Friday, July 3, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

You say you'll meet me halfway, but you never move an inch. Reactionary breakdown. You are reflex wrapped in selfishness, you take. You take and you give only enough to keep the givers giving. You are repugnant in your moral swamp, you stink of death and cowardice.

Wrap yourself in rags or riches, it don't matter. You put up walls to keep others out because you are insecure in yourself. You are full of hatred because you despise yourself, your lot, the people you came from and the people you feel you are stuck with.

You waddle and sweat and curse your way through life like it owes you something. You get out of life what you put into it, so stop being an asshole maybe?

Did you get paid? Is your stomach full? Are the shows you like still filming? Are you able to fill your loneliness with enough men in tight pants and helmets doing shit you were never able to do? Shit you like to talk about and pretend you did.

Are your kids scared? Shame them and demean them; make yourself feel bigger. Maybe every once in a while you drop the word "nigger." But you're just joking. It's just something to say, right? You have black friends at the plant. You're golden. They know you're just fucking around!

Do your kids know? Do they believe the same lies you believe?

Look. You can say you're one thing, but I'm gonna judge you by the way you act. The way you treat the people you love, the way you treat the people you fear, and the number of people you hate. Hate is poison. Drink it deep, but don't think it doesn't change you.

We see you. Red hats or not.

We'll remember.


  1. We WILL remember, and your words are a beacon. Well done, sir. Well articulated anger.

    1. Wow. The power here. Very well done. "Drink it deep, but don't think it doesn't change you."

    2. Hate is poison, indeed. Judge a person by their actions and words. On full fire !

    3. Angry, incendiary, and appropriate rebuke. Nice rhythms as always.

  2. I called him “Gramps” and didn’t know until I was older that he wasn’t really related to us. He was my dad’s first boss, and he kinda adopted our whole family.

    When I had questions too embarrassing to ask my folks, I’d go to him. He never treated me like I was just a kid. He’d ask my opinions on stuff, and he’d actually listen when I talked.

    Some folks thought he was standoffish because he was the quiet sort, but nothing could be further from the truth. Like he used to tell me, God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk.

    I watched the CBS news in those days. Walter Cronkite was a lot like Gramps, and had the same kind of mustache. When he read the casualties from the Vietnam war, you could always see his eyes fill with unfallen tears.

    One day, he was covering a protest against the war, and an image of the Stars and Stripes in flames flashed by. It haunted me. Every day in school I pledged allegiance to that flag. I’d seen it drape too many coffins of too many dead.

    I asked Gramps about it, how anyone could do that. He sat me down in his backyard. I can still taste the lemonade he served that afternoon, still hear the mosquitos buzzing.

    “Let me tell you a story.”

    I watched his face as he reached for the righ words.

    “A couple of years after I married Clara, may she rest in peace, we made a big garden. It was spring, and she and I had worked all day in the soil, spading, raking, and planting rows and rows of vegetables.”

    What this had to do with a burning flag, I didn’t know, but I had confidence in him.

    He looked away from me, looked back into the past. “We were washing up, and I heard her shriek in the kitchen. I ran to see what was wrong. She was looking at her hand, and said, ‘It’s gone.’ She meant her wedding ring.”

    “I told her we’d find it, or I’d replace it. She cried all night. She was a little superstitious, I think. Thought if the ring was gone, it was a bad sign for our marriage. The next day, we woke up, dug up every row we’d planted the day before, and didn’t find it.”

    “All that summer she looked, in the garden, hoping, praying that she’d see a glint of gold.”

    He looked back at me, and asked, “Were Clara and I still married while the ring was lost?”

    I nodded. “Of course.”

    “Of course we were. The ring was a symbol of our marriage. But we lived together, we ate together, we slept together. We tilled the garden together. We dreamed.”

    “Why do you think I told you this story?”

    “Because symbols aren’t really the things they represent?”

    “Exactly. And it’s that way with flags. When I put my hand on my heart when the flag passes by, I am honoring the principles, the ideas, the liberty that the flag represents. I remember when I was in Korea, when I saw the flag, when I listened to Taps as it was lowered, the buddies I lost over there. But it wasn’t the flag that was sacred, it was all it stood for, all it still stands for.”

    “Did you ever find the ring?”

