Thursday, March 26, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!


I’ve seen the best minds of my generation flirting with rebellion to drown in stagnation, scrambling, screaming through urban nightmare flash, chasing feeling in a world of anesthetic whiteness,

who were born too young to dream, choking on the dregs of the greatest generation, boomed into solitude by nascent parents, gnashing teeth against the ideals of their fight,

who skipped through the flashing, neon-dusk, telling stories of monsters and missiles and things that pass out drunk in the night,

who were told to dream big, then sent to institutions that taught them to have reasonable, bite-sized dreams, dreams that can be discussed in an elevator ride, over drinks, in the “safe nature” of a suburban golf course in the morning through a haze of lite beer and politics,

who crashed cars and parties and crashed hardest after years of baiting Nancy Reagan, getting off the train, these street kids, hustling change to change into powders and pills and bags and sometimes rent money, pouring desperation into Daddy’s Volvo,

who slipped through grimy punk rock clubs, slumming forties in parking lots, waiting for the beer to warm in sun-drenched sand,

who went to wars that we pretended weren’t wars,

who fought soldiers we pretended were enemies,

who died for rich men who were in conflict with rich men half a world away,

who went to lie on foreign soil in the oil-black night while Presidents smiled with bone-white teeth,

who found love in forbidden rooms, where Jesus never stayed, turned into a weapon by the ideologically barren suits selected by foreign powers to weaken the power of the citizenry,

who stumbled into flashing hospitals dragging unresponsive friends with pinprick pupils and hooded sweatshirts covered in blood and beer and bravado.

I’ve watched the country of my forefathers tarred and feathered, redesigned for easy sale, slipped under rugs of scandal and intrigue, left to rot on the vine of a dwindling independence, soft and brown and hollow in the sun while the sow bugs squirm,

and I have watched in horror, mind wrapped around the fruits of deceit, our inheritance chopped up and branded while old folks go bankrupt trying to die, while poor folks tell their children lies that they hope will help them sleep, eyes shut tight against the glare of nuclear dawn.


  1. I got a three-thirty bird comes to my windowpane
    Belting out his season’s song even in the wet and the chill and the rain
    How’s he know when it’s time? Same damn time every night
    Singing long before the dawn, long before light
    This ain’t no rooster, he ain’t no hen, he got no chores to do
    Except tell his story, sing his glory, that bird knows what to do
    He wakes me with an ancient song, singing so loud I can’t think
    Too beautiful for protest, he sings all alone and you got no choice but just dream along

    I got a three-thirty bird on my window sill, as the night creatures roam the streets.
    He drowns out the sirens and the gunfire chorus with an aria just for me
    In this witching hour he shows his power, singing about hope and light and freedom
    Making his promise of spring, when the crickets will come and the sun will rise
    And thousand more birds will come to perch in all the backyard trees
    You’d better be ready, no season waits on lies and fear, on death and hate
    You can’t change the song when you’ve heard it. You can’t push the sunrise back into the sky
    But for now it’s just the two of us while all the world’s asleep
    He will have his song and I will hear him
    My three-thirty bird and me.

    1. I love this... and it should be set to music, too!

    2. Loved this very much too. lyrical and perfect in so many ways. fave line: "You can't push the sunrise back into the sky"

    3. the rhythm, the images, the same line Lily highlighted.

    4. I love this too. The rhythm is great. It swings back and forth happily, and it works for me best at the beginning, in this bit especially, which is my favourite part:

      I got a three-thirty bird comes to my windowpane
      Belting out his season’s song even in the wet and the chill and the rain
      How’s he know when it’s time? Same damn time every night
      Singing long before the dawn, long before light
      This ain’t no rooster, he ain’t no hen, he got no chores to do
      Except tell his story, sing his glory, that bird knows what to do

      It's almost like a birdie rap. And it's almost like the words are chirping. Really enjoyed reading that.

    5. Dan Mader, raw power that doesnt overwhelm, utterly authentic witnessing, angry but not pointlessly nihilistic. I grieve with you, but do not give up.

