Trapper John and the Burning of the World

When you have ten minutes, check out my new post on Hijacked Amygdala. It’s called Trapper John and the Burning of the World. I think you will really enjoy it, not like my other posts which are short and easy to read.

Also, look at this strange and wonderful GIF by Ashley Lily Scarlet.

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My New Novel Idea

Ben and Lucas were in a cafe near the White House. Ben had his feet on the table. Lucas was drumming on his thighs.

Lucas said, “I know exactly what I’m going to do.”

Ben said, “Those aren’t words you hear very often.”

“I’m going to drive a fast car from here to California.”

“Boring.”

“Yeah, nevermind. I have no idea what I’m going to do.”

“Those are words you hear very often.”

“Dammit I want to do something!”

“Do anything, as long as it’s not boring.”

“That’s the problem!”

“Why do you always shout?”

“I don’t need this shit.” Lucas got up and walked outside.

Brian paid the bill and followed. He said, “Hey look, we’re two guys, right? Able bodied. Hetero sexual. Pretty good looking. Have normal traits. You know what we should do?”

“What?”

“Not be in a fucking book.”

John Drives to Mississippi to Meet Hughes and Little Frankie

The air in lower Tennessee on Tuesday morning was bracing but getting warmer by the minute. John was driving south straight and fast in a white Camaro with no top. He could taste the Mississippi River in the criss-crossing currents of wind. He had both hands on the steering wheel, half a cigarette in his teeth, and Dylan’s new hit on the radio.

He thought of the coal miners. He thought about stopping in town and staying a while. He imagined getting to know the men who descended into the earth every day. Did they shower in the morning?

He slowed down and swung wide around a build up of trucks waiting in line at the first gas station he had seen all day. He glanced at the gages. A quarter tank left. He downshifted and slammed on the accelerator, spitting the last of his cigarette over his shoulder.

A half an hour later he crossed the border into Mississippi and pulled over behind a black sedan.

He grabbed the worn out duffel bag from the passenger’s seat and stepped out of the car.

He opened the back door of the sedan and got in, putting his bag on his lap and taking out a pack of cigarettes.

A fat man in the front passenger’s seat asked, “Did you drive the whole way with that top down? It’s not even forty degrees outside.”

The driver said, “What kept you?” He started the car and continued the south.

“Couldn’t be helped,” said John as he lit up.

The driver had a handlebar mustache and dead eyes. His name was Randall Hughes. His passenger was a man known only by his nickname, Little Frank, and as the son of the legendary bootlegger Frank the Fox.

“What’s the job?” asked John.

“Another convoy,” said Hughes. “Armed escort is bigger than the last one, but manageable. I heard you ran into trouble in New Jersey.”

“Ran into a lot of trouble since,” said John.

“Makes me wonder,” said Little Frank.

“Makes you wonder about what?” asked John.

“About you.”

“We can’t imagine how you avoided prison,” said Hughes.

“The United States justice system protects freedom of the press. You boys’d know that if you’d’ve went to school once in a while.”

Little Frank laughed and looked back at John. “I still wonder.”

“Wonder if you want,” said John, turning to the window. “United States justice system protects the freedom to do that, too.”

“What do you think, Hughes?” asked Little Frank.

“I think it’s a bad idea having a reporter around and I’ve thought so from the start, Frankie. It’s you and Perch the reason he’s here.”

“You’ve no sense of history,” said Little Frank.

“You’ve a fat ass,” said Hughes.

John stretched his legs and leaned his head against the window. The humming of the road and Little Frankie’s labored breathing lulled him into sleep.

John is Arrested in New Jersey

John Gibson sat at a desk in a motel room in South New Jersey, typing. He paused to light a new cigarette with his old cigarette and flicked the butt onto the carpet with the rest. He wiped sweat from his hands onto his jeans and continued.

There was a knock at the door, which John ignored, and then the door flew open and two uniformed policemen entered with guns drawn.

“Freeze!”

John put one hand up without looking towards the door. With his other hand he continued typing.

A well dressed man behind them said, “Mr. Gibson, keep your hands where we can see them and join me in the hallway.”

“One second, Chief.”

“Mr. Gibson.”

John stood slowly and continued typing. After a moment he stopped and put the other hand up. He walked toward the door.

