You better put your phone away, brother. This is why I don’t touch other peoples’ phones. So, when you ask me to take a picture of you and your daddyuncle and I say no, well, sorry, but stop talking on your phone in public bathrooms. Or playing games. Or checking reddit. Whatever. If it takes you so long to shit that you need an antidote to boredom, then check your diet, homie.
You want to brush your teeth? OK. Weirdo. I get it. I guess. But you really got to brush them for the dentist-recommended time? You can’t just bust out a quick brush to tide you over til you get home? C’mon, man, some people are waiting to pee in the sink.
Doing drugs in the bathroom? Shit, I don’t care as long as it doesn’t smell. Once the stall door is closed, that shit is yours, G. If I don’t like it, I’ll hold it.
Now just chill. There are like 43 OCD rituals I need to complete. Weirdo.
I’m getting a little tired of meeting so many people got shit all figured out – but they don’t agree. I wish I could punch your Mom in the face for every time someone has told me that all my problems can be solved by essential oils, abstinence, or 100% fealty to a made-up sky-person.
Don’t get me started on writers. Please. You know how many sad, emo idiots want to tell me about how they’re writers? If you write you’re a writer. It’s called language. That doesn’t make you Shakespeare. I know hundreds of writers who can write brilliantly but are too embarrassed to identify as a “writer.” Cause of you, turtleneck. You and your pretensions.
I don’t care what your Grandpa said. My Grandpa said dumb shit, too.
I don’t think sugar is going to kill me. I think stress is going to kill me, and you’re generating so much of it. I just want to sit by a stream and read this book and then go play with my kids.
Call me simple-minded.
There is an African boy with no hand, and he sits next to an old, dusty barrel. He is healing, but soon he will be back at work. There is a woman in Los Angeles who is crying because her boyfriend cheaped out. He didn’t embrace his love debt.
There is a thief on the balcony. He will kill you if he has to.
There is a manufacturing plant where they make drill bits that can cut through anything. There is a curse on the house that houses hope.
There is a teenager destroying his teeth for more flash when he smiles. There is another scratching herself gently with her ring until the warm blood drips from her fingertips. Her Dad will buy her a necklace to make her happy.
The necklace won’t make her happy. She will die wondering how she could be such a mystery to the people who claim to love her. Their distance will push her away and away. Nevermore.
There is a guilt trip and a dream. There are false idols. We have so many pedestals, and many of them shine like diamonds.
When it’s cold enough outside, you don’t feel cold. It just hurts. Your skin aches and your tears freeze on your eyelashes and everything becomes pain. If you don’t acknowledge the pain, it doesn’t hurt as much. But that’s a questionable lesson to learn.
I’m a wimp. I’ve lived in California half my life. Over half my life. I’m cold when it’s sixty degrees. I don’t leave the freezer door open when I’m scooping ice cream.
I like the cold warriors. Like: It’s gonna be forty below! Want to go camping? I don’t understand how this became your measuring stick. I guess I’m not much of a man; I like being warm and comfortable. My penis is just penis sized.
Dead bodies are cold. So, I’ll be cold enough eventually. In the meantime, I’ll keep sitting in the sun and smiling.
We did good this weekend. We? Who’s we? The Niners? That’s them. Didn’t see your uniform, pal. Must not be paying y’all too well because you look like a human wet fart and you smell like an amusement park. Or a cheap carnival. Beer, cigarettes, and vomit. The trifecta.
The coaches are idiots when they lose, but you’re always right. Commentating in hindsight is a pretty slick con.
Those fans? They’re not fans. They didn’t grow up on this shit. Not like you. Niner faithful. Wonder how many Heisman trophy winners will be at your funeral?
Me? I’m gonna be at an under twelve soccer game. They don’t flop. They don’t fuck with the clock. They play. And that’s all I want to see.
She is a pain in the chest and panic. She smells like toffee candies and pipe smoke. She is sitting beside you and you can’t breathe. Can’t move. Her foot touches yours and you throw up a little. The beads of sweat tap dance on your forehead. Your brain is screaming, but it is screaming too many things. Talk to her! Shut the fuck up! Don’t move, you’ll fucking ruin it.
