Friday, March 29, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

I should lick the fog off the rooftops, set the sun free. Head down to the lake and pretend I'm fishing. Or get my shit together. Figure out a way to make a fortune while doing cardio. I'm stressed all the time; isn't that "cardio" enough? How hard does my heart have to beat? How many times do the balls inside my chest need to inflate … deflate … inflate...

I wonder what the fog would taste like? Probably hair spray and petroleum. It might kill me, or make me live forever as a freak superhero. I don't want great power. I don't want great responsibility.

I want a burrito that regenerates when you take a bite.


  1. Regenerative burritos should be a thing! Hope you feel better.

    1. Agreed. Those damn tamales I had down there too.

      I just realized your fog is like our rain.

      And ditto: feel better, my friend.

    2. I want a never-ending burrito. Feel better. NOW!

    3. Burritos. Bad for the stomach, but food for the soul.

    4. LOL @ Figure out a way to make a fortune while doing cardio. Get some rest and then let's work on this idea together. I'm in fully.

    5. That first sentence just kills. Looks like you hooked a school of us with your first cast.

  2. This one is going places... we'll see where it leads... Maybe a collection of short stories, maybe a novel. I'm playing with it.
    As trees go, the cottonwood is neither so picturesque as its cousin the aspen nor as upright as the poplar. It’s shimmering leaves catch the sun’s rays in summer and its rough bark is a pleasing way to scratch one’s back, whether one is a cowpoke or an elk.

    It is a mystery why the Great Plains had so few trees when the Easterners and Europeans came to traipsing through on the way to fulfilling dreams peddled to them by the railroads and the U.S. Government. Even along the great rivers—The Platte, The Arkansas—and their tributaries, there were almost no places to stop for shade in this land of dust and wind.

    The wood of a cottonwood burns fast, and leaves many ashes, unlike the hardwoods that many of the homesteaders knew from home, so it was unsuitable as firewood. It is filled with knots and rots quickly when exposed to weather so it was of little use for building. The extended lateral branches, the cause of all those knots, often break in windstorms or from old age.

    No, the cottonwood was not a particularly practical tree to those pioneers of the plains, but its height and its many side branches made it especially suitable for one task: Hanging.

    1. Wow. This is exciting, seeing you begin to follow an idea, almost like those same settlers tracing the great rivers. Keep us updated. And yes, the damn cottonwood is useless for firewood. This born-and-raised city boy soon discovered that when he lived in a place with a wood stove! :D

    2. I've become fascinated (morbid, I know) with hangings lately... I always assumed it was a relatively recent (well, since the Middle Ages) way of killing... I was surprised when I was reminded that the maidens of Ulysses household were hanged in The Odyssey. And of course all the lynchings, which I thought were confined to the south, but have learned also occurred out west. Hanging, not just for cattle rustlers. And then I started thinking about the impact that such cataclysmically evil doings might have on the tree as an unwilling participant... so yeah, this is fertile ground...

    3. Holy cats. Yes. This is going places.

    4. Whoa. Did not see where that was going at all. Thrilled to hear you talk about how the evil might effect the trees. I think about that kind of thing as well. Looking forward to more of this.

  3. I've been thinking about old dogs a lot lately... and trying to absorb the lessons of one particular old dog as best I can.
    Old dogs know all the important stuff
    How to enjoy the sun
    How to scratch an itch while sleeping
    How to hunt in dreams
    To see every rainbow, even if blind
    How to listen even with deaf ears
    How to lean on whom they trust
    How to snore without shame
    How to trust, how to love
    The fine art of sifting the important from the trivial
    To cherish every hello
    And the power of a quiet goodbye

  4. I wanted to tell you about the ones who watch. But I lost the thread. Look, if you have to begin again, whatever story you were trying to tell is no longer the same story.

    So take two.

    They are the ones who watch.

    Different ones. They are dirty and silent and sit on the landings of broken motels, and they wait. Surveilling some squandered lot under a pewter sky.

