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Written by ReidPickett

Window

   The wooden door creaks loudly; protesting as if the scrawny, young man was intruding on a private soiree dressed like a beggar.

   

   The door was half right.

   The one struggling to fully open the ancient doorway was more unfortunate rag than human in appearance. His worn coat was patched two dozen times too many, the ratty blue jeans and once-white shirt beneath were held together mostly by the dried paint that caked into their seams. The most expensive thing on him were the thick work gloves on his hands, and they too nearly tore open as he gave a final, decisive push at the stubborn door. The ancient hinges took pity on their unwelcome guest, or else just wanted the pleasure of his private humiliation. The door gave suddenly, swinging wildly open to bang against the adjacent wall and leaving its surprised opponent to sprawl into darkness of the room’s interior, flailing his arms wildly for balance.

   A storm of disturbed dust came up then to try and catch the frantic man, sticking to his forehead and the matted locks of sweaty hair stuck there, filling his nose and mouth, and transforming his potential fall into a hacking flurry of hurried attempts to clear the air. After both regaining his composure and realizing his battle to swat away the irritating cloud was only raising more dust from the moldy air around him, the stranger made his way to the center of the room, spinning to take in his new surroundings.

   It was as he’d remembered, though he’d been so young when he’d been here last. Everyone had been discussing his father, and by extension Grandpa. Droves of strangers had milled around the old house, crumbling even back then, but still powerful in its size and majesty. His mother had been busy all week, and she was beset on all sides, thanking each unfamiliar face for coming and shaking countless hands. Back then; the boy he’d been had slipped away from the muttering horde, desperate to escape from the long gazes and incomprehensible remarks meant to encourage him on to some vague future prospects.

   The boy had fled into backrooms and parlors, further and further into the un-renovated wing of the colossal house that he had called a second home for much of his then-short life. As he escaped further into the stale rooms, they had started to fill with the white, clothe ghosts of dust-protected furniture. Even today, he could remember the claustrophobic panic that welled up in him as the smell of mothballs and forgotten wood had begun to push down on him from all sides like heavy, winter quilts. A spark of instinct sent him up steps then, trying to get higher than the dust and cloying stink, up above the people who seeped into every pore of his home, and up above the implosion of spiked confusion that flared in his chest whenever someone started yet another barely-heard sentence with an apology.

   The now-man slid his hand over the back of the room’s only occupant, a worn armchair, the kind made for one, yet so clearly meant for two. Stumbling upon this place as a boy had lead him to believe it was some form of unfinished addition that his father had used to be alone. He’d imagined the man, with his relaxed, sleepy expression, musing to himself in an artistic stupor as he composed notes for a thousand new songs in his mind, sitting in near total darkness. The thought had brought him small comfort then.

As he’d grown older he’d come to understand the room better and, to make sense of things, he’d changed his understanding of the room and the man he imagined used it. His teenaged self had come to see the room as a prison, his father looking through the manhole of glass into the open sewer of the world. The man had become a grizzled thing in his mind now, grumbling angrily in frayed whispers about the state of humanity. Then his father had waxed poetic for hours as internal bitterness gave birth to musical scores. It was a dramatic view; he knew that now, aggrandizing himself by imagining he was the oh-so-special child of a tortured gargoyle of art. His early paintings had been all emotion and he now found them slightly embarrassing.

   The man traced the wood of the cross separation the window’s four panes, thinking about how long ago he’d abandoned the splatter painting and rage-y strokes of his teenage years. Now he was known for portraits, snap shots done in a dozen shades of green that for some reason captivated his audience in a constant rambling of big words and intellectual speculation. Many were convinced that he painted out of loss, out of some collective misery accrued from the now three generations of men who’d ended up like his father. To a few of the more vocal and less polite members of his viewership he was an unbroken heir to a legacy of madness. To his wife and son, the man was just himself. He liked the last interpretation best.

   Now he thought of his father the same way. The man could imagine an aging man, who’d given so much of himself for the sake of his art, finally feeling used up. His father hadn’t been sad, or defeated, but was simply finished. The man’s thoughts that had plagued him with feelings of inadequacy or a twisted burden of trust being placed on him had stopped after his own son had been born. He’d closed the book on the half-parent that had come before him, decided that he could make peace with his spirit, forgive him for walking away like he did.

   Yet here the man was, gazing out the old window in the little room that he’d only really thought about a handful of times in his entire life. Peering around expectantly as if his newfound insight entitled him to a grand revelation. His inheritance now demanding that the room reveals its hidden heaven that had kept his father here.

   The man paced around more and more insistently, confused by his own actions and what he wanted, determined to understand this rooms former occupant really. Seating himself finally, the man probed his mind, knitting his fingers and staring ahead as he had imagined the man who’d abandoned him had. He shouldn’t have come, shouldn’t have sought so fervently for meaning where there wasn’t any. Why couldn’t he just blame the man for what he’d done, why did he keep trying to find some answer to excuse him? He wanted to believe that his father had chosen something over him. The man clenched his fists until his nails made his palms burn, grappling with his own incomprehensible drives. Had his wife been right? Was he so obsessed? Was he failing her and the boy she’d been holding as he’d whirled out of the house without a word of warning or explanation?

   He was spiraling.

   He knew that.

   

   He was spiraling down and down, deeper and deeper. He was dying to pull up, but the ground seemed so invitingly comfortable.

In the room, there sat a child in the body of an almost-man, who couldn’t remember the last time he’d swallowed the little white pieces of stability that had been prescribed to him. He couldn’t really even remember how many had been in the fistful he remembered swallowing last in an angry act of defiance at his wife’s constant prodding. He couldn’t paint with them, the shapes and contours of eyes and mouths muddied under the weight of peer-reviewed, medically mandated, sanity. It was a poisonous remedy that stole from him everything he treasured about himself for the sake of everything outside himself. The ultimate sacrifice, corrode the mind and gain a whole world.

   He tasted bile and felt the tears, really felt them, not like when he took the pills but in the natural way. It was like rain. He hadn’t meant to forget…he’d needed to paint…so his son would have something.

   The man felt the tears fall.

   They fell for a long time after, for his son, for his father, for everything, and for his choices.

   The man sat until the tears stopped and then unlocked the window.

____________________________________________________________________

   The boy hated the little piano. It was half a toy and incredibly old. An unthinking joke given by a rarely seen relative. His father hadn’t wanted him to play it, he’d been so angry that he and the boy’s mother had shouted for hours longer than they normally did. It had been so bad that the boy had feared the little keys of the toy, thought they might bite him or do whatever they had done to his dad to make him hate the toy piano so much. He had feared the little instrument sitting in the basement, but he always went to watch it, making sure that whatever threat it posed was contained, thinking that maybe if he watched the monster with black and white teeth, that it would never do again what terrible thing it’d done.

   When the boy found his mother crying in the kitchen, screaming his father’s name, his real, adult name, the boy knew what had happened and run. He had run into the basement, taking the stairs two at a time in the way that his mother had would’ve yelled at him for. He’d lost. He hadn’t stopped the monster from getting out and now it had hurt his parents. He was going to get the monster back, make the monster cry like it had made his mother cry. His father had been right about the monster, he’d known something about it, and now it had done something to him too.

   The basement light was always dim, but there was more than enough glow from the single bulb-hanging overhead to pick out the flashing keys in the dull grey. The monster made no move, it just grinned at him like it always did, still pretending even as the boy leapt forward. The monster would pay, it would give everything back and his mother would hug him and say she was proud of how brave and strong he was. His father would come stumbling home and tell the boy that he was all better and that he wouldn’t get so mad anymore because it was all the monsters fault that he’d been so sick. The boy leapt at the little, toy piano, struck out with his fists and feet, clawing and snapping and banging away. The monster was screaming at him, shrieking out again and again, and the boy wanted the monster to scream more until it said it was sorry, until it was in pieces. The boy attacked again and again pulling out the screams until they matched his own, until they were his own wailing and diving screaming.

   The boy played for the very first time.

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Written by ReidPickett
Window
   The wooden door creaks loudly; protesting as if the scrawny, young man was intruding on a private soiree dressed like a beggar.
   
   The door was half right.