“Anyone else in there with you?”

“I write alone,” said John.

“Check it out,” the man said to the officers. “You don’t mind, do you?”

John shrugged and spat out the end of his cigarette.

The well dressed man asked, “You wouldn’t be inclined to tell me anything about the high jacking on the turnpike last night?”

John answered, “I wouldn’t be inclined to, Chief.”

“Stop calling me Chief, will you? I’m a lieutenant.”

“Right-o, Lieutenant.”

“I guess we’ll have to take you downtown.”

“I think the uptown station is closer, Chief. Lieutenant. Say, where’s your uniform?”

The lieutenant said, “Dobbs, Cuff this silly son of a bitch will you?” He walked into the apartment and looked around. He nodded when he had finished and took the pages from the desk. “Mind if we take a look at these?”

“Always happy to have an audience, Lieutenant.”

“You’re a cheerful bastard, you know that?” said the Lieutenant. “In my experience only cold, ruthless psychopaths are cheerful.”

“Say, Lieutenant, you mind lighting me a cigarette?”

“I hear smoking is bad for your health, John,” said the Lieutenant. “And I don’t want to do anything to shorten your career.”

“How about you, Dobbs?” asked John. “Got a cigarette? No? Maybe one of the executioner’s men will be better prepared.”

The Lieutenant closed the door behind him as they left.

John and Hop at Howard Johnson

John Gibson slouched in a chair in the lobby of a Howard Johnson a half hour’s drive outside Philadelphia. He wore a thick stocking cap and an old wool blazer. The receptionist stared at him, looking for a legitimate reason to call the police.

A chime echoed from the elevator and a short man in a frumpy suit stepped out. He looked around before turning to the front door, and then turned quickly back to look at John.

“You going?” asked John, standing up.

“John,” said the man. “What the hell are you doing here?”

John looked at his watch. “Come on, Hop. If we’re going we’d better go.” John led the way to the exit.

The man followed. “How long you been waiting there?”

Outside the air was cold and clean. It was just after midnight in the winter of 1973.

“Say, wasn’t your car here earlier?” asked John.

“What? Yeah.” Hop looked around. “Maybe I parked out back.”

The two skirted the outside of the building to the back parking lot. John lit a cigarette as they passed an old man in a long coat. “Evening,” said John.

When they got to the back, Hop said, “Shit. Where’s the damn car?”

“It was out front,” said John. “I saw it when I came in.”

“Shit.”

“Suppose we’d better call a cab.”

Hop shook his head and walked to a yellow Plymouth parked nearby. John took in the last drag of his cigarette as he watched Hop break into the car. He flicked aside the butt and circled to the passenger’s side.

Hop got in and worked on starting the car.

John waited for him to reach over and pull up the lock. “Conspicuous choice, Hop,” he said. He shivered a little and pulled down his hat.

The engine came to life and Hop slammed his door closed.

John pulled the handle on the passenger’s side and jumped back as Hop started off.

“Hey!”

The Plymouth rolled out of the parking lot and onto the interstate and John watched for as long as he could make out the taillights.

He shivered again and lit a new cigarette.

The Thrill Is Still Gone

Blog stats have flat lined.

Damn it.

And the worse they get, the more fiendishly I check them.

How did it come to this?

In my other blog attempts, I would have been happy with two followers as long as one of them was someone I didn’t know. Now I have thirty followers but if I don’t get a new like every hour I’m a sad panda.

In the beginning, I was writing more than I ever had. Just pushing out posts. Then, as I realized how much interesting content was already out there, I followed more and more blogs. Still, I don’t follow as many as most bloggers. But I spend a lot of time reading now, way more than at the beginning, which, let’s keep it in perspective, was only about a month ago. And even more time than that…well ok not really more time but certainly an unhealthy amount of time is spent checking my stats. Seeing what people searched for to get here.

With all that I haven’t been writing near as much.

On the positive side I have been getting out more. Doing more stuff.

And I am trying to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And the more I think about that, the more I think, what am I trying to build?

The harsh and shameful truth about my mentality is that in the back of my mind, no matter how therapeutic and lovely this blogging experience has been, I’ve been thinking, how can I make enough money doing this so I don’t ever have to leave the house again?

