.

    And then she realized it was blood.

    She walked around the perimeter of the room, keeping her distance from the dog.

    She screamed. Mr. Allan was naked on the blood-soaked floor.

    The dog was trying to protect the body.

    Mrs. Ramirez backed out of the room and called 911.

    The growl from the bedroom slowly transformed to a wail.

    When the police came, they found Mrs. Ramirez and Molly huddled on the couch together, comforting each other.

    Mrs. Ramirez wished she could take the dog home, but her building didn’t allow animals.

    Mrs. Ramirez wept that night, alone in her room.

    Molly whimpered on the concrete floor in the dog pound.

    They never figured out why Mr. Allan killed himself.

    And no one thought to ask Molly.

    1. Poignant, with a slice of wondering about that dog.

    2. Oh, so heartbreaking, and even more so in your spare style.

    3. Laurie literally took the words out of my mouth.

    4. Yes, the understatement is so incredibly effective. Such a sad tale and in so few words. Bravo.

  4. Part 1:

    Eugene had run out of cerulean. How he’d used up his entire supply of paint the color of a cloudless sky over Woodstock in early autumn, like the one that now surrounded him, was a circumstance he couldn’t fathom. Nor could he fathom the luck that his old car started up on the first try and had already made it to the main road. He didn’t remember the last time he’d driven it. But the vision he held so gently in his mind—the sparkle of last night’s rain on the pines, so sharp he could smell it, the freshness of the wind-scrubbed sky—couldn’t wait for his daughter to return from her honeymoon; couldn’t wait for the UPS truck to deliver his shipment, if he were even successful in ordering. Miriam did all that for him. Ordered supplies, picked up groceries, paid the bills. Even cooked his meals.

    “Nothing is going to change, Dad,” she’d said as she picked up her suitcase, giving him a too-bright smile that reminded him of his late mother-in-law. “We’ll only be ten minutes away.”

    Ten minutes. He could die in ten minutes. But he’d said nothing. Just wished her well and returned to his studio, the echo of each thump of his cane reverberating around the bungalow.

    He pushed the memories away and turned left, into the art store’s parking lot. At least it wasn’t crowded. After snapping off the ignition and thanking the old girl for her troubles, he closed his eyes and pressed the names of the items he needed into his mind. Cerulean. Cerulean. Was it also phthalo green? Did he have enough to last until Miriam returned? Damn it. He should have taken inventory. He should have made a list. Why hadn’t Miriam left a list?

    A knock on his window made him flinch. He clapped a hand to his chest when he saw the smiling face leaning toward him, the soft hand waving. “Oh, good god,” Eugene muttered under his breath. The young man—maybe not so young, but at nearly eighty, almost everyone looked young to him—owned one of the local galleries. He’d been after Eugene for months—years—to do a solo show, a retrospective, of all distasteful things. Like he was already dead.

    One of the reasons Eugene dreaded going into town. He sucked in a breath and undid his seatbelt, reached for the handle...and it was already being opened for him.

    He had one of those modern names. Justin... Jason...

    “Good morning, Mr. Sokolov.”

    Eugene hated that, too. Sokolov was his father, his grandfather. And the way Justin or Jason pronounced it, with a Russian accent, also rankled.

    But Miriam was always after him for being short with people, so he tried, despite how it pained him. “Thank you,” he said. “And good morning to you, too.”

    The man’s smile broadened as Eugene’s fell. This is why I don’t invite conversation, he would say to Miriam. Because then they don’t let you go home and paint.

    “It’s hard to imagine you here,” Jason or Justin said.

  5. Part Two:

    “A painter. At an art supply store?”

    The young man’s cheeks flushed. Which somehow pleased Eugene. “Well.” He cleared his throat. “An artist of your caliber. It’s hard to imagine that you need something as earthly as oil paints and brushes.”

    “With what else do you expect that I paint? Blood and shit and my own fingers?”

    The young man seemed to shrink. Jake. That was the man’s name. How odd. When he was a child in Brooklyn, Jake was a Jewish name. It was his grandfather’s name. Jacob. Now Eugene felt sorry for this Jake. Guilty for being deliberately cruel. Yet apologies stuck in his throat around an image of his zayda Jacob, tall and strong and stern. And his words: “We survived the tsar and his Cossacks and his pogroms. Sokolovs apologize for nothing.”