    6. I loved this. Birds are like that; birds and cats. I always envy a great poet and this is fabulous. I especially like the way you turn it about at the end, with the begrudged becoming something you eventually need yourself.

    7. I love the concept of a 330 bird. We have a 430 bird. And you know I love existential bird stories!

  2. Dan, that is one of the most remarkably powerful pieces I've read in a good long while. I can almost hear you singing it, in a minor key. Thank you.

    1. Agree with Leland Dan, that is an extremely powerful and layered piece.

    2. Man. I was thinking the same thing. How musical it is, the pulsing beat, and I kept imagining you performing this in front of a microphone. It's aching and powerful I want to highlight phrase after phrase to post here there's so much that I love about this piece. Thank you

    3. This is really powerful (then I realised Leland wrote that too, and Lily!). The structure I really like, it works really well. Writing one sentence is really freeing and this one has that freefall element, dropping from one parag to the next, like it's hurrying down to a crescendo. It speeds up the lines and creates a rush, down, down - where the music isn't playing! Hard-punching.

  3. The Good Book tells us “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Until last week, I woulda told you that it was talking about dying so others might live.

    Now I think of it as meaning “putting his life on hold” for his friends.

    I would, but don’t especially want to, die so someone else can live.

    Staying away from other people so that we all might live? I pretty much do that anyway.

    In truth, my life has not changed greatly because of the novel corona virus. In a busy week, I see maybe two people. The only way it’s really changed is that I try to throw a few more things than usual out into the world to remind people to smile, to look around and see the beauty around them. And sometimes, a little something to help them see themselves, as they are and as they might be.

    Greater love… practice that. Recognize it when it’s given to you. Recognize it when you give it.

    Of all the things that folks say could change forever because of this virus, the one no one talks about is how we’ll look at each other when it’s over, and what we’ll see.

    1. Thank you. This reminded me of a meme I saw this morning that said, after all this is over the only thing that will have mattered is how we treated each other. It won't be the only thing that matters but it will be the most important eh?

    2. Thank you, Leland. I wonder what we'll all look like when we can look at each other again.

    3. And thank you for all the wonderful things you put out into the world to remind us how beautiful it can be. I have

    4. I love this. I just read it out to my housemates as we're all eating around the table. It's true. I was reading about how companies are treating their employees; I'll remember the bad stories. And I'll remember the good ones. And everyone will have (hopefully) greater respect for the NHS and those working in the service industries/dealing with people. Greater love...

    5. You're a delight, Leland. You're the embodiment of love and peace.

    6. This is beautiful and we can count on you to find the beauty and heart 💚

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  5. When the last warning sounded, when the television and the internet and the messages stopped, the world was quiet.

    The electronics brought forth only white noise.

    Brave souls looked out the windows. Braver souls opened their doors.

    And stepped out.

    At first they thought it was silence, but then they heard the birds singing. Birds stifled by traffic noise and fumes for decades.

    The people squinted when the sunlight touched their faces, pale from staying indoors.

    Some doors did not open. There would be bodies to bury. Later.

    Some courageously stuck out their hands for a shake. Some handshakes were rebuffed in return for hugs.

    And nobody gave a damn about the Dow. No one knew what a GDP was.

    But everybody knew how to dance.

    1. Yes. Dancing will be the order of the day I'm hoping. Funny how the birds seem to be chronically it all for us and doling out hope at the same time. Nice.

    2. Yes. Everyone says how we are going to dance and drink after this! It's sombre, but hopeful at the end. The birds keep singing, but once they were silenced. Now the humans are silenced outside. And the birds seem to sing to see humans.

    3. Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? Hell, yes!

    4. Oh, so hopeful! I'm ready to hug people and dance!

    5. Man, I can't wait. I want to hug everyone. Especially y'all

  6. The Spirit of the Age?

    He remembered a time without fear. A time when you could shake a friend's hand without wondering where they'd been. He imagined a new world, a world without screens or an awareness of hygiene; a world for brave survivors and the more casual dreamers.

