Twin, Undertake, Continental

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I weaved my way through jumping, sweaty people. Lights of all colors illuminating the room in a series of flashbulb photographs. My mind filling in the gaps where empty spaces had appeared a millisecond before. I touched my ear and in a flash of blue light saw some liquid on my hand, blood. The thudding continued. The sweat was making the hair on the back of my head stick to my neck at every swivel. Where was the bathroom?

I couldn’t know when this acid and bile was going to erupt from my stomach, but a mission to the find the bathroom was what I had to undertake.

To my right, a lizard tongue flickered from the scaly snout of a human sized reptile. No. I looked again. It was gone. I could see the sign with the naked human signifying my vomit sanctuary. The other wore a triangle.

The DJ booth was right in front of me, blocking the quickest route. I turned left. Something licked my right ear. I looked. A yellow eye blinked and the head in which it was housed pulled back its forked tongue.

The bathroom was right around a speaker, I grabbed the back of the speaker and propelled myself forward, through the swinging door of the bathroom. Straight through the swinging door of the first stall. The sides of the bowl caked in dried shit and the pieces of half-digested food of others. Grabbing the bowl of the toilet, my mouth opened and sprayed its own contents into what I realized was the mouth of some sort of lizard. Its tongue lapping at my sick.

Twins? That was my first thought. Not ‘what the fuck?’ or ‘is this really happening?’ My first thought, looking back was relatively rationale and progressive. Was this lizard a twin or a triplet? Not even, how the fuck was this huge lizard coming through the small toilet? I might as well have thought ‘from which part of the continental United States does this lizard hail?’ Jesus.

I pulled my head back and in that blur of a second, I was looking up at the stall door, the ceiling and lapping up sick from a familiar head opening its human mouth back at me. The lizard was gone but now I was looking out from the toilet.

A roar pierced through the thudding of the music. Water rushed all around my head and I began to spin. Faster. Faster. Faster until everything in view blended into shapes and colors. The shapes disappeared and all I could see was black.

The thudding crept back into my ear drums. A thousand little drummer boys in each ear banging to the same beat. I looked up and through the color tinted photographs saw the whole dance floor, the DJ booth, the bar and the signs for the bathroom at the other end of the room.

“Yo, are you alright?” a voice yelled in my ear. I looked up, it was human.

What? I said with my eyes.

“You threw up all over yourself.” The human yelled back.

I wiped at my chin, feeling wet from my beard. The table covered in yellow, bits of hotdog, and red ketchup. At least I hope it was ketchup.

Just a trip, that’s all. I leaned my head back and relaxed. It was over. Then I flicked out my tongue, cloven at the end, and lapped up the vomit.

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.

Blackout Drinking

A short piece written in 2005.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The first time I reached zombie state. My body was still moving but my mind was gone. Bumping into people and things full of alcohol, hops and vomit jostling around after every step. I don’t think I ever felt better in my life. I had on a button up shirt and some jeans, I mumbled something unintelligible through shiny lips and heavy eyes. I saw someone smoking a cigarette that I would have never imagined. My threshold for surprise is changing right before my eyes, which are going blind. Oh god pull over now. Jesus. Ive never felt worse in my life.


BLACK
BLACK
BLACK
BLACK
BLACK

Shitstorm

A short fictional piece from a long time ago.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“You’re a good writer.”

Lucy always told me that after I mentioned a new piece I was working on. I never believed her. I never believed anyone unless they told me they didn’t like it. I have no confidence in my writing. I think that’s why I keep doing it. Once I stood up on a surfboard I called it quits. I had done it.

That’s the problem with me, I need reassurance. I keep track of dates, remember peoples birthdays, show up at the same place at the same time every day until we apologetically call in with a raspy voice in between vomits to tell our bosses we can’t come in today (I’m not a fan of run on sentences, they never seem to end).

I guess it’s all a cruel joke. I write because my head fills up. Like a gray cloud and when it rains it pours. A class four hurricane is less chaotic. A confident writer is like a four-eyed teen on his first date. I try to believe it but I’ll always know the truth.

If I could just have it all; confidence, whit, humility, a fresh perspective, a unique point of view without any pretension. I might be happy. I might be able to participate in my own existence rather than simply write about it.

Lucy thinks I should let loose. I’m neither up nor down and unless I’m interested, nothing sticks. My interests are excessively fickle for any promises. I drink to have conversations, to care, to show concern and consideration (Next I’ll try expressing myself with words that begin with the letter D).

It takes everything I have to be sincere. being drunk simply makes the spinning slow down for a while. Or maybe the spinning speeds up so fast I don’t notice that I can’t concentrate. Blackout. Either way alcohol nurtures society but absolutely obliterates the individual. I choose not to be a martyr for booze. I don’t believe I ever had the courage to live absolutely on the fringe. Yet I have just enough disdain to keep the television off.

You or me

A short piece, September 16, 2020

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It is far riskier to live than to be dead. I will die, so I may as well behave as if I never will. Life is made miserable by the well-intended and mal-intended alike. Both similar in their impositions on life, though one may have the self in mind while the other follows their ego.

In the quest for all our somethings, we choose to be seen by what we do for ourselves or by what we do for others. I want to consider the other but not at the expense of self. I want to consider the self but not at the expense of the other.

Existentialism lacking altruism or altruism lacking existentialism. A panacea for existence does not exist.

And so, remember, I wrote this under a yellow porch light, slapping at mosquitoes, coughing up smoke from wild fires and thinking of me or you, or me.

I am a man

A short poem, 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I cry
I curl up under blankets with my hands between my knees and feel safe
I squeal and feel my heart bouncing when I see my dog or baby cousin
My body is beautiful with all its hair
I admire my tattoo’s
I take time to do my hair
I enjoy compliments
I have a hot temper
I am confident in changing a tire
I tremble when jumping a car battery
I struggle with expressing emotion
I feign humbleness when receiving a compliment
I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner
I am a man

I was a lover

A short piece from 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I was a lover before this war and don’t tell me that mental pictures created by TV on the Radio don’t have the power to change chemistries. I am weary, sick and scarred from too many battles in the war of who could care less. When Uncle Ben Folds Five times and still doesn’t learn that the house of the Rising Sun never loses. We know then for whom the bell tolls. A sickening ring that continues its echo, repeating its cold brass answer.

