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.

37 comments:

  1. Wow. Super dark. Gave me chills.

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    1. That's horrific. Very dark and atmospheric. You can feel his predicament.

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    2. Holy cats, that's good. Dark, yes. Great imagery, gut-wrenching. I could feel that bite of the bolt cutters, too.

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    3. That first line grabs you, and the rest of the story doesn't let go. The details give it that extra impact - like the thought about the kid finding his bones.

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    4. And of course Dan makes it look so easy. I love the bleak grimness of this and the way he makes it seem so real and pulls you right into the narrative. And the pacing and the word choices you use... Masterful.

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  2. I love the twist at the end. Very evocative.

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  3. We are stuck. We can't move forward and we aren't willing to go back. Why can't we move forward? Because every time we try to take a step in a new direction we trip over fifteen people desperately trying to revive a corpse and convincing themselves that it just MUST be possible. They don't know how to move on, so the status quo has to be able to achieved.

    It can't, and it won't, and it shouldn't be. We shouldn't have been there in the first place, we aren't going back. No matter how desperately they want to go back, they can't either and it freaks them out. That part is almost fun.

    But what happens when both us and them get desperate? We stopped teaching history based on accuracy and went back to the tried and true method of teaching "we won", so now we've all forgotten what we knew and we know what we can't say, and this will end in more death until we all burn it to the ground.

    Then what? I guess that depends on who wins. My biggest problem is that I can see all of this, but I don't know where my place in it is or should be. How do I help? Who do I help? If it's going to end in blood and tears I'd sure like to make sure that the people who have been marginalized, degraded, gaslit, and ignored for most of history get a fighting chance this time around.

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    1. This. This, this, this. This paragraph is everything: "But what happens when both us and them get desperate? We stopped teaching history based on accuracy and went back to the tried and true method of teaching "we won", so now we've all forgotten what we knew and we know what we can't say, and this will end in more death until we all burn it to the ground." Brava.

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    2. Love that you put so much of what I've been experiencing into words. Love that last line most.

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    3. I can recognise the frustration and anguish in these words. You're so very good at verbalising what so many of us are feeling and redrawing it so we can all connect with it on our own terms.

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    4. I was going to pick out the same section as Laurie. I like the comment how 'we stopped teaching history based on accuracy' - this is a problem cos the only way you can learn from history and not make the same mistakes is to be honest about it. And history shouldn't be hidden, but spoken about. I like the intro a lot too, how we can't go forward or back, we're stuck.

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    5. This is dope. We can all feel that frustration, and it can be really hard to capture in writing. Well played.

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  4. Penny scanned the bar one more time, hoping that the scenery had changed in the last twenty seconds. It hadn't. No one worth talking to was in sight. There were two guys behind the bar and around the corner who had all of their teeth and full-ish heads of hair, but they were both well on their way to blotto. No way was she going to get pregnant with a drunk's kid.

    Her best friend had spent the last two hours telling Penny some version of, "You're crazy." It was getting old. Screw that. It was old. So old.

    "You can choose to go home, you know," Penny pointed out to Felicity. "You're going to end up going home alone, anyways."

    "Why can't you just do what normal girls do and get a legitimate sperm donor?" Felicity asked...again.

    "This is cheaper," Penny repeated for the sixth or seventh time. "You are sooooo sheltered. Please go home. Just go home. The door is right over there. I'll pay your tab."

    "I'll pay the adoption fee for a cat," Felicity countered. "You've always wanted a cat. You have only wanted a kid for a few weeks."

    "You want some guy to get you knocked up?" a rando with a pot-belly asked.

    "Someone who is not you, yes," Penny said. "In fact, this place is full of non-candidates."

    "You want a sports bar on Sunday night, ya dim bulb," he said. "This place is for losers like you and me. But I do know a guy."

    "Yeah, right," Felicity said. "You know a guy who would be only too happy to rape and mug my friend." She looked over at Penny with pity and disdain. "This is why I insisted on coming along. You are so gullible you might fall for some line a schmuck like this tries to sell you."

    Penny went from annoyed to pissed in the 2.5 seconds it took her former bestie to say the words. She wasn't a chump who believed just anybody. No way.

    "Tell me about your guy," Penny said, just to make Felicity as mad as she was. "Where is he?"

