Alaska! Hello! (A Prompt Challenge)

Karen Craven over at Table for One issued a prompt challenge for me and Dale of A Dalectable Life. The whole thing was based on snippets of an overheard conversation, because writers are pacifistic spies at heart and we ain’t afraid to admit it. Karen’s prompt post can be found here. I tucked this snippet turned prompt into the block quote that begins with Thank you Andrew. 

I’m just thankful prompts are graded on a lenient curve, because man did I veer. Imma blame it on Larry King and a tee-totaling weekend.

Vegas odds could not have talked me into this shit. Me, ending up in a musty old bunker in Battle Creek, Michigan at the end of the world. The writer in me must admit the locale is Napoleon fucking Bonaparte perfect, I mean . . as far as irony goes. As far as yours truly is concerned? This bunker is a cosmic middle finger to every Goddamn day I’ve been on this earth, all 19,072 of ’em. That’s a lot of middle fingers, and I would trade every single one of them for a single thumb so’s I could hitchhike to any other planet in the universe right about now.

The first nukes hit the major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia. Everything in and around those places went Edvard Munch, and the rest of time came calling on all the other places in between with loud, shaking fists. In two days, I made it as far as here. Along the way I bogarted a bottle of Woodford Reserve, a Ziploc bag of Xanax, a ’78 El Camino and then a late model Jeep Liberty whose good graces saved me from Cleveland.

When the Jeep ran out of gas, I schlepped for miles until I came upon a residential hive of American made dreams that seem as useful as nursery rhymes now. I found a rancher with NRA stickers in the windows and guessed right on the fallout shelter. The occupants were long gone, probably due North with dreams of building a kingdom in some middle of nowhere place that had zero appeal back when things were running smoothly and borders were meant to keep people out.

From the looks of it, this shelter was constructed during the rolling thunder of Cold War implications otherwise known as the eighties. Updated several times and in fine shape for just this sort of nightmarish scenario. But really, what are the chances this glorified soup can is gonna save my ass from gamma time? The truth is, Jesus ain’t walking through that door, and this clusterfuck is way above Superman’s pay grade.

On a positive note, the pantry was stocked and the generator worked. The bonus round was the TV and VCR. When a VCR feels like Christmas morning, that gives you a pretty good idea of how things are going.

The ham radio stopped working this morning. But not before I learned the nitty gritty about how the country had come apart at the seams with little chance of being sewn back together again. Death toll estimates run the gamut- anywhere from eight million to half the nation’s population. All I know is that I’ve seen a lot of ghost towns along the way. This morning’s transmission between Buck from East Lansing and Andrew from Cincinnati was akin to being on the deck of the Titanic after they ran out of lifeboats.

“Thank you Andrew. I’m not quite sure what you are hearing, but the real answer is, there is not a definitive answer yet. Alaska is working it and they are trying to salvage it.”

According to Buck- a National Guardsman whose intel seemed solid enough- the refuge in Anchorage had been overrun with people fleeing the left coast. Mass rioting ensued after which the ferries were lost and chaos turned Anchorage into a paradise lost.

I pop a Xanax, take a swig of my well worn bourbon and fire up the VCR. The former occupant owned the largest collection of Larry King videos in the world, I have to think. I pop in a tape that reads “Larry King: Alaska”, because why in the blessed fuck would I deny myself a macabre chuckle at this point?

“Alaska, Hello!”

“Hi Larry, this is Joel Fleischman from Cicely and I’m a big fan of your show . .”

It takes me a hot second to put it together. Joel Fleischman was a fictional doctor on a show called Northern Exposure.

Wait a minute! This guy was a prank caller? 

“What’s your question?” Larry barks with enough gravel in his voice to sell it wholesale to a construction company.

“Well it seems our local disc jockey here is planning to build a trebuchet in the hopes of tossing a cow . . .”

Fucking A right this is a prank call! If that ain’t top of the world with a Julie Newmar cherry velvet kiss on top of the last stand righteous! 

BOOM! 

The generator takes a shit and I light up some candles now. It looks like the world is fresh out of def-cons, which means it’s time to double down on my bottles of happy and get to stepping inside a galaxy far, far away. Here’s hoping whatever comes next has a welcome mat and fresh linens. A starched Martini and a Cohiba would be supreme, but I don’t want to be greedy.