    The world he lived in now was small; the size of a house or maybe even a room. It could be little as two metres across - or even less if you considered the needs of everyone else, their movements impinging upon his invisible cell. But yet, it was freedom - of a sort - a relaxation of the need to ride or drive, queues of people waiting to plug into their roles. Not now, not now; not now for anyone; just a series of endless vacations with no minds to be exercised.

    1. A world within a world is endlessly smaller isn't it? Fave line: "not now, not now; not now for anyone". Maybe a refrain as well as a description?

    2. Sums up how your world has shrunk if you're in lockdown. Here, we only have it partially. Lots of people still going to work. I've been working from home, so have to use my brain and work, and read about finance, when it's hard to focus. The brain wants to run free and dream, and be able to relax completely, when the body is locked up and there's rules on when it can venture out. And everyone's cell is a different size.

      Favourite line: a world for brave survivors and the more casual dreamers.

    3. as somebody who always works from home, I'm practically a recluse as it is, but I TOTALLY relate to that last line, still waiting on that!

    4. Yes. You've captured this weird in between feeling!

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  8. Off!

    The world stopped, but I didn’t want to get off.
    It stopped turning. But I still had things to say.

    “Don’t loiter in the throughway.”

    My fingers caught the rail tighter lest it disintegrate
    To nought, like the globe around me and below
    Where the cities stood silent, emitting solitude
    While the cherry tree blossoms wilt to grey.

    This window contracts, ever-decreasing my view
    Of the things I used to do, the faces I used to
    Know. Where are you? I spoke to you yesterday,
    Yet I can’t see you in my memory of the crowd.

    Are you down there, sitting mute behind your view,
    Keeping your fortress closed, breathing stale air?

    I remember moments sewn in a patterned quilt,
    And you, you providing the voiceover to each
    Scene. I recall some, but I know some are gone now.

    “Don’t loiter in the throughway!”

    It’s my turn. Someone is urging me, pressing soft,
    Steadily insistent. I know I have to take the step,
    This leap into the unknown, the gap between
    Here and the below, embrace the nothingness.

    I wonder where you all are, every one of you.

    It’s been two weeks, but it seems so much more.
    I feel time ticking, even though it stopped dead.
    The conductor nods his head and I know now:
    I have to get off.

    1. Those cherry blossoms, like the birds are enduring right now in this time. These words felt subtle but spacious to me. Good work.

    2. I love the whole imagined image--the last on the train.

    3. This is a painting. Such vivid imagery!

  9. Story, Part One: (Part two Tomorrow)
    Brother Gaylord’s wasn’t the first revival to pass through town. During the summertime, all sorts of ‘em come through, Baptist and Holy Rollers and snake handling Pentecostals, too, setting up tents and forming prayer circles and selling cheap Bibles and whatever snake oil tonic or saint’s blood they made on the side. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure, they were the first bunch of Christians ever to hire me, even though I had no notion of what I’d become.
    It was the summer the first wave of virus passed through town, the same one where all the money in the world seemed to disappear and folks went down with the fever so fast, it was hard to see who was there and who wasn’t. Lot of ‘em died from it, too, though as far as I knew they never did give it a proper name. Some said you got it from the chickens and some from the pigs and most of them said it come down from heaven itself—part of God’s punishment for folks being the same kind of sinners they were the rest of the time.
    I never saw how a fever or going broke was supposed to make people come to Jesus any faster, either, but that don’t mean it didn’t fill up Brother Gaylord’s tent on the regular. My Job was to fold up the chairs after the meeting was done and rake up the horse manure in the clearing, making sure nobody had left a living cigarette in the straw that might could start a fire. I didn’t like it much, but it wasn’t no worse than chores I had to do at home. And besides, that dollar a week meant me and Momma didn’t starve after Daddy and the baby up and died, too.
    In the beginning, Brother Gaylord’s worship looked pretty much the same as the others, except he never charged people a dime to come and hear him and he never sold nothing. It was real peculiar.
    One night I got curious, os I went to se what was going on inside the revival tent. I was way at the back, but as soon As I walked inside, I could swear Gaylor’ds head snapped up to look me squares in the eye. He and pretty much everybody else, was sweating up a storm, so he put down his Bible and raised his arms in the air and said, “Folks, I’m about to melt into a puddle up here, so let’s go outside for the prayer circle tonight, to breathe in the grace of the twilight breeze and heal ourselves and the afflicted. In Jesus ’name, Amen.”

