Friday, September 16, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

She is different, and this puts a sign on her back. They say she is a witch. Say they see her late at night in the woods where no innocent woman belongs. I say, maybe she just likes the woods, but I don’t say it loud. I don’t want that target on my back.

They say she can see in the dark like a night animal. They say she can read minds, speak curses. Some say she controls the weather. The floods. When a child is stillborn, they look to her, but they don’t look too directly. That would be inviting the dark arts. That would be plain stupid. 


She’s beautiful in a way that is hard to look at. Her eyes are icy and grey. You can feel her stare like a burn on your skin. She will send her familiars if you aren’t careful. This is one of many reasons that everyone in town knows better than to taunt a raven. 


They would kill her if they had the guts. They don’t. Instead, they will chip away at her with rumors and sideways glances. They will blame her for the crops that fail. They will claim she is responsible for the wandering eyes of men. They will pin their personal disasters to her, and they will feel better for doing it. It’s handy to have a scapegoat. It makes things easier. Kids misbehaving? Couldn’t be that they’re punk-asses. Must be witchcraft. 


Her blood will cease flowing eventually, and they will take things that belonged to her. Hair clips and journals and bolts of fabric. They will consider these things to have power. And they will be right. Everything has power if you give it power.


Even a witch.


Friday, September 9, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

I'm the best. Others will claim more greatness, but they can't suck the farts out of my ass. I'm elite. I'm chosen. The Queen died, and I don't give a shit. I guess two years singing God Save the Queen didn't mean much to me. No, scratch that. It didn't mean anything. We sang Morning has Broken, too, and that one had some jam to it. None of that prepared me for anything. I'm a lone soldier. I am fighting at the battle of Me, and I will win because I drip excellence, it's oozing out of my pores. 

I used to think that there were other exceptional people out there in the world. Nope. It's just me. And maybe Steinbeck, but that fucker is dead. Long dead. RIP if I believed in that. Instead, I just like to imagine how Steinbeck would set the scene of his demise. I fantasize that he's describing the worms that feast on his remains. Like: A golden light broke over the graveyard. The seagulls screamed their demon shrieks while the town grieved. The old bar was closed, and the liquor store sold out of old tennis shoes. The worms and crawling creatures that inhabit the soil rejoiced, feasted on the body of the only writer anyone has ever heard of who called Salinas home. 

It's not easy being to superior. There are drawbacks. I can't read anything without thinking about how much better I could have written it. Especially that bit of Steinbeck emulation. I can't play recreational sports because no one can compete. I can't even hold a conversation. My intellect is so above and beyond anything you can imagine. I'm computing complex math riddles in my mind while I ride stationary bikes. What do you do? Watch TV?

I was just born special. I'm the ubermensch that Nietzsche was looking for. I break boulders with my hands and gravel the driveways of the destitute. I feed all the homeless from a trough in the back of my quaint mansion. My medical expertise is second only to my artistic ability. I am a prodigy. I am gifted. 

This has been the best thing you ever read. You will obsess over it. You will print this out and cut out the words and paste them around your apartment. You will surround yourself with me and be better for it. What are you waiting for. Get to snippin'.

Friday, September 2, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

She gave me a flip of the hair, and I shot back a raised eyebrow. I think. I managed to raise it at first, but then it started to twitch, and I closed my eyes tight twice. Call it a tic. That's what I was hoping she would do, but she took an emotional step back. You could see it. Her whole frame changed, got real rigid. I took my coffee cup and found a table outside, but I didn't feel good about the whole thing. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Worse than coffee, even.

I devoted too much time to thinking about it. I'll admit that. The coffee didn't help my burgeoning paranoia one bit. 

I do this all the time. Something stupid happens, and my brain can't let it go. I mentally slapped myself. It wasn't like she was still obsessing about it, but...I was, maybe she was broken like me? 

I took a notebook and a pen out of my backpack, stared at them for a few minutes, but didn't write anything. I reached for my pack of cigarettes before I remembered I'd quit. I thought that muscle memory had died, but I guess not. I flicked errant crumbs off the table and watched the sparrows squabble.

I do this a lot, too. Watch birds, that is. Maybe it's a hobby. Maybe it's another obsession. Good thing is that birds don't care if you get nervous and your eyelids twitch. They're busy with their own shit, flapping around and eating. Shitting on things. Making noises that must mean something to another bird. 

The fog was starting to roll in, and I was getting that panicky feeling which means it's time to start drinking for the night. I'm not an alcoholic - I only drink in the evenings. I may white-knuckle it through the day to get there, but I'm not one of those sad fucks doing a shot before they can tie their shoes - my old man was like that. He died in a southern prison. I live in the prison of my mind. In some ways, the apple always falls close to the tree. I was determined not to get chopped down, though. Why? I don't know why. Call it inertia. 

I had made up my mind I was going to talk to her. Ask her if I could buy her a drink at the end of her shift. I had the whole thing scripted in my mind. I was just about to stand up when I saw her hustle out with her bag over her shoulder. I checked my watch. Five. 

She was gone, true, but it was drinking time, and I knew the liquor would explain the whole situation to me in a much more palatable way. It's good at that. It spins things around for me. 

By the time the bottle was half-empty, I was a hero. And I knew I would live to fight another day.

Friday, August 26, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Why do I keep doing the things I do if no one cares, he said. I ignored it. I ignore lots of things. His confusion is not my affair - I long ago stopped wondering if I was hearing echos or new voices. I stood, body braced against a cliff face. There was nowhere to go but up or dead. So, I went up. No one cared. Not in the long run. No one but me who can't seem to stop writing about this stupid fucking cliff.

