High noon. Remember that shit? Settle your differences. Vent your spleen. Sure, it was stupid. But it was contained. How many times you read about a cowboy loser shooting as many people as he can for some imagined slight? I mean, ideally, we wouldn't settle bullshit with bullets, but what the fuck? No one gives a shit about your manifesto. No one cares about you aside from the other pale, twisted weirdos on 8Chan.
I wonder if you will ever realize what you really took. Love. Faith. Family. Security. All gone in a second because an asshole in a suit told you things you wanted to hear and life has been so unfair. Gotta be somebody to blame. Gotta be some kids worth killing for your frustration.
I didn't get my side of ranch. I'm gonna punch every waitress in this place.
And I'm so tired of this gun debate. If guns aren't the problem, lets have a gun free year and see what changes. And tell me again about knives in England. You know how many mass knife massacres there are? You ever tried to kill someone with a knife from thirty feet away?
I guess I'll just wait until it's my turn. Go down with my knife in my hand, saying, "yup, told you so you fucking idiots."
The new American Dream.
Bravo. Well said, brother. It's so heartbreaking because it's so avoidable.ReplyDelete
Man. Raw and heartbreaking and so spot on.Delete
If we go down, we go down together. Painful and beautiful and brave, my friend.Delete
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"If you must die, sweetheart, die knowing your life was my life's best part.” — Keaton HensonReplyDelete
They said it was Banksy. The last painting. The howling boy on the wall of the capitol. We’ll probably never know, but I saw it, and it sure looked like a Banksy.
You can’t really miss a black bear. The dripping, flexing arms of the forest murmur their shades of green, some a pale jade whisper, some an emerald shout, some so abysmal they’re nearly black, and within those dark branches lie shadows, blacker still. Yet a black bear, once it crosses your visual field in front of or within those varied shades of green, is a piece cut out of the world, a stark absence, a patch of lonely void in the shape of a bear. At which point, is it even a bear?
We sit in a quiet corner, you with your floppy hat and me with my eighties obsession that I can barely articulate.
“Try my hat on,” you say.
“I’d prefer not to.” I realize this is a hat store, and I balk.
“Ha ha, that’s why I love you! You let me down gently, like an escalator.”
“No idea what you’re talking about, but you’re my friend, and I love you too, of course. Why are we even saying any of this? It’s a given.”
“Nothing’s a given. We’re renewing our friendship vows.”
“Um, you can stop now. Stop talking, that is. For fuck’s sakes. My toes are cramping.”
“Which only makes me love you more.”
“Shut up. Uh. Please, shut up.”
“Let’s go see some sights.”
“Yes, the new Banksy. The one we literally dropped everything to come and see.”
She had a way about her, a mood, something impossible to say no to.
But yes, back to art and stuff. Life. Banksy or not.
What matters? Stale toast and the late, lazy flap of corvids against a peach sunset. An avocado pit sending tendrils. A butter churn. Scaffolding arched above a sidewalk, mauve and crimson night leaking into the tubular screens of its graceless folded geometry. Umbilicals. A honeybee nudging petals, reticent as a new lover. “I can’t breathe.” Do unto others. Me too. Make me an instrument of thy peace. Do what thou wilt, though it harm none. Keep on truckin’. Just do it. The great oil canvas of Serengeti brushstroked by wildebeest. Boreal trails of the caribou. Helpless, tenacious Marlowe balanced on the unlikely ridge spanning love and cynicism. The shock of a black locust on the whitewashed farmhouse wall, droning stark on stucco. Slanted dusty rays of old gold across grocery scales. The micro worlds of toys, all those chimes and astonished faces. And she has gone to Carterhaugh. How long, baby, how long? Stripe of the Bengal tiger, the lion’s nasal folds, the cougar’s stern and diffident brow. Howling alien nowheres blazoning the arrant vacancy of forsaken love. Pissing your name in a snowbank, or better yet an obscenity. Reeking fresh leaves of basil torn and open as the Sacré-Coeur. Bats exploding from a granite mouth, hurtling like scorched sparks in the quiet fire of twilight. Reciprocity: mouthing a woman to orgasm and being sucked. Croissants warm in the slatemine morning beside the drifting river. Dreamed unearthly cathedrals. Black lives never not mattering. The hart of the wood, the heart of the would, a-bloom with grief and guilt. Kiln-baked pizzas assailed by artichokes. Rooks prattling in a copse, jackdaws likewise on ramparts. Blastocysts zapped by lasers. Terror cells cleansed by drones. Eyelashes shipped free by Amazon. Thirst, in all its forms.