I just wish the upstairs neighbors would’ve let Joel Fleischman from Cicely get to the piano punchline. But hey . . I got to spend my last night on earth in the home of a Robert Zemeckis character whose pursuits included prank calling the great Larry king and collecting every last artifact from the eighties.

I pop another Xanax and take a Vegas helping of bourbon and I hope like hell the bastard who called this place home made it somewhere better as I plug his Walkman into a Three Dog Night drip. But instead of chill, my bones are restless to the curiosities above.

“Fuck this shit!” I say as I grab my necessaries before breaking the seal on my tomb and climbing up into the early winter. It’s late July and a thick snowfall coats the ground as spearmint colored snowflakes float across a sunless sky. I walk down to a lake and loose a boat from its moorings while talking the outboard into going my way. When I make it to the middle, I kill the engine and sit back to ponder life’s great mysteries. Like, how did the fates allow Boston to win the last World Series ever played? And would Shakespeare have dated a Kardashian? And why was I so infatuated with my Fitbit? All I know for certain is I hope to hell I left the stove on this time.

I pop a couple more Xanax and finish the bourbon and then I settle into what’s left of not much at all. Just me and my thoughts and a rumbling sound from some place not so far away and getting closer. There’s nothing left to pray for and yanno, I’m glad. Because I got a peach song cooking, just for the occasion.

Timing really is everything.

Sunday Morning Post (A Prompt Challenge)

Happy Sunday kids. I’ve got a prompt post that was issued by yours truly. I shared it with the two other members of the Holy Trinity, The Notorious Q at A Dalectable Life and KC Sunshine at Table For One, so’s they could join in the fun if they feel like it. It’s simple as Simon, really. Take yourself back to the year 1985 (Yes, it’s a hat tip to Zemeckis) and explain to someone from that time what 2018 looks like. My post went in an entirely different direction than I was expecting it to go, so there’s not as much in the way of details as I imagined there might be. This post became about perspective, and how valuable a thing it truly is. 

I’m speaking on the particulars with my old friend Danny, who was taken from the world in the summer of 1985. It was much too soon for him. It was much too soon for all of us. Life always seems to steal the people you can least afford to live without, and now I find myself picking up the pieces of years that never happened and piecing them back together again as if a mosaic. Thirty three years that feel like a smoky mist.

“It’s been so long . . ” I say.

“Well . . I don’t understand time the same way you do. This is eternity, the shit lasts forever . . like velcro,”

“Yeah, how does that work anyways?”

“Velcro?” Danny asks with a sly grin.

“No . . . asshole,”

Danny laughs before tapping open a box of Reds. He wrist shots his Zippo torch and takes an elaborate tug as he ponders my question.

“What? You smoke now?”

“It can’t kill me,” Danny laughs.

“Hey, remember the time . . .”

Yeah I do,” Danny says, cutting me off at the pass. “I was never so sick in my life!”

“You never forgave Joanne for that shit,”

“She gave this impressionable young pup the run of her Daddy’s wet bar and her pack of smokes. That girl was bad news, but you wouldn’t listen,”

“Hey man, that was your fucking lesson to learn. The dude who never smokes or drinks, decides Hey why not do both in the same night because I don’t know any of the girls here and maybe vomiting all over myself will make me look more appealing,

“Screw . . . you, man!” Danny laughs so hard that he spits.

“I can’t believe Patti asked about you after that,” I say.

“Marc . . it’s like this. The bad boys appealed to her, but she was in need of a good man,”

“Well played!” I say, clapping my hands exaggeratedly as Danny takes his bows.

“So . . did Patti take it hard? Me dying and all?”

“We all did,”

“I’m talking about Patti here,”

“She never married. She became a nun,”

“You serious?”

“Of course I’m not fucking serious!” I laugh.

“No respect for the dead, tell you what,” Danny smiles.

“Things went from horrible to worse after you died. There was a grand jury investigation. Me and Matt went off the deep end there for a while and Shereen moved to Florida. I followed her there for a quick minute,”

“It’s all frying pans and fires with you!” Danny says.

“Name of my game, and I’m the one to blame,”

“Okay, since I’ve been lousy with the details since I left, seeing as how they don’t matter any longer . . what’s say you give me some dope on the state of the world. Was Orwell right?”

