Out of living bone

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Make me a phone
out of living bone
Caulk it with marrow
wrap it in tissue
strap it with muscle
give it some skin
            Taught but thin
pump it with blood
valve in some veins
connect it to nerves
massage in a brain
calve in a heart
            some pieces missing
pop in some eyes
maybe some thighs
wedge in a nose
             maybe some freckles
tack on some ears
            oh
            the eyes should have tears
throw on some arms
            and fingers that hinge
toss on some legs
            with toes that wiggle
slap on a mouth
            one I can kiss
call in a soul
            one I won’t miss

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

The heart slaps along

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The heart slaps along
sticking
to hot asphalt
with each rotation

pulling from gravel and tar
with each bounce

spurting ruby and blue
leaving rust in its dust

green shards from broken Mickey’s
orphaned bougainvillea
plastic straws
French fries
bottle caps
abandoned black rubber
cigarette filters
chewed gum
yesterday’s papers
sand
and
dust
stick to it

The heart slaps in a puddle
swelling
with oil, rain and gasoline
stopped

Send it back
spinning and rolling

Pulling from the road
with each bounce

send it
slapping along
wrapped
in flowers and glass

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Inside my chest there lives a cat

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Inside my chest I found a cat
I called it names to which it spat
‘til desperation made me scream
I know not, love, for what you dream
and then it nuzzled, flicked its tail
a cry of love found holy grail
still at my touch, bared tooth and nail
so I stay hid from love’s impale

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And I want to be the king of my castle

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And I want to be the king of my castle
And I feel like a pauper in my home
And I need to be master of my domain
And I believe no man should be alone

And I want to flit about on empty floors
And I feel the scream of doubt that clogs my pores
And I need cold water to wake me up
And I believe no answers are found in a cup

And I want my friends to know I am here
And I feel my family hold on to a tear
And I need a fresh face without a mask
And I believe no answers to questions they ask

And I want to find words that aren’t in a book
And I feel too much pain will allow me to look
and I need a new name to reflect all these changes
And I believe no pen is worthy of these exchanges

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

It was the times

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was the times
I teased too hard
And
It was the time
After sex
I asked a stupid question
And
It was the time
Before intimacy
I asked a stupid question
And
it was the time
I drove to you
Drunk
And
It was the time
I came over
from the night before
Still stinking of booze
And
It was the times
I went out
“to catch a slice of life”
I said
And
It was the time
At the urgent care parking lot
I shared a cig
With another waiting for his girl
And
It was the times
I couldn’t express
But I wanted to be alone
And
I walked past you
To take out the trash
As if another wall
And
And there is more
And
I write them out
So plainly
Too quickly
And
I feel them
Like paper
cuts

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

If you’re lucky enough

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

If you’re lucky enough
You’ll fly to the moon
Through blue flame eyes
Glowing cross the table
And you’ll hear
Louis Armstrong’s growling timbre
I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven.

And if you pay attention
Sinatra will croon
between your ears
I thought of quitting, baby
but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
and you’ll float over the moon
aiming for those sapphire eyes
twinkling across the table

And if you’re lucky enough
time will stop
and you’ll realize there is only
what is in front of you
and like melting butter
Irma Thomas will drip
in your ears
Anyone who knows what love is
will understand

And if you let yourself go
you’ll bloom in a shimmering galaxy
of golden hair
and Minnie Riperton’s soft melody
will patter in your ear
Kiss my petals
and weave me through a dream

And if you’re lucky enough
you’ll stand still
tethered by a kiss
in a Stater Brother’s parking lot
while the world spins
your body will buzz and hum
and you’ll hold your own song

And if you hold on to it
you’ll write about it
filling pages
with a universe of words
you’ll run out of ink
you’ll run out of words
but those azure eyes
will forever be empyreal

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I took in a breath of fresh air

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I took in a breath of fresh air
On Monday
And it stayed
In my lungs
Until Friday
Around 4PM

“Hey” she said
Letting herself in

That short word
Never meant so much

“Hey”
The joy didn’t even well up
It all came out in the hug
and
The exhale was sweet

And now I’m closing
my eyes
and breathing in the pillow
she
leaned on

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

True, Beat, Receipt

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Glistening notes of piano
Gentle fingers push
Soft pads whisper thuds
Unnoticed but still true