    1. Intrigued. Very intrigued. Eyes wide and ready for Part Two.

    2. Part two--sorry for the pieces. My keyboard's sticking and driving me nuts!
      So everyone filed out and formed the prayer circle all over again outside. I kept my distance; truth is I was never much for religion, but I did want to see what would happen. Another peculiar thing about Brother Gaylord was when he got past the preaching and on to the healing he never did go round laying hands on one or the other, or having some shill rise up from the crowd to testify. Instead he made the faithful for a circle by holding hands and linking arms, like some game of tug ‘o war. He shut his eyes tight and began to pray, asking for the healing power of Jesus to rain down from heaven and begging the brethren to open their hearts and let God’s light in.
      And that’s when I saw it; a sort of whirlwind started in his chest . A sort of fog made of colored lights—pink and green and pale purple, sweet as cotton candy, sending fingers of energy out over the people, touching on some, skipping some altogether. Some folks began to smile and others to shout and others just hung on, tears running down their faces.
      And Brother Gaylord raised him arms and those hands he was holding and gave a mighty Hallelujah up to heaven. Just like that the whole thing was over as soon as it began.
      That night, Brother Leonard, Gaylord’s right hand man rode out to the farm and pounded on the door, calling for me at the top of his lungs. I shot straight out of bed and went to the kitchen where Momma was already loading the shotgun. I took it away from her and opened the door and there was Brother Leonard, out of breath from riding hard.
      “He needs for you to come,” he said. “Now.”
      I wasn’t keen on going with him either. I’d heard stories about the revival preachers that came through. Some of ‘em liked the young folks and liked to use their in with Jesus to haul them off and teach ‘em things they didn’t want to know. Leonard never struck me as the type, but after I’d seen my own Daddy wrap up the baby in a blanket and bury her like she wasn’t no more than a dead dog in the garden next to the turnips, I reckoned people would do just about anything.
      He threw me up on the back of that horse and rode like hell was after him, all the way to Brother Gaylord’s wagon, parked in the back of the tent, like a gypsy’s. A smoky campfire burned out side. Folks had taken to believing greenwood smoke would keep away the fever germs, but I’d not seen that do much good. Leonard shoved me forward through a flour sack curtain and I saw Brother Gaylord, shivering and sweating under an old patchwork blanket, still in his preaching clothes.

