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Brennansweaterphant
by blbest
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My mother says the grass must be burned. It’s the way of the prairie. New grass will come, thick and green, it will sustain new life, grazers and insects alike, she says, but the fire does more than just this. My mother understands, how I feel most at home when the flames trace the slope of the hills with their wild arms waving. I wave back from my bedroom window. They watch over me. Nothing can hide in the dark when it is burning season in Kansas. We watch all the landscape dance around us, with us, the smoke stretched to the clouds.


On a night when I grow too restless for my bed, I hop out from under my sheets and walk towards the door. The fire is still awake. The farmers tending them are restless. I turn the doorknob quiet and slow, to not wake my mother. Her snoring fills the house. I can hear it rising through the chimney, bouncing against the stones on its way out. The grass is cold against the bottoms of my feet. But I can hear them calling me, their voices cracking together, the flames. I feel the wind push through my hair, running towards them, the same as I am now. I run until I can’t go any farther, until I reach the edge of a barbed wire fence. The farmers are now men carved from shadows in the fire’s glow. I can feel my face beaming, pulsing, from the flames reflected in my cheeks, from their breath. This is as close as a boy has come to the sun. I can feel my bones stretch, myself growing in the light, from it, towering with the smoke. Soon they tire, every spark and ember. They fall asleep. The ground is as dark as the sky now. The farmers step into their trucks and go. I go home, too. My walk much slowly now. The stars lead me to the front door. I crawl back into my bed, smoke holding tight to my pajamas.


My mother wakes shortly after I tuck myself in. She says she can smell the ashes in the fabric, she puts her ear to my collar, she hears the song of prairie, the blinding, burning ballad of the hills and valleys. She says this place is so special because it is the only land she knows that can be reborn year after year without dying. I tell her how I reached the sun. That I can climb through the clouds. She already knows, she’s said. She’s been there too.

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by blbest
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The first night it rained cats and dogs,
we were terrified. A Doberman shattered
the neighbor’s windshield;


the highways were covered in blood and glass.
There were 19 fatalities, not counting the rain.
We cannot think of them as animals anymore.


It’s harder to stomach when we do.
When they hit the ground,
you can hear their bones snapping.


The sound is so violent it shakes the house.
We never grow comfortable with it.
No one talks of the rain at dinner,


we talk about books and baseball, hoping
the library reopens when the season resumes.
We don’t know if either will ever happen again.


My family and I live in the basement now.
The roof collapsed after the second week.
We fear the floor above us won’t last much longer.


The mayor was killed after the eighth day
just walking to his car. We only leave the house
for food. Some eat the rain, it’s easier, but the rest,


we’re still clinging to what’s left of our humanity.
It’s hard to even look at our own cat anymore.
We can only imagine how his insides would look


spread through the grass. He can sense this too.
He stares out the window, never looking at us.
We do not sleep. We are too haunted by the day.


The whole house smells of death.
There is a Pomeranian lodged in our chimney,
blood dripping into the fire place, we can only


clean the bodies out by burning. We do not remember
the people we were before it all started.
Maybe we were always these wild, simple beasts.


There is nothing to wash us clean anymore.

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by blbest
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I think a great idea to explore would be the benefits of fire, especially to a prairie ecosystem.  I live in Kansas, where the Spring months are full of smoke and charred Earth.  The farmers are all burning their fields and the prairie too.  Plenty of ecosystems use fire, but it's more prominent and possibly even most important in the prairie.  As plants die and decay, the grazing animals must work harder at foraging, trees and woody bushes take root and grow larger, taking more sunlight from the already struggling plants, and the best solution to resolving all of these issues, is to burn it all down.  Fire's nature's reset button, not necessarily it's ending.


Outside of just it's role in the environment, we here in the Midwest, in my state especially, have developed a sort of fondness for the smell of this fire, to see the hills ablaze under the moon and the smoke rising above the trees.  It feels like home.

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INT. Living Room – Evening


A tall, slender man enters the room. He is balding, long limbed and wearing a sweater vest and loafers. He turns off a lamp near the door. He pulls the curtains together, keeping the last of the daylight out. Finally, he shuts an overhead light off and eases into a rocking chair.


THE DARK:
“Hello, old friend.”


There is no one visible in the room other than the man. The silhouette of the man in his chair can be seen rocking gently back and forth in the chair.


MAN:
“How are you?”


THE DARK:
“Quite alright, as well as I can be, I suspect.”


MAN:
“I’ve had another long day at the office, I’m afraid. Glad to be home. Happy to drink with you.”


