Friday, September 21, 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.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Happy? I want to work too hard for too little money and spend my free time in an ongoing panic attack. I want to have kids I can’t afford to take to Disneyland. I hate Disneyland, but it would mean so much to them. I want to see the disappointment in their tiny faces when I explain that just because "every other kid" gets to go to Disneyland, that doesn’t mean that WE can afford it.

I want to spend hours explaining to my kids why we don’t have a house. Why we live in an apartment. And I want to try and do it without giving them the impression we’re poor. I want to watch them smile and say, “I understand, Dadda.” I know they don’t understand. They don’t want me to feel bad. I should appreciate that more. I don’t want to, though.

I want to grow up and become a teacher. I want to get laid off with absolutely no warning after my first daughter is born. I want it to be from a job I poured my heart and soul into - I want to spiral into a depression where all I can do is write, drink, and OD enough to keep things interesting. I want to be broken when my youngest is small so it fucks her brain up real good. I want to hit rock bottom so many times that it doesn’t even hurt anymore.

I want people I love to die from bullshit diseases and overdoses. I want a sociopathic, narcissistic asshole to be president. I want people starving in “the greatest county on earth!” while politicians take private jets to get in a round of golf. I want to watch others worse off than myself. And I want to try and reconcile the fact that some people have more money than small countries and some people starve, stretching out their food stamps.

Before I get laid off from that teaching job I mentioned, I want to work with kids from the hood. I want to have to explain to them that, though it makes no fucking sense, they cannot talk to the police the same way I do. I want my white privilege to become a burden. I want to see their beautiful lives destroyed by bullets and bad decisions. Most made out alright. I want to be proud of that. I want them to be taken from me without warning. I want to try to pretend my heart isn't broken.

I want to drive a fifteen year old car with a broken seat. I want to be the dad some parents are wary of because I have tattoos and a motorcycle and I dress weird and don't care about wine or baseball. I want to be JUDGED. Constantly. I want to feel judged and I want to be judged. Dismissed. Written off.

I want to spend my whole life trying to perfect a craft that sixteen people give a shit about. I want to dedicate years of my life to creative endeavors that COST me money. I want to give people my songs and stories because I hate the idea of selling them. I want to be the worst capitalist ever.

I want to treat my body badly, so it turns on me when I’m older. So I can’t shoot hoops with my girls without being in pain. I want to play high school football and have the coach grab my facemask and scream into my face. I want him to tell me to plant my head in the runner’s gut. I want a broken back and chronic neck pain.

I want to be the kind of person who writes pathetic, emo bullshit and tries to pass it off as flash fiction. I want to fail, to have the things I’m most proud of ignored. I want to lose the respect of my peers because my brain can’t stop being sixteen, and I haven’t figured out the adult rules yet.

Above all, I want to live.

#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. You don’t need hope. You don’t want it. Trust me. That shit will bite you quicker than you can wish upon a star. Hope is the carrot that leads you right into quicksand. Court despair. It’s easier and the end result will probably be the same.

    She said she would come back. I see her. Brown curls around her soft eyes – the spray of freckles on her nose. She smelled like perfume should smell. Just a nice hint. A suggestion. She was beautiful and I loved her, but she lied. She said she needed some time, but she never came back.

    I stopped hoping for anything a long time ago. I’m no sucker. I’ve been shackled to this life for thirty some years and I haven’t learned a goddamn thing. Nothing good at least. I’ve learned about bedbugs and genocide. No one ever explained to me how a woman you love can leave and never come back.

    In the beginning, it was easiest to pretend she had met some unfortunate end. She had stepped in front of a bus or choked in a crowded restaurant. She missed me so much she fell into old habits and OD’d. But she didn’t. She married my friend Kevin.

    We’re not friends anymore.

    I don’t want anything from her or you or Kevin or life. I just want to put in my time. I just want to play this thing out until there is some kind of resolution. Even if that means eternal blackness. Especially if that means eternal blackness.

