Friday, February 15, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!


Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.
The blossoms fell, curling into the swirl of water before an old, weather-beaten log – the boy sat patiently on a large boulder, his rod beside him. He studied the water. 
The sun also fell, in long, golden rivulets that seeped around the boys' resolve. It was mid-afternoon, and the soundtrack of birdsong and burbling water eased the roughness of the terrain, dulled its edges. In the distance, a crow called his indignant cry into the breeze, where it danced across the top of the pines.
For thirty minutes, give or take, the boy did nothing but watch and study. By watching the water, he could make a pretty good guess what it looked like under the surface. He saw old tree branches and stones that twisted the water in its course. In time, he also saw fish, imagined them – he knew where they would be.
With slow, quiet movements, the boy picked up his rod and cast a small salmon-egg hook – just the right size for a kernel of niblets corn. He did not use salmon eggs. Never had. Wouldn’t recognize one if he saw it. Didn’t know what color they were. He knew only that the small golden hooks were cheap – and the perfect size for fishing corn. Whether the fish liked corn or salmon eggs given the choice, the boy did not know, nor, did he care.
He was in no hurry and, one finger on the line to feel for bites, he let the corn float through the eddies before lifting it and recasting it farther out. Sometimes closer. If he had been old enough to drive and city enough to drive on freeways, he might have seen this as a kind of merging. He knew when the currents changed and he directed the corn through the churning water. After some time, the boy twitched the tip of the rod briefly whereupon, it doubled over. He let the fish tire itself out before bringing it to the bank. From his back pocket, he pulled an old Barlow knife which he used to kill the fish. A hard rap to the head, so as to prevent it suffering. Then, he wrapped the fish in wet cloth and put it in the shade.
It was then that the tranquility of the scene was destroyed as a middle-aged man in waders, vest, fishing cap, and wool shirt used his fly rod to part the branches in front of him as he walked. He stopped when he saw the boy, raising an arm in salutation.
“Howdy!”
The word sounded off, like it was coming from the wrong mouth. Like he was putting on an accent. It was a pregnant ‘howdy’ and the boy answered cautiously.
He nodded a greeting and stared at the water. The man came closer, closing the distance between them.
“You live around here? You fish here a lot? Where are the good spots?”
The boy looked at the toe of his tennis shoes and mumbled. He did not know how to answer the questions. They were questions that didn’t deserve or warrant answers. He did not want the man to know anything about him or the water. He did not want the man to know that this spot was a cathedral. Fishing was communion.
“No sir.”
“You don’t know anything about this place? Come on – I only have five days to fish…”
There was a lilt in the request – the boy could see that he was trying to ingratiate himself, the funny guy. Teasing. He didn’t like it. It felt like a game or like he was the butt of a joke and everyone was laughing. He didn’t want to talk to the man, and he certainly didn’t want him fishing close by.
The man stuck a cigarette into the corner of his mouth, but didn’t light it. The sun seemed too hot, and the boy squirmed before deciding this was an OK time for a small lie. He did not like lying, but he didn’t like strangers either.
“Fishing isn’t too great unless you’re willing to walk. Up a few miles it widens out – that’s where the big ones are.”
The man smiled.
“You didn’t feel like walking?”
The boy did not answer. The man grabbed the bill of his cap and tugged on it in a contrived, mechanical way. Then, he lit his cigarette and headed in the direction the boy had indicated. He was a carnival – a parade of noise and flash. The boy began to feel bad for the water. For the fish. They didn’t deserve this.
The boy got his line back in the water, but something ineffable had changed. 

To be continued...
#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..

9 comments:

  1. Will always got a perfect mark from his favorite professor. I didn’t begrudge him his academic success. He came from pretty tough circumstances. First of his family to go to college, small rural high school and all.

    Okay, I kind of resented the fact that Will Shakespeare got a reputation as “the most inventive and gifted writer our English Department has seen in decades,” according to the newsletter to alums and donors.

    Will was a nice guy, friendly and well-spoken. We hit it off our first week at a mixer. I’d say he over-compensated for his farm boy upbringing by strutting like he was always on stage or something, but it got the attention he craved.

    “Christine, I understand you write poetry,” he said as he swept up to me.

