A text from Saul at 11:56 AM

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

How’s it going my favorite fuck face?
Got off work at 10 already buzzed
working 6 days and this is my day off.
Sandy got sick last week so I couldn’t
come out. Come to find out third Covid test
is a charm. Now everyone in the house
has it except Tommy. He stayed at
grandma’s house right when she really got sick.
So grandma doesn’t want visitors.
Totally understandable.
I’ve been calling him, and he just gets sad.
I offered to send him toys and help me pick.
He said I want my papa for 100 days.
Shit day off.

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Float, Volcano, Marathon

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Astronauts spin holding an orphan rope
All known life bouncing from their visors
Green and blue and white and brown

My fingers burn and quake at glowing letters
An eruption of black spews over white
Invisible specks from that deep black pool

Finger through tar race chariots of fire
One view, two views, three views, four
One like, two likes, then no more

The window checking fever of a lost love
Howling wolves, laughing hyenas, danger
Bricks are laid one by one by one by one

Not fame, not money, not glory, nor expertise
Anxious desire to transcribe thought
To write. Not to be read, but understood

Liberty, Sweep, Inspiration

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

You’re squinting eyes betray your smile
The mask masks little to a familiar shape
Cigarette smoke dances towards beauty
And I can’t look away

You, the conjuring of muses
Baring a bounty of abuses
Betraying only grace
And I can’t look away

Cages open when you smile
Wings espy strength to fly
Bulges form upon my nape
And I can’t look away

The match you burn
Whispers darkness away
The corners lit
And I can’t look away

When sound escapes your peaceful face
No mask can mask that sweet escape
Swirling cosmos, stars and sky
And I can’t look away

Though day is dying in the West
You raise a sun inside my chest
It forms a smile upon my face
And I can’t look away

White, your name best describes
The happy touch and gentle vibes
A hummingbird darting into our lives
And I can’t look away

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

Honor, Describe, On

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Masks betray allegiance
Character on display
Grocery
Gas
Work
Home
Play

I/me/it
Refuse to play
Masks, sure
Identity, no way

No privilege in opinions held
Only privileged array
It’s somewhere in the middle
Not black
Not white
Gray

Speculative hypothesis
Speeding ticker tape
Brought to you by Skype
Hairy knuckled apes

Schizophrenic bricks
Seizure flashings
Falling skies
Hypnotize

Politics
Tune in
Choose R
No G
Choose B
The race of race
On color screams

Most trusted
Alternative
Number one watched
Hear it first
Quench your thirst
The truth already botched

Die, Mug, Silence

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The waitress eyed his mug like a Black Friday shopper eyeing the father who just grabbed the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. His knuckles white from keeping a tight grip through the handle around the sphere of the terracotta cup. His eyes glancing at the waitress and back at the coffee, half full and still steaming in his hand. The waitresses grip on the coffee pot equally as tight, a white band appearing where her choke hold on the handle, pressed against her wedding band and drained the blood around that finger.

He watched as she delivered a plate of egg whites to an older man two tables away. Then she walked over to his table.

“How is everything?” her question a distraction to her real intention. A rope-a-dope as her coffee pot hand darted forward across the table toward his mug.

“Everything is great, thank you.” He said, taking a sip from his coffee and bringing closer to his being, away from the hovering mother ship of coffee.

“Great, I’ll be back to check on you.” She wavered eyeing the mug, her hand beginning to shake from the extension of the nearly full pot in her hand. The moment passed and she retreated, moving on to the next table, where their mugs were exposed, and she filled to the brim each one with steaming coffee.

His mind was quiet. Eating alone, he’d become accustomed to the silence in his immediate vicinity. The conversations and cacophony of forks, knives and cups clattering spilled over into his space, but that was to be expected.

The waitress stopped at the coffee maker and began reloading her pot. She glanced back at his table; the mug still locked in his hand. She nearly spilled the coffee but there was more than enough in the chamber to cock back and fire more coffee into his cup, no matter how full it may have been.

She walked straight back to his table. “Refill?” The pot hovering inches from his mug-holding hand.

“No thank you,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” She insisted, pushing the pot closer to him until they nearly made a toast.

“Yes, I’m quite satisfied with the amount I have, one cup is enough.”

“Well, refills are free, sir, don’t be shy.” She was on the attack. He still stayed on the polite defense.

“That’s a great policy but I think I’ll have had my fill with just this one cup, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back to make sure.” She fired back. This shot wiped out his front line and civility became the casualty.

“Ma’am, no need to come back. I only want one cup of coffee.” The smile on his face turned a few degrees to a thin line.

“Okay, we’ll I’ll be back in a few minutes to make sure. People change their minds.” She threatened to leave but her smile faded, and she stayed, her arm shaking from holding the full pot out in front of her.

“Do not come back. I have finished my meal and once I finish this very cup of coffee, this single cup of coffee, I will pay my bill and leave. Should you continue insisting, I will be forced to leave only a 10% gratuity.”

“Sir, are you not happy with our service?” Her brow furrowed and the line became a frown. His brow furrowed and the thin line became a frown.

“Your service is excellent, perhaps a bit too much. It could be said that there is too much service. And if there should be too much of something, it is still inadequate.”

“I will refill that mug.” She pushed the pot against his mug, threatening to tilt its spout into his mug.