   The one struggling to fully open the ancient doorway was more unfortunate rag than human in appearance. His worn coat was patched two dozen times too many, the ratty blue jeans and once-white shirt beneath were held together mostly by the dried paint that caked into their seams. The most expensive thing on him were the thick work gloves on his hands, and they too nearly tore open as he gave a final, decisive push at the stubborn door. The ancient hinges took pity on their unwelcome guest, or else just wanted the pleasure of his private humiliation. The door gave suddenly, swinging wildly open to bang against the adjacent wall and leaving its surprised opponent to sprawl into darkness of the room’s interior, flailing his arms wildly for balance.
   A storm of disturbed dust came up then to try and catch the frantic man, sticking to his forehead and the matted locks of sweaty hair stuck there, filling his nose and mouth, and transforming his potential fall into a hacking flurry of hurried attempts to clear the air. After both regaining his composure and realizing his battle to swat away the irritating cloud was only raising more dust from the moldy air around him, the stranger made his way to the center of the room, spinning to take in his new surroundings.
   It was as he’d remembered, though he’d been so young when he’d been here last. Everyone had been discussing his father, and by extension Grandpa. Droves of strangers had milled around the old house, crumbling even back then, but still powerful in its size and majesty. His mother had been busy all week, and she was beset on all sides, thanking each unfamiliar face for coming and shaking countless hands. Back then; the boy he’d been had slipped away from the muttering horde, desperate to escape from the long gazes and incomprehensible remarks meant to encourage him on to some vague future prospects.
   The boy had fled into backrooms and parlors, further and further into the un-renovated wing of the colossal house that he had called a second home for much of his then-short life. As he escaped further into the stale rooms, they had started to fill with the white, clothe ghosts of dust-protected furniture. Even today, he could remember the claustrophobic panic that welled up in him as the smell of mothballs and forgotten wood had begun to push down on him from all sides like heavy, winter quilts. A spark of instinct sent him up steps then, trying to get higher than the dust and cloying stink, up above the people who seeped into every pore of his home, and up above the implosion of spiked confusion that flared in his chest whenever someone started yet another barely-heard sentence with an apology.
   The now-man slid his hand over the back of the room’s only occupant, a worn armchair, the kind made for one, yet so clearly meant for two. Stumbling upon this place as a boy had lead him to believe it was some form of unfinished addition that his father had used to be alone. He’d imagined the man, with his relaxed, sleepy expression, musing to himself in an artistic stupor as he composed notes for a thousand new songs in his mind, sitting in near total darkness. The thought had brought him small comfort then.
As he’d grown older he’d come to understand the room better and, to make sense of things, he’d changed his understanding of the room and the man he imagined used it. His teenaged self had come to see the room as a prison, his father looking through the manhole of glass into the open sewer of the world. The man had become a grizzled thing in his mind now, grumbling angrily in frayed whispers about the state of humanity. Then his father had waxed poetic for hours as internal bitterness gave birth to musical scores. It was a dramatic view; he knew that now, aggrandizing himself by imagining he was the oh-so-special child of a tortured gargoyle of art. His early paintings had been all emotion and he now found them slightly embarrassing.
   The man traced the wood of the cross separation the window’s four panes, thinking about how long ago he’d abandoned the splatter painting and rage-y strokes of his teenage years. Now he was known for portraits, snap shots done in a dozen shades of green that for some reason captivated his audience in a constant rambling of big words and intellectual speculation. Many were convinced that he painted out of loss, out of some collective misery accrued from the now three generations of men who’d ended up like his father. To a few of the more vocal and less polite members of his viewership he was an unbroken heir to a legacy of madness. To his wife and son, the man was just himself. He liked the last interpretation best.
   Now he thought of his father the same way. The man could imagine an aging man, who’d given so much of himself for the sake of his art, finally feeling used up. His father hadn’t been sad, or defeated, but was simply finished. The man’s thoughts that had plagued him with feelings of inadequacy or a twisted burden of trust being placed on him had stopped after his own son had been born. He’d closed the book on the half-parent that had come before him, decided that he could make peace with his spirit, forgive him for walking away like he did.
   Yet here the man was, gazing out the old window in the little room that he’d only really thought about a handful of times in his entire life. Peering around expectantly as if his newfound insight entitled him to a grand revelation. His inheritance now demanding that the room reveals its hidden heaven that had kept his father here.
   The man paced around more and more insistently, confused by his own actions and what he wanted, determined to understand this rooms former occupant really. Seating himself finally, the man probed his mind, knitting his fingers and staring ahead as he had imagined the man who’d abandoned him had. He shouldn’t have come, shouldn’t have sought so fervently for meaning where there wasn’t any. Why couldn’t he just blame the man for what he’d done, why did he keep trying to find some answer to excuse him? He wanted to believe that his father had chosen something over him. The man clenched his fists until his nails made his palms burn, grappling with his own incomprehensible drives. Had his wife been right? Was he so obsessed? Was he failing her and the boy she’d been holding as he’d whirled out of the house without a word of warning or explanation?

   He was spiraling.

   He knew that.
   
   He was spiraling down and down, deeper and deeper. He was dying to pull up, but the ground seemed so invitingly comfortable.
In the room, there sat a child in the body of an almost-man, who couldn’t remember the last time he’d swallowed the little white pieces of stability that had been prescribed to him. He couldn’t really even remember how many had been in the fistful he remembered swallowing last in an angry act of defiance at his wife’s constant prodding. He couldn’t paint with them, the shapes and contours of eyes and mouths muddied under the weight of peer-reviewed, medically mandated, sanity. It was a poisonous remedy that stole from him everything he treasured about himself for the sake of everything outside himself. The ultimate sacrifice, corrode the mind and gain a whole world.
   He tasted bile and felt the tears, really felt them, not like when he took the pills but in the natural way. It was like rain. He hadn’t meant to forget…he’d needed to paint…so his son would have something.

   The man felt the tears fall.

   They fell for a long time after, for his son, for his father, for everything, and for his choices.
   The man sat until the tears stopped and then unlocked the window.
____________________________________________________________________

   The boy hated the little piano. It was half a toy and incredibly old. An unthinking joke given by a rarely seen relative. His father hadn’t wanted him to play it, he’d been so angry that he and the boy’s mother had shouted for hours longer than they normally did. It had been so bad that the boy had feared the little keys of the toy, thought they might bite him or do whatever they had done to his dad to make him hate the toy piano so much. He had feared the little instrument sitting in the basement, but he always went to watch it, making sure that whatever threat it posed was contained, thinking that maybe if he watched the monster with black and white teeth, that it would never do again what terrible thing it’d done.
   When the boy found his mother crying in the kitchen, screaming his father’s name, his real, adult name, the boy knew what had happened and run. He had run into the basement, taking the stairs two at a time in the way that his mother had would’ve yelled at him for. He’d lost. He hadn’t stopped the monster from getting out and now it had hurt his parents. He was going to get the monster back, make the monster cry like it had made his mother cry. His father had been right about the monster, he’d known something about it, and now it had done something to him too.
   The basement light was always dim, but there was more than enough glow from the single bulb-hanging overhead to pick out the flashing keys in the dull grey. The monster made no move, it just grinned at him like it always did, still pretending even as the boy leapt forward. The monster would pay, it would give everything back and his mother would hug him and say she was proud of how brave and strong he was. His father would come stumbling home and tell the boy that he was all better and that he wouldn’t get so mad anymore because it was all the monsters fault that he’d been so sick. The boy leapt at the little, toy piano, struck out with his fists and feet, clawing and snapping and banging away. The monster was screaming at him, shrieking out again and again, and the boy wanted the monster to scream more until it said it was sorry, until it was in pieces. The boy attacked again and again pulling out the screams until they matched his own, until they were his own wailing and diving screaming.

   The boy played for the very first time.
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Prose Challenge of the Week #25: Write a piece about cowardice. Minimum 10 words - Maximum 250 words. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge.
Written by ReidPickett

The Worst Part

"I said I was sorry!" it comes out more whine than intended. He won't turn around. If I can't see his face than I can't begin to guess what he's thinking. "Are-" he cuts off my stupid question. 

"Ya know what the worst part about all this is?" 

He's asking into empty air, staring off into nothing, no doubt smiling like he always does when he's unhappy. He's asked me this same question for the last month, whenever a day like today comes along. Every time he makes me choose between him and my whole life. I've never chosen him. I want to tell him that it isn't easy, that I know its not right but I can't just drop everything for him. He can't keep acting like this isn't like pulling teeth for me too. Yet, I still tell him what he wants to hear, "The worst part is that you still love me." A statement of fact.

He turns to look at me then. The right side of his face is a mess, and there's blood on his collar from an all too familiar broken nose. Its a knife in me when I see him, a smiling mess. "You gotta stop trying to see me after practice, they'd stop going so far if they didn't feel like you were checking them out!" He laughed then, full in my face, the way I've always loved. Gasping for air he croaks, "The assholes, don't they know the quarterback's my boyfriend?"

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Prose Challenge of the Week #25: Write a piece about cowardice. Minimum 10 words - Maximum 250 words. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge.
Written by ReidPickett
The Worst Part
"I said I was sorry!" it comes out more whine than intended. He won't turn around. If I can't see his face than I can't begin to guess what he's thinking. "Are-" he cuts off my stupid question. 

"Ya know what the worst part about all this is?" 

