OneWord - Shallow

OneWord is writing on a fast and furious scale - one word and 60 seconds. In truth, I write it in all lower-case, don't indent, and fix spelling mistakes after time is up.
What can you say in 60 seconds?

Wegman walked back to the bar, a sly smile on his face, the reddish outline of a delicate hand scorching his face. He tipped his beer back shook out his long, perfect hair and laughed after the gulp. The guys all wanted to know what happened. He said something about asking her if he could hire her by the hour and if she offered group rates.
We made eye contact, she and I, and felt Wegman's shallowness wash over me like the tide.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are darkness, patronize and weaken.

The Path

The voice cries out from the darkness,
Angry and stalking,
It weakens my resolve,
To stay true,
To the path that cuts the gloom,
The tangled webs,
The dark hearts,
The crushed dreams,
The howls yet grow stronger,
And still I walk,
Through the valley of the shadow,
Determined not to stumble,
As the shrill voice patronizes,
The choices,
The desires,
The life,
The very path I choose to follow

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

It's a poem, it's a haiku, it's the NaiSaiKu Challenge...

back alley musings,
there’s a score to settle, bud,
yellow crime tape flaps
yellow crime tape flaps
there’s a score to settle, bud,
back alley failures

Monday's Fiction in 58

Simply put, this is a challenge to write something with 58 words.

Out by the orchard, I find the biggest butterfly I’ve ever seen drying its wings. It’s slick from the cocoon, vulnerable.
Its wings are a patchwork of blues, blacks, golds. Rich, velvety.
As I reach a finger to touch, father protests.
“Don’t you dare,” he says. “Her wings have been dusted with magic.”
“Mysteries of life, son.”

Sunday Scribblings, 'Where in the World?'


I’m in the market, finishing off the last bite of a brioche and espresso when I hear the unmistakable twang of American voices, rising to meet the language barrier.
The couple are identically dressed in khaki walking shorts and polo shirts; both have straw hats decorated with a sash of a national liquor distributor.
She’s wearing ungodly pink flip-flops. He’s chosen black socks and orthopedic walkers.
She’s holding some cheap trinket the vendors all put in the front of their tables (for just this reason) and he’s waving Euros around like a fan, speaking slow – and loud.
I toss back the last of the espresso, the last bite of sweet dough and wander over.
“Maybe I can be of some assistance?”
Both blink absently.
“I can tell you that particular item is $10 euro.”
“What business is it of yours, fella?” she barks, the skin of her six chins beginning to redden.
“Yeah, who fuckin’ asked you to butt is anyway?” he says, a lip extended and distorted from the pinch of chew.
“My apologies for the intrusion.”
And I begin wander off, the vendor’s eyes pleading for more assistance.
But I can’t. The anger rises like bile in my throat and I’ve got to slip away.
Deeper into the market, where the voices of sunburned homeland tourists begin to rise like an unholy chorus of demons.
I slip fingers over my ears, resolve to get my backpack from the hostel, travel deeper in-country.
Where an ex-patriot can find solitude from one’s native tongue.

OneWord - Pause

OneWord asks writers to post a word based on 60 seconds of writing. You don't get to see the word until the time starts. So far, I've been lucky and haven't froze. Then, it's a stream of consciousness thing that's quite exhilarating.

Saturday's word? Pause.

He paused, but it definitely did not refresh.
Sweat dripped off his brow, but his lips and mouth remained dry, stale.
You could run all your life and never quite get ahead. Stay in advance of all the worry, the bullshit.
Still, he tried.
And paused every once again.
Just to hear the grumblings of despair that forever chased.

OneWord - Twine

Tough day at OneWord. Twine. Yikes. Here's what I came up with, in 60 seconds:

The ball in the pit of his stomach began to unravel, something akin to dropping a bundle of twine off a balcony. A long strand of worry, growing by the foot. He'd tried antacids, tonics. What he needed was salvation.
He needed to forgive.

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

Time for another NaiSaiKu Challenge. It’s poetry, but with a twist.

hunter dances slow,
she’s all hips, exotic swirl,
zeros on her prey,
hunter dances slow,
she’s all hips, exotic swirl,
drinks blood, sticky-sweet

Monday fiction, in 58 words

I started Fiction in 58 to try and see if it was possible to tell a story in a small space. It's a good exercise and you're free to try it yourself.

