Volume 1 Issue 33: Trees

Volume 1 Issue 33 

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 20.03.31

I grew up in an area known commonly as ‘the sticks’. There were more trees than people, more trees than stores, more trees than cars and roads and stray dogs. My relatives were all within ‘yelling distance’, right through the woods. Behind my grandmother’s house, there was a small creek where brackish water rose and fell twice a day. On the other side, the woods stretched for square mile after square mile without a single human occupant.
I used to wait for the school bus under the awning of a sprawling live oak, draped with curly Spanish moss. Great trees like that served as landmarks then, before there were strip malls and traffic lights.
A few years ago, a hurricane toppled half of the trees on my parents’ property. The news of the loss was conveyed to me, on the other side of the planet, in much the same way that the news of a beloved grandparent’s death would be shared. And I mourned the felled trees as if they were family for the trees did raise me, shape my understanding of the world.

Immobile and yet always growing, silent and yet never in silence, trees are as persistent in our imaginations as they are on land.

This week, we have a collection of fourteen stories as diverse as a forest. Included in Issue 33 are:

(p.2) Drought by Annalie Kleinloog
(p. 3) Warriors by Louis Kasatkin
(p. 4) Beneath the Old Oak by Scott-Patrick Mitchell
(p. 5) Summer Fell Into Fall by Kelli J Gavin
(p. 6) The Secret Tree by Jenny Birch
(p. 7) The Kindness of Trees by Audra Russell
(p. 8) Words, Wind and Magic by Cindy Potts
(p. 9) Bending Trees by Ania Vesenny
(p. 10) The Curse by Sunil Sharma
(p. 11) Seasons by Christopher Roper
(p. 12) An Autumn Farewell by Kathy Sanford
(p. 13) The Woodpecker by Lesley Crigger
(p. 14) Why I Love by Tonika Reed
(p. 15) Home of the Weaver Birds by Jose Varghese 

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Volume 1 Issue 16: Text Msg/Email

I did a really poor job getting the word out this week about this project and I am sorry about that. In my defense, I am a teacher at the beginning of a new school. My own (biological) kids have seen me for maybe an hour total this week. The fact that I am here now with two stories to post is a definite victory.
Enough of my excuses. On with the show. Our two stories this week come from the mighty Debbie Felio and myself. It was actually a fun prompt and one we might revisit later on in the year.
Hope you enjoy reading. See you on Monday.

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Missed
Debbie Felio
 
                           u home?
                                                                    gg to hospital
                          delivery?
                                                                     what else?
                           IDK
                                                                     I told you last week
                       you hid it well
                                                                      ??? wtf???
                      know what it will b?
                                                                      baby’s breath
                        duh!
                                                                         r u drunk?
                        mb

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Overdue
Tiffany Key

Hello Mari:

This is a reminder that you had a student loan payment in the amount of $795.73 that was due on 12/10/2016.

If you haven’t made a payment, please do so today. The easiest and fastest way to make a payment is online.

We also offer these other payment methods:

By phone:

1-800-699-2908

By mail:

Dept. of Education, FedLoan Servicing,

P.O. Box 530210, Atlanta, GA 30353-0210

Currently, your payment is due on the 10th of every month. We do offer the option to change your due date if a new date would make it more convenient for you.

If a due date change isn’t right for you, you could:

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Please do not reply directly to this message. Instead, Contact Us with any questions.

 

To Whom It May Concern;

 

Hello there. Thank you for reminding me of my debt. I do have lots of questions actually. One of my questions, for example, is how am I supposed to pay 700 dollars a month when I cannot even get a part-time job? I mean, I know the downfall of the economy is not (entirely) your fault but seriously, I have a Master’s degree and cannot even get hired at a gas station. Do you know how hard it was to walk into that Shell and ask for an application from a man who looks like he was tongue-bathed by a pitbull? But I smiled and said thank you, even laughed when I turned in the application and he said he’d have to make sure they had a shirt large enough for my “tig bitties”, as he put it. All that and I did not even get an interview.
And now I can’t go into that Shell even though it was the closest one to my house. I only applied because I could walk there which is a big plus since my car broke down back in June. I have been riding my younger sister’s bike to the grocery store, my main occupation now that I live back at home and help take care of my dad, who’s on disability. My mom never has time to go shopping because she is working three part-time jobs after she was laid off from the restaurant she was managing. Manager there for twenty years but then the new developments came and all those franchise restaurants…
And then my dad with his accident and now everything is just, well, exhausting. Every day I wake up tired and every night I lie in bed wide-awake, trying to unravel the mess of my life so I can find the little knot where I went wrong.
So, yes, I know I am overdue and no, I haven’t forgotten about you. It is just I have to have money in order to pay you. If things change, I will definitely make a payment but honestly, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.


