Friday, October 19, 2018

2 Minutes. Go!

#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...

You sat with your mouth hanging open and those big eyes waiting, but I couldn’t think of a thing to say. What do you say when someone gives you their heart? And, no, not their real heart – the one that bleeds. I mean their real heart – the one that feels.

I tried to hold it. Not your heart, but your intention. I thought if I took good enough care of it that you might realize what everyone else already knew. It became my mission.

I was a dumb kid.

You could have picked someone worse. That’s for damn sure. But I ain’t Superman, and I had problems of my own. I still have them, though ... those bits of truth you whispered into my ears. I cherish them, build stories around them. I wonder where you are now and what you’re doing with your stories – if you still feel the same way about them.

All of this is just stupid insomnia fodder. Stuff to think about while my room is dark and my pulse is racing. You? Hell. I wouldn’t recognize you if I saw you. But I will always recognize the girl who taught me how to be brave, no matter what kind of woman she turned out to be.

I remember. And smile.

#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. Replies
    1. great piece - and that bit about not recognizing/recognizing - that's a treasure, right there.

    2. Bravo, Dan! I agree with Gry, the recognizing/recognizing part is my favorite.

    3. You? Hell. I wouldn’t recognize you if I saw you. But I will always recognize the girl who taught me how to be brave, no matter what kind of woman she turned out to be.
      Fantastic! Yet we always remember how they make us feel!

  2. Some cowboys ride the fence line, repairing broken barbed wire. Some cowboys castrate calves and wince while they do it.

    And some cowboys watch sunrises and sunsets from porches, remembering the horses and dogs they once knew.

    Octavio Gerard Brazil, OG to his few friends, is one of those. The porch he watches from is attached to a house he built when he was young, a house he thought one day would be filled with children and grandchildren.

    But he never found the woman he imagined would share it with him. Too much rodeo, too much road time.

    He built the rocking chair he sits in, too. Built two of them. Sometimes he closes his eyes, and pretends he’s back on a horse he had back in the sixties.

    Sometimes he falls asleep and dreams of the dogs who helped him herd cattle.

    And sometimes, he cries. Some cowboys do.

    1. I really like the notion and the structure/simplicity of this piece.

    2. the mix of regret and contentment here is magical

    3. That last line, though ...

    4. What they said. Beautiful in its austerity...terseness that's fitting for a rodeo cowboy.

  3. My mother found me, a child of three or four, weeping beneath the maple tree in autumn.

    “What’s wrong, honey? Aren’t the leaves pretty coming down?”

    I sobbed. “But who will put them back?”

    So began my obsession with keeping things the way they were, a lone soldier in the war against entropy.

    I struggled to keep my parents together when they spoke of divorce. I glued the dishes back together when my mother threw them at my dad. I made dinner at exactly six when no one would eat. I even tried to ask the questions we used to ask when we all loved each other.

    It was the tornado that did us in. It shattered the windows and doors into pieces too small for me to piece back together.

    We went to different shelters. My father and I to one, my sister and mother to another. I did not cry. I only reminded my father of the good times we’d had. The camping trips. The tire swing that hung from the maple tree.

    I made him as hungry for the good times as I myself was. When they closed the shelter and we went back to where our house had been, there was nothing. The furniture had been blown or hauled away. The walls, the roof, were gone.

    My mother and sister stood across the street. Dad and I stood where the front door used to be.

    And the city forester's truck was cutting down the remnants of the maple tree.

    At last I cried. There’d be no one to put the tree, or the leaves, or me, back together again.

    1. Ow. This one hurts. On many levels. Really well done.

    2. The things that kids will latch onto, a micro-bit of the world. You captured it - thank you for writing this

    3. I think we've all felt this way at some point in our lives. We're just usually too scared to write about it.

    4. I love how you captured the hope and its loss so succinctly.

    5. I could see every bit of this. It was so defined in its simplicity.

  4. (Please add in critiques on this one - I'm considering reading it for a Poe-themed reading on Sunday) - thanks in advance!

