They’re never going to hear you. They want you to shout so they can single you out. Best bet is to keep your head down, pretend you just can’t hear the sounds. The tallest blade of grass gets whacked by the mower blade. Ask Martin Luther King, Jr. Ask Kennedy. Ask Malcom X. Ask Lincoln.
Naw, they don’t want to hear you. They want to solicit opinions so they can weed out the dissenters. Here, take this census... Do you own property? No, a renter? Fill out this form. Do it properly. We’ve adjusted it so you don’t have to fit into as many boxes. Then, we’ll take y’all out like a million small poxes.
Stand on this soapbox, but, boy, don’t slip. You’ll hit so hard, you’ll never recover from it. You’ll suffocate under the happy notions and rallying songs. No one said anyone was doing anything wrong. We’ve all got different opinions, carefully carried by our minions.
Vote if you want to. It will make you feel good. But it might not effect the changes it should. Not happy? Stand up. Be counted. All this turmoil can be surmounted. You just got to stand inside this box real quick…trust me, it’ll be a gas.
Yours isn’t nice enough; you must be poor. Yours burns gas; you must hate the environment. Yours is so clean; you must have your shit together. Old fries on the floorboards? You pathetic piece of garbage trash. Why you need a sports car? Compensating? Why do you drive that old piece of shit; ain’t you got no ambition?
You put stickers on your bumper, and I hate you for it. You have no brand loyalty, so that makes you a car whore. Why do you hate technology, mine has a built in laptop. Stick shift? Luddite. Automatic? Soulless heathen; do you even drive, bra?
Nobody could love somebody drives an old hoopty like that. No girls are gonna ride in your Mustang. No real man would drive a Mini Cooper. What kind of crazy lesbian drives a truck? Aren’t you supposed to have a Subaru Outback?
You ride a motorcycle, you selfish, stupid dirtbag? You ride a bike, you hippie piece of liberal garbage? You take public transportation because it makes buying heroin easier, huh? You don’t have a car?
Go back to Russia, Commie.
I’m gonna show everybody. I’m down so low, I got nowhere to go but up. Or sideways, but I ain’t going sideways; I’m chasing salvation. I’m fixing to blast the stain right off me. I’ll buff that shit out and make it shine; no one’s got a long enough attention span to press rewind.
Haven’t you been listening the preacher? It don’t matter what you do – you just got to own it, ask forgiveness. What you want to do is rack those sins up early, so you can atone in plenty of time. You want to make them sign that non-disclosure agreement. You got to get ahead of that bad press coverage.
Yeah, you’re a dick to your kids, but you’ll be a great Grandpa. I know, I know, you’ll quit drinking tomorrow. Look. This is America. It doesn’t matter how you run the race. It don’t even matter if you cheat. What matters is how you look on the platform. Shiny? People like shiny.
The afterlife will sort things out. Figure out who gets saved and who gets tortured. Let go and let God, son. Redemption is for sale everywhere; you just got to know where to look. I’m waiting on the Rapture. I read about it in this big, black book.
Reparations are overdue. We’ve annexed the country for the chosen few. Yeah, second chances sound real nice, but what the hell are you gonna do?
He made movies. Not any you’d have heard of, but they gave me an insight on how he saw the world, when I finally saw them, much later.ReplyDelete
He’d spend weeks setting up the perfect shot. First he imagined it in his head, then he tried to find a real world location that matched what he saw, what he knew must be out there in reality.
Once we waited for two weeks in Washington for the cherry trees to blossom. All for thirty seconds of film. I went to museums, all of them, I think. I went to memorials. And he just stared at the cherry trees, as if he could will them to bloom.
I saw him from atop the Washington Monument. He looked like a little boy, expecting a surprise that had been promised, but patience was the lesson.
I wanted to cry for him, for his unbridled optimism, as I saw him sitting there, surrounded by tourists who never even looked at the promise of the trees.
On the Sunday, the second Sunday of our time in the District, I tried to reason with him.
“While you’re waiting for the trees to bloom, you’re missing out on the thousand other things you could film. Why do you just sit there?”
“I am getting to know the tree. Getting to know the feeling. It’s important.”
I went to the only memorial I had not yet seen. Jefferson’s. It felt like a hallowed place. His words in enormous letters. The round shape of the memorial did something odd to the sound, made it timeless. And people whispered there. They felt it, too.
And I realized I’d had enough of waiting. I went back to the hotel and began packing. I could wait no longer.
I’d just latched the last suitcase when he ran in, filled with enthusiasm.
