Friday, November 9, 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.
Can we just take a second to reflect? See, I’m having trouble talking because the only thing you can do is object. Like that stubborn ass lawyer in the Manson trial. He about drove the judge nuts. Don’t say anything, I haven’t finished the book yet.

We all have an instrument. A voice. I speak for myself, but at least I speak.

Sometimes, with an accent.

So, we seem to be in a bit of a pickle. If I hate you and you hate me and neither one of us is gonna blink? Well. I promise I won’t blink first. Even if my eyes dry out and I go blind. Because I’ve never been the type to just accept bullshit because it’s easy. Fuck that. I always hated the machine, but they slipped up and made me more aware of it than ever.

And I’m pissed.

I’m not pipe bomb pissed. That’s craziness. I’m the kind of pissed that is about to dust off his Jello Biafra records and whip you across the face with a two-row studded belt I stole from some suburban punk rock Hot Topic kid.

I don’t want to be a dick, but if you think we should be locking kids up in cages, then fuck you.

And that’s not just all. I remember. And I hold grudges. I still hate my “Uncle” for something that happened when I was nine. It’s a bad idea to call me a liar. Because I’m not one. Never have been. I’m more like the kind of guy who will go find a big, steaming pile of truth and shove your fucking face in it, grind it into your eyes and nose and mouth – until you’re fucking choking on truth.

Try to look away.

It may be the death of me, but I’ve always been willing to go to the mat for the underdog. I’ve always thought people should be treated with compassion. I don’t want to be a part of your sick fucking hate-orgy. I’m gonna keep shining a light on what’s ugly even if three people look.

Even if no one looks. Just because. Just because fuck you.

Or half of you, I guess.
#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. Your anger is palpable, but you channel it well in this piece... keep the truth in front of everyone's eyes. Make them look away. And then both you and they will know it is the truth.

  2. He was a fool. He knew it, and the dog knew it, but they were happy fools together. Most of the time.

    The sun was not yet up when they began their walk that morning. Streaks of pink clouds hung over the mountains to the east. Each breath the man and dog exhaled was visible in the dim light. Ghosts or memories? Or just confused water molecules.

    Five miles a day. That was the minimum the two walked. Often it was ten. Their walk often took them past this grove of trees. Sometimes the dog walked in, and came back out running. Sometimes he just looked warily at the trees and hurried the man along.

    Today, there was a noise. Like big branches clacking against each other in a windstorm. But there was no wind. They continued walking. A quarter mile more and the dog stopped. Turned around and stared at the grove. The man turned, too.

    As the sun rose, some of the branches on the trees began to move. But they weren’t branches. They were the antlers of bull elk. They dashed from out of the trees along the same path the dog and man walked. The man stood aside, and the dog stood with him.

    Twenty, thirty, forty elk thundered by, the very earth quaking with their mass. Their mouths were open, no doubt thirsty, as the only water was frozen snow.

    After they passed, the man and dog looked at each other, the man making a silent O with his lips.

    The dog, still alert, looked into the distance, and saw orange. Hunter. The dog’s muscles tensed.

    The man said, “Stay.”

    But the hunter did not notice the dog, did not notice the man, and remarkably, did not notice the elk. His back was turned, and he was fiddling with a strap on his orange vest.

    The man and dog resumed their walk, watching the herd kick up dust on their way to the next stand of trees.

    The man said hello to the hunter. “Good hunting today?”

    The hunter shook his head. “Can’t figure out where they’re hiding.”

    “Good luck,” said the man. “Come,” he said to the dog.

    And the lesson of the morning was twofold: Open your eyes to see what you seek, and run when you know no one is watching.

    It was a good day.

    1. Aaah. I like this one. I thought the hunter was going to kill the dog or the man and we were going to have words. Really restrained, beautiful descriptions.

    2. I love this lesson. Very glad nobody got hurt.

    3. I too was expecting something else, but the way you ended this was better than my expectation, so thank you.

  3. I’m on the wrong side of the railing.

    The only thing that separates me from the water far below is empty space.