It’s hard for me to be honest about this, because I’d like to think I do things just for the pleasure of doing them. That I blog for the beauty of the connections I’ve made with other minds.

I forget if I mentioned it in another post, or if I wrote it by hand in my super luxurious leather bound diary, but I feel more and more like I am many people. Each of me inhabiting me at different times. I don’t think I have multiple personality disorder, which would be more interesting, but rather, it’s just a way of conceptualizing or grasping the different ways I feel from day to day, sometimes hour to hour.

So one part of me, or one person of me, one person I am…shit, what’s a good way to say it? I don’t know. I’ll name them. Fred. Damn it. That’s another thing, I don’t really like the name Gordon Flanders and I don’t really like the name Fred. But they both just came to me. I should pick a bad ass name like Black Elk. Or Crazy Horse. But Crazy Horse is too awesome for anyone but Crazy Horse so I can’t use that one.

Insecure Money Bastard. That’s what I’ll name that one me. The me that gets worried I’ll never have enough money to pay off my debts and the same one that wants to just stay home all the time and never go to work. I’ll name that me Jerry.

Nah this will get too confusing.

Anyway there’s always that part of me in the background saying, “How can you turn this into a ‘tribe’? How can you turn this into money?” A bunch of buzzword bullshit.

The worst part is no matter how many lessons I learn or insightful things people tell me, I can’t shake this bastard. And so I think, shit if I had 10,000 followers I could just write a book of me just saying whatever came into my mind and sell it for a dollar and I’d have $10,000.

And that’s why I check the stats every day.

Or maybe just one of the reasons. Another reason is it feels really good to have someone ‘like’ your post.

Yeah I think that feeling has more to do with it.

I am chemically dependent on ‘like’ endorphins.

At the same time I still would like to just do this instead of having a job.

A friend once told me that I was still young enough to think I could get rich without working really hard for it. I think I am slowly getting too old to think that.

The problem is I do work really hard when I’m at work, at manual labor type shit. But it’s very easy to be mentally lazy. To zone out and just do your job and get through.

I remember thinking last week that even while I folded napkins I should make it so that I was like a napkin folding artist. Then yesterday I remember thinking, I’m going to be a getting through the workday artist. Fuck folding napkins like an artist, I’m just going to get through the day on autopilot and that’s how I’m going to earn my money.

Well, a few days ago I decided I would never make money from writing. I decided to give up on making money at writing and just do it for the sheer pleasure of writing. Then I thought I should get a part time job during the day to make money, and then invest that money to make more money. I’ve known all along that writing stories is a bad way to make money, and anyway I haven’t written any stories and that’s an even worse way to make money. So I got pretty excited about finally giving up on it. I love giving up on things, it brings such a peace. At first anyway, or maybe it’s just a peace in disguise. Maybe it’s a little death. When you finally give up on everything, you can transcend this world and exist as an indistinguishable part of the all-soul in complete tranquility, or what humans call not having a pulse any more. Hm sometimes it’s pretty tempting.

Yes and then the very next day, I saw that the restaurant put me on a lunch shift where I usually work a night shift. So I thought, well that’s going to be hard to reconcile with the new part time job, if I’m not on a set schedule every week. And then I thought, because I was thinking at first about what Seth Godin said about the days of the journeyman writer being over, or in other words that only the greatest of writers will get paid, the ones that persist through insurmountable odds and such, and the rest of us will just do it for free because it’s so available now that no one really has to pay for words…okay I’ll restart that sentence. So as I thought about the days of the journeymen writers being over, I thought, well what about David Gaughran and Dean Weasley Smith. They make at least a little money from selling their books. I could eventually make enough money to at least account for what I would be making at a part time job.

So then I was back on the “I can make money writing” train.

And I’m still on it. Because it works perfectly with my new “Rome wasn’t built in a day” kick. Who cares if I don’t make any money at it this year or the next or the next? In ten years I’m bound to make a few hundred a month at it. You just can’t do it that long and fuck it up.

This is the kind of writing I love to do. Just writing down whatever comes in my head and having people actually read it is a dream come true.

To an extent, writing a story or a well researched essay is a craft. If you work hard at it, you can make a product that someone will pay a little money for. And even though I’d rather just sit here and write random bullshit all day, I guess I’d rather work at writing that kind of stuff than work at another coffee shop.

