Next prompt should be 'Kaishai is a robot, discuss'
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 16:25|
|# ? Jan 23, 2021 12:06|
Round 63 submission
Martha Trudgely’s last visitor was in 1989, when her only surviving grandson out of five brought her a houseplant. He was killed just a few hours later, horrifying passengers about the airport shuttle that thumped over him, but the plant still bloomed every spring. Martha insisted that no one but her water the plant, which she did with an obsession. PH levels were meticulously measured, temperatures monitored, and the soil replaced with delicate care. She was determined to keep at least one thing alive. In the fall of 2012, Martha broke her lucky streak of 87 years without an accident, and her leg. The pain in her slow-mending bones often delayed her botany, but she shrieked at any nurses who offered to help. Infection took hold in her leg, and she could rarely rise from bed. The worse her leg turned, the browner the plant became. All Martha could do was watch as it died on her, too.
This is my first submission, so hopefully I did it right. I know it's short as hell, but it says everything that I feel it needs to.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 16:55|
Faded - 893 words
It wasn’t my fault. I clung desperately to that: it wasn’t my fault. I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. There was nobody nearby who would help me. If anyone heard my screams, my pleas, my cries in the dark, they didn’t care enough to stop it. I couldn’t stop it, stop him. He didn’t go until he was finished. He left me bruised and crying.
I told my friends, and they tried to understand. But there was a space between us now, a bridge they couldn’t cross. They forgot to invite me to nights out. They forgot to invite me to days spent lounging in their houses, with their legs strewn over tables and their laughter hanging in the air. If I’d asked them, I think they would have been hard-pressed to explain exactly why. Maybe they would have shrugged, and eventually said, “Well, she’s just not fun anymore.”
I made them feel uncomfortable. So they just forgot to invite me to join them. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision or not. I don’t know if they talked about it. It wasn’t long before they forgot to even pretend to be my friends. They would talk of their plans openly. Invites would fly through the air. Sometimes, someone would see me, and they would give me a tight smile and ask, “Hey, are you free?”
But I felt the tension in their words. I felt the eyes that flicked nervously over to me. The room would go quiet. They held their breaths to wait to see what I said. I didn’t ever have a choice. I just shook my head and shrugged. “Maybe next time.”
I couldn’t talk to any of them. I couldn’t talk to my parents. I didn’t know what to do, but doing nothing wouldn’t help. I made an appointment. I ended a possibility before it could truly begin. There were people outside that shouted at me. Someone told me, frank as can be, that I was going to hell. I didn’t know what to say—I’m already there?—so I pushed past him and tried not to cry.
That came later. It came when I was in my room, alone. I ran my hands over my belly and it felt empty. It shouldn’t have. I wasn’t far along for anything major to have happened; the doctor had assured me of that. But that didn’t matter. It felt like I’d carved a part of myself out. I cried myself to sleep. When I woke, my eyes ached. They were wide and red, and I had to hide my face behind thick make-up so that Mum didn’t ask me what was wrong.
The light flickered; the light faded. The girl I was disappeared. She disappeared when my friends turned their backs on me, when the doctor scraped something out of me. She disappeared under the tears and the pain.
My exam results were pathetic. I didn’t care. My parents argued about what was causing my behaviour. They blamed each other and they fought, and I didn’t care about that either. I found a man who promised me the sun. I moved in with him, but he didn’t deliver. He smoked too much, drank too much. I told him that, one night. He was steaming, and he hit me. I didn’t know what to do. I shut my mouth and let him fawn over me. He apologised a dozen times, but it didn’t matter. I’d seen something in his eyes I hadn’t expected to ever see. It was that same darkness I’d seen that night, in that man’s eyes.
He hit me four more times before my parents found out. They dragged me back home. My boyfriend ended up in hospital. My dad got arrested.
Mum asked me, “Why did you let him do it?”
“I couldn’t leave.”
She didn’t understand.
I tried again. “I couldn’t stop him.”
I didn’t know if I was talking about my boyfriend, or about that night, with that man. I felt the pavement under my cheek and the bile in my mouth and the tears in my eyes. I went to my room, my old room, and I cried.
It wasn’t until the anniversary of that night that I told my parents. I didn’t intend to. The words slipped out. I heard Mum’s whispers, heard Dad’s rising voice. None of it sank in. I listened, but I didn’t truly hear. I waited for as long as I could and then I left.
On the anniversary of another day, a day that ended something that had only just begun, I cooked a meal. It was the first I’d cooked in a long time. I used to love it, but it just hadn’t seemed important. I cooked a meal and set places for two. My parents were out; I wouldn’t be disturbed.
I ate slowly. I ate one meal, and I didn’t touch the other. My cheeks were wet the entire time. Tears dripped onto my hands. I stood up. I looked at the uneaten meal, I set my hand on my belly, and I murmured, “I’m sorry.”
I went to my room and took the bottle of pills out of its hiding place. I washed them down with my parents’ vodka, and I let the tears fall thick and fast.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 17:33|
I hope there's no correlation between entering on the last day and losing.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 18:49|
This is my submission for the sad story prompt.
Secrets of the cairn [650 words]
I am on a mission of utmost secrecy. There is something big out here, deep in the forest behind my childhood home. My father spoke about it, and the words a man chooses to speak when words are few and final and come hard through sighing breaths are assuredly of great importance. I repeat the conversation in my head as I inhale the musk of the trees, searching for clues:
“The woods, behind the house… you remember? Hiking. Our rock. The see-saw tree. All that?”
Little was said before then, and little after this. So I conclude that there is something big out here. Something important, and something meant only for me. Not just the rock, the large boulder at the edge of the field we ate sandwiches on once, I passed that a while back, along with the fallen tree that lays over the stone wall and across the path. I made my inspection and did not find anything. There were no signs, no etchings, no X to mark a spot where lay buried a box of journals, notes, instructions. I recall detailing those landmarks on my printer-paper maps. I drew dozens of them, perfecting the cartography of these woods, even though I could walk them by memory alone. I had placed my own X’s on those maps, X’s where I had left Matchbox cars, GI Joes, or other pieces of some scheme I was constructing for myself. Those mysteries were solved long ago. But there remains one other waypoint, one more landmark among the trees here, and because the sun is sinking and the ferns are rising I bend low, counting the steps, but assuredly these paces account for two, maybe three of a child’s gait, so I am closer than I think--
And there it is. In shallow leaves on the gnarled and sprouting earth lies what remains of The Bridge Across the Brook. I recall helping build this simple crossing with him. I don’t remember why we did it, other than to have built a thing. It would only benefit me, though I imagined then there were perhaps other wayward travelers of these Uncertain Properties behind the neighborhood. So I watched as his axe made loud, smacking strikes against the bases of the choicest candidates, and then we dragged them to the brook, leaving our hands marred with pine-scars and pitch. Nine young pines, young back then anyway, laid down like candles, now snapped and peeling, gripped by mud and under weeds and hidden from most things.
It seems like there should be more fanfare in this, so I wait. I stand quite a while, watching the decaying logs in silence. A plane drones overhead; the sound of cars on the nearby road gusts through the branches and the reeds. The mud and stones of the brook, its water no longer flowing, would take me only a few stretching steps to cross now. I listen harder, to the spaces in between the trees, and stare into the darkness of their gathering farther out, where the path dwindles and where I was never allowed to go. The sun is gone now, and the forest is a sort of blue. I close my eyes. I listen for something big.
When I open my eyes again my throat is hard. I nod a few times, my acknowledgement to the unpresent, and turn back. I follow the barbed wire fence back to the old house, its windows glowing warm over the greying yard.
Someday, when my paths in the forest have faded out, and all these woods are razed to make the properties more numerous and certain, someone, some construction worker will find that cairn of rot, I expect. They will be perplexed by this sudden arrangement in the dense chaos of the trees, and wonder when and why and by whom it was put there, of all places, for the use of no one, and only I will know, and, I promise, I will tell them nothing. It belongs to us.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 19:01|
I'll throw down on this.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 19:27|
Round 63 submission
It says "everything" the same way an abstract says everything about a scientific paper. That's not a narrative, it's a summary. This is your submission now:
Flores de las Meurtos
Martha had wiped down her plastic couches, dusted her ceramic peppers, and refilled the crystal bowl with Werther’s hard candies. The soft knock on the door told her it was time to meet her last surviving relative.
“Hola Abuela,” he said when she opened the door. She immediately scooped him into her arms and peppered his hair with quick kisses.
When he finally squirmed free, laughing, he tugged at his guardian’s pant leg.
His foster mother spoke softly. “Carlos insisted on bringing you this.” She handed Martha a plant. It was a deep red orchid. Martha used to have greenhouse filled with orchid hybrids. After her husband’s death, she could no longer afford the mortgage on such a large house.
“It’s beautiful,” she said to him, and placed it on the sill of her tiny unit’s only window.
They spent the afternoon looking through family photos. Carlos pointed to the long-gone faces and asked questions until it was time for him to go.
“Why can’t I stay here with you?”
Martha smiled. “I’m not well enough to take care of you, but you should visit me often.”
“I will, Abuela.”
Shortly after closing the door, she heard screams, and rushed outside. Carlos’s body lay lifeless underneath the shuttle that brought the residents to bingo.
Martha sat near the orchid with a small spray bottle, misting the petals as tears rolled down her cheeks.
She watered the flower twice a day, and had not missed a session. She stopped going to bingo, had her meals delivered to her room, and refused to attend her doctor appointments. The carpet under the window was not vacuumed; Martha would swat at the orderlies with her cane if they drew near her precious plant.
Growing orchids is a fickle business. The pH of the soil must be perfect, the humidity not too damp, and its time in the sun strictly regulated. Martha had perfected her technique with hours every day spent in her old greenhouse.
Martha had the sudden urge to use the restroom, a plague of aging. She turned to rush to the bathroom, and tripped over a forgotten bag of potting soil. Her leg bone jutted from her leg, and she pushed the emergency button that hung around her neck.
Nurse Maria pushed Martha’s wheelchair into the room. The window shade had been left open, and the orchid’s soil was baked dry.
“You killed my flower, you ignorant puta!” she hissed.
Maria smacked her gum. “Whateva lady. It just needs some water,” she said, filling a glass up from the tap.
“Stop! The chlorine levels!”
The nurse ignored her and poured the entire glass onto the flour. “See? It’s fine.”
Maria left, and Martha wheeled over to the drowning flower. She dabbed at it with paper towels in a futile gesture of hope.
Martha’s leg started to stink and itch, and the orchid's petals wilted and fell to the floor. Uneaten meals piled up around her. She passed the days looking through the photo albums filled with ghosts, and glaring at the flower. The stem turned brown and curled with rigor mortis, dried and cracked, and crumbled to dust.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 19:44|
Ok, good point. It was all tell and no show. I don't know what I was thinking
blue squares fucked around with this message at 20:01 on Oct 18, 2013
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 19:49|
Been hemming and hawing over this poo poo all week.
gently caress it.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 20:38|
Deep breath. I'm in.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 21:30|
I'm in, and because I have poo poo to do this weekend, here's my submission.
