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.


  1. I thought the person was a man until I hit the 'fake eyelashes'. Love the reference to fertilizer. A great analogy.

    1. Dan’s being a guru of self-improvement this week. I love this: I love the pithy comments and attitude he serves up with such ease. I originally considered writing this in the style of a Mader Rap ™ but found it impossible to emulate – I’m just not slick like Dan is.

      Excellent, as always.

  2. Protest against the rapes in Ukraine

    Hands tied, folded behind their backs
    they stand dead still in a line straight,
    half-naked, flesh exposed to the cold,
    heads submerged in black plastic sacks,
    because in war this is some women’s fate,
    and their horrific stories must be told.

    In Tallinn outside the Russian embassy,
    they show silent solidarity. They wait,
    thinking of the women of Ukraine, so bold.
    They protest the rapes we hear of on TV,
    women murdered. Stone-cold.

    1. This is photo-realistic journalism in verse. It’s bleak and bald in its imagery and I can see these women as though they were rendered in on the page in monochrome pixels, just as in a classic scanned newspaper image. There’s such strength and power in this that it’s hard to find anything particular to quote other than to take the first four lines as a block…

      Hands tied, folded behind their backs
      they stand dead still in a line straight,
      half-naked, flesh exposed to the cold,
      heads submerged in black plastic sacks

      Utterly brilliant.

    2. This is powerful. It's hard to write about a tragedy, but you did this perfectly. The language is spot on, and my chest was tight the whole time. I agree about the first four lines, too. Brilliant is a fair word.

  3. The light fades, and I find myself on a back street. A newspaper has been left on the pavement against my feet, sepia-toned, its pages creased and torn, the large letters racing across its front page strange and unfamiliar. I pick it up, and I roll it into a club.

    It reassures me. Just having it in my hand. It's not heavy enough to be lethal, but it gives me confidence. And it could be stiff enough to be useful as a weapon.

    It’s cold. I look at my feet and see nothing. No shoes, not even a pair of socks. Only creased canvas trousers with a belt, their material worn, and the colour of dust.

    I wonder where I am and how I got here. I have so many questions I need to ask, but I see no one.

    The street is deserted. I am alone.

    There are cars everywhere, though. Some have been parked against the kerbside, a frozen queue, all without drivers. There are cars in the street too, none of them moving. Some are stopped, as though at a stoplight, but others have been abandoned, sideways-on against the traffic flow. They are all empty, each one with its windows rolled down.

    The city is quiet. I feel vulnerable, not knowing where I am. I don’t understand why I was brought here or by who. I don’t know what I am meant to do. There has to be a point to all this. A reason for my being here.

    I decide to walk. I need to find someone who can explain where I am, to show me what to do. I need to find somewhere that sells food, a place to buy a drink, an institution that will give me the advice I'll need to decide what to do next. I am a stranger alone in an unfamiliar land, but there must be other people. There are cars, buildings, the city itself; there must be somebody else.

    But I find no one. I find a car waiting at a junction with its turn indicators on, going nowhere. I see shops with doors locked and windows barred, displaying shelves filled with vegetables and fruit, close enough to smell but impossible to reach. I walk through a park and take a drink from a fountain. The water was cold and tasted of iron, but it filled me for a while, the splashes on my trousers fading as I continued to walk. I see no one, nothing alive even.

    The city is empty and without life.

    I sit on a bench. I am outside a store, the shelves in its windows populated with boxes bearing yet more of the odd writing. The soles of my feet are beginning to feel sore. I have been walking for what seems to be hours, the skies overcast with grey clouds that never darken or brighten wherever I look. It’s as though there is no time in this place; the only changes are those I bring to it myself.

    And so, I decided to read the newspaper. It’s unreadable, of course, but it has some pictures. It has adverts on most pages, with photos on a few, the same font on them all, frustratingly close to being understandable if I squint at the words. I see a caption below a line-drawn portrait of a man I almost recognise, his face half-hidden by a beard that I’d never seen him with. I speak his name, and it hangs in the air beside me, something familiar in this alien world.

    Andrew. My brother, the elder by seven years. I say his name once more, as though he could hear me from where I am sitting. I listen and repeat it again, needing to hear anything rather than the silence that permeates everything here. There is nothing here alive, only me and only then for a while.

    And now I hear a car engine, far away but loud against the silence. And I wonder if any of the other cars can still be driven.

    1. Wow, this is a cool piece. Super tense and interesting. I'd definitely keep this going if it were mine. I want to see where it goes. Cool bleak world and great descriptive language.

    2. There is nothing here alive, only me and only then for a while.- love the feel of this line

  4. I didn’t trust this man I’d never met before. He was furtive, potentially dangerous and probably a liar. He’d done nothing but take my money so far, but surely that meant he’d be obliged to give something back. Or maybe not. He didn’t seem like he'd care either way. He’d probably be happier if he didn’t. He could tell me he’d given me a valuable life experience for the fee I’d just paid. Caveat emptor, sucker, as the Romans never said.

    “What you got, Janus?” Cindy asked, shuffling back along the bench. “You got us anything new? I feel adventurous. Nobody else has the contacts you do; you always manage to get the best things first.”

    He ran his fingernail across his teeth, snagging at the gold cap he’d had fitted. He seemed amused, confident and in control. The man at the door was carrying a light machine gun, so he knew neither of us would be likely to challenge him.

    “It depends,” he said. “How much money have you got?”

    I shot Cindy a look and then stood up. “What do you mean?” I said. “I thought we’d already paid..."

    The man with the machine gun stepped forward. He lifted the gun's muzzle a fraction, just enough to give the impression he’d shoot before I reached the door he’d been guarding. As for doing anything else, there was probably nothing he’d enjoy better than exacting some discipline.

    “The first payment’s for my time. Didn’t your friend explain?” Janus lifted a finger in a salute, and then Machine-gun returned to his post, looking sullen and disinterested again.

    “You gotta pay me for an audience. Consider me a more accessible neighbourhood Britney Spears but with superior added benefits.” Janus grinned. “Like I’m much better connected. And 'cause she can’t get you anywhere as high as I can.” He leaned forward and withdrew a pouch from off the top of his shoulder, its strap fastened diagonally across his chest. He eased the zip fastener open and slipped out a small paper envelope, its contents large enough to make the packet bulge.

    “Ooooh, what's that you've got?” Cindy had already got her billfold out and had peeled off a pair of hundred-dollar notes. She hesitated on the third; she wanted to be sure of what he had before committing herself to pay more.

    “And what you got, my friend?” Janus smirked at me, guilefully, his words mirroring Cindy's. “You gonna match whatever your cousin has?” He made as though he was going to slip the envelope back into his pouch, his mocking smile directed back at me.

    “Ignore her. I’ll pay for us both.” Cindy pulled out another pair of notes, holding them out. “Whatever you want us to pay, we’ll settle up later. Just give us what you have; I’m good for the rest.”

    “Just what I like – an enthusiastic lady.” Janus flashed his tooth at the guard, Machine-gun replying in kind. The guard’s gun was back at his side, hanging low on its strap, his fingers fixed around its butt, ready to raise it again. I doubted it'd take much for him to do that when our money ran out.

    The packet reappeared. Janus lifted its flap, angling it until its contents slid into his hand. He raised one of the two red capsules to his mouth, then took it away, offering it out for Cindy to take.

    "You just got lucky," he said, dropping it into her palm. "You can both be the first people ever to experience Slipstream. Just a thousand dollars each - you can call it an introductory offer."

    1. Another one I want to keep going. There is so much behind this scene that I am curious about, and I for sure want to know what happens. Great job with the dialogue, too.


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