It tolls for thee, for me, for she, and for he. And I refuse to continue wincing at questions of christianity (lowercase, improper noun) or other. It’s not as simple as loving my brother. So I shrug my shoulders at religion, at theology, and democracy, my politics apply only to me. I shrug at the dividing notions of this versus that because I wish to see through he and through she before I get to me.

I walk barefoot on the sand to feel the process of my steps. In the sun or in front of the stars. I open my eyes to fill my mind with everything the light reflects. My ears are open to fill something inside that can’t be described. To write is the most frustrating thing because there are emotions and experiences that will never exist in words. The contrast between black shapes on white space.

I was a lover before this war and I already know the ending. The question of my last breath is either sober or whiskey soaked. The continuous monologue in my mind reaches the end of its reel. I am not making sense but its my senses that make me. I don’t wish to Confucius you but the way of the tao (lowercase, improper noun) is better paved than that of christianity (lowercase, improper noun). If christ (lowercase, improper noun) was the way then that way was tao (you know).

Teetering

By Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Maybe I wasn’t there. Maybe I was but I’m a different person. Maybe I was there learning, adapting, and changing. Maybe not at your pace or your style but maybe I was there. Maybe the next one will be.

Maybe you didn’t know what you had. Maybe you built an excuse. God knows I’ve built my own: teetering Derrick’s pumping crude bullshit into my brain.

Maybe I didn’t say hi. Maybe I needed more time. God knows you do.

Maybe life is understood teetering on the middle of a maybe.

Fake dog

By Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I have a fake dog, it’s made out of plastic. Everyday I forget him but he is always excited when I come home. He eats twice a day but I never give him any food. He sleeps on the couch but I only have a bed. He is a chick magnet but there are never any chicks. He’s a good fake boy.

Where are my teeth?

A short piece of prose, or something.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

You get so up in your head that you want to flash back to your BMX with the two pegs to ride down the street and back as fast as you can.

Weeks go by. Years go by.

You get so far into your projections. You want to change.

Years go by. Decades go by.

You see your family the same but they’ve all changed but they haven’t stayed the same. You make the same mistakes but with bigger consequences. All around you the t-shirts change, the science changes, sensitivity changes but it’s all still the same.

The body ages but the mind grows chaotic: A frantic camper in the rain racing to drive down stakes into mud. Stuck to stories growing mold, fuzzy but always staying the same.

The sandman doesn’t sprinkle you with dust. St. Nick can’t give you what you want. Christ could be relatable if only he’d made mistakes. You bought the world’s spirits, elixirs and potions but snake oils only erase time for nothing in return. The tooth fairy took all your teeth but I think she also has your innocence, and you never saw a dime.

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup. Too many voices in your head spoil the creativity. You can spend time but you can never buy it.

The only option is to drive down stakes into moments you never want to let slip.

My own

April 26, 2020 – Evening on the patio, thinking about all things.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Jesus loves you, marriage is between a man and woman, dinosaurs aren’t real, win big with McDonald’s Monopoly, doubts lead to temptation, houses are a tax relief; a few things I was told, among others, that turned out to be lies.

This is the part where it ends and where there is peace, you know I will not be.

I don’t want to be alone. The glorious comfort of a star within Orion’s Belt being the home of Jesus does not comfort me. Lying to grandpa on his deathbed was a kindness, a little white lie. I do not know if there is or is not a heaven.

He lied to me so I repeated grandpa’s lies back to him.

These are the truths I hold as self-evident; I have the urge to fuck, to dance, to write those words that combine themselves into a sort of truth. The rest I was told by others, like a trash can spilling its contents, I’m full of shit.

Block, Oral, Solve

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Oral?

Yes.

Oral, as in…

Yes.

As in the type of examination?

Oh. Yes, that too.

Okay, I’ll have to perform orally. Actually I’m more comfortable with the term verbally if that’s alright with you?

*I prefer oral…

What was that?

Nothing, yes, perform verbally.

And I just stand here on my blocking?

Right where you are standing, that’s fine.

On the black tape X, correct?

Yes, where you are standing is fine.

I’ve read through the monologue, I think I understand who the character is but I’m not sure what his motivation is. What problem is he solving in this scene?

*Jesus Christ.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.

Your character is ordering fast food at a drive-thru. He’s solving his problem of hunger.

Okay, I did think of that but then I thought, well is my character really starving or is he high? Is he just stress eating? Does he have a high metabolism? Or does this meal represent his first meal after going nearly 3 days without food?

Why don’t you go with your instinct and we’ll have you say your two lines, then I’ll see if it works or not with the director’s vision.

Okay.

I’ll start reading all the other parts, you read your characters.

Okay.

Exterior, Billy’s Burgers, night. one car pulls up to the drive thru and begins to order. Our main character, Sally, listens, slightly annoyed. Sally – Welcome to Billy’s, what will you be munching on this evening?

I’ll have the billy cheeseburger, fries and a pepsi.

Will that complete you’re order?

Yes, thanks.

Customer #2 drives around to the window…and that’s the scene. Thank you. That was great. We’ll let you know–

–Well, that was my take with my character driving through with the munchies.

Okay.

I’d like to try again but this time my character is simply stress eating, not hungry.

Fine. We’ll take it from your line.

Actually, could you read the line before mine, it helps so I can react.

Sally – Welcome to Billy’s, what will you be munching on this evening?

I’ll…have…the billy cheeseburger (long pause) and…fries…and a pepsi.

And scene. Great, that was different. Thank you for–

–Okay just one more but this time.

No, I’ve seen enough to make a decision. I’ll call you with the directors decision.

What about the verbal part? I mean the oral part.

We can skip that today.

No, I want to do this right. If nothing else I need the experience auditioning.

No need, you did fine.

Please, I insist. I’m new to acting and even just getting auditions and going through those is helpful.

We don’t always do the oral, um, examination.

Well, could you do it today?

It’s a little unorthodox, but this is Wollyhood, you understand? It’s a different town, we do our own thing out here.

Yeah, sure, I can go with the punches.

The test is really more about seeing if an actor has what it takes to perform under pressure.

Okay.

We like to see that under the most stressful, uncomfortable conditions, an actor can take art to the next level.

Okay.