Bow rips
Sheep guts scream
Bow rips
Audience roars

Mane whips
Sweat drips
Baton grips
Beat apocalypse

Ears receive
Hands return
Hearts deceive
Man’s concern

Arthritic perfection
Irony’s complexion
Gnarled perspective
Left defective

Money for blood
Money for beauty
Money for truth
Money for duty

Honey to drums
Aching for more
Watering eyes
The artist’s whore

Trade, Imagine, Concert

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

To give one thing for another.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be.
To act with another in harmony.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied and what they receive is what they return.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home. An existence more comfortable together than an existence apart, even at its most difficult.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking. To carry a conversation while balancing all the tangents, jokes and looks for years and years to come.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied and what they receive is what they return. Where they stand up as equals but lean on each other when necessary.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home. An existence more comfortable together than an existence apart, even at its most difficult. Fiercely individual, independent but inseparable.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking. To carry a conversation while balancing all the tangents, jokes, and looks for years and years to come. To pick up where they left off and know they pick up your slack as well.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied and what they receive is what they return. Where they stand up as equals but lean on each other when necessary. When the relationship becomes the haven for the individual.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home. An existence more comfortable together than an existence apart, even at its most difficult. Fiercely individual, independent but inseparable. A picture where both stand together in any setting or with backdrop, holding hands and smiling.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking. To carry a conversation while balancing all the tangents, jokes and looks for years and years to come. To pick up where they left off and know they pick up your slack as well. To know that their worst can be accepted because their best is truly awesome.

That is what I want.

Average, Compose, Indication

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A deep breath. A few quick blinks of the eyes. Pulling the shoulders back. Things to twitch out the nerves and get back to stasis.

To see a creature so rare for the first time cuts the breath short and tightens the ribs around your heart. To want to see that creature again is audacious. An indication of stupidity.

A horse can be seen on any farm, pasture, rodeo, fair, petting zoo, television set, film, etc. The unicorn is a different matter. You’ll find it when you’re not even looking and if your being isn’t ready it’ll slip out of sight just as quickly as you blink.

A graceful, powerful walk yet grown not from the pith of clouds, but the steel of cold and dark places. A glint shines from the tip of its horn, proving its readiness for battle. It’s coat white with muscles rippling through scarred skin. Blue eyes that burn with passion and dogged persistence. A fiery mane cascading down a neck and shoulders that have carried the burdens of weak men.

I saw that in a glimpse, and I cannot get enough. And if I should never see it again, I’ll console myself by knowing that at least I had that instant.

Offspring, Forward, Tin

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was a simple bike. A red one with a single gear. She loved it. With the exception of a few flat tires, the bike never gave her problems. Not like her previous cycles with their rows of teeth continually biting into the chain and causing it to slip with every hill climb, slope or flat. The red bike simply went, not backward, always in the same direction.

When her mind wandered, she would allow the bike and her legs to carry her body wandering as well. When she felt the pressures of all that is external tightening her body, she would let the curves, slopes and speed of a ride loosen her up. When her heart ached, the two wheels and single frame were as sturdy a companion as any. Though at times she did feel, out of want and not necessity, that a companion would be nice.

She thought about someone with whom she could share her joys, fears, triumphs and failures. Not out of necessity but simply of want, a desire not to be lonely. Perhaps even one day to share the lessons the two of them would learn about their joys, fears, triumphs and failures with little versions of themselves. To create life would be yet another adventure.

Pedaling every day for the same reason yet spurred by different emotions, she thought about her past attempts at love. As she mulled each relationship over in her mind like beads on an abacus, she considered the weight of each person she had loved or nearly loved.  The sum total of which lead her to a question, are there any good men left?

Climbing up a hill, she leaned off the seat and pedaled with her head down. Some of those men had been thieves, stealing her time, attention and love by not completely sharing themselves. Or in some cases, sharing much but not exclusively.

At the peak of the hill, she sat back down and slowed her feet. She thought of the men who had tried to stifle her, to prevent her from being herself and only being for them. Those relationships were shorter.

At the crest of the hill, she stopped pedaling and let the physics of the slope and the wheels do the work. She thought of one more lover and friend. He was none of those things yet he could not take care of himself.

She coasted into her driveway and into the garage. Perhaps someday, he would be ready to come home. Until then, she would protect her heart, protected by dented tin, nevertheless protected.

Today

Today was a good day.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I blasted straight up through the clouds, punching that little grinning cherub on the 9th before rocketing past cloud 10, 11, 15, 37, 100.