The man holds up a glass and shakes it slightly in his hand, the ice rattles.


THE DARK:
“If only I could drink with you, pal.”


MAN:
“But you are, glass or not.”


THE DARK:
“I appreciate the sentiment. I grow so lonely at night. Despite all that the world leaves to me.”


MAN:
“It must be hard to be feared. I can hardly shoo a fly myself.”


THE DARK:
“It’s unsettling. Children cannot sleep with me in the room. I keep in the basements as much as I can, but still, they find me. They shake at the very sight of me.


MAN:
“But the owls, surely, the owls do not fear you? I hear them hooting and swooping every which way when you bring with you the night, they sound gleeful in a way only they can.


THE DARK:
“With the owls and so many of the others it’s hard to know if it’s more me or the moon they wait for. Everyone’s always looking for the Light, wherever she may be. But I’ll tell you, who do you think holds this moon? The whole night? I do.


MAN:
“And without it how could we watch the stars? Fireworks? Chase the lightning bugs? All of this could not happen without you, Dark, ol’ chum! How I wish you could share a drink with me!


THE DARK:
“To drown my sorrows?”


MAN:
“Hardly! For a toast, to you!”


THE DARK:
“I am an absence of light, by definition. I am the lack of some other thing. I do not even belong to myself.


MAN:
“Preposterous! All of it!”


THE DARK:
“They say when a man dies all goes dark. What grief to bear! I welcome the living to death, how can there be joy in this?”


MAN:
“But who joins those souls after they depart? You do. Who finds those spirits and will never leave their side, despite all they’ve lost, all that life had given them? You! Don’t you see, Dark?


THE DARK:
“If I don’t join them who will?”


MAN:
“Precisely!”


The man is talking more excitedly now, rocking, nearly leaping out of his chair.


MAN:
“I do not sit in the daylight and talk this way. The way the Light is, it busies itself with the movement of the world too much to stop, to sit and wait and listen. But you, Darkness, my oldest, greatest friend, you are patient, loyal to no end. You have never left me. You stay in my pockets, behind my eyelids. When I sleep, you make sure I do, no matter what the day and all its light have thrown at me. No matter what troubles the the Light's world gives me.”


THE DARK:
“And a joy it’s been. My pleasure, truly.”


The man rocks, his head tilted back, pondering something.


THE MAN:
“You and the Light speak to one another, Yes?”


THE DARK:
“In our own way. We must.”


THE MAN:
“Because the Light is absent without a Darkness to allow it?”


THE DARK:
“It's true. Now enough of your flattery, tell me about your day.”


THE MAN:
“I intend to! We have all night, but first, I another drink!”


The man hops out of his chair and the screen grows darker, the silhouette of the man is no longer visible, all is black and beautiful, as only the Dark can be.

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by blbest
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Timothy arrives at a Halloween party in no discernible costume.


Girl dressed as cat: “And what are you supposed to be?”
Timothy: “An empty vessel afloat in a sea of hopelessness, awaiting only my inevitable capsizing”
Girl raises an eyebrow and swiftly walks away.


 


Timothy in art class


Teacher: “Timothy, please show us your self portrait now?”
He reveals a canvas painted completely black, he appears, at least in a way only Timothy can, pleased.
Teacher: “I don’t see you in this portrait…..well, perhaps I do [she shrugs] C+.”


 


We see a bedroom that appears to belong to a child. Upon closer inspection we see that a young monster is tucked into the bed, he’s visibly afraid and shaking.


Young Monster: “Mom, I swear he’s in here!”
Mother monster heard off screen: “Go to bed, Boogie, he’s not under your bed, I checked!”
The closet door creaks open, Timothy peers out, putting a finger to his mouth to shush the boy.

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by blbest
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1. We played finger gunslingers every weekend, the thick brush and limestone through the orchard our battleground. We filled the bowls of our sweatshirts with pine cone grenades. We were young backyard ballistics experts, big brother bully fellers, three foot terrors. No one cried mama, just licked the blood from their knuckles and kept shooting.


2. A woman is murdered two towns over. The slabs of limestone are overgrown with moss. The only thing her killer leaves is a footprint and her body.


3. The neighbors put NRA Membership stickers on their bumpers instead of American flags.  One of them shoots the windows out of his trailer some drunken night. I’m told to be careful walking past his lot.


4. We don’t pull our fingers from their holsters anymore.


5. There is a shooting at a high school in Colorado, a campus in Virginia, a movie theater, a military base, an office building, and an elementary school.


