Friday, September 14, 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 boy stood in the middle of the field, dizzy, still spinning. He liked the feeling of reckless chaos – he often fell, but rarely hurt himself. He was a boy who was used to feeling small pains. His life had been full of them, but he spun his worries away in fields of wildflowers, red, yellow, and white.

He was a simple boy. Not stupid – his life was uncomplicated. He was good at living outside the moment. His world was one created of stories and made up monsters and scenarios where he could be heroic.

John wanted to be heroic because, in reality, he felt scared all the time. He did not like feeling scared. He would do anything not to feel scared. Even if that meant spinning in a field until he was too dizzy to stand. 

#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. That intentional loss of control from dizzyness - I can feel it in that piece.

    1. Such a poignant and simple dizziness. I love this line: He was a boy who was used to feeling small pains.

    2. a flashback to my childhood... beautifully painted recall of the power of escape, no chemicals required.

  2. Parisian Cafe

    I fantasized about the cuisine
    in Paris,
    from my three-stop sign town
    in central Kansas.
    Dreaming a journey away from here.

    I studied French,
    seven years of conjugating,
    conversational phrases
    and street talk, so I would blend in
    as I walked Avenue Montaigne.

    I worked two jobs and took classes
    at a second-rate community college
    outside of Wichita.
    Scrimping to save dollars
    to turn into francs.

    Crossed-off calendar countdown
    I watched the young man stamp
    my crisp blue passport,
    told him he was as beautiful as the day,
    speaking my perfect cultural voice.

    My first morning stroll, planned out for years:
    Le Procope.
    The cafe of Voltaire, Napoleon,
    updated to elegant dining
    yet I wished to dine in the past.

    Ordered an espresso, a croissant,
    a Belgian chocolate truffle brownie.
    The espresso cup was tiny..
    The waiter forgot my croissant,
    despite my flawless accent.

    The half-brownie is left sitting
    in the espresso thimble.
    Bitter, dry crumbles scattered
    on the starched white cloth.
    No way to wash away the taste.

    The flight back home
    cost too much,
    considering the dullness
    and lack of culture
    and how some colors are missing.

    I drink this morning’s coffee
    from a decent-sized mug
    that stains my passport cover,
    and consider the benefits
    of learning Italian.

    1. I really enjoyed this. A cool weaving of linear narrative into verse. Tactile and strong.

    2. I love this! Just rolled along on the narrative, feeling that fantasy vs. reality fistfight. Beautiful.

    3. I too enjoyed this... and it reminded me so much of my first visit to Paris... and the shattering of imagined Paris against real Paris. I had to fall in love with it all over again, but in a different way. You've used wonderful images, tastes, and nostalgia here. I like the way the dreamer doesn't become embittered (pardon the pun) at everything and instead plans the next trip. Well done!

    4. One word: immersion. I was there, throughout.

  3. He said it was a red planet, but it didn’t look red to me. He said there might be life on it and I felt a tingle in the palms of my hands, imagining small aliens covered in red dust.

    I saw a beautiful flashing star. He told me it was an airplane. Told me Mars was the next great frontier. I didn’t want to tell him that the plane was prettier than Mars, but it was the truth.

    There were so many things I didn’t want to tell him. And things I did. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t like stars. Not that I hated them, but they didn’t interest me. I liked horses.

    He had no interest in horses.

    I spent the night looking through the telescope and pretending to be excited. We passed a field of horses on the drive back and I wanted to stop. Give one the apple I had saved. The chill of dawn was creeping. He didn’t want to stop. Too cold.
    I didn’t tell him that I had been cold all night, stargazing. I just looked at the horses as fast as I could while we rocketed past them back to the city.

    1. Intriguing... self-denial and sacrifice... it might be the tale of a child with his father, or two lovers. Either way, the story is powerful.

    2. Yeah, so much unspoken, as Leland says. We don't speak about this enough here, but in a flash piece it's essential that we engage the reader right away, and you always do this seemingly effortlessly, brother. Also, someone should tell that character that you can like stars and horses! :)

    3. such a poignant disconnect between the two characters. Nice piece! "I just looked at the horses as fast as I could..." great!

  4. County Fair and Rodeo. It doesn’t get more country than that, he thought. But it was about to. He was in the rodeo. If he could stay on the bronco for eight seconds, he’d consider himself a winner. Not because he’d win any money or any kind of prize but because Becky would be impressed.