The Best Day Ever
Russ awoke on a Saturday, his head resting on his pillow: perfectly positioned in a shadow between two sunbeams. He looked forward to breakfast, but wasn’t starving. He had to use the bathroom, but it wasn’t an emergency. It was the perfect morning, and he knew it seconds after he opened his eyes.
His gaze settled on the hat he’d made over a decade ago. The words “Best Day Ever” emblazoned in puffy paint across the front. He hadn’t worn it; it had never been apropos. The smell of maple syrup wafted into the room; the spatter of pancakes on the griddle trickled through the apartment.
Russ reached up and put on the hat. His wife had pancakes ready for him when he sat down at the table. She kissed him on the cheek.
“You’re wearing the hat.”
“Today is going to be the best day ever.”
Russ finished his breakfast and his favorite pair of jeans, favorite shirt, and favorite sweatshirt, were all clean at the same time. He put on a new pair of socks--still soft and fuzzy--and pulled on his shoes that were just the right amount of broken in.
It was a beautiful autumn day, and he and his wife walked to the park hand in hand. They fed the ducks and held each other close.
On the way back they stopped at the market to buy a few steaks for dinner. An employee was stocking the shelves.
“Can I help you find anything?”
“Get any new wines?”
“Nope, just the usual.”
The employee went back to his chore, and Russ and his wife mused over the selection. The boy looked up.
“It’s not new, but I did find this today,” said the boy. He pulled a dusty bottle off the bottom shelf of his cart. “It rolled back behind the shelves a while ago, I guess.”
Russ took the bottle and wiped the dust off the label. It was old vintage from a winery long gone. The store didn’t have it on file anymore, and gave it to him for twenty dollars.
Their steaks were cooked rare; the wine rounded and velvety.
After dinner they cuddled on the couch and watched another episode of The Wire. Russ’s wife beckoned to him from the bedroom, her dress fell to the floor and her naked body slipped between the sheets. He removed the hat and studied it. The paint was peeling off, the fabric stale and cracked. It had always been a joke, but now that it had happened, the hat seemed childish and tawdry. He dropped into into the trash and joined his wife in bed.
The next morning Russ’s alarm blared before he’d had enough to sleep. He squinted with the sun in his eyes, and his stomach wretched with hunger.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 22:04|
My submission. I might have gone a bit mawkish, but I'll take my medicine.
The Dance [862 words]
They spent their evenings dancing, never moving out of step, never faltering, never slowing. The nights were cold, and they found what warmth they could from each other, their clothes, now ragged and worn, offered little protection, but neither complained.
Both had seen terrible cruelties, inflicted by people with twinkling eyes and kind smiles, people who looked like them, with sorrow on their lips but madness in their hearts, coldly following the orders of the great machine.
The great machine had raged its way through the countryside, destroying everything in its path. No happiness could exist under its jackbooted presence, only fear, and grief. No one was left untouched by its steely gaze.
The machine had come to their village several months ago. It had scorched the earth and taken the unworthy. They had hidden, enveloped by the velvet-dark forest, and the machine had passed them by.
They had seen, though. They saw how the machine tore through the village, burned down homes, violated men and women and children equally. Some, the machine took, some it simply used and left.
The people left behind were bitter, and afraid, and would not let them return to join them in the warmth. The people said they would bring the machine back upon those left behind. They, with their dark curls and dark eyes drew wrath. The people spat at him, and crossed themselves at the sight of her, warding off the curse she carried with her by accident of birth.
They could only come back under the comforting wing of darkness and guided by the kindly moon, to steal eggs and milk, dancing like motes of dust through the shafts of moonlight, lingering in the shadows to watch and listen, and creeping back to the forest to eat.
He would cook for her, and she would sing the songs they had learned from their mothers, so softly and sweetly that he thought the whole world would weep, if only they would hear her.
Sleep came more easily for him than for her, and she would spend the coldest hours pressed against him, her will to continue ebbing with each breath of sharp, night air.
Deepest winter came, and they knew it was time to move on. They walked, exhausted and starving, through the days and nights, their ears straining for any sound of the machine, until they reached the next village. The machine had left its gruesome calling card behind; twisted bodies littered the earth and beasts lay slaughtered and flyblown. All was silent. She waited, crouched like a wary animal, concealed in the undergrowth, while he picked his way through the trail of suffering to a barn with a wide open doorway. She watched, with held breath, as he slipped inside. Minutes passed, and she dared not move, until finally, he gestured for her to follow.
The barn had loose floorboards, covering an earthen floor. He dug a hollow, deep enough for both of them, replacing the boards above it. They took the clothes from the dead, lining the pit with them. They slept warmly within, a deep and dreamless sleep.
The morning brought a frost. He hurried, mouse-like, to the ramshackle buildings of the village, and mustered his courage to look through the shattered window of the cottage closest to the barn.
The occupants were dead, laid in a regimented row, each one with a neat bullet hole, a red flower blooming in each lapel. Beyond them, in the pantry, he saw great hanging hams and cured sausages. He stood, staring, his stomach betraying him, rumbling loudly. He slipped inside, and gingerly took down a ham. He knew she could not last without it. He felt the eye of God upon him, and prayed forgiveness. He crept throughout the house, searching for clothes and blankets, when a glint of light gave him pause. In the bedroom, lying on the bed, a haphazard pile of jewellery, watches, eyeglasses and gold coins, the sheer volume of which he had never before seen in his life. Beside it, neatly laid out papers bore the insignia of the machine.
His breath catching in his throat, he stumbled back through the house, all his grace forgotten, clutching the ham to his chest, stealing glances over his shoulder as he ran. The machine was coming.
He wrenched open the door of the barn, his hands slipping and dropping the meat in among the dead and the decay.
They lay together, in the pit, the boards carefully replaced above them, and held each other.
The machine came, as they knew it would. Boots outside. Voices, clipped and harsh, getting louder.
They lay still, and breathless.
The machine entered.
Voices shouted in a language they could not understand. The machine was tearing up the boards, one by one. Boots hammering, showering them with grit and dust and dirt.
He wiped away her tears, and held his hand tightly over her nose and mouth, and waited. She did not struggle.
Goodnight, my darling, goodbye, he said.
Light flooded the pit, and he was lifted, up and away into the cold embrace of the machine.
And the dance was over.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 22:27|
Sad story time, with macguffin
[fnrt, judging complete]
Noumena fucked around with this message at 18:00 on Oct 29, 2013
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 22:46|
I'll be in for this week's prompt.
|# ? Oct 18, 2013 23:14|
Signups close in 36 minutes, maggots.
And by that I mean literal maggots, I envisage you all squirming from key to key.
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 03:25|
Sign-ups are closed.
Maggot repellent has been placed in all known points of entry.
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 04:07|
Saddest story, written in worst prose.
to my wife (on our anniversary)
I always thought I was a different kind of person. That I would love and love forever like I had when I was younger - that I would hummingbird between people and cities and families, whirling around in a perpetual cycle of new love. That I could not be settled.
Now I am settled with you. Now we are the picture of domesticity: we so easily and frequently, buying a bed together, hosting dinner parties. We on bicycles to the north pond in summer. Curled like smoke on the blanket, books for each and in the lull of our wandering minds between paragraphs, laughing dogs and ducks to watch. After summer, we in autumn cardigans and fuzzy eyes; we lacing fingers together loose like the threadbare sneakers we slip on. Cradling tomatoes at the market. Bouncing goodbye kisses off cheeks.
Before, long ago, we were what you're supposed to be before settled. Before we I was happy naked under thin blankets in your college bed. I rode the bus all night to you. I wrote you poetry and cried on the telephone. You got high, I got drunk, and we rocketed along, leaving sparkler trails through the nights behind us. Later you went to India. I moved into our first apartment alone. I had no parents; there were two flights of stairs; it was ninety degrees on the first of July. A coworker packed my boxes and bare mattress into his pickup, then later unpacked them. I had no words to thank him. I tried to say it by not asking his help hauling boxes. I shook and the blood thumped in my face and I did not vomit and hauled another load of books up another stair.
When the last of it was up I stood catching my breath, the coolness of the rooms like just-turned-up dirt. Fresh. Ready. The nicest place I had ever lived. I opened the box nearest me and began to settle in and was done with the last box before I stopped to eat.
I was alone in our apartment then.
You came back from India, packed up your childhood. We drove from your parents' house straight down the lake shore. After the boxes up the stairs and the suitcases in the corner and the shoes slipped off at the door - after all this we stood in the kitchen and marveled to have come home together, to acknowledge that home was now for two.
I have omitted certain facts, though, and home is for three.
There is not a ghost in our apartment but there is a death. There is your death. She sleeps curled beneath the chair at the desk we do not use. When you were fifteen you tried it the same way, with a rope and a stick and some good leverage. You are an engineer. You have tried it in our apartment. While I was at the market fondling produce or at work late sighing exaggeratedly. You have put a rope around your neck and a stick through a rope and then through the slats of the chair at the desk we do not use. And you changed your mind, disassembled it all before I was home; and you are still here, but so is your death.
She is in the kitchen, just around the wall, clicking a lighter once while you are outside smoking. She reminds me that someday, when ambient noise resolves into a lighter click again, I will be without you. Your death wears the pink lace dress you have not worn yet and may never wear. She is in the broadest clean part of the wood flooring, in the way the light strikes it at early afternoon on a lazy Sunday, in the promise of all the Sundays I will ever have that you may not.
I did not see her at first and then I saw her in her entirety, in her promise and malice, in your daily silences and stares and lank hair on unwashed pillowcases. In these small signifiers but also in the greater tide of it, in the way a year has slipped past. All our quiet domesticities barely break the surface before losing to the current. I am fighting but you are not and your death breaks the tie. She is a mermaid weaving a bed of seaweed. She sings to you from the drain in the bathtub while you hate your face in the mirror. She promises dreamless sleep, a home at the bottom of the waterfall. Your crushed body will turn bioluminescent and rival the stars from the bottom of the lake.
Who am I with my voice cracking and drying to dust in the sun? Who am I, calling you back to a ground that still shakes beneath me? The nicest place I have ever lived holds an orphan, a death, and a wound.
You split open before me every night and I am ashamed to admit that I do not always mend you. Sometimes I try and fail. Sometimes I try to fail deliberately, as if I can provoke you into anger or fear, into anything beyond your desire for her. Sometimes I succeed and for an hour or a day we are there again, two alone in the bower of trees at the pond, pointing out herons; we are there in the parking lot with our foreheads together promising to each other. Sometimes we are there but always we return home. Always you sink fetal into her embrace. I settle and sigh like continental plates, feel the rawness at my edges. We are fused together in pressure and fire. I am married to you and you are married to her.
At night, in the nicest place I have ever lived, in the bed we chose together, we lie with our backs to each other. A space/a presence between. The future rustles through my dreams like a soft wind carrying the scent of funereal lilies.
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 05:14|
It says "everything" the same way an abstract says everything about a scientific paper. That's not a narrative, it's a summary. This is your submission now:
No. This is your submission now.
The door jingled and Robin watched the young man shrug himself through the door of Duxbury House. He looked uncertainly around before approaching the reception desk. He carried a plant wrapped in lavender cellophane--the kind they sold at the Walgreens two doors down.
“I’m here to see Grandma--um, Martha Trudgely, please. I’m her grandson.” He shifted the plant to his other arm.
