FTWT – Son’s Duty

“First Thought, Worst Thought,” basically means writing whatever comes to mind, sometimes with a time limit or some other constraint. Today I limited myself to 300 words max; this is also a response to Sunday Muse #110. The image is entitled “Rocket” by Brad Phillips.


“Rick! RIIIIIICK! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“Goin’ to space mom!” Rick was in the middle of the field, the giant rocket roped to his chest, sparks nipping at his heels. 

“RICK! This is UNACCEPTABLE! You have school tomorrow!”

“I know mom, but gotta fight the aliens!”

“WHAT?” His mother slammed her foot against the ground. “Rick…” Her gaze lowered. ‘Rick, your father wasn’t killed by aliens.”

“What?”

“No. He died fighting in the parking lot of an Applebee’s.”

“Mom…you lied to me?”

“Maybe. Now…GET OFF THAT ROCKET AND COME–”

But then there was smoke. Rick was launched into the air, disappearing into a plume spreading into the stars. 

“RIIIIIICK!” She screamed, shaking her fist. “GET DOWN FROM THERE!” 

“Dammit. I can’t help but feel this is my fault somehow. I hate feeling that way!” She marched back home, muttering, and waited for her no-good son to come back down to Earth. 

FTWT – It’s Over

Late Afternoon. Man standing on a street corner. A man wearing a business suit approaches him.

Business Man: Excuse me sir. I would like to buy some heroin please.

The man squints at him. 

Street Corner Guy: What?

Business Man: I said, I would like to purchase some of your finest heroin please. I have already written the check.

Street Corner Guy: Um sir…there is no more heroin.

Business Man: …what?

Street Corner Guy: Yeah, didn’t you hear? The War on Drugs. It’s over.

Business Man: Wha-what? Already?

Street Corner Guy: Uh-huh.

Business Man: Wow. Huh. So that means no more drugs?

Street Corner Guy: Yup. They won. We lost. So no more drugs. 

Business Man: Okay…Hm…So there goes my weekend…Do you sell anything then?

Street Corner Guy: Just tacos.

Business Man: Tacos? Is that–

Street Corner Guy: It’s not code for anything. Just tacos. 

Business Man: Are they illegal tacos?

Street Corner Guy: No.

Business Man: Aw.

Street Corner Guy: I bought ‘em last week. Interested?

Business Man: No thanks. It’ll mess with my diet. But good luck with the business.

Street Corner Guy: That’s very nice of you. Gotta get those kids into college somehow.

And that’s it. That’s the end of the story. And “FTWT” stands for “First Thought, Worst Thought”, another thing I’m doing where I just write stories by typing whatever comes to mind. It’s a pretty terrible idea. Just like heroin.

FTWT – Special

So I’m doing a new thing, sort-of. “First Thought, Worst Thought” is similar to “12-Minute Tales;” basically I just write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I may give myself a time limit or some other constraint. Today I set my timer for 7 minutes and 32 seconds because why not? This post is also a response to Fandango’s Flash Fiction. The image is courtesy of Joshua Koblin at Unsplash.com.


“Aw, look at that,” Harold said as he slowly drove down the empty street in his golf car. “All the stores are closed. That’s a shame. Not that I needed anything though…” He continued driving past the boarded-up storefronts until he stopped in front of one whose windows were obscured by newspapers.

He stopped his cart and approached the store, scanning the headlines. “Oh yeah,” he said to himself, “everyone is dead. Heh.” He shrugged. “I can be so forgetful.”

Harold resumed his drive through the desolate city, passing by empty windows. “You know,” Harold said to his partner in the passenger seat, “most people would be depressed, but I’m not. I was never much of a people-person.” His partner didn’t say anything. “And, you know, maybe it’s for the best.” Harold didn’t elaborate on this, choosing instead to let the silence of the warm sky above have its word.

Later on that day, back home at the abandoned Popeye’s he now called home, Harold spoke to his buddy some more. “But you know, I do sometimes wonder ‘why–why am I the only survivor? What made me so special?’” His buddy didn’t respond. “But then I thought, ‘maybe no one else was real. Maybe, I was the only living person and everyone else: parts of a simulation.’ Makes sense right?” 

“It feels good to be special,” his partner whispered in the cooling darkness of the Popeye’s restaurant. 

Harold nodded his head. “It does. I just wish there were others to acknowledge this.”

“You have me…”

“Yeah, but you’re not real.”

