Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are glimmer, passion and wish.
I decided to try another Cinquain.

Passion,
Bodies entwined,
Secret wishes whispered,
Inhibitions, lust give way to…
Glimmer

Exploring writing forms: The Cinquain

A Cinquain is a five-line poem. A Crapsey Cinquain (for Adelaide Crapsey) has a construction with a syllable count of two-four-six-eight-two. Several writers who contribute to Three Word Wednesday turned me onto exploring it.

White shirt,
spotless garment,
shield for polite culture,
perfect camouflage for hiding
tattoos

More fun with the American Sentence

You're thinking, "Hey, a sentence is all I get? A 17-syllable one at that?"
It's not as easy as it looks.
It is the American Sentence.

“Buried in warm sheets, he stares at ceiling swirls hoping for clarity.”

Sunday Scribblings: I Believe

My first attempt at an American Sentence, created by Allen Ginsberg. It’s a sentence of haiku length, 17 syllables total:

"I believe; that kernel of faith which drives my being forward, onward."

Non-Fiction in 58

It's a good exercise, fiction or not....

Home
Childhood bed, he’d waited until his parents’ king-size became his. The old sleeping bag - mom froze in time in a zippered plastic tote - smells of comfort.
Fingers run across spines of books; he dares himself to peek at his eighth grade graduation photos.
Secret hiding places still hold treasure, tarnished coins, trinkets.
His home, now a museum visit.

Memories of the Low-Priced Leader

My dad wanted to get in some exercise, which means wandering the Wal-Marts.
I took this picture out in the parking lot, then played "What person belongs to this car?" while inside.

There were plenty of contestants.
(And my opinions of the Wal-Marts remain unswayed.)

A poem for SoDak, winter

I did not write this, but wish that I did. It was penned by former Argus Leader reporter Joumay Steen.

People always ask why I moved to SoDak, where winter stretches brutal for months. It's not that bad.
Besides, we're good at making fun of ourselves:

WINTER IN SOUTH DAKOTA
It's winter in South Dakota,
And the gentle breezes blow,
Seventy miles an hour,
At twenty-five below.

Oh, how I love South Dakota,
When the snow's up to your butt,
You take a breath of winter,
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I'll hang around,
I could never leave South Dakota,
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground.

Bringing back the hat

It’s not far-fetched for me to make a fashion statement.
I mean, I routinely wear a rabbit-fur bomber hat around SoDak. I wear a cowboy hat.
I have titanium earrings, for chirssakes.
But I’m really hoping Barack Obama steps it up on Jan. 20.
I want him to wear a hat to the inauguration.
Bring back a new are of hat-wearing.
A fedora, hopefully.
(But not a Homburg.)
(And probably not a Porkpie.)
If President-elect Kennedy is regarded as “The Man Who Killed the Hat” in American Society (he didn’t wear a hat to his inauguration and men everywhere soon followed), then President-elect Obama is to only person to reverse that.
And he could do it in a big way.

I mean, I’d look great in a fedora.
(Not so much in a Homburg; a Porkpie, maybe.)
I just don’t want to go first.

Merry Christmas, everyone

So many traditions, spread out across the globe.
Christmastime.
It's gotten to be a bit different around our house, even as we've all migrated back to the Midwest. Without mom, things are not always as they were - they are as they will be. They are what we make of them.
And that's what it is in other households, I imagine.
Traditions are wonderful things.
Making new ones, even better.

In this season of giving, don't forget your fellow man, who may be a bit down on his luck. Make a donation to a food bank, sign up to mentor - pay for someone else's meal now and again.
Pay this good feeling forward.
We'll all be better off.

Merry Christmas.

And if you'd read this far, a treat - David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing "Little Drummer Boy:"

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are faith, miracle and whisper. Good words for this time of year.

The Gift

A sheet covers the window, colored push pins driven into the peeling wood; the sheet the color of limes that have turned.
Curled as he was in bed, the light he tried to hinder continued to reach out for him; it whispered hurtful things that demoralized his spirit.
“Faith,” he whispers back, through wavering eyes slick with old, sticky tears.
She perched on the barstool like a coil, nails blacked by Sharpie, her face a Kabuki mask of white powder. Straight shots of whiskey lined up, each glass knocked back she’s overturned.
“It’s a miracle you’re not dead,” the bartender says, slings a wet bar towel over a meaty shoulder.
“Fucking miraculous,” she whispers, willing the tears to evaporate, less they mess out her carefully applied lacquer.
He stares at the black handset of his telephone, disgusted at the ring of earwax buildup around the depressed holes of the speaker; bile rises within his throat and he fights off vomiting into his metal trashcan. He’s whipped himself into a rage only he can comprehend, see. Two squirts from the industrial-sized hand sanitizer on the pristine desk, he works the antiseptic like lather.
“Peace,” he whispers, tears evaporate as he swipes each perfect cuticle of each perfect finger across his red-rimed eyes.
Whispers are murmurs on the wind; pleading, pondering, puncturing the stratosphere with the desperation of human frailty.
For those who can listen to the silence, pick up the peace, they are the ones rewarded with the gift:
Nourished souls.

Simple childhood memories

New snow is magic snow.
It's quite tasty, too.
I used to do it as a kid, pack a cup with freshly-fallen snow and then fill the cup with Kool-Aid that was mixed like syrup.
Instant slushie.
Monday night, the snow fell with a fluffiness that was beautiful to watch come down in the orange haze of the sodium vapor lights near my townhouse.
After walking The Girls (who love a good snow, too), I filled a big cup with freshly-fallen snow from the growing drift on my patio.
To that, I added limeade I had in the fridge, dug into the frozen concoction with glee.
Nothing has tasted so sweet.
The memories, they were pretty sweet, too.

58 words, made into a story - a Fiction in 58

SAD
The doctor’s diagnosis was seasonal affective disorder and he told her to sit in front of a lightbox for a half-hour every day.
The vitamin D was great an all, but what she really wanted was a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Recital maybe, Zoloft, or that classic standby, Prozac.
“The darkness isn’t in your head.”
She begged to differ.

Sunday Scribblings: Late

A little something for an interesting Sunday Scribblings prompt, in 100 words. Yep, that’s a Drabble.

Late
The word hung in his head, stayed on the lips, a bitter bile.
Collar up against the wind, it echoed in his ears.
Over pizza - she’d let him pick the toppings - and a cold bottle of Chardonnay (which she mysteriously declined), she’d said it.
“I’m late.”
(And in saying so bit her lower lip until it turned pale white.)
Confused, he said something about the pizza delivery.
“Late, Donny. I’m pregnant.”
A coolness spread within him; he’d (luckily) declined to ask her if it was his. He downed the wine, got his coat, went for the door.
“I need air.”

Mad Bomber hat on three heads

My dogs are awful when it comes to taking pictures.
I wish it wasn't so.
They look like I beat them to get these shots.
(Treats were handed out like government bail-out loans.)
Fun with photography when you get up way too early, don't have a reliable four-wheel-drive and there's a blizzard out.
Anyway, here's tribute to my Mad Bomber hat:


58 words, connected together into a tight package

The exercise is called Fiction in 58. It's not as easy as it sounds. And sometimes, it has people wishing for more...imagination is the key to these.

Unemployed

The snow on the rail platform had reached the consistency of paste, runny brown, salty; one hesitant step and sludge spatters across expensive wingtips.
Shoulders hunched, a briefcase dangles precariously off fingertips; a walking contradiction in Armani.
No meetings to attend, reports to read; aimless, he wanders.
Former coworkers rush to evade him; this specter of healthier times.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are hesitate, jealous and neglect.

Sucker-Punch Advancement
Through the tears, the wobbly haze – like a wavering horizon in the heat – she reappeared.
Long tan overcoat, hose, heels. And outfit not meant for him.
Bystanders put hands under armpits, tried to put him back on his feet, but he waved them off, too weakly he thought, too hesitant, and used a hand as a signal that he needed time to collect himself.
He drew a fist across his face, came away with a smear of blood; seeing it, he now could taste its coppery tang in his mouth.
She’d dressed that way, he now knew, to spark a jealous outrage. He knew that underneath the London Fog, she was bare, save for the black stockings. She cried softly. Bystanders restrained the man, who yelled veiled threats, hurtful innuendo.
The conversation, the sucker punch, it all begin to filter back in.
She’d lived with the neglect, the philandering. But no more. She was ready, willing to fight. She’d told him so, over champagne. In their living room.
Where he’d been grabbed by the arm, steered into a corner, asked advice from a worried husband. Uncomfortable, he sought escape, or at very least, something stronger to drink.
He was a pawn in a lover’s spat for which he knew the basic parameters. He had tried to steer clear of them both in the office lobby.
She’d touched his arm as they reached the elevator.
He caught him with a roundhouse right.
Lights out.
It was all coming back, through the tears, the wobbly haze. The pain. The resolve. A plan.
The cop asked twice before getting a response.
“Misunderstanding,” he said. “My fault, really.”
Being decked by one’s boss could have its advantages, if you knew how to play the game.

