Friday, August 24, 2018

2 Minutes. Go!

Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.

The leaves shook on the old oak tree, but there was no wind. No gust to send the boughs bouncing. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t normal. But it had always been that way. Old man Johnson stood in his back yard staring at the tree, pulling at his tight, curly, red hair. This was a daily activity. Standing and yelling at the tree.

“Stop bouncing, ya fool tree. Ain’t even windy!”

But that did not stop the tree. Nothing could stop the tree. No amount of old man frustration. No secret spell or incantation. Why the tree moved is unimportant. There are some things in life that can’t be explained. Like how an old man can spend half his day yelling at a tree.

On the day he chopped the tree down, the sky turned black. Birds hid in the trees. Animals trembled. There was utter silence in the neighborhood. Until the old man started to weep.

#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. Magical realism... sad and beautiful... and why do we always chop down the dancers?

    1. that...was different - and I liked it. And the thought of how even an object of anger can mean stability, or something deeper. Nice piece.

    2. I love the story but must mention only one thing. Curly headed red heads always go grey long before they even get old. Believe me, I know.Truth

    3. This might be one of my favourites of yours that I've read on here. I love it. It's disturbingly non-simple and very graphic, and would make a great start to something.

    4. Yeah, this is profound. Odd and strangely sad.

  2. Johnny lay on his back on his bed with his headphones on. He was listening to Bad Religion and playing it loud enough to drown out the screaming argument downstairs. Johnny had good noise cancelling headphones. He’d worked a whole summer for them, but it was worth it.

    Johnny couldn’t remember when the fighting had started. He vaguely remembered his parents being happy. Family trips and dinners together. But it was hazy.

    While Johnny listened to the music, he worried. He worried about what he would do with his life and how he would make a life where no one ever yelled. No one ever argued.

    Johnny made himself a safe place because he needed one. He started playing music because he got tired of just listening. And the music he made took him around the world. But he still maintained his safe place.

    His escape.

    After shows, the band would party and Johnny would lay on his back on his bed with his headphones on.

    1. I hear a Bad Company song playing in the background of my head when I read this

    2. I love your stories about Johnny... and not only because I suspect that they are slightly autobiographical, but because they take us back to our own youth...

    3. Made me go back and listen to Bad Religion again. Great band.

  3. You were all the colors of summer to me that year. The sky was pale next to the blue of your eyes. Your tee shirt was impossibly white and made the clouds look dirty. And your pale blond hair, too long for a boy, outshone the sun.

    I never imagined having a friend like you. Reckless. Profane. Irreverent. And funny as hell. I laughed more that summer than any time since.

    You were dangerous, too. You drove too fast. You fell in love too easy. And your lips, full and anxious, kissed too hard.
    My father warned me about boys like you. Irresponsible. Selfish. Thinking only of today. Said you were a bad influence.

    He was wrong. You were not selfish, at least not when we made love. You played my curiosity against all the commandments I’d learned. You coaxed me out of my jeans, and whistled, low and slow, when you saw me naked.

    I remember the heat of blushing and of what followed. You whispered how beautiful I was, in between kisses.
    And for the first time, I believed it, believed it enough that I could imagine being in love.

    You ought not have put your hand on my thigh in the movie theater. You shouldn’t have put your arm around me in the almost darkness. How differently it might have all turned out if you had not been whispering in my ear when the usher came by with his flashlight.

    I can still hear the taunts, the hateful words. "Faggots! Queers!"

    These days, when the movie is shown on TV, I quickly change the channel, but never quick enough to keep from remembering.

    They were waiting for us when we left the theater. Not with guns, but with fists and knives and steel-toed boots.
    I never, till that night, thought of red as a color of summer, but your blood fell from the cuts, from your mouth, from your eyes, in scarlet blossoms on the white of your shirt.

    I survived.

    They wouldn’t let me visit you in the hospital. All I wanted to do was hold your hand and wipe the blood away.

    Mother and Father fought over whether I could go to your funeral. As they argued, I left, wearing the only tie I owned. Paisley. Clip-on.