That by passing the oral exam, they show us just how committed and confident they are.

So what’s the test.

Kneel down and suck my cock.

Projection, Obstacle, Hour

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

His mind projected to him what he wanted to see. Perhaps not what he would ever consciously want, what his ego would want, but what his id was subconsciously saying to him. A figure with a beard down past his knees. Gaunt cheeks yellowed with jaundice, as was the rest of his naked skin. His ribs showed and the skin between his collar bones sagged enough to hold a shot of whiskey on both sides.

What he faced now was the inevitable state of his future, if he kept at his current pace, actions and emotions. Somewhere within him, it felt only an hour away. The future he now saw in the mirror.

The only obstacle to this vision of fury, wasted away was that constant voice of societal pressure, pounded into his head since childhood that one must keep up appearances, maintain a stiff upper lip, keeping up decorum triumphs over weakness of the spirit. To see a well groomed, well-maintained, well-dressed figure in front of him would, should and could keep him within the acceptable realm of sanity.

He wanted to be in sanity. Completely doused in rubbing alcohol, clean and pure. Free of the germs of doubt, low self-esteem and decay. Though he secretly felt that what modern psychologists labeled as deficiencies of the mind, were really just the variables that made up a persons character and personality. The stamps of an original individual.

Why should his sanity ever be in question when it swam in the same pool of saturated judgements and opinions as those who were insane and those who labeled others insane. It was all the same doggie paddle, just different ends of the pool.

The difference, he thought, was that some very few felt comfortable swimming completely naked, while most felt the need to cover themselves with that seasons flavor of bathing suit. They were all naked, and sex assured that everyone viewed the clothed and unclothed alike, as naked or potentially naked. And so that question of sanity ran down the same track.

He smiled and wondered just how far into the deep end he could swim. How far he could dive before needing to come up for air. How long he could last before feeling the need to cover his nakedness in front of those who pretended not to be naked behind their trunks, one pieces and bikinis.

What was the point of the bathing suit if everyone already knew the truth underneath?

Sex, Win, Deposit

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nose lost in cascading curls of hair
tongue tapping ear drums
flesh taught with bumps

Torso writhing
slipping on sweat beaded skin
sweet sweat

Adventurous fingers
traversing dunes, peaks and valleys
pushing in territorial flags

Allied conquistadors
Friendly foe
Choreographed wrestling

Negotiating deposits
Salivary transactions
biting lips, grabbing hips

Incan, Aztec, Roman, Egyptian
Games played ancient
always two winners


Trace, Estimate, Satisfaction

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

His fingers traced the groove that ran down the center of the barrel of the gun. The pointer finger taking a sharp right turn down to the end of the handle.

“And you know how to use that sweaty?” He licked his lips after he said it.

Her thumb clicked the safety off and moved up to the hammer, cocking it back. She double squeezed the trigger as if clicking a computer mouse. One, two shots went into his chest. The second bullet assisted the first through his chest cavity, and past T5 and T6 of the thoracic vertebrae. Her employers required such details so they could verify them with the coroners office and newspapers.

He was wide eyed and taking short halting breaths.

“To answer your question, yes, I do know how to use this thing.” She let it flop back and forth in her hand. “It’s pretty easy really, just squeeze. It’s like using a weed whacker or hand blender. Pretty straight forward.” She holstered the gun in her bra and put her white gloves back on.

“If I had to guess, you have about 10 to 15 minutes of living left to do. That’s a gift in my book, not many people are given the satisfaction of knowing how much time they have before, well you know.” She sat with her legs crossed, bouncing her right foot over her left and her hands stacked on her right knee.

“You…” he tried to say something but the effort produced bloody spittle on his lips.

“If I were you I would take time to review your surroundings. Start with this beautiful hard wood floor and work your way over the Persian rugs, carefully laid over one another as if haphazard, follow them to the base boards and their precision cuts all the way around the room. Take in the eggplant colored walls and up to the crown molding with its striking bevels, curves and lines so elegantly dividing the wall from the ceiling. Take in the Spanish style texture of the white ceiling and follow that to the center piece of the room, the French empire crystal chandelier. Note how it’s trimmed by Swarovski crystals. I bet you never bothered before today, huh?” She winked at him.

His eyes were glazing over but he laid back and stared straight up at the bell shaped light fixture dangling above him.

“If you don’t mind, I’m in a bit of a hurry, so as you pass I’m going to search your pockets for the information I am required to find. I’ll do that now.” She paused, as if waiting for permission, seeing him blink she proceeded.

Bus, Defeat, Miracle

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He hopped on, paid the fair and took an open bench seat towards the back. Someone had vomited in the seat across the aisle from him. Gripping the handle above him, swaying with the bus, he lifted himself into the window seat and stared out.

The rain drops on the window made all the head lights look like shooting stars passing him. No one was walking the streets. Homeless were huddled at bus shelters, doorways and underneath shop overhangs.

Then, once again, he thought about her, a new her, a more recent her. As quickly as it had begun it had ended and instead of the hurt subsiding, it was rising again.

He lowered his sleeve by raising his arm and twisting his wrist to check the time. 40 minutes to get home, review what he had written so far, think about the new direction for the project and then call Larry. The new project was about his divorce but he couldn’t stop thinking about the girl friend he had had shortly after signing all the paperwork. He had lost her too.

Maybe lost wasn’t the right word, she had come and gone. He had to sit with that. Accept it and not hold onto it. It was too easy, with everything that had happened over the past year and a half, to not view things as defeats stacking up. He was winning in defeats. He snorted and smiled to himself, checking the neighborhood they were in. Two more stops.

No one saw the smile because of the mask he wore, everyone wore. The pandemic was still raging and he thought about how much social distancing he had already lost, now this “act of god.” It would be nice to experience a miracle some time soon rather than disaster after disaster.

One more stop. The bus pulled away from the curb and he watched the red and blue lights of a cop car across the street. They bounced all inside the bus when they passed.

He had to force himself to think about the story. At first a good idea. Taking his recent experience with divorce and creating a fictional horror out of it, exaggerating the feeling of loneliness, strangeness of the once familiar and the questions of what he had done wrong.

The bus stopped, he grabbed his bag and jogged around the corner to his building. Someone was exiting and held the door for him.

“Thank you.” he said passing.