    “We can talk about this.” The officer is using his calmest voice, the one designed to talk idiots like me off the ledge.

    What is there to talk about? It’s too late to talk. My marriage is over. My job is on the fast track to sucking my soul from my body. I’m already a dead man walking, I might as well get this over with.

    “This isn’t your fault,” I tell the cop.

    Because even in my last moment, I’m worried about this stranger. But life taught me that the kinder you are to people, the quicker they fuck you over.

    “It’s not your fault either,” he says offering me his hand from the safety of the other side of the railing. “Just come talk to me. Tell me what’s got you so sure this is the answer.”

    I’m a fuck up. There. Everything that needs to be said has been said. Except I didn’t say it out loud. I’m too much of a coward. And I know if I talk, I’ll break. I’ll crawl back over that railing, admitting defeat, having once again been too much of a fucking pussy to take what I deserve.
    I’ve spent my whole life failing.

    This is one I can win.

    I’ve got all the control here.

    I choose this.

    Closing my eyes, I notice I can still see the blinding glint of the sunlight off the choppy face of the water far below.

    “Thank you for trying, man,” I say to the officer. “You did good. But I’m too far gone.”

    The freedom I feel as I take a step forward is unparalleled.

    But as gravity jerks me toward the water, a sickening realization hits me.

    This is the only mistake I’ve made that I can’t come back from.

    1. wow... my heart is racing. Well done.

    2. Agreed. A very spare and strong piece. And a difficult topic well handled. I can relate. I never made the mistake though.

    3. Oh. So well done. I can relate, too.

    4. Wow, this is tense. I was right there. And you were right there, giving this character life (ironically) in so few words. Brava!

  4. Night comes early in November. The sun sets far south and the shadows are long. Not as long as your memories.

    Tomorrow is your birthday. Not the one you were born on, but the one that saved your life. You were sixteen. You falsified your birth certificate so you could join. You could do that in those days, before computers.

    The recruiter looked at you, and then at your paperwork. “You even shave yet?”

    You didn’t want to lie, so you didn’t answer.

    And a week later, there you were. Boot camp.
    Hurt like hell. But you remember their names. The drill instructors and the boots you trained with. Johnson. Podeski. Moulet. Garcia. Fredericks. If you thought about it, you could probably still remember your rifle’s serial number.

    You were a boy when you joined, and a man when you came out. You went home, and your dad, while he was sober anyway, was proud.

    Your mother cried. Worried about you being killed in a place with a name she couldn’t pronounce. She kissed you, though. For luck she said.

    When you got to Korea, the whole country was full of strange sounding names. You hated the smell of it all. Kimchi smelled like death to you, and so did the battlefields.

    You did your part. Never told anyone who wasn’t a Marine how many you killed, or how close you came to dying. Not even your wife, God rest her soul.

    And when you came home, you found her. At a dance. She couldn’t take her eyes off your uniform and you wondered if she even saw past it to see you.

    She did. And you married her the next year.
    When the time came for Viet Nam, she begged you not to go. You explained it didn’t work that way and you went to another country of strange sounding names.

    When you got home, she nursed you off the heroin, and never asked questions. And you never offered answers.

    You got out, then. The wars had changed. Too many politicians. Too many children on the battlefield. Too many women dying.

    But you never gave up your uniform. Every November 10, you go into your room and made sure it still fit. And when you look in the mirror, for a moment, you see the eyes of that sixteen-year-old. And you say, “Happy birthday, Marine.”

    And you know the uniform is only a symbol, and that the Marine lives on, every day, every move you make.

    When you take the uniform off, you hum about the halls of Montezuma, and as you put the lid on the box, you whisper, “Semper Fi.”

    And you are exactly that. Always faithful. Even when it hurts. Even in the long nights of November. Even alone.

    1. This is beautiful. The ending broke my heart. And the beginning has a really interesting, classic feel. This is a fine piece of writing, amigo. This one should be published in Stars & Stripes.

    2. Well done. You got inside the kind of mind I sometimes find difficult to fathom. But here it is, and I believed every word.