    Damaged Roots

    I wish I could blame
    the gentle March murder
    on the madness of a swollen moon.

    I wish I could avow
    some astral time clock
    declared his shift had ended.

    I wish the truth could be buried
    as easily as mistakes.
    But lies tend to twist,
    like the hidden curves
    of this back trail. Silent deceptions
    turning upon a weary traveler.

    I am nothing,
    if not weary. Black circles
    have dug their way
    under my eyes, just as I dug
    a hole beneath a sycamore tree,
    thirteen years ago.

    Unable to stay away,
    I return to this path.
    It is traveled more heavily now
    than during that bitter spring night,
    when residual frost
    resisted my shovel.

    The reluctant earth
    unwilling to accept
    his bones and flesh.
    As I fought the unyielding
    ground to make an imperfect
    place of forgetting.

    I never fled this scene.
    Thinking of time stretching
    into karmic yoga, blending
    purple fire and cleansing
    sage, so that I might remain
    on this desperate street,
    wearing down.

    Wearing down one side
    of this unbalanced glider.
    Each swing, a metronome
    of accusation on this old porch
    where my brother and I grew up
    together. Although,
    we did not grow old

    I clung to an idea
    of tear-breaking grace until
    this morning, when a howling storm
    broke something else. Wrenching
    the sycamore's roots
    upwards to expose,

    thrusting up from his grave,
    next to the corpse of the tree,
    the rusted blade of my deadly shovel,
    the wooden handle rotted away.
    Or perhaps a grim shade brings it home.

    Perhaps now he is free
    to conquer the wind and
    consume his dish served cold.
    Gliding within the winter air
    in the guise of a back-alley rat,
    a city-haunting coyote.

    Perhaps I am only seeing skeletons
    constructed of guilt.
    But I know better.
    I've wished for his return too often,
    to think I can avoid it now.
    He is coming for me.

    I am locked in the embrace
    of my final sunset.
    The glider creaks, the imbalance
    corrected at last,
    as a weight settles down,
    and I inhale the scent of decayed leaves.

    1. whoa! Poe would be proud! the last stanza especially sent shivers up and down my spine! My only critique is a tiny one... "thrusting" might want to be capitalized like the beginnings of the other stanzas.

    2. Leland took my answer. Great piece.

    3. I don't feel comfortable enough to give a critique but I would love to read the backstory on this. I think it would make a great book.

  5. When Grandmother passed, there was only one thing I wished to have from her house. Her rocking chair. My earliest memories were of her rocking me to sleep in it, and later, comforting me when I’d been bullied at school.

    She’d rocked many babies to sleep in that chair, comforted many young boys and girls, her own included.

    It was nothing fancy. Grandpa made it for her before her firstborn, my father, was born. Rustic. Sharp edges. Painted over and over, and undoubtedly some of the layers of color had lead in them.

    I didn’t care. The other kids could have the china, the quilts, anything they wanted, but that chair would be mine.

    When I got it home, Emerald—my wife—hated it. Said it was ugly, took up too much space. She relegated it to the basement, where I had a small workshop.

    Briefly, I considered refinishing it. Stripping off the layers of paint, taking it back to bare wood, but something always stopped me.

    My firstborn was due to enter the world the day before Halloween. I couldn’t wait to rock him to sleep in that chair. There were complications. Emerald hemorrhaged and they couldn’t save her. My son, though, survived.

    I moved the chair to the kitchen before I brought him home. I told him all about his great-grandmother, about the rocking chair. Of course he didn’t understand, but I told him anyway.

    After the first feeding, after the first diaper change, as the sun set in the west, I carried him to the kitchen, I heard a whisper, an old lady whisper, “Welcome, child.”

    And I was not surprised to see the chair was already rocking, before I sat down.

