Friday, August 3, 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 don’t know this area too well, so I’m not stopping. I’m not stopping period. Maybe for gas and Slim Jims. I fucking hate Slim Jims. Those things are fucking disgusting and, if you like them, you should be publicly shamed. Puritan style. Wear a Scarlett SJ on your shirt, you sick bastard. If you’re going to eat pig asshole, at least have the balls to eat it fresh like God intended. But, point being, I’m not stopping. No matter how many times you tell me. No matter how many times I tell myself. I’m stubborn.

I put my feet on two shoes at a time like everyone else. Who’s got time for laces? Not me. You got time for laces? You ain’t living your life right. Take a chance. Rob a liquor store. Shoot some heroin. TRY. Do something. Write a screenplay. That’ll drive ya fucking crazy. Just don’t stop. Stopping is for quitters. 

Shoot the stream of water into the painted clown face. And you wonder why we all hate clowns. Same as mimes. They just try to entertain us and we want to shank them with ice picks. What the hell is that? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’d shank a clown or a mime in a heartbeat. Do as I say…

I’m saying you can’t just throw your hands up. Yeah, you’re in debt. Yeah, the government has become bad satire. Yeah, we may be spiraling towards some kind of Apocalypse. But you could just be really high, too. This could all be a greenout dream. You might just need to go to Taco Bell. Shit’s not always that serious, dig?

Except for right now. Right now, you should take things seriously. And you should not quit. And you should try not to stick your head in the sand even though I’m guilty of the same. As I say, not do, remember? We got enough stuff going on right now without you stopping. We need more people starting. Reading. Bands. Revolutions. Turn us right round, baby, right round. 

I’ve got damaged drywall for brains, and I’m not giving up. It takes me five minutes every morning to remember how life works and calm the pounding in my chest. No one gets out of this without bruises. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. It may all be for naught, but it might not. And you’re never going to know unless you keep slamming your face into that wall. Even if it hurts. The cracks will appear, and I’ve spent my life slamming my face into bullshit I don’t agree with. 

#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. Viva la revolucion! And yeah, we gotta keep trying... and thank God you do. MaderRap with a mission!

    1. Seriously cool!

    2. Your rants always make me want to put on 'Break Stuff' by Limp Bizkit and then just dance to the music. Stirring!

    3. See, I knew I was putting my shoes on all wrong... At least I don't eat Slim Jims (had to look that one up). Nice work, brother. Captures the frantic anxiety of our moment.

    4. Love it. Sad, funny, makes me want to reach for my oxygen mask and tranquilizers...but in a good way. Love the Slim Jims bit and the clowns and mimes.

    5. This ain't no party, this ain't no disco. And we're all a little punch drunk right now. Thanks for the reminder to hang in there.

    6. Slim Jims as a pig's asshole and shit's not so serious as to HAVE to go to Taco Bell?! You're killing me. Our govt is crackers to, and life is a whopping great pile of stinking do do, but kind of excellent too. Rant rant away!

  2. The doorbell rang in humid Georgia air.

    “Mildred, are you okay? Come in, sit down. I’ll get you a glass of sweet tea."
    “Oh, Constance! I just...I’m just in a state of shock…”

    Mildred was white as a ghost. Then again, Mildred was always white as a ghost. She counted her pale skin as a blessing from God.

    “What happened, dear?”

    “I was… I was at the Winn Dixie, looking at these beautiful watermelons. They were on special. I was tapping them, you know, to see if they were exactly ripe. My mother taught me…”

    Constance nodded. After thirty-seven years of friendship, she knew that Mildred couldn’t get to the point without at least ten minutes of prologue.

    “…and when I looked up, I was so startled I dropped the perfect melon I’d found! There was a… a…” Mildred took a dainty sip from the sweating glass. “A black man! He was touching the watermelons! And he was, you know, LOOKING at me…”

    “No doubt because you dropped a watermelon,” Constance thought, but instead said, “Oh my.”

    “Well, I reached right into my purse… you know, the one that looks like a Kate Spade but I got for a quarter of the cost, and I called 911!”

    Constance nodded.

    “And then you will never BELIEVE what happened.”

    Constance realized that she could almost see the all-uppercase letters in Mildred’s spoken words. She nodded and feigned curiosity.

    “The policeman came and… and…” Mildred looked about to have a conniption fit. “…and the POLICEMAN was… one of THEM, too!”

    “Oh, you poor dear…”

    “I swear, Constance, I don’t know WHAT this world is coming to.” Mildred picked up the magazine on the table to fan herself. She dropped it as soon as she saw the label. “Oh, Constance, not you, too!”