    Becky. He'd had his eye on her since fifth grade.

    Becky. Blonde and green-eyed.

    Becky. Who made his heart and other body parts sing.

    The only thing was, he’d never been on a horse before. Hell, he’d bought his first pair of cowboy boots just last week. And the hat still felt funny on his head.

    But... Becky.

    His mom pinned his number on him. Like anyone in town didn’t already know who he was from his lanky, awkward body. Like a number was needed.

    "Are you sure you want to do this?" his mom asked.

    He nodded.

    "Your dad would be proud of you. Win or lose, you’re making the effort."

    Dad. Why’d she have to bring him up? Oh yeah, that’s how she fell in love with him. At the rodeo. And that’d worked out well, hadn’t it?

    He spit on the ground.

    One of the officials came up. "You’re up next, son."

    He closed his eyes. I can do this, he thought. He didn’t dare look in the bleachers, didn’t want to know where she sat. She. Becky.

    Like his heart wasn’t beating fast enough already.
    He sat on the fence rail, like he’d seen the cowboys do in all the YouTube videos, waiting.
    When he came to, he was looking up into the greenest eyes. Emeralds must be like that green.

    He couldn’t remember getting on the horse, or riding it, or... or anything. Did he fall?

    Becky's sweet voice answered it all. "You fainted."

    No no no. This was not how you impress a girl. "Fainted?"

    "Before you got on the horse. You fell off the rail. Are you feeling okay?"

    His face flushed. His voice left him. He turned his head.

    And she knelt down, and.... she kissed him. "You don’t have to prove anything to me, Sammy. I like you enough already."

    She stood up, held her hand out to help him up, and they walked down the midway together.

    She beat him at the ring toss, but he kissed her back on top of the Ferris wheel.

    County fairs and rodeos, there’s a kind of romance in the taste of cotton candy and the smell of horseshit, but it’s only known in small towns. And sometimes the romance lasts.

    1. Awww. So wonderful. And yes, that last paragraph. Kicks. Ass.

    2. sweet piece - and how sometimes the way we think we are going to impress someone isn't the way at all.

    3. Ha ha, your choice of Becky as her name is so perfect! lol

  5. Oh, that last paragraph gave me chills. Cotton candy and horseshit indeed. I really like the short, staccato sentences. And I'm always a sucker for an underdog love story. And fairs. And rodeos. ;)

  6. He was wearing jeans with more hole than denim, and a wife beater, which for the life of me I never understood the name. He’d never had a wife, nor, as far as I know, a husband either.
    He was the stuff that naughty dreams are made of, but those dreams never come with happily-ever-after endings.

    His name was Jeff, spelled the American way, without pretension. He talked with a hint of Southern drawl, but not so much that you could guess which state he came from. Other than the state of desire.

    He wasn’t wearing his belt tonight, the one with the obnoxiously large and shiny buckle. The brim of his cowboy hat was pulled low, but not low enough to hide his blue eyes, one of which was surrounded by black tonight.

    This night, unlike all the other nights I’d enjoyed the pleasure of his company, there was no smile.

    "What happened?" I asked him over the sound of the jukebox that played nothing but Patsy Cline.


    “I’ve been in a few fights myself, though I don’t remember any of ‘em having been with nothin’,” I replied. “Hey, a couple of Bud Lights over here, if you please!” The bartender was watching him and me.

    Jeff wouldn’t look at me. Kept looking down at the bar. The bartender delivered the beers, and a bar towel wrapped around some ice.

    “Seriously, who did this to you, Jeff?”

    “Some asshole, in the alley out back.”

    “Some asshole you know, or a stranger?”

    “I don’t know his name.”

    “A customer?”

    Now he looked up at me. “Yeah, except he didn’t pay. And he stole my belt.”

    “Shouldn’t be hard to find him. He’s gotta look worse than you. I’ve seen your punch.”

    “Yeah, well, if he’d been alone, maybe.” The tear I saw in his eye wasn’t from pain, it was from shame, that he couldn’t protect himself.

    “Ah, buddy. Nothin’ to be ashamed of. You gonna be okay? Did he — hurt you in other ways?”

    Jeff laughed, but without humor. “Let’s just say he shoulda paid. I wasn’t raped, if that’s what you mean. I was just robbed of my fee.”