“No problem, it’s nice to catch a brake sometimes.” The old woman laughed and let the door slip from her hand.

He kept going, trying to force himself to think of the story, to write what he knew but be separate enough from it to tell it coherently. Unlocking the door, he nearly tripped over his dog, Marty who was nearly seizing from excitement.

“Marty! Not now. I got work to do, bud.”

Setting his bag on his desk, he pulled out the notes he had begun taking. Reviewing all the acts and asking himself, what small details can I add that provide some relief to the heaviness of the story?

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.

Pilot, Hair, Wolf

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

…only beginnings

At mach speed it screams through me, mixing with my chemistries, passing through the shudder down my spine and ripping through my rib cage. I’m left with a glimpse, a still of a needle nosed jet driven by a figure with a helmet and tubes. Intimate is the moment, a photo, a tingling, an ache.

Follicles salute bloody snouts. Extending past split ends, peering at red snow, hearing howling, growling and snarls. Patellas chatter with tibia, fibula and femur. The vertebrae conga twists and sways. Visceral macabre discos, danced by ancient biological giants and jolted still by animatronic technologies. Everlasting, never changing pirouette’s dedicated to the unknown, to fear.

Notes bounce jagged lines over tympanic membranes. Hear and let beat what needs beating. Listen: I can be fulfilled alone. I let things come and go. There are only beginnings…

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?

Spirit, Reflection, Amber

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

When the lighter’s flame gets pulled into the leafs of tobacco tucked into the cigarette’s tip, a spirit is born. It dances and twirls like the gossamer on wild cactus. It bends and twists like the strokes of a painters brush. It flees off the white capped end of the cigarette like a stream of melting snow down a mountain. Its thin opacity creates a colorful reflection in the morning sun, a shape shifting stained glass window. It’s wispy shards equally as dangerous as broken glass but just as beautiful. It will take breath away.

At dusk, the end glows like ancient amber lodged in a fossilized tree. It’s color dimming and brightening with each inhale or gust of wind. The cherry end glows and fades like the spinning of a lighthouse lantern, the blinking of airport lights or the frantic braking of LA traffic.

The pleasure end stains with each dragging breath. From white to mustard to brown, the filter, a tributary for the waste of those dancing streams.

At its end, the cigarette is left curled up and alone in a mass grave of butts all spent and bent into the fetal position.

Production, Costume, Healthy

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

There was a calm in the crowd. That moment the lights flicker, signifying everyone to take their seats. Moments before there were members of the audience everywhere, in the aisles, restroom lines and mezzanine bar. Now they gingerly took their seats and made themselves comfortable. It was a professional crowd, each one doing their part to create a cohesive beast of attention.

He stood, stage right, peeking out of the curtain, watching them. Some opened the programs, others sipped drinks and in the balcony, a few focused their binoculars. They were nearly ready.

He looked down at his wardrobe; adjusting the lapels of his jacket, straightening the collar, un-ruffling his pants, and straightening the noose around his neck. Tonight’s performance would be his first and last. All 23 years of his life led up to this moment.

In the general public, out there where the world communicated in double-speak, entendre’s, metaphors and straight lies, his act was intolerable. Why would a healthy young man of 23 with nothing but future ahead of him take his own life? Why? Why? Why?

The stage would be his answer. He would deliver a monologue explaining his life, experiences, doubts, fears and perceptions. He would be joined on stage periodically by doctors, lawyers, therapists and his own parents. They would ask him questions and he would respond honestly. Then, after he’d make his exit, the audience would have an answer to the question of why, while staring at his swaying corpse.

The idea was that those viewers who accepted his answer may be closer to their own little productions than they would like to admit. And those who still did not understand were either in denial or what the actor playing the psychologist might say “in a healthy state of mind.”

Taking one more breath, he waited for the lights to dim and the spot to shine on the step stool center stage. No music, no sensationalism, just light and then darkness.

False, Leave, Posture

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Was it false? Her posture said yes when eventually she did leave. Her slow steps, that quick glance at the dogs, the fumbling with the lock she had opened hundreds, even thousands of times. Was she trying to convince herself of something? Something that she didn’t want in her mind but that her heart couldn’t support; not making the effort to pump blood to fingers, feet and eyes to make her way confidently out of the house.

I couldn’t know either but I suspected she wasn’t quite sure either. Decisions of the heart are never made in confidence. We may tell ourselves they are prudent choices but the heart plants a seed of doubt and only time will tell us if that doubt will grow into regret or die buried deep. I imagine that small unborn seed remains there, not growing but never truly dying, keeping its small hardness somewhere in the chest.

I wonder if it gets easier. Growth, nurturing, planting, giving, sharing time and energy. Or do those nutrients get lost with those seeds that never grow? Does the soil around those seeds grow into dust, leaving less and less space in the heart?

Then the weeds come. What did I do wrong? Was it this? Was it that? Was it all the things I was blind to? Was I selfish? Did I lose myself and become someone else? Will I be enough for anyone?

I’m only at the beginning but it already hurts to open up. It hurts to moisten and till the soil for new plantings. The first time, there was no pain in preparing for love but the more it happens, the more pain seeps into the process. The more those seeds of doubt poison what’s left of the soil around them.

What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me.

Ladder, Boat, Housewife

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She came out of the water dripping. A scene of a movie during a time when movies objectified women. Could have been last Summer’s blockbuster. I digress. She paused at the aluminum ladder dipping into the water from the dock. She pulled herself up a rung to get her mouth and nose out of reach of the wake washing over her. A speed boat passed a few meters away, probably not seeing her. I’m sure it wouldn’t have passed so fast had she been standing on the dock, her full person visible.

After a few minutes she came the rest of the way out of the water and grabbed her towel resting next to a coil of rope. Drying her hair, she laid out the towel and sat down. Another boat passed, this one slowing its engine to a low growl when passing the dock. The men in the vessel, a cigarette boat, hooted, whistled and hollered at her. She laughed to herself, not out of flattery but because her 31 years of life had taught her a new law of nature, when she appeared, men gawked.

Now she was a housewife. Married to a man who had at one time had dreams. He had since achieved them but still rarely came home. He cheated. She wasn’t stupid. But she still knew, at one time, there love was true. She hadn’t sacrificed most of her 20’s waiting for him to finish medical school, then residency, then research, trials and awards. His ambition seemed to know no bounds and his cock didn’t either.