She is calm and put together. You are dying. You are fucking dying and you will be dead on the schoolbus and she will lead them in their mocking cries. Died embarrassed with a hard on hastily hidden under a transformer backpack. This is what they will put on your tombstone.
You will sit and quiver. She will not notice. She will get off at her stop. You will spend the next thirty years of your life wondering what you could have done differently. But at least you didn’t die.
I am under the table, and I am staying here. The tablecloth’s cascade will protect me. I have no use for you and your living rooms. Your bedrooms. This, this here, this space under the table. This is all I will ever need. As long as these cookies last…
I’ve never understood it. Like, I really don’t get it – it makes absolutely no sense to me. I’m a teacher. Dig it. I don’t get much money so I don’t spend much money. I have lots of friends make lots of money and I don’t even know what they do. Real Estate. Tech. Like that’s supposed to explain how you literally spend your life between meals, sleep, and shitting.
Nurses make jack-shit, but Jeff Bezos has more money that I can even think about. What does he do between shits? Honestly, I really want to know.
Trump is the poorest rich man I’ve ever seen and now he’s president.
Jesus was poor. They crucified that fool. Mitch McConnel is rich, and I don’t see anyone building crosses.
I don’t understand it, so I won’t worry about it. I’ve lived with it, and I’ve lived without it. The most satisfied with life I’ve ever been? The most sense it all made? I had zero money and slept on the beach. The world hasn’t made so much sense since.
Yeehaw! FLash Mader to the max!ReplyDelete
Right? I wasn't expecting to find this much awesomeness right off the bat.Delete
I like how "Bathroom" points out that we all have our own weirdness - and how we can all be judgmental. "49ers" - that last part gives me the warm fuzzies. :) And the last line of "Childhood" made me grin. "Money" resonates. A lot. "Arrogance," too.
Great stuff all around. Bite-sized snippets of real, dressed up with rhythm and perfect word/phrase choices. <3
Exactly what Laura said. Great little bits of magic and himamity.i love Diamonds and the phone/bathroom bit. I totally don't get people who need the phone to shitDelete
Dang it. Cell phone types. No, I'm not on the toiletDelete
Who put the nickel in you? Terrific stuff, Dan. I've learned more about flash from you than anybody! I just wish I were better it!Delete
Some thoughts: I fucking love that there are a specific number of OCD rituals. I think "Diamonds" is my favourite. It made me come up with a nice word I'm not sure I've ever used before: incantatory. I also love the rhythm (and sentiment) of this: "Me? I’m gonna be at an under twelve soccer game. They don’t flop. They don’t fuck with the clock. They play. And that’s all I want to see." Also, I hear you re: money, bro.Delete
Man Mader, you make me chuckle on the regular and this is not an easy thing to do. I LOVED Bathroom. Yes the # of OCD rituals was choice but so was the screed about brushing teeth for the dentist recommended time. Other faves: Arrogance, Childhood, and First Love which could just as easily have been called First Death.Delete
It’s curious, isn’t it? What we consider obscene. What we cover up. But do we cover to hide or to accentuate?ReplyDelete
I look at you, and fully clothed though you are, I see places I could touch, could kiss you, and could make you cry from pleasure.
We could start with your hands. The palms. How long has it been since someone touched you there, appreciated every drawn line? Are you right or left handed? Then give me the other hand, uncalloused, unused to feeling.
The inside of your wrist. I can put my ear there and hear your pulse. A very strong pulse that even now grows faster. If I dared touch me lips there, ever so briefly, I know you would gasp.
Let me sit behind you. I will breathe on your neck. Not even touch with fingertips or lips. Just breathe. Hot, moist air, exactly where your neck meets your shoulder. I watch your pulse here, too. Still faster it grows. You trust me, but because you cannot see me, you’re not sure what will happen next.
I could whisper to you. Directly in your ear. You are not sure whether it is the words, or the quiet, steady rhythm of the words, or my breath touching the lobe of your ear.
And now I back away. Not for your sake, but for mine. Your pulse is irresistible to my baser side, and I wouldn’t want to leave a mark on your perfect skin, or see the white silk you wear sullied by scarlet.
Your heart is covered, too, and yet, I have touched it. Caressed it even.
