2 Minutes Go Road Trip Redux

Cardinal_2During the night, the Mader signal shone through the fog into the night sky, and our hero put on his cape and sped away to fight for truth, justice, and the right to wear vintage clothing…and hats. Lots of hats. So he gave me the keys and his secret burrito recipe, and 2 Minutes Go is happening here today. Or, in Mr. Mader’s very words, which I stole from his blog:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.

——-

What? You miss the uber-cool orange background and the motorcycles at JD’s place? No worries. You can hang with Napoleon. Or just close your eyes and pretend. Vroom. Here’s a bit from me to start us out:

The ocean swallowed her whole. That’s the myth, anyway, the news story of the day, the collective shrug of a young nation with jazz on its mind and better things to do than investigate the disappearance of a pirate ship that had kidnapped a flighty American heiress in Dubai and taken her to a fate one could only imagine. You’ve been studying this lost cause for your dissertation—another lost cause. You’ve been studying her. Newsreels, microfiche, cracked and yellowed pages of magazines, the presses of which had long been dismantled or melted down and made into other things. Yes, the clothing – more like costume – looked frivolous and altogether impractical, unlike your up-and-run ensemble of jeans and T-shirts. And to the casual gazer, the smile would appear as if she didn’t have a care deeper than which bit of fluff to wear for dinner. But the eyes. They were smart. They held secrets. They told stories. You’d dug for them. You were relentless. Then your advisor called you into his office. Suggested a different angle. Suggested you’d been working too hard. Hinted at obsession. Problems at home, perhaps? Biting at the inside of your cheek, you thanked him for his concern, said you’d think about it. And then you had the dream. She was calling to you. Three nights straight, she called for you. Told you where to find her. So real, like you could reach out and touch her rouged cheek, her flapper jewelry that would now be called vintage and go for a mint. You took the plane ticket and left the note, because you could not bear to deliver the news in person and watch another face soften with concern, another pair of eyes attempt to hide their disapproval. Now you mash your toes into the hot sands of the desert by the ocean, waves of heat warping the margins between sand, sea, and sky. A bit of something down the beach sparkles in the sun. You dig. It’s battered, tarnished…but it’s real. A necklace, pearls embedded in a delicate, broken web of silver. Vintage. Hers.

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Author: laurieboris

Writer, editor, proofreader, stand-up comedian in another life.

47 thoughts on “2 Minutes Go Road Trip Redux”

      1. Love this. I’ve been in love with the 20’s forever, so I identify with this character. Great job!

  1. She said to me how far would you go and I answered as far as I need to and that’s how things began to buckle after everything she said and I said and we both said.

    Dreams and the gentle mendacity of hearts, distant police sirens and the furious murmur of crowds.

    Back then, landscapes were our thing. Clouds and fields. Painting them and loving them and dealing in them. As bored as I am now, it’s hard to summon that enthusiasm again, even to describe how we lived back when, but I know it felt like something. Some thing. Driving. Like a sudden dip in the long afternoon highway, as a big rig drops a gear or three, falling into the cooling abalone shadows of evening, a snug, complacent slit between dry hillsides, diverted by thirst into the rest stop before the bridge and beside the river bank, all quick-hissing air brakes while the last golden scales of the sunset shimmer on the northern Mississippi-Missouri, squirm-scattering like a slick-released fish haul.

    Yeah, it’s trickery. A blue gimmick. But keep watching. Everything might change, and soon.

    “So. How far would you go?”

    “As far as I need to.”

    “How far is that?”

    “I don’t know. I’m still waiting to find out.”

    “See those prefab fences out aways?”

    “Uh-huh.”

    “Would you run for those, scale them, make yourself a fugitive for defying their limits?”

    “Oh, sure.”

    “Do you hate them?”

    “No, I love them. They define my limits, give me targets. The dull knife edge of suburbia.”

    “Uh. Okay. Right. Anything else?”

    “Yeah. Yes. They are swimming with twilight fire beyond switchblade echoes.”

    “Seriously, huh?”

    “Love. Need … I don’t even know. I’ve probably said way too much.”

    “Yeah, probably.”