“So I gathered. This your first time? Where’s Donny tonight?” Robin asked. She always tried to get the visitors talking before they got to the room. It helped things go a little easier.
“Donny was...in an accident. I’m the only one left give Grandma the bad news, I guess.”
Robin’s smile fell, replaced by her practiced sympathetic face.
“I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me show you to her room.”
He nodded and dutifully followed her down the hall. Their footsteps echoed on the linoleum and one of the fluorescent lights started to flicker.
“I’ll have to call maintenance,” Robin said to herself as she turned the key to door number eight. “Mrs. Trudgely,” she called brightly, “your grandson is here to see you!” She pushed the door open and shepherded the visitor in.
“Donny!” cried Mrs. Trudgely, “Is it just you again? Come in, my boy.” She patted the bed next to her.
“Um, it’s Jason, Grandma.”
“Jason,” she said, pausing. “You look so much like Donny.”
“People always say that,” Jason said with a sad smile.
“Where’s Donny?” she asked.
“Donny was in an accident,” he said. “I, um, I brought you a plant. It’s a geranium. It’s supposed to have purple flowers. But, um, I guess there aren’t any now.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet of you, Donny, no one ever brings me anything. Except you of course. You’ve always been my favorite grandson. Put it on the windowsill, so it can get some light. I’m sure I can get it to bloom. I’ve got an excellent green-thumb, you know. I’ve always been good at taking care of things.”
“Have you got yourself a nice wife yet, Donny?”
“It’s all about finding the right one. You’ve got to get yourself out there. You’re a nice boy, it’s just a matter of finding someone. You’ve got to go to church. Have you been going to church?”
Robin smiled at the familiar lecture, and quietly closed the door behind her. She would come back in fifteen minutes. That was how long most visitors liked. She set her timer and flipped open her worn copy of Jane Eyre. When the time came, she knocked gently on the door and pushed it open“Sorry, Mrs. Trudgely,” she said, “visiting hours are over.” Jason shot her a grateful smile.
“Always too short,” Mrs. Trudgely griped. “You’ll come again soon, won’t you Donny? and do come earlier next time.”
“Sure, grandma,” Jason said.
No family came to visit Mrs. Trudgely after that. Robin checked on her every shift, listened to her lectures about proper geranium care. But the plant itself didn’t seem to be doing so well. Its leaves were yellowing and several had fallen off.
“I water it every time I think of Donny,” Mrs. Trudgely would say. “But I think it needs more light. Open the blinds, would you dear?” Robin always did.
“I think it’s this pot,” Mrs. Trudgely announced one day. “They always sell plants in these terrible pots. Does them right in. I’m sure if I write to Donny he’ll send me another one.” Robin fetched some stationary and a pen. After Mrs. Trudgely wrote her letter, Robin mailed it to the forwarding address Jason had left on the billing paperwork. When it came back unopened, she went to the garden store and bought a small ceramic pot with a rabbit painted on it.
“Donny sent this,” she told Mrs. Trudgely. “He said he was sorry he couldn’t come himself. He’s very busy.”
“He probably found himself a girl,” Mrs. Trudgely said knowingly. “I told him he just needed to go to church more. I’ll have it blooming by the time they come to visit.”
Over time, Robin bought special potting soil, a pH monitor, several varieties of fertilizer, and a grow-lamp. The plant just looked worse.
“I water it every time I think of Donny,” Mrs. Trudgely said. “It’ll bloom soon.”
Two days before Christmas, Mrs. Trudgely had another stroke. She was standing at the window when it happened, and the fall broke her hip. When Robin came back from vacation, Mrs. Trudgely was still bedridden. All the yellow leaves had fallen off the geranium, and it looked almost perky.
“Your plant is looking good,” Robin said.
“I know,” Mrs. Trudgely said. “I water it every time I think of Donny.”
Robin gave it a cup of water every two weeks when she knew Mrs. Trudgely was sleeping. After a few months, it grew back most of the foliage it had dropped. Mrs. Trudgely didn’t do as well. Her bones didn’t heal right, and she’d developed a bad staph infection under her cast. Finally the doctor called. There would be operation, even though it was risky at her age. The EMTs came on a Thursday.
“Make sure you water it regularly,” Mrs. Trudgely told Robin. Robin promised she would.
She was still on duty when the hospital called. Robin went to get the geranium before the cleaning staff threw everything away. Peeking through the leaves was a single purple bud.
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 06:47|
The Cnidarian Question (936 words)
Thousands of miles of bone covered by a coloured skin, slowly turning the bleached whiteness of death. The sky screamed infernally overhead burning deeper and deeper through the ancient reef. It was the time. Unknowing, each mouth kissed the sea, releasing motes out from their stomachs that drifted into the ongoing storm happening beneath the foam. The cells that caught one another began to change, drifting down far from where they began onto a sheet of rock. The polyp grew a mouth and began to grow another, attached by a tiny membrane. And these copies would go on to grow another copy. With identical mouths they snared plankton, reaching upwards on a limestone skeleton towards the shifting sky.
In it's eight thousand year existence, the coral reef could sense that a change was coming. Death. It's life was many orders of magnitude slower than any other animal and so it's death appeared to be relatively quick. Parts of it starved or were broken off, others were above the water, forever caught in the frantic strobing of the star. On it's borders there was a creature making it's way through the crumbling towers, crawling with an affray of spikes. The huge starfish the colour of dusk crept across the reef, pushing their stomachs onto it and taking away a soup of sea water and digested coral. They moved slowly across the outermost layer, leaving nothing behind but blank stone. It gorged itself on mile after mile on an animal that didn't even know it existed.
The reef waited. Over towards where the sun rose it felt a strangeness in the water, a rotating churn. In moments huge areas of the reef were torn away, obliterated by moving air, ripping polyps off bone, tearing them to wet shreds. The crabs and fishes that lived amongst it's structures began to dwindle, living hard lives amongst the barren stone. Black, oily poo poo was poured over acres of the reef, drowning the mouths beneath an avalanche of waste. But it continued to wait.
On the reef lived a variety of different species of coral, and each species had colonies numbering the billions. They grew over decades, attacking other corals in their territory, capitalising on empty space, slowly exploring the fringe of the reef which itself transformed faster than the coral could manifest it's destiny. In the caves and over the mountains swam sea snakes, slugs, worms, fish, octopuses and turtles. More closely related to hard coral are the gorgonians, fractal sheets of living polyp that stretch into the water like enormous leaves. Similarly the jellyfish float through the water like the ghosts of bells, catching light in thin membranes from the setting star, colouring them crimson. All of this looked the same as it had for many epochs.Empires of colour rose and fell over the centuries, more dramatic and complex than any that could happen on the land. Yet it what was happening on the land that would bring an end to the Cambrian frontier.
Soft five pointed animals climbed into the metallic things across the ocean. They wore their skeletons on the inside, the only signs of hardness were white crescents set in the holes atop their necks. The holes moved up and down, making dry sounds in the air. The metal rays began to soar through the sky with their reflections caught on the brine beneath, on each wing of the things were long, hard tubes with fins coming off of the side and their ends painted in yellow and red. The bigger pieces of metal seemed to grow little clouds around them with a booming noise and from then they moved silently over the water, their echo taking time to catch up. As the moon gyrated on the other side of the planet it pulled the water away, exposing parts of the dead reef up towards the silent metallic things. They passed above, going towards the land, before making elliptical orbits back over the reef in the crystal water. The metal cylinders on each wing was dropped, one, two, three, four, down towards the water. When they hit they made indents into the sea as the surface struggled to keep, yet in they went anyway, plummeting down towards the reef, crashing through the coral and throwing up silt which threw up a brown fog. And nothing happened.
The light rose again. The soft animals wore black skins and plastic around their faces as they travelled through the water, down towards the eight cylinders. Already starfish and crabs had begun to explore the strange new hardness which had fallen from above. The soft animals swam towards each of the things, leaving behind little mounds of plastic before disappearing. And then the bombs went off. An underwater fire bloomed outward, roaring across the coral, shattering it's bones. The entire ocean pressed against this sudden bubble of heat, the water clapping together and then surging upwards, throwing pieces of death in the air. A shockwave continued over the reef eviscerating any soft flesh. The reef disappeared beneath a cloud of blood and sand and when it cleared nothing was left.
The coral did not feel anything. It had lived a long life unknowing anything but itself, it's purpose was simple. It had no choice. It was unaware at the beauty in which it created, the systems of life it supported, even of the corals surrounding it. In the black silence of it's existence it felt a hunger that lasted a thousand years. It wouldn't be able to comprehend the manner in which it's life ended. But then again, neither could we.
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 13:36|
Time to lose!
Civil War (911 words)
Eleven days. It had been eleven days since Joseph had known safety. Eleven days on the road, eleven days tending to this infant. Joseph knew the baby was starving. He only wished he could do something.
“What's your child's name?”
“He's not mine,” Joseph said. The soldier by his side leaned over and smiled at the infant in his arms. Joseph jerked away, waking the baby. The baby's wails reached every pair of ears in the convoy. These days it was hard to trust anyone in uniform. Though, nobody in this unit did anything abhorrent yet. Joseph let the soldier have a look. “I just found him-”
“On the street, in his dead mother's arms, as you were fleeing the city, right?” The soldier tried tickling the child's nose. The iron on his finger on scratched the delicate skin, escalating the child's protests. “Sorry,” the soldier said. Joseph was too busy rocking the boy back and forth to hear. He shuffled away from the soldier. Toxic, all of them.
The soldier fished for something in his pouches. He retrieved a banana, a bit misshapen from the days of marching. “Here.”
“You think he can eat this?”
“It's for both of you. If he can't eat it, you need the strength.” The soldier forced it into Joseph's hands. “The name's Morgans. Trooper Morgans. Don't worry, we'll be at Hillcrest by the evening. Promise. Imperial honor.”
Joseph snatched the fruit away from Morgans' hands. As little as Joseph trusted him, soldiers had easier ways to kill a refugee. Joseph tried to play a game, waving the banana through the air like a toy and landing it in the baby's mouth. The only metaphor he could craft was a spear sailing towards its target. How grisly.
Dozens of iron-clad bodies rattled at once. Morgans' too, standing at attention in an instant. Joseph had no time to think. He gasped, feeling a cold hand grab him by the wrist. Something else cold was shoved into his hand.
“Defend yourself if necessary.” As Joseph looked down at the knife he held as a spear sailed by his head. Joseph did the only thing a sane man could do. Throwing himself at the ground, he kept his head low. Shrieks from the baby's lungs complemented the battle cries of dying soldiers. War was in the air, and all Joseph could do was wait for it to end.
Something heavy fell on top of his back. With a grunt, Joseph tried to take his mind away. Maybe he could act like a real father and comfort the baby. In a hushed voice, he tried singing the only song he knew.
“Listen children, to a story
That was written long ago
Of the kingdom on a mountain
And the valley folk below
On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath a stone
And the valley people swore
They'd have it for their very own”
Blood oozed down the sides of his face. Trying to ignore the corpse on top of him, he kept singing. The spears repeatedly jabbing into whatever body was shielding him made that difficult. At least the baby's cries became laughter, like the rocking of their bodies was some kind of game. As he nearly finished his song, another voice cut off the last line.