“I think tomorrow is the day! I think they’ll bloom tomorrow!” He looked down at the suitcase on the bed. “What are you doing? Where are you going?” [continued in comments]
“I’m going home. There’s nothing more for me to see here. I’m tired of being a tourist. A lonely tourist.”
“Just one more day.”
His shoulders slumped. “I wanted to share it with you. I thought you’d understand.”
“I’ll see you when you get home.” And I lugged my bags to the door and didn’t look back. No hug, no kiss. No goodbye.
But I lied to him. I wasn’t going home. Not now, not ever. I got to the airport and bought a ticket to Honolulu. Where there are flowers blooming every day of the year, no waiting required.
I was still there when the divorce papers arrived. And a little silver disc, a DVD, was in the same envelope. I had the front desk send up a player. Who watches DVDs anyway?
I hesitated before I put it in the player. Shouldn’t I allow sleeping dogs to lie? Or lay? Grammar was never my strongpoint.
The silver disc slid into the machine, and on the television, I saw it. A flurry of cherry blossom petals, in slow motion, riding a gentle wind, over the soundtrack of wind chimes and stringed instruments, before the title showed on the screen. “Patience” was what he called the movie.
I pressed stop, dropped the disc into the garbage, and walked into another today, no patience, no planning required.
Warm rain fell as I walked to the beach. Or was it tears?
The ambiguity of sentiment (is that a thing?) works so well. I love the contrast in personality and how it informs the narrative. This is wanting to keep going if you ask me.Delete
Me being JDDelete
That's done so gracefully. I agree with UnknownJD, that it could go on. "Where there are flowers blooming every day of the year, no waiting required" is such a great counterpoint.Delete
UnknownJD, lol! I agree too. I also love the, um, patience of these lines and the way they mimic the very rhythms they describe: "A flurry of cherry blossom petals, in slow motion, riding a gentle wind, over the soundtrack of wind chimes and stringed instruments, before the title showed on the screen."Delete
Dan aka unknown) Beautiful work on all three pieces! Only man I know can take that kind of angst and have it rhyme...Though I'm gonna shout out on Redemption. Yeah...Delete
Leland: This one almost made me cry. Truly Dated a movie director for awhile, in the spring as a matter of fact and he'd walk me home from a bar someplace and we'd make out like crazy and he was always, always waiting for those cheery blossoms to bloom in Riverside Park, framing the shot with his hands seeing pictures I could never see, not the way he did. SO spot on, especially when it finally dawns on you that you're never in those pictures, not really.
Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment! I appreciate it!Delete
Dan's always the lyricist, or so it seems. You're so very attuned to the politics in the world and you're a genius when it comes to highlighting the double-talk and lies hiding behind the mundane. Brilliant.Delete
I see Leland as being the passionate heart here, as a rule, and you ask the same question here that I've asked myself many times. Do we stop and take notice or do we allow ourselves to be carried along, doing everything but experiencing nothing? I love reading your writing, Leland. You never fail.Delete
Thank you kindlyDelete
On Dan's stories...ReplyDelete
Diggin' the new rhythm in MaderRap(tm) in Fear.
In Car, you made me think. How much of our self-worth is wrapped up in what we drive? Too much.
And in Redemption, one phrase stood out and is echoing in my head... Chasing Salvation... be an awesome name for a creative non-fiction book.
You inspire me with your rhythms. Some day I'm gonna figure out how to do some of that.
I'm digging them, too. I love the music of Fear. This line: "The tallest blade of grass gets whacked by the mower blade." Car made me love my not-born-in-this-century car even more. Redemption, powerful.Delete
Taken together, Dan's three pieces feel like they're describing a disintegrating dystopian country, which is where their power lies. Because they are.Delete
We're living in times when it's becoming dangerous to be seen or heard. It's much safer to act dumb, question nothing and to accept every decision which has been made for us, but that can be dangerous too. Are we brave enough to single ourselves out and speak up?Delete
Your writing is like a clarion call to us all to refuse the safest route; it's the most dangerous one of them all if we follow it to the end. You always make me think, Dan. Fabulous writing as always!
“Where the hell’s Rosalie?” Pat Bowman asked as he peered over his son Mark’s shoulder toward the front door.ReplyDelete
“She was here this morning, Dad,” Mark said with a sigh. He sighed a lot these days, though he tried not to.
“Wasn’t that Becca?” Pat said.
“Well, yeah. Becca was here, too. A little while ago. Rosalie came this morning, though.”
