Thursday, February 6, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!


Scratch the paper, leaving darkness. Carve your ideas and images out from the white expanse before you. Don’t like it? Scribble it out, tear it up, snap the pencil. You hold in your hand a tool … you can use it to create truth or fiction, burn it, stab it into a yielding neck. No one cares, man. You think you’re digging yourself out, but you’re just going deeper.

Smudge the edges; the world is too clear already. It’s making me anxious. Fay was right about those straight lines, got Charlie all messed up. Don’t get me started on Algernon.

Stick a stub in your pocket. Give it away. Hell, pencils are cheap. And they can excavate revolution. Pick it up, and don’t put it down until you have created something. Until you have carved meaning from the darkness, perverting purpose. Your truth. That’s all we want. That’s all I ask for.



Girl, I’m standing at the bottom of this tower for a minute now … what you gonna do? Don’t act like you ain’t up there. I know you’re locked in. Me? I’m just a nice guy looking to do a nice thing. Go ahead and throw that hair down; let me come up.

Rapunzel? I know you’re up there. Ain’t no place I got to be. Although I am getting hungry.

Yo! It’s getting cold out here. I’m ready to help you, dig? All you gotta do is throw those golden tresses over the wall, and I’ll scramble right up. Hey! I’m talking to you.

Alright, you know what? Forget it. I’m just here trying to rescue you. That’s fine. You stay in that tower. I never wanted to see your straggly hair anyway. I never wanted to rescue you. I got places to be. There are plenty of women want me to climb their hair up to a tower.



Teddy Bear

The car is moving, desert rushing by, when the boy realizes that Apple Bear is gone. The realization is like a kick to the chest. Frantic scrabbling of fingers ensues. Heartrate escalates. The interior of the van is becoming smaller, warmer. It feels like being at high elevation. It is hard to breathe. The boy tugs on his mother’s sleeve. She will help him.

She looks, but cannot find the bear. The last time they saw it was at the last rest stop. That was hours ago. That was maybe in another state. That’s gonna be a tough sell for a Dad that wants to make time. Let me think about it. Let me ask.

No. Just no. We’re not turning around, and I don’t want to talk about it. This is your fault. Your bear. You should have been taking care of him. Stop crying. It won’t matter. In a few days you’ll be at your new house. Your new school. You won’t even remember that damn bear.

Or, you’ll be writing about him when you’re 42.



The night is long, and there are so many things to think about. You better think about all of them. You better not forget one. You better not waste too much time thinking about the things you’re supposed to be thinking about or you’ll never get to sleep. You better not worry about not sleeping; it’ll only stress you out. Be logical. Think about the things you need to think about in the right order, but not too little or too much. Don’t overthink it. Just think about it the right amount. Don’t think about the things that are distracting you from the things you’re supposed to be thinking about. Don’t give them your time. Allot your thoughts rationally or you’ll never fucking sleep. I TOLD YOU NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THAT! Great, now you’re agitated and you’ve opened the worry floodgates. Are you ever worried about the right things? The things you worry about are so small and inconsequential. Shouldn’t you be worried about your wife? Your kids? OH MY GOD, WHAT IF SOMETHING WERE TO HAPPEN TO THEM AND YOU WERE LAYING HERE WORRYING ABOUT WHETHER YOU’D REMEMBER TO GRADE PAPERS AND GET A SMOG CHECK! No way you’re sleeping now. You’re going to be tired tomorrow; you never teach well when you’re tired. Maybe you’ll get fired? Then, how will you pay rent? Oh shit, what if you forgot to send the rent check last month? Landlady would have called, right? Well, good job, champ! Now, you’re inventing worry. You better not worry about inventing worry, or you’ll never get to sleep...


  1. FEAR is powerful, but TEDDY BEAR ripped my heart out. These are so good! You are a master of flash.

    1. I have to agree with Leland...Only title the FEAR one...HOW TERESA'S MIND WORKS AT 3AM...

    2. That's damn beautiful, Flash Master Dan. I needed the pencil today: "they can excavate revolution" is one of my favorite bits.

    3. Oh, and Rapunzel. Loved it. Those snooty women with their hair, always waiting around to be rescued.

    4. Yeah, me three re: "Teddy Bear." That made me cry. "Rapunzel" made me laugh. And yeah, "Fear" is a little too on the nose. Good stuff, as always, bro.