Then again, I was reading this book today about women and guns and it was talking about how this one lawyer works for free to defend women who have been charged with using a gun against an attacker unlawfully. And I thought, shit I’d like to do that. I never once thought about becoming a lawyer, but GF is in grad school, fuck it, maybe I will too.

Yeah I pretty much got it all figured.

My First Adult Writing Contest (The Post Where I Write My First Flash Fiction Story)

Well, I never gave much thought to this flash fiction business. Thought it was so much window dressing. Thought it was a bunch of malarky. I would have thought the same thing about all poetry if my English teachers hadn’t told me it was meaningful. And then poetry hit me like a smack in the face last year. And it was good. So, I read some of the winners of this contest and they were good. So now I will try to write a story in under 250 words and win the contest! I’ll save this as a draft in case there’s a rule about publishing your story beforehand.

I’m pretty sure I won’t win the contest at all, having never written a story like this before, but I was pretty sure no one would like my blog, so fuck it.

Addendum: here’s the prompt and the quote for the contest:

EVENING-QUARRY-ACCENT-ROSE-TEAR-MINUTE-GRAVE-CLOSE-ENTRANCE-BOW

I want to put a ding in the universe. –Steve Jobs

Oh by the way I found the idea for this on WetInkPress. So you have to write a story under 250 words and use at least four of the prompt words and you can either try to use the quote as inspiration or not, if you do and you are the best at it, you get an additional award.

Ok I think it’s two guys talking, one guy thinks he can change the world, the other doesn’t, then the first guy leaves and feels like he’s already changed the world.

Here goes then.

Tides of evening wash over the graveyard in a sudden flurry. The men spoke with strong Irish accents.

“Mom would be proud of us wouldn’t she.” He tossed it over his shoulder like so much dirt. Not a question, jus

Pause. Outside they are digging themselves out of the snow, so this works well. Me and GF are like fuck it, we ain’t going out in that shit! I don’t know why people are in a hurry to get out. We hibernatin in this bitch.

Anyway

Rolling tides of evening washed over the austere graves in a vengeful fury.

The two men spoke in Irish accents.

“Mom would be sah proud, wouldn’t she.” He tossed it over his shoulder like so much dirt.

Patrick’s smile glinted with cool moonlight. “Aye, don’t you think so?”

“I should be glad to never learn one way or another.”

Patrick plucked a rose from a carefully arranged pile at the grave near the newly stacked pile of dirt.

“Our world is as beautiful as hers,” he said, handing the flower to Dennis.

Dennis glared at his brother and threw the rose into the slowly opening grave. “Our world is shite.”

Patrick laughed. To Dennis his laugh sounded cold and lonely, weak and powerless in the face of the oncoming night, in this horrible place of death. “If you’ve done with fooling about do you mind lending a hand?”

Patrick turned to the work with joyful fervor. “Look. Even here we make a difference. One stroke after the next.” He threw dirt. And another. “And further we delve into the dust.”

“Exactly that. One day closer to death. One more step into the grave.”

“So we act meaninglessly?”

“Of course we do!”

“Do we not celebrate our mother with every minute we spend here, digging, in a kind of prayer like way, don’t you think?”

“Ah.”

“And by celebrating her, throughout our lives, don’t we make the world a better place? Don’t we then change the goddamn world?”

“Shut up and keep digging you fool.”

Patrick smiled, sccoped the rose carefully into his shovel, and replaced it upon the pile.

Ok, obviously lost the thread there at the end. But that was about 310 words, so only sixty to cut. Now to make the language more poetic, and more dark, and more graveyardy. Nothing like what I had in mind, but fuck it, I guess that’s what flash fiction is all about. It’s some kind of flash of a scene that makes an impression in your mind. But it’s still supposed to have a middle and an end, according to the writer interviews I read about people who have won last year’s contest. The middle is supposed to be the ending, and the end is supposed to be basically giving you some time to wind down from the hock of the middle/end, instead of being a punchline at the end like an O Henry story or something.

Rolling tides of evening washed over the austere graves in a vengeful fury.

Hmm. I like the idea of a tide of evening. Probably read that somewhere else.

The rolling tides of blackish violet announced the evening

The rolling tides of black clouds ferried the evening in among the austere graves. Two men dug shoulder to shoulder near a humble stone.