    3. Yes, that ending. And what everyone else said. You made me cry.

    4. Sorry to be that ditto guy again, but that ending is perfect. Love the rhythm and the almost elegiac feel of those sentence fragments. This is what flash fiction does at its best.

  5. “Come on. Get up. You’ll cause an accident if you stay there.”

    His hand reached out for me, so I took it, my skin taking on the blue of his uniform. He was a large man and I felt my shoulders crack and my ribs creak as my body readjusted to match his, his grip loosening when he noticed me change.

    “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just this thing I do. I can’t always control it.”

    He'd been warm and contented and I began to whistle, picking up on the tune in his head. It was a jazz-classic in 7/8 time, something called ‘So What’, or so his memory told me. He enjoyed the melody the trumpet-player played – it was Miles Davis apparently – and it was a tune he was trying to incorporate into his repertoire…

    He snatched his hand away and stared at me, hostility the only thing I could pick up on from him now. My lungs collapsed in a sigh and I began to shrink back in on myself, my senses reaching out for a pattern to adopt. I pulled my arms back in on my body, seeing myself as he saw me; naked and grey and a woman who’d made him afraid.

    “What are you,” he said. “And where the hell did you come from? That thing you did…those things…”

    I shook my head, dropping to my knees. I couldn’t tell him a thing. I didn’t know any answers. I only knew that I was lost.

    1. This is super intriguing. Bastard. ;) These beautiful glimpses are mean! J/K The DETAIL in this piece and your writing in general amazes me. Just balanced perfectly.

    2. Ohhhh... So compact and visceral.

    3. Wow! I’m intrigued and in awe.

    4. Expand on this, Mark! I want more. I wasn't sure what was going on—shapeshifter? some kind of mutant?—but I want more, lol.

  6. “There’s another one now. The one that’s ahead of the other one looks tired. It would be so easy to take them. Just a hundred yards away…”

    The second wolf rose. Its haunches felt stiff and cold from sitting in the snow. It had been hours since they'd moved. It yawned, drawing in the scent from their quarry.

    “I think we should wait,” it said. “Just a few minutes more.” It flattened itself down again, ears erect, listening to the crunch of the humans’ feet as they dragged them through the accumulation which had fallen last night.

    The first wolf shuffled its paws, impatient to be off. It was hungry. They were both hungry. Hunger was another wolf, gnawing at their stomachs, nibbling away at their reserves. Keen to take the weakest when it slept. There was no mercy in these latitudes, especially when the sun finished its daily risings above the horizon.

    Their lives grew closer to the bone each day. Time was running out.

    The second wolf rose again, its head bobbing briefly above the drift they were using for cover.

    “Listen,” it said. “I hear more of them. Three, maybe four. Two of them smaller, weaker, lagging the others. They always travel in packs but there are always stragglers. Their cubs are uncoordinated, undisciplined, ill-equipped to survive in these conditions. They have no teeth worthy of mention, no claws.

    "They are easy meat."

    1. You better be watching your back - the ghost of Jack London doesn't fuck around. Ask me how I know. ;) Another tease, but another great piece.

    2. Well done! I read aloud to Angelo and Maggie, and they both approved!

    3. Love it. Especially "Hunger was another wolf."

  7. Ode to a Dead Lover

    Here’s that poem, you son of a bitch
    The one I never wrote before, when your vanity insisted you should show up in my fiction
    Immortalized by your demoralized whore.

    I came across your obit quite unexpectedly, googling some guy with a similar name
    And tried to recall something nice about you, some ineffable memory
    In vain.
    You were the poseur, man-about-town, the tortured poet in Italian shoes
    I was your willing protégé and man, we had some bad ass chemistry
    That was something like love, but something stranger
    A couple of writers with nothing to say.

    Your ego was like some black hole; there was no other point of view
    I remember you shouting, all up in your booze, that you’d never change your life for me
    To which I could only answer, “Huh? Who asked you to?”