Smiles like an ocean horizon, faint, blue, where the sky is stitched.
A baby crying on the floor, abandoned. Cold concrete and a massive ceiling. A bear seeking entry, quivering snout attuned. Junior’s alone and loud, his laments a looping echo of their own discordant song.
“Come back now. Did you hear me? Where did you go?”
My ears half-closed, my heart is like a cannonball, shock aroused by alcohol, patterns like a dream tattoo.
Open my secular breast. These dripping fragrant delicacies I’ve saved for you.
Wow, as I so often say when reading your words. Wow. The "What matters" paragraph is one of the finest paeans to life I've ever read. Absolutely breathtaking.Delete
Thank you so much, my friend. Kind words indeed.Delete
So many stunning images. Thank you.Delete
It starts off like any other love story…right?! So I meet this guy, we start talking and he seems very nice, respectful and just the kind of man I think I can corrupt. So we talk for about a week and decide to go out on a date. We meet at the restaurant; I get there first thinking I’ll size him up when he walks through the door. He gets there shortly after me; we embraced then we are seated at our table. We have great conversation and food. (So I always had this rule that when I dated, I wouldn’t sleep with anyone or go to his place until after three dates.) We part ways, me thinking I’d never hear from him again but low and behold I get a text from him. There was something intoxicating about him that I just could not put my finger on. He invites me to coffee the next weekend and I accept.ReplyDelete
We’re at coffee and talking, the question comes up whether or not “coffee” is a date? I’m like, “YES”!!!! I might as well have gotten down on my knees and sucked his cock. Anyway, he invites me to dinner at his apartment during the next week (remember my rule), I accept. (See a pattern.) I can’t say no to him, no matter what he asks it’s like I’m under some kind of spell. We continue to text, I think I’m corrupting him by telling him I want to be tied up during sex (no I’m not). It was casual. I thought nothing of it. He gives me his address the day of, I arrive and we eat. Next thing I know I’m tied face down on the bed spread eagle blindfolded by a man I don’t know. He is everything I ever wanted sexually. He was a fantastic lover.
Ok, I promised weird, so after that incredible adventure, I tell him casually that I want to see him and other people. He says the same. But I can’t get enough. I see his face in every man I run into on the street. I find myself hanging on his every word. I drive over an hour to see him every night just to spend time with him. One night, we are at his place just enjoying each other’s and he tells me he has something to show me. I’m like sure. So he ties me to the bed, naked, on my back. I thought, how fun is this then he pulls out a box.
It was a plain wooden box but there is a noise coming from it like, clicking. Click, click, click, click, in rapid succession. I was so mesmerized by the clicking that I hadn’t noticed the cloak or the dagger. With the blade in one hand and the box in the other, this cloaked man stalked toward me. He unlatched the container, which housed the clicking sound with his cutlassed hand and he slowly opened it. As he opened it the clicking got louder, clearer and then it was open, he was lowering it, tipping toward onto my stomach.
In a trance, I couldn’t see what was in the caisson, the clicking was so hypnotic and then as it was sliding out onto my stomach, I saw it. Snapped out of my abstraction, I screamed, in my futility I fought against the restraints to no avail. It was on me, making the sickening clicking sound. I didn’t dare struggle anymore for fear it would lash out. I lay still hoping my tormentor would have mercy on and let me go but through tear soaked eyes I couldn’t see him. He had left the room. He left me with that monstrosity. I couldn’t move for my cowardice told me it would strike. Again, faintheartedness kept me from breathing for it might wound me. I was terrified. I slowly lifted my head, I heard voices, not loud but they were there. I was afraid to call out for fear that that “thing” on me would inject its toxins inside my flesh. The voices were coming closer, I wanted to scream but moving without the wrath of that creature would have been precarious. As my captor and the other voice got closer, I found myself looking straight into the mutant’s eyes. It scurried closer trying to get a better look. I close my eyes and prayed that it grows tired; leaving with the two predators who pursued me. I could tell by the way they looked at me they entertained a certain idea of me in their mind, it was apparent to me at this point that my courter had meticulously planned what was going to happen next, my only concern was if I was going to survive.