    1. That gave me shivers. For real. And you're breaking my heart, brother!

    2. your spirits are much kinder than mine ;) Heartwarming piece, for sure :)

    3. The wonderful thing about stories is that they give a glimpse of people who might have been.

    4. I love the whole idea of haunted objects--those things that carry the energy of people we have lost and can summon them up when we need them

    5. Another beautiful piece. I love their visitor at the end. <3

    6. This left me with a warm feeling. I have a fondness for rocking chairs, and grandmothers, and even harsh women named Emerald. Thank you.

  6. The words in my head are bloodied shards of glass
    Pinfeathers in concertina wire
    Unexploded hand grenades from a long-forgotten war
    The words in my head are echoes of accusations buried in the carpet
    Eastern European consonants tasting of cigarettes and burnt coffee
    A politician’s greasy smile and sweaty palm and empty promises
    The words in my head are the perfume that haunts my grandmother’s overcoat
    The butterscotch cat that ran away before I could give her a name
    Human and coyote children wailing “Mami” in tortured harmony
    The words in my head are the stones that fallen women clawed up and threw back
    The incontrovertible evidence detoured into conspiracy theory, wrapped in a bow
    The despair of a new generation mulling mid-century furniture as if they invented it
    The words in my head are bloodied shards of glass
    The raw media of found art
    The funhouse mirror distorting lies into truth into freedom.

    1. I'm right there with the line about pinfeathers as well. Knowing full well, you're still going to reach out and try to grab them, wire or not. And the coyote children... Well done!

    2. "Eastern European consonants tasting of cigarettes and burnt coffee"
      I couldn't love this more!

    3. Dang, who are you, anonymous? Because you are DAMN good!

    4. Masterful description. I can always learn a lot by reading your work.

  7. Wow. I usually highlight specific lines. I loved the 2nd. Then it just kept getting better. The overcoat... This is kick ass writing.

  8. Chapter Two

    We all start life like a clean sheet of paper,
    pulled from some familial ream.
    Smooth and clear and ready for the writing,
    the drawing, the composing of
    an artistic undertaking called a lifetime.
    So often, though, comes a day life bends
    and crumples us into hunched-over balls of failure,
    destined for tossing in with other throwaways.
    Settled into my downward trajectory
    of the arc to the trashcan I was, my sheet
    a mass of idle doodles, manic scribbles,
    ragged erasures, when a revelatory breeze
    skittered me off the wastebasket rim.

    I bounced up, uncrumpled, laid myself
    flat here on this desk and recollected:
    We sheets of humanity may get
    all wrinkled and raggedy, but we still
    have a clean second side.
    I looked past the creases and furrows,
    taking a lesson from the wisdom of
    Side One’s first-draft bleed-throughs.
    My sheet’s a wee tattered, but it’s full
    of smudged and crinkled knowledge,
    and all this space left to freely mess.
    Not a make-good sequel, just Chapter Two.

    1. well conceived, and a good lesson in there as well

    2. "My sheet’s a wee tattered, but it’s full
      of smudged and crinkled knowledge"
      Just beautiful!

  9. He died in battle, but the bullets were not made of lead. They were cast from indifference.

    His father, returning from Vietnam, had been spit on, castigated royally.

    He, on the other hand had been greeted with parades and thank yous.

    And then silence.

    You don’t call a man a hero one day and unemployed the next. It messes with his head.

    It didn’t help that he’d lost a leg while he was over there. And a couple of buddies.

    His girl waited for him, but left when he had his first nightmares. It scared her that he kept a gun by the bed.

    The pills the doc gave him helped for a while, till they didn’t. Now he had nothing to help him forget what he couldn’t remember.

    He died in battle, but it wasn’t the rope that got him. It was the smell, the sound, the taste of indifference.

    1. ouch. Nail on the head though, all the public adulation means nothing when it turns out empty. Spot on, my friend.