    You tried so hard to suffer for art,
    With your cultivated, never-ending existential angst
    And your white-ass pedigree
    Shit, even when you went slumming guy, the best you could do was me?
    Okay, I was young and foolish, and maybe a little obtuse, I grant you
    But mostly? I was free.

    I would have stayed lovers, I could have been friends, wasn’t looking for some tragic end
    Or trying to make up for something you lacked.
    Just writing my story and publishing stuff and having you call me the sellout-the hack.

    As might be expected, I tired of this, mystic attraction or not,
    Romantics you see, have so little to give
    And lust was better and life got good
    With a man I could actually trust
    And when I got married and left you behind, you couldn’t let it go at that
    You said I’d never gotten over you and I probably never would

    It’s hard to explain what I felt when I finally read that you died unexpectedly, alone in your bed
    Working on your unfinished Magnum Opus novel of the 12th century
    The Dark Ages well, that figures.

    While here I am, in my own fairytale, hale and hearty and well.
    Living happily ever after? Mostly. And at least I’m not in hell.

    I can’t say I could call it love, what we had between us
    Maybe Karma or Kistmet or even Fate
    Some might say a failed relationship, the one that got away.
    Me? I call it a narrow escape.

    So there’s your poem, dickhead. I hope you’re enlightened at last
    Rest in Peace; I know I will. And smile with relief that the past is past.

    1. Oh man. I love this so much. SO much. And I love every line, but this one is a solar plexus blow:
      Shit, even when you went slumming guy, the best you could do was me?
      Super on point. I like it when you write angry. ;)

    2. Ha, yes! And this: "A couple of writers with nothing to say." I can't speak for him, but this isn't true of you. You had this to say.

  8. “Mars is out.”

    You can’t see it.

    “That orange-y dot, right up there?” He points above the stand of evergreens that keep sentry over your small, shivering house.

    You still can’t see it. You see fuzzy bits of light in the dark sky, none more orange than the next.

    He thinks if he says it again and points more emphatically you’ll see.

    It doesn’t work. He sees things you don’t; it’s always been that way. Or you’ve convinced yourself of it. Sometimes it’s easier to let him win.

    Frustrated, he goes back inside. You hear noises of television and talking heads and the groan of him hitting the sofa. You wrap your arms around your body, less to keep warm and more to keep your tender insides corseted, your feelings small.

    Small like Mars.

    You look again. Still. Nothing. You lean against the porch railing, take in a breath. Watch the sky. Maybe there is something up there a little different than the rest of the twinkling stars. A slightly different shade, more red than the orange he proclaimed. A light that is now…moving. Not a planet, not even a star, but a plane. You smile into the cool air, the dark night, and hold your secret close.

    1. What a moment, captured in amber. We never really see what another sees. And the “tender insides corseted” says so much... beautiful.

    2. Captured in amber is perfect, Leland! A Mars colour. And yes, this is tender and beautiful.

  9. She’d turned about in front of him, inviting him to watch. She knew she was beautiful – she’d been told that a thousand times – but this man hadn’t been bewitched by her curves. She knew she was well-dressed too; she was head to foot in Italian, her jewellery bespoke and with shoes specifically designed for her feet. And yet this man had seemed unimpressed and that had troubled her.

    She’d stepped past his table, looking ahead. The bar was busy but the crowd had parted for her, recognising her worth. The same people were always there; the leches, the drunks, the men who wished for her to see them. There were women there too, many of them jealous, most of them wishing they were her.

    The bar staff saw her too, always attentive, dropping everything they’d been doing. Hers was the request which they always wanted to hear.

    But she hadn’t bought a drink since she’d been legal and that wouldn’t change tonight.

    The man had smiled across, nodding at the bar-man, intercepting her request. His name was James. He’d been busy at the office and this was his escape. He had a strict limit: three drinks and then he’d drive home. He’d had one already and needed a friend, someone to sit with him to help convince him he wasn’t a drunk. She was a blessing to him and he was glad she’d given him this opportunity. She was an angel. So charming. And she was a miracle, even before she’d told him her name.