“I would’ve sworn…” Pat’s attention refocused on the television.
“She’s the one who came earlier, Dad. Trust me.” Mark decided to hold his big inhale this time. Sighing didn’t make Mark feel any better about his father or his own role as Pat’s health proxy and primary caregiver.
Besides, what good would siting now do? The doctors and therapists explained to him how his father’s condition would become frustrating. Then would come the hard part. Mark closed his eyes and tried not to think of what the hard part would be like in light of the past three months.
“Who the hell thought this stupid ostrich was a good idea to sell insurance,” his father, a retired business executive, said.
“It’s an emu, Dad. But you’re right. It sucks. Annoying as hell.”
“Stupid fucking bird. Assholes must think we’re idiots. If some ad man brought me this concept I’d throw him out the window. See if he could fly as well as some damn ostrich.”
“Relax, Dad. It’s only a commercial.” Mark was seeing more of these tirades all the time. And they hurt.
He recalled how when they were kids, his sisters Rosalie and Rebecca and he couldn’t go to sleep without listening to their father tell them a silly story. Never the same one, unless they asked for one. Pat Bowman put the “gentle” in “gentleman.”
Mark thought of the time back at Yale when he the cops hauled him in after trying to score some weed off an undercover. Pat drove from Armonk to New Haven in a blizzard to bail Mark out and drive him home. Not once did he raise his voice or issue a profanity. Not one “damn,” let alone a “fuck.”
“You’re better than this, Mark. You know the difference between right and wrong, and the law says what you were trying to do is wrong,” Pat said.
“It’s a stupid law, Dad. But, yeah. Sorry. I fucked up,” Mark said, his chin to his chest as he stared at the floor board.
“Careful of your language, Mark. Words have power I don’t think you fully understand yet. How you use them communicate as much as what you’re trying to say. I tried my whole life to set a good example for you. Maybe I slipped up — slipped up — somewhere. Always remember, you’re my main man, pal. When I go, I want to say ‘My boy Mark is The Man.’ Not ‘The *blanking* Man. MY Man.”
And so he was.
Mark’s mouth twisted into something between a grin and a grimace thinking of that night. “MY Man.”
“When the hell is Rosalie coming? Was that a car?” Pat said, trying to rise.
“Sit! Yep, It’s Rosalie,” Mark said with touch of relief.
“Hi, Mark. You get some rest. Hi, Dad,” Rosalie said as she breezed into the living room.
“Thanks, Ro. Later, Dad.” Mark said, and kissed his father’s forehead.
“So, is there anything I can do for you, Dad? Need a drink, something to eat?” Rosalie said. Just so she knew she’d have his attention, Rosalie stepped between her father and the television screen.
“Yeah, get outta the way. And can you tell me who that guy was who just left?”
Oh, this one hurts, especially at the end. You're so good with those small details.Delete
So poignant and (I know I sound like broken record) so much more effective in its understated pathos than blaring it from the rooftops as some writers might be tempted to do.Delete
Beautifully done, we're all doomed to age differently, I guess, but I just pray god grants me the grace to leave this planet with a few of my marbles left!Delete
Beautifully told, and real. The details, the flashback, just perfect. If you can bear one small suggestion. You're so close to Mark in the telling (and I like that a lot), the dialogue tags with Pat throw distance in there that I think could be avoided by omitting some of the tags, and by replacing the ohters with "his father." Really well told, and a very heartwarming story.Delete
I've lived though this and you capture it so well. It's heartbreaking and you can only wonder how it must feel to be looking outward with the knowledge your imminent decline is breathing down your neck.Delete
Oof. Agreed. This one hits close to home with gentility and empathyDelete
Mama’s gone and Papa’s gone and it looks like me and Aphid are all that’s left. We only turned our backs a heartbeat and a half ago, went on some hapless adventure to trap a weasel, which we messed up anyway, but when we came home we found nothing worth finding. Aphid’s food bowl, empty. Her ranks of toys, ransacked. Things and people tossed aside. Mama and Papa not even here. Old Lady Cantor stiff as a board in the dusty trench we call a street, grains of golden highlights in her plain old silver hair.ReplyDelete
Her dry corpse loitering this very road that hugs the shallow valley and joins another road that will lead me to the end of my story.
Which brings us to this.
Because I am a Hidalgo son, I vow to even the score, but I am small and puny, and now I must wait a decade or more before I can carry that out. And because I can do math, I know my great friend Aphid will be gone by then. In that time, I will love Aphid with everything I have, even when she spurns it. And though she will be indifferent to most, I will find her new toys, new things to love, shining new moments in her short life. And I will work on getting bigger and faster.