Sincerely,

Mari

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Volume 1 Issue 14/15: Twins

Well, hello again.

I hope you had a nice break. I had a break but it was not nice. In fact, well, I don’t need to go into it. Let’s just say I was so busy doing things I did not want to do that I did not even have a chance to write my story for this post. Which is a shame because it was going to be good (because all stories are good before they are set down on the page).

Anyway, we did have one contributor to this week’s prompt, Mike Raven with his story “Twins Parted”, a story of brothers, bravery, and regret. Hope you enjoy!

And please come back on Monday for the usual treatment (four days, 500 words).

 

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Twins Parted

Mike Raven (mike.raven@gmail.com)
www.mikeraven.co.uk

There is a madman, held, in the back of a monastery.
But we are not there yet.
He’ll come, soon enough.

A finely polished longsword, shining in the rays of the midmorning sun, sliced horizontally through the air. Borne by a fighter in his early twenties, adorned in fresh chainmail. The young man had blue eyes, the same blue as the sky on a clear summers day, with a mop of black curled hair.
A handful of inches before its target it came to a sudden halt, hitting and digging into a thick wooden shield.
The eyes of the bearer of the shield gleamed momentarily as they began their counter attack, but the act of defending against the blow had focussed their attention on the young man, and as a result had missed something.
That something was another finely polished longsword being thrust through his backplate, ending somewhere in his ribcage. Suddenly unable to fight, he dropped to his knees, and then fell flat on his face.
A foot was implanted on the dead mans back to aid the killer in pulling the longsword out of the corpse.
“Thank you.” the first fighter said to the other one, who had the same summer sky eyes, the same mop of curled hair, and the same fresh chainmail.
“Don’t mention it, brother.”

Isan and Heran were identical twins, sons and squires of the knight Sir Belden. The knight and his companions were entrusted with protection of the small town of Sudtone in the Kingdom of Guthrum. Whilst only a small town, they had experienced several incursions by viking raiders seeking to pillage whatever they could get their grubby hands on.
“Well fought,” Sir Belden greeted his sons, who were sat round a small fire cooking a stew. He had been at his stables, where attendants had put his horse to bed and helped to remove his armour.
“Thank you, father.” both Isan and Heran intoned synonymously.
“What say you deal me a portion of that food, eh?” the knight declared with a big smile. Isan picked up a spare bowl and brought up to the stew pot just as Heran dug a large serving spoon deep into the pot and lifted up a goodly portion of the hearty meal.
“Thank you, boys,” Sir Belden said as he received the bowl, filled with hot meat and vegetables in a thick sticky gravy.
There was but a few moments of silence before one of the sons spoke up.
“Father – Sir Belden – we wished to ask you,” spoke Isan, “about knighthood.”
“Hmm,” grunted the knight between mouthfuls, “I thought you might. The time is coming, is it not?”
“Of course,” he went on the say, “this would be the end of your close brotherhood, you realise.”
“We can part-” Heran said, which would have been more convincing if, barely a heartbeat apart, Isan had begun to utter the same words.
Sir Belden smiled. “You boys are close. Closer than any other brothers I have ever had the fortune to meet. And that does not happen often.”
“When the time comes, you will part, and you will struggle. But you will both learn and survive, of that I have no doubt.” he said, reassuring his sons.

