Friday, August 7, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Chippers are better than junkies, but they're weak; they can't commit. They are slackers, and it's best you stay away from them. You need someone who can go all in. You need the kind of man who drinks before you go to the bar. The kind of man who squeezes your hand a little too hard when he's mad in public. A lot too hard. You need a man who is willing to lie to you. 

You need a woman who has lots of secrets. It's charming. Women are complex, see? Find you a woman who is having three emotional affairs, but won't have sex with you. Cougars are the best; try to find you a woman who treats sex like a game. 

You need kids who are locked into their phones, seeking validation from creepy weirdos pretending to be rock stars on the internet. If you play your cards right, you have a promising future shilling for massive corporations by forcing your body through filters and altering your mindset to one of pleasant cardboard.

America can be everything we want it to be. It can be rich for the white folks, horror for the people of color. It can be opportunity for the few and oppression for the masses. It can be rich politicians smiling through sex-trafficking parties. 

All you have to do is lower your expectations, cash in your morals, and keep looking out for number one. 

Vote? Shit, that's optional. 


  1. Wow. Not only was that inspiring it sounds like a manual written by the Devil. And yes, that's Devil with a capital 'd'. Beautifully conceived and written too. BTW, what's a "Chipper"?

    1. I think the way you spun the "pov" on this was brilliant. Makes it stronger, gives it more impact. And you know we're all with you on what you're saying.

    2. Anti-truth bombs. Dripping with justifiable sarcasm that barely conceals the despair at its heart. And that last zinger!

    3. Yeah, vote? Shit, that's optional. You could even read that as vote shit, that's optional!
      Loving the darkness - the lack of commitment in the chipper and the cardboard people.

  2. This is refreshingly ambiguous and makes the reader think. It's engaging like a puzzle-box; you have to keep reading and every turn gives you more questions, sucking you in deeper until you hit them with the payoff in the last few paragraphs. It's an excellent piece of writing, Dan.

  3. You sent for me, didn’t you? Can I come in? Lovely, just lovely, that rug, Chinese isn’t it? Nichols era, I believe. You didn’t know its value? I find that hard to believe. Very rare, these days. Well, let’s get down to business, shall we? Will you be removing your mask? What’s that? Of course, of course, my papers, right here; I’m putting them right here, is that all right? Why don’t you read them? What? You don’t want to touch them? Hmm, well it’s up to you, isn’t it? Shall we get on with it, then? Would you mind if I opened the drapes? Just a sneeze. What? No cough, just a bit of dust, wait--what’s this, what’s this? A-- good gracious, a mirror? Nineteenth century French Empire, isn’t it? But why is it covered? What’s that? They all are? Whatever for? Are you sitting Shiva? Are you Jewish? Catholic, then? I haven’t checked, but I’m sure it isn’t Easter week. Some other superstition perhaps? Don’t back away like that--why are you backing away?

  4. The children you say? There aren’t any children here, are there? You haven’t hidden anything from us, have you madam? The records never lie, do they? Your children all died, isn’t that right? Because you refused the vaccine. Why? I find that so very hard to understand. I suppose you didn’t support the quarantine, either, back in the day. You were once too sure of yourself even to wear the masks, weren’t you? Why in the world, that’s all. Why in the world? All right, I’ll concede—maybe you don’t know, but shouldn’t you have sensed the danger? Wasn’t there some dim maternal, primal instinct at work in you? Why could you not see the facts? Turn your back in the name of freedom? Even when the bodies piled up in the streets and your husband fled for his life. Did you never once suspect that you, madam, YOU were the carrier? Even as your poor children struggled to breathe, even as you bathed their fever-tortured brows and they died in your arms?
    That’s why I’ve come, you know. You signed for the notice, didn’t you? But you needn’t be troubled. It’s taken us awhile to round you all up, but I hear the relocation camps are quite adequate, considering. Are you all packed? That’s good. Now, if you don’t mind, I just have to finish up my inventory appraisal of your belongings and we’ll be off, all right? Such a lovely old place. Too bad it’s practically worthless now. All these lovely things, but what do they really amount to, in the end? Once upon a time I was an antique appraiser, did I mention that? Of course, I had to change all that after the plague. We’ll all have to change, can’t just hide here anymore, can you? The government will dispose of your property in order to pay for your new relocation quarters. They’ll have their nickel of course, but isn’t that always the way? Somebody has to pay, don’t they? But won’t it be welcome? Even a change of scenery after all this time. From what I understand, you’ll even be able to mingle—with others--of your kind. Doesn’t that sound nice? Anyway, my orders say--what are you pointing at? I’m not going to look over my shoulder. Are you trying to trick me or something? Is that what you want? To distract me? What’s this, tears?

