Thursday, September 26, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!


Eyes locked to the ceiling, feeding on insecurity, the eyes have it … they see you, they track you. You can’t escape them, and you flounce in front of them, smiling – you have not seen the brutal reality that you stumbled into. You sniff deep, smelling burnt blood. You are immune to human reason, and you are drifting away, untethered.

Used to be, you could see past the end of the tunnel, imagine a bright something. Used to be, you slept when you were sleeping, and craved your consciousness. Now you dig down into the muck of yourself, and you think that this is progress.

Watch the children play. They are preparing for adulthood. The assholes are busy assholing. The cheats are looking away furtively. The stupid are loud, and the wise are few and far between. No one cares about you and your sensitivities. They said they did, but that was a trick. To lure you into the woods.


  1. I’m disappointed.”

    “You’ve completely lost your way.”

    “I’m ashamed to be a fan.”

    Musician, poet, novelist, painter – it’s all the same. If you stretch your wings, you ruffle a few feathers. People think they own your creative process. They want you to keep painting their favorite picture (or writing their favorite song) over and over again. But when you do something that’s truly creative, something that makes your soul soar, they accuse you of selling out.

    Obviously, they have no idea what that phrase means, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

    Musicians, poets, novelists, painters – don’t let them win. Keep creating. Keep growing. And if your so-called fans trip over their own close-mindedness and fall by the wayside, there will be someone else waiting to take their place.

    The world may think it wants the same song, the same painting, the same plotlines, but the world needs something only you can give it – your (he)art.

    Keep shining, superstar.

  2. This is longer than I'd hoped and is not completed yet, but I wanted to share.

    Part I

    Saturday bloomed into a sunny spectacle with the snap of cold and wisp of burning wood in the air outside Terry’s roadside farm market, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the trees showing off in ochre, scarlet, and gold. Tourists came in droves. Leaf-peepers in expensive outerwear pouring from their SUVs and tour buses, grinning in their selfies and picking pumpkins and sipping hot cider like they’d just discovered it. Why did it have to be autumn, Terry’s favorite season, her balm to get her through stifling hot, buggy summers, her consolation for putting up with the snow and cold of winter?

    Sometimes she thinks Jake purposely chose autumn to leave her.

    Another busload would be trundling up the hill soon. The anticipation that usually brought a smile to her face now landed in the pit of her stomach like Charlie Brown’s trick-or-treat rocks. But she couldn’t stop that bus, like she couldn’t stop city tourists from making their way north, couldn’t stop winter from coming. “I can’t do this anymore,” Jake had said, that horrid night last September when he took his one raggedy suitcase and disappeared from her life, disappeared from the farm market he’d been so eager to help her with. “It’s too passive. Waiting for whoever might decide to show up. I need to take charge of my destiny.”

    Whomever, she’d corrected in her mind, but in retrospect, she should have known Jake didn’t plan to stay, if he could leave with one suitcase, like he’d never committed to blending his life with hers in the first place. She’d told herself happy lies. He was a minimalist, not materialistic, and wasn’t that refreshing, after her five-year marriage to a Wall Street trader who let money do his talking. She lied to herself that once Jake got his bearings, he would settle into her small but cozy house, even want to make some of it his own. That he could be part of her second act.

    But like the tourists, like autumn leaves, like the calendar, he would also move on. Terry added a handful of cinnamon sticks to the cider.

    “Getting thick out there,” Dylan said. Her assistant was a strapping twentysomething, friend of the family going back years, with a big smile and a lot of lived-in flannel; customers adored him. “Ter, you think we got enough? Or should I get another few gallons from the back?”

    She glanced up. Six SUVs snugged into the small lot; a tour bus was coming to a stop on the shoulder of their side of the highway. They’d need reinforcements. Knots of people milled about, some holding cups of cider, some chatting and reconnoitering while gazing at the countryside or choosing pumpkins and taking pictures to send to their friends living drab, colorless lives back home.

    The thought then burst in her head like a soap bubble. Screw him. Look at these people. I made this. Maybe my destiny was not with him after all. I was meant to be here. Doing what I love. Doing what I’ve always wanted—

    The door chime tinkled. Three couples inched in, eyes wide, taking in the baskets of apples and pumpkins and such. She almost didn’t notice him. Shorter than the other men. Blond. Smirking. Her cheeks flushed.

    “Ter.” Her assistant’s eyes narrowed as he nudged up beside her. Dylan had come to their wedding; he’d helped her move out. “I’ll take care of them. Maybe you can go check in back or something.”

    Her stomach wobbling, she spun and left.

    She leaned against a wall, hand to her chest, attempting to get her bearings. Brett. Her husband. Her awful wedded husband had come here. He’d laughed when she said what she was doing with the divorce settlement. Said it was beneath her. A waste of her education. An early midlife crisis, a phase. “One year from now you’ll be bored or bankrupt, I guarantee it.”

    1. Part 2

      A wild part of her brain wished she could poison his cider.

      Dylan was doing yeoman’s work up front, chatting with customers, ringing up sales. From the mull of voices came his. Higher pitched. Words slurred, just a bit. She imagined the flask they would have passed around during the ride from the city. “I want to see Terry.”

