Author: Jim Reader

Speed Writing 9-6-17

Prompt: I bought a random ticket to ____________.

sometimes you have to get away, and you’re not too particular where you end up.
Linda had said the magic ‘divorce’ words, and i’d agreed. i left her everything i couldn’t fit into a suitcase and a backpack, she let me pull most of the money out of our joint account.
i went to the airport, the American ticket desk. i carefully avoided looking at the screens with their lists of arrivals and departures … destinations. i told the young lady at the desk, “first plane leaving for anywhere’.
lucky i had my passport.
didn’t know what i’d do when i got there, but that was fine. eight years married to Linda, working for her father’s firm, no vacations … i deserved a break.
i was surprised to see a driver, holding a sign, “Mr. Lyle”.
“are you waiting for Thomas Lyle?”
“yes sir.”
he drove me to the Shanghai Imperial. i went to the front desk, and discovered i didn’t need to get a room – there was a suite already reserved for me.
and a thick manila envelope with my name on it.

Prompt: a little risque

so, Paula had been inviting me to her Friday night parties for months.
nothing against Paula, or the friends of hers i’d never met, but after a week at work, my idea of a perfect Friday night was drinks at Duke’s, my favorite jazz club. i sat and drank, enjoying the music, until my back and neck relaxed, and then i’d go home to sleep until whenever the hell i decided to wake up.
being social, with people i didn’t know? i’d pass. i had my standing date at Duke’s.
but it was her birthday, and she’d batted her eyelashes, and i’d said yes.
i’d heard her refer to her love of tequila, so i picked up a bottle of Patron as a gift. finding my way to her house was trickier than i’d thought it would be, so i was late.
the man who answered the door was in latex, head to toe, mouth zippered shut, and hobbled by a two-foot spreader bar between his ankles.
“is this Paula Sanders’ home?”
he nodded like he was having a seizure.
beyond him, in the foyer, there was a man in a Victorian-style night shirt, and a woman wearing less than nothing – it looked like she was dressed in gauze, completely covered from neck to wrists to ankles.
I’ve never seen anyone more undressed than she was.

Prompt: i remember every face

i remember everyone who was there.
arrogant pricks didn’t bother to hide their faces when they beat me. seeing who they were, knowing who their parents were? even if i talked to the cops, nothing would happen … aside from another beating.
the way the evening was going, one was going to be more than enough.
the six of them weren’t drunk, or high, they were just hateful, and free to exercise that hatred.
i’d shown up on their victim-radar by daring to smart off to Evan, our high school’s star quarterback. he’d fumbled out a wrong answer to one of our history teacher’s questions, and i’d said, “i play foo’ball’ in a dumb voice.
so i was paying for my humor.
no chance at holding in my tears, the first boot in my nuts had made sure of that, so i was sobbing while they sneered at me, working me over.
next morning i woke up on my own front porch. i’d peed myself the night before, and they’d peed on me, so i was covered in blood and piss, in pain everywhere, when i unlocked the door and staggered in.
mom saw me first. i think she’d assumed i was upstairs in bed.

Prompt: the mermaid of Neptune

she was meant to look as if she was made of marble, accented with gold leaf … by the time i saw here again, she was clearly plastic and flaking gold paint.
but my daughter, she was five, she fell in love with her. Patty saw the sad, wooden-handled, plastic-headed trident at the mermaid’s feet, and said, “Daddy, she must be King Neptune’s favorite!”
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, sure, why not Neptune’s favorite mermaid?
“I guess she is, hoeny. now, wave goodbye, let’s go to our room.”
Kingdom of the Sea Motel and Aquarium, Seamount, Texas. when i was a child, my family stayed there on our way to and from the coast.
this many years later, the magic was gone for me. the Grand Aquarium was empty, the glass cracked.
that night, eating supper in the motel’s cafe, Patty wondered at the marvels they’d kept there.
glowing sea monsters? miniature whales? singing lobsters? mathematically-inclined octopi?
the next morning, as i was checking us out, i realized Patty had found the magic i’d lost.

Prompt: last day of summer

fuck the calendar – summer ended the last Sunday before school started up again.
lots of folks wax nostalgic about going back to class. no matter how much i enjoyed seeing my friends again, and my favorite teachers, no matter how much i might enjoy my classes … going back to school was going back to prison.
of course, the architecture didn’t help.
our school’s weren’t Temples of Learning. they were Institutions, where we were expected to be Institutionalized.
rules and regulations, don’t talk, don’t run, the peculiarities of teachers, the militarism of coaches, the horrors of the cafeteria … nothing i’d ever look forward to returning to. even before the internet, there was no knowledge in school i couldn’t find in the far friendlier environs of the town library.
summer’s end was was bitter, and all the glowing, virginal school supplies in the world couldn’t add a sugar cube’s sweetness to the prospect.
the gates were opening, and it was back inside with the rest of the prisoners.
i looked at my fellow inmates who were giddy and grinning, and realized they’d been brain-washed so thoroughly they welcomed their shackles.


listening to: season 2, ep 1 of ‘babylon 5’
mood: good 

Speed Writing, 9/2/17

Prompt: job interview that goes badly

“you don’t understand, sir, i really need this job!”
“you and a whole lot of other people. you aren’t what we’re looking for.”
“why? my age? my gender? what?”
“you aren’t what we’re looking for.”
“yeah, so you said. why?”
“all i am allowed to say is you’re not we’re looking for.”
“come on, sir, just you and me here. why am i not who you’re looking for? is it something i can correct? something i need to learn?”
“you’re correct – it is just the two of us here. you’re not what we’re looking for.”
“sir … please … look, i’ll kick part of my wages back to you …”
“what, you want a blow job? you want blow jobs on demand?”
“please, sir, i have a family. i need this job.”
“in no uncertain terms, no. now, i’m about to call security … what are you doing with that knife?”
“i didn’t want it to come to this, Carl Anderson, who lives at 1804 Wellington Way, with his wife, Eleanor, who works at the Midtown Library, and two children, Carl Jr. and Sandy, in first and third grades respectively, Montclair Elementary.
“either i get the job, or things are going to get very ugly for you and your family. if i get arrested? they get far worse. like i said, i have family, and not all of them live with me.”
there was a long moment of silence.
“you start Monday.”

Prompt: mysterious box shows up in your mail

half an hour after getting the mail, i still haven’t opened the box.
i’ve only lived here two days, didn’t bother filling out a change-of-address, no one cares where i am, no creditors to come calling. so who mailed this box, two feet square, to my new address that nobody knows?
three shots of bourbon later, i still haven’t opened it, and i’m not sure more bourbon is going to change things.
i examine the package again, fifth or sixth time. brown paper wrapping, professionally printed mailing label, machine postage, no stamps.
i didn’t notice anything shifting  when i carried it in.
i shake it … maybe something papery sliding around inside.
a few slices with my pocket knife, and the paper’s off.
wooden box, very plain, and a note.
that’s all the note says. type-written.
so i have another shot, and then take the next logical step.
the box opens smoothly on brass hinges.
four almanacs … 2027, 2030, 2031, and 2036. i look at the publishers information. looks legit.
it’s September 2, 2017, a warm Saturday morning, and i have no clue what’s going on.

Prompt: we pull laughter from the skies

few things more embarrassing than making a fool out of yourself.
i am an overachiever in that regard. i’ve managed to do it in the middle of the quad between the four residential dorms at my small college.
loudly professing my love to a girl who doesn’t even know i exist.
only defense i have is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Jose Cuervo said so, and he never … okay, hardly ever … sometimes … okay, Jose’s a lying son-of-a-bitch, but he’s my friend.
in the middle of a marathon masturbation episode, the kind i understand gets more difficult with age, Jose had said i should go out, right then and right there, and profess my undying love for Gwen Daniels. we shared an “introduction to Eastern literature” class, and she was perfection itself. long auburn hair, heart-shaped face, bounteous curves, lips of an angel.
not that i’m familiar with angel lips, but her were what i imagined an angels lips would be like.
i don’t know what she thinks of my announcement, but response from the dorm windows facing the quad seem to be equal parts laughter and applause.

Prompt: (three nouns) man, picture, elevator

the portrait was ever-present at Winfield Investments.
Everett Winfield IV, beloved founder.
in the lobby.
every meeting room.
every break room.
every restroom – yes, my female coworkers confirmed it.
the only place you could, with minimal effort, see old Everett was the elevators.
there, you were treated to pithy business quotes from our esteemed Winfield IV.
a shifting collections of these quotes was also the only company-approved wallpaper and screensaver on company computers.
“we work hard for our investors, but win or lose, our cut comes off the top.”
“if you’re not remembering the last time you fucked over our competitors, you haven’t done so often enough.”
“the market consists of sharks, and chum. you better have fucking teeth.”
yeah, he was a font of constant bullshit.
so, one night all the associates were a little tipsy – okay, we were fuck near blind drunk – and we decided to … decorate … the portraits.
no, not mustaches, or some other Sharpie-based desecration.
we called up some artsy types from our friends lists – everybody knew a couple – we were going to do things right.
take the frame backs off, pull out the portraits, and let somewhat-talented, semi-professionals do their best.

Prompt: Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine

i watch him burn, fat popping, hair giving off a greasy, foul funk that spoils the burning pork odor.
as much product as he had on his hair, i’m surprised it didn’t go up all at once in a mushroom cloud.
26,000+ at his last service, lived in a 8500 square foot home, don’t even want to imagine its market value. four Mercedes, a jet Jesus told him to buy, perfect plastic wife, and carefully managed perfect plastic children.
he sold his church members the lie of prosperity – give to him, give to the church, and if their faith was strong enough, God would reward them with wealth and good fortune.
nobody had more faith than my mother.
nobody died poorer than my mother.
so i called up some friends from the old neighborhood, and we grabbed him.
i told him him if his God gave me a sign, any sign, i’d spare his life.
fucker was weeping, pleading, confessing it was all bullshit – like that would make things better.
i laughed as i lit the logs.