I found another winning lotto ticket after losing the first in a drunken blur. Then, sober and aware, I found the first ticket, crumpled in a pocket.

I can see straight and think in any direction I choose. This morning I looked at the mirror, smiled, and realized I wasn’t staring at a stranger but looking at a friend.

I stepped out of my mind, out of my house and strangers walked up to me, asking about my shirt, my tattoos, my hat. The mask hid my smile but my crows feet must have been tap dancing around my shimmering disco ball eyes.

I have a full deck. I am kind, I am genuine, I am determined, I am empathetic, I love and want to be loved. I have bad cards too, but I’ve got a royal flush and I’m all in.

I am grateful, bowing to that mystical, cosmic energy. On my knees, not from defeat but in recognition and relief of victory.

She wore the band t-shirt I gave her before COVID cancelled the concert. I wore the band shirt she gave me the night before I wouldn’t see her for weeks after.

We met and I’m just glad I got to see her. I’m glad she got to see me. I’m glad I’m starting to see myself.

So now I look up at the stars before I go to bed and the terrors grip me, gasping in my sleep. I know I’ll wake up and have a beautiful day. And if I die before I wake, I’ll have lived a good day today.

And my youth is…

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And my youth
is running out
and your age
is coming
to an end
and our time
together
has been
short lived.

So when my time
comes
let it be
in the embrace
of a hug,
the verge
of a smile
or
that wave of
emotion
that crashes into
a new parent
when they hold
their child
for the first time.

Let it be
in the silent scream
of a shooting star.

A lunch from a long time ago

A short piece written in 2011 or 2012

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

My aunt pregnant for the first time loses her baby. I am sad but I am too young to understand the impact a tragedy of that magnitude has on the person closest to it.
My aunt is a strong woman, full of love, confidence and wit. Perhaps a judgmental, albeit human, eye with a warm hug regardless of how she see’s you.
I make a habit of pushing myself into the spotlight of my mind but cuing the music to cut myself off early on the stage of life. My thoughts consume my relation to everything and everyone. I have learned that I need not waste time on people now if I will see them in heaven. What am I saying, there is no heaven. Childhood teachings are really sticky.
My narcissism is making me sick but I can’t stop thinking about me. The earth revolves around the sun, not the son of Christofer and Ester Chapman.

A lunch with my Aunt in which I cannot clearly remember if I was intoxicated or not. I remember itching for a cigarette as soon as I wolfed down the turkey salad on rye. I remember shaking my head and repeating “I’m fine, no, I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m okay.” The first lie we tell ourselves to convince the mirror that it will never shatter. My aunt relayed an observation about my 5-year-old self that has lingered and wriggled around in the back of my mind like a severed lizards tail.

Something changed when I was 5 years old. I can’t remember my childhood. It is as fuzzy as a booze fueled night on the town (or in my apartment). What happened to me? My heart races. Perhaps, this will be the tragic excuse of molestation. A victim of pedophilia turned poet. A writer who has been in the gutter and can paint it in a perfect-bound, hard cover copy of his first novel. How can I use this for immortality? I want to live forever. That narcissism can’t pull its gaze from the reflection.

My aunt lost a baby, maybe even two and I’m left wondering if I’ve ever been touched inappropriately or left in a toxic environment. Where do I get off feeling sorry for myself? Nothing has ever happened to me that I cannot handle. And there it is again that me word. Its all about me. Not you or him or her or them or it. Its all about me and yet I put myself in the lowest category of the last file in the dustiest, rustiest cabinet of life and all humanity but I insist to myself that everything is about me. Every hug, kiss, smile, squeeze, laugh, smirk, giggle, round of applause, slap on the back, is all about me. I am narcissistic and I don’t even think very highly of myself. Am I truly this selfish or do I indulge for the namesake of these pages? Both are scary prospects for an obsession that runs circles around my attention to anything else.

I have an excuse but you are simply stupid. I made a mistake but you have ruined my life. I forgot but you are careless. I am sick but you are lazy. I was wronged but you don’t stand up for yourself. I had a bad day but you have a bad attitude. I may gossip but you should get a life. I am frustrated but you simply don’t know what to do. I am not perfect but you think you’re better than me. I have an excuse but you are just stupid.

