Thursday, June 13, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

There's a sly, white slice in her eye - sheet metal gray around it. She takes everything of color; she absorbs the light.

"Tell me what's up."

Maybe it's nothing man, but sometimes nothing means something. Sometimes, it means everything.

You stick that sexy diffidence. It's delicious; it bends the very walls of the universe, cools like magma into a hard, gray shell.

I'm gonna be the lighthouse. I'm gonna be your nightmare. I'm gonna fuck your life up. And none of it ain't a bit fair. I will dance in the darkness while the church is burning; I will not fiddle.

Cast your sentiment aside and call me a coward. Listen as the minutes drop, flooding into hours. You look at me and it's all raw - the air, the feelings, the sound and touch and taste of it. I'm not talking about sex. Abasement.

Inside the twisted vortex of mind-fuck tapestries, behind your failed quests for justice or retribution - which are not the same things - you see a younger you who is afraid of what you have become. Your reaction to this child tells you everything you need to know about yourself.

So, the brain rumbles on and the thoughts keep tumbling. The fingers move like they're greased, but it takes a minute to find the rhythm. There's no rhyme to it.

It's different every time, see?

I'm just the conduit.



  1. A powerful conduit. Beautiful contradiction. Keeps life interesting.

    1. I like this. It falls somewhere between disturbing and erotic. Awesome.

  2. It is June, and the lupine have come into bloom. Even in the moonlight, you know they are blue, though they look silver now.

    You remember the first time you knew their name.

    He told you, told you they were the wolf’s flower. He said they grew where no other flowers would, that like peas they stole nitrogen from the air, and put it in the soil.

    He was like that. He stole things that were wandering and helped them took root.

    He did that for you.

    These years later, after you married him, after you raised three children together, after you grew old, after you watched him die, you wonder if it was fate or choice or desire or something else that brought you together.

    You touch the small blue blossoms on the stalk of flowers, you close your eyes, and you imagine your fingers are touching his lips. When you open your eyes, you realize you are kissing the wildflower.

    You wonder at the fact that the plant grew here, on this bare soil, on this, your wolfen husband’s grave.

  3. There are two myths about cowboys. One is the bigger the truck, the smaller the, um, endowment. The second is similar, but about belt buckles.

    When I met Liam, he was driving a Chevy S10 and wearing his Cheyenne Frontier Day’s champion belt buckle. I was cursing my luck at the side of a country road, sitting on the hood of my Toyota Corolla. My car now served only as an expensive resting place, since its engine seized. Who knew I was supposed to check the oil?

    So on this country road, a shortcut to my new job, I cursed everything about the state I moved to, Fate, and everything about my life.

    Between the crows’ loud disapproval of my choice of language, or maybe she was calling her family to dinner—there was some kind of roadkill where she sat—and the sound of thunder in the southeast, I heard the purr of an engine making its way down the road.

    Maybe there was hope after all.

    The little white pickup truck stopped behind me, put his flashers on, and I saw a man step out, pausing only to put his white cowboy hat on. Sunglasses hid his eyes, but everything else I saw was evidence of God’s reverence for the aesthetics of denim and leather.

    I put on my best “Yeah I’m stupid and yeah I’m from the city” smile on and walked a couple of steps toward him. He put out his hand to shake and told me his name. Liam. He smiled with teeth white as summer clouds above the Texas prairie. Then he took off his shades and I saw his eyes were the blue I’d only ever seen in the sky above those clouds.

    “Need a ride?” He asked in the voice of an angel.

    “I’d appreciate it,” I answered, noticing for the first time a hint of a drawl I’d somehow picked up in my first week here.

    “Where’d you like to go?”

    “Today’s my first day at a job in Austin.”

    He nodded without a word, and walked to the passenger side of his truck and opened the door.

    Not an angel. A night in shining armor. Well, Wranglers at least.

    I got in and he closed the door and walked around the truck to get behind the wheel, carefully removing the straw hat and placing it, rim up, on the seat between us.

    “Sorry about the dog hair. Shep’s my dog, and it’s shedding season.”

    1. I held up a hair to the sun, squinted at it, and asked, “A Border Collie?”

      His laughter, low and throaty, sounded like a purr. “Now how’d you know that?”

      “I’ve had the pleasure of their company from time to time. I hope I’m not putting you out too much.”

      “Nossir, I was headed into Austin myself. Supply day. Groceries. Some parts for the baler. Stuff like that.”

      “Got a ranch?”

      “Small now, but with a little luck, I hope to expand.”

      I didn’t snicker.

      We talked about my moving from the city to the country, about the old house I was renting, about horses and cattle and other critters I never met, and before we knew it, he was dropping me off in front of a building that bore the name of my new employer.

      “Well, here ya go. Good luck at the job.”

      “Thank you, Liam.”

      I checked my watch. Five minutes early even.

      “What time you reckon you’ll be done?”

      “About five, I think. Why?”

      “I expect you might need a ride back.”

      “You don’t have to...”

      “But I’d like to.”

      “Thank you again. You saved my ass.”

      He grinned. “See ya later.”

      The day went fast, and I couldn’t stop smiling, thinking about the cowboy.

      I saw him pull up outside at 4:45, all calm and cool, leaning his head back like he was going to take a nap.

      I knocked on the window when I finally got out of work, and there was that beguiling grin again. He jumped out, this time not bothering to put on his hat, and opened the door for me.

      “You don’t have to do that.”

      “Are you telling me not to be a gentleman?” He said in mock surprise.

      “I don’t think it’d matter what I told you,” I said.

      “Well, it might. For instance, it’d make me happy if you told me yes if I asked you to dinner.”