    I didn’t go to the church. I went to the cemetery, and I watched them muttering their magical words to God, asking him to forgive your sins...our sins.

    When they left, I closed my eyes, remembering, blushing at the memory of your whispers. And I took off my shirt, hoping that somehow, you could see what you called beautiful one more time.

    If I’d been more like you, I would have shucked my jeans, too.
    Now, at the end of a summer some forty years later, I have learned to be more dangerous. Under the moon, not the sun, I dance naked to your memory.

    Tomorrow is autumn, but I will forever remember all the colors of summer, all that you were to me. And I swear, between the notes of the crickets and the katydids, I can still hear your whispers.

    1. wow. just, wow. and beautiful.

    2. Really sensitive, emotional, beautiful and powerful. I was talking to a friend about this subject this week - how things are so different today. How in London you can be straight, gay, bi or whatever and it's fine. You can walk down the street holding the hand of someone of the same sex. That now there are so many terms for gender. And she reminded me that it's still not everywhere - it's still not in every town in England and not in every London street. But maybe one day...

      Have you read about Sophie Lancaster? She was beaten up with her boyfriend for looking different. She protected him and died. It made me think of that tragedy. She was 20.

    3. I agree. This is beautiful. And said because I know how many times this story happened/happens. This line is going to stick with me: You played my curiosity against all the commandments I’d learned. Bravo

    4. Wow and just wow and you're killing me today.

    5. Thank you. And yes, Sophie Lancaster's death was a horrid tragedy. She was so brave.

    6. Wow is right. I mean this as possibly the highest compliment I can give, Leland, since this is what I also try and try and try and often fail and fail and fail to do when I write, but how you make of something so ugly something so beautiful is a rare and precious thing.

  4. It has been decades. Surely you ought to be over it, or past it, by now.

    But you are not. The strangest things can take you back. The moon shining through curtains. The smell of spearmint. A dog barking in the dark.

    You were eleven. It was Friday night, and your father had his poker buddies over. The tinkle of ice cubes in glasses lulled you to sleep.

    At first, you thought you were having a bad dream when you woke to the sound of the doorknob turning. The sound of laughter and the smell of cigar smoke from downstairs entered with him through the door. He was only a shadow. He did not speak.

    The moon was full that night, and lit his bottom half as you saw him unbuckle his belt.

    "The bathroom is the next door down the hall," you mutter.

    He steps out of his trousers, and you see he is not wearing underwear. You close your eyes. You hear the jangle of his keys as he reaches into the pocket of his trousers for something.

    Suddenly the room reeks of spearmint, a breath mint. You feel your bed sink down as he sits on it. The smell of mint grows stronger, and you feel his breath on your face. You stop breathing, afraid you will vomit. He puts his lips on yours, and you clamp your mouth shut against this intruder, but he knows just where to press your jaw to cause enough pain that you start to cry out. And his tongue is in your mouth at that moment, and you feel the sheet being pulled off your body.
    You have never felt more naked, even though you are wearing your Superman pajamas.

    He replaces his mouth with one hand, while his other hand explores places people aren’t supposed to touch and Superman does nothing to protect you. The hand covering your mouth slides upwards, and now it blocks both your mouth and nose. You struggle.

    "Oh, you like that," he whispers in your ear. And it is the only thing he says, and the only thing you hear before you pass out. Maybe from fear. Maybe from oxygen deprivation.

    When you come to, the moon is no longer shining through the window. You are alone. You are naked. You are cold.

    A dog barks somewhere down the street, muffled by the single pane of glass.

    You cry to yourself. You are ashamed. Your ass is sore. When you creep into the bathroom, you realize you are bleeding and you wonder how you will explain the blood on the sheets to your mother. You use a whole roll of toilet paper, trying to clean yourself, but you know you will never feel clean again.
    You do not sleep that night. You take a long shower in the morning, but do not brush your teeth. The toothpaste is mint-flavored.