What is really going on here? The words follow the emotion, which rushes in after an experience. I feel less like a swan and more like a parrot. Obsessed with my own image and copying the noises closest to me. To be clawing through the same self absorbed drivel, session after writing session is enough to make me want to rip out my own heart and feed it to my brain just to get a taste of pure emotion. I am supposed to write for myself not about myself. This constant cycle of narcissistic thought is welling up in my chest I want to scratch out every letter “I”, “m”, “e” and hyper drive into some god like perspective. An uninvolved point of view. Place myself on the objective alter and slit my throat letting the Deus ex Machina of my psyche take over. To sever and shatter the ego from the self. Who am I supposed to be? Don’t follow me. We’re getting back into those dark slimy corners of the mind again. So deep down that I must slowly return like a deep sea diver coming up for air. Too fast and the chaos never leaves. Attempting never to dwell in the past I move ever forward so fast that the hair is being ripped off the front of my head and sticking to my back. Time whips past me and the closest I’ve ever come to the truth is a question. Does anyone get this right?

The Fool’s Pleading

A short piece. I don’t know.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The panting dogma of nuns, “O God, God, wherefore art thou God?”

A burlesque bureaucracy.

Earthen gates whisper of conspiracy. They have no plans other than “hold on tight, stick to the script.” Creativity be banished, taken down into the fires of hell where they will be forged with the devil’s brand. Rising as dead souls battling the young. A past that has already traveled and seen fighting against a speeding future. And the present whispering into the ear of tomorrow, “full steam ahead, cowboy.”

The mulling query of Darwins, “O Truth, Truth, wherefore art thou Truth?”

An algorithmic disco.

Where am I to derive the juices flowing from the nut in my skull, its fruit spilling viscous memory and fantasy in the same drop? What’s in my head? Will I be the breath of tomorrow’s baby or the mustard gas of victory’s soldier? Standing in a smoky battlefield, squinting through tears to find a shape like mine. Whom will I become?

The pandering memes of Narcissus, “O Me, Me, wherefore art thou Me?”

A tango of mirrors.

Follow me and I shall follow me. That is the golden rule. Achievement of the cracking of the nut, opening to a seed of nothing. Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you only lies. Traveling through the haze maze, the last marine on the beach. The spirit testing my muscle with its fluttering.

Watch the temple crumble in its own skin folding under the coat of gravity. Destruction by the hands fumbling in the dark relying only on memory. Is it where we be or where we are from that twists and pulls at our subconscious minds? Shaping us through the heavy bars of past and future tense, our hands only need to reach out and grasp the memory of cold metal, that taste of iron on the tongue, our memories and all the agony as useless as our blood. Never present.

We survive as animals but live as more. Begetters impossibly tasked with protecting fresh souls. Those tenacious in their duties receiving only resentment as thanks. Push them, gripping at the bars, to the signs ahead. God is the time we have here. Love it. Nourish it. Worship it. Find another life and share it with them, living one and living an others’ vicariously.

The collapsing heart of the writer, “O Wall, Wall, wherefore art thou Wall?”

A decaying waltz.

The lonely freedom of a star in the sun’s sky.

To become un-tethered from the darkness of all we think we know, only to find we’re suspended in a vast emptiness, alone on that island of confidence. Peering over the edge, tilting that careful balance of assurance and sending the mind spiraling down again. Sit in the middle. Creating tethers. Battling the force of emotion, so fast and fickle with its betrayal of memory. The force of wounded spirits capable of wounding. The blind lead the blind, those that can see, stop and look. We cannot help, we can only hope to carry each other. To feel the weight of another is to realize it’s heavier than our own. To love.

I want to cage that spirit living within, but I must sit in the middle.

The echoes of rejoicing muted by the island’s sands. Drowned by waves of realization that we are sound itself reverberating off of infinity’s pretzel-ed pipe.

The muted programming of Eve, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Would that we could hold hands, screaming forever, licking the juices of that forbidden fruit.

What it’s like to meet a wonderful woman in the midst of divorce.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s like washing up on shore after shipwreck and a two-day storm. You need time to figure out what happened, where you are but you still get down on your knees and kiss the sand.

It’s like wandering through the desert for 28 days. You’re thirsty, hungry, lips cracked, skin red and aching but you’re grateful for the water at the oasis. However, you’re still wondering what happened, where you are.

It’s like crawling for hundreds of miles on your elbows and knees and someone, suddenly, helps you to stand. You are grateful and relieved but also feeling tired and looking down at your bloody joints.