    “Should we call the cops?”

    This time he laughed louder. “And what, report him for shoplifting? Nah, I guess I just learned a lesson or two.”

    I’ve been around enough cowboys to know when to leave a pause, to let them continue their stories if they want to or to let them keep the story to themselves. He chose quiet.

    “Put the ice on your eye. It’ll help with the swelling.”

    I stood up, pulled a twenty out of my pocket and put it on the bar. I nodded to the bartender.

    “You gotta leave?” he asked, tilting his head back, so I could see the puppy dog look in his eyes?

    “I do. And if you want, I’d like you to come with me. I think you might need a safe place to stay, and I’ve got a decent couch.”

    “I’m not gonna be good company.”

    “Me neither, but you don’t gotta be good company to be a good friend.”

    I put my arm around him, and we walked outside to my truck. Like the gentleman I can sometimes be, I opened the door for him and held it open long enough for him to look at me as I undid my belt

    “What are you doing?”

    “I can’t do anything about the black eye, but—“

    His eyes followed the buckle on my belt. I wished he was looking in that region for other reasons.

    “But I can give you a belt.”

    “You don’t have to…”

    “I won this buckle in Laramie, back in 1996.”

    “Same year I was born.”

    It was my turn to laugh. “You gotta stop hanging with men old enough to be your daddy.” I handed him the belt.

    “Y’all are the only ones with manners.”

    I shut the door on his side of the truck, and got in on my side. I cranked the engine over. It sputtered and took. And just as my hand found the gear shift, I felt his breath on my cheek, and then a kiss.

    “Thank you.” And he rested his hand on my thigh. Looked like it was gonna be the couch’s turn to be lonesome.

    1. I really enjoyed this. The back and forth. The dialogue. And I swear, I didn't read this before I named my character Jeff.

    2. LOL... I believe you. I know you've had Jeff in stories before... I am likely the plagiarist.

    3. Agreed. Dialogue is super tight. I love this line:
      “Me neither, but you don’t gotta be good company to be a good friend.”

    4. you put me right into that bar - great writing and engaging characters.

    5. Ha, Laurie and Leland, that collective unconscious thing again! It happens so often here. And yeah, I'm with everyone else. Such tight, natural dialogue.

  7. Part 1

    The bed creaked as Jeff turned over and pulled the quilt over his aching head. Like some little bastard pounding an anvil in there. His beard itched, his blood sugar was probably in the red zone—no, make that definitely, his queasy stomach and lightheadedness told him—and he deserved every stinking last bit of it. In fact, he stunk. From the dank, sweaty sheets to the comforter to the body encased in them, clad in boxers and a T-shirt stained with a multitude of sins. A shower would help. But that would mean getting up. Passing the detritus of his bacchanal of the previous night...and the night before that...and, hell, he didn’t remember what day it was. He clamped his eyes shut and cursed himself and thought those words he’d thought so many times before: never again.

    The phone rang. He had a vague memory of it ringing a few times yesterday, but he didn’t want to talk to anyone. Still didn’t. The people from unemployment could go fuck themselves. Who else would be calling at whatever the hell time this was—the sun was just reaching the slat in the blinds that meant he should be up and around already. Going and getting ’em, like the guy from job counseling said. Jeff took in as deep a breath as he could and let it out slowly, waiting for the voice mail to pick up.

    It didn’t. Shit. That meant the damn thing was full. Then the ringing stopped. Caroline. What if something was wrong with her, what if Marta had been trying to get hold of him, what if it was Caroline herself, wanting to talk to her daddy...?

    The comforter tangled around his legs and he hit the carpet with a thud, ass first.

    Something was sticking into his back. It felt like a fork. He opened his eyes to an empty pizza box a few inches from his face. The sausage and pepperoni grease in the cardboard turned his stomach the rest of the way over and he couldn’t make it to the toilet in time and most of it landed on the carpet in front of the bathroom door.

    “Kill me now,” he groaned. The sides of his stomach heaved as he dropped from all fours back to his side. In his head he saw Caroline’s little face. If by some miracle she came back home, what would she think of him? Half naked and big as a barn and lying next to a puddle of his own puke. Marta, of course, would have all of her suspicions confirmed. She’d just stand there with that ugly smirk, then whisk his daughter away from him again, maybe for good this time. Caroline. She’d grow up and learn the truth of her parents and the world soon enough, but a five-year-old shouldn’t hate her daddy.