Ho, Ho, Ho Baby Jesus

Inspired by a real display in my neighborhood:

Happy Christmas, Baby Jesus
History has a way of bouncing, rolling, depending on who is in power.
The powerful, he knew, got to re-write history.
But he stood there in the snowfall, spindrift swirling around his stopped frame, and contemplated the scene.
He was positive that penguins in jolly hats and scarves were not present at the birth of Christ.
He was pretty sure the Wise Men did not include lit snowmen – twin Frosty’s, one in mid-wave. That the manger wasn’t lit by blinking candy canes and Rudolph’s red nose, but by a star that called shepherds near and far.
And speaking of shepherds, he was sure Santa wasn’t one of them even if he was there too, sitting on a haybale, windblown as he was, looking like he’s swallowed a couple of vodka tonics. Red nose, indeed.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph” he thought, as the Baby was swaddled only in a blanket of snow.
He took out his mobile, took picture after picture, capturing the scene as it blinked and flashed, a faint hum from the compressors that kept one Frosty and Rudolph inflated, thus upright.
He took several of himself, the whole scene a backdrop.
Uploaded the photos at home, scanned them, chose the best, happiest shot. Wrote a holiday note that started with, “Happy Christmas, Baby Jesus, from all of us at the trailer park…”
But at the last minute, he chickened out.
Most of his friends were as sarcastic as he, hard-hardened by life, and would have gotten the joke.
But Grammy, she was another matter.

Flash fiction: "My Hometown"

This little thought has been in a notebook for far too long. I got up to pen something, and it ended up a Fiction in 58.

My Hometown

Streetlight tints the snow that falls as I walk the streets of my hometown.
We’d joke, before we all left, that the sidewalks got rolled up at night. Not so much rolled up, just deserted.
Too cold to be out anyway.
The air smells of smoked ham, must be Thursday.
Tuesdays, it smells like shit.
A metaphor there.

Sunday Scribblings: "I knew instantly..."

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “I knew instantly…” which was prompted by writers who told Meg and Laini, “Seeing the prompt, I knew instantly what to write.”
That never happens to me. Huh. This is the stuff that comes to me, when I get a chance to think about it:

Mad Men
When Ryerson’s heart stopped, I figured this fucked-up exercise in “team building” was going to get us all shit-canned, like pronto.
Tenth-floor shenanigans, yeah. Damn creatives with their idea to mix the Kool-Aid and have us all take a sip.
And we sipped.
Like dipshits.
The conference table was one of those neo-modernist things, sweeping and hulking, made of extruded aluminum, chairs too. Chairs where your ass went to sleep five minutes into any meeting, even as you tried to shift your weight cheek-to-cheek.
On the table where 21 identical white boxes, mystery cubes no one was allowed to touch until we were all gathered.
And the conference doors were locked from the outside.
Inside each box was a tab of blotter acid, a dozen buttons of mescaline, three tablets of X, a small vile of cocaine, six airline bottles of booze, a notepad and a pencil.
The lights were turned down low, a laptop fired up, shifting scenes of some National Geographic special on the screen behind us. Some low, ambient techno-beat pumped low from the overhead speakers.
“The exercise is to free your mind,” Andreeson said. “We’ve got two hours to come up with a concept that sells the living shit out of this.”
He tossed the cellophane-wrapped package, which spun corkscrews across the polished aluminum.
Stupid is as stupid does. I chewed the buttons down, all of them, chased the bitter taste with a mini bottle of vodka, waited for the mescaline to course through my veins, the visions to explode across my eyelids.
Ryerson was the recording secretary. He kept tapping on the laptop, the ideas that were now being shouted over the music, the sway of us all in various stages of undress, intoxication.
What we created was real. It came alive at some point. And it consumed Ryerson, ate him up, spit him out.
In the end, his head rolling listless on my thigh, all he could do was blow weak spit bubbles through bluish lips as the rest raced to stash the boxes in cabinets, trash cans.
In his fist, death-gripped, was the product.
And in that instant I knew it, knew the whole concept as it flashed across my addled consciousness.

The campaign begins next week, and everyone’s buzzing that it’s our freshest, edgiest to date.
Ryerson’s recuperating nicely in a villa in Costa Rica. I sent flowers, a box of chocolates.
Five creatives let go, their silence bought with sealed subpoenas locked away in a safe deposit box.
Me?
Corner office territory now, in charge of the complete campaign.
One of the white boxes, still filled, on the glass case behind my head.
My insurance policy, should anyone start asking questions again.

Giving back in a time of crisis

Seth was prepared.
He had already picked out two Christmas books that I would read to him.
"You can go first - and I think this one."
It was "Olive, the Other Reindeer" by Vivian Walsh.
Damn if I didn't keep getting choked up.
Big blubberhead.
So we're discussing all things Christmas and he's telling me that he didn't know what he was getting, since he had asked for so much, "I kinda forgot what I asked for. Besides, my mom said not to ask for so much. She's on a budget."
Times will probably be tough at Seth's house.
It's tough all over.
I was asked to work on a story about nonprofits and if they're seeing any drop-off in donations this year. I talked to national researchers, who said not as much as people might think. People tend to give if they can. When they can. They see that others are huring even worse.
The charitable leaders in SoDak confirmed it.
Except the local Salvation Army Toy Drive was having trouble getting new, unwrapped toys. The Major said there might not be enough to go around when baskets are delivered next week.
And not getting a gift at Christmas sucks.
It takes a lot for me to darken the doors at Wal-Mart.
That's why I'm late in posting.
I was in Wal-Mart.
I spent $100 buying all sorts of cool stuff. Barbi dolls and Hot Wheels sets; games - Chutes & Ladders, Battleship, Connect 4, Yatzee, Sorry - stuffed animals; Play-Doh; Fisher Price stuff; Nerf footballs, little doll set thingies.
A C-note goes a tremendously long way at the Low-Priced Leader.
I don't have much, but I have more than most. Some of you do as well.
I actually had fun, pushing my way through the aisles, just dumping toys into a shopping cart while people watched.
I didn't do it for recognition.
I just did it, because it felt right.
Because I've seen tough times.
A child shouldn't.
Shit, now I'm all choked up again.
Feels great.

My mind screams stories in slight bits

This maybe didn't intend to be a Fiction in 58. The interesting thing was to write what I had thought about in the dark, see if I could whittle it down.

Shut-In
Warm air swirls in his flat, smells of fryer grease, stale sweat. He’s in stained boxers, socks where the elastic quit, disgruntled.
There’s a table, cluttered with paper, typewriter, jelly jar of gin. The clack of keys never stops.
A knock at the door, the Korean grocery downstairs, delivers dinner.
Rumor to legend; he’s left alone. To stew.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at enemy, shatter and vague. Let’s try for a Drabble, 100 words and out. And no firearms for Miss Peachy-Plums. Sheesh.


Spurned

She was a cold dish, distant, back-ally frigid.
Her heart, yeah, her heart glowed.
Mist clung to her hair, dripped off scarred earlobes as vague thoughts, redemption, cluttered her resolve. She brought her brown eyes into focus, re-channeled the rage, chilled.
Breathe.
Lives shatter for less.
Pick up the pieces.
Get even.
He wasn’t just the enemy. He was everything she’d grown to hate. The rehab. The looks at the puckered skin, the hasty stitched grafts.
She was a cold dish. Learned all she needed efficiently, wrote nothing down. Flash pots, simple switches.
He’d burn.
He wouldn’t die.
Backatcha, bastard.

Words to count on: Fiction in 58

It’s a little exercise called Fiction in 58; tell a story in 58 words, no more, not less.

Birdman of East 26th Ave.
He’s crouched on the roof peak, ass on ankles like an old Asian woman, balanced precariously, weaves slightly - a bird on a wire.
From the vantage point, he shades piercing blue eyes, scouts trouble.
He’s the Birdman, protector of the neighborhood, a vigilante in Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
The neighbors, alas, have called the fire department - again.

Crows playing 'what's next' in the sun

I watched crows, several of them, cavort in the wind on a sun-filled Sunday afternoon.
They turned circles in a cold breeze, the wind canting their black wings to produce a rocking sensation.
They’d act like they’d land on the top-most branches of winter-bare trees, pumping their wings at the last minute to turn another circle.
I opened the sliding-glass door, heard the pierce of their calls as they circled; I watched their black shadows cross sinister over a snow-covered rooftop from my vantage on the second-floor patio.
Their calls punctured a lazy afternoon; their circles grew tighter, more focused.
Those circles, those penetrating calls, are still with me. Haunting.
Turning circles.
Calling out to the wind.
Waiting for what’s next.

Sunday Scribblings: Tradition

The these over at Sunday Scribblings is “Tradition.” This popped into my head and I decided to explore what it would be like for a son to follow in his father’s footsteps, even if it was very, very wrong.