    “It’s never easy. None of it. None of it is.”

    The loneliness of the bush called us. The choking infinite greenery.

    Nothing will change the unblinking reality that every bear we met was crawling with life, each predator quivering with the hot awful stink of need, every belch of love trembling with moist, nacreous grace and urgency, all the lovers and haters arrayed and awaiting their moment to stamp each reality with its own singular conviction.

    The planet turns so agonizingly slow, charcoal borders smudging brief blurred moments across a rolling plain, sparking off bright mountains and subdued by the widest waters, this invasion of the Salton Sea, of Puget Sound, of the Wash, of the vast and dazzling Sargasso.

    Like a thirty-dollar motel in the Idaho panhandle, a dirty unpolished gem set in deep green folds, its thin brown floors gluey, its thumbnail TV swinging on loose brackets, its fake wood panels tacky, its water pressure weak as spit, its nestled ghostlight both lurid and brimming with refugee sorrow.

    All of this. Over and over. Greeting and decamping. Receiving and rejecting.

    While gangsters broil under the annihilating heat of their own machismo. While wronged women shuck their brittle outer shells and drift into daylight, squinting and keening, their wild, exuberant hips buoyant and simmering.

    While a grey church mouse on some scored Cornish bluff lifts its tiny trembling snout and samples the bright morning, gifting its sweet-tempered trust to a brand new shining Atlantic day, and helplessly, without agency, almost by accident, a pristine story emerges.

    1. this is, of course, amazing. The roller coaster ride of your breathtaking language… I never know how to describe the magic you write. I only know how to ask for more.

    2. Oh, man, this is beautiful. You broke out the find brushes with this one. I love this: “something. Some thing” Amazing language and rhythms throughout.

  2. I love the pitch and roll of this piece, all the metaphors of being trapped and aching for freedom. And this: “Like a sudden dip in the long afternoon highway, as a big rig drops a gear or three, falling into the cooling abalone shadows of evening, a snug, complacent slit between dry hillsides, diverted by thirst into the rest stop before the bridge and beside the river bank, all quick-hissing air brakes while the last golden scales of the sunset shimmer on the northern Mississippi-Missouri, squirm-scattering like a slick-released fish haul.”

    1. Ha, Laurie, thanks for picking that to quote. It was one of those moments when you write and find the words aren’t happening, then all of a sudden they happen, and then they happen almost too much! If that makes sense. I could make a constipation joke, but if I extended the metaphor it could get kinda gross, lol.

  3. I think Papa was happy when he was younger. I—the third child—saw pictures of him smiling anyway. By the time I got there, though, he reserved the show of his teeth for growling and for Christmas and for Independence Day.

    I don’t know if he was broken by others, or if he broke himself, or if somehow along the way he just forgot joy. I guess I’ll never know.

    Independence Day. He never called it “Fourth of July.” He loved the fireworks. Said they reminded him of when he fired his rifle and killed… and then his voice would drop off into the abyss of frightened memory. But when I lit the fuse on the firecrackers, for as long as the pops and bangs would last, his smile would return. When the air filled with smoke from all the fireworks in the box—the Roman Candles, the bottle rockets, all of it—when the smoke was replaced with silence, Papa’s grin was replaced with, well, really with nothing.
    I picked up the tattered paper and blackened cardboard from the pyrotechnics, and waited silently for five months and assorted days to pass, until the lights on the Christmas tree would bring back the light in his eyes.

    That year, I got him a pocketknife. I’d lost the one he loaned me, and I’d saved all year to buy the one to replace it, to give it as a gift for Christmas, to make amends. When he unwrapped the box, without tearing the paper, without crushing the ribbon, he opened the box and stared at the knife. His face grew red, I couldn’t tell if from anger or… and then he laughed.

    “A Boy Scout knife…” and he laughed some more, and more red flew in to his face. His hand clutched his chest as he fell over.

    The look on his face? I don’t know if it was a smile or a grimace.

    I never knew if the laughter, or the knife, or I killed him. I only knew his heart was still.