“Yes and no. Technology is a high wire act in 2018. We use it for everything while hoping we never reach the point where it starts using us. That old Tandy computer you had . . it done made babies. There’s a thing called the internet, and now you can chat with people from around the world. And it’s all about mobility now . . we carry our computers with us and they fit in a small bag. Not that we need ’em all the time, since our phones do everything,”

“You carry your phones?”

“Landlines are antiques. Water fountains too since everyone uses bottled water now. Newspapers and magazines and pizza delivery . . you get it on your mobile devices. We even have Dick Tracy watches!”

“Who’s the President?”

“Trump,”

“Huh,”

“Yanno . . that doesn’t sound nearly as ridiculous to you as it truly is. Okay . . lemme try harder. America’s Dad, Bill Cosby is a convicted rapist serving time. Joe Paterno, turns out . . wasn’t a Saint. He was taken down in a child rape cover-up at the school.  Communism died, and then it came back as something even scarier. Terrorist attacks are happening all over the world, all the time. Kids don’t fight after school anymore, they just brings guns in and kill other kids,”

“Alright . . shit. Sorry I asked,”

“The world’s in a very shitty place, Danny boy,”

“Nah. The world’s just fine, Marc. It’s just some of the people in it who rearrange the furniture and mess up the entire living space,”

“Fucking stardust has game! You were never this philosophical on the A side of things,”

“That’s what eternity will do to a guy,”

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good. We had a black President. The internet has made the world smaller, and for the most part, warmer. And while Prince, Bowie and Freddie Mercury went much too soon, their music is still kicking,”

“See? Good shit happens if you take the time to look for it,”

“You’ve got perspective,”

“Well, I remember all the good times. There’s this one night, we were heading home. We had summer jobs waiting on us in the morning and Marianne decides that going into town is the greatest idea ever. It was closing in on midnight and it was breaking the rules, and nothing made more sense in that moment”

“Shit, I forgot all about that . .”

“I think about it all the time. Going over the Queensboro and the city was just getting down to business, and we were listening to Queen and screaming our lungs out and chasing forever and it didn’t matter that we were never gonna catch it. All that mattered was the try,”

I don’t have the heart to tell him that the city he remembers ain’t there anymore. And it doesn’t matter, now. All that matters is the moment he’s holding onto, and all I know is this.

I want in.

 

 

 

 

Expiration Date: A Writing Prompt

The Mistress of Prompts is at it again. Karen Craven over at Table for One shot off an email to me and Dale from A Dalectable Life last week in which she described a scene she had been privy to whilst on the train recently. As writers, we behave very much like detectives; culling and parsing and piecing together evidence from snippets of conversation and body language. Unlike detectives, our observational skills need not get it right. All we’re concerned with is creating a story out of the scraps.

So I took three simple lines that were uttered by a woman on a train and I constructed a world around it. Apologies for going long, but as writers, we don’t always have a choice. Sometimes we take the story, and sometimes, as in this example, the story takes us.

-“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.”
-“Give me all my expired things.”
-“I need you to get a job.”

She sits alone on the F train, a flip phone nestled between her ear and her shoulder. She wears no jewelry, not even earrings. To the discerning eyes of a stranger, you can tell this is a self-prescribed departure from baubles and bright, shiny objects. Because the rest of her appearance is moneyed suburbia: Olive green double breasted wool coat with riveted pleats and envelope collar. Black straight leg trousers with rippled cleats frame her figure in an attractive pinch. Black leather pointy toe pumps that reveal a dime sized tattoo of a star on the top of her foot.

“Yes . . yes I know Caroline. I promise not to clash with House Rules. I’m really quite proficient at towing the company line. I was married to your father for thirty eight years, remember.”

“No. No don’t worry, I’ll make sure to speak in code. We can refer to him as Goebbels, how does that sound?”

“Okay . . not even that. Promise.”

“Honey, you know full well I am thankful that you and Bobby were able to maintain an amicable relationship with your father. After all, it’s not your fault he’s a cheating, lying, manipulative cock sucker,”

The chatter on the other end of the line increases in volume and intensity, as the recipient of mother’s bitter pill voices her disapproval in boldfaced adjectives. It seems the invite is being threatened with Olivia’s rant, and she quickly retreats.

“I’m sorry . . .”