    Constance picked up the New Yorker. “They have good cartoons.” And she didn’t say out loud, “good reporters.”

    And the glory of battle is won this way, one open mind at a time, and sometimes the victories are silent.

    1. I can so clearly see this scene in my head!

    2. We all have that one (or three, or five) friend. Doesn't help me understand them though.

    3. I like. "One open mind at a time."

    4. Yes! Love it. "One open mind at a time." Now, how do I jam the signal to Fox News?

    5. I agree and the names are perfect!

    6. And there are still people with these viewpoints!
      I liked the part where she thought her paleness was a blessing from God - that line gains profound meaning as the story unfolds.

  3. And these are the things I remember from that summer. Stolen kisses in the backseat of your father’s car. Cutting a single sunflower for you, and watching you tear the petals off, one by one, whispering “loves me, loves me not” under your breath. The smile I had when the answer was “loves me.” Listening to the creek and the ravens laughing together as we slept in the grass, with our hands entwined. Lightning hitting the windmill. Bare skin against bare skin and heat that was not only from the sun.

    Guilt that we’d discovered something that felt so good. Redemption when we figured out that something that felt so good couldn’t be wrong.

    Lightning and thunder and down-pouring rain when we had only each other for comfort.

    Hugging you goodbye when you got on the plane to go to Camp Pendleton. Promises to write. Promises to be safe. Promises to be brave.

    Thirty years on, and the memories still play. When did I grow to be so old?

    1. Beautiful Leland!

    2. Beautiful, and heart-stopping and glorious.

    3. Whew! I love how you know exactly when to understate...

    4. i'm with Teresa. and im typing 1 handed. so spare and strong

    5. Beautiful. When did I get to be so old?
      I'm guessing they had that summer and never saw each other again. It's very poignant.

  4. I remember the afternoon he showed up in our gravel driveway. It was hot and bright and I had been playing in the yard all day with little plastic army men and neon cowboys and Indians.
    I had climbed in the mesquite tree pretending it was my castle.
    I had climbed to the top of the swingset like I knew I wasn't supposed to.
    He was dusty and kind of tired looking. He had probably been walking down our long dirt road for awhile.
    I called to him "Hey boy, c'mere boy..."
    His ears perked up and his tail wagged, just a little bit. I patted my leg with my hand and called to him again. This time he wagged his tail hard and bounced over to me.
    Not so tired after all.
    We played all afternoon. He chased after me as I rode my horse across the plain "how-ow-wow-wow how-ow-wow-wow"
    He was my copilot as I flew a yellow biplane, barnstorming just like the Great Waldo Pepper!
    We played until mom called me in for supper. I walked up to the porch, looking behind me at the dog, just sure that he'd be gone when I came back out. My mom looked at me and then the dog and shook her head. "He's not staying. We already have 3 dogs."
    I snuck out a bowl of water and a pocketful of food for him and then ran back in to eat.
    It was summer, so it was still light out. That meant more playing! Bruno was still on the porch like he was waiting for me to come out and play. (I had already named him even though I knew I couldn't keep him.) And we PLAYED! Running and jumping and tumbling in the tall grass. I laid back and he pounced on me, holding me down and licking my face. I threw my baseball for him and he brought it back each time; slobbery and slimy with dog spit. And I loved it! I loved him! We played until the blinking lightning bugs glowed like little green stars. I caught a few before before grandpa called me in.
    Blink! 1...2...3...Catch!
    I dragged my feet up to the back porch. I looked behind me at the dog several times. I climbed the steps. Grandpa was waiting. "You really like that old beagle, huh?"
    "Yes sir. He's a good boy." I croaked out in my little boy's voice. He looked at the dog and cleared his throat and bent down to my level. "Tell ya what. If he's still here in the morning, you can keep him."
    He smiled. "Really."
    I threw my arms around his neck and then ran down to the dog and threw my arms around his. "Okay boy, you stay boy. Bruno stay." I ran into the house and looked back at the dog one last time. I closed my eyes and whispered a little prayer, "Bruno stay."
    I couldn't sleep. I worried he wouldn't be there in the morning and was excited that he would be.
    Morning came and I burst outside the backdoor.
    And there he was, curled up next to the porch swing. He raised his head and blinked his eyes at me. I swear he smiled. I ran over to him and laid my head on his side, hugging him.
    We jumped up and ran down the steps. It was another day for adventures and I had my best boy by my side! A kid couldn't get any luckier.