    5. You always write such tight, pithy prose which begs to be read aloud. You're a lyricist at all times and you're equally as sharp as the knives you collect. It always delights me as to how diverse a collection of writers you've attracted here, but you're always a standout, with your wit and the fire and humanity you instil into your writing.

    6. "Fay was right about those straight lines, got Charlie all messed up. Don’t get me started on Algernon." and the whole last paragraph. Love that so hard.

      Rapunzel is just so true to life. And kinda fun. :)

      Fear is one we all know well, I think.

      Teddy Bear - Man. This is one that clicks with me. Thankfully I never lost mine, but I did forget him at a relative's house once and had to wait FOREVER (a couple of days) for her to mail him home. And my nephew went through losing his beloved gingerbread man. You get right to the heart of it with that last sentence. You never forget your childhood friends. <3

      I wish I had some constructive criticism, G, but these are all just too good for that.

  2. Maverick

    He kisses the nape of my neck, and I feel his arms tighten around me. His chest is warm against my back, and I think I could wake up like this every day and never grow tired of it.

    “G’morning, sleepyhead,” he whispers in my ear in a Texas drawl that’s as warm as the sun in Austin.

    “Mmmmm,” I say, trying to deny the sunrise sneaking through the windows.

    “I’ve got to be goin’ pretty soon, but you’re welcome to stay here for a while.”

    “Mmmm.” My mind is not focused on his words, but on the way his knees touch the back of my knees, and I wonder if there’s a word for that part of my body.

    He kisses the lobe of my ear, and slowly disentangles himself from me as he climbs out of bed.

    My eyes are open. I watch him pull on a pair of white underwear. Hanes, probably. He stretches out, his arms toward the sky like he’s greeting the morning. I can hear his bones pop. Rodeo is not kind to cowboys’ bodies.

    He turns toward me and gives one of those smiles where only one corner of his mouth goes up.

    “Want some coffee?”

    “Mmmm hmmmm.”

    He ruffles my hair and leaves the room in his underwear and the socks he never took off last night.

    I ponder the improbability of our meeting last night. I was lost, on.a country road, in the middle of fucking Texas, looking for a bar that Yelp had said had the best steaks around.

    Might have found it, if my phone battery hadn’t gone dead, or if I’d remembered to bring my charger.

    Instead, the sun got lower and lower, turned Technicolor red, and then it was dark, and I crossed a million roads, all labeled FM something or other.

    The gas gauge slid closer and closer to empty, and my mood slid from anger at my stupidity to outright fear. What if I ran out of gas?

    I saw the headlights in my rearview mirror. Getting closer. Then they flashed. I sped up. The pickup behind me sped up. Flashed the headlights. My heart was beating fast. Steak was the farthest thing from my mind.

    My car sputtered. Out of gas. I coasted to the side of the road. Locked the doors. This was not gonna go well.

    The pickup pulled in behind me, headlights turned off, but park lights left on. I watched in my sideview mirror. The driver’s door opened, and improbably long legs walked toward me. I couldn’t tell what color his cowboy hat was. I thought if it was white, he’d be a good guy.

    He knocked on my window, and I rolled it down an inch or two.

    “You doin’ okay?”

    “I’m fine,” I said, even as I heard the quiver in my own voice.

    “Don’t see much traffic out here this time of night. Thought you might be lost.”

    I rolled the window down another inch. His hat was white. “Well, actually….”

    He had an easy laugh. “Follow this road back the way you came, and about 30 miles, you’ll see a highway.”

    “Well, uh, I seem to be out of gas, too.”

    “Easy enough to fix. My place is up the road a ways. We’ll get you some gas there, and I’ll bring you back.”

    His hat was white, I reminded myself. “Okay,” and I unlocked the door and got out.

    We walked to his truck, and he opened the passenger door for me, and I got in, and he went round the truck and got in, too.

    “Why’d you stop for me?”

    “Like I said, we don’t get much traffic out here after dark.” He shifted in his seat. “And your bumpersticker.”


    “Haven’t seen a rainbow flag bumpersticker since I got out of college.”