“We've secured the hostages,” it yelled across the plains. With the sounds of fighting no longer in his ears, Joseph wanted to move. He could barely budge with the armored body pinning him down. Eventually, something threw the weight off his back and Joseph rolled over.
“Arming civilians, to make us think they're combatants. The insurgents will stoop to anything,” the new soldier grumbled as he snatched the knife by Joseph's side. The soldier's hands pulled Joseph to his feet. Joseph could only look to the body, face down and punctured with a hundred holes, wondering if that was Morgans who tried to save him. He'd never know.
“You're safe now,” the soldier said. His accent was thick, but Joseph could still understand most of the words. “The insurgent army won't be hiding behind you anymore.” Without asking, the soldier's armored hands beat at Joseph's rags, trying to shake off the dirt. “We'll get you to the nearest refugee camp, and you'll be absolutely safe there. Promise. Imperial honor.”
“How far is Hillcrest?” Maybe this one's second opinion would bring better news, Joseph reasoned. The soldier's answer brought no hope.
“No, Hillcrest is held by the insurgents. They'll use you as a hostage there. We need to march to Shield's Valley.” The man wasn't even looking at Joseph anymore. He looked back and forth, barking the occasional order at his fellow soldiers.
“How long...” Joseph trailed off. Somehow, he knew he wouldn't like the answer.
“Eleven days. Nine, if we make good time.” The soldier spouted off the words like it was no big deal. It probably wasn't to him. To Joseph, it may as well have been an eternity. The soldier leaned in towards Joseph's body, smiling at the infant in his arms. “What's his name?” the soldier asked with a chuckle. He held out his hand. “You can call me Lieutenant Morgans.”
“Get away from me.” Joseph cradled his son as he leered back.
Eleven days. Another eleven days before Joseph could be safe again.
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 17:42|
Let it never be said I was unmerciful.
Sitting Here and Sebmojo, you are both granted a 24 hour extension, effective retroactively from your previous due date. Your new deadline is Saturday, October 19th at 11:59 PM PST. That's tonight for those of you keeping score at home. HOWEVER, should this deadline also fall by the wayside, remember this?
Consider it scraped as of midnight, tonight. In its place you will be allotted a HARD upper limit of 1,000 words, to be reduced by 200 words every day thereafter it takes you to submit. If the word count hits the magic zero, you both lose, and will be afford special loser treatment as befitting of losing losers who lost.
The Word Count
To be clear, if you submit tonight, before midnight, the initial constraints of the challenge are still in effect. If you submit anytime tomorrow, Sunday, you are reduced to a word ceiling of 1,000 words you absolutely may not go over for any reason. Should you submit Monday, 800 words; Tuesday, 600; Wednesday, 400. If Friday hits and neither of you have submitted anything, the bell tolls for both you. Should only one of you submit, they will be declared the winner by default over the entire contest, disregarding the standing of previous rounds.
Get to it, cowboys.
Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 22:28 on Oct 19, 2013
|# ? Oct 19, 2013 22:20|
A Workaday Misery - 730~ Words
All around them in the coffee shop, life continued as normal. Baristas smiled smiles they've been doing so long that even they can’t tell if they're real, and made friendships that lasted only ‘til the register snapped shut. A pair of awkward young lovers were entangled on the couch, poking and probing boundaries before giggling and pulling back, naïve of where next, but curious all the same. The luminous square-eyed gazes of laptops looked coolly back at themselves in the mirrored glasses of students, and friends caught up for a toll of hot water, latticework fingers around mugs, keen-eared for gossip with easy laughter. Overlooking it all, an old couple shared cake with two forks, and talked without talking, while he, mischievous still, slid his hand beneath the table to squeeze her thigh, just as he had done since their own days as students.
Julia and Anthony sat apart from all of it. Their corner was dark, and the warm amber spill of the everyday didn't reach. Together they shared in a different kind of mundane; a simple, regular, workaday, misery.
“Was it peaceful? Was she comfortable?”
Anthony stared down into the void of his coffee cup, where his haggard reflection came back up to meet him, giving her the answer she didn’t want to hear.
“I tried Anthony, I did, I just…” her wide brown eyes, already damp with tears, sought solace in his, and he cupped her hands.
"I know. We all know. You did the best you could. It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known."
Deadlines looming at work and an unforgiving boss. A dozen hospital visits in half as many years. It was just another one of her dying swan routines wasn't it? Of course. Why would this time be any different? Just a few loose ends to tie up before she left the office. It might mean she'd catch a little rush-hour traffic, but that wouldn't hurt.
Their messages had been wry at first, dismissive, even resentful. How many times had they gone through this ritual? They loved their mother, but this was getting ridiculous. They had jobs, families, and lives of their own. If it was a cry for attention, something needed to be done. Perhaps they should start looking into homes, someplace she might make some new friends. Phoning an ambulance for stomach cramps or arrhythmia, things like that. It was a natural part of getting old, they weren’t things you rushed to hospital for.
But the texts began to change.
Suddenly things might be a teensy bit more serious than all those other times, and she had left the office right?
And then the prognosis wasn’t so good, and she really ought to hurry.
And then the Doctors were saying she should get here as fast as she could, that her condition was deteriorating fast and she didn’t have much time.
The messages got more frantic, and so did she.
But then the phone stopped buzzing. The excruciating silence rang in her ears. Dread filled her, and she willed the phone to buzz again, anything to have the panic back.
But it didn’t, and it wouldn’t.
It was still sitting in the bottom of her handbag. It was like a lead brick, and getting heavier by the minute with the messages of friends and relatives. But she couldn’t face them. She didn’t think she would ever be able to pick it up.
They sat without speaking until they were the last ones left, trapped on their own dark shoreline, the amber tide all ebbed away. A barista stacking chairs told them they would be closing soon.
Julia gulped for air and stood up to leave, her coffee cold and untouched. She took a fistful of napkins, stuffed them in her jacket pocket, and tried to compose herself for the journey home. Home, where a worried sick husband would be waiting, and her two young sons, impatient and oblivious, expecting dinner.
Anthony put his arms around his younger sister and kissed her forehead, the words he couldn't say crushing him, a memory that would forever be his burden - the frail and failing grip of his mother’s fingers coiled around his, with that awful look in her eyes:
“Where’s my baby? Where is she?”
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 02:00|
Uuuuuuh well if anyone ever wanted to see what totally raw and uncut writing by me is like, presenting my Thunderbrawl with Sebmojo
On Getting Down
not even telling how many words this is
"I just want to go home," says Sasha.
Nearby a red plastic cup rocks back and forth on its side. The smell of gin hangs in the still, hot air, piney, like a Christmas wraith. The garbage bin is tipped over, its contents splayed out across the patio, a fan of glass and crushed aluminum.
"loving look at me," says MaryBeth. "Are you going to loving cut me or not?"
Sasha is facing MaryBeth in the Arizona heat, in the back yard of a timeshare home just outside of Lake Havasu City. The morning sun is climbing the horizon, trying to get a better look at the spectacle. Sasha is not thinking about what is at the end of her extended arm. She's not thinking about how the thing at the end of her arm is glinting in the ascendant sun. She's not thinking about how it's getting slippery because her hand is clammy because her fingers are wrapped around it so tight her knuckles blanch.
She's thinking about the tableau of spilled recyclables, how they are just so because MaryBeth kicked the bin just so because Sasha said the wrong thing just when.
Time is no longer moving laterally in the concrete and gravel back yard but deepening. The moment is up close and personal, like Chronos himself shoved under an electron microscope.
"I," says Sasha when she has still neither cut MaryBeth nor put down the knife in her hand.
The cans are there Because. She is there Because. MaryBeth is there Because. The knife is there Because.
Up and down the dusty block, sounds and smells of waking humans drift through the heat like a hawk coasting across thermals. Coffee and voices that croak through the film of last night's booze and cigarettes.
Time gives a little jump, as if it's only just remembered itself, and lurches into motion again.
It occurs to Sasha that, should either of them call for help, she is the one holding the knife.
'As far from home as possible' turned out to be Pennsylvania State University. Sasha landed at Philly International, took the three hour bus ride to the campus, and for three years it was like she'd been born again.
Her brother was the only one to call or write, at least at first, but whatever sibling interface they'd shared years before had long since gone defunct. She had a folder in her email inbox labeled 'Walter', and all the messages were marked as unread. She'd only deleted his voicemails when her school friends complained that there wasn't any room to leave messages on Sasha's phone.
Eventually, in the first quarter of her Sophomore year, the correspondences stopped coming, and life went on.
The counselor tapped the cap of his pen against his teeth. Sasha winced at the staccato of plastic against enamel.
"I don't think you're depressed," the counselor said after something like three measures of pen-on-tooth percussion. He slid a student-made pamphlet across his desk. "There's a group of students who go out hiking a couple times a month, lot of them wallflowers like you."
"I don't hike," said Sasha.
"Beats the gym. But, Sasha, we've been talking all quarter. And until you make a change, we've run out of things to talk about."
"Look, I hear you. Lets just pick something different."
The counselor sat back in his chair. Tap tap tap tap taptap. The top of the pen glistened slightly with saliva, as it always did near the end of their sessions. "Boy, Sasha, I don't think I'd feel too great about letting you off the hook. Ultimately, you came to me to work on you, and I'm telling you that you need to get off campus for a little while. You've accepted that school can't solve all of your problems. It's time to own up, get out there and find your own answers." Taptaptaptaptaptaptap went the pen, the councilor's personal take on the classic Pause For Effect.
Sasha supposed she could take the pamphlet and lie about hiking. Or take the pamphlet and never come back for another session.
"I'll think about it," she said.
It was after classes on a Friday. Sasha dropped her backpack on one of the benches that lined the walkways between the school buildings and fished out an aggregate of trash and crumpled papers long overdue for the bin. She always used the public bins, since trash tended to pile up on and around the small can in her dorm room.
There was a girl nearby smoking a cigarette, watching Sasha.
"I always tell myself," said the girl, who was tall and thick-boned and had short, dark hair, "that this is the time that I'm gonna keep my bag clean. And then weeks later you're pulling out essays covered in crumbs, going 'but I just cleaned this,' only 'just' was like three months ago."
Sasha didn't look up. "I know, right?"
"Hey," the dark-haired girl said, spying certain crinkled pamphlet in the garbage. "You must be chronically avoiding the counseling office too."
At that Sasha did look up. "I guess hiking is the guy's pet cure-all. It just wasn't my thing. We hit a wall, so I left."
"Did he do the thing with the teeth?"
"Oh, gently caress the thing with the teeth. And the pen? Yeah."
"I think the whole strategy is to make students realize that there is something worse than our respective personal dramas--" the dark-haired girl tossed her cigarette into the bin, onto the pamphlet "--and that something is teeth. Plastic and teeth."
Sasha finished purging her bag and swung it back over her shoulder. "Well cool. See you around or something."
"Hey, why don't you come out to the fire tower on Thickhead Mountain with us tonight? It's not really hiking if you're drunk and it's dark."
"I don't do hikes," sighed Sasha. "I just don't. It's dumb, and I'm wrong, but I don't."