    2. Such a shame that so many can't see this. Thank you for shedding light on a serious problem in our country.

    3. Yup. This is hard to read, but important.

  10. The music was simple, but the rhythms were complex. She closed her eyes and she was soon far away, standing in a bar in Montevideo. She would be simply dressed, her skirt barely long enough to graze her thighs, with her bodice cut tight to her torso and a slash deep down her back. She would study the other dancers for a while, idly shifting her weight from one foot to the other, following each of the pairs as they cut and turned through the smoke. The surging of the rhythms would reach out to them all, the accordion-player’s gold-toothed grin widening as more and more of them stepped out onto the floor. Some of the women would leave their glasses on the tables, their rims lipstick-stained and sticky with wine, while most of the men would pinch out the black cigarillos they all favoured, tucking them quickly behind their ears. There’d be a nod and a look between each pair, and then they’d begin, both moving in close, the two of them sharing barely a word before they embraced.

    Elouise danced alone in the darkness, turning in hold, her steps sure and her embellishments always crisp and sharp. Her lips were already stained with a carmine-red lip gloss and a Cabernet, the evidence of the wine still there for her quickly probing tongue. If only she’d a man here with her now; she would do more than dance. She had passion to burn and a phoenix in her heart.

    1. this plays some wonderful music - so nice!

    2. Great imagery! I felt like I was there.

    3. Agreed. You made this super visual without it seeming too thick. Really nicely done.

    4. "Passion to burn and a phoenix in her heart" - I love this phrase. It makes me remember exactly how that feels.

  11. Part One

    You’re probably too young to remember Brandine Phelps, but I’m not. She ran that place, the Sugar Pie Diner, down on Maple, for gosh, maybe 35 years? You remember that? No? Well it was there, all right, practically an institution. Best pies in the state. Good food, too, and clean as a whistle. Had a few gals come and go, working for her over the years, but mostly, she did it herself. Never met a woman like her and never will again, either.
    I used to go there for milkshakes and such after high school with my friends. It was a real hangout back then, and it didn’t hurt that Brandine’s nephew was one of the guys I ran with, either. If we ran short of money, she’d invent some kind of Tuesday discount or some such, just to make sure we ate. Or when that nephew, Jackson, decided to pinch a tenner from the register for one reason or another, she’d just smile and look the other way. I don’t know why; maybe it was because her sister got mixed up in the dope trade, or maybe it was because she never had kids of her own, I can’t say for certain. Maybe it’s because she knew that a little kindness goes further in this world than a whole lot of punishment.
    Don’t get me wrong, though. She wasn’t one of them weak wallflowers who hang around the church socials and wouldn’t say shit if they had a mouthful; Brandine was as tough as they make ‘em. Six foot and rangy, like country women can be, with those cheekbones that some said came from the Cherokee. She told us once she’d been a nurse over there in Vietnam until they finally pulled out and it was pretty well known that she could drink any one of her bowling buddies under the table anytime she liked. Which wasn’t often, but did happen from time to time.
    The rumors said she had tattoos from her days in the army, in places on her body where nobody could see them but for a few. I don’t know about all that, but I do know the idea of it fueled a wet dream or more back when I was in high school. She was beautiful and proud and dangerous; she kept condoms under the counter that she passed out to the boys and back in the days before Roe and Wade, any gal in trouble could come to her, even without telling her parents and she either drove them over the state line or had a way to fix it herself, being a nurse and all.
    We all did. Even after she got a little bit old and had buried a couple of husbands, her back was still straight and her eyes still glittered and while she was kind to those who deserved it, she didn’t take shit from nobody. She was what you call a pillar of the town. Maybe the closest thing to a leader any of us would ever see.
    Which was why it came hard when Jackson got out of the college she’d sent him to by the sweat of her brow and turned on her the way he did.