He's asking into empty air, staring off into nothing, no doubt smiling like he always does when he's unhappy. He's asked me this same question for the last month, whenever a day like today comes along. Every time he makes me choose between him and my whole life. I've never chosen him. I want to tell him that it isn't easy, that I know its not right but I can't just drop everything for him. He can't keep acting like this isn't like pulling teeth for me too. Yet, I still tell him what he wants to hear, "The worst part is that you still love me." A statement of fact.
He turns to look at me then. The right side of his face is a mess, and there's blood on his collar from an all too familiar broken nose. Its a knife in me when I see him, a smiling mess. "You gotta stop trying to see me after practice, they'd stop going so far if they didn't feel like you were checking them out!" He laughed then, full in my face, the way I've always loved. Gasping for air he croaks, "The assholes, don't they know the quarterback's my boyfriend?"
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Written by ReidPickett

Everything's God

     You don't get it, do you hero? Even as marble knuckles send you tumbling to the earth, nearly chipping silver inlay and glass filigree. You just don't understand how all this works. You don't understand me, and you can't possibly understand yourself since you thought yourself worthy to stand before me. 

     Its almost funny, you looking up at me with eyes that beg, telling me another of a thousand stories of scraping and sweating for just a fraction of a chance. Your eyes tell me of the struggle of those who loved you before you even had a name. I watch the tears form in them, so horrified at the sight of me, after you'd fought so hard to make all their pain worth it. I can almost smell the long nights of cheap food, endless exertion, and over time pay beneath the scent of my perfumes and incense. The scraggly stubble on your face, the greasy locks of unwashed hair, your tattered, oft-patched clothes, all sacrifices you made for the chance to brush the hem of the fine suit I wear, more craft and patience put into sewing the end of my sleeve than anything you've ever owned. The emerald of my cufflink flashes in mockery of what I see squirming beneath me. I see heart, will, and determination. I see how cheated you feel by this, how shocked you are. Did you think your desire was enough? Did you expect me to greet you with open arms, prize to make all your toil worth it?

     Its a struggle for you to rise, limbs simply unwilling to hold your little weight. Exhausted, emaciated and filthy, it must feel like your own body is rotting out from under itself. Still you will your body to try and rise. I like watching it try, comically crumpling into the dirt with each failure, the wet, grinding pop of bone on barely-skin-wrapped bone softly audible. A sad thing like you can't hope to know me, you belong in the dirt. Can you not see that there is ivory beneath my fine clothes. I am not of withering flesh and crumbling bone like you. I am all shining silver and enameled bronze. My grin is made to leer down at you, flashing, arrogant diamonds embedded in the naked pearl of my skull. I could spit on you, the finest wine splashing on your cheek, and you would feel honored. 

Oh, what a sad little "role model" you are, such an inspiration to the children.

     Even as I step on you in the dust, grinding your head back into the nothing you came from under the weight of jewels and decadence; you still don't understand anything about me. I built every monument, wrote every chronicling, created every wall that you "overcame." You thought yourself so strong, saw me as some great throne, believing that you could earn what I have, what I am. I am not earned. 

I am gathered.

I am won. 

I am taken.

I am master and mastered by those who dare to conquer.

      My steel veins pump oil into the engine in my chest as proof. Those heroes who seek me as you do deserve only to choke on the smog as I breath fire and toxic ash over the world. I pulled everything you know from millions of branded "savages," my every finger a bullet in the hearts of a thousand would-be empires. I was on every ship, built every colony, fought every war over land already dyed in a thousand years of blood. I moved the gears and powered the cities of everyone who fought for anything, because everyone who ever fought and died did it for me. 

      In the end, little heroes who work so hard, who give everything to pull themselves out of the heaps of broken bodies my children left in their wake, who believe themselves worthy of having my favor bestowed upon them are nothing to me. You should have known that from the moment you looked into my eyes. Did you not see the empty sockets? Did you not see the feint flicker of light in them, softly glowing in the dark? Its the persistent shimmer of an impossible flash. Its the light left after the blast craters, the bodies-turned-ashes, and the mushroom cloud. You should have known once you saw that light in my empty sockets, you cannot have power and keep your soul.

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Written by ReidPickett
Everything's God
     You don't get it, do you hero? Even as marble knuckles send you tumbling to the earth, nearly chipping silver inlay and glass filigree. You just don't understand how all this works. You don't understand me, and you can't possibly understand yourself since you thought yourself worthy to stand before me. 
     Its almost funny, you looking up at me with eyes that beg, telling me another of a thousand stories of scraping and sweating for just a fraction of a chance. Your eyes tell me of the struggle of those who loved you before you even had a name. I watch the tears form in them, so horrified at the sight of me, after you'd fought so hard to make all their pain worth it. I can almost smell the long nights of cheap food, endless exertion, and over time pay beneath the scent of my perfumes and incense. The scraggly stubble on your face, the greasy locks of unwashed hair, your tattered, oft-patched clothes, all sacrifices you made for the chance to brush the hem of the fine suit I wear, more craft and patience put into sewing the end of my sleeve than anything you've ever owned. The emerald of my cufflink flashes in mockery of what I see squirming beneath me. I see heart, will, and determination. I see how cheated you feel by this, how shocked you are. Did you think your desire was enough? Did you expect me to greet you with open arms, prize to make all your toil worth it?
     Its a struggle for you to rise, limbs simply unwilling to hold your little weight. Exhausted, emaciated and filthy, it must feel like your own body is rotting out from under itself. Still you will your body to try and rise. I like watching it try, comically crumpling into the dirt with each failure, the wet, grinding pop of bone on barely-skin-wrapped bone softly audible. A sad thing like you can't hope to know me, you belong in the dirt. Can you not see that there is ivory beneath my fine clothes. I am not of withering flesh and crumbling bone like you. I am all shining silver and enameled bronze. My grin is made to leer down at you, flashing, arrogant diamonds embedded in the naked pearl of my skull. I could spit on you, the finest wine splashing on your cheek, and you would feel honored. 

Oh, what a sad little "role model" you are, such an inspiration to the children.

     Even as I step on you in the dust, grinding your head back into the nothing you came from under the weight of jewels and decadence; you still don't understand anything about me. I built every monument, wrote every chronicling, created every wall that you "overcame." You thought yourself so strong, saw me as some great throne, believing that you could earn what I have, what I am. I am not earned. 
I am gathered.
I am won. 
I am taken.
I am master and mastered by those who dare to conquer.
      My steel veins pump oil into the engine in my chest as proof. Those heroes who seek me as you do deserve only to choke on the smog as I breath fire and toxic ash over the world. I pulled everything you know from millions of branded "savages," my every finger a bullet in the hearts of a thousand would-be empires. I was on every ship, built every colony, fought every war over land already dyed in a thousand years of blood. I moved the gears and powered the cities of everyone who fought for anything, because everyone who ever fought and died did it for me. 
      In the end, little heroes who work so hard, who give everything to pull themselves out of the heaps of broken bodies my children left in their wake, who believe themselves worthy of having my favor bestowed upon them are nothing to me. You should have known that from the moment you looked into my eyes. Did you not see the empty sockets? Did you not see the feint flicker of light in them, softly glowing in the dark? Its the persistent shimmer of an impossible flash. Its the light left after the blast craters, the bodies-turned-ashes, and the mushroom cloud. You should have known once you saw that light in my empty sockets, you cannot have power and keep your soul.
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Prose Challenge of the Week #24: Using a minimum word count of 10, maximum word count of 250, Write a piece about GREED. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett

What I wanted

He told me he would give me everything he had, in that way that would have made me believe him if he said he would pull the sun from the sky to make me a ring. He didn't, not in the way that really mattered. I asked for money and he gave me his money, enough to fulfill every wish I never made. I yearned for his words and he poured them out for me, but they were sand to my thirst. I pulled from him every one of his secrets, picked his past clean and spread out every piece, like a specimen under glass. He gave them up with a tight smile, always so eager to please. I wanted his eyes, I wanted his smile, I wanted his mind, and all he gave me was fading memories and echoes of loves I'd had before.

I still forgave him. I forgave how he betrayed me, forgave his hoarding of the little I asked for and how he tried to distract me with a thousand gifts and moments that couldn't hope to satisfy me.

I even forgave the look in his eyes when I finally took what I wanted. 

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Prose Challenge of the Week #24: Using a minimum word count of 10, maximum word count of 250, Write a piece about GREED. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett
What I wanted
He told me he would give me everything he had, in that way that would have made me believe him if he said he would pull the sun from the sky to make me a ring. He didn't, not in the way that really mattered. I asked for money and he gave me his money, enough to fulfill every wish I never made. I yearned for his words and he poured them out for me, but they were sand to my thirst. I pulled from him every one of his secrets, picked his past clean and spread out every piece, like a specimen under glass. He gave them up with a tight smile, always so eager to please. I wanted his eyes, I wanted his smile, I wanted his mind, and all he gave me was fading memories and echoes of loves I'd had before.