    And so, she taken his drink, knowing the other man might still be thinking about her. She hoped he was, but the mirror behind the bar suggested she was wrong. She hoped James would stay with her a while, at least until the other man found he had a need for something more.

    And maybe their needs might coincide this next time.

    1. I love these tight little bits you write. So well done.

  10. Part 1

    The last place Sophia wanted to be was a party. After a bad breakup, on a night she was entertaining an out of town cousin who couldn’t bear staying home a second longer than she had to. Sophia heard a flamenco riff, while mooning into her red Solo cup of Coke, and saw a girl dancing. With the music she’d expected a different sort of creature, a gypsy type, dark eyes beckoning, but before her was a slender white girl with hair like fire. More wood sprite than gypsy. She spun and stomped with abandon, her flowered dress swirling around her calves, above black Doc Martens. It wasn’t easy to pull off that look, but she did, with her delicate frame and long legs. And that hair. Her burning green eyes.

    Sophia had to meet her. Forget the girl who’d broken her heart. Forget her cousin, probably getting into trouble somewhere else in the house. Forget oxygen, food, water. Sophie only needed this girl. This girl who twirled and yipped to the music—one guy playing a guitar—like she’d been walled up in a convent all her life and had only now been set free.

    She blended into the crowd to watch. The dress’s long sleeves were snug, showing slim, graceful arms reaching above her head, her hands long-fingered and expressive, like you’d expect an artist’s to be. The neckline of the dress exposed delicate collarbones and smooth, unblemished skin, flushed from the dancing. As much as she wanted to take in each detail, tough enough given the mesmerizing way the girl moved, Sophia kept being pulled back to her eyes. Their color wasn’t enough to describe them. Magnetic, tempting, teasing, and some other words in Spanish that didn’t have good enough translations. And in them she saw a gentle, passionate soul that seemed to soothe her pain like warm water.

  11. Part 2

    Sophia took a step back suddenly, maybe her body catching up to the thought that she could be so deeply drawn because of her recent loss. That she was giving far more significance to this girl because she felt still so wounded by Gabby. Gabby, who had decided that being with her was only an experimental phase in her life. Who had told herself she wasn’t truly gay, whose Catholic family had told her that she must marry a man and produce babies.

    Did she want to leave herself open to that again? This girl looked young. Seventeen, eighteen? Did a girl this young know what she wanted? God, her face, those delicate bones, like a porcelain doll, rose-pink with the swell of the music. The crowd had started to clap with the beat. Sophia ached to dance with her. To touch her. To look deep into her eyes, to kiss her full, flushed mouth.

    The music reached its crescendo. Sophia’s body responded, her insides melting, her fingertips tingling. All she could feel now was her own heart, her own breath, labored as if already making love with her, too far gone now to tell herself that a girl like this couldn’t possibly be gay. Could not possibly want her.

    The applause rose when the music ended. The girl’s smile turned shy, as if just realizing people had been watching her. She made the cutest little curtsey with the full skirt of her dress.

    Sophia pushed forward like something besides her own feet had made that choice for her.

    “That was beautiful.” The words stuck in Sophia’s dry throat.

    “Thanks.” Even her shyness was adorable. Sophie panicked. She had to keep saying things to prevent this girl from leaving. She would want a drink. Perhaps she would want to reconvene with her friends. Or choose one of the many men here who’d been drawn to watch her dance.

    “You want to get a drink?” It took her a minute to realize that the girl was the one who’d said that, not Sophia.

    Heat raced through her body. “Si. Yes, of course.”

    The girl paled. Touched Sophia’s arm. A touch like an electric shock. Her eyes were huge, frightened. “I’m sorry. I just love this music. I didn’t mean to appropriate anyone’s culture, I—”

    Sophie could not help but laugh then. Sometimes she reverted to Spanish when she was nervous or excited. “I’m Puerto Rican. We do not flamenco. We dance, si. But nothing like that.”

    Please smile. Please smile. And there it was again, lovely and sweet and Sophia wanted to dive in and drown.

    “I’m Jess,” the gypsy wood sprite said, and aimed that smile into Sophia’s eyes, and reached for her hand. “Let’s go.”