Sir Belden retired for the night early that evening, sleeping under a stout oak tree, and encased within a large thick patched blanket, and the boys sat next to the cooling embers of the cooking fire, talking about life, themselves, and the future.
Talking so much that they didn’t spot the danger.
A spear, wooden haft and ferrous tipped, slid smoothly over Isan’s shoulder. With a gasp, he and his brother turned.
A pack of vikings were but twenty yards away. A second spear, aimed true, was let loose towards Heran, but he managed to dive out of its way so it rattled harmlessly on the ground. With a roar, the vikings ran at the boys.
“Father! Wake up!” Heran shouted. The knight woke with a curse and wrestled to get out of the blanket. Heran and Isan scrambled to draw their swords, barely making it in time.
The boys parried spear thrusts from several of the raiders, and, wordlessly, acted together. Isan deflected a foolhardy thrust from one viking upwards, while Heran ran his sword deep into the viking.
Heran opened his mouth to cry in victory, but instead his head was neatly taken off by the swing of a viking held sword.
Isan stumbled backwards, mouth opening and closing in terror.
Sir Belden ran forward, clutching a longsword that he used to run through one viking, and then slash wounds into a second. He swore.
“There’s too many of them! Isan, run!” he roared.
Isan dropped his sword, turned, and fled. He never looked back as the vikings encircled his father, impaled him on their spears, and looted his corpse.
He ran.
And ran.
He ran, and escaped the vikings.
But he couldn’t escape himself.

Sometimes in the monastery, you can hear the cries of a madman.
Sometimes cries of rage, sometimes of sadness.
But the cries always have a tinge of insanity.
They come from a room at the back of the monastery, a room with a single small window, and a heavily barred door.
Periodically meals are brought to the room. Sometimes those meals are eaten.
Sometimes they are flung against walls, and then scraped off the walls and eaten as hunger kicks in.
The monks aren’t sure of his name, although sometimes he can be heard to utter, or shout, the word “Father”.
And, of course, “Heran”.

Volume 1 Issue 11: Childhood Wonder

We have three stories this week: returning contributor Tim Clark with his story Ghosts; The Dreamed End by Melvin A. Camasis; my story The Travellers.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them.

Remember, new prompts are posted every Monday.

And stay tuned for an announcement about the direction Mercurial Stories is headed.

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The Dreamed End
Melvin A. Camasis

dream (1)

It’s already Friday, five o’clock in the afternoon. Coming back home from school, can’t wait to play my Nintendo Family Computer. Greeted everyone, telling them I’ve arrived home! Went directly to my room, laid my bag at the side of my drawer. Open the TV and played games the rest of the day. Mom called me out and ate dinner. After dinner played some more ‘til ten. Got very tired didn’t notice I was already dozing off in front of the TV.

Wandering off in my dream. Noticing that I no longer in our house, inside a big room that has a bed, a small couch, on top of the table is a laptop, desk lamp and a couple of books, pen, and paper notes. Besides the toilet is the door. I immediately run outside of that room but seems like I entered another one, a much bigger room that interconnects six rooms including the one I just came out off. I am now panicking up to my wits and my heart is just thumping so hard, can’t breathe air normally. I shouted very loud “WHERE IS THE DOOR OUTSIDE!”, And tears suddenly fell down my eyes. I prayed aloud saying “GOD, I know how terrible I am with my family and friends, is this my punishment?” I cried for two hours in the middle room sofa.

Suddenly heard a loud clicking sound, a very big television screen turned on and showed multiple partitioned screens on each one of the rooms and also showing on some of the screen, the most frightening thing outside of this big place. The structures of the buildings, trees, houses are unrecognizable. All turned to color black. So many dead animals, fishes on the waters. It’s like there are no more living thing can be seen. Now I remembered my family, are my parents dead? Am I really the only one who survived this terrible thing that happened outside?

I became more agitated. It prompted me to investigate from the other rooms. Maybe I can find something if I look around. The first room next to one I came out looks like a big kitchen with all kinds of frozen meat, fish, vegetables inside the freezer, on the cabinets different kinds of canned goods, cereals drinks, gallons of water, inside a fridge different kinds of fresh juices.

In another is a media center where there are different kinds of game consoles and cartridges, a big computer connected to a big screen, it really looks like a small cinema or movie and playroom. Continued on to another that looks like a gym with all the exercise equipment. Another is like a communication or control room. And lastly, a room full of books, like a personal library. Six different rooms complete with all necessities of life.

Then I heard multiple crashing and banging sounds. And a very familiar loud voice saying  “MELVS WAKE UP”! Woke up with my mom beside me, shoving me around. SNAP OUT OF IT!