    "I hope you don’t give up on life." That’s what Kevin told me when I told him to fuck off. She was behind him, smiling awkwardly. The afternoon was sun through a magnifying glass. They were torching me like childhood ants.

    But it was what I needed. My heart is still beating. But that doesn’t mean I’m alive.

    1. the bit about meeting with Kevin is brilliant, and the whole tone is really strong. Great stuff!

    2. Wow! I agree with Gry. And so much pain...

    3. Wow, I love this. The Kevin bit. Marvelous. And hearbreaking. You're making me cry...with this and the first post.

    4. and somehow, I didn't see the initial post the first time around. 'I want...' like flossing with barbed wire, but you do it anyhow because you need to get that bit of lettuce out from between your teeth. Solid.

    5. Love that first post especially. Its like a really bitter parody of one of those financial planning commercials.

    6. Both pieces are kind of bookends. Despair versus hope, nightmares versus dreams. Really good, my friend, but they made me shudder.

  2. Breakfast to Go, from the Day-Old Bread Store

    Seven a.m. and the overnight frost
    on the metal park bench
    has melted beneath me. Leaving the seat wet
    and cold.
    I sit in the dark, while the snarling wind
    drags my coat open, and I shiver.

    I take a bite of a crumbling
    chocolate donut.
    The day-old bread store
    in this dying town
    is the only place open
    that still takes my checks.

    I left him today.
    Although he doesn’t know I’m gone.
    Not yet.
    He may not realize for a day or more.
    There is leftover casserole in the fridge,
    and he has a nearly-full case of coors light.

    I left my shelf full of books, except for
    the unread Nora Roberts novel.
    I left my mother’s pasteboard jewelry box,
    three drawers filled
    with widowed earrings, tangled necklaces.
    I didn’t leave a note.

    I consider my reckless escape
    as I huddle on this bench,
    drink from my thermos.
    Steaming hazelnut, laced with amaretto.
    Really, I’m drinking amaretto,
    slightly warmed with a half-cup of coffee.

    But the suitcase of clothes,
    and the shoebox of memories jumbled
    in the back seat of my dented Honda
    are all the truth I can handle,
    with the sun not yet up,
    and facing a late night

    paying cash at the Sleepy Time Inn
    west of the airport, two towns east of here,
    where I’ll eat a coffee cake for dinner
    with a plastic fork. Wash it down
    with Four Roses bourbon
    from a plastic motel cup.

    I may finish that bottle.
    While I worry,
    if he’s figured out I’m gone.
    While I wonder,
    how far
    do I have to run?

    1. I really like this! I can see and feel that park bench!

    2. This. So many sharp pictures. Did you crawl into my head this morning?

    3. Agreed. Really roots the reader in the thick of things. Super strong.

  3. And then there was silence, no more sound. Except for the slumping thud of his body hitting the ground.
    Nobody would understand or ever know why, sometimes even heroes die.

    He was a quiet man. Never said much. Retired military. Purple heart. For saving his buddy Jack he earned a lifetime of pain. A body full of shrapnel, but he'd do it again. He'd do it again.
    Flashbacks, nightmares they took him back to that day...
    Long drive home. Sunny day. Didn't see it coming, he was miles away.
    The blue van drifted, crossing the line.
    The red car swerved, but not in time.
    The crash, the metal, the broken glass flying. The driver of the van slowly dying. The red car had flipped over on it's side. A child was screaming, a mother too. The father's seatbelt was locked, nothing he could do. Gas was leaking out, a fire would spark. The man was crippled but the scene tore out his heart. He got out of his pickup, limping as he walked. He tried to calm down the family, his voice soft as he talked. He pulled out his knife. He cut the seatbelts and saved their lives. The little girl threw her arms around his neck as he carried her to safety. Then he turned his attention to the crying lady. The father's leg was broken in two places, but gratitude was painted on his face. The man made sure the family was safe then he walked back to his truck when he heard the sirens coming. He opened the door and reached inside, grabbed the shotgun, put it in his mouth and click...boom he died.
    And then there was silence, no more sound. Except for the slumping thud of his body hitting the ground.
    Nobody would understand or ever know why, sometimes even heroes die.