  12. I miss you.
    I miss telling you about my aches, my trials, or…
    having you unmask the furrowed depth of my anxiety and
    changing its course simply. With one word. Honey.
    I miss you
    And your delight at making me, the somberest of us all
    laugh out loud like a hyena on steroids
    proud at what little effort it took you for such an accomplishment.
    I miss you
    Especially those times you’d check in for consolation about the spawn
    while trying hard not to show that love and worry
    will always be equal partners even to the oblivious or inherently logical.
    I miss you
    and your dedicated compassion to our beasts of leisure.
    How did you find the patina of good humor with them?
    They may not speak but their presence and neediness is always felt.
    They miss you too.
    But I miss you more
    Because I am right here to offer something— a huge amount
    And receive nothing of you, but remembering.
    I miss you.
    And even though I’m more myself now than I ever was coupled with you
    it can seem like an awesome trick of the eye to miss you now having missed so much of myself for so long.
    But still,
    I miss you
    and everything you are
    or were
    or would be in another glimpse I have of you...
    I miss you.
    I miss me and you
    And you versus me.
    This sucks.
    I miss...

  13. “You like it here?”

    He was comfortable here. At ease as if he was in his own home. Which I suppose it was.

    “It’s a house. Roof and walls. Shelter. It does what I need it to do.” Crossing my legs, I pushed back in my chair. Defying him. Staking my claim to it. It was as much my home as his. More so, in fact. I was paid up in advance until the end of the year. That was a commitment I’d thought long about before laying the money down.

    “You mind sharing?”

    “No. Not as long as I have one place I can call my own. Privacy. It’s a basic need. Especially if you don’t ‘do’ people.”

    Smiling, he moved forward, encroaching on my space. He knew it was bothering me, but he forced himself in, enjoying my discomfort. We would never get along, I already knew that as a fact.

    “You realise the keys to the rooms are all the same? I’m comfortable with that, though. If you ever feel the need, just hop on through to mine. Don’t bother about knocking, just slide yourself under the covers beside me. We can talk in the morning when I’m awake, if talking's what you need.”

  14. Dissolve

    It’s you, he said,
    Remiss, because it was us,
    The sum of our idle parts,
    The remnants of our hearts,
    These shields we raised,
    The full cases we dragged.

    All our fears and nuances,
    All our curiosity and rage,
    Mixed up, shaken up,
    And drunk in a heady mist
    Of rose-red seeping joy.
    Until it wasn’t, and we
    Looked at each other askew
    Like strangers shaking hands,
    Mumbling about the rain.

    A draft of shadows caught us
    Peering sideways, trying not
    To be seen, to hide a frown,
    In a glance of perplexity.
    It’s all too complicated,
    It’s all too much to try.

    Life rushes in and it fades out,
    Draws a line through still air,
    Cries until the words dry up.
    I long to throw away despair,
    But I field your pain in knives,
    Trying to catch them in my
    Hands. Raw. Unkempt.
    This book is not my own.
    This record is yours.

    This film? It flickers. No longer
    About us. Stale popcorn, stained
    Seats, ripped sheets, burned threads.
    This empty vision plays still,
    The actors long bored and silent.
    Nothing left for an audience.

    I run in circles; you pace back
    And forth, cutting carpet.
    To assert ourselves we leave,
    Exit left into the night air.
    I hail a cab and you just stare,
    We drive away and you just stare.
    It was never you.
    It was never me.
    It was us, we were, and finis.

  15. Never Again

    They say it rained fire and steel
    for days at the Marne,
    where forests melted from your sight
    if you were crazy enough to lift
    your head above the trench line.
    For to do so was to risk a messy death.

    History tells me some British soldiers,
    Tommies they were called, sunk without
    hope of rescue into murderous mud holes
    during the forever rain of Passchendaele. Or,
    if they were lucky, one of their mates would
    shoot them first before they went under.

    You know, of course, while generals pondered
    their strategies of bleeding out
    the other side of its youth over months
    of shelling, or deciding when to send more
    into the Hindenburg Line meant grinder,
    thousands still lost limbs, minds and lives.