His buddy didn’t say anything. 

“Well, time for some shut-eye. Need to hunt for some more supplies. I always wanted to check out the edge of town. I coulda sworn I heard something over there. Voices. But, I’m probably just losing it. Anyway, nightie-night.”

The light was then gone. And Harold, the hero, the main character of this horrific disaster, slept comfortably, as always, while his friend watched on.

A Lecture on Leaves

Not too long ago, I was outside and saw within
my gaze the swaying of leaves above. A voice
came to me. It said, “You need to make a decision.”
It was my own, yet, it came from somewhere.
There was this need to push my life elsewhere,
to build something. I was merely outside, existing.
Others, my friends, had careers, some even families.
The swaying of leaves, the sun spreading across
my skin. They were not for me. They could not be
enjoyed. The future sat coldly, a stone gazing out.

You’re expected to enjoy life, to appreciate
the warmth. But you can’t be useless. You are
not the swaying trees, the sun bending through
the leaves. I needed to move, I needed
to learn, to gain. The trees, the water,
the air, the distant birds: nice, beautiful things,
but they are objects. I could have sat there
forever, but it would have been meaningless.
Meaning. Purpose. Passion…I had been waiting,
but the day was almost done, and the silence
of this moment had gotten old.


This poem is a bit trash looking back on it now. May rewrite it in the future.

Another Epiphany

I’ve been summoned here
to toss up a new sky.
Some golds, some shadowy violets,
some distant wings to steal silence
for your eyes. Something occurs,
a cold voice shimmering in your chest,
a clever moment I’ve contracted.
Your mind compresses to light
hovering above the trees, until I drift away.
Suddenly, you return to this field,
but something sways upward
to where silence seals over.
Another moment breathed beneath
murmuring golds and violets
until sirens break into air, or tomorrow’s
assignment blazes in your skull.
You’ve had this before, but it is time
to step away, lose most of it
until it mutters like radiation.

Disconnection

The day slips out. Darkness
squirms as something slithers
into its being. You almost see
it, but the outline shifts. Your room
is an open eye. It reaches you.
Pain comes, a routine art.
Bones wrenched into a shape,
but they’re no longer yours.
Your mind floats into air
watching the sickly play below
until the sun decides to crawl
across the windowpane,
and the day becomes
another interruption.

Chicken Nuggets

“Marty, check this out. Marty? Hey, check this out. Look.”

“What?”

“So a woman, disgruntled that McDonald’s wouldn’t let her inside, firing at the employees. Can you believe that?”

“Huh. ‘Gonna terminate some lives for mcnuggies.’ Why didn’t she just take the drive-thru?”

“What?”

“What?”

“Marty, this isn’t funny. People were seriously injured. All because of this damn lockdown.”

“Yeah.”

“You know, people wouldn’t be so upset if they just started opening things up again. I tell you, they’re gonna find that the lockdown actually did more harm than the virus itself.”

“Really?”

“Yeah really. Why?”

“Well, maybe–”

“There is no maybe, Marty. There is no maybe. And I’m not saying the virus isn’t serious. Any life lost is tragic, but–”

“We’re just going to shrug them off? Because people want fast food?”

“Because people are dying Marty. Have some perspective. You know, look at the numbers. This county has had, what? 3 cases.”

“I think it was more than that.”

“But it’s small. There’s a few million living here, and we should remain shut-down due to a handful of cases?”

“Well, maybe we should start opening places up. But we still don’t know how many cases because not everyone gets tested, right? And what if another strain or wave erupts–”

“Nonsense! People are literally killing each other. People are protesting. You know, and it might already be too late. You’ve got mayors and sheriffs threatening to take people out of their homes if they don’t follow every little step. Again, not saying the virus isn’t terrible, Marty, but the aftermath is going to be a whole lot worse. I bet you the government is just using this thing as an excuse to further their control. That’s what they do, Marty.”

“I guess. Maybe they should reopen, but gradually, safely. Everyone should still wear masks and stuff.”

“Yeah. I guess. But people are gonna get sick of that as well. God, I bet the Democrats are loving this.”

“Ok. Ok. Everybody out. Move,” I said, gesturing to the two men to leave the living room.

“Hey!”

“Excuse me, who are you?”

“I’m the author. Now move. Your business is done. Get out please.” I corralled the two men toward the doorway.

“I don’t understand…how are you going to end this piece without us?”

“I’m not.”