It’s like buying a plot of land, planting one thousand seeds, watering, weeding and watching the plants grow, for years, until at the point of harvest, they bear fruit and someone comes at gun point to take it from you. You wander off the property and are suddenly given land that is double the size with fruit ready to be picked. You wonder how, why, where you are and what happened but you’re all at once grateful, excited and ready to move on. At the same time, you’re wondering what happened, always wondering what happened.

It is getting divorced and finding, on the same day, a girl, a woman, who touches your arm and says, “hi.” Six months later, you’re in love but, you’re wondering where you are and what happened. You’re grateful, excited and ready to move on but at the same time you’re wondering what happened, always wondering what happened, so that you’re not doomed to repeat your mistakes with the unicorn who touched your arm and said hello.

Cart, Applied, Pop

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Sometimes I feel crazy

the thought of
what makes something
normal
tells me so

Is crazy that light
bleeding into sepia prints?
Does crazy cart around sanity
like a 5-pound sack of corn meal?

A lust
for love is
a corvette
at 96 MPH
swerving
in zones
marked 25 MPH

Forever
is the theory
of love
applied science need
not apply

Crazy in life
crazy in love
shaken
soda pop
unopened
crazy

Exemption, Marine, Slot

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was a losing combination but they met at cherry, grapes and seven. She was a marine, he was a truck driver. She was killing some time away from the barracks, not looking but maybe looking for something different. He was playing the slots like he was filling out paperwork for a 401K and life insurance policy all in one. Gripping the black stick he pulled it down, putting the machine into gear and starting its flashing lights, beeps, and boops.

She was adjusting her camo cap and looking at the roulette tables across the casino, to her right. She bumped into him. They looked at each other and then at the combo that stopped on the screen; cherry, grapes, seven. He chuckled to himself then stood up, “excuse me ma’am.” and gave a limp salute.

She smiled, “At ease, I bumped into you. Let me buy you a drink.”

“That isn’t necessary, ma’am. I’ve already got my security blanket here.” He twirled his glass so that the ice clinked.

“Well, if you change your mind I’ll be at the bar putting on my dancing shoes.” She smiled and looked him up and down.

He smirked and looked down at her tan boots. “I bet you could cut up a rug with those standard issue’s.”

“What’s your name, soldier?” she asked.

“Tom.”

“Staff Sergeant, Mary Maline.”

“Mary, it’s a pleasure to meet you. If your offer still stands, perhaps I’ll slip on some dancing shoes at the bar as well.”

The two made their way to the bar in silence, glancing at each other every so often. He looked down at his drink and around the flashing lights and sounds. She adjusted her cap and looked around at the flashing lights and sounds.

They reached the bar and she ordered. “Two Bulleit whiskey’s, neat.”

He raised his glass to her and finished off his drink, setting it on the bar with a clink.

“Where might two people move their legs and bodies around in a show of complete tom foolery?” he asked.

“I don’t believe the club is open, but there is music playing at the food court, if your up for dancing with complete exemption of social norms.” She answered.

The bar tender set their drinks on the bar. She paid. They toasted to warm casino nights. She grabbed his hand and they zig zagged through the smoke, illusions of grandeur, lights and sound of the casino toward the food court.

There was some contemporary pop playing, they rested their drinks on a deserted table with discarded Chinese food. Then they danced.

Grass, Thin, Theft

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Seas of blades
giants run, jump
make love and
sleep

Collapsing thuds
checkered cloths damp
with dew

Wrapped in wind
Robinhood thieves
pick-pocket hearts

Twisting chiffon
Spring steps
blades bend

Love is Molasses
Care is water
The thick and thin
of thieves.


And I write.

A poem.

And I love you
even though
you are gone.

And I sit
in my feelings
and enjoy them
because I am alive.
And then
I feel
the next thing
that comes.

And ancient
cosmonauts
hold up
scepters
in a statue of liberty pose
in the kingdom
of outer space.

And wolves
drip bloody howls
into snow.

And red haired girls
dance
in fields of flowers
with their eyes
closed.

And
I write.

And
I love you
Forever.

Cope, Oppose, Manage

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

An ocean of booze is not enough to forget. It’ll still spit you up on shore and you’ll squint at the sun wondering how you got there. But you don’t forget. You never forget. So you jump back in, swim as far as your arms and legs will let you and stop, maybe thinking of something else, but you’ll eventually crawl back up the sand and feel the hot sun.

