Friday, September 6, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

You can’t see high enough to know any better. You don’t know enough to duck, even. You’ll stare right into the face of everything, and you’ll wish you hadn’t. Sometimes. You’ll wish you were one of those stumbling adults in the corner. They are so big and they are so loud and they are not scared like you are. At least, that’s what you think.

Adults are free. They have agency. No one tells them to go to bed and not eat cookies and hug people they don’t know very well.

You sit in the backyard and promise yourself that you will leave and never come back. You hide in attics, under cars, in the abandoned lot behind your house. You scream at the trees and set fires just for the sake of watching things burn.

You get hurt and you cover your face, and you can keep it covered for years. Sometimes it takes years to learn to be childlike in the sense that we romanticize it. Sometimes, you never learn how and you spend your whole life running. Or cowering.

Maybe they’re the same thing.


  1. Replies
    1. The sentences have a deceptive simplicity, hiding sentiments far from simple. Truth and heart, yes.

  2. In every one-horse town in America, there are two things sure: a liquor store and a tiny restaurant. Sometimes the restaurant doubles as a bar. It was into just such an establishment I stumbled while on a bike ride through Wyoming. Not a motorcycle, a bicycle.

    And that made me an instant celebrity. Or at least a curiosity.

    A celebrity to the one other person in the place. A cowboy. A good looking cowboy, truth be told. Dark hair, green eyes, and a five-o’clock shadow more than a few hours old.

    He nodded at me, invited me to join him at his table, and I was glad to oblige. Like a gentleman, he rose when I got to his table and extended his hand. “Name’s Jordan. Tanner Jordan.”

    The handshake was firm, but not knuckle-busting. His palm was cool, whether from holding the bottle of Miller Genuine Draft or because cold hands/warm heart, well, I hoped to find out.

    “Lu! Another cold one for my friend here! Unless you’d prefer something more—“ He paused, looking for the right word, and smiled when he found it. “Sophisticated?”

    “MGD would be just fine. Simple and honest is more my style.”

    “How do you make a livin’, I mean, riding a bike can’t pay that well.”

    “I write. Fiction mostly.”

    “So people pay you to lie to them? Dream job!”

    I thought about that. “I guess I think of it as people paying me to tell them lies so they’ll understand truths they’d never imagine on their own.”

    He thought about that. “Tell me a lie like that.”

    “Okay. I’ve got a wife and two kids at home, but when I’m on the road I only sleep with men.”


    “Part of it’s lies, part of it’s truth.”

    He tipped his head back and took a swig of his beer. I did the same, but my eyes never left his face. He looked down at the table.

    He was thinking. Of lies, of possibilities. I caught him looking at my hand. For a ring.

    There was no ring.

    “Now your turn,” I challenged him.

    He almost whispered it. “I never slept with a man.”

    The only sound in the place was Lu, cleaning up and getting ready to close. I heard her take the till from the register and start counting the change.

    “We’re just about done. We’ll get out of your hair shortly,” he said.

    Finally he looked back up at my face. “Let’s throw your bike in the back of my truck and find us a place to talk.”

    He threw a twenty down on the table. Drinks are cheap in one-horse towns, but lies’ll cost ya.

  3. “Can I touch one, Mama?” Cody asked.

    “I don’t know if that would be wise,” I told her as I pushed the hair back from her eyes.

    “But she’s so beautiful. Look how the wind blows her hair just like mine.”

    I looked them over, watching how they moved around the enclosure and finally said, “We don’t know if we can trust how tame they are. There’s a good reason they’re behind this four-wire fence. I’ve heard the mothers can be pretty protective of their babies.”

    “Pleeeze, can’t I just once? I’ll be careful,” Cody pleaded in that whiney way of hers. I noticed her edging closer to the fence, just as one of the colts ambled nearer to us.

    “Cody, I said wait. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. It’s like we’re from different planets, far from home. Lord knows we are.”

    I never liked it when we went on these summer trips, even when I was younger. I remember one year my cousin…

    “Look, she likes me,” Cody said as she and one of the young ones reached through the fence for one another.