________________________________________________________________

Ghosts
Tim Clark

I used to believe in ghosts. Sometimes, in dreams, I would see people who had passed away. Often I wondered if they came to tell me something, pass on a message from somewhere, or someone else. Maybe they just wanted to say one last goodbye. Maybe they weren’t there at all, and I just wanted to say one last goodbye.

After I quit smoking I joined an online support forum. It was my first real venture into the ethereal world of the internet. People would come and post about their struggles or victories, and receive advice or congratulations. One thing that was almost universally cursed, dreams of smoking.  People would rail about the dream that made them think they had started smoking again, only to realize they hadn’t. One of my online Friends said she loved her “smoking dreams.” She would never have to smoke again and could enjoy smoking without spending the money or ruining her health. The outrage was immediate and almost universal. She couldn’t really quit as long as she enjoyed her smoking dreams people said. I thought it was a fantastic solution.

Whatever the reason, I enjoyed seeing my friends and family stop by occasionally in the night. It was comforting, peaceful. They weren’t completely gone. I could see them occasionally. It was kind of a relief. As I got older and knew more dead people they quit showing up. Probably just as well, it could have been quite a parade. It might have just gotten too crowded so they just quit showing up.

Now, I am aging, and have seen the trials of everyday life. First hand I have seen the many ways simple things can become complicated problems. My dreams are haunted by deadlines passed. Ghosts of product shipped in error. Ghoulish specters of missed opportunities dance through my dreams. Sleep is never quite as restful when those visions come in the night. Emails and phone calls punctuate the seconds when you wake. It is a constant barrage of electronic questions demanding to be answered as they stream through the restless night.

I guess I still believe in ghosts. I just don’t like them as much. They aren’t as polite as they used to be.  

____________________________________________________________________________

The Travellers
Tiffany Key

 

When I was younger than my own children are now, my mother would curb my naughtiness with a simple threat: if you are not good, the Travellers will come and collect you as one of their own. I did not know who the Travellers were and when asked, my mother would only reply, “Oh, you’ll know who they are when they come and take you in the night”.

At first, the Travellers were just a vague threat, shadows lurking within the shadows. Then I read The Borrowers and decided that the Travellers were simply a tribe of small people with a malicious streak. This changed the shadows, the mysterious creak of a floorboard, the rattling window panes. If I could catch a Traveller, then I could convince it to take me to the others so I could reform them as well. I imagined myself the giant queen of their clan, living off blackberries and crawfish, making myself a house with stick walls and acorn cap shingles.

I began to set classic traps, boxes propped up on sticks. When those failed, I covered my windowsill with glue and used my dad’s entire box of flypaper to line the trunk of the only tree whose branches came near our house. For a while, this went unnoticed by my family. Eventually, though, my older sister noticed the insect cemetery on the oak when she tried to rescue a skink that was struggling against its sticky fate. She sounded the alarm and my mother invaded my room only to find a similar mess on the windowsill where sugar ants had attempted to cross the glue.

As my mother was droning on about what she was going to do with me, I realized I was going about it all wrong. I didn’t need to catch a Traveller: they would come and catch me.

I calmly reached over to my nightstand and pushed the lamp to the floor. The light bulb shattered upon impact. My mother hissed, “What is the matter with you?” through her teeth. She commanded me not to move and ran to get the dustpan. By the time she returned, I had already managed to climb out the window. She looked down to where I was on the lawn and started to say something but was interrupted by the rock flying towards her head. I had a handful of nice, heavy granite and began to lob them at all the windows. The sound of glass breaking into sharp shards was almost as satisfying as everyone yelling at me to stop (or else).  

That night, laying on my side, my backside sore from my dad’s belt, I smiled as I slipped into sleep, thinking that surely the Travellers would now claim me as one of their own. In the morning I would be disappointed but that night, I dreamt that they encircled my bed, twig torches ablaze, trying to figure out how to steal me away.