    "He's somewhere cool tonight," Potbelly Pete said. "Name's Micky." He held his hand out and Penny shook it. "You come in two nights from now you and your little friend can check him out with your own eyes."

    "In public," Penny said, while glaring at the albatross around her neck, Felicity. "How creepy and worrisome. I'll be here. She will not."

    "See you then," Penny said.

    "looking forward to it, oh-nameless one," Micky said.

    "Oh, right, I'm Penny," she said. "What's your friend's name?"

    "Vlad," Micky said. "He's from Russia. Speaks pretty good English for a foreigner."

    "I look forward to getting to know him," Penny said. She turned on her heel and made her way to the bar with an empty glass.

    "Penny," Micky thought. "Good name. Young enough. Kind of pretty. The master will be pleased with this one, I think."

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    1. OMG. Great twist at the end. I was really pulled along by the dynamic between the women. Now I want more.

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    2. Exactly what Laurie said. Love that twist. Fun stuff. :)

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    3. I loved the twist at the end too. You suckered me good with that. Very well written too - so very real and full of truth.

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    4. Interesting scenario set-up. And ditto on the twist. I didn't see that coming. Very creepy.

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    5. I didn't see it coming either. I was lulled by the dialogue. Super natural (see what I did there?) and on point. :)

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  5. Motion

    A dark black hole of despair
    looms, a wide open pit
    in which snakes rattle heads,
    hissing. Their bodies curl, contract.
    They wait. They have all the time.
    You crawl. You paper over the cracks.
    You conceal how you feel,
    so the whole world can’t see.
    A daily prison. You cannot step too far.
    Its confines are now your life,
    slimmed down, the joy sucked out.
    The rain continues to plummet
    and you want to drink it,
    but your enthusiasm has died
    on the wind. And the clock ticks.

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    1. Very potent images here. I like papering over the cracks and the plummeting rain.

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    2. Wow. This is so evocative. It made me _feel_ that black hole of despair. Great bits of imagery, which is so much harder to do in poetry. Love the whole rhythm of this, too.

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    3. Definitely took me to a dark place. This speaks to me. I love it.

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    4. This is so bleak and stifling and I can see this everywhere. This is so very 2020s - or so it seems. I can only hope that releasing these words into the world drew a little light into your heart. Great writing too, by the way!

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    6. Thanks. It started off as a scene from Cobra Kai and then changed into something a bit different. It could be read in different ways.

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    7. Something about the phrase 'snakes rattle heads' is so pleasing. I love the beat and sway of this.

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  6. Periwinkle sunrise, make the coffee, find a towel. Hot shower like a gentle spring rain only teases your shoulders, your back. Thoughts stream through: call a plumber, pay a bill, upcoming appointment with new doctor, where does the novel go next? When will there be time and energy for that? Will you ever write like you used to, with passion, with joy, with sitting down at the computer and letting the characters tell you their story. No pain, when you wrote, then. Roll shoulders under the trickle, neck side to side, up and down. Gentle, graceful movements. Always gentle. You remember that woman in the parking lot at the grocery story, humped over, eyes leading, like an ancient tortoise. You double-down on your commitment to weightlifting, diet. You curse the random scrabble-tile toss of genetics that gifts your mother with the bone density of a woman half her age and you like a shrinking crone twenty years before you’d been promised when you were a young and juicy thing, adults admiring your posture. Was the juice worth the squeeze? It is what it is, the doctors say, and you want to punch them and say the same. “Well, with your back…” “Well, with your bone density results…are you sure you aren’t doing drugs or smoking?” “Well…” You should be grateful, you hear between their words. Grateful just to wake each morning, to stand on two feet, to have your faculties, to feel the sun on your face and that frustrating sprinkle on your shoulders. Greet the periwinkle sunrise and make the coffee. Call the plumber.

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    1. This is heartbreaking. The word and phrase choices, the rhythm of the words, all of it works together to make the reader _feel_ the emotion of the piece. You're pretty much a wizard at that.

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    2. I feel this in a different way. This takes me back to doctor's offices, sitting there and listening to them talking about "the patient", like they forgot I was a person. I have no comforting words, but I see you. You are more brave and strong than people know. If this is a work of fiction (which a part of me hopes it is, but the rest of me is pretty sure it's not) all I can say is, you embodied it.