    Your father is not at breakfast. Your mother changes the linens and doesn’t ask any questions. You decide to go to confession. Perhaps God can forgive you for being unclean. The church is silent when you enter. Light streams through the stained glass windows. You sit in a pew, trying to compose words you can tell the priest, words you can say out loud. A beam of red light shines on you, and you wonder if it is a sign. The blood of Christ, you think. You stand and walk to the confessional, drawing the curtain.

    "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been seven days since my last confession."

    "What are your sins?" you hear through the grate.

    And you rip the curtains open and run, from the confessional, out of the church, and down to the river where you immerse yourself.

    And you swear the priest's hot breath, mint-scented, follows you down the street.

    It has been decades. And still there is no one to tell.

    1. you are on fire today. This piece is as horrible as the previous one was beautiful. Such virtuosity. And such a final sentence.

    2. Yeah, ditto, it's grim. And wow, the reason at the end for the parents' behaviour. I like the little details too, like the tinkle of the ice cubes, the barking dog, the silent church.

    3. Good God. This is horrible. Well written and horrible. The superman PJs. Great piece. Sad reality. I love 'listing' and especially when the lists are seemingly unrelated, ergo, I love this: The moon shining through curtains. The smell of spearmint. A dog barking in the dark.

    4. Oh, my god. This is chilling. The details. I highlighted the same ones Mr. Mader did.

    5. Made my stomach flip. It's awful, yet so brilliantly expressed. That detail of the mint is so PTSD-true.

  5. I hear tell that if you're going to be a real poet, you have to write at least one villanelle. So, rhymes and all, here is one from me:

    Chasing Pixels

    I walk the miles.
    chasing the creatures,
    seeking digital smiles.

    Hoarding stardust in vials,
    hatching pokemon eggs,
    I walk the miles.

    A wild evasion move beguiles,
    and my flickering fingers nimbly dance,
    seeking the Professor’s digital smiles.

    Hungry evolutions, candy-o-philes,
    struggling to feed them,
    I walk the miles.

    A metaphor of life, spinning the dials.
    Life on a cell phone,
    seeking digital smiles.

    Long-distance calls, long after we walked the aisle,
    longing to be with her,
    I walk the lonely miles,
    desperately seeking her digital smiles.

    1. Constrained writing, whether in prose or poetry is always fascinating to me; a blend of form and substance. This is good. I'm especially in love with your coinage of "candy-o-philes"

    2. This is the first one I read as I popped in. I like it a lot, especially the unit of the first 2 stanzas, and then the next two. It's great.

    3. This is the first one I read as I popped in. I like it a lot, especially the unit of the first 2 stanzas, and then the next two. It's great.

    4. I like it. I want a Shakespearean sonnet now. ;)

    5. Yeah, sonnet next? Haiku? ;) I agree that constraints bring out interesting things in our writing, and this is so adept at conforming to the rules.

  6. Revision of a piece originally done as an abcedarian. I wasn't happy with how that one flowed, so I recreated it without the alphabetic structure:

    Reunion Tempest

    My travel to the Kansas hometown
    became a carnival sideshow,
    with sudden drops and twisted mirrors.
    History’s adroit deception of who I was.
    A pilgrimage I make alone,
    wearing beauty’s hoax on my left hand.

    Touring the old school, on the sidelines,
    while strangers bearing names
    of kids I used to know,
    drift through half-remembered hallways.
    I walk among their memories,
    an absent teacher prowling abandoned classes.

    Driving down paper route streets,
    car tires consume the miles I pedaled
    on my silver bike. I can no longer feel the rain,
    nor the weight of canvas newspaper bags.
    Lopsided distances of the present
    fail to match the cartography of my mind.

    Distorted neighborhoods have more trees,
    and the houses of my chums have grown shabby.
    Worn down from carelessly bearing
    too many years, and too few repairs.
    The address of my childhood home
    is a withered corpse left above ground.

    I arrive at the reunion feast, eyes upon the crowd.
    Finding sweet misery in their simple joys.
    Greeting old classmates with my false facade,
    reflecting their one-sided nostalgia
    to wear the bitter camouflage of belonging.
    I should not have come back.