Like Father, Like Son

“Reality is a complete pisser.”
Dad said that, most often when he was pissed himself, unsteady in stocking feet, jingling a tumbler of bourbon and ice, tie loosened, starched white shirt undone at the collar. And most often it was late, his rogue figure backlit by the giant stone fireplace he kept stoked all winter.
A ring of piss slowly dried in my black wool slacks, an uncomfortable wetness, a sour smell that turned my stomach.
“Boy, reality is a fucking pisser,” he said, pointing a finger at me, the others clutching the glass.
Like him, I was dressed is a starched white shirt, black jacket, black pants, black wingtips three sizes too big. Hell, our ties were black too, slim outdated. The Fedoras? Black as coal.
He was a merchant of death, a malicious whirlygig who moved through shadows. But instead of a child’s nightmare, he scared the bejeebuz out of men who crossed other, more powerful men.
The marks were delivered in red envelopes, wrapped in plastic wrap.
Today was Take Your Son To Work Day.
He threw himself into his overstuffed leather chair, leaned back, reclined. He studied the tears that had dried to my face, the load of snot still bubbling from my nostrils.
“That’s the franchise,” he said, barely above a whisper. “Take it, or leave it. It’s what we do, like my father before me.”
I took the .45 from the shoulder holster – the one he’d presented me in its cherrywood box hours ago - cocked a round into the chamber, pointed it at his face.
“Reality dad? Reality is death.”
“Ain’t that a pisser?” he asked, laughing. “Grab yourself a drink, let’s have a toast. Father and son, incorporated.”
I re-holstered the .45, went to the bar, poured my bourbon neat and turned back to him.
“We really need to talk about new uniforms – something a little less retro.”

How a Happy Meal can make a difference

It was a cheeseburger Happy Meal.
You’d a thought I brought a New York strip with all the trimmings, or lobster thermador, maybe
A McDonalds cheeseburger, fries, milk – a Shrek holiday toy.
“I love fries, when they’re hot – and these are hot,” my mentee said. “I don’t even mind that you got me a cheeseburger, I love McDonalds.”
I was sick when I promised to bring Seth something for lunch before Thanksgiving. He said a Happy Meal, hamburger, no pickles.
I owed him.
He’d forgotten by Thursday.
He saw the sacks, put a hand on his head, smiled.
“Did I mention that I really like McDonalds?” he said, ketchup smeared across his face as he tried to read a book to me.
“You did, bud. That’s why we’re dong it this week.”
“Wow, these fries are really hot. Hot fries are just good.”
Of course, I had a Happy Meal, too. Seth has a 6-year-old brother. And now, he’s got a Shrek toy, too.
“I’ll help him put it together,” Seth said.
“Promise?”
“I promise.”
The lunch cost me $6.42.
Watching him devour the meal was priceless.

(There are children all over the country – the world – that need a little attention, a little care. Check here for opportunities in your community.)

Holiday greetings from South Dakota

I'm anal-retentive enough to be deeply concerned.
I've not sent out Christmas cards yet.
Hell, I haven't even bought any.
Usually, I do the picture card. Pick the best shot from a year of doing crazy shite and throw it up on a card and call it good (even if the people "get it" or not).
Trouble is,I didn't really take a lot of pictures. I didn't really have a vacation this year, unless you count taking down one house, loading it in a truck, hoping in your truck with your dogs and driving 1,800 miles to the Midwest and unloading it all in a new space and build a new life where you know almost no one.
(And I don't.)
Besides, any picture from California wouldn't be an honest representation of my life now.
It's a dilemma.
And then there's the whole idea of sending out the dreaded "Dear friends" letter. My closest circle knows the reasons for the move, but go out a bit further and people will get a Christmas card from me in SoDak and be scratching their heads in wonderment.
I need to explain a few things for a few people.
And time's a wasting.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are balance, dictate and wander. Time dictates a Fiction in 58.

Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present

She wept, soft sobs balancing twin streams of tears that streaked elaborate makeup.
The box was wrapped in delicate tissue, a satin ribbon of robin’s egg blue. She dictated no gifts; this was left without a note, fanfare; found only after her guests had made farewells.
Lost in sorrow, thoughts wandered to that night.
Inside the box, handcuffs.

I scribbled a Six in the dark on a notepad

Lots of bits and pieces made the notebook overnight. Including an entire Six Sentence contribution that too rough to submit to Rob. I don't mind sharing it here:

Halfway House
Blinking neon flashes a desperate slideshow across cracked plaster; wet heat spills from a hissing radiator.
The squelch, the flickered light, is a dagger that slips slowly into my brainpan, slowly killing me.
Nights are the worst, you know, for the formally institutionalized – those guests of the national court system.
It’s not like I can’t get up, walk a half-block, sit in the smoky stir of a broke-down bar and sip slowly on a brew and relax.
If this were a movie, that scene would be called a “flashback.”
Dude should have minded his own fucking business – DA said I was lucky, aggravated manslaughter is only a five-year hitch, two years probation.

It's in the cards, apparently

My friend Q is convinced that Sioux Falls isn’t my final stop on a mangled journey that pretty much started when my mother died three years ago.

“I will stick by my reading, ThomG...it was about you changing, moving to a different place in life in many ways.”

My question was, “Where am I going in my career?” Here’s what she sent:

Okay; three cards, basis/near future/outcome:

first card was a major one...woot! hanged man, whom I like.... he's not hanging, I look at the old way, and see him tethered. he's prudence, which shows in the basis of your question. you've got a set job, steady, gaining a name for yourself, why fuck with a good thing, right? there is wisdom and sacrifice in the card, and it's saying, "um, excuse me? dreams leaving in a few...might want to remember decisions and consequences!" it's about a way of thinking values, values, your life.... its a fear of being arrested for cruelty to animals..aka, beating a dead horse in the job area. even in love life, things are not what you want, so, you back off knowing there is more, but, not sure where. even work seems of little value.

however

do not fear, grasshopper!! another major card is here, the high priestess is in the near future position... another major card, I can hardly breathe for the excitement... she's light and goodness and about waiting and learning, but, also about putting aside emotional attachments for a bit... you need to focus on a dream. it's time to make a decision (school) and focus on goals (school) that is where it all points (school)

because

your last card, the outcome is

ANOTHER BLOODY MAJOR CARD

wait, I passed out I was so happy. death. DEATH!!! change, sweetpea, change. three BIGass major cards. death is ending and beginning in careers, life, partnership is looming...whhhoooohoooooo!!!! new conditions, new lifestyle (school), new everything... new plans (school), new way of life in every way. within 3-6 days or weeks or months, all is over as is, and begins anew, like the phoenix, only without the fire and smell of burning flesh.


We'll see.

Sunday Scribblings: A Winter's Tale

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is Winter Tale. I confess, I wrote this sometime back and it kind of got lost in the shuffle. I’ve made major tweaks here.


Icicle Views
Icicles hang like spindly glass fingers from frozen gutters.
Snow blankets things like the mower, the good summer Adirondacks. Frozen in time. A long time ago.
This is my view, from the kitchen window.
Where I am frozen, too. Hands on sticky tile, covered in dirty dishware.
What’s the point?
Boot prints still echo in the snow, up the path to the mailbox.
Where the envelope came.
Not so long ago? I can’t remember now.
I just know that this view is getting monotonous. Cold.
And the handgun’s nickel-metal finish is now warm against my hip.

Addictive little bugger, Blip.fm

Dishes piled in the sink, dust bunnies cavorting in the hall, yesterday's clothing on, face unshaven.
Don't bother me, I'm building my Blip library, giving props, listening to other DJs spreading cheer along the global music radar.

Blip.fm is the 6-month-old microblog from Fuzz. It was an experiment.

It's an addictive bugger. You start searching for music and pretty soon it's five hours later and your dogs need to go out and you've not eaten. I've got a 100-blip library built. In less than 24 hours.

I need to get out of the house at some point. I'm pretty sure you can mobile link to it. Lord, hep me.

I'm hoping for a badge. That means I've got scads of followers (13 as I write this).
Check it out.
Search for pegboy.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

Hopefully, you're all tomenting your loved ones - friends and family alike - on this day to give thanks. May the turkey be moist and flavorful, the gravy without lumps - and nobody falls for your uncle's trick to "pull his finger."



My very best wishes.



And, as a special treat, a Thanksgiving video ("As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly") WKRP's Turkey Drop:



Flash Poetry

Listen
Lines of lyrical foolishness,
seep from a wounded heart.

Wither the angered poet,
who senses not what is there:

Orange-glow sunsets,
laughter of children,
scent of a lover,
wine upon lips,
a rise of gooseflesh.

Consequence for what is forsaken,
screaming frustrations.

A quiet heart begs the answer:
shhhhh, listen.

Sweet Monday, it's a Drabble

A drabble is a story told in 100 words. Yeah, about right for a stay-at-home-sick Monday.

Ambien-valent

She bangs into hallway walls like a pinball, in her fists cold French toast slathered in blackberry jam – globs of which have escaped onto flannel jammies.
She’s in the grip of Ambien, two, taken with wine.
He’s up, two time zones west, flirting with a woman whose number was on a bar napkin.
The text, *rgrrmfh, comes first, followed by an email, voicemail.
He ignores the incoming, notes the time, smiles, plots.
She wakes, the cell tucked in her armpit, blackberry seeds stuck in her teeth.
“Oh, hell.”
And checks the phone, seeing what apologies need to be made.