  12. Part Two
    She was in her sixties by then and Jackson had his eye on the Sugar Pie. Figured he could sell it out for a Starbucks or a Krispy Crème for profit. Only Brandine refused to sell. So Jackson got his lawyers to test her competency, thinking he could slap her in a home and take charge of the assets. Only the joke was on him; she passed.
    Then he tried to get her to take on a refinance to expand the Sugar Pie, figuring the pumped up balloon payment would be something she couldn’t understand. When he got the county to pump up her taxes sky high; Brandine didn’t even blink. She met the Sheriff at the front door with a .22 and politely explained that she’d paid off that loan and the taxes, too. After that, she even sent a letter to the paper, apologizing to Jackson for shrinking his inheritance and also cutting him out of her will.
    Whatever trick Jackson had up his sleeve next, we never did find out. It took a few months, but he and the bankers got together and somehow decided the Sugar Pie was now facing foreclosure. So Brandine invited everybody in town, anyone she’d ever leant a hand or extended a favor to a party in her honor. She was now retiring officially from the Sugar Pie, with free pies for everybody.
    And so we all turned out, the ex high schoolers, the black kids, the women and the Mexicans. And booth by booth, grill and refrigerator, counter by counter and stool by stool, chrome and all, we dismantled the old Sugar Pie Diner and transported it all to an auction site, somewhere over the state line.
    And we each came home with a pie.
    Nobody knows whatever happened to Brandine Phelps. But the auction I’m told, brought a million or so.Which even twenty years ago, counted as money. I only hope she is still with us, strong and proud and kind, or baking those pies somewhere in heaven.
    Governments and Preachers, Congress in between, strength and kindness and love and strength, still the closest thing to leadership I have ever seen.

    1. great character - lots going on in this story. Enjoyable read!

    2. Definitely makes me wish I could've met Brandine Phelps.

    3. This is sheer awesomeness. I felt like I was in that town, in those moments. And I love Brandine. <3

    4. Wow. Loved this and Bradine Phelps of course.

  13. Jessica sat still as a statue in her seat while Elphaba put into words what she never could. Music could do anything, Jessica had long ago realized this. What she didn't know was what musicals did to a girl. Oh, sure, the heroine of the musical was just green and she would almost certainly find love, but the song and the way the music told this story ripped Jessica apart and remade her. More dangerous, it gave her hope. Such a stupid, useless emotion, hope. But it stayed with her for the rest of the night.

    Later, much later, Jessica carefully folded up that hope and tucked it safely into the back of her mind. The feeling was not something she could afford to believe in. There was no hope for a girl like Jessica.

    Weeks passed. Jessica returned to her routine. Volunteering. Playing with her dog. Doctor appointments. Exercises. Physical therapy appointments. Constant pain. The worry she'd grown up knowing in her parent's eyes. The hope was long forgotten.

    Until the concert. Concerts were the best. Her friends were there. The band members treated her like one of their friends. The music, of course, was beyond words. There, the hope popped out of the box she'd placed it in and it bloomed. It felt like anything was possible. Anything. She danced as much as she could, she laughed with her friends, and she pretended to catch the kiss the lead singer blew to her.

    Jessica was one of the last to leave, having stayed with the band and her friends for far too long. She didn't wait for someone to get the door when she reached it. She maneuvered to open it herself until a hand halted her.

    "I got it, princess," one of the roadies said as he held the door for her. "Safe travels, yeah?"

    "We'll get her home safe," one of her friends said. "No worries on that front."

    Jessica couldn't take her eyes off the man who held the door for her. She'd seen him dozens of times, but had never really looked at him. He wasn't gorgeous, but hot -- in a rough sort of way -- and his eyes were warm. Warmer than anyone's eyes had ever been when looking at her. Just as she was about to pass, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. His lips moved to her ear and he whispered three words that changed her world.

    "I see you."

    His eyes told her that he liked what he saw. But that couldn't be. No man could look at Jessica and like what he saw. She couldn't believe it. The thing was, the way he'd looked at her, she couldn't not believe it either. So, maybe, just maybe, there was hope.

    1. thanks for sharing this one - Jessica and her hope, there's a good tale here.