In his strong Irish accent, Dennis muttered, “She deserved so much better.”

In the beginning I was thinking he was a gravedigger and he was saying sarcastically his mother would be proud that the Irish brothers had gone to America and could only find work as gravediggers. But now I think she should have died without enough money for a funeral and they are burrying her. Maybe she had big dreams and never got to do them. Maybe she died in America after making the voyage to follow her dreams.

In the accent of the old world they had just left, Ireland, Dennis gritted his teeth. “She’d be sah proud of us making the journey.” He tossed the words over his shoulder like so much dirt.

I like the idea of tossing words over his shoulder, but then old Patrick better not be shoulder to shoulder, because then why is his brother tossing words over his shoulder at him.

Ok they are digging graves back to back. Ha! They can’t be back to back tossing dirt over there shoulder into each other’s hole! That’d be a story in itself.

Ok they are face to face.

“I guess she found what she went looking for.” Dennis tossed the words over his shoulder like so much dirt. Nope got to go!

“I guess she found what she went looking for.”

Patrick’s smile glinted with cool moonlight. “Aye, don’t you think so?”

Dennis glared. “Should’ve been buried in Ireland at least.”

Patrick plucked a rose from a carefully arranged pile at the grave near the newly stacked pile of dirt.

“She found a new world, to her it was more beautiful, probably because she’d never been there, and having died as soon as she saw it, she hadn’t the time to be proved wrong, and so she probably died happy.” Patrick handed the flower to Dennis.

Dennis  threw the rose into the slowly opening grave. “This world is shite.”

Patrick laughed. To Dennis his laugh sounded cold and lonely, weak and powerless in the face of the oncoming night, in this horrible place of death. “If you’ve done with fooling about do you mind lending a hand?”

Patrick turned to the work with joyful fervor. “Look. Even here we make a difference. One stroke after the next.” He threw dirt. And another. “And further we delve into the dust.”

I was thinking of the dwarves from Lord of the Rings when I said, “And further we delve…” but then I put dust, because ashes to ashes and dust to dust, from dust we came and to dust we go. But of course Patrick shouldn’t say anything about dust, that would be Dennis’ line.

“Exactly that. One day closer to death. One more step into the grave.”

Of course here I was thinking of the song “Time” by Pink Floyd,

You run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking

Racing around to come up behind you again!

The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older

Shorter of breath, one day closer to death!

But exactly here is where the image kind of fell to pieces, and I overstated his line and then of course Patrick would never ask this question:

“So we act meaninglessly?”

“Of course we do!”

And then with this next line I was trying to find out what the whole point that Patrick is trying to make:

“Do we not celebrate our mother with every minute we spend here, digging, in a kind of prayer like way, don’t you think?”

“Ah.”

“And by celebrating her, throughout our lives, don’t we make the world a better place? Don’t we then change the goddamn world?”

“Shut up and keep digging you fool.”

Patrick smiled, sccoped the rose carefully into his shovel, and replaced it upon the pile.

I was thinking this would make a good ending image, differently worded of course.

Patrick scooped the rose from the grave and placed it carefully at the foot of his mother’s…stone…headstone…rock…the humble stone…the crumbling humble bumble of a tumbling stone.

Ok if this story is to work I’m going to have to let go of trying to keep with the “ding in the universe” theme. At least so closely. It’s a good image, and it can work if I let it, at least marginally, though it may not be a contest winner. This is, after all, my first contest.

And that’s a line that Hunter Thompson used frequently: “We are, after all, professionals.”

Round three:

The rolling tides of black cloud ferried the evening in among the austere graves. Two men dug near in front of a humble stone.

Dennis muttered, his Irish accent harshening the long ‘o’: “She deserved so much better.”

Why am I fixated on this long o shit? Maybe I’d better use a different word from the prompt. Or maybe: “Two men dug close to a humble stone” Or near the entrance, there cowered a humble stone, and two men dug gravely. Hahahah gravely. Dug with seriousness. Dug in earnest. Dug in painful earnesty. Dug integrally. Dug it like it was Dizzy Galespie in the wild blue night and the mad ones running hurdy gurdy down a street of internal pain and wondering…all of us suffering, all longing, and Dean’s long last old man wandering the streets nearby, somewhere in the mist beyond reckoning.

