Week #23 – Long lines

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is long lines.

FeelingBlast by Aljoscha Lahner

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Bus . by Matt Potter

Packing it was like playing tetris. One thing on top of another, building layers, my multi-coloured life seen through the large windows of a 35-seater bus.

“It’s not working,” Veronica said. “There’s no way we’ll make the emergency evacuation queue in time, Dad.”

I studied her fifteen-year old face, seeing nothing similar between us. She looks just like her mother, I thought, whoever the anonymous egg donor was.

“That’s very obsessive compulsive gay,” she added. “You can’t take a chandelier on an emergency dash across a nuclear desert.”

Ah, but her eloquence! That she gets from me.

The back door slammed as Marvin stepped outside.

“Dad wants to pack a chandelier in the event of a nuclear attack,” Veronica said. “It’s ridiculous.”

“Could it be used for something besides providing an elegant setting for dining?” Marvin asked, stroking his beard. “Multi-purpose objects should be given a chance to prove their manifold uses.”

Veronica threw her hands in the air. “Neither of you are taking this seriously,” she said. “You think it’s a joke.”

She walked away and stood against the fence post, arms folded, scowling. My heart thumped in my chest. Times like this I truly loved her, her grumpy teenage face a life force.

I walked over and put my arms around her. “What do you want me to take out?” I said softly.

She leaned into my shoulder. “Those caftans for a start,” she said. “Except the white one. That could work well at a post-apocalyptic toga party.”

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Outbound . by Michael Webb

“Oh, I don’t drive,” she announced, folding one impossibly long leg over the other. She had a short, frilly skirt on, with expensive looking shoes. She could fold one leg over the other so she could slide one foot around her other ankle.

I found that hard to imagine. “Really?”

“Oh, yeah. Never got my license.”

“So how do you go… anywhere? How do you get to work? ” I was fighting my way through the airport traffic- nothing dramatic, just long lines of cars, and decisions- change lanes or don’t, accelerate here or wait.

“I find someone to drive me.”

Someone male, I mused. Someone like me. Someone who can’t resist a warm smile. She had approached me, at the end of an unusually easy afternoon, while I was making sure all my loose ends were tied up. She came around the corner of the cubicle I was in, towering over the top in a virginally clean white blouse. The toe of one shoe, with a gold bauble on it, showed around the green felted wall.

“Can you do me a favor? I need a ride to the airport tonight.” Her voice was sparkly, flirty, and rich- like a wine commercial come to life.

“Of course,” I had said. Out of nothing but a misplaced sense of duty to a very pretty woman I barely knew, I found myself driving to the airport, having said “yes” to another woman when I meant “no”.

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Gift Wrap . by Susan Tepper

The girl hears moaning from behind the glass partition. She has come to get her package wrapped, something pretty for the new mother-to-be, a girl they say, though this girl has her doubts. I think it’s going to be a boy she tells her own mother and her mother says you’re crazy, you’ve always been a handful. The girl stares up at the various choices of gift wrap. So many cute pinky papers for girl babies. But it is a boy, she thinks. It’s a boy nesting there. She wonders when someone will come around the glass partition and help her? The department store is crowded today with pre-school shoppers. All the little boys and girls getting themselves outfitted for the new school year. The girl remembers her mother giving her a perm one year just before school started. It turned out looking like a poodle and the girl cried and didn’t want to go to school. So many smelly chemicals and the perm solution burned her scalp. Her mother had laughed at the result. The girl taps the counter and thinks about calling out for help. Behind her a line has been forming and now it’s long. People are complaining. The girl hears moaning again from behind the glass partition. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know if she should follow her instincts and get the boy gift wrap. She can’t remember the last time a boy kissed her.

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The Lottery Line . by Susan Gibb

Every Saturday morning they come around and have us draw numbers from a small wooden box. Then we wait. They’ll come back and call twenty numbers as we crowd in the main yard, its dust oddly red and muddy as nothing I remember from the outside to be.

Some women whisper nervously about being freed. We hold our numbers close to our breasts, afraid to let anyone see, to be holding someone else’s lucky number. But luck is dependably random.