He sleeps on a little slice of the oversized bed, the remains of a once happier time.
He vows to spread out, sleep in the middle maybe, or something crazy, like crosswise. But for now, he hugs the edge on his side.
He’s decided to take baby steps, wobbly small.
She been dead for a year, why rush?

Sunday Scribblings, "The Plan"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “The Plan.”

“One of the most iconic lines from television history has to be from the A-team when Hannibal says, ‘I love it when a plan comes together!’ Have you ever been able to say that? Do you have a Plan? Do you need a Plan? Have you had a plan fall spectacularly to pieces? This prompt isn't just small 'p' plan. This prompt takes it up a notch with a capital P. This prompt is: The Plan. What's yours?”

Something a little different from me. I think.

The Plan

The thing about addicts and drunks? They’re to fucking stupid (or preoccupied) to know when they’ve hit bottom.
‘Cause at the bottom, that’s it. There’s nowhere else to go, but up, I guess. Most just shuffle out like a candle flame in the wind.
Some have The Gift thrust upon them.
The bottom was reaching up for us, Tommy, Marie and Felix and me, but we were too stupid to know it. Too drunk, too high, to concerned with the itchy jumpiness that next hit conjures.
We sat on filthy mattresses, stains blotting out the cheerless blue stripes, trying to form coherent speech to the plan that formulated in our jumbled, hazy minds.
Tommy was sure Delmar was holding, sitting on a ton of cash and whole shitload of smack. Dude was seriously gone, we figured, one hit away from not waking up in the ER, bagged and tagged as a ward of the state.
All he needed was a push.
And that’s where we came in.
Delmar liked his rides free, and so we pooled the rest of our funds to score. Licking our lips while our skin crawled and itched, wanting the feed in us. Trying to hold it together before Delmar got there, got fixed.
But good. For good.
Where we’d dump him at the hospital on our way to his place, waltz in, be set.
Fuckable plans, man.
He got his hot dose, drifted off, but shit if we didn’t want a bump too. Maria and Felix dropped away, too and that left Tommy and me to and haul all that dead fucking weight into Maria’s rusted Tercel.
We did it and Tommy’s panicked to the point of taking these huge gulps of air and barfs all over the dash, bile-colored liquid that’s got a stench of death behind it. I’m careening all over the place, my nose and mouth jammed into the pit of my elbow and I hit the gas and, well, I don’t remember the rest.
I’m told we rolled six times, ejecting everyone but Delmar, whose head was taken off by a stop sign, the rest of him crumpling into the Tercel’s cramped floor wells. I like to think he was dead before the sign made contact, but it really doesn’t matter anyway, not really.
Tommy lay in a heap like a scarecrow, his neck and back crushed.
Maria never regained consciousness, they said, massive internal injuries. At the autopsy, they told me, her organs had all violently migrated to the left side of her chest.
Felix officially died of “blunt-force trauma to his cranial region.”
I walked away from the wreckage, palms scraped from where I palmed the asphalt puking. Oh, and the six-inch cut directly over my heart, in the shape of a cross. They think it was caused by the rear-view mirror, but I have come to realize things.
It was an exorcism, I guess you could say, a release of demons from my heart, an emptying of the trash.
See, my Lord and Savior had his own plans for than night.
See, there’s only one way to go when you’re a junkie and a drunk and you’re lost.
You go up.
Sweet salvation. The Third Eye.
You don’t have to be a believer.
But I am.
I believe enough for us all.
Take my hand and I’ll you what God’s got planned for you.

OneWord - Welcoming

She did not welcome him with open arms. In fact, it was more of a pout, back turned, hands over her ears. He had brought flowers, a bottle of wine. She’d have none of it and she told him so, before she completely shut down.
In his defense, all he did was to answer honestly when she asked if the pants made her look fat.

Thursday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are drip, hypnotic and sulk.
Here we are again. I did have something written for Wednesday, but it was too “Carrie.” So, here’s a fresh piece (that still feels like it needs work).


