Closing out another year at The Tension

According to the ol' dashboard, this is my 1,269th post on Surface Tension.
A space that began as a result to deal with feelings and emotions after my mother passed that has morphed into a place where I scribble short fiction and try to find a voice. It's been an interesting transformation.
I buried my father this year, so life continues to evolve.
I thought I was ready for it. We had time to say goodbye. I was with him when he took his last breath, as I was when my mother took hers.
I struggle.
There's a lack of connection.
I no longer have the two people who could tell me honestly that I was either fucking up, or following my dream.
It's a bit unsettling.
Going on alone.
Yes, there are friends, family. But they don't listen like your parents. They've got lives, problems of their own.
So I sit at the end of another year with my whole life ahead of me - and no damn clue on how to proceed.
Here's the rub: I start 2010 knowing I can go anywhere in the world and do anything I want. Time, age, finances and obligations have created a freedom that is never far from my consciousness.
People continue to give warning about making quick decisions. Fair, I think. But that's the thing. I know I've got the time to assess situations, taste, touch, feel different scenarios and make decisions that satisfy the gut, the heart and the mind.
I doubt 2010 will be "my year." Each year has been my year. Through pain and pleasure, each experience has brought me to the person I am here and now. Not perfect, but certainly not damaged. Always a work in progress.
"Time isn't holding us, time doesn't hold you back." The Talking Heads sang that, and it is certainly true.
Time is now. The past is memories. The future is unwritten.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are ambush, hideous and meddle.


Janice Parker has meddled in my affairs for the very last time.
Eighth grade isn’t the happiest of times to begin with, but to have a bully who is a girl? My reputation sinks like a stone. Soon, I’ll be eating my lunch with the nerds, dweebs and other assorted fuck-ups.
You can never repair damage like that. High school will be hell.
But I know a weak spot. Janice Parker has a religious affinity for fun-sized Almond Joys.
I’d seen her stuff an entire sackful – wrappers and all – in her pie hole one humid afternoon this summer at the lake.
And I think it’s the reason she’s been all over me this semester.
Fine. I’ve got a plan.
I casually toss a bag in my backpack, making sure part of it sticks out. She follows like the rat she is.
And my ambush is set.
It cost me $100, five crisp twenties from the bank, a small loan from my college fund, to secure the services of Justin Lambers, high school thug.
I walk with purpose toward the greenbelt that straddles the school, Janice in shockingly close pursuit.
Lying in wait deep into the oaks is my well-paid hoodlum, probably smoking a butt he pilfered from the folks back at the trailer park.
Janice is nearly ready to pounce when Lambers intervenes, wrapping his calloused, shop-class-worn hands around her fleshy biceps.
She protests with a string of surprisingly well-constructed obscenities while I carefully open an Almond Joy and masticate with slow purpose.
Lambers pins her arms behind her back and tells her to stop struggling. Her face turns three shades of crimson and she starts shaking violently.
In her struggles, Janice’s facial skin goes slack, then falls completely off.
Staring at us is a hideous boil of tentacles, each pus-covered stalk ending in a beady, red-tinted eyeball.
Lambers lets go and stumbles a hasty retreat in reverse.
The thing begins to quake and sheds its Janice covering across the clearing. I think she looks like a turd, with a wild shock of putrid, quaking tentacles.
I move slightly left as Lambers pisses himself and runs screaming toward town. Janice the Turd plops to the forest floor and slithers off into the underbrush, shrieking in a high-pitched, yet gurgly, whine.
“Well, that certainly explains a lot,” I say, toeing Janice’s quickly rotting fleshy overcoat.

OneWord, Clasp

The prompt at OneWord is “clasp.” What can you say in 60 seconds?
(And yes, I did some editing when the 60 was up.)

He feared many things. Crowds, enclosed spaces, spiders, all manners of human contact. He chose to live alone, as sterile as possible, making his way out only for resupply. He’d even found a career he could do from home, with no expectations to ever show up at the home office.
While safe from everyday life, his heart still yearned like a foolish schoolboy.
She did that to him, the girl at register 2 at the corner market. She was brash and fresh and openly flirted, just with him. He marveled at the piercings and tattoos, wondered what it was like to be that free.
While buying milk and cold cereal, a favorite dinner, she finally felt the time was right. She clasp a hand across his wrist, opened his hand with hers.
“Bet I can tell your future,” she said, and ran a saliva-slick finger across his palm.

Monday's slip of fiction, in 58 words

Monday. Time for a Fiction in 58.

Pixie Stix

He’s found them in an old fashioned candy store and buys as many as a dollar affords. He tucks them into his back pocket and runs to the woods.
He stops at a bend in the brook and sprinkles Pixie Stix dust into clear water. Sparks erupt across his gaze, as pixies flit and dance around the ferns.

Sunday Scribblings, Delicious

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “delicious.”

Her Cookies

The object of my considerable consternation has decided to follow me home from school.
This is what I get for being nice.
If she was a flavor of ice cream, it would be vanilla, of course. But artificially-flavored ice milk vanilla. She tended to melt into whatever background she stood up against.
Between periods, she got caught up in the great crush of the hallway, spun (thrice) and her books went flying. She sank to her knees, a pebble in a fast-current of students.
I was trailing.
And stopped to help her out, less she get swallowed.
As I handed a spiral-bound notebook back, she ran a warm, dry hand across mine, blew the hair away from her eyes and smiled.
I grabbed the hand and hoisted her to standing.
And walked away.
The notes started immediately. Loopy script with smiley faces dotting the I’s. Straight-forward prose about her life, likes. Odd stuff about dreams.
I. Didn’t. Care.
She was a half-block behind, fighting with a backpack and some foil-wrapped tray – when I quickened my pace. I thought I’d lost her within the Dykman’s hydrangea bushes, but there she was, sitting on my front porch.
She’s got a plate full of the most misshapen, burnt chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever in my life seen. My guess is that she’d not done all that well in home economics this semester.
She thrust the tray at me, looking demurely down at the wooden steps.
My only way in is to accept the offer.
I nab one, take a bite, two. Their dryness makes mastication difficult. I struggle.
She thrusts toward me a pint of skim chocolate milk, obviously pilfered from the cafeteria. I drink, greedily.
My vision grows warm, most colorful.
And she has become the most fetching woman I’d ever seen; swoon fills my heart. My temples, my cheeks, grow flush.
“Those are some pretty awesome cookies,” I say, using my best small-talk voice. “Deliciously crunchy.”
She giggles.
“You think?” she asks. “I fear the orris root oil, deer’s tongue and catnip caused the dough to get much too crisp.”

Fiction for snow shut-ins

We've had a blizzard in the Midwest, one that locked people in their homes. I have been no exception. You'd think that it would be a good time to write, but the lack of stimulation, I fear, does the opposite.
But write on, I must.

Winds of Change
Wind rattled the glass in the windows; he rattles a scoop of ice in a highball.
Winter has come in with a vengeance, killing the power and piling up drifts past window sills. The temperature inside the bungalow drops as the night wears on. Still, he does nothing. No fire in the hearth, no candles to see. He knows the path from the chair to the liquor cart.
She’s out there, he knows. Somewhere. Her mobile is in his pocket, so there’s no use in calling.
At this point, he’s not sure he cares to know her whereabouts anyway. The constant seething keeps the chill away, as does the whiskey.
He drains the glass, raises it in a toast.
“Happy anniversary,” he whispers.

OneWord, Tray

Is it me, or are these words getting harder? OneWord, a writer's prompt that counts on brevity. Today's word? Tray.

In Good Taste

She’d brought the morsels out on her grand-mama’s oblong silver tray, a bright heavy thing that threatened to engulf the tiny savory snacks arraigned on its surface.
She glided through the room, offering up the bites to her guests, who in fits of party politeness, took one.
She sensed their apprehension.
“Please, everyone, they will not bite you back,” she said. “Offal is the new black truffle of the food world.”
One hearing that, the guests munched heartily on all the nasty bits once reserved for the underclass.
And she wondered if Jeffrey would have been offended that they’d balked at his obvious good taste.

Wednesday's 3WW

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are hinder, journey and rigid.

My father sits at the kitchenette, drinking strong black tea in a chipped China cup.
Next to the door is a steamer trunk, ancient and slightly moldy smelling; it’s massive brass latches dulled from abuse.
Before I can inquire, father tells me that he and my mother have a expedition ahead of them. He tells of a long, winding road, an odyssey of heartbreak and toil. And suffering. Lots and lots of suffering.
“I’m not going?”
“Too dangerous,” he says, fishing lemon seeds from the bitter tea.
Before I can protest, father puts up a rigid hand, wags a single digit, signaling that the conversation is over.
I slump over a small plate of soggy toast.
Father checks his watch, stands, takes a broom and begins tapping manically at the ceiling. Mother responds with her own Morse code, heavy stomps coming from someone so diminutive.
Thunderous footfalls echo down the stairwell.
She’s dressed in bush garb, gauzy tans and light browns. On her feet are old-style waffle-stomper boots, heavy black lug soles and acres of brown leather tied closed with jaunty red laces. On her head, a pith helmet with a built-in mini fan.
She wears no makeup, just a mask of singular resolve.
She assesses the scene, gauges the tension swirling around the table.
“Honey, the journey will be protracted, it will be treacherous and I’m afraid you’ll just be a hindrance.”
My upper lip begins to quiver.
Father takes the opportunity to cuff me across the scalp, throwing static cowlicks in the wake of his open fist.
“Boy, we’re protecting you from all manner of unknown dangers,” he says.
“Alas, yes,” mother says, smoothing my hair with tiny kisses. “You know how the mall can get around the holidays.”

OneWord, Wallpaper

OneWord is an experiment in short, short fiction. Nanofiction. The site gives yo ua word, and you've 60 seconds to write. Tough word this click. It's wallpaper.