Some of us are silent, having gone through months of Saturday mornings. We see hope as a wisp of breeze that blows through the camp on its way somewhere else. Eyes shine through the lack of expressions, expectation nearer oblivion, some flickering a final spark. It’s mostly the new ones, the latest arrivals, who are excited, believing that this week their number will be called, that they are already on their way home.

She had just arrived three weeks ago, a young woman, her belly bursting with child. We found an extra blanket, shoes for her feet. She stands anxiously, her face innocent and naive. She had become my friend and that frightened me.

The guards return. My number is called. She silently begs me. I wipe her eyes off my face, turn and join the line. Her hope brands my back like a hot iron. I’ve never told her what I suspect, in case I am wrong. But for this week, at least, I think she is safe.

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Final Request . by Randal Houle

The door opens. More people move in behind. The temperature drops another few degrees, but I feel warmer. No one moves. We all wait at the same speed, the speed of fresh snowflakes floating over ice floe streets.

Cold here, colder still, and still more outside, where winter has the city in its icy grip like death in the throat. I’m not the only one, and that’s no comfort – in fact, it makes this whole ordeal worse. The door opens and more take their place beyond the others.

A layer of sand coats my membranes. My skin glistens, protects the little creatures as they claim their prize. That is our bargain – a lifetime détente in exchange for a feast – although I had never been consulted. It’s an ancient marriage made by some outer space yenta.

Open the doors. Cause me to bathe once more in the full day. Get me out of here so I may remember my family. Let me cut in and hitch a ride with one of the others. Forget me not. No, inter me now. Close me in with my sorrow and allow me rest.

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SNOWSTORM . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Wind slams the trailer. Dolores and Marty cook through the Nor’easter. JJ’s late.

“He ain’t coming,” Marty says. “Time to sample the goods.”

The blade slices the white mound, tap-tap-tapping crystalline lines on glass.

“JJ’s gonna be pissed.” Dolores malt-liquored breath scatters the powder.

Marty shrugs, rolls the twenty. Saliva gushes.

The door blows open.

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shades of a young miss zorita . by Quenby Larsen

When you sit on your Mama’s porch with your friend’s eight foot boa constrictor around your neck, think: “Long lines.” You are along the lines with your constrictor. You are the fifty pound smooth skinned muscle sliding along your arms and shoulders. You tense, he tenses. You freak out, you’re dead. He’s not a kitten, OK? He’s not a puppy. He’s not your Mama’s love “surprise.”

You have never been so cool in your whole life. The beer you drank may be helping, though it may be the second hand pot smoke, and no, you don’t do that. You’d never see the light of day, much less the boa, much less the guy who kisses you with his pot mouth. At night, he climbs up onto your preacher daddy’s roof and into your bedroom. He puts his finger on you and releases bird after pent-up bird. You blow him with your grateful, wet mouth as he lies on your technically virgin bed.

When you are in the grip of the snake it helps you have been sexual, so don’t ever let someone talk you out of it. Its muscular contractions are like serial multiple orgasms. Some men cannot handle it, are terrified, are strangled, are found dead in cages. Lucky women know what’s going on. So ride it out, dear sister, do not move. Ride it out and lengthen your sweet gorgeous lines.

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Free . by Len Kuntz

They were giving away babies. The war had ended decades ago, but its wicked curse still shone in the glazed faces of limbless beggars and bone-thin children.

We were tourists on our last afternoon. Phnom Penh hyperventilated like a slain animal. A million mopeds jammed the streets, sputtering black exhaust. Here, inside the market, hawkers shouted urgent orders in their native Khmer. We were ambushed by a troupe of ragged salespeople, some no older than seven or eight, and now, to get out, we were forced into a line that slogged past booths filled with all kinds of wares: jewelry and counterfeit handbags, shoes and hats.

We’d been warned to avoid their eyes, but a girl caught me staring. She grabbed my hand and pulled me from the crowd, beyond her makeshift tent, through a sheet serving as a door.