6. The president cries.


7. With the death tolls still ringing, Congress fails a bill calling for more thorough background checks for those purchasing firearms. Politicians against the proposed legislation triumph in the name of an over 200 year old amendment. Gunmen continue to own and purchase weapons never dreamt of two centuries ago when the Bill of Rights was written.


8. Kansas passes The Second Amendment Protection Act in hopes of making Kansas exempt from federal gun control laws. A co-sponsor of the bill rejoices in not following the path to stricter gun control Colorado takes after a tragic shooting.


9. Kansas continues to deny evolution.


10. Our neighbors’ buy more stickers.


11. Boys buy guns made of metal, they don’t even pretend anymore.

12. The blood on our hands is no longer imagined

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by blbest
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My grandmother’s piano has 89 keys.
The first 88 come standard on every
keyboard, but the 89th is specific
to only this instrument.


It rose from the wood the morning
she died. When her final breath
left her body, it rang through
the walls of my parents’ house.


We lied awake in our beds, not
wanting to move, not speaking.
Only watching the sound of it
bounce against the walls,


a thin white arrow falling to rest
in the soft places between our ribs.
Some evenings I walk past it now
and press the key as gently


as it allows me. Her breath climbs
over my neck, I can feel her small
fingers on my back when she sings,
It’s okay, You’re okay, You are.


And I am, I am. And I begin
to play, whole scales, chasing her
ghost as it rises, one half step at a time.
I play her song until it is mine too.


 


 

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by blbest
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that buried between
the bones of my body
are rockets aimed
at the sun,


that this sun can
never harm me
when I am this big,
when I am billions


of light years tall
and my wings bigger yet,
that there are moons


orbiting the space
between my arms,
and how could I forget


that this is devastating
too, that I kissed her
before I knew what


I was capable of.

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by blbest
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I was gonna write up a description for this video, but I, uh, promised my folks I'd watch their dog, so, uh, I gotta go do that, here's a video....sorry.

by blbest
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Hello, uhh, how are you?

Good. You?

Not bad. You, uhh, sound nice.

Thanks, you too.

I would imagine you look nice as well, probably

New blouse, I like it.

This is just a little weird, right? A bit?

How so…?

I mean, it’s a weird blind date, right?

I don’t follow…

Usually, a blind date means not having seen the person you’re meeting until you actually go on a date with them, but we’re here now, in this beautiful restaurant and I still have no idea what you look like.

I go on dates like this all the time, seems pretty normal.

Huh, really? Seriously?

Yep.

It’s just, we’re sitting at two separate tables, back to back, talking over our shoulders, kinda weird you know?

I think you’re just nervous, you sound nervous.

Confused, mostly.

Love at first listen, it's the only way to fall for someone.

You think so?

Absolutely.


You've had real relationships based solely on the sound of someone's voice.


 


Of course.  I dated The Wolfman for a couple years.  I'd call every Thursday night and he’d play any song I asked for, no matter what. He was so sweet.

The KMAC 94.7 DJ?


Huh?


He's a DJ for the most popular radio station in the city, he just took your requests.


I don't know what you're trying to say.


You seriously thought you were dating someone named "The Wolfman."  Good god.....Nevermind.  Have you ever actually dated before?

After The Wolfman there was Eric.  He was so generous and caring, said he’d take care of any problem I could ever possibly have, floods, hail damage, burglary.

Your insurance agent?

No, Eric.

Christ. Any more of these romances in your past?

Well, there was Sarah, but the two of us never seemed to head in the same direction.

Because she told you to turn left in 500ft when you wanted to turn right?

How do you know Sarah!

She lead me to this restaurant.

Oh, she’ll lead you on, she always did. That’s Sarah all right.

A GPS! I’m leaving, this is absurd.  Sarah will take me home now.

Good luck with that hussy!

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by blbest
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We snuck our first drink when mother wasn’t
watching, her cup half empty, cold and unattended.
That inaugural sip made us shudder, filled our mouths
with soot and soil soaked pisswater.
We thought our tongues were dead leaves.
We kept our distance from it for a few more years after that.


We got older and eased into it, warmed our bellies
with sugary brews that sounded like cupcakes and rodeos,
caramel apple chai and tall skinny half-cafs with a whip.
We gave street names to the strong stuff, like java and perk,
we knew it every language.