    And then he put his hand with the improbably long fingers on my thigh.

    (continued in comments)

    1. (continued)

      Which brings us to this morning.

      Still in underwear and socks, he comes back through the door, carrying two mugs of coffee.

      “I guessed you’d take it black.”

      “You guessed right.”

      His eyes are blue. Like a Texas sky. No, bluer. Like Texas bluebonnet wildflowers. He sits on the bed.

      “I plugged your cellphone into my charger.”


      “Thank you. Last night was good. I needed that.”

      “Me, too.”

      “Why’d you trust me? I mean, on a road in the middle of nowhere, it might not have been a good idea.”

      “You had a white cowboy hat. I saw a lot of Westerns when I was a kid.”

      He smiles that half smile again. “For future reference, not all who wear white hats are good, and not all good guys wear white hats. It’s more about whether it’s hot or warm outside than a declaration of intent.”


      “But you got lucky.”

      “I did.”

      “Okay, pardner,” he said. He actually said pardner. “I gotta get out of here for a while. Chores to do and such. Stick around if you like.”

      He stands up. He bends over to pick up his jeans. His legs are slightly bowed. He puts one leg through, then the other. He turns to face me as he slides the zipper up and buckles his belt with an improbably large buckle. He finds a t-shirt on the floor and pulls it over his head. I watch his stomach muscles ripple. He doesn’t tuck it in.

      He sits down on the bed again, to pull his boots on. For reasons unclear to me, I set my coffee cup down on the nightstand, and I massage his shoulders.

      “If you’re still around when I get back, I’ll take you to the best steak dinner you ever had.”

      “That’d be great.”

      “Hope you don’t mind a little extra company.”

      So much for a date night. “That’d be fine.”

      “It’s my wife’s birthday.”

      Life is complicated on the Texas prairie, even for cowboys wearing white hats.

      And the word for behind the knee is hough.

    2. Iloved it...the randomness of it--that vast Texas emptiness all around...the fear, the yearning for contact...

    3. I was sailing along on the emptiness and sweetness and sensory detail (knees pressed to knees, love that part) and then you landed that heart-thud of an ending. Great writing.

    4. What they said^^^ I know that's lazy, but I was gonna pretty much say what Teresa and Laurie said. A chance meeting that was beginning to seem improbable until the rainbow bumper sticker. That's such a good grounding detail.

    5. This is beautiful, Leland. It's such an effortless read that belies the skill of the writer. It just 'is' and it's so perfect in its subtlety. Bravo, Pardner.

    6. This piece is so full of heart. I want to believe in stories like this, and I think that's one of the beautiful things about writing. We can live in the world they way we think it should be lived in. :) I love this moment.

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  4. The Forgotten Man

    I am the forgotten man,
    forgotten by you and you
    and, if I’m not mistaken, by you.
    (You know who you are.)
    But that’s okay. I’ve forgotten
    some of you, as well. It’s
    something that happens when
    we get older and too long hide
    behind walls and in our depressions.
    I’ve already lost the memory picture
    of my grandparents. And recently,
    I lost high school, like it'd been
    razed and buried with all my memories
    in it. I tossed my yearbooks
    in the grave with it.
    I like my memory of you, though.
    I'm sure it's mistaken and certainly
    isn't the you you are now.
    Which is fine. We all change.
    Like this morning, I looked
    in the mirror and didn’t recognize
    that guy staring into the windows
    of my soul through this window
    of sad truth. I turned off
    the light and we each walked away,
    as I heard someone say,
    “Forget him.”

    1. Ah, this hits one of my greatest fears. Two, actually. Of losing my memory and of being forgotten. Well done, and haunting.

    2. This really tugged at me. I have friends of old who remember nothing, while I'm blessed (or cursed) with remembering nearly everything. This bit did me in:

      I'm sure it's mistaken and certainly
      isn't the you you are now.
      Which is fine. We all change.

    3. I'm with Laurie on this one...I remember things in the most excruciating detail...but truly this has a lot of power. And don't worry, if you were doing even some of what I was doing in high school there's always gonna be some fool ready to remind you :)

    4. I find understated fear more scary than overstated, and this scared me.

    5. I found this menacing and as scary as hell. Again, I've witnessed the effects of Alzheimer's and I feel that my greatest possession, such as it is, is my mind. I wrote a poem called 'Blank Slate' some time ago, so this certainly resonates with me.