    3. Part 3 whew! Back for comments later!

      “Come here, boy.” He said and coughed hard. Then he opened his eyes wide and stared. “Yeah, I can see it in you, now I get a closer look.”
      “See what?”
      “The healing. That colored stuff. Looks like spirits, don’t it? I saw you watching tonight, so don’t lie to a dying man, okay? There ain’t much time. What I want to know is, did you feel it? Inside you, I mean? Know where it comes from?”
      I shrugged. “Jesus?”
      He nearly laughed and struggled to sit up. “I wouldn’t know. Never met the man myself.”
      “ You always telling bible stories.”
      He stared off into the distance. “It’s all they know. They want to think a healing comes from Jesus? Who am I to tell them different? I don’t know a thing about where it comes from; I only know they need it and it will work on them if they let it. Understand?”
      “I guess, “ I said. I didn’t.
      “What did it look like? What did you see?”
      “Colored lights mostly, like fog or spirits. Like cobwebs only prettier—like…” I had to search or for words.
      He grinned so wide then I could see the tobacco stains on his teeth. “Like cotton candy! That’s what it feels like, too, when the spirit comes on me, like a whirling in my chest. You ever seen them machines they have at the county fair? And it spins that sweetness all through me till I can’t hold no more and spreads out to the rest.”
      Then he reached out and laid his hands on my chest and I felt it swirling around my heart filling me with sweetness and candy colored light, big enough to burst. He fell back onto his pillow, smiling and panting like a dog.
      “There. It’s done now. You got it in you now. Everything I had. Now I can go.” He squinted at me. “You know any bible?”
      “Just from Sunday school.”
      His eyes closed and for a long, desperate moment, I thought he was gone.
      “Don’t matter, Brother Leonard will help. Just remember you can’t heal anybody if they don’t let it in. Folks let sorrow and fear make ‘em hard, when it should make them soft. You can give them a miracle and they won’t believe it, much less be grateful. But there are always the rest, boy, and they gonna need what you have to give—all that you got inside. Give it away freely and you’ll never want for anything. I promise you that. Keep it to yourself? I can’t say. Up to you.”
      “How come you couldn’t heal yourself then? Why you dying?”
      “Can’t say that, either. Maybe it’s just my time. Or maybe yours has come.”
      I guess there’s no need to tell you the rest. He was dead the next morning. Brother Leonard bought me a preaching suit for service that night and we’ve been on the road ever since, talking about Jesus and healing the faithful with that sweet pink, cotton candy light. The fever died out that winter and the spring brought something new so we keep on. I don’t know the reasons and I ain’t no holier than any other man. I only know there’s folks in this world who can’t see beyond what they know and never feel the sweetness or the beauty in the world. But there’s always the rest who believe in something they don’t know and will open their hearts to the love all around. And they are always worth saving and healing, whether they know it or not.

    4. Wow, you must know this is part of a book if you want it to be. Loved the description of their power esp. the reference to cotton candy. Loved Momma's attempted answering the door with a shotgun. I loved the conversation between him and Gaylord.Yeah you definitely have something going on here for sure.

    5. Yup. This is awesome. I want to read it all right now. That voice!

  10. He closed his eyes. If he listened, he could place himself in another world, the kind he'd read about as a child. The waves would be breaking against the promenade, their muted roar calming him as he waited. There would be an ice-cream vendor, a hot-dog stand and a man selling candy floss, and he'd be alone for only the shortest time.

    Out at sea, birds circled, squabbling for an advantage. These were not like the ones he remembered; his birds being yellow-beaked with webbed grey feet and an affinity for French fries. They would have been perched together in rows on the railings, chattering to themselves as he passed, none of them brave enough to break ranks and to snap at him and his food. None of them would have been violent or feral or have developed a taste for meat in any form.

    The first of the leather-wings stooped like a hawk, its claws grasping as it pulled away. His protective helmet fell to the ground, rolling in an arc at his feet. He bent low to retrieve it and another soared past, its indignant cry loud in his ear. He felt a sudden flare of pain and twisted away. He was back in the present again.

    Squatting now, he looked out toward the sea. There'd been a town here once. He'd walked the line of the pathway he'd found, his feet rocking the broken stones which remained. Some of them had been coloured, some had been smooth, and if he squinted, he could see the patterns they'd created. The birds had been offshore then, and he'd had the time to muse, to consider the Makers and their work.

    Another of the birds flew directly at his face, beak open and spitting bile. He turned away and began to run, seeking the safety of the caves once again.

    1. Bleak vision and vivid imagery make for a wonderful prologue. More of this is needed please.

    2. Yeah, I agree I like the dark, fantasy feel. As long as this is not my 330 bird

  11. Fred

    Stay at home, they said. Stay where you are. Protect yourself and others. Do the right thing. Don’t step outside your house unless it’s just for one hour, tops, and then it can only be for exercise, to keep your joints from creaking and seizing up. They were kind of making grimacing moans like that already, he thought, wondering how long it’d been since he’d gone for a walk that took an entire hour.