    1. a challenging piece - the emotions that overwhelm, and make someone respond so differently than 'normal' Thanks for sharing this.

    2. I really like the structure. The repetition of 'He'd do it again' and the internal rhymes. Really digging this piece.

    3. I agree with everyone else. It's like a circle.

  4. Housecleaning
    Today, I washed my kitchen floor
    Well, half of it anyway, for the first time in six months; my house is not like the homes of women, back in the days of yore.
    In the spring and in the fall, my mother would displace the whole family for a day, to purge and clean and sweep away the sins of daily life, looking for some way of doing that was closer to God.
    Hands and knees, she waxed and washed the floors all at once; top to bottom, bedrooms and hallways, kitchen and bath. And daddy would take us out to dinner and bring her back a sandwich and maybe a beer.
    Because the smell of the wax would give us all headaches and fill us with some nameless fear.
    But Momma always smiled and nodded and beckoned with her hand, as if her Cinderella life demanded our attention, as if the work had somehow transformed her
    As if she had done something, just one thing, to make herself proud.
    Me? I bought some new machine that vacuums and steams and cleans up the pet hair and promises I can be Cinderella, too.
    If only I see the dirt.
    I’m searching for a fiction that is stranger than life
    Trying to tell a story from back in my youth
    When I believed in something called freedom and justice
    When I believed in Peace and Love and Truth.
    My momma shoes don’t fit me
    Good housekeeping ain’t my thing
    Yet sometimes, like these times, I fall upon my hands and knees
    Scrubbing away the stains and the pain
    Trying to make it shine, trying to make it clean
    Trying to write a story to be proud of
    Even when it makes your head ache.

    1. that took an unexpected turn, but the comparison between the cleaning labors and writing worked for me. I liked the idea you presented of 'demanded our attention, as if the work had somehow transformed her'

    2. There is a tension here. I love it. This could easily have gone weird, but you played the restraint card perfectly.

    3. I love how domestic work, rarely even noticed, is given the nobility of other callings in this piece.

  5. “Jen?”

    “What?” Jenna barely recognized the bark as her own voice, but she could sense Toby cringing back into the faint strip of light that separated her from the party going on in the next room. Never in their three months together—the longest relationship she’d managed in years—had she spoken to him so sharply. He didn’t deserve that. “Sorry.” She pushed herself up from her sister’s bed, pausing in case the vertigo returned. It didn’t. Still, she didn’t feel like standing yet.

    The softer tone emboldened him to venture a couple of steps closer. “I was just coming to see if you were all right.”

    “I’m fine.” The words rolled out on cue, her automatic response to nearly every inquiry about her health, her moods, her distraction. She hadn’t thought anyone would miss her, with her nieces and nephews running around being adorable, with Toby deep in a discussion about football with her brother, with somebody sitting down to the piano. The air had felt suddenly too close, too warm, and she’d learned the hard way that when the chain of symptoms starts, if she doesn’t get horizontal fast, nature will do it for her. “I think... Maybe it was the wine.”

    She hadn’t been drinking, a fact she hoped he didn’t notice, but if he had, he didn’t call her on it. Just stood before her, in that sweater she loved, arms tight over his chest, and nodded.

    She’d suffered through these episodes before, and her doctor had no answers for her, despite the battery of tests he’d ordered, but it had never happened here, in her sister’s house, surrounded by family. Maybe what her last boyfriend said when they broke up had been right: “Lady, you need a shrink.” She wrote it off then as one of those throwaway lines, by a wounded guy who needed to have the last word, but perhaps he’d been more intuitive than she’d believed.