    I know for a fact that flyers who climbed
    skyward in crates of wood and canvas,
    did so without parachutes. To survive
    another day was less important than trying
    to save a burning airplane, which,
    they were told, had more value than they did.

    This happened only a century ago,
    after which most who ever felt the whiz
    of bullets pass their faces, smelled the gas
    that killed and the stench of the killed,
    who saw friends turned to pulp
    before their eyes, said “Never again.”

    They said such a war was too terrible
    to repeat for King and Country, for ideology,
    for gains on a balance sheet or a map.
    It wasn’t worth repeating that horror. Many tried.
    All failed. Yet they called it The Great War.
    But they aren't, not even if you "win."

    They're Hell.

    I'm pretty sick right now. Flu, depression, and a mind that never stops yet can't bring forth anything with meaning, even to myself. Yet, as a student of history, I felt moved today to write something about the end of the First World War, where mankind saw death and carnage on a super-industrial scale. I wish I could write more, about how the war bled out nations on so many scales. Who it Ended nations. How it began others. But, ultimately, war is about people. The men and women who served, fought and died in Belgium, France, Italy, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere deserve better than they're getting. It's been one hundred years since the War to End All Wars ended and some of us don't know, don't care or don't care to know or do anything about it. His loss.

  16. It had to begin somewhere, so let’s say it began with the elastic blare of a horn on a rain-smeared night.

    I peered through filthy sheer curtains and saw only the bleary motel sign. The word motel aspired to perfection, stacked vertically in neon blues and reds. The balance of


    atop the teetering


    As if everything was priming itself to fall, rightward, like the overreaching goodness of the world.

    Aurora slept through the klaxon din. I envied her that, at least. Since we’d murdered her husband and indulged our inner Thelma and Louise, sleep had been an elusive ghost for me for weeks. Karma, no doubt, for my grubby hands-on part in the drama.

    The horn came from a single car parked in the motel forecourt. I could see no one inside it, although the lighting was bad—two weak posts at either end of the lot, and the neon from the sign. Occupied or not, the car’s message was clear: time to leave again. When one’s freedom is imperiled, auguries come in bunches, and all signs and omens are there to be read.

    I knew Aurora would want to shoot up before we headed out, so I shook her awake, tore her from her sleep funk a little too gleefully. She took a while to swim through the layers, but as soon as her eyes opened and focused, I could see the feral need in them again. And I knew she could see the disappointment in mine.

    Things hadn’t quite worked out the way we’d hoped. But we still had each other. And the raw, wounded, anonymous night.

    She winced and I smiled. She didn’t smile. But heading for the anemic yellow bathroom, she drew on enough decorum to close the door behind her.


    Hours driving south, keeping to state routes. We were someplace that felt like the South. Arid expanses and weird industry. Huge dry lightning skies. Last night’s rain felt like someone else’s dream.

    Though I could still hear the damned horn.

    Out of nowhere, Aurora spoke.

    “A moment will come when I’ll sit on the toilet and shit out most of my organs.”

    “Girl, I thought you were asleep.”

    “You wish.”

    “Or you do.”

    She grabbed at my hand resting on the gearstick, held it like it was a sickly pet, and I could sense her staring at me. I could feel a great distant tremor broadcast through her fragile bones as they clutched my own. Urgent. Electric. I refused to turn my head, watched the next mile and then the next.

    At last she released my hand and sighed.

    “We know how this movie ends, chica.”

    I didn’t say a word.

    All day, this endless brooding sky had stayed the shade of bedraggled fleece, putrid like the underside of a dying sheep dragged through watery mud. Less a storm threat than a vast sulk.

    Dying too, the day sank into its dark gray shroud, tolerating a thin band of corpse-light to gleam briefly on the horizon. Stark against that sickly greenish strip was the refinery, bristling like a city conceived by an alien amygdala.

    “This ain’t no movie,” I said.

  17. I love the motel lights. The rain smeared night. The "huge dry lightning skies." Thank you.


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