Where are you, my sparkling arroyo mother, my father sewn from mesquite and sky?
We had us a family, didn’t we? Charcoal and diamonds.
One day so impossible and faraway, beyond my place in this thirst and heat, I will come out of the same honey-powdered sunlight with holy death in my hand, with a terrible new voice, and I will hear the approval of Aphid and my mama and my papa as I fulfil my vows and carve my vengeance in the flesh of strangers—smileless, grim-faced, steadfast, all thoughts of a broken then replaced by the inviolate now.
Unless, that is, I find you. Then we can talk.
I love reading your writing, David. So much tasty language. I can feel his thirst for revenge and his love for Aphid. This line: "Where are you, my sparkling arroyo mother, my father sewn from mesquite and sky?" And "honey-powdered sunlight." Wow.Delete
all thoughts of a broken then replaced by the inviolate now. Dang, you're good.Delete
Laurie identified my favorite line. And am I guessing right that Aphid is the narrator's dog? This is beautiful and rich.Delete
Close, Leland. Cat. Last week I posted a photo on my FB timeline of a boy and a cat, which inspired these words directly. No idea why the name Aphid, though. Sometimes they just arrive, like the boy's family name too, and I just go with it, lol.Delete
Thanks, everyone, for kind words. :)
You remind me of Laird Barron in many ways, David. You've an unerring poeticism that leaves me in awe every time I read you. You always write such original pieces which leave me breathless...how do you do that?Delete
I am gonna jump on the praise bandwagon. I feel like you must have a time machine and be visiting from a time when people honored languageDelete
“We need the right people on this project,” he said, and winked in my direction. “The best people.” I wasn’t sure what he meant. I hadn’t worked for him long enough to get the subtle cues, the internal language of those who’d been elbow to elbow in various agencies for decades. And he was looking to me for answers. But first, I had a question. He anticipated me. “Just get it done, kid. I’m counting on you.”ReplyDelete
But I was no further along in understanding my mission than I’d been when his executive assistant said he’d wanted me to sit in on the meeting. I knew this was an opportunity, and I didn’t want to blow it by looking incompetent. Jack Harris, who’d been hired only a few weeks before me, was the only person I felt marginally safe admitting my ignorance to. I pulled him aside as the others grumbled out of the conference room.
He gave me a flat-eyed glare. His aftershave smelled like wet flannel and desperation. I swallowed and asked my question, hoping my voice didn’t break. It did.
“As if I’m helping you,” he said. “You sucked his dick to get into this meeting, you figure out what the hell the lunatic wants.”
I stood, frozen, as he stormed away, catching up with one of the others from the meeting. Is that what they think?
“Don’t let that asshole get under your skin,” a voice said. I turned. His executive assistant, a woman who looked suspiciously like a younger version of his wife, gave me a gentle smile. “He’s just jealous that you were asked to staff the mission.”
“Should I say something, I mean, to Human Resources, about his speaking to me that way?”
She laughed. “Oh, honey. If you’re gonna run to CAO for every idiotic thing these guys say, this job is gonna chew you up and spit you out.”
“But…but it’s illegal to…not to mention creating a hostile workplace. Not to mention the ridiculous and insulting accusation that I’d even do something like that…”
I could see my words were not moving her. Which made me angry. “As the only other woman in this office, how can you stand there and tell me to—”
Her manicured but surprisingly strong hand landed on my arm. “This ain’t the hill you want to die on, honey.”
“I didn’t ask for this meeting! You called and told me he wanted me in there!”
She put up a finger. Shush. Then looked right and left. “I wanted you in there. Believe me, if anyone sucked his dick he’d forget about it five minutes later.”
I couldn’t smother my laugh fast enough.
She grinned, showing expensive dental work. “Yeah. I knew you were smart. That’s why I hired you. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, would you please get us some coffees and come into my office and I’ll tell you what I want you to do.”
She’d hired me? She’s running this show? As I blinked in question, her face turned harder. “And if you tell anyone that, we’ll have a different kind of problem. You get me? There are certain things he doesn’t need to know.” The sly grin returned. “All he needs to know is that someone is getting it done. And we’ll be getting it done. Or at least telling him we did. Go on, now. I take mine light and sweet, like me. Then we’ll talk.”
She peeled off to her office and I went to the kitchen. I smiled. If I could stomach the idiots, I think I was going to like this job.
