Friday, February 16, 2024

2 Minutes. Go!

The air smelled of ozone, and the animals were alert. Hidden beneath the boughs of an overgrown tree, the boy waited. He was good at waiting. He had had lots of practice. What he was waiting for, he didn't know, but he felt that if he waited quietly, patiently, it would be revealed to him. This knowledge was first and foremost a prayer. He had faith. Misguided maybe, but he had faith.

He was a jumpy boy, easily startled. He hated that about himself. Always flinching. Always averting his eyes. He wasn't much of a man, he figured. He wasn't tough or particularly strong. Fights scared him. They made him frantic. Because of this, he didn't hang around the kids his age. They were pugilists, all of them. He had sampled their wares and regretted it. 

He was busy mastering an itch. It started at the base on his spine and climbed up his spinal column to the back of his head. The itch could ruin everything, so he suppressed it. He was good at suppressing things. It was a talent that served him well. 

The gum he molded to his teeth was long devoid of flavor. He was thirsty. Hungry. The gum was wearing out his jaw, but it kept the awful dryness away. 

When the buck emerged from the edge of the clearing, his heart almost stopped. It was white. Pure white like it was God's very own deer. The boy knew it could happen, but he'd never seen one. A tear sprang from his eye as he realized something. 

You could be different. You could stick out like a sore thumb...and you could still be beautiful. The boy tucked that knowledge inside his heart. When the deer left the clearing, the boy got up to go home. He was feeling lighter. He wanted to put on the soft clothes that he kept hidden.

He was thinking about how beautiful that deer was. 


  1. This is lovely. It's okay to be different. It's beautiful.

    1. That's gorgeous. What a great mental journey, loved the images. "He wanted to put on the soft clothes that he kept hidden."

  2. For Leland

    We enter the silence of never forgetting,
    listen to the murmurations of a lost few
    spiralling high in this languid, shivering air,
    the cirrus strewn like white cotton sheets.

    Here, we contemplate the misty curve of morn
    rousing life out of night, our shadows lengthening,
    teasing us that they know the way. But only we know.
    This is where nature absorbs us, draws us in.

    I watch you scatter, track nature’s scents from miles off,
    a skill I can only dream of. An emerald lizard darts.
    You ferret deep into the spiky undergrowth,
    digging down this dry desert, coming up twigs.

    These trails we spirit down take me back some days,
    hiking past our guards, these purple-blue mountains,
    jagged peaks fogged out, streams of misted white light,
    and without a care we pass by the ghosts of yesterday.

    Low hums catch on the drafts, silk petals turn sunward.
    Our paths never cross with any other human being.
    This is a kind of freedom, this sweet eclipsing
    of the glass-brick-grey city with its petrol choke,

    And in this yellow, green, sienna-dusted viesta
    we walk as one, legs bumping legs bumping legs,
    our breath blowing clouds to mix in the air,
    as if we are a doodled, made-up faery creature.

    As high as we are, the opening skies seem lower,
    as if seeking to reach down to bathe our heads.
    Absent, we traipse this stone-worn curl of path,
    knowing by heart its myriad twisted ways.

    In the end, you inevitably take the onward lead,
    as though you are the parent and I am the child,
    protecting me. You wag your tail and turn your head,
    beckon me to follow as far as we can see.

    February 16/17, 2024

    1. She leads him home, to a place where those who have gone before await the joyous reunion. Beautiful Vickie. I heard the night, saw the beauty of the journey. Thank you.

  3. This blue dome is a vault, an airy segment of freedom cut from cerulean cloth. Distant peaks glitter with purity, touched by the cold breath of angels. A coyote hidden in sagebrush yips to his family, probing, hoping. A man is coming. A man and his dog. Ravens drop and confer. This is the world entire, each element meant and hermetic. The dog world and the god world, all present, all meant. Wait for me, my friend; this is a quiet moment poised on a fulcrum. We’ll be back here soon. We will return. I fucking promise.

    1. Love the 'hermetic' and the confering ravens, and the silent feel of it.

    2. This engenders a feeling of hope. Not the end merely an intermission.

  4. Too sad to write today. Maybe tomorrow.

  5. Maggie stops, sniffs the air, looks over her shoulder, sees the reassuring paw prints in the new-fallen snow. How odd that they come from a different direction now. How odd not to see his as well, the complicated pattern of the soles of his boots, the way he’d look at the sky and the snow and the mountains and the trees through his little box. There are new prints now beside her own. With the same complications but smaller.

    She catches a whiff of coyote, sees his pointed ears above the sagebrush. She’d heard him howling, that night. Before the other humans came. Before everything changed.

    “Were you scared?” Coyote asks. “When they took you away?”

    “More sad than scared,” Maggie replies. “The human explained what would happen. I knew something was wrong. The way I knew about Angelo. It’s a particular scent, but I’m sure you know that.”

    Coyote nods. For Coyote had seen much death in his day.

    “He said a time would come soon that might be very frightening and confusing for me, and that I might not like it very much. But I should be brave and patient, and our friend would free me, and that I would be part of her pack then.”

    “How strange it must have been for you, to join a new pack. Was it difficult?”

    “They’ve been nothing but kind to me. They knew him.”

    “I have seen them. They are a little noisy for my taste, but respectful. I keep my distance, especially from the young ones.”

    Maggie then spots Brother Raven swoop across the wide swath of freshly scrubbed blue sky and land at the top of a nearby cottonwood. A quiet caw acknowledges the loss. She had seen Brother Raven from the window, flying slow circles over the house while she was watching over him, protecting him, anticipating the promised confusion which did eventually come. She’d tried to do what the human had asked. But she’d barked once, instinctually, before remembering.

