#ThursThreads, week 332

Bernie gently lowered the lid on the dumpster, enclosing himself next to, as far as he could tell, a two-year old diaper filled with rotting meat and dime-store perfume. He was alone, or at least he hoped. He didn’t even want to imagine what kinds of creatures lived in a place like this. In the foul blackness he could hear his breath rasping and heart pounding, and he imagined his pursuer standing outside with a grin on her face, knowing she had him trapped – and that he himself had chosen the means of his imprisonment.

And to think the night started off so well. Out with friends, a single malt in his belly and another in his hands, beautiful women everywhere – some even smiling at him. Then the liquid courage took hold (somewhere around the time they switched to tequila), and karaoke started, and he sang and sang and then *she* joined him for “The One That You Want” and then she kissed him when they got applause and then he grinned, “Well that went well. Want another?” and she did and then he went back to her place and it was glorious and then her girlfriend came home and her girlfriend turned out to be a werewolf and then he ran and ran but he’d left his ID at her place and now he was naked in a dumpster being chased by a werewolf.

Next time (if there was a next time), he was sticking to whiskey.


Untitled, September 24, 2018

Marla fiddled with the twig, turning it this way and that, scratching the thin bark off with a dirty fingernail. A hell of thing, saying goodbye was. She’d never gotten good at it, which was stupid because it happened so often. Permanence wasn’t a thought anyone had anymore – no one stayed in the same place long enough to raise awareness, and with everybody in motion, you said goodbye all the time. Billy had stayed around the meadow for a week, but a week was pushing it, and then he was gone. Kay had taken Marla in for three days, but then they found Kay, and Marla had run.

It had been different with Anlis. She’d been with Marla from way back. They’d run together more times than Marla could count, but always together. In this world where a week was a long time, they’d run together for a year, or near enough so as not to matter. How do you say goodbye to someone like that, especially when you knew you’d never see them again?

She’d met Anlis during the late-summer rush from the hills. The storms that came from the west had caused floodwaters to come cascading down into the valley, and for a while it had been a mad rush into the trees. Moving without caution didn’t come easily to anyone these days, but when the wall of water came, you were caught between certain death and the risk of getting caught. Marla had climbed into a tree that wasn’t going to be tall enough and was trying to decide if she could swim to a taller one when a voice called out to her. Anlis had tied a handful of logs together with some vines – it wasn’t a proper raft, but it kept her out of the water – and Marla wasn’t very big.

And, as it turned out, Marla’d reminded Anlis of her daughter, born before it was all like this, when parents and children lived together and the idea of the future went beyond the next night’s sleep. That made Anlis old – one of the oldest people Marla had ever seen – but meant that Anlis knew what it meant to have a family, and she offered one to Marla, such as she could.

But now Anlis was gone, caught by a trap near the edge of the woods. She was usually good about spotting them, but this time, she’d flat-out just missed it. Marla had barely escaped, though she’d seen it all, the tree flexing, the branch swinging, Anlis’ neck snapping. She’d seen people die before – everyone had – but unlike all the others, she didn’t feel like running and hiding. Anlis had meant something to her beyond another face around a campsite and another warm body on a cold night. She couldn’t just leave her body where it lay, couldn’t let them find her and do whatever they did after death.

She’d never seen someone dig a grave for another person before, but the instinct to hide Anlis’ body was strong. Marla found a flat rock about twice the size of her hand and began digging. Being the rainy season, the ground was soft and moved easily under her hands. She knew that every hour she spent at the site of one of their traps was dangerous, but she couldn’t stop, not until the hole was big enough to protect the one person in her life who’d ever really mattered. The day came and went, and it wasn’t until the light was fading in the west that Marla was able to lower her friend into the hole and cover her up. She collected leaves and twigs from nearby and tangled them with ivy, doing her best to disguise what she’d done, and then there was nothing more to do but say goodbye.