“You will not.” He pulled the mug away.

“I will provide this service as per our policy.”

“Policy be damned, I would rather die than accept your refill.”

Confusion, Mosque, Slow

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nothing made sense at the edge of the blue. On land there didn’t seem to be any order, to anything. Nothing was categorized and everyone moved rapidly, never seeming to take a break. Those weren’t even the strangest things. There was nothing in their mouths and they all seemed to be constantly making noises through them.

Lemuel had heard crying or retching or coughing but never the cacophony of sounds he was hearing now. None of it made sense. His eyes darted everywhere for some daubing, some symbols on these strange people to learn something about them.

Opening his arms at everyone coming toward him didn’t seem to be effective, if anything, they walked faster and made an obvious turn to avoid him. There was so much stimulation, Lemuel couldn’t think. He looked for a place that might be quiet so he could gather his thoughts and process what he might do. It wasn’t even that long ago that he had suddenly regained consciousness on shore. He still hadn’t gotten over the shipwreck, seeing all the ropes, sails, wood, and various supplies scattered in the mouth of the bay. All those lemons, bobbing up and down, rolling back and forth with each wave stretching onto the edge of the blue.

Looking up, Lemuel spotted a tall building with round towers poking up above the other tall buildings. Moving toward it, he pushed through people carrying strange objects he’d never seen. Moving creatures in cages, baskets of bright red, round objects, shiny things twisted in dangerous shapes. He had to keep looking up at the towers because at his level, there was only seeing just past the next person.

Finally, he looked up and then down to see the entrance of the building he sought. A giant archway patterned with tiles on each side marked the mouth of what he hoped would be a quiet or at least a quieter place.

Walking slowly towards the entrance, Lemuel noticed shoes just outside the large wooden doors. He took off his sandals and peeked into the door that was slightly ajar. Two men emerged, not noticing him. They carried rolled up rugs and stopped to put on their shoes. Lemuel slipped past and stopped, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness.

As his eyes took in the little light available, they began bouncing off information for Lemuel to see. More giant arches marked a long, vacuous hallway but they were not plain. Every wall, pillar, arch and windowsill was covered with carvings. Images of birds, geometric shapes, slivered moons, suns and stars.

Lemuel looked at his own bare chest, seeing the tattoos that made up who he was. Perhaps they spoke his language. He moved forward through archways, looking up at gigantic hanging objects holding, what looked like, thousands of candles. Ahead of him, he saw more men. They faced down on rugs just fit for them and rocked back and forth from kneeling to touching their heads to the rug. They were also making strange noises from their mouths, but these were not the chaotic sounds from outside, these seemed to sooth him. Lemuel knelt down, mimicking what he saw and began to think. The storm, his grandfather losing his grip on the rigging and disappearing over the side of the ship, screaming, blackness, the beach. Lemuel had found a quiet place but his thoughts were booming.

Mask, Impact, Discovery

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Perhaps loneliness can be written away. Getting lost in words, ideas, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, tomes, libraries. To become friends with letters and a tool for writing. Making acquaintance with a blank page, filling it with the handshakes and small talk of stories, essays, and poems.

Forcing one’s being to come into contact with the page, to forget all else. Surrounding loneliness with all that comes with writing and wrapping it all tightly around like a hug. Consumed by repeating the feeling period after period. Obsessed with filling the page and losing the self. Building a safe covering, draping oneself with the muses of tragedy and comedy; Melpo and Thalia.

All the while time moves, slightly faster, than when your eyes are locked onto the clock, moving with each blinking light or ticking hand. Loneliness slowing time. Time amplified and compounded by loneliness. Sleep and death the enemies of loneliness but friends of time and its passing.

Perhaps loneliness can be written away. Erased or at least postponed by the transcription of thought into words. How many words to erase loneliness? How many candles to light up a dark cathedral? How long can they burn? How much time passes before loneliness like a wind, rushes back in, leaving only the smoke of memory?

Burrowing furiously to unearth some sort of truth, the face behind those smiling and laughing masks, to the spiky ball of pain, down to the fluffy ball of joy. Digging down the white, throwing up black letter after black letter until you’re at the bottom of a page, buried safely under a pile of words.

Homophones

Exploring homophones.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Have the cents to make a fortune.
Have the sense to make a fortune.

Dwell under the air of your discontent.
Dwell under the heir of your discontent.

Explore the aisle to find your food.
Explore the isle to find your food.

Shave the hair.
Shave the hare.

Let it be.
Let it bee.

I am mail in a box.
I am male in a box.

Too much waste.
Too much waist.

It is dark in the morning.
It is dark in the mourning.

Enjoy the suite.
Enjoy the sweet.

Find your piece.
Find your peace.

I don’t know.
I don’t, no.

Night writing

A paragraph written in 2010.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s another night when my eyes close and open slowly. The ink oozes out of the pen from lazy twists of my wrist. A lonely moonlit bassoon plays discordant notes in my mind. Sympathy bangs the timpani and I scowl. Just a quiet solo and some time to listen until the moonlit bassoonist runs out of breath and the mood music stops. A thousand miles of empty desert in all directions is more company than the shadow over my eyes.