Since her fathered traveled (and her mother had passed), they’d for months been setting up parties at her house. She’d melt into the background, watching other teens get shit-faced, have sex, get sick. She’d had enough. Next party, she’d convinced many of them, at $20 a head, that there was LSD hidden in the wallpaper pattern of the dining room. Shrieks rang out as teens licked the walls clean, talking about seeing stars, shapes.
She tipped back a beer and marveled at the pure power of suggestion.

Flash Fiction in the form of a 58

Fifty-eight words, that is. A Fiction in 58.

He thought about calling over the waiter, since there was something definitely swimming in his lobster bisque. He spooned off the succulent meat to a small plate, went fishing into the saffron-colored soup. With a squeak, he’d pinned the offender to the bowl side. As he expected, a sea fairy had been brought up from the depths.

Pardon the lateness of this fiction

I've been terribly busy. And this has been rumbling away in the cortex of my brain pan.

Love Child

Uncle Tupelo was playing on the car stereo when she broke down, spilled the news in a choke of snot and tears.
The baby wasn’t mine.
Sudden heat flushes my cheeks and the sudden impulse is to swing a backhand at her cheek. The temptation passes and I settled on an appropriate response: I grab her upper arm, squeeze. Tight enough to mean something, light enough not to leave a bruise.
“Watch the road,” she says, wiping a sleeve across her reddened nose.
In a swell of emotions, I’ve let the car drift toward the rumble strips on the centerline. I let the car coast toward the shoulder, still seething. Sucking my teeth in an attempt to wet my throat.
“What did you say?” I croak.
She beats fists against denim thighs, her thumbs hooked into the sleeves of one of my thermal undershirts she likes to pilfer from my dresser.
“The baby, it’s not…it wasn’t yours.”
I let my fingers splay across the steering wheel, then grip tight. The leather cover lets out a squeak in protest.
“Tell me more.”
Fresh tears steamed down her cheeks, taking with them most of her mascara. She sucks back a fresh stream of mucus, hiccups.
“If it was yours, I would have kept it,” she says, defiant.
I put on the blinker, check the mirror, merge back onto the two-lane blacktop, which has faded into a sad, dingy gray.
We’re headed to her parent’s cabin. We’ve escaped the city, the clinic, with provisions, soothing music, warm clothing. I’ve shopped meticulously at the grocery, anticipating her every need; her every want.
My cheeks flush as I consider the folly.
She puts a wobbly hand on my bare forearm. Her hands are dry, hot.
The leather steering wheel cover lets out a squeak.
Back up six weeks.
“I’m late.”
Two of the worst words that can be paired in the English language.
But I love(d) her and professed support, a passionate marriage proposal, hopes for a future together. I’d not been scared, pissed. Joy vibrated in my heart.
She’s 28; I’m 48.
The pavement rumbled. The silence between us did as well.
I inhale deeply at the turnoff onto gravel.
“Whose is it?”
She’s resting her head on the cool glass; there’s been a reprieve in tears, nasal buildup. She hiccups again, as breaths gather in her chest. A fresh stream turns on, hot.
“Doesn’t matter now, does it?”
I stop a bit short, send gravel tinkling into the wheel wells.
She’s opened the door and rushes the plank door before I can turn the key in the ignition and kill the engine.
The steering wheel protests against my kung-fu death grip.
Lights slowly come on in the cabin. Smoke begins to billow from the cobble-and-concrete chimney.
With her door open, a chill fills the car. I’ve lost all cabin pressure. Decompression. It’s just as well.
Deep breaths. Several in sequence.
I toss the door open, stand, stretch. Look toward the softly lit windows.
More deep breaths.
I gather the bags, the carefully selected groceries. I finger the CD mixtape I’ve made for the occasion, which I’ve hidden in hip pocket of my sport coat.
My hand rests on a the wrought iron door handle.
I toss the door open.
She’s wrapped in a quilt that from the doorway smells slightly musty, but in a good way. There’s a hint of pine and wood smoke in the air, too.
“Are you hungry?”
She nests a little deeper in the quilt, shakes her head ever so slightly in the negative.
“Tell me when your ready…for anything,” I say, fighting back tears of my own.

OneWord, Mailbox

A tough one over at OneWord. It's mailbox. Sixty seconds and go:

Biggs was setting up for the next wave of controlled riots. Central was ready to release the month's food ration chits, and they were going to be reduced by 33 percent. People were going to take to the streets.
Windows were hung, vehicles rolled out over fire suppression stations. he'd scattered the last of the bricks when he passed the mailbox. That big, old, a hunching piece of metal.
It never ceased to amaze him that it was here. You couldn't dent it, damage it. What good was it, in this controlled riot zone?

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are bleak, hiccup and queer.

Time Machine

I return from the university to find my parents have converted my room into a massive time machine.
Orange power cords run everywhere, to every wall socket and snake down the hallway and disappear down the steps.
Two gunmetal gray pods sit in the center of the room and from inside each, greenish lights pulsate like a living, breathing thing. Everything hums with an eerie, metallic tone.
My furniture has been pushed haphazard against walls and I notice they’ve managed to tear nearly in half my vintage Betty Page poster.
I’m incensed.
I stomp down to the kitchen to protest and discover my parents huddled over rolls of blueprints and schematics.
Dad’s clumsily writing a column of numbers down a legal pad, checking them against a slide rule. Mother has my father’s rough and hairy hands resting on his shoulders.
He’s dressed in mother’s favorite floral sundress, tufts of chest hair sprouting from the swell of my mother’s buxom bosom. Mother’s dressed in a black wool pants, dad’s Oxford shirt (tie loosened at the neck like he likes it) and every so often, she glides his nervous hand across her face, smoothing his bushy mustache under her delicate, upturned nose.
And I notice why he’s having such a hard time writing. His hands are slight, graceful and boney – their my mother’s – and he’s gripping a mechanical pencil in her French-manicured fingers. He’s trying to scrawl with his left, mother’s dominate hand. He’s a righty.
The queerness of the scene leaves me lightheaded, nauseous.
“What in the living hell?” I manage to squeak in protest.
They both look up, startled, and seem a bit guilty.
“There have been hiccups, no doubt about it,” she says, in dad’s rich baritone. “But it’s always bleakest before the dawn, dear. We’re working through all the transmogrifications.”

OneWord, Pine

The word prompt over at OneWord is “pine.”
What can you say in 60 seconds?

The smell of fresh pine did nothing for her.
The metal blade of the shovel kept scratching at the frozen soil and every time she hit a rock, it made a screech that made her grind her teeth.
How dare he bring her all the way up here? Into the woods, for chrissakes?
“Cozy little getaway, my ass,” she thought, as another meager shovelful of earth joined the growing pile.
It wasn’t her fault that he’d had a heart attack and keeled over.
And no, she wasn’t about to go down with this sinking ship.

Monday's Fiction in 58

It’s Monday, I’m off work and need to run errands. Time for a Fiction in 58.

He thinks in stereo. That’s what he says.
It stops her cold, he’d bet on that.
He’s badly outmatched.
“Wait, what?”
“Twenty four tracks, all going at the same time.”
“That still doesn’t excuse leaving the baby in a sinkfull of tepid water.”
“It’s not like she died or anything,” and cringes as the words come tumbling out.

A Saturday burst of fiction

And it came out all tender and sweet. Huh.

Her wish was that their daughter be introduced to music. She’d told him her hope, her desire, clutching his hands tight as the cancer coursed through her body.
Their daughter had reached an age that seemed appropriate. He readied her for the music fair at school, told her she could pick any instrument she felt a connection. It was an indulgence, but his wife would have wanted it that way.
The hope was she’d pick the violin, or maybe the flute.
At worst, she’d find her muse in the clarinet, or the oboe, which he knew nothing about and always thought looked vaguely vulgar.
She walked by various teachers, being courteous to their questions, stopping once and again to touch brass, wood. She lingered for a time with the cellist, and he worried that the heft of the instrument would be too much so soon.
But she smiled and skipped away into where the percussionists were gathered. He froze, imagined the thumping headaches he’d suffer through those practices. She breezed through percussion and stopped. He watched as she clutched her tiny hands to her chest and nodded.
She stared at the harp, its massiveness relegated to a corner of the gym where there was little foot traffic.
The harpist let her run her fingers across the strings, talked about the grace of such a large and intimidating instrument.
He scratched at his hairline and wondered about finances, transportation, storage. She looked at him with puppy eyes and a thin, pleading smile.
“Honey, are you sure?”
“Oh, but daddy, yes,” she said. “I can make music for angels.”


Unlike the past, the future held choices. Bright opportunities. He could choose which path to take, it would be his decision to move forward, not simply to leap from another sinking ship.
Yet there was a comfort in his situation, a dullness that had weight. He could choose to wrap up with it, deal with the things he didn’t like and move in growing, silent desperation.
One path was the scariest, filled with the most risk. A big place where people often went to seek fortune and fame. He lusted for the bright lights, but feared that his talent would only carry so.
Another was less risk, a return to a life he understood. A reconnection with the natural world in a place that had gone missing on the prairie.
The options – oh, there would be others – didn’t freeze him. He calculated what could be done, and when. He made plans, considered all the options.
He bid time, which he had.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The prompt words over at Three Word Wednesday are grave, lithe and offend.