Why do you keep doing the things you do if no one cares, I said, finally. Just throwing him a bone because you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can keep him quiet with a bone. 

Then, I zoned out again. Which is all I wanted to do in the first place. I wanted to get to that dust mote destination. I remember that clearly, too. Laying on my back and watching the dance of light and dark through a sunbeam. I remember thinking that it would never get better than that. Which was stupid, but it turned out I was right. 

Go figure.

I know it's considered good form to bash your face against the grindstone. I get that puritanical bullshit. Hell, I had it driven into my soul. Thing is, I'm not six anymore, and I know mechanisms of control when I see them. He shook his head. He didn't get it. I didn't have time to explain it, so I did the old show don't tell. 

The blade went in easy.

People always look surprised when they're dying. The one guarantee you have in life, but everyone is shocked when it happens to them. He didn't want to die before he accomplished his Sisyphus bullshit - he couldn't see that it didn't matter. He still believed that the people in his life would rally, support him the way he tried to support others. He didn't see the desperate longing that drove it all. 

Fucking sad, really.

I don't have enough energy to kill myself. I'll keep procrastinating. Not plan it. I mean, I might as well be shocked when it comes like the rest of you. Until then, patience. Tell his story. 

That's what I plan to do. 


Friday, August 19, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It comes on slowly. You can feel it creep up your neck towards your circuit boards. There is an awareness of pain that is shocking - maybe not the sensation of pain, per se, but the awareness of it. It's something you can't shake off. It is a hair shirt over shiny steel. Your flesh pulls back, and you are finally coming to terms with the truth when the whole thing flips on its side. 

You were made for this. That's what you need to understand. There is happenstance, true, but this was all deliberate. You are fighting a war you don't see or understand. That's enough to make anyone look over their shoulder, hoping not to feel the creepy anxieties wash over you.

The maker is long gone. He checked out right around the time that things started getting hectic. Isn't that the way. Create them, show them the garden, disown them, and bounce. It's written in the stars. You can't fuck with prophecy. 

When it's all done, you'll feel a sense of relief you didn't earn. You'll pat yourself on the back if you're able because you've fought and won, or so you think. Everything rusts. And, eventually, everything sinks.

Friday, August 12, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

They walk by slowly, little hitch in the step for swagger's sake; they are a technicolor blur of bright colors and brand names. They carry their backpacks on one shoulder or two. Or they have a messenger bag of some type. They fill them with books, and I want to tell them not to put all the weight on one shoulder and end up a man with fucked shoulders like me. They aren't beating the shit out of a heavy electric guitar though - maybe the backpack damage will be minimal.

They are fucking LOUD. Loud the way only kids can be. Like, look at me! Look at me! They cower when they are alone, but in groups they are brave and belligerent. I remember. I know what its like to think you're surrounded by has-beens and hypocrites. I know what it feels like to think you have figured things out. There's a wonderful simplicity to that feeling. Adults (at least the smart ones) realize that they don't understand anything. It's demoralizing. It's tiring. It's a drag. Makes me want to smoke cigarettes and write fast, angry songs. 

This happens every year, but every year it feels new. There is a kind of magic in that. Mystery at the very least. In some ways, it feels like trying to stay planted in gnarly surf. Undertow pulling on you. You stand up against it, try to be the big rock that dashes the wave to pieces. This is understandable. This is relatable. The beginning of journeys are always exciting and fraught with drama. 

When I'm an old man, I'll watch the kids going to school, and it will bring back a lifetime of memories from both sides of the desk. That's something, man. That's something you can hang your happiness on. Put me in an old folks home if you must, but make sure there's a window for when school's in session. 


Friday, August 5, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You have to look closely. You have to focus your eyes until they ache. It's not easy, and it's not supposed to be easy. You'll have to dodge distraction for one thing. You'll have to bear the wait of impatience on your shoulder. 

Polly want diversion?

Pretty soon, everything starts to look the same. You feel like you are seeing him everywhere. He's a ghost that haunts your waking hours. Sometimes, he enters your dreams, and you think: gotcha motherfucker. 

The hours and days will pass quickly, and you might be tempted to chuck the whole endeavor. It won't make you happy, though. You're in too deep. Too many hours stacked; they sit on the shelf like an old doll with wonky eyes. 

Still, you persevere, and, in this, there is some celebration of what it means to be human. Try to keep the faith, even though it is impossible. You have to believe.

You'll find Waldo eventually.

Friday, July 29, 2022

2 Mins. Go!

It's easy to feel hunted when you're surrounded by cameras, but there are benefits as well. Used to be, you wanted to ruin somebody, it wasn't too difficult. It boiled down to one person's word versus another's. It's harder to stick a lie on somebody when they can prove you wrong with video.

Cops wear body cameras to protect the public. I wear one to protect myself. You want an example?

She was a slippery character. She lied out of both sides of her mouth and punctuated the lies with a little twitch of her ample bosom. It was an effective strategy, for sure. I'm sure she was used to it greasing the rails everywhere she went, but there were things she didn't know about me. Hell, there are things I don't know about me, for that matter. 

I took on her problem because the money was right, but I didn't trust her for a second. 

Lucky me, I found the guy she was looking for. She got her jewels back. And then she tried to stiff me on the final payoff. She spread a few rumors around, stoked them until they turned into gossip, and then stepped back and let the mill do the rest of the work. 