    She’d never told him what happened to her. She’d never told any of them.

    Toby’s eyes were soft. At times he reminded her of a forest creature. She worried that she’d scare him off. Like the others. But he wasn’t like the others. He ended their first date with a light squeeze of her hand and a smile. After their second, he asked if he could kiss her goodnight. It was kind of sweet. Again she felt bad for being so bitchy to him.
    She patted the mattress beside her. He came over and sat, leaving just the right amount of space between them. She liked that he was there. She liked that they were about the same height. It made her feel safer. “Do you want to go home?” he asked.

    She shook her head. “No, really, I think I’m feeling better now. But maybe we could just, you know, stay in here for a while.”

    Her nieces started singing “Ave Maria.” That song. The beauty of it. Their pure, unspoiled voices made her chest ache. Then tighten with anger, scaring back her tears. If anyone so much as laid a finger on them...

    She squeezed his hand so tight he flinched away. “Hey, what—?”

    “Something happened to me,” she said in a rush, barely above a whisper, her throat so tight from the tears it felt raw. “It was a long time ago and it was really bad and that’s why I can’t, why I have such a hard time, why I’ve never told anyone...”

    And there she stopped. The song dove and swooped, the notes on angelic wings.

    “You don’t have to,” he said. “If you’re not ready, you don’t have to. I know how difficult it can be.”

    She kept bobbing her head. He seemed like he meant it. That it was enough for now. But then she turned to him, drawn by something in his tone, a question in her eyes.

    He nodded. “Yeah. But we don’t have to talk about that now, either.”

    She moved a hand closer. He met it.

    1. you captured this with such detail. The unspoken stories are the most painful stories. Thank you.

    2. Beautiful. Subtle, finely drawn.Carries all the pain of those secrets without the drama.

    3. You played this one perfectly. I love this: "by a wounded guy who needed to have the last word"

    4. So much kindness here, and painted in such deft and subtle ways throughout. The one that made something catch in my throat was: "a fact she hoped he didn’t notice, but if he had, he didn’t call her on it." That not calling her on it is what love looks like. Depths of pain hinted at, without the histrionics less experienced and talented writers often bring to something like this.

  6. (change of pace for me, a flash creative nonfiction essay)

    Red Balloon, with String

    I am walking through a field, clumps of tall grass whispering against my denim-covered legs. The fuzzy tips brushing my small hand as it nestled within my father’s strong grip. We have walked nearly a mile from the distant street where his two-door hatchback is parked.

    This September Saturday is designed for a postcard, and on this weekend visit to see my dad, I could believe that he had arranged all of it, just for me: the weather, the game, the masses of cheering strangers greeting each other with hearty smiles and good-natured waves.

    He startles me as he cups one hand to his mouth, and bellows out, “Gooooo Biiiiig Reddddd!” ahead of us. From a group of fans in the distance, I hear their staccato reply, “Go Big Red!”

    We come to a wooden post with thick grey wire forming a boundary around a grassy lot. He steps over the wire, turns back, and with a powerful lift of one arm, swings me over the fencing, to land with a bounce and a squeal.

    The density of the crowd increases as we approach the stadium, nine out of ten wearing some form of scarlet. The press of the bodies grows tighter. His hands grasp me, and with a surge, he raises me high into the air, placing me upon his shoulders.

    I shout at the extended view. Looming tall as a giant, I can see the currents of people, an unstoppable river flowing towards the concrete monument, the temple of the Cornhusker faithful, Memorial Stadium.

    I shake with excitement, quivering above his back, and reach down with both hands to run them through his thick, black beard. Wiry and rough, it releases the aroma of his pipe tobacco like a spray of cologne, and I breathe in his manly scent, nuzzle my chin into the top of his head.