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    3. I feel this so much. It's reassuring, in a way, that others' lives are just as real as my own and that the trials I face are mirrored in the lives of other people. It doesn't ease the aches and the pain but at least I know they're shared and the knowledge that there's a community of others who feel it too makes me like I'm a paid-up member of the clan. Excellent writing, as always, and so very, very real.

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    4. I like the periwinkle sunrise. I imagined her sitting down to write and procrastinating and thinking over all these other things, and on the second read I just thought of her looking out at the sunrise and thinking on all these things and wondering if she's still good enough on all of these levels. You can feel her frustration and this sense of wishing things were better than they are. It's sad and very real.

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    5. I dig this moment on the internal dialogue and reproach wheel. There is a kind of heaviness in this taking stock, and I agree with Mark. It works like a mirror.

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  7. They bring him out. He’s been blindfolded but he doesn’t need to see their faces to know who they are. They’ve shared enough time together for him to recognise every one of them, such as the one with the perpetual sniffle, or the one with the dry cough standing over in the corner, or the one whose whispering voice is now urging him along. He’s been one of the sighted here on three occasions, the first time when he was here for his initiation and again the second time when he was blooded. And once again, that final time when he refused to play along. That third time was just a few days ago, shortly before they put him in The Box, his former friends turning against him before he could begin to damage the group. He had thought he’d be able to trust every one of them, that their bonds would be unbreakable, that their pact would survive any test.

    That was what their oaths were for, the promises they’d made.

    Or were they just empty words spoken by boys, as his mother had said?

    He remembers her now, the way she’d taken the news. He’d been both proud and surprised, learning of his success, finding out he’d been chosen, discovering his dreams had not been misplaced. Only one person in a hundred survived the initiation test, only one in five of those regaining consciousness after the trial. Of course, nobody mentioned any of that to any of the candidates, their sponsors only warning them how gruelling it could be.

    The other boys were holding him down now, slipping the restraints onto his wrists. Burrows would be readying his blades. It would always be him, his skills with a razor’s edge a stark choreography of his intent and the supplicant’s needs, swathes of their hair disappearing with every pass of his hand.

    “Be still now. Or it will be much worse for you.” That was Prentice, the sponsor who’d originally brought him here. He sounded disgusted with him; no doubt concerned about the stain his charge’s actions would bring upon him. There was always an unhealthy degree of competition between the senior boys, a pecking order dependent upon their performance rather than their age. At seventeen, he was on borrowed time, his final year almost done. A mistake now could undo everything he’d done.

    “Let him struggle. Not that I need any excuse to slap him about.” A fist hit him, knocking his head to the left. Another followed it; Neilson, the former boxer, relishing any opportunity to perform his art. He was cruel and he was violent, a blunt instrument with a mind of his own. He would beat him until he was insensible and still not stop.

    A pair of scissors followed; another of the boys holding his head between their hands. He felt their fingers spreading out across his cheeks, their tips digging in, their nails jagged and sharp where they caught his skin. He was sniffling as he pulled his head against his chest, his hands strengthened by the rage he must be feeling, like all the others here. The scissors pecked at his head, sharp and unforgiving. His hair would be a mess for the few short minutes until it was gone.

    The razor would follow soon after their blades, the kiss of its edge a cold intimate bliss.

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    1. This begs to be something more, and I'd like to see what that something is.

      There is something about the flow of your writing that I find really appealing, something that's not unique to this piece. It doesn't hesitate, but it doesn't rush to get where it's going, either. That's an art, in and of itself.

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    2. I'm with Laura. I want to know more about these kids, and what the narrator did to warrant his treatment. I would love to see more, but I usually feel that way about your work. You draw us in, and the confident language keeps us on the edge of our seats.

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    3. I agree with what Laura picked up on, that it's slow moving, not hurrying, creating anticipation and suspense. It's a really disturbing scene in this stream of consciousness from the main guy, and we get grabs of back story, why this is happening, how things have led up to this point, and you can feel his fear and powerlessness. It's powerful.

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    4. I also want more of this. There is a drawn out feel to this as the suspense builds. It's unsettling in an intriguing way.

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