She stood up, grabbed her towel and walked up the dock toward their lake house. She passed through the tennis courts, pool, fountains and eventually made it to the open french doors leading into the back of the kitchen. Her bare feet slapped against the polished concrete floors, wet from the grass leading back to the house. She stopped at the fridge to grab a beer. Propping the cap against the counter and tilting the bottle at an angle, she slammed down her right hand, sending the cap spinning somewhere around the marble counters and tink-tink tinking down onto the concrete.

She had all the things her mother and father, church, school, friends and acquaintances told her she would want. But she didn’t. They told her she could live to a ripe old age, keep her looks up to her sixties and never want for anything. She would have rather lived 3-5 short years with a convict, running from the law, staying in cheap hotels with single digits in their names than to sit in luxuries lap, just waiting for something to move.

She took the winding staircase one step at a time into the master bedroom. She stepped into the shower and rinsed off. Another day to kill. Too much time and no life.

Reasons to drink

Thoughts on growing up middle-class in America.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

At 3-4 years old I was asked which animals I wanted to pet in heaven. I was told from which star our savior would come. I was taught how to pray.

At 10-11 years old I got in trouble in my school for reading a book about my favorite dinosaurs, Velociraptors.

At 15 my grandfather attempted suicide. It was never talked about from that day forward, even though I saw him in a sterile facility, hair wispy, with a wrist band and hospital gown. I was asked if I wanted to go to church. I stayed home and watched stand-up instead.

At 33 I separated from my wife.

At 35 I get divorced.

At 34 I meet a real woman, I pee in my backyard, rent out a room to my best friend whom I met in rehab and do my best to limit my smoking and drinking.

And at some point I’ll stop listening.

I grew up in the land of mid-sized sedans, mini-vans and low-end luxury vehicles. The land where rap was tolerated as a phase instead of the gospel of fellow Americans. The land where men wore suits but ordered water when eating out on occasion. Where they preached loving they neighbor but threw their money at stained-glass windows and steeples.

I grew up in the land where causes had the opulence of being accessorized, awarded, badg-ed and medal-ed in. First place goes to the woman with her heart on her sleeve. What’s her prize? A podcast, followers and the right to perceive. Second place is forgotten.

I grew up where cultures were worn on the runway; tagged, liked and put to bed with the 24-hour news cycle. Where smiling with brace-corrected teeth was more important than listening. Where dents on garages were ignored for blue-tooth mirages. Where the placation of expressed problems were as cute as a stay-cation meme.

Meme, meme, me, me, me ,me: a virus of non-essential, feel-good, self-righteous, resting above comfortable but just below content ideas spread through imitation. Where love is shared with those who succeed and for those who don’t, martyrs are made. Where thought, like above, are unclear, influenced by what’s trending, not by what’s right.

I grew up where grandfather’s worked hard, father’s built empires and grandson’s teetered on their shoulders reaching for wisps of clouds. My hands are too soft, my mind too dull and my heart too brittle.

Where quarantine is spent at home with no reduction in grocery bills and no one wonders if today is the day. where there’s the luxury of debate, unpopular opinions and fundraising for traveling missionaries.

I grew up in the land where 14-year-olds built houses in foreign countries. Where 15-year-olds drove Mercedes-Benz and 16-year-olds started thinking about their parent’s colleges.

I grew up where authority is referred to on bend-ed knee but you don’t know what authority is. Authority is a running tally of wrist scars. Authority is counting days sober. Authority is orgasm at will. Authority is false teeth, cauliflower ears, and a crooked nose. Authority drags around an oxygen tank with wheezing breaths. Authority isn’t found on any screen, it rolls in a wheel-chair and dictates its will to on one.

I grew up where drugs, alcohol, pornography and other vice are worshiped for six days and absolved on the seventh. Where respect goes to the shiniest cars and the tannest chins. Where those who care the least are crowned the Kings and Queens of cool. A land of illusion where death is a shock at any age and life comes with medical, dental, optical and, a life insurance policy. Where people wait for bread with crossed arms and a tapping foot. Where necessity means a lack of excess and ignorance is an offer color joke chuckled at in church parking lots.

I grew up in the land of recycled boxes. Where one hundred rolls of toilet paper will never sell when on the self next to one-thousand roll packs for just a dollar ninety-nine more. Where emotions are changed by the click of a remote or swipe of a playlist.

No one taught me how to drink but Bukowski. No one taught me love but Shakespeare. No one taught me life’s lack of meaning but Seinfeld. No one taught me how to become a garbage pail for any drug passed my way but my lack of satisfaction. but I have a foot print on my ass the size of the middle class. Its kicked into my dockers in the direction of complacency, American democracy and mediocrity.

Peasant, Delay, Banquet

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He’d been called it before, many times. This time, he stopped and thought about it; peasant. An antiquated word with almost no relevant meaning. He didn’t own a farm or small piece of land that he worked and paid taxes to the king. He lived in a small studio on the lower east side of Manhattan.

Of course he paid taxes, whether it were to kings or for the infrastructure of society was for political parties to debate. Which he hoped represented him.

He stopped at the mailboxes and turned back to look at the lady who had called him a peasant. She turned the corner, flicking her fur coat as she did. He smiled, thinking about all the movies, TV shows and books that told him women in fur coats were cunts. Was that true? Or was that only true in this instance?

Grabbing the mail he went into his building. Thumbing through the mail was a familiar activity. Bill, bill, garbage, bill, coupon, but what was this…

A banquet for one of his friends, that night. in 30 minutes. Shit. He sprinted up the stairs, not even bothering to wait for the elevator, which would have taken 15 of his 30 minutes. His front door lock was tricky, he had to pull the knob while twisted the key and then let go of the knob so that…something would work and the door could be opened. There was always a slight delay, he learned patience but this time he did it, first try, experience was key.

The sprint up the stairs made him sweat so he jumped in the shower. His friends apartment was a 10 minute taxi ride, 20 minute subway ride and 30 minute walk. He only had money for a walk, so he convinced himself to be comfortable with the idea of being fashionably late, even if his fashion was lacking.