    We approach a street corner, and I marvel at how the outnumbered cars wait helplessly for the swelling tide to pause and let them pass. On the opposite corner, a man stands with a wide canvas pouch around his waist, a mass of white strings tied around a pole, and a bouquet of red helium balloons prancing in the light breeze above him.

    Without pausing, my father passes him a pair of dollar bills. The man peers at me while handing me the string to hold, “Who’s going to win today, tall fellow?”

    I pound my hands together, hollering with every bit of my lungs, “Huskers!”

    Within the stadium, I look upwards, in awe at the height of the concrete walls and switchback staircases. Even from my perch, this seems like a home for titans, looming hundreds of feet tall.

    The countdown to the game is part of the spectacle. An echoing loudspeaker booms behind us as I focus the binoculars onto players stretching out on the field, sprinting through drills with dozens of footballs flying between them.

    The first kickoff sailed into the air, accompanied by a war cry from the fans. The ferocious, expectant look on my father’s face was mirrored by the other men and women around us.

    “Come on! Run them over!” he roared at the field, my presence beside him forgotten.

    Below us, a running back dodged and twisted, dashed out of my magnified view. I lowered the field glasses to see the runner barrelling down the field, as my dad chanted, “Go! Go! Go!”

    The triumph of the crowd was a pressure wave of sound, crushing in on me, and for a moment, I forgot the balloon and my duty. My father tugged on the string clutched in my fingers, “We scored! Time to let it go - that’s the tradition. Look!” He pointed, and I saw them.

    Rising all around me, red balloons, floating into the sky in their thousands, their tens of thousands, to celebrate the Nebraska score.

    The rest of the game is a blur for me. A mosaic of touchdown after touchdown, my father’s voice chanting until he grew hoarse.

    The final image I have is on the long walk back to the car. The grass in the field pounded flat by the passage of so many feet.

    And the fence post, with a tattered rubber scrap of red wound around the wire, the grubby string trailing into the dirt.

    1. I loved it ! You capture that fanatical, ferocious fervor perfectly.The imagery alone. Bravo!

    2. I agree. This is really well balanced and you nailed the fandom.

    3. Yeah, I was raised on the other side of the Atlantic, yet I could relate almost completely.

  7. Meant to write something short again, but it got away from me again. Two parts, and it still isn't done.

    I’m a drunk, and I hurt people. I don’t mean to, but I do. In fact, most of the time I don’t even notice. None of which makes it okay. Obviously.

    The other complication in my life are the creepy-crawlies. Ants, termites, locusts, ticks. And worse. More of them later.

    The thing is, people who quit substances are almost always intolerably smug, which right away makes me predisposed toward the train wrecks of the world, in spite of everything I shoulda learned.

    Few things are more galling than someone showered with accolades for “defeating” their addiction. Yeah, I mean that. Kudos. Well done. Fuck right off. It’s not charitable of me, or even all that fair, but it’s the truth. Fuck them and their newfound cleanliness. I’ll take the ruin and filth of addiction over sanctimony, any day and every time, to be honest.

    (Besides, we never defeat it. At best, we stall it. Please stop fucking lying to yourselves.)

    (Plus, quit one monster and another jumps on your damn back every time.)

    Again, that’s not to defend myself especially. So many stories of abject humiliation. Panties pissed in. Dresses puked on. Emergency room floors leaked on. The backseats of Ubers actually shat upon—not my finest hour but mercifully only plural here for rhetorical symmetry. Ungainly falls on wet sidewalks. Turned ankles swole as cantaloupes. Busted friendships. I’ve been a total cunt to the people I love the most. That makes me cry secretively and lengthily. The last thing I want to do is glorify my myriad dependencies, but I don’t want to hide from them either.

    Slovenly’s my middle name, probably to offset the false promise of my first one: Carlotta. My pa says my birth ma was eye-talian, that she had a dark past, and that’s about all I know. Sometimes I wish I knew more.