You wade back into the water, jumping the small waves, diving under the big ones until again, you’ve reached the chop of the ocean. Then you find yourself spitting out sand and protecting your eyes from the sun. You take a skiff out until the engine runs out of gas. You can’t see the shore and so you think this enough. So with no life preserver you jump into the water, moving your arms and legs just enough to keep your mouth free for air. You don’t want to die, just forget. Yet you find yourself stuck in the rocky crags at the mouth of the bay. Hands, feet, sides and head bleeding from the beating your body took to get back to shore.

After climbing back to the sand, you lay down, exhausted. The tide begins lapping at your feet, your legs, your thighs, your hands and you remember. You jump in a plane and fly for hours until the view below is all blue with ocean. You jump and think you’ll never remember again. Your body slaps the water, bruising all over. Later you wake up with coast guard above you and family members crying. And still the waves lap at your feet, you can’t forget. You never forget.

Now you hobble back down to the waters edge, your legs are wobbly, arms feel like lead and that little ball of light inside you is dimming. You fall into the water pushing yourself crawling into the deep of the ocean. Why not just turn around and forget the water completely? Why keep trying to find the deep?

How do you cope with what you can’t forget? How do you manage what you remember? How do you prevent the memories from drowning you if you never stop jumping into the ocean?

Base, Meet, Deep

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel picked up the ring on the table, size 4 finger. It had fit for a while, then in the middle of their marriage she had gained some weight. After much struggle she was able to slide it off. Butter, go figure. When she slimmed down again, the ring was back on for a week but came off again. A lot of things became off after she lost weight. Lemuel’s base instincts knew something else was off.

Then a few months later, like a bad movie, he found the evidence that became the catalyst to their divorce. She would meet others, Lemuel didn’t know them. She wouldn’t answer the phone. Lemuel couldn’t sleep. She never slept with him. Lemuel puffed out his chest and stuck out his chin as if it didn’t matter, but there was too much darkness down deep to keep pretending his confidence came from the light.

Lemuel tried, for a while, to pretend it didn’t bother him. He reached out to friends, family and without telling them what was going on, pretended to have a change of heart that bent towards connection. Really he was trying to fill that new crevasse that had split him open after the earthquake of her absence.

Because he had reached out to loved ones, they began reaching out to him. But the darkness was taking over, even if he didn’t realize it. One day he was in its shadow and the next he was swallowed whole.

After a night of hard drinking, Lemuel loaded his dog into the car, grabbed some clothes and food, and drove in one direction. East. East would let him drive farther, too far west and he’d need a boat. Too far North or South and he’d need a passport. All things he didn’t have the capacity to deal with.

He stopped. There were rows of wooden cabins that looked like something gold miners during the rush of early California days would build quickly to sustain them for sleep and food. An inn that allowed pets and plenty of space from one room or cabin to the next.

Lemuel paid for a week and moved all his things into the room. Keeping the dogs in the air conditioned inside, a detail that he was thankful to be added, despite it’s historical gold rush inaccuracy. Lacing up his boots, grabbing a bottle of Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, or what he referred to jokingly with his ex-wife as his dancing shoes. And so Lemuel laced up his dancing shoes and waltzed into the desert.

Taking shade in an outcropping of boulders, Lemuel rested. A pain emanated from his stomach. When he pulled up his shirt, he saw something moving underneath his skin. Always carrying a pocket knife, but rarely using it, Lemuel found the perfect opportunity. He flipped open the knife and poked his stomach where the bulge had emerged. The stab hurt, but it was a duller, less urgent pain. Sure the blood would run and he might feel faint, but it wasn’t the sort of pain that wrapped his head and heart in butcher paper, pounded by a tenderizer 24/7.

The bulge emerged at his side, between his last bottom two ribs. He poked and dragged the blade, this one made him wince, but nothing came out. However, he did feel a small sense of release which also felt like relief. He stood up and wandered back to his cabin, wondering what HBO might have on their station this evening.

Eye, Leader, Raccoon

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Through the peep hole, all I could see was that big blue window into her soul. I smiled and knocked again. She opened the door but the chain kept the door open just a crack. Maybe she didn’t recognize me. Maybe I had the wrong house. Then her head peaked through the crack.

I smiled a little wider this time.

“Hi, it’s me.”