    Years later I found out my grandpa stacked the deck for me. He waited 'til I had fallen asleep and then went out on the porch and rubbed bacon grease on the dog's paws. He spent all night licking them clean and then fell asleep until I found him in the morning.
    A dog can be your bestfriend. Sometimes grandpas can too.

    1. That's beautiful! I can hear and feel that dog!

    2. Great tale, thanks for bringing it along!

    3. I love how you tie it all up at the end.

    4. oh, that ending crushes! and I love the firefly image

    5. oh my god, that's sweet. the paws... lovely. I like the details and it brings you back to your own childhood and the simplicity of it (although it didn't seem simple back then).

    6. Thanks guys!

  5. This takes a walk a little bit afield from my usual trail. Hit that feedback button and plug in your two cents.

    Da’ Vision of th’ Future

    Picture a strung-out addict
    costumed as a rent-a-cop,
    bludgeoning a haphazard path
    through a warehouse of ceramic statues
    and delicate-winged birds.
    His duty is to safeguard the building.

    Deluded, angry, desperate,
    and armed with a bat,
    the junkie’s paranoia
    whispers seduction in his ears.
    A scrolling feed of headlines
    about stashes hidden in vases,
    concealed in feathered hidey-holes,
    and how the media slanders
    his wholesome need.

    His club loops in frenzied arcs.
    No pause between the dry cracks
    exploding artistic shards into dusty rain.
    Destructive collisions barely slowed
    by the wet crumpled forms twitching underfoot,
    spattered crimson on the walls.

    Howling with disappointment,
    he rages.
    Against the prior curators
    who stole his medicine.
    He rages.
    Against the lying papers who
    - his revisionist voice insists -
    the lying papers and their stories
    of canaries smuggling what belongs to him.
    He rages.
    Against the innocents who escape the cities
    before the walls go up.

    An allegory, if you will,
    of this middle ground you inhabit
    between science and superstition,
    of a dimension desecrated
    by the scattering of dreams,
    where ghosts of Independence Day Present,
    JFK and MLK,
    futilely scrape their wrists
    with rushing russian razor blades.

    Let these images slyly goose the backside
    of the hours between today and tomorrow,
    startling those frightened moments into displaying
    the ghost of July Fourth Yet-to-Be.

    An electric dissolve to cheering crowds,
    chanting for the Space Corps Reality Show.
    Eager recruits swear oaths of loyalty
    to the king of the oval office.
    Sons of plantations and daughters of hatred
    spin in barber chairs for the cameras,
    as the detasseling of human heads
    signals a banzai charge against democracy.

    The elephant jumped the shark.
    Blind eagles strapped twisted crosses to their wings,
    as they screamed patriot songs,
    and peacekeepers gunned down
    their handcuffed victims in the streets.
    A reconstituted Court found term limits
    unlawful for the President.
    Highest polls of all time,
    why bother with elections?

    Words change as pages of history
    fade into obscure neglect.
    Checks and balances.
    And bank balances.

    It took an Act of Congress
    to create his private army,
    but the lure of defense contracts and slush funds
    pocketed in their private holdings
    was too wicked a temptation,
    and both sides of the aisle dropped to their knees,
    bobbing their heads up and down.
    The wet sound of America’s disgrace
    weeping down the back of their throats.

    1. You've written a scene of horror and agony (for some)... or have you pre-cognitively written history? And you've down it with power and angst.

    2. Powerful. With great images. I can almost hear the bat crushing everything.

    3. Hopefully it isn't history. I had a final stanza that I ended up pulling because I thought it wasn't as strong of an ending, but it did bring it back with a call to action:

      These visions do not need to come to pass.
      Even as Ebenezer realized his plight,
      the citizens of the Republic may awaken,
      may rise up.
      Before the land of the free
      kneels in abject homage to tyranny,
      unable to rise again.

    4. this kicks ass. this stanza? Woah! Love it.

      An allegory, if you will,
      of this middle ground you inhabit
      between science and superstition,
      of a dimension desecrated
      by the scattering of dreams,
      where ghosts of Independence Day Present,
      JFK and MLK,
      futilely scrape their wrists
      with rushing russian razor blades.

    5. also the checks and balances

    6. It's good. I also like the stanza that you pulled, but I can see why you did it. I like the idea of bringing Ebenezer in and our Christmases Past idea. It's full of ideas and rich images. Good one :)

  6. What have we here? A field in England. Absent colour or anything defining.

    Wait. Sound of a bird, a two-syllable scream. Could mostly be anything. Hear it? The monochrome ghost of a lapwing.

    Unveiled, the razor stubble underfoot, foreground to a copse. Ploughed lines littered with fallen crows. Black-pepper dead things and mud, well seasoned. Botched black ops. Othered.