Marla dropped the twig she’d been fiddling with and turned to go, not sure what else there was to do, when the tears came, cutting mottled streaks through the mud on her face. How could she just leave her friend in the dirt like this? No one would know she’d lived, that she’d mattered, that she’d been more than an ambulatory nothingness. But what to do? She couldn’t leave a gravestone like she’d seen in the old cemeteries – that would be a big giveaway.

Then she had an idea. People passed from one place to another, and sometimes they dropped things. What if she left something of Anlis’ – something that mattered to her but wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. Marla opened Anlis’ pack and began ruffling through it. A candleholder that they’d used on the nights they were lucky enough to find shelter. A flask that held clean water. And…no, that was enough. Too much would be obvious. She placed the candleholder and flask on the ground, arranging them so they’d look like they’d just fallen there, but not hiding them under the detritus. Stepping back, she considered the scene and knew that she’d done the best that she could by the only family she’d ever have. Turning, she walked off into the falling night, letting the tears fall just a little while longer.




#ThursThreads, week 331


Every time I died, I’d return to life with the same thought.

“This isn’t the first time.”

This isn’t the first breath. This isn’t the first cry. This isn’t the first word. This isn’t the first step. This isn’t the first day of school. This isn’t the first broken bone. This isn’t the first broken heart. This isn’t the first time. This isn’t the first job. This isn’t the first apartment. This isn’t the first time I met you. This isn’t the first time I fell in love. This isn’t the first time I proposed. This isn’t the first time I lied. This isn’t the first time I betrayed you. This isn’t the first time I begged. This isn’t the first time you laughed in my face. This isn’t the first time I held you down. This isn’t the first time I made you beg. This isn’t the first time you died. This isn’t the first time they caught me. This isn’t the first time they strapped me to the chair. This isn’t the first time I died. This isn’t the first time in the afterlife. This isn’t the first time I was judged. This isn’t the first time I was found wanting. This isn’t the first time I escaped. This isn’t the first time I was reborn. This isn’t the first time I went hunting for you.

“This isn’t the first time.”



A story that would have been for except that it’s too long and too late.

There came a time during the ending of all things that there were only two people left alive. Statistically, that had to happen. Everyone would die, in some order, and at some point during the countdown, there would be two. But that it happened in this particular way – ah, that’s why people told stories.

One was old, and had lived long enough to know love and lust and loss and joy and fear, though not hope. The ending was coming, everyone knew it. No one had hope. But they had life.

The other was young. Not much more than a child, but enough so that they knew that there used to be more to life than watching everyone around you die.

That was not so odd, you might think, a young person and an old person. It might be more unusual for them to be the same age, or the same race, or the same gender, or the, well, you get the point.

What was odd was that here, on the last day that there were people, one was walking down the road. Alone, as they had been for months. The other had not been alone, the old one. There had been another, but finally they died too. And then there were two.

The one walking down the road, dying, came upon the other, also dying, in a chair watching the sun arc over the horizon. There they stood (or sat) and looked at the only other person left in the whole world. Out of all the people who had lived at one time, kings and queens and doctors and pimps and students and malnourished infants and heroes and failures, these two were all that was left.

And these two last people thought the same thing as they looked. “At least we found each other.” Then they died, for this is a story in which everyone dies. But then it all began again.


Mid-Week Flash Challenge – Week 72


The Last Resort

The house had never wanted to be a house. Even before they’d been unearthed, the rocks used to make the walls dreamed with longing of the eons they had been boulders. Made to do nothing but endure, the massive hunks of granite had done just that until time and wind and rain conspired to break them into pieces small enough for men, transient beings that they were, to pick them up and move them. In that way, the rock became enslaved to the will of men and women instead of living its own truth.

The rock did everything it could to resist being debased this way. Tools slipped off its surface as masons tried to work it into shape, cutting into soft flesh. Before stone could be cemented into place on stone, obdurate chunks fell from their precarious perches, breaking two legs and narrowly missing one man’s head. But domineering men were too strong, too determined, and against their will, the rocks were set into place to perform for their masters.