Never mind, he thought, fuck this banquet. My friend is always celebrating stupid shit and rubbing in every little hickey he gets from lovers or extra chicken McNugget he gets from McDonald’s to all the people he knows. Fuck him.

So he stayed in the shower, rubbed one out and watched TV for the rest of the evening.

Why? What the fuck did you do last night?

Rugby, Hair, Hammer

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A real bruiser, this guy. He had a head that looked like it had been pressed by vices, one smashing his chin and nose, another pressing against his ears. His neck was about as thick as his skull. The rest of his body looked like a sculpture in progress. A cube of marble with arms, a chest, stomach, legs and feet with none of the ripples and bumps of a completed piece. He was a block.

He was most comfortable and alive in the middle of a scrum. Locked arm and arm with two other bruisers, pushing against the entirety of his opponents. His team would always say that they swore he was doing all the work and that they were just along for moral support.

He was one of those guys that stayed in shape from 18 to 50 years old, no matter how much he ate, drank or otherwise consumed. Teeth might fall out of his mouth but the rest of him remained an absolute unit, as they would say on the sidelines.

He would have kept going, there was no signs of him slowing down. Except one day his picture appeared in the paper. His face was caved in by a hammer. It appeared that someone wanted to put a little more detail into his bulky features.

And so he was remembered, briefly, by family, friends and team mates but will be all but forgotten when they also pass on. Hopefully by less artistic means.

Patience, Large, Presidency

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I’ve been giving brow furrowing thought to uprooting my life and changing it radically. Thoughts that slow my steps when I walk, strip away all that’s around me and humble me in the chest. What are the things I have? So fortunate am I to have them, when compared to the other. Yet, perhaps, they are not what I should have.

For this thought to manifest in any sort of tangible way requires patience. A sort of patience that I have not practiced in my 34 years of consciousness, of which the prospect of practicing looms large over head. A weight that pushes down on my and wrinkles my forehead. What are the things I want, if they are not the things I have? Is it as simple as wanting the things I have? Or is it a question of adventure, a simple matter of trying, failing, trying, failing, trying, failing, and defining success out of those efforts. That is the currency of patience.

The presidency is touted as one of the hardest jobs on the planet. but why is this question only whispered in underground places, is it even a job that should exist? Should there be a thing so unreasonable, so unsatisfying for all of us that it exists? Why can we not question the existence of something we once created?

And so I find myself, questioning my existence. What have I created? It’s not a question of regret or satisfaction, it’s a question that follows; having done this, am I still satisfied continuing to do the same? What do I want next? What is my next challenge?

That I write is not in question. However, what I write about always changes. And so likewise, I will be until I am dead, but I need not be doing the same things.

Such a radical change in existence is daunting. To move from the home I’ve created. To move from the job in which I found a voice. To move from a room where there is light and identifiable shapes into a room that is dark and filled mostly with shadows.

It’s not a question of purpose. To treat purpose like some treasure to be found with or without a map is to take away ones own intrinsic value. I believe, for me, it is a matter of finding what is next. What will be. What may be, if I simply try.

It comes down to a simple act, however, a simple act becomes difficult when the opposite of actions have become habit. To not do becomes more comfortable than to do. To be a passive observer of ones life. To consume. To applaud the achievements of others while allowing that recurring monologue in my mind to run like a ticker tape around my mind, reminding me that there is more in me than I have allowed myself to express.

I must also recognize the place I am in. To be kind to myself. To understand that I am not a machine, not a creation built by man but made from natural acts and self-created. To think otherwise is to undermine existence itself. The pressure I may feel to determine a future, my future, is wholly my own.

I have placed that looming prospect of patience and radical change over my head. And so I must recognize that that is okay. That I am not at the summit but at the base of a journey I am willing myself to take. A journey all at once formidable and exhilarating.

I am at the beginning of an end. Or perhaps it is the very beginning of a new beginning. Whatever this phase, this time, this place. I am open to the idea and an idea is the most natural creation of man.

Monster, Note, Chauvinist

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I don’t know the type of monster I became that night. Wandering the streets and alley ways looking for a fight. A wrong look, a look for too long or the wrong note played on a piano would be enough to begin growling and pawing at the dirt.

It happened that a male chauvinist made himself known to me. Saul, who was just a man for the evening, told me it was a creature of the worst kind. A rapist. That the chauvinist had at one time in his youth taken advantage of a woman.

After being confronted by a man with fight but no reason to do so, my adrenaline was pumping. So when I finally had a reason, the fight came with it. My hands became anvils, my arms pistons and my legs stanchions for the movement of my upper torso.

The creature in front of me was well groomed, the worst kind of monster, with manners. A hannibal lecter, harvey weinstein or jeffrey epstein. In front of me, yet another male adult too scared to face life like a man and so they became beasts wildly using the worst of their nature to feast.

By the time Saul had revealed the man’s nature, it was too late, but the fight was still with me. And so I became a monster, looking for someone to fight, winning or losing were not the point, it was simply about the fight.

There is a cliché that goes something like, you become the very thing you hate. I imagine that goes along with being vigilant of ones mind and guarding against it. I was not vigilant and so only the fight took over.

Fantasy, Census, Mill

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

There was an explosion in his mind, a spectacular explosion of imagination. A world appeared out of thin air. It moved, breathed, projected light and shadows. Creatures moved in and out of the darkness and light. Buildings pocked the land from castles to shacks. It was a world of his own creation, built from scratch through memory and imagination. A world so vast and ever expanding it was impossible to keep a running record of all its inhabitants.

The walnut shaped mill in his head kept churning his thoughts into fantasy.

Everything was imagined from mythical beasts to majestic feasts. Yet he could not conjure her, even in his own memory. She would not appear in his imagined world.

The waiting room in which he had dozed had grown in occupants. Nearly every seat was filled with someone coughing, bleeding, clutching their chests, or nodding off to sleep. An EMT made her rounds through the room, checking vital signs and taking temperatures, just enough to ensure people were alive in that purgatory before a hospital bed.

He’d come in to the waiting room many times before. Sometimes for food from the vending machine, sometimes for warmth but mostly for a place to sit. He often waited a full day but it was still a nice reprieve from sitting by the highway or sleeping behind the rubble of an abandoned lot. Here he had to be seen, if not immediately, then eventually but he would be seen and heard and felt and spoken to.