It is late. I must go. Consider well your path home. There are some less civilized, less gentle than I.
This makes me sad that we decided not to put out a BOO! anthology this year. It's got those Halloween vibes. <3Delete
I love the descriptions and how you can almost feel them, too.
Agreed! I love the shift. At first, seems like it could be almost romantic. Then, no thanks! You balanced the tone and voice really well.Delete
Thanks to both of you!Delete
So beautifully done. Yes, at first shy, romantic, then NO. Great piece.Delete
Yeah, sensual and then... uh, whoa. And not a seam showing. Precision writing. And moody as hell.Delete
Leland, this is so sensual and yet a little creepy at the end. Made me wonder what this entity was or perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Or perhaps you wrote this so well it gave me a lot to think and wonder about?Delete
It’s high time we talked about the High Times.ReplyDelete
“Closed mouth ain’t gonna get fed.”
She was a mother and she knew some shit.
We experience all these intense things, second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade, all of them brimming with astonishment, wide-eyed and hoarse with love, yet we die with almost nothing, all these accumulations, dripped as stalactites, dropped like an old backpack, amounting to fucking what exactly?
The neighbors fit all of Eden into their front yard. Green tendrils spilled. Leaves of tubular red. I was with someone before the rainstorm, starting to make out, but she got spooked and left. After which I stood on the porch and thought long and hard about her, and Tom Waits growled a lament from crackling speakers wedged on some nearby sill. Jersey girl, my first and last, how much I cherished you. After the rainstorm, the waters braided like lovers, spiralling and twining, dreaming sclerotic dreams about how they might become partway manifest. A person got murdered that night, after the sun broke past the rainclouds and we gathered in the evening, but I never knew who. Someone played the opening bars of Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” on an electric organ, and we all chilled in the coming night, and someone got themselves slaughtered but we never knew who.
Wait. Let’s do this again, take another run at it.
She was vehement. She told me she was prejudiced toward people whose shoulders aren’t horizontal. You get that, right? Weakling frames that slope downward, defeated before they start. Feeble half-assed humans, chinless and feckless, like the Trump spawn. And to a lesser degree, those whose earlobes don’t exist. That just join without a proper lobe. “Fuck those people too,” she said. I never could argue with that. She damn near had me on board.
“Did you put the seat down?”
“I don’t recall.”
“Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?” she said.
Truth? She was terrifying.
All such things are relative. Offering a cold beer after an apocalypse is like delivering a truckload of gold in the High Times. To think we cared about politics, about football, about pronouns, about someone able-bodied parking in the handicapped space. I drove south through Wisconsin one early fall, got caught up in some biker thing, some rally of aged outlaws, checked into a Travelodge near Madison along with two hundred slow-moving leather-clad seniors. They were blunt and loud and likeable and no longer capable of violence.
The High Times were adorable: Opera and spice and guts. Opulence and idle spite and us.
This night, tonight, the other side of that sliding light, is our night.
I keep re-reading that last line. Poetry. Absolute poetry.Delete
So beautiful. Thank youDelete
You tugging my heartstrings David. I was born in Madison WI and grew up in those High Times.And thinking along those same lines, too. How in October we come full circle to some place in our brains, scary or painful or perfectly right from the past--and somehow see it happening again.Delete
This is lovely and full of melancholic hope. I always love these travelling "place" pieces, too. Always feels like a dance and entreaty to long form...Delete
Thanks for the kind comments, y'all. I wanted to add that I actually had that experience with the biker rally. They pulled in just ahead of me at some motel off the interstate, and I had to wait forever for them to register, lol. And they were exactly as I describe them: old, boisterous, and funny. I'm one of those "West Coast liberals" who has always been weirdly attracted to the US Midwest.Delete
So beautiful and yes, melancholy. I love that question in the first full paragraph. It was a stunning question "dripped as stalactites". Also read this line at least three times I loved it so much: "After the rainstorm, the waters braided like lovers, spiralling and twining, dreaming sclerotic dreams about how they might become partway manifest."Delete
I had a feeling that biker rally experience was real. The whole piece, like all of your writing, feels real - but that more than most. I love the descriptions here (I can damn near smell the rain), and the wonderful rhythms (especially at the beginning and end.)Delete
Part 1 (Part 2 in comments, cause I'm over by like 300 characters!)ReplyDelete
Once upon a time, there was a bear cub who lived in the deep woods. He loved his family, but he especially loved his den. So cozy and warm and good-smelling. He’d nestle down against his mama’s soft belly and take long naps, and he’d drift off to sleep while Mama stroked his fur. There’s a good cub, she’d croon, and then softly sing about Old Bear, one of their ancestors, who was a great and wise creature who watched over them all. In his younger days, Old Bear was quite the thing, snatching salmon from the stream, protecting the little ones from wolves, so powerful he could have his pick of mates. He chose Sonia, the most beautiful female in the land, but most of the others didn’t know she was so smart. She wanted him for her mate, and knew the competition would be stiff, but she also knew from watching the males of her family that she had to make his choice look like his idea. So she waited until the other females were engaged with taking care of the cubs and wandered off on her own. She spied him nearby and casually went about her way of collecting berries, until he drifted over. She held her tongue while he watched her, until he said, “Why do you paw so deep into the bushes when the outside ones are easier to pick?”