Sunday Scribblings: Grateful

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is "grateful." An essay on my youth:

Buster

So much junk hung off the bike, it wasn't for riding. Just pushing.
And through the downtown streets of my hometown, Herman R. Jeseph - everyone just called him " Buster" - pushed his bicycle heaped full of junk in all weather conditions. He wore cast-off clothing - layers upon layers and - always wore a cap. He was unshaven most days and smelled of harsh tobacco that he hand-rolled into cigarettes.
Buster was my hometown's Official Bum.
He, as my mother liked to say, "Just decided one day to drop out." In the world of my youth, Buster was a huge question mark.
He still is.
My hometown, Fremont, Neb., had and still has about 25,000 residents. A farming community, mostly, Fremont certainly has grown savvy it's 35 miles, give-or-take, from Omaha, which has more than 400,000 residents, hosts the College World Series each year and has one of the top-rated zoos in the country.
And in Fremont today, homeless people hold up signs on well-traveled corners, smoke cigarettes and huddle against the elements and residents tend to look away.
But in my youth, everyone accepted Buster, our Designated Homeless Person, for exactly who he was.
A man.
Without a traditional home.
When the weather turned cold and in eastern Nebraska, winter temperatures routinely drop into the minus category the jailers would leave the back door open to the courthouse, where Buster would curl up on a broken-down recliner someone rescued from a county office.
Business owners never complained to the city council, to my knowledge, of Buster 's circular movements through the wide-sidewalked downtown.
No one cursed at him, spat at him, or even shunned their eyes as he passed.
Not in my recollections. People - from shop owners to police officers - were instead fiercely protective.
They asked how he was doing, or asked about some new trophy that seemed to collect on a series of ancient bicycles he bought at the Salvation Army. I remember scuffed boots that hung from the handlebars like fuzzy dice; the series of busted lawnmowers he cleverly had in tow.
I saw it all because I spent much of my adolescence downtown. The junior high school was a block from the start of Main Street; my mother worked for an architect who rented offices above a women's clothing store. It was the same store, Farris Fremont, where at 13 years old I got my first job cleaning toilets, emptying waste baskets and changing the ballasts in fuzzy fluorescent lights.
A couple of years later, I moved two storefronts down to Spangler's Jewelry, where I engraved watches, silver wedding plates and Optimist of the Year trophies.
Downtown stores stayed open late on Thursdays, which meant I worked late, too. During dinner breaks, I'd cross the street to K.C.'s Pharmacy, which had one of those cool, old soda fountains (it's now a stereo shop).
Most evenings, there sat Buster , drinking a cup of coffee and eating a hot bowl of Campbell's Ham and Bean soup. The steam would rise into Buster's weather-beaten features, and his nose would run into the soup Drip by Drip by Drip.
Yet, no one was repulsed, especially the counter help. They asked how he was doing, poured him another cup of coffee. No one ever put a compassioned hand on his shoulder, however. He hated to be touched.
Once, and I wasn't a witness, but it's a pretty good story, a well-to-do woman in the community walked into K.C.'s with her boots clicking on the hard tile.
"You sound just like a cowboy on a wooden sidewalk," Buster bellowed from the counter.
Not missing a beat, the woman, who I will not name, replied: "Watch out, Buster, or I'm gonna ride off with your bike!" Another interesting observation on Buster 's eating habits - he never touched anything with his hands. He loved those chocolate-covered Easter bunnies and Santa Claus figures. He'd cut a chunk off with a knife, scoop it up with a spoon, dunk it into his coffee and plop it into his mouth. Soup crackers were dispatched in much the same manner, except he would stick the salty square into the soup with his spoon then retrieve it whole into his mouth, where it would slowly disappear, much like a wood planer works.
Buster's life and times intrigued me through high school. How, without a job, a place to live or the march to accumulate all the latest must-have items the rest of us coveted (in the late 1970s and early 80s, it was Atari game systems, eight-track tape players and digital watches), he made pocket change certainly enough to live on from society's cast-off junk.
Senior year, I got up the nerve to interview Buster for the school paper, The Rustler. He was wary, I remember, but answered my questions. He was born and raised in Fremont. He had kin, but not a wife or children.
I never worked up the nerve to ask why he was "homeless."
Buster's gone now, he died in 1984 at the age of 73. For a time, the Dodge County Courthouse displayed his bike, just as he left it at the Union Pacific Railroad depot where he passed, in a glass case. One year, the bike was put on view during the parade for John C. Fremont Days, which celebrates the explorer's adventures on the advent of the Great Western Expansion. The words on the float said, "We miss you, Buster." And so it came to pass that a whole town celebrated one homeless man.
A bum on a bike he never rode.
But who taught an entire town how to be grateful.

The past is not the end

I found a friend on Facebook recently, back from my days in Dallas (12 years ago).
We traded numbers, then worked all week to try and talk. Friday night, we got to talk.
"I've gotta say I was just flabbergasted at how much life you spilled - your openness and honesty was so disarming. Alarming. Uh, charming," she wrote later.
I made her cry.
It was not my intent.
I just wanted to let her know hat I was OK and that the path that I had been on had grown dark and overgrown and that I had come through a better person.
She understood.
And we've rekindled a friendship that withered with time and distance.
The past is not an ending; it can be a starting point for good things to come.

Fiction in 58, a story in small packaging

The exercise is called Fiction in 58; write a story using just 58 words. I made it up, because it sounded cool.

Under Pressure
A brisk wind cancels out the labored breath as he runs - a pre-morning ritual meant to clear his thoughts.
The swirl of tension from the world - cosmic forces or otherwise - weigh heavy, sacks of cement pressed to his chest.
“Time heals all wounds,” he announces to the darkness.
It’s the scars, he thinks, that linger, change perception.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are corrupt, intellect and tension.

The Cleaner
The title was bestowed by gossipy workers who wore their tension like those stick-on nametags where you scrawl your name in Sharpie and try not to stand out.
The name, that was real.
Hackett worked in finance. There was no title on the door to his office. Just MR. HACKETT painted on the eggshell-steel door.
We all called him The Cleaner, behind his back – and in hushed tones.
He was one creepy fuck. And we all feared him. Immensely.
An accomplished feat, since he stood maybe 5 feet tall and weighed maybe 120 pounds.
His skin had this waxy quality, white, cool like marble. It made the blue of his veins pop from that skin. It didn’t help that his hair was a color a raven’s wing, course and parted harshly to the right, held tight with scentless pomade. The same pomade held down the dark mustache that was groomed daily with an efficient hand.
Think Hitler, but with a better tailor.
A beady intellect bore through you as he walked around the office, always watching through these massive aviator glasses that had no frames. Just curved lenses, like twin magnifying glasses.
I worked in the bullpen, a cluster of cubes where the walls didn’t go up far enough to hide a cruise around the Internet, or the folded up papers bearing that day’s Sudoku puzzle.
Eggshell enclosure with light gray cubicle walls, a directive on the day you started that allowed one personal picture, one plant, one company-issued coffee mug. The computers were eggshell, for chrissakes.
Jackets were to be worn in the office, even if you needed to hit the head for a piss. No colored shirts, no ties with cartoon characters on them.
This was a business, we all were told on that first day, you will look and act the part.
It was like a daycare, a soulless Romper Room where instead of a bubbly Miss Claire looking through her magic mirror, we had The Cleaner and his rat eyes boring through you.
We weren’t doing God’s work, I suppose, reversing mortgages on the elderly, buying insurance policies on AIDS patients, hedging the bet that they’d die and we’d get at least 80 percent return on the investment. Morally corrupt, but certainly not illegal.
The pay was bitchin,’ which is why you never carried the names home with you, like gum on your shoe.
Then Danny’s file landed in the in-box.
My best friend from grade school. Now dying of AIDS, a little gift he got from a 18-year-old transvestite hooker in the Philippines as part of a “gentleman’s sex tour” of the Far East.
Damn it, Danny.
The bullpen’s job was to adjust the rate of return vs. the lump-sum payout. On any given day, you’d work five or six “cases.” The client balked, you politely told them to take their business elsewhere. They’d call back, choked with tears, and in that hour of reflection, you’d lower the payout by a few percentage points.
He recognized my voice immediately.
“Hey, kid, say how’s it going?”
All conversations were recorded for training purposes.
“Mr. Dellicort, as a representative of Bender & Bender, I am authorized to offer you a generous, one-time settlement so that you may carry on your affairs with the grace and dignity they so richly deserve.”
“Dude, it’s Danny, man.”
“Mr. Dellicort, I am showing a deficient file here. There are two forms that need to be filled out before we can consider your application. Do you mind if I come by and drop off the required paperwork for your consideration?”
“Fifty-first and Belmont, be there in an hour.”
King’s Tap-Room, a greasy bar of the sort that cashed payroll checks for beers at 8 a.m.
Danny’s at the bar, nursing a beer and a shot. It’s 10 a.m.
“You know, if I could have reached through the receiver, I would have choked your scrawny neck,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Big Brother is everywhere,” I say, dropping off the eggshell envelope with all the new forms.
“What’s this?”
“My lovely parting gift, my man. As long as you’re going to get screwed again, I though it best to squeeze the maximum amount out of these guys.”
“I appreciate it.”
A week goes by and there’s no fallout from Danny’s file. I start to relax.
Hackett walks through the bullpen, points a finger at me, points at his eggshell door. I count the gray carpet squares, unwilling to look anyone in the eye.
Hackett’s windowless office is bare of personality. An aluminum table with two aluminum chairs. A desk farther back, high-back, black leather chair. There’s nothing on the desk but a blotter and a fountain pen. The only thing on the table is the Dellicort file, not in an eggshell folder but sinister red.
Hackett takes off his jacket, hangs it on a hook on the backside of the door, begins to roll up his sleeves.
The flesh just above those alabaster hands are a tangle of ink, grotesque tattoos of torment and despair.
“Let’s have a conversation about this case file, shall we?”
And in that instant, in the inside crook of his right forearm, I swear I saw three numbers.