Telling Dad I drink too much

A short experience written in 2008.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Hey dad, I think I drink too much. I’ve had alcohol at parties but I’m starting to find that I’m drinking or having more drinks outside of parties than I do when I am at them. I drink to do homework or stay in my room and drink. I’ve even gone to a few classes after drinking. I’m not sure what to do and I know sometimes for some things, they get worse before they get better and I wanted to nip this in the bud just in case this was one of those things. Well, thanks for listening.


“Hello. Yes my father sent me over here to talk about, well I think I’m drinking too much. I drink all the time. Do I think I’m an alcoholic? Well I don’t know. I’m not always red faced and waddling around. I mean I keep a little stubble on my face and my hair isn’t really styled but I don’t drink out of a paper bag and live under a bridge, I’m in college and I’m doing well, academically.”


“Whiskey mostly. I drink beer too, 40 ounces at a time when I do but most of the time whiskey because it gets me to the feeling quicker and to be honest I don’t feel as heavy when I drink it. Yeah, that’s true all of the people I know drink, it seems normal at my age. You’re probably right. College is a unique experience. I’m sure it’s just a phase too, you’re right. Thank you, I feel better. Oh well, and you seem to be doing alright. So I think I’ll be fine. Thank you for your time, how much will that be? Okay, do you take cheques? Perfect. Thanks again. Oh and thank you for the copy of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

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.

Social Security

A short poem, 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A little boy sat on a bench in a park,
watching old men play their game. 

One moved his piece,
they frowned and they slouched,
then the other accomplished the same. 

The castles moved straight,
the horses made hooks
as the black and white shapes met their fate. 

The boy slightly shifted,
his gaze never lifted,
as the sun slowly made her escape.

The men’s eyes creased wrinkles
as moves spotted became twinkles
and their hands became part of the pieces. 

The boy closed his eyes,
looked up to the skies
and asked god why this game never ceases. 

God gave its reply
in the form of a sigh
but the men and their game stayed the same. 

The boy shook with cold,
looked back at the old
and decided that he would proclaim:

“I know I’m too young
for all of your fun
but it’s getting quite cold you see. 

My mother is waiting
but I’m still debating
if this is the game for me. 

I wanted to know
before I did grow
who would be left with his king. 

So I’m asking quite nicely
if you’ll play concisely
and finish this game before spring.”

The men gave a chuckle,
one grabbed his buckle,
as the boy cocked his head to the side. 

The old men gave advice,
hoping that would suffice
but the boy sauntered right up beside. 

Without making a scene,
he reached for the Queen
and moved in a line that was straight. 

The old eyes got wide,
the boy swelled with pride
as the man on the right cried,
“Checkmate!”

Vitriol

A short piece, September 10, 2020.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

You might read this and you might know me, or at least think that you do, but only those close right now know what I’m up to. I’m not the past, I’m not my experiences, or my family. Those may inform my choices but I am really only what I choose to do right now. So fuck you.

I sharpen my pencil when the letters get fatter on the page. Like a drop of blood sucked into the syringe of an addicts needle, you turn away your attention when my words bleed into your idea of me, just before plunging in your comfortable narrative.

Me? What a crazy concept. A ball of indie movies and music with arms and feet. A scarecrow mixed with contrarianism and a middle finger.

If you want it, chances are I don’t. if you’re talking about it, chances are I haven’t heard it. If you photograph it, chances are it’s not worth remembering.

This piece of vitriol brought to you by truth. Truth discovered by waving a machete through the dank foliage of your hashtags, peace signs, fake idealism and fear masked by makeup and dancing. Hacking at your need to defend yourself when no on is attacking.

My tips getting fat, it needs to sharpen again. It reminds me of you, I think you should get sharper too. Stop talking about what they tell you to talk about and start talking about why they tell you anything in the first place.

If you’re really against “flaming hot cheetos” that run “democracies” (your word, not mine) like dictators, then either put a bullet in his head or give your jabbering jaw a little slack. I know at least my ears will stop ringing from all your white noise, and it is white noise in more ways than one.

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.

Tonight

August 23, 2020

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I bounce my legs to keep the flies, gnats and mosquitoes from biting my feet. My elbows jump out to shoo them away. It’s still 90 degrees out, whatever that means. There is a breeze and the sun is blocked by a neighbors trees three houses west of mine. The wall unit is buzzing. A pool has formed from the steady drip of water, soaking the mat on the back porch. The dogs are splayed on the linoleum inside.

Saul’s visiting his kid. His bed is still in the living room. With only the wall unit to cool the house, we sleep in the living room, me on the couch, Saul drags out his mattress. Tonight he’s sleeping at his kid’s grandparents house.

I got a tattoo on Friday, wearing a mask the whole time. It’s a small piece, a couple of words, “live deliciously.” The implications are of pursuing a Bacchanalian existence. An almost ironic statement given the amount of societal distancing lately and, possibly for the foreseeable future.

I can hear the parrots that roost nearby in the Summer. Not native to Southern California but escaped from a local pet shop and thriving in their own gurgling, trilling, whistling and squawking bacchanal. I envy them tonight, and many nights lately.

I let baby girl out. She’s sitting at my feet, panting. I look down at her when the neighbor’s dogs bark but she doesn’t seem interested.