    6. I read this more as the inevitability of forgetting and resignation. I feel fear, but it is more the fear of the future we all must embrace. Really strong piece. You got inside all of us.

  5. Valentine's Day

    Lacey Davidson was the kind of woman who would kill you with kindness, if she could. That’s why I never trusted her; she was all about the good works and the random acts; the bless your hearts and the covered dishes, laying it on so thick all the time you could be pretty darned sure she always had some whole other agenda. And if it turns out there’s a line up there at the Pearly gates, she’ll be the first to find a way to butt in front of you. Trust me.
    Not that I am at all judgmental. Not at all—it’s just that I happen to have walked this world for enough years to know that for all the talk out there about positive energy and what would Jesus do and unconditional love, nobody ever quite gets around to talking about being sincere, do we? And sometimes staying positive and being sincere turn out to be entirely different, don’t they? See what I mean?
    So I can’t say I was especially grateful when I came up short last Thursday down at the market because it was two days before my SNAP card refilled. I was standing there, trying to figure out what to put back and going through my coat pockets and the bottom of my purse to come up with two more dollars and sixty-eight cents and getting more and more embarrassed when Lacey swoops over my shoulder so I can’t get away and waves a fiver in my face and hollers loud enough for the whole damn store to hear: “Now you take this, Patty Louise Dugan! My goodness, woman, don’t you think I know what STRUGGLE feels like?”
    I stared down at her hand, sporting a ring with one of them lab-grown Padparascha sapphires, like they have on JTV, so big and vulgar, it looked like it’d been plucked straight from the third eye of some pagan idol, my cheeks about as fiery as that stone. I wanted to die right there. But that don’t mean I didn’t want to kill her first, either. The check out girl was drumming her fingers on the scanner window and folks had lined up behind Lacey a half an aisle back. “Uhhmm. That’s real gracious of you Lacey. I’ll get this right back to you, I promise.”
    “Oh, don’t be silly,” she said. “Don’t you give it another thought. I’m just loving my neighbor, like the good Lord told us!” The cashier thrust the change in my direction, and Lacey clenched her fist over mine to pry it open. “And you keep the change, too. Hear? After all,” she chuckled. “Every little bit helps!”
    I reached frantically for my handmade cloth grocery tote, and was just about to yank it clear from the bag boy, when Lacey apparently decided that the cupcake of my public humiliation wasn’t quite complete, because she yanked one of those two dollar heart shaped boxes of cheap Elmer’s Valentine’s chocolates they had stacked up by the candy bars and threw it in. “Put that on my tab. Poor darling, I guess now that Edgar’s run off, you won’t be getting chocolates this year, will you? Well, don’t think a thing about it, Honey, it’s all water under the bridge now.”
    I think I started breathing again by the time I got out of the parking lot, but I can’t be sure, seeing as how Edgar, Lacey and quite a few employees of the Federal, state and county governments, were only I few people I was ready to throw under that bridge.
    Valentine’s day, y’see, just happened to coincide with mine and Edgar’s wedding anniversary and with what would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary, so a person could understand how I might be a little sensitive on the subject at that particular moment…

    1. The characters you create could easily be cartoons, but you give them heart and soul, and I always wind up loving them. This one especially feels like something Fannie Flagg might have written. Well done!