I still forgave him. I forgave how he betrayed me, forgave his hoarding of the little I asked for and how he tried to distract me with a thousand gifts and moments that couldn't hope to satisfy me.

I even forgave the look in his eyes when I finally took what I wanted. 
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Written by ReidPickett

Asphalt Kisses

I wanna be a garbage fire in a tight space with you, breath me in and choke on broken glass and toxic ash. 

It feels good when I touch like only I can, the meaty slap of me against you, over and over, so hard I think I can feel the bones crunching. When your fingernails crack and split, scraping at pavement, scrabbling for purchase, I know that I'm doing it right. You didn't choose me, but I never thought of you as anything but perfect from the first second I saw you. I needed you in my life in an instant, needed to feel you twisting and writhing under me. I followed you in the halls, checked how many times you'd step out of class in a day, made sure to always be on your route home every single day even though I live an hour in the opposite direction. I would spend all day thinking of new ways to catch you, concocting plans to corner you all alone.

I can't keep my hands off you, I want to mark you, make everyone see you as an island in an ocean of shrapnel. They don't understand why I do what I do. All shaking heads and disgusted looks, but if they have such a problem maybe they should say something, maybe actually dredge up the effort to put an end to what they find so offensive about us.

They're all the same in the end. They won't risk anything for what matters to them because they don't care enough, not like me. I'd give anything for our private, little war.

They just can't understand how the light in your eyes looks so much prettier ringed with the mottled purple of bruises. 

Please, take my heartfelt lacerations, they won't fit in you're desk, but they're the only valentine I know how to give. After math class, feel every kiss like the gravel sticking in your skin. I want you to have more than love taps, an amorous bludgeoning is what you deserve. If I'm lost in the sea of this feeling then I want to drag you in with me and hold you under until the bubbles stop. When they sign your cast in homeroom, I want the first thing people see to be my name, in the biggest letters and darkest ink. I offer you my eternal, lead pipe love and asphalt kisses, let my carving knife caress make you smile.

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Written by ReidPickett
Asphalt Kisses
I wanna be a garbage fire in a tight space with you, breath me in and choke on broken glass and toxic ash. 
It feels good when I touch like only I can, the meaty slap of me against you, over and over, so hard I think I can feel the bones crunching. When your fingernails crack and split, scraping at pavement, scrabbling for purchase, I know that I'm doing it right. You didn't choose me, but I never thought of you as anything but perfect from the first second I saw you. I needed you in my life in an instant, needed to feel you twisting and writhing under me. I followed you in the halls, checked how many times you'd step out of class in a day, made sure to always be on your route home every single day even though I live an hour in the opposite direction. I would spend all day thinking of new ways to catch you, concocting plans to corner you all alone.
I can't keep my hands off you, I want to mark you, make everyone see you as an island in an ocean of shrapnel. They don't understand why I do what I do. All shaking heads and disgusted looks, but if they have such a problem maybe they should say something, maybe actually dredge up the effort to put an end to what they find so offensive about us.

They're all the same in the end. They won't risk anything for what matters to them because they don't care enough, not like me. I'd give anything for our private, little war.

They just can't understand how the light in your eyes looks so much prettier ringed with the mottled purple of bruises. 

Please, take my heartfelt lacerations, they won't fit in you're desk, but they're the only valentine I know how to give. After math class, feel every kiss like the gravel sticking in your skin. I want you to have more than love taps, an amorous bludgeoning is what you deserve. If I'm lost in the sea of this feeling then I want to drag you in with me and hold you under until the bubbles stop. When they sign your cast in homeroom, I want the first thing people see to be my name, in the biggest letters and darkest ink. I offer you my eternal, lead pipe love and asphalt kisses, let my carving knife caress make you smile.
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Prose Challenge of the Week #20: Write a three sentence story about desire. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett

Scabs help hold the love in

Teeth gritted hard enough to crack concrete, I can't remember a time when my knuckles weren't painted like an oil slick, all black, blue, purple, and red with a greasy, wet sheen. Chips of alabaster skin turn savory on my tongue as I lick across the scars, old and new, on the canvas of your back, some so deep I swear there's no bottom. A shiver turns a caress to a snare around my throat, so tight it cuts like a wire, striping my neck to match the pattern across my spine, and I want to consume you even more. 

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Prose Challenge of the Week #20: Write a three sentence story about desire. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett
Scabs help hold the love in
Teeth gritted hard enough to crack concrete, I can't remember a time when my knuckles weren't painted like an oil slick, all black, blue, purple, and red with a greasy, wet sheen. Chips of alabaster skin turn savory on my tongue as I lick across the scars, old and new, on the canvas of your back, some so deep I swear there's no bottom. A shiver turns a caress to a snare around my throat, so tight it cuts like a wire, striping my neck to match the pattern across my spine, and I want to consume you even more. 
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Prose Challenge of the Week #19: In no more than 50 words, write about guilt. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett

Let me make it easy for you

Fingers on warm metal, the line between clutching and cradling blurring in the squeeze of a desperate grip. Teeth biting so hard the ache almost means stopping, but I'll help you with the trigger. You can blame me, they'll blame me, but I'll do it if you want me to.

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Prose Challenge of the Week #19: In no more than 50 words, write about guilt. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett
Let me make it easy for you
Fingers on warm metal, the line between clutching and cradling blurring in the squeeze of a desperate grip. Teeth biting so hard the ache almost means stopping, but I'll help you with the trigger. You can blame me, they'll blame me, but I'll do it if you want me to.
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Juice
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The Copperplate Awards | Short Fiction Write a piece of fiction where a lie is unearthed. Judges will be basing their decisions on fire, form, content, and creative edge. They will also pay particular attention to grammar, spelling, and formatting. Previous entrants are welcome to resubmit their entries with edits. Submissions are evaluated by Prose and a trusted panel of judges.
Written by ReidPickett

Don’t Tell

     He did his trademark dive off the dock, The Leeson Elter Special, more of a modified flip and cannonball than a real dive, and green water slammed into my face. I fight to stay afloat, wiping at my eyes while he surfaced, laughing as he takes a clumsy, partially underwater bow. As he bobs there, hair and shirt soaking, I slap a handful of water into his cackling mouth in revenge. When he's done sputtering, we're screaming towards shore in a frenzy. I could stay ahead easily, Lee was a slower swimmer than me by a mile, mostly because he was so small. He’d always been that way; when we shared our twelfth birthday, people had confused him for barely a ten-year-old. 

     When I hit shore, the sand sticks to my feet and I'm tripping and sliding my way in a haphazard run until Lee spears me in the back, sending us crashing into the sand. He's yelling something about “doom” and my “impending demise,” but Lee was never a particularly good fighter, so everything quickly devolves into random, flailing limbs, and shoddy holds we’d seen in movies and TV shows. The fight is made all the harder by the struggle to breath around the laughter. My dad says Lee is always trying to make up for his size, trying to prove, even to me, that he was tough and didn’t need to be treated different just because he was small. I only half agreed with him, mostly because fighting Lee was too fun a game to think of any other way. 

     I was first to give up. Lee, whose entire body is occupied in an attempt to twist my right arm around my back, crows in sudden victory and took a place in the sand next to me to bask in his glory and give me the requisite speech on how he’d been “holding back” and how I was about “to get some real trouble” if I’d lasted any longer. Anything and everything but the truth. 

     We lay there gasping for a while, staring up at the dim, overcast sky as thin rays of sun slip through the wall of cloud cover to stripe the lake. I could hear the soft lapping of the water just below us, and the wind in the trees all around us. It was our place inside and out, mostly because we're the only two kids in the neighborhood. Its the secret that holds all our secrets. Every thought about school, parents, annoying siblings, and the future of fast cars and money we were destined to share is hidden here. The lake is where I told Lee about my dad having to move out of our house, and where Lee told me that his mom was sick with something that wouldn’t get better. It was where we laughed and cried and pretended a game of Manhunt would fix everything. The lake was where everything was great and we could do anything, even things that were completely insane. 

       Today, the lake was where I roll over on top of Lee and push my mouth into his, hard enough to bruise and too fast to dodge.

We stay like that; frozen in the sweet spot where Lee couldn’t tell me I was a freak and push me off, and I didn’t have to play it off as a bad joke. A Bugs Bunny-style bit that was all for laughs. Lee would take that excuse; he’d get mad and punch me in the chest with his little hands until I sputtered a giggling ”Uncle” under the rain of blows. It would all go back to normal after that, like I’d never crossed this line. I could have my cake and eat it too, but until then I would take every second I could get, with my hands pushing into the sand, Lee completely still, and my eyes screwed shut against his answer. 

       I wasn’t 100% on how long kisses were supposed to last. I figure just holding it is my best bet, holding my breath until whatever was supposed to happen happened. There's a tiny eternity in the time it takes to run out of air and eventually I know I have to give up and face the music. As I pull away I rock back onto my knees and look down at him, face already fixing on a smile to wipe all this away.