Prompt: looking at your own reflection

nobody likes the sound of their voice on a recording. everybody seems to love looking at themselves in the mirror.
at least, that’s the way it seems in the club’s restrooms every night, 6 til 2.
doing ‘toilet time’ was our least favorite duty, ask any of the bouncers. didn’t used to be a thing, but the new DA has a hard-on for the nightclub drug scene, and a club down the street had found out the hard way to expect undercover cops – especially when you least wanted them around.
so we got to stand in the johns, watching the beautiful people touch themselves up. listen for any suspicious sounds in the stalls. smell way more fucking piss and shit than we ever wanted to.
some people, swear to God, you put booze in them, their shit takes a detour to Jersey. fucking rank …
and we were invisible after the first few minutes.
once they saw us there, big and menacing, once they figured it was smarter to not try to put something past us?
we fucking disappear. we’re wallpaper. out of service toilets. service industry drones, and our buzz faded into the background soundtrack of their beautiful lives.

Prompt: what about the neighbors

we move a lot.
it has something to do with Daddy’s job.
not the one at the hardware store, or the clothing store, or the gas station.
the job before all those – the one he had when we had a nice house, and new clothes, and Mommy didn’t cry all the time.
now, we don’t have much at all.
it makes moving easier, i guess.
middle of the night, usually. the moving, i mean.
Daddy will come in, and tell Billy and i some dumb thing like “we’re going on vacation”, or “time to meet new people”, or “i got a new job”.
it all means the same. we’re moving again.
it’s always Daddy who tells us. Mommy cries more than ever at moving times.
so we close up the boxes – we’ve figured out not to unpack – carry them out to the minivan, and wait.
Daddy will bring out some trash bags full of stuff, and then herd Mommy out.
he lets her lay down in the back seat, Billy and i get to ride up front.
i never thought i’d get sick of mcdonald’s. that’s what we eat when we’re moving.
“in and out, quick as a blink.”
that’s what Daddy says.
i remember when policemen were our friends, back when we lived in the nice house.
now Daddy doesn’t want us talking to them … ever.
and Mommy just cries all the time.

listening to: “The Last Resort”, the Eagles, “Hotel California”
mood: mildly melancholy


Speed Writing 8-17-17

Prompt: haiku ‘ice’

summer’s sun fading,
glaciers march south, unstoppable
we flee before them

acapulco bay
frozen over, our crops fail
we eat everything

then we eat our dead
and stumble ever southward
dreading the white ice

on the equator
we pray for growing season
beg the sun’s return

Prompt: noun – child, verb – run, adjective – hairy, adverb – quietly

the hairy child, Melvin, ran from his father, and the barber. he hid quietly in a dumpster, avoiding the buzzing clippers.
the fairy of the garbage dump, wings glistening in the morning sun, had told him he was a changeling, a lost prince of the Summer Court, hidden from the Queen of Air and Darkness. she wanted to bewitch him, and put him on the Summer Throne as her puppet.
if his hair was trimmed, even on single hair, the glamour on him would be broken, and the Queen would find him.
Melvin the Fairy Prince cowered in the dumpster, trying to decide if he was more frightened of his human father, or the Queen.
he picked up a rotting banana peel, and used it to make the garbage fairy’s sigil on the dumpster wall.
“Catshit … Catshit … i need your help!” Melvin called. “Dad wants my hair cut, what am i to do?”

Prompt: “when the judge came down, poured whiskey on my head, turned  me around to the jury, and said, “convict this man, he’s drunk”, what could i do?” – excerpt from ‘Framed’

1975, i was traveling through Texas on my way to my brother’s, in Phoenix. i didn’t have a car, so i worked some place, got some money together, and would walk til i ran out of cash. then stop, and find another job.
i’d been on the road for a little over three months, on my way from Florida, when i came to Candleburg, Texas. as my money was almost gone, i got a job at the diner, washing dishes.
that was the night someone set the Candleburg First Methodist Church on fire, and it burned to the ground.
so i got blamed. i had an inconvenient non-alibi – i’d been alone, sleeping in the alley behind the diner, and no one had seen me.
i got sent to jail for 25 years.
that got stretched some. fights i didn’t start, but had to finish, and it was 2017 when i got out.
18 when i went in, 60 when i come out.
i’m standing in that same alley again, middle of the night.
i didn’t set anything on fire back in ’75.
but i’m burning Candleburg to the goddamn ground tonight.


listening to: ‘The Drums of War’, Daniel Pemberton, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” soundtrack
mood: productive and happy

Speed Writing 8-2-17

Prompt: a chill in my bones

Diane was the stuff that dreams were made of – to hell with any bejeweled black bird. She was the most perverse fantasies made real … and available.
Not for free – don’t be silly. Women like Diane Ferris knew exactly what the market would bear, and had no qualms about charging it.
Which is why I upped my fees when she walked through the door to my office.
Those who can, pay through the nose.
I thought I was clever, making extra from a dame who could afford it.
You ever been to the Aquarium, seen the sharks? Flat dead eyes, eyes that look at you like you’re lunch – if not today, then tomorrow, or the day after. But that’s your destiny – lunch. Eyes that wouldn’t change at all if the shark was swimming, or tearing you to pieces.
Those eyes, those shark eyes, weren’t nearly as frightening as Diane Ferris’s pale blue eyes.
I shuddered, and realized no matter how much I charged her, in the end, it wasn’t going to be enough.
I remember when I was still a cop, they brought in the body of Maxi Vespucci, the local wise guys’s best hitter. His dead eyes, filming over already, were a thousand times more alive, more healthy, than Diane’s.

Prompt: envy, madness, confession

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about you, Mr. Shepherd,” she said, and I shivered again. It felt obscene that she knew my name.
“What … uh, what can I do for you, Miss Ferris?”
“I need you to find my friend, Emma Hanover, Mr. Shepherd.”
I wondered if a thing like Diane could truly have friends.
She saw my doubt, and over the next half hour told me her story, confessing things I never wanted to know about anyone.
I felt soiled when she finished.
“And through all that, Mr. Shepherd, Emma’s the only person I’ve ever really cared for. I don’t know why, never been able to figure it out.
“Maybe I envy her, never having been in the situations I have, done the things I’ve done. She isn’t innocent, Mr. Shepherd, but she still has a soul.
“I sold mine a long time ago, as I told you.”
Yeah, she’d told me a cock-and-bull yarn about selling her soul to the devil for wealth and power. She was crazy, she had to be. There was no devil, no deals.
I thought back to her story, stated so matter-of-factly it had to be the truth.
I thought of how she made me feel … how her eyes affected me.
Maybe there was a Devil after all.
Maybe Deals were made.
But was the Devil out there, or sitting in my office?
And what kind of Deal was I making?

Prompt: bathe in the incandescent glow

All she could tell me of any value was Emma’s address, place of employment, and the last place she’d seen Emma.
I questioned her rosy assessment of Emma from that piece of information. She’d last seen her friend at The Festival, a hard-core fetish club in the old Dockyard district. Not the kind of club for tourists or dabblers, The Festival was by invitation only, but Diane hadn’t invited Emma. She didn’t know who had.
I wanted to keep my association with Diane Ferris on the down low, and I knew a woman who could get me inside The Festival through the back door, avoiding pesky doormen.
Inside the club, everyone and everything strobed in the flickering light of countless television screens.
I chose not to believe what I saw on the screens. I figured I’d stay saner that way … only to have my sanity threatened by the hellish landscape of the club, illuminated in that flickering light.
I’m sure someone called what played over the booming speakers ‘music’, to me it was metal shredders singing the songs of Auschwitz and Dachau, backed by the sound of the last man on Earth’s heartbeat.
Should’ve been a fucking poet.

Prompt: order, innocence, deception

Two ways to get attention in a club – flash money (or your body if it was exceptional), or make trouble.
I didn’t plan on spending any of my cash, and even when I was young, I hadn’t been anywhere close to ‘exceptional’.
So I found the bar, and flashed a badge only slightly more convincing than one I’d get with plastic handcuffs and a cap gun in a dollar store.
“Health Inspector … surprise! Looking at all the fluids gettin’ sprayed around in here, you better get your manager, now!”
I had to shout over the sounds of cattle being incinerated … at least, that’s what it sounded like to me.
The bartender rolled her eyes, and I admired her tattoos as she stomped off. Not sure why she was into Latin so much she’d covered her body with it, and I wasn’t going to ask.
She came back with the manager, who looked like the Punk Years had desiccated him, leaving him that way through the intervening decades.
“Office?” I yelled, and he motioned me to follow him.
No matter the club, what style the music, or clientele, the offices all look and smell the same.
Rank, disgusting … but at least somewhat quieter than the club itself.

Prompt: another bullshit night in suck city

Myerson, the manager, wasn’t impressed by the badge, but the threat of having his permits pulled, because of some bullshit I strung together on the spot, did alarm him.
It alarmed him so much he had two goons with bald heads and ass-less chaps haul me into the alley and quite literally beat the shit out of me. By the time they were finished, I looked like a wino who’d been gang-fucked by a biker gang.
No way a cab was gonna stop for me, and it was a long walk back to my apartment.
I felt more dead than alive as I climbed the stairs, and let myself in. The harsh light in my bathroom did me no favors in that department either as I took a piss.
Reddish-orange – not the first time, doubt it’ll be the last. A few cracked ribs and a possible concussion on top of that … nothing new there either. I took a shower, threw on some sweat pants, and turned on the TV. Bottle of bourbon in one hand, bottle of aspirin in the other, I channel-hopped through infomercials, thinking about how much I really didn’t want to be working for Diane Ferris, no matter how much she could pay me.
The bourbon and aspirin would see me through to the morning, when I’d call Ferris, tell her I’d had no luck, and refund her money, quit the case.
The knock at my door didn’t startle me. Mrs. Dunleavy from across the hall. She’d probably seen me come in, was checking on me.
I stumbled to the door, and opened it.
“Mr. Shepherd,” the young woman said, “I’m Emma Hanover. I understand you’re looking for me?”

yeah, i’m probably going to rework the preceding sections and finish the story.