    “Funny thing. That fall, when we were digging the carrots, there was one wearing the ring. Clara never wore her ring into the garden again. She put it some place safe when she was digging in the dirt. Sometimes I’d look at her hand in the garden and I’d ask her if we were still married. She’d smile at me and say ‘Of course, you old coot,’ and we’d laugh and laugh.”

    I saw another flag burned on television the other day. And I remembered Gramp’s lesson, that symbols are never stronger, never more important than whatever they stand for. Like Gramps, I know the republic, the constitution, the people, are strong and grow stronger with each generation’s questions of and challenges to previous generations.

    And I will always watch for that glint of gold.

    1. This is so lovely. Poignant. I love the image of the carrot wearing the ring.

    2. The carrot is a great image - nature and people connected/people connected to the earth/the grand cycle of things. It's a lovely story, connecting the story of losing a ring to symbols, and war and flags. And it all cycles around.

    3. Wonderful piece. And that darn perky carrot looked great with a ring I bet.

  3. Jaw

    They found a white jawbone
    Half-buried in the hollow earth,
    Played with like a dog’s bone,
    Sticking up like a call for help.

    Nothing else remained in the ditch
    And it could not speak its name.
    A line of teeth like piano keys,
    Broken, angular, out of chord.

    Ellen worked at the Moto diner,
    They reported on the morning news.
    Last seen with a man with a cleft chin,
    Maybe six feet tall with a steady grin.

    Anyone with information should call,
    But no one knew anything at all.
    She sleeps somewhere else this night,
    Waiting for chance to discover her plight.

    1. Intriguing...some great pictures. Love this especially:
      "A line of teeth like piano keys,
      Broken, angular, out of chord."

    2. Ooooh! a whole story in so few lines! Terrific!

    3. Teresa's right this read like a story. An unfolding mystery in just a few very visual lines. Nicely done.

  4. Oak and moor

    In this uncomfortable dark
    Stands this bowing bark,
    An echo of itself within,
    Standing in line to deliver
    The language of leaves.
    Wind rustling, aged crone.

    A stranger trudges this moor,
    Carrying the mist on his back,
    Feet crunching wildflowers.

    The sun will not rise today.
    Dusk will play a lone chord
    And this oak might straighten
    In happenstance to recite
    The passing of this man
    On this night on this moor.

    1. Gorgeous language, haunting rhythm... Beautiful.

    2. Yes nearly every single line of this was golden. Loved 'Standing in line to deliver the language of leaves.' And, the whole second paragraph was so articulate I could see it.

  5. Emma sinks into the jade-green club chair with a sigh. “Can’t say I didn’t see it coming, after all.”

    “The severance should tide you over for a few months.” The museum director’s gaze dissolved into the oily film atop his coffee. “Of course, we’ll give you an excellent reference.” Then he glanced at her across his nineteenth-century desk with a sudden softness she had rarely witnessed in the buttoned-up man, nor in any of his brothers. “You were one of my father’s best hires, Em. We owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Despite…everything.”

    Tears well, and she can’t help but seek the cold comfort of the patriarch’s portrait on the wall above her boss’s head. The family is why she’d come here. After a childhood fascination with what many had called American royalty, she’d studied them and even wrote about their wide-ranging influence for her master’s thesis. It was her first publication, and her second. She herself had crafted the proposal to get the house on the National Registry of Historic Places. When it became a museum, she was the family’s natural choice to serve as their curator. And when the money began drying up, their docent, their office manager and, lately, custodian. Dusting furniture that hadn’t felt the warmth of a human body in over a hundred years.

    Again, she chides herself for her role in the museum’s demise. For uncovering the truth about the source of the family’s wealth. For sharing it with those she thought could be trusted. How it got into the papers she never knew, and didn’t really want to. The saving grace is that her name had not been attached. Regardless. “I’m sorry.”

    He waves a hand. “Bound to come out sometime. It’s a bit of a relief, tell you the truth. To heave off that albatross hanging around all of our necks. Now we can all go about our lives.”

    “Will you sell?” Her voice sounded so small to her ears.

    “Letting the lawyers handle that. My brothers can fight over the scraps.” He smiles, looking every bit like the boy he used to be. “I have other plans that don’t include this family.”

    “I don’t blame you.”