    Stop that screaming, do you hear me? Stop pointing at that mirror! I can smash it, you know. I swear, I’ll pick up this paperweight here—for the love of god, woman why don’t you stop? What? What is happening?
    The man from the government never saw his own reflection as he turned and hurled the weight and the woman stopped screaming. There was only the explosion as the glass shattered and only the distinct cold whoosh of energy as the soul of a child passed into his soulless body and his clouded eyes grew bright and alive once more.
    He came to her then, took her hand and reached for her single suitcase, waiting by the door. “It’s all right now, Mama. I’ll come with you. I’ll be right there. And never leave you again.”
    The man swung the door open wide and the woman pulled her mask down below her chin, sucking in the fine fresh air as the tears rolled down her careworn face.
    Are you sure?
    They’ll never know. He squeezed her fingers as she clung more closely to his arm and finally met her child’s eyes, looking out at the world through a stranger’s face.
    The woman took a step forward. But is it safe? she asked. Is it finally safe?

    1. This has an elusive quality. I was off balance initially, thinking it some kind of vampire tale (the invitation to enter, the mirror, the drapes maintaining darkness), but then I thought it was something else, a dystopian future warning, until the end and I realized it was a ghost story! I still don't feel I fully grasped it, but I enjoyed the sensation of being off balance throughout.

    2. Thanks. I don't dabble much in horror type stuff, but I wanted to play with a concept: Can a story be told almost entirely in questions?

    3. Agreed. The amorphous form and reveal of the ghost work for me. I like the warning and the bleak vision of reality. The voice is really well done, and I enjoy the set up of the Qs.

  5. “It’s a hard world for little things” — Night of the Hunter, 1955

    They kicked us off the train I have no memory boarding. It was a dream-pink dawn, the faraway hills aglow and the desert still cool.

    We tried to catch our breath while the long snake moan pulled away, far as it was concerned our existence erased. And blessed be that train.

    Around us, an awakening and the assurance of heat. We set out across the desert knowing by the end we’d be less.


    My head plays Lana Del Rey on a loop. I can’t do this forever, me looking like you, you looking like me. We are genderfluid twins, my Rivka. Some days you’re all vulpine grace and others your swinging dick ardor is consummate, majestic. I follow the portent of your hips, the sway and flourish of your womanhood. Your masculine name is Beckett, though you wait for no one.

    Our history behind us, dragging, a trail to be shadowed. Other songs, snatches and snippets:

    “O storm, you were clever; you came in the form
    of a girl.”


    “They came at us from all sides, yet here we are,
    this killing floor, this abattoir.”

    Few true predators anticipate the carnage; they only want to assuage the torment in their gut. Whatever pursues us is not like those others; this one craves the shrieks and the moans that shudder from the charnel house. This one is a horror.

    “Morality is dead,” you once told me, your face quiet with import, and so fey. “There can be no light without shadow. Sensation is everything.”

    My answer to that is stillborn. It falls from my numb lips and is formless. Let the hawk take it into the pitiless sky and be damned.

    So that brings us to now. The thing is coming; we can sense it in the heat shimmer, the Fata Morgana, a thing distorted however you choose to see it, a dreadful thing. The waiting is the worst. Distractions are like demons sweeping their dripping arms across those faraway hills and grinning and whispering, “Some day this can all be yours.” Distractions both carnal and cerebral could spell our doom. We wait. We dare not fight. We dare not hope.

    At the place where all is shrunk to a point, we are each other’s world.

    And though—in the chill desert nights, serenaded by rawboned canines under the spill of stars—you curl your heat against me, I doubt we’re quite friends yet.

    1. I love how the tone takes this tailspin with just one line. "the thing is coming..."

    2. This has an anthemic ring to me. There's a quietness that resounds through your words. You use words like damned, dead and killing and it's as though I can feel the grave approaching. This simply awesome, David.