That got my heart racing... scary stuff!Delete
I like that it's unresolved. I came up with so many scenarios about how it might play out.Delete
Part 1 (Part 2 in comments)ReplyDelete
He’d told Evelyn he was fine. It wasn’t like he’d seen combat during the war. Not that he would have turned down the call to go overseas and kill some Nazis, but the studio saw things differently. They’d partnered with the Office of War Information and went to work making newsreels, pumping up the war effort, getting people to buy bonds and save their scrap metal and plant their victory gardens. The only combat Eli Abramowitz saw was what he previewed on film in the editing room. It was enough to last him a lifetime, though. When people went to their local theaters, they saw the best and brightest. They saw their All-American boys standing tall and shiny in their uniforms. Waving from their cockpits fresh from shooting down more German planes. Brave, steady, and true as they aimed their gunwales and fired.
They didn’t see what was on the cutting room floor.
He didn’t want her to worry.
The nightmares weren’t too bad. He’d wake with a start when the tank rolled too close for comfort, when the plane went into a tailspin, before the bomb detonated. She barely noticed. On the rare occasions where she stirred, he’d say some comforting words and urge her to go back to sleep.
Then the shaking started. A little tremor at first. He thought perhaps he’d been working too hard, getting back into the swing of things behind his typewriter, and his fingers had lost the rhythm. Ridiculous, he thought. He’d been at the keys since he bought himself his first typewriter with his bar mitzvah money. He’d stay up late into the night writing detective stories, then screenplays. If there was an Olympic medal for typing, he’d win the gold.
He nearly dropped his coffee.
He was running out of excuses.
“Are you all right?” She pressed a hand to his shoulder. “You know, I’m sure the studio would let you have a little time off, considering…”
“Considering what?” He didn’t mean to say it so loud, so sharp. She looked wounded, and it made his chest ache. He pulled her into his arms. “I’m sorry. You’re right. Maybe we could get away for a few days.”
They went to Santa Barbara. Stayed in the same bungalow where they’d honeymooned before the war. How light he’d felt back then. Like it was all a dream. He couldn’t believe his luck. Who gets the girl and the job he’d always wanted?
But this time he felt leaden. “Maybe just get some sleep,” she said, and when he woke next the sun was setting and she sat on the deck. He watched her through the window, his eyes soft, half closed. Wider as she stood, stretched, and in her two-piece bathing suit slipped back through the screen door. It snapped shut and he flinched. Her smile faded.
“I’m fine,” he said. Careful with his tone. She sat beside him and played with a tuft of his hair.
“I know,” she said. “But I’m here. I’ll always be here.” She leaned in close, mischief in her eyes. “I nearly lost you once, picklepuss, and if you make me lose you again I swear I’ll kill you myself.”
“Will you?” He grinned, tumbling her down beside him. “Tell me. How would you do it? A knife? Poison? A pearl-handled Derringer you keep in your garter?”
She laughed, then sobered. She took his hand and slid it to her belly and the warmth of her bare skin. “Well, I could hardly do you in now. With the baby and all.”
“Baby.” He sought her eyes. “Baby?”
“Apparently,” she drawled, “it was quite a happy VE day for all concerned.”
For a time their gazes locked, their smiles wide. Then his face softened. If he could barely hold his coffee cup, how could he hold their child?
“Gosh, you’re cold. Here, let’s get under the covers.”
He moved woodenly as she nestled behind him and pulled the blankets up. Thoughts crashed like ocean waves in his mind.
“Evelyn. How are we going to do this?”
“Like people have been doing for thousands of years. Honey. We’ll be fine.”
You can’t know that, he thought.
Her arms tightened around him. Her voice was soft, yet still with the humorous lilt that he’d always found so appealing. “Your parents did it. My parents did it. And we turned out totally normal. Well, mostly.”
He let that soak in. Felt her breath warm against the back of his neck as he listened to the waves break and the seagulls cry. The breeze rattled the screen door, picked it up and smacked it closed.
Her body tensed. “I’ll go latch that,” she said, and he reached for her arm.
“Just stay here with me a while.”
The wind tugged at the door twice, three times. By the fourth time, he barely noticed.
Such gentleness, such pain. I want to know these characters even more.Delete
And that ending is perfect. So understated, yet so quietly profound.Delete
Though the window was open, there was no birdsong when he awoke. Even the bee that frequented the rose outside the window was missing in action.ReplyDelete
He rose from bed, yawning in a desperate attempt to get oxygen to his brain.