In a few minutes I’ll head inside to paint but I don’t feel like I can abandon my writing before landing on some deeper meaning, some understanding for the day. Today, perhaps, I must be satisfied with simply writing about the present.

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.

Hall, Light, Doctor

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

In the hall, where transitions take place. Shuffling from one idea to another. On my way to eat over there. On my way to shit over here. On my way to paint in the room next door. On my way to sleep in that room.

Always on my way to something but never appreciating the place in which I make the transitions. A cheap whore is the hallway, used to and fro without a thought or care. In the middle of my house but never the center of my attention.

The light in the hall has two switches, never pointing in the same direction. One is always up. One is always down. Neither ever looking in the same direction. One is off. One is on but the light always changes when one looks the opposite way.

Where do I go from here? The hallway leads to all areas of my home. Where I sleep. Where I eat. Where I shit. Where I shower. Where I work. Where I fuck. Where I watch TV. Where I stare at the painting and think about all the things of which I need to think.

I’m 34. I’ve been to the doctor more times than I wish. They don’t know shit but what you tell them. They are hallways, clueless unless you already have a direction in your mind. They speak with authority, are necessary evils but really don’t know anything unless you have an idea in your head.

So here’s to the hallways which we all traverse, mindlessly, thinking about what’s ahead, never thinking about the journey.

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

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.

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.

Race, Cry, Item

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Starter pistols tuned
to octaves heard by few
rabbits sprint ahead
tortoise’ lumber through

furs blur
cotton tails fly
shells drag
Heads stir

Cataloging status
caterwauling malice
hare dares to stop
tortoise keeps his clop

quickly darting all positions
Slowly, slowly moving on
rabbit rests
tortoise tests

tortoise never rests
rabbit seems to test
finish line in view
rabbit stops for stew

cracking feet
steady beat
tortoise seize
the rat-race cheese

springing feet
halting beat
rabbit freeze
its cocky knees

line is crossed
rabbit lost
rabbit cries
tortoise never stops

Qualify, Screen, Reaction

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Entitled by deed
Entitled by greed
Entitled to feed
Entitled to breed
Entitled to bleed
Entitled to stand on one’s own screed.

Begging for chances
Begging for advances
Begging at feet
Begging to eat
Begging for meat
Begging for the right to one’s own dances.

Burn up the screens
Burn up the scenes
Burn up the teens
Burn up the jeans
Burn for the queens
Burn to find out what everything means.

Tear down the bricks
Tear up the flix
Tear down the walls
Tear up the dolls
Tear down the malls
Tear of the curtain to see all the tricks.

Build up your scheme
Build up your cream
Build up your steam
Build up your dream
Build up your stream
Build to make the status quo scream.

Follow no man
Follow no plan
Follow no klan
Follow no fan
Follow no ban
Follow the instinct that tells you, “you can.”

Go up
Go down
Go left
Go right
Go in
Go out
Go

Presence, Genuine, Recommendation

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Haunting impressions of weight all around
Hairs raise, spine tingles, eyes dart
Feelings unnoticed when presence is visible

Not seen, indescribable
Not truly what something is said to be
disingenuous

Authority proposes, recommends, imposes
Impotent listen
all are blind

All have a key, a few have influence
Some listen, some give orders
balance

Chaos, agent of too many free thinkers
Order, agent of few thinkers
chaos is order with none of the rules and all of the consequences

I think
I drink
I think
I drink
I

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


Cover, Relation, Hilarious

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Crown me King
I am at
the center.
You may be
sister
cousin
father
mother
brother
but I
am king.

An empire of
foxtails
dust
rotted fence posts
chipping paint

My loyal subjects
crickets
spiders
roaches
ants

My closest relations
anger
acrylic paint
sadness
drink
loneliness
my right hand
anxiety
my bicycle

The crown is
light
The scepter is
missing
The freedom is
looking out
through hard
plastic
packaging,
my case
my cover
molds
to me.

I am king and queen
prince
and princess.
I am jester
jester
Jester

I am dungeon master
and
shackled prisoner.

I am lord and lady
in waiting.
I am peasant
pageboy
Knight
and horse.

I am king
and you
are alien.

I am king
and you
are nothing.

I am jester
and I point
and laugh
at the king.

I am king
and I
am nothing.

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.


Beam, Appeal, Oven

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I cry hard, like something is forcing itself out of me. Its wrinkled hands prying my jaws open from the inside, sending out a beam of aching sound, like wind chopped by the blades of a mill. Grunts and groans, the acoustics of pain are beautiful.

Plea’s to higher powers only expand the shadow over me. Nothing comes down, nothing hugs me, nothing screams in my ear the comfort of an existence lived any other way than alone. Let us look up, in the holy scripture, the book of 2nd bullshit and find out what lies lick our ears and send us life preservers with no rope attached to dry land.

Half-baked illusions equate to disillusions. Heaping helpings of please and thank you’s, excuse me’s and handshakes do not replace a single realization that we are and will always be entirely alone. Living in ovens, separated from the rest of the kitchen, getting weaker and weaker until we finally fall asleep in the warmth of wires glowing red. To become a meal, an example for some fresh batch of lives, popped into the oven.

Belief, Obese, Death

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Stars, sun and moon pattern canvases of purples and blues.

Bloated fingers stuffed through rings dab foreheads, stomachs and shoulders.