 

 

 

 

 

No. 7: Stories: The Golden Years

So, this last week was rough in terms of doing all that needs to be done for this project. A major event at my work gobbled up my hours and energy. I typically don’t accept excuses like that from myself but since time is ticking by, I need to get on with the show. This week, we actually only have one story. Well, from me there are these two sentences:

On the day that Ronald Wright retired, he went home, kissed his wife and then took the dog out for a walk. In the park, he let the dog off the leash though the old beagle did not go too far.

I meant to finish it up today but then it became midnight and Monday transformed into Tuesday. So I am going to keep the two sentences and use them later.

Luckily, we have the ever-persistent and ever-so-talented Debbie Felio with her story “Where’s the Gold?”. Enjoy!

Where’s the Gold?
Debbie Felio
Desirable. Valuable. The stuff dreams are made of. Gold.
The gold rush brought pioneers to the great West of the United States and wealth to a great many.
Five golden rings in the 12 days of Christmas
Streets of gold in the heavens of eternity.
First place Olympians.
The fantasies-
Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – apparently still up for grabs.
Rumpelstiltskin and spinning straw into gold for a price.
Goldilocks – she was a bit of a criminal.
That goose that laid the golden eggs and look what happened to her.
King Midas whose own golden years turned on him.
Sometimes the Gold isn’t what we thought it would be. ‘The Golden Years’ was once a marketing strategy to lure active retirement-aged adults to a special new living arrangement for 55+ in a golden place called Sun City. Separating them from the rest of the population to enjoy the later years unbothered by responsibility or family. For a hunk of their gold. An artificially created goal – like that pot at the end of the rainbow.
Then on those special occasions when they were engaged with grandchildren a comment following the answer to ‘how old are you ?’  was ‘Gee, old… in years’.  Golden Years became an unfinished bridge between the young and old because there were no connecting experiences or stories to link them together. Nothing to paint a picture of life that is lived reverently or respectfully or even at times recklessly – that points to the realities of brokenness along the way and the picking oneself up and perseverance to continue the journey.
The Japanese art form of Kintsugi honors the value that remains in broken things. When a bowl or teapot or precious piece of pottery is broken, rather than set it aside or discard it, it is repaired, not by trying to hide or disguise – like so much plastic surgery that attempts to deny the golden years – but with a liquid gold that brings the fragments together again and enhances the breaks, giving the piece of pottery a more refined appearance by the highlighting of the cracks. It acknowledges uniqueness and resilience, value and honor in imperfection and age. Just as each piece has its own beauty of cracks and lines highlighted in gold, how much more might we as a culture begin connecting with each other if we begin to recognize the beauty in the lines of our own bodies – those places that record our uniqueness, our experiences, our stories.
Because those broken experiences can begin at a very young age, rather than wait for those elusive ‘Golden Years’  why not let life experiences be the uniting bridge as we recognize in each other at any age the precious and honored gold in years.

Prompt No. 4 “Blue” Playlist

This week’s playlist features Miles Davis, Soley, Lana Del Rey, The Who and many more wonderful sounds that bring the word “blue” to life.
Hope you enjoy.

Oh, and I am extending the deadline this week by one day. Mainly to give myself a chance to catch up. Happy writing.

Week One: NYE 2018

The Ribcage Breaks Its Resolution To Stay Monogamous
Jesse Bradley

jbradleywrites.com

You get bored saying the same name (legal, pet) again and again. You count the minutes until he leaves your apartment after you finish him. You sometimes create an excuse to keep him coming through your door (work in the morning, a doctor’s appointment). You refuse to imagine him aged and useless.

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The Day After       
by deb y felio

Pledges are made in late evening drinking

of all the improvements just one step makes

tomorrow a new day a new me I’m thinking

and all the missteps that lead to mistakes

Pleasures forsaken for future rewards

committed tonight to a disciplined life

not guaranteed but completely assured

first thing in the morning I’ll tell the wife

Well maybe I’ll wait til late afternoon

Pride after all does come before falling

It wouldn’t be prudent to brag too soon

It could appear that I’m merely stalling

So once and for all I’ll not let this fail

I’ll do it next year, right now I need bail.

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What’s the Hurry?

By Alex Carrigan

@carriganak

This might be the first year that I don’t actually need a New Year’s Resolution. Of course, I don’t feel any better because of this, mostly due to societal dictates. “New Year, New Me,” right?