  4. I pulled the old marbled notebook out of my desk drawer, wrote the number 10,000, and the name “Barbara” after it. Only a first name, never the last, to protect patient confidentiality. But as a surgeon of some decades, I wanted to remember each and every patient who had trusted me with the sharp instruments of my trade.

    Barbara was a biker. Not a biker’s girl, but a biker in her own right. She was rough and tumble and tattooed and spoke her mind. When she’d removed her shirt in my examination room, it had snaps, not buttons, not zippers.

    I’d read her file before she arrived. Stage IV breast cancer. Both breasts. I was the one she and her doctor chose to do the double mastectomy. Maybe because of my skills, maybe because I’m a woman, maybe because I liked motorcycles myself, though I only had one tattoo, and no one was ever going to see it. No one I didn’t want to, anyway. Professional standards and all of that.

    “You’re gonna laugh, Doc.” Her voice sang of gravel and leather and grace.

    “At?”

    “The ink between my boobs.”

    “Oh?” I squinted just a little, as if that would help me read the message in tiny gothic text, between the two mounds of flesh I would be removing.

    “Can ya read it?”

    “The valley of the…”

    “Shadow of Death. It’s from the Psalms.”

    I unsquinted my eyes and looked in her face.

    “When I had it done, it was a joke. I didn’t know…”

    I hugged her and we cried for a while. “I’ll do my best for you. There’s reconstructive…”

    “Just save my life, Doc, just save my life.”

    A couple of days later, in the operating room, she was asleep and smiling and anesthetized. I said the same prayer I always say before I begin surgery, asking God or a Greater Power of some kind for steady hands.
    She’d found time to have her tattoo modified. There was a line through “Death” and instead of black, gothic lettering, there was a woman’s script. The word “Life” took the place of “Death.”

    For the first time in 10,000 surgeries, I laughed, and the surgery was a success.

    When I visited her in recovery, I asked how she found time to get the new tattoo.

    “Only temporary, Doc. It’s henna. I’m getting’ the real one when they tell me I’m in remission.”

    I felt one corner of my lips rise up in a half-smile. “You let me know when, and I’ll get one, too.”

    “You, Doc?”

    I nodded.

    And that’s how I wound up with the word “Life,” tattooed in the space between the empty plains where the mountains of my own breasts once stood. There is no valley, there is no shadow, and so far, there is no death.

  5. She realizes at once where he’d been leading her, and she stops dead on the sidewalk until his hand, still moving forward, breaks from hers. “You know, puppies aren’t the answer to everything,” she says.

    His lower jaw juts out. “They’re not. I just thought it would be the answer to now.”

    Now had no answers, either. She tried to stay angry with him for once again attempting to propose a solution to her problems, but he looked so sweet and hopeful. Damn it. Damn him and his infernal optimism. Why didn’t he know that sometimes she just wanted to stay good and mad until she didn’t feel like it anymore? Especially when she was good and mad at something he’d done?

    “I said I was sorry. Come on. Let’s play with the puppies.”

    He tried to get an arm around her shoulder but she shrugged him off. “You don’t get it, do you?”

    “That you hate puppies? What kind of girl hates puppies?”

    “I don’t hate puppies! I hate…this. I hate that you screw up and instead of NOT screwing up the next time, or getting help or going to rehab, you think you can…fix it. With flowers. Or chocolate. Or,” she tossed a hand toward the pet store, “puppies.”

    His face fell, as if he’d just realized his quiver was empty. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll…be gone in the morning.”

    Well, almost empty. Why was that always the last arrow? And why did she always give in? His eyebrows rose, his lips forming the little pout that he could have patented, as if he knew the next words out of her mouth.

    “Okay,” she said softly. “We’ll get you some boxes on the way home. But right now,” she ducked her head and walked forward, “I want to go play with the puppies.”

  6. MAMA

    Once when I was a little boy I asked my mother why the soles of her shoes had holes in them while my shoes were brand-new.

    “I’m always in the house,” she explained with a shrug. “Nobody sees me or my shoes,
    but you go to school. You need to look good.”

    Later on when we kids would go out on dates, she couldn’t fall asleep till we came home. “Don’t make me worry,” she’d say. “Be careful.”