      That evening, I didn’t learn if either the truck or the belt buckle theory was based in fact, but I did learn that this particular cowboy had a big heart, cooked a mean steak, and knew how to kiss.

      My research on those other theories will have to wait, at least a little while, till I’m sure I have a willing test subject, but things are looking good.

  4. “We understand the surgery was successful Doctor,” she whispered. “And we are so very grateful. Thank you, thank you so much. But tell me, will he ever dance again?”
    The surgeon’s face which had been so reassuring a moment before, fell into something more resembling confusion. “He’s a dancer? “ Hastily, he scanned the medical chart. “I thought he taught middle school.”
    “He does,” she answered. “Of course. And he’s a celebrated author as well. Let’s not forget that. I was—just wondering…”
    “Oh. Okay. Whew! I mean, no offense, but he doesn’t exactly look like Nureyev, if you know what I mean. The middle school thing I got when he wanted to post that gross toe selfie of his bone spur. For the kids, I figured. Or maybe it was some back-ass allusion to the Presidency, if you want to go that deep. But I never figured on dancer. Nosiree. Not that it would matter. I got nothing against ‘em. Some man wants to put on a tutu and them tights, and jump around, I say go for it.”
    “But Doctor, you didn’t really answer my question. Will he ever dance again?”
    The Doctor cleared his throat uncomfortably and edged her further away from the bed. “En pointe?”
    “No, no…not like that. I was thinking more…”
    “Moonwalk? Well now, I could see that. With time, of course. Enough physical therapy.”
    She gasped and placed a hand over her mouth. “Moonwalk? Oh, God, not that. I remember there was this time at my sister’s wedding.” She closed her eyes against the memory. “I’ve never been so humiliated.”
    “So what are we talking here, then? Tango? Ballroom?”
    She smiled. “Never mind. I’m sorry to trouble you. I’m sure everything will be fine,” she said. “With time, and as you say, the proper physical therapy.”
    “Complete recovery. I can just about guarantee it.” The Doctor patted her arm. “Well I must be off now.” He offered a brief nod to the two girls waiting patiently on the other side of the room. “You ladies take good care of him, okay? He’ll be up and around in no time.”
    As he shut the door behind him, the woman sidled up to the patient’s bedside, singing softly under her breath. “I wanna put on, ma ma ma boogie shoes. And boogie with you.” She bent and kissed his cheek and he turned and sighed, a small playing across his lips.
    The woman turned, feeling the tug of a small hand on her t-shirt. She looked down at her daughter’s face and smiled.
    “Mama,” the girl whispered. “Does this mean I get to keep his tutu?”

  5. The vitriol settled into the stained linoleum. Still, neither of us moved. Ashley focused on the dripping faucet behind me; I took a sudden interest in my shoelaces. It should have been the end of the argument. The part where we’d take a deep breath and agree to disagree, like mature people. My original aim had been simple, or so I’d thought. I’d hoped to convince her not to worry so much. The time we had left on this planet was limited. Why spend it consumed with anxiety?

    Yet I bumbled forward, as if choosing different words or rearranging them would suddenly make her understand. “I only wanted to say that—”

    She gripped her purse strap tighter and looked at me like I’d slaughtered baby animals or something.

    “What? What did I do wrong now?”

    Her voice was brittle. “All I asked is if you were coming with me or not. You’re the one who had to turn it into an existential nightmare.”

    “An existential… I am not going to your theoretical end-of-the-world pray-in. I refuse to spend what could be my last New Year’s Eve on earth sitting outside in the cold lighting candles and atoning for the sins of humanity. Most of which I didn’t commit.”

    “Suit yourself.” Ashley began to turn, then stopped. “You really want me to kiss someone else at midnight?”

    “You have free will and a can of mace on your keychain. I seriously doubt you’d let yourself be kissed by someone if you didn’t want to.”

    Her eyes narrowed.

    “Yeah,” I said. “I’m an asshole. Try to have some fun. But don’t get pregnant. You know, in case the world doesn’t end and you need something extra to atone for.”

    And then she left. I cursed myself and flopped on the couch, arm over my eyes. Why do I say stupid shit like that? Why, when she stands there looking like the ripest peach on the shelf, does something break inside my head and whatever words happen to be hanging on for dear life come flying out?

    As usual, post-argument, I turned to the television for solace. It wasn’t helping. All they were playing, it seemed, was an endless loop of war updates. Glowing green streaks across the night sky in a country I didn’t know how to spell. As if it was all just a big video game. The announcers sounded like it, too. Professional voices barely concealing their ratings-hungry glee. I couldn’t move for a while, transfixed by the flashing lights, the air-raid sirens, the incongruously perfect hair of the correspondent in her flack jacket, gas mask dangling from her neck. How did she do that? Why were we fighting this one, again? The money? The oil? Someone’s little feelings got hurt? I couldn’t even remember anymore. With some alarm I realized three hours had passed. And that I was a total hypocrite. Who was out immersed in the world, and who was a soppy loser bemoaning the state of it?

    I grabbed my own gas mask and went out to find Ashley. Hopefully I could catch up with her before midnight.

    1. Wow... is there any genre in which you don’t excel? Beautiful, and sad, and all too real.

  6. "Breathe in, breathe out, move on," KT whispered for the hundredth time. She forced her eyes open and squared her shoulders before exiting the bathroom. After fifty years, she could barely recognize her husband. He wasn't normally that bad. She kept telling herself that, at least. He was fine at home. They lived a limited life, but he could negotiate it.

    Anyways, did it matter if he wasn't fine? What was she going to do about it? What would he let her do about it? They were where they were. There was no point in playing the "what if" game. She had to work with what she was given. Even if it was next to nothing. Even if it was terrifying. He could be managed...for the time being. She'd deal with later later.


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