    I am steeped in unwanted knowledge.
    Time travel is impossible, a worthless shadowplay.
    Why do so many pursue the past?
    Digging their escape from the grey,
    prospecting the fool’s gold of absent youth.
    Zealots for a childhood I never had.

    1. I like this. It paints an interesting picture of scenery and people, memories and present. Like the sideshow image with the mirrors, ideas of belonging and whether the past is really relevant to now.

    2. I like the whole thing, but I love the last stanza. Especially 'digging their escape from the grey'

    3. I like this even more than the original version... this is an interesting case where a structured form made a great first draft, but then setting it free from that structure made it even stronger. Really well done.

    4. My favourite part:

      "Lopsided distances of the present
      fail to match the cartography of my mind."

      Because that's a tough concept to get across so succinctly, yet you nail it.

  7. Portrait

    Sketch a simple outline,
    Tracing each and every
    Curve and moving angle;
    Fill in the spaces in between
    Lines, careful not to skim over,
    Staying always inside this
    Safety net. Paint it the perfect
    Colour, see it real, pouring
    In passion, earth and quietude.

    Wait for the coming rain, the
    Splash of desire for something
    Outside, something new,
    Beyond the now oft-dotted lines.
    Step outside and relish in
    A haze of multiple hues – this
    Vision lifting to become you,
    Wet with a layer of paint.
    And then hope it stays true.

    1. I enjoy the picture of growth (my lens for the poem) as an artist, the way you describe that maturity to step beyond the cookie-cutter instructions

    2. Yeah, this is dope. It's a like a poem that tells you how to write a poem without being uppity. Super cool.

    3. One of the things I love about poetry is that the reader is more actively involved than in most prose (with flash fiction as a possible exception)... I can understand Joe and Dan's interpretations, but for me, it's about personal growth... about stepping outside of the expected and the habitual and breaking free. I also really like how you break the lines in the poem, another sort of stepping out of the expected.

    4. And how breaking those lines runs counter to the urging of the words themselves:

      "Fill in the spaces in between
      Lines, careful not to skim over,
      Staying always inside this
      Safety net."

    5. Thanks for your comments :) I didn't know where it was going, but it is about personal growth & your persona :)

  8. Tripping

    I am the time that plays itself out,
    Riding havoc into the morning’s peace
    With my giddy sense of ever leaving,
    Always moving, flicking the switch
    In this still motionless search for you,
    The other self within myself, the greater,
    And yet I fear it cannot exist at all, for
    I have searched far too long, and in
    This fearless pursuit I am lost.

    1. 'riding havoc into the morning's peace' - great line!

    2. Agreed. This one has a really classical feel to me. And I'm always amazed how much you can pack into such a small snatch of writing.

    3. Agree with the above... and ache with despair at the last line.

    4. I just feel for the concept, the search for the higher self...

    5. And how that final lost is an echo of long in the previous line. Like we've been prepared for its finality.

    6. Thanks so much. It is about finding your better self, facing self-doubt & also the idea of the soul mate.

  9. The Council

    The alley is slick with rain and god knows what else. Forty-four doesn’t want to think about what he may have just squished beneath his shoe. The establishment he slinks into, all neon and tarnished brass, is certainly a peg down from their last meeting place. But the location had become compromised. He has a good idea how that happened; Forty-two has gotten a bit loose-lipped in his retirement. Any hint to the press that they were meeting could mean the end of an institution that has performed an important public service for centuries. They’d had a close call a while back, and made out like they were joining forces to raise more money for hurricane relief.

    He greets the owner and says he’ll wait for his party. Finally, the men start arriving. With one addition: an honorary member they’ve started calling “Forty-three and a half.” Under the circumstances, it only seemed right. Eventually they shake off their raingear and sit at the round table to shake off the chill. Except for Forty-three, still on the wagon, the beverages are stronger than in prior meetings. It seems the order of the day.