In that instant, all the fight is stolen from her face; the scowling mien had been nothing more than a defense mechanism. Her porcelain complexion turns ashen with worry. Her majestic cheekbones become fallow as sunken treasures, and her piercing sapphire eyes become distant lights as she tries to steal back the chapters.

In her previous life, Olivia Trufant had lived a Good Housekeeping existence. She had been the poster Goddess homemaker whose perk was always feisty and whose neighborhood cache was the stuff of legend. These modern day Gucci mamas who get all dolled up to go to Target have nothing on that Mrs. Trufant; The mother whose kids were polished cherubs, whose husband was tall, dark and upwardly mobile and whose perfect ass was something all the other married men wanted to hit.

“I’m sorry for dropping out of your lives . . I just . . I needed some time. After your father left, I realized I had lived my entire adult life for him. I had nothing . . .” 

“I don’t mean it that way, Caroline. But you and Bobby . . you have your families and your own lives. I had your father,”

For better or worse, Olivia received the latter when her husband Stephen came home one day and informed her he wanted a divorce after thirty eight years. She had protested initially, before realizing there was no going back. He fast tracked the process, agreeing to pay her a generous stipend as if she had been one of the employees in his company. She was too numb to fight, too lost to care.

Within six months, he was married again. It had been going on for a half decade and Olivia had known about it for most of that time. She kept silent out of fear and pride, and so once she learned of their engagement, she understood that silence was her only option. It started with Stephen, and quickly metastasized into everyone else.

“Yes, I do understand and accept it. What choice do I have? I hope Bobby changes his mind some day, but he knows I love him,” 

“Okay, let’s change the subject. As for dinner ideas, I am happy with my boxed mac and cheese. You guys don’t need to make a big production for my sake . .”

“All I’m saying is, these mail order meals that are all the rage are really no different from a box of macaroni and cheese!” 

“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni,” 

Olivia turned thirty one in October of 1986 and Stephen had surprised her with tickets to Game 6 of the World Series between her beloved New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox at the old Shea Stadium. They stuck it out when the announced attendance of 55,078 dwindled after the Sox pulled ahead in extra innings. They booed when the scoreboard operator crowned the Boston Red Sox as champions before the final out had been recorded. And they cheered like a couple of kids on the last day of school when Mookie Wilson dribbled a ball down the line and stole back a baseball season. They chased all that magical energy by going to the Palladium on East 14th and dancing the top off of a brilliant fall night that felt to her like a tale penned by Dickens.

“I can’t wait to see them either. They are getting so big . .” 

Olivia’s voice almost breaks with the idea that two years have passed since she last hugged her grandchildren. How cold a person can become when their heart loses its place, she thinks solemnly.

She trudges back into small talk with Caroline, because the familiarity warms her senses.

“I let it lapse since I’m not driving any longer.”

“Where do I go that mass transit can’t get me there, Caroline? I don’t need it, I don’t need a passport either. So as far as I’m concerned . . give me all my expired things and I’ll put them in a photo album for safe keeping . .” 

Olivia laughs at the thought, but her face wrinkles with the recognition that she’s busy throwing chairs overboard to keep it from sinking.

“Yes, we are going to get along swimmingly. I am very hip when it comes to the times. So hip in fact, that I recognize it isn’t hip to say hip. But seriously, don’t you worry, me and the kids will be fine. No talk of Goebbels and no boxed mac and cheese. I just . . I need you to get a job . . this one. I need you to get it, for you.” 

“I had the chance, yes. But I was worker bee mom getting everybody else’s shit straight . . and I know it’s not an excuse. It’s just that . . . well, Caroline . . you just never know. You think your life is going to play out a certain way, and then, well . . you just never know . . .” 

In the spring of 1986, Olivia and Stephen had moved to Armonk- an apple pie hamlet of wraparound porches, community softball games and growing young families. It would be the first of several moves they would make as Stephen climbed the corporate ladder. It had been six months since they’d put their three bedroom apartment in Long Island City on the market, with nary a prospect. The romance of their first abode had quickly given way to frustration, and before long they were cursing its existence.