Personally, I hate making promises and commitments I will inevitably break. Sure, I could stand to lose about fifty pounds (sixty? seventy? When was the last time I weighed myself?), but lord knows I’ll probably choose to cheat on any diet or exercise schedule I’ll make.

I could resolve to write more or to work on new projects, but my laptop desktop is a graveyard of unfinished writing projects and shoujo manga series outlines. Sure, I could try to work those into American fiction, but that turns out to be really hard when you have to account for cultural differences between America and Japan. All those do is make the project unsustainable due to the sheer amount of rewrites needed. For example, if arranged marriages and marriage meetings were a thing in America like they were in Japan, my coming-of-age manga series “Reluctant Fiance” wouldn’t need a ton of rewrites. It could probably go straight to press.

Besides, I have projects that are closer to completion and should work on those first. That is, if I remember to and don’t come to immediately hate them while working on them like so many NaNoWriMo projects of years past.

But I guess I’m doing okay. Unlike last year, I have a job I like, I have trips I want to take later this year, and I have an actual desire to keep some status quo in my life. Hell, it’s the second day of the year and I’m writing something like this. That’s already a step up from last January when I was broke, unemployed, and dealing with massive anxiety.

If I need to resolve something, I think I have time to think about what that is. I can always diet or try online dating when the mood strikes and not attach it to some cultural movement that has the cliche of failure stapled to its forehead. There are 365 days in a year, after all.  

I mean, if I wanted to really commit to something right away, it’d probably just be a commitment to have a regular sleeping schedule which, come on, who keeps those nowadays?

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New Year’s Eve in the Mani

By Theresa Stoker

(I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Theresa-Stoker-222595801612565/ and I’m also podcasting as Write Club the Podcast at https://www.facebook.com/writeclubthepodcast/ and https://audioboom.com/channels/4936828)

 

We’ll just go back to the old ways.’ The young man giving us a lift is talking about the crisis. ‘Here in the Mani we’ve always been bandits and pirates. I have guns at my house, I’ll defend what’s mine. I’ve got a Kalashnikov.’

            I remember the restored war tower we visited a few days ago. With its polished wood floors, safety banisters and no furniture, it lacked atmosphere. I tried hard to imagine what it must have been like when five or six families crammed in, besieged and at war with their neighbours. ‘Luckily we don’t fight so much these days,’ our guide said. ‘Because now we all have Kalashnikovs.’

            I am glad to be out of the car. A huge moon is rising and there is a smell of wood smoke beckoning. In the kafeneio the stove is glowing. A TV game show competes with loud voices. We drink the large tumblers of wine known locally as ‘grandads’. A teenage girl is playing cards with some older men. She is giving them hell. My Greek is not good enough to know if she thinks they’ve been cheating, but whatever it is, she’s not putting up with it. At the next table a more serious game of backgammon is being played. Outside boys of all ages throw bangers at the ground and jeer at anyone who jumps. Some children in Santa hats come in to sing the monotonous Kalanda song. Everyone pays attention. The biggest boy carries an olive branch taller than himself, which keeps straying into his three-year-old sister’s face. She gamely continues dinging her triangle and shouting the words. Everyone applauds and gives them money.

            By nine o’clock the older men are getting up, leaving behind their contribution to the smoky atmosphere. The TV is off and Greek party music is being played through a laptop. By eleven it’s a younger, livelier crowd. At twelve we all stand outside to watch the fireworks going off in the churchyard. Someone fires a shotgun. It is passed around the men, and boys as young as twelve are given instruction and allowed to shoot it. Then I hear rapid fire beside me. I have no expertise, but surely that is an automatic weapon? Time to go inside.

            ‘Kali ChroniaChronia Polla!’ We kiss and exchange wishes for a good year and many of them. The partying moves into top gear. Young women in high-heeled boots dance the Hasabikos with virtuosity and increasing speed in the tiny space between the tables. The shots of raki keep coming and everyone must take their turn on the dance floor. When not dancing, those who know the words sing along and everyone claps in time.

            By three o’clock I am defeated. Music and laughter trail behind us as we stumble down the little alley, kicking through shotgun cartridges and dead fireworks, the smell of gunpowder haunting our footsteps.