    Oh, this is it. Here. The land of nowhere. It's grey, and in that grey another grey partitioned.

    Separate this. Memorize it. Long gone, the caws of crows are a haunted echo of here.

    No one survived. Not you. Not me.

    Caravans in a lacklustre grid, arranged on causeways, flavourless as barroom eels in watery aspic.

    This is a sort of ending.


    "You remember that summer?"

    "I do."

    "How do you know which summer I meant?"

    "I guessed."

    "Huh. You were so splendid. And those luscious hills!"


    Programmed, the night train plies its loop, though nothing living enters or leaves. Entropy will win out, but for now emptiness goddesses its route. Sparks shower lost highways, accidental angels on agnostic tableaux.

    Tell me I am lost. Read me a story, Mama. Warn me against the aroma of risen bread. Against tricksters and temptresses. Fresh ground Arabian beans and newly cut grass.

    Next? Will I triumph? I barely even exist.


    "How is any of this right?"

    "It isn't."


    "There ain't no then."


    "Enough. We won't ever answer this."


    Each season speaks its maddening tale. This glass, this pane, is but a sliver cleaving air.

    No glass can separate our lust. Air is blent blank comfort bathing everything.

    Armies approach. Still the empty sunless skies hover like dismal apparitions over barren fields. The sound of clanking armour barely registers. All is ashen subdued terror.

    Your champion's enticed into a tent, his low guts cut and unwound as he's sent into the dreary afternoon. Sent away screaming, watching his own steaming innards unspool between his feet.


    Our quiet road angles its way beyond the town, arcing when it needs to, straight beside the black waters of the river, an extended jawbone savouring asphalt taste, seeking salt. Keep on driving. Maybe it will all resolve itself. Make sense. No one else pretends to even share this space. Silent wrecks litter the ditches. This once vibrant seat is ever more bloodless.

    Cormorants bow and dip in the reeking shallows, flex their pitiless cauls, persevere and stretch and swallow, such drab unlovely priests.

    Where did you go? Did you abandon us on purpose? Is this what it is now? Will any of us be spared?

    Probably no. And you? Probably don't follow.

    1. Wow. It feels a lament, or a sort of prayer, with gritty details. "It's grey, and in that grey another grey partitioned," speaks paragraphs in and of itself... It's like Kerouac, but with real words and more artfully constructed. Thank you.

    2. I love tasting these words. OMG.

    3. I love how you sort of deconstruct these images, laying the rest bare...

    4. Dude. Fucking A. This is SO good. The poetry astounds me. So many great lines, but I adore this: Sparks shower lost highways, accidental angels on agnostic tableaux. Way to make language your bitch again! ;)

    5. Great writing. It's very rich and full of pictures. The opening made me laugh - the grey England!! Not sure what to pick out as I liked a lot of it. It's cool chopping the bits and scenes up. There's some unusual word usage, which is always interesting to me. For example, this bit from the opening part:

      Caravans in a lacklustre grid, arranged on causeways, flavourless as barroom eels in watery aspic.

      This is a sort of ending.

    6. It feels like bad form to comment on my own story, but I wanted to address you lovely people, who are always so kind and insightful. First, thank you, obviously. :)

      Leland, yes, I felt like it was a type of secular prayer too, as I wrote it. Like an elegy (or eulogy; I always get those mixed up). I love Kerouac's word use.

      Dan, I posted on my FB a hat that said Make Orwell Fiction Again, but now I want your slogan: Make Language Your Bitch Again. LOL.

      Vickie, it's funny you picked that line. I once had jellied eels in a pub in the East End, and it was the worst thing I've ever eaten. I still feel nauseous just from the memory, lol.

      Oh, and it might not be for everyone, but I recommend the movie that partly inspired this piece: Ben Wheatley's A Field in England. It's so weird and freakish and trippy.

      Sorry for all the words. :)

