Choosing the Act We Act

We fortunately had an extra day in the Mid Week Blues Buster, and I needed it to get an idea going. Still, here I am squeaking by at the very last minute. This specific song was difficult for me to find a story to go with, being primarily electric guitar exercises. The lyrics helped me out, fortunately.

The song we had to play with this week was The Act We Act by Sugar.


“Pardon me, but do you happen to have the time?”

The voice shocked me out of my inner thoughts and back to the bus stop where I waited and brooded. With a thick accent meant to sound British, and failing utterly, the speaker asked again.
I looked around to see who had intruded into the solace of the thoughts. It wasn’t the young guy with the thick glasses and expanded ears, shaking his head to some electric guitar scream that escaped his expensive headphones. The only other person at the bus stop was a derelict from the streets, standing just a few feet away. Dirty grey hair held in place by a faded bowler hat, and the suit jacket was a poor combination with the sweat pants below, held in place by a twisted section of orange extension cord. Tough skin wrinkled around grey blue eyes, as he smiled when he noticed me look up.

“Man, I don’t have anything extra. Sorry.” I said out of habit, starting to fall back into my reverie.

“Good sir, that’s simply unnecessary. I merely query about the time.” Unfettered, he pressed on.
Glancing down, an oft repeated glance at my phone revealed the time. “It’s 6:17. Why, are you late for something?” As soon as the angry words came out, I felt guilty. The problems in my life weren’t his fault, nor were his problems my responsibility either. His only sin, as far as I was aware, was disrupting the silent anonymous rhythm of the bus stop. The unspeaking passersby so close in the city.

“Not yet, not yet, but I thank you for your concern. Merely rolling with the tides, as they say. As you can likely surmise, I seem to have misplaced my timepiece.”
Driven by guilt or curiosity, I took another look at him. His clothes were in tatters, but he didn’t carry himself with an air of subservience or disgrace. Rather, as he stood slightly apart, straight shoulders and head held high, he more seemed to be surveying his domain. He noticed my attention, and took a step closer to speak directly to me. “Hours could slip by while you watch, with the thoughts cluttering your mind.”

“Sorry, it’s just…you don’t…I don’t know, you just don’t make sense.” I blushed at the explanation.

“Ah, yes, not what you expect once you raise the curtain? No, my young friend, this is a temporary condition.” He waved his hand along his body, indicating his colorful ensemble. “The act we act is what is reflective of that which is under the skin. One or two poor choices may have led me to this residential misadventure, yet especially in adversity, our carriage and bearing will carry us through.”

The bus pulled up to the curb as he finished, and I rose to step toward it. I noticed myself standing up straighter, and that simple act made the worries on my mind seem smaller and less oppressive.

The homeless man didn’t make any move to cross to the bus. “Is this yours, too?” I asked.

“No, mine is still coming, but I have enjoyed seeing the worlds collide this evening.” He bowed slightly and stepped back from the curb, waving the bus driver on.

“Well, good luck to you, and good night.”

As I sat on the bus, I looked around at the people already seated. Most were engrossed in their own thoughts or devices, yet none had the spirit or seeming energy of the homeless man. Most were the same that shared the bus every other work night, and most likely would continue the routine for many months or years to come. I thought of the differences, both on the inside and the outside, and couldn’t stop thinking about the difference it made.

“The act we act”, I muttered to myself, thinking that it might be time to consider my act, and see where my fortunes could take me.

Candy of Hope

I was able to pull my thoughts together enough in time to play along with the Mid Week Blues Buster, even with everything going on!  If there’s one thing that I can agree with the song this week, it’s that life is crazy.

However, it can also be wonderful.  The other weekend, I was at a local writing convention, and though there have been some bumps and bruises, I have certain missed writing and have dearly missed the people that writing brings me closer to.  I’ll be putting more effort to it, and in letting it see the light of the internet as well.  After that, well, just have to see how things go.

This week’s song is Candy by Iggy Pop.


Candy of Hope

Susan looked up from her approved breakfast meal, optimized for health, and sighed. The mush had all the nutrients the body needed, precisely measured for her genome constellation and age bracket, but without anything that any focus group could find to cause her or anyone else harm. Or that could cause taste, for that matter. Sculpting it with a compostable spoon, she couldn’t even build anything recognizable before the structure collapsed in on itself to a featureless void. Darkly, she thought that it was oddly fitting for how the big city had changed in…geez, has it been twenty years?