    A gravestone is a lozenge. Place it on your hungry tongue and wait while it dissolves. This might take a while. Decades even. Until… ah, death (death you rascal, you holy, holy rogue) is now inside you, as it should be. Let us meet again beneath a canopy of green, smiling and true, and grab my forearm, clasp my augmentations, my fingers as you insist on calling them, as they gesture and curl, urging unity, emblematic of accord, my compañeros, my luminous sisters, my radiant brothers, and wait.

    Sounds arrive, fashioned from beachcombed shells and the gentle breath of a hundred tides. An inner ear and some vulvic sculpture, such tender whorls and devotional twists of flesh. Folds and fabrications. To listen is to love.

    Following the atrocity, you arrive late at night. Unobserved, you think. Sleep a fitful hour or two. Moments after a weak and dilute dawn withdraws in shame, the children flock and sing their crude atonal rhymes beneath your window, and reluctantly you stagger from your bed to witness them.

    “Mister, we know why you’re here!” shouts one, because they’re the children of the ones who watch.

    But you can’t let it go, because comedy, so you call back.

    “Of course you do. It’s because your role in this tale is that of a Greek chorus.”

    And instead of retreat or bewilderment, the children’s grimy faces under the lice-swarming tangles once known as hair crease with such genuine joy that it brings you to your knees, and you begin to sob like a small child yourself, one who first believed the promised gift would be a pony or a trainset before you opened it and found the irradiated post-tsunami ruins of a miniature coastal town, which turned out, stunningly and over time, to be a more apposite bestowal.

    Because, mindful now, you watch too.

    How funny tragedy is. How hilarious the unfolding of awful things, witnessed from some window with a flower box beneath it, while songbirds gather staves and clefs for some abstract nest to compose and perform something lovely, even though their friends and colleagues plummet in fiery arcs around them.

    It doesn’t take a giant rock. Just millions of smaller ones.

    And still we laugh. Because it’s funny. There’s literally nothing in this world that isn’t funny. Otherwise nothing is.

    1. Absolute poetry... the images are searing and volatile. I used to envy you only for your vocabulary (a long while ago). Now I 'fess up to envying you for your ear for the language and for your imagination. Thanks for sharing this.

    2. Captured by the whole concept. The longer you watch, the funnier it gets.

    3. The paragraph that begins "A gravestone is a lozenge" sent me into such a tailspin with its surprising and burning prose I had to stop and start again too.

    4. Yes. What they all said. I also loved the gravestone paragraph. And there's a reason why all tragedy is comic and all comedy is tragic.

  5. This doesn't want to end yet, but maybe I've got the start of a buddy movie.


    Locked in the small cell, Eli had lost track of time. Mainly because the police had taken his watch. And his belt, and his shoelaces, and his favorite hat. But also because of the surreal turn his day had taken. One minute he was tucking new pages of his latest screenplay into the drawer, covering his typewriter, preparing to pick up a birthday gift for his three-year-old daughter on the way home, and then…

    He should have listened to his wife. She said to be careful, to maybe think about not going into the office today, because of what she’d read in the papers. And he’d laughed. Said it was a witch hunt. Ridiculous! How could anyone think he was a communist? Even if he was—and he wasn’t—was that something they could arrest a man for? In America? Yes, she’d said. They could. He’d written her fears off to her mother’s life in the old country, where Cossacks stormed through villages, setting shtetels on fire and arresting anyone they didn’t kill.

    Things like that didn’t happen here. No, he thought, staring despondently at the bars, they just arrest you because they don’t like your films. And then they take away your favorite hat. “Listen to your wives,” he told his cellmates. Three rough-looking characters in various stages of drunken dishevelment looked up at him with various levels of disinterest. “If they say to be careful, you should be careful.”

    “Shaddap,” one of them said. And he did.