Like I tell my daughter when she encounters the dreaded office politics.--"find yourself a work mom" There's always one, thank god.Delete
I learned early on in my career that the only ones who ever knew what was going on were the executive assistants. Everybody else was just window dressing and ego. This is well told.Delete
Thank you! I'm seeing that I was way too subtle.Delete
I'm noticing a type of fiction lately that I think of as "wishful thinking" fiction. That's definitely not a criticism; stories like this help us through some pretty awful times, so brava! And I love how it's the women who will do it.Delete
I hope to continue helping. Until they take me away.Delete
You always write such real, well reasoned work here, Laurie. It's like you take me away from where I am and put me into a whole new world. Fabulous.Delete
Yes. Agreed. Your worlds seem so rich and vivid. And you make it look easy!Delete
Lopez drew another card. "It looks like you're going to die early," she said, positioning it on the grid. "Not from anything major. It'll most likely be a disease or a genetic flaw. Just not through an act of violence. You can take some consolation from that."ReplyDelete
"So what can you tell me? Can you hang a little more detail on that? You're telling me I'm gonna die: is there anything more I could be doing?"
"I don't think I should say any more," she said, lifting the next card and then putting it back. "It's contrary to the laws of nature. The future hates it when people try to second guess. You could be trading a peaceful death for some major-league trauma. You need to put a little trust in the divinities; they generally know what they're doing."
"But isn't that the point? What's the use of this - the cards - if I'm not gonna act on what they say? Surely my knowing what's coming is gonna affect what I'll do. I could walk out into traffic, cause accidents, confident I won't be killed. Something's bound to change. You've gotta admit that."
Lopez shook her head, collecting the cards from the table. "Maybe the divinities know what you're gonna do, minute by minute, second by second. They knew I was going to do your reading, what you'd say, and that you'd never test your jaywalking theory. That's how I can make these predictions and not worry about it affecting your future. They know everything; even you being here could be a part of their plan. You just need to hang a little looser, have some faith and play your part."
Fascinating...I want to know more about these characters. I love this line: "The future hates it when people try to second guess."Delete
and how many of our questions arise from that single factor? Not having enough faith? Nice!Delete
Ohhh... I like this a lot. And I like how you jumped into dialogue and how well it tells the story!Delete
In a way this is a horror story passing itself off as reassurance. The idea we have absolutely no free will and that we belong to some deity's giant train set is pure horror, about as nihilistic and meaningless as it gets. This scared me more than usual.Delete
I want more of this! Your flow is so hypnotizingDelete
Slip in skin, scarlet blood reined in ruin,
This tumult of woven hair, no expression;
A grid of purple veins, exhausting all.
Watch the pumping, the still void,
This strange sucking from a putrid will.
He watches the sun withdraw its face,
Sneering as it gives up its filthy lies.
This idle body refuses to stay hidden,
Its stench creeping, filling the void,
Seeping our around all the edges,
Seeking to reach out and be found.
Suckered in, he does as he is told.
Holds her hands, grips them, ties them,
Drowns himself in peering into mirrors,
Locks this sight behind a mental gate.
Leaving her. In the way she left him.
He scrawls a note no-one will ever read,
Builds conversations they never had.
She saw straight through him, beyond
Him, into the empty pit of pitch within.
Staring into this white skull, chastened.
Reliving it now, he fails to find meaning.
Screaming. Screaming cold. His response
Zero. He is but a muted jest of a man.
He knows it, and she knew it in one glance.
A toy to play with, his, to entrap, she was.
A figment of his fantasy, a cartoon cut almost.
Someone devoid of being someone, just a look,
A body without feeling, a human removed.
This is what he tells himself to rise above it.
This will remove the blood still drying on his heart.
Every photo of her is now his, every memory his own,
Every inch of her tattooed inside his mind.
Hate her? The notion disturbs him. Too dark.
Love her? The idea suffocates him. Too cheap.
Her lifelessness is what he likes about her now,
This silence, this dysfunctional lack of comment;
The way she cannot see right through him,
The way she cannot make him see himself.
Such a sense of backstory here. And it's almost gothic in its dark intensity. I love the balance in so many lines:Delete
"He scrawls a note no-one will ever read,
Builds conversations they never had."
"Someone devoid of being someone."
And of course the final two stark lines.
Oh snap! I'm so glad we have a poet representing. I love the way you make those syllables dance!Delete
You've written with such bitterness and bile here, Vickie. It's no secret that I love dark themes and this resounds so well with me. Fabulous.ReplyDelete