Meat Locker
Smoke hangs over her head, gray storm clouds building each time she exhales a lungful of air.
Despite the baggy clothing, she’s lithe, slick, boyish. She hides her angles to them to heighten the allure. She powders her face, applies a little rouge, re-applies black lipstick. She hates her lips, their thinness, and makes a face.
She runs a quick hand though her dark hair, which a friend has cut short. A precaution out here, when you have to run, there’s nothing to grab onto. Same goes for her clothing; the volume allows for a quick egress when trouble finds her.
She’s trolling tonight. The other ladies, all dressed to flash like neon, hurl insults in hopes of driving her away. She is not offended.
She owns this block.
The men come to admire the tarts, ogle the flesh, but fall for her androgyny.
She’s careful, this one, and she hunts quickly.
The trick is old, she likes them mature, and follows as she walks into the dimness of the alley.
She’s chosen this particular block for its proximity to the warehouse district. She tells them it’s more fun in a warehouse, the echoes amplifing her desires.
She opens the door and for a brief instant, a hint of decay. Old blood spilled, haplessly cleaned.
She unbuckles his pants, yanks them to his knees. She’s rough about it, and moves his jacket down his arms. His hands disappear just as he reaches for her.
And in that moment, he’s vulnerable.
She flicks the straight razor open, drags it across his throat. She’s strong, this one, and the razor bites deep. His eyes go wide as he drops to his knees.
She stands clear of the spray, forcing herself to keep eye contact. It’s important they know who did this, who ended them.
He falls into a heap, the last nerves firing into jerky twitches.
She grabs his greasy hair and drags him to a locked metal door. She’s quick with the key and opens the meat locker.
Her chilly grave for the bastards who cut up her mother.

OneWord - Enhance

The prompt word at OneWord was “enhance.” Creative writing in 60 seconds.

She was bandaged head-to-toe in gauzy white, the recent recipient of a comprehensive makeover. This wasn’t some check-under-the-hood, kick the tires kind of enhancement. This was the real-deal.
She was eager to see the results, so when the techs weren’t looking, she pulled back the bandages on her arm and gazed at slick, green scales.
And she tried to scream.

Monday's Fiction in 58

She works retail, which isn’t so bad, she thinks. The staccato hours cut into time with friends and the manager’s a real jerk, but there’s a paycheck every two weeks and a decent discount on clothing. Folding overpriced T-shirts wasn’t as lofty as her childhood goals, princess or ballerina, but it beat the alternative: Hooters waitress or stripper.

Sunday Scribblings, Weird

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is weird.


You could tell it was alive from the various noises that emanated from it: a burst of belches, an occasional snore, wet and ominous farts and the ragged intake and expelling of breath.
You could surmise that it might be female, since a huge swell of what only could be breasts rose and fell with each mouthful of air.
It was dressed head-to-toe in filthy layers of cotton clothing, topped off with a mink coat that suffered from mange. On its feet were miss-matched boots, one a woman’s slip-on boot in leather and fringed with sheepskin, the other an ancient Doc Martin 8-eye combat boot, the black scuffed and worn into natty gray.
It sat on a bench near the vending machines, on a popular stop on the A Line.
And this being Gotham, natives were content to ignore the lump and blissfully go about their day without a care.
It was the tourists, especially those drawn to the bright lights of the big city from rural confines that it hunted.
He stumbled down to the platform, studying a subway map in one hand and clutching a unlimited rail card in the other.
The slap of leather on the concrete steps perked up its auxiliary antennae.
He wore a I (HEART) Gotham T-shirt over a short-sleeved light blue oxford shirt completed with a clumsy knotted maroon tie.
He shuffled the camera around his neck - a film camera no less – slung it to the small of his back and stuffed the subway map into the back of his Sansabelt slacks. He fumbled with his change, bending toward the soda machine to gauge his choices.
“Spare your change?” it said, thrusting a knit-mitten covered appendage forward and jingled loose change in a blue-and-white paper coffee cup.
He sighed, pocketed enough for his drink and stepped forward to drop the rest into the cup.
Its great jaws unlocked and in an instant, tentacles shot from the bulk and wrapped themselves around his wrists, ankles. It was so quick, he’d not had time to scream, as his scuffed penny loafers slipped down its gullet.
A wet gurgle rumbled from the lump, which began to squirm and shake.
And under the mink, a damp I (HEART) Gotham shirt appeared, along with a moist pair of khaki Sansabelts, tied at its waist with a maroon necktie, flecked with gold fleur-de-lis.

OneWord - Pedal

Here's a OneWord response to the prompt, "pedal." It's fiction, in 60 seconds.

She pushed the pedal with a the flat part of her very stylist heel, felt the sports car respond like a thoroughbred under her legs. The increased vibration was a turn-on too, she could feel the power in her loins, in the swell of her breasts.
She smiled a sly smile and licked her lips. She pushed down even further on the pedal.
The engine responded, and the increased noise of doing 120 mph finally drown out the muffled protests of her would-be suitor, coming from the very tiny trunk.

From the archive

This is one of the earliest flash fiction pieces I penned during a rebirth into the medium. It needed to be dug out, dusted off, for you fine folks.

Icicle views
Icicles hang like glass from frozen gutters.
Snow blankets things like the mower, the good summer Adirondacks. Frozen in time. A time ago.
This is my view, from the kitchen window.
Where I am frozen, too.
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.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are fondle, kick and sumptuous.


I wake from a strange and unsettling dream to discover I have breasts.
Sumptuous, womanly breasts. It’s my pale skin alright, but rising from my narrow chest are two perfectly round, perfectly beautiful titties. Firm, perky with dark aureoles and nipples like pencil erasers.
Slowly, I run a tentative hand across the nipples, then employ both hands to cup my new jahoobies. The curve of the flesh is a revelation. These knockers have heft and their warmth feels wonderful in my hands.
And thus I find no self-control; I can’t stop fondling myself.
Mother calls up the stairs and breaks my concentration.
I pull on a bulky hoody to hide my new boobs, squeezing my fleshly funbags a few more times for good measure, and rumble down the stairs.
At the breakfast table, mother wears a horrified mask of disgust. Dad has been blessed with endowments of his own, and he’s got his hooters sticking out of his unbuttoned work shirt.
“Ain’t this a kick?” dad says, running his calloused hands over the creamy white skin of his own wondrous rack.

OneWord - Fold

OneWord is a prompt that asks, "what can you do with one word - and 60 seconds?"
Good question. The word? "Fold."

If this was poker, he would have folded long ago. But as it was, she'd called his bluff. It was either go big, or go home. So he went all-in.
"I love you too," he said.
It pleased her to no end.
Still, he kept his cards close to his chest.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Time for a Fiction in 58, an exercise in brevity.

Growing Old

He feels it in every creaky joint, the pains that radiate up his spine – the sins of his past. He limps into the bath, urinates while reaching for a bottle of pills. Both are a response to growing old. He doesn’t turn on the light. He’s fearful of the reflection, the old man that’s replaced his vigor.

Sunday Scribblings - Game

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “game.”

The Game
Counting to 5,000 is a little excessive, he thinks.
He’s blindfolded with one of her bras, a black number that makes her breasts rise and shine. He also has one hand tied behind his back – his left hand, since he told her once that he masterbated with the right – and he sits naked in a comfy chair, counting to 5,000.
(Using his right fist to its full advantage.)
Of course, she spends the first 1,000 counts teasing with her nipples on his warm flesh, teasing him so much that when his erection begins to twitch, she moves there and teases him some more with a strand of pearls, rolling them around the base of his member and then wrapping the whole strand on his pole and walks away without so much as a whisper.
“Four thousand nine-hundred and ninety eight, 4,999, 5,000, ready or not here I come,” he shouts as he releases himself from the grip of his fist and pushes the bra cups up onto his forehead.
She’s not on the couch, in front of a crackling fire.
She’s not waiting in a warm bath in the ancient claw-foot tub she’d insisted on (and remains grateful she did).
She’s not on their bed, which is caressed in satin sheets and sprinkled with rose petals.
There’s a glow coming from the spare bedroom, a flickering of candles. He pushes the door open with a noisy flourish and is amazed at the mass of tiny flames that illuminate the room.
She lays naked on rumpled sheets, one arm tossed across her eyes. She works her other hand in the dark patch of hair between her legs. The candlelight catches the slick sheen of sweat that covers her body.
On her taut belly is a black-and-white picture.
An ultrasound. He stares and slowly, a realization crosses his crinkled brow. There, in the fuzzy triangle, is the unmistakable Sea Monkey squiggle of new life.
His erection begins to waver, deflate.
She peeks from beneath the crook of her arm and quickly, with damp fingers, grabs him a little rough by the manhood and pulls him toward her.
“Hold on there, cowboy,” she says in a hoarse whisper. “Nothing changes.”
He clears his throat to speak and she cuts him off, using her fingers to excite him in a way that drives him wild.
“OK,” she says, “nothing changes for the next several months.”


We’re dismantling the house my parents built in 1962.
We’re plucking it of stuff.
We’re stripping memories.
For me, it’s small stuff. Mom’s electric typewriter, her rocking chair. Bakeware, her recipe box. Old pictures of my dad, books he and I shared, a wallet caddy, a medallion. Two pieces of their wedding crystal, part of their Department 56 Christmas village.
We’ve laughed, cried.
It’s been good.
It’s been bittersweet.
Another step.


What are you doing here? Go spend time with family and friends. It's that kinda day.

But here's a Thanksgiving prayer from Johnny Cash:

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are give, obvious and thanks.


I go down to dinner, expecting to suffer through another meal where my parents mine me for information about my day while they ignore one another.
Instead, I hear laughter and a low chattering.
Around the table are six children, a bit younger than I, piling their plates high with one of mom’s overblown feasts.
Each has a different skin color than our own and each jabbers in a language I don’t understand.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“We’re celebrating,” dad says, pretending to walk turkey legs across the table and onto a plate of a little dark-skinned girl with a red dot between her eyebrows and a boy with black hair and pale skin that’s kinda yellow.
I sit and the boy next to me tugs on my shirtsleeve. His hair is a tight weave of curls and his skin the color of dark roast coffee. His smile is a picket fence of teeth, mostly missing. He’s trying to pass me a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes.
I roll my eyes and get up to leave.
My mother walks behind me and puts her hands on my shoulders.
“I think it’s obvious that he wants you to join us and give thanks,” she says, pressing gently. “You could at least try and be civil.”
The boy laughs and hands me the potatoes, from which I plop a mound and make a reservoir with the spoon, to hold mom’s gravy, which is in the hands of a brown-skinned girl, her dark hair woven into pigtails.

OneWord - Spotlight

The prompt word over at OneWord is "spotlight."