“What?”

“I’m going to scrap it. Too didactic. No one wants to read anything about this virus anyway.”

“Yeah, but…can we have some mcnuggies at least? Haven’t had them for so long…”

I considered this for a moment. Finally, I said, “No.” And brushed them out.

“I’m sorry you folks had to see that,” I said to no one in particular. “I didn’t know how else to end this ‘story’ or whatever you want to call this. So I guess, be safe. Don’t shoot anyway. And I really, really hope that Jeff Bezos continues to make more money. Because nothing really matters anymore.”

“Ok. Ok. Time to go.” Another me came out of nowhere and started gesturing at original me to leave. “Time to go. Bye. Bye. Time to go. Bye.”

“But, can’t I just tell the nice people to socially distance?”

“They already know. And apparently they don’t care. Ok. Bye. Bye.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

“…Bye.”

“GO!”

“Ok. Ok. Fine. What happens if I step out?”

“You know what happens. You cease to exist.”

“Ok…that’s cool. And, wait. What’s that? You hear that?”

Suddenly, the windows shattered and SWAT came flying in, donning their rifles.

“Oh no…” I said. “Looks like they’re after the virus. Guess this story is going to take a little long–”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.”

One of the SWAT members approached the two of us and unfurled a scroll. “Greetings gentlemen. Martial law has been officially instituted and we are here to confiscate any illicit chicken nuggets you may be in possession of.”

“This is the stupidest thing–” Other me muttered.

“Why? It’s social commentary!”

“No! It’s incoherent! Are you criticizing the government? Do you think the virus is a hoax? What the fuck are you saying?”

“I’m just providing entertainment.”

“Entertainment? You have to watch what you say! People could interpret this as you not taking the pandemic seriously. They may think–”

“Look, people are going to interpret things in any way–”

“Because you want them!”

The SWAT member cleared his throat. We turned to him. “Now, have you two seen these fellas here?” He held-up a sketch of Marty and Eugene (the name of the other guy).

“Yeah. We made them.”

“Well, they are suspected of being in possession of and distributing black-market chicken nuggies.”

Other me glared at me. “What the fuck is this?”

I shrugged.

“Ok. We’re ending this. This story is over.” The SWAT team hung their heads and flew backwards out the windows. Other me turned to no one in particular. “We are so sorry you had to go through all this. In fact, I’m not even sure why you are still reading at this point. Unless you decided to scroll at this point in the hopes of reading something interesting. Well, you’re shit outta luck, bud.”

“But, we can’t end it this way.”

“Why not? It’s the only way to salvage this mess.”

“Well, like you, I wanted to just end this story. Fed-up with it. Then I realized, we can’t just end things to our own satisfaction. We have to consider the reader as well.”

“Ok…then why didn’t you just end it with Eugene and Marty? That would have been fine.”

“Well, that would have been boring.”

“Maybe, but a little blandness is ok sometimes. This story wouldn’t have been good, but it would have been better than whatever this is. Sometimes a story just has to dwell on the everyday. Not everything has to be a knock out of the park.”

Suddenly, the room roared with cheers. I turned and saw three snobbish-looking types sitting on the other side of the room. “Who are they?”

“Oh, they’re here to cheer whenever I make a good point. See, you have to have confidence in your writing. Don’t feel like you need to inject artificial excitement into everything. Especially when it comes to writing about a pandemic everyone is dealing with.”

More cheers. “Why do they look like Starbucks?

“Because they’re the types I loath, yet still want admiration from.”

“God, I suck.”

“Now, let’s have some chicken nuggets.” The peanut gallery was about to stand. “Not you!” And they sat back down. And the two of us ate there in the peace of the living room as the world outside burned and screamed at itself.

 

I, Conqueror

I once saw a horse
As big as a mountain.
It stepped over trees
And smooshed tiny villages.
I saw all this and thought,
“I must conquer this horse!”
So I found an empty field
And started planting seeds.
“What are you doing?”
Asked my mother.
“I’m going to conquer the horse!”
I proclaimed. She shook her head,
“Son, the horse is dangerous,
It will crush you and not even notice!”
But I gave her the bird and continued
Planting the field.

I waited for months and months,
But nothing rose from the ground.
I went into the city to see
If someone knew the way.
“What are you looking for child,”
Said one of the merchants.
“Magic seeds,” I told the old man.
“I’m going to conquer the enormous
Horse!” He shook his head.
“You’re an idiot-child. You will die
Before you see a bud in your garden.”
I told him to go screw and then found
Magic seeds at a discounted rate.