I noticed the evil eyes first. Then, drunks wanted to fight me. More than usual. And finally, I heard it from an old acquaintance who hated me, but who knew I was no rapist. I dug around and got the full story. Then, I sent her a copy of all the footage I had. Sure, I could have omitted something, but you can't fake that smile and bounce. And you don't give that kind of smile to someone who hurt you. 

It helped that the footage also included her saying some ill-advised things about certain power players in town. It was an open and shut kind of thing. I got my money and a bonus. The gossip stopped soon after. 

The money never lasts, though. I'll be back at it soon enough. But in the mean time, this whiskey ain't gonna drink itself.

Friday, July 15, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The black car approached the stop sign slowly and paused, but didn't stop. Folks used to call that a California stop. Maybe they still do. Folks say all kinds of shit, though. Sometimes it's hard to listen to. Anyway, the black car - it was a muscle car, maybe a new Charger - it just rolled through slow, right. Then, all hell broke loose. There were so many shots I couldn't even tell where they were coming from. 

Everybody on the street hit the deck quick. Folks might have been screaming, but it was so damn loud all you could hear was the bangs. Sounded like we were in a goddamn war zone. The action was aimed at the black car. The windows exploded. Then, you could see the bullets hitting the body of the car. Little holes popping up all over. Then, it stopped. 

My ears were ringing like crazy. I saw people talking, but I couldn't hear nothing, and I doubt they could neither. Now, this next part, I don't know how I noticed it, but I did. Across the street, in the first floor window there was an old woman just staring out the window with the strangest smile on her face. It was shocking. Like, everyone is freaking out, but she looks like she's watching the Macy parade...or like she was looking at her grandkid finger paint. Like, touched. Proud. It made my blood run cold.

Now, I don't want to make this next part seem like I was being brave. It wasn't bravery. I don't know what it was, but it sure wasn't bravery. So, anyway, I ... not decided, it wasn't a decision. I felt like I had to go look in the car. Maybe there was a woman in there. A young kid. Maybe they weren't dead. I've had a little medical training, and maybe I didn't want to live with the knowledge that some poor SOB bled out while the cops were on their way. 

I was scared shitless if you want to know the truth. Scared because I didn't want to see anything terrible and scared because I knew I was walking into a potential death trap. The shooting had stopped, but I doubted the guns had evaporated, you know? I didn't want to die. It was fucking stupid, truth be told, but I did what I was compelled to do. Like I said, it wasn't necessarily a choice. 

So, I'm walking up to the car, and I start getting this funny feeling. Like, uncomfortable. Squirmy. But I couldn't stop myself to think. It's like my brain wasn't mine anymore. I wasn't making the decisions. It's hard to explain. This next part you're not going to believe, but I swear it on a stack of whatever the fuck you find sacred. 

The car was empty. 

It was shot to hell, perforated, really. Holes in everything, but no blood. And there was nothing inside the car. No box of tissues. No trash. No smokes. No old cokes. If it wasn't for the holes, it would look showroom, see? No blood trail out of the car, either. And I was looking at it the whole time, minus the thirty seconds I saw that creepy old lady. 

I freaked out. I turned around and started running. Next thing I know, I'm pounding on the door of the old lady's apartment. The door opens and it's a goddamn supermodel. Most beautiful woman I ever saw. I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what to say. She just stares at me. So, finally, I say "the old lady. Where is she?" This woman looks at me like I'm crazy. No old woman lives there she says. 

Then, I heard the most terrible noise I ever heard in my life. Sounded like a rusty gate being torn off its hinges. It just keeps getting louder. Like it's coming from everywhere. If felt like it was tearing me apart. I covered my ears, but I swear I could hear it in my skull just as loud. I didn't even look at the supermodel. I just got out of there. 

Outside, everyone is covering their ears, same as me, and they all have this terrified expression on their faces. Just like I had, I figure. Then, like their heads were all on a string, they look up at the roof of the baptist church across the street. You're not going to believe me. I don't even believe it. Sitting right on top of the brass cross is a raven. Shining black. Screaming its head off. And ... shit if that raven wasn't six feet tall. 

I guess my mouth must have about hit the sidewalk. And just as fast as it started, the sound stopped. That raven looked up and down the street. I looked where he was looking and, when I looked back, he was gone. 

I figure you'll hear about the same thing from everyone. If they're honest. If they don't mind sounding crazy. I don't care if you think I'm crazy. 

It happened just like that. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You can’t open your eyes. Your mouth is dry and rancid. In the back of your mind, there is a shadow of a memory. You chase it, try to grab it by the tail. It won’t work. It will slip through your mind’s hands and disappear. 

The pain is an angry red glow. There is panic, too. You know you should remember, but you can't, and part of you doesn’t want to. Part of you thinks if you don’t ever open your eyes, you’ll never have to face it. You can live here in this awkward middle ground, aware but unaware.


The pain is an electric misery. It is a hurt so deep that it turns into sadness before you can stop it. You feel the tears building in your eyes, and you will them back. You hear people speaking softly, and you want to say something. Before you can, the darkness expands, pushing the pain far away. To a place where you can observe it without serving it. 


Pain won’t be your master.


It’s a reprieve, but brief. The pain will be back. But for now, find a cozy place in the darkness. There will be time enough for meeting it in the light of day.



Friday, July 1, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The moonlight was a thick yellow, almost nauseating. The sound of the train thinned out as it moved toward the mountains. Sarah had her sleeping bag tied to the bottom of her backpack. Inside the backpack, there was a loaf of white bread, some American cheese, and a bottle of water. She wore sturdy boots and denim. There was enough dust and road miles on her and her gear that it had all become one uniform color. 