White hairs spill from Mitres jabbing at the sky.

Oceans of pink pressed hands squeezed white.

Fire licks spit roasted gluttons.

Salivating teeth taste smoke.

Souls peep morning skies through dewy windows.

Stars stab sun.

Moon kill sky.

Sun kill moon.

Topple, Rebellion, Penny

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The Penny Rebellion started with an Instagram user, @toppletopkym. He was wearing a mask, as was the necessary trend of the time, to decrease the spread of the virus. Short videos of the rich and famous had spread of them showing mountains of paper money. So user, ToppleTopKYM, filmed a short video of his own. Up to that video, his account was frequented by family and friends, mostly concerned family and curious acquaintances, not so much friends.

ToppleTopKYM mimicked the other videos. Where as they would lay on their beds on top of piles of paper money, or hold stacks in their hands and swipe single sheets into the air until they floated down in a confetti of money, he converted his meager income into pennies. Using the camera on his phone, ToppleTopKYM made a series of split-screen videos where he mimicked the celebrities and their braggadocios content but with pennies. He laid on his bed making a snow angel out of copper, while next to him a clean-cut A-lister pretended to do the breast stroke through a pile of 100 dollar bills. He through pennies in the air and let them clank to the ground while next to that video played a man with sunglasses indoors and a gold chain making it rain 100 dollar bills.

He made these videos for quite a while, not really gaining any notice, until he made a post simply titled Penny Rebellion. This video began with the screen split. A chubby man was tied up in a throne on one side with stacks and loose piles of cash around him. On the other side of the screen sat ToppleTopKYM in a metal folding chair with towers of pennies. On his side of the screen, he began striking matches and throwing them at the pennies. He did this a few times before shrugging, then turning towards the other screen. He struck a match and began tossing it towards the stacks and piles of paper money. The man in the throne widened his eyes.

ToppleTopKYM, after unsuccessfully lighting either of the piles, metal or paper, walked to the throne side, revealing they were in the same room. Then he struck a match and held it to a pile at the foot of the throne. Smoke slowly rose, then a small flame and then the whole pile was alight. ToppleTopKYM walked back to his metal chair and sat down, scratching his head comically. He lit a match and held it to the pennies until the flame burned his fingers. He tried again and again.

By this time the tied up man was screaming but they were muffled by the gag in his mouth. Then ToppleTopKYM walked towards the camera and said, “Fire licks Metal until it’s black but it eats paper until it becomes ash.”

Then ToppleTopKYM turned and began kicking the towers of pennies. When they were flattened, he turned to the burning paper and began kicking them onto the throne while the king on the throne tried to scream. The video ended mid kick and scream.

This video went viral. People started making their videos showing their wealth in pennies. People began paying for everything in pennies, and it was legal tender, businesses lost countless hours counting. Then the videos took on a life of their own. There were videos of how to make bullets, knives and even guns out of pennies. People got tattoos of pennies and graffiti-ed images of pennies all over the buildings where they lived.

Then it became a movement. “Show us your pennies.” Meaning, show us you’re one of us.

Politicians, terrified, always terrified of losing their image began making speeches about how their fathers and grandfathers came to this country with nothing but two pennies in their pockets. To that the people replied, “show us your pennies.”

After much violence, spectacle and shifting of power the people grew tired of using so many papers. They eventually went back to paper and its practicality; it could be folded, you could carry a lot and ultimately it wasn’t about the currency, but really more about the pricks who flaunted it, or pretended not to.

And that, was the Penny Rebellion.

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?

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?

Smile, Miracle, Painter

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It crept up the corners of her mouth and stuck like the bend in a banana. She stared at the splashes and splotches of oil-based chunks daubed on her canvas. This was truly majestic. An act that defied nature, more miraculous then that J.C. born of a sexless act. The textures, colors, shapes and composition from which she could not tear her gaze were indescribable beyond the basic elements of a painting.

She dropped her brush. The desert’s grit clung to the paint stuck to the brushes toe. The once indigo splash was now a textured nib of yellows, oranges and browns from the Mojave’s sands.

Tears began pouring from her eyes, as a memory flashed in her mind. Her father calling her by her name, Lucy. The image she had plucked from the fringes of the intangible was now reinforcing the meaning of her name; light.

Lucy’s name had meaning now beyond that crass coat hangar of a word that pulled her neck to look in the direction of anyone who called it. Lucy. This was her name, all in an image. All in the ethereal. The painting seemed to twist and bend, a galaxy of exploding stars, planets created and worlds extinguished.

Lucy. Light. See.

She could not move. Her being had found root in that moment. Presence. This was her purpose, meaning, the yin to her yang. She belonged here, in front of this painting, as audience and creator. An infinite loop of admiration, disgust, praise and critique, darkness and light. All equal parts of the whole.

The sun was disappearing behind the molars of the San Gabriel mountains. In the mouth of the valley she was left standing as a sigh of relief whipped up the desert sands. The paint, not yet dry, made for the perfect trap and in a single gust of wind, the painting was erased by the desert.

Lucy, shaken out of her trance, picked up her 12-oz. Fresca, wiped the sand from the rim and took a sip. Then she kicked over her easel and walked to the car.