"I just said it's not a hike. Also, my name's MaryBeth."
"Sorry MaryBeth," said Sasha. "My name's Sasha, and if you want to do anything aside from hiking, I'd be down."
MaryBeth smiled. "Are you familiar with the works of Timothy Leary?"
"Walter! Walter!" Her brother's name had ceased to sound like a word. It was a bird call, spiraling out into the empty air around the cliff face, dissipating across the wind.
"Will you shut that girl up? Someone's gonna know we're up here..."
"It's her first time, rear end in a top hat. I should've known. Hey Sasha, who's Walter?"
Sasha was atop the rickety old Greenwood fire tower with MaryBeth and Jeff. All three were tripping significantly on LSD and possibly some ketamine in at least one case, and Sasha was the furthest gone of all, and her compatriots were having serious considerations about when and maybe even if they were going to be able to get her down before her wailing brought down the park ranger heat.
Sasha was also ten years old in that moment, clinging to the side of a sharp incline by the strength of what spindly roots poked through the clay and stones. She'd got too far above Walter, ignored his repeated calls for her to slow down and wait up. And then next time she'd looked down he was back at the bottom, shielding his eyes against the noontime sun.
"Come down," he shouted, and Sasha had tried.
"Sasha, sweetie, you gotta climb down now," said MaryBeth.
Sasha had put one tentative foot on the jutting, football sized stone she'd used as a foothold just moments before and it wiggled. A little more weight and the stone came loose, tumbling down the sharp incline, threading between Walter's legs on its final bounce, and Walter'd only had enough time to look helplessly alarmed as the thing just missed his privates.
"The whole drat hill could fall over," Walter muttered. Sasha had never heard her older brother use a bad word. "Hey Sasha," he'd called up, louder. "I need you to stay right there, okay? I'm gonna go get dad or something."
"Okay," Sasha had called back down with little kid bravado. She'd been sure she could hold on forever, which was only as long as it would take her brother an dad to come get her, and then things would be fine.
MaryBeth: "Look, Jeff, you go. I'm just gonna stay with her up here. If something happened and we'd left her..."
"Fine. But I wasn't here. For any of this."
Sounds of Jeff receding. Sounds of Walter crashing through the forest, back the way he and Sasha had come.
"It's okay. We'll stay up here. You're peaking, I gave you too much." MaryBeth's comforting hand on Sasha's back was the summer wind against that hillside and little Sasha clung and waited, now terrified that even trying to climb down would challenge some brotherly wisdom of Walter's and result in her untimely demise. For the first time in her young life, Sasha's, she thought about being all gone. Tumbling down that hill, bouncing like a stone, her little bones breaking against the indifferent solidity of sun-baked clay. Of laying on the forest floor, empty, all gone, of the wind blowing through the trees above her, continuing on even though she had stopped.
She looked northeast out of the fire tower, across the rolling blue-black blanket of the Rothrock State Forest under the cloud-filtered moonlight, but only saw daytime passing in the old logging forests near the old family home in Willemette. In the fire tower, her nails dug bloody crescents into her palms, which was the sensation of her little hands going numb as the sequestered chill beneath the surface of the cliff--for it had become a cliff in the funhouse mirror of Sasha's mind's eye--seeped into dirty fingers locked in what had transformed into a life-or-death battle to stay in precisely the position that Walter had left her in, because she didn't want to fall, and be all gone.
"It's called ego-death," said MaryBeth. "It's normal. You feel like you're 'gone', but you're really just discovering that you were never here to begin with."
"I remember," said Sasha, hoarse, sitting up on the weathered floorboards of the fire tower.
"Whoa, hey. Are you...?"
"I haven't talked to my brother in three years," said Sasha, swaying there on her knees way up in the fire house on the mountain. "I never knew why, but. I remember. Things were always different. He never came back. I waited there, and he never came back."
"Are you good to climb back down, sweetie? We can talk on the way back. But we should like really leave if you're good to leave."
Sasha felt like she was really onto something, though. "I got in trouble. Mom and dad said I went too high, should've listened to Walt. But he left me. I don't know why no one came back."
"I'm gonna help you get down onto the stairs here. Can you manage the stairs?"
"I got down on my own in the end, obviously. Cut up my knee pretty bad, which ruined my jeans. Which is another reason I got in trouble." Sasha let MaryBeth coax her onto the rickety wooden stairs beneath the cabin of the fire tower, felt her legs start the mechanical process of hefting her body down what felt like an infinity of steps. Near the bottom, park rangers had demolished the lowest two flights of stairs, and Sasha watched herself drop fearlessly to the grass below, marveling at how her body simply did when she herself was too dissolved to man the helm.
Screaming Waaaaalteeeeerrrr became the new insider meme of MaryBeth's inner circle. The so-called Walter Story, for reasons Sasha couldn't fathom, endeared her to a group of people that she would've never even approached under other circumstances. The party goers. The drug doers.
Sasha added words like dose, nug, bump, roll, flip, and grams (the metric kind) to her regular lexicon, plus a slough of chemical compounds both organic and designer. By senior year, she was a changed young woman, with a 3.2 GPA and a bright career in impressing other self-styled psychonauts.
The idea to fly to Arizona for spring break came of course from MaryBeth.
"Look, if you don't want to..." she said, fiddling with the pens on Sasha's desk.
"I mean, I'll do whatever you do, but Lake Havasu isn't really my thing." Sasha was scratching a red bump that had appeared near her tobacco patch, contemplating if that meant that the patch was worse than the habit it was combating. "It's all like, guys with 'Thug' tattooed across their chests and girls in thong bikinis on boats."
"We could get mescaline," said MaryBeth, dropping the pens and leaning in conspiratorially. "Possibly. It's like a friend-of-a-friend's hookup. But worst case, we watch a bunch of bros and bro-hos make idiots of themselves. My mom owns a vacation home near town. You down?"
"Well, like," said Sasha, "what else am I gonna do? Your friends only like me when you're around."
"Maybe if you'd, like, talk more, or had anything interesting to say. They're really intellectual people, you can't just agree with them all of the time. They hate that."
"I guess I don't feel like I can talk to them unless you're around," said Sasha, looking down. MaryBeth smiled.
The above passes through Sasha's mind in the amount of time it takes for MaryBeth to realize that Sasha is not going to cut her and run into the house.
The cans are peppering the patio because MaryBeth had kicked the bin, because she was angry at Sasha, because they were both coming down off of the mescaline that Marybeth may or may not have hosed some guy to get, and Sasha, she was having second thoughts about everything, about the drugs and the friends and the trip and MaryBeth herself, which she told MaryBeth, there in the early morning desert light in the concrete and gravel back yard, told her, MaryBeth, how she, Sasha, was tired of hanging from cliffs of other people's design.
And MaryBeth had tried to say that maybe Sasha put her own drat self up on the cliffs, and it wasn't anyone else's job to get her down, and she shouldn't blame people for not always trying to.
Sasha had said, "Maybe you want me up on your cliff."
And the rest had sort of followed according to the caustic a-rationality of the college burnout: The kicking, the yelling, the running into the kitchen to grab a knife, the cliché threats and the final staredown on the back patio, and now time is chugging along quite nicely again, Chronos having extracted himself from the microscope and dusted off the indignity of the scrutiny, and gone on his way.
Sasha drops the steak knife, a thousand Becauses dispersing kinetically into the ground with the clang of the blade.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 07:14|
If this doesn't make you cry, you just don't know what sad is.
I waited at the block and sharpened my axe. Not that it wasn’t already sharp enough, but you can never have an axe that’s too sharp, that’s what my dad always said.
The prisoner had a hood on his head. He didn’t seem happy with the situation. “Oi! I’m not going out like a bloody cat with a bag on his head! Come on, let me at least see who’s topping me!” I didn’t completely understand the simile, but the point was well enough made. I nodded to the lads on either side of the hooded man, and the hood was removed. “Ah, Jack! Glad it’s you what’s doin’ the honours.”
I nodded. “They offered me the day off, Rob, but I wouldn’t hear of it. Someone else might botch it.”
Rob smiled. “Well, this has made my day. Let’s get to it, shall we?”
I nodded again, and he knelt down and placed his head on the block. “Some people like to say some last words at this point, Rob,” I said. “Did you have anything in mind?”
He shrugged, a difficult action from his position. “A pleasure doing business with you, Jack.” A gentleman to the last, our Rob.
I took my stance, feet shoulder width apart, lifted the axe above my head, and prepared my downsw-
“Hold that axe!” The magistrate emerged from the crowd. “We’ve got a stay of execution order.”
The magistrate nodded. “Not a pardon as such, we’ll be executing you in due course Mr Keillor. Jack, a word if you please, in my office.”
The magistrate’s office overlooked the square. As the magistrate and I watched, Rob was helped to his feet and the hood was placed back on his head.
“I was just in time,” said the magistrate. “Almost made a bit of a mistake there!”
“Thought you said he wasn’t being pardoned.”
“Oh, no, he’s still being executed. You don’t do what he did and not get executed, no sir. What I meant was, he’s not getting executed by you.” He reached over to a large black cloth nearby that had somehow gone unmentioned in this narrative and tugged on it. It came about halfway off of whatever it was covering, but then got snagged. “Hang on, I’ll have it off in a jiffy.”
“Need a hand?” I asked.
“Please.” I reached up above his outstretched arms and carefully unsnagged the cloth, then lifted it off. “Behold!” said he.
It was a large wooden frame. “What am I beholding?”
“It’s called a guillotine. It’ll be erected in the square. It’ll be much more cost effective than having to employ a professional to swing an axe, in the long run. Ah, progress.”
I was a little confused by this point. “So, what about me? I’m a little confused.”
“Ah yes, this part is always so awkward. I really should hire someone to do this, especially now that a staff vacancy is opening what with you being fired and all. Ah! I got through it, lovely! Please clear out your stuff on the way out, thank you!”
I don’t remember leaving his office, but presumably I must’ve done so. I don’t specifically remember entering Mike’s, either, but there I was. “How was your day, Jack?” he asked.
“Mead. Better make it a jug.”
He raised an eyebrow as he passed me the mead. “Must’ve had a rough one. Heard Rob’s High Justice got interrupted, it’s not just about that is it?”
I took a swig. “It’s that, but it’s more than that too.” And I explained the whole thing with the big wooden frame with the French sounding name that was supposedly gonna replace me. And I drank my mead.
Mike shook his head. “It’s a drat shame, is what it is. You’ve been here longer than that bloody magistrate, and now he’s showing you the door and replacing you with some… some foreign machine?” He shook his head again. “drat shame. This round’s on the house.”
The denizens of the bar suddenly became very interested in our conversation. “What’s going on?” asked Leo. “Why the free mead? Not that I’m looking a gift mug of mead in the mouth, so to speak.”
And then I had to explain the thing with the French sounding wooden thing again, and all the men shook their heads and agreed that it was a drat shame, and that I wouldn’t be paying for any more drinks that night, and some time soon after that I must’ve passed out from drinking so much free mead.