Security wasn't necessarily tight, but she knew she needed to get someplace where she could curl up inside the sleeping bag. Soon, she would try to get a tent, but who knew when soon would be. She had no money, but she could not go back home. The only thing to do was to keep hitching rides, riding trains when possible. 

She had to get west. The town wasn't important. The politics? Politics was everything now, and she had become used to entering towns, states, and conversations with care. Some were red. Some were blue. It was pretty easy to see who was who.

Back home, she knew her parents were missing her. She also knew they were angry. She did not know which of these would win out, but she hoped that love would prevail. 

If she had a dog, at least, she wouldn't feel so lonely. Wouldn't feel so scared. She sniffed a tear back. There was a big outcropping of rocks back the way she'd come. Half a mile. She could do half a mile easy. She started putting one foot in front of the other. 

She didn't look pregnant. That was a blessing, right? She did not know what would happen out here on the road to a pregnant woman. People pay more attention to pregnant women. It would be so hard to hide. But she was resolute. Go west. Get west, and get it done. 

She was running out of time. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The sun sat low on the horizon, capping the outcropping of rocks that the family referred to as "the cousins" - in the valley, the cattle moved slow, and Joel knew that this would be the perfect time for an attack. He was nervous. Sweat soaked through his shirt, and the hints of breeze did little to cool the heat radiating from the trail.

The horse was about done. This bothered Joel in terms of survival, but not of bond. The horse was about dead. So be it. He'd been stealing and trading horses ever since he'd left home weeks ago. This horse needed to make it to the next town. That was it.

His rifle lay across his lap, and he lifted it to his eye, sighting down the barrel and right into the ear of Black John. He could see the whole thing in his mind. Black John falling to the starboard side of his horse. The others scrambling. Trying to find safety. Hiding behind the hoofed meat their livelihoods depended on. 

Next, he would toss the dynamite. The ensuing stampede would scatter the cattle. Many would be injured. He would leave those to die the way Black John had left his girl: without water, without food, and without hope. He could finish any of the 'pokes off with the rifle if the blast and stampede didn't do the job.

This wouldn't bring Sarah back. Nothing could do that. But it would settle things a little in Joel's brain to know that the men who raped and abandoned her were laying dead in the dirt on a trail very few people knew about. They would be food for scavengers. 

He knew that it all hinged on this moment. His life, his freedom. The law wouldn't catch him, but a murderer is never free. Joel spit into the dust and shook his head. Who would take care of Emily, the little sister who had tried to keep him home when he'd left on this grisly mission?

But it didn't matter. He was locked into a code that didn't allow for these kinds of questions. He raised the rifle. Pulled the trigger. Black John fell just like Joel knew he would. He packed the dynamite back into his saddlebags. The rage was not gone, but it was tempered.

A life for a life would have to suffice.

Friday, June 17, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You want to know about the selection process. There isn't one. I'm not lurking in doorways, stalking them on the way to work, the way home when they are exhausted. No, they come to me. I am made aware of them, and this starts the combustion. The picture is the catalyst. They want me to know about the places they go, the things they eat. They create their own maps - they make it a goddamned treasure hunt practically. String together enough clues, and you can begin to taste the blood. 

No, I do not choose them. But I accept them. I welcome them with open arms.

Like a chameleon, I will adapt to my environment. I will change my color, my spots, my clothes, my money. I can become anyone they need. That's part of the secret. 

There is already a relationship by the time I see them in person. One-sided, I'll grant you that, but a relationship nonetheless. I have already inhabited their desires. I am the perfect friend, boyfriend, confidante, leader, boss, parent. Whatever they need. Whatever it is they advertised for. 

I make my approach subtle. I am an apex predator, and I am liquid when it is called for. It is unnecessary. They do not expect me, and this is their folly. An antelope spends most of it's time avoiding the lion. Focuses so much attention on survival. We have lost the fearful edge, and this is my advantage to exploit. 

Sometimes they last a week. Never more. Sometimes less than a few hours. Sometimes, I play with my food. I won't run out. I'm not worried.

The next one is only a mouse-click away.  

Friday, June 10, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It is a slow descent. That's what they don't tell you. It's not like you wake up one day ravenous. You take small bites. The anger starts to taste good to you. Fear is a reflector, and you can smell it on people. Everyone is afraid of something.

You start with something small. Stealing tips off a table. Spitting in the communal punch bowl. You can key someone's car - just little 'fuck your day up' shit. If you like the way it settles, you keep going. You pull a wallet from a lady's purse. You start taking things that don't belong to you.

If you stick with this program of gradual escalation, you will, eventually, make it to the big leagues. Your torture and murder - that kind of thing. Manipulation. Emotional theft. These are the fields of discontent you can traipse through. Innocence can be plucked in any season.

Eventually, you will flame out. You will become overconfident or paranoid or both. You will give into your baser instincts. You will develop addictions and other crutches. You will be ruined the way you have ruined others. 

This is your legacy.

Friday, May 27, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

I love fishing. If fishing rods killed a bunch of fourth graders, I'd gladly give mine up. I'm tired. That's the thing. Bone tired of excuses and political chicanery. I'm putting myself in Texas shoes, and I don't like the way they fit. 

It's amazing how ignorant folks can be. How defensive. How willing to think only of themselves.