Here in the waiting room, they were required to pay attention to him. To hear him out. Listen to him speak and speak back. Here he would be counted among the living, even if just before they died. There would be a record of him, no matter how menial the numbers of his blood pressure were.

He nibbled at the vending machine egg salad sandwich, savoring each bite. Here he was a person, waiting like all the rest to be seen.

Woman, Cellar, Cutting

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Her razor blade was still on the nightstand, dried brown with blood. There was water running, the shower, she must have turned it on to hide any sound. What sound, I didn’t know, but then again suicide is often uncharted territory if done correctly.

I put her clothes from the hospital in the hamper and sat on the bed. What were all those forms I needed to fill out? What were those phone numbers I had to call? Why did I put her clothes in the hamper?

I stood up, compelled by the only instinct, I knew. I headed down to the cellar and grabbed the first bottle of wine on the rack, not bothering to read the label. I suppose it wasn’t instinct, simply learned behavior.

I pulled off the label, twisted into the cork and popped it open. Red wine. Whiskey would be better but I was able to hide my learned behavior behind a hobby of wine collecting. Maybe that was one of the reasons that compelled her to leave. One of many, I guessed.

I went back to the room. No glass, just the bottle. I laid in bed. I need to fix that baseboard it’s loose. She had pointed it out. I never got around to it. Probably never would. Perhaps that was one of the last remaining forms of communication between us. A shared responsibility for the house. Without that, what was the house?

I turned and saw the razor blade still poised on the edge of the night stand. I imagined it had just been used and looked down to see the crowns of blood on the floor below it. What had that felt like? Sitting here, hiding from me, wanting to escape, not just this home but everything. There wasn’t a single place she would have rather gone, could have gone other than to that unknown place that hovers like a stick behind us. Or maybe in her case, like a carrot dangling in front of us.

A deep emptiness seemed to push all else out of my stomach. A pit so vast I couldn’t drink fast enough to fill it. The emptiness forced tears out of my eyes and shaking so violent I double over, gripping my pillow. It pulled my face in all directions, contorting my mouth into ugly cries. There was a deep hole and would not be filled again. Never.

What did it feel like to sit here, shower running and cut into the veins of the wrist? To cut so deeply that the blood rushed out like a crack in a dam. What sort of emptiness was that? Or was it exactly like my own. An agonizing look into nothingness.

I grabbed at the razor blade, spilling my wine. What sort of emptiness did she feel? That woman, that once called herself mine. My woman. A woman. What did it feel like?

Nipple, Mustache, Sprinkler

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was pierced. Some sort of small barbell that ran the diameter of the aureola. A few tattoos; praying hands, rosary beads with a cross, some biblical texts and a bloody Jesus on the cross on his back. He had slicked back hair and a lady tickler that seemed to be frozen in a crawl up into his nose and down into his mouth. Though, this priest wasn’t tickling ladies with that mustache.

“Turn, bend over, spread your cheeks and cough.” He paused and looked at the other freshly imprisoned men complying. His clothes black with a strip of white, wadded up on the floor behind him.

He finally turned and overheard someone say, “he’s going to be in that position a lot.” He wasn’t sure who said it, could have been a guard or an inmate, but it didn’t matter. The truth in his head was verbalized.

They shuffled down the corridors being shown to their cells. He reached his and a man, small, bone thin and not a tattoo visible would be his celly.

“What you in for?”

The priest hesitated with his answer as his cell mate looked him up and down. Seeing he wasn’t going to answer, the cell mate continued.

“It’s probably better not to answer that question or make up a lie. I have the bottom bunk, you’re on top. Keep your shit until I’m not sleeping, I don’t want a rude awakening.”

The priest set his clothes and things on the top bunk. He looked around at the toilet, the desk, the bunk bed, the bars at the end of the cell and the cobwebbed sprinklers on the ceiling.

“I’m Henry.” He said, still gazing up at the sprinklers.

“Well, Henry, I’m willing to bet that your pregnant pause when I asked why you were here was something that really only God can deal with. And their ain’t no sprinklers in hell.”

Tax, Silence, Sailor

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She could hear only the wind and the waves. Standing at the lighthouse, she looked out as the light behind her flashed a silhouette of her figure to all watching sailors. Tonight there was no storm.

When she closed the glass door of the lighthouse, for a moment, there was only silence. Silence and the spinning light.

For months she watched and waited. The rocky dirt all around the small island undisturbed but for a patch about six feet long and three feet wide. She missed her husband but not his drunken behavior. Perhaps a sailor would come ashore and give her the attention she required, though she wasn’t eager to pay the heavy tax of a relationship. A tryst was all she longed for.

Sun or moon. Fog or rain. She kept the light shining. The work, however taxing, still left plenty of time for her mind to be pulled to her husband. A strange mix of righteous indignation and guilt. The men of the sea seemed never to suspect that a woman could be anything but warm respite from waves, rain, splinters and scurvy. She would do better with the next man, guilt has a queer way of turning one into a saint.

As the sun dipped into the ocean, she noticed the lights of a ship approaching from the dark side of the sky. Ahead, in a dingy, rowed a sailor approaching her rocky haven. She clutched her knitting needle and thought, I will no longer accept a drunk fist but I’ll welcome a gentle caress.

Terrify, Characteristic, Throat

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She danced on the burning edge of a match. Flames lapping at her legs. Her skirt twisting with the into the reds and oranges. A little spot of white in the center of destruction.

She danced and opened up her throat to scream. Her hair tangled in the flames being pulled by the stars. Fingers moving like tentacles, waving and sticking to her body as she swayed with the wind.

I held up a hand to shield the match from the violence of the wind. The fire would eat, but it would have to taste the wood of the match all the way into my fingers before it sent up its smoke.

The fuel of the green lungs all over the world fueled the dance between my fingers. Those forests of lungs all in a singular breath from the Amazon to the Black Forest, creating a hollow breath through the tunnel of the world.

I watched her dance and ignored the insatiable appetite of the flames biting into my finger tips. An emptiness hit me, a tunnel opening up inside my chest, terror. Then the flame spit up its victory smoke and I was left with the memory of her dance.

My blistered fingers fumbled for another glimpse at the woman who danced on the burning edge of the match.

Until my fingers black and nerve endings shriveled, I would strike, and shield, and watch the women dancing in the flames.