There must have been a dozen of them, all swaddled and stuffed inside wicker baskets. At first I thought they were dolls. But one squalled, and then another.

“I’m out of money,” I said.

“Free, Mistah. Free child for you!”

When I protested some more, the girl’s grandmother came forth and thrust a baby at me, the woman’s eyes wet, pulsing and pleading.

I fought my way back outside. I was happy to see the line. I got lost inside it. I pressed forward, but kept my head down, staring at my shoes, seeing the image that would haunt me my whole life, hearing their wail.

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Where the ocean ends . by Doug Bond

On the way to the Colonoscopy he says,
“They’re not going to find anything
I can’t outrun before I’m dead
of old age anyway.”

He has started the counting in earnest:
My last car, my last driver’s license photo,
my last census, the last probe up my ass.

He could outlive all of it. Or not.
For now, we are going to the place
where they will scan his walls.
Threats and lesions, cracks and gaps,
places where the devil breaks in.

My father was once a state champ swimmer.
I remember those shoulders from when
I was a very young boy. I would ride on
the saddle space of his back in the community
pool down by the beach in our small coastal town.
The long lane lines seemed to stretch out forever.

I ease his car into empty parking stripes
alongside the low-slung clinic building
listen to him talk of the future
the tentative certainties that have
at heart nothing certain about them.

I’m reminded of the things I’d thought
as a kid about Columbus, and the other
famous sea explorers. How amazing to be
the first to find out, to see
where the ocean ends, where it is
that can’t be seen, to finally know
for sure what is there.

I can still see the illustration in the school
book from years ago, the earth a large,
flat-edged box and the water
breaking, hard, in a ninety
degree angle and falling.
Falling into nothing.

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Line of Inquiry . by Al McDermid

I point out an elk standing at the edge of the forest, but we’re traveling at over seventy, so you miss it, and then sulk until we see another. We pull into the next rest stop to check the map—it says, “Beyond here lurk only dragons”. We plan to forge ahead anyway, but are detained by The Police.

“You are accused of making and distributing subversive pornography,” Sting says. We have no idea what he’s talking about since A) we don’t have a camera, and B) we have not had sex since embracing the biological relationship of nothingness to death.

“Subversive pornography?” I say. “Sounds Interesting.” You say, “Can we see it?”

“If I show it to you,” he says, “I’d have to arrest myself and I can’t do the time.”

“What’s the penalty?” I ask.

“Take this red pill,” he says to me; to you he says “Take off that red dress. You don’t have to wear that dress tonight.” “I like this dress,” you say. “It’s my favorite. Besides, I’d rather do the drugs.”

We both take a red pill each and slip sideways from reality to find ourselves face deep in the impossible. The Police don’t follow us, but at some point we’ll have to go back for the car. Then again, maybe this is where the dragons lurk. Accepting no reason to hold back, the realization brings to a greater consciousness of the moons of Jupiter, spinning in their orbit.

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Box Kite . by Stephen Hastings-King
The box kite floats high over the marsh. You follow the string and its
downward trailing arc across an abstract blue field past the curious
geometrical forms of white and yellow & a cloud of mechanical
birds that wobbles their machine trajectories through modalities of
falling & choose one & watch its fall toward the point of its
absorption as on another surface a human shape separates from a
cube in the ochre and green of the grasses, moving toward you
carrying two long poles each with a red flag. The forms moves
toward you then stop: flags blur hesitate, blur hesitate some kind of
message incomprehensible across distance and distortion.The box kite floats high over the marsh. You follow the string and its
downward trailing arc across an abstract blue field past curious
geometrical forms of white and yellow, the line of time, the arcs of
things, life spans and trajectories, the tenuousness of focus, the thin
white thread and the glare off the water and the sunlight of morning,
the descending trailing of your gaze through oscillations of
foreground and background that slow as your viewpoint approaches
the rooftop you are perched on, the edges of your legs and naked
body & the string from the kite that is tied to your penis.
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The Evacuation Queue . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

The ticking must have gone on for an hour before Kathy realized it wasn’t a clock. When the line finally moved, the rhythm changed. When the queue stopped again, she glanced behind her and noticed a woman in torn jeans and a filthy sweater tapping a heel on the concrete.