He felt like he was under a spotlight, the brightness making pinpoints of his irises, raising beads of sweat across his forehead, down the middle of his his back. The questioners were back there, watching, waiting for the tiniest slip. He felt like he would crack, but wouldn’t show it.
This was, after all, his first Thanksgiving with her. And she’d warned him about the harshness of the cross-examination from the family.
His payback, he knew, lay in her childhood princess bed later that evening.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Fiction in 58 is something I came up with to test ways to write tight, but write smart. With description. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes it fails. Still, it's a good exercise.


“There’s a certain risk, I think, to live fearlessly,” she says
Mosquitoes awaken from the cooling grass, buzz overhead; tequila shots warm in the sun, which sets slowly, blazing a last colorful trail.
“There’s a certain risk to living, period,” he says.
“Yeah, but fearlessly. For yourself. Unburdened and alive.”
He slides his sunglasses down and in that moment, wishes.

Sunday Scribblings - Beauty

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “beauty.”

Skin Deep
The package comes to the house via a guy in a brown shirt and short brown pants, driving a big brick of a truck the color of dog shit.
Mother jumps from her knitting when the man in dung hits the porch, waving at us to stay where we are as she takes care of the delivery. Father’s right eyebrow cocks into a quizzical arch over the book he’s reading.
Mother skips into the dining room with a box the size of a footstool. She goes to the kitchen for a knife and carefully slices the packing tape and bends back the cardboard flaps.
Inside, there’s a heavy Styrofoam container. She carefully pries off the lid and it’s accompanied by a hiss and a cloud of frost.
“What you got there, Hon?” father asks.
“Beauty,” she says, nearly breathless, as one hand sifts through the box, the other holds an itemized packing list.
Father and I join her around the table and peer into the box. It’s stuffed with sealed plastic packages, lightly coated lightly with ice crystals from a layer of dry ice in the lid.
Sculpted ears, an upturned nose, full, pouty lips, layers upon layers of wrinkle-free, tanned skin, some of it touched by a smattering of freckles.
“Hon, it’s what’s inside that counts,” father says, poking the end of his pipe through the packs of flesh and parts. “This stuff can all go back to the factory.”
His eyes go wide and he pauses. He puts the pipe bit in his mouth and digs out a package from near the bottom of the box.
It’s a pair of the most spectacular breasts I’ve ever seen, large, pert and perky, tanned with perfectly round, pointy nipples the color of pale rose petals.
“These are spectacular,” he says, nearly breathless. “It would be a shame not to at least try them on.”

OneWord - Overflowing

The word over at OneWord is "overflowing."

The sink was overflowing, a cascade of water across the lip of the counter and onto the floor. She stood there, apron getting drenched, with her hands clenched into fists, which she pressed to her chest. Tears cascaded down her face as well, dripping onto those clenched hands that had turned white with pressure.
He watched from the table, making circles with his index fingers. He opened his mouth, fumbled for the words.
“Pink is positive, right?”


The frustrations grip and pitch like a vise. The pressure builds and there’s a…void. It’s odd, this space. There’s force, you feel it, but it’s like you’re doomed to not care.
And you muddle through. Screw a smile on your face and play nice with others.
Still, pressure flairs ignite every so often, and you let people see a little glimpse of the angst.
There is no moving forward without sorting out the past.
There’s concern from friends, who tell you to give it more time, things will change. But you’ve been waiting for a good time already and slow and steady has lost its luster. So you think about a tumultuous and colossal shakeup that just might do the trick. Hit the big, red reset button.
But you look around at the responsibilities and remember that you’re tied to things. The creep of accountability squeezes the life out of daydreams, plots, plans.
You finger the packets in your hand, in line at the Post Office and wonder if you’re trading one situation for another. Where there’s still the current situation to explore, you’re told.
And it all circles back to frustration. And it mounts. And the heart grows ever so colder.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are accident. Loyal and obscene


It was a game she liked to play, all the while they dated. He loathed it, but considered himself a good sport for playing along.
She’d name a calamity, a series of jarring events where she’d be maimed, burned, brutalized or irrevocably broken, and asked, “Would you still love me?”
“Feed me and scoop food off my chin?”
“Take me to the bathroom and wipe me after going to the bathroom?”
“All of it, yes. I love you.”
Two months into their nuptials, he’d been clipped by a drunk driver. The impact severed his spine at the T12 vertebra, rendering his legs, his bowels, his cock, useless. Months of therapy.
All to learn how to live in a chair with wheels.
He decided to make the best of it, All of it. The pitiful looks of sorrow. Dealing with the bag hidden in his pant leg where his piss collected. Feeling arousal, but staring at his flaccid member.
And in that time of recovery, he needed help to eat, to bathe, to take a crap for chrissakes.
She was loyal for almost a month. And then she fled, saying she just didn’t have it in her to take care of a cripple.
A year after their divorce, she’d run into him at the grocery, exiting a Cadillac Escalade and into a custom wheelchair he helped design.
“Looks like you’re doing well for yourself,” she said, shyly.
He smiled. Remembered the game she played. And it emboldened him.
“Funny, but I got an obscene amount of cash in the settlement,” he said. “I’m semi-retired now.”
She fumbled for something to say as his girlfriend rounded the mass of expensive vehicle and jumped into his lap.
“Hey, stud, looks like you need to pee,” she said, patting his chest.
He looked at his ex and winked.

Some words for a Tuesday

He hooks his fingers through the hurricane fencing, rests his head against the cold metal. The crush of the crowd keeps him warm, even though it’s cold enough to turn breath to vapor.
They’ve come to watch the soldiers march down Main Street, mustered in neat, orderly rows. Each individual boot-step creates a chorus with the rest, and it is a chant of death.
Past burnt-out cars and piles of smoking tires, they march.
The crowd does nothing to stop them.
His fingers go white, he’s gripping so tight. The mob has been neutered into submission.
Slowly, deliberately, he begins to rock his fists, sending waves of chain-linked metal to compete with the crush of footfalls.
“Liberty!” he cries, as the mass of sheep move to separate itself from the spectacle.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Life in Real Time
Her Cheshire Cat grin made him weary,wary.
In equal proportions.
She blew on her coffee through that smile, eyebrows raised into twin furry peaks.
He cocked his head and sighed.
“I’ve got it.”
“The solution to all your problems.”
“Hallelujah. You going to let me in on it?”
“When you promise to stop being so poopy.”

Sunday Scribblings - Oracle

The prompt at Sunday Scribblings is “oracle.”


There’s a peak out west of town, slightly forested with an odd outcropping of rocks near the top. It’s the highest point in the county.
There’s a trail to the top, but it’s mostly overgrown with disuse. The kids would rather play with video games, text their friends, than break a sweat.
But a glint coming from the top, like a piece of glass tilted toward the sun, has grabbed my attention. I cross a field, jump the creek and begin to pick my way up the trail. The going is tough and sweat begins to make the trek uncomfortable. But the flash hasn’t stopped and that alone is reason to keep going.
There’s a slight climb on sharp rocks to reach the pinnacle and as I pull myself up, I see what’s been making the twinkling.
There’s an ancient dude with a long gray beard wearing what looks to be a diaper. But it’s the color of orange sherbet.
He wears low hat of red velvet with crystals sewn into the brim and I realize that each crystal has been sending flashes across the countryside. He sits with his legs crossed, his hands pressed together at his chest.
“Ah, David, I have been waiting for you to visit,” he says. “And I look forward to our discussion.”
I fall to my knees, dizzy with the questions that swirl in my skull.

OneWord - Acting

If she thought about it, closing her eyes, but not squeezing so as to muss up her makeup, it was acting. There was a director, sound guy and a script. Granted, it was two pages scribbled on yellow legal pad, but still. They called, saying they were ready for her. The heat was up, so that was good. She opened her eyes, walked a few steps and dropped the robe, careful not to get the fuck-me pumps caught in the terrycloth.


She asks if it’s complacency that keeps you grounded in this place.
More like fiscal conservation, you say.
“Bullshit. Are you afraid of change?”
Not afraid.
Life-altering events need time for reflection.
Sure looks like complacency, or the surface.
The ability to shake things up vs. the desire to be smart about such quick moves is what grounds you. Even while the boredom grows and work has lost its luster due to things completely outside your control. You're not happy.
And you are free to go.
Now of course, you’re set up to pay for such adventures as the heart sees fit.
It’s the gut, however, that holds the checkbook.
So you wait, plot.
And look complacent.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are errant, hanker and murky. Something in the way of social commentary.

I am the shadow that crosses your mirror when you start to look away; I am the smoke, the errant vapor, which disappears when you turn your head slightly on murky street corners.
I am doubt, indecision. I feed on your fears, mistrust. And I hanker for more.
These days, it’s a banquet, a smorgasbord out there. So much fruit of the vine, the work of human frailty, that I am nearly stuffed.
See, a glutton’s work is never quite done – and you’ve all driven yourselves to a sweet ripeness that cannot be denied.

OneWord - Headband

Early morning meeting, so there’s time for a OneWord. And that word is…Headband? Ooffah.

She thought she looked swell in her headband, just like Olivia Newton-John in that video for “Let’s Get Physical.” It was the right color to set off her eyes, even if she might sweat, or even go flush and rosy with exertion. And it so matched her tights and the leggings she ordered online. It was all part of a makeover she’d never asked for. Part of an awakening that happens in a 20-year marriage. When the bastard makes eyes for his much younger secretary.
“I’ll show him,” she says.

Monday's Fiction in 58

It’s Monday, time for a Fiction in 58.

Scene of the Crime
When their conversation grew tense, she tossed a glass of wine at him and ducking, they watched the burgundy stain spread across the carpet. For a time, they simply stepped around it, blissfully ignorant. Until one day, he took tape and masked it off like a crime scene.
“Why would you do that?” she asked.
“Clarity,” he said.

Sunday Scribblings - Interview

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “interview.” I blame the three hours I had in the car, crossing the Midwest, for this.