The sky was still pink with dawn. Naked and unrepentant, he stood at the window, awaiting sunrise.
His clock radio clicked on. The normally soothing voices of the NPR hosts were babbling and high pitched this morning. His sleep-addled brain tried to make sense of their rapid fire words.
“Assassination attempt.” “Foreign actors.” “Grazed the President’s heel.” “Elections postponed.” “National emergency.” “Martial law.”
When he’d gone to sleep last night, it was in the world’s greatest democratic republic. And this morning, he awoke in the world’s newest autocracy.
It was going to be a very long revolution.
Damn. Way too plausible. Also, extra kudos for "the president's heel." Ha ha ha.Delete
Wow. Yes. Very plausible. Damn those bone spurs. LOL.Delete
Angus of the Hundred NamesReplyDelete
I live in the country. I have a dog. We go for a lot of long walks. Now, when I say country, I don’t mean the green woods of New England, but the desert of New Mexico. There are a lot of bulls and cows in New Mexico.
My dog, Angus, now he’s a herder. I think but cannot verify that he has some border collie, some shepherd, and some heeler in him, and he loves cattle.
One day, late in the afternoon, we were walking a dirt road, toward a big old cottonwood tree that I knew. I thought we’d rest there before turning back. No cattle in the pasture we were walking by, so Angus was just scooting around while I kept my eyes out for rattlesnakes.
We topped the last hill before the tree, and angus saw him just before I did. Someone else resting in the shade of our intended destination.
Long legs stretched out and clad in well worn denim. Back against the rough trunk of the tree. Black cowboy hat tilted down over his face. Hands clasped on his chest. He looked like the cover of one of them western stories they sell in the drugstore.
I looked down at Angus, and I was torn whether we should turn back for home or keep on walking.
Angus makes decisions faster than I do. He took off toward the tree and the cowboy, and I walked fast behind him. He stopped about six feet back from the cowboy and waited for me to catch up.
Then he barked. Once. And waited. And waited some more.
The hands unfolded, and the hat tipped back in place, and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen stared back at the dog. Then a smile appeared on the scruffy face, and he opened his arms, and damned Angus jumped right into his lap.
“I reckon it was time for me to wake up, anyway,” he said as he finally looked at me.
I started to apologize, and he shushed me.
“Unless you’d like to sit down and keep me company awhile.”
And that was how Angus added another name to the hundred others he already had. “Matchmaker.”
Dog’s been gone some twenty years, but every now and again, I swear I hear his bark, when my cowboy and me have a picnic under that cottonwood tree.
That damn cottonwood! This has a quite different voice from your usual. Another arrow in your quiver?Delete
Nice! I was also noting how that cottonwood follows your characters around.Delete
She shifted against him, the bony spur of her hip digging into his stomach. “You want to fool about,” she asked, the tone of her voice part playful, part mocking.ReplyDelete
“Yes.” He said it without thinking, the word erupting from his lips. He knew he had no social standing at the office. He was one of those people who came, did what they were told and then went home every night. He’d never been invited into the after-hours group he’d heard about. He’d presumed that they met somewhere else, somewhere in the town, somewhere where they served alcohol until the smaller hours of the morning. There were rumours that other things went on too, that there were few inhibitions that weren’t challenged.
“My, you do have a little fire in your gut. Melissa was right about you. She’s been watching you for a while, noticing the things you do. I’d thought you were just a drone, 100% business, but she said that that was a shell.”
“Melissa?” He was surprised. He’d noticed her – who couldn’t when she dressed like that – but he’d always thought she was busy, doling out her attention sparingly among her retinue. Wherever she went men would follow, most of them happy to just watch her do the smallest things, never allowing her to do anything requiring more effort. It was enough for her to acknowledge them, that was what most of them thought. She breezed through her days at the office, rarely needing to do anything more than adjust her makeup. He couldn’t believe she’d been watching him. She was too popular… and he was just another suit, keeping his head in his work.
“Yes,” Brittany purred, looking amused. She flipped open the button securing her jeans and took his hand.
Fascinating... an everyman waiting to be discovered and to discover himself.Delete
I swear, is everyone mentioning heels and bone spurs on purpose? lol. Good piece, Mark.Delete