Prompt: good for the soul

She smiles, and I wonder how much longer I’m going to be breathing.
I’d done a really stupid thing – you don’t agree to launder money for the mob, and then have second thoughts. Silver or lead, that’s the deal you agree to.
I’d gotten my wife and kids out – a long vacation to Europe, that was the story. Hopefully I won’t scream out the truth in my last hours.
The mob had sent her.
She came up to me while I was eating my bag lunch in the park – 12 years old, maybe 13. She’d lost track of her parents, and wondered if she could sit with me until they found her. No cellphone, she’d lost it the day before. Didn’t remember their number, she’d saved it on her phone.
Sure, not a problem, glad I looked safe enough to be trusted.
She maintained the illusion for a few minutes, and then I felt something poke me in the side.
You’re never prepared for it when it happens, no matter what you think.
“Silenced Glock 9 millimeter,” she said, her voice sounding far older than before.
“You know the story of the dancer, Salome,” she asked.
I nodded.
“Hi, I’m Salome … and you’re John the Baptist.”
So now I’m waiting for her to go to work on me.
She likes power tools, and, evidently, punk rock.
This isn’t going to go well.
Please God, don’t let me tell her about the ranch in Montana.

Prompt: trust, tranquility, forgiveness

“So, you know why I’m here,” she said. “You haven’t bored me with protestations of ignorance.”
Sandy, little Carrie and Elizabeth, a small ranch outside of Bozman …
“Nope,” I said, angry that my voice was quivering. “Nick Philouma sent you.”
“Yeah, Art, you fucked up.”
I nodded, my head throbbing.
“Who … who is this?” I asked.
“The music?”
“Yeah …”
“‘Goat-Fuck Frenzy’ by the Dirty Rags.”
“It sucks.”
Salome smiles, and picks up the belt sander.
“And a music critic to boot. My lucky day …”
I scream until my throat is raw. The walls are splattered with my blood, and I can see all the bones in my left hand.
She’s coated in crimson, a demented child, finger-painting on my chest.
“You didn’t pass out, Art. I’m impressed.”
“Oh … g-g-goodie.”
“I’m also feeling a challenge, Art – that’s an unusual experience for me.”
“Yeah … oops, Art.”
She replaces the belt on the sander.
“You have funny-looking nipples,” she says.
I pray I pass out.

Prompt: send more idiots

Oblivion … beats the hell out of living in the moment, if you’re having moments like mine.
When I come to, I have no nipples, and she’s playing tic-tac-toe in the blood coating my belly.
“So, time for some questions.”
Inside, I cringe. I’m too well restrained to do so physically.
“The last deposit, what did you do with it?”
I wish I could smile.
“Bank of the Grand Cayman, account number 853062-92105.”
“Aren’t you talkative? Good. Let me check on that.”
She goes to her laptop, and kills the music.
“What was the account number again?”
I repeat it, gladly.
My thinking was, if got caught, and gave them the money, maybe they’d stop there, just kill me.
We’ll see.
“$23 million and change … numbers check out,” she says, smiling at me.
For a moment, I smile back.
She saunters over, all sexuality-and-sadism.
“We’re done, far as I”m concerned,” she says. “Sad, really … I was looking forward to more time with you.”
“Sorry … didn’t really see a reason to hold out. I’m dead either way.”
“True enough … Rural Route 144, Bozman, Montana … you sent your family to Montana? Why, for fuck’s sake?”
What little I haven’t voided already is lost, and the smell cuts through the blood stench.

Prompt: health, stasis, compassion

“Oh, had an accident … again,” she smirked. “Thought you could save them, didn’t you? Nick wants your daughters alive – best not to think on their futures.
“Your wife … I’ve seen photos. I’m going to enjoy her. I think she’s going to prove a talented lover … so long as she thinks it will save your precious Carrie and Elizabeth. I’m going to ride her face like a jockey.”
She smiles, and I pray my family dies in a car wreck, a house fire, anything, so long as it’s soon, before Salome gets to them.
“Don’t worry, Art. When I tire of her, I’ll make it quick. Two in the head.
“I’ll let your daughters watch everything. It’ll help break their minds into a million pretty porcelain pieces. That’s kinder than letting them be broken earlier.”
“You’re a fucking monster …”
“You noticed! How sweet.”
She picks up a power drill.
“Now, I’m not gonna lie, Art. This is gonna hurt … a lot.”
I scream, and pass out, and come to, still screaming.
An eternity later, she stops.
I begin to fade … watching her masturbate, my blood as lubricant … giggling …
Monsters are real … God help my family.

This is a chunk of story about a character from the soap opera.


listening to: “Breaking Out (The Cowboy Escapes)”, Daniel Pemberton, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” soundtrack
mood: happy, productive


Speed Writing 7/19/17


Prompt: I don’t normally share the Exquisite Corpse exercise, but this one is rather good. I composed the first line, the rest was in the hands of my fellow attendees.

Vegetables went on the attack, killing thousands.

Broccoli speared the advancing armies; the greening of Terra.

Mushrooms made short work of the fallen soldiers.

Carrots moved swiftly which made them good scouts.

Henry and June tried to fight the nasty mushrooms off, but were pinned against the wall, and had no way to get out.

Just then, the pea brigade rolled in to form a ramp for the snowpeas.
“Timmy, I swear to God, if you don’t stop playing with your food, you’re going to get an ass whooping.”


Prompt: haiku, theme – ‘winter’


frozen wonderland

thick sheets of ice coating all

my face in freezer


dog park’s yellow snow

paw prints in the white snowfield

howls from wolves within


us? a white christmas?

not likely – running AC

holiday custom


white-out conditions

chains on the tires, dress warmly

breath a heavy fog


Prompt: (each of us randomly pulled a quote) “You ought never to sass old people unless they sass you first.” – Samuel Clemens


“Grandpa, you remember all those times you threatened to beat my ass with a switch?”
“Yes, my dear …”
“Answer me correctly, worm!”

“Yes, mistress!”

I brought the quirt down on his wrinkled bottom with a vicious swipe.
“Thank you, mistress!”
“Good, worm … good.”

I have some odd customers, and Gordon was far from the weirdest.

He clearly wanted more, as he let one hand quiver on the post.

Are you about to let go, you wrinkled bastard?” I shouted. “Do you think I’ll cut you any slack because you’re my grandfather?”

He wasn’t really, but it was part of his fantasy.
“N-no, mistress.”
I laid into his naked buttocks like my life depended on it. Blood began to rise to the surface of the skin.
“So,” I said, as the beating continued, “you can hold on to the post!”

“Y-yes, mistress.”
I could tell he was very excited, approaching orgasm. Best to push him over the edge. I worried about Gordon’s heart at his age.
“You sick, perverted piece of shit, perving on your own granddaughter …”

That was it, there he went.
I stopped the beating, watching him try to hold on to the posts for real.
“Th-thank you, mistress.”
“Perverted fucking worm.”


Prompt: money, swish, calmly, resplendent


I took Gordon’s money once he’d cleaned up his mess.
“Same time next week, Mistress Katherine?” he asked calmly.

“Certainly, Gordon,” I replied, swishing the quirt in his direction.

“May I say you look positively resplendent in your new pink leather outfit, mistress?” he said as he went to the door.
You may, Gordon. After all, your visits helped pay for it.”

As the door closed behind him, I lay back on the rack – usually there just for show – and sighed.

This is what a liberal arts degree was good for in the real world. Mistress to a bunch of submissive men with fat wallets.
Hell of a way for a theology major to make a living.

Prompt: a list of six words, given one a minute, that I can’t remember

“Sorry, Mac, your car got towed, it’s in the impound.”
“You’re fucking kidding.”
“I gave you money, asked you to watch it, keep the meter fed.”
“Yeah, well, I needed a pack of smokes. When I got back, the truck already had your car hooked up.”

A wave of nausea made me put my head down, like I was bowing to this dumb sumbitch.

“Hey, Mac, you okay?”
I stood up, resolved to splatter him if I did vomit.

“No, I’m not okay. I left you to watch my car. I’d have been better off delegating the job to a fucking pigeon!”

I took the ticket from him, and pulled out my phone. I transposed numbers dialing, and got a massage parlor.

I was going to lose the rest of the afternoon anyway – get my car, or get a massage?

I stood at the entrance to Happy Calm Time, and smiled.
I’d get the car back tomorrow.


listening to: “Street Fighting Man” – Rolling Stones
Mood: content

Still Sucking At This Blog Thing …


Speed writing 7/1/17

prompt: age, alliance, infidelity

You can only shit where you eat for so long, and Carl had been shitting in Mattin Acres for over ten years.

His marriage to Wendy had ended over an affair with Debbie. His marriage with Debbie had ended over affairs with Carolyn, Sharlene, and a surprisingly long fling with Wendy.

There’d been a lot of speculation as to whom he’d marry next – turned out to be Carolyn … who he cheated on with Maggie.
There were rumors as well of an affair with Steve from Golden Weight Gym, but no one put Steve in the ‘next marriage’ running.
Sure enough, he’d married Maggie next, leading to the current state of – pun intended – affairs.
Carl’s exes had unified, perhaps even unionized, and decided ‘no more’.
Wendy, because of her later indiscretions with Carl, had to give up pride-of-place to Debbie, and it was she who led the delegation.
They ensured his silence with copious amounts of duct tape.
“Carl, if you cheat on Maggie with anyone,” Debbie said, “we’re going to come back and fix you.”
“Mmm mmm?”
“Yes, fix you, as one would fix a pet. You’ve hurt enough people, created enough chaos, upset enough other couples. You’re balls will be forfeit if you do it again.”

prompt: empty-handed, cold wind

I couldn’t help myself, my thoughts were a mix of ‘little drummer boy’ and that O Henry story about Christmas gifts.