    For her, he struggled to his feet. For her, he cleaned up the vomit and stuffed the comforter into the washing machine. Threw out the pizza boxes, the beer bottles, the empty bags of chips and cookies and fast food meals.

    Then, spent and not yet ready to face the phone, he fell back onto the bed while the washing machine whirled and swished.

    The sock. It was all because of the sock.

  8. Part Two

    He’d read somewhere that keeping up with the normal routines of life could help fight depression from unemployment. He’d pushed the living room sofa back so he could vacuum beneath it...and a small pink sock with little bunnies on it had reduced him to a three-hundred and twenty-pound sack of tears. He fell and kept on falling.

    No. The voice inside him fought through the self-doubt, through the choking sobs, through the recriminations that he’d been a a husband, as a father, as a man. He would do this for Caroline. Marta could take a flying fuck, but he had a daughter. A beautiful, perfect daughter, with his red hair and freckles, with Marta’s eyes. Whatever she told his daughter about him, it would not be that her daddy offed himself, committed passive suicide by pepperoni pizza. He had to keep going. For her.

    He tried to remember where he’d left the sock. He found it wedged between two couch cushions. So small. The sock, and the foot it had slipped over. Giddy with the news that he and Marta were having a girl, he went a little crazy at the mall. He bought a pink teddy bear and little onesies and one of those mobiles that goes over the crib, pastel-colored bunnies hopping in circles.

    Marta didn’t take the mobile; she’d thought it was tacky and that he’d spent too much money on it, but he found himself now in Caroline’s bedroom, flicking the switch and watching the bunny parade.

    After a while he felt strong enough to clean himself up, then face the voice mail. Two calls about overdue bills. One from unemployment. And a voice he vaguely recognized.

    “Hello, Mr. McNeil. This is Diana, from the weight loss center? You came to one of our meetings a few weeks ago? Well, we missed you and wonder if there’s anything we can do to help.”

    He played the message two, three times. It was a nice voice, kind. Sincere. He remembered the woman. She’d weighed him in. He didn’t much like the meeting, all those women applauding each other about losing a pound or two, as if it were a damn game show.

    But maybe it was time to go back.

    1. So real, as all your characters always are. Finding just the right chink in the armor, you let us see in their hearts. This was beautiful, and full of hope. Thank you for sharing it.

    2. Yeah. For real. I have never been more glad I quit drinking then right now. Super, perfectly realistic.

    3. daughters will put those kind of thoughts in your head - well-crafted, and right on target.

    4. So much insight and kindness in this piece. Brava!

  9. Part 1

    In his patched and soot-stained tent, Colonel Elihu Leslie, his arm draped over his eyes, heard the single muffled drum outside in the twilight.

    “Oh, Lord, already?” he said, for he knew what was about to occur. Colonel Leslie arose from his cot, bumping into his field desk where the letter to his wife lay. He pulled up his braces, buttoned on his tunic and stepped outside just as the seven soldiers and a lieutenant were about to march past. He raised his hand and the twenty-two-year-old lieutenant called “Halt!”

    “Good morning, sir,” said the pink-cheeked lieutenant, who a year before had clerked at his father’s mercantile in Columbus, Georgia. “Firing party ready to execute your command, Sir.”

    Colonel Leslie returned the young officer’s salute and looked at the single soldier, his arms bound and his hands tied in front of his waist, standing between the two files of soldiers with rifles. In the gathering light, Leslie could see the young soldier’s eyes darting right and left, his entire body shaking as if they were back in the snow at Fredericksburg last December.

    With a look of pity in his eyes, Colonel Leslie approached the man.

    “Soldier, you do understand why you’re here, don’t you?” Colonel Leslie said.

    “‘Cause I left my sentry post two nights ago, sir? But nothing bad happened. No Yankees or spies came through. I just needed some coffee to shake off the cold and keep me awake, sir. We been marching for three days straight an’ I ain’t slept since…”

    “None of us have, son. But your comrades all managed to stay awake.”

    “Yessir. But do that mean I have to die? I been with this army since the bells rang in Atlanta calling us all to defend Georgia and the Confederate states. Why do I have to die this way, sir? I’m a decent soldier,” the condemned man said.