Kathy couldn’t remember the last time she’d worn dress shoes. Who wears heels in a disaster zone?

She looked down at her own ragged boots. Maybe the woman didn’t have any other shoes. The concrete would burn bare feet.

The line moved a few more times before the sun disappeared. The heat remained. In front of Kathy, a mother rocked an infant in her arms. Whenever the line moved, she had to prod her two toddlers awake. Kathy thought they would have been cute with round faces.

The sun had reappeared by the time the family reached the gangway to the ship. Kathy was looking at her feet again when she heard the mother scream. The guards were insisting that she had to leave one of her children behind.

Kathy asked if she could give them her pass. A guard said there wouldn’t be another ship for months.

—I might make it. They won’t.

Kathy walked away before the mother could thank her. The woman who had been behind her, however, had enough time to shout: If you’re going to die anyway, could I have your shoes?

People never change: Kathy was glad to be staying.

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Long Lines . by Darryl Price

Long Lines

are moving past me again. I’ve been invited to
join. I’ve declined for most of my life. Isn’t
life a long line enough for most of us?

We end up in the same place anyway. Not
to be morbid. As far as I can see
we’ve only run out of a few things like
dodos, and there are plenty of folks still running
around who might qualify.Just saying. It is what

it is. We are a destructive bunch. We’ll consume
just about anything.We’re goats on two legs. Look
what we’ve done to the goats who have ever
bothered to question such actions. That’s right. We chew
them up and spit them out. Evil comes. It

breaks into the most beautiful downstairs windows you’ve ever
seen and begins chewing right through the lives of
those whose lights bring the place its joy.And
then people get in their cars and go to
the grocerystore and squeeze the melons and act like

they have a right to not get involved. But
we are involved. Every kid born involves us the
moment they breathe air, the moment they smile or
cry. It goes on and so must we. But
let us be still and silent in remembrance of

those who took the brutal blows so that we
might continue to fight for better dreams,for more
careful dreamers,a kinder night for all of us.

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Where I’m Calling From . by Nicolette Wong

The music eludes me now the soundtrack in my memory resounding at the other end of the line. Let it ring for the eruption at someone else’s voice even though it won’t happen, I’m hanging from the end of the rope suspended from the real world: a surrogate self, holding onto the receiver.

I want to be in this world forever.

The telecom operator won’t grant me my wish.

The music is a song curling on a blank piece of paper unto the edge where I fall onto soft transparent strings. I wanted to learn to play the classical guitar; the person left me the night I asked. I kissed a kiss of death, breathing rings of darkness like the black cover of an erotic novel about a woman with no name. Who’s inside, burning in chains, all flesh and pain and hollows?

I shiver to think who lies in that shadow. Who lets in the rain splashing across my apartment piercing through the sphere from which I’m running away not knowing the image I’m clashing into: the suspense.

The music must stop.

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Hustling at Starbucks . by Matthew A. Hamilton

I pull the door open to Starbucks and walk in. The line is long. Infinity of Ss. I stand there, think about my day, the clients I need to call, the ones who need to call me, pull out a mirror and check my makeup, touch up my hair.

I stare at the glass case filled with doughnuts and cakes. In my line of work I can’t afford to indulge. Only coffee and a little cream, no sugar, is all I ever purchase.

I smile at the young man behind the counter as he hands me my change, then grab my coffee and search for a seat. I spot one. There is a woman at the table, 50ish I’d say, but put together nicely, a book in her hand.

“Is this seat taken?” I ask.

“No, sweety,” she says. “Go ahead.” She’s reading one of those cheesy romance novels. I smile and thank her.

My phone rings. It’s a client. “Hello there,” I say. “Yes…Okay…Sure…Same time…Same type of service…Sounds great…Okay, then…See you tonight…Okay…Bye.”

“Excuse me,” the woman says.

“Yes,” I say.

“I don’t mean to pry, sweety, but there’re other ways to make money.”