When we reached adulthood, we couldn’t kick it,
drinkers because our parents could never rise without it.
Because we didn’t know how to make dates casual
without coffee shops in college towns. Because the warm river
smoke of a dark roast unsweetened reminded us of the woodstove
musk that clung to the collars of our grandfathers’ jackets.


Eventually, we build a collection. There is a place in our
cupboards for all of this, the mugs. Just below the plates and
above stacked bowls. There are those that match the dinner
set for post-cake coffee and cups for the morning commute.


Most importantly, there is a place for the kitschy mug, the one
still depicting the youth we’ve yet to outgrow entirely, trimmed
for Christmas or adorned by hand painted sea otters.
Saturday morning’s wake up early for no good reason coffee.
The drink that reaches your toes.

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by blbest
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I was taught that a man’s worth is measured by the strength of his handshake. My uncle made the biggest men wince with every introduction and greeting. His hands were hard, forged by years of dirt and dust only acquired through long hours of work without enough breaks to catch his breath. He wasn’t large in stature, but his limbs were thick and muscular, his eyes small, but bright and blue. He never had much to say, but always plenty to do.


As a boy, I spent afternoons in the summer working beside him. I swore I saw him grow stronger the higher the sun rose above us. He built fences, sturdy and straight, never slowing his pace. When I would sit on the truck bed to rest my legs, he’d wipe beads of sweat from his forehead and work twice as hard. I watched him drive the posts into the ground, his arms firm and tense. He never seemed to tire. A working man wasn’t supposed to.


When he wasn’t toiling in the fields, he assisted anywhere he could. Trimming trees, rebuilding car engines, hauling firewood in winter, anything he could do to keep busy. He built a barn alongside my father next to our house. He was meticulous and orderly. Every nail was hit evenly, each edge sanded perfectly. When a 2x4 leaning against one of the new walls fell on his thumb, he didn’t curse, he pushed the board aside and kept hammering.


Years later, after I’d reached adulthood, my father called, asking me to check on the farm and my uncle. The family had growing concerns about his health. The fence surrounding the pasture was still in place, but the posts were splintered and worn. A few were starting to split down the sides. When I reached the house, the porch creaked beneath me. Planks supporting it were rotting through. I knocked on the door twice, shaking dust loose from the frame above. There was no answer. I walked behind the house, taking notice of the sunken roof of an old tool shed next to his garage. I saw him a hundred yards or more beyond it in the garden, tilling by


hand with a shovel. His back was hunched over, and he walked with a limp. The skin on his arms looked thinner, covered in sunspots. I thought of interrupting him, to bring him inside, but I knew better. I grabbed a spade from the shed and helped him complete the last half.


“I have a tiller you could borrow,” I offered.


“No need,” he responded. His eyes still focused on the ground in front of him. The more force he applied to the hard earth beneath him, the more his legs shook.


“Why don’t you head in and I’ll finish up.”


“M’alright, I can handle it,” he said.


He dug the shovel into the ground again, this time collapsing with the push. The rust covering the blade had finally separated the piece from the wood handle. I pulled him slowly back onto his feet. With a hand around his waist, I guided him into the house and seated him at the kitchen table. He looked smaller and fragile, defeated. I made a pot of coffee and looked at the farm out the window. The grass was uncut and a Ford pickup sat in the yard. He told me it’d stopped running a couple weeks ago, but parts were no longer made for it. Everything about the farm was archaic and forgotten by much of the outside world. He’d replace the vehicle had he not been convinced they didn’t make ‘em like they used to, the way he felt about most things. His ideals were rooted in an authenticity seldom realized anymore. There isn’t much room for a working man these days. Time moves much too quickly.


Sitting opposite him in the kitchen, I’d become more conscious of his aging, something once inconceivable to me as a child. He held a coffee mug in his right hand, massaging his knee with the left. The wrinkles in his face webbed around his eyes, pulling the skin downward, shaping a man greatly weathered. My mother and father had invited him to live with them in the spare bedroom, but he’d declined. He wouldn’t leave the home he’d made, its structure


weakening the same as his own body. Each was the relic of a simple practicality. A sincerity embodied best by men of few words, men with no intention of ever being anybody’s burden.


I put the tools away after tilling the rest of the garden. He insisted I wait for his help, but his knee prevented it. He kept careful watch over my work from a lawn chair in the backyard, not speaking. I dug like he once had, quickly, and purposefully. The way he still strived to, not stopping until I received his nod of approval. I placed the tools back in the shed, feeling the dirt dry hard into my palms.


I shook his hand before leaving him, grimacing slightly through the pain.

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by blbest
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