After 20 years with the same firm, I’m let go from my job as a CPA – a “downsizing of staff due to these tough economic times.”
More likely, it’s a cost savings for greedy partners; they immediately promote my underling, for a lot less. The senior partner doesn’t have the balls to look me in the eye, as I make my way to the elevators with a copy paper box full of my shit.
Six months into unemployment, and I’m forced to take whatever jobs I can find. Food service nightmares, temp jobs filing and answering telephones, even a short-lived stint as a night desk person at a motel that’s begun to sink into seediness. Anything to pay the bills. Anything to get by.
I’m at the pub, watching a stack of crinkled dollar bills dwindle into a booze-fueled stupor. A client from the firm notices me across the bar, waves and slides up beside me, and signals the bartender for a round on him.
Looks like the recession is treating him well. Tailored summer wool suit, buttery leather shoes that looked like they saw a shine man once a week.
We make small talk, I tell him the unpleasantness of my firing. He shakes his head, truly concerned.
“Looks like you could use a break.”
And slides a cream-colored business card with block Gothic lettering toward my fist, the one wrapped tightly around the highball glass.
“Good firm, plenty of work for a numbers pro like you,” he says as he stands to leave. “Just keep an open mind, huh? I’ll let them know you’re sending a resume.”
A week later and I’m called in for an interview. The offices are in Chelsea, in what looks like an abandoned warehouse. The entrance is down a flight of trash-strewn concrete steps, the old iron handrails a thick coating of glossy black paint that I'm almost afraid to touch.
The reception area, however, is well-appointed. A little dark for my taste, and everything seems to be covered in black leather, with chrome accents.
“Mr. Jenkins will see you now,” the receptionist tells me through pouty lips painted purple, like a bruise, and leads me to a conference room that’s filled with various hard points and pulley systems on the walls and ceiling. The table is modern, made of industrial-grade stainless steel.
As I take a seat in a high-backed black leather chair, in walks who I assume is Mr. Jenkins. The dude’s dressed head-to-toe in leathers, including a full head mask with chrome zippers across the eyes, mouth, ears. He shakes my hand and as he passes, I notice that his pants are actually assless chaps, which frames the white flesh of Jenkins’ flabby butt.
As he sits, he unzips the heavy zipper across his mouth, releasing a monstrous pink tongue that greedily wets thin lips.
“Thank you for coming down on such short notice,” he says, as he offers me a selection of pastries on a silver platter. “Care for an espresso?”
I decline the pastries, but accept a coffee, which the receptionist brings to me and winks as she sets it before me. I notice she’s got a tear tattooed in the corner of her right eye. Her fingernails, also painted purple, are filed to talon-like points.
Non-pulsed, I sip my espresso as Jenkins goes over my resume, talks about their client roster, needs and such.
I nod, smile confidently as I answer his line of questioning. We reach that awkward moment in the talks when everything has been covered and he coughs lightly into a closed fist.
“Well, so barring a mandatory drug test, there’s just one more thing we have to know before I can make an offer,” he says. “We simply must know your thoughts on spanking.”
I adjust my tie for effect, crack my neck bones.
“If there’s a steady paycheck in it,” I say, downing the last bit of cooled coffee, “I’d slap your grandmother’s weathered cheeks to a rosy red glow.”
“Outstanding,” he says, and offers me a studded-leather clad hand.

OneWord - Oven

Ouch. Tough word. You wait to click, then a word pops up. Sixty seconds to write something. That's the prompt over at OneWord. Here goes nothing...

Her desire fired like an oven, a box of heat she wore without shame. Flipping her hair and crossing and uncrossing her legs, she craved the attentions of the boys that dared look at her undulations and teases. She’d dip a finger into her wine, trace her lips with it. When her lover returned with the check, the boys faces fell. Her lover noticed, smiled a sly smile, and wagged a playful finger at her…

Tweet fiction (or nano-fiction)

I resisted Twitter for years.
In the end, it was work that asked that I Tweet during an assignment. Once everything was set up, it was a logical step to continue that into daily life (you can follow me at @tgabrukieiwcz)
Sure, there are more than a few people who tweet the mundane of their lives. But there's really some great ideas out there:
And great writers. Yes, people taking 140 characters to the limit. Telling stories in just 140 characters. Certainly, an inspiration:
Anyway, Peggy has inspired me to post one tweet fiction a day on Twitter, as well as keep up with the work here on The Tension.
Today's nano-fiction:

He sat in a sunny place, squinting. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Crows feet. I'm making crows feet." "Why?" "On men, they're so sexy."

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are karma, obey and wither.

On the corner near my building, there’s a street musician playing a mournful tune on a battered violin. The case is open at his feet, a catch-basin for a little change and a whole lot of folding cash.
A cardboard sign hangs around his neck with rough twine. On it, written in a child’s hand, is “wither.”
Tears stream down the man’s weathered face as he plays.
It’s a busy corner, near a subway entrance and the neighborhood market. People uncomfortable with the man’s tears obey the music, the sign, and drop their crumpled money without making eye contact and hurry on.
Many stop and are moved by the haunting tune he plays. They too, feel the swell in their hearts, find their eyes going wet. Absently, they take out $5s, $10, $20s and place the cash in the red-velvet-lined case with a quiet devotion.
The man stops and the spell is broken.
People return to their busy ways in the evening rush, bumping shoulders, avoiding eye contact, stare at the uneven concrete.
The man scoops up the cash, smoothes out the crumpled bills on the bow, places neat stacks into a zippered bank bag that’s fat with donations.
I go to him, curious how one street musician who wasn’t particularly good, could make that kind of scratch.
He feels my presence, and anticipates the question.
“It’s a matter of karma,” he says. “Some people feel obligated to contribute out of a sense of forgiveness. Others, out of a sense of guilt.
“But in the end people give to cleanse their withered souls. The sign’s just good marketing.”
He smiles as I hand him a crisp $20 from my wallet.

Tuesday's Carry On Tuesday

The prompt over at Carry On Tuesday is the title of Sarah McLachlan’s song “In the Arms of an Angel.” The idea for Carry on Tuesday it to write something containing the exact phrase. Could be the opening of a famous book, a song title, or lines of a poem.

Sixteen and alone, he thought the streets offered the best escape from the beatingsand the hassles at home.
He’d learned more in two weeks then he ever did at school:
*It you ball up newspaper before stuffing it down your pants and between layers of grimy shirts, it insulates better.
*Avoid large groups of homeless men who are gathered with nothing to do – and have been medicating their plight with alcohol.
*People increase their handouts if your fingernails are clean – and you don’t smell like urine.
*Smell always dictates whether the food in the dumpster is OK to eat.
*Plastic between layers of corrugated cardboard will keep the concrete’s chill from your bones.
*A box of condoms and a smile in the financial district always is good for a quick $10.
But there are gaps in education, even on the streets.
He tore a hole in leg scrambling over a chain-link fence to avoid an overly excited rent-a-cop. The puncture wound never bled very much. But the damage was done.
He tried to curl up as tight as possible under a bridge abutment, nearly delirious from the chills, the sepsis in his blood too advanced.
And at the end, he found solace, a sense of peace, in the arms of an angel.


Time shifts and through the windows bleeds the first light of the day across a trio of windows. Oranges first, then gold, reds.
It’s a beautiful site, but it does little good to lift the spirits. The angst seems to be deepening, the confusion, the anger, the wishing to know what’s next.
The light signals the start of another day.
Just another day.
He knows there’s no timeline for any of this, but sooner would be better than later. He lets it all wash over him, through him, to see if there’s direction in the sadness. And there is not.
Just a waiting.
A wanting.

Sunday Scribblings, Adventure

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “adventure.”

I go down to breakfast to find my parents dressed as pirates. The smell of rum and grilled meat hangs heavy in the air.
“Little early for Halloween, isn’t it,” I say. “And I know it’s much to early for Miller Time.”
“Arrrgghhhhh,” dad says, raising a pewter mug to his lips.
“Hold yer tongue, laddy,” mother says, crossing her throat menacingly with a jewel-encrusted dagger. “Our you’ll be feeling yer mother’s wrath.”
I shrug and fill a bowl with cereal. Crowding the milk in the fridge are all sorts of provisions – dried beef, citrus fruits, a cask of lard. Near the back door are sacks of flour and sugar, as well as several barrels labeled rum.
“Going somewhere?”
“Arrrrgggghhhh,” dad says as his head makes a meaty thud as he passes out.
“We be fixin’ to put to sea, just as soon as thee breakfast dishes be done,” mother says. “The high seas be callin’ to us.”
“Well, isn’t that going to be a little tough?” I ask. “Considering we live Kansas?”
“Aye, we be takin’ the minivan.”
I look out the window to the drive and see that my mother’s Chrysler Caravan as been outfitted with a deck, sails and replacing the emblem on the hood is now a scantily-clad woman carved out of oak.
“Count me out,” I say. “Way out.”
“Ye have no sense of adventure,” mother says. “And to think, you be a work of me own loins.”

OneWond - Arrow

OneWord is a writer's prompt that relies on speed, agility and the ability to tell a story in 60 seconds. Today's word is "arrow."

It took but one sling from her arrow, a glancing look and the hint of a smile, to enthrall all his senses. She was an archer with an affinity for hearts of young boys who knew no better. And she'd been a huntress for years and years now. She loved to watch their faces melt after being struck, seeing her child in the car seat.

OneWord - Shoes

OneWord is an exercise in swiftness. Sixty seconds and one word to write about. That word today? Shoes.

The man stood there, collar up against the cold, and stabbed the worn tip of his black lace-ups against the concrete. He probably didn't have the money for it, you could see the wheels turning, but those shoes needed some TLC.
"I'll take good care of you. Let me at them shoes, and you'll be seeing your face every time you look down."
He climbed into the chair and I went to work.
"I've got a job interview," he said, absently.
"There's a special rate for that," I said, knowing that this was one of those no-tip opportunities.
Just doing my part for the economy.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are incubate, nightmare and vanity.