I laugh. “Lady— ummm…ahem…ahem…Excuse me. Ma’am, what are you thinking? That I’m a prostitute? No f…, I mean, no way. I wouldn’t do that. Ever.”

“I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean—”

“It’s okay,” I say.

“So, if you don’t mind my asking, what is it that you do?”

“Well…uh…”

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Gobstopper . by Roberta Lawson

Mummy says I am: pretty as a princess, a child model to be. How I pose, how I prance, how I am praised. Let me tell you that my favourite things are the giddy glass jars of Harrods jellybeans brought back special the day after mum and dad’s trip to Amsterdam, the foot-long fizzing sherbet straws on Sunday afternoons, playground hopscotch, and that my boyfriend’s mouth tastes like tomato soup and sand. One day we’ll marry. He brings me roses and I press them between the pages of my memory book, smiling out of the window. Let me tell you about jam-jam-strawberry-jam-what-is-the-name-of-your-young-man. He is named Milo! Let me tell you about the wobbly rainbow bubbles from my bubble wand, about warm sudsy baths and mummy’s gentle touch on my hair as she washes it clean, eases out the knots. Let me tell you about the post office on Saturday mornings, how I dance from the awful line of waiting grandmas, how I am pretty as can be – I must be always pretty. And on the long grey windowsill lives a half-dead woodlouse, shiny black horrible. Let me tell you (not mummy, only you,) how I lift it in my hand, and how the woodlouse climbs inside of me – all wriggling legs, all tickly antennae. Let me tell you how the woodlouse makes its home – horrible black – down inside of me, pretty me. Some things I hardly tell anybody.

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It’s too short . by Annette Rohde

He knew his was short but his passions were strong.

He tried to prepare those he loved subtly. He knew theirs would be longer so he aimed to make a big impact, to make his mark, to make a difference.

‘We should all strive to make an impact!’ he’d say as we prepared for the next show. ‘It shouldn’t make a difference if it’s a long or short one!’ he’d joke as we helped him into his costume. He didn’t like to discriminate.

I remember his large, warm, strong hands holding mine while he read my palm, his fingers softly caressing each line. ‘This line is quite long,’ he said, ‘you will have plenty of time to make your mark.’

His lifeline was too short.

Hundreds of people turned up to his funeral. They were from all walks of life, people who would never have connected with each other without the commonality of that one person. All telling a similar story of their experiences with him, how he had changed their lives in some way.

‘There was a plant obstructing his access to the wheelchair ramp, so I moved it,’ one person said. ‘He insisted on buying me coffee and gave me tickets to his next show. That’s when I decided to run for Council. We’ve met for coffee every week since.’

He knew. Life is too short to waste a second of it.

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A Long Line of Entertainers . by Tom Allman

Arkady and Victor were brothers. It was assumed they would join their family in the Moscow Circus. But, they were extremely fond of the bottle. Unable to hold a job in a country of alcoholics, they spent most of their time waiting in line.

The Brothers argued a lot. They yelled and bullied, screamed and harangued, insulted and insinuated. Their fellow line-standers found their antics extremely entertaining. They provided the brothers with vodka, cigarettes, and encouragement.

Arkady was a bear of a man, and had a temperament to match. He would stomp up and down the sidewalk bellowing curses and admonitions. He was a true Soviet Man and believed that the State was right in all things.

Victor was sharp witted and had the tongue of a poison adder. He would lean against the wall, hands in pockets, and calmly knock holes in his brother’s arguments. He was a skeptic and a cynic.

It was so entertaining that people would say that they were on their way to see the Arkady and Victor show rather than to queue for canned fish. Then one day the old bosses were gone. The new ones didn’t believe in long lines. Arkady and Victor were no longer famous, and the Moscow Circus had moved to Branson.

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Take the Long Way Back . by Dorothee Lang

A coastline with wide views – that’s where a friend and I are camping, near the waterfront, in a tent. It is morning, and my friend is still sleeping, so I head to the town at the other end of the bay, to buy fresh food. It’s a long walk, but I have time, and enjoy being out there. I visit the bakery, then the small store, where I have a coffee. When I step out of the store, the horizon has changed color. It is orange. There are huge clouds building over the water – a storm. I have to get back fast now, I think.