    3. A lifetime of reading horror, of absorbing those ominous moods created by other writers and filmmakers. It was all stored away, and now it emerges. I'm glad you hear the quiet, too; for me, quiet horror and quiet fear are so much better (generally) than the blaring in-your-face kind.

    4. Yeah, mood for sure. There is an almost tantric or prayerful feeling to it. And you create a level of comfort/off-balanceness that is absolutely arresting.

  6. The store had remained open throughout the transition. Their staff had all been assimilated, one by one, but their business had continued without interruption.

    “You want potatoes? We got them. Just tell me how many you want.”

    The body of the woman who used to call herself Alice reached forward. Her blouse was unbuttoned, and it gaped open for a moment. She was naked underneath and one of her breasts made a brief appearance, disappearing again when she straightened.

    I tried not to be aroused. Alice wasn’t at home anymore. I tried not think about the creature inside her, the entity who’d replaced the mother of three. I wondered what had happened to her children. Had they been assimilated too and were they play-acting their roles?

    “Potatoes. Potatoes.” Not-Alice pinched the sides of the paper bag she’d picked up, readying it for use. She was still wearing the ring I’d bought her, the gold of its band in sharp relief to the grey of her skin. I tried not to remember how happy we’d been and the plans we’d begun to make.

    “I’m sorry,” I said, turning away. “I don’t need any of those today.”

    Away from the fresh produce, the store had devolved into anarchy, the aliens’ rationale for placing toilet cleaner together with tinned sardines a mystery to me. They were still keeping frozen food in the freezers but there were new products appearing there, nestling alongside the Ben & Jerry’s and the French fries. Some of them were almost the size of heads, the cellophane fogged from inside. I’d come in here for bread and bacon, comfort food to distract me, but I’d also realised that Alice would be here too.

    It had become harder to go shopping since the transition.

    I’d never been a fan of the retail experience. Before Alice, I’d lived on canned food and take-aways, my kitchen skills limited to single-pan cooking and microwaved pre-preparations. I had an enormous chest deep-freezer, as large as Alaska, so I rarely needed to shop more than once a month. I still had some steak pies in there from three or four years ago, their boxes broken and scarred beyond recognition. There were bags of vegetables too, I’d entertained my parents occasionally, but the greater part of its contents was limited to meat-based products in pastry, ready food for the individual with no time or interest in cooking.

    And then Alice happened.

    1. Yikes, dude. And yet so right on--the difference in something as simple as grocery shopping before and after "the transition" Hits very close to home. Can I interest you in some toilet paper? Disinfectant wipes? Zombie workers? Yeah...

    2. Another piece I'd be happy to read more of, see it expand. This piece is itself the deep-freezer, large as Alaska.

    3. I was looking to capture a zombie/body snatchers vibe here. It's always the ones who are left that suffer, seeing people change and feeling left behind. And the helplessness they must suffer, especially when they're still faced by their memories of what might have been. I think this idea could have great potential and it's certainly going to be one I'll return to.

    4. For sure. Alice needs more room. I also love the exceedingly deadpan humour of "I’d never been a fan of the retail experience."

    5. Yep, the dry tone and humor, the set up. I want this to keep going, too. You have a real knack for creating these building worlds, engaging the reader and forcing them to look.

  7. A Poem a Day (235): Planting

    This is the patch for planting,
    The most inhabitable slice of soil,
    Open for green, olive, yellow leaves,
    Stems so delicate, yawning buds.

    This is where things will grow.
    This rebirth. Back to the begin.

    And this is where spring will come,
    This slide-in of tangible roots,
    Marking a place, a small allocation,
    But all they need: soil, water, sun.

    We have such small needs.

    The sky knows it daunts, so vast,
    Thunder rolling in with truths.

    In this patch we will build a life,
    Shelter it, savour it, keep it warm.
    Here we know ourselves as we are.
    In this small life of ours.

    1. As a dedicated gardener, I just love this. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent contemplating the courage of a single seed...

    2. Again, your deft touch with the exact right words is more and more apparent. There is a "Vickie Johnstone style" now, and that's not an easy thing to achieve.