Things were tight at home – we had enough to live, but few luxuries, and it was Christmas time.
Evie and I had agreed, no gifts for each other, but little Victor … it wouldn’t be Christmas for him without presents.
Evie had sewed him a set of Power Ranger pajamas, those were from both of us, but what about something from Santa?
Which is why I’d taken a second job, delivering pizza in the evenings – Porkie Pies, where vegetarian isn’t an option.
The extra money would be useful in a lot of ways.
I kept telling myself that as I trudged through the stiff winter winds.
Not just a present for Victor, but I’d get a little something for Evie as well, pay off one or two of Victor’s medical bills from when he’d been so sick.
It wasn’t going to be a bad Christmas at all.
Drivers never carry much money – the young woman with the aching need in her eyes and the pistol in her hands either didn’t know that, or didn’t care.
“Money, gimme the money!”
“Ma’am, I’ll give you what I’ve got … here.”
She took the wad of cash, holding it up to count, and keep an eye on me at the same time.

Prompt: fame, illness, war

It was the Miracle of Michowitz, that’s what Time magazine called it on their covert.
Nun, local girl, had stopped the genocidal conflict with a heartfelt plea to both sides.
Okay, she got them to pause, a ceasefire, and to come to the negotiating table.

Sister Maria, formerly Strylli Vantzch, had traveled through eight miles of active war zone to get to the local radio station, dodging both militias, and begged the staff to put her on the air.

“This hatred, this sickness, turning neighbor against neighbor, is insanity.

“I have received a vision from the Holy Mother. She offers healing, an end to the hatred, for those who would call upon her.”

The station staff had thought it corny as hell, but it had worked. Both sides had agreed to meet, and Sister Mary was there as well.
She spoke of a common enemy.
Everyone thought she meant the Russians.
Two weeks later, the peace still held. The earth shook, great cracks formed in the ground, and the demons came.

Prompt: heirs of a cold war

Kids these days – they never had to worry about whether or not they were going to grow up, not like us … not until now.
Yeah, we had Soviet missiles, and ‘duck and cover’.

They’ve got demons.

People may debate the existence of God, and Heaven, but nobody’s debating shit about Hell. Too much proof, right outside your windows.
The big ones, those are a matter for the police, the military.

The mobs of babbling imps, moving through a herd of devil lemmings? Those are handled by the people.

Twelve, maybe fourteen inches tall, little claws, sharp teeth. They can’t jump for shit.

Don’t sound too scary? Put on our boots, wrap some leather around our legs, we’re pretty safe.

Except they don’t come in ones or tens or even hundreds. They come in the thousands.

I worked construction for years before I retired. We heard the sirens, the radio warnings, the cell phone alerts, I got dressed, went to where they’re widening the highway.

Got myself a bulldozer.

Little bastards squish real good.

Prompt: rebirth, stasis, lust

Men don’t talk about it. I won’t say it happens as often as sexual assault on women – I’m sure it doesn’t – but it happens. It happened to me.

I’d gotten drunk, which is no excuse, but it was part of what happened nonetheless.

The girls had indeed gotten prettier near closing time, but I wasn’t interested – it had been a long week, and I was just tired.

She was short, muscular, said her name was Patty, and offered to share a cab.

I remember giving the cabbie my address …
And then I woke up the next morning, in more pain than I could explain with a hangover. No doubt I’d had sex – it hadn’t been so long I didn’t remember what that smelled like. I was bleeding from raw spots on my inner thighs, and from my ass, which really freaked me out.
She’d left a note.
“Ray, you had a good time last night. Best case of whisky-dick I’ve ever seen. You just stayed hard. Thanks, Patty”

I’d never understood feeling hollow before, like somebody’d pulled the plug, and all of me had drained out.
I staggered to the bathroom and hollowed myself out in a different fashion.

Prompt: welcome to the creep show

Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy. Ethel the Bearded Lady. Amber the Alligator Girl. Manuel the Pin-Head.
Jimmy the Geek.
That’s me. The Geek.

We guarantee an experience – that’s what all our advertising says.

An experience …

Nobody’s ever claimed our audiences would enjoy it.
Jojo is more than dog-faced … more wolf-faced. He comes on last, with me. I distract them, biting the head off a live baby.
He attacks them like the wolf he is.
Ethel’s beard is prehensile, and she’s always hungry.

Amber’s the same – hungry, and while her scaly skin’s what they see, her teeth are what they remember – until they don’t remember anything at all.

Manuel – yeah, he’s not real bright, and his head’s deformed … he’s real angry about that.

And big.

And strong.

See, the show opens, and Manuel, Amber, and Ethel do their bits, standard freakshow shit, and then they go out and wait. One at each exit.
Jojo and I turn the tip, and the crowds run screaming. They jam up in the narrow exits, and Jojo and I take them from the rear.

Good eats.

Prompt: trust, death, denial

We put his body up in the trees, as the Wendigo demands. Ithaqua’s a hard god, and the too-brief summer is the only respite from him. First sign of autumn, the icy winds stream through the high air, and during the weeks where the last of the warmth leaves the land, we hear him. The flicker of spring is the same, in reverse. While the land warms, he screams out the promise of his return.

And then there are the nine months of hard winter.

Vance died as many do. With the coming of night the cold grew vicious, alive, hungry. It found him walking back to the village, and froze him in place.

Candice, his wife, gathered hunting parties the next morning, but we all had a good idea what we’d find.

There he was, south of the village. We broke him loose, careful not to break him instead of ice, and carried him back.

No tears, not even from Candice. Tears freeze, and courtesy of Ithaqua, they don’t thaw – they must be picked off the skin, leaving bloody wounds.

The wind was moaning, expectant, as we put on our climbing gear to take him up into the trees.

Prompt: I see bad times today

Once he was safely tied into the high branches, we climbed down, slowly, near frozen ourselves.

Custom says those who put up the offerings get to work in the caves, farming the lichen, the pools of algae, the mushrooms.

I wasn’t going to complain as welcome warmth crept back into my bones, not even about the ever-present smell of shit. We use it as fertilizer, we use it – very inefficiently – to produce methane. That fuels the heaters in the village longhouses.

Even massed body heat and the best insulation – meters of dirt over the houses – can stop Ithaqua’s cold.

It’s unnatural, supernatural.

We keep talking about expanding the caves, but digging through rock is hard work, and no one gets enough calories to support that kind of labor.

I remember meat, before the animals froze. Not even arctic animals can survive this kind of cold.

All the way up the tree I’d dreamed of eating Vance, but Ithaqua doesn’t stand for that. One bite, and nobody would hear from our village again.

So say his priests, and they’ve been right about everything else.

They come through once a year, look everywhere, search everything, make sure we’re following the rules.

I wonder what it would be like to eat one of them, all fat and juicy-looking.

Speed Writing, 7/5/17

Prompt: aversion, industry, virtue

Some things don’t change, no matter how many years pass, or how many people die.

My family’s reunions are one of those things.

Someone’s going to get too drunk – probably quite a few someones – but at least one of them is going to get spectacularly blitzed.

Someone’s going to engage in questionable sexual activity with another attendee who could well be too close to them on the family tree.

Someone’s going to get angry – loudly, violently so – during the memoriam for family members who passed in the last year, and end up speaking very damn ill, and far too truthfully, of the deceased.

I go, not so much to get together with family as to enjoy the reunion as a spectator sport, where I know all the players.

And the food’s good.

I was working on a big helping of Aunt Edna’s spare ribs when this year’s festivities kicked into high gear.

Cousin Bootsie started a loud drunken diatribe on what a blessing straight from God our current president is.

Such a speech was probably the only thing that could have gotten his wife, Cousin Sassy Mae, to leave off trying to get into my Uncle Eli’s pants.
“Bootsie,” she screamed, heading toward him …

Prompt: living in an empty room

Robbery has a way of focusing your attention on what you still have.
After a crew of assholes emptied my apartment, I had dick, diddley, and shit.

To be fair, they didn’t take my dirty dishes, or dirty clothes.

Everything else was packed in a panel van with a fake moving company’s name on the side, and hauled off.

Hell of a thing to come home to after a hard day at work. I checked with my neighbors, heard about the movers and the van, then gathered my laundry, headed for the complex’s laundromat.

I called the cops from there.

They came an hour and a half later. They took my statement, my neighbors’ statements, looked over my apartment.

The cops didn’t seem too optimistic, and neither was I.

Hell of a time to remember I’d meant to get renter’s insurance.

Carla, from the management office, stopped by to tell me they’d be replacing my lock the next day. She was very sorry, but really couldn’t do anything more.

So, after the excitement died down, I ran the dishwasher, and posted my woes on Facebook.

Ben came over with pizza and a sleeping bag – but had to get back to Paula and the baby.

I ate, then ran down to the corner store to get a charger for my phone.

Prompt: gluttony, victory, addiction

Eight-hundred-and-twenty-three pounds.

Before the surgery.

More than a lap band, they’d implanted a device that monitored his food intake and applied a mild shock when he’d eaten enough. If he kept eating, the shocks increased in intensity.

It’s what he’d wanted – he knew, if left to his own devices, he’d slip back into his bad habits.

They’d made him sign all sorts of waivers, and the doctors had repeatedly warned him that, in his condition, severe shocks could cause him to go into cardiac arrest.

Carl had been okay with that.

It had been a hard three-and-a-half years, and being warned that the excess skin would remain hadn’t prepared him for the saggy, floppy nightmare in the mirror, but he’d done it.

After even more surgery to remove the excess skin, he was a svelte two hundred pounds.

Late at night, he’d sit in his favorite chair, and feel the six-hundred-and-twenty-three ghost pounds still hanging on his frame.

He wondered if he’d ever lose the psychic weight.

Prompt: you float like a feather

“really good drugs,” I said, watching the walls breathe slowly, changing color from green to blue to green again as they did so.
“how many words was that?” mark said, confusion on his narrow face.
I thought, counted, and replied, “three, why?”
“had to be more than three – you took hours to get them all out.”
I peered at him over my glasses, channeling my inner spinster librarian.