    2. Part Two

      It would have been bad enough that he ran off with that bottle blond from the bank, but that he’d done it after cleaning out our bank accounts and being more or less convicted in absentia of embezzling half a mil and change into the bargain; it didn’t help matters at all when the lawyer called and told me to sell everything that wasn’t nailed down, because even if they found him or his corpse, the state was gonna declare it part of his estate and I was going to have to pay taxes on whatever they didn’t keep for restitution. That wasn’t the first time I cried over Edgar, but believe me, it was the last.
      So far, I had no job, no prospects, food stamps and a ranch house full of pain, but I also had nineteen thousand, thirty-five dollars and twenty-three cents in cash stashed in the deep freeze that nobody knew about but me. I’d figured if I made it to twenty-five, I could retire to Costa Rica in style, but that was before I recognized that sometimes enough really is enough and it was time to go. So when I got home and fed the cat and got the groceries put up, I pulled out the nicest stationery I owned and peeled off a fresh five and tucked it in an envelope with a note for Lacey Davidson. Just to be spiteful, I was going to give her a ten and tell her petty ass to pay it forward, but I didn’t. Instead I wrote, “Thank you for your kindness today. Sincerely, Patti Dugan”
      It nagged on me all the way over to her house, one of those antebellum joints on the edge of town with a curved porch and big white columns that reminded you of somebody smiling with a set of big old dentures. Didn’t matter if the smile was real, just that it looked rich. They had a mailbox worked into the iron gate that surrounded the place and I was just going to put the envelope in there, but when I opened it again to read the note, a whole flock of cow gulls swooped by overhead, and one of ‘em just happened to plop some hot fresh bird shit, slap on the fiver inside.
      And that was when I knew I’d said just enough. Sincerely.

    3. You had me from the first sentence. I love the voice of this piece, and the ending. So many small and telling details like brushstrokes.

    4. Ha, that ending! That's funny. Also, this personification is perfect:

      "Didn’t matter if the smile was real, just that it looked rich."

    5. You've an enviable skill to write what we all think. And you're so witty and real. I loved this.

    6. Man, you crush with these characters. I have known too many bless-their-little-heartin Christian ladies. This is so good. Folksy. Real.

  6. Fabulist part one

    She came here among us, yet no one knew her name.

    Some called her the Fabulist because her currency was stories and her audience mostly children. Yet I listened too, and my name is Rashida, and I am a grown woman.

    Her stage was formed in rubble, the pale beige dust tracing a chalklike ambit, the sporadic roar of warplanes a sonic frontier. The audience was the silence and its inverse.

    Amid bloodred cartographic deltas, septic watery spools of unraveled gauze, the dirty frightened actuality of a war zone, the Fabulist came and told her dream-clean tales.

    Of pirates, of explorers, of women who entered a dark place and found light, of men who relinquished their power in favour of something new, of wolves who moved into a magic park and changed the backdrop scenery. Not content with that, she embellished the proffered truths of our age and threw them into relief. And the children loved her more than anyone, as if Santa had dreamed of a cartoon mouse and made of his largesse an infinite childhood shrine.

    As the regime moved closer, sending shells and rockets and even a terrible airborne assassin that formed sickly bubbles on the lips of the children in lieu of screams, her stories were bulwarks, speaking of the lionhearts of history, sketching the tales of forest outlaws who accosted the elites and reapportioned their ill-gotten gains to the good folks.

    Robin Hood. Joan of Arc. Arthur Pendragon. Che Guevara. Marie Colvin.

    The people, reduced to a faux square block of crumbling rock and broken minarets, began to gather, bereft of any other hope, and the Fabulist told stories to undo their last dissent.

    “Feel my heart beating,” said Ahmed.

    “I shall. But first, a story.”

  7. Part two

    And it went like this:

    A headstrong woman on a beach sat for days after a shipwreck until a coconut became a fledgling palm. Nothing sailed by, and the sun remained in the sky, and the air was still as death, and shivering with the fragile ebb and the tenuous flow the palm became a tree but slowly. The woman walked the beach and traced the cadence of the tides and sang in tune with them.

    Until one day another castaway coughed and gasped his sickness upon her world.

    “How dare you come and sully this expanse?” asked the woman, now angered.

    “My ship is lost, and this is nothing I would choose,” he said, still puking ample saltchuck.


    She moved to smite him with a blade of pale driftwood, but a wave pulled him back beyond the scope of her rage, a riptide rescued him, and she felt a rib inside her creak and twinge. She thought for a second about relenting and retreated.

    Shearwaters drew letters in the sky—“please help us all”—and a turtle crawled from the tide and made its way along the lower jawbone sweep of the beach, the great Nike swoosh of desert island chic, and settled by the sawgrass and the tiny dunes. The humans from their distant perches—she downwind on the glimmering sands, he on a cluster of rocks offshore—watched as it laid its copious eggs and buried them. Food for days, they thought, and schemed.