    “Cody!” I screamed, just as the colt’s mother came running over. Both kids jumped and scratched themselves on the fence. The mare pushed her little one away favoring a cut on her floppy little white forehoof.

    “See? And that’s why they keep them on the other side of the fence,” I told Cody as I licked the blood off her nose.

    1. Two things: I love the symmetry here, and I also love the ellipsis, the promise of another story interrupted by life.

  4. "Song in Neon"

    I’m alone now in a motel, sitting not so pretty.
    How come all the girls I ever loved are named after cities?

    Geneva, come back to me. Adelaide, are you there?
    Madison and Phoenix, Savannah down in Georgia,
    You ain’t so bothered now, but did you ever really care?

    This animal in my throat, you better hope
    It never breaks out. Go home, go home,
    Go home now, eat and dance yourself sober.
    I ain’t guilty of this impending crime, I won’t
    Admit that anything is ever really over.

    Red light through blinds like rays of blood,
    Walls green with sixteen thousand hangovers.
    Was anything we laughed or cried at ever any good?
    Were we not even friends when I thought we were lovers?

    A fool back then, more foolish now. I’ll leave
    In the quiet hours under night’s impartial cover,
    Slip away, not even someone’s memory, no longer
    Credibly alive, though maybe I was never.

  5. “I’m not the one you expected, am I?”

    Shad Hager walked to the body of Joe Ogden, admiring the clean work a .45 caliber bullet could do at reasonably close range. A bud-sized hole, big around as his pinky, was blooming into a flower of red in Ogden’s back. The sand beneath the deputy’s chest would accept the messy side of Hager’s gardening in short order.

    “I told you I’d lead you to that fella what robbed and killed Old Man Bentley after he went to the bank in Tucson. An’ I didn’t lie now, did I?” Hager said as he holstered his weapon.

    “I just needed to get you out on this false trail before I could let you know you had your man all along.”

    Hager heard a soft hissing moan come from Deputy Ogden and bent down close to listen.

    “Don’t worry, Joe. It won’t be long now,” Hager said as he rolled the deputy over.
    But Ogden wasn’t hearing his killer just then. He was experiencing years in a second.

    He listened to his father’s teach how to read a man’s eyes, searching for the lie.

    He smelled his Mary’s hair, felt her warmth against his chest as she pressed that Christmas gift into his hand. Something to keep him safe on his new job.

    All his scenes overlapped, yet jelled in that instant Joe died, just as he touched off that pocket pistol into the lying face of Shad Hager.

    No, it didn’t take long.

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  7. The nurse’s mouth twisted. “He’s barely alive,” she said. She readied a needle, driving in the plunger to push the air back into the vial.

    “Do it.” McAndrew waited, his attention on the monitor. She injected the serum into the volunteer’s heart, using the full length of the needle to pierce his chest.

    The cardiac rhythm faltered, becoming irregular. It spiked momentarily and then failed. Its tone became continuous, the visual trace flattening until there was no evidence of electrical activity.

    “Time of death…” McAndrew checked his watch. “Eight forty-five am. You can finish, Nurse Watson. Make sure the cadaver goes immediately to the refrigerated store, then send the effects to disposal. If there’s anything that’s worth keeping, feel free to help yourself. He might have had rich parents or a wealthy benefactor.”

    He shrugged, distancing himself from the tableau; the body lying limp on the bed, its eyes open but sightless. The sealable container on the night-table held the usual paraphernalia; a watch, a phone, two sets of keys. There was also a wallet, which would be populated with a variety of debit cards; the impersonal artefacts which are worth so much, especially when they’re delivered to the wrong hands. Identity theft was Watson’s main source of income, providing her with almost everything she needed. She was an even more dreadful parasite than he was. At least the materials he traded in were mostly unidentifiable, the non-organic remains having little value, other than to the donors who provided them.

    1. I always want your pieces to be longer, to turn into something beyond flash fiction.

  8. Thank you, David. I've so many 'seed' stories for development. I need to germinate one and cultivate it so it produces the fruits it promises.


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