      “Sorry, man. She’s indisposed…”

      “I’ll wait.”

      A female voice, tremulous with embarrassment, attempted to calm him. But he was having none of it.

      “No. I paid for this damn place, and I want to see what my money bought.”

      “You can see it right now.” Terry imagined the sweep of Dylan’s arm, the challenge in his eyes. All of his mother’s sons knew how to take care of their own. “All here. Nice, isn’t it? And wicked popular.”

      Enough. She took a deep breath and headed back out. Straight toward him with as big a smile as she could muster. “Everything okay out here?”

      His smile fell. “Terry.”

      His female companion, a pretty, petite young blond in a Nordic sweater that looked to cost more than half of Terry’s wardrobe, cleared her throat. The two couples they’d come in with busied themselves staring at the decorations.

      “Sorry. Ashley, this is—”

      “His ex-wife.” Terry thrust her hand toward the other woman. “Would you like some cider?” From the corner of her eye she could see people trailing from the tour bus, toward the market. “We’re about to get slammed, so now would be a good time.”

      “Sure, I—”

      Terry froze, her mouth going dry as another familiar figure ambled loose-jointed down the bus stairs. Her brain couldn’t make sense of it. Was this some kind of joke on her today? The nerve. The outright ballsy nerve…

      “Here ya go.” Dylan set two cups on the counter. “That’ll be six even.”

      “For cider. For two tiny cups of…”

      She barely registered their exchange. Dylan humbly extolling the virtues of their wares, her ex battling back in that way she always hated and was grateful she’d distanced herself from. “Excuse me,” she said, barely above a whisper, and drifted out the front door. She couldn’t even imagine what was going on in Dylan’s head, although she could picture his blue eyes now lasering into the man who’d left Terry in the dust last autumn.

      She blinked back the bright sun. His grin was warm, sheepish. Studied. She wished she were the type of woman who slapped faces. Anger pulsed; sadness rather than rage.

      “Nice crowd,” he said.

      “No thanks to you.”

      He shrugged at her clipped words, tried that smile again. “Can’t a man admit he was wrong and see if a good woman needs some help during the busy season?”

      She stabbed her fists into her hips.

      His shoulders sagged, hands out in supplication. “Yeah. I was wrong. Maybe I was, you know, jealous that you had built something and I… Look”—he darted a nervous glance around the parking area—“maybe we can talk about it later, somewhere—else.”

      “This guy bothering you, Terry?”

    2. Part 3 (sorry)

      She stiffened. When had Brett come out? “We’re fine. Go back inside. Don’t give Ashley the wrong impression.”

      The two men sized each other up like cage-match opponents. “You’re the husband,” Jake said. Terry swore he waited for Brett’s proprietary reaction before he continued. “Ex, I mean.”

      “You’re that piece of human debris who latched onto her the second our divorce was final. Or was it before?”

      “Hey. Feelings.”

      “And you left her?”

      “I needed to do a little traveling.”

      “Maybe I need to do a little head-busting.”

      “Brett. Stop it. You’re being rude.” Ashley took Brett’s arm, then said to Terry, “I’m sorry. Sometimes he doesn’t…he doesn’t mean—if I’d known this was why we were coming up I never would have…sorry.”

      Terry squeezed her eyes shut. “Stop. Stop it. Everyone. Just…stop. Stop!”

      Everyone stopped. Each pair of eyes was trained on her. And behind them, customers. At least a dozen, and another bus was cresting the hill. She shook her head. “If you guys want to pound each other into dog meat, that’s your prerogative. But I have a business to run, and people like it, and they’ve traveled a long way, and there’s a lot of them, and I’m pouring some cider.”

      Applause and whistles from the other customers followed her toward the market while her cheeks flamed so bright she swore her head would burst into flame.

      “Terry. Teresita. Wait.”

      She turned. God knows why.

      “I was serious about helping. Can I help?”

      “I’m helping,” Ashley said. “We’re helping. It’s the least we can do. Right, Brett? Right, guys?”

      Terry looked from one to the other. Jake eager, contrite. Brett clenching his jaw. Their friends like they wanted to drop through the earth. The bus doors opened. Terry’s head swirled, her chest tightened from the pressure of taking care of all those customers.

      “Thanks, Ashley. But you guys go on.” She turned to Jake. “You. Get an apron.”

  3. And some love for the Mader post! That last line...haunting.

  4. A star fell through Orion’s Belt this morning, early as the crescent moon rose in the east.

    And it made me think of you, as so many things do. Of you standing on the dock at Subic Bay, waving at me as the ship carried me away to Vietnam. The look in your eyes will haunt me till my dying day, and probably thereafter.

    I tried to find you, after the war. I walked from village to village with your picture, which I shoved in the face of everyone I met. The constant shaking of heads made me feel like I was in an earthquake. My heart felt that way, too.

    When at last I found a woman who wept when she saw your picture, I knew her to be your mother. Dead, she said. Illness. She told me my name was the last word you spoke.

    A star fell through the belt of Orion, the Hunter, this morning. I wonder if he was luckier than I and found what he was hunting for. Or maybe that is why he lights the heavens, hunting still.


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