Buddy of mine has a nice little cottage industry going.
He’s a nightmare miner.
And in these troubling times, he’s got more work than one man can handle.
So I go to work for him, part time.
He’s pretty anal about the boost. He wants the fear to incubate, bubble on the stove, so to speak. He likes to mine the feed at the crescendo of dread, as people wrestle with their personal demons, thrashing as they do in the gloom with a light sheen of sweat in twisted sheets.
I don’t mind jumping the feed, watching along as people’s shit gets weirder by the second.
Used to be, when my dad was a kid, a buzz meant beer and some weed. We’re way past that these days.
We sell the nightmares to kids looking for an adrenal thrill. They’ll take a hit of neurotrin and boost our ill-gotten feeds from their handhelds.
A good, terror-filled feed is worth a shitload of credits.
He discovered this early, like right when we all switched to state-run wireless, that the wall units were amplifying people’s emotions as they went about their pointless lives in concrete-boxed housing. All those units, all those feeds, it was just a matter of time before someone wrote a program to jump the feedback.
And you’d think that joyous, happy feelings would be a good seller. Pure bullshit. No spikes from the pineal gland, which is just too small and under-developed in us humans.
No, there’s nothing like when some dumbass takes a load of neuro-exciters and watches someone else’s nightmare while their adrenal gland pumps dose after dose of adrenaline into their bloodstream.
Or so I’ve heard. I’m not that stupid.
I’m in it for just one thing.
Jump a feed early, create a new stream and you can dump a double whammy back on the person. You’ll create what I can only describe as cascading terror, a waterfall of darkness that’s just pure hell on the recipient.
So far, I’ve gotten three people to swallow their tongues. Cops can’t figure it out.
And it’s not like I’m fucking up a good thing, either. Some people’s nightmares are so pedestrian. Yeah, I’ll say it. Some people are as fucking boring in their made up worlds as they are in real life.
And I’d been waiting for weeks on this one. A woman in my buddy’s office, you know the type. Flush with vanity, she never finds it necessary to talk to mere mortals like us. Bitch.
I’ve watched her feed for a couple of nights now. Her terrors?
Wrinkles, liver spots. Gray hair. Sheesh, people.
Oh, you bet I’ll be giving her a double shot of geriatric inputs.
Should be a hoot.

Tuesday's Carry on Tuesday

Carry on Tuesday is a fun writer’s prompt that takes a line from a novel or movie and asks that you include it in a story. This week, a line from Aliens:
“We'd better get back, ‘cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly.”

She checks the chunky mens’ watches she wears on both her skinny wrists, expensive chronograph models that charge with the sun. Amazingly, they’re still linked to the government’s atomic clock in Boulder – there’s a timepiece that took a licking and keeps on ticking - and each is correct to the millisecond.
“We'd better get back, ‘cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly
come at night... mostly.”
We’ve not nearly foraged enough for the evening. Too many mouths to feed, too many wounds to dress.
Too many who have the pathogen surging in their veins.
Not nearly enough bullets.
I pat her golden hair, streaked as it is with dirt and sweat.
“We’ll be OK.”
“No, we won’t,” she says, tapping the Casio on her right wrist.
Dusk is settling on the city and the fires are already being lit. Signal flares against the onslaught. A nightly battle that I’m sorry to say we’re losing.
Just not enough bullets.
And no cure.
I push the SUV past a speed that’s safe.
She senses my anxiety and puts a tiny hand on mine.
“It’s going to be OK.”
And taps both watches for affect.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Fiction in 58 is something I came up with years ago to write concise stories with less words.

He wears frustration like a cloak against the cold, balled fists under his chin as eyes stare into the broken concrete. He leans on a light post in the growing darkness, natural light swallowed whole by neon and fluorescents. He feels it. The key weighing heavy in his pocket.
Her key.
Waiting for his lover’s husband to leave.

Sunday Scribblings, "Shame"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “shame.”

“I read once that there's only one emotion that is just as powerful in recollection as it is on the spot. You know, when you remember an instance of being happy or sad, you don't re-experience the full happiness or sadness you were feeling then, but when you remember feeling shame, you have a physical reaction and it's just as powerful as when it was fresh. Crazy.
“So, write something about shame.”

The battlefield is eerily quiet. A mix of fog and smoke from smoldering spot blazes hovers over the broken, scarred earth. Nothing stirs, anymore not even the boys who just 15 minutes before lay bloodied and dying, calling for their mothers or their God.
He crawled from beneath a pile of death, uninjured. Hidden from view from the foxhole he dug the previous evening, and then refused to leave.
Ditching his weapon he stood weeping.
His shame a wet spot on his BDUs.

OneWord - Piano

Just time for a quick OneWord:

The teacher cracks his knuckles with a wooden ruler, and barks with a thick accent, "hand position. Again."
The result it the same. A sharp crack of the ruler across the child's small, white hands, a rash of red spreads across them both.
"Hand position. Again."
The child fights the urge for tears, lets the metronome take the pain away.
The master knew best.
And the pupil wanted so much from the dark, rich, seductiveness of the piano.

OneWord - Dial

OneWord is a writer's prompt that speaks to brevity. One word and 60 seconds to pen something.
The word of the day is "dial."

Her tears made stream tracks across the murk that covered her face, a mix of dirt, soot and God knows what else. She’d struggled against the ropes until they gave and stumbled through the cellar until she found the steps, an exit. The phone was a wall unit, avocado-green and rotary dial. The handset gave a hopeful tone.
Yet every number she rung from memory came back disconnected…

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are heartache, jangle and reckless. Sometimes, it’s fun to do some timed writing, just see what comes out. This was the result of 30 somewhat tortured minutes.

Plunging temperatures leave a coating of frost across the fields of my parent’s farm. It’s past midnight and the harvest moon still hangs brilliant in the sky and blots out the Milky Way that usually speckles so brightly this far out of town.
I stand in the chill, reckless without a jacket, and watch my hot breath turn to short-lived clouds.
All is quiet in the world.
And then I hear it, a soft, metallic jangle in the distance.
I creep through the tangled windbreak to a pasture that rises to a hilly peak behind the house. There’s a trail of footprints stamped into the frost, tiny and barefoot.
I follow and at the apex of the hill stands a girl, her breath clouds escaping in hiccupy, short bursts. She’s quietly sobbing, and as she hugs her arms to her chest, a tangle of silver bracelets around her thin wrists clatter softly.
She wears a willowy white nightgown that shimmers in the moonlight.
I go to her.
She does not shy away at my presence.
I blow on my fists to warm them, then offer up my hands to her. She entwines her fingers within mine, and as she puts a tear-streaked cheek on my shoulder, a gasp escapes her lips.
And my heart soars on the hope that I’ve settled whatever heartache that’s befallen her.

Carry On Tuesday

Carry On Tuesday is a prompt I’ve long looked at, admired, yet have never participated.
Started by Keithsramblings, it takes a famous quote or opening lines of a book and asks that you carry on with the thought, the idea.
This week, the opening line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since:
I still have no goddamn idea what he’s talking about.
Then again, I never have.
And probably never will.
Thanks, dad.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Time for a Fiction in 58.

A cold wind bounces a soda cup down the block, mostly empty but for the ones who live on the street.
No one notices the cup, or the couple, huddled invisible in a bus shelter.
She cries softly into a dirty sleeve as he pats her back rhythmically.
It’s not so much the homelessness, but the stigma attached.

Sunday Scribblings, Junk

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is junk.


My mother’s in the front yard, sitting as delicately as she can in one of those canvas folding chairs (two mesh cup holders) while wearing a lemon chiffon-colored sundress.
There’s blanket spread in front of her, piled with junk.
My junk.
Plastic Little League trophies, a stuffed tiger plush toy, Snoopy fishing rod and reel, stamp collection, buffalo head nickel collection, volcano science project from sixth grade, a box of tattered comics, one-man rubber raft (one oar missing), remote-controlled Porsche, slightly glue-gummied space shuttle plastic model.
Important artifacts from my childhood through late adolescence.
“Hey, what gives?” I protest.
“Oh, hi, honey,” she says as she absently smooths out crumpled $1 bills against the red, white and blue canvas stripes of the chair. “Clearance sale. Everything must go. No reasonable offer refused.”
She takes off her sunglasses and smiles.
“You have no right,” I stammer. “No goddamned right whatsoever.”
I clench my fists for effect.
“Oh, dear, but I do,” she says.
And produces a slip of yellow paper from her cleavage and hands it to me.
It’s a bill, a tally of charges across the years, in my mother’s tight, swoopy handwriting.
And I realize that I’m in hock. Up to my eyebrows.
“You don’t really have the best selection here,” I say. “Let me refresh your inventory.”

OneWord - Permission

OneWord is a fun little writing prompt that keeps the edge on your writing. You're given a word - and 60 seconds to write. That word is permission.

This was life, not high school. But he couldn't help but think back to that simpler time, when a hall pass, that little folded permission slip, was a gateway to a world without boundaries. He longed for that kind of permission now, some slip of paper that said, "Hey, this guy's got carte blanche to meander." If only to release the dreams he carried - and derail the fears.

OneWord - Trot

OneWord is a writer's prompt that asks what you can do with one word - and 60 seconds. Today's word is "trot."

His lungs strained from the pace, an all-out run with arms flailing and legs all skittish and crazy, like his hair was on fire. His body couldn’t take the pace and he slowed to a trot, turning his head left and right to see if it was still gaining on him.
Birthdays are like that, he thought.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are frustrate, indecent and understand.