    Normally, he jumped in old Bessie to drive round the block to collect his Friday curry. Old habits die hard, but today, even that had closed its doors. And he’d walked there to find out! Someone was home. Those florid curtains twitched. But they couldn’t speak to him. The owner’s father turned eighty-four two months ago, and it was just too risky. Two weeks it had been and they said the worst was to come. He’d been watching the news. To be honest, he’d been watching it far too much and it scared him to death. It made more than his knees jitter.

    Grocery shopping. Now that was a whole new minefield. He queued right around the car park of that supermarket for well over his ‘hour outside’ limit, being sure to maintain an approximate gap of a body between him and the person in front and the person behind. They still managed to have a conversation though, of sorts, albeit in three pieces, with him often having to relate the person in front’s sentences to the person behind, and things often get lost in translation, but it was real contact and he had been missing it in this new world he didn’t recognise. This was all to save bodies after all. It was but a small inconvenience.

    The face of the security guy on the door said he’d rather be at home watching Netflix, as would anyone standing there opening and closing that door, letting in people breathing out who knows what. And then you were in the blessed place. You wandered like a nervous rabbit, gripping your little wire basket like a lance, suppressing the urge to spear anyone who drifted a little too close, who wasn’t quite looking where they were going, or were struck dumb on the zombie phone. Or maybe this only went on in his imagination. Possibly.

    And then he spotted it: the Holy Grail of Bog Roll. The whole aisle lit up. Only dancers with pompoms were missing. Bless their little pink-coloured socks! He hesitated. He’d never liked pink. Looked like a naked salmon. His missus, rest her soul, had loved it. He hated that exact same shade as car-sickness tablets. He could almost re-taste the grim experience. But that’s what they had left, so that’s what he was taking home to wipe his ass wi-

    “Would you mind passing me one of those, please? I can’t reach. I know I shouldn’t be asking, but I’ll just keep my distance – over here. If you’d be so kind.”

    And that’s how he met Gladis. Apparently, she’d lived two roads away from him for 6.7 years. They were going to Skype later, after they’d eaten their separate dinners in their separate houses, at approximately 6.30pm. A glass of wine was allowed, but not too much. They’d only just met. He just needed to ring his son first to ask what on earth Skype was and how he could make it her best one ever.

    1. I love love in the time of a pandemic. Even if it is just a first date for a luddite. Dare I say, this was lovely?

    2. Thanks, Lily. I wasn't sure where he was going and then it flitted to romance :)

    3. I love how this slipped into romance. I wanted him to find some happiness. Lovely.

    4. I loved the honesty and hope you created here, Vickie. This is delightful and so well observed.

    5. I felt every bit of anxiety and the relief of the ending...the birth of love in turmoil 💚

  12. Went for a walk.
    I’m blessed to have a lot of outdoors at hand,
    a backyard,
    a stoop,
    my imagination.
    Just enough to satisfy,
    so this was the first walk in a while.
    Several days, anyway.
    What day is it, anyway?
    Since my last walk,
    they screwed large metal coverings onto the outer walls of the little
    "we want to be in suburbia, not on the corner of Atlantic Avenue" bank on the corner.
    Like it’s wartime in Brooklyn and they were afraid the stucco facade itself was vulnerable.
    And given how many times my own reprobate anarchist of a husband took our spawn to watch as he'd poke a hole in it with his finger
    then laugh with her,
    often incredulously about fake building materials over the years,
    the bank is not wrong.
    It's 7pm on a Thursday and still light out;
    but only spotted four moving vehicles on a six lane street.
    Yes, it's deserted—
    except for the fearless and lucky dog walkers,
    Or the occasional couple who are #inthistogether like celebs on CBS
    but desperately need to smoke a doobie outside or have a craving for cauliflower pasta from Trader Joes,
    and the even more occasional fringe person.
    “Fringe person” is not a diatribe.
    It’s only a phrase to describe someone in this alone
    for the moment
    or for a lifetime.
    Someone like me.
    But I’m not afraid to walk this street
    Or this city.
    It is mine. And, as if I bore it from my form,
    I’m damned territorial and proprietary about it all,
    especially when it’s in danger.
    You see the fringe can’t be easily or fully marked from a glance.
    They expose varying levels of the human condition
    and so do you, when judging them.
    The construction guy a.k.a “essential personnel” in NYC
    still wearing a dusty mask but remembers how to walk fast to get home before dark.
    The whispering 6’4” 220lb Black adult man who is not a weapon but might be homeless or mentally ill or both, lurking behind the abundant cherry blossom tree seeking composure in nature and uncertain times.
    The young Asian guy looking tense from knowing, in scrubs and out of place on this street—the nearest medical facility several blocks away—gripping his phone while texting
    and texting
    and texting.
    But it’s the crow or raven [I never can tell the difference],
    sitting tranquil way up high in the leafless tree,
    next to the cherry blossoms,
    that somehow speaks to me.
    The family of crows has been here many times on this street before
    but while I see them rarely, I almost never catch their eye.
    Ignoring me is a specialty.
    I am still and regretful; my rarely forgotten phone got left behind in my haste to be outside.
    But then recording this might mean it passes from sight that much faster.
    I brace to hear the bird’s barest message.
    "Not new. Not old. But, we are much altered." It says cryptically.
    If you’re a damn oracle I think,
    I wish you’d be kinder and tell me things I don’t already know.