Bake, Defenestration, Plaza

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“It’s one quarter for the defenestration, a dollar for fenestration and an extra two bucks to choose the vehicle.” I fingered the two dimes and nickel in my pocket, wondering if I was attractive enough to talk to the lady working the front desk of the “Crimes and Felonies Simulation Center” into letting me choose the vehicle with out the extra two clams.

I took a step back, looking through the window across the plaza at the “Misdemeanors and Minor Offenses Simulation Center,” tucked between the dollar store and the empty one forever hanging a lease sign. I could get more thrills at “Minor Offenses” but the quality, you can’t skimp on quality.

Slapping my three coins on the counter, I said, “I’ll get defenestrated today.” I grabbed some copper from the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray and said, “which vehicles can I select with this.”

Without changing her expression, or tone, she said, “Tell you what, I’ll run the simulation myself. Follow me, sir.”

We walked through the shop, I could hear screaming, thuds, cracks, shattering glass, grunts, wet gurgling and all the sounds a comfortable middle class boy like myself doesn’t often get to hear or experience outside of movies and video games.

We stepped outside to the back of the shop. Parked net to a dumpster was a Ford Taurus, somewhere from the early 90’s.

“Get in.” she said, already shutting the door behind her. I knew where this was going, she would tell me not to wear my seat belt, hit top speed and send me flying through the windshield, but she was hot so I ignored my brain.

She drove, her hands ten and two, no radio, stopping at every light, keeping two car lengths between the vehicles in front. Textbook safe driving. We pulled up to a bakery and she said, “get out.”

Together, we went into the shop. I smelled cinnamon, pastries and apple pie. It was like walking into grandma’s house on Christmas. “One croissant for me and whatever he’s having.” I looked at all the deliciousness on display and selected a cream-filled pastry, “That one.” I pointed.

With pastries in hand we got back in the car. I closed the door behind me and bit into my baked good. The outside was flaky and crumbled in my mouth. Then my tongue hit the warm cheesy filling and I closed my eyes.

My eyes were nailed shut with shards of glass. I felt warm liquid trickling down my head and neck. My face grated against the gravel leaving skin, muscle and tissue on the asphalt behind me as I slid forward. Like soft Gouda between the holes of a grater. My veins and arteries snapping and popping as I traveled forward. The blood vessels twisting and shriveling as they came in contact with the air.

I felt my legs and waist folding over the back of my head as my momentum carried me forward. My face, the sole of a 12-year-olds Vans as she skids her foot on the ground to slow her bike.

My back snapped. My shoulders popped out of socket. My face skin worn away, my skull chipping off and my teeth flying out like corks around the world on New Years Eve. My body stopped and everything was black.

The next voice I heard was gods.

“Thank you for choosing Crimes and Felonies Simulation Center for your real life experiences. Be sure to get out of your chair slowly as your mind may still be adjusting to reality. The light will fade up slowly and then it will be safe to exit.”

25 cents well spent.

Consensus, Map, Musical

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

In a dream I heard the words whispered, “Her essence is so old it no longer recognizes the shadows of life.” I don’t know what it meant but the voice was musical in my sleep but I woke up with a familiar pain. One for which I no longer have a name.

It was the ache of having lived a life uncharted, with no direction, no map. The aimless wandering of a fool searching for any glint of recognition in human or animal. Wild animals are becoming more familiar, trapped in their loneliness, distrustful of anything outside their instincts. My base desires becoming needs.

I no longer live like the others. I understand those mysterious untimely deaths. They are of habits known only to the deceased, leaving everyone living to wonder why. Close relatives believing what danger surrounded their loved one is something that used to be not knowing that the danger is. Always.

Can it be contagious? Does it become an itch to which their is only one scratch?

Railway, Mountainous, Short

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

In the Yukon there is a train that runs through the mountains. How the builders of this railway constructed those hundreds of miles of perfectly parallel lines through rocky, mountainous terrain, is a wonder every bit as spectacular as the views from the cars.

My grandfather loved that trip. We took a boat from Seattle to Alaska and floated around the last frontier. He was all smiles, a grin that covered his teeth but ran ear to ear.

On the train we rode during a day trip, he bought a hat as a souvenir. He wore that hat almost everyday until he went to the hospital for the last time.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about him now but I do know that I often think about him during times when I have a lot on my mind.

All my life I’ve been compared to my grandfather. The same short, stocky build. The same generally mild temperament but with a rare temper.

I think about where I am in life and the things I’ve gone through to get here. Normally I compare them to my grandfathers life and the things he went through.

None of it was remotely the same but somehow we’re similar.

The question I have for myself now is what am I thinking about that has me going through this exercise.

Maybe there is no reason. Maybe it’s year seven and all my cells have completely changed, I’m a different person. Maybe it’s just bed time.

Whatever reason, I know I’m thinking about my grandpa, wearing that velcro strap hat with “Alaska” written on the crown of the cap and he’s smiling.

Heave, Obey, Moult

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

Nigel lifted the tablets. As he did, more hair fell from his head onto the faces of the rock slab he held. He’d been moulting more frequently, now that he was closer to the truth.

Above his head he held the words which were meant to give his life purpose, the words he was meant to obey.

Although his eyes were turned down, away from the sun he was forced to squint. The muscles of his arms were beginning to feel less like stone pillars and more like ropes. Sweat stung his eyes and his hair–it still fell. Now that he held the answers in his hands, tangible and cold, he felt more anxious than ever. He’d begged and pleaded with the sky, against the protestations of his friends and family.

“I need to find the truth!” He told them so while they ate, lounged, partied and laughed, he sought the truth.

Through valleys and deserts, jungles and mountains, Nigel looked for the truth. Every where he went the people asked him to stop and rest but Nigel kept on searching for that something.

The walking and climbing made his muscles strong. The obsession with truth, weakened him. So distracted by finding a clear obvious truth was he that he missed out on everything. It was not all a waste, however, when one day Nigel came across the tablets.

On stones shaped like markers for the dead was a list. On that list Nigel read things which he had to admit to himself were underwhelming and somewhat obvious.

He held them over his head, now nearly bald and standing at the edge of a cliff, heaving the stones over the side with the echo of a crash.

“I’ve wasted my life,” he said, then followed the sound of the crash.