Doe does deadly dive, diners delighted

This is why I love living in the Midwest, the whole practicality thing:

VALLEY CITY, N.D. (AP) ­ Police say they killed a deer that was severely injured after running through a glass door at the Valley City State University field house.
Police Officer Steve Loibl said the doe ran through the door of the field house about 7:30 a.m. Monday. He killed the animal and the meat was processed.

Venison steaks, anyone?

A Monday Fiction in 58

First Kisses
The kiss was of the goodnight variety, grazingly light, eyes open, stumbling, quick.
Shocked by his boldness, the hand on her lower back that propelled her forward. Eased by his smile, his scent as she lifted her head instinctively.
The broke apart, smiled, kissed again.
“In case I forgot, later,” he said.
Best excuse she’d heard all day.

Sunday Scribblings: Stranger

Strangers
Had I known it was an interview, I wouldn’t have spent the last half-hour of my shift gnawing on my fingernails, peeling strips of bloody flesh to the cuticles.
Not that it lost me the job.
We struck up a conversation in the check-out line at the grocery.
She’s wearing a gray flannel business suit, only a skirt instead of pants, black heels, white Oxford shirt and a tie. She’s got it undone, one button on the shirt undone, the tie unknotted.
She commented on the gruyere in my basket, said it was one of her favorites. Her basket was filled with high-end frozen meals, scrawled with the word “lite” on the cartons.
“See you,” she said as she collected up her plastic sacks.
My truck was parked next to her Lexus.
“Seems I just can’t get away from you,” she says as the window slid down, automatic.
“Is that what it seems?”
“Oh, I think so. I know this is forward, but would you like to have a drink sometime?”
“Sure, yeah.”
“I’m busy tonight, but let’s say 5:30 Tuesday? LaRocca’s?”
“Works for me,” I say, unlocking my door.
LaRocca’s is a cavern, low light, cocoa-colored leather booths, walls washed in peach.
I’ve got on a clean pair of jeans, black T-shirt, my good leather jacket. Even took a wet paper towel and ran it over my Red Wings.
She’s nowhere to be found.
I take a table near the bar, and the waiter asks – twice – if I want something to drink.
“I think I’m going to wait until my date shows up, thanks.”
I am a fish out of water here. I half think about skipping out.
When she walks in, waves. She’s dressed in embroidered jeans, red sweater, black boots with ginormous heels. Huge gold hoop earrings.
“You made it,” she says, offers me her hand to shake. Puts her other hand on top.
She orders a glass of Merlot, I get a tap beer, import. It comes in a glass with a fancy stem. She makes small talk, tells me about her day, her business. She’s an executive, a full partner in a firm downtown.
“Full disclosure, I’m seeing someone. He’s a bit older, and he lives in Arizona,” she says, swirling her second glass of Merlot. “Not sure where it will lead, but he’s there and I’m here. And because of my business, I get invited to a lot of parties. It’s getting to be the holiday season…”
And I realize that I’m being interviewed. For the role of arm candy. She’s down to interviewing total strangers culled from the grocery.
I’m start to sweat. Make small talk of my own. Try and salvage the evening, discuss my positives, my upshot. Even as my brain screams at my heart to shut the fuck up.
Her eyes wander the bar, looking for future candidates. Says “uh-huh,,” a lot. Smiles whenever her attention come back.
I do not do well in interviews.
She finishes her wine, stands, puts on her coat. I’ve got half a beer left.
“Really, this has been nice, but I’ve got to get going. Thanks so much for meeting me.”
A dry handshake, two pumps, and she’s out the door as the waiter drops off the check.
I unlock the truck, take a deep breath, fill my lungs with the cool night air. Fold the receipt into continually tinier squares, drop the thing into the ashtray.
It cost me $42.80, with tip, to find out that she and I were incompatible. Complete strangers.
Worth every penny.

At least I didn't shave off my eyebrows

This is how mistakes happen, kids.
Lose focus for just a moment and you're left with $30 out-of-pocket to your hairdresser - who decided to take pity and get you in on a late Saturday afternoon when you've got dinner plans - for mistakes you made for trying to be goodly groomed.

It's been a long week of work, evenings out, stuff. Saturday dawned cold and windy - it is South Dakota, after all - and after errands, I decided it was time to give the hacienda a good scrubbing. Everything was going famously, until I started to clean the bathroom.
Started to lose focus.
Sink scrubbed, mirror cleaned, I noticed my eyebrows were looking a bit bushy. My little trimmer was there in the drawer. Set the guard, turn the clippers on, I'm looking stylish for an evening out with friends.
That's when I notice the my sideburns looked a bit shabby, too.

I hacked an inch-wide, three-inch-long lawnmower cut into my hair, above my left ear.
I tried to blend it the best I could. Of course, I had to do the right side, too. To match.
"This is ridiculous," I said, putting down the clippers and picking up the celly to make an urgent call to The Chop Shop.
"How bad is it?"
"On a scale from 10 to 1, 10 being the worst, it's a solid five."
"Ouch. I've got one appointment left at 4:30."
I put on a cap and hopped in the truck.
"You know, you didn't do half-bad a job," Val said, running her fingers through the stubble. "Not great, but not bad, either. I was expecting much worse."

A cold beer and a wash and condition later, Val's rescued my receding locks.
"Next time, let me do the eyebrows, too."
"Resist temptation?"
"Yeah, something like that."

Yes, I tipped her, big time.

Things that go bump in the night

The eyes just snap open.
And I'm awake.
No need to look at the clock, it's green glow in the darkness. It's 3:11 a.m.
The dogs don't even rustle anymore, the whole process has become that mundane. They lift their heads, watch what I'm going to do, drop back to sleep.
Not me.
Sometimes, it's easy to lay in the calm, empty my mind and drift back off. The nights where the eyes snap open, I know I'm doomed.
I take a swig of water, swing my legs from under the comforter and take a tour of the house. Sometimes there's a limp, an old foot injury that comes back stiff if I've not kept myself hydrated. I look out the sliding-glass door into the night, rake fingers through my hair, yawn. I'm not look for/at anything. I sometimes couldn't tell you I even looked.
The girls don't follow, they know it's not time to eat, not time to walk. They hunker down, wait until I come back, knowing I won't bring a treat, either. It's late, it's early and even they think I'm nuts.
The 3:11 a.m. thing? It's been going on for years. Someone asked if maybe I suffered some calamity at that hour. Nothing comes to mind.
I don't sweat it, not now.
I curl back under the cooled covers, don't fret. Relax. It's better this way.
Done right, and I may get another two hours of sleep.
Before I'm up for the day.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are blush, quiver and tenderness.
Count ‘em up, it’s a Fiction in 58.

Embrace
Their embrace was a clasp of tenderness.
She’s tucked into his chest, bathed in the warm scent of his neck, hands clutching the old sweater she secretly slept with when he wasn’t there.
Sinewy arms rest on hips, outsized hands explore her lower back. Lips pressed to her hair.
He whispers, there’s a blush, her lithe body quivers.

Bookstore bonanza (and those funny looks)

If there's a national FBI database of reader habits - and I'm not suggesting there is, or denying that there isn't - I'm probably flagged with a big, red star.
Person of interest - with a bullet.
I splurged at the bookstore, four titles and a cool 2009 calendar with old lithographs from the National Park Service.
I might have scared the clerk a bit.
Sure, I was wearing a black stocking cap, my Smith sunglasses (perched on my head) and I hadn't shaved in two days, but I had showered and put on deodorant, even a spritz of Kenneth Cole's Reaction.
Looks aside, she gave my selections the once-over (twice) and kept shooting puzzled looks my way.
What?
What?
"Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," Hunter S. Thompson
"The Best American Poetry 2008"
"Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey," Chuck Palahnuik
"When You are Engulfed in Flames," David Sedaris.
Really, what?

Flash fiction on a Monday

Cabin Fever
He traced the arch of her back with his eyes, connected the constellation of freckles across her shoulders, followed her soft curves until the warm, naked flesh ended in an old patchwork comforter.
“Yes they can,” he said in a murmur, smiling.
They’d come to the cabin to prepare it for winter. He promised hard work, dirty hands, a simple meal, wine, a roaring fire.
She’d been intrigued about his hideout, his life away from the city, pleased he trusted her. Disappointed over the mention of separate beds.
Dusk fell early, marked by frosty breath, tingled fingers. The old stone fireplace stoked, he asked that she get comfortable while he flipped steaks on the grill.
Seeing her naked - curves outlined in the crackling firelight – filled him with nervous surprise.
A deep breath, a sip of wine, a slight nod of his head, he came up from behind and placed his hands lightly on her hips, buried his head in her hair, let out a contented sigh.
“Friends so too can be lovers,” she whispered.

Sunday Scribblings: Change

Can You Help A Brother Out?
“No quarters in that Louis Vuitton handbag? No? Bullshit, lady. Thanks for ignoring me.”
“No folding money in those wool slacks asshole? Ooooohh, that sad eye contact, thanks for that. That was special.”