    3. Teresa, I am terrible with plants! I had a dragon tree that lasted about 8 years, so I think that was my best effort, but then I didn't realise when it died! I kept on watering it. I get funny with roots - they're like fingers!!! Weird or what? I love flowers and watching the bees and butterflies though. I'm a lazy gardener!!! It's funny how the most fragile things can grow in the most dangerous or unforgiving places. Cheers, David. I was looking back at poems earlier on... maybe 2013 or so, and I can't see the difference, although I think my writing was often less negative (!). But you know how you can never see yourself, your own things clearly...

    4. Yes, that's so true. I really do think you've grown into your voice over the last few years. Ha, maybe I'm projecting because I think I've done the same. What I find so fascinating is how our own voice tends to rise above the sum of all our influences, if that makes sense. That process can take years (or decades in my case).

    5. I love the sense of hope you bring into this. You talk of building, planting and rebirth and this makes me smile. I needed that. Thank you Vickie.

    6. Yeah, there is a reserved joy in here that works so well; hope is in there, but it is a grounded hope, not a wish.

  8. 2minutes go – August 8 2020 – The island

    This sea, this lone empty sea,
    A stretch of still, blue without end.
    I hear it whispering on the shoreline,
    Carrying words from western climes.

    Stagnant signs written in crystal water.
    We freeze them in our memory boxes.

    On this island we choose our own idyll,
    A rescued silence, compact, distilled
    In safe harbour, our own fashioned peace.
    Sanctuary, a place of beauty and rest.

    But it is cold. I recognise no one here.
    Drawn faces resembling one another,
    Cut-out images in the exact pose,
    Repeat the same hollow words of fear.

    We watch the harbour walls for new arrivals
    In hope of returning friends and families.

    Under this new moon we stand and wait,
    Offer up our humility and humble thanks
    Lest we are found wanting in our despair
    And in our doubt that anyone will come.

    1. This is not just beautiful writing, it addresses an issue most wouldn't see. When we seek sanctuary, what are we really looking for? Refuge? withdrawal? or community?

    2. Wow. I love it all, but for some reason the rhythm of this line stood out for me:

      "We watch the harbour walls for new arrivals."

    3. Thanks guys. Teresa, you hit it bang on the head. Thanks, David. I was thinking of people waiting and missing folks in lockdown too.

    4. I love it! That near-rhyme of walls and arrivals as well as the rhythm I already mentioned.

    5. Really well built; I like the way you structure your poetry.

  9. Your attitude

    Your attitude will not be tolerated
    they tell us. Stand in line. Hug yourself.
    Either conform or you’re out. It’s the law.

    Around here it expels from the white paint,
    everything washed the same, stagnant walls.

    We frown upon difference. It’s subversive.
    We’ll burn your words if we don’t approve.
    Do you have a problem with that, stick man?

    But history shows the survivors were subversive.
    Our freedom of expression is something to wear,
    not flung in the corner with never-worn shoes.

    Like with like, let’s file everything in order,
    from A to B, head to tail. As it should be.
    And we won’t stand for slouching.

    If we look at ourselves, who do we see?
    Who are you trying to fool, trying to be?

    I see you, but some parts are fading out.
    I see you shedding stones to carry it all,
    Fitting on to their narrow walkways,
    So scared to stand out, so scared to fall.

    1. Before I read your background information, I got a kind of Pink Floyd The Wall hit from this, an antifascist lament.

    2. Cheers. I guess it's a subject I write about a lot, but I really connected with this poet. I like his views on stuff. And what a life to live!

    3. Thanks for the heads-up on this poet, too. I'll check him out.

    4. And you go from hope to oppression in just a few minutes. You've a powerful voice and you're always eloquent when you write.

  10. A little background on this poem --- This week, in poetry class (online!), I was introduced to Czeslaw Milosz. He wrote about freedom at a time when he didn't have any. He writes a lot about the power of imagination, freedom of thought and oppression, and the human condition. He lived through the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, helped Jewish families to escape and defected during the Russian occupation. He's a very interesting poet to look up. So I was thinking about his poetry when I wrote this. Think about the world we live in - we can still see where people don't have freedom of thought and expression, where free speech still doesn't truly exist, and where human rights are ignored, people are still not equal. And yet it's the year 2020.

  11. I was saying the same to hubs this AM. "History is not famous for its respect of human life."


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