It was about a week before the guillotine was built. Passers by occasionally stopped to observe that “Jack didn’t take up quite as much room” and “Jack didn’t need a week to get ready,” but Rob’s day came once again. Again, Rob was hooded, and again he objected quite strongly. The two guards glanced over at the magistrate, who was ready to do whatever needed to be done to the French thing to make it replace me. The magistrate nodded, and the hood was removed.
Rob looked at the frame. “You’re kidding me, right? Where’s Jack?”
The magistrate sniffed. “He’s obsolete. This is the future. Have you any last words?”
Rob shook his head as he knelt down and placed his head beneath the blade. “If this is the future, I think I’m glad I won’t be around to see it.”
A gentleman to the last, our Rob.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 14:07|
Next Time Finish the Job
Re: Next Time Finish the Job
You aren’t going to win this.
After the lunch bell everyone was talking about you and how hard your life must be. They wanted to send you flowers and write on your Wall and tell you everything was going to be OK. They almost fell for it, congratulations.
I’m telling the real story. Now everyone knows what you did. Nobody is going to come visit you. No one cares about your stupid cry-for-help look-at-me behaviour. The only way you could make us care is if you did the job properly. Cut VERTICAL next time.
Last year I thought that you were my best friend. I would have done anything for you. People used to talk about how gross you were with your weird hand-me-down dresses and that ugly mop of oily black hair. I would defend you. I always made sure you got invited to Sandy’s cabin even though she didn’t really want you there. I gave you my old dresses so people wouldn’t know your dad can’t keep a job for more than two weeks.
I can’t believe how stupid I was being. I let you get close to me and you tried to destroy me. But even worse, you attacked the person I love. I will never forgive you for that.
Even your cousin says you’re just a slut looking for attention. Your family wishes you would go away forever and stop making their lives hard with your selfish behaviour. You think you have this whole town wrapped around your finger but you’re wrong. Tessa and I are going to make sure everyone knows about you. You will pay for what you have done to me. You’ll pay for the rest of your life.
No one is going to believe your disgusting lies about Chris. If you try it you’ll be in real trouble. They all know you and your deadbeat dad and how your mother got so sick of your bullshit that she abandoned you. Just because your life is hosed up doesn’t give you a license to hurt people who are better than you. We won’t let you destroy someone from a good home just because yours was rotten.
Oh, and by the way, lying to the police is a crime. If you try to make them hurt Chris then everyone in town will unite against you. Don’t forget that my uncle is on the force.
I still can’t believe you would come to me with that disgusting story. Did you really think you could get between me and Chris? You’re so deluded that it’s almost funny.
He never even liked you. He always told me I shouldn’t trust you. And I’ve seen the way you look at him when you think I won’t notice. Why would he want anything to do with a dirty little skank like you in the first place? Even if he was going to betray me, which he never would, why would he waste his time on an ugly freak like you?
I cried for days when I found out the awful things you were saying. For a second you made me doubt the person who loves me the most. I hate you more for that than anything else. You’ve never had someone love you so you lash out at the people who are luckier than you could ever hope to be. If you were a dog they would put you down for behaving that way.
Stop calling me. Stop sending me messages. As soon as you tried to get in-between me and Chris you were dead to me. A couple shallow scratches on your wrist won’t change my mind. If you really want my forgiveness then instead of screwing around next time finish the job.
Your “Best Friend”
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 18:59|
I'm sorry I cannot submit.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 19:43|
I Heard You On The Radio Today
I heard you on the radio today.
I don’t know why I even turn the drat thing on any more. It’s all just noise, heh. The last automated broadcast dropped out years ago, and ever since it’s been wall-to-wall static. But I check, every morning, all the bands, from one end of the dial to the other. Just in case there’s something to hear. And today I heard you.
Aside from recordings, yours is the first human voice I’ve heard since...the first in however long it’s been. Ten years or so. I haven’t really been counting, but ten years feels about right. Ten years since everyone died. I still don’t know what happened, why they died, why I didn’t. I guess I stopped caring after a while, since it’s not like I’m ever going to find out.
I spent some time burying bodies, just after it happened. It felt like the right thing to do, though I think it was just something to do. I spent even more time learning how to hunt. Most of the bigger animals died too, just like the people. I haven’t seen anything larger than a housecat still alive, but that includes rabbits. And, for that matter, housecats.
I had to learn how to do a lot of things. Everything from siphoning gas to making candles to planting a garden to picking locks. I got myself set up in a house, got it cleaned out real nice. I have a generator hooked up, though I don’t really use a lot of electricity. My radio’s one of those emergency wind-up models for power outages, and I can read by candlelight, but sometimes I want to watch TV, or listen to music.
When I put it like that, it sounds so straightforward, so matter-of-fact, so much like I’m some goddamned survivalist superhero. I could tell you stories, though. How it hit me, over and over again, my friends, my family, everyone I’d ever known and loved and hated. How hard I cried every time I saw someone I recognized, and I saw a lot of people I recognized in those first days. How long it took me to even go near the bodies, to touch one. And the smell, how the smell alone had me flat on my back when I wasn’t puking my guts out for what felt like weeks. About some of the things I ate before I worked out how to hunt properly. How many times I thought about killing myself, just to get it over with. How sure I was that I was going to die too, or maybe I had died and this was hell, or the Twilight Zone, or whatever.
It’s easy to sound calm and collected about it all now. I’ve had ten years to get used to it. The smell’s pretty much gone, all that’s left of the bodies are bones, and I’ve got a routine that works for me. I have food, water, things to keep me busy, things to keep my mind occupied, and a meaningless ritual with the radio every morning. I’ve been alone for ten years, and as hard as it was at first, it’s fine now.
Until this morning. Until I heard your voice, your transmission. Asking if anyone was out there, sounding just as resigned as me. Telling me you were coming this way. Your morning ritual, as futile as mine. Except not futile at all, as you’ll discover. You’ll find me if you come this direction. I’m easy to spot.
Thing is, I’ve thought about it, and I don’t want to be found. I’ve been alone for so long that I don’t know how to live any other way any more. I don’t want to learn how to do that again. I was never a social butterfly, exactly, but I had friends. I had family. Now I don’t, and I don’t think I can go back to that again. I just can’t do it again.
So I’m leaving you the house. I’m leaving you this recording, too. I feel like such an rear end in a top hat doing this, but I’m going to do it all the same. I’m going to go. I’ll find somewhere else to set up. Or maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll just keep moving. All I know for sure is that I’m not going to listen to the radio any more.
Please don’t try to find me.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 20:29|
Yeah, I'm out too. Just didn't have the time to dedicate to it that I hoped I would. Will have to toxx myself next time I enter!
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 20:44|
W/e just leaving this here. You can cry or not cry, it's up to you!
The gravel road to Mom's house is overgrown and filled with potholes. The summer rain's made it into a real quagmire, so I park the car out on 404th and squelch down tire ruts that haven't got much deeper since my last visit in December.
It's halfway there that I get this feeling in my stomach. Like I'd swallowed a cold raw egg. There's a turn in Mom's road so that you bump right up against Mr. Sackman's farm, which is to say his oversized yard and its several raised flower beds, and I stop dead right there at the beginning of the path's gentle eastward arc, fixated on that cold egg. Then a purple-scented breeze picks up, stirs something buried, and I remember.
Michael and I surveyed the planetoid kingdom of Shale with the fractal perspective of deities, seeing both the whole and all of its component parts. Travel was as simple as shifting one's attention. We could cup the whole world in our hands one moment, and be the size of a cell the next, which we did often, to visit the denizens of the microcosm.
"There should be mountains there," said Michael, pointing at a empty patch of world. "And like really big trees with bridges between them and there'll be these things call Treegars who live in treehouses." And lo, there were, and it was good.
Our bedroom door opened, and carefully placed squares of butcher paper fluttered, fracturing Shale into meaningless segments.
"Hey guys," said Mom. "We're going to Grandma's for the weekend. Grab your stuff, I'm gonna start the car."
"But our drawings'll get crinkled in the car again," I said, gesturing at the carpet of be-crayoned paper surrounding my brother and I.
"You can draw it again at Grandma's house," mom said, looking over her shoulder down the hall. The house was quiet outside of our room. Mom's eyes and nostrils were red around the edges.
"Grandma only has the little paper," Michael complained. But Mom had turned on her heel and gone sniffling down the hall, walking with the absent hurry of the turbulently preoccupied.
The capital-D-Divorce landed Mom the house and its ten wild acres. Dad was a fleeting figure, glimpsed only rarely when he was on one of his sojourns to retrieve yet more of his things to take back to capital-H-slanty-letters-Her apartment. Mom took pretty much full time responsibility for me and Michael and the house, molded herself like latex around the stark shape of a mortgage and single parenthood.
Michael and I adapted, visited Shale as often as we could. We laid big, dog-eared sheets of butcher paper end to end and we drew Treegars and Doliphants and Gnomes and Dragons. We planted the great Life Trees, which produced fruit so rich that no animal had to consume another to live.
I remember it was that summer that Mr. Sackman planted the lilacs.
"What's our national flower?" Michael asked me one day while we were coloring.
"Why don't you make one up?" I said absently.
Michael was quiet for a while, considering. "I'm making up a new name for Farmer Sackman's purple flowers that smell like Mom."
"They'll be--" Michael sat back on his heels, little face scrunched in concentration. "Shallacs. And anyone who smells them is happy. Is why it's the national world flower."
When the weather allowed, we could visit Shale by playing on specially designated landmarks. The Big Tree in the front yard was our castle, in whose branches we would sit and describe to each other the sights of Shale from on high. Mr. Sackman's farm and its raised flower beds were the Dragon Plains, previously the site of historic battles for the ultimate fate of the planetoid, now war-free by decree of Michael, who thought it would be much too hard to fight like a real warrior around the happiness-inducing Shallacs.
Mr. Sackman'd lost his wife the year before, and where some men would let their home fall into neglect, he went full farmer, expanding gardens, putting up a deer fence, and most impressively, single-handedly building most of a barn, which, had it ever been completed, would've housed the bins of dormant flower bulbs he planted each spring.
For two kids who didn't live within ten miles of a jungle gym, the skeletal frame of the structure was the closest thing we had on weekends to play equipment. In the landscape of Shale, it was an ancient ruin, unearthed in the advent of Michael's Peace.
We would scramble fearlessly up exposed beams into the rafters and sit there for hours with our legs dangling over the tangled pit of rebar where the barn's foundation was meant to be. Until the day Mr. Sackman came home early.
"Car!" shouted Michael at the sound of rumbling from out on 404th street.
"Sack-Man is home," I said, already shimmying back across a rough beam. "No--don't try to walk across. Sit on your butt, like this."
But then that thick, lilac breeze picked up. I shook my bangs out of my eyes just in time to see Michael begin a long, time-defying arc outward into empty air, one hand still rubbing hair or a spec of dust out of his eye, the other hand grabbing for a handhold that wasn't there.
Smack, went his little forehead against another wooden beam.
I don't realize that I've walked the rest of the way to mom's house until I seem him there on the porch. He's fragile and small, half the size a grown man should be, nearly swallowed by the cushions of the dirty patio chair.
Michael stares past me as I walk up to the house, grossly there and not there, half of our world locked away behind a door that will never open again. The breeze picks up and fills the space between us with lilacs, but the magic is gone, and I can only kneel down and cry against his bony knee.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 21:33|
Quick ruling question: Are we allowed to edit our submissions after posting them up in the thread?