Or maybe, There cowered a humble stone, and two men bowed low to the hard earth, digging stolidly, digging stoicly. digging. There cowered a humble stone, and along it two men bowed low to the hard earth, digging.

“All her life, striving, to wind up here. And us, her only kin, her only friends, the only ones who care enough to bury her.” This is of course too drawn out, but he would say something like that. He would grit his teeth and hurl the dirt, heft the dirt, bring the dirt out of his very soul, which he has been keeping there all her life, only to dig it out now at her grave, digging into his own soul and finding nothing there but dust, all is dust, all is fleeting. What a bitch.

Patrick’s smile glinted with cool moonlight. This is good, glinting may be the wrong word, but cool moonlight on bared teeth is both bright and creepy. Patrick’s a creepy mother fucker to be laughing in the moonlight. Which of the two is right? Well, that’s in the eyes of the reader. Life does not present us with judgments. Like Jet Li says in Fearless, basically my favorite movie of all time (maybe after Crocodile Dundee), “Does the tea judge itself? No, we judge the tea.” Or something like that. So what then does Patrick say here, if Dennis life can be…or rather Dennis’s thoughts can be summed up with all is dust…what does Patrick mean to say. “But she does not die in vain, for she has us, and we are who we are because she lived, and because she loved, and we live because she lived, and we love because she loved, and here in the night, working together to celebrate her life and honor her with the sweat of our brows and the strain of our backs, we prove to the world that she was here, that she made some difference in the world.” Ah what a cop out, dear Patrick. Just by getting knocked up someone makes a difference. “No, anyone can stick a hanger up there or fall down the stairs, but no one who raises two boys against the threat of silence and death, against the hungers and terrors of this world, has lived in vain.”

Patrick plucked a rose from a carefully arranged pile at the grave near the newly stacked pile of dirt.

Well he’d have to be stealing this rose from another pile, because roses don’t just grow in graveyards. So what does it signify if he is taking a rose that someone else has gathered, and giving it to his own mother. Well, it could be very political. Robin Hood and the merry men. As this is a very austere graveyard, and his mother’s grave cowers among the other stones, because they are so much bigger and richer, he is taking from the rich, like their view of welfare or some such. They pay the taxes and he takes it. Yes but I don’t know if I want to make that point. Like Kurt Vonnegut said, or something like it, when this country was born you’d better have taken way too much, or you’d get nothing at all.

And why is he giving his brother a rose. He is taking a part of his mother’s soul, say, if they brought the flowers there to lay at her grave, then he is taking a part of his mother and giving it to his brother, how is it he can bestow this blessing? I suppose it is because he took from her her caring nature, her optimistic view on the world, or perhaps is currently blessed…I mean possessed by her spirit and therefore is acting in her stead towards his troubled brother.

Patrick held the rose delicately and proferred it to his brother. “Like this rose, she is now dead, but her beauty lingers with us.” Hm that sounds good, but lingers has a bad connotation I should think.

Dennis  threw the rose into the slowly opening grave. “This world is shite.” I think I can just take out “this world is shite” since Patrick has refrained from saying anything about the world now and they don’t have to be talking in Irish accents. But slowly opening is good, not for the wording but for the image, it’s like a mouth that opens to swallow them, not a new image, but a strong one nevertheless.

Patrick laughed. To Dennis his laugh sounded cold and lonely, weak and powerless in the face of the oncoming night, in this horrible place of death. “If you’ve done with fooling about do you mind lending a hand?”

Here of course I was thinking of the song “Weak and Powerless” by A Perfect Circle. And the graveyard isn’t really a horrible place of death. But to Dennis it is. Should the story be more biased towards Dennis view of the place? If not, then I’d have to say how it sounded to Patrick. Maybe: Patrick laughed and the sound echoed in the cold night, off the face of the proud stones, rising toward the heavens, clear and delicate as fine crystal. Dennis was unnerved. “Don’t you know it’s bad luck to laugh in a cemetary?”

Is it? I don’t know if anyone thinks so. But Patrick would scoff, “Ah but what’s the use, Dennis, since it’s all dust to dust up in here anyways.”

Patrick turned to the work with joyful fervor. “Look. Even here we make a difference. One stroke after the next.” He threw dirt. And another. “And further we delve into the dust.”