    Watchless and hopeless, he gave up pacing in his flopping, laceless shoes and found a spot to sit on the floor. God knew what he might be sitting in, but weighing the alternatives, this seemed like the least objectionable.

    He was getting hungry. Surely he’d missed dinner by now, that lovely birthday dinner his wife had been planning. Maybe she’d been out at the market, a few last-minute things, maybe that’s why the home phone rang and rang. Just as he was about to call for a guard, he heard a commotion in the hallway and footsteps approaching. Eli rose to meet whoever might be coming by.

    It was the beefy, beady-eyed cop who’d taken away his watch. “Abramowitz?”

    He’d pronounced it wrong, but Eli didn’t think it wise to correct him. “Yes. Yes, sir. That’s me.”

    The beady eyes bored into his, also telling him to stop talking. And he did. The guard opened the door, backed up a few inches. “Get outta here.”

    Eli had so many questions. Who had bailed him out, since his one call did not reach the intended party? Who knew he was there? Would he be blacklisted, like Trumbo and Koch? But the guard didn’t look like he was interested. Eli just stammered, “Can I get my hat?”

    Waiting at the end of the hall was a man Eli had never seen before. With an infinitesimal stretch of the imagination, Eli could fit this man into one of his gumshoe mysteries. Trench coat, rough around the edges, squint-eyed, living on automat sandwiches and cheap booze.

    Before Eli could ask, the man said, “The studio sent me. Get your stuff and let’s go.”

  6. Part 2 (but still not done)

    Reunited with his favorite hat, and riding shotgun in a sleek roadster that definitely would not be the kind of vehicle his detective would be caught dead in, Eli considered which question he should ask first. What had he done wrong? Would the studio fire him? Would he also be blacklisted? And, at that very moment, the most urgent came out of his mouth. “Where are we going?” It definitely wasn’t toward the home he shared with his wife and daughter.

    The man took a long inhale, let it out, coughing a little at the end. “Safe house,” he said.

    “I…did you say ‘safe house’?” Was he dreaming? Was he stuck in the plot of one of his movies?

    “Hey,” the man snapped. “I coulda left you in that cage, you know. I had things to do tonight, none of which involved babysitting some screenwriter who got himself in hot water.”

    Eli definitely did not like the way the man said screenwriter. Like it was something he’d found stuck to the bottom of his shoe. “I don’t even know what I did. Please. All I want to know is what the hell I did…”

    “Zip it, Abramowitz. You were named. That’s all they needed.”

    “Named…” Eli fell back against the seat. He’d never work again. “Am I gonna have to…talk to the committee? Like Trumbo and Koch and the rest of the Hollywood Ten?”

    “That’s what we’re working on keeping you away from. Makes the whole studio look bad, if this gets out. So you’re gonna have to lay low for a while.”

    Eli tried to absorb all that, while watching the twinkling lights of the valley speed by. It sounded like a threat. But he had learned a thing or two from writing detective movies. “I need protection. Not for me. Well, okay, some for me. But mostly for my family. I have a wife, a little girl. Today’s her birthday. Just turned three. Has the prettiest curly hair, just like her mother. She did the cutest thing yesterday, see, she has this toy duck…”

    The man flicked his blinker and pulled off the freeway. “You talk a lot, for a writer. Anybody ever tell you that?”

    “Sometimes.” All the time. Maybe he’d chattered on too long at the deli, or while out getting coffee, or the myriad of other places he frequented when he wasn’t writing. Maybe he’d said something he shouldn’t have, and the wrong people overheard. He shook his head like he was trying to fling the thoughts out. “Will they be protected or not?”

    “Already done.” He turned onto a canyon road. “See, we had a meeting, the boss and me. And we decided that the best thing to do was relocate you.”

    “Like witness protection? Like the FBI?”

    He swore the man rolled his eyes. “No. Jeez. This ain’t a movie. Nobody’s trying to put the hit on you. Or your wife or your three-year-old daughter. It’s more like…protecting all of us by keeping you from putting your foot in your mouth. I mean more than you already have.”