    When all are settled and braced, a long silence passes and Forty-one, in his wheelchair at the head of the table, clears his throat. “Afraid we have to give this another go,” he says. “Best laid plans and all.”

    They all nod somberly. What they’d planned last time was supposed to have looked like a heart attack, but apparently Forty-five suspected and had one of his sycophants sit in the Oval Office chair instead. Bet now he wishes he’d asked Omarosa to do it.

    “I might have some ideas,” Forty-three and a half says, a sly smile crossing her face.

    Forty-two smirks, hides it with a swallow of his Diet Coke and rum. “Praise God let it be the business end of one of your high heels.” He touches his forehead. “That thing still gives me a twinge when it rains.”

    She rolls her eyes. “Hit him where he lives.”

    “Tried that,” Forty-one wheezes.

    “No,” she says. “Not in the Oval. In his Achilles’ heel.”

    “What, the bone spurs?” Forty-two asks.

    “Try again,” his wife replies.

    A small, thin voice with a Georgia accent pops in from Forty-four’s cell phone speaker. Thirty-eight was not up to traveling. “With all due respect, Madame Secretary,” he says. “But I believe you were less than successful at exploiting his weaknesses.”

    “You know what I’m talking about,” she says.

    Forty-four nodded. “Yes. Indeed I do.” He waved a hand in her direction. “Madame Secretary, it would be my honor to let you make the call.”

    “I’ll do it,” Forty-three says. “After all, I’ve looked into the man’s soul.” He presses a few keys, then smiles when a voice answers. “Good afternoon, Mr. President,” Forty-three says in Russian, astounding Forty-four with a skill set he did not believe his predecessor possessed. “We have a bit of a situation here. I believe one of your assets is defective.”

    1. delicious - and makes me wonder about the actual star chambers out there

    2. Oh snap. This is a really smart, cutting piece.

    3. Satire done well! and is it wrong for me to hope that such an association exists?

    4. Ha ha, the bone spurs comment made me laugh out loud for real!

  10. The pigeons pluck the noise from the air – taint the windowsill – I give them names. Sweet Georgia Brown is my favorite. She’s such a pretty bird. She soars above the grime and dirt of the city, not letting on that she is better than I am.

    But we both know.

    I sit with my friends on the top of our building and pelt people with gravel. Muni busses. People complain about the pigeons, but pigeons are not hooligans. Not like us.

    And we are not like pigeons although we are more like pigeons than we would like to admit. Dirty, overlooked, broken, starving. We are pigeons stuck to the asphalt of the Mission. We are pigeons with wings made of attitude that will never truly let us fly.

    Do not pity the pigeons. They have enough to worry about without your pity. You ever seen a peregrine falcon? I have. The pigeons just want to exist. We might not even want that. We want to soar. And never will.

    1. I like this scene a lot, and the undercurrent of feelings it describes. Good stuff!

    2. Ah, the Mission... the least spoiled part of The City. I hope the pigeons that are not pigeons never leave. This is, in the words of an author I admire, a "dope piece."

    3. I love the contemplative feel of this, how it meanders like a bird in the air even. And this:

      "Dirty, overlooked, broken, starving. We are pigeons stuck to the asphalt of the Mission. We are pigeons with wings made of attitude that will never truly let us fly."

  11. The leaves flow over the city, casting shadows and twisting eddies in dark alleyways. Eddie is a bum, and he's everywhere, dizzy. Smells swim through the buildings, sticking to people’s clothes. You don’t want to stay in one place for too long. The wind will catch up with you.

    You can never outrun the wind, but you should never stop trying.

    The wind traverses the city, gently kissing rooftops. The wind roars down the coast, stretching tree limbs and sending plumes of sand dune into the sky.

    The wind is not your enemy, but it is not your friend. It is the sidekick you can never outrun. You are no match for the wind because its energy is endless, and your's is not.

    1. the eddies / Eddie overlay is one I savor each time I see it make an appearance. And 'the wind will catch up with you'....

