Friday, October 27, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

The sodden ground, scattered bodies bleeding. Dead patriots as far as the eye can see. The sun pokes through the haze of smoke and dust. There is not enough light to glint off metal or watch faces. There are darkened lumps under trees, but you don't know if they are alive or dead. Choose caution. Close your eyes and be still, they won't shoot until they see the whites of your eyes. 

At least that is what the elders say.

When the red meets the blue, the whole world is a purple bruise. People shouldn't have to fit into binary systems. They are so limiting. They are inherently disingenuous. They are a square lie shoved down our round throats. The billionaires love the purple. They love to watch us tear ourselves apart. 

I remember when American flags mean unity, not division. I am not one of the elders, but I am old enough to remember. I'm old enough to remember when Congresspeople didn't wear AR-15 pins on their jackets. I remember when I was able to have friends who thought like me and friends who didn't think like me. The world was a lot rounder when I was young. 

You don't even get to breathe clean air. You get to watch the genocide of flora and fauna that my generation was supposed to stop. You get to watch species erased from the planet through no failing of their own. You get to cry for whales, cause the children of the 80s didn't save shit. We had great t-shirts, though. 

Sometimes, I hope that the animals will become rational, sentient, free-willed motherfuckers and come tear us to ribbons. Sometimes, I convince myself that we have been through hard times before. We will persevere. Sometimes, I have faith. Sometimes, I believe. 

Most of the time, I'm just tired.


  1. We will persevere. We will overcome. And when we do, it will be because of the writers, the artists, the musicians. And your words inspire me, my friend... the round/square, red/blue contrasts in this are unforgettable.

    1. PS: I think both Matt and Hannigan would be proud of you.

    2. This is good and painful and inspiring and I love this line: "The world was a lot rounder when I was young."

  2. Ah, I connect with this. Having friends like that. And the 80s T-shirts looking good, but we didn't save anything. I remember marching to keep student grants! LOL, they went the next year or so. And yeah, people were warning against global warming in the 70s, but they were denounced as crazy hippies! Tired sums it up!

  3. The dictator

    The dragon’s breath curls, breathes fire,
    caresses the moon, carves it out,
    digs with its claws til nothing remains.

    So darkness reigns. How come we didn’t
    miss the sun? Why didn’t we argue? Too long
    we dithered, and the hours are now lost.

    Time flows, but now we cannot see it.
    The dragon’s breath curls, and we,
    we can’t breathe.

    1. Heartbreaking and honest, as your poetry always is. Perhaps we, too, might be dragons?

    2. Dark and sad. The synchronicity of 2 minutes always blows my mind. I just read this after writing flash about the sun burning out - JD

  4. All Hallows’ Eve

    Snow fell like whispers that night, that long ago night on the last of October. I sat in front of the fire with my only company being the memories of Jonathan.

    How he loved Halloween. The costumes, the candy, and his efforts to frighten me. What was I to do when that seven-year-old jumped out of the pantry and shouted BOO! Of course I acted scared, and that made him giggle, and that made me giggle.

    And then the horrors, the real-life horrors: The day he fainted. The day he was diagnosed in Children’s Hospital. And the weeks of chemo and radiation.

    When his hair fell out, he tried to make it a joke. He’d shout BOO! and he giggled, and I tried to giggle, and then he started coughing, and I started weeping.

    He passed on Halloween. I’d brought him candy. He and I were the only people in the world who liked candy corn, and I’d brought pounds of it. He ate only one piece, smiled at me, and said, “I love you.” And then he was gone.

    I imagined him leaving me signs everywhere for the first few months. Long lost pens finding their way to my desk. A feather from a raven, left at the front door. And when winter came, I got out my heavy coat and there was a piece of candy corn in the pocket.

    Time passed. I grew bitter, being robbed of my young son, and I hardened my heart against the follies of believing in an afterlife. How could God take this child from me?

    And now, five years later, here I was. Alone. Out of habit, or tradition, I’d put candy in a bowl by the door, for trick-or-treaters that in those years never came. Why would they? I was the curmudgeonly old man who shouted at kids to get off his lawn, the grouch who scowled at everyone I met.