    Eugene said, “I hope you will excuse me. I am only here for paint and then I must go.”

    “Of course.” Jake held up his hands. “I don’t want to stand in the way of inspiration.” His gaze drifted to Eugene’s unsteady right leg. Instinctively Eugene straightened, even though he needed to hold on to the open car door to do it. “But...can I help you?”

    “No. Thank you.” Eugene closed the door much more gently than he would have liked to—the old girl didn’t deserve his anger—and turned toward the shop’s entrance. Stairs. Damn it. He’d forgotten about the stairs. He forced his legs forward. Aware of Jake’s eyes on him. Judging him. Calculating. Wondering perhaps if he should ask again about that goddamned show. Or wait until Eugene’s death made his work that much more valuable.

    But the stairs. So much higher than Eugene remembered. God forbid he fell in front of this man. In the middle of town. Cursing his vanity that kept his cane at home, he said, “One painting. I will let you show one painting. If you help me get inside.”

    1. Ah, the commerce of age... the trading of dignity for help. This is, like so many of your wonderful stories, a snapshot that tells so much more. I laughed out loud when I read "Blood and shit and my own fingers?" Your ability to build such believable, tangible characters in so few words astonishes me every single time. Thanks for sharing this.

    2. It's a horrible point in life, most especially for one who is used to being independent, and later for being set in personal patterns that perforcemust be adjusted. You portrayed both the humiliation and confusion, as well as the compromise and beginnings of adjustment extremely well.

    3. They pretty much summed it up. You really do pack so much into such a short piece. Asking for help is often the hardest thing.

    4. So much going on in this, and (dare I say it?) painted with such economy, so deftly.

  6. Part 1

    Dave Clemente would walk around the neighborhood, ostensibly for exercise, but really he was inspecting everyone’s curb appeal, like he was the Duke of Tryon Court and we neighbors his vassals.

    If your lawn was a little shaggy, or some dandelions decided to pop their little butter pat knobs above the grass, Dave would be like, “Off with their heads.” And he would pretty much tell you exactly that.

    “You know, Ben, you’d better get control of those dandelions before they go to seed. I don’t need any parts of those little puffy tops finding their way to my lawn,” he told me two years in a row. The fact that I lived six doors downwind from his place didn’t matter. I and my lawn were just one of the invasive species that had taken over his verdant domain.

    In truth, no one took better care of his lawn than Dave. Or more interest in everyone else’s. I would see him when I would go out to fetch the paper at dawn, positioning his sprinklers for maximum coverage, one inch of water in the ground per day, each day a third of the lawn catching his godlike decree of showers that kept his greensward looking like a billiard table straight from the factory.

    I’d wave to him later as I walked out to the car on my way to work, but he didn’t notice very often. You could see him eyeballing the arc of the sprinklers’ spray, nodding approvingly at the way, if the sun’s angle was just right, it would drape a rainbow across his lawn. His head would follow each sweep of the sprinkler, left to right, right to left, mesmerized by the gift of life he was imparting to the organism that his house wore as a mantle.

    If grass was supposed to be purple instead of green, Dave’s lawn would be the most royal of purples.

    I sometimes would imagine what it would be like to be in his head, gauging everyone else in the neighborhood’s lawns against his own. I would watch him stalk the sidewalks, turning his head a bit sideways to observe if any of our lawn’s had grown irregularly over the past week since mowed on Saturday or Sunday.

    “You need to check the level of you blade deck, Ben,” he’d say. “Look how unequal your cuts are. Lopsided and, well, trashy. And you really should stick to one kind of seed instead of those cheap blends. See how the rye grows faster in this weather than the fescue?”

    “Um, no.”

    “Here,” he’d say and pull me down to knee level and then tilt his head to the side again like he was sighting a sniper rifle. “See how those rye blades are popping up like moles out of their hole in relation to the red fescue? Makes it look shaggy as hell. And speaking of moles…”

    “I gotta go, Dave. I think I left the tub running.”

    “Okay, and that reminds me. One inch of water over the whole lawn. Gotta water deep to keep those roots well hydrated. Can’t let your lawn turn brown when everyone else is trying for green,” he shouted over my shoulder.

  7. Part 2

    Like I said, Dave practiced what he preached to the nth degree. He treated his lawn as well, if not better, than he treated his kids. Which, if I had his kids, so would I. Wild little buggers, but probably since he wouldn’t let them play on his precious grass.