    But they miscounted the days and the eggs all hatched and tiny spiderlike bodies began to row tideward.

    “You should have come in sooner,” said the woman, “so you could help.”

    “Why? To meet the flat of your oar blade?”

    Like this, their days dissolved into something other than days, a way of being, a miscomprehension, and still the ponderous air stayed still.

    Until one day she said, “Come, then. Let us merge our skills and build of this a new brightness.”

    And he came swimming from the dwindle tail of rocks and met the brandished edge of her driftwood blade and was dead before he hit the sand.

    “That will teach you,” she said, while the petrels wheeled and screamed in cryptic cursive against the firmament and thunderheads built upon themselves offshore, distant, convulsive, revolving like sickly guts.

    The children sat like penitents atop a monastic peak. The Fabulist stayed among them and silent. Someone screamed they should go down the stairs, but no one moved. Post-traumatic blasts ramped up like lariated strings of cherry bombs. In what world does a child distinguish between a cluster bomb and a rocket? What rift has split the twin realities of life and story?

    Only the Fabulist knows. No, thats not true. I, Rashida, cowering under the withering trellis of vines, showered by dust, dreaming of unthinkable escape, also know.

    1. Fascinating and beautiful. You've written a parable within a parable, and one that's perfect for our times, and you've used your wonderful palette of delicious words. Thank you for sharing.

    2. I can't think of anything to say that Leland hasn't. Wrapping heartbreak into those tasty words. Beautifully tragic.

    3. Long a concept I've been fascinated with. I knew a man for example on one of the planes that hit the towers coming home with his two year old, and hoped that whatever he told that child he lied. Or that movie, Life is Beautiful. When the lie is more beautiful, tell the children the story. Even when you have to lie...

    4. You're one of the most erudite writers I read, and I wish I had half the insight and eloquence you possess. You have the ability to distil the best of all genres into a melange transcending any one of them. And you inspire me to do better - even here, within the text of this comment. :)

    5. Damn! I love this. I love fable-esque fiction, and this is hitting on so many levels. Kind of got a Sandra Cisneros vibe in parts, too. Can't explain that, but it can't be bad!

  8. The door to the next apartment crashed open, the soldiers' muted voices much closer now. Monica pushed herself into the corner, wishing there'd been another way out.

    The instant she'd seen it she'd known the bathroom would be her refuge. It was set back toward the rear of the house, away from the noise of the road. The kitchen was beside it, but that was a room which was rarely used, the other residents preferring to eat takeaways they'd arranged for delivery. All she'd needed was a quiet place with a stout bolt on the door.

    She could put up with anything else if she had that.

    The woman in the next apartment began crying. The soldiers were breaking things, the shattering of glass following the dull thuds of heavier items hitting the walls. Monica had only seen inside next door the one time, the time she'd accepted a delivery for her, calling round later to pass it back when she'd been in. She'd not been impressed by what she'd seen: the woman had had too many ornaments and momentoes cluttering up the meagre space she'd had.

    Monica hated keeping things she didn't use. She couldn't see the sense. It was a perpetual handicap; the need to find places to store the luxuries you'd bought to secure a place in a clique where everyone else was doing the same. She was more self-contained than that, relying on no-one. She liked to travel light and be agile and always ready to move.

    But the soldiers had anticipated that, stationing a sniper outside to shoot down everyone who tried to run.

    And that was why she'd retreated back into her special place, readying herself with the shards of the mirror she'd smashed. If there wasn't a way for her to escape, she'd resist, taking as many of them down with her as she could when she finally succumbed.

    It was the least she could do. Fight back and spit in their eyes as they took her down.

    1. I was especially struck by her weapon of choice... shards of mirror...

    2. I like the stark, spare tone and language. Makes this all the more real and terrifying.

  9. “Lady. Yes, you. You with the hair!”

    Evangelina slowed, ready to give him a broadside of scorn as she passed. She’d grown used to the language of the soldiers kept in the pens, waiting to board the troopships which left here each week. At first, she’d been amused, then she’d been disgusted, many of them little better than the cattle they resembled, cooped up in their cages. They were crude and poorly educated, but necessary, their efforts making it more likely that the officers would survive these damned battles which it seemed would never cease.