    “Yep. Had a few things published. But I want to be a doctor, so my artist side will have to take a hiatus.”

    “Wow, I’d love to have my words published one day. See my stories turned into plays, movies or even video games. Would you like to read some?” Will said.

    “Sure,” I said. They were pretty bad.

    After that, Will was always hanging around my room, if he wasn’t sucking up to the head of the English Department.

    Soon it became, “Chris, I’m having trouble with this poem.” “Chrissie, how can I fix this essay?” “Hon, can you fix this story for me, please?”

    More often than not, I ended up putting aside my Organic Chem or Spanish 3 and essentially rewriting his work.

    “What do you think of this?” he’d say.

    “Will, you saw that on TV just last night.”

    “So, it was a good story.”

    “Yes, but you have to switch it up, give it a different slant, change the characters and setting, and puh-leeeze stop writing ‘should of’ when it’s ‘should HAVE.”

    He was sweet. Handsome in a gentle, long-haired, softly goateed way. I loved how he’d massage my shoulders while I turned his chicken shit prose into Chicken Kiev for Professor Kaplan.

    He’d compliment my hair, my smile, my new bedspread, my nails. And my clothes, always my clothes.

    He’d wear those skinny jeans with buttoned shirts that bordered on something from Forever 21. He even asked if he could borrow one of my peasant-sleeved blouses. He was pretty thin and could wear a size 10 or a medium. Like me.

    Next thing I know, he’s stolen a pair of my leggings and wearing them around campus under a pair of workout shorts. And he was about as unathletic as an English/Theatre major could be.

    “Will, I want my clothes back,” I told him.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, Chrissie. I thought I’d try that look. Nathan loved it and he gave me a pair of his running tights instead — more colorful than plain black. I’ll drop them off tomorrow.”

    Nathan was Professor Kaplan. And tomorrow was never. Next thing I know, Will left school. He headed to New York with Kaplan to meet some of his old theatre buddies. No note or any kind of goodbye. When I got back to school for senior year, I saw another of those alumni mags with Will on the cover. It said he’d become a protege of some writer-producer and debuted his first off-Broadway play, which got great reviews from the New York papers.

    I can’t remember if I cried the night I read that or not. Not that I should care what a skinny, femme, social-climbing, plagiarizing wanna-be Sam Shepard did with his life. I was headed to Duke Medical School, after all.

    Will died recently. Nice obit in The Times. I was surprised when I received a letter at my practice from a New York lawyer.

    The Broadway whiz kid had mentioned me in his will. I was to receive his second Golden Globe, the one for that execrable movie that his last mentor had juiced the Hollywood Foreign Press to give him the win.

    A second envelope, addressed in Will’s flourishing script was addressed it to me, Christine Marlowe. I pulled from it a note written by Will. It read:
    Good friend, for Christ’s sake listen,
    Without you my career would sure be missin’.
    Thanks for always being there to save my ass,
    And fuck those critics who doubted I had class.

    Yeah, he always sucked as a writer. But the boy could act. Oh, how I loved that boy’s act.

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  2. Making a Joyful Noizzzzz

    I’m trying to write something happier
    something outside of the same old dark stuff.
    Problem: I don’t wish to sound sappier,
    but convey more than a dog barking “Ruff.”

    I said, “Joe, what would make you feel better?”
    But the answer didn’t make itself clear.
    I knew maybe when my whistle’s wetter…
    So I went to the kitchen for a beer.

    Sustained, I sat to make happy happen,
    but just beer alone can bring on a yawn.
    The next thing you know this poet’s nappin’,
    rhyming “yawn” with the sound of wood sawin’.

    So my hope to write you a poem of joy
    lies delayed beneath your sleeping old boy.

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  3. Some men hunger for other places, no matter where they are. Others are at home in whatever place they find themselves.

    He was a man who carried home with him; not on his back, but inside himself. I’d seen him first in Antwerp and assumed he was a local. I saw him again on a mountaintop in Wyoming. When I met him a third time, it was at high tea in the Brown Palace, in Denver.

    He sat alone at his table, with a book that held his interest. My curiosity would not be stifled this time.
    I rose from my table, excusing myself from the friends who accompanied me on this monthly outing.