She only stared. Not saying anything. I could hear the sounds of a house full of living. Pots, pans, yelling kids, a TV.

“Is this a bad time.”

“What are you doing here?”

Now the words caught in my throat. I folded my hands behind my back and cleared the uncertainty welling up.

“Well, I wanted to be the first to tell you that I got that movie made. It was purchased and now there’s some director looking for actors and…well, I just wanted to tell you. You were always so supportive of that.”

She looked at me. Then closed the door. I heard something scratching and then the door opened all the way. She stepped onto the porch, shutting the door behind her. It took every ounce of social conditioning and domestication that had been thrown my way to not instantly through my arms around her shoulders and pull her head into my chest.

She crossed her arms slowly and then looked up at me.

“You couldn’t have called or texted?”

My cheeks flushed. I knew she could see that.

“I’m sorry, you’re right, this isn’t fair of me.”

“No, look, I think it’s great. That’s what you’ve always wanted. It sounds like you’re on your way to something great.”

I knew she was just extending a guilty hand. I looked around the yard and spotted chains and a lock on the lids of their trash cans.

“So you keep a pretty tight lid on your trash now, huh?”

“What?” She looked where my gaze held then laughed. That sweet laugh. “Oh, yes, well we have some pretty tenacious little bandits that dig around and spread it out every night if we don’t.”

She uncrossed her arms but took a half step backward.

“I’m sorry, again, I should have called, I just thought it would be cool for you to know when the trailers came out and stuff. You’d see them on TV and know who made the movie.”

She looked at me for what seemed like a full moon cycle. It was only a few seconds before she spoke but I could see that familiar glint, somewhere buried back behind her new life.

“Well, it’s just that, it’s hard to see…”

Another pause. I knew what she was going to say, something to the effect of it’s hard to see me but it wouldn’t work, it never worked. Despite what I thought to the contrary.

“Alright, well it sounds like you’re busy in there with the little ones. I just wanted you to know and now you do. It was great to see you.”

“It was great to see you too.”

I turned to go down the steps. She turned to go back inside.

I thought about the most memorable people in history. The presidents, kings, bishops, popes, captains, outlaws, revolutionaries and wondered how their greatness was shaped. I wondered if they didn’t have their own broken hearts and so turned the world into their anvils, beating it into the shapes that suited their desires.

As I got to the gate, she yelled out to me.

“Hey, I’m gonna see your movie the day it comes out.”

I smiled and thought about an empty theater playing my movie with only her big beautiful eyes to watch it.

Tower, Light, Cup

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I caught a glimpse of a tower made of white brick. The squares were stacked in such a way that they spiraled all the way to the top of the spire. The tower seemed to glow, by the light of the moon or the beams of the sun. Something about the structure compelled me to see it up close, to feel the texture of the brick and get to know the inside of the building. That day, however, I was stuck on a boat. It was stormy and there were no ports on this side of the peninsula.

Through the angry clouds and assault of spray from the waves battering the boat, I stared. My eyes stung from salt. My body ached from gripping tightly to ropes and climbing rigging, all to pull us out of the deep ocean and closer to land.

Sun peaked through the clouds and shone on that white tower. I dropped my ropes and grabbed the railing. I needed to go there, it represented hope, safety, security, reassurance and warmth. It took all my instincts of self-preservation to stop me from hopping over the rail and swimming the impossible length to shore. So I stared.

Seagulls orbited the tower like nymphs dancing around a fire. Green grass and brown clumps of hairy shrubs bowed toward the tower. The storm seemed to calm but I knew that really, my focus was not on the tumult happening all around me, I was only fixated on something that I could not reach.

It wasn’t the right time so I made my way all around the boat, following the white column as we moved around the sound. I stared at the spot where I knew the tower stood long after it had disappeared over the horizon. One day I would see it again and with any luck, the conditions would allow me to explore that magnificent structure.

For now I would have to be satisfied with my cup of whiskey and the memory of having seen it. I know that a tower such as that will always be there, even if not for me, but it will be there, strong and beautiful.

Steak, Charm, Shelf

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He touched the fleshy part of his palm, just below his thumb.

“Well done, okay, and for you ma’am?” The waiter wasn’t faced by the man’s silence or his stare.

“I’ll have a chicken salad, please, with dressing on the side.”

“We’ll have that right out for you. More wine?”

He put his hand over his glass. No.