“Because those are the sweetest,” she said, and offered him one, and that was that.
They lived a long and happy life together, eating sweet berries and raising their cubs and collecting wisdom they would share with each new generation. They passed on the stories of how they met and how they lived and how they fought, when it was necessary.
The little bear cub wanted a life like that, when he was grown. He wanted a wise mate to share berries and salmon and stories with, to have his own cubs with, to grow old with. But he didn’t know that any of the females would choose him. He was born with a short front right paw. Most of the other cubs made fun of him, even the girl cubs, and that hurt the most. Mama often told him that it shouldn’t matter to the ones who loved him. That even though Old Bear was strong and protective, he wasn’t the most handsome of the bears and in fact one eye was smaller than the other which tended to make him squint.
“You’re not yet full-grown,” Mama would say, and suggested that the paw might yet catch up with the rest of him. It never did. “One day you’ll find a mate just for you,” she said. But that didn’t happen yet, either.
When he was finally grown, and he saw the others of his age group choose mates, he decided he had only one choice. Reluctantly he said goodbye to his mama and papa and sought out to start his adult life somewhere new. For a while he roamed, plucking sweet berries and catching salmon. He made his own den, tried to make it as good-smelling as the one he’d left, and it came close but it was never quite the same.
One day he was out hunting the best berries and heard a rustle in the bushes behind him.
“You’re digging deep for berries,” she said. “You must have learned the ways of Old Bear.”
He froze, the berry in his mouth mashed against his tongue. Hiding his short paw the way he always did, not meeting her eye.
“Are you hurt?” she said, gesturing at his paw with her snout.
He shook his head. Something about her manner said “trust.”
So he did. She made a noise of comfort, so like his mama’s, deep in her throat.
“I’m missing three claws on my left paw from fighting off a wolf when I was small,” she said. The next noise sounded like a short laugh. “We can be a hunting team then, me with my better right and you with your left. It would make it easier to catch salmon.”
This sounded like a good idea to him. It was hard work catching salmon alone, and it might be nice to have a friend. And then he raised his snout to look her in the eye. And froze again.
“I know.” She sighed. “I tend to squint. Mama says it means I’m a descendent of Old Bear. Although with mama stories, it’s hard to know which are actually true and which are meant for comfort.”
His heart beat a little faster. “A true descendent of Old Bear surely would have the courage to fight off a wolf when just a cub.”
She fluttered her eyes at him, and something about the squint made that look kind of pretty. “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“I do not,” he huffed. “I—”
And then she laughed again, and extended her partially declawed paw, and they ran off to the stream.