Their’s was a love based on collision avoidance.
She’d brag to friends during their courtship that they never, ever, argued. That they were on such a plane where common bickering gained no purchase.
Truth? She was prone to flash-fire emotions; he was a body of cool water that would douse her moods by the depth of his patience.
And from a general sense, it worked; the illusion of bliss.
It was during another flair-up (over the shade of red for an accent wall in their new living room) where things began to change. Like global warming or a pan of water on an old woodstove, his cool waters began to take less and less time to boil.
“We’ve got to eat healthier,” she said, pinching the fleshy part of her underarm in quick, hypnotic movements. “No more butter, no more steak. No deserts. I mean it.”
He was at the stove, gently stirring her favorite chicken mushroom risotto, shaking his head in the affirmative. But the pursed lips and throbbing veins in his head said something else; “Maybe if you’d lay off the half-bottle of wine a night…”
Since he cooked (another division of labor she was quick to toss in her friends’ faces), he also shopped for groceries.
“I’m going with you,” she said. “We’re going to eat healthier, I mean it.”
To depressurize himself in these situations, he waited until her back was turned, so he could give her the finger.
They had barely ventured into the dairy aisle when the slow burn exploded.
“Fat-free sour cream, how big?”
“Just get regular. Fat-free sucks.”
“But you promised,” she said, lips in full pout.
“It’s fucking sour cream,” he said in a low, threatening tone.
His response both shocked and embarrassed her. She dropped the tub on the floor, grabbed her hips, turn on her heel and without looking back, said, “I’ll be waiting in the car.”
The couple’s 13-year-old son stood by the cart, earbud out of his ear, mouth agape.
“She’s pissed.”
“She’s a pain in the ass.”
He steered the cart toward the cereal aisle, leaving his son to either escape to the car with his mother, or continue shopping. He trailed after his father, who was having a moral dilemma between Cheerios (her choice) or Frosted Flakes (his preference).
“Ahh, fuck it,” the man said, abandoning the cart. “Let’s go.”
Dinner, usually a jovial affair, was doused in heaviness. The man rested both elbows on the table and sulked, in direct violation of the good manners he preached.
The son chewed slowly, quiet, deliberate.
The wife bowed her head over the plate of simple grilled chicken, roast potatoes, steamed green beans. A tear rolled down her cheek, hung at her chin for a moment and in a single drip, audibly hit the plate.
The boy dropped his silver this a clang and rose.
“Low-fat sour cream, seriously?” he asked. “I mean Jesus, get real.”
And at that, the man reached for her hand, which she turned over and entwined her fingers within his.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are drip, hypnotic and sulk.

“A quick run-through of the instructions, for any newcomers. Each week, I’ll post three words. Your mission is to write something –a poem, story, sentence, anything – using all three words. Leave a comment and a link to your blog if you participate.”

This one's from the archive. It was just a bad night, an even worse morning. Hope you understand.