    If only someone could a way to end it quickly, then they all could go home again. Lick their wounds and resume the lives they’d been living before the hostilities.

    “Oi. I know you can hear me. All I want is a kiss. Is that too much to ask?”

    She stopped, looking to see which individual in the crowd it was that was calling her. They all looked much the same, the crumpled cloth they were wearing dyed in muddy colours, making them look like a horde of rude golems. They would be returning to the earth very soon too if the generals continued to lose their campaigns. She could almost pity them, these people with so little hope.

    One of the men was balancing on top of the fence now, his arms outstretched like the wings of a Spitfire. An NCO with a baton knocked him back, striking him down, so he fell back into the throng, only to rise up again, his face now bloodied from the attack. She smiled, despite her better judgement, touched her fingers to her lips and threw him what he’d been asking for.

    It was just a simple kiss. Nothing more. And maybe it’d help keep him warm for a while, giving him a reason to continue.

    Maybe she should go over, ask his name and introduce herself. What harm would it do?

    It could be her good deed for the day.

    1. Interesting... I want to know more.

    2. You get there sense more is happening here than meets the eye.

    3. I agree... is her motivation pure or suspect? Would enjoy reading more.

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  11. Reposted with the last line. Still not sure where I'm going, though.


    The red-haired boy said to listen to the trees. It was the last thing he told me, a hoarse whisper before he ran off. Listen to the trees. It sounded ridiculous. Ridiculously hopeful like he was the wood sprite sent in to save the heroine from certain death. But it was starting to make sense. Jonah once told me, while we were walking through this very forest, his favorite, that trees have a language all their own, that they communicate through their root systems, which entangle with other trees. Maybe they’re on guard against blights or insect infestation. I would have preferred something more sentry-like. That they warned each other against a certain rumble in the earth or frisson in the air about a new logging company moving in, a developer who’d bought up the property, a homeowner who was displeased they were blocking his view of the sunset. “What could they do?” I asked him. “Drop acorns on their heads? Stiffen their bark against attack? Detach a limb to crash down on their equipment?”

    Jonah had ducked his head, and smiled, and kept walking.

    The boy said to listen to the trees. I stood as still as I could among them, arms around my middle, eyes closed. I heard what I’d been hearing for hours: squirrels, chipmunks, the distant hum of the highway. The trees didn’t tell me what happened to Jonah. They didn’t even tell me which way he’d gone. I only had what I’d already known: He was last seen at a diner in town, making slow work of a cup of decaf and a toasted English muffin, then he paid his check with a crumpled five-dollar bill and left. Nobody had noted which way he’d gone, which said that he made no remarkable impression. But that was Jonah. Slipping through life unnoticed. Except by me.

    And now his absence was louder than his presence had ever been. I don’t remember when I’d last slept or ate, and perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me, convincing me that not only had I never really known the real Jonah, but that he was a complete fictionalization. That I’d been so lonely that my mind had ginned him up for me. An imaginary playmate.

    I took a deep inhale and noted the scents of the forest floor: damp earth, pine, mold. I extended my arms to either side, some cockeyed instinct telling me that my fingertips would tell my feet which way to go. Left, the small voice said. I walked, all of my senses on heightened alert.

    An acorn fell on my head.

    “Fine,” I shouted at the tree. “I’ll leave.”

    Then another acorn hit me. I looked up, scowling. That’s when I saw it, through the leaves. A blue-jeaned leg. A white sneaker.

    I blinked. Blinked again. And all I saw was forest canopy and sky.

    1. Love it! Laurie, you have to read The Overstory if you haven't already.

    2. ohhhhhh... this is fascinating... and so much left to the imagination... how old is the narrator, and how old is Jonah? The setting is perfect, and so is the set up.

    3. Leland, I honestly have no idea. I just started typing and this came out. I think it's in the middle of something, looking back on it now, and that Jonah is thirty-ish, lost in his own life after something traumatic happened.

    4. This is wonderful - filled with such sensitivity and subtle nuance. It's delightful!

    5. I agree, and I also think the cadence of the language works really well. Almost hypnotic!

  12. This is gorgeous. I like it especially because I have kNOWN people like that.It's almost as if they never completely exist in one space, but rather in several at once.


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