That did not mean, however, that the stone acquiesced to its fate. Cool nights led to damp chills within the house as the rock opened itself to the dark. The children who grew within its walls were sickly and weak, not one reaching their true potential, and the most joyous of times were always colored by grey light, even on sunny days. Condensation built between stone and thatch, creating a fertile environment for mold to grow. Family after family lived, suffered, and left, and still the stone fought to be left alone.

The house endured that way for generations. Built just as men and women began dominating their world for pleasure and personal gain, it lasted. Through centuries, as kings rose and nations fell, it waited, watching children die and families mourn. But its wait was not eternal. Stone, though as long-lasting as a mountain, still was susceptible to wind and rain. And one day, people left. It wasn’t worth fighting through cold summers and frigid winters when there were new materials – ‘man-made’ plywood and brick and metal – that brought comfort and peace and safety. Finally, the house was alone. The stone could be at peace.

Or so it thought. Outside (for even the stone thought of insides and outsides after so many years of being a tool), the water waited. Longer-lasting than a boulder, more eternal than a mountain, cycled through the planet’s hydrosphere eon after eon, the water outlasted all. It would claim this stone in time, and in that way, it would be brought to an end in a slurry of pain.


#ThursThreads – Tying Tales Together – Week 329

“Look.” My voice was barely a whisper. We’d been talking all night, fueled by anger and pain and the need for hope. “I’m not saying you’re wrong. It’s just…”

“Do what they say.” She held up a hand. “You know you’re going to. You know it’s what you have to do. They’re wrong to make you apologize. They’re wrong to make you beg. But we need your income.”

“I know. I just wish.”

“Yes, we all wish there was another way, but there’s not. Not for people like us.”

I rolled over on my back, giving in – finally. “What do I say?”

“What they want you to say. That you were wrong. You screwed up. You won’t do it again.”

“I’ll sound like I’ve got no balls.”

“What’s better? No balls or no home?”


Later, she’d touch me, driven by the need that women have to make things better, but for now she stayed apart, making sure I’d gotten the point before making nice. “You write it up so you don’t screw up the words. Make it believable – a real apology, none of this ‘I’m sorry you were bothered by’ bullshit.”

“I know.” Sigh. “Will you read it over?”

“I won’t need to.” This would be her first step towards reparation. “You’re a good enough writer. Just imagine what they want, give it to them, and come home to me. To us.”

I had no choice. But I could still dream of the day when that would change.


Mid-Week Flash Challenge – Week 70


Untitled, 312 words

We walked without speaking, my mind lost in the wet slithery sound of leaves under my sneakers. Slide, slide, slide-splash, slide, slide-splash. She’d been by my side enough days to remember when I shuffled my feet deliberately and not because my hips didn’t work quite right anymore. I don’t know if she heard the sound the same way as I did, a sonic blanket wrapping me in October, or if she just tuned me out and dwelled on her own thoughts in the twilight. Probably the latter.

The city wasn’t cold yet, but we weren’t far from the days where the grey stone and concrete would suck the heat out of anyone nearby. I pushed my hands against the soft fleece in the pouch of my hoodie, thinking to myself that in some ways there wasn’t anything different between me at seventy-three and me at eighteen, dressed the same way, walking the same way. Well, nothing different except scars, an ever-increasing list of ailments and “conditions,” a marriage that was rebuilt out of the ashes of some tempestuous fires, and grandchildren not too far from heading off to college themselves.

Twilight was fading into night as we neared home. The apartment we’d talked about retiring in so many years ago wasn’t luxurious, but it afforded us the comforts of a life spent fighting battles within and without – more that I’d wanted to fight, more than I’d wanted her to have to deal with. It’d be quiet tonight, Wednesdays were our night to read, either by the fire or the fan, and I’d wonder as I always did in the quiet if she was happy, if she regretted her choices. I reached out to take her hand as we crossed the last street and approached our building. The questions were always there, but so was she, and that would – as always – be enough.