    “Aw, Ma, we’ll be all right. Don’t wait up. Sleep.”

    Who understood back then a mother’s love! We’d find her awake in bed with her rosary beads and then she’d fall asleep praising God that we were safe.

    There was never anything about her that was pretentious. She loved God, her husband, her children. She never felt the need to please the world. In fact, the first time I ever saw my mother wearing lipstick was at her wake.

    Mama, you carried me inside you those nine months. I helped carry you on my shoulders
    to your final rest. Sleep, Mama. Sleep.

    #

  7. “Enter!” Bradshaw’s voice issued from the drawing room and Jenks, his man-servant, nodded.

    “Go on,” he said. “He’s waiting for you.”

    Franklin stepped through into the room beyond, the bookshelves funnelling his attention toward the desk and the diminutive man behind it. The smell of the books and the incense too, they both worked against him; blurring his attention and emptying out the last of the caution that had been building in him while he’d been kept waiting outside.

    He’d lost before the battle had begun.

    Bradshaw laid his large weathered hands on the desk, pushing himself to his feet. “I’ve been looking forward to this,” he said, taking Franklin’s hand in his own and surprising him with the power in his fingers. “You’re an excellent candidate. Quite perfect.” He looked up at the Irishman, his grip lingering until he finally released the other’s hand, a low chuckle penetrating his waking dream.

    “I was promised money. A million pounds, tax free.” Franklin looked nervously behind him, noticing the door was closed now. How had that happened? No matter, he was here now and he wasn’t leaving until he’d got what he needed from the money lender. It was strange though; there’d been no mention of repayments and interest rates in any of the discussions that’d led to him being here today. You couldn’t step into a bank without having a leaflet showing the APR percentage and the total debt payable thrust into your hands. Mr Bradshaw was definitely the most unusual financier he’d ever had dealings with.

    The wizened dwarf glared back at him, his mouth twisting into a quick scowl that disappeared almost before it had a chance to register. Flipping his hands back onto the polished mahogany top of the table, he propelled himself back onto his button-backed chair, nodding for Franklin to join him on its twin.

    “The money’ll be there. Paid in full. I only ask that you give me ten years of your life. As agreed.”

    “How’s that gonna work? Do I have to spend the next decade toiling after hours after I finish at my nine-to-five?” He felt confused, wondering if he could renegotiate the arrangement. He needed the money but… a man also had to sleep. Not to mention finding some way to make the hours between more enjoyable.

    Bradshaw shrugged. “It’s easy. I just take ten years out of your life. No big deal.” He peered back over Franklin’s shoulder toward the door as though wondering how much longer this was going to take. His hand moved back to the phone…

    “I’ll do it. The last ten years are always a grind anyway. Just aches, pains and things no longer working like they used to. It’s probably a blessing, anyway.” He laughed. “What do we do? Is there a chant or some science we need to do? It can’t be that easy, can it, or else everyone would be doing it.”

    The dwarf clambered onto his desk, his feet catching the chair behind it, sending it rocking back against the wall. His face lurched close to Bradshaw’s and for a moment he thought he was going to bite him. “It’s easy, but it comes hard.” His breath rasped directly into his ear. “But all you need to do is take my hand again and say ‘I agree’.

    The Irishman half-turned in the chair, nerves making him question his arranging this meeting. Surely this was a joke?

    But what did he have to lose by playing along with it?

    “Okay.” He peeled his back away from the chair and reached forward, slipping his palm into Bradshaw’s. “I agree.”

    A sudden pain seared through his arm and he fell backward into the cushioning of the armchair. He tried to free his hand but the dwarf sensed his fright, gripping it even tighter. The room grew darker and his ears began to buzz…

    And then it was over. Bradshaw was back in his chair, his lined face newly smooth and sporting a wide, confident grin.

    “So… that’s it?” Franklin struggled to put the words together, his head feeling like he was deep underwater. He struggled back to his feet, the sleeves of his jacket flapping about his wasted arms.