    2. Another one that I'd love the backstory on.

    3. I agree, and the writing is rock solid.

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  15. Jaiyana rapped twice on the half-open door and then stuck her head inside.

    “You wanted to see me, Cap?”

    Her superior, David, frowned slightly, his brows coming together in a vee. He wasn’t a captain, but he’d long since given up trying to get Jay to stop calling him that. She’d thought it had ceased to bother him. Apparently not.

    “Come in, Jay. Shut the door.”

    Jaiyana did as she was told, noticing as she stepped into the room that a second man sat in the office, on the leather sofa that ran along one wall. The door had hidden him from her view. She ignored him, shut the door, and leaned back against it.

    “What’s up?”

    David didn’t invite her to sit down. He knew better. Instead, he stood and came around the desk.

    “Jay, I believe you may know of my guest.” He indicated the man on the sofa with a sweeping gesture.

    The man rose and gave Jay a polite little bow. “Alejandro Diaz,” he said. His voice carried the warm burr of a Mexican accent.

    “Mr. Diaz has graciously consented to assist our division.”

    Jay’s eyes narrowed as she met David’s gaze. “Long term?”

    It was Diaz who answered. “That remains to be seen.”

    “For now,” David said, “he’s going to help up with a particular…issue.”

    “Mission,” Diaz said with a little grin.

    Jay nodded slowly. “I see.”

    She glanced at Diaz. Their organization didn’t usually invite outsiders into the fold. They certainly didn’t invite his kind in.

    “Mr. Diaz needs a partner,” David said, drawing Jay out of her thoughts.

    She crossed her arms over her chest and tightened her jaw. “So you thought you’d send me along. As food for the vampire.”

    Diaz winced but didn’t correct her. Bonus points for him.

    “He’s not a vampire!”

    “Psychic soulsucker, then. Whatever. You want to feed me to him.”

    David drew himself up and sucked in a breath, clearly ready to go to war. Diaz stilled him with a gentle touch to his arm. It wasn’t magic or some supernatural ability, just the reminder that they had an audience.

    “Jay,” David said, his voice just the other side of calm, “It’s not like that, and you know it. I need someone alongside Diaz who’s familiar with our goals…and who can hold her own. You’re the best field agent I have. But if you’re uncomfortable with the assignment, I’ll try to find someone else.”

    Jay brushed her dark hair out of her eyes with one hand and pointedly looked Diaz up and down. He was a good-looking man with high cheekbones, dark eyes, long lashes, and a mouth made for kissing. He filled out his dress shirt and slacks nicely, too. She curled her lip and turned her attention back to David.

    “His vampire influence won’t work on me, so what happens if I don’t find him attractive?”

    Diaz answered, his voice as smooth and cool as vanilla ice cream. “You don’t have to find me attractive, though it would yield better results if you did.”

    Jay could barely believe that they were standing here talking about sex like it was a commodity, something to be bargained, something to be weighed and measured according to how useful it could be to their organization.

    “I need a moment with Cap.”

    “Of course,” Diaz said at once. He gave her another bow and Jay moved aside so he could see himself out.

    “Your office is soundproof, right, Cap?”

    “Of course.”

    “Good.” She collapsed back against the door. “Good God, he’s hot.”

    David choked on a surprised laugh. When he could speak again, he asked, “Does that mean you’ll do it?”

    Jay shrugged one shoulder. “He can’t hurt me. I’m not a prude. And he’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. That part’s not so bad. What worries me is that we’d be hunting something that necessities hiring an incubus mercenary.”

    “And that,” David said, “is why it was you I needed for this venture. You always know the right questions to ask…and when to be afraid.”

    Jay spared a thought for Alejandro Diaz and how not afraid of him she was, how eager she was to taste that lush mouth and run her hands over all that lean muscle. And she knew Cap was wrong about her always knowing when to be afraid.