The smile died as soon as I look at him. 

     Lee isn’t startled, he doesn’t look scared, mad, or even surprised. He's just looking at me, with an expression somewhere between bored and miserable. The words in my mouth, the laughing words that could make everything normal again, turn to dirt and I choke on them. “L-“ is all I can get out before his foot crashes into my chest and sends me backward into a little explosion of sand. I have to grit my teeth and close my eyes to keep from getting sand in them and as I recover, Lee's breaking for the tree line, running like his life depends on it. He's running from me. 

     I stay there for a moment, sprawled in the sand, watching him run. It's like watching a car crash on TV, slow motion, forcing you to pay attention to every detail. Lee’s stained-brown feet as he crosses from sand to dirt are pelting to the tree line like a barricade that offers him safety from the monster behind him, from me.

Numb, I can only mumble out the desperate panic that's starting to take over. “Don’t tell,” I whisper it out in a strangled rasp, fighting back tears and screams. Saying it makes it worse, saying it drags me off my back and sends me charging to the trees after him, screaming, “DON’T TELL, DON’T TELL, PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T TELL.” 

        He doesn’t turn around, careening along the dirt path like a runaway train. I could catch him if we were running straight, but the bends and curves of the path keep me too far behind to do anything but continue screaming my pleas at his back.

Pelting after him, all I can see is my whole life collapsing. Lee would tell his parents, make them know that I was a freak who kissed people for no reason and that he never wanted to see me again. His parents would call and tell mine after that. I can feel Dad shaking his head over the phone and make a disgusted noise. Mom would wring her hands and tell me she was disappointed in that way that made me think she meant to add with me instead of in me. The kids at school would find out and start talking about me. They’d stop inviting me for baseball during recess, or over for sleepovers on their birthdays. They’d stop coming to my house to play on the trampoline I got for Christmas. They’d forget all about who I was before. I’d just be the freak. As it all came apart in my head I could feel the tears welling up. Lee wouldn’t be with me to deal with it all. No more shared birthdays, no more weekend barbecues, and no more Leeson Elter Specials at the lake. Everyone else I could live without. I could live with knowing that no one else would be able to forgive what I’d done, but losing Lee was too much. It would officially make me the worst person who ever lived. 

      He's directly ahead, ducking through trees and barely avoiding collisions with boulders and logs, losing speed trying to trip me up. Lee’s breakneck pace suddenly backfires as his shirt catches on a fallen branch, saving him from going over the edge of a steep hill. He's pulling at it frantically, trying to tear himself free, twisting and kicking in an insane thrashing.

I hit him at full tilt, not really thinking about the consequences or any sort of plan of how to say “Sorry-I-pushed-my-face-into-your-face-still-friends?” I can hear something tear as we go sprawling together, over the side of the hill and down into the gully below, smashed together too close, moving too fast to stop ourselves. Though spongy from leaf litter and ferns; we still make a solid thump as we land. I got the worst of it, Lee landed on top, driving out my breath and leaving me dazed and groaning. 

      For a moment, it was almost if we’d gone back in time, and history had righted itself. I can almost believe the soft ground is sand; we're back on the beach and instead of in the woods. Lee had rolled us over and started hitting me as I pretended to laugh. I strain to hear the threats and dark promises as I lay there in pain, almost dreaming that Lee, now on top of me, is just tired of punching and yelling over my lame joke in the same shrill voice as ever.

Lee stirs then, and again I'm torn from my fantasies to look at him. 

      His fist comes down fast, faster than I can catch it or turn my aching head. The right is followed by the left, one after the other, over and over, in a rhythm that leaves my ears ringing and snaps my eyes in and out of focus. At first, I let him have the hits, hoping that it would make us even, hoping that he’d forgive me and go back to normal if I just took my punishment. When the fists don’t stop, I grab his wrists and scream at him to calm down, to say anything to me. The forest around us is quiet, silent in the face of our struggle, in the face of my fight for my best friend. As I hold on, the fire goes out of him slowly, the jerking and twisting dying down as Lee tires himself. When he finally goes still, his wrists still caught in my hands and his eyes staring into the ground, he's still silent, shoulders heaving with exertion. 

      “Lee?” It was all I could manage, wheezing up at him from my place on the ground, still partially pinned by his weight. He's leaning over me, and for the first time I could see the cuts and bruises that spot him, the same injuries that splay across my own skin. I can also see how his sleeve was torn away. The cloth, wet from out time in the water, had given way when I hit him and been shredded by the branches. Lee’s slim shoulders are bruised badly, but it's the sudden hint of white that draws my eyes. I can see a strap at the top of his shoulder, leading down to a band that disappears into the remains of his shirt. 

       It clicks immediately. My mind scrambles to understand, struggling to ask so many questions as my eyes search for its purpose.

I feel Lee’s eyes watching me look, feel the way his shoulders shake and hear the way his breath comes in strangled coughs that tell me tears are running down his face. He's weeping, like his whole life is ending, and as I understand, I start crying too.

“Wh-y, why are?” It's my attempt to get an explanation, for the lie that I only half grasp. My best friend, the one I begged for, screamed for, needed more than anyone, is becoming more and more a stranger every second. Lee's looking at me, through tears that do what words can’t possibly even try. His face tells me why he keeps his shirt on swimming, why he's so much smaller and thinner, why his voice has stayed high while mine falls, and why he wears the band across his chest that is already becoming so much different than mine.

Lee looks at me like he's dying; like this is the last time we're ever going to see each other. Lee’s eyes stare into mine. “Please, don’t tell.” 