Night work

I take a job as a night watchman in a seedy hotel downtown.
All sorts of human detritus lives here.
Heroin addicts with the itch, dentured hookers who give $10 blowjobs ($20 sans teeth), the nearly homeless. It’s the last stop for many, a way station on the last train outta here.
I read a dog-eared paperback on a derelict barstool across from the check-in counter, the one fronted by scratched, greasy fingerprint-marred bullet-proof Plexiglas. And try not to let the place pull me into the funk that permeates this space, like the stench of fried fish, or stale cigar smoke.
It’s easy to feel the sinking hopelessness here.
Except for her.
A sparkling ray of beauty in an otherwise pile of human shit.
She’s dressed like always, leather bikers boots and a little black cocktail dress (tonight it’s short, tight in all the right places and strapless). Her red hair is down tonight, tight curls bound off her shoulders as she sways from the elevator toward the door. Crimson lipstick makes her flawless alabaster skin resonate. Her nails are painted the color of fresh blood as well.
“Officer,” she says as she passes, gives me a wink that borders on indecent. Her eyes are the most peculiar shade of gray, with purplish highlights.
The greeting frustrates me and she knows it. The same one-word salutation. Every evening, just past midnight, when she makes her grand exit.
I mutter under my breath and she stops short, both arms poised to swing the heavy doors onto the street.
And turns.
Her eyes are storm clouds on a vast horizon. Swirling and angry.
She traces her steps, with purpose, until she’s standing in front of me, palms on those gloriously curved hips.
She flashes a toothy smile, two crowded, symmetrical rows of sharpened enamel like knife points.
“Your job is to watch over my prey, keep your mouth shut and you’ll continue to draw a breath,” she hisses. “Understand?”
And runs her serpent’s tongue across those pearly spikes.

Poetry from the Past

This was in a packet of yellowed clippings, notes and envelopes Second Sister brought back from a house-cleaning project at pop’s place recently. We figured I wrote it in my teens.

(And I think we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

Memories...of Being Candid

She prided herself
on her frankness,
and her ability
to be completely candid.

She always said
exactly what she thought,
with no consideration,
for feelings.
she felt it best
to be direct.

And while that’s true
in most of what we do,
there are those times
does much damage.

Though she was often told
being blunt
is not always a blessing,
she didn’t seem to care.

Then one day
she was in need
of considerate words,
and when she looked
for someone to say them,
no one was there.

Sunday Scribblings, "Bump in the Night"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is "bump in the night." Still working to get the place in shape and this is horribly late.

Nights were the worst.
Semanski had his head propped on his palm, his elbow resting on the chipped Formica near the register. Between the energy drinks and the blink and buzz from the overhead fluorescent light, he was wired, edgy.
The rush, so much as was, was over. Drunks from the bars came in for smokes and road beers and now it was just Semanski – and the irritating buzz of that fucking blinking light.
“If I had a gun,” Semanski thought, “I’d put a bullet through my brain.”
The door alarm buzzed and with it strode a tall, dark man in a lemon-yellow three-button suit, a high-collar shirt the color of orange sherbet, orange tie and brown alligator half boots, with Cuban heels.
Semanski plopped his head on both palms and watch the man's agonizingly slow advance.
He goose-stepped down the aisle, touched various cellophane packages, the Twinkies, fried pork skins, broken pretzel pieces covered in honey mustard seasoning.
“Help you find anything?”
The man stopped, smiled. Bright white teeth, a picket fence of perfection. Spread his faded palms skyward and continued his slow march toward the counter.
That’s when Semanski detected the smell, like bloated road kill n a hot summer day.
The sickly-sweet stench of death.
“It’s not so much how you can help me,” Mr. Sunshine said. “But what I may be of service to you.”
And with that, pulled a gunmetal-colored .45-caliber from his jacket and spun it on the counter.
“Your wish, as they say, is my command.”
And began drumming his fingers on the Formica.
“The fuck?” Semanski said.
“No worries, I’ve got all night to wait,” Mr. Sunshine said.
And smiled.
His pearly whites now a mouthful of broken shards the color of rust, with plump, white maggots wriggling in the dark, rotted spaces.

A Saturday Fiction in 58

I've the time for a Fiction in 58.


She picked at hearts like testing fruit, looking for bruises, thumping them for ripeness. It was a cruel diversion and she knew it, believing it was her right to harvest the best, suck the sweetness, select another. She was finicky and fickle.
He brushed past, a little close, smiled.
She licked her lips, sighed. Low fruit tasted best.

OneWord - Sprinklers

What can you write in 60 seconds? Test it out at OneWord.

The swish-swish-swish of the sprinklers brought memories flooding back to him; happy thoughts of warm lemonade and bare feet, sun-baked skin and dirt. Memories that made him long for happier times, before the cancer diagnosis, the divorce, the court-ordered anger-management courses.

Wednesday's Three word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at fallow, limit and vocal. Poetry is not my strong suit, but it’s what came out.

Vocal at another sunset,
a grumbling scream,
anger knows no limit,
sobs catch, heave the chest.

The heart a fallow field,
wind-swept and chilly,
seeds of hope struggle,
in a pained, infertile soul.

Another night alone,
the silence cackles electric,
drowning out simple prayers,
asking to ease the grief.

Pardon our dust

I do not have the Interwebs at my loft yet. I am at a WiFi hotspot leting everyone know that The Tension will be hit-or-miss this week. Sorry for that.

Anyway, a couple asked what the heck a loft is. Per Wikipedia:

"Loft mainly refers to two different types of rooms. It typically refers to an upper-story attic or basement of a building, directly under a roof. Alternatively, it can refer to a loft apartment, which is a large adaptable open space either created or converted for residential use."

In my case, both are true. I am on the third floor of a converted old building on Main Avenue. The building was built in 1926 (trying to find info on what it was; before it was my living space, it was home to a hotel and restaurant supply company).

It is the most coolest space I've ever lived in. Pictures soon.

OneWord - Crime

The OneWord prompt is "crime." A little 60-second stream of consciousness while I wait to see if I'll be moving to my new space today.

She had called it a crime. Barked it, spittle forming at the corners of her contorted mouth, teeth bared ugly. He thought it was more like a misdemeanor, and with time off for good behavior, he’d be back in her good graces within the day. Her lips said otherwise. Certainly not the death penalty, but the personal injury would require time behind the bars of her heart.

Cool sadness

The cool sadness is the worst. The near lack of feelings, the emptiness. You’d think that would be preferable to a veil of tears, but no. It’s like a capped bottle that life keeps shaking. It’s bound to burst, spewing a frothy flow over everything. For now, it’s kept in.
Friends pat your back and ask if everything’s OK. Yes. And no. It’s the cool sadness that disturbs everyone. Like a painting, a locked little smile, thin lips, maintain.
Nothing tastes good. Eat, drink, walk, talk. Maintain. Everyone expects it. The banter, the smart-assed wisecracks, the one-liners.
It helps, being normal – or as normal as it gets. Function, find things to do. Don’t rush to any judgments. Not quite yet.
Give this place a chance. At least for the next few months. Talk it out. Recycle back into the world.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Blood, like roses, blooms from the straight-razor cut she draws across her forearm. It’s in moments like this, where the pain is a mix with the pleasure, does she fine solace. Old scars cross her arms like country roads, places she’s been, terror she’s seen. She knows she can’t help it, but those cuts are getting deeper…


The waiting was the worst. Sitting alone the sidelines of life, waiting to get in, play a little. He questioned whether it was fear or apathy that kept him there. Not fear of the unknown, but a dread of making the wrong move, at the wrong time. Thus the apathy, as it was better to just sit pat, stick to a routine, stay out-of-focus, vanilla. He’d tried, in fits and starts, to break free, get in there. But always the gnaw in his heart was the pull of the darkness, that rich, earthy smell of decay that would grab hold. Just another eggshell for the compost pile. Even when the snap of tragedy changes things, changes his very being, the light fails to come on, like a guy who has a heart attack and after rehab buys a pack of smokes. He knows what needs to be done. He knows he has to break free. He knows the future belongs within his purview. With new interests, a fearless step.

OneWord - Twig

The word prompt at OneWord is "twig." Tough with 60 seconds.

Even a mere speck of weight, the tiny songbird bends the twig to its breaking point. Tiny claws scrape the bark, gaining purchase for itself despite the fall breeze. The twig will not break; it is part of a mighty oak, scarred and tested by time.

Let the Healing Begin...

There’s no problem to solve, nothing tangible to fix.
These are emotions; wild, swinging, shifting sensations
I learned this after the death of my mother. And thought I had a pretty good handle on things.
Then your center drops away.
There’s half of me that says suck it up, move forward.
The other half wouldn’t mind staying in bed with the covers drawn over my head.
I realize that I will never just “get past” the death of my father. There are these moments when I realize that I am alone in the world, that I never can get the kind of honest advice a parent affords.
And it seizes up your heart, your mind and it’s back to square one.
I am grateful for everyone who has reached out and offered an ear. And I’ve put in the preliminary calls to talk to someone in a professional setting.
(Let the healing begin!)
Still, going forward isn’t going to be easy. I’m confused and I am alone, even in a crowded space, surrounded by friends.
Because I still fell like I can fix this.
But until I strip away my guy-mindedness and allow these emotions to wash across my soul, I will remain a confused, hurt little boy.
Not the confident, happy man I could be.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are eclipse, languish and velocity. I started with bits of lyrics from Richard Hell, who played with Television, The Heartbreakers and Richard Hell & The Voidoids back in the day.


When it’s all said and done, when my life has reached its terminal velocity and I’d sucked in that last, sweet breath, my wish is to have Richard Hell’s name etched onto my headstone.
I mean, it really was Richard who taught me everything I needed to know in life:
“I belong to the blank generation and I can take it or leave it each time.”
“But he ain't for sale unless you add the kitchen sink.”
“Love comes in spurts (it always hurts).”
Really, I owe Richard my life, man.
Languishing in an adolescent prison, pimply-faced and alone, all it took was Richard’s thumping bass and twangy voice to lift me past the detritus of a misspent youth and into something more. Dangerous.
The safety pins and the dark denim, leather boots and jackets. The hair, spiky and unwashed.
A freedom, a soaring black heart, eclipsed only by the stares of those who once pushed me into lockers but kept a minimum safe distance after the change.
Beautiful, man.
I was one of the lucky ones, too.
I got out of the scene just as the roller-coaster crested the hill and dropped into oblivion. Back before everyone started dropping from the Big H, like Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders.
I got clean. Got an education. Covered up the tats and got a job, a wife, kids.
Still, man, the life haunts me. Just a little. Past glory fades.
You get old.
Just like the doctor who grabbed my throat and yelled, “God’s consolation prize!”
I belong to the blank generation.
I can take it or leave it each time.