That’s when I see the man, in a boat. I ask him to bring me to the other end of the bay, and in a minute, we are there. Only that I am not closer to where I want to get. I am in another town, and walk through streets filled with old pompous buildings. It’s there that it starts to rain, and I step into an emerald passageway, to stay dry. An old woman is taking pictures of the place, to protocol the architecture. “I need to get to the camping site,” I tell her, and she gives me a map full of bus lines, and points at a bus stop sign. While I wait for the bus, I watch the clouds move, and imagine the rain, how it will pour down on the tent.

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Thiopental . by Alex Lockwood

Memories are recalled in long lines. ‘When I think back to that night,’
for example, or when the prosecution lawyers introduce a ‘timeline of
events’. Then we’re really talking about a longitudinal study, isn’t that
so? A chronological profile as much as one that’s psychological. The whole
picture shot through with irreducible lines, as Aristotle might have said
of arrows, with just a little irony. But what’s just? Justice rests on
lineage: where were you during that time? Where was your mind? What
position did you hold to in the night? Did you cross a line? Did you even
know it was there?

It’s not only memories, of course. It riddles the future. A ‘line of
enquiry’ follows a set path, unless you get crossed lines. And the present.
Take part in a line up if you want to feel ‘in the now’. Forget that
Buddhist mindfulness crap. They’re trying it on the Green Line this tour, I
heard. Some federal funding budget got disinvested for that.

We’re made up of long lines. Arteries, veins, capillaries. And things
smaller than that I imagine, in my chest, a network of artilleries,
intricate, outrunning the sodium thiopental, the pancuronium bromide, the
potassium chloride—now that’s a mouthful, that’s a last supper. A last
thought. How long are my artilleries? How magical those blooded
ever-afters? No time. Here it goes. Line after line. Sounds like lying when
you say it quickly enough. Long enough. Just the length of a sentence.

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The Point . by Kim Huchinson
“The grass enjoyed it when the wind blew.”
Agnes Martins

shespentherlifepaintinglinesanddotspointseverydayalonglineoflinesoncanvasandpaperthe

samehand-madelinesoverandoverwithdifferenttonesandtexturesandshadingsmomentsof

perfectinsightrepresentedbyimperfectionpaintingpaintingaclearsimplelanguagethebinary
codeofwhatsomepeoplecallgodfindingzenintheoldjokeaboutthechickencrossingtheroad
seeingthemiracleofexistenceinthemomentswerecognizebeautywhenweglimpseperfection
followingthewayoftheartistsurrenderpaintingwithherbacktotheworldtohearthemusicof
prairiewindsthemorsecodeoftheuniverseandseekinganuntroubledmindsurethatnosufferingis
unnecessarythatitisneededforfreedomfromsufferingacceptingherburdenthroughanonymity
andre-discoveryinoldageunderstandingthatwedon’tknowhowtobehumblebuttryinganyway
tryingtorememberwhoshewasbeforeshewasbornremindingusagainandagainofthepointthat
nopointexistsintheworldthatthefutureisablankpageandinherlonglineofdayseachthesamewith
differentshadingsandtexturessheshowedusthatbeautyisanawarenessinthemindthattrust

absolutetrustisapreciousgiftandthatwhenyoureyesareopenyouseebeautyinanything

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Waiting . by Catherine Russell

Karla blew a stray strand from her eyes as she shivered in the cold, gloved hands buried deep within the pockets of her bulky jacket. Her breath proceeded her, though the line itself hadn’t moved in the hour she’d been waiting. In fact, it had grown, the queue stretching around the block. She craned her neck to view the nexus, listening to the growing murmur that traveled toward her like rumor in the wind.