    1. This is a beautiful, vivid portrayal of the taste of the city right now. I loved this line: "Like it’s wartime in Brooklyn and they were afraid the stucco facade itself was vulnerable." And so many others. What day is it, anyway, indeed?

    2. I love this, felt it, even lived it. Something about those city streets that switches on all the senses.

    3. God, this is beautiful. I kept isolating lines I love, but then I loved the next ones even more! Honest, raw, powerful

  13. Exhausted from the trip, the arguments, and the effort it had taken to get through the front door—damn lock had been sticking for years—Dylan tossed his duffel onto the couch and sank into the overstuffed chair in the corner, releasing the aromas of his childhood: patchouli, Cheerios, and mold. This place. This place he never wanted to see again. This place he’d had nightmares about. This place he’d run back to, time and again, until he wasn’t welcome anymore.

    Until it was too late. Now the old dump was all he had left of her. Of them.

    “You might as well stay there, start going through Mom’s stuff. Until I get sprung,” his sister had said. Rain’s city was in lockdown for two weeks. They spoke through the video app on his phone when his plane landed and he learned that officials at the airport “suggested” he self-quarantine, thanks to the city of his departure. She gave him a weak smile. “Hey, maybe it’ll end up being good for you. Confront the demons, slay the dragons. You know.”

    Easy for her to say. She had the good fortune to be older, better able to process the weirdness, and had a head start on escaping it. He thought living abroad would be the separation he needed. But that crumbling front porch, that sticky lock, this suddenly lumpy-feeling chair brought it all back. He had a sudden, crushing memory of being maybe five or six and standing on that chair, staring out the window, waiting for Dad to come home. The last day he didn’t come home.

    Dylan sprang from the chair. He was lightheaded for a moment, and he pressed a hand to the wall. “You can do this,” he told himself. Rain had been paying the bills, so there was water, power, decent wifi. There were delivery services for food, if any of the local restaurants were still open. There were even some empty boxes in the corner; maybe Rain or one of her friends had brought them by after the funeral, before the orders to separate came down.

    He took a deep breath, let it out. As he stared into the Peter Max poster mounted on the wall across the room, heat flooded his body, and for a moment he worried that it was the fever, but he knew it was the hot knife of shame. He’d been a coward. He’d stayed away and forced Rain to take care of everything. He steeled himself with a few more inhales and exhales, using the rhythm his mother had taught him so long ago, then decided on a plan. Charge phone, get some food, get some sleep, start on the boxes in the morning. After all, he had nothing now but time.

    1. Damn. You had me as you usually do from the very, first elegantly descriptive sentence. "Cheerios, patchouli, and mold." Indeed and oh my. More, more, and more please.