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Promises to Keep

by Anthony Morales Jr

www.rescribo.com

I’ve spent the better part of my life behind metal doors painted light blue to trick you into believing everything was good. It’s a lie like everything else. If you chip the paint,  it’s red underneath anyway. That’s the real color, that’s the real feeling; anger and hate. You just get used to it. I got so used to the clinking and clanking of key rings against the guard’s belt smacking against their hip that it put me to sleep every night. It was like a blanket covering me from the cold.

But this time it’s gonna be different. I’m not gonna be comfortable with it anymore and I’m not gonna make the same stupid mistake as last time. I’m not coming back. When I get out my friend’s gonna give me three hundred dollars and I’m gonna buy myself some new clothes ‘cause the clothes they give you when you leave here is garbage. If you get out when it rains the blue from the jeans runs out and turns your goddamn skin blue like one of them little smurfs. You can’t go nowhere with that ‘cause they’ll know exactly where you just came from.  

The last time I was out there I got caught ‘cause I was stupid. They caught me ‘cause I was hanging out with these guys that were always getting into something. I was good for a while, you know, I was makin’ my money and takin’ care of my baby girl but I was stupid and didn’t out-run ‘em. They knew where I lived anyway. But my baby girl, I haven’t seen her in over a year. Her moms is keepin’ her from me and I kind’a don’t blame her. I don’t want my baby girl to see me like this, where I’m at now. But imma be out soon and it’s gonna be different.

I can’t make no money, not enough at some regular job to pay for a place for myself and give my baby girl the money she’s gonna need for school and clothes and stuff. I’m gonna go back with my girl, we’re gonna work it out and then I’m gonna sell some stuff again, make some money real quick, and then I’ll be out. I don’t know what I’m gonna do yet but I know I gotta make money quick, that’s what I know I gotta do. You can’t do anything without money. Then I’ll go to school for like a mechanic, ‘cause that’s what I like. It’ll work this time, it’ll be better.

=======================================================================

                                                           Year of the Pig
                                                             Tiffany Key
                                                          @seisui_seisui


He introduced himself as Bub. A nickname, he added with a shy smile. He was hunched over in the way that tall guys usually are, bent forward like an overgrown sunflower. She noticed his pig before she saw that what appeared to be his coat was actually a pair of wings. The pig was on a leash and seemed content to lay next to Bub’s feet, ignoring the bits of food that the partygoers had littered on the floor.
When she asked why he had brought a pig, he answered that 2019 would be the year of the pig.
“Did you bring a dog last year?”, she asked.
“Yes, I did”, he answered with a straight-face. “But you were not here last year”. She noticed that his cheeks were scarlet.
“Are you hot?”, she asked. “We could go outside if you like. Or maybe get a drink?”
“You are very kind. Thank you but I am just always a little overheated. But if you want another drink…? What is this, a martini?” Without waiting for her answer, he exchanged the pig’s leash for her empty glass. He returned frowning. “They had just run out of gin so this one is vodka. I’m really sorry. You would think in a palace like this…”
The house belonged to the CEO of the tech company they both worked for. Most of the rooms appeared to be modeled after Versailles, gold-trimmed and gaudy. The room they were standing in was minimal though they had to be careful of the koi-filled stream, winding through to the backyard. There it emptied into a pool where the koi mingled with a pair of dolphins. She watched the aquatic couple tossing a beach ball back and forth and sipped her martini, trying not to grimace.

“Yes, it is strange that they ran out of gin so early in the evening. It’s not even nine yet.” “Actually”, he said softly, “it’s almost midnight”.
She noticed a crowd gathering on the back lawn.
“Shall we?”, she asked.
“If you like. Or perhaps we could go someplace where they make a proper drink?”
She nodded and they walked out the front door, their pinky fingers intertwined.
“We could take my car, oh, but maybe it’s too small”, she said, looking at his wings that trailed behind him like a wedding dress’ train.
“If you like, I could fly.”
“No, I am way too heavy for you, besides you would have to carry me and the pig. Two pigs.”, she joked awkwardly.
“Susan can find her own way home. Besides, you probably weigh less than a child.” She blushed, pleased he had guessed so generously.
They took off at the same time as the fireworks. When she looked down, it was hard to see her coworkers through all the smoke.

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