Frosties are the worst. Especially if they’ve been left to melt some, so you get warm froth – and a freezing center.
And it’s a bitch to get out of natural fibers. A pea coat. Jogging suit. Hell, even the ubiquitous T-shirt and jeans, for chrissakes.
I’ve taken to wearing Gore-Tex rain gear these days. Hood up, too. Better to be safe than sorry, I say.
Especially when you get pelted with fountain drinks.
On a somewhat regular basis.
Funny, it’s never a can or a bottle.
Fountain drinks. Always the fountain drink. Waxed-paper cup, or maybe one of those flimsy plastic cups from the nearest mega fast-food palace. Lids, straws, ice and a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup, flavor enhancers, citric acid – a lot of times caramel coloring – and simple carbonated water.
It’s called brix, look it up. Or degrees brix. The measurement, the mass ratio, of dissolved sucrose to water in a liquid state. It’s measured in the lab with a saccharimeter.
In the real world, it’s measured by the width of your ass, as you waddle like hypnotic sheep from the convenience store with one of those flimsy, wax-covered cups.
Soft drinks. As opposed to hard drinks. A soft drink - or soda, pop or fizzy drink, as it is referred to in England - is differentiated from a hard drink because it has no alcohol in it.
Just lots and lots of high-fructose syrup. A corn derivative. The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi both made the switch to HFCS, as it is known in the biz, in 1984.
It’s good to know your enemy.
Since fountain drinks are my sudden rain showers. And in my world, drips rain down several times a week. The high has been 17. The low, three. The average is 12.
I once was pelted with 27 fountain drinks - and one Frosty - at a high school basketball game. They had to send the janitor – a sulking heap with his yellow bucket and yellow cones with the little red stick-figure man slipping embossed on it - to clean up the mess.
“Boy, what the fuck are you thinking?” was as he said as I stood and watched. And got hit with the Frosty, the tannish-brown, bubbly glob just ran off the red Gore-Tex coat like a slug moves across concrete.
Clear is good. Clear comes out in the wash. Your Sierra Mists, your 7Ups – the Un-Cola, you know. Colas, if left longer than 30 minutes will leave a major stain, and will begin to eat through the metal studs in your jeans. Trust me, I know.
Root beer is unexpected, old-school. It is sticky.
So are those new “flavored” teas.
“I’ll order the tea,” you think, being all healthy and shit. When you might as well swallow a bag of sugar.
Milkshakes and frozen, carbonated drinks have their own category. Their own set of problems.
Milk solids rot and stink in natural fibers. Something to do with the lactic acid or something. Don’t get to a milkshake soon, and you’ll stink. I had to toss a nice London Fog overcoat because of a Jack in the Box Andes® Crème de Menthe shake once.
Hence, the Gore-Tex. The nice stuff, too. Mountain Hardwear, $500 worth of protection.
Frozen novelty drinks, your Tastee-Freeze, Slurpee, the venerable Icee, aren’t so bad. Unless any of the frozen drink finds a crease. A bit of Slurpee Fanta Orange Cream is cold and sticky as it travels down your back.
Trust me, I know. I’m an expert on fountain drinks large and small.
Yeah, I bring it on myself.
Because around my neck, protected as it is by the Gore-Tex, is a sign, printed neatly front and back.
And it says,
“Fuck You”

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

It’s Tuesday, time for another NaiSaiKu Challenge. Try it for yourself.

burst of lightening,
sweet smell of approaching rain,
distant thunder stirs,
distant thunder stirs,
sweet smell of approaching rain,
burst of lightening

Monday's Fiction in 58

Fiction in 58 is the opportunity to tell a story in 58 words.

5 Ws, 1 H

He rose early, wiped sleep from his eyes, made coffee, thought about when.
Day-dreamed of where.
Conjured up how.
Who was he to have such fantasy?
What would come from this pattern of thought, the purveyance of chance, pushed by ambitions?
And why did it bother no one but himself, as he meandered through life, little boy lost.

Sunday Scribblings "Indulgence"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “indulgence.”

in·dul·gence n
1. the gratification of or yielding to a wish
2. something that somebody lets himself or herself or somebody else have, especially a luxury
3. a kind or tolerant attitude toward somebody
4. in Roman Catholicism, a grant by the pope of partial remission of time to be spent in purgatory or of some other consequence of a sin.
5. time given to a debtor to repay a bill


I start my day by sharpening an entire box of Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils.
Each has a uniform leaded point. Each is the same length, post sharpening.
I line them up on the leather-bound blotter on my desk, then fire up the computer and look at porn for a couple of hours.
I’m lunching with Freemon and the jokers from accounting, so I grab my file of take-out menus and spend the rest of the time until noon trying to decide where to eat. Knowing if I flash the platinum card, they’ll let me pick the place. And I feel like noodles at Momofuku.
In fact, I’m looking forward to it.
Anything to get out of the sterile confines of my corner office, with its steel-and-glass minimalist décor. Did I pick this? It’s got all the charm of a urinal.
“No matter,” I whisper, running a hand through my hair, which is heavy with pomade to hide the fact I’ve been growing it out for months.
In anticipation.
Soon, I’ll be on vacation, a week in St. Kitts to get some sun, let the beard grow. Get some grunge under the fingernails, take off the buff from the manicure I mistakenly got on a whim, not thinking ahead.
Then a week in San Francisco, living on the streets. Wearing others’ castoff clothing. Eating from the garbage. Begging people for change. Sleeping near the pier, or maybe down in the Haight.
Slumming we call it. Getting down in the shit, getting real.
Some might see it as a unforgivable indulgence, exasperating a problem when there’s no need. Especially since there’s so much suffering out there. So many hurting.
I’m not here to put up a defense. Or to offer an overwrought explanation. No way.
It just means my lamb with chickpeas, merguez spices and golden raisins the next time at Dovetail will taste even better, knowing there’s someone – men, women, families – waiting out back for the scraps.