    “Son we do this because we have to. Military discipline and all that. But I feel you’re missing the point of this procedure. You shouldn’t look at this as punishment, but as your sacred duty,” the Colonel said in a flat tone.

    “Sir, I don’t rightly understand. How’s me gettin’ shot by my own boys line up with my duty?”

    “Private, the execution of deserters, and you are by definition a deserter, has been a tenet of strong military discipline since the time of Joshua, the time of the great Assyrian kings, why even the great legions of Rome knew that skirting their assigned duties was punishable by death,” the Colonel said, his voice rising and a crowd of soldiers beginning to mill around the firing party.

    “Sir, I don’t know about no Legions from Rome, just a couple of fellers from elsewhere in Floyd County. The Benteen brothers. And I still don’t think I should be shot,” the soldier said.

    Leslie bowed his head and smoothed his mustache with his fingers. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then put his hand on the condemned soldier’s shoulder.

    “I see your point son, but let me explain some more about what you’ll be accomplishing today. You will not be dying because you left your post, leaving a section of our line without guard. No, you will be going to our Creator as a sign of your fealty to our Cause, protecting your home and family, since all these men here you'll be leaving behind will see your demise and understand that such a fate awaits them, should they desert their comrades. That is a noble thing, son,” Leslie said.

    “Really, sir?” the soldier said, his shoulders straightening and their shaking subsiding.

  10. Part 2

    “Brave soldier, you will be laying down your life for your comrades, as much as if you fell with them in battle. Your name will be spoken of as the impetus of their never shirking their orders, never challenging the authority of their officers, nay, never giving an inch in retreat unless so ordered. Son, if I could, I would give you a medal for this brave act you’re about to commit,” Leslie said as he placed his hand on the soldier’s now-steady shoulder.

    “I think I understand now, sir. I’m gonna die so my friends will be better soldiers, makin’ them better able to protect our state and country from the Yankee invaders.”

    “Exactly, Private, Private, uh…”

    “Hutchinson, sir. Ezra Hutch…”

    “Private Hutchinson. Young warrior, I cannot salute you, but allow me to shake your hand, wish you Godspeed and send you on your way to obey your final orders,” the Colonel said.

    “Yessir. Thank you, sir,” Hutchinson said, his bound hands clutching the Colonel’s hand. He squared his shoulders and stared straight ahead.

    “Let’s get this over with, boys,” he said.

    “Firing party, shoulder arms. Forward march,” the Lieutenant ordered. The small group marched down the remaining row of tents and through a tree line to a field outside of camp. About a hundred other soldiers who had witnessed Leslie and Hutchinson’s exchange followed in ranks as if marching on parade.

    Leslie watched them until the last soldier disappeared behind the trees, then he reentered his tent and stared at the letter to his wife he had almost finished. He dipped his pen into his inkwell and scratched out a final sentence and signed it, “Your loving and devoted husband, Elihu.”

    He unholstered the Navy Colt he had used during his days on the prairie with the 2nd US Cavalry before the war and sat on his cot. He thought of all the men he had ordered into the hail of steel and lead at battles for the past year and a half. Thought of his son, killed at Chancellorsville, who had thrilled at the chance to serve with his father, leading other young Georgians in battle against the Federals. He recalled his brother Josiah falling at his side at Gettysburg. He remembered a few of the faces and names, but the rest had become a blur, and that vexed him sorely for the past three weeks.

    Colonel Leslie heard the volley of six Enfield rifles crack through the trees. There followed the cheers of one hundred men who had witnessed Private Ezra Hutchinson’s passing into the oblivion of a bastardized heroism of the Colonel’s own devise.

    As the cheers echoed and faded, he carried out the last of the executions he'd ordered for that day, in that camp, in a war he never wanted to fight. In light of all his decisions, he knew his joining Private Hutchinson in honorable dishonor was an order he could never disobey.

    1. This is riveting, strongly told, with wonderful detail. Thank you.

    2. Such a vividly described tragedy. Two tragedies. I love when you transport us to another place and time so skillfully.

    3. I concur. You put me there. I could smell it. (smelled terrible) Great piece.

    4. that naive earnestness of Private Hutchinson. Dear God, I remember being that young...