  7. Shelter, Part One
    Sometimes, God is kind…
    We didn’t know about the fallout shelter when we bought the place; it was just an ordinary ranch, built in the sixties, I think. But it suited us fine now that the kids were grown and it was old enough that Ronnie could keep himself occupied with the million little things that seemed to need doing.
    He discovered the shelter down in the cellar built off to the side of an old root cellar, I guess. He wanted to finish the basement into some kind of man cave or other, but once he found the shelter, things took a different turn. He hollered at me to come look at it and I did, but the truth is the whole place kinda gave me the creeps. Who ever built it had it pretty well stocked, with a big old transistor radio and bedding and supplies and a whole pantry filled with canned goods and cereal. Ronnie lovingly ran his hands over a Geiger counter in its original box; like some kid on Christmas eve. A bright yellow sign on the wall sported an American flag and said: Remember: Be Prepared!
    It made me shiver. “We should donate this stuff to some museum or something,” I said. But one look at Ronnie’s face, greedily taking it all in, told me that wasn’t going to happen. I knew my husband; he may have retired, but that didn’t mean he could rest.
    I don’t know if I noticed his obsession right away. It was something that built up over time, piece by piece. I’d hear the tools and the hammering, But Ronnie had been in construction his whole life. He was always building something. And my knees weren’t so good with the arthritis so I didn’t do the stairs unless I had to. He’d come home with something from a swap meet and spirit it downstairs before I could turn around, some days. Others, he might pause to explain his newest find.
    “See this, Irene? It’s a SADD lamp. It’ll keep us cheerful down there if anything happens.” Other times, I caught him sneaking jars of my home canned peaches or tomato sauce, even pickles. Didn’t matter. I like to cook well enough, but that don’t mean we’re gonna use it all, either.
    “You never know, Irene, “ he’d say.
    Call me foolish, but I didn’t think that much of it, honestly. I figured every man needs a hobby and if that meant we did our shopping at Sam’s club? So what?
    Did you feel that, just now? Something shifting, way under the ground. A teeny little earthquake. Maybe it’s just me.
    Two years ago, he showed it to me again. On my birthday. Led me down there by the hand and covered my eyes as he navigated the semi darkness of the cellar. I heard the door swing wide with a heavy, metallic sound.
    “This here is the vault,” he said. What do you think, Honey?”
    I could only stare. “Jesus Christ.”
    “Amazing, right?” he clapped his hands.
    “When—when—did it get so uhhm, big?”
    “Well I had to expand it, of course. The original shelter was inadequate.”
    There was something like daylight filtering through a large fake window at one end and a phony skylight at the other. An old Oriental carpet down on the floor and paintings on the walls. He’d even installed some kind of gizmo to change the scene beyond the fake window according to the season. And a bookshelf that turned into a table and chairs. A bed that came down from the wall and even a whole bathroom with a shower off to the side. A tiny little kitchen completed the layout of the main room, and beyond that, a storage room with what looked like years’ worth supplies of every description, free weights, and even a library of real books, alongside Ronnie’s beloved guitars.
    “This” said Ronnie, grinning with pride. “Goes way beyond survival. We can live here, Irene. For as long as it takes.”
    To what? I thought, become moles? But I couldn’t say so and hurt his feelings. Besides, it was almost--beautiful.
    “We sure won’t go stir crazy, that’s for sure. When the nukes come down.”

  8. Shelter, Part two
    Well, at that moment stir wasn’t the kind of crazy I was thinking of. But he was so proud! And it was beautiful. In its way. It’s sort of a shame he never got to use it, is all. He was dead eight months later. Cop killed him during an antiwar demonstration. Nightstick to the head. An 83 year old man.
    Years ago, I used to ask, What is wrong with people? I don’t ask that anymore. I know.
    I didn’t ever think about the shelter again. For me, that place did with my Ronnie. Until this morning. I’m not sure what woke me, exactly. I only know I rose up out of bed and went to the window. Outside, the sky turned white. Three times. Flash, flash, flash. Like a camera in some movie star’s face.
    And I knew, with my whole heart, that Ronnie had known something I didn’t know, all along. That’s why he built it, to keep us safe.
    But then, the sky turned different colors, blue and green and a kind of orange and a great wind started to howl from somewhere across the river.
    I waited for my girl, Sivonne to come to help me with my breakfast and the toilet. I waited to see her beat up car turn into the driveway and tried not to cry at the smell of that terrible wind.
    Another flash and I knew. Ronnie’s voice was in my head. “Sivonne isn’t, coming Irene. Get to the vault.”
    And I tried, really I did. But it was only half light and my knees aren’t good. Like Ronnie, I wanted to live in that refuge and not just survive.
    Did you see that? The flashes are closer now, blinding the world. Blinding me, here in the darkness at the bottom of the stairs. I feel a sizzle in what’s left of my flesh.
    I stumbled in the dark, I think, on old arthritic, knees. My neck is broken, my body numb and yet? I feel the earth trembling with every new blast, a sizzle in my old, frail flesh.
    The vault door stands open, but I cannot come. Even to live, not just survive.
    Sometimes, God is kind….

    1. This is awesome apocalyptic fiction right here... and I love the detailed view you give us of what he considered important... beyond food, books, weights, guitars.