OneWord - "Mercury"

The prompt over at OneWord is “mercury.” A little stream of consciousness. I kinda like it.

Emotions rise and fall like quicksilver in a glass vessel; shocking heat rises in his cheeks, sending the mercury rising.
Her coolness feigns a drop in surface temperature, but it’s all an act. Cool to the touch, but she’s a smoldering match tucked into tinder.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Fiction in 58 is an exercise in brevity, micro-fiction. One very short story, in 58 words.

Oh, Baby
She tossed her hair just the way he liked it, totally Rita Hayworth in “Gilda.”
They’d rented the movie when courting and ever since, she’d do that little flip and he’d curl around her little finger. She used the power judiciously, never in anger or spite.
But this was different. Her clock ticked.
Hers was a serious request.

Sunday Scribblings, "Hunger"

The prompt at Sunday Scribblings “hungry.”
"Interpret it how you will" was the instructions. And here you go:

Gray skin, mottled like rotting meat, stretches taut over brittle bones.
Gnarled hands, blue veins pulsating, tap, tap, tap upon an old oak armchair.
A stained comforter covers his legs. Skeleton appendages with dead and black toes, there’s no walk left in them.
He’s hungry, and the ravenous gnawing grows by the second.
There’s no clatter of pots or plates in the kitchen. The only sounds in the dingy studio come from the clock on the mantle, the rattle of his struggled breath through decrepit lungs.
He’s starving, slow and deliberate.
No smells waft from the kitchen, no tang of tomato sauce or even the clean graininess from a simple pot of rice. The only smells are the sickly-sweet scent of potpourri broiling from every electric socket and every scented plug-in – as well as the underlying, unmistakable stench of death.
She had died quietly in the bed they’d shared across the years. The grief weighed on him, like sacks of cement laid upon on his withered chest. That grief, that unbearable weight, was paralyzing.
And yet he hungered.
Not for a meal, but for his own death, which was so closing in that he thought he could hear distinct footfalls. It was a comfort, this yearning to break free.
And join her, wherever that was.


A few people asked, so here's the eulogy I wrote and delivered at pop's funeral on Sept. 16. It does contain a large amount of what I wrote a week ago, which seemed like a good starting point.

Seldom do 3 a.m. telephone calls bring anything good.
But there was the mobile on the nightstand, buzzing with my dad’s picture on the screen. I was in bed in the basement; he was in his bed directly above.
“Yes, sir?”

“Are you asleep?”

“I am not,” I lied. “What’s up?”

“Can you come up here and talk to me?”
And thus began two nights of serious discussion. Well, mostly he talked and I listened. He was consumed with worry. Not about the cancer that invaded him, but more black-and-white concerns.
Frustrations over not being a very good man across the arc of his life.
That inside him lived a good and decent person – and one dark and evil.
Up to that point, he’d lived life on his terms. Independent and unapologetic. Surely in his youth, words like “scamp,” “rascal” and “scalawag” were synonymous with him.
Indeed, as someone told us at his wake, “He was quite the Gabby.”
The Air Force could not tame him. Three times he made sergeant and three times he was busted. Once for not wearing his cap; once for not getting a haircut; and once for not tying his shoes.
Then he met my mother.
And discovered what it is to love completely – and be loved in return. To be part of something greater than himself.
Like everyone, he wrestled with his demons. But he never once blamed anything on them. He took responsibility for himself and all his flaws.
As if the depths of his darkness propelled him to be a better man.
While he had no parting ideas during those early morning talks on how to live the rest of my life, he has throughout the years encouraged us to seek our own path. Embrace the danger of living and taste every challenge like it was the sweetest of fruit.
His mantra was that we should do what we love, embrace our faith, follow our hearts, question authority, be the best person we could be.
And above all, don’t be so (expletive) serious.
He was a deeply rich and complex person, not only in multiple shades of gray, but bursting with color and dimension.
And like the artist who paints in bold strokes and bright hues, my father’s depth of character, his vivid past, splashed a little on everyone he encountered.
We love you, dad.


Out of respect for my father, The Tension will be dark this week.
I'm sure I'll have plenty to say, emotions to sort out, after the service is all completed.
Thanks for the support.


E.F.G., 1/1/1929 - 9/12/2009

Seldom do 3 a.m. telephone calls bring anything good.
But there was the mobile on the nightstand, Joey Ramone singing “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” from “Blitzkrieg Bop” with my dad’s picture on the screen. He was in the bedroom directly above my head.
“Yes, sir?”
“Are you asleep?”
“I am not,” I lied. “What’s up?”
“Can you come up here and talk to me?”
We talked into the night months ago, during a week when I had the honor of taking care of him after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Mostly, he worried about black-and-white frustrations that he wasn’t a decent man his entire life. That inside him, there was an evil man and a good man.
There was no room for gray in his feelings.
Edward F. G died at 2:30 a.m. CDT on 12 Sept. 2009.
He was a good man, through and through. And the depths of his darkness propelled him to be a better man.
I was with him at the end, as I was when my mother passed away on 18 Nov. 2005. And like my mother at her passing, time and cancer had rendered him speechless.
Making our 3 a.m. chats (there were two) even more powerful.
At the end, he lay in a darkened room, when I thought I heard him call out, “hey.”
He then took a deep, gasping breath.
I put my hand upon his chest.
And watched as he took four more breaths, each a little less deep.
And he was gone.
Released from the pain of this world and onto whatever heaven he’s created.
While he had no parting thoughts on how I should live my life, he through the years encouraged me to become my own man. His only advice is that I should do what I love, follow my heart and be the best man I can be.
He was a deeply rich and complex person, not only in multiple shades of gray, but bursting with color and dimension.
I love you, dad.

OneWord - Knot

The prompt at OneWord is "knot." If it feels unfinished, it is. I simply ran out of time.

She looped the climbing cord just how he liked it, across the wrists and ankles, and used a couple of new knots she’d gleaned from a book. And she made them good and tight, tighter than he really liked, but what was the harm in that? She’d tired of his games, the rough handling and this was payback. He protested, but she ignored it. And blew him a kiss as she walked out the door, just as the TV crew she’d alerted pulling into the parking lot.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are disarm, engage and mayhem. I’m in a mood.

Ghosts of the Machines

She’s a beauty in matte black, the ghost of a machine with no overt bling – and a 429 cubic inch V8 purring under the hood.
It’s my third time out in her, a monstrous 1971 Ford Galaxie 500, one of the finest combination of metal and powertrain ever assembled in Dearborn, Michigan. And one of the strongest and most durable bodies Ford’s ever turned out on the road.
Of course, we’ve done modifications. Lots and lots of modifications.
Gone is all the chrome, anything that shines. Added are blackened steel plates that encase the underside, steel pipe built up around the front and rear bumpers like brush guards, a steel cage for the driver and front passenger. A row of foot-long steel spikes punched through the lower body panel – both sides - that are welded directly to the frame.
Gone too, thanks to Pasco down at the chop shop, are those pesky vehicle identification numbers. All of them, filed away as to avoid any unpleasantness with the authorities.
License plates? Not on your fucking life.
Spring-welded seats and five-point harnesses, yeah it’s got those, too.
This Galaxie’s built for mayhem.
And I’m fucking hard to engage.
Did you know that in any moderate-sized city the police run their squad cars on a grid pattern? One cop car to certain grid?
The idea is to disarm them before our little game begins. And for that, a newbie must be sacrificed.
Tonight, it’s a kid who insists we call him Slick. Well, Slick, we say, it’s newbie night and you’re it. His heart sinks as we add to the trunk of his decent (if a little light) ’90 Pontiac Bonneville a small fertilizer bomb that won’t do much damage – well the Bonneville will be history – but we’re not talking Oklahoma City or anything.
“My mother’s gonna kill me,” Slick says. “She thought I was repainting it for her birthday.”
The boys snort off a laugh as I slide up to Slick and toss a good-ol’-boy arm sling around his shoulder.
“Slick, everything happens for a reason. And tonight, that reason is your Bonneville going super-critical meltdown – allowing me and the boys here a little uncomplicated fun. Tell you what though, you can ride shotgun with me tonight.”
Slick nearly wets himself in anticipation.
The package in the trunk’s wired, so JoJo takes the keys – rubs the rabbit’s foot the kid’s added – and straps on a dull black, full-face helmet. He lifts the smoky gray shield and asks for a target vector.
“Abandoned convenience store off Victor, maximum debris, lots of flame.”
JoJo will drive the Bonneville through plate glass doing at least 60, egress himself and at a minimum safe distance, will drop the hammer on the detonator, sending the Bonneville – and the C-store - into obliteration.
Attracting every single uniform off their grid.
So we can have the jollies. Mercenary Road Kings. Apocalyptic Warriors in Chaos Chariots.
And in the morning, when you’re watching the tube with some bubble-headed blond with the giant rack giving the latest on a suspicious explosion and a rash of vandalism you think, “What’s exactly gone wrong with the world?”
Then you go out to your car to go to your little job, but first you’ll stop off to get your usual venti mocha latte hot and there in the parking spot you actually have your girlfriend stand in so you can grab it is your shiny, high-priced import crumpled completely down one whole side, dark, dull streaks of matte-black paint left in a wickedly awesome wake of destruction.
Now what are you thinking, asshole?
Not of us, I can assure you.
We’re the cold shadows you’re too timid to cross.
Tossing a little anarchy into life, evenings only.