I misunderstood the deadline and still have some editing I want to do.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 21:53|
Are we allowed to edit our submissions after posting them up in the thread?
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 00:46 on Oct 21, 2013
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 21:58|
gently caress you Fumblemouse.
gently caress you for creating this suicide inducing prompt - suicide inducing for all the wrong reasons. Your face is something I want to smoosh very much so right now. Smoosh it with a wonderful prose that will finally knock you off that amazing diamond encrusted throne built with the bones of all those Thunderdomers you crushed on the way to the top.
You have caused me enough suffering. So why don't you come on down from your shiny rear end chair and BRAWL ME!
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 22:10|
Come Home to Stay a While
"Come home this weekend," Rachel's mother had said on the phone. "We have to talk."
The dining table had picked up a thin layer of dust. The late afternoon light turned the kitchen sallow. Rachel couldn't look at her mother's face, only the familiar, callused hands, clasped tight around a coffee mug. The rough places on her own fingers had faded, save one: a shiny mark on her right index from the chafing of a pen.
Her mother said, "A man breaks his back falling off a tractor, he's not fit for factory work. Your father's going on pension. We won't have enough to help you with college anymore."
And there it was, as flat and dull and inevitable as a farmer's life, despite all her work and all she'd saved; and in the face of her family's collapse Rachel couldn't stop herself from asking, "What am I supposed to do?"
"They'd give you your job back at the plant," her mother said.
"I only need one more year."
"Make the money, then go. School will still be there."
Shingles lay in the tall grass outside, cows lowed for feed, fields waited for spring and the corn, and Rachel knew better. She would not leave these things twice.
Her mother let go of the coffee to grip Rachel's hands. "It's your choice to make."
Rachel couldn't forgive her for the words.
Repairs to the house and the tractor ate her earnings first; then it was a drought season, a new well, a bull to replace the one that died. She sprayed insulation into refrigerators and studied her calculus text as the farm work allowed. For a while. The book 'disappeared' in time--a polite way to describe a bonfire lit after too much wine, but her parents had brought her up to be genteel. Her father's pension paid the mortgage. Her mother's job paid for his burial, three years after his accident.
She met Alan at the bar and quit drinking altogether after they married, and his work managing the town department store turned 'enough' to 'comfortable' for all of them, with something left over every month for a college fund. Within six years, Rachel had two sons, a daughter, a grave for her mother, and a less-than-amicable divorce.
At least the child-support payments helped. Rachel stayed at the factory for the benefits of seniority. Her land suffered somewhat from neglect until the children were old enough for chores. She loved them fiercely, all three, but especially Kris, intelligent and ambitious; a light shone in his eyes that she could almost remember.
She took a weekend job at Alan's store. She bought nothing for herself after the kids started school. Sometimes her neighbors let her hunt in their woods or fish in their creeks to save money--they made outings of it, she and Kris and Gavin and Cecilia. The games and laughter made her feel rich.
Until the factory shut down.
Rachel sought employment at a warehouse an hour away, as a driver. Kris worked as many jobs as he could every summer and after school.
The bank threatened to foreclose on the farm.
With almost everything she'd saved, Rachel ended the mortgage for good, and Kris scraped together enough grants and scholarships to start his major in Computer Science that fall.
Then Gavin wrecked Rachel's truck and one of his legs. She had to hire help with the planting.
Then Cecilia wanted--needed--a wedding at seventeen.
Then tuition rose.
Rachel sat at the old dining table with a cup of coffee in her left hand, her right held in front of her for examination. So many lines now. So many marks: old cuts and calluses, and no sign that she'd ever held a pen. Only scars left by the choices she'd made.
I understand, Mama. And so did you. I hope he never does.
She reached for the phone, her fingers unsteady as she punched in Kris's number.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 23:20|
My best friend and I walked by the tallest tree in town, frequently described by her as the most exciting place possible. I’d love to agree with her, but I’m not much of a climber. Nobody could miss the little pink flag at the top of it with “Annie’s” scribbled on it; especially not when most people still remembered how she fell off one of the lower branches two years ago and broke her leg. After a few months of bed rest I went to check on her. Her cast was in bed, but she wasn’t. I found her sitting on the highest branch of that giant tree with a broad grin and her hands tying the flag on. It only took her a few minutes to climb down, but her hands and legs were bleeding from numerous scratches. Her eyes bright and shining, she grasped my hands and asked; “Did you see how high I was?”
Something was different about the tree today, there was a familiar face scampering up the top branches. Annie pointed him out to me; my nine year old brother Jordan was bruised, scratched, and steadily ascending. Annie cupped her hands and was ready to yell out before I covered her mouth.
“Don’t scare him.”
She nodded. An unexpected noise could break his concentration and he was too high to lose it. He reached the top of the tree and stretched out, his arms wobbling and barely long enough to reach Annie’s flag. His legs had a tight grasp on the branch beneath him, but it swayed a little in the breeze. Something caught his attention and he looked down to see us. His eyes widened in surprise, he’d finally noticed exactly how high he’d gone. He called out, “Hey Annie, how’d you get down from this high?”
“I took it slowly, one branch at a time,” she yelled up.
“But the wind is really strong!”
Annie took a deep breath and sighed. “Just hang on, I’ll be right there.”
She winked at me as she was getting ready to climb. Just another trip up the tree wouldn’t be a problem. Her hands grabbed onto the lowest branch and she hauled herself up with sure and practiced movements. She reached Jordan and hugged him close. “What’d you come up here for, you little monkey?”
He pulled two flags out of his pockets, one red and one blue with his name on one and mine on the other. Annie took them and tied them both onto hers. A sad and limp looking flag without any wind lifting it. He seemed satisfied with it though, shooting me a quick smile.
“Very cute, now get down here so I can scold you.”
I felt a strong gust of wind blow through the town.
I don’t know if it was the extra passenger or the surprise gust, but Annie lost her grip on the tree. There was nothing I could do to help as both of them hurtled towards the ground. I flinched when Annie hit the ground, a momentary blink filled with the sound of a muffled thump punctuated by bones breaking, and a suppressed cry. Then another dreadful thump that sounded much lighter than the first. I forced my eyes open and saw Annie lying still, blood leaking out of a few points where bones punctured her skin, her broken arms still hugging Jordan. I fought down the tears and vomit trying to hold me in place and ran over with my phone out, calling for help. My brother and I were both crying and holding Annie’s hands, as the doctor arrived. Jordan managed to explain how Annie kept a strong hold on him as they fell. Not letting go even when her body bounced from the impact.
It’s Jordan’s birthday and he wants to take his first skydive: he happens to know a great pilot. We take my rented plane up after tying two dirty flags onto it in a safe spot.
“The wind is intense out there, isn’t it?” he asked as we got close to the jump height.
“You’re not scared, are you?”
He nods. His eyes are excited, but his legs are shaking.
“Well, that’s what your instructor is here for. She'll do her job after she's done giggling to herself.”
“Maybe he'll relax with another story about my full body cast,” Annie said with an impish grin.
|# ? Oct 20, 2013 23:46|
These Things Happen
I was little and she was big and she said me that I was just scaring myself. The TV told me that the storm was bad and that we needed to go. Mama told me that’s why I should just watch cartoons.
Let Mama worry about grown up stuff, she said.
I said Okay, Mama but it was hard. I had to turn off the TV cause there was warnings even on the kid channels. When I laid in bed I could hear neighbors banging away boarding up their windows with hammers and nails. I sat in our window and watched people leave. Mister Dumont knocked on the door and he asked Mama if she needed help bolting everything down and she said that would be very nice.
Y’all thinking about leaving?
Naw, Mama said, too much hassle. We’ve been fine before.
You’re probably right, he said.
Folks always make something out of nothing and especially if they not from here. They don’t know.
You’re probably right he said again but Mister Dumont ended up driving away anyway. Through a knot in the wood I thought I saw him look back at me but he didn’t wave or nothing. I remember wishing I was in that car.
We slept in our car for a long time.
I sat in Mama’s lap on the drive home. It wasn’t scary like leaving. It wasn’t raining so hard you couldn’t see. The sky wasn’t black like death like the middle of someone’s eyes. The whole wide world wasn’t screaming and coming down on you. It was just quiet. But that was scary too. Different scary.
The buildings had gone and gotten really old. Trash was every which way I could see. And now there was these big pieces of broken metal. And broken wood. And there was stuff so alien I couldn't even guess what it was supposed to be in the first place.
Mama where are all the trees?
So much stuff was missing it was confusing. Sometimes I thought I knew where we was but then stuff would look wrong again. I didn’t make sense. Why would somebody take telephone poles? What would you do with them? Maybe folks was making new houses with them.
Is all the houses bad like these ones, Mama?
I felt her muscles get all stiff and tense underneath me. When she didn’t answer I put my head against her and felt her heart thump. It was beating so fast. After some time she ran her fingers through my hair and that was nice. After some time she whispered Please, God. God didn’t say nothing back.
When we pulled up there wasn’t anybody. No people. There wasn’t no plants or trees or anything green and natural neither. If it wasn’t graffiti it was brown like Mama’s hand that was trembling in mine. We had to step over piles of garbage just to get close.
Where’s our front door?
I don’t know, she said softly.
The water mark on the walls was bigger up than my shoulders. It was still damp, too. The carpet was so soaked it was like walking in mud. Every step was slow and squishy and squirted water out underfoot. It was fun to walk in and I was happy not to be in that car anymore. I was happy that I was finally home. Mama let go of my hand and left me in the living room and I poked the carpet and created little pools of water with my fingers.
No. Lord, no.
What Mama? I asked. I didn’t know where she was.
I found her in her room.
No, Mama kept repeating, no no no.
She was just sitting there and staring at this soggy book that was in her hands. She was turning pages that were warped and covered in fuzzy mold. They were gross.
Do you remember Mawmaw? she asked me without looking up.
You remember what she looked like?
I thought hard. Mawmaw had met Jesus a long time ago when I was even littler. She would always hold me close and kiss me. She smelled really good. Her clothes always smelled like the kitchen. Gumbo. She made the best gumbo.
You remember her face?
Mawmaw had big black hair and painted nails. She was so much bigger than me. Big hands. But what did she look like? Did she look old? I couldn’t see her face.
No, I said.
Mama buried her face in her hands. She sobbed. The book was open on the floor and I looked but there wasn’t nothing there. Just blurred colors inside little squares. I asked her what was wrong but she wouldn't answer me.
I tugged on her arm and she grabbed me. She told me that she loved me. She held me so tight that it hurt.
|# ? Oct 21, 2013 00:36|
second batch of crits, and i'm going to do a line by line for F-mouse
first off, you lose major points for mentioning the sun in the first sentence. If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I HATE THE SUN. I feel like it’s the most boring thing in the world to mention, and is something people say when they feel like they need to comment on something, but have nothing to say. Same with “he sighed” and to a lesser degree “he smiled.” There are a bunch of things thrown into your story that don’t belong in a flash fiction. Especially one where you only have 666 words. “Command -- Windows to Screen -- setting 6” is all mumbo jumbo. What are you trying to show me, that he’s good with computers? you could do that in a less clunky way, but also his adroitness with computers doesn’t really factor into the plot at all, so it’s mostly useless. The whole windows to screen thing is cool, but I don’t need to know the computer commands to change them. Maybe if you were writing a longer novel, sure, but not TD. Your story also suffers from the classic “one character asking questions, and the other answering them.” It’s a really rrite way to move a plot forward, and is boring to the reader. A few questions are ok, but not the extreme back and forth that you do.