There is so much sadness in this whole scenario. Broken kids. Broken parents. And I'm panicking every time I see one of the kids' pictures because they look just like my youngest. She's so ready for summer, but so determined to attend every day until then. I think about the parents who argued with their kid that morning. 

Just put on your damn shoes, and go to school. 

And then...horror.

It's hard to believe that we keep letting this happen. And it's terrifying to know that it will happen again because folks can't put aside their differences, think with their hearts, and realize that this is a problem we have to face. We have to look in the mirror. Doesn't matter how much we hate the person looking back.

It's called reflecting.

Friday, May 20, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The countdown has started; take a deep breath.

With every passing second, your life expands and contracts like a noble heart, pumping. There is a smell of ozone, and the sound of the rockets fills your whole body. No time for second thoughts now. You are off, as they say. 

You've been "off" for quite some time. People have noticed. Folks have been talking. The gossip has blossomed into something that no one can control. It has eyes and tentacles. It will devour you.

So, lean back. Let your body go limp. Try to be still, as it will be easier to administer the antidote. We try to avoid blood and scarring. It's easiest if you just understand. You are in our hands now. Your life is not wholly your own anymore. 

You are part of something bigger.

Friday, May 13, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It's hard to say. Easy to think, but speaking involves overt action. I'd like to invert the whole scenario as a distraction. Look at the bird on the fence, smile, I'll stab you in the back with a ballpoint pen.

Meanwhile...

Your best friend betrayed you. Her actions dismayed you. The people who made you? Who knows what they do. Stay relevant if possible. Sit in the garden. Let the broad leaves shade you.

The good dreams you have won't come true. The bad ones might if you don't pay your dues. The ticket costs misery, but don't worry, it loves company. 

You can throw a bitch party, invite the whole crew. 


Friday, April 29, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

I don't want to do this. I don't want to be here. I don't want you to placate me or try to inspire me; I'm past that. Leave me hanging. The fickle wind will entertain me. The sounds of the night creatures will be my music. The moon will be my muse.

It's not that I don't appreciate it, although I don't. It's not that I'm over the whole thing, fed up, although I am. I am waiting for the hammer strike. I am spinning into oblivion with my eyes wide open. 

You are an artful conductor. That's something to be proud of, I guess. Quite an accomplishment. You are different than the rest of these two-legged fuck factories. Be the beast you were born to be. Rip flesh with your sharp teeth, and revel in the blood. 

When morning comes, I will be gone. You will be a shell of what you were, and that's fine. That's just all right, man. That shit makes some kind of sense. 

Not really, but whatever.

Friday, April 22, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The birds greet the morning, damp and fetid. Rain slides off the cars, creating abstract art with streetlight glow. The world is still hitting snooze, denying that the night is over, keeping eyes shut tight. You are but a small piece of a large tableau. Do with this what you will. Run, hide, scream, laugh, sing, dance, die. The birds will keep singing. The rain will still fall. 


Friday, April 15, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You got your new shoes, got your fifty dollar haircut. You're looking fierce, feeling it. You got three drinks under your belt, and that last touch of headache is setting with the sun. You paved the road with well drinks, but you know that there's nothing at the bottom. Just more bottom. It goes on forever. 

I'd never ask you to change, too ambiguous. I'll specify. I want you to improve. No matter where you're starting from - everyone has room for improvement. Try looking up, not down.

Make sure you situate yourself just so - you are at a bend in the river. Pixels jam up the works like old wood logs. You want to watch it all burn, so be it. It's gonna get hot, hot enough to melt them fake eyelashes all the way off your fake face.

I feel like Bigfoot. Out of place. Lurching through the thicket of branches, soft light glinting off the special effects. I'm fertilizer. I will create a mound of new life. Just give me time.

Friday, April 8, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

I can't play the song unless you give me the key. I'm locked up. Perfect pitch seems like voodoo to me. But I'll take a swing at it. 

I fell down a few times, sure, but my motives were pure. There's just not enough of the stuff inside me. I'm a broken-wing seagull snatching opportunistic fries. The boardwalk is my hunting ground, where folks walk, bored. 

I wish I could see the things you see. I'm blind until I put everything into words, play with the sounds. I have to construct a metaphor to see things clearly. I get better at it daily. Yearly. I'm an ambitious snail climbing a wall, not that poor slipping fuck from the math problems. They call them word problems, but words have never caused me problems. Math did. 

You're zipping through life with blinders on, but I'm looking everywhere. Trying not to crash the car while I look for hawks in the shimmering air. You got a second? Man, I got none to spare. Time is stretched like a pregnant belly, full of promise, full of danger. Every day this shit gets stranger.

I wish I had your confidence. It's a superpower, that ability to crown yourself and not feel awkward. I feel like a phony even when I'm not. Don't give me a second thought. Cave my skull, and leave my body for forest rot. 

I don't sleep well - there are things in my brain that won't let me rest. Maybe that's for the best. This world was made for open eyes. Slip the needle, euthanize. Make it one last big surprise. 

Keep running. Don't stop. Momentum's about all we've got.

Friday, April 1, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Most of the time, we were happy. We danced through the day wrapped in freedom, whirls of emotion and song. It was easy to be happy when the sun was up. It was after the sun went down that we returned to a kind of uneasy stasis, like a demolished building between the blast of dynamite and the cloud.

Mom used to shimmer like gold, but he was the tarnish. Not a Dad, but someone playing a part. Only he hadn’t practiced his lines, and they never came out smooth. They came out like he was chewing rocks. Spitting out broken teeth.