    “You will be telling the stories now,” Coyote says, and Brother Raven nods in agreement.

    “Our friend said she would take good care of the stories and we will write new ones together,” Maggie says. “I sense her sadness, but she is very kind. She gives me extra scritches and cookies, but I feel like that’s to make her feel better, too.”

    “It is good to have a pack,” Coyote says, staring off into the horizon, where Maggie knows the others are.

    “Yes it is,” Maggie says. And she imagines that Angelo was on the other side of the rainbow bridge the human often wrote about, waiting for him, and that the pack would once again take care of each other.
    She hears footfalls. Lighter than she ones she’d been accustomed to, and a voice that was growing more familiar, calling her name.

    Brother Raven gives a subtle uptip of his beak, and flies off. Maggie and Coyote watch him go before Coyote, too, disappears back into the brush.

    There is no need for words. She knows she will see them again. She turns and trots off toward home.

    She pauses at the fork in the path, thinking she could still see his old footprints on the left, underneath the new snow.

    “Maggie? This way, honey. This way.”

    She sighs, and heads toward the voice.

    1. I often wonder if they truly comprehend our words before parting.from them. Our assurances that it will be okay hoping to spare the confusion that will.accompamy our absence.

      I know I certainly don't comprehend their parting thoughts & gestures when it dawns on me that it is time to let them go, release them from illness and pain. I stumble for days in grief and confusion as I'm confronted with routines left empty by their absence. Holes in the previous perfect fabric of our lives. I mourn until slowly the hollow feeling seeps away leaving me ready to patch the fabric with a new furry weave.

  6. (This was a running joke between me and Leland. He fell madly in love with one of my characters. I thought it only fitting that the character respond. I hope he would have approved. I'll continue the story in a separate comment)

    The weather fit Charlie’s mood. Dark, cold, a nasty rain spitting down. He turned up the collar of his trench coat and soldiered on, dodging pedestrians, puddles, and his own morbid thoughts. After nearly twenty years in television, he thought he’d seen it all. But this news fell especially heavy on his heart—when he let himself admit he had one. The day had been long enough, fraught enough, calling on him to referee fights between divas, between divas and producers, between producers and crew, without getting the one text message that froze him where he stood. The rest of the afternoon had moved mechanically after that. And now, thank whatever was above the clouds, he could retreat and power down. The always cheerful bodega he frequented for their marvelous coffee loomed up ahead, a sign that he was almost to his block, almost to his building, almost free. Almost home. His steps were already feeling lighter, the fog in his brain thinning, and by the time the tiny electronic doorman buzzed him in, he could have trotted up the stairs to his fourth-floor apartment, but wisely chose not to. Why, after all, tempt fate?

    Coltrane flowed from outside his door, which meant Josh was home early from his latest assignment, and Charlie’s entire soul smiled. All he wanted was to feel that man’s arms around him, then collapse into the sofa with several fingers of scotch until he was ready to talk about it.

    Josh was in the kitchen, dishcloth over one of his broad shoulders, focused intently on slicing up a large bulb of fennel. But he glanced up when Charlie came in. The concentration that adorably crinkled his deep brown eyes melted away, as if he already knew. He put down the knife and closed the space between them, pulling him into a hug that Charlie never wanted to leave. Josh smelled like licorice from the fennel and his usual intoxicating aroma, and the tears Charlie had been holding back since he’d heard the news threatened to spill.

    “Leland’s gone,” Charlie managed to say against Josh’s shoulder, the words barely above a whisper.

    Josh, bless him, merely pulled back, touched Charlie’s left cheek, looked softly into his eyes then released him. “Sit,” he said, pointing toward the sofa, and moments later a tumbler of scotch appeared on the table next to him. Charlie picked it up, stared into its depths before taking a long, bracing gulp. The sounds of kitchen prep and Coltrane faded into the background of his thoughts as the scotch fired through him, releasing so many memories. All the nights he’d spent alone on this very piece of furniture, sipping scotch and reading those goddamned beautiful stories of love and loss, entering the world of Colorado’s San Luis Valley, walking alongside Leland Dirks as if they were physically together, hearing the wind rustle the sagebrush and the call of the coyote. Sometimes he wished he could magick the author of those stories into this very room, into his life. Through his words Charlie felt their connection; as silly as he thought it was when he thought about it for too long, he felt they would have been perfect together. They’d like the same literature and music; the same secret lust for cowboys; the same admiration for noble dogs.

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  8. (second half)

    But it was never meant to be; they lived in two different worlds.

    “It’s fun, though,” Josh once said to him during one of those pillow talk conversations, “to fall in love with fictional humans. They can never break your heart.”

    “Yet they always do,” Charlie sighed. “Why are all the good ones married or straight or so goddamned fictional?”

    And Josh responded as he often did, by showing him the advantages of being a nonfictional man.

    After a time Charlie got up. Josh pointed to Charlie’s glass and Charlie shook his head. He went for the bookshelves and prowled until he found the book he’d been thinking about. The first of the author’s he’d read, about a young man’s search to find the lost cowboy who’d stolen his heart. He pulled it out and flipped it over, gazing at the photo of the author with his dog, the noble Border Collie Angelo. “Thank you,” Charlie whispered, and he could swear he heard the voice of the author saying, “One lives to serve.”

    When he caught Josh watching him, Charlie shook his head at his own foolishness and went over to kiss the chef properly. Later, during dinner, after they’d caught each other up, Charlie said, “How would you feel about going to Colorado with me this summer? Maybe getting married out there?”

    Josh, who’d started reading all the stories in a kind of self-defense but also ended up loving them, smiled and said, “I thought you’d never ask.”

  9. A most fitting tribute. Thank you for sharing with us.


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