    2. Chilling, yet calm. Great work

    3. Chilling is the exact right word. If you haven't seen it, Teresa, see if you can find a movie called Take Shelter.

    4. I concur. I also just flat love your storytelling.

    5. Agree. It's good and chilling. I was hoping she'd make it into the shelter - I'm rewriting the ending in my head and she's sitting in the shelter making tea (I used to do that as a kid with sad endings). I like how she considered it his 'man cave', but he'd actually had second sight. Announcing his death in just one sentence worked well.

  9. Once upon a time, a little boy lived in a big city. His father worked long hours; his mother, who never wanted children, ignored him, spending her days flipping through fashion magazines and painting her nails. Sometimes he would hide her favorite things or even break them so she would notice him, but most of the time it didn’t work. When it did, he felt important again. It was worth any punishment she might give him—locking him in the closet, taking away his toys, even giving him the back of her hand—just to see her react to him, just to know that she loved him. Or at least he liked to pretend so.

    In fact he would tell everyone at school how wonderful his parents were. He’d brag about his beautiful mother, his rich and powerful father. Some of the bigger boys didn’t like that, and they’d knock him down and steal his lunch money. Worse were the beatings, but he could take that. They weren’t as bad as the ones from his father, when he’d come home on Friday nights smelling funny and red in the face. But one day at recess, six of the boys came for him at the same time, punching him and punching him and calling him terrible names. Blood and tears dripped into the dust of the playground as the boys, laughing and congratulating each other, walked away.

    And in that spot, drying his own tears and wiping his bloodied nose with a handkerchief, he made himself a promise. That when he grew up and became as powerful as his father, he would get revenge on all of them. Then he had another thought. Why wait? Why not destroy them now?

    He dreamed up how that could be done, then waited until Friday night and told his father about the boys. His father beat him for being weak, said no son of his would let bullies take his money. The boy didn’t protest, because he knew that afterward his father would be calmer and might listen to his plan. And he did. He bought the business three of the boys’ fathers worked for and shut it down, turning the employees out on the street.

    The boys only beat him harder, but it was worth it. It was worth it to know that the pain his father could cause others was worse than the pain he was feeling himself.

    He grew up, tough and mean on the outside, and eventually took over his father’s business and found his own beautiful wife. But he didn’t like the whispers in the office that he was worse than his father. It made him angry. So angry he’d find someone he could ruin—he had quite a list of enemies to choose from—and for a while, that helped. But soon it didn’t. It was like a hole gaped inside him, and he needed to fill it up. With more money, more revenge, more power, more women. It didn’t matter what it took; he ate other people’s pain like Tic Tacs.

    Then one day they tried to make him answer for what they claimed he’d done. He had his secretary read the paperwork to him, and he just laughed. He threw expensive lawyers at them, and lies, and more money. But they kept coming. The attacks so fierce and fast even his fancy dodging couldn’t stop them.

    He grew tired. His beautiful wife had fled; his business was nearly bankrupt. His expensive lawyers stopped returning his calls. Then, with no weapons left at his disposal, they came for him. With proof of his misdeeds. With witnesses. The women he’d abused. The colleagues he’d ruined. The customers he’d bilked. He’d never prayed before, but now ensconced in a prison cell and an orange jumpsuit, he dropped to his knees and asked God for forgiveness.

    Maybe it was his imagination, maybe it was one of the voices that had begun speaking in his head, but all he heard was laughter.

    1. Devastating... at first I felt sympathy for him, but by the end, only disdain. The last line is awesome, by the way.

    2. From your mouth to God's ear Laurie. That is, if we're both thinking of the same guy!

    3. some great bits in here, and a realization that most everything springs from something. 'he ate other people's pain like Tic Tacs'

    4. Yeah, this isn't fiction, is it? Brava!

    5. This is so well constructed. This killed me: he ate other people’s pain like Tic Tacs

    6. Devastating.. agree. It's so nihilistic. But really interesting from a psych perspective. How he smashed things to get his mother's attention, how he got bullied and actually thought he caused it. Did he feel like he deserved it? And then he reversed the cruelty and his own pain outwards to gain revenge, and then it wasn't enough so he tried to ruin everyone - but it was just his own pain. A big circle. You hear about this happening all the time - is someone the result of their upbringing or their DNA/original character. It's cool.

  10. Pastels in Greyscale

    I want to think about something beautiful.
    Raw and glorious,
    stealing my breath.
    like a starving child
    clawing for the last piece of bread on a street vendor’s cart.