Three uniforms approached the front of the line, the leader with keys in hand. The first two unlocked the doors and let the first few people inside, while the third sat down behind a nearby iron kettle with a conspicuously labeled sign. He rang the bell, calling Merry Christmas to disgruntled shoppers as they entered and left the establishment. Karla envied his heavy white beard and hat. Her own face froze, the biting wind blew snow into her eyes, but she resolved to stay her course. She refused to contribute to the metal drum, resenting its presence as she prepared to lighten her wallet in the cause of childhood memories. Santa flashed her a grin. Despite herself, she threw a handful of coins into the container. They made a satisfying clanking sound when they hit bottom. The man thanked her.

She smiled, despite herself, and walked inside to the glowing warmth of consumerism and January headaches.

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Darkroom Tech . by Fred Osuna

Entering that darkroom’s like slipping through the barrel of a rifle. I step into the chamber, pull the black galvanized door behind me and lean into the revolving door. The caster rollers rattle, the rubber around the door releases with a whoosh, and I pass into the safe darkness. It’s quiet as a tomb, comfortable as a womb. I’ve fallen out of the gun barrel into my own silent midnight.

There’s a long line in the ER and the techs are talking loudly about it. During the late shift, the odd cases show up: bullet wounds, knifings, oddly-placed hematomas. Tonight we’ll see the city’s underbelly, tomorrow they will go back into hiding.

The technicians slide me their film cartridges and I get working. I move Zen-like in the dark. I’m Gollum under the mountain, a mole; I’m fast, efficient, in control. When they’re busiest, I slide out and clip their films to the light boxes. Then I return, to my quiet dark room.

When the shift ends, I keep the lights off. I lean against the counter, sipping coffee. Outside, the sun begins to rise. Outside my door, the techs discuss the woman with insect eggs in her sinus cavity, the man irretractably coupled with a vacuum cleaner. I’ve released the lock on the barrel and a fine border of white fluorescence falls across the toes of my boots. I leave last, taking the back roads to avoid the crawling columns of cars on the highway.

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Everywhere People . by Stacey Allen

everywhere people

before me in queue
red face
brown hair
white man muttering

about this goddamn system
waste of his time
frantically jabbing at his
(no reception in this building)
Blackberry

i wish i
needed a different line

don’t want to be here to watch his
tantrum of self-importance
snap and swear
at the

weary clerk her
feet ache
bank account
empty til Friday she

closes her eyes
rubs at the lidded
tiredness, wills
the miserable blotchy toddler man away

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Oracle . by Martin Brick

Once, a man built a machine that could answer any question. A glass booth housed an animatronic figure. People came from miles around to ask if they should get married or what career path to follow.

Of course, such a machine became quite popular, and the line to use it grew profoundly long. People came with chairs, with blankets, with food.

Peter came one June, burdened with everything he needed. The woman in front of him asked what about his question, but he would not tell her. It was too personal. That night it rained, and she shared her umbrella with him. And she showed him pictures of her children. She told him her question, which was also very personal. On the third day he said, “My mother is old and suffering. She wants me to give her something so she slips away in her sleep, but I don’t know…”

The woman said, “We went through that with my father,” and they talked about it for hours.

When Peter’s turn came he dropped his quarter and the machine lit up. “What do you wish to ask?”

“You know, I had a question, but I don’t really need to ask any more.”

“I see,” droned the machine. “Much shadow surrounds this.”

“Might as well ask where to get a good reuben.”

“The spirits are speaking to me now…”

“Does anyone ever need to ask you what they intended?”

“The spirits say the beginning of wisdom is to desire it.”

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Going Galt . by Guy Yasko

By 8:20, i’ve made it to exit 307B — good time for a Thursday — but
it’s backed up from there. A long line of cars inches down the on
ramp. I watch from my lane. Each driver waits for the green, then rolls
forward to shoehorn into the right- most lane. It’s all codified,
ritualised — like the dance of bees. I see an SUV waiting its turn. Its
bumper sticker announces that someone or something is “Going Galt.”

– The hell you are! You’re sitting here in traffic with the rest of
us. Why? Because you have to get to work by nine!

I marvel at the irony. Who wouldn’t? Then i think negating something
because it’s stuck in traffic or because someone is going to work might
also be a fantasy. I mean, how long can this go on?