I love me some fable. Hooked from the first sentence. And I hadn't realized until the end how much I needed a happy ending (in the innocent sense). :)Delete
Laurie, hot damn. You write ROMANCE. A little digression? An Indigenous friend of mine gave me a name a few years back: Standing Bear, which I have occasionally tried to live up to. You have done my namesake proud, giving them depth and love and humor, and pathos.Delete
Thank you, all!Delete
This is a nice drop of happy in an otherwise not so happy day. Thank you. <3Delete
Sweet! Very nice work! I love the whole fable-esque aspect of it.ReplyDelete
Agreed. This is a different Boris look, and I dig it!Delete
The tree pose was her favorite position in yoga. She thought maybe it was because it took forever for her to master it. She’d been eleven when her grandfather taught her how to do it for the first time and being competitive she had tried to replicate whatever he did. The sole of his foot flat against the highest part of his inner thigh. His shoulders relaxed. His body ramrod straight. His arms and hands intertwined in front of his chest and his narrowed gaze resting on his fingertips.
The whole thing seemed a funny little game; how to twist your body into a pretzel. Loads of fun for friends and family alike. And it was fun once you figured out how to do it for a long enough length of time to see the benefits of centering yourself. But at first? It was just hard as hell to do. For one thing, it required a preternatural ability to find that invisible but defining line that ran through the middle of your body and keep it still and straight so you didn’t lose your balance. For another, there were a lot of body parts to think about all at once and keeping them still in a somewhat uncomfortable or at least, uncommon position for them to be in, required some athletic tenacity.
Yet, over the years she had met several people who were singularly good at achieving the tree pose with seemingly no effort at all. People who’d been practicing it effectively for years. People who could do things with their bodies no one else readily could; people with hyper-mobility or as her grandfather liked to call them “those double-jointed motherf..kers who everything comes easy to”. Her grandfather was an educated man, but he often spoke to her in way that could be defined as unsophisticated or crass. He himself considered that kind of talk a reflection of being streetwise and as he often liked to remind her that’s exactly where he was from originally and “there it’s as sophisticated as hell.”
Thinking back on it now as she rooted herself to the floor, letting the gravity of her body seep into her standing leg, perhaps that’s the real reason she loved to do the tree pose. It helped her remember or to put it another way, tune in, to the beginning of her relationship with her extraordinary grandfather.
She and the other people in her family had often remarked on the inherent similarities between her grandfather and the other man in her life she adored, her father. But once you got to know them both you realized that there was no one quite like either of them. Especially PopPop, the name she created for him in childhood and now only used in her head when she thought of him. No one ever in the history of time maybe, but certainly not in their immediate family.
In fact, her grandparents together, were two of the most unusual and authentic people she knew anytime—anywhere. She envied how they seemed to know themselves and each other so well and could easily maneuver through the world thoroughly steeped in that knowledge. She felt diminished next to them. She was completely incapable of figuring herself out most of the time much less anyone she was sleeping with. She could fake it with the best of them using silence and a feigned outward composure. Those were her go to responses when she was unsure. There was one person who could always suss out her inner thoughts though and that was PopPop.
She was in a good place with her positioning and decided to redirect her attention slightly so she could watch him in the mirror. Like her, he stood on one leg. The arthritis in his hands must be bothering him again because he hadn’t twisted them instead leaving them in a prayerful pose over his heart. His eyes were closed now though, which meant he was deep into his meditation. You think it’s hard to balance with your eyes open, try doing it with your eyes closed and you’ll very likely wind up with your butt or your face kissing the floor.
He took a longer than usual inhalation indicating that his pose might be coming to an end. Sure enough his eyes opened and caught hers in the mirror. His eyes crinkled at their corners as if examining her for something that might amuse him.
“Are you really up to this today? You sure do have a lot on your mind.”
She frowned at him and his insightful assessment of her. That’s when she could feel her body start to lean to the right towards her bent knee. She tried using the power of her core and hips to pull herself upright but it was no use. She let her foot drop to the floor with an exasperated exhale.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as you Papí.” She said, looking down at her feet. Not bothering to hide it from full view; the undercurrent of frustration she’d been feeling with herself for months now.
His hand pulling her chin up to face him wasn’t gentle or rough. It was fast and firm. And as usual, he was looking at her with a fervor that seemed out of place in such a mundane set of circumstances.
“You are so much better than me, little girl. You always have been. You just don’t know it yet.”
I especially love the idea of using the tree pose as a metaphor or framing device for contemplation of another kind of tree: family. And how those adults in her life were also likes trees to her: strong, rooted, eternal.Delete
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