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The Copperplate Awards | Short Fiction Write a piece of fiction where a lie is unearthed. Judges will be basing their decisions on fire, form, content, and creative edge. They will also pay particular attention to grammar, spelling, and formatting. Previous entrants are welcome to resubmit their entries with edits. Submissions are evaluated by Prose and a trusted panel of judges.
Written by ReidPickett
Don’t Tell
     He did his trademark dive off the dock, The Leeson Elter Special, more of a modified flip and cannonball than a real dive, and green water slammed into my face. I fight to stay afloat, wiping at my eyes while he surfaced, laughing as he takes a clumsy, partially underwater bow. As he bobs there, hair and shirt soaking, I slap a handful of water into his cackling mouth in revenge. When he's done sputtering, we're screaming towards shore in a frenzy. I could stay ahead easily, Lee was a slower swimmer than me by a mile, mostly because he was so small. He’d always been that way; when we shared our twelfth birthday, people had confused him for barely a ten-year-old. 
     When I hit shore, the sand sticks to my feet and I'm tripping and sliding my way in a haphazard run until Lee spears me in the back, sending us crashing into the sand. He's yelling something about “doom” and my “impending demise,” but Lee was never a particularly good fighter, so everything quickly devolves into random, flailing limbs, and shoddy holds we’d seen in movies and TV shows. The fight is made all the harder by the struggle to breath around the laughter. My dad says Lee is always trying to make up for his size, trying to prove, even to me, that he was tough and didn’t need to be treated different just because he was small. I only half agreed with him, mostly because fighting Lee was too fun a game to think of any other way. 
     I was first to give up. Lee, whose entire body is occupied in an attempt to twist my right arm around my back, crows in sudden victory and took a place in the sand next to me to bask in his glory and give me the requisite speech on how he’d been “holding back” and how I was about “to get some real trouble” if I’d lasted any longer. Anything and everything but the truth. 
     We lay there gasping for a while, staring up at the dim, overcast sky as thin rays of sun slip through the wall of cloud cover to stripe the lake. I could hear the soft lapping of the water just below us, and the wind in the trees all around us. It was our place inside and out, mostly because we're the only two kids in the neighborhood. Its the secret that holds all our secrets. Every thought about school, parents, annoying siblings, and the future of fast cars and money we were destined to share is hidden here. The lake is where I told Lee about my dad having to move out of our house, and where Lee told me that his mom was sick with something that wouldn’t get better. It was where we laughed and cried and pretended a game of Manhunt would fix everything. The lake was where everything was great and we could do anything, even things that were completely insane. 
       Today, the lake was where I roll over on top of Lee and push my mouth into his, hard enough to bruise and too fast to dodge.
We stay like that; frozen in the sweet spot where Lee couldn’t tell me I was a freak and push me off, and I didn’t have to play it off as a bad joke. A Bugs Bunny-style bit that was all for laughs. Lee would take that excuse; he’d get mad and punch me in the chest with his little hands until I sputtered a giggling ”Uncle” under the rain of blows. It would all go back to normal after that, like I’d never crossed this line. I could have my cake and eat it too, but until then I would take every second I could get, with my hands pushing into the sand, Lee completely still, and my eyes screwed shut against his answer. 
       I wasn’t 100% on how long kisses were supposed to last. I figure just holding it is my best bet, holding my breath until whatever was supposed to happen happened. There's a tiny eternity in the time it takes to run out of air and eventually I know I have to give up and face the music. As I pull away I rock back onto my knees and look down at him, face already fixing on a smile to wipe all this away.
The smile died as soon as I look at him. 
     Lee isn’t startled, he doesn’t look scared, mad, or even surprised. He's just looking at me, with an expression somewhere between bored and miserable. The words in my mouth, the laughing words that could make everything normal again, turn to dirt and I choke on them. “L-“ is all I can get out before his foot crashes into my chest and sends me backward into a little explosion of sand. I have to grit my teeth and close my eyes to keep from getting sand in them and as I recover, Lee's breaking for the tree line, running like his life depends on it. He's running from me. 
     I stay there for a moment, sprawled in the sand, watching him run. It's like watching a car crash on TV, slow motion, forcing you to pay attention to every detail. Lee’s stained-brown feet as he crosses from sand to dirt are pelting to the tree line like a barricade that offers him safety from the monster behind him, from me.
Numb, I can only mumble out the desperate panic that's starting to take over. “Don’t tell,” I whisper it out in a strangled rasp, fighting back tears and screams. Saying it makes it worse, saying it drags me off my back and sends me charging to the trees after him, screaming, “DON’T TELL, DON’T TELL, PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T TELL.” 
        He doesn’t turn around, careening along the dirt path like a runaway train. I could catch him if we were running straight, but the bends and curves of the path keep me too far behind to do anything but continue screaming my pleas at his back.
Pelting after him, all I can see is my whole life collapsing. Lee would tell his parents, make them know that I was a freak who kissed people for no reason and that he never wanted to see me again. His parents would call and tell mine after that. I can feel Dad shaking his head over the phone and make a disgusted noise. Mom would wring her hands and tell me she was disappointed in that way that made me think she meant to add with me instead of in me. The kids at school would find out and start talking about me. They’d stop inviting me for baseball during recess, or over for sleepovers on their birthdays. They’d stop coming to my house to play on the trampoline I got for Christmas. They’d forget all about who I was before. I’d just be the freak. As it all came apart in my head I could feel the tears welling up. Lee wouldn’t be with me to deal with it all. No more shared birthdays, no more weekend barbecues, and no more Leeson Elter Specials at the lake. Everyone else I could live without. I could live with knowing that no one else would be able to forgive what I’d done, but losing Lee was too much. It would officially make me the worst person who ever lived. 
      He's directly ahead, ducking through trees and barely avoiding collisions with boulders and logs, losing speed trying to trip me up. Lee’s breakneck pace suddenly backfires as his shirt catches on a fallen branch, saving him from going over the edge of a steep hill. He's pulling at it frantically, trying to tear himself free, twisting and kicking in an insane thrashing.
I hit him at full tilt, not really thinking about the consequences or any sort of plan of how to say “Sorry-I-pushed-my-face-into-your-face-still-friends?” I can hear something tear as we go sprawling together, over the side of the hill and down into the gully below, smashed together too close, moving too fast to stop ourselves. Though spongy from leaf litter and ferns; we still make a solid thump as we land. I got the worst of it, Lee landed on top, driving out my breath and leaving me dazed and groaning. 
      For a moment, it was almost if we’d gone back in time, and history had righted itself. I can almost believe the soft ground is sand; we're back on the beach and instead of in the woods. Lee had rolled us over and started hitting me as I pretended to laugh. I strain to hear the threats and dark promises as I lay there in pain, almost dreaming that Lee, now on top of me, is just tired of punching and yelling over my lame joke in the same shrill voice as ever.
Lee stirs then, and again I'm torn from my fantasies to look at him. 
      His fist comes down fast, faster than I can catch it or turn my aching head. The right is followed by the left, one after the other, over and over, in a rhythm that leaves my ears ringing and snaps my eyes in and out of focus. At first, I let him have the hits, hoping that it would make us even, hoping that he’d forgive me and go back to normal if I just took my punishment. When the fists don’t stop, I grab his wrists and scream at him to calm down, to say anything to me. The forest around us is quiet, silent in the face of our struggle, in the face of my fight for my best friend. As I hold on, the fire goes out of him slowly, the jerking and twisting dying down as Lee tires himself. When he finally goes still, his wrists still caught in my hands and his eyes staring into the ground, he's still silent, shoulders heaving with exertion. 
      “Lee?” It was all I could manage, wheezing up at him from my place on the ground, still partially pinned by his weight. He's leaning over me, and for the first time I could see the cuts and bruises that spot him, the same injuries that splay across my own skin. I can also see how his sleeve was torn away. The cloth, wet from out time in the water, had given way when I hit him and been shredded by the branches. Lee’s slim shoulders are bruised badly, but it's the sudden hint of white that draws my eyes. I can see a strap at the top of his shoulder, leading down to a band that disappears into the remains of his shirt. 
       It clicks immediately. My mind scrambles to understand, struggling to ask so many questions as my eyes search for its purpose.
I feel Lee’s eyes watching me look, feel the way his shoulders shake and hear the way his breath comes in strangled coughs that tell me tears are running down his face. He's weeping, like his whole life is ending, and as I understand, I start crying too.
“Wh-y, why are?” It's my attempt to get an explanation, for the lie that I only half grasp. My best friend, the one I begged for, screamed for, needed more than anyone, is becoming more and more a stranger every second. Lee's looking at me, through tears that do what words can’t possibly even try. His face tells me why he keeps his shirt on swimming, why he's so much smaller and thinner, why his voice has stayed high while mine falls, and why he wears the band across his chest that is already becoming so much different than mine.
Lee looks at me like he's dying; like this is the last time we're ever going to see each other. Lee’s eyes stare into mine. “Please, don’t tell.” 
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Written by ReidPickett

Catch

        You’re digging into my back with your elbow, sitting too close in an arm chair made for one that’s just too comfy a seat for either of us to consider abandoning. The fabric is old cotton, worn and rough, and pulls a little at my shirt as I shift against you. We had pulled the thing out of the attic together; an enterprise that had left us both dusty, tired, and more than a little bemused by all the strange junk/mementos that my grandparents had seen fit to collect over the years. 

          It was my grandfather’s favorite reading chair that we currently occupied. The material of the seat seems to sap nearly all my strength and makes my whole body feel heavy and lethargic. Its as if the chair is so lonely for someone to finally get some use out of it, after its original owner had seemingly abandoned it a lifetime ago to rot away in the darkness of the attic. You adjust in response to my squirming, no doubt annoyed that I’ve woken from the catnap that had been keeping me stationary and your reading undisturbed. Your eyes never leave the page as you scoot yourself out from the confined space beside me against the arm of the chair. You finally come to rest sitting on my thigh, legs dangling across mine, leaning forward and peering over the lenses of your glasses at the lines of text in that way that irritates me, mostly because you could lean back and actually use the things on your face that help you see instead of leaning closer. In moments like this, when your boots can’t put you at my chest level, you’re so small, and as I swing an arm over the back of the chair you take it as an invitation to relax and use my shoulder as a headrest. 

      This new position is awkward and uncomfortable for me, my arm rapidly falling asleep, as the weight of your head pushes my arm into the side of the chair back and cuts off the circulation in my dangling arm. Even so I don’t roll you off, somehow the concept of simply shoving you onto the floor, flashing a grin, and dealing with your fury over losing your page just doesn’t appeal to me like it usually does. You flip the page and tuck a strand of hair behind your ear in that way that makes me want to do it for you, because you’re sloppy about it and the strand will just come loose again when you turn the next page. 

    Eventually the pain in my arm is too much, but inversely, the warmth my cold arms are stealing from you is too good to pass up, so a jostle and a groan of protest finds you now in the crook of my arm, squirming and pushing for the place in the hollow of my throat where your head fits so strangely well. 

      The room is quiet, in the way that I thought only a library could be. It’s a sort of heavy silence that seems to hover just above my head, something warm; something comforting and old that seems to slip into every crack of the ancient house. You’re warm against my side, and as I take note of how good I feel I can’t help but wonder how things like this happen. Me, I’m the strikeout king, someone known for failing at even the most rudimentary parts of the romantic process. You, on the other hand, have been voted the most popular kid in our high school class three years in a row, even though for the last two you didn’t even run. You always turned them down when they didn’t give you that “feeling” that I always tell you only exists in those lame teen “dramadies” where the girl always does a voiceover of her own diary entries and the boy is supposed to be so hot enough that no notices he looks severely anemic and has the personality of a cardboard spoon. 

      Even so we’re here, with you curled against me, inch by inch, your forehead nuzzling against the bottom of my jaw in a half-stretch craning of your neck that ends in a tired whimper. The hand resting on your back secedes from the union of my body, going rogue in an attempt to cause the downfall of the united states of my common sense. The dangerous element finds your arm, pushing down to draw you closer in a light squeeze. Though the intention was to be gentle, you give an annoyed protest, a murmur half-slurred by too much concentration and almost-sleep, sending the now routed, rebel limb down to rest on your thigh, a finger giving one last defiant cry to the encroaching army of my sanity’s control by scratching at your thigh through denim. 