She finished her scheduled meal, so that her networked blood sugar device wouldn’t register a drop and send alerts out. When she finished, she threw the container into the trash, but even that failed to satisfy her. The engineered corn starch collapsed almost silently, designed with the safest energy dispersal model possible. She paused and looked out the window, reminiscing, until her earpiece buzzed to remind her that a scheduled alarm to leave for work that would be activating shortly.

She couldn’t tell which was bleaker: the winter sky above, or the colorless vista of the modern city, where any color or texture that could be considered offensive had been banned. Even the self driving vehicles passing on the street failed to break the monotony. Since cars became self driving, and in order to keep them safe driving, they had become a city utility instead of a possession. However, that meant they all looked the same, blending in with the eco-crete in what some had called stress reducing.

Susan had long ago learned to fake it and just smile along, but not too widely. Faced with another day, with a hole in her heart where life used to be, she couldn’t help but look to the bottom of the cabinet. “Just one little bit, before work, she thought.” Her indiscretions were becoming more frequent, but she just needed what it gave her.

In frustration, a long time ago, she had kicked at the bottom of the panel. To her surprise, the front facing of it had popped off, and she found she could attach it again with only a little force. The stark edge looked so foreign, being an unrounded corner, and without the slightest bit of cushioning. Her treasure fit inside the “false bottom”, and the clandestine hiding place felt so exhilarating!

Before her earpiece could chime, she knelt down and pressed at the front, popping it free. Inside a gap in the frame sat a self sealing plastic box. She punched in the security code and lifted the lid. Color! As it always did, just seeing a cacophony of hue made her smile. Foil wrapped, the contents reflecting the light like a thousand miniature rainbows. Next, the smell reached her nose, with a decadent richness of earth and joy. Her fingers precisely plucked out a single small piece of the precious contraband. Susan unwrapped the treasure, careful not damage the dark nub inside. Heated by her fingers, the fats and oils felt smooth and almost alive. Slipping it into her mouth, the taste reminded her of days long ago, of haunting dreams that nobody else could see.

Startled out of her bliss by the daily alarm, she precisely placed the wrapper back into the plastic container, sealing it with a hiss. Replacing the box into the cabinet, and the front casing, she wrestled with a familiar conflict. Her contraband made her feel happy, made her feel love for a few brief moments, what could be seditious about it?

“After all, it’s just one piece of candy.”

Breaking Down on a Midsummer Night

As is often the case in fairy tales, we sometimes find ourselves awakening from a long sleep.  Such is the case here, and just in time for the Midsummer Night’s Dream short story contest.

So, without any more ado about such a little nothing…


Alone on the side of the road, Dan turned the key again, knowing that the car wouldn’t start this time either.  No sound from the engine disturbed the crickets’ humming.  “So much for the scenic route.”  He retrieved a notebook from the seat, and began scribbling under the full moon.  Shortly, he scratched out several lines as if they had sabotaged his vehicle, and started a new page muttering “Sounds like a stupid card!”.

The methodical abuse of the notepad was interrupted by a whistle carried on the breeze.  Terrified and delighted to not be alone, Dan looked around abruptly.  A light approached from the distance, and deep rumble came with it, until a motorcycle stopped next to the incapacitated car.  The woman riding it turned to look at him as she turned off the engine, sending her ponytail dancing.

“Enjoying the stars?” she grinned.

“Car’s just dead.” Dan answered, not amused.

“Well, why don’t I take a look?” Without waiting for an answer, she slid off of the machine.  Dan unconsciously stepped back from the leather clad stranger.  As she moved, he could see both a large knife and a hammer on her belt, and the muscles in her arms rippled as she removed her gloves.

“You know, if it’s any inconvenience, I can just wait till morning…” even his voice started to hide as she stepped past him.

The woman raised the hood of the car effortlessly, and was hidden from Dan’s view.  Feeling useless, he simply stood still.  He heard whispering near the engine that sounded almost like singing.  When the air rang with the sound of metal being beaten, his indignation overcame his timidity, and he strode angrily forward.  As he neared the woman, index finger pointed, the car engine started smoothly.