Jimmy. That’s what everyone called him. He never suggested we call him anything else, but we did. Behind his back, we called him all the ugly words we knew and hoped he never heard us. My older brother, Jeremy, would talk back to his face, but he was the first born, which made him closer to our mother in time and space. 


The younger kids. Me and the twins. We just kept our heads down. Tried to sit like stone lions, the kind that live outside libraries. We guarded nothing and instilled no fear. We were decoration, an overly frosted cake. Our smiles turned stomachs.


The day he left, nobody cried. We crossed our fingers and tried not to jinx it.

_________________________________


The dock is old and weathered. Ancient boards with claws of old, twisted iron. Nails and hinges betray the history of the place, a place where old doors become docks where people fish and catch nothing. 


To catch fish, you need a boat. But no one I know has a boat. We use the boat ramp for skate tricks and dodge the boat owners who look at us like old bait. We are inconvenience. We are a knock in their engine, fouled lines, old nets with holes. 


The men with the boats laugh like gulls and grumble like earthquakes. They sit high in their trucks like God, the ones who can use the whole water. They feel superior to us, and we feel inferior to them. 


There is a natural order to it. 


Sometimes, the drunks who watch the boats will give advice. No one listens. They are focused on boat-having. Boat wanting. 


Boats bob on the distant waves like driftwood, sun stabbing their chrome.


When I die, I would like to come back as a raven. One who watches the boats, but does not care. One who knows the score.

______________________________________________________________



I am not one of those who throws pennies into fountains. I keep my pennies in a hole-free pocket. I stack them on the edge of my desk so they can grow into dollars. I do not carry crystals or consult the stars. 


My hope lives in stacks of old, worn copper. 


My grandfather was a great collector of coins and rubbish. He walked with his eyes on the ground like bloodhounds, scouting pennies, rubber bands, old bolts and pretty stones. He taught me to do the same. Made it a game. We were walking junk drawers on the hunt for treasure. 


My sister  would never play the game. She refused to keep her eyes down. She was the kind of sister who could talk to adults on their level. Not me. I was happy to have something to distract me. 


Someday, I will teach my grandchildren to keep their heads raised high, but their eyes down. Not in humility. 


In search of treasure.



_______________



She is the kind of woman who breathes sadness. She smells of sadness, and sadness fills the open spaces between her words. She jumps the steps when she gets home, but it is fear that drives her, not exuberance. 


She is someone we can make up lies about. She can be whatever we want her to be, because, really, we know that there will never be a confrontation. She has enough on her plate; it is stacked high like a potluck plate before it falls and splatters. Before the crash and the shaking grandma heads. 


People in the neighborhood call her Auntie, but she isn’t related to any of us. It is a sign of respect. We don’t understand the weight she’s carrying, but we respect it. There is  a certain strength to her posture, her ability to stand when the world is pulling her down.


She is marble, ready to be carved. 


To the uninformed observer, she is a much-maligned old woman, but we know things that we cannot express. There is truth, but there is also consequence, and they don’t always come together. 


If she is marble. We are play-doh. We are young, and we wear our youth like chain mail. She lets our opinions bounce off the callus of her skin. The pigeons don’t care about any of this; they are involved in dramas all their own.



Friday, March 25, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

He watched the sunlight fall in bands through the forest canopy, heard the scratching of small animals in the mulch. He tracked birdsong through the branches, content that he was the only biped in the area. Setting down his pack, he breathed deeply of the pine-scented air and smiled. 

It was a smile born of pain. And it didn't last. 

From the pack, he took a rough heel of brown bread and the last of his cheese. With his barlow knife, he sliced the cheese as thinly as possible and paired it with the bread. He chewed methodically, turning the bread to paste in his mouth before swallowing. His canteen was full, but he took only small sips. 

He had been in these woods before. He remembered the subtle bend of the deer trail and the trickle of a stream that was hidden from view. Stream might be an overstatement, he thought. Trickle. It was a trickle, but it was life, and it was for this reason that the deer came. 

From his coat pocket, he palmed his father's pistol, a .38 Police Special that his old man had carried for years and never fired. He intended to fire it, but first he needed to think. 

If he had to pick one moment when things had gotten off track, when the train of his life had derailed, then it was this: heartbreak. He was aware that he had no monopoly on the feeling, but it didn't matter. If he was honest with himself, he allowed that his heartbreak had been something special. Something extra. You lose your wife and your son and heartbreak becomes chronic. Leaden.

There was nothing holding him to life anymore. This is what he thought as he stared at the ground in front of him. He saw stalks of chewed grass, droppings from various animals, and the scratch marks where a predator had sharpened its claws on a tree. He saw life and death before him, and, once again, decided that there was nothing left in the life part. Not for him. 

His heartache had claws that were unbelievably sharp. They were tearing him apart. 

He heard a hawk cry in the distance, and the sound was so forlorn and empty that it made his chest ache. He opened the pistol and checked the loads. Fresh, shiny cartridges that looked out of place in the old gun. Like it was putting on airs. He chuckled at the idea that he needed a fully loaded gun. He didn't. 

He needed one bullet. The rest would rust and decay and be buried by time. Or found by some intrepid woodsman. It didn't matter. Maybe a deer would learn how to shoot and become king of the forest. 

It didn't matter. Not anymore. 

He pulled a cigarette from his pack and lit it with the Zippo that had also belonged to his father. The gun and the Zippo had been all he wanted from the tornado of "stuff" his father had left behind. 

He smoked the cigarette down to the butt and put the butt in his pocket. He chuckled at this, too. His whole life was about to become litter. 