My last confession

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
1,407 words

I must be falling. My suit jacket is bunched up under my arms and flapping around my head. A strip of polka dots slaps around my face. My calves and white cotton socks exposed. Shoe laces whip my shins. The wind changes pitch as it passes through the circle I’ve formed with my lips.

Forgive me father for I have sinned; it is…

     The air is getting colder. I look down and see flecks of shine coming and going on a canvas of blue. The ocean coming up to greet me. I make out, almost directly below me, the Golden Gate bridge.

I pray I hit it so the story ends.

The bridge whistles past and out of instinct I point my toes to the water and press my arms to my sides. The air rushes into my lungs just before water rushes in my nose and past my ears. My eyes are shut but less and less light makes it through my eyelids. I put my arms out to slow the dive.

     I open my eyes. All around are people. Some swim gracefully above, others motionless and fall past me. I see a man in shorts and a polo pushing past a motionless woman in pearls and an apron. Her hair wrapped around her face, pointing her way to the surface. People were everywhere, submerged, floating and swimming, looking around confused.

I look down. A mass of behemoth black shadows swirls below me. I look up. Pants, belts, socks, skirts, blouses, bras, thongs, ties, jackets, shoes falling toward me. People kicking and thrashing toward the light. I see people at the top burst through the surface and take a breath of air. My chest starts to burn with envy. Naked bodies fall toward me.

I need oxygen.

O’ my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee…

     I started to push up as if there were solid objects below my feet and hands. I am heavy with wet clothes. A woman removes her shoes and fights upward. I pull at the water to fight up. I kick off my own bloating leather soles and pull off my socks. A loose tie wraps around my neck as I push upward. I tear it off and begin removing the rest of my clothing, always gyrating upwards toward the light. The burning in my lungs starts to feel like the image of a film reel being eaten up by a flame. I’m feverishly kicking like a frog while my hands tug away at the belt. I pushed off my pants. The shirt doesn’t tear quickly enough. I look down and begin to panic.

     The shadows seem closer and the light farther away. Something touches my foot and instinct kicks in. I look straight up, now completely naked and cup my hands for full force. I’m beginning to exhale in short bursts that grow longer with each snort. I’ll run out of air soon and then, out of habit, inhalation will take over.

I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life…

     Next to me, a man grips the legs of the person above, trying to pull himself up. He exposes the man’s ass and they both fall further down. They reach for me while their mouths fill with water and sink to the swirling black masses.

A woman below me reaches for my leg. I kick at her hand, but she grabs my ankle. A bubble of air leaps out of my throat but the muscles tighten their grip on my body, and I pull both of us forward. 

     I won’t make it to the top with her extra weight. The burning in my chest has been replaced by spasms. My lungs pounding in their cage. I begin to sputter. Whatever air is left in my lungs turns to bubbles in the water. The light is just a few strokes above me. I look down and see a man grabbing at the woman hanging on to me. I kick at her hand, she lets go, now fighting off her own leech. I push forward and in another two strokes, the light blinds my eyes.

Thank you, father.

The light disappears.

#

In an abandoned house off the 215 freeway I go to confess my sins. The minister sits behind a plaster wall from 4:00 pm to 4:52 pm. He enters through a hole in the outside wall because the front door is boarded up. Sitting in the master bathroom, he takes confessions through a glory hole. 

I walked in with the dead eyes of a junkie, unsticking my eyelids from the caked cocaine and running eyeliner. Another day wasted. Given up to the night before. I had time to confess before Father Ibsen spent the rest of his night suckling at any booze he could find, nursing his own demons. I stooped to put my face by the hole. Parting my dry lips with my tongue, I recited the script.

“Father forgive me for I have sinned again.  I know not what I did but I know a blue-eyed, red-haired devil in fishnet stockings made me do it.”

A lighter clinked and hissed. Tobacco hit my nose. Smoke poured through the hole and made my eyes well up. His words curled through the haze.

“Tell me son, what have you done that you say the devil made you do?”

My eyes tried to focus. I listened to my breathing and my mind clarified for a moment. Guilt has a queer way of turning me into a saint. The few moments in between coming to and my next blackout I find myself curling into a ball and begging my inner child for forgiveness. My ego quenches the thirst, but my self flushes it into oblivion. However, feelings don’t mean facts, so I answer honestly.

“I don’t know but the evidence keeps piling up behind me.”  Father Ibsen passes the cigarette through the glory hole, filter ripped off. I extend two yellow fingers to accept. 

“Son, in my terrifying experience the demons don’t scratch, tear, bite, claw, scream or yell, rip, shred or gnash their teeth. No, they brush your hand, touch you lightly on your thigh and whisper in your ear. They’ll give you sweet words and pour confidence down your throat, inject self-esteem into your veins and breathe life into your nose. It’s a slow seduction.”

I took a long pull from the cigarette. With no filter, the smoke punched a hacking cough out of my lungs. I choked it down to hear the rest of Father Ibsen’s sermon.

“They make you think you are doing all the work. That you make the decisions and take charge of your destruction. So that by the time you feel the scratching, tearing, biting, clawing, screaming, yelling, ripping, shredding, and gnashing of teeth you think it’s the demons but it’s really the angels giving all they have to try and pull you back. While the demons lay back, pissing and blowing snot bubbles all over themselves with laughter at the violent struggles of their boy scout doppelgängers.”