    2. This is beautiful, for the language and the thought. Eddie is the sidekick... and he swirls around you.

    3. There's something different about some of your recent pieces, brother. I get a more contemplative almost Zen-like feeling from them. Or maybe steel hidden inside velvet. Something like that. :)

  12. It’s for the birds. Grandpa always said it when he thought something was stupid, but I liked birds, so I was often confused. Birds deserve only the best. My Grandpa: "Bah! Ironing is for the birds. Clean clothes is good enough." OK, birds deserve better. Freedom from wrinkles.


    The birds nest in my subconscious. They are good houseguests. They make pretty sounds and throw beautiful silhouettes against the blue sky.
    When there are wildfires, the birds vanish. They do not want to swim through the smoke. I feel like we have ruined the air for them. What did they ever do to us?

    Being obsessed with birds was strictly for the birds. So, maybe it made sense after all. Old men are often cryptic and confusing.

    That logic stuff is for the birds

    1. the struggles with idioms!

    2. Sweet. My grandpa used to say that, too. Usually in a drunken stupor, so his German accent came out strong, but we knew what he meant. Sometimes it's enough to be a bird. And one day, the birds will have their revenge.

    3. Okay, dude, this is weird now. My piece was also bird-obsessed this week, and I didn't read yours until now! This gets spooky.

  13. In my imagination, the world is on fire, there at the edge of the glowing horizon
    The scent of the burning sinks deep in my lungs, smothering words and stories and songs.
    The apocalypse is happening
    The tribulation’s just beginning and I’m going a little bit numb
    But in my heart that band plays on, dancers in a jitterbug
    Sing, sing sing, let freedom ring, no reason to be scared.
    Rock n roll feed your soul
    Whole lotta shaking goin on
    The world is changing yet again
    The phonograph of memory plays on and on
    The dancers keep on dancing when one pill makes you larger and you want somebody to love
    And the flower children keep on chanting how they’d like to teach the world to sing
    The jukebox keeps on spinning and Aretha’s crying for respect
    And the people keep on fighting, but we haven’t got it yet.
    Ain’t got the change of a nickel, got a personal Jesus instead
    Got Abba’s anthem for money rolling round in my head
    My idols keep on passing
    But the music lingers on
    I got jazz hands and salsa; I got country and blues
    I got Elvis and Bruce and even Peggy Sue
    I got acid and punk rock and Talking heads; Bruce chanting the dirge of Philadelphia
    And girls just wanna have fun
    They all wrote my history while some took your meds.
    Their legacy will define us long after we’re dead.
    In the kingdom of believers there’s a map of the world
    But despite all the branding, the grating the vandals; the crack whores on TV
    There’s a drumbeat, heart beat out there on the borders where the world is on fire that brings us to our feet
    We shore up our boundaries, point our fingers and define
    All the little differences between your preferences and mine.
    But meanwhile there’s this radio playing in my mind
    The history of my country
    Etched indelibly in memory
    To remind me of those notes that come from the heart
    And the art that is humanity
    Forms the music where harmonies play together, and we are not alone.

    1. Somewhere, Woody Guthrie is smiling in a place where hangovers don't exist. This is epic. And this CRUSHES:

      They all wrote my history while some took your meds.
      Their legacy will define us long after we’re dead.

    2. This is awesome... my head is now echoing with each of those songs, and they all fit together and I don't understand how I could have missed their connections and their mega harmonies... Really, really good stuff.

    3. Wow, yes. I can't add anything, other than to say I love this piece.

  14. Damn, this one ran away from me. Two parts, but it still isn't done! If I finish it, I'll post on my blog and link to it.

    Part 1

    How passing strange it was that a lone crow brought them together on a quiet city street one early spring day in the late nineteen fifties.

    So easy to forget how places a mere beat from the urban heart could be so quiet back then. An early morning walk amid the subdued hues of store façades and automobiles—washed out honeybees and tangerines and pale seafoam greens—where the cool air was flat with gentle remnants of mist, each sound distinct, though rounded.