That is, until a night of baseball and dancing had lasted far longer then they expected. It was five in the morning when they arrived at the seventh floor apartment. They foraged for sustenance in a kitchen once so full of life and schedules and now mostly barren, and then they grabbed a forgotten Pyrex bowl and a couple loose plastic forks and made way for the roof. They watched the early morning sky grow ruddy as it got busy chasing the moon to the other side of the world. They watched the city of Manhattan wake up right in front of them as they feasted on a couple boxes of macaroni and cheese because it was all that was left in the cupboard. And in that moment, Olivia remembered thinking that she had the world by the tail.

She wondered if it would always be that way.

There’s Something About Mary- A Prompt Challenge

Welcome to Sunday, and a brand spanking new prompt challenge entry we like to call “Word UP!”, on account of the fact this ain’t no ordinary prompt challenge.

Back in the day (a couple weeks ago) we used to host prompt challenges that involved a single word. And then the Irish Mafia (Karen Craven of Table For One) made the decision to expand the business. She joined forces with the Queen of the North (Dale Rogerson of A Dalectable Life) and the prompt challenge would never be the same.

Me? I’m just the intrepid reporter who was recruited by these lovely word bosses, and Imma do my damndest to keep up. Same goes for Frank of A Frank Angle, who shattered the last prompt challenge by delivering up all the words in half the count!

This particular prompt came about out of an email exchange I was having with Karen about water and Twinkies.There are eleven words involved; one for each commandment and a bonus power-ball word. They are as follows . . .

Jesus, holy water, drive-thru, twinkies, wine, dinosaurs, passion, busybody, clubhouse, cross, absolution

Posting this on Sunday just might make me a heathen, but I don’t think God is going to be scoring me based on a silly old post. Not when he has the likes of Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen to deal with. Those peeps best live it up on God’s dollar while they can, because if there is a judgement day to be had . . well, it ain’t gonna be pretty for ’em. Anyways . . here’s my story.

                                       There’s Something About Mary

Joe wanted absolution. Having his good name stapled to a cross ever since Conception-Gate, he figured it was time. Being the ‘earthly’ father to Jesus Christ came with more pitfalls than disputing the existence of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian.

The kid from Nazareth knew a thing or two about turning water into wine, having transformed his passion for carpentry into an online goliath. His marriage to the Virgin Mary- her rapper name- was holy water to the unwashed masses who loved their busybody news served up in drive-thru fashion, and they made news right out of the clubhouse.

Post-divorce, Joe lost the spotlight while Mary partied with Joan Osborne in the Hollywood Hills and Jesus sat court side at the Garden. Now, Joe was writing a tell-all pilot for Pontius Studios.

Joe always said life was like a box of Twinkies. The stories are tasty and the guilt immaculate.

Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys- A Prompt Post

The following post is the result of a writing prompt that was concocted by Dale Rogerson and Karen Craven. These two ladies are nothing but trouble, so it’s a good thing I was raised Catholic and can appreciate this kind of company.

Seriously, these gals represent when it comes to the written word. I’m just honored to be in their club. As for the post, it went longer than expected, so apologies ahead of time. The good news is that a lot of it is dialogue, and thus . . easily traversed.

Monday Afternoon 3:15

Liam McLeary had been exposed to the disease.

In his twenty years state side, the Irish emigre had become accustomed to the thankless savagery of Washington D.C.. He had come to America seeking refuge and had been hired as a special liaison to the CIA by a high level US official who was quite familiar with his work. The deal with McLeary was a simple one- take the job or get extradited back to Ireland, which would have been akin to a death sentence.

Everything in America was a deal, even the legislative morass that elected representatives got rich on. The shit McLeary had witnessed in his time here made his previous existence as a button man for the IRA seem like a fucking James Joyce novel in comparison.

At least the Catholics and the Protestants had no dispute as far as God was concerned. Those who fought in that decades long war knew their catechisms and believed in epiphanies. The same couldn’t be said of American politicians. They had no morals . . they had no souls.

There was no winning a fight against a man with no soul. And now Liam McLeary was learning that lesson all over again. The one Sister Elena had instilled in him after his many scuffles outside St. Vincent’s Day School in Dublin. The one his father had beaten into him on many a drunken night when Liam came to his mum’s defense. The one he learned as an apprentice to the legendary Tom “Lucky” Halloran, back when killing in the name of a united Ireland meant something.

That time in his life felt like a million years ago as Liam took his seat on a park bench, and waited for the suit to get on with it.