    “Pardon me,” I said, uncertain of what to say next.

    He looked up from his book and he stood, offering his hand and a smile.

    “I feel as if we ought to know each other,” I said.

    He listened.

    “I mean, I’ve seen you in other places...”

    Quietly he spoke, “Yes, I’ve noticed you, as well.”

    I tried to make light, “You’re not stalking me, are you?” but my laugh fell flat.

    His eyes were green. Very green. If I did not have exactly the same shade of eyes, I might have thought he was wearing contacts to enhance the color.

    “And you wonder who I am.” He said it without pretense, without judgement, and without an accent.

    Having spent all my energy on the first few sentences, I only nodded. I noticed, standing this close to him, that he was not as young as I first imagined. Not old, by any means, but a good two decades older than I.

    “If I were you, I’m sure I would wonder, too.”

    “You’re not going to tell me?”

    “If you look very closely, you’ll find you already know. Would you care to sit down?”

    “What are the odds, that I’d see you in Antwerp, in Wyoming, and now here?”

    “Very good, I think. I’ve been traveling, visiting favorite places of my youth. Places with memories dear to me. Places where I might have taken more chances, but where I stayed with the safe options.”

    “Safe?”

    He stared at me. “I learned too late to take risks. To ski, despite the possibility of a broken leg. To eat local food, though I might be sick after. To love, even if I might gain naught but a broken heart.”

    “But who are you?”

    He looked down at his book, now lying on the table, clean pages against the starched white tablecloth.

    “Always direct and to the point, eh?” He removed the napkin from his lap, leaned close to my ear and whispered, at the same time I saw the title of the book, “I am you, my friend. I am you.”

    The title of the book was Time and Again, and when I dared raise my eyes to his, he was gone. Vanished. Only his book remained.

    The piano player adeptly began playing one of my favorite pieces of music, Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

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  4. Dan, your fishing story is haunting... and the beauty and ugliness are like sweet and sour... I look forward to the continuation.

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    Replies
    1. Me, too. Loved it, all the small moments and pictures and the stillness, then the stillness broken. Looking forward to more.

      Delete
  5. Part one. Still writing part two.

    She didn’t expect a hero’s welcome, after how long she’d been gone and the sorry state of affairs that had been their parting. She thought about that on the crappy old diesel bus, the only one running west from New York, over the rutted, bombed-out roads that would not be repaired for some time. In her great-grandfather’s day, boys returning from war received their due. She’d seen the pictures, heard the stories. The town square had been tarted up with flags and bunting, maybe the high school band would march around. There’d been a parade. All the town folks threw their doors open to the prodigal warriors; everyone wanted them to come for Sunday dinner; everyone wanted to thank them for their service, set them up with their daughters and sisters and cousins. This was a very different war. Worse even than Vietnam, because this time, the war had come for them. Nobody greeted her at the small town bus station but folks with hollow eyes and hands out, and she’d given all she had including half the clothing in her pack.

    “Sorry, dude,” she said, over and over. To the outthrust palms and tragic eyes. Fury building all over again that it had come to this. As she hitched up her near-empty pack, she headed away from the bus station, away from the broken people waiting for food deliveries and loved ones and good news. She didn’t have much to tell them, other than it was over, and like everyone else, they had to either wait for more help to arrive or go get it themselves. That was all she’d been doing for the past two months: loading and unloading trucks of food and water and emergency supplies, shoveling debris, taking inventory of the damage. Far below her pay grade, but not only was it a debt she’d gladly repay for her nation, it was just the human thing to do. All she wanted now was some peace and quiet, and a hope and prayer that something was left of the farmhouse she’d left behind. Maybe someone, too? Or maybe that was too much to ask.

    She barely recognized the town. The gazebo in the square had been torn down, used for firewood, she presumed. Windows broken, up and down the street, cars left where they’d died when nobody could get enough electricity to charge them, when there wasn’t a gas-powered vehicle to be found, nor the fuel to run it. They were all so quick to jump into the new technology, rarely thinking about what would happen if they lost that, too.

    The church she’d refused to attend with her parents was half-blackened and stove in, the steeple somehow hanging on to a precarious angle. The library she’d escaped to when life at home got too hard…that was also a burned-out wreck. The grocery store had been picked clean and now seemed to serve as shelter, full of raggedy cots and raggedy people.