“Can you help a brother out?”
The change in the “tall” coffee cup (never the “venti,” that’s just too impudent) is what we call starter coin, a couple of quarters, nickels and dimes – and very few pennies. (Pennies are the kiss of death. We call it that, “What did you get today? Fucking kiss of death, over and over again.”)
Starter coin. Yeah. Something to grease the skids, clink together, get that tambourine of salvation shaking for the citizens.
The ones who today are in a frenzied hurry to get out of the spittle of snow and freezing breeze.

“You could spit on me if you want, asshole. That’s what the looks says, anyway. Nice knock-off Firado suit. Screams Men’s Warehouse.”
“Awww, c’mon chicky. Those Stuart Weitzman’s you’re wearing go for at least four bills. And you don’t have a quarter to spare?”
“Pennies, shit! A handful of pennies – and a big piece of lint. You’re a fucking prince, my man. Kiss of death - want to piss on me, too?”

It’s not like I went looking for this life. A refrigerator box insulated with newspapers out of the wind near the 41st Street overpass. Out of the weather, out of the eyes of the cops who want to roust us all these days.
It’s not like I’m crazy, like so many out here.
There are circumstances, you know.
Breaks that don’t break your way.

“Two bits, yes, yes, thanks.”
“You’re very kind, thank you.”
“OK, now we’re talking, .89 cents in various coinage. A smile too. Yeah, I brushed, these are my own teeth, too.”
“You’re very kind, thank you.”

I keep two sets of “good” clothing for work. Shabby-chic. Ha. Clean, but worn. Sad. It’s all about marketing these days.
And don't smell like piss. Very important. Hygiene is everything.
I make, on a good, warm day, more than $100. And it all goes into a fund, at a bank, to buy T bills.
No booze, no eats (purchased, that is – I eat what you throw away and I stake out the finer shops like Katz’s mostly), no nookie from the crack whores that roam nighttime streets like zombies. If I’m not working, I’m reading. Solar, wind power. Composting. Hydroponics. Cheese-making.
Planning my return.
But not to these streets. These mean streets…

“Fuck you, too, mister.”
“Thanks for that condescending look, ma’am. You’ve got dog shit on your shoes, by the way.”
“Two bills, yes.”
“You’re very kind, thank you.”

A bus ticket to Reno is $237.
No, Reno is not my final destination, thank you very much.
My ranch, all 20 acres of it tucked up in the Sierras, is.
Once those last two T bills mature.

Winter accessorizing

"Get yourself a good beanie," they said.
"Fleece, maybe one of those, you know, balaclavas."
"And gloves, too."
They were not kidding.
The wind rolls across the plains, noting to cut it but you.
Tops of ears go numb, fingers.
Windstopper fleece beanies are not silly.
Windstopper fleece gloves are not the latest accessory item.
Here, they're a vital part of your wardrobe.

Proud to be an American

“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction”
- Winston Churchill


“I see America, not in the setting sun of a black night of despair ahead of us, I see America in the crimson light of a rising sun fresh from the burning, creative hand of God. I see great days ahead, great days possible to men and women of will and vision.”

- Carl Sandburg

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are hope, gravity and nuance. Still in that post-election, no-sleep haze. This came out dark, wasn't sure where it would go when I wrote the first sentence in my notebook in the dark. It ended up at 100 words.

Gravitational Situations

Hope is a morsel of bait hiding a sharp fucking hook that’s life.
Everyone’s got a price, a tipping point. Nuance is lost on the hopeful. Shades of gray that’s used to explain away the circumstances that led you to the hook, gulp.
I pace the cage of this shitty hotel room, lit by a dusty, bare bulb that persuades the cockroaches to boldly skitter across the cigarette-stained wood floor. A captive of what – piss-poor judgment?
I knew what I was doing.
By now, they’ve found the body.
Thank God for a good leather belt.
And gravity.

Get out and vote

Most of us were born American. We were raised to believe in what it means to be an American. We take our hats off during the National Anthem, we sing, our hearts swell with the knowledge that we are part of the greatest nation in the world, a nation built on this statement, the preamble of the U.S. Constitution:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Those rights are not guaranteed.
You need to vote to make your voice heard.
Get out and vote. It's that important. Especially this political season, where we have the power to change everything. The most important presidential election in a generation.
Vote.
Now.

A slip of flash fiction, 58-style

In Shadows
He stands bare to the waist and barefoot in the dewy grass of a park in pitch-blackness. Driven here by the incessant pounding of blood in his ears, the storm, a fury in his heart.
Bring on the night and there is no reset, no slumber. Just seething.
It’s been like that for weeks, since the accident.

Free-form poetry

Seclusion
Lonesome is a cold-weather morning,
colored leaves left for dead on branches,
crystalline air that pierces the heart.

Damaged sons and daughters,
latch-key children of another age,
forgo conversation for faceless technology.

Broken souls wander wistful,
and clutch at low-hanging snags,
desperate not to go under, drown.

Wearing fear as a onerous cloak,
cloth that provides scant little heat,
when all that’s desired is contact.

Chances rarely taken, sadly,
the ability to reach out, embolden,
crushed by self-imposed isolation.

A slight slip of fiction, 58-style

The task is to create something using just 58 words. Lots of thoughts, ideas right now. Angst is a muse.

An Itch You Can’t Scratch

She knew nothing of redemption.
The itch kept her anchored to the streets, back alleys where the dark hid the sunken cheeks, sallow skin.
A fickle snow kept traffic light, panic tight. Wind tears muddled mascara, widening the natural circles under eyes.
A memory sparked thoughts, painted nails, clean sheets homemade soup, friends, family.
Pushed aside.
That itch.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are corpse, damage and knife. A salute to All Hallow’s Eve.

Urban Hunting
A corpse, drained of its blood, its other fluids, takes on a translucence that is unmatched in nature. Especially when it’s lit in a darkened alley by a building floodlight – and especially if there’s a mist that dews droplets on the cold flesh.
I know. I do the draining. I cause the damage.
The first was a cluster-fuck, blood everywhere. A decent Burberry suit burned in the trash incinerator, along with a cheap pair of Thom McAn shoes I was happy to part with.
The second was better, the Ka-Bar knife doing its job with wicked efficiency. And no blood on the clothing, not with the cheap plastic raincoat I found (in bulk) on 51st.
The third, well the third is where I hit my stride.
I’m a known commodity. Ask and you shall receive. I know how to acquire things. The things you have no earthly idea how to get.
The little fuck actually called it blow – seriously, who calls it blow these days? – and I told him to meet me at 11 around the corner.
“You don’t have any on you?” he whined.
A tilt of the head, raised eyebrows and he was off.
Just enough time to get another Ka-Bar.
What? You think I reuse, recycle? You know how many Ka-Bars are out there in so many shitty pawn shops – where an extra deuce makes the memories fade?
“Dude, you don’t know how happy I am that you’d hook me up,” he says as a way of greeting. “Big night tonight, need to be on my game.”
“Oh, don’t I know it,” I say. “Follow.”
The manhole is already open, but the rain has already stopped – and that has made me a bit melancholy. Wet paper is stuck to the asphalt and it shines wet with the light from the lone spotlight.
“Nice raincoat – looks like a giant condom.”
And the Ka-Bar pierces his chest, just below the sternum through the transverse abdominal muscles and I twist to sever the abdominal aorta. My lambskin-gloved palm muffles his surprise.
And the guy drops where he stands – to the left of the open manhole.
I drop the Ka-Bar down the hole, produce a pair of emergency scissors that I swiped from the ER (these I keep) and cut away the dude’s cheap suit. Down the manhole they go, along with the raincoat. The body I move to the open hole, position the body spread-eagle, like Da Vinci Man.
And watch the skin cool to its spectacular translucence.

A slice of fiction that is dark

Granted, this came out really dark. It started as a joke between a friend and an idea got fleshed out on a notepad in the dark. I couldn't sleep, so here you go.

Solace, Distilled

I’m three-fifths into my second gin & tonic, mixed haphazardly in a pint beer glass. As I sip, the wind sends crisp leaves skittering across the cracked concrete in front of my flat.
That fancy atomic clock, with it’s digital thermometer, says the ambient temperature is 21 degrees.
And I know what you’re thinking, “Bub, time to put the summer drinks away, aim for something a bit more seasonal-appropriate, maybe a rum and Coke or most certainly a Manhattan (down, in a highball, two cherries, just the way you like it).”
And to conventional wisdom, I say fuck it. And raise my glass in a silent toast to non-conformity.
I’m not out for my junior alcoholism merit badge, honorable mention, second place.
I’m drinking myself to death.
Plastic gin and vodka bottles packed in the freezer, party jugs of bourbon, rum, Scotch on the counters, cases of beer in the fridge, which have crowded everything else out but the condiments in the door.
My third gin & tonic is gin, ice and lime. Tonic? I’m fresh out - besides, it just gets in the way.
I rest my head in my palm, elbow resting on the wobbly two-chair kitchenette in my shitty, one-room flat. A cancer patient died here before I moved in, and I swear sometimes I can smell his last, sour gasps that somehow got trapped in the cracked plaster.
Absently, I spin the gold wedding band, pick up my drink, gulp.
It took me 20 minutes and some steel wool to erase what you had engraved into the gold.
Still falling.
Ha.
Fell right out of my life – and into his arms.
Cheers.