“you, young man, are fucked up.”
we all got the unstoppable laughs from that. I was already convinced the clocks were lying to us, so although they said we laughed for about ten minutes, I knew it had been much longer.

Mona was still giggling when she started winding up the toys with their lights and sparks, turning the loose to wander across the carpet, casting flickering shadows on the breathing walls.
Sandy said, “somebody put on some music.”
the rest of us spoke as one, reciting an old joke.
not pink floyd!”

“no, not pink floyd,” she replied. “i’d do it, but I can’t reach the stereo.”
“sandy, you’re sitting right next to it.”
“yeah, but i’m floating, and can’t reach it … or I don’t want to break the illusion.”
“fair enough,” mark said, winding his way through the toys on the floor. “crosby, stills, and nash it is.”

Prompt: weakness, red tape, justice

Something about the way she walked reminded me of Rosalyn. Two parts piglets wrestling in a gunny sack, one part wind in the pines, one part snake on the sand.
“Are you meaning to stare holes through my thighs, or are you just lost in perverted imaginings?”
I started, momentarily surprised that anyone existed outside my memories.
“Uh, I’m sorry, I truly am. No perverted imaginings, just, well, your walk reminded me of someone I knew.”

I focused on her face. Nothing like Rosalyn. Blonde hair, not much of a chin, no jutting cheekbones.
“Still looking at your ghost?”
Damn it, could this woman read my mind?

“For a moment, yeah, I was. Again, my apologies.”

“No worries. It’s still early. Have some more coffee.”

I smiled my thanks, and motioned for my waitress.
She was still standing there, so without looking at her, avoiding Rosalyn’s reappearance, I said, “You waiting around to see if my ghost returns?”

Callie, my waitress, was pouring fresh coffee into my cup when the mystery woman replied.
“No, I’m making sure you stay in the here-and-now. You disappear from a booth in Denny’s, vanish into thin air, people are going to talk.”

Speed Writing 7/26/17

Prompt: street shops make me shifty

“I understand you had a most unusual training regimen for your running?”
“Yes … I ran to evade capture by the police.”
“No charges still outstanding I hope?”
He laughs, I laugh. To the western world it’s all one big joke.
“No. They would have had to catch me.”
Give us this day our daily bread. That’s what the nuns said we should pray … that and a lot of other things equally unlikely. The school fed me my lunch, but did nothing for my family. My mother and my brothers and sisters had no scholarship to the Christian school, and while I could live on the bland soups and old bread they fed us for lunch, they had no such option.
So I stole.

A loaf of bread here, a piece of fruit there, I’d tuck them into my good school shirt with all the buttons, tucked in to my shorts, and fly down the narrow aisles between the shopkeepers. I always saved the kabob vendors for last – hard to hide a kabob or three in my shirt, plus, even though I was feeding my family, if I got that shirt dirty, greasy … mother would have thanked me for the food, and then spanked my bottom.
And no, hit a different market every day, rotate through them, I was just another little brown child … until I wasn’t so little anymore, but by then, money started coming in through other means.

You may judge, but making drug deliveries in the slums? Easy money, and it kept us alive until other business opportunities came up.

The police never caught me, never even got too good a look at me.
And now I compete in the Olympics for my country … the country that starved me and my family, and so many others.

No, I compete for my family, and for the endorsements my winning will bring.

Fuck my country.

Prompt: fall of giants

Trials of the Century – that’s what all the media called them.
I doubt many of us thought they would lead to anything at all, let alone real and lasting change. The world had become too stacked in favor of the ‘one-percent’. All the new UN regulations on wealth distribution were merely words. Money bought power, influence. No matter what they were accused of, what court they were tried in, the rich were going to win.

Going into their trials, held simultaneously to avoid later defendants learning from the mistakes of earlier trials, at the International Courts at the Hague, the fat, sleek bastards were smug and smiling, laughing at the very idea of them being found guilty of anything. It was all an expensive joke.

I sat in Campies, my local watering hole, and watched the recaps in the evenings when I got off work. I wasn’t the only one there angry. If anyone had dropped one of those rich fucks into our neighborhood, ‘eat the rich’ wouldn’t be a button slogan anymore.

And then the first verdict came down, and they were fined 98% of their net worth.

The family ran, but their assets were frozen, and they were caught within two months.

The law was satisfied.

We weren’t.

Even if they’d still had all their millions, we would have gotten to them. “One-percenters” forget that the odds are not in their favor.

It’s not hard to make a guillotine, and Youtube allowed us to show it world-wide.

Merely the first of many.


listening to: the snoring of dawgs
mood: okay

Speed Writing 6-3-17

prompts: disbelief, envy, fear

i never should have watched Eve by the pool.
hard not to do, if you’re at the complex’s pool as often as i am. i watch everyone.
but Eve comes by her name honestly. she looks like she might have been  created in a perfect garden to wander in the dawn of the world.
and all that might have been okay, if not for her significant other, Steven.
Steven’s kinda scrawny, but he’s very educated, far beyond his intelligence, in my opinion. mr. been-there-done-that-knew-that-let-me-correct-you.
she buys his bullshit, whole hog. and that should have been enough to dissuade me.
but …
she’s just perfect.
like, i leave her presence, and i can’t believe just how perfect she is, i must be misremembering, no one can be that divine.
until i see her again.
she’s every wet dream i ever had, rolled into better-than-i-dreamt-it.
so, i asked her out, and that’s when know-it-all Steven lost his shit.
now, i’m naked, in my apartment, masturbating to her as she stands before me naked.
Steven has a gun.
i’m working on my eighth orgasm in less than a half hour.
tears on my cheek.
agony between my legs.

prompt: it’s never beige in Vienna

our life together? beige people in a beige house in a beige town, working out beige jobs, and i realized i was on the brink of a killing spree for just the chance of color.
so, i took out a 20 million dollar insurance policy on Patrick, cut out all my discretionary spending to afford the premiums, and i gave it a year.
a year of Patrick, 20 million dollars.
i can suck up a year of beige.
after 12 months, i started using a a fine round file to eat away at has brake line.
slowly, carefully.
a little bit every day.
boring husband roulette … will it be today?
and when it happens, will it be final? fatal?
plenty of chances for it to be catastrophic.
and, to be fair, plenty of places in his daily commute where it wouldn’t do more than wrinkle his bumper.
two months, three weeks, six days …
a police officer shows up at my office, and regrets to inform me …
i cry and no one realizes they’re tears of relief.
of joy.
another month, and i’ll be leaving Beigeville for color, and life, and possibilities. for the right to dream in color.

prompts: innocence, trust, delusion

he said he’d take care of us, after Mother died. Daddy said we were all he had, and he’d hold on to us forever.
and he did.
meeting someone who would want to be mother to two children, and live a humble life out in the forest, married to a man who chopped and sold firewood … no woman would agree to that, surely.
until Stella …
sweetness, light, and love – at least while Daddy is watching.
sour, dark, and hate when he wasn’t.
Stella was particularly hard on my brother. there were always more dangerous chores for him, and she’d hurt him cruelly in ways that left no mark.
at first, she played with me like i was one of my dolls – dress-up, tea parties, grand balls, dances, and banquets, of imaginary food, of course. but she lost interest, and then i was tortured as well. she put rough fingers where she shouldn’t, laughing at my tears.
and now, Daddy’s taken us out into the woods, and left us. i tried leaving a trail, but all i did was feed the birds.
it’s getting dark, and we’re scared.
do i smell fresh cookies?

prompts: sacred, compassion, clarity

we relied on the Church a lot when i was growing up.
Mom and Dad each worked two jobs, my big brother raised us most of the time.
we never had enough of anything.
so, the Church helped us, and our parents made us pay the Every-Sunday-Dues.
i listened until i questioned, and when i questioned, they said “believe”, and i fucking stopped listening.
but i kept going even after i grew up, and moved out … the Church kept us from starving, and there were always new-to-us hand-me-down clothes as we grew.
i still owe them.
but debts go both ways.
we gave them our Sundays, and they fed and clothed us.
we gave them our trust …
until news started breaking about the child abuse by priests.
the Church has shuffled you around a lot, Father. hid you pretty well for a long time.
if it helps, think of me as the Wrath of God. i mean, i don’t believe, but maybe you still do.
i’m not judging you. if you’re right, God will do that.
if i’m right, no judgment matters …
feel free to scream, Father. you’re going to be losing control of your bladder and sphincter soon enough.
don’t be ashamed, Father, happens to all you bastards.

prompt: a thousand splendid suns

i moved from the city to find the night again. i walk when the sun’s down, i want to see stars.
in the city, the sky had an ever-present glow.
maybe a handful of stars.
i forgot the stellar mist of the Milky Way.
until my first  night out here – i walked out my door to find the dark and the stars, and i fell to my knees when i saw that ribbon of stars above me.
i wept. it was, it is, ever glorious.
there’s nothing more beautiful, and to have that back in my life … okay, i raise goats, till my little garden.
trading the glow of the city, the glow of the internet, of the television, for the majestic spray of stars  – best decision i ever made.

prompts: balance, gluttony, sanity

i’ve lived under the umbrella of my mother’s smothering, choking love all my life.
it’s like walking on the bottom of the sea, the pressure never-relenting, unbearable … yet somehow i’ve borne it.
there isn’t enough therapy in the world for the load of emotions i’m carrying. rage, fear, doubt, shame, hate, love, disgust – all the soul-sweat of her cloying compassion.
i wanted to kill her most of my life – it was the fuel that drove me, the introvert, out of the house.
so when she died … the pressure was gone, and the motivation as well.
i spent the first six months never leaving the house, living on delivery, not answering my phone, ignoring email, watching the insurance money slowly trickle away.
six months was long enough to hibernate in the creaking corpse of my mother’s love.
i went to the grocery, bought chicken, set it to frying, and walked out to the yard, waiting for the fire to begin.
goodbye Mother.
today i am free.