OneWord - Alert

OneWord allows you 60 seconds to write about one word.
And that is “alert.”

Buzzers and klaxons announce the pressurized door’s eventual opening. There wasn’t going to be time, he could see that now. Even as the toxin began to work on his never endings, sending them into a spasm of continuous pain. There was no way to warn the world, the alert wouldn’t be sent: This virus was the mother of them all.
And it’s escaped.

OneWord - Vows

OneWord is a writer's prompt that begs for brevity. You've got 60 seconds to write about one word. That word today? Vows.

They were recited under a gazebo in a public gardens, where volunteers planted pansies and watched from the parking lot. Words like commitment, devotion, love were written in longhand and memorized for the day. Words do not govern life. And as they grew, they grew apart. Until she found another. He found those vows in a cardboard carton, yellowed with age, and burned them in a cleansing exorcism

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are gloom, kneel and transparent.

Baxter emerged from the gloom, his overcoat undone at the waist, a devilish smile stitched to his face.
He’d been gone for nearly two hours; we thought about calling the cops, but none of us could think up a good reason for his disappearance. “Headed out for coke” surly didn’t cut it.
He took off the overcoat, unbuttoned the top button on his shirt, loosened his tie.
Then started making that clicking sound with his teeth.
“Bitches started to panic, am I right?” Baxter said, looking past everyone and locking eyes on me. “Bax all alone in the big, bad world.”
He tossed the ball of coke, it was the size of a boiled egg, on the table. It was wound tight in transparent plastic wrap and tied up with a white twisty-tie. Like some street vendor’s treat.
“Kneel before the master,” Bax said, rubbing his nose between his thumb and forefinger to get the blood flowing. “All hail Baxter, provider extraordinaire for you sick fucks.”
We all gave a mock salute, raising vodka rocks all around on limp wrists.
“Fuck you very much,” Bax said, reaching a grubby hand into the ice bucket.
Bax was the friend you called as an order of last resort. The pompous ass who had the money and said he had the connections. I think he knew we all secretly hated him, but he never said anything. I think he was too arrogant to care. Or too stupid. It was a toss-up.
“Snort up, ladies, it’s not getting any fresher,” he said, draining the highball.
Levanthal stripped the twisty-tie, opened the plastic wrap and started the shave the ball with a razorblade. We all went for wallets and money clips, and rolled up fresh, crisp twenties from various ATMs across the city. Long lines were laid out across Carson’s mirrored coffee table. Like thoroughbreds at the starting gate, we had the bills in nostrils, waiting for the word to go. Shots were poured, the perfect aperitif for the evening’s first snort.
Bax stepped back, watched the feeding frenzy with that crooked smile of his.
It took a few seconds, but everyone started clawing at their noses with frantic, trembling fingers. Leventhal opened his mouth to scream, but all that came out were foamy bubbles of bright red. Carson tried to scream, but it sounded like air escaping from a balloon. Noses bled, convulsions started.
Through a gush of tears, I watched as Bax slipped on his overcoat, gave a two-fingered salute to the boys.
“Enjoy your last few seconds on this Earth,” he said. “Oh, and the Draino, too.”

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

Time again for the NaiSaiKu Challenge. A poem built a little like a haiku, but different. The title is in the middle.

lost in the blackness,
alone with thoughts all jumbled,
slumber does not come,
slumber’s fickle muse,
alone with thoughts all jumbled,
absorbed by blackness

Just a slip of fiction

Fiction in 58, a little writing prompt I created a few years ago to tell a story in just 58 words. Good exercise for the verbose. Or, for those with attention disorders.