    But the dark thoughts find me,
    unsavory bill collectors from my bitter self.
    A cold riptide sweeps my legs.
    When I turn rightside-up,
    I am among the sharks.

    I want to think about the splendid majesty.
    Low-hanging clouds,
    casting a luminous wreath on sun-kissed mountaintops.
    My hermit friend enshrines them just so,
    and I bend my mind’s vision toward the peaks.

    The sharks return.
    Dead black eyes in all directions.
    Jagged razors engulf my arm,
    I see the red mist billow into my liquid coffin.

    I want to think about the the precious delicacy
    of my daughter’s smile.
    Joyously skipping in the front yard,
    nine years old, by the yellow lawn sprinkler,
    brown pigtails dancing around her head.

    White teeth flash,
    the sphere of desolate eyes
    collapses onto me.
    Losing focus,
    I am dismembered from every side.

    And all I want,
    is to think about the lovely scenes,
    the treasured memories,
    which flee from my desperation,
    as I falter, and drop memory’s key.

    1. Damn. killing it this week. more pure power. and this is fantastic: I see the red mist billow into my liquid coffin

  11. Part 1

    I think I remember what it was like to hear as you do. But now the world communicates with me as if I’m pressing mittened hands over my ears. It’s not like my ears have gone blind to all sound. If I sit in a quiet room I hear a kind of hissing sensation. And if I’ve run for a while, I can hear the thud-up thud-up of my heart pumping the blood uphill to my neck. At least it’s pumping, right?

    But if you were outside with an armful of groceries, kicking the front door and to calling, “Cal, will you open the door,” while I’m watching television with my Bluetooth amplifier blowing in my ears, I might not hear you until you drop the groceries on the entryway floor eight feet away. Maybe.

    Here’s the thing about slowly losing all your hearing: You don’t really notice it until you start pissing people off. And I’ve pissed off Jenna at an increasing rate for five years.

    “Jesus, Cal, didn’t you hear me kicking the door?” Jenna will say. And all I can do is take that sapphire blue laser look of hers right in the eyes and shake my head. 

    “No, sorry. The television amplifier was on and my hearing aids were…”

    “Stop yelling. Half the neighborhood will think we’re fighting.”

    “Sorry,” I’ll say and shut off the receiver around my neck, which brings the whole world back to muffled normal. Well, at least my current normal.

    “But I did finish hooking up the baby monitor in our bedroom. The sound-trigger on the warning lights and closed-circuit TV work great. I tossed a basketball in there to be sure.”

    “Ohh, that’s great, honey. Now would you put the beets in the crisper and the meat in the freezer?” she’ll ask.

    And I’ll do exactly what she said. Until…

    “Calvin, what are you doing?”

    “Putting the beets in the freezer, like you said.”

    “The meat in the freezer, honey. The beets in the vegetable crisper.”

    Ohhh, I thought it was odd you’d want to put beets up there. But what the hell do I know? I’m just the deaf guy fucking up around here.”

    And then Jenna will step over a couple of bags of groceries and hug me, saying something like, “I’m sorry, Cal. Beets, meats. I should’ve considered what I said before…”

    “No, you shouldn’t have to, Jenn. I just have to pay better attention.” Which is true. when you have happened to you what happened to me, you tend to burrow inside and think too much about yourself and how the world doesn’t understand and really can’t take the time to try. Though Jenna’s been an angel, really. Even through my therapy and her morning sickness.

    There’s nothing in this world I would love hearing clearly again more than Jenna’s voice. Hearing it without the assistance of these hearing aids, which have become the equivalent of a white cane to a blind guy. Or they will someday when I go totally deaf. The docs tell me they don’t know for sure. 

    Sometimes, when the wind’s just right and I strain really hard, I think I hear mourning doves when I walk out to the end of the driveway for the paper at dawn. But instead of their low whistling coo — hoo-hoo-ah-hoo — like I used to make in fifth grade by putting my hands together, keeping space between the palms, and blowing across an opening between my thumbs, it feels more like a tinny syncopated sensation in my ears. 

    That’s the best I can describe it. So maybe it’s robins. Or it just as easily could be the hunnh-hunnh-huh-hunnnhof the semis’ horns combined with the whine of their wheels as they pass one another on the interstate. Or the whoooo-whoooo-wuh-whoo over the tick-a-ta-tick-a-ta-tick-a-ta of a freight train crossing Pierce Road a couple of miles from here. But I choose to think it’s the mourning doves.

    But I have memories of all the birds, can even recall which thweet-thweet-thweet or pew-pew-pew went with who. I can remember how the tone of Jenna’s dad’s voice went from baritone to tenor and back down again the day she brought me over to introduce me, her new boyfriend. 

