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.


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. 


  1. There are 512 things I know. There are millions of things I don’t know. There is time for reflection and time for action. There is a time for love and a time for ripping a piece of flesh out of someone’s face to watch them bleed.

    You are about 180 pounds of bullshit. Your memory is faulty, your expressions belay the severity of your emotional handicaps. You’re struggling. You’re a stomped-on snail turning to a bubbling mass. You are disgusting, and everyone sees it.

    There are 798 days until you die. You can fill these days with joy or abject misery. Don’t matter. You can swear you’ll do things differently and still fail. You’re a six year old whiffing at t-ball while his parents shake their heads, wishing their son was built different.

    A shark will straight up thrash you, but it’s not personal. Same with lions and tigers and bears. Humans. That’s what you need to worry about. Everything is personal for bipeds. It’s a drag, really. It’s unfortunate. It’s ugly. It’s a scar that no one asks about, trying to be sensitive.

    There are an infinite number of stars in the universe. Until we find out different. Or until we realize we are being held inside a temperature controlled dome. It’s all an illusion. You’re really a grasshopper trapped in a glass mason jar. Chaos is the kid shaking that jar.

    See, here it is. I’ll try to keep it simple. Everyday, people die or realize that cancer is growing inside them. Everyday, rich folks figure out new ways to screw you. Elon Musk counts his money, trying to tally as much as he can before death gets him. You are insignificant. There is freedom there if you look at it right. In the right light. You are one meaningless cog in a machine that can run just fine without you.

    So. Dance. Sing. Take stupid chances.

    You might as well.

    1. Gorgeous, dark, chaos, truth. Love it. "Everything is personal for bipeds." Marvelous line.

    2. 'So. Dance. Sing. Take stupid chances.

      You might as well.'

      I love the turnaround you used here, Dan. But I love the whole thing too. You've such a fluid, eloquent turn of phrase so that every single line rings true. Perfect!

  2. An Act of War

    She had a gentle manner. It was most disarming. The exasperation he’d felt drained away, his initial resistance now seeming petty and cruel. He should try to be considerate and calm, following her example. She didn’t need to be kind to him, but she had no reason not to be. She chose to be pleasant, so he should too.

    She mopped at his brow, applying only light pressure, careful not to drag at his wound.

    “Let’s try again,” she said. “What were you doing before you came here? Were you only observing? Or did you take an active part in the fighting? There’s no shame in a soldier running away when he sees other people dying around him.”

    Madigan stiffened, his neck and shoulders becoming like stone. “I did my share too. It was more good luck than anything. Charlie was firing indiscriminately at us from up in the trees. They’d got snipers hiding there – we had to cross fifty yards of open ground to reach our objective. They were hosing us down with Chinese AKs: they didn’t need to be marksmen. But that’s why they often use children; they’re agile and small and only need a minimum of training. Hoss managed to hit one: he must have only been eight or nine. But we didn’t stop to see if he was still alive. There was too much going on to do anything like that.”

    The nurse nodded, her almond eyes suddenly flaring.

    “It’s hell out there,” she said.

    1. This is a super strong snapshot. I both want it to expand and appreciate it as it is.

  3. His anxiety fit him like last year’s suit. He had already outgrown it but insisted on wearing it still, knowing it was all he had. At least it proved he was still alive, each breath precious, the tightness in his chest working from the inside out, its pressure a constant through each waking hour.

    But it hadn’t always been like this. He could remember when he’d felt free, his body enabling his passions. He’d run and cycled, and he’d made love without considering the aftereffects, enjoying the sensations that had accompanied them. Life was an adventure, not a journey to endure. He’d had the energy to squander, caring nothing about tomorrow or the next day. He’d eaten without the need to diet and drank without any thought of a morning after. His life was sweet enough for him to take it for granted. He’d had few ties and no commitments. He could do anything he liked.

    But that was so long ago. He felt like an astronomer, seeing himself through a lens, the fire and the brutality of youth things he could barely glimpse now. It seemed so far away - as though he’d been another man or even another species. They had so little in common, the same name and National insurance number, but everything else had changed. The younger man had been naïve, unsure of his abilities. He would throw himself into numerous failures and think nothing of it. It was an education, a way of life, something that everyone did. There would always be another opportunity. Time was on his side.