    “And I can still write?”

    The man snorted a laugh. “Yeah. Sure. Write till your fingers fall off. Just don’t expect anyone to pay you for it.”

    Eli’s eyes narrowed. “So I am blacklisted. That’s what you’re saying.”

    “For now?” He pulled up to a nondescript house on a street of other nondescript houses, and cut the engine. “Yes.”

    1. Definitely keep going, Laurie. I love how you've gone all dystopian lately (although not the real-world reasons behind that)!

    2. I agree. Keep going. I'm already in love with these characters. Yesterday I posted a poem called The Hangman, written by Maurice Ogden, one of those blacklisted writers and actors. The way things are going in the US, I now fear for newscasters, reporters, and their writers.

    3. LOL @ and simultaneously love the idea of this being a "buddy movie". Let me echo our writer friends here and say if these characters are still talking to you please keep going. We all need reminders of how bad it can get.

    4. Thanks! They're still talking, and I'm still going.

  7. Have you seen Lady Liberty lately?
    You won’t believe what she looks like now…
    Like some caricature ugly political cartoon
    Some nasty giant blow up doll.
    But God, she was beautiful, back in the day,
    Looking out on the harbor, her torch held strong
    ‘Give me your tired and poor’ she said
    But that didn’t last long.
    Now it’s so many times she’s been under the knife
    Fixing her wrinkles and woes
    You wouldn’t even recognize her power and passion
    The stuff that she had so long ago.
    All the nips and tucks to keep her up, those clever alibis
    As we took what’s real and added implants, designer hair and shoes
    Cause freedom don’t matter when the cash is flowing
    And rumors of her drug addiction air on the Nightly News.
    Have you seen the Lady Liberty?
    Checked into rehab I heard.
    They found her weeping in the harbor.
    Too bad how she let herself go.

    1. Ah there's nothing like a whore who once had a heart of gold is there? Beautiful written and heartfelt piece.

    2. Oh, man. Just love this. And yes, makes me weep.

  8. It was mostly empty. That only made it easier to see everything.

    If he had to describe the kind of person who was in New York City’s Penn Station at 3:25 am on a Tuesday morning, he’d have to divide them into categories. For example, there were the people who worked there: red caps, ticket agents, porters, attendants for the wait station, maintenance, and the cashier from one open newsstand, were all included in that group.

    Then there were the homeless who came in two sub categories identified most clearly as men versus women. At that hour and place, homeless men usually stood in a row with their backs turned away from the main hall of human interaction. Instead they all cast their head and eyes downward, leaning almost identically over the metal banister bordering a glass half wall; the only thing separating the seated waiting passengers from the subversives. These homeless men carried very little, except what they could scavenge to eat or drink in the station while homeless women, like all women, carried their entire lives with them. Laden with bags and suitcases it almost appeared that these women might have adopted the illusion of traveling like he was, that is until they began to scream. In all fairness, some only chanted or spoke quietly to themselves.

    One such woman had startled the crap out of him when he first arrived. He’d been standing in the middle of the hall checking the train tables for his track number, which was usually invisible in this station until thirty seconds before boarding. The woman was dressed well enough and leaning against a column, her bags placed in a moat-like circle around her. She had headphones in her ears that were attached to her phone and she appeared to be on a call completing the picture of normalcy. Until—

    “Hullo?” Her voice thundered at a volume that made him flinch.
    “Hullo?” His head swiveled to see if anyone else felt the effect of having their ear drums reverberate.
    “Hullo! Ya fat scummy bastard!”
    She stopped talking suddenly. He assumed there was no one on the other end of the line or they were rendered deaf through her assault by conversation.