    You’d see little Marisa doing cartwheels on everyone’s front lawns all the way down to the Cramers’ place, where she’d play tag with their kids. All around the outside of their house, including the front lawn. I’d find Dave Jr. running under the spray from my lawn sprinkler on those days I remembered to give it fifteen or twenty minutes of shower time. Kid would leave the lawn a muddy mess. But my son would join him, so I couldn’t bitch too much. I’d join, too, on those hot evenings.

    Besides, what’s the sense of having grass around your house if you can’t enjoy it?

    And where was their Dad? More often than not, he would be peering down the breadth of his lawn, flat on his stomach on the driveway, ruler in his hand, making sure the height never deviated more than a quarter of an inch from three and three-quarter inches. Then he would move to the middle, lie on his belly again, and do the same thing for all 360 degrees of that island of hoped-for fescue perfection. And he’d see to it with a pair of surgeon’s scissors.

    I once wondered where his obsessive-compulsive bent in turf grass science came from. Dave hadn’t attended agricultural school, he was an IT guy. His father was an accountant and his mom stayed at home with the kids. I did notice some old family photos on his hallway walls once at a Christmas party. One showed young Dave and his Mom and Dad and brothers—all wearing the same little outfits with matching bow ties and two-tone shoes—seated on the couch. On the clear plastic-sheathed couch. Next to the clear plastic covered lamps. Feet dangling above the snow white carpet with the clear plastic runners leading back to the camera and across the whole living room.

    I once played golf with Dave and instead of shooting the breeze as we walked the course, he would point out how the greenskeeper had done this to fix this part of the course and how he should have used that to keep a certain green from having darker green spots. I asked him how he knew that and he said his Uncle Carmine, who was a greenskeeper at a public course in Jersey, had taught him all this.

    I once asked Gracie Clemente if Dave’s Uncle Carmine had ever been to their house.

    “I imagine he’d be proud to see the efforts of his nephew.

    “Carmine? Dave doesn’t have an Uncle Carmine. Oh, you mean Carmine Verducci. He was just a friend of the family. Sort of a surrogate father for the Clemente boys, since their dad was always working late hours. Dave and his Mom took Carmine’s death really hard,” she said.

    After that, I didn’t begrudge Dave his idiosyncrasies as much. I may keep a shitty lawn, but I’m not exactly an unfeeling barbarian.

    And I felt kind of sorry the day Dave died. We found him out in his backyard, lying on his stomach, his head up, looking and reaching out toward the back of his house.

    “Poor man. he must’ve been looking for help from inside,” my wife said.

    “Yeah. Sad.”

    I say I felt kind of sorry because I knew Dave Clemente died doing what made him happiest. In fact, there was this calm and…I don’t know…accomplished look on his face when we found him. I didn’t have the heart to tell my wife about that few rogue blades of grass in front of him and how the Duke of Tryon Court already had his scissors in his hand.

    1. I really enjoyed reading this. Such great details (little butter pat knobs!) and I think I know this man. Thank you.

    2. I think I WAS this man for a few years when I lived in the city... but I've gotten past it. You've created a character here I feel empathy and sympathy for... nicely done!

    3. I agree. This is a really interesting character. Super strong piece. The detail and tone are spot on.

    4. Right there with the others. Such a generous and likeable piece of writing.

  8. In the gloom, a girl shaped from sparking ozone and her wild electric canine dance beneath a moon of cold bone and a dormant volcano. Ice floes crackle around them, splitting and snapping, glitchy as break beats spun by a frozen demon DJ. All is blue or ozone-white.

    Voices weave in and not in. This tapestry of sound is torn, charged.

    Have you ever seen ice-smoke? You have now. The chill, fuming tail of the dog and the smouldering cold tendrils of her dress.

    She is my girl, though I don't know it yet. She whips the hem of her dress like a matador. Ecstatic. Like a mad, evasive, holy truant.