    2. Oh god, that Peter Max poster, hit me like a punch.

    3. Such specific and important details. The authenticity in the voices! Damn

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  15. When all the dead
    Were burned or buried
    The air hung heavy
    With all the I love you’s
    Too long left unsaid

    The wind came up
    Softly through the trees
    To wash regrets away

    The floods that year
    Tasted vaguely of salt
    Tears too long left uncried

    But late at night
    If you listen closely
    Ghosts of those
    Who’ve passed
    Whisper I love you
    And weep silently
    Over those left behind

  16. Leonora shifted against him. She smelled of dry earth, home-baking and Sundays, and he smiled into her neck. She was his favourite indulgence and she was his to enjoy. They were perfectly matched, and they could hope to remain that way. She was perfect and changeless, and he’d never tire of her company.

    “You’re restless, Piglet.” She asked the unspoken question, his sigh all the answer she needed. She turned in his arms, nipping at his neck with her lips. “You didn’t sleep either,” she continued, placing a kiss after each word, “You know you make me worry. You always get stressed by the mundane. The little things. The details. The minutia you can’t change. You should take your ease. Relax. Try not to worry your pretty head. You should let me take control.” She cradled his cheeks between her palms, her eyes luminous and calming. She pressed her body against his and turned him, rolling to take the uppermost position.

    He sighed again, moulding himself to the floor. There was a carpet beneath him, its edge drawing a line across his shoulders. A table with a vase; something to avoid if they remained down here. The room was beginning to dim, the greyness of dusk replacing the blue of the day. She was heavy against him, but light in his arms, bearing her own weight with a practised ease.

    “They say there might be a war,” he said. “As if there wasn’t already enough for us to contend with. The few of us that are left – there’s still too many to satisfy some of them. They want everything, more money, more territory, more power. It seems they’ve got a taste for killing and that a couple of hundred more counts for nothing.”

    Leonora stopped his words with another kiss. She unbuttoned his collar, deft fingers sliding beneath the cotton to caress his chest, tips finding the stiffening nubs there and concentrating their efforts. He would be calm; she would make sure of that. He was her reason for being and she would serve him well.

    1. I was right there with them. Loved how you set the scene and involved all the senses.

    2. Love is still the best antidote for fear, isn't it? Nicely done!

    3. The senses, yes, they were all here weren't they? It's interesting how touch and intimacy can become like a commodity now in a time like this. I felt this.

    4. I feel like everyone is writing from a more vulnerable place, you're killing!

  17. Tuesday. Late to the #FF party. Been to "away" to write. Until a FB friend queried "How has COVID-19 changed you. Instant keyboard diarrhea:

    Affected me? Surprised it hasn't killed me. I'm in that high risk group. Fat, COPD from smoking, high blood pressure, low exercise, which I'm told puts me in the "you gonna die first" group.

    The career I love and the basket I've put all my eggs in depends on people having to travel and need me to care for their pets and/or homes while they do that.

    I've worked very hard to have my self-worth only depend on my own opinion of myself as a worthy individual, but regardless of my career path, I've found what I do for a daily living is inextricably tied to how I spend my days, and thus how accomplished I feel at the end of each day. Without being able to perform my "job" daily I am lost.

    Clock time is worthless to me. Without a schedule to drive me I'm adrift on the clock with fractured sleep/wake cycles. About the only thing/outing I can schedule each day is a trip to my mailbox and PO Box and then act on what's received there, and the ocaissional grocery run when I hear there's TP available.

    The introvert and extrovert in me war. I've always preferred the company of non-humans (thus my career bent towards animals, but I'm not anti-social). When I force myself to be social with my small circle of friends I have a wonderful time and wonder why I don't make more effort to do it more often. That I can't exchange my career's animal companionship with human companionship might kill me, if the virus doesn't do that first.

    All this brings out the depression I've struggled with almost all of my life. I'm finding it difficult to find "attitude upticks" to fill my days without animals and humans to interact with. I can only clean (my fallback mode) my small apartment so many times.


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