   A soft murmur and you look up, and a familiar comfort warms me as I look down into eyes that are plain and brown, the same plain brown that I’ve known for too long to even try to remember when it wasn’t the default color for the eyes of every face I imagine. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s only fair since you’ve known me inside and out since you first curled against me like this, long enough ago that the memory seems to grey at the edges like a fading polaroid. 

     I know that this would be a good choice, and you know it too. I know you’ll never find a person who knows you like I do, a person you could ever know like you know me.

I know you know that too.

I know that this is a bad idea, how we always gave the excuse that we would never get here because we were better as friends. I know, when everyone  asks how we can spend so much time talking about the dumbest things, that you give the same vague non-answers as me. I know your dad has hated my guts since he found us playing catch-turned-football-highlight-reel in your backyard three Valentine’s Days ago. 

        We’d just been tossing a crappy ball around that I had brought over at first, but when I threw it too wide and you made that rolling dive catch it had become a game of flash and drama. The score was even when your father had appeared by surprise in the backyard that day, watching from behind his own high fence as his only child played with the neighbor kid, as it had been since before forever. Never mind the fact that the score had been dead even since we started, and stayed dead even no matter how many points were scored by either of us. It added a little rush of false tension to the game. You had been playing hard then, angry that you’d gotten over sixty valentines today while I had gotten just one. I didn’t mind because the one I had gotten had been worth a thousand cards. 

     “Are they blind?” You had yelled as the ball ‘wump’ -ed home into your hands. “You’re totally awesome and you’re so funny and nice! You're good in class and you even do charity work on weekends! You’re like every parent's wet dream!” Endearing vulgarity aside, you’d asserted those things about me before. While I saw the “nice” bit as being wholly horse shit; I accepted that my sense of humor was at least decent, and I feigned bravado when I claimed, “Of course I’m awesome, but lesser beings always envy and scorn their betters, one wonders how your heart doesn’t just explode with jealousy every time you look at me.” A posh accent and an exaggerated lunging into a parody of a regal pose sent you into peels of laughter, throwing your not-quite-respectable-length, brown hair into your face, so that you’d have to sweep it back again with a swipe of your right hand. 

      “My betters don’t typically get schooled by me in everything all the time, but I’ll let it slide for your ego. Now better stop me before I score-” 

    With that you’d rushed past me, running for the imaginary goal line next to the trampoline you got for Christmas when we were ten. I was hot on your tail of course, you’re a terrible liar and it translates to any trick you’ve ever tried to pull, and I reached my arms out to try and tag you at a dead run, before the game had a chance to end with bout of your famously terrible gloating. Eventually I decide to go for broke. A few yards from the improvised goal I sent myself diving to catch you around the middle with my arm, slinging you around, over me, sending us rolling into the grass with my back taking the brunt of the fall. We crashed into green together, teeth rattling but our fall cushioned by the soft grass and clover that you were probably avoiding having to cut. As our tangle rolled to a halt we had ended up side-by-side, panting softly and just staring up at the sky. That Valentine’s Day had been a hallmark movie kind of day, the sort of sunny blue and cloud-speckled day you might see on Leave it to Beaver. You gasped out something like, “lucky tackle” and I had laughed an arrogant laugh, mostly to disguise the fact that it had been a “lucky tackle,” and rolled up onto an elbow to look down at your face. I had thought of something clever to say, something cutting that was too funny to really hurt, but the thought had died as I looked down at what I thought had been just my sweaty friend sprawled in the grass, the same klutzy prodigy I had always known. 

       I still remember how you looked then much too clearly, your face spotted with green-tinted sunlight through tree branches, your eyes shining up at me in laughter, your mouth wrinkled at the corners in a smile that I know will leave laugh lines on your face when you’ve grown into a jolly, old fogey someday. 

     I looked down at you so long that it had felt like I’d stopped breathing, so long that the smile left your face and you’ve gotten a strange, new expression. You had looked earnest, almost annoyed, like you were trying to will me to know or do something with your eyes. You’ve never made a face like that before or since and to this day I didn’t really understand what had happened. Maybe I’d never know. 

      Your dad had crashed in then, destroying the frozen moment of bliss with a hurried bluster about how goofy us kids were and how you were supposed to be cleaning the basement and not playing strange games. When I’d offered to help with the cleaning, he’d politely, but firmly told me to take myself home and see if my own basement didn’t need cleaning. It had been that way for the past two months, I’d come over and your dad would find some work that you’d left unfinished, or some job that needed doing. Each time you’d deflated and slunk off to the work while I was asked to leave as I was deemed a “distraction.” 

        The death of my grandparents three months ago had brought us together again, morbid as it is. The death had been sudden, and rather quiet as my father had never been close with his parents. They were just faceless people that I more assumed existed than knew about. I admit, the task of cleaning out their old home was one I easily could have gotten my father to do by himself, but concocting an excuse of “wanting to connect” I had shamelessly engineered a way to rope you in to helping me with the job, sending my father off with the appeasement of “needing some time,” and giving your dad the impression that my father was here with us now instead of honoring my need to “heal.” It was not a plan I was particularly proud of from a moral perspective, what with exploiting the dead and all, but two months apart had put me in a desperate place. Comparing you to a drug would imply a chance of quitting. 

       Any ideas of eventual regret disappear as the awkward realization hits that "something" is happening between us. It's obvious that you feel it too, because you're struggling to feel the gaping silence with vague hints and open questions about what I'm thinking. Even as your lips move, forming the words of a question that comes out rough with meaning, I am deciding an answer.

You stop talking.

I start talking.

Your fingers find mine.

I’m talking about fears and obstacles.

You’re grinning like a maniac.

We’re so close that I can feel your heart beating against mine, beating so slow and steady, slower and slower till it matches mine, barely beating at all.  

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Written by ReidPickett
Catch
        You’re digging into my back with your elbow, sitting too close in an arm chair made for one that’s just too comfy a seat for either of us to consider abandoning. The fabric is old cotton, worn and rough, and pulls a little at my shirt as I shift against you. We had pulled the thing out of the attic together; an enterprise that had left us both dusty, tired, and more than a little bemused by all the strange junk/mementos that my grandparents had seen fit to collect over the years. 
          It was my grandfather’s favorite reading chair that we currently occupied. The material of the seat seems to sap nearly all my strength and makes my whole body feel heavy and lethargic. Its as if the chair is so lonely for someone to finally get some use out of it, after its original owner had seemingly abandoned it a lifetime ago to rot away in the darkness of the attic. You adjust in response to my squirming, no doubt annoyed that I’ve woken from the catnap that had been keeping me stationary and your reading undisturbed. Your eyes never leave the page as you scoot yourself out from the confined space beside me against the arm of the chair. You finally come to rest sitting on my thigh, legs dangling across mine, leaning forward and peering over the lenses of your glasses at the lines of text in that way that irritates me, mostly because you could lean back and actually use the things on your face that help you see instead of leaning closer. In moments like this, when your boots can’t put you at my chest level, you’re so small, and as I swing an arm over the back of the chair you take it as an invitation to relax and use my shoulder as a headrest. 
      This new position is awkward and uncomfortable for me, my arm rapidly falling asleep, as the weight of your head pushes my arm into the side of the chair back and cuts off the circulation in my dangling arm. Even so I don’t roll you off, somehow the concept of simply shoving you onto the floor, flashing a grin, and dealing with your fury over losing your page just doesn’t appeal to me like it usually does. You flip the page and tuck a strand of hair behind your ear in that way that makes me want to do it for you, because you’re sloppy about it and the strand will just come loose again when you turn the next page. 
    Eventually the pain in my arm is too much, but inversely, the warmth my cold arms are stealing from you is too good to pass up, so a jostle and a groan of protest finds you now in the crook of my arm, squirming and pushing for the place in the hollow of my throat where your head fits so strangely well. 
      The room is quiet, in the way that I thought only a library could be. It’s a sort of heavy silence that seems to hover just above my head, something warm; something comforting and old that seems to slip into every crack of the ancient house. You’re warm against my side, and as I take note of how good I feel I can’t help but wonder how things like this happen. Me, I’m the strikeout king, someone known for failing at even the most rudimentary parts of the romantic process. You, on the other hand, have been voted the most popular kid in our high school class three years in a row, even though for the last two you didn’t even run. You always turned them down when they didn’t give you that “feeling” that I always tell you only exists in those lame teen “dramadies” where the girl always does a voiceover of her own diary entries and the boy is supposed to be so hot enough that no notices he looks severely anemic and has the personality of a cardboard spoon. 
      Even so we’re here, with you curled against me, inch by inch, your forehead nuzzling against the bottom of my jaw in a half-stretch craning of your neck that ends in a tired whimper. The hand resting on your back secedes from the union of my body, going rogue in an attempt to cause the downfall of the united states of my common sense. The dangerous element finds your arm, pushing down to draw you closer in a light squeeze. Though the intention was to be gentle, you give an annoyed protest, a murmur half-slurred by too much concentration and almost-sleep, sending the now routed, rebel limb down to rest on your thigh, a finger giving one last defiant cry to the encroaching army of my sanity’s control by scratching at your thigh through denim. 
   A soft murmur and you look up, and a familiar comfort warms me as I look down into eyes that are plain and brown, the same plain brown that I’ve known for too long to even try to remember when it wasn’t the default color for the eyes of every face I imagine. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s only fair since you’ve known me inside and out since you first curled against me like this, long enough ago that the memory seems to grey at the edges like a fading polaroid. 
     I know that this would be a good choice, and you know it too. I know you’ll never find a person who knows you like I do, a person you could ever know like you know me.