  12. Part 2

    I can remember how a bullet going right past your head can sound like a zipping whissss, while one that’s going by ten feet away can crack or pop in a miniature version of a sonic boom. I can tell how the sound of a dual rotor old Chinook helo differs from a single rotor Blackhawk. I can tell you the difference between the sound of an RPG exploding in the vehicle behind you and an IUD going off under the one in front of you. But I only vaguely recall the sound of one that detonated next to my M1151, knocking me cold, killing most of my hearing and two guys on that side of the vehicle.

    I also remember the sound of Jenna’s voice when I sat down with her after I was discharged, clean as a whistle on the outside, but pretty fucked up on the inside. She told me she was just happy to have me home. In one piece. At least that’s what I think she said. I’m pretty sure.

    Things haven’t gone as well as she planned when she said she’d stick with me through it all, though. I mean it was going to be tough enough with me Black and her White, Italian no less. But, son of a bitch, she’s stronger than I could ever be, which is why we had another sit-down six months ago when she told me we were pregnant.

    “Cal, I want to have your child more than anything I’ve ever wanted besides getting you home, but I can’t lie. I worry about things. You have this way of staring at me when I’m speaking to you — there’s that look right now. It’s like you’re saying, ‘I hear you, Jenn,’ but I can’t be sure you really do.”

    “I know, but I’m hearing you now, Jenn. And I understand you…”

    “And there are other times I think you hear one thing, but it’s the exact opposite of what was said. That’s the thing that scares me. Especially with the baby coming,” she said.

    Don’t think I hadn’t considered all those things when I got home. Some days I thought she’d be better off without me, others I’d be better off without her. But I kept coming back to the same answer.

    “Jenn, I understand what you’re afraid of. I am, too. There are times you say you love me and I miss it. And that must hurt you awfully. But that’s just hearing. We can find workarounds for that. I’m sure of it. But know this, I don’t want to live without feeling your words bumping up against my ears, freezing and teasing, scolding and holding, their temperature and speed sometimes more important than their meaning. They bump up against me and fall away so I have to imagine their meaning and insinuation. But they’re yours and I can’t live without feeling you there one way or another.”

    So we are doing our best, despite meats and beets. And last week, when Jenna delivered little Bella the sound of her first cry was the sweetest thing I ever heard. Well, at least the vibration of it reaching more than the two tiny sets of bones and other machinery in my head. Heard it like I hear her Mom.  Warm and loud enough.

    1. This is beautiful. And as someone with significant hearing loss, you hit the nail square brother.

    2. Wonderfully told. And I agree, you've hit the nail on the head. The misunderstandings, the missed endearments...those are the painful ones. At least I have the cicadas in my ears to keep me company

  13. Oh, this is so touching. And I love the way you use sound.

  14. I ran out of time this weekend (been writing the new project though), so I just have a couple of short ones.

    Set in stone

    We live and love and lust,
    And I cannot see the difference
    Or pretend to see them true
    When they overlap and mimic the
    Other’s expression. One or two or
    Three may lie, and I don’t know what
    To tell you, sitting still, waiting on
    My answer. Does a number matter?
    Why do you sit in judgement like stone –
    A figure carved from a wrongly placed
    Sense of morality, where only condemnation
    Lies? We breathe the same spaces, yet
    You never took a real step into this life,
    Into the breath in between, the crimson
    Wake, a trough of water in the dark.
    You never spoke, uttered what you wanted,
    Never reached for it, never tried, never.
    And never is the longest time to wait.

    1. 'never is the longest time to wait' and 'a figure carved from a wrongly placed sense of morality' - love the way you put this together

    2. I agree. That last line kills. And adding 'true' to the end of the third line is so important for the rhythm. Really well done.

  15. Word play

    Smoke escapes as words silently twisting,
    Rising from the gaps between your fingers,
    Nails gnawed at the edges, pink and raw,
    Discoloured yellow, cracked and worn. I study
    These quiet purveyors of another language
    Transfixed, as though they carry the secrets of
    The moon and a vision of loveliness only you
    Can portray in stories woven, twisting in the air.

    1. intriguing how that smoke draws us in

    2. I love me some word play and this is no exception. :)

  16. Psych

    Pretend you know me,
    Imagine we are friends;
    Invent a conversation for us,
    But never realise the lie.

    We are too different for friendship;
    I cannot condone your cruelty,
    The barbed edge of your tongue
    And the steely glint in your eye.

    1. shutdown in two stanzas - just letting them go

    2. Agreed. I like this one a lot. Spare and powerful.


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