    5. Yeah, this is excellent. More full immersion (I sound like a Baptist preacher, lol).

  11. It was supposed to be a happy time, she kept trying to remind herself. It was what everyone told her, and she expected it, but throughout the entire pregnancy she felt only dread. For months there had been a sharp pain in her stomach which no one took seriously. As horrible as it may sound, sometimes she wanted to kill it. Because she hadn't thought about it as a baby yet. She hadn't thought about it as her baby. All she knew was that it caused her mental and physical pain and she wanted to rid herself of it.

    After the birth of a healthy baby, she wore black as if she had lost something precious. Desperately trying to explain herself, that it isn't caused by postpartum depression or anxiety, that it is caused by a very real feeling of fear and dread, she would tell anyone who would listen. "This is going to sound horrible," she said, "but when I had the baby it was like it took something from me when it came out. I lost a part of myself. The baby holds it, its theirs now. I couldn't even say what exactly it is that it took from me, but left a hole. When it laughs, its laughing at me, laughing that it stole something precious from me. The wound is deep and red." The worst part of this is that because she couldn't exactly say what it was that she lost, she couldn't try to get it back. She hated that baby. By god, yes she did. She could barely look at it without wanting to cry, knowing that the child holds something over her. Sometimes she wanted to say to it, "Congratulations. You've managed to cause me every sort of pain I have ever known. You have violated me in every possible way, and I will never be the same again. I never truly knew pain until I had you." Lately a way out was looking more and more attractive, she hated to admit it but she was desperate. She hadn't left the house in weeks, and being alone was taking its toll.

    1. I love the raw emotions here, the honesty, and still her attempts to put a somewhat-good face on it.

    2. I can feel the physical and mental pain from this... and the loss. Really well told. Thank you for showing a side of birthing that no one is willing to show.

    3. I feel like this is the beginning. I wanted it to keep going. Because it's REALLY good. You put us inside that mindstate perfectly. The writing is strong and solid. This story has guts. Really impressive, G.

    4. the line where she tells herself it isn't depression because it is a real feeling. Right in the feels. Some of the verb tenses seemed of in the middle/later parts, but the story kept me right there anyhow.

    5. Stories that don't often get told occupy a special place for me, and this is one of them. Sometimes, as writers, we have to dig deep, and not everything we find there is pleasant. Really nicely done.

  12. "The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder." — Virginia Woolf

    Please allow me to introduce herself.

    She is now. She leaks from her own seams. Hilarity. Goodness.

    She is a feral wisp of a child finding herself wakening someplace with pale-peach skies and light-olive foliage and a postcoital volcano smoking beyond a shallow lake, a lone ox lapping at the water’s edge.

    Her voice is redolent of mesquite and burned hope. Her sweat is bottled as holy fragrance. Her cunt plays all our favourite songs.

    So pretty. I could never forget your tiny perfect face. My hands form a cup for your lower jaw. To protect you. To save me.

    One of us left the house in the early morning, while dawn tried and failed to grasp the day, and the humbled sun rose shamefaced over the land, as our astounding friend grew into her stride and strode away among the green shoots, amid the moaning of doves, utterly alone, completely amazed.


    They agreed to meet in a pullout off the Coastal Highway, an irony she tried to amuse herself with while she waited on his unpunctual ass. Pullout. Yeah. If he'd pulled out like he said he would, they wouldn't be in this situation. Come to think of it, had his unpunctual ass been as late that evening as it usually was, and still was, she'd have quit on the whole date and, again, the same: none of this would now be happening. She supposed she could play that game all the way back to before she slid from between her mommy's skinny legs: if her dad wasn't an asshole and had never met her mom; if the bust-up between her parents had never happened; if she hadn't been so desperate to meet a boy to help her make her escape from her disintegrating home… but now she was retracing territory she'd already picked over, and these days she tried to stop doing that.


    Mercury screens, lost highways, atomic tests.

    All of this, let’s face it, is loneliness.

    1. So beautiful. I'm intrigued and want to know more. "She leaks from her own seams." I love that line.

    2. I love all the contradictions... the obfuscation of who is telling the story... "Allow me to introduce herself..." For me, the favorite line was "Her voice is redolent of mesquite and burned hope." I want to know more, too.

    3. Damn. You killed it with this one. I liked the same lines. And that ending 'couplet' is fucking brilliant. LOVE this.

    4. I'm there with the 'mesquite and burned hope' line as well. And bewildered in an enjoyable way with all the twists and contradictions. I seem to say this on your pieces repeatedly - I'm not sure what I read, but I liked it.