“Better than new.” the strange woman said with satisfaction as she slammed the hood.

Dan’s mouth dropped open as the anger drained away.  “How did…uh…Thank you!”

As she settled the hammer back onto her belt, she stepped toward the motorcycle.  “On that other thing, you’re trying too hard, Slick.”

“What are you talking about?  Who are you?” he asked, bewildered.

“Called Bree, or some prefer Bridgit.” The motorcycle started loudly.  As she drove away into the night, she called back.  “No words as powerful as true ones, and no verse as beautiful as real love.  Write that down, and it’ll be right.  Now, get to it!”.

A Trying First Day – #MWBB

The song for this week’s Mid Week Blues Buster was a very popular one some years ago, even familiar to me. When I tried to work with it’s main theme, there wasn’t anything interesting and new coming up. Once I opened it up a bit in my head, it seemed to find a hook into themes that have been going on of painful changes and new beginnings, and let a short bundle of words out. No matter how exciting the opportunity ahead, sometimes it’s ok to stop and mourn for the moments and circumstances being left behind.

The song is by Macy Gray, and called I Try.


A Trying First Day

Finally reaching the seclusion of my car, my stoic smile crumbles as sobs wrack my shoulders. Teardrops fall down my cheeks, and my world crumbles around me. As I stare down at a picture of you, there is no doubt that even as you are far away, I am a prisoner of your love. I wipe the tears away and try to find some way past the fears that threaten to overwhelm me. A brief comfort comes in the fact that fate has brought us together, but if forced to make a confession, it would certainly be a false front.

Just a few moments ago, we were together, and I choked on the farewell as you ambled away toward your destination. I turned before you could have seen me break down, but looking over my shoulder, you were looking forward to your next adventure. Each step back toward the car was an internal struggle about whether to turn and run back to you, or to let the changes happen. The issue became so intense that I nearly toppled into a rhododendron bush. The purple blossoms dancing in the wind were unsupportive, and eventually I made it to the car.

Having to content myself with the smell of one of your shirts from the backseat, there is no denying that this is not a good look. The streaked tearstains feel like someone has been finger painting, and my nose feels full and red. Trying to pull myself together, I force myself to put your picture down on the seat, out of sight. This is only the first of many things that must be done today, and it simply will not do to let the world know just how vulnerable that I am without you near.

Just as the wispy beginnings of control start to reform, the yellow school bus passes directly ahead. Your blonde curls perform the lively dance of an animated conversation with a new friend, already moving forward on the very first day of school.

Mermaid’s Kiss – MWBB

The song this week for the Mid Week Blues Buster was a bit difficult to find a story to pair with. Then, I remembered how seductive the sea can be, as well as the power of some of the denizens there. Maybe it’s the first hints of fall, or the vibe of the equinox that is nearly upon us, but the ebbs and flows of life have definitely been on my mind lately, and it all seems to have come together at the very last minute.

The song in question this week was PJ Harvey’s song: Long Snake Moan


Mermaid’s Kiss

Through the comfortable green of her watery world, Kerthala saw many things passing her favorite rocks, carried by the currents. Some deeper into the darkness were terrifying to behold, such as gentle behemoths frolicking in joy that could crush an unwary merfolk with an exuberant shift of a fin. Others, along the tops of the waves, solid wooden forms carrying men, always scuttling about like a colony of crabs. Some of those men, though, would be still, looking deep into the water. Those were her favorite.

One afternoon, as the bright sun was darkened by a large ship, she saw one such man hanging low off the side, almost within reach of the waves themselves. He was busily working away on some task or another, scraping at the side of the vessel. Her tail twitched involuntarily, almost a moan of delight from her lower extremities. With only a slight effort, she followed along with the ship, watching for the right moment.

Matching her timing with one of the larger waves, she flexed her sinewy tail, rocketing just above whitecaps, clutching the doomed sailor in her muscular arms. Together, they splashed back into the water, disappearing with an iridescent flourish as her damp scales caught the afternoon sunlight. In but a moment, the rickety bench clattered emptily against the hull, with only a stocking cap floating briefly on the water to mark his passage.