“Liam,”

“Mr. Dunphy . .”

“Please . . no need for formalities . . call me Richard,”

“Alright Dick . . . I’m out. I made it clear after the last job that I was done with this fucking cesspool.”

“Where will you go?”

“To that cafe across the street . . ”

“After that,”

“Fucking Disney World.”

Dunphy laughed dimly as he pulled out a pack of Camels and lit one up. His smile was a horror show and his black pearl eyes a bottomless pit.

“You’ve been a valuable asset to the agency, I . . ”

“Cut the shit, Dick . . you know I’m serious. Just have the fucking decency to tell me what happens next.”

“Hey . . not my circus . . not my monkeys,” Dunphy said before removing himself from the park bench. He made no eye contact with Liam as he strolled away and disappeared into the back seat of a black Ford Lincoln.

Liam jogged across the street to the cafe and ordered a double espresso and two flans. Then he waited for the end to come to him.

Monday night . . 11:55

 “What . . the fuck?”

Richard Dunphy awoke from a drug induced sleep to find himself dangling over a wall upside down, tethered to a nylon rope and dressed in just his skivvies. When his location became familiar to him, that’s when the screaming commenced. He was hanging precariously over the side of the Primates Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

“Yo Dick! . . . up here,”

Dunphy raised his head up to find Liam McLeary smoking one of his Camels and wearing a Cheshire Cat grin.

“How?!”

“Well, your boy was easier to spot than a virgin in a whorehouse. I get it . . times are tough, Uncle Sam can’t afford the bill . . but Jesus,”

“Where is he?”

“Dead. He’s dead. I spotted him while I was talking to you, after which I jogged across the street, ordered up a sugar rush and then waited for him in the loo.”

“You can’t fucking DO THIS!!”

“Pipe down or I’ll cut this fucking rope, I swear to God!”

“Okay, okay . . what do you want?”

“Let’s start with who ordered my hit,”

“I don’t know,”

Liam began splaying the nylon rope with a hunter’s knife as a couple of gorillas looked on with great interest.

“OKAY!”

“These micks . . they’re western lowland gorillas . . quite tame in comparison to some of their compadres. Shit of it is, a few of the gals in this pen are in . . shall we say, the come hither stage of horizontal negotiations, and as such the fellas are feeling rather . . . possessive.”

Dunphy told him everything, most of which Liam already knew. And then his captor lit up another Camel from Dick’s suit jacket.

“You’re letting me go now, right?” Dunphy said, almost crying. Funny how it took certain death to get this cocksucker to show any emotion.

“Absolutely,”

Liam began cutting at the rope with his hunter’s knife once again and Dunphy let him know this wasn’t the response he was looking for.

“What?!” Liam shrieked.

“You . . you . . you can’t . . you can’t fucking . . do THIS!”

“Listen you stuttering putz, you’re in no position to tell me what I can and cannot do,”

“I’m sorry, alright? I’m . . I’m sorry!”

“Apology accepted,” Liam said as he began cutting at the rope once again.

“WAIT! Okay . .  OKAY GODDAMMIT! I’ll give you whatever the fuck you want if you just stop cutting that rope!”

“Like what?” Liam smiled, as he tugged at his Camel.

“Ten million dollars . . . cash.”

“Is that what you’re worth? Fuck if you don’t have a high opinion of yourself!”

“Twenty . . . twenty five!”

“Dick . . with all respect, how do you think I was able to arrange this visit tonight? See . . . it cost me three million dollars . . in cash, divided between three individuals in the employ of this fine zoo. For that sum, they killed the camera feed. After which they will gather your remains and dispose of them all neat like. It will be like you . . and I . . were never here,”

“You can’t fucking do this!” Dunphy spit.

“It’s done. And I must say, if not for the sterling treatment accorded me by the US government, I would never have been able to afford a night such as this one. But hey . . you give a mick a cushy government job and then staple a tax free bonus to that for every clean up job . . shit adds up.”

“They’re going to fucking find you and barbecue your balls for dinner!”

“I’m already dead. And my dead self is partial to South America . . the place has character,”

“Those gorillas are going to fucking kill me . . you motherfucker!”