Father Ibsen stuck two fingers back through the hole. I handed him the cigarette and he continued.

 “That is the devil’s greatest pride. She twists her forked whiskey-soaked tongue around yours until you can’t tell the difference and when you think you know, she has you.  Her trick is making you think all the rules and regulations will save you, but the fortress is really a prison.”

The words were ironic coming from the fiery, vodka drenched breath spurting out of the hole. He chuckled and finished his impromptu sermon to the choir.

“So, it makes me laugh, son, until tears stream and sides ache, when I hear one of my children say, ‘the devil made me do it’ because son, aren’t we just the devil?”

His final words sounded like an admiring mother mildly scolding her mischievous child.  I heard his chair creak as he stood up. He passed his collar through the fuck hole, spotted and stained with sweat and semen, and spoke the last words I ever heard from his mouth. “Time for this devil to change costumes. But you should sit on this side of the wall. Hearing the insanities of the other, keeps one’s own in check. Their ain’t no glory on this side of the hole, any stone age queen will tell you the same.”

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Underwear, Hide, Noisy

The morning arrived in a gradient of orange, purple and blue across the sky. The sun hadn’t pulled itself over the mountains and the moon was enjoying a glimpse of the day. The girl with the pearls in her eyes wept.

She wanted to hide from the noisy events playing in her mind. The potions from the previous night had not completely worn off and, more troubling, she couldn’t find her underwear. Buried, she feared, under the snoring ogres sprawled over the couches, chairs, tables and floor.

A thing of beauty she had wanted to glimpse. Not a thing, a feeling. Grabbing her knees, she forced her thoughts into the present. What’s next? No, that was the future. Where am I? She turned to look through a window but couldn’t recognize any of the fixtures through the glass. Her glassy eyes took in the room in front of her. The sleeping creatures around her were familiar in her flashes of memory from the night previous.

Where is my underwear? A chill shook through her as her questions probed deeper. Why aren’t I wearing them?

One of the ogres stirred, opening its eyes for just a moment and locking its gaze with hers before passing back into unconsciousness.

Could he know what had happened? Her mind fixated. She had a feeling. That question, and any answer or lingering doubt, would haunt her, either way. Where is my underwear?

She was realizing that something inside her would become stuck, no matter if she left this place or not. Her consciousness screamed at its daydreaming brother for details, but she was answered only with a feeling. More likely, a mixture of emotions that stirred in her a macabre feeling.

Anxiety, depression, sadness and darkness, if that could be called an emotion. It felt like more feelings were to blame but she had to force herself to become unstuck from that place. Her underwear was missing, she would not be. The front entrance was only a few feet in front of her, though sleeping giants lay in between.

She forced open the window and climbed out. Her skin tightening from the cold of the morning and the pearls in her eyes shining even though the sun was still hiding behind the mountains.

Nifty, Manage, Call

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

There’s this nifty little device I have that manages all my calls. It’s a little 3D rectangle with a green light up screen that shows my messages. I can hook it to my belt and check my incoming calls.

It’ll beep whenever someone wishes to get a hold of me and then, if I recognize the number, I’ll call back to see what they want.

Sometimes I already know what the message is by looking at the phone number. I know what they want, how much they want, where I should meet them and what time I need to meet them.

When I’m in the park and it’s lunch time, I like to make a big show of being contacted. I’ll tilt the little sucker attached to my belt up at the angle of my face. I know I can simply look down and see it, but then no one would notice that I’m making it that I’m doing quite well.

Sometimes I’ll pull the thing off my belt and hold it up at eye level, not to admire it, but to make a big show that the message is bothersome. This is really impressive because it looks like having the device is no big deal to me, like a necessary evil in my line of work, “If I could get away with not carrying one of these things around (shaking head) trust me.”

You know, that sort of thing.

In my line of work, if done well, only my customers know who I am. They’ll never know anything else, not where I’m from, who I associate with, where I get the products, not anything.

That’s why this little chirping birdie on my belt is perfect. I can only contact others, they shoot messages into the dark.

And, I just remembered, I can turn off the beeps and it will vibrate. On occasion that silence is necessary. The people of this great community and their elected officials aren’t as open minded about the products I sell. So the ability to lay low–I won’t say hide–is occasionally necessary.

I never pass this feeling onto my clients. That’s bad customer service. I don’t ever want them to leave me feeling nervous. They should walk or drive away feeling empowered by their decisions.

Oh, excuse me, I’m getting someone now. See how people are looking over here? I’m a man to be respected, like a doctor or surgeon. I help people get better too.

Mean, Mean, Mean

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by Dad

One of the oldest debates in history was that of the meaning of mean. For those that study such things, they theorize that something was lost in translation and originals no longer exist.

The confusion lay around the intended definition of the word “mean”. The sentence at the very end of the ancient script read “Discover mean.”

That first interpretation was that the author intended its readers to discover purpose, a reason for living. However, certain philosophers came along and proposed that mean was intended to be mathematical. That to spend time looking for purpose was a fool’s errand, like looking for air. An average, however, could be discovered. In other words they argued, you may not find a purpose but you can find what makes you happy, what makes you content. Discover that mean.