  8. Part 2


    Those bugs. Right? Oddly enough, they’re actually harder to talk about than the awful habits that will likely kill me. Mostly because I wonder if they’re real, which makes me embarrassed. Gripped by my addictions, am I starting to hallucinate?

    Right now, the street sounds are low key and humming like a slow-plucked cello string. Revellers congregate at the intersections, yellow cabs cruise on by, tunes leak from various doorways: Rae Sremmurd, Yeezy, seventies Fleetwood Mac, Womack and Womack, more. Gauzy and evocative.

    Yes, you’re right; I’m avoiding the bugs still. Okay, here it is: my world is infested. When I first rented this place on the east side, I had it checked and it was clean. Soon as I moved a single piece of my life in, the roaches came out to play… with my mind. Possessed of an impossible plan to start afresh and not drink, all my brittle defences immediately shattered, and I found myself gulping nameless vodka from a frosty bottle. Some point I called Janie, but she told me later I was incoherent, like I’d forgotten how to put English words together in the right order. One of the few things I’m normally good at, on account of all that book-learnin’. And plain listening.

    But you know, I actually remember this. The regimented grid of bugs on the linoleum, their clear battalion patterns, and the steady buzz of houseflies above, their own air force. Right away I knew a silent war had been declared.

    Wanna hear irony? I got a tattoo of a worker bee on my lower belly. Like it’s crawling upward, out of the honeypot, right? Why a bee? Well, my daddy was an immigrant, crossed stateside from Manchester, England—a city symbolized by the worker bee, for its industry and collective spirit in the face of hardship amid a bleak landscape of factories and drizzle. Good for them. I like the idea of them, though I didn’t always like my daddy. Recently he migrated once more, to a darker place than Manchester, but I ain’t gonna talk about that now. Truth is, there are good bugs and bad bugs. Ever meet anyone who expressed a liking for mosquitoes? Cockroaches? While butterflies and those trusty bees, right?

    Except they ain’t trusty, not no more. Notice how our good ones are in a mess of trouble while the likes of the skeeter’s bringing all kinds of mayhem from malaria to dengue fever to West Nile. And they say the lowly roach will survive armageddon itself.

    1. The dissociative quality of the narration Love it, love it, love it.Even the name, Carlotta, gimme more!

    2. Another piece that began in a dream. She is a nasty woman, and I already love her. :) This feels slightly harsher than my usual stuff, but it's intriguing to see where she takes this...

    3. Man. I really like this one. Again, there's the right level of restraint here. I love your usual word paintings, and I love that you can step back and lay it down simply like this. nameless vodka = such an important detail. Perfect.

    4. Ah, you made my mind up, Dan. I was toying with a brand name (yeah, I'm still writing this; who knows if I'll finish it?), but now Imma leave it alone.

      And as always, thanks all. :)

  9. The forest was quiet.

    A shaft of light probed through the canopies, marked by a vague shivering disc. It was still early, and the mists hadn’t yet burned away. There was an expectancy in the air.

    Silver twisted in her place. She arched her spine and moaned, her voice as thin as she was slender, barely standing out above the other noises in the forest. She was one, but they were many – that was their strength.

    She pulled up her feet and lowered her arms, deciding to dance. The breeze had stilled and there was a catch in the air promising colder weather. She’d already been stripped of her finery and now stood nude beside the men’s trail, her limbs fully visible.

    Winter was coming but there was always the promise of spring, seeds burrowing deeply into the cracks that the droughts had created. The rains had eventually come, making mud of the soil, but they’d already found their places and were now secure in their slumbering, waiting for the sun to gain its strength again. There would be new life in the forest next year, she knew that for a fact. But now, at this moment, she had time for herself.

    She turned and looked down the track. It went for an eternity in one direction, the forest contained by re-stoned tracks of the men’s construction, the fields to its other side either cleared or used for purposes beyond her understanding. To her back, she felt the reassuring weight of the forest, its calls familiar and unceasing. She would not travel that route toward its closer limit, preferring to be surrounded by her own kind. There was security in their company and an anonymity she knew would protect her.