    The fire was dying down. I should get some sleep, I told myself, knowing that I would weep if I even tried to close my eyes. Still, I should try.

    I rose from my chair, and reached for the switch to turn off the porch light. A gaggle of children were walking by, all in their Barbie and Captain America and store-bought costumes.

    They didn’t even look at my house. Except for one, at the tail end of the group, in a simple ghost costume. A sheet with two holes for eyes.

    What kind of fool parent would let their child trick-or-treat in a white sheet on a snowy night?

    The child looked at my porch, stopped, and walked up my sidewalk. He reached for the doorbell, and I surprised him by opening the door before he could ring it.

    “Boo!” he said, in a mock gruff voice.

    “Boo!” I said, in a voice I hadn’t used since Jonathan passed. “What kind of candy do you like, little ghost?” I reached behind the door for the bowl of sweets.

    “Candy corn, if you have it.”

    My blood ran cold, as I held the bowl out to… nothing. There was no little ghost on my porch. And there were no footprints in the snow that covered my sidewalk. The group of kids were across the street now, and there were only the pre-made costumes.

    I closed the door, and slid to the floor, with the bowl of candy in my hands. That night, I ate a pound of candy corn, and I wasn’t sick the next morning.

    To this day, I do not know whether I was visited by his spirit, or if I was touched by madness, but I will always have candy corn ready for visitors on Halloween.

    1. You broke my heart with this one, Hermit.

    2. Absolutely shattered. So well done. Missed you!

    3. it's fun being back!

    4. Agreed. This hurts. My worst nightmare. But the hope at the end is a good salve. I love when you do the magical realisms. :) - JD

  5. “It’s like we’ve had a death in the family,” she said, looking up above the mantelpiece. “He’s gone but he’s most definitely not forgotten. Although, some of us will be more than happy to write him out of their lives. Their only regret will be that it’s still possible he might come back.”

    Eli’s photo had been taken down, the square where it had once been a lighter colour than the wall to either side. In a few weeks’ time there’d be another photo there – a seascape, or something innocuous to fill the place where his image had hung.

    Lizzie was a stubborn cuss, but she’d eventually give in. Her daughters would wear her down. She’d need them more in the years while Eli was away, and they’d be sure to use that as leverage.

    If only Eli had been able to restrain himself. He would never have harmed those women. It was a shame they couldn’t see him as the innocent he was, only thinking of the predator he could have been.

    Ten years was a long time to be away. Although, he could be out sooner, if he stayed out of trouble. He could be back home again in under seven years, although he’d still be subject to supervision and whatever conditions the courts thought appropriate.

    “Why do you think he did it?” Cole asked. “Is something that came as a surprise to you? Did he show any signs he might be inclined to assault young women?”

    Lizzie said nothing. Cole shouldn’t have asked that. He was a reporter, not a policeman, and any answers she gave him could easily be shared with the world. It wouldn’t matter if he promised her that it’d be off the record. He’d still know what she’d told him, and it would influence everything he wrote about them after that. She would be careful what she said to him from now on. It would be better to play dumb and pretend to misunderstand his questions. Eli’s future might depend on the answers she gave.

    “What was the thing he did with the scissors? And the comb? And why did he save the cuttings for each one?” Cole was persistent and insatiable, his appetite for further details piqued. He would continue until she answered him or made him leave.

    Lizzie still held her tongue. The reporter would know Eli had been a hairdresser until last year, only losing his job when his predilections became known. It had been strange, but it was still harmless, and he didn’t hurt anyone. It was later when it became more hazardous that he’d made his mistake.

    And six months after that, the court would imprison him.

    1. Ohhh... Eli sounds like a fascinating character. I'm sure he's innocent, right?

    2. I'm hooked too. You have a knack for writing these pieces that leave us hanging. Well done. JD

  6. Upon Closer Inspection
    I despise airports. I hate the crowds, the overly processed air, the happy chatter of so many trying to impress so many others. But sometimes, sometimes you have to fly. Today I am flying to visit my sister in Boston, to comfort her after her divorce.