    It was shortly after that he decided that maybe spending the two hour wait for the next train should be done seated on the right side of the glass wall. Gaining entry was easy if one had a ticket to show. There were at least forty people in the seating area. Many were elderly. Some were couples. Some single White men of an indiscriminate age. There were, he thought, an unusual number of elderly black women. He wondered if so many of them traveled at that hour because of the chronic insomnia he knew his own grandmother had once suffered from or if it was only to save a few dollars on the trip. Whatever the reason, he felt reassured by their presence since he was the only college age African American man in the area.

    Together three empty seats beckoned. He sat in the middle with relief hoping to make himself an island. Putting his duffel under the chair and his suitcase directly in front of him he removed his slip-on sneaks exposing the color block mêlée on the socks his sister had given him for Christmas and stretched his legs to rest his feet on top of the suitcase. Within minutes he was asleep or given the ridiculous amount of partying he’d done with his friends earlier perhaps he’d just fallen unconscious.

    He felt encouraged to open his eyes forty-five minutes later, because he smelled the strong pleasant aroma of peppermint and girl. Breathing in he realized the girl’s head rested on his shoulder and she had curled her whole body into his side as if for warmth. It only took a minor adjustment of his head to help him gaze down at her fully. In repose she looked young but not jail bait. He guessed she’d been as inclined to rest as he’d been and didn’t realize what she’d done. Now he had a reluctant task. He had to wake her.

    1. Oh, this has a cinematic feel to it... I can see the camera sweeping through the station, following him, stopping on those he encounters, and then when he awakes. This is really good. I like how you created an island of peace and calm in the midst of chaos.

    2. I'm intrigued. The details are so sharp (love especially the description of the socks and the scent of peppermint and girl). I'm eager to know more.

  9. The Stolen Years

    It’s hard to calculate the lost years,
    since I’m not sure if I should count them
    one by one or exponentially against
    my sell-by date or shelf-life.
    What does it matter? They’re gone.
    I could make a good case you stole them,
    with your easy intent to hurt,
    with your puerile propensity toward
    always feeling the aggrieved
    when you’re actually the aggrieving,
    with your win-or-lose, life-or-death
    binary way of looking at life,
    just as long as you’re the one
    on the plus side of the ledger
    when the buzzer sounds.
    But what does it matter? They’re gone.
    I’ve tried recovering them, casting nets
    like this one to capture my lost good life.
    But like my life, they’ve gaping holes now,
    through which so much has slipped
    I can’t seem to hold them.
    And as I sail west toward that horizon,
    I have to admit, they’re gone,
    and it matters.
    It matters like hell.

  10. “What?!”

    “I wish you’d not sneak up on me like that. It freaks me out and I lose the flow,” I said.

    “What the heck does that even mean? Who’s THIS woman your main character’s talking about,” Jeanne said, her finger leaving a smudge on my computer screen. Her tone more accusatory than interrogative.

    “She’s the angel who smashed the bottle on the bow of his Titanic of a life,” I said.

    “The Titanic sunk,” she said. “So you’ve longed for some woman all this time? And you’re going to write about her for the whole world to read and talk about? I hate you.”

    “She’s imaginary, like Queen Elsa and Olaf,” I said.

    “Well she came from some somewhere inside you. You couldn’t have just made her up from nothing. Who is she, Eddie?” Jeanne said.

    “Do you know how many books I’ve read over my whole life? Thousands. And all those characters are smushed together up here,” I said, pointing at the side of my head. “My imagination just picks pieces of those characters and builds a new one. That’s where she came from. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll put a big notice on the flyleaf that swears that. Okay?”

    “Fourteen-point type?”

    “Eighteen,” I said.

    “Okay,” Jeanne said.

    “Now can I get back to this? My deadline…”

    “Okay. But please don’t work too late. We’re going to Mom’s tomorrow and you can’t be nodding off again.”

    “I’ll be up soon. I promise,” I said.

    When the door clicked shut, I returned to my keyboard, closed my eyes and that snowy day thirty years ago with Diana flowed back to me. And started I typing again.


Please leave comments. Good, bad or ugly. Especially ugly.