listening to: “Mad Max: Fury Road”, playing on the monitor
mood: tired

Speed Writing Catch Up


prompts: murder, wealth, red tape

Ben Mankowicz was dead, no two ways about it. Can’t split a head like that and expect the poor sumbitch to live. I’d seen more in-depth anatomy lookin’ at his noggin than I ever wanted to see.
Normally, a murder like this? Act of passion. A hatchet to the head’s messy, and from the look of things, it had taken more than one blow.
Knives are easier, guns are easier.
So, crime of passion, no premeditation.
Someone had found Ben Mankowicz’s hatchet, and gone batshit crazy on Ben’s head.
I had forensics dusting everything. The hatchet’s handle had been wiped clean, maybe we’d get lucky elsewhere.
I can hear Liz, Ben’s wife, wailing in the front yard. She weighs 98 pounds soaking wet, doubt he has the strength to do this.
Nobody’s seen Ray, their son, in the last week or so. He’s tentatively at the top of the suspect list.
“Detective, you might want to see this …”
Ray’s in a closet, strangled with an electrical cord.
Guess he’s off the suspect list …

prompt: a sewing accessory – pin cushion, thread spindles, small drawers with a puzzle lock

we were cleaning out mom’s house.
it had been four-and-a-half, five months, and neither of us had felt up to doing it before, just refused to think about it, and my sister couldn’t approach the front door without breaking down. she’d spent more time crying in her car than was healthy.
but she’d called me, and it was time, so i made the drive down. we had breakfast at Carly’s that saturday morning, then driven over to mom’s.
“i’m glad you hired someone to clean out the fridge,” i said as we walked into the front hall.
“yeah, this place would’ve stunk worse than when the cat died under the house my senior year,” Beth said.
she chuckled, and i pretended i didn’t hear the tears she was holding in.
a lot of clothes to sort, cheap jewelry to get rid of. furniture to either split between us, or have auctioned off.
i held it together until we got to the sewing room.
a Singer, older than me, thread, bolts of cloth, pin cushions, needles … my childhood wardrobe came from that room, and my

prompts: despair, ignorance, injustice

ignorance of the law is no excuse …
absolute bullshit, far as i’m concerned. case in point – i’m in the Clusterfuck County jail, no, it’s not really Clusterfuck County, but Clusterfuck better suits this place than Cooley County.
now, if your county judges have decided an Obama bumper sticker is a felony … well, they’re crazier than shithouse rats to begin with. and since no sign warns travelers through this little slice of Alabama, i tend to take it personally when your brave law enforcement officers pull me over to arrest me for felony mischief – like that’s really a thing – and throw me in the clink.
hell of way to fuck up my scenic drive from Jacksonville to Oklahoma City.
“i want my phone call!”
“hell, boy, that’s some tv shit right there. you ain’t guaranteed a phone call.”
he’s six hundred pounds of redneck asshole stuffed into a three hundred pound uniform. you could boil him down for oil … smelly oil, but oil all the same.
“officer, two hundred dollars for a phone call.”
“we don’t take checks or plastic, prisoner.”
“you don’t need to. i have more than that in my wallet!”
“uh uh, bubba … there weren’t no money in that wallet.”
i am fucked … so fucked.
looking at my cell-mate, that might be literally, as well as figuratively.
late friday night, and no judge til monday morning.

prompts: demolition, health, lust

“doctor … why’d i want to be a doctor again?”
“lots of money,” my favorite nurse replied.
it’s an old routine with us.
this time it was more truth than joke.
i addressed my patient.
“mr. carpenter, what possessed you to …”
“tequila, doc.”
“uh huh … tequila convinced you to stick a roman candle in your bottom?”
“well, we were lighting farts, and hal, my friend hal, thought it would be funny if a fart made its way out around a roman candle, and lit it.”
“drunk … lighting farts … fireworks.”
“yeah, doc, shouldn’t have been a problem. i’ve held ’em in my hands. they get a little warm, but that’s it.”
“so, this candle was defective?”
“you’re the one lookin’ at the crater what used to be my asshole – what do you think?”
i think you’re a goddamned moron and i hope you never breed.
i kept that to myself.
“i think you’re going to need reconstructive surgery to keep your shit from just falling out,” i replied. “i’ve done all i can, mr. carpenter. i’ve packed it with gel-foam, and i’m going to ship you upstairs now.”
ER duty. gotta love it.

prompts: relapse, identity, virtue

it was inevitable … we’d all drop acid, and i’d end up in a corner somewhere, pondering cosmic truth or somesuch bullshit.
i mean, i’d  hang around with the others for a couple of hours, but the fun part of our trips lasted a good 8 hours, and i wasn’t the only one to split from the herd.
danny & kate would go to their room to fuck after 2 or 3 hours, and we wouldn’t see them again.
we kept the music loud so we wouldn’t hear them either.
one time we didn’t and fuck near died laughing … obviously we couldn’t stop, and our facial muscles were cramping something fierce.
then there’s phil – he goes wandering in the apartment complex. he generally made it back before the end of the trip … but on occasion, we wouldn’t see him for days afterward.
so yeah, about 5, 6 hours in, i’d grab my notebook, go find a quiet corner, and write while i questioned my place in the universe, or if reality is a shared gestalt construct as opposed to having independent existence.
what i write is very rarely coherent the next morning.
that’s okay. i keep writing anyway.
it beats staring at the walls while they breathe, or listening to 3 minute songs stretch into hour-long songs.
i don’t think it beats what danny and kate are doing. i’ll have to try that some time.


prompts: potato, running, lonely, secretly (this is a “noun, verb, adjective, adverb” prompt)

“feeling lonely, cowboy?”
it had been a hard six weeks, driving the herd north to omaha, and i was so horny i didn’t know whether to shit or go blind. but mostly i was hungry.
“sweetheart, i been runnin’ on beans an’ taters for a month and a half. you mind keepin’ me company while i get a real meal?”
“you buy me a drink, and you’re on.”
i waved my hat at the boy who served as a waiter.
“a drink for the little lady, an’ as much steak as you can pile on a platter for me.”
she watched me go through four plates full, her eyes wide, drink forgotten.
i think she was secretly happy for the long break from her business.
when i was finished, she asked, “you ready now, cowboy?”
i just belched, and nodded.

prompt: haiku – ‘butter’ as a part of it

Vienna pastry
no butter necessary
now for some coffee

you called them my buns.
butter as a lubricant,
God knows we’ve used worse.

fuck the margarine
give me butter or nothing.
who eats oil-based foods?

butter up the boss.
you’re living in a box, Bob,
no raise in six years.

she is the Divine.
psychotic as hell, crazy.
but her lips? oh god!

prompts: a list of words, one per minute, integrated into the narrative

i’d overcooked the roast … again.
“barbara, this shit is burnt.”
it wasn’t that bad, no matter what harv said, but i’d given up arguing with him years before.
i heard him undo the bolt on the door, as he stomped out to eat at the chinese restaurant on the corner.
cheap bastard was always coming up with schemes to charge his meals on his company expense account.
i keep burning the roast, and executing other culinary disasters, so he’ll have plenty of chances to get caught.
i told him, he loses another job, and i’m out of here, across the bridge to the mainland, and living with my sister as far away from him as i can get.
maybe if they find out all the times he’s cheated them, they’ll lock him up.
cheap bastard.

prompt: don’t remember

“is it hot enough for you?”
i wanted to punch him, but he wasn’t asking rhetorically.
“almost,” i groaned.
i could feel the worms writhing in my body, whipped to a frenzy by the heat. the were crawling toward my head, just under my skin, trying to escape the heat in the therapeutic pool.
“a little more,” I said, lips between my teeth as i tried not to scream.
the first worm, oily and red, erupted from my cheek, and fell out beside the tub.
denny crushed it with his shoe.
“disgusting fucker …”
as more of them forced their way through my flesh, i did scream.
most of them fell into the tub with me, cooking and dying.
“jack … jack the heat up …”
i moaned, feeling the last of them crawling up my arms.


prompt: vice, loss, the counselor

“kill her, dump her in a shallow grave.”
“well shit, bob, how do you really feel about her.”
i’d married ellen after she and bob got divorced. neither of us had ever told him about our affair while they were married.
now, ellen and i were headed for divorce as well.
no big surprise, she was cheating on me. like my mother always said, “if she cheats on one man, why wouldn’t she cheat on another?”
i’m glad mom wasn’t able to see how right she’d been.
“bob, i don’t want her dead …”
“bullshit. listen, ed, something i’ve never told anyone before. she was cheating on me, too, before the divorce, and if i ever find out who it was, i’ll kill them.
“i been there,” he continued. “and if you don’t think you want her dead, you’re in denial. hell, it’s been four years, three months, and … twelve days since our divorce was final, and i still want her dead.”
i remained silent, the beginning of a plan forming in my mind.
could i talk ed into killing his ex without getting my own hands dirty?

prompt: delusion, madness, the gamble

“you know, freak, you’re the craziest sumbitch in here.”
earl, one of the night orderlies, is an animal. not dumb, he’s just cruel as a hobby.
and he really loves his hobbies.
he shoves my head in the stopped-up toilet again, holds me under for almost three minutes by my count.
i’m gasping and crying as he pulls me out.
“how ya like be being crazy now?”
i sputter, spit, and mumble, “you do this out of love. they don’t want you to, but you’re my friend, earl. you do this out of love.”
he gets a good laugh out of that, and drags me into the showers.
ice-cold water sluices the shit off my head and i scream. the water feels like it’s maybe a degree above freezing.
he holds me there forever … i doubt it’s over five minutes.
with a gentle, for earl, kick in my ass, he turns me loose.
“back to your room, squirrel chow.”
i stumble away, not letting him see the hate in my eyes.
if you ask the doctors here, i have a habit of cold showers, in my clothes, late at night. that’s how earl writes these incidents up.
i don’t say any different. last inmate that disputed earl’s side of the story took a dive off the roof.
suicide, earl reported.
the rest of us know better.