    The security lines at DFW are always long, and there’s always some fool ahead who believes the rules don’t apply to them. “You can’t throw that away! That bottle of shampoo cost $40!” “Honestly, I have no idea how the gun got into my briefcase.” “No, really, it’s just baking soda. I use it to brush my teeth.”

    Of course, the line today is filled with these cretins, and my departure time is drawing near. Luckily, this airport has the worst on-time departure rating in the country, so I’ll probably still make my flight.

    I sigh. I shift my weight from one leg to the other. And finally, I remove my shoes and empty my pockets into the tray, open my laptop and power it on, and walk through the metal detector. Just as I’m reaching for everything on the other side, I feel the dreaded tap on my shoulder.

    “Please come with me.”

    “But my…”

    “This won’t take long. We just have some additional questions for you.”

    He leads me to a nice little room, all bright colors. Even a window. There is a chair and—my heart thumps—an examination table, with stirrups.

    “Now, if you’ll just disrobe, the Inspector will be with you shortly. There’s a paper robe there, if you’re feeling particularly modest.”

    “But why…”

    “We don’t want to be difficult, now do we? You’ve got a flight to catch, and we want this to be as brief as possible, don’t we?”

    He is confident as he leaves the room, and I hear the click of the door latch. Or was it a lock? I resist the desire to test it, knowing that any such attempt will likely brand me a resister.

    The air seems to have dropped twenty degrees in temperature. I hear the hum of a fan blowing the conditioned air into the room. There is the trace of a smell I can’t quite place, but it reminds me of hospitals.

    My heart slows. Well, of course, he’s right. Don’t want to make any trouble. I really need to catch my flight. Don’t want to incur all those processing fees, and who knows where my luggage might wind up?

    1. Part 2 of 3

      I remove and fold my clothes. I don’t know where to put them. There is no hanger, no shelf, so I place them on the examination table. The paper robe crackles as I move, and the air feels colder still.

      Just some questions, he said. I sit on the examination table and wait. The vent begins blowing air faster and faster into the room, and I think the smell has changed. It’s more like a freshly sanitized bathroom.

      The door clicks, and opens. A woman walks in. Austere. Dressed in whites like the nurses on the old television shows. Her mouth is a straight line, neither happy nor sad, just an orifice through which sustenance passes. Bland food, probably. Certainly not salt or pepper or anything sweet.

      “Well, then, let’s get started.”

      “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand…”

      “Nothing to worry about. All will be made clear. Let’s get some of these questions out of the way. Age?”




      “We need to be a little more specific. What was your father’s national background?”

    2. i can't get part 3 to stay posted... it keeps disappearing

    3. [now splitting part 3 in two, so this is part 3 of 4 now]

      “His grandparents were German.”

      “And your mother’s?”

      “Her parents were Ukrainian.”

      “We’ll just put Aryan and Russian. Save you some trouble down the line.”


      “Excuse me?”

      “Religion. You know, Christian, Jewish, heathen…”

      “I don’t believe in God.” I can sense her disapproval as the words leave my mouth.

      I hear her mutter “Protestant” as she fills out the form. “Now, when was your last sexual contact?”

      “I beg your pardon?”

      “When were you last intimate with a man?”

      “I don’t believe that’s any of your…”

      “The scanner suggested it’s been at least two weeks. And the scanner rarely makes an error. I’ll just put three weeks.”

  7. I give up. I can't get the third part of the story to post. I'll post the whole thing on my Facebook page.

    1. Wow. This is really strong, Leland. I wish it read as more absurd, but we are scarily close to this reality. Really good pacing on this piece, it rolled out so nice. Love this: Her mouth is a straight line, neither happy nor sad, just an orifice through which sustenance passes.


  8. Dark, and entirely too believable. You've always got a good ear for dialogue, and it shows here.

  9. Yup, you and Leland both hit close to uncomfortable truths this week. As with Leland's, I wish I could read this and revel in the absurdity, but it doesn't seem that far-fetched. :( JD


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