He’s up there, my dad, goose-stepping across the tiled bath.
There’s a yelp, so I bound the steps by twos.
He’s holding a foot, twisted in some yoga pose.
“Hey, check it out.”
His feet have grown webbing. Thick skin between each toe.
He smiles.
“Run a bath,” he says. “Let’s see what these babies can do.”

Sunday Scribblings "Human or Humanity"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is human… or if you like, you could use “humanity.”


I crest a ridge under a moonless night and am nearly blinded by the fires.
Whole neighborhoods are in flames, roiling pyres in various shades of oranges and yellows. It is hell on Earth. Created by our own hands, sponsored by Pepsico and brought to you with limited commercial interruption.
I strip myself from the sweaty chemical gear, the heat drying my moist skin instantly. I'm nude as the day I came in and it feels good.
I dig into my ruck, pull out some tins, the Beluga caviar, the Petrossian pate and the duck confit, toss open a red-checkered tablecloth. I arrange a picnic lunch as black soot falls like snowflakes across the landscape. Next to the bottle of Petrus Pomerol merlot – yes, the ’99 – I place a Glock 30 and two extra clips of .45-caliber ACP.
Just in case.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, humanity’s final hurrah, and I just want to enjoy it in peace and quiet.

OneWord -Surround

It’s been a day for family, but I did want to contribute to the Internets. Perfect time for OneWord, a writing prompt that finds out what you can come up with in 60 seconds. The word? Surround.

His BDUs were a smear of grit and blood; his helmet had been missing since dusk. As long as the runners kept him in ammo, he’d hold the line. He had to, to his left and to his right where his fellow Marines – and they’d been in this place before. Surrounded, outnumbered. He considered the odds a fair fight.

OneWord - Ticket

OneWord is a writing propmt that calls for brevity - and clarity. You get 60 seconds to write about the word given. The word? Ticket:

She clutched the slick rectangle to her chest, like a terrified bride who presses a bouquet to hers. Hot tears leak from tired eyes, breaths come in hiccups. There’s no time. Not time to call, not time to explain. The bus is rolling up. Her escape from the city, from him, the rain of blows that came. And they always came. “not anymore,” she whispers, drown out but the rumble of diesel engines.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at collapse, sweet and yearn.


In the woods near my home, I discover a trail, a slit of brown in an otherwise overgrown green of spring grasses. I am compelled to follow it.
At this time of day, the path is neither tacky with dewy mud or dusty with fine dust, like talcum powder. It twists thinly past a stand of gnarled oak, a game trail, really.
I follow through the brook, up a hill to where it enters a horseshoe-shaped meadow. In the middle, there’s a sandy mound, a rise where the wild plants have been trampled, beaten back.
Standing on the top of the mound is a girl, her long flaxen hair swirls in the breeze. Her skin is like milk, kissed with the first of many summer freckles. She’s barefoot and holds in her hands a bouquet of plucked wildflowers.
Her dress is as white as her flesh, but slick like satin.
I am enamored. My chest fills with the elevated thump of my heart. Hot breath pumps from my nostrils as I gulp the air, missing the sweet smell of damp grass, wild blossoms. I am consumed, heated, feral.
For I see, coming down a web of similar trails, other young men. Some with their shirts off, forearms and faces tanned, but bodies sickly ashen, a condition of the long winter. Working my father’s fields gives me an advantage, so I peel off my T-shirt and reveal my overall roasted tone, like fine olive oil.
At this, the girl waves, her fingers roll in synchronicity.
And each boy makes a mad dash for the mound. Great battles by twos break out. From a side path to my own, a boy appears from a clump of new saplings. He turns toward me - he’s a head taller and much thinner - and cries in a low, guttural way.
He sweeps a curly lock of hair the color of wet coffee grounds from his reddened face, charges. I pick up curled piece of oak, widen my stance and swing, hitting him in the chest, mid-charge. He collapses into the meadow, eyes stung with tears, arms folded to his ribcage.
I look up at the girl. She’s dropped to a sitting position, the flowers splayed across the hammock of material that is her dress. She’s watching the battles, clapping softly, smiling slyly.
My fierce heart yearns to be with her, so I look for another combatant to vanquish.