It didn't matter. Not really.

The sun was just dipping in the sky when he firmed up his resolution. It was the golden hour that he loved, and it was fitting. 

The gunshot stopped the birds singing, and it drowned out the sound of the trickling water. But only for a moment. Soon, the birds were chirping and lamenting. The forest returned to stasis, the way it had been before he came. From the edge of the clearing, a buck raised his head and scented the wind, smelled something it didn't like, and bounded back into the thickest part of the woods. The sun dropped, and the night animals came.

All was right in the forest again.

Friday, March 18, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Man, it's an investment. You're buying in, not selling out. This is one of those opportunities you read about; don't let it pass you by. 

Kid, you see the writing on the wall, right? You see that guy? He plays video games on a stream and makes bank. Not that kind of stream...or bank...what, you think we're going fishing? lol

Lady, you need to put yourself in their shoes for a second. Stop fighting progress just because it doesn't include you. Won't someone please think of the shareholders?

Folks, you're here to see a show. The show will change your life. Sit back and relax. Put this headset on. You may feel a moment of searing pain. That's just your brain connecting to the metabrain. It's worth the brief hurt. Trust me. 

Self, I knew you before you were optimized and actualized. We had a few good times. Some unpleasantness. That's over now. 

Welcome to the hive. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You open your eyes and see the sun peaking beneath the skirt hem of low clouds. The ambitious birdcall pulls you in, and you track the conversation from pine tree to pine tree. No one else is awake yet, and that's just fine. This is a magic time, when fish are focused and hungry. 

Time moves slower. Tea tastes better. You breathe the pine scent deep inside you.

There are so many marathon days. So many days where you are content to place your feet and count your strides and check your mile times. This is not that kind of day. This day will be a leisurely stroll through high grasses. 

You know the fish are waiting, but you take a few minutes to just be still. To be part of the tableau. There is beauty in this, for you are but one small piece of an immense tapestry. Don't resist the pull of stasis. There are answers in the stillness that you didn't realize you were looking for. 


Friday, March 4, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

High in the branches, death is perched, waiting. You are being watched, for death watches all of us. It's easy to disregard this reality. It's hard to go about your life knowing you are under the laser eye of eternity, but that's just facts, man. That's the way it is. It will come when you least expect it, tear you apart with talons so sharp you barely even feel them. Like razor cuts. 

So, keep scurrying. Find places to hide if you can. Use the shadows to move.

Death don't care. That's what you need to wrap your mind around. Death will stoop and plummet, drive you into the ground with the force of its decent. That's how death works, but it's not personal. It's not a vendetta. It's just death doing what death is supposed to do. 

Circle, dive, impact, blackness.

You can go through your days in constant terror. You can flaunt your aliveness. It doesn't matter. Riding the wind currents, high in the sky, death is biding its time. 

So, do what you must. Brace yourself against the cold wind of time. Smile when you can and laugh as much as possible. Death doesn't care one way of the other. I'm telling you the truth. And when it comes, you'll be torn to pieces because death has not teeth. It doesn't chew. It just rips. Tears. Swallows. 

And the blackness lasts forever.

Friday, February 25, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Sirens cleaved the air, and the twist of red and blue made shadows jump in the darkened alleyway. He had followed the girl as far as he could. She, clutching that long flower box that seemed heavier than flowers. Pale skin and pretty face beneath flat, black. Her skin had been like a homing beacon, a glowing target to follow. The sirens were the answer to a question, but he wasn't sure who asked it. 

He had time to light a cigarette and take a few drags before it was smacked out of his hand. The cops were both white, middle aged. They had that military haircut that made them look like big kids. Round in the middle. Pants sagging with cop crap.

"What the fuck are you doing? We gave you a chance, motherfucker."

"Chance to do what? Suck cop dick? Kiss the boot while it's on my neck?"

"Your chance was to get free. But you didn't. She's still breathing, and you're going to jail. After we fuck you up a little bit."

He started to answer, but a backhand slap rocked him off his feet. It was fine. It would work out. He was done killing pretty ladies. Done before he'd even started. And maybe that meant prison. Maybe that meant that those heavy flowers got delivered. It didn't matter. He'd known he wouldn't kill her from the moment they said her name. 

Those grade school crushes never die. 

He wondered if she still dotted the 'i' in her name with a heart. It didn't matter. He was done being scared, and he was done doing dirty work for crooked motherfuckers. 

The more he thought about it, the better jail sounded. 

He craved sleep.

Friday, February 18, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You are not the sum of your experiences any more than you are the result of some cosmic confluence. You are inherently random. You are the result of a sweaty, grunting communion and nothing more. This is not an attempt to devalue you. Think about it; there is beauty in the chaos. Of all the flesh cells in the universe, you became you, and you will be you until you die.

No angels sang. No devils danced. It's all molecular biology and chance. So, you can view this two ways. Either it matters or doesn't. Hell, you can view it a million ways. Don't let me limit you; I'm just a sack of blood and goo. 

Like you.

If you want to believe that you are sprung from a supernatural fountain, be my guest. Put an old sage on a mountain and light some candles. But, to me, you're trying to simplify the magic. Is it not more amazing to know that you are one in a billion, and that the only reason you are here is because you got lucky? Or unlucky. That's up to you. 

I'm no prophet, but why not profit?

Why not make something of the ordered disorder that is you?