  13. I lay across her, pinning her to the floor. She was quiet now, her limbs stilled, a calm languid smile resting on her face. Even now, she thought she had an advantage. But that was always the way of her type.

    “James,” she said, her voice a stiletto. “Stop this nonsense now.” She writhed beneath me, her hip-bones sharp against my groin, one breast tantalisingly close to my palm. I still longed to reach for it, remembering the soft coolness of her skin. She’d taken me once already and I knew she’d eagerly take me again, her full-bodied clenchings bringing me ecstasies at intensities I’d never known. The shackles I’d used had surprised her, the cold iron they’d been forged from having been blessed, but I still had doubts about them. Had I secured them properly? Would they break if she struggled? Could she charm her way from them with her words?

    I stroked her cheek, remembering it as I’d first seen it. She’d been as pale and as comely as a dream, her flesh smooth and inviting, her eyes filled with excitement, her mouth ready to suck and to tear. It would be so easy to change my mind again, to release the jaws that held her as she’d held me less than an hour ago. She was such a temptation.

    It was my body that betrayed me. Or that’s what I’d say afterwards. But it was too late then, and the damage had been done.

    1. wow. Visceral and powerful, with an unnamed evil...

    2. Agreed. "She was such a temptation." That sentence is so perfect. This is tight and intense.

    3. I like it as much for what it doesn't tell us, as what it does. Compelling splash of text

    4. Dark af! Another piece that digs deep.

  14. The priest shuffled on his seat, the wooden bench cruel against his buttocks. Taking confessional was his least favourite duty; he preferred the pulpit, where he could address the whole congregation at a time, knowing he could command their attention, not needing to pay heed to what they said. When he was up there, it was like he was on a stage, pouring out his thoughts and his wishes, his audience following his directions like an army of wind-up toys. Not that they were ever much of an army these days, of course. Some days he would struggle to raise enough for a troop, the decline in the numbers getting worse each year. The congregations peaked around Christmas and again before Easter, religion always being affected by the season, but some days it was hardly worth him unbolting the doors. In January and February, toward the tail-end of winter, he could often go a week without needing to peel another communion wafer from that stack he kept in the sacristy. The thurible too, sometimes he didn’t bother with it either, there being no point in firing it up if there was no-one to witness him swinging it.

    Today though, he was in the box, witnessing the penitents. It was supposed to be anonymous but it’s inevitable you’d begin to realise who each one is after a while. There’s one regular who’s a chewer, his jaws punctuating every phrase of his Hail Marys. Then another’s a drug addict; he’s the one with busted teeth – his speech is very distinctive, of course. Other than that, it’s simple - it’s just a matter of reading the clues. For example, there’s a teenager who only comes because his mother drags him in each week – he calls the priest the ‘Pope’s Pilot’, both in confessional and whenever he encounters him outside in the church. And then there’s Joe, the Unwashed. He’s the easiest one to identify. He’s probably a homeless guy, with that one sweater that looks like it’s a dishrag, but with more holes in it than there is wool. And the smell of him…he knows it’s uncharitable, but he sucks a sugared almond whenever he comes to confessional. It’s either that, or he lights the thurible…

    1. I always wonder at the motivation of priests... power, purity, or practicality... this is an intriguing view from the other side of the screen.

    2. Yeah, I agree. This is a really interesting glimpse into a world I've never thought much about.

    3. vivid descriptions. And a disquieting look into this shepherd's mind.

    4. I was raised Catholic, so I have thought about this, but this is a much richer study of this one man's motivations and quirks than anything my own imagination has come up with.

  15. The scents of the street shift, the essence of something wild and malevolent insinuating itself into the odour-palate swirling around me. I can sense the dulled, chemical-rich notes of vehicle exhausts but now there are new ones vying for my attention. I recognise the aromas of cooked meats, spices and onions easily, they were there before, but now there’s another group of fragrances, still subtle but growing more insistent and strident.

    Organic musks, something foul and acetic and…yes, the scent of the damned.

    I glance at my watch, noticing its wristband has already changed, its supple brown leather now an iridescent scaled cuff. Its mechanism is still there but it’s quickly being engulfed, its inorganic elements being assimilated more slowly. My sweater is changing too, the soft wool clinging more closely than before. I don’t think I could remove it now, if I tried.