The waiter left and the two at the table stared at each other. Their eyes looked all over each other’s faces for understanding.

The woman’s charm was in her eyes. She would narrow them at him and smile. Words were unnecessary at this point in their relationship. After 60 years, words mostly got in the way.

They looked around the room, and look back at each other. Remembering and knowing what the other would say. An ongoing conversation, never placed on the top shelf, always going back to where they were.

They communicated like this for 20 minutes before the waiter returned with their food. The steak let off wavy streams of heat. The salad nearly spilled out of it’s bowl. They looked at the salad and both began to laugh.

The man pushed the tines of his fork into the base of the T in his steak. The woman scooped out a piece of chicken with her hands, dipping it into her dressing before taking the whole bit in her mouth.

They ate, paid the check, left a 20% tip and left. All without a word. The waiter came and cleared the table. A younger man and woman took their place. Laughing and jawing at all the things they wanted to share but barely looking each other in the eyes.

Slice of life

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
696 words

Janine’s phone was off. It was never off. I only found out because eventually her father answered the house phone.

     “She cut her wrists with a knife or razor blade or something. Anyway, she’s fine she just needs some time away from everything.”

I could have crushed his frail ribs with my fists. That naïve–

     “Where is she?”

I didn’t care to filter my anger. Sometimes reality forces its hand despite our best efforts.

     “At the BMC”

I hung up. No more wasted breath.

#

I walked in the front entrance of the institution where crazy lived. Outside crazy was called normal. Inside it smelled like rubbing alcohol. In the waiting room, everyone’s hair was shiny and thick. The bags under their red eyes reminded me of how I felt every morning.

I walked up to the plate-glass window and spoke softly.

     “Is there a Janine Ibsen here?”

     “Yes, may I ask who is asking?”

I faltered. I imagined one of her parents requesting to see her and the nurse saying, “you’ll have to wait until her boyfriend is out.” I chose the path we had already paved.

     “A good friend.”

     “One moment, please.”

Janine and I had been dating for over a year, but the situation felt so foreign. 

     “Put this on, walk through the double doors all the way down the hall and when they ask for a number tell them 0147.”

I put the fluorescent green sticker on my shirt and walked.  I thought about what I might see when I found patient 0147.  Jesus! It’s Janine. I almost vomited at that thought. I pictured her feigning a frown at me after one of my farts. I really got a kick out of that. I should have treated her like a lady. Then I thought about her tiny wrists looking like raw hamburger meet.   I reached the locked doors and the buzzer spoke.

     “Patient number please.”

     “Um, hold on.” Shit. “Oh yeah, 0-1-4-7.”

The buzzer sounded and I jumped at the door.

Janine’s mother was crying in the hall. She looked up and came over to hug me. 

     “It’s okay.” I said hugging her back. 

I felt awkward for telling such a bold lie. I knew how she was feeling but I didn’t give a shit. Her sadness started to make me angry and I asked her where Janine was. She didn’t answer.

     “Can we pray together?” I ignored her and walked to the nurse’s station.

     “Which room is patient 0147 in?”

     “Her name?”

     “Janine Ibsen.”

Why give me the fucking number?

     “She’s in room 31 down the hall on the left.”

I thanked her and started down, passing her mom, I heard her again.

     “Can we pray together?”

What the fuck was pressing our hands together supposed to do? I picked up my pace acting as if I was anxious to see Janine. The pounding in my chest told me I wasn’t acting. Sometimes reality really has a way of forcing its hand. 

Room 27…

…29…

…31. 

I took a deep breath and knocked softly with one knuckle.  I didn’t wait for an answer. I brushed the door open. Their she sat, in a chair with her arms bandaged and facing upwards. Her black curly hair twisting all around her head. Her eyes squinting slightly, shifting back and forth. She looked as if she were trying to solve life’s mysteries. I melted.

     “Hi baby.”

I walked over and sat on the bed next to her chair.

     “I love you. How are you?”

I had asked this question in passing to thousands of people but for the first time I meant it.

She answered slowly. I was aware of my silence and touched her leg. She looked up at me, then right back down at the floor before making her thoughts audible.

     “All of the questions are just distractions. The deeper the question, the cleverer the distraction. What’s on TV? What should I wear? Who am I? Is there a God? If life were just a fart, would death be the wind?”

A burst of air shot through my nose. I squeezed her leg and realized that I had never loved anyone more.

end

Rating: 5 out of 5.