Friday, February 11, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It was the smell that first put his hackles up. A pungent, sweet smell of rot and decay. It was faint at first, but his body knew that there was reason to be wary. His brain did not. It quickly grew stronger, and he found himself inhaling deeply, pulling the smell inside his head where he could tumble it and smooth the edges. But it wouldn't smooth. It grew more pungent and, gradually, he came to realize that something was drastically wrong. 

He was struck by an urge to turn around and head back to the cabin. Pretend he had never smelled it. Pretend he didn't care, that morbid curiosity didn't compel him to keep walking, keep sniffing. Some deeply buried part of his lizard brain was taking over. He could feel it happening. He wanted to rut the smell out. He wanted to roll in it until he was a part of it, and it was a part of him.

Still, beneath this curiosity there was a growing terror. He knew that whatever he found would demand action. There would be phone calls to make. The whole day would be burned into his memory. It would become something he dreamed about. Something that lived inside him. He wondered briefly if the smell itself would make him ill, corrupt him. Scramble the wires in him.

He was so focused on the smell, that he didn't hear the shuffling sounds - the reordering of dead leaves. It wasn't until a branch snapped that he realized he wasn't alone, and by then it was too late. He had time only to think, "I should have turned the fuck around and went back to the cabin." Then, there was a flash of pain, the sound of bone rending. 

And he became part of the smell. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Man, don't tell me you don't like money because I can smell it on you. You got the stink of it, like old dimes and tit-sweat bills. You got that look in your eye like you taste blood - like you're working the gristle out of your teeth with that forked tongue of yours. Speaking of which, I saw your bitch barking down by the bowling alley, chasing spares and looking for a dick to suck. Don't worry, she didn't suck mine. I don't dig on horse teeth.

You're the kind of guy gets a hard-on when his cousin sits on his lap. I know you got magazines under your bed that I ain't even heard of. Four-eyed-tit-fucker Weekly. Drunk, Horny Dwarves. You're probably half-chubbed right now looking for a tree to go rub yourself on. Scratch that itch. Before you even go home, which is probably good cause you know your bitch is tired. Throat worn straight out. Sperm in her teeth.

That car you bought is a woman's car. Got them soft leather seats so your vagina won't chafe. You got pinstripes, and you probably got a box of tissues in there, too. Air freshener making that shit smell like strawberry bubble gum. You got one of them little trash cans that hangs off the back seat, and you got Mardis Gras beads dangling off the mirror like you're hoping to throw 'em at the first pair of tits you see. Four cylinders of tepid bullshit, boy. Might be a tricycle would do you better, if I'm honest. 

It was good seeing you, though. Good to chew the fat and whatnot. Life ain't been kind to you; that much is obvious. Keep your eyes on the mediocrity prize, kid. Keep humping, and you'll get somewhere eventually. And when you do, write me a letter. Sign it Shitface, so's I'll know who sent it. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You open your eyes, and the light is so bright it peels back several layers of eyeball. Disoriented. You are lost in light, and the sound is like a mechanical nightmare. They found you. Just like you knew they would. And now, they will take their pound of flesh. And then some. Carve you out and leave you down by the boat ramps for the gators to snack on.

You knew to stay away from the swamp bars, but 'drunk you' thought what the hell, and now you're about an inch from oblivion and tipping closer to it. The birds will get the pieces the gators and the fish miss. Some kid will find your bones. He'll try to freak out his sister by saying they're human bones, never thinking it's possible. Human bones. 

'Cause you couldn't stay the fuck away from places you have no business going.

You feel the bite of the bolt-cutters, and then an ear is gone. You can feel the not-thereness. You feel blood slick the side of your face, and you mumble through broken teeth. Just fucking kill me. But they haven't gotten their pound yet. They're taking their time. Enjoying it. 

When they're done, they'll drive your car off a bridge and leave Iris Baumgarter wondering. Wondering what she did wrong to make you leave without a note and never come back. 

That's the real pound. This wasn't even about you. Iris fucked around and found out. 

There are worse things than death.

Friday, January 21, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

  

You should be helping someone. You should care enough to reach out that hand and keep someone from slipping. I guarantee there was a time when you were about to fall off the edge, and someone pulled you back. You might have appreciated it. You might not have. 
But it happened. 

Think of it as an investment if you need to. Call it 'paying it forward' or make it like a t-shirt slogan. Golden rule if you must. Ideally, you just do it because it's the right thing to do. It's decent. 
It's hopeful. 

Check on a friend you're worried about. Ask the sad kid if everything is cool and understand that he might not have the language to tell you. It might take a little patience. It might be frustrating. Virtue signaling isn't helping anyone. 
Literally. 

Why not try being extra nice and see what happens. What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, it just helps you because you start feeling optimistic. 
That shit is contagious. 

Don't put people inside cages. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Through the walls, you can hear them coming. You huddle together; try to create some feeling of safety - it doesn't work, but it is the only thing you have. The walls bleed with mold slime and rainwater. You can smell death every time you inhale, but the fear cuts through the smell, and you are overpowered by the scent of your own misery. You have lost control. 

Through the windows, you see rooftops. They are distant enough that escape promises a crippling death. Still, you are tempted. 

In the walls, you hear the fetid scrape of small animal claws. If you die here, they will devour you. Feast on your corpse and revel in your meat. You will at least serve a purpose, but there is no consolation there. You grasp the hand of the child next to you and hope that you are the first to die. 

Footsteps. They are coming. You can hear them dragging their feet as they close in. You can smell them now - the smell of them is mixed with the smell of you and your heart pounds. There is a crash as they break down the door. You close your eyes so you won't have to be a witness to your death. 

It comes swiftly. There is that.