    1. IMO, there should be more stories about incubuses.
      Just sayin'.

    2. Love this excerpt - hopefully part of a larger story?

    3. This is very delicately balanced. Nicely done.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Color me intrigued. More please.

  16. Be gentle with me. The is the first thing I've written in over a year. :)

    You were never good enough.
    Three rough and tumble boys and you never knew where you fit in, playing with G.I. Joe soldiers and rusted dump trucks in the vacant lot next door.

    “Go put on some decent clothes!”
    “Brush your hair!”
    “Cross your legs and sit like a lady!”
    You picked at the scab on your knee until it bled and wished to hide among the gold shag carpet.

    You caught lice from that “nasty girl” you insisted on sitting with on the school bus. She pulled the little comb through your long, wet hair with reckless abandon, the sharp teeth scraping along your scalp like needles as tears rolled down your face and she seethed beneath the sickly yellow light of the bathroom.
    “I don’t know what I did to deserve such an ungrateful child. Do you have any idea how much work you are?! ”

    She watched through a haze of cigarette smoke while you washed dishes, folded laundry, and scrubbed the faded linoleum floors, missing nothing. Her gaze took in everything, from the tattered sneakers to the hole in your jeans. With a rattled sigh, she cited once again how pretty your cousin Chloe was, and that you could be, too, if you’d just wear a dress every once in a while.
    Yeah, Chloe was a peach. She had a swimming pool, a bad perm, and gave more rides than MARTA. Her fancy dresses spent a majority of their time crumpled on the floorboards of every redneck truck in town.

    Through the years you learned that you were too short, too much of a tomboy, too much of a dreamer, too … there. You climbed the apple tree behind the house and hid among the branches. You became invisible.

    The machine beeps, keeping time with a heartbeat that is slow, erratic, and doesn’t belong to you. The room is about as appealing as the dregs in the bottom of your Styrofoam coffee cup but the weather outside the window looks nice. Ten steps to the trashcan in the corner, another six to the door, and you could slip away – just drift on antiseptic currents until find a window that opens.
    You remember the old apple tree and smile, wishing you could go back to that time when you were insignificant, just a bitter pill to be swallowed like so many disappointments she had.
    Your knees pop as you stand and lackluster eyes follow as you make your circuit of the room.
    Ten steps.
    Six steps.
    “Stand up straight.”
    The voice is weak but familiar, like a record played far too many times. You hate the lyrics, yet the intimate melody is one you can’t let go of. Not yet.
    “Yes, Mom.”
    Pulling your shoulders back, you force a smile, grateful for the bittersweet refrain.

    1. A strong window into that misunderstood place. Bravo!

    2. Well, I don't know why you've been hiding your light under the bushel, but being "kind" is not an issue, here. This is terrific!

    3. Yeah, this is dope. I love the insight and the writing is fierce and controlled. And we've missed you! <3

    4. What they all said.

      I felt everything she felt in this piece, even though I never lived it. Highly emotive. Very true. Really good stuff here.

  17. I remember when I figured out I could open my eyes and it wouldn’t hurt too bad. Not in the ocean, but down at the reservoir. The water was dark and cold, but, underneath, you could see up through the water into the sky – see birds flying. You could look down and watch fish finning. It was only from the bank that you couldn’t see. So, I spent a lot of time in that water.

    No one knew how deep it was. Deep enough that you could dive until your lungs felt hot and not see anything but more water. I used to fantasize that there was a whole other world under there. Atlantis. Maybe. I tried to see over and over. Until I’d float the surface half breathing, seeing fireworks behind my eyelids.

    When they found the body in the reservoir, it freaked everybody the fuck out. She was only fifteen. New to town. No one knew her and her family moved on quick, but I started having dreams. I could see her under the water – I swear, I could feel her reaching for me. I’d wake up covered in sweat and wrapped in blankets. Sometimes, I cried.
    I stayed away from the reservoir as long as I could, but eventually it got awkward. My friends wanted to go. My dad said I was a pansy. So, I went.