I was on 60 Minutes

I was on 60 Minutes Sunday night.
Albeit briefly.
The 12-minute segment on T. Boone Pickens aired and if you look closely at the 7:36 mark, that's my ass in the background, over Pickens' left shoulder.

See for yourself:

Watch CBS Videos Online

A leave of absence from Sunday Scribbings

I chose not to participate in Sunday Scribblings. Nothing against Meg and Laini, but I just found the prompt…less than inspiring.
So I constructed a Six Sentence instead.

Twilight

So often when he thought, the image of rust, flakes of corroded metal, came to mind.
There were times, late at night, when he wrapped himself in that old wool Army blanket, a candle burning on the mantle, that brought flickers of clarity.
He rarely slept more than three hours at a stretch, his prostrate now in complete command of his bladder, so it was just as easy to sit in the murky darkness near the crapper and play the memory games his doctor had suggested – the ones he remembered, anyway.
He sighed, long and heavy, as the many forms of rust – like a Kodak slide show – flipped grainy across his mind.
He squeezed his eyes tight, concentrated as the therapist had taught him, and ran the set of three numbers that now took on various forms – hands on a clock, brass apartment numbers on doors, that dates on his leather-bound desk calendar – over and over again.
He had “committed the numbers to memory” (ha!) – 31-9-39 – and knew the time was becoming short where he would be able to put the digits together and unlock the black metal hardcase where he stored his .45-caliber sidearm.

Some thoughts on being a mentor

"I don't know why, but I got from your application that you were a strong, confident man, so I set you up with Seth. His mother and I decided that he really needed a strong male influence in his life."
I'm in the counsellor's office, reading the dos and don'ts of mentoring at the school, getting my mentor I.D. badge and setting up a cafeteria lunch account. I'm a few minutes away from meeting Seth, who is described as a quiet, shy blond-haired boy.
"We don't expect much today, just have lunch, tell him what you do, and we'll see if he'll talk back. Don't be surprised if he sits quietly. He is rather shy."
Seth and I shake hands.
"Seth, why don't you give Thom a tour of the school, then go through the lunch line."
We walk out the door, and for the next 15 minutes, I can barely get a word in edgewise. Just questions, which Seth answers in great detail. It's like he was corked, and just needed the right opener. He's articulate and he's funny.
He shows me his little brother's room, pulls him out of first grade. We talk and the boy starts to follow us.
"Hey, bud, what are you doing on first grade?"
"Makin' stuff."
"Well, you need to get going making stuff."
He turns to go back, the teacher hides a smile with her fingers and Seth grabs the arm of my jacket and says, "Let's go get your lunch now. I bring mine, but sometimes I don't. They have three kinds of milk."
And he's disappointed, I think, when I pick white.
"Me, I like chocolate."
We're in his second-grade room, and he's telling me about his life, his move to Sioux Falls (he's been here less time than I have), pets that got left behind, likes and dislikes.
I tell him what I do, I pull out my reporter's notebook, my mechanical pencil. I show him my scribble of notes that only I can read.
At the end of our hour, I pull a pocket-sized reporter's notebook out of my jacket.
"Hey, this is for you, I want you to write words down that you're having trouble with or write me questions. Maybe you can take notes, and we'll write our own story."
"Can I draw in it?" he says as I take a Sharpie and write the date and his name on the cover.
"Buddy, you can do whatever you want with it."
The teacher says he's quite the artist. It's never been encouraged.
It will, now.
He purposely holds me back as the rest of the second-graders file into the room. He makes the introductions.
"So I'll see you next week?" I ask.
"You'll be here next Thursday?"
"Yep."
"And every Thursday after that?"
"Yep."
He puts a hand on his head and smiles.
"You've got a fan," the teacher says.
And as I walk to the truck, I'm filled with a happy heart. Sixty minutes of my life spent making a difference.
But there's a sadness, too. The sadness of some of the stories this little 8-year-old boy has shared about his life.
And the knowledge that in Sioux Falls, nearly 1,000 students need mentors.

To find a way to make a difference in your community, click here.

Winter boots

The company circulated a memo that they'll give any employee $35 toward a new pair of winter boots.
I thought, "Hmmm, strange, but pretty nice."
Then I thought, "How cold does it get here that they have a program to kick in money for new kicks so your feet don't freeze?"

(Yet $35 off my new Doc Martens - just needed to turn in the receipt - is pure bonus.)

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are ache, difference and suffer. Let’s keep this little ditty to 100 words.

Medicare Denied, Existing Condition
Eldon Peele cast quick, wary eyes outside his window, the drapes scrunched into a balaclava to hide his features.
“So Much To Suffer” was scrawled, over and over, across eggshell walls. Blood ran down his arms, pulsed from cuts made by a yellow metal utility knife; the pain kept Peele from passing out.
His heart held the ache of indecision; elevated beats that tried to equalize the tempest of rage that spewed from his cancerous brain.
“That’s the difference!” he screamed to the walls, as he staggered, spun. “I’m the difference!”
Drops of blood made teardrop splatters on markered walls.

A Drabble for a Tuesday

A Drabble, 100 words, one story.

Organic Farming
Frost crystals danced on a frozen crust of snow and filled the wells of her feet. Her gloveless hands were white and she flexed them against the cold.
Smoke tendrils rose from paint-crusted slats; when the propane bottles exploded, so did the cracked and dusty windows.
The barn where her father and brothers had so often called her.
Neighbors whispered of a curse. So many accidents. So much death.
She saw it as progress; once the barn was gone, she’d be free to sow her vegetable gardens come spring. The land finally freed of the toxins of her youth.

Turn the page, I've turned a corner

I turned an important corner. It didn’t happen all of a sudden like, but gradual. And thinking back on a day filled with family on Sunday, it finally sunk in.
I no longer miss California.
Oh, I miss the people I left behind, my friends, my favorite haunts, trails, creeks, peaks.
But not the place. Not the overall pull of 11 years spent there.
And I think there’s an importance to that.
Because I have this new place.
I was asked if I ever wanted to move back to Cali and for the first time I can honestly say that I do not. It’s moved to a place of “Been there, done that.”
(Hey, if that sounds harsh, it isn’t; it’s just the best way I can explain it.)
I’m here, in the Midwest, and I want to be here.
Next week, I’ll start mentoring a second-grade boy. I’m signed up for hospice training. I’m meeting new friends, new contacts, new sources. Good stories are coming my way – and I have the time and freedom to write them. I have family close.
I have a whole new world that’s beginning to open up (or, at very least, I am open to being open to it opening up).
If I choose to step into this newness.
To march into this new future, I needed to put the past to rest.
Which I feel comfortable doing.

Sunday Scribblings: Style

Let's pay a little homage to Brent Easton Ellis:

A Sense of Style

Baxter and I were at O’Malley’s drinking car bombs – Guinness with a shot each of Baileys and Jameson – waiting for Carson to get there so we could go to dinner (10 p.m. reservations I secured at the new Somaliland place) then out to Ultra for drinks.
Baxter’s dressed in what looks to be the entire fall collection of Burberry Prorsum, heavy on the wool. I’m in Bruno Pieters, mostly blues and grays.
And in walks Carson.
In faded, peg-legged Levi 501s, black, eight-hole Doc Marten boots, a black Gap T-shirt, nondescript gray zippered hoodie and a black motorcycle jacket he either got out of a dumpster or at a yard sale in Jersey. He’s got a red bandana sticking out the back pocket of his jeans.
Carson pulls out a chair, turns it around to lean on the back (he knows it bothers Baxter) gets Maggie’s attention, circles the table with his index finger, hoists three fingers and deals his platinum VISA like an opening hand of Texas Hold ‘Em.
“Bitches,” Carson says.
“Slumming it tonight?”
“Jealousy is a really ugly trait Bax.”
Maggie brings the round of car bombs and as we pound the half-pint glasses on the tabletop, in walks Christa Samuelson, Sara Drapier and Keiko Imura. Baxter has been in love with Keiko since she made junior partner and I’d been trying to puncture Christa’s defensive posture for months.
Carson gets Maggie’s attention, circles the girls with his index finger, points at his chest, the silver VISA on the table.
“Carson, hey, thanks,” Sara says from the bar, and the girls raise a trio of lemon drops. “C’mere a minute, say hi.”
As he rises to leave, he flips us off, both hands, held closely to his chest.
Baxter looks at me and I shrug.
Carson’s back in five.
“Any way to grow that reservation from three to six?”
“They want to come along?” Baxter says, nearly panting.
“They want to hang, all night,” Carson says.
“OK, how did you do it?” I say.
“Look boys, anyone can buy off the runway to look like Heath Ledger’s Joker – which, by the way you both do – but honestly, smart women don’t see the suit. They see the man.”

Some words, 58 to be exact, woven into a story

I’ve got just enough time for a Fiction in 58.

A Siren’s Crush

She wore slippers like ballerina shoes, white satin. When the sirens started, she touched up her lipstick.
A full moon cast clouds in silver; confused and concerned faces shuffled. The satin went gray as the concrete. She tip-toed to view the street, looking for him.
Knowing it was the last time she’d get away with tripping the alarm.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are delicate, jaded and night. Here’s a bit of verse in Six Sentences, another great place to read, write – and grow. What can you say in Six Sentences?