    She wanted to help them all. She wished she’d brought more. Hopefully another delivery crew would be reaching this area soon.

    As she was wishing and hoping, and wondering where she might find a working phone to call in a favor, a large shadow fell between her and her destination. She inched her left hand to the gun in her coat pocket. And then the shadow laughed. It was a laugh she hadn’t heard in years. The last time she heard it they were both half-blitzed and making out in the back of his pickup. Before the argument. Before a lot of things. He seemed to be remembering them now.

    “The hell you doing back here, GI Jane?”

    “Oh, I don’t know,” she said, still holding on to her gun. “I thought maybe they’d give me a parade.”

    “You just missed it.” He shook his head. “Damn, girl, you’re a sight.”

    She wished she could say the same. Her old boyfriend, fiancé, whatever, looked like he’d crawled out from under the porch after a three-day drunk. Unfortunately, she knew that look. “Tell me you weren’t in the militia.”

    The smile was oily. “Desperate times,” he said, palms up, gesturing surrender.

    “Fuck you.” She brushed by him, giving his arm a shove with her shoulder as she passed. “And if you fucking follow me, I’ll shoot you.”

    “Love you too, baby.” He followed. “So, where are we going?”

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  6. Well. Part 2

    Luckily for his health and her quantity of ammunition, he stayed put. That didn’t stop him from yelling rude things at her, bullshit like her folks were gone, like nobody missed her, which she had to marshal all her self-discipline to ignore.

    She had a good three-mile walk ahead of her, and farther she got from town and his running mouth, the road smoothed out some. Maybe it hadn’t been worth bombing the crap out of the middle of nowhere. The sun canted toward the last rise before the farm. A view she remembered fondly, as a child, pulling her red wagon, empty of the eggs she’d sold to neighbors. With some relief she saw the house and barn were still there, unharmed. Pop’s old red truck sat in the driveway, making her smile. She was fool enough to allow herself the possibility that everything was still as it had been. That they had hunkered down and somehow survived. She even imagined a cherry pie cooling on the windowsill. Stupid things you remember.

    “Stop right there!” A shrill, weary voice. She focused on the source. The barrel of a hunting rifle. A woman peeking out through a crack in the front door. “You! Hands where I can see them!”

    She raised her hands, mouth dropping open. Mom?

    “I’m gonna count to ten and if you don’t—”

    “Mom!”

    The barrel lowered, only a few inches. The woman, a bent gray bag of bones, squinted into the falling sun. “Daisy?”

    “Mom, put the gun down.”

    “No. No, ma’am. I will not. You are not my Daisy.”

    So she’d cut all her hair off. So she had more tattoos than bare skin, in some places. “Oh, for God’s sake. Mom.” She pulled her dog tags out from under her shirt. “It says so right here.”

    Daisy came a step closer. “Name, rank, serial number. I can also tell you all the cows’ names. I know that you hate killing the chickens, so you make Dad do it for you. Now, come on. Put the gun down and—”

    BLAM!

    She nearly jumped out of her skin. “Mom! What the—” She could barely hear her own words from the percussion of the far-too-close-for-comfort blast. Or what her mother was apparently screaming and shouting about. She looked over her shoulder. Creeping horror ran down her body as the blood pooled from the man’s chest. He’d followed her from town. The bastard had followed her. And he’d had a gun. Instinct made her grab it, made her run up to the broken woman on the front porch and take her tightly in her arms and soothe her tears.

    “He’s been…he’s been coming around here,” she said through sobs. “Making trouble. Stealing food for the militia boys…always asking when you’re coming home…”

    Daisy patted her mother’s back and gently removed the shotgun from her hands. “Well, we don’t gotta worry about him now.”

    Eventually she felt her mother relax. Then a little sob escaped her. “Does this mean the war’s over?”

    “Yeah. Yeah, Mom, it is.”

    “Oh. Oh, good. I… I didn’t like shooting any of those boys.”

    Daisy had no words. Her mother patted her arm. “You wait here,” she said. “I’ll go get your father and we can bury this one with the others.”

    ReplyDelete

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