The sailor tried to swim for the surface, but he was too far out of his element. The mermaid, delighted with the sport, allowed him to make some progress before dragging him back down and away from the precious air. In a voice that would have been melodic if not for the distortion of being underwater, she began the incantations. “Dunk you under the salt water. Bring to me all your love and power. As once over, so lost to under, as you die of pleasure from my spell.”

With his lungs burning for release, she pulls him to her, wrapping him tightly in her arms and tail. Their lips meet as his lungs succumb to the fight, breathing out his last breath, laden with his life’s power and his very spirit.
As the seawater rushes into his lungs to smother the spark of life, the mermaid releases his limp body to drift into the darkness and feed the creatures below as his soul has fed her. Worn with ecstatic bliss, she meanders back through the waves to her favorite sunning rocks, and waits for another shadow to pass across the sun.

Garden of Love – MWBB

There’ve been a lot of happenings lately that have me pondering relationships and affections that people feel toward each other. Different paths that people take, how long they stay together, when to go their separate ways, and so on. So, when this week the Mid Week Blues Buster popped back up with a song about a crowded bed, it definitely made a connection. I’m not sure it was the best connection, mind you, as some things definitely aren’t supposed to last forever.

Here’s the song that we were playing with: This Bed is Getting Crowded


Garden of Love

Janice paused digging in the flower bed long enough to wipe a bead of summer sweat away from her eyes. The best time for working in the garden during the summer was the early morning, just as the sun started to chase the stars away. The buds were just beginning to open up for the day like slow moving fireworks, filling the yard with bursts of yellow, red, and violet.

As she finished turning the rich dark soil over, she knelt down and patted the newly transplanted flowers. “This bed is getting crowded. We need to make some more room, but I just can’t help it. It feels like love to me.”

The petunias slowly settled into their new home, enjoying a steady flow of nutrients from the nourishing earth. Looking around the garden, her eyes rested on several gatherings of different flowers. Some tall, some bushier, but all grouped neatly into little spaces with benches scattered throughout. She had to have places to sit and be with her thoughts. Each set of flowers connected her to another person in her life.

“Travis, let’s get you some more water this morning. You’re drooping a little this week.”

As she went around and tended to each group of plants, it was like she was talking with each of her loved ones. Intimate touches trimmed away any brown spots or wilting, leaving the plants in each place the envy of the entire neighborhood. Visitors would come by and ask how she got them all to grow so well, and she told each of them that the secret was to “feed them love every day, and they’ll never go away.”

A man came down from the porch, sleep still in his eyes. As he wrapped his arms around her waist, he kissed her neck. “I thought I’d find you out here.”

“You know me so well. Yes, out with my other loves. I think it’s just about time for more, too. What are your favorites?”

“I like wildflowers the best, like the little paintbrush ones.”

Janice looked thoughtfully over the rest of the flowers, trying to find just the right spot. She raised the shovel and pointed. “Do you like it there”

“It’s nice, but let’s go somewhere quiet today. Somewhere away, and I’ll be your lover in the dawn, in the midnight.”

Janice frowned at that, at the thought of leaving her garden. Her loves were there, but Bruce was already trying to leave. Yes, even though the bed is getting crowded, she would have to make some more room very soon.

Once she had him set up in his very own spot with his favorite flowers, he’d never leave her.

Rejection – #VisDare

It’s been some time since I’ve made the time to participate in the wonderful Visual Dare flash fiction prompt. The summer storm raging outside is bringing a breath of cool new energy, and just as with the brown grass of the season, fresh growth goes on inside as well.

Woman with Cracking Mask

At the edge of her perfect face, the tiny edge of a crack catches the candlelight. Brilliant as a star, his eyes are drawn to it across the elegant table. The crystal wine glass in his hand is momentarily forgotten, and she knows.

Bowing her head, she knows her veneer has failed. She feels the flakes of the crumbling facade falling away. Her crumbling rosy cheeks reveal the imperfections she had glossed over. All the years of living, wounds, and mistakes being revealed. She had tried so hard to make the right impression.

Seeing her distress, he rounds the table and takes her hand in his. With his other, he brushes her cheek kindly and gently raises her head to look into his eyes. He sees the flaws in detail, finally viewing the complete woman underneath the mask. In that moment, he kisses her, and his eyes hold no rejection.