    Bradshaw stood up too, reaching out to easily push the smaller man back into his chair. “You may feel a few moments of disorientation,” he laughed, clearly enjoying the others discomfiture. “You can take some comfort in the fact that the money was placed in your account, although the combination of your unexpected ten year’s disappearance and the confusion and grief your family experienced meant that the police confiscated it almost immediately.” He pushed the table back against the wall, sitting easily on top. “Oh, and your wife remarried. Women, eh?” He shrugged. “So fickle. But if you will leave them like you did…”

  8. Oh! You all are so wonderful! and If I could tell a short story without having to tell a LONG story I completely would. Suffice to say you are All AWESOME and I WILL return and shit happened But I need to clean it up before I tell the story!

  9. When the cool brass elevator doors close on the marble-paneled lobby where we report for our next assignments, they don’t whoosh or shoop. There’s no swell of harp strings, or inspiring Muzak pumping through the speakers. There are no speakers. You hear only the harmonized breaths of you and Eternity. You don’t even hear the other souls aboard.

    Right there in front of you (I tried looking toward the back of the car once and the seriously straight crowd got all antsy) you see the spectrum of buttons under the placard reading, “Find Happiness.” Bottom to top, they’re arrayed — Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red – primary color chips of rainbow for those of us who’ve tripped on one once …or even four times.

    This is my fifth trip on this four-dimensional magical mystery ride. Well, it would be a bigger mystery if I hadn’t pushed all those buttons other than yellow my other tries here in the Happy Box. Four shots at happiness that all ended in something less. It’s not the elevator’s fault, nor the Management’s. We all make our own choices and I made four that I didn’t think came with the top prize, a Mega-Millions of Smiles or whatever is supposed to be waiting for you There. Happy-World, or whatever There is.

    My first time, when I didn’t know any better, I started on the lowest floor, pushed Blue and I was let off in that youthful Eden, where I bumped up against Nature and Humanity with all the subtlety of a hopped-up blind linebacker in a flower shop. That’s where I met Her and we made Us and I broke that because I wondered what the heck was waiting behind that Red button’s whispered “Ta-daaa.” You never know when the call will come for a new assignment and mine came in the form of a night of beer and a road full of speed.

    Red was BAD, Green was moldy, Orange was hot and dry but ultimately a little too Red. That left Yellow, the color of sunlight, illumination, the middle of it all, the mean and the median of Happiness. I looked around at the other souls on the elevator and saw in their faces determination, fear, resentment, sorrow, and one gal, like me, who had tried the four other buttons before and was sure she was headed toward Happiness.

    We let the others get off at their potential Edens, Nirvanas, Asgaards, Paradises, and looked at one another. “Where you been?” I asked. “Everywhere but Yellow,” she said. “Me, too,” I replied, “…but.”

    She nodded and said, “I know. You’re never sure about what will make you happy until you’ve experienced it. I remember how it was when I pushed There.” She pointed and sighed a nice sigh, not sad or sorrowful, really kind of a memorable contentment exhalation.

    I put my arm around her and said, “We’ve been There before, I know. But what about…”
    She took my hand, hugged me close enough that our chests moved against one another in a harmony I hadn’t felt since…well, since…

    We pushed Blue and found There there…again.

  10. A day late and a whole lot of dollars short. I stand and shake my head so hard I get one of those headaches that pulls at the side of your skull. I play the conversation back in my head and try to figure out where we jumped the tracks. It sure as hell seems like I got nothing to apologize for. And that sure as hell doesn’t matter – chafes at me, that’s what it does.

    I try to set things up for joy, and I create malaise. I reach for some kind of communal blessing and, somehow, we are all under the table. I pull the tablecloth down around us. I surround us in darkness because I don’t know how to find the light. It’s hard when it’s so damn dark and everything you try to do ends up coming back on you, a snarling whip-slash of wolf teeth. And vindication doesn’t mean shit because it’s all about interpretation.

    And no one sees it the way I do.

    1. But we see it a little better when you explain it so well… and maybe, maybe that tablecloth is kinda like a blanket, for a blanket fort… But seriously, this piece calls out to me, the “what the hell did I do wrong I don’t know but I must have” resonates really strong…

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