    Up ahead, Jonah saw a woman duck low and cry out and stumble, her heel catching on a crack in the sidewalk and turning her ankle. He hurried forward and noticed her assailant, a smudge of winged focus, returning for a new assault. Jonah yelled and waved his arms; a man across the street stopped and stared. The crow shrieked in triumph and banked for another dive.

    Up close, Jonah could see the panic and terror on the woman's face, and his chest swelled as he moved to shield her from the arial strikes, taking a glancing blow to his right ear.

    "Let's get off the street," he said, his voice loud in his head.

    There was a diner a few doors down, its pale turquoise exterior a comfort in itself, so arms around her limping form as if he were helping a fallen comrade into a trench, he manoeuvred her there, slammed the door on a renewed attack, and spied a quiet booth away from the window. The crow hit the glass, its war cry faint but shrill on the other side.

    He signalled two coffees to the moon-faced proprietor.

    The woman was doubled over, gasping as if she needed more air.

    "Are you okay, miss?" he asked, his own voice faltering shamefully.

    She held a hand toward him as if to say wait, and he waited.

  15. Part 2

    When the coffee came, she seemed calmer.

    "Birds…" she said. "They—"

    "That crow is a menace!" said the cafe's owner. "Dive-bombing random folks. We reported it to pest control, but they never took us serious."

    "Thanks for the coffee," Jonah said, more brusquely than he'd meant to.

    "Well. If you need anything else, give me a holler," said the large man through his small tight mouth, before returning to his place behind the counter.

    For the sake of decency, Jonah had moved from beside her to across from her, and they sipped their coffee, black and bitter, in silence for a while.

    "You were saying about birds?" he asked, too loudly.

    She looked at him, taking in his presence for the first time.

    "Nothing. I've forgotten it already."

    "The attack?"

    "No, what I was going to say, silly." Her eyebrow arched and he felt like the weakest student in a class where everyone tried to please the teacher. Even the faintest of smiles did nothing to ease his sudden shame. "Never mind. And thank you."

    "Are you hurt?"

    "Aside from my dignity? I don't think so."

    "But your ankle..."

    "It feels fine now. I'm lucky, I guess."

    As if his male spirit—left behind in the sidewalk tussle—had only just caught up, he noticed how glorious she was. Her head of dark curls, her Hollywood hourglass shape, her smooth calves extended as she flexed her ankles.

    Not sure how long he'd been staring, he almost laughed when she said, "Coffee's getting cold," a faint shadow of irritation in the deep tide pools of her eyes.

    Jonah was a shy man. He had been on dates that hadn't worked out, often through his own ineptitude and even indifference, but here was something he'd never encountered. He was besotted. Not even intending to explore, he had already left the map, lost in a place where tygers stalked.

    "Since your ankle seems to be fine, miss, perhaps you would like to go dancing with me this Saturday."

    She stared. Scary as it was, he held her gaze, somehow knowing that if he looked away she'd laugh in his face. That tiny smile again, and she paused before answering.

    "If you are going to ask a girl on a date, don't you think you should at least know her name?"

    And that is how Jonah met Ava, which she said was short for Aviana, a name her mother had chosen out of spite, since no one ever recognized or knew how to say it.

    1. I'm liking it so far! It has a noir feel to it, with a bit of Hitchcock thrown in. You've given us a glimpse... I'm ready for the close-up. I hope you finish it!

    2. I hope I can do it justice, my friend. The woman and the crow and the setting all came to me in a dream, and while I have an idea this might well go off the rails, I sure want to find out what happens to these two!

    3. The only thing that threw me was her dark hair. I was so sure she looked like Tippi Hedren!

    4. I love the setting, the conflict between woman and crow. I want to know more!

    5. Ha, Tippi Hedren! Right. I get that. But this character refused to let me make her a blonde.

      Okay, I managed to write more (though still not quite done), but it's like two halves of a different monster stitched together... and you can see the seam. I can't tell if it's good or if it's utter nonsense. :(

    6. I’m not finding it on your blog. Did you post it and I’m just being inept?

    7. Oh, Leland, sadly I ended up not liking it, so I didn't post it. It needs more work. :(

  16. His name was Tom. Her name was Sally.

    They were a rogue couple in a one-horse town.