You and cigarettes, man. Your opening oozes style, but not a good hook. It’s somebody smoking and staring at somebody. Yawn. Does nicotine have a scent? I’d think the tobacco would overwhelm that. You go into great detail talking about the horses, and their names, and I liked that part. But I never really know why this horse needs to be stolen. Something to do with it drinking LSD water? It’s not quite clear. Also it doesn’t seem like the horse was ever in rehab? I dunno man, your piece is a little too confusing for me. I like the way you wrote whatever it is you wrote.
I know you can write better than this. I was just sort of bored through this and even though STUFF happens, nothing really happens. I feel so far removed from the action. Your opening sentence starts with telling me the time, and that you got summoned to the zoo. On it’s own, not a great hook or particularly interesting. You could have said the same thing in a more creative way. “I used my passkey to let us in, locking the door behind us” zzzz. for the first half of the story, all I know about “slummers” is that they really like sugar, and kill people at zoos. apparently often? With sophisticated hacking equipment? I get that the zoo is leftover from a bygone era, and this guy wants to move it, but I’m having a hard time understanding why the hell any of this is happening? Overall, it was an interesting take on the cards, but could have been done better.
I liked several aspects of this, but at the same time I can’t help but feel like you write in this genre more for yourself than for your audience. I don’t really care about a lot of the technology and atmosphere, but I realize that’s just a preference. I guess if I could give you an actual criticism about that, it’s that you don’t make me care about any of that stuff. This story could have happened in a variety of settings and still had basically the same plot. That said, the plot was mildly amusing, and your cards were hard. I liked the ending.
Your writing is getting better, as in this had more macro problems than mechanic problems. I was actually looking forward to your story, because I thought your cards gave you something most others’ didn’t: a compelling idea. But instead you decided to go for overt silliness that doesn’t really work for me. Which was a shame and a waste. I feel like that almost all of your stories that I’ve read have tried to be too “ha ha, isn’t this crazy!?” Almost as if you’re afraid to write something serious and meaningful. Maybe that isn’t what you’re learning to write for, but try going outside your comfort zone once in a while. Try writing something that is a sober reflection of our life and times.
|# ? Oct 21, 2013 00:38|
Nothing Belongs to Everyone
Even though she wasn’t delicate with her toys, Kristin loved them truly. A rough-houser even at 6, she didn’t mind scratches or dents on her things. In the future, ‘having character’ is what she will sheepishly describe these dents and scratches as. When grilled a little further, she will tell her friends ‘it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”
At dinner once, her mother asked, “Where’s your new bracelet I got you?”
“It all started when we were playing tag, and I was running, real fast, and then it fell off, and I stepped on it, and I broke it,” Kristin said, pulling pieces out of her pocket. Broken pieces of ceramic and copper sat in her hands. “But I caught the boy who tagged me.”
Her father’s face went flat. His lips spread across his face and his chin seemed to bottom out. “I think you should go to your room,” he said. After several quiet minutes, they came in to find her.
“Kristin, we are very disappointed,” her father said. “You are supposed to be more careful with your things.”
Kristin was silent, looking at the ground.
“We’ve talked about this, honey, do you know how it makes your mom feel when you break your things? Do you?”
Kristin shook her head on the third prodding.
“She feels like you don’t care about her when you don’t care about the things she gives you.”
“No that’s not true,” Kristin shouted, eyes welling up.
“Go tell your mom how you feel,” her dad said. Kristin ran past her father, attaching to her mother’s leg, crying. Her mother patted her head, shushing her gently.
The next month, for Kristin’s birthday, her mother gave her a brand new pencil case. Animals linked from snout to tail wandered the border. Even though everything else in her backpack had tell-tale scuffs of being Kristin’s, the pencil case was pristine.
“That’s a nice pencil case,” a girl named Nicole said. Kristin beamed at her, smiling. Kristin had gone out of her way every time she used it to be careful with it.
“Can I see it?” Nicole asked.
A lump caught in Kristin’s throat.
“I—no, I don’t think,” Kristin said. Nicole curled a lip at her and looked at their teacher.
“Miss Stillson, Kristin isn’t sharing,” Nicole cried.
“Shh, shh,” Kristin said. “Okay, okay.”
Nicole took the case without even so much as a second glance back. Every tick of the clock made Kristin sweat just a little more. She told herself that Nicole would bring it back any moment.
When the class started to pack up for the day, she finally went to Miss Stillson.
”Nicole has my pencil case, and she hasn’t given it back,” she said.
Miss Stillson called Nicole over.
“Yes, Miss Stillson?” Nicole said.
“Do you have Kristin’s pencil case?”
“No, Miss Stillson, just the one my mommy just bought me,” she said, presenting Kristin’s case.
Miss Stillson inspected the pristine case, flipping it over, and checking each detail. She ran a hand over the intact artwork that lined the perimeter.
”Kristin, that’s not nice to lie,” Miss Stillson said. “If you can’t take care of your own things, you can’t try to take someone else’s.”
Kristin sputtered but before she realized it, Miss Stillson and Nicole were gone. Packed up, and shepherding other kids to the carpool pick up. Hollow echoes kept Kristin in a state of shock and paralysis as she waited for her babysitter to pick her up. After several calls, she numbly climbed into the babysitters car.
When she came home from school, she felt nothing but shame; a heavy, tugging feeling that she couldn’t shake. Avoiding her parents by being quiet in her room, she knew the call for dinner was inevitable. Dragging her feet, her mother’s voice grew stern and impatient. Finally, she made her way to the table.
“How was your day at school today,” Kristin’s mother said.
Flashes of Nicole, sneering and smiling at the same time, blinked in her mind. Her mouth felt dryer than her Easy-Bake confections. Suddenly her parents took on a looming, backlit visage. They towered over her, even though they sat there, eating their dinner with calm demeanor.
“Uh, umm,” Kristin said.
“Did something happen, honey?” Her father asked.
He had the face of anticipating disappointment. She had seen it before, when she would get in trouble at school, when she would lose something. He had the same face her mother would make, standing in the background, surveying the scene as her father scolded and punished her for misbehaving.
“N-No,” she said. “Nothing happened.”
“Oh, okay,” he said, and smiled at her.
Her mouth wet itself again. She felt like she had been dunked in the cool water. Thinking her stunned silence went on too long, she forced herself to push her mashed potatoes around the plate aimlessly. Her parents didn’t notice. Kristin didn’t understand, fully at the time, what had just happened. When she went to bed that night, she felt like she had cheated, but she knew she had to test it again the next day.
On that day, truly nothing had happened, making it easier to say as much to her parents. Their response was the same, a smile, and continued eating at the dinner table. The day after, a boy pulled her hair, called her a name, and made her feel bad inside. She told her parents that nothing had happened, and they smiled again, and continued eating.
Every night, even on the bad nights, the nights where she got hurt, the nights where she had things to hide, the nights that were worse than every night before, it always got easier. Even when she was caught, when there were bruises, rumors, and more, she just said ‘nothing,’ smiled back at them, all of them, and continued to push her food around the plate, waiting for bed.
|# ? Oct 21, 2013 01:31|
Total Cost of Ownership
When she started talking kids, I asked a friend what all that was going to cost me. He ran through the stuff I figured--diapers, crib, car seats--and then the stuff I hadn't thought about yet--daycare, college savings plans, and life insurance.
"I get that through work already."
"Not for you, for the kid."
"The hell for?"
"Just in case. It's cheap, and if poo poo happens, coming up with the cash for a kid funeral is the last thing you'd need." The cavalier way he said "kid funeral" struck me funny--like there'd be a sad clown and a black bounce house. But I didn't want to sound insensitive.
"How much can a shoebox and a shovel cost?"
I never really came to terms with her being pregnant. Insisted it was just gas. When she called and said her water broke, I told her maybe she had to poop.
I did the best I could in the delivery room, positioning myself low and back near her head, where I wouldn't have to see anything gooey. Eight hours of playing encouraging husband later, she finally fired the thing out. They took it--him--over to the other side of the room to do whatever it is they do while the doctor sewed her up. A few minutes later they asked me to come over to them and meet my son, take pictures, bond, do whatever. I asked them to wheel out the bucket of placenta first.
In case you haven't had the pleasure, newborns are a pain in the rear end. They're not even cute right away, and they have zero personality. They just eat, poo poo, and sleep, on a three hour cycle. In between, you scramble to prepare for the next go-round, and that's your life for, I'm told, the first few months. You can't really blame them, though, it's a sweet deal and I'd have been jealous if I wasn't so exhausted.
About two months in it got better. The routine didn't change any, but by that point he could smile, and as lame as that sounds it made all the difference. I still woke up in the middle of the night enraged that the little poo poo was up, but when his face would light up when he saw me walk in, the anger shook right off. The way they look at you, all happy like you're all that matters in the world, it's contagious. Anyone that can get that reaction can't be such an rear end in a top hat, right? The first time he threw up all over me and we both laughed, I knew I was stuck.
When managing sleep and an infant, it's all about respecting the turn system. If you took midnight, she'd get three, and it's your turn again at six. There's no need to set an alarm, you just get the bottle ready and sleep until they let you know it's time.
That morning, I woke up around 8:30, almost-refreshed for the first time since he was born. Nothing felt off, yet. She woke up as I was brushing my teeth, and I thanked her for taking my turn. She said she didn't. Our eyes went wide and we ran down to his room to check on him.
Ashen. Gone. The site of it, him-but=not-him, hit like a punch in the gut, sucking the wind right out of me. I couldn't breath. I couldn't make a sound. She didn't have that problem--I'll never not hear that scream.
The other lovely thing about SIDS is that there's nothing to blame. It's a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning no one knows what the gently caress. When it's drunk driver, a particularly virulent flu, even a dingo--at least there's something external you can hate. Absent that, there's just you. If only you had gotten up earlier, or laid him down in a different position, fed him a little earlier, held him a little longer, or done any of a million little things that shouldn't have ever mattered but are now all you ever think about.
Before long I couldn't look at her anymore. I just saw his eyes looking back at me, a sad, broken version of them. Just a constant reminder of our failure. She felt the same way, and it sort of worked itself out in time.
So as for what kids cost, beyond the usual list, there's a chance it could be half your stuff and any sense of meaning in your life. I asked--the insurance won't cover that.
|# ? Oct 21, 2013 01:34|
Can anyone post critiques? We're all here to get better, so if I read something and want to say "this didn't work for me and here's why," what's the rules with that?
|# ? Oct 21, 2013 01:45|
|# ? Jan 23, 2021 12:06|
Can anyone post critiques? We're all here to get better, so if I read something and want to say "this didn't work for me and here's why," what's the rules with that?
I think so, just be wary that people might not take too kindly to those unproven.
|# ? Oct 21, 2013 02:03|