    There are similar changes happening everywhere. Most things are man-made now but there are still always a few hints of the old world left to calm the animal-soul deep within. The trees are becoming sentient, striking out at any pedestrians within reach and there’s also a man being chased by something which most definitely isn’t a dog any more.

    “Good morning, Madam.” The man blocking my way looked as though he’d come from the direction of the ‘disturbance’, his face fully-scaled and his tongue black and forked. He looked naked but there were still a few subtle lines about his body, showing where his phone or his belt may have been. Other than that, he had scales everywhere. It was almost a blessing, for me, at least.

    “Good morning, Sir.” Jabbing my hand back the way he’d come, I point toward the Infernal Quarter. “I’ve got business in Walshingham and Palmerdale. A man I need to question. Council business.”

    “Council business, eh?” He licks his lips lasciviously, the tips of his tongue crawling outward to caress his jawline. “I’ve an interest in counselling too. Maybe I could help you with your enquiries.” He begins to drool, his eyes dulled. I quickly hurry away, dodging everyone else coming toward me.

    A few blocks further on the traffic comes to halt, a drift of cars blocking the road. It’s easier to walk between them, most of them now abandoned.

    1. Whoa... fantasy and dystopia, painted well on the page. I want to understand the interest in counseling... and the nature of the disturbance. You've drawn me in!

    2. Man, I wish I had your imagination.

    3. making the fantastic seem so commonplace to the POV. I'm intrigued, and want to read more

    4. I'd read a novel based on this expertly conjured world, for sure.

  16. The Olive Tree

    This olive tree was tethered to the ground, its roots reaching far beneath the soil. It had been here for centuries, longer than anyone could know for certain, beginning as a seed thrown casually away. It had flourished and then suffered and then flourished again, drawing in on itself when the rains didn’t come. It had sunk its roots deeper then, seeking the moisture it had needed to survive, its pale tendrils groping further and further downward until they found a sufficiency of what it needed, leeching out the minerals and the trace elements it required. It was a tree that had suffered and still survived.

    In a way, Alice was like this tree. She’d weathered more winters than most people would be able to reckon and had spent much of it anchored in one place. Like the tree, she’d once been a sapling and had then matured into a taller but still slender example of her species. She’d gone to seed – twice – and had seen the results of her fertility thrive. She regretted that they’d taken root so far away, and that her own inertia had made it impossible to see them regularly, their own lives establishing ties which kept them where they’d settled, each developing as she’d done at their age.

    And so, Alice came back to this tree. This tree had been here before she’d been born, before her house had been built, before any of the town which she lived in had even been imagined. This tree had been here to witness all these, growing taller, spreading further, sinking its roots through the soil and the loam and the clay, forcing open the rock that underpinned the landscape that secured everything here. It would remain. It would persist. It would recover from anything nature and blind chance could throw at it. This tree and her were like sisters, the hardness and the ridges of its trunk aligning with her spine, its bark against her bone, both a part of something larger, something enduring. Each one of them had enjoyed their triumphs but they would win again, would both bud and sprout and bloom anew through new seasons, new years and on into their futures, both shared together and apart, life never ceasing. She would continue and she would blossom.

    1. Another really strong piece. I like the parallel and the writing has a really dope rhythm to it.

    2. vivid picture of the location, and the two of them together

  17. I’m not the child she thinks I am. She thinks of me as the daughter she gave birth to. The mewling, toothless infant which suckled at her breast, dependent on her for everything.

    I am not that child.

    I’m not the girl she fed either. Not the girl she dressed as though I were a doll she played with. Not the girl she wept for that first day when she passed me to Aunt Amy, leaving me alone with a stranger who cared nothing for the children she took responsibility for. That woman was never like a mother to me.

    I am not that girl.

    And I’m not the woman she thinks she created. I’m not the substitute she believes she could have been if she’d been born at another time or place. The scars that I hide are different to the ones which she tries to cover, her inexpert fraudulences fooling no-one. She’s still deluding herself, even now.

    I am not that woman. And I never will be.

    1. Woah. This one caught me off guard. Really cool concept and structure. brother.

    2. The anger under the surface in this snippet. Nearly at a boil, makes me wonder what may be about to happen.

    3. Yeah, a quiet slow burn underlies this piece.


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