prompt: power, fear, injustice

if you keep people scared, they’re easier to control.
the local sheriff, clint thomas, wouldn’t put it so eloquently, but he understands the concept quite well.
he owns almost all of harmony, texas. give him another few years, he’ll own it all.
even the harmony herald, my newspaper.
it’s an old scam, but a good one.
you pay the sheriff and his men for protection. arguments about his salary from the city get your beaten.
so you pay the sheriff’s tax … and at some point, an honest-to-god accident happens … with the sheriff’s help.
your business burns down, or as happened with mccrory’s general store, bandits hold up supplies coming to restock the shelves.
you don’t make any money, you can’t pay the sheriff, and he ends up owning your business, or the land it was on.
i sleep in my office, alongside buckets of sand, with a loaded shotgun.
some day, my luck will run out, all the same.

prompts: the officer, marriage, addiction

“carl, you won’t know when to shit or when to eat.”
twenty-three years in the army, karen wasn’t lying, and she wasn’t wrong.
if i’d spent the time in prison, they’d say i was institutionalized. years spent in the ‘passing on orders from above’ business… i wasn’t looking forward to life as a civilian.
“don’t worry about it, carl. i’ll take care of you.”
and that prospect is terrifying as well. long deployments overseas have kept our marriage intact. hell, karen and i are on good terms with each other in direct proportion to our distance from each other. when i’m on the other side of the planet we’re best fucking friends.
looking at the rest of my life in close proximity to her makes me want to chew my ring finger off.
what can i possibly do to keep myself out of the house almost all day, every day?
golf? only if i spend most of my time in the clubhouse, at the bar.
chasing little white balls around strikes me as almost as frustrating as being around Karen.

prompts: the investor, cruelty, disbelief

chance of a lifetime, my fat white ass.
you’d have to know my brother walter as well as his family does to catch the faintest whiff of what a scoundrel he really is. i mean, he’s very slick, very charming, and as unremittingly crooked as a prison full of thieves.
and knowing all that, i bought into his latest con.
a resort … in mississippi. now, you’re thinking on the coast, beach front, gambling in the ocean breezes.
no. north mississippi, in wamaloosa county, which will never be known for anything but heat, mud, humidity, mud, mosquitoes the size of fucking st. bernards, and mud.
oh, i still take out the promotional materials he gave all his investors. i look at the photos, the blueprints, the magnificent artists depictions of the what-was-supposed-to-be …
and then i hit myself in the head with a hammer.
i didn’t invest money i couldn’t afford to lose, like almost everyone else in our family did.
i just want to hurt him.
they’re scraping together the money to have him killed.


prompt: Animal Farm

all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
story of my fucking life. my mother worked in the kitchens at Bennington School, so i had a free ride at a prestigious school, starting in first grade, on through high school.
yeah, hell of an opportunity. i could  have forgotten my name in those twelve years, because all my classmates called me ‘lunch lady’ … real embarrassing for a boy. it was pretty much every ‘rich kid/poor kid’ cliche you’ve ever heard of, but worse, because when it’s you, when it’s real? cliches come with bruises and tears.
but hey, first-class education … got me a scholarship to whalen, second-tier ivy league.
well, they didn’t call me ‘lunch lady’ at whalen, but otherwise it was more of the same, while my classmates could afford a social life, my time was eaten by student work programs. what little non-study time i had left … nowhere i could afford to go, and damn few people who’d talk to me to do it with.
the exception, the blessed angel in my hell, was carla, and her twisted acceptance of me.

prompts: humility, stasis, fame

“no one can be that humble,” vanessa said, wiping her face in the hellish coastal heat.
“while i’d normally agree with you,” i said, chugging deep on my corona, “he refuses any credit at all. let his boss take all the credit for the idea, didn’t bat an eyelash.”
“probably secretly plotting to fuck the whole project, make it look like the boss’s screw-up.”
“vanny, you’re an evil cynic with low morals.”
“you’re going to complain about my low morals?” she says, caressing my leg.
“no, not complaining, simply commenting. besides, only way evan would fuck up this project is if he has a self-destructive streak. this thing goes belly-up, our whole division will be filing for unemployment.”
she studies me for a while, oddly silent, and i think about our easy habit of each other. no real commitment, no rules, we just drifted together five years ago, and to both our surprise, haven’t drifted apart yet.
i don’t understand it, but as lovely as she is, i’m not going to question it too hard, afraid she’ll wake up, and move on.

prompts: Sometimes A Great Notion

“god didn’t put this swamp here just for the hell of it,” earl said, legs swinging as he sat on the tailgate of his truck.
“yeah, but … i don’t want to kill her. i just want her to get her own damn life, quit leeching off me and carol.”
beau wished he’d never mentioned the problems he was having with his sister, bobbie kay. once earl got the bit between his teeth, it took an act of god, or hard liquor, for him to turn it loose.
“beau, i’ve seen snappin’ turtles with more sense than you. bobbie kaye ain’t never gonna get her own life. she’s stupider than you, and them two brain cells bumped  each other just right for her to figure out you and carol are easy marks. what was it she stole and sold this time?”
“stereo out of carol’s car.”
“uh huh … what lame-ass excuse?”
“needed money to pay off her visa card, and could bear to ask us for another loan.”
“so she stole the fuckin’ radio and tried to lie about it. while it was still in her purse, wires hangin’ out the side …”
“yeah …”
“slit the dumb bitch’s throat an’ feed her to the gators.”

prompts: safety, the secret, power

“don’t talk about bobbie kay that way!”
i didn’t know i could snarl like that.
earl looked at me like i’d grown another head and started performing a george jones/tammy wynette duet.
“beau, the girl’s been bad news since she fell out your mama.”
i wanted to hit him, but i know earl can kick my ass, and besides, he was right.
i couldn’t tell earl the hold bobbie kay had over me an’ carol.
it’s funny, but even here in swamp country, some things ain’t tolerated … and nobody left alive ‘sides the three of us knew about mama’s stay with our cousins in oklahoma, and the little girl she’d given birth to … long before mama had married daddy.
officially, carol and me were third cousins.
really, she’s my half-sister.
didn’t know it when we met at a family reunion, took a likin’ to each other.
third cousins … ain’t nowhere they can’t marry.
wasn’t until after we’d run off and got married mama told us.
talk about a shock! damn near split us up, that did. as it is, i just got my tubes snipped to keep us from makin’ a monster or somethin’.

prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land

i didn’t have anything left to on to where i came from, so soon as i could, i left. a lot of people might’ve done that whole ‘work/save money/finance your getaway’ thing, but i just couldn’t. i hit 18, and threw my clothes in the duffle i inherited from my uncle ed. i ran, not walked, to the highway, stuck my thumb out.
okay, there are a lot of bad stories about hitchhiking … some of them are true. i got picked up by a nasty old fucker who wanted a blowjob. i figured right then was a good time to jump out of a moving car, sprain my ankle, wrench my knee, and lose a shirt sleeve, and some skin, to road rash.
i was a pitiful sight when i limped into town.
magda’s diner was the first place i saw, so i went in, got a cup of coffee, and asked if they needed a dish washer.
magda looked to be six foot six, 80 pounds soaking wet.
“what the hell happened to you?” she asked once raylene delivered my coffee.
i debated lying to her, then decided i wasn’t going to start a new life by lying.
“he wanted a blow job, would’ve settled for a hand job, and i exited the car real sudden-like.”
“looks painful.”
“it is.”

prompt: epiphany, addiction, greed

once you’ve done a deca-hit of laboratory-grade lsd, you really don’t have any choice – your reality is going to be altered, no two ways about it.
van had hit that plateau before his sixteenth birthday, and moved on into even greater dosages of hallucinogens.
after a deca-hit, a double deca-hit. then a triple … by this point, most of us were pretty sure van wasn’t human anymore, strictly speaking.
he spoke in his own language most of the time, and if it wasn’t for a very manager of his trust fund, who knows what he would have done with his money?
i know at one time he was seriously talking about dosing the austin water supply with three-thousand gallons of pure, lab-grade acid … he said cost wasn’t an issue.
we tried not to mooch off him too much, but whether he was tripping or not, he had a tendency to enjoy good times, and to crave company, so there were about twelve of us that would be around most of the time. he called us his disciples, and there’s a picture of us doing the whole “last supper” thing – at a luby’s.
why luby’s? when he was tripping, he’d latch onto words, and thought ‘luby’s’ was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, so we ate there – a lot.


prompt: run, sly, horn, coquettishly (noun, verb, adjective, adverb – guess which word i supplied)

“i don’t find a life on the run attractive,” betty said. “i dream of a penthouse and a live-in masseur.”
“then you should’ve hooked up with someone who was born rich,” eddie replied. “i intend to make my fortune the american way – i’m gonna fucking steal it!”
below them in the street, car horns sang a song of rush hour through the seedy apartment’s open windows.
“don’t you want to see me in pearls, eddie?” she asked coquettishly.
“babe, i want to see you in nothing at all,” he answered, a sly look on his face.
he pulled his zippo, lit it, and threw it in her open suitcase.
“looks like i’m going to get my wish.”

prompt: haiku, using ‘robot’

robotic dancing
between thin and stained bed sheets
sex doll rendezvous

she spat out the food
“olive oil, not motor oil!”
fucking robot chef.

i recognized him
he was dancing the robot
fuck this blind date shit

from dr. rotwang,
maria of the workers,
golden seductress

prompt: “i don’t care”

you can always work in an icepick.
not just figuratively either. i’m talking jamming one into a soft spot, letting it make itself to home.
i don’t care for knives, fancy throwing stars, fucking hatchets for fuck’s sake! gimme an ice pick, wooden handle so i can take it out to the garage, use a lathe to take the handle down in size about two-thirds, still enough to hold, but not so easy to spot, you get me?
lotsa places in a suit you can hide one, with a little alteration. we got this tailor, he and his father been handling that kinda business for us goin’ on sixty years. no sense ruinin’ the lines of your coat just to carry a pick.
i like the eyes. pop ’em like fuckin’ grapes. i tell you what, i don’t care who you are, i slide the pick in your left eye, you’ll tell me whatever i want to know before it gets close to your right eye.
fuckin’ awesome.