    He takes a measure of her for a few moments, then leans forward. “Before I let them ravage what remains, is there something you’d like? I’ve seen you eying that portrait.”

    “He was a fascinating man. Warts and all.”

    “I like how you portrayed him in your first book. Warts and all.”

    If only they knew about one particular wart that involved her own family. The curt letter she found among her grandmother’s things, rejecting their child, buying her silence. Again Emma sighed. Another story, for another lifetime.

    He gives a cockeyed grin. “Would you like it?”

    “Oh. Oh, I couldn’t.” She couldn’t imagine those cold blue-steel eyes following her around her house. Knowing the pain that letter must have caused. The pain of holding that secret. She tightened her hands around the butter soft leather of the armrests. “I do like this chair, however.”

    “Consider it yours.”

    She now takes a measure of him. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

    The smile tells her all she needs to know. “Maybe one day I’ll ask you to write that book.”

    1. Fascinating characters, and a story that could be about anything. In my own mind, I imagine it's someone like Thomas Jefferson, and a child born of an enslaved person. Complex and beautiful, and an invitation for the reader to invent the rest of the story.

    2. Thank you, Leland! But...too vague?

    3. I'm a fan of letting the reader determine their part of the story.

    4. I'm thinking he knows they are family... Lovely story with interesting background and characters. It isn't too vague. I was just doing a short story course. There are two endings: the one where everything is tied up neatly and the arrow hits the target; and the one where the arrow sails past the target and the reader goes with it.

    5. I'm with Teresa. This wasn't too vague but it was non-stop intriguing. I want to read the book, short story, whatever -- I want more.

  6. It glistened. Literally. In the countless times she’d seen or read about this scenario, in books, or in movies and the T.V., or maybe if someone sent her a post on social media, she’d never really noticed the ring before. She’d only been watching the girl’s face. Her tears or her irrepressible smile. Sometimes she’d watched the guy too. Most got down on one knee. Most had an earnest expression as if they wanted so much to be credible in that moment.

    Her own prospective fiancé looked scared. Terrified, really. He stood there towering over her as per usual holding the box open in front of him so they could both look down at it. And his hands shook the tiniest bit but her eyes, ever sharp, had noticed it. She felt bad suddenly for making him feel frightened. The emotion didn’t suit him at all. It was like making a lion cowardly. A literary tool, exciting on the page but mortifying in real life. This man was so powerful but she’d turned him into a craven jelly fish.

    Instinctively she put her hand out to touch his as it held the box then asked a question. The only question she wanted an answer to.

    “You want this?”

    “I want you.”

    “This is so much more than that.”

    He looked up, into her eyes then, as if the thought had just occurred to him as she’d said it.

    And that’s when the vision came, hazy as ever, but clear enough. She froze, letting it take over her mind’s eye. The little girl was walking in reeds almost as tall as she was. Knocking the reeds back and down with small brown arms opened wide as she walked. Then she stopped like someone had called to her. When she turned, her eyes bright and grey like her father’s shone. She ran to the voice that had called her. Her father, it turned out, who scooped her up immediately. But there was someone else, she saw only another arm at first so she squinted, willing the vision to give her more which it did reluctantly. The arm and hand moved to the little girl with tenderness and that’s when she saw the ring again, glistening still.

    He brought her out of it by trying to finish their conversation but she already had the answer she needed.

    “I want more. So much more, with you.”

    “I know.” She whispered as she turned towards him. Gently moving the box aside and moving her body into his so her back was against his front. Then pulling his hand and the ring box close around her middle, she shivered against him.

    “You cold?” His voice was deep and protective. A comforting port.

    She shook her head.

    “Nah. Just terrified.”

    1. I love this. The emotions, the vision. I want more!

    2. Just beautiful! and a little bit scary. I'd read more, too!

    3. Ah, so is she having a vision of their daughter? It's fascinating. I like all the little details. And how she'd never looked at the ring before when she'd seen other couples in the same scenario.

    4. Really intriguing. I definitely want more, and yet? I also just want to sit and ponder it a bit.

  7. “How does it feel to be a replacement to a man?” I asked Hugo, while I was watching him clean. He’d unearthed the folding stepladder I kept in the utility room and was standing at the top of it, holding a feather duster in his hand. He was doing an exceptional job, of course. Whenever I’d tried to do it, I’d invariably left smearings of cobwebs behind. It was spotless wherever he’d been; he had an ability I could never reproduce.