I planted the seeds and went to bed.
The next morning came and the whole field
Was covered with trees, their branches
Heavy with bright red fruit. I smiled,
Knowing the horse could never resist.
“Child.” I turned and saw a man
With a mustache, smoking a pipe.
“What’s all about?” I asked
Who the hell he was. “I am a doctor
Your parents have called from the city,
But let us talk, as friends.” I told him
To piss on his shoes and ran into my forest.

I ran and ran. This is what I wanted.
This was my dream. To conquer
A big, giant horse. But as I ran
The ground started to shake,
The birds fled from the leaves.
I stopped to look and saw the sun
Turn to black. “It is here,” I said,
My voice quivering. The horse
Didn’t take long to scoop up
Half the trees with its endless maw.
“Now what?” Asked my mother
As we stood at forest’s edge.
“What was your plan to conquer
The enormous horse?” Before I could
Tell her to shut it, the horse came
And shoveled us into its belly.

“Way to go, son,” my mother said
As we wandered the pits of its stomach.
“Mother,” I asked her, “why don’t you
Believe in me?” But she sighed.
As we walked we saw not just my trees,
But also houses, and other, smaller horses.
We soon found a campfire
Surrounded by dirty bearded men.
“Ah, some new residents!” They laughed.
“Yes, no thanks to this one!” My mother
Pointed at me. But I wasn’t embarrassed.
“Let me guess child,” one of them said,
“You too were after the horse.” I stared
At him. “And these trees were just a ruse
To lure the beast to your trap.” I nodded.
“Yes,” I said. “I am to conquer the horse!”
They laughed some more. “Child,
We were all like you, trying to tame
The giant horse. But we failed.
And so have you! Thanks for the apples though!”
My face turned red. “I will show them,”
I said aloud. “I will, one day, conquer
What could not be conquered
By weaklings such as they!”
“Hey!” One of the men stood-up.
“We’re not weaklings! You’re weak!”
“Yeah!” And their fists rained down
On me. Soon, my mother joined.
But as I writhed in the muck,
I did not feel the pain or shame.
It was nothing to me.

The horse continued swallowing
Up the world. Villages, townships,
And cities flooded around me.
The people that came were quite
Upset, but it didn’t take long
For them to continue living
As if they were outside. Some even
Calling the horse God. I cursed
Them and everyone else
Who had given-up. Cursed
My mother, who remarried,
And the dirty old men farting
By the fire. But I did not curse
Myself.

Years passed until I found
The next step in the course. I plucked
The apple seeds and continued growing
The forest. The trees grew and grew
And the forest spread to every corner
Of the stomach. “Son,” mother said,
“What are you doing? Soon we won’t
Have enough room.” And I told her
That soon there won’t be any room
And the horse will explode. “But,
We might die.” I looked up at her,
Told her that better to die than to be
Conquered. Everyone else disagreed
And soon I was tied-up, ready
To die, but it was too late, a rip, a tear,
A shake, and a bright light tossed us.
I woke-up and saw the remains
Of the horse across the land.
People were mad at me for destroying
Their homes. “Why?” My mother cried,
“Why did you ruin it all? Why did you
Ruin your years?” Lessers always ask,
“Why?” Isn’t the act reason enough?
I had my reasons, but they do not matter.
None would ever be good enough
For those who dream of sleep in the bowels
Of a beast, to sit around the complacent
Fire, bind themselves to a warmth
That demurs. I have no fire. I run through
The air. I have conquered. I will conquer
until there is nothing inside.


An “epic” poem (for me) that I intended to be almost a parody of tall tales, but it ended-up just being kind of weird.

Beginnings

A few days ago, the mind tumbled
from the trees, crawled across
savannas until a new world
was invented. The earth almost trembled
at this: something akin to the old apes’,
except bare and distant, scratching
at the golden sky pinned to the horizon’s
shoulders. Yesterday, limbs tossed
and buried, monuments stretched
across wordless bone. An hour ago,
something pale sat in a white room,
eyes burnished by an interesting screen
until a soul was nearly gleamed.
A couple minutes later, the savannas
empty, silence seeps through
the trees, the monuments speak
to the wind, and the old apes wander
an older world to gather into shadows
as the golden sky turns and awakes.


Written for YDWordPrompt.