Maybe: Patrick sunk his shovel into the earth, the soil, the terroir, the fertile ground ready to grow a briar and a rose, like the song about Barbry Allen…sorry…Patrick sunk his shovel into the dirt, “Every action has meaning. By merely thinking, and the remarkable and instantaneous aquiescence of my capable muscles, I have thus caused this ground to clear the way for my mother’s broken body. Further and further we delve, where if we had not been, if she had not been, no delving would be done.”

Delve. Acquiesce. Hm…Wordpress spellcheck does not recognize the word aquiescence.

“Further and further we delve in to the dust to which we too will soon return,” Dennis spat. “Stroke after stroke, each stroke one stroke closer to death.”

Patrick scooped the rose from the grave and replaced it carefully at the foot of his mother’s headstone.

Round four then:

The rolling tides of black cloud ferried the evening in among the austere graveyard. Two men dug in front of a humble stone, decorated lovingly with freshly cut flowers.

Close to the gated entrance, there cowered a humble stone and two men bowing low to the hard earth, digging.

Cose to the gated entrance, a clean and proud, if relatively diminutive stone, decorated lovingly with freshly cut flowers, watched over two men who bowed low to the hard earth, digging.

“All her life, striving to make a difference, just to wind up here.” Dennis tossed his words like so much dirt. “And hardly a proper burial.”

Patrick’s smile glinted with cool moonlight.

Cool moonlight reflected off of Patrick’s crooked teeth as he smiled. Oooo. Patrick’s crooked smile reflected cool moonlight. Patrick’s toothy…Patrick’s sawtoothy…Patrick’s snaggle-tooth grin reflected cool moonlight.

“We live, because she lived. We love because she loved. Tonight, brother, we celebrate her life and honor her with the sweat of our brows, the strain of our backs. The woman who raises two boys against the hungers and terrors of this world, she has not lived in vain.”

A little preachy, but getting there I guess.

Patrick plucked a rose from the arrangement at the stone and proffered it to his brother. “She is as dead as this rose, but similarly, her beauty lives on.”

Dennis  threw the rose into the slowly opening grave. “The rose will fade in a matter of hours. From dust we come, to dust we return.”

Patrick laughed and the sound echoed in the cold night, off the face of the proud stones, rising toward the heavens, clear and delicate as fine crystal.

Dennis was unnerved. “Don’t you know it’s bad luck to laugh in a cemetary?”

“Even here we make a difference,” said Patrick as he sunk his shovel into the dirt. “Each stroke clears the resting place for our mother, who we can bury properly because of this difference we have made.”

Shit still don’t know what to do with that.

“Further and further we delve in to the dust,” Dennis spat. “Stroke after stroke, each stroke one stroke closer to death.”

Patrick shrugged and scooped the rose from the grave, replacing it carefully at the foot of his mother’s headstone.

Oops. 378 words now. Round 5, and at this point I’m just going to go with it. It’s been an experience anyway. And I’ve been working for…two hours?

Ah but shit that 378 included asides by me so not so bad after all.

Final round, all cut up:

A rolling tide of black clouds ferried the evening in among the austere graveyard.

Close to the gated entrance, a small stone decorated lovingly with freshly cut flowers watched over two men who bowed low to the hard earth, digging.

“All her life, striving.” Dennis tossed his words like so much dirt. “And hardly a proper burial.”

Patrick’s snaggle-tooth grin reflected cool moonlight. He plucked a rose from the arrangement. “We live and love, because she lived and loved.” He proffered the flower to his brother.

Dennis  threw the rose into the slowly opening grave. “The rose will wither in a matter of hours. We will wither in a matter of years.”

Patrick’s eerie laugh, clear and delicate as fine crystal, echoed off the face of the proud stones, rising toward the heavens. He sunk his shovel into the dirt. He emptied his shovel to the side. “Each stroke we make, even here, makes a difference.”

Dennis agreed. “Further and further we delve in to the dust. Each stroke one stroke closer to a grave.”

Patrick lovingly scooped the rose from the grave, replacing it at the foot of his mother’s headstone.