    Now his life was different. Time was an enemy, not a friend. He was caught in the cleft of a dilemma - should he surrender to whatever fate decided or continue fighting the odds? Either way, the result could be the same. He could submit now and then fail with grace or delay the inevitable. There didn’t seem to be any other alternatives. He was exhausted, too tired to see any way for him to win.

    1. Mark, this is so powerful. And poignant, the look between past and present. I felt it down deep. One of my favorite lines: He felt like an astronomer, seeing himself through a lens, the fire and the brutality of youth things he could barely glimpse now.

    2. I dig that same line. And this whole piece. This is a glance at the universal, and it works really well. The pace and the way it unfolds is so smooth.

  4. None who took asylum at the small family farm in Poland would do so without a contribution. Yulia offered to milk the cows. She knew how, from summers spent at her grandfather’s dairy outside Cherkasy, and she welcomed the relative peace and quiet after the tumult of humanity that brought her there.

    Cows knew how to keep secrets.

    On her second day, as she trundled from the barn carrying two milk pails, a blue-eyed farmhand barely old enough to shave eased up next to her. “May I help you with this?” he asked.

    Yulia blew out a steady breath. At home, before the invasion, she might have laughed at a man who’d made such an offer. She was certainly strong enough to bear the weight. But this was not her country; it was not her farm. And he was not a Russian soldier. He was just a nice young Polish man who wanted to make the disruption in her life easier. But she could not make that last fact stick. “Is this what they tell you about us? That Ukrainian women are such fragile things?”

    She could almost feel the heat coming off his blushing face. “No… I mean… They say you’ve…” He sighed, studied his boots for a moment, lifted his head. “I would just like to help.”

    “Fine.” She held out one of the buckets like a trophy. “You can help.”

    His name was Anatol, and he met her coming from the barn the next afternoon, and the next, and the next. Days became a week, then two, and she’d merely give him a smile of thanks, which he returned. That afternoon while taking the bucket he held her gaze long enough for even the cows to guess his growing fondness for her. Despite the swell of her abdomen. Despite the borrowed ring on her finger. She didn’t want more trouble. Didn’t want more blood on her hands—Russian or otherwise. Her fingers clenched white around the handle of the bucket she was still holding. She could still picture the man’s face. That smug, amused expression, despite the gun she’d pulled from under her bedroll. Before all went silent, and she’d had to push the weight of him off her and flee.

    He is not that man. She had to keep repeating it to herself. Just a nice young Polish farmhand who wants to help. He has a name and a family and he is not that man. She repeated it all the way back from the barn.

    When the milk was safely stowed, Anatol leaned against a brick wall and dabbed the sweat from his forehead with a soiled bandana. For a moment he appeared to be thinking about offering it to her, then reconsidered, stuffing it into his back pocket. He crossed his arms over his chest. “So… I hear from the others that some are returning to Kyiv, now that soldiers are withdrawing from there.” He paused. “Will you go?”

    The final three words stopped her thoughts. A sudden melancholia overtook her, and she pressed a hand to her belly. What would she and this little one be returning to? A basement apartment buried in rubble? An art school that was now a tomb? And the ghosts. So many ghosts.


    “Yes? What?” She shook the ghosts away, the place where the man’s smug face had been.

    “Will you go?”

    His tone was small, plaintive. It was clear to her now. If she left he would miss her. If she stayed? She feared for him. That he’d get too close to the hand grenade she’d become, and explode.

    1. Man. That last line. So, the thing I really appreciate about this one is the active language in the descriptions. The story has punch of course, but I'm more struck by how well you crafted the piece.

  5. I love the effortless way you set up your scene here, zooming in; first from the country, then to the farm and then to the individual people that work it, specifically referencing the family. It’s so darned efficient and rings with truth. After that, you introduce your first hook, luring us in with the promise of secrets. Of course, you’re being topical, bringing us into the world we’re all wondering about now. I don’t know how much research you do before you write but you capture the people and the way they interact with one another so very well, enhancing your narrative with just enough detail to create a scene we can imagine if we just close our eyes a moment. And then you continue the storyline you’ve already set into motion. Quite remarkable. I love this so very much.


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