    Her hips creaked as she turned again, picking up stones with her toes. The gravel was loose and sterile, offering her nothing. It was regular in every aspect – especially its size and its strangeness – but her way forward along it was clear and without the crowding of the more natural routes. It tingled like some of the harsher minerals, making her lighter on her feet and helping her move more quickly. The familiar ways were easier but not as simple.

    And yet there was a noise. Something unnatural and in a lower register than most of the sounds she was accustomed to. Over beyond the main host of her kin there were vibrations that rippled through the soil, echoing off from the rocks and tunnelling through the loam. There was pain too. Sharp electric bursts of it that arrowed through the ground, telegraphed root to root. The whole forest was beginning to react, messages being passed from tree to tree, even the smaller swift creatures reacting to the disturbance. Trouble was coming, but for some it was already here.

  10. The cube strobed again. This time it silvered over, the laboratory disappearing behind it. There was a smell of burnt solder and a puff of heated air and then we stood looking forward into the past.

    Adams was the first to react. He was through the barriers before we could do a thing to stop him, rifle at the ready, firing shots at the creatures before us. He must have taken down four or five of them, the rest of them running away to regroup on the hill, baying down at us and shaking their wings. We’d only had the portal open for ten seconds and it looked like we were already at war.

    “Well, that went well.” Duncan crouched over the bodies, picking at their remains. They were bipedal and had a pair of arms, recognisably not human but still remarkably similar. The largest one was wearing a loin cloth, its face bisected by a mouth like a shark’s.

    “Yes. It’s fabulous. The first manned journey into the past and we’ve already potentially compromised the Earth’s timeline.” I looked over to the right, where Adams was establishing a camp, noticing he’d already set up an automated sentry-bot to protect the area in front of our route home.

    “This isn't the first time.” Duncan said, abruptly. He pulled a sling from the body, removing a very familiar object. “Or if it is, Smith and Wesson must have been established a long, long time before we thought they were.”

  11. The Doorway.

    The doorway was open. He could hear birds in the trees in the garden beyond it. He only had to step outside and he’d be there. Just three more steps.

    “Go on.” The voice was his mother’s, its tone placing her in her mid-thirties. She would have been younger than he was now. Or older than he somehow thought he was.

    “Go on, Jamie. It’s your time now.”

    He remembered her as she’d been then; his recollections a montage of his own vague memories, the stories he’d been told by his siblings and the benevolent reconstructions he’d unwittingly created, basing them on his diaries and the kinder photos he’d seen of her. She’d been beautiful, and he’d received the greater part of her love, his sisters all married and living away from home. His father had died long before: he’d been too young at that time to recall much about him. He’d just been a deep voice and a shock of dark hair, usually accompanied by the aroma of French cigarettes.

    “Jamie.” His mother again, sterner this time. There was an edge to her voice now, the first syllable stressed and pitched low to match the second. He would have been cringing with shame if he’d been five. As it was, he still felt compelled to do as she’d asked; he’d already begun to walk forward and had to check his steps, stopping himself from taking the final one beyond the door.

    “Mother,” he said, his voice lighter, no longer the one he grown used to. “Do I have to go? Can I stay here with you?” The room seemed larger now and less welcoming. His mother’s scent was around him – he wasn’t sure how long that had been there – but it retreated, and he felt as though she was withdrawing from him, her reassurance fading. He turned about and saw there was nothing behind him, the room fading away into a void.

    “Jamie.” He’d been turned around again and was facing the doorway once more. The fragrance of rose-blossoms had returned. “Jamie, there are people waiting for you. It’d be impolite to keep them waiting.” He felt her hand upon his shoulder and although it wasn’t pushing, he knew she wouldn’t rest until he took the final step.

    And so, he took it, putting his trust in her. The way he’d always done.


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