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.

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

Never participated in the NaiSaiKu Challenge? What are you waiting for? Complete instructions are on the Web site.

tired eyes watch the shadows,
clock ticks sound, heartbeats across time,
body tense on cool sheets,
body tense on cool sheets,
clock ticks sound, heartbeats across time,
tire eyes watch the shadows

Labor Day 2009

OK, kids. It's Labor Day. It's a beautiful, Indian Summer day in SoDak.
And there's some darkness on the horizon.

So today, I'm taking a little mental holiday. I leave you with Carl Douglas, doing a little "Kung Fu Fighting:"

Easystreet Prompt - "Out to Dry"

The Easystreet prompt is “out to dry.”


Step forward, take some responsibility, for chrissakes.
Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and the sting doesn’t last very long.
Ha, truth will set you free.
But it’s never that easy, is it? You’ve let people down, left them out to dry to promote your own agenda. You’ve been a shit and old habits die hard.
Still, you take a deep breath, say a little prayer under your breath…
And try and be the person you’d like to be.

OneWord - Licorice

The word over at OneWord? Licorice. Hmmmmm. Once I got going, this fairly flowed.

He remembered something his father had said about savoring things, life. “Pick something you like, but not so much that you gobble it all away.” He’d been given a bag and told that he could have anything he wanted from the candy shop. He passed by jars of chocolate, knowing they’d be eaten in a heartbeat. Circus peanuts? Too bulky, and besides, you could eat only two, max. So he settled on chunks of black licorice. And knew after the first little nibble that he’d made the right choice.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are glare, luster and threat.

Westward Expansion
We’re on a steam train heading west.
The gentle rocking, the click of the tracks, has lured most of the passengers asleep, including my parents. The excitement of travel, the luster and red velvet of the dining car has left me immune to the sleepy tonic of traveling by rail. I sit by a small table with a oil lamp and try my hand at drawing the blurred landscape as it goes rushing past the windows.
There’s a great bear of a man in one of the floral wingback chairs. His girth washes over the chair arms. He’s smoking a thick cigar and slowly turns in his fingers a small glass filled with amber liquid.
He notes my casual stare and glares.
“Can you shoot?” he asks, his jowls shaking as he speaks.
“It’s an easy question,” he says, taking a pearl-handled six-gun from a leather holster under his jacket. “I’m too old and fat to be much good here. And the threat is real. Can you handle a six-shooter or not?”
I’m about to speak when the train lurches. Brakes squeal, metal-on-metal, as the cars slow and groan under the sudden stress. Out of the window, I realize what the fat man’s talking about. A war party has materialized on the bluffs, hundreds of braves in feathers and war paint.
"Can you shoot or not?"
I make a run for the sleeping car, the fat man hurling curses as I retreat.
I return with father’s Winchester 1873 and several boxes of cartridges.
“Oh, I can shoot,” I say, cocking the Winchester’s lever handle. "Ready when you are, Mr. Carson."

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

It's fun, it's fresh and it is hip.
It is the NaiSaiKu Challenge. Poetry with a kick. The idea for this came from a friend's Facebook status update, talking about giving her significant other "fingertip high-fives."

messy bed covers,
munching ice cream sandwiches,
swapping quotes from books,
swapping quotes from books,
munching ice cream sandwiches,
messy bed covers