Night Creatures Union 763

Of course they gathered at night, the fairies, pixies, the imps, your assorted goblins, trolls and Korrigans, beneath an arena of wild nightshade that grabbed at trees with sticky vines.
Ever since they voted to unionize, these meetings had grown fractured, tedious.
There were the diminutive and delicate fairies, who always pushed for more entitlements to the children who ventured into the forest; more, more more, always granting, never taking – opposite of the trolls and goblins, who voted in a block, and as always wished simply to eat the young interlopers.
Just getting the pixies to sit – quietly – stretched Roberts Rules of Order to breaking; at their worst, they’d shower the imps with sparkling dust in a kaleidoscope of colors and then cackle in tiny voices that sounded like the constant crinkle of crushed Christmas paper.
Then there were the Korrigans, who sat in the back on a rotted stump, jaded, and mumbled all-encompassing insults in-between spitting sunflower hulls into their stunted hands, their wrinkled palms.
Control, console and cajole the Korrigans, the fairies knew, and their agenda would win.

It would creep me out, a little

This began with two words written in a notebook sometime in the dark of the early morning.

Lunch Lady
The Lunch Lady had a mustache, and we’re not just talking about a few dark hairs under her lip or anything, this thing was full, black and curly – a real ‘stache.
She actually groomed it, trimmed and cared for it in the style of a young Billy Dee Williams as if she were playing Lando Calrissian herself in Star Wars.
You’d walk with your tray through the line and there she was, always waiting to dish up whatever the main entrĂ©e was and you’d look anywhere but at her upper lip.
Sarah Sanderson, who was the most developed – and thus the most adventurous - of the eighth-grade class, told us what it was like to kiss someone with a mustache.
“It tickles, but not in a good way; it’s creepy and you have to get used to it.”
After that revelation, more than 60 quietly homophobic boys decided that brown-bagging it was just about the coolest thing they’d ever come up with – and took their meals in the commons, even on the days when rain threatened to chase them into the cafeteria.

Sunday Scribblings: A different time in history

A Prairie Life
Leaves, golden and spade-shaped, fell with the hubris of a light rain shower; he paused in his deliberations to watch the shower, leaves falling into his unkempt hair, swept up against his mud-caked boots.
Fall announced its intentions boldly, raking to nakedness the only tree for miles – the old cottonwood that stood at the bend in the creek – with a chilly breeze that carried on it the promise of frost.
He’d done much since he arrived on the prairie that spring, building a house of sod, a stable where the horse and cow could be contained – it opened onto his home’s 14-by-16-foot room that was lit with one oil lamp and the two window frames he’d brought West.
The pot-bellied stove would keep the house warm this winter, fueled by the buffalo chips and manure from his stock, as well as the stack of polished-white driftwood he’d scavenged from the creek. On the floor, under the thick carpets that once covered polished wooden parlor floors, was sand from the creek, tamped down and smoothed with a rake. He’d have the most level floor on the prairie, and smiled at his ingenuity.
He’d paid too much for the rough-sawed lumber for the roof, but made up for it by trading one of the rocking chairs for enough tar paper to keep the roof leak-proof. He’d relished the barter, feeling his oats, as it were, in coming out ahead, confident.
Where the plow had bit into the prairie to provide the bricks for his home, the fall stubble of a garden lay in fallow. Everything used, used up, or like the corn stalks, dried for kindling.
Even though it wasn’t proper, he pulled his shirt over his head, still buttoned, and readjusted the suspenders of the pants he’d have to again take needle and thread and adjust down. He ran dirty fingers across the chestnut-colored hair on his stomach, marveling at how the muscles twitched at his touch. There was no more of the fat of eastern living, just brown skin and the sinew of muscle.
He walked to the top of a small rise that marked his eastern windbreak and scanned the open prairie. He was a new man, a stronger man. No longer bed-stricken with consumption when his mother told him so, no longer taking orders from his father, his wife. He turned to the soddy and his heart swelled at what he was able to accomplish on his own, alone on the prairie.
Yet a single tear ran down his face. Not a product of the biting wind, but the for the memory he allowed himself every so often. He whispered a prayer that carried on the breeze.
A prayer that offered The Divine a thank you for the life he’d been given.
And a prayer for the memory of the wife and child, a quiet damnation of the scarlet fever that took their life.
And drove him into the Great Plains, alone and in pain.
And to this, his salvation, these 160-acres.
He crossed himself and bowed his head as the wind send another torrent of dried leaves that pelted his bare skin.
He never before had felt this alive.

A slight slip of fiction

A Fiction in 58.

Confidence Man

A haze of cigarette smoke hangs as he walks through the door to the bar; the cloud parts and ripples like water.
He orders an expensive whiskey and places both elbows on the bar. Scans the crowd, sizes it up.
She’s playing pool. All angles and elbows, self conscious behind glasses.
Little did they know their destiny, entwined.

Mutual admiration - and a new Six

We "met" online, faithful readers of one another's Six Sentence contributions. Quin and I.
When I decided to leave California for a big unknown of South Dakota, she had blogged about moving West. We exchanged emails:

" love your 6s and was curious about Rob's mention in the last one. I've been to your blog a couple of times, but confess I don't know much of what's going on. Too preoccupied in my own soup. You are moving west? We should write a 6 together. Alternate sentences."

"a quick answer, before you cable goes away... until last july, when my first six went up... i'd never written. rob encouraged me from the first one, and always believed i had something somewhere. we'll see. then, he had me do that awful YouTube video of one of them (my best in my opinion) that i plan on redoing... lol i'm moving back to the house i own in Utah (where i lived with my kids and father before he passed) to do theater for the summer and ride out the recessi..sorry, work slowdown. no sense paying rent when i can pay mortgage, right? yes, that would be fun, to alternate sentences... i tend to come up with an idea, write a six (or a short) in around an hour or so, and i'm done. i need to hone some skills... if you are willing to work with me, i'd be honoured. shall we wait until we both settle in?"

We've both settled into our new lives. And Rob was good enough to put up our story, Internal Combustion, over at Six Sentences. We indeed alternated sentences, wrote a piece of flash fiction without deciding a plot first. We just built from each-other.
It's cool to see what humans are capable of, when we create, rather than destroy.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at effortless, thrash and vindictive. Some short fiction for a weary world.

Lady Killer
She liked when they thrashed against the plastic handcuffs, the duct tape, the black silk hood. It reminded her of the time her brother had captured the a giant silkmoth and put it in a peanut butter jar with some grass.
She watched, enthralled, as it beat itself to death against the cold, curved glass.
Her passion for destruction, the thirst for death grew from there.
She hunted within her own ethnic group, and because she was pretty – long and lean – she was able to attract the attentions of men who tended to be older. As she became, the minivan became part of the ploy, part of the trap. She attracted her prey as her brother had captured the helpless, slow-moving moth – effortless.
The acreage she bought offered room to work, the quiet of the orchard, where bugs flit and screams went to be buried. A barn where she had a neighbor bring in a backhoe and dig a “root cellar,” but where she had hung acoustical tiles on the walls, the ceiling.
In the end, there was nothing vindictive in her kills, at least that’s what she told the profiler. She sat on her cot in isolation, flipped her auburn hair that had now begun to show streaks of silver, and recounted the day her brother took the moth from its delicate perch from the underside of the branch of a pear tree.
Where he had grown tired of its feeble attempts to escape.
And she became enthralled in its arc toward death as it desperately tried to escape.
“It’s the same feeling I get, when I hold a still-beating heart.”

Using song lyrics to explain my mood

The Replacements, "Unsatisfied"

Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I'm satisfied
Was you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I'm satisfied
Hey, are you satisfied?

And it goes so slowly on
Everything I've ever wanted
Tell me what's wrong

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Were you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me I'm satisfied
And now are you satisfied?

Everything goes
Well, anything goes all of the time
Everything you dream of
Is right in front of you
And everything is a lie (or) And liberty is a lie

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Look me in the eye
Unsatisfied
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so dissatisfied
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so unsatisfied
Well, I'm-a
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so dissatis,dissattis...
I'm so

A shock to the system

I dreamt I was struck by lightening.
I was in the park at dusk. I watched black clouds roil overhead.
Cold sheets of rain began to fall, huge droplets that hit the asphalt trail with a smack.
I took refuge under a walnut tree, its canopy kept me dry.
The rain was heavy, steady and then just stopped.
The flash was white, blinding.
I awoke as if something did shock me. I drank water thirstily and lustfully, got up, looked out the window and repositioned myself in bed.

This morning, my joints ached. Along with the morning routine, the shave, the deodorant, toothpaste, I downed three Ibuprofen.
And wondered how the mind creates such realistic situations.
Then I pondered what it all meant.

Sunday Scribblings: Forbidden

All she wanted was an apple.
But being told no, she did it anyway. And they were banished from Eden.
Now, we’ve bailed out corporate lenders, greedy players who were never told no – but encouraged to select the low-hanging fruit, not matter the consequence.
Nobody wanted this. But yet, it happened.
Even when the public said no.
Forbidden fruit, indeed.
(Sigh.)