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Lineage . by John Wentworth Chapin

Her bleached hair pulled into a dark-rooted ponytail, the girl in pajama bottoms pushes a stroller over a patch of brown weeds in the sidewalk and shouts upward, head tilting slightly, the arc of her invective presumably aimed at the little boy and girl ambling halfway down the block behind her, but this foghorn of animosity broadcasts widely and blankets the block with a simmering layer of teenage bile. She pushes her biracial toddler past me and her voice gets even louder; not a Doppler effect, but some insidious sociological one which demands that this childmother make up for in volume the dominion she cannot claim in life, particularly when being observed. The pair behind her shout back, half-laughing and half-mumbling; this is no argument. This symphony is joined by a new instrument a few moments later, the bellowing of the girl’s mother decrying travesty unseen. I trudge up my stoop as this long line walks by. I turn and survey them, backwards and forwards, seeing the invisible grandmother far behind, and her mother as well behind her, seeing into the future the unavoidable stroller pushed by a scowling teen scouring the same landscape with the same howl of failure born from the longing for the line to break.

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Something Jazzy . by Walter Bjorkman

At the top of the subway stairs a line took him down into the depths of the tunnel, musky grays with vile creatures darting out of corners. It proceeded out into a sky of late Autumn sun desperately clinging to life in a shroud of winter air. It veered up five flights to a sweltering summer night on the roof, Sande in his arms, the barely moving air holding back suffocation from rotting streets below. It climbed a ladder to the stars where he rode a moonbeam to other galaxies. On the other side of the universe it took him to a tropical beach with piñas and niñas waiting for his delight. It boarded a catamaran sailing him back to the city, now in a Cuban-Chinese on eighth avenue, ropa vieja on his chin as fat ladies danced in the laundromat next door. It boarded a bus that clanged its way up to a bucolic meadow where people laughed, threw frisbees and fucked out of sight of police. A pelican picked up the line, drawing lazy patterns in the now gloriously blue sky, swooping him back to the station.

“Hey, pal — you gonna buy a token or just stand there like a looney from Bellevue?”

He dropped out of the token line and threw a twenty into the saxophone case of the player that layed down the solo line. Took off his coat and tie, dumped them in the trash, headed to Central Park to look for a moonbeam.

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Constellations . by Michelle Elvy

You call up and say you’re sorry and I know you are ’cause I am too but I’ve rehearsed this in my head a hundred times, how I’ll tell you that it won’t work, that our tempers are too alike, that two Leos can’t co-habitate, that you breaking my grandma’s china was the last straw — but I don’t even convince myself because your voice makes all that space between us contract suddenly and cold turns to warm and I am back in the first night we stayed up til dawn when you pointed out the constellations you knew (only two) and then some you made up and then you named the freckles across my shoulders after the stars and told me that from then on whenever you see Cassiopeia or Orion or Lorna Doon in the night sky you also see the sharp line of my right shoulder blade and I’m thinking of that and not at all about my grandma’s broken china when the doorbell rings and there you are, standing in front of me with those sun-streaked lines around your eyes, asking me to take in the stars with you tonight, as if it’s as simple as going to a movie, and I drop the phone and say yes, because it is that simple, and there’s something in your smile that makes the material things not matter nearly so much as the stars in heaven.

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52|250 thanks Aljoscha Lahner for his art, FeelingBlast, for this week’s flash. We asked him to tell us a little more about this piece, and this is what he said:

I created this piece of work when I did my school exams before graduating. As I used to spray a lot of graffiti, mostly characters, I went into a totally different style, breaking with the typical way of drawing with a can. I started without a sketch (freestyle) and used the colours which came into my hands. My surrounding was green under a gray Lübeck (northern Germany) sky in my parents’ garden. When i draw, it doesn’t matter with which particular medium — I mostly let my eyes and my feelings inspire and lead me. Maybe this piece is a mirror of my inner world. The title is certainly a part of me, and came to me today.

 

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Filed under Wk #23 - Long lines

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