    We fall from this frigid locale to a motel on earth, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Cascadia. Good Christ, how do you adjust to that? Carpets that clutch and walls like dried pulp. A girl in the next room is sobbing like the world decided to upend itself, unravel its guts in space. She can barely draw a breath after each protracted sob. Her throat sounds raw and long headed for ruination. I knock on the wall and a male voice tells me to fuck off. I knock again and someone knocks back harder, informs me I'm a motherfucker. I no longer know my own mind. I am enraged and sorrowed and can no longer distinguish between the two, and I exit the room and rap on the adjacent door. The same male voice screams at me to fuck myself with something serrated and oxidized. I'm not even armed. Other than with my annihilating rage. I knock again, and harder. It hurts my knuckles, but pain is now my companion at every level and juncture. Someone flings open the door and I'm instantly struck, in the gut, in the groin, and in the face. The nebula of pain is a collision of starfields, and I drop, happy and gasping, knowing I now have cause to obliterate. Wolves dream their darkest chorus in the forest of my brain. A full moon hangs pendulous as drool from an idiot's lip. Anticipatory. Gleeful.

    Stand back, make room. Some wolflike stammer tattoos this guileless jaw.

    Come to me. Be me. Your pain as I consume you is why I came. Such sour elusive bonhomie. Melancholy and euphoria; few drugs meld so catastrophically.

    Beyond the cityscapes, through airwaves, I hear electric ghosts stuttering their dumbstruck phrases hourly: "I-I fell in love with you," "Huh-who do you love?" "Wuh-when will we be saved?" "Huh-help them. Help us help them."

    He blinks, like paper.

    Then I go in like a shark and devour him.

    1. Holy shit. Yeah, that's about all I have to say.

    2. You had me at "wild electric canine dance" and then i was hooked all the way through... a wild hallucination of the best kind, painted deftly.

    3. "She whips the hem of her dress like a matador. Ecstatic. Like a mad, evasive, holy truant."

      "Come to me. Be me. Your pain as I consume you is why I came. Such sour elusive bonhomie. Melancholy and euphoria; few drugs meld so catastrophically."

      Man, the way you wield words...

  9. Across these shadow-filled decades you probably wouldn’t remember how we’d sit there on our beds and submit our lives and times to all the oh-so-mature, badass examination that only eighteen-year-olds possessing a 2-S or 4-F Selective Service deferment or a Draft Lottery number higher than 200 could muster. Through the tawny, fuzzy-framed lens of five beers each or the gray-white haze of ultra-clarity that you’d acquire from that illicit psychoactive agent you harbored in your sock drawer, artistic, philosophic and geopolitical certainty would hang in the air like soon-to-incinerate paper lanterns strung from one side of the room to the other. Occasionally, the rocket’s red glare of your proselytizing the work of Salinger would send me scooting for safety behind the cover of my Shakespeare, Twain and Chekhov. Do you remember falling to sleep to Zeppelin, Dylan and The Dead? How about the phony bomb threat someone tried to pin on the Black Panthers that emptied the dorms on our first night on campus? Can you recall how we wandered around the quads and stared at easily a hundred of the first girls we'd ever seen wearing clothing -- actually or, most likely, in our dreams -- more easily removed than high school uniform jumpers, wide-belted low-hipped bell bottoms or even a tight-ass mini? Do you recollect any of those deliciously salacious silhouettes of their Promised Land projected through each of the nightgowns by the fire trucks’ lights? I only just thought of them, sitting here with this faded old photo of her. I wonder whatever happened, since we never did. Those will never be the good old days, though, since so much bad since then blocked the light of the good. But the faintly outlined memories I saw today through something like those old chemically induced dorm goggles make me happy. I guess I could call them memories of the Twilight Ages, since at this age I'm living in now sure as hell feels like a Dark one.

  10. "I realise that you have faced certain... travails in your life, but would you consider matrimony again?" Kylus asked.

    "Marriage? I don't think so." She paused to think a moment. "All men see me as now is a means to control my properties and fortune."

    He frowned at the bitterness in her voice.

    "Surely you might consider it for love?"

    "Who would dare to love a woman such as I have become, Kylus? I've killed the man who raped me, who also happened to be a family member, and have been widowed twice. The gossip has me killing both of them as well. That alone makes me unconventional. Add in that I quite prefer to handle my own affairs, and I am barely socially acceptable. I'm friends with my servants and my priest, for heaven's sake, not just tolerant of them."

    "You didn't answer my question."

    “For love? Yes, I might do it for love as I've had little enough of that in my life. I would have to know unequivocally that's what it was and not some scheme cooke dup to turn my head."

    "There is no scheme that I am aware of."

    Kait turned to pin him with a fierce gaze. "Who put you up to asking me such a thing?"