prompt: quarry, engage, sewer, yard, perfume, retract, research

we dumped the body in the old stone quarry outside of town. bodybag elsie pilfered from the emts, two cinder blocks to weight the son of a bitch down, no more arranged engagement for elsie.
i was glad to help her. we’ve been besties since she asked to borrow my perfume in sixth grade. eau de bubble gum. i got it in some cheap dimestore makeup kit. i only wore it once, i thought it smelled like cotton-candy puke, but she loved it.
“i guess they’ll retract their proposal now,” she cackled. “no son, no marriage. i need to check out his social media, research where he might’ve run off to.”
“have i told you lately i love you?” i said.
“no, why this time?” elsie replied.
“you chose the quarry over the sewer this time.”
“well, i was younger then,” she laughed. “i didn’t know he was such a shit when i started dating him. i wouldn’t come within a  hundred yards of dating someone like him now.
“and i love you, too.”

prompt: the quick and the damned (one i came up with on the fly)

somehow, i thought it would go differently.
more fool i.
i loved her like i loved breathing – i wouldn’t live without her, either.
i loved her like i love the sun and moon – she was my light.
but if you love something, need something, you’re telling the world to take it away.
of course she knew my friends.
yeah, rick was always more charming, more handsome than me.
i was stupid enough to be happy when he’d keep her company all the times i was delayed by work.
more fool i.
i walked into the apartment, and smelled them from the moment i walked in the door. i tried to deny the smells of sweat, and sex, as i walked to the bedroom, but while i may have had some question as to the who, i knew very well the what.
ruined a lamp, killing the two of them. inherited it from my mother.
i miss the lamp.
not that they’d let me have it here.
not a lot of personal decorations in death row cells.
i don’t miss rick, or her, anymore. the years will do that when pieces of your heart are lost.
but i still miss that lamp.
more fool i.


listening to: “The Kyin Escape”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” score
mood: pretty good … and hungry



Speed Writing 4 -1-17

prompt: power, aversion, wrath

he was a complete waste of skin.
i still loved him, he was my little brother, but i had no delusions. i got some of mama’s crazy, and daddy’s lazy; he got full loads of both.
after his eighth trip through rehab, the court had him evaluated. he was deemed to be incompetent, and i was awarded guardianship.
he was 26… i didn’t expect him to see 27, no matter how closely i watched his every move.
i wasn’t wrong.
of course, i’m the direct reason he didn’t see his next birthday.
i was paying extra to keep an ankle monitor on him, so i’d know where he was. while i was at work one day, he didn’t leave the property.
he doused my house’s interior with gasoline, and stood in the front yard while it burned to the ground.
i live… i lived out in the country. no one close enough to call the fire department.
so, when i got home, saw what had happened… i doused him with gasoline, and cried as he ran through the ruins of my home, burning.
the official story is he died in the house fire he set. sad…

prompt: envy, rebirth, knowledge

i love the way she moves through any social circle, like she was born to it.
(first time i heard her discussing football with a bunch of frat rats, i damn near choked.)
i liked to pretend i’m wasn’t envious of her easy popularity, and smooth, chameleon-like social grace, but i was envious, and i never bothered to fortify my attempt at self-deception with action.
i just followed behind in her wake, and made do with quiet, and smiles. i was invisible, when she was around, and i was happy that way.
i had never asked her about it. i just assumed she had been born that way, as it was quite inconceivable for me to imagine a childhood that could have nurtured such an ability. it had to be nature.
whoa, was i wrong about that!
we were having High Tea at the Hotel Adolphus one sunday afternoon when she said, “Claire, we need to get you a make-over. let me schedule us a spa-weekend at ‘Deify’ and transform you. i know you’re happy as you are, but why be happy when you could be happy and fabulous?”

i need to work more on this… the idea of a spa truly worthy of the name “Deify”…

prompt: virtue, imbalance, delusion

“all truth hides behind lies.”
yeah, my grandfather was either full of wisdom or full of shit. i was too young to know which… twenty years after his passing, i’m still too young to know. i doubt i’ll ever be old enough to know.
he had lots of other pithy bits of supposed wisdom, but it was the ‘truth and lies’ one that stuck with me.
i played with theology in my twenties, almost as much as i played with myself, and i weighed ‘god is love’ against the ‘truth hiding behind lies’ thing.
made sense to me then. ‘god is love’ was the lie, or maybe the very idea of god was… but that struck me as too simple, too easy.
maybe an opposite… ‘god is hate’?
no, hate wasn’t it. hate was the opposite of the ‘like’, not ‘love’.
god is indifferent.
that rang more true to me.
the big g, if he existed, just flat-out didn’t give a fuck.
some say adulthood begins when you realize your own mortality.
for me, the realization god didn’t give a shit was my dawn of adulthood.

prompt: gnosis, denial, industry

the greatest lie of contemporary civilization is the de-mystifying of man. “no god, no soul, nothing science can’t explain,..”
then explain this, motherfucker. hundreds of thousands of factory workers fueled the industrial revolution. a world of iron and steam, science and mechanical marvels nailed down the coffin-lid of romanticism and mysticism. realism ruled the day.
god died because we fired a shaft of purest cold iron through his heart, from a cannon the size of florida.
the industrial revolution was fueled by the souls of those effectively-enslaved masses, and each one who died on the line strengthened reason’s grasp on the world.
the supposed death of mysticism was fueled by the mystic.
blood-soaked binding rituals under every factory floor.
and now, everything is poised for a return.
you lost your job to automation?
don’t worry. things will balance out, i suspect, sooner rather than later.
robots, machines, automated facilities have no soul to sacrifice, and the intellect behind their creation is a paltry substitute.
soon the soulless machines will grind to a permanent halt, and mysticism… magic… will return.

and talk about an idea i need to play with… whoa… lots of places this one could go.

prompt: misfortune, solitude, law

one-hundred-eighty-three miles-per-hour.
he briefly, very briefly at that speed, traipsed through a school zone.
lo and behold, every law enforcement officer in the state of texas was on his ass.
max prayed for now traffic congestion. he was faster than his pursuers, and hadn’t a worry in the world where they were concerned, so long as he had open road before him.
he wasn’t faster than radio waves.
road blocks appeared before him. spike strips, vehicles large and small, plenty of cops with drawn weapons, ready to shoot out his tires.
that would make his lamborghini a rolling ball of metal and fire… and his burning, shredded flesh.
still… the speed…
better to keep his foot on the gas, and die as a legend, than slow down and be just another rich asshole who bought more car than he could responsibly handle.
his sleek beast of a car wasn’t made to go offroad, and to be fair his wheels weren’t off the road for long before he was back on the blacktop, barricades behind him. his turquoise aventador still roared, no mysterious new sounds, as he laughed his way down the road.
the armadillo was beneath his notice until it was beneath his right front tire, and his motor beast began its death song.
he joined in on the chorus, as they cartwheeled, a flaming catherine wheel.

listening to: “Ashanti’s Letterbomb”, Dean Gray’s “American Edit”
mood: okay, overall

A Rant Upon Hooking Your Audience

so, recently, i opted in to one of those ‘Read 100’s of SF&F Books For Free!’ things.
yeah, it’s authors giving out some of their books to attract more readers, or in some cases, the first “x” many chapters of their book.
and i loaded several hundred on to my phone, and have been working my way through, checking them out, and deleting the ones i’m not interested in. a LOT of them have been deleted. a Helluvalot.
Here’s the rules for that little competition:
If you don’t grab me, in the first page, you’re outta there!
this doesn’t mean you have to start off with a lot of action, get me caught up in the rush of interesting events. you can give me an interesting character, someone i can in some way empathize with. you can hook me with an intriguing situation, one where i just GOT to know what the fuck’s going on.
but you have to grab me. you have to hook me.

and you have to be at least competent as a writer. that means you don’t mangle the language, the punctuation, the grammar, too horribly. you have to be competent. if your first page has errors (note the plural), you’re outta there.
Face it, there’s a wealth of books out there. with the self-publishing and small press revolutions… i doubt any of us have any conception of just how Mega-Many books there are out there.
if you expect to be read (by anyone but your friends and family), Be Competent.
i’m not asking for brilliance, just don’t step on your dick often enough to pull your readers out of your story. just as a competent cook can make a pleasing meal out of a set of ingredients, an incompetent cook can take the same ingredients, and waste them, making an inedible mess.
Be Competent.

and secondly, if you expect to be read… hook your audience. there are so many books calling for their attention, You Must Grab Their Brains.
you can’t open with a wealth of description about your Own Very Special Place That’s So Dear To You That You’re Sure Readers Will Love It Just As Much As You Do.
not unless you can write some of the most scintillating descriptive passages ever penned.
now, personally, i’m of the “less is more” school of description. unless there is a Very Important Reason for me to know how a place looks, or a character, don’t bore me with it.
some authors may counter with ‘the setting IS a character in the story!’ fine, but take your time introducing it to me. don’t bury me with oodley tons of verbiage about it, right off the bat.
maybe such descriptive overloads violates my ‘show, don’t tell’. you’re Telling me what it looks like, smells like, tastes like, sounds like, feels like… let your other characters show me those aspects, through what they do, how they react.
for me, characters are more important than anything. they must be alive, and while i’m not required to ‘like’ them, i must be able to empathize with something in them.
hell, in my writing i leave most of my characters relatively ‘undescribed’. the reader can decide what they look like. the reader’s imagination is my friend, and i rely on it.

so, in closing…
make sure your first s/p/p is aimed at your potential audience like an arrow, just waiting for their eyes to hit the words, and let loose Your Best, headed straight for their brain.
if you don’t convince them to spend their precious time on the story you want to tell them… You Have Failed.
not all the way, but that’s a potential reader you’ve lost. don’t lose ’em because you bored ’em.

as always, this rant is my humble opinion. i could well be wrong, i often am, and this opinion is worth every penny you’re paying for it.

listening to: the A/C, and a dawg who’s convinced it’s Bed Time
mood: overall, copacetic