    But I never opened my eyes again.

  18. My laughter rumbled in my throat with such velocity I could barely get the words out around it.

    “So, you mean she kicked you out of your own bed?”

    My brother said nothing at first. His eyes cast down into the drink I’d just poured for him. Dewars neat. It was our father’s influence. My brother drank like our father. Movie star handsome, he looked like him too. He also treated women with the same stupid combination of abject lust and loopy derision our father thought charmingly worked as foreplay.

    “It wasn’t my finest moment.”

    I was busy making my own drink by then but stopped momentarily to look back at him. My older brother was literally a walking talking cliché. And what did that make me?

    “Let’s see where do you think you went wrong, Bro? When you affectionately called her Fatty? Or was it when you tried to fuck her after calling her that?”

    “Look man, I really like this woman. And now, she won’t even talk to me.”

    “Well, I suppose that, at least, shows you have good taste. She’s obviously not an idiot.”

    Draining his drink, he stood up.

    “I don’t know why I came here. You’ve never been good for my self-esteem dude.”

    “Is that what you came here for? Some disingenuous fawning to make you feel better?”

    “I came here…”

    He spoke, clenching his hands into fists and stretching them back out again.

    “I came for help. I don’t know what to do. I don’t kn—"

    “Damn, you really DO like her, don’t you?”

    The wretchedness draped over his face was rare and a game changer.

    “Do you still hate sushi?”

    To his credit he looked only slightly perplexed. I was a master of non-sequiturs. He was used to me.

    “Fuck yeah, I hate that shit.”

    I pulled my phone out and punched in a familiar number.

    “Well, it’s still my brain food so I’ll order you some chicken teriyaki.”

    “Beef.” He called out. “I want beef teriyaki.”

    “Figures.” I grinned.

    “We’ll talk while we eat. Not sure what you’re expecting from me though. I haven’t touched a woman since middle school.”

    “Doesn’t matter. I trust you to…to tell me the truth.”

  19. “La tristesse durera toujours” — Vincent Van Gogh

    Blown across a frozen lake, two dead birds reach a shore piled like cake and drop, light as hollowed tin, tumbled as ice-clad laundry, blank as cataracts, bereft as dawn-shed snakeskins.

    Something within the world creaks,
    and crows
    grumble along the margins
    like long-abandoned women.
    What is this tale? Is it happy? Grim?
    Sad as a splintered cane propped in some bleary corner?

    The sadness will last forever.

    Will these harmonies suffice? Will
    beauty walk alongside the righteous?
    Art and love be adequate in this, our
    harmless asides, these aimless, ageless
    Instagram sins?

    La tristesse durera toujours.

    An engine cries a trail of smoke, shed
    like the greyest tears,
    left by the most
    of impudent

    Could you tell a tale of anything? Of
    windbreaks and breakwaters, of
    cheese plates and lovers’
    furtive reunions,
    all these faked aches? Hold my aspen hand,
    trembling amid this tiny crisis, and
    steel yourself for the
    to come.

    A bird dreams its shadow
    on whitewashed walls.
    Wakeful things decline to notice.

    Oil spills leak and
    the world cries
    ever more echoes.

    The sadness will last forever.

    They worked on trains and chimney stacks,
    climbed up walls, rode steaming tracks,
    handed out tickets, soon foresaw
    the luck of the Irish, the attack
    of the eye-rash.

    Spurn this like you spurn
    most everything.

    We’re in the centre of a room
    bathed in gold, streamed like precious
    sentiment, delivered by facsimiles
    of the sun. What, oh what, I beg,
    is our name?

    La tristesse durera toujours.

    1. Love”A bird dreams its shadow
      on whitewashed walls.
      Wakeful things decline to notice.”
      And the refrain too. So sad, but hopefully not forever.

    2. So many wonderfully worded descriptions of darkness and despair. "Sad as a splintered cane propped in some bleary corner" struck me, especially.


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