    She taught school. He was a cowboy.

    They looked like they belonged on the cover of a magazine. Her long blonde tresses might come from a bottle, but her green eyes were real. He looked fine in Wranglers, especially from the back.

    The town was scandalized when they had an open house, and the tree was flocked in pink fake snow. But that wasn’t the scandal. The scandal was that there were black sheets on the bed, the same bed that everyone laid their their coats on.

    The whole town was clucking over what this might mean. Were they ."swingers" like Pastor Mullin warned of in his Sunday sermon? Everyone knew that proper sheets should be white.

    Good old Roger, a cowboy himself in the distant past, listened to all the gossip, but never passed it on. He finally asked Tom direct, "You inviting people to join you and Miss Sally in your bed?"

    Tom tilted his head, looked hard in Roger's eyes. "If we were, and if I were you, I wouldn’t be waiting for an invitation."

    And then they laughed together, and the town laughed with them and moved on to the next scandal: the drugstore was selling condoms, right out in the open, on shelves low enough for youngsters to reach.

    I was the only one who noticed that Roger and Tom had a sparkle in their eyes after that encounter, and I kept my mouth shut. I kept quiet, too, when Roger's gray hair started darkening up. Turns out the drug store kept Grecian Formula on their shelves, too.

    A year later, Tom was cleaning his pistol when it accidentally went off and killed him. Strange thing, Tom being a sharpshooter and all. Miss Sally quit her teaching job, and left town. And Roger's hair went back to gray.

    And people were too worried about those longhairs from England leading their precious children astray to ask any questions.

  17. He smiled as he turned over row after row of black soil walking behind his Dad's old Troy-Bilt Roto-tiller in their half-acre garden. Daniel LaRocque had looked forward to this chore since last Fall, as opposed to the daily drudgery of the stinking, back-bending work on his family’s dairy farm.

    The snow was gone. The earth had given up its frost and most of its residual March muckiness, all in preparation for Danny to plant a new generation of vegetables. He could smell the new life, even through the exhaust fumes.
    Occasionally Danny and the crimson earth-chopper would churn up something unexpected, like some of last year's unharvested potatoes or some varmint’s forgotten nest. Otherwise, it was rocks, always more rocks.

    Exulting in the sun on his face, he half-closed his eyes and hummed along with his iPod, sensing the tune more than hearing it over the roar of the engine and the tiller’s jerky, body-buzzing drone.

    Then the Troy-Bilt snagged something stretchy, shiny and black. Danny turned off the engine to remove a plastic garbage bag that had spindled around its tines. The sun glinted off something white in the black of the furrow where he knelt, and Danny pondered the pale broken doll’s head peering up at him from the ground. With his ungloved hand he grabbed the offending article to throw it from the field. That was when he realized he had chummed up something more than the usual Spring debris.

    Danny fell back and skittered away on his bottom from the waxy face he smudged, as he realized the face belonged to what once was a tiny infant.

    Scrambling to his feet, Danny ran toward the house, twice looking back over his shoulder. He tripped on the demarcation between soft topsoil and the solid ground where he had started his project. Danny looked back again at the black furrows, coiled like a burnt fuse leading to the smoking tiller and his discovery.

    In her Cobleskill College dormitory, Ellie Benson jerked up as a chill coursed her spine and then melted as peculiar warmth washed over her, stinging her face. Her father called with the news, but she somehow knew what the call was about as soon as she heard his voice. Heart pounding, she knew. Ellie just knew. And now, so did Danny.

    We always reap what we sow, boy.

    1. Wow.... that went in a direction I’d never have guessed. Chilling. And a nice foreshadowing in Danny's last name.

    2. Yeah, I love its change of direction and mood. It feels like a pastoral piece at first, so the horror catches us off guard. The image of a burnt bomb fuse is perfect!


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