Now for the title. Got to be good since it’s such a short story. Basically my thinking for this final cut was don’t overtell the story. The line about the terrors and hungers, I really liked that, but it’s not something someone would say, unless they were really damn smart. It’s something the narrator could say I guess, but there’s no place for it. So sadly it goes. And I want to leave some to the imagination, about the relationship of the rose to the person, and I didn’t want to get to sappy about we love because she loved, because I think that’s a Kirk Franklin and The Family song.

But the title, what a bitch.

Twilight in the Garden of Souls

Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Digging

The Brothers Who Think Differently About Death and Other Things, Too.

That title endebted to Zoolander’s school for kids who want to learn to read and do other stuff, good, too, I’m sure Matticus will come through with the accurate quote there.

A Proper Burial

Like digging, these two titles at nothing to the story.

Laughing in the Cemetery

The Dusty Rose

Dust on a Rose

The Petal and The Rose and The Stone and Casper the Friendly Ghost

The Hand The Furnace The Straight Face

That’s a Project 86 song, by the way.

Burial…It’s a Real Bitch When You Do It Yourself

DIY Burial

The Hipsters in the Cemetery

Burial for Fun and Profit

Further and Further We Delve into the Dust

That’s fun but doesn’t add anything either. Son of a bitch.

But then the guy who wrote last year’s second place entry: Dutch Baby, also had those exact words in his story, so his didn’t technically add anything, even though he said that you have to make your title work for it’s pay.

Death Makes People Think About Their Lives

Making A Difference

Vanity

Pride

Pride Turns to Ashes in Their Mouths; and Their Bones Littered the Desert Until Judgment Day

The Cold Hard Earth

The Entrance

The Exit

Coming In Through the Out Door

Entrances and Exit

Exeunt

Farewell

By The Sweat of Their Backs

By The Strain of Their Backs and The Sweat of Their Brows, They Confront the Terror and the Hunger of The Cold Hard Earth

Strain and Sweat, Tears and Toil

Hey there you go. And I used another word from the prompt.

For this to, is the lot of a man. And the cemetery is a sort of a lot isn’t it.

A vacant non-vacant lot where the kids can’t play baseball.

Well I wasn’t going to post this until the contest was over but fuck it. I’ve had so much fun I don’t care whether I win the contest or am disqualified. And I can’t wait to see what you think. And just in case everyone doesn’t want to read all this muck about, I’ll post just the story first and then this.

And I just printed it out and realized a few things. Lovingly was used twice. And two adverbs right next to each other “decorated lovingly with freshly” not good.  And dirt used twice too! Shit. And did I mention there’s kind of an incestuous homoeroticism going on here? “…loved.” He proffered the flower to his brother.” Well shit. Sounds like a proposition to me. Oo if he extended the flower to his brother we could add some further sexual innuendo there. Patrick’s totally gay for his brother. What’s a better word for “lovingly scooped?” Oh man if he “ladled” it out it’d be like he was eating homemade chicken noodle soup straight from his mother’s grave, how nourishing is that.

Hm, shit. This story is actually not a story. It’s more like a poem, an arrested image. A photograph in words. And that’s fine. And I’m still going to submit it. But I think it’s not actually a story.

Strain and Sweat, Tears and Toil

A rolling tide of black clouds ferried the evening in among an austere graveyard.

Close to the gated entrance, a small stone decorated with freshly cut flowers watched over two men who bowed low to the hard earth, digging.

“All her life, striving.” Dennis tossed his words like so much dirt. “And hardly a proper burial.”

Patrick’s toothsome smile reflected cool moonlight. He took a rose from the arrangement. “We live and love, because she lived and loved.” He extended the flower to his brother.

Dennis accepted it and dropped it into the slowly opening grave at their feet. “The rose will wither before dawn. Our fate is the same.”

Patrick’s laugh, clear and delicate as fine crystal, echoed eerily off the faces of the proud stones, rising toward the heavens. He sunk his shovel into the loam. He tilted his shovel and watched the stuff accumulate along the mound. “Each stroke we make, even here, makes a difference.”

Dennis nodded. “Further and further we delve into the dust. Each stroke one stroke closer to a grave.”

Patrick scooped the rose from the pit and replaced it at the foot of his mother’s headstone.

Ha, so I went to post that, and these suggested tags came up: Neurological Disorders, University of Auckland, Cannabis.

WTF