The two theories lived on in two different belief systems, mostly at peace but sometimes at war.

A third theory was introduced mostly from warring radicals on both sides of the two existing theories. Having seen and caused their fair share of violence they put forth the theory that “discover mean” was intended for all to find and root out evil. To slice out cancerous elements everywhere.

Of course, no one pointed out how comfortable the already violent ones were able to adopt this new violent belief. They felt justified in their acts, arguing it was all for the greater good.

In between these three theories were the jokes, sayings and philosophies that people knew but did not widely adopt or apply to their personal identities.

Some said the argument was as fruitless as the Protestant claim that Jesus dying on the cross had said “I tell you today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

A single comma split families, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

So the meaning of the mean created division.

Only a few thought to ask who had written the script to begin with, where had it come from, what was the context for the rest of the piece.

The scrolls seemed to amount to an individuals notebook filled with records of inventory, lists of people and the odd bit of scribblings which included jokes, philosophical questions and the beginnings of stories.

My favorite theory is that humans tend to believe that our current times and understanding of humanity is the most advanced. But the human experience is the same. To quantify human experience, we’d arrive at the same mean now as in 800 AD. To search for purpose would be to arrive at the same mean. To be kind would be to defeat the same mean.

Stride, Regret, Needle

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

It happened quickly. The party was in full swing and all of a sudden Jamie came downstairs, sewing needle in hand, and began popping all of the balloons.

At first, the sound of the music, laughter, cheering and conversation drowned out the popping but after a while, Jamie hit her stride and the sound of instant deflation began turning heads.

“Why, Jamie?”

“We’re having a great time, aren’t you?”

“This is your party, Jamie. What are you doing?”

Those were questions that Jamie pretended not to hear. She just kept popping balloons, and there were many. She had been inflating balloons all week for this day, with a rental helium tank. All 300-something balloons had been single-handedly inflated and tied by her.

As she worked on the balloons during the week, she thought about herself. This would be her great coming out party to show all her friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors and colleagues that she, Jamie, was the string that kept the balloons at the party, metaphorically speaking. Although, for a split second she worried the metaphor would be lost since she was popping them.

And so now, into popping maybe over 100 balloons, Jamie started relishing in the reactions of her guests. The force and energy of all the partiers was hushed by a single balloon popper.

Some of the guests began to leave. Coworkers and neighbors glanced around, made excuses and left. Friends chuckled nervously or tried approaching Jamie but she would only look them in the eyes and pop the next balloon.

Jamie’s friends began to leave and shortly after, so did her family. There was only herself and another girl she recognized from work who was passed out in a chair in the kitchen.

Of the 300-something balloons, she had popped roughly 280. She had lost count when she tried paying attention to her guests.

She allowed herself a brief chuckle and started her walk upstairs. Struck suddenly by an idea, she went back into the kitchen and opened the miscellaneous drawer. She pulled out a Sharpie and walked up to the girl passed out. On her forehead she wrote “regret nothing”, then she capped the pen and headed upstairs for bed.

Exciting, Chocolate, Clock

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ladychap84

I can feel that bubble welling up in my chest. No, it’s not a literal bubble it’s that feeling of pressure that rises up and sometimes forces your cheeks into a smile or occasionally causes you to shake. when you’re about to get something you’ve been wanting for a long time. The anticipation of receiving that thing you’ve wanted for a while.

I sat on the edge of the check-up bed, my bare ass sticking to the thin paper they pull over the top to stop cross-contamination. I could feel the paper sticking in my crack and start to curl up my thighs. This part was not exciting.

I was waiting for the news about my cancer. The nurses and doctors had been treating me like I beat it. They were slapping my back and saying things like ” I shouldn’t be saying anything like this but I’m 90% sure you’ll be cancer free. Let’s just wait for the tests.”

That was the excitement. Now I was staring at the clock, begging its hands to speed up. I needed to know.

I heard a soft knock on the door and the doctor came in. He didn’t look like a man about to tell another man that they were cancer free. In fact, the doctor looked the opposite.

He came over next to me and said, “Sam, I’m sorry but I spoke too soon. Your tests came back positive and the cancer has spread.”

I could only muster an “oh.”

“I’m afraid you only have another two or three months to live.”

I looked up at the clock, the hands now looked like they were zipping around its face. I wanted everything to stop for a minute so I could wrap my head around it all.

“Can I put my pants back on?” I asked, not really waiting for his reply.

The doctor was talking but I wasn’t listening as I walked out. I still had on the gown over my pants. Passing the reception desk, I reached into the bowl of mini-candy bars.

“Sir,” said the lady at the desk, “we ask that you only take one at a time. We want everyone to have the opportunity to get some.”

“One at a time.” I grunted, then stopped and pulled out a mini-mars bar and stuck it in my mouth. I reached into the bowl and pulled out a mini-reeses pieces. In between chewing the mars bar, I stuck the Reeses in my mouth.

One at a time, as per the lady’s instructions, I unwrapped and ate chocolate covered candy bars, until they were all gone.

It was too much. I started to gag. The lady pulled a trashcan from under her desk and gave it to me. I threw up all the chocolate, a lot of it still intact.

I wondered if it was my gluttony or my cancer that made me sick but then I thought, with two or three months to live is that really what I’m going to think about?