“Hey . . not my circus . . . not my monkeys,”

Liam cut deeply into rope until it went slack. The screams were glorious sounding things, while they lasted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflower

Monica Roget took to the lectern and spoke of the complicated nature of history. It was a spell of words whose curlicued resonance spoke of strength through tragedy. It wasn’t a speech so much as it was evidence of a torch’s ability to light up the darkest night. Monica’s words possessed savvy and pluck, passion and fire; they were hard earned and honest ones whose relevance was not heightened or mitigated by a big stage and a large crowd and network coverage. Those in attendance simply felt honored to be there with her, sharing in a moment. They listened intently, in awe of the speaker and the history she had constructed out of memories and loss and rebirth.

The junior Senator from Louisiana was making national headlines as the leading voice in the push for nationwide gun laws; regulations whose intent wasn’t to take away guns, but to save lives. After decades of watching others avoid powerful lobbies such as the NRA in their quest for common sense standards, Monica decided to just go right through them. She took them on full swing and she won. It was in her bill to implement national standards for firearms and the outright ban of assault weapons- with punitive measures for anyone found in possession of one- that she said hello to a nation, at the tender age of thirty one.

There were parts of her speech that would soon become the literary equivalent of stealing home. Picked and prospered by national publications and bloggers, late night and morning show hosts, radio dicks and Hollywood chicks . . . writers and poets. And there was a passage in which the dreamers all met- a simple and destined place whose words shook the ground and charted the stars above.

“We are not taking away guns, we are taking back our lives. Because while it’s too late for those victims of gun violence, we must not be too late to our future. Because our future is the here and now, it is the future those victims never got to see, the one we must see through . . for them. We are the eyes to their souls, the fruition of their dreams. Our diligence, our cooperation, our best efforts . . they are simply the wishes of a yesterday that is gone but not forgotten. We are their sunrise. Because a sunrise holds answers . . a sunrise never lies . . it simply welcomes all who cross its path, it bathes us, it forgives our darkest moments. Ladies and gentlemen? Morning . . . has arrived,”

The Savoy Bill was passed into law on the twenty ninth anniversary of the musician Jasmine Savoy’s tragic death. Progress had been painfully slow in coming, but it was here, finally. Thanks to a young woman whose talents were busy making the world a better place. Monica Roget was living proof that the angels didn’t get all the best company after all.

Senator Roget had grown up listening to Jasmine’s music. She cried herself to sleep on many a night, wishing she had been able to meet her . . to know her. So she turned that heartache inward, and she dreamed of a day when she might be able to do just that. An orphan, she was raised by her great Aunt to believe in music, prayer and the value of hard work.

She married a musician, Kurt Roget, who wrote songs and recited poetry about star crossed lovers and the wicked world and the cosmos brilliant message. In closing, Monica read a passage from her husband’s poem Lost Girl, as the crowd erupted and the great big world felt young and boundless.

I hold to the memory of you in those lost moments,
My mind a never ending book to which my soul heeds . .
The keeping of stars in my back pocket,
to tranquil my restlessness and parse my cunning needs.

She bid adieu and then moved into the crowd to greet her many adoring fans. And then it was, that a shadow made its way through the cheers and laughter of forever. This shadow, it was small of stature and it moved clumsily, but with great earnestness. Until this lovely young girl in a turquoise dress appeared from out of that shadow, and she held up her hand.

Those people surrounding Monica Roget went silent as they watched, in awe, a moment that would become iconic. The young girl held out a sunflower and Monica, with tears in her eyes, accepted her hand and the gift inside of it. And the young girl let Monica know she was a big fan of her late mother’s music, and then she said simply,

She would be proud. 

 

 

Last

Death Rose

Each moment is a certain truth whose definition is free of the apocryphal elements of everyday business, where efficacy for masks prevails. Masks are for strong hands and weak souls and I’ve no use for that now.

My lungs weep silently, with the patina in my eyes its only evidence. Old photographs visit my diminished brain, dressing it with scenes that flutter and perish like June bugs in summer. Mortality becomes leaven as the chill in my bones becomes more ambitious and the silhouettes of the living give way to the company of spirits.

The dark is my last breath.

A big thank you very much goes out to Tara Roberts at Thin Spiral Notebook. Her 100 word prompts have become a favorite writers task of mine and I am much obliged to the multi-talented task mistress for her rhymes and reasons. Go check out her blog, it’s wonderful.