    “I’m not a replacement, ma’am,” he said. “I’m more of a supplement.” He’d moved the ladder along now and was working on the next few feet of ceiling. “I’m here to help,” he continued, reaching across to the next section. “My being here frees a genuine person to do whatever he or she wants to do. I’m providing a double benefit, in fact. I’m serving both you and the other person simultaneously. Working at height can be a tricky business; it’s best to remove the personal risk if you can.”

    It was always the same when I tried to discuss this with him. He had a formidable AI that made it possible for him to debate at length on almost any subject, my inadequacies usually being the limiting factor. He was always charming and unfailingly polite; I’d often retreated from prolonged conversations, knowing I’d either been wrong or just too perverse. He would never rise to my sarcastic remarks like a True Companion would. Some people would regard that as a failing, saying he should be equipped with emotions like a genuine person would. My own thoughts were more indeterminate; I liked to think I was able to do some things better than him but didn’t like the way it made him an object. I’d given him a name and thought of him as a man most of the time.

    Hugo continued until he’d finished, putting the ladder away where it would be easily available the next time it was needed, then he returned. He stood beside the door, ready to open it but not too close so he’d be in the way of anyone else who might decide to open it. He’d shifted into his ‘ready’ mode; alert, so he could respond to a command or a situation but not deliberately drawing attention to himself. “Hugo,” I said, rousing him from stand-by. “Can we talk for a while? Just for a few minutes?”

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. “Yes, ma’am. Of course.” Hugo stirred from his position and walked toward me, swinging his arms gently as he did. It was one of the hundreds of tiny micro-motions he performed habitually, so as not to appear artificial, although it was almost obvious he wasn’t a man. He even blinked and appeared to draw breath, his repertoire extending to affectations such as pointing and using gestures to emphasize his words. It was all too easy to drop into being casual with him, although that was clearly what his programmers had intended his users would do.

      And then there were True Companions, but they were most definitely not programmed in the same way as Hugo. They were functional in other ways and rarely cleaned up after they were done. They had a more specialised set of instructions and generally had a more limited AI installed.

      “Come sit with me, Hugo. Take the weight off your feet. You’re making the place look untidy.”

      Hugo nodded then sat in the chair across the table from me. The chair didn’t strain when it took his weight because he had a similar mass as a man, his increased strength being the result of servomotors rather than muscles.

      “Hugo,” I continued. “Tell me what you’re thinking. Is there anything in your head that would amuse me?”

      My robo-domestic paused, marshalling his thoughts. He always seemed to be thrown off-balance by such requests. It was pushing him to the limits of his programming, and it amused me, provoking him in ways some might consider cruel if he’d be a man.

      “Madam,” he said, pulling in a breath. “You’re being deliberatively provocative, of course. You’re expecting me to come out with something mundane, something related to my usual duties, but wanting something else instead.”

      I let him continue. I enjoyed challenging him, wondering how far his capabilities for original thought might extend. He could possibly develop beyond his original capacity; the programmers had included heuristic capabilities, and he was clearly able to learn.

      “In effect,” he went on. “You’re asking me two questions but expecting an answer to a third, a question implied by the first, but which is then modified by the second. It’s quite a conundrum, isn’t it, ma’am? I could accuse you of being a tease, in fact.”

      I nodded, clasping my hands, enjoying the sensations of one set of fingers against another. As much as I was finding delight in doing this, it didn’t challenge me. I was growing tired of cerebral sports and was beginning to need something more direct. Maybe I should ask Hugo to enquire about placing an order for a True Companion. The two of them could be company for one another too; that would almost certainly challenge his programming.

    3. I really enjoyed falling into your story, the way you spool it out. Intriguing!

    4. There is something about your AI concept/stories that always seems like they have an undercurrent of danger. I wonder am I imagining that? I don't think so. It always makes me want to see how far you'll go and creeps me out a little at the same time. For the record I dig that feeling esp. when I'm reading.

    5. This is delightful. And I wonder if Hugo might be able to stop by to deal with my cobwebs?

  8. I Loved it!I'm reimagining Upstairs, Downstairs, or Downtown Abbey, far in the future...


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