    He didn't care for the way her hands trembled even as she balled them into fists to hide it, or the waiver in her voice. He did not want to see her angry or afraid, but feared his words had caused just that.

    "No one has requested that I speak to you on their behalf, Kait. I'm asking for my own knowledge."

    Being prepared in case someone does ask, as you are my family priest?"

    "No, Kait."

    She looked him, clearly puzzled, now. "You're not making sense."

    "For someone as intelligent as you normally are, you are making this remarkably difficult."

    "What are you saying, Kylus. Speak plainly if you please."

    "I adore the sound of my name on your lips. I admire your strength and courage and beauty. I would happily stand by your side through the rest of this lifetime--"

    "Are you asking me to marry you?"

    "Why, yes, I suppose I am."

    1. That’s lovely...and I can see her hands tremble in certain anger.

    2. I agree. Very delicate touch.

  11. “What lured you into such a life?”

    “Well, there’s the loot, of course.”

    “Of course.”

    “There’s the traveling about, seeing all sorts of places and meeting all sorts of people.”

    “And robbing them?”

    “Sometimes. Sometimes it’s just spending the loot in their markets and taverns.”

    “And brothels?”

    “Only if they are clean!”

    She looked at him doubtfully.

    “For most it’s being about what they know. They’ve got skills in handling a boat and a knife and often naught else. When fishing fails to support them, they do what they must. Having the sea rife with tempting targets doesn’t hurt any. That’s where politics start to come into play. It might be a chance to get back at them who took your livelihood away with taxes, or stole your daughters, or ruined your crops with their incessant petty wars. There are some kings who will hire less-than-legal crews to hamper a rival’s troop movements over the water, or merchants who want a competitor out of business.

    “Then there’s the ‘forced men’. It’s not something we practice, though other ships do. Those are survivors who are forced to join a crew or be killed. The ones with special skills are the ones that are especially prized. Coopers, surgeons, carpenters and experienced sea hands are rarely killed out of hand.

    “Sometimes they try to escape, ‘specially if we call on their home ports. Sometimes we let ‘em. There’s some that take to it though. Them’s the ones that would die for the ship.”

    “Like you?”

    “Aye. Like me.”

    1. The world needs more good pirates! And the voices you’ve created in this are believable, even without telling us their names.

    2. Agree again. You nailed the voice without overplaying your hand.

  12. An old man and an old dog. From time to time, they looked each other in the eye and wondered who would pass first.

    The dog, deaf though he seemed, heard the thunder first. He barked, then took off to chase the thunder.

    The man, with his cane, followed close as he could.

    Gentle rain, though cold, fell first, and the man remembered dancing in such rain in his youth. Sometimes alone, sometimes with...

    A crack of thunder. Nearby. The man looked to see what it hit. A tree, black, but not ablaze. Sometimes lightning worked like that. A tree hit like that made good firewood, burned hot and long.

    The dog came back, panting, and leaned against the man. They’d known many thunderstorms, many blizzards, too. He looked at the man's pocket, a pocket often filled with treats.

    "Not this time, old man," said the man with sorrow. "I forgot. When we get back home."

    The dog forgave, as all dogs forgive, and took off again, after only thunder he could hear, or perhaps imagined.

    The rain drops grew bigger, and there were more of them. The ground turned from dust to slick mud. If he knew what was good for him, he’d head home.

    The dog waited for him. Resting, too, but mostly waiting as sometimes the man waited for him.

    The hail came light at first, almost sleet. The percussion of it hitting the man’s baseball cap was syncopated.

    They made it to the road. Left was home, right was a neighbor's house and trees. They chose left, not wanting to impose. The ditch at the side of the road was running high with water now. The earth, though thirsty, could not drink fast enough.

    The dog ran ahead, and back, and then ahead again, encouraging the man to move faster. His barking was nearly constant now.

    A burst of lightning. Sudden thunder. The barn!

    The man felt his heart beat faster, and he ran, as well as one can run when old, and with a cane.

    His glasses were blurred with streaks of rain. The dog barked at him when he took a left into what he thought was the driveway, and fell into the water. The dog jumped in after him.

    And the rain stopped.

    And the water drained away.

    And there was a rainbow in the sky.

    And the man had lost his cane, but stood anyway.

    And the dog ran through the muddy ditch to the man.

    And they looked into each other's eyes. They no longer wondered who would pass first. And they walked together under the rainbow.


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