I know you know that too.

I know that this is a bad idea, how we always gave the excuse that we would never get here because we were better as friends. I know, when everyone  asks how we can spend so much time talking about the dumbest things, that you give the same vague non-answers as me. I know your dad has hated my guts since he found us playing catch-turned-football-highlight-reel in your backyard three Valentine’s Days ago. 
        We’d just been tossing a crappy ball around that I had brought over at first, but when I threw it too wide and you made that rolling dive catch it had become a game of flash and drama. The score was even when your father had appeared by surprise in the backyard that day, watching from behind his own high fence as his only child played with the neighbor kid, as it had been since before forever. Never mind the fact that the score had been dead even since we started, and stayed dead even no matter how many points were scored by either of us. It added a little rush of false tension to the game. You had been playing hard then, angry that you’d gotten over sixty valentines today while I had gotten just one. I didn’t mind because the one I had gotten had been worth a thousand cards. 
     “Are they blind?” You had yelled as the ball ‘wump’ -ed home into your hands. “You’re totally awesome and you’re so funny and nice! You're good in class and you even do charity work on weekends! You’re like every parent's wet dream!” Endearing vulgarity aside, you’d asserted those things about me before. While I saw the “nice” bit as being wholly horse shit; I accepted that my sense of humor was at least decent, and I feigned bravado when I claimed, “Of course I’m awesome, but lesser beings always envy and scorn their betters, one wonders how your heart doesn’t just explode with jealousy every time you look at me.” A posh accent and an exaggerated lunging into a parody of a regal pose sent you into peels of laughter, throwing your not-quite-respectable-length, brown hair into your face, so that you’d have to sweep it back again with a swipe of your right hand. 
      “My betters don’t typically get schooled by me in everything all the time, but I’ll let it slide for your ego. Now better stop me before I score-” 
    With that you’d rushed past me, running for the imaginary goal line next to the trampoline you got for Christmas when we were ten. I was hot on your tail of course, you’re a terrible liar and it translates to any trick you’ve ever tried to pull, and I reached my arms out to try and tag you at a dead run, before the game had a chance to end with bout of your famously terrible gloating. Eventually I decide to go for broke. A few yards from the improvised goal I sent myself diving to catch you around the middle with my arm, slinging you around, over me, sending us rolling into the grass with my back taking the brunt of the fall. We crashed into green together, teeth rattling but our fall cushioned by the soft grass and clover that you were probably avoiding having to cut. As our tangle rolled to a halt we had ended up side-by-side, panting softly and just staring up at the sky. That Valentine’s Day had been a hallmark movie kind of day, the sort of sunny blue and cloud-speckled day you might see on Leave it to Beaver. You gasped out something like, “lucky tackle” and I had laughed an arrogant laugh, mostly to disguise the fact that it had been a “lucky tackle,” and rolled up onto an elbow to look down at your face. I had thought of something clever to say, something cutting that was too funny to really hurt, but the thought had died as I looked down at what I thought had been just my sweaty friend sprawled in the grass, the same klutzy prodigy I had always known. 
       I still remember how you looked then much too clearly, your face spotted with green-tinted sunlight through tree branches, your eyes shining up at me in laughter, your mouth wrinkled at the corners in a smile that I know will leave laugh lines on your face when you’ve grown into a jolly, old fogey someday. 
     I looked down at you so long that it had felt like I’d stopped breathing, so long that the smile left your face and you’ve gotten a strange, new expression. You had looked earnest, almost annoyed, like you were trying to will me to know or do something with your eyes. You’ve never made a face like that before or since and to this day I didn’t really understand what had happened. Maybe I’d never know. 
      Your dad had crashed in then, destroying the frozen moment of bliss with a hurried bluster about how goofy us kids were and how you were supposed to be cleaning the basement and not playing strange games. When I’d offered to help with the cleaning, he’d politely, but firmly told me to take myself home and see if my own basement didn’t need cleaning. It had been that way for the past two months, I’d come over and your dad would find some work that you’d left unfinished, or some job that needed doing. Each time you’d deflated and slunk off to the work while I was asked to leave as I was deemed a “distraction.” 
        The death of my grandparents three months ago had brought us together again, morbid as it is. The death had been sudden, and rather quiet as my father had never been close with his parents. They were just faceless people that I more assumed existed than knew about. I admit, the task of cleaning out their old home was one I easily could have gotten my father to do by himself, but concocting an excuse of “wanting to connect” I had shamelessly engineered a way to rope you in to helping me with the job, sending my father off with the appeasement of “needing some time,” and giving your dad the impression that my father was here with us now instead of honoring my need to “heal.” It was not a plan I was particularly proud of from a moral perspective, what with exploiting the dead and all, but two months apart had put me in a desperate place. Comparing you to a drug would imply a chance of quitting. 
       Any ideas of eventual regret disappear as the awkward realization hits that "something" is happening between us. It's obvious that you feel it too, because you're struggling to feel the gaping silence with vague hints and open questions about what I'm thinking. Even as your lips move, forming the words of a question that comes out rough with meaning, I am deciding an answer.
You stop talking.
I start talking.
Your fingers find mine.
I’m talking about fears and obstacles.
You’re grinning like a maniac.
We’re so close that I can feel your heart beating against mine, beating so slow and steady, slower and slower till it matches mine, barely beating at all.  
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Juice
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Prose Challenge of the Week #17: You are a superhero. Write a piece about your powers and how you’ve abused them. 50 words minimum, 250 words maximum. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett

The Listener

There's a dull hum right on the edge of ignorable, a canker that I can't stop tonguing. Every now and again there's a spike in it, a sudden, high-pitched whine that stabs through the music into the base of my spine and I have to shed my headphones to focus. Its not the fear of a kid trying to impress his friends with the shiny, metal toy that supposed to be hidden in the house safe. Its not the anger of an overworked father who has decided to show his family some other uses for his empty bottle. The scream is a claw, slicing into my brain stem, taking me to the dark figure in a home office, flickering in blue light. I can hear the *click-click* and the rush of impatient anticipation. I know the dryness in the figure's mouth, the thirst that they keep convincing themselves just needs a little taste, just a little something to take the edge off. There's a buzz as an IP address shape-shifts, bouncing off six different locations around the globe in an instant. The images on the screen are of lives that were ruined before they even started. The seizure is happening before the first image even loads, before any realization that neurons are being gripped and twisted into a spaghetti mess by an invisible hand. Muscles spasm, and as a limp body slams into a desk I can't help but chuckle darkly, "It was better when the bad guys wore capes."

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Juice
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Prose Challenge of the Week #17: You are a superhero. Write a piece about your powers and how you’ve abused them. 50 words minimum, 250 words maximum. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100. When sharing to Twitter, please use the hashtag #ProseChallenge
Written by ReidPickett
The Listener
There's a dull hum right on the edge of ignorable, a canker that I can't stop tonguing. Every now and again there's a spike in it, a sudden, high-pitched whine that stabs through the music into the base of my spine and I have to shed my headphones to focus. Its not the fear of a kid trying to impress his friends with the shiny, metal toy that supposed to be hidden in the house safe. Its not the anger of an overworked father who has decided to show his family some other uses for his empty bottle. The scream is a claw, slicing into my brain stem, taking me to the dark figure in a home office, flickering in blue light. I can hear the *click-click* and the rush of impatient anticipation. I know the dryness in the figure's mouth, the thirst that they keep convincing themselves just needs a little taste, just a little something to take the edge off. There's a buzz as an IP address shape-shifts, bouncing off six different locations around the globe in an instant. The images on the screen are of lives that were ruined before they even started. The seizure is happening before the first image even loads, before any realization that neurons are being gripped and twisted into a spaghetti mess by an invisible hand. Muscles spasm, and as a limp